So a brand new year is upon us once again. This one though is different for me. It is the first year I have entered without being at war with myself. I never thought I would reach this place because not many people speak about their triumphs over mental health issues. Also with saying that, the media likes to focus on the negative aspects of life, so it is rare that we get to hear personal successes when it comes to mental ill health.
I struggled, a lot. The odd day here and there I would feel like I had succeeded over my depression and despair, only to realise it would come back again and again. The more it came back the more I got scared that it would never go away. This battle I was having was against myself: To learn to love myself was one of the hardest things I have ever done and it took years to get it right.
Each time I thought I was out of the depression, I learned that I had not quite perfected my coping skills to survive without therapy. On occasion this made me feel like a failure. I (a 26 year old woman) was not able to survive without the support of others and the support of therapy. It made me feel shame and despair at times. I wanted to be free of this battle. I also wanted to keep fighting, but I will admit that at times I just wanted to give up because it seemed impossible. Every time I fell though, I got up because I knew I had to keep trying. Why should my life be discarded in the midst of the darkness when in my heart I knew hope was still out there somewhere?
I searched for success stories of those who had triumphed over their mental health issues, but what I found were stories of pain that seemed to last a lifetime. If there were any hint of success it was followed up by a story of relapse and pain. It seemed at certain stages last year that this was my destiny and I tried to accept this, but something in me kept pushing me forward. In certain weeks of therapy I would come out in more pain than I had felt going in with, but I kept digging, even though it hurt like never before. I spoke words I had never spoken before and felt feelings so intense that they hurt every inch of my body. I learned in these times of severe pain whom I could trust with my thoughts, whom I could bring close when I needed some help, and I learned new vices of coping, such as writing. It didn't all happen at once though. It took years to perfect, but in the last few months it all began to fall into place after so much hard work.
While it was happening I did not see it. When I reached a very difficult stage in my healing, my automatic thoughts were to call my boyfriend and my friends to talk to them, but my thoughts also turned to writing. To me this is a huge triumph; my first automatic thoughts in times of distress and pain for well over a decade have been to harm myself. I never thought I would be able to get rid of that deeply ingrained pattern, yet I am here today to tell you that I have managed to change this. I have managed to change how I cope and view things, how I think. It is amazing. I never thought I would ever reach this point, but I have. All this struggling and all these battles finally led me to a place where I would have safe satisfying tools in place to help me cope. I never thought this could be truly possible, but something in me would not let me give up.
So in this New Year, I am free. If you find yourself in place where you are still battling though, don't give up. If I can make it this far then so can you. I am no different to anyone; I am no more special than the next person, but I survived this. I am letting you know that recovery is possible. Keep fighting. If you lose battles along the way it doesn't mean you have lost the war. Just keep going. As for me, on the outside looking in, it may seem as if nothing has changed, but on the inside looking out, everything looks so very, very different.