Bold title, I know.
‘How Did You Accept Your Mental Health Disorder?’ This was a question presented to me in the last week. In a catch-up with a colleague because of the current Worldwide situation that has shaken all of our ways of life, she wanted to check in one me.
Her concern for me was coming from a genuine place, especially after needing to take a four-week break from work in January because my anxiety disorder got the better of me. But her question threw me.
No immediate answer came to mind, which frightened me, because I think on my feet a lot, and even though I knew I was fine—even after that small, but also large breakdown I had in January—I couldn’t answer.
My mind—naturally—began racing through all the times I’ve been a fuck-up and that famous time when I lost my shit in a supermarket because there was no gluten-free Paxo stuffing, and wondered how on Earth I was fine? I also wondered briefly, whether my mind was playing tricks on me, and that maybe this was my colleagues indirect way of telling me so.
Realistically, no one would blame me for not being okay. Everything was up in the air, the worst thing for me—upheaval. The precise level of organisation I usually followed, in utter shambles. My work life being pushed to breaking point because I work for the healthcare industry, and so you can only imagine, and guess what, I still am fine.
(That’s not sarcasm either, I really am).
But even so, I can’t answer her question, because even if I know at some point, I must have, I keep searching for that moment when everything must have changed. You know, like one of those moments in the movies when the two leading stars realise they have feelings for one another, a moment like that.
And that, ladies and gentleman, is when it hit me.
Acceptance of mental health isn’t linear.
It also isn’t a one-time thing. For me, my mental health disorder is ever-growing, it changes like the weather and time, and because it’s bleeding difficult—damn you brain demons (the name I give to that very angsty, hateful side of my brain)—the acceptance of it changes too. Now, understandably, for some, you won’t have that. You’ll accept, and move on, and that’s also fine too. But for me—and maybe some of you reading this—you also feel like you’ve gone over and over again accepting this as who you are, accepting this as a part of you, and if someone was also to ask you, you wouldn’t be sure where to put your finger on when.
Which, nicely—it’s like I’m a really good blogger here—brings me back to the current situation, aka the worldwide pandemic. Our way of life, our acceptance for what is our ‘normal’ has been shot out of the window and turned to dust. Once again, we have to stare at the path in front of us, tired and hurting and wonder how will we go on—or, you’re like me and looking at the path going, ‘fucking hell’. But either way, whichever mindset you are, there will come a time we will need to accept again because acceptance is the key to it all. When I last ‘accepted’ my disorder, I was sat in my doctor’s office explaining that I needed time, I needed a break. It doesn’t sound like acceptance really, not when everything I’m doing to do so is like I’m surrendering, but sometimes the biggest part of acceptance is acknowledging when you need a minute—noticing that you need a second to catch your breath or realise that you can’t do this alone.
Now, as long as you’re not having those you-know-who thoughts and you’re managing, coping and doing as well as you can, it’s fine to take that moment, to surrender to the bedsheets and allow a moment to wallow as long as that moment is just that, a moment. It’s one of those blips in your life where you accept for a second that you just need to build strength, and that is okay. It isn’t giving in; it’s just recuperating before you go on with the next battle.
Because like accepting, fighting isn’t a one-time thing with mental health—unless you’re one of those lucky ones. It’s an ongoing battle to stay in control, to recognise the moments where worrying is more than it should be when panic isn’t just a fleeting concern but a way it affects your life. It’s trying to ground yourself when your mind wants to race because your colleague answered you sharply and you’re trying to run through all the moments to see if you’ve upset them; it’s checking, and rechecking the plug, and then being sure you didn’t turn it off when you’re home. It’s trying to not let all of that get away from you, and it’s tiring, it’s draining, but as much as I want to fight those feelings, for me—and maybe just me—accepting that sometimes it’ll happen, make those thoughts go away more.
Accepting that sometimes I’m going to fall off the path, I’m going to need help, and most of all, that every day is a new day, and I can’t predict what will happen is so hard, but it’s freeing too. It helps me love myself a little bit more, because really, the mental health disorder is as much me as I am it, and I need to accept that too.
It’s acknowledging that tomorrow I could hate the way I look in the mirror and my brain-demon then telling me my eyebrow looks like a slug—a sneaking suspicion you’ve had all week, but only now believe. I can’t do anything about it one; I can only control what is happening now, to me and maybe—even—those closest to me.
So, in this crazy time, I’ve been really trying to find a new normal for me, accepting change as much as I can, and I think that’s why I couldn’t answer, because, I’m accepting each day. I’m having to do different things, I’m having to walk different routes to work, and every social interaction is entirely different from what I’ve been used to.
But, because of that, I’ve accepted my mental health disorder too many times to count, and I’ll likely accept it another thousand times over—if not more. It’ll surprise me, in new and wonderful ways (that’s sarcasm), and I’ll learn, change and adapt with it, trying to ground myself and accept the part of me that I fear the most.
It’s horrible, it’s uprooting, but it’s made me better and stronger, two words I never thought I’d use to describe me; I also know that next week, those two words won’t even be close to what I am, but that’s okay, as much as anything can be right now.
So, as much as I didn’t want to go preachy, I am. If you’ve been reading this post, thinking you resonate with any of this, I think you need to find the new normal for you and only you, and you need to try and accept that new way of life—and in turn, accept your mental health disorder too. It’ll change because life is cruel that way, but you’ll manage again because that’s what we do, we get back up, and we go through the process again.
Because we are fighters and we are badass people who don’t take shit from no brain-demon, amirite? And also, because you’re a badass, you grow and change, you fall, and you get back up, and that’s brave as fuck, something no one ever says—but it’s true. And all of that, all the knee scrapes, the pushing to get back on the path with the help of others or by sheer determination is amazing, and the epitome of a badass.
And how, do I know this, you wonder?
Because I’m a badass, and I have a mental health disorder too.