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  • Sara

It's Ok to Not Be Ok.

From Addie, a mental health and recovery advocate:

The road to recovery is never the same for every single person. Sure, we may have some commonalities between us, but each story is unique in its own way. It has taken me a long time to accept the bits and pieces of my story that I am not proud of, and it has also taken time to feel comfortable telling others about it. As a person who has survived a lot and has suffered from mental health issues as a result, I am able to relate to the difficulties of recovering and moving forward from mental illness. I am going to shed some light on one of the biggest obstacles to my recovery in the hopes that you will learn that you are not alone in this fight and that it is normal to experience roadblocks.

The truth is, my biggest obstacle in recovering from mental illness was, and still is, me. I have all too often allowed my pride to get in the way of seeking help and support from others. Just like you, I grew up in this society where we are told to “just get over it” and to “pull ourselves up by the bootstraps” or “suck it up buttercup.” I heard that so much that it was deeply engrained in me. I felt that my struggles were somehow within my control, even when they were not. So, I tried everything in my power to self-soothe and keep my ups and downs to myself, to no avail.

I was never able to heal by simply keeping my head held high and pretending that everything was okay. Sure, I could smile and reply “fine,” when others asked how I was feeling. But the smiles and the words were false. I carried around a false version of myself for a very long time.

When I first began to struggle with mental illness, I truly believed that I was going to be able to conquer it all on my own and that I didn’t need anybody’s help. I was determined to stick it out and push forward and ultimately “suck it up.” Now you’re probably thinking “yeah, I’m sure that worked out soooooo well…..NOT” and you would be entirely correct! I crashed and burned and had dug myself into a hole that was going to take a long time to get out of.

By the time I realized that I truly needed to seek professional help, I had almost lost everything. I didn’t want to go into work anymore, so I stayed home. I used up all of my time off, then took a medical leave. All of that time away would have been a perfect excuse to start working on things. But I wasn’t ready, so I didn’t.

I laid in bed mostly, feeling sorry for myself. Then I started to drink alcohol to manage my symptoms. For a fleeting few minutes, I would feel alive again and ready to conquer the world. But that never lasted. There would always be the crash, feeling more tired than ever before, which lead to more drinking and more crashing. We’re told that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I’ve come to believe that this is valid, because that’s exactly what I was doing and the result as always the same – I’d crash and burn.

Eventually, trying to cope with my mental struggles with liquor made my body and mind physically addicted to it. What was once an attempt to live a happy life soon became an attempt to live any life at all. I knew if I stopped, I would experience life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. I’d try many times but would always reach a point where the shakes and my inability to think straight were getting downright scary. That’s when I’d have to reach for another bottle to ease my nerves and feel “normal” again – even if normal was miserable.

By the grace of my higher power, I am sober today. I’d love to say that I tapered off the alcohol on my own, fought through the uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms and that was that. But it didn’t happen that way, and that’s why I owe my recovery to divine intervention. A couple of DUIs later and a few hospital stints, and I’m just glad to be alive. I’m glad I never got seriously injured or seriously injured anyone else. And now I know with all certainty that I cannot cope with alcohol. If I do, I’ll die. It’s as simple as that.

I learned late in the game that support, guidance, professional help, and lifestyle changes are all a necessary part of recovering from mental illness. I also learned that accepting help is not a weakness. Please don’t make the same mistakes that I did and turn to substances to cope or keep everything in until you’re inches away from losing your life.

Let me say it one more time: Accepting help is not a weakness. If anything, admitting that you need assistance to manage and recover from mental illness is brave and strong. I wish I knew earlier that it was okay to ask for help. We should be encouraging one another to seek support when we are struggling. I am here to remind you that you can’t let your pride or other people’s opinions get in the way of your health; you deserve to live a fulfilling and joyous life and you need to allow yourself to use the resources to do that!


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