I’ve taken my medication. I’ve been to therapy (a couple of times). I’m trying to become more resilient, and I have many loving and supportive relationships in my life. That means I’m cured, right?! Wrong.
(As per usual, this post is entirely made up of my own opinions. There are people out there who have pretty much cured their mental ill health, and never experience another bout of depression or anxiety again. And that is fantastic – what a brilliant achievement! However, I am not one of those people.) I personally think that mental ill health can be treated – sometimes to such an extent that there are few or no symptoms. But I’m not so sure whether it can be cured, right now at least.
I’ve had to come to the realisation that mental ill health, for me, is a chronic illness. I have good days and bad days, and periods of stability and instability. For example, I had been doing really well for about a month, and then about a week ago I had a bit of a breakdown – with new symptoms that I had never experienced before. I’m doing much better now, but it made me realise more than ever that so far, for me, a complete cure is not in reach at the moment. Much like sexuality, my mental health is on a spectrum.
And you know what? That’s been a really affirming thought. Before, I thought of my SSRIs in particular as something to take until I got better – continually wondering why I wasn’t getting better quickly enough for me to stop taking them. I think it is also a potentially dangerous idea to think yourself cured. SSRIs are not like antibiotics – finish a course of them, and then you’re (probably) cured! I’ve known a couple of people who have fallen into this idea of thinking: they stabilised because of the SSRIs, and then went off them as quickly as possible, only to relapse into anxiety and depression.
Also, finally accepting my mental health as a chronic condition has made me realise that I should get help in different areas of my life. I’ve told my employers about it (they were lovely), and I mentioned it in my application to my Masters programme. So if I go through a rough time in the next year, my new university will be able to help me quicker.
Finally, I think that it is a really good sign that I am now able to find the positives in my mental illness. I’ve always found positive thinking difficult, but these thoughts came to me quite naturally. I’m cautiously optimistic for the future – and I know that should I have another tough time, good things will be right around the corner.