We Don’t Suffer from Mental Illness — We Live With It

Jennifer March, MS

Much like other illnesses, we tend to say that we suffer from the symptoms this illness manifests.

We are suffering when we experience unpleasant symptoms — our own body is revolting against us somehow.

I knew I had anxiety and depression for much of my life, but I hid it and masked the symptoms. I honestly didn’t believe that I had a mental illness. Instead, I thought it was all my fault that I was feeling this way.

If I could ‘snap out of it, my life would change. And now, three years later, I know that this is not true.

I gained a lot of insight into mental health after I graduated college with my bachelor’s degree in psychology. I wanted to get into the field of mental health and help those in need.

So I figured the best way to accomplish this goal was to work in a psychiatric hospital. And that’s what I did.

I worked in a psychiatric hospital as a mental health technician. I only worked in this position for a little over six months, but it has completely changed how I see mental health.

While working at the hospital, I saw many different patients with a wide array of mental health disorders.

The diagnoses on our unit typically ranged from schizoaffective disorder to major depressive disorder. I saw the entire spectrum of mental illness within half a year.

While I experienced crisis calls and violent patients, I mostly saw people at their lowest point.

When I saw patients come in for the first time, I recognized that this was their toughest moment. They were desperate, lost, suicidal, and maybe even delusional. But over time, watching patients heal and transform back into their usual selves was something that always warmed my heart.

Sadly, this did not happen as much as I would hope, nor would it last very long either.

I have sent off too many patients from the hospital only to come back worse than before. It’s a horrible sight when you see someone come back into the hospital in worse shape than the last time you saw them.

I live in New Mexico, a part of the United States, and our mental health care is horrible. The psychiatric hospital I worked at did the best with what they were given in terms of funding.

We are in a poor state, so we have many people who live on the streets or have no stable housing. I saw the immense suffering, isolation, and complete devastation my patients went through.

There was a good majority of patients that were homeless and had no consistent medications either.

I often find myself reflecting on the patients I cared for at the hospital. So many of my patients lived with mental illness for nearly their whole lives, and they would continue to do so.

From working at the psychiatric hospital, I learned that we suffer from mental illness, but we also live with it. Even on the best medications with the most effective treatment, other symptoms will always flare up.

By changing suffering to living, we emphasize how we battle every day to do our best — we are strong.

That even if there is a smile on my face, I may be in a world of pain — but we will be okay.

When we shift from suffering to living with mental illness, there’s a softer feel to it. Those with mental illness still suffer, but changing how we view our mental health can help us gain a different perspective.

I’ve found within my recovery that I had negative emotions, focusing on the fact that I am suffering from mental illness. I could see myself, and even my patients as well, get wrapped in their suffering — but it’s like a black hole. The suffering will suck you in, chew you up, and leave you with getting even worse.

Those diagnosed and who have struggled silently for a while know the pain involved in mental illness. Suffering implies so much negativity that it can dampen hope.

Changing your mindset around mental illness can give a new perspective in managing your mental health.

The hours I spend anxious and depressed have taught me how to break away from that. I have worked my life around my mental illness to support my needs.

Not everybody can adjust their lives to their mental illness. Not everyone has the support system that they need to thrive. I recognize that I have privilege in this matter, and some do not.

Yes, we suffer most days with our mental illness, but when we think about adjusting our lives to meet our mental health needs, the perspective shifts.

Taking on this perspective change has given me a brighter view of life. I have learned that living with mental illness can be done. This article was inspired by the YouTube page, Living Well with Schizophrenia. Please give their channel a view if you want to learn more about living well with mental illness.

As Originally Posted on Medium

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Psych nerd turned freelance writer | MS in Psychology | Mom of two cats and some house plants | #MentalHealthAdvocate #BeKind

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