One thing I have learned over the years when it comes to my mental illness, and living with my PTSD and GAD, is that healing comes in waves.
Just as my depressive episodes tend to come and go, depending on any number of factors, healing is the eventual next step in the process.
But for me, and for many others out there, healing has to be a choice.
I’m not someone that necessarily believes in the whole “time heals all wounds” thing, because if it did, I believe I wouldn’t still be suffering from my PTSD. If time heals all wounds, I still wouldn’t be waking up from night terrors, dreaming about the things my abuser has done to me. I still wouldn’t have panic attacks every time I see a black Ford Ranger drive down the road. And I still wouldn’t be triggered by certain days of the year. If times truly does heal all wounds, then mine are either taking a really long time to heal, or the whole thing is BS.
Therefore, when it comes to my illness, healing must be a choice.
Over the years, I’ve learned to realize when things are starting to get bad again. I’ve been able to notice the signs of my depressive episodes starting to sink in, or the signs that I’m starting to lose control over my anxiety again. And while there are times I am blind-sided by my illness, because there is no rhyme or reason to it, most times I notice when I’m starting to slip.
And that’s when I reach an important point: How long will I let it go on before I get help?
Not every depressive episode I have tends to be a “life-altering” experience. Sometimes these episodes can last for just a few short days, but other times they can last for months. However, depending on the grip my illness has on me, it can really depend how long I’m willing to let myself suffer before reaching out for help.
And sometimes, I truly believe I don’t need extra help. Not because I’m ashamed of asking for help, but sometimes I feel I can “pull through it” using the strategies I have learned through therapy over the years. And sometimes, it does work.
But during the really bad episodes… Well, maybe there are times I torture myself for too long before I realize that I can’t heal on my on. There are times when the pain is just too unbearable, or my thoughts are too torturous, for me to handle by myself. In these moments, I need someone else’s opinion. I need a fresh perspective.
I need to go back to therapy.
And that’s ok.
Over the last several months, I have been struggling with my mental illness. Having been diagnosed with Postpartum Depression (PPD) after having my son, I noticed that my other illnesses were starting to flare up because of the effects of my postpartum. My depression was starting to get bad; I’ve been struggling to get out of bed. Most days all I want to do is sleep all day. It’s a struggle to convince myself to get a shower or to even consider eating meals. On top of all that, my anxiety has also been getting worse; I lie awake at night, my mind completely running away from me. I’ve been having obsessive thoughts about myself and the baby. And most days I’m on such high alert that I can barely function, unable to complete even the most simplest of tasks.
But I made a big mistake. I thought I could “handle” it all on my own. I thought I could get through it, even when I noticed my strategies weren’t working. I’ve been suffering for months when I should have been reaching out for help.
And while I feel guilty about this, I also know that when you suffer from a mental health issue, it feels almost impossible to admit you do need help. One of the hardest things for me over the years have been admitting “defeat”. And part of this is due to the stigma that still exists around living with a mental health issue. It’s not about ego or trying to act tough. It’s hard to admit out loud, “I’m struggling.”
And that’s ok, too.
The main thing with my illness is realizing when to admit defeat. It’s been hard over the years, and maybe sometimes I let myself hit rock bottom before I realized it, but I eventually do realize when I need to go back to therapy. And even for an “old pro” like me, who have been suffering from mental health issues for over a decade, even I still feel terrified when I need to go back to therapy.
It’s never easy to keep moving forward with healing. It’s actually a hard price to pay to heal. Having to face your demons head on, no excuses or bullshit, is absolutely terrifying to the core. And knowing a counsellor is not going to hold back only makes it that much more nerve-racking. But, it has to be done. Because there is a level below rock bottom, and it’s a scary place to exist. It’s a scary place that some people don’t always come back from.
So instead, I choose to heal, no matter how hard I struggling with admitting out loud I need help. While sometimes I feel ashamed that I can’t get through these episodes on my own, I know that therapy is always a step in the right direction. It’s another pitstop on my road to healing. And because I have had many pitstops over the years, I have learned to change my outlook on going back to therapy:
It’s not starting over. It’s continuing forward.
Continuing forward so I can live the life I deserve to live; I don’t have to spend my days suffering from a past I had no control over. I deserve to move forward and have as many good days as possible, even if it means facing a few bad ones along the way to get there.
Therapy is not easy, and it doesn’t get easier as the years pass. I’ll still always struggle with balancing that fine line of whether I can handle it on my own, or I need some extra support. And while I do inflict more suffering on myself than I should, usually I’ll spot the red flags before it’s too late. And if I don’t, I know I’m very lucky to have a strong support system who notice when I’m not acting like my “normal” self.
And while everyone is different, it’s important to remember that it’s ok to go back to therapy. It’s ok to start fresh with a new counsellor, or continue with an old one. It’s ok if meds need to be adjusted, or you rather use alternative methods besides pills. All of it is still relevant. In the bigger picture, therapy is meant to help you heal. And healing means moving forward.
It won’t be easy, because it never is, but getting the help you deserve should never make you feel ashamed. You deserve not to suffer. You deserve to be happy and live your best life.
You deserve to heal.
Time heals all wounds? No, but therapy will.
And as always,
Fight the good fight.