I was diagnosed with my mood disorder almost nine years ago. Since then, I can’t count the number of times I have told my family, friends, colleagues, boyfriends, best friends, readers and most importantly myself that mental illness is not a matter of will power. Until today I didn’t realize how much I secretly doubted my own words. In a very real way I still thought of many of my symptoms as a matter of weakness.
When I first got sick and had to drop out of high school; through the haze of depression and anxiety a big part of me believed that it was laziness preventing me from going to class. Through university I thought I was a loser because I couldn’t keep up with my friends late at night. Last winter I believed I was immature and acting like a sulky teenager because I hated the world before 10 am.
All that has changed now, because for the first time in a very, very long time, I am well. New medication has shifted the chemicals in my brain. I am attending work, I am up past my old bedtime, I am productive in the morning. Finally I can recognize that if those parts of my personality which I didn’t like just melted away with a change of prescription, then they really weren’t part of my personality at all. They were symptoms, they were legitimate, they were not weakness.
No matter how many motivational posters are on my news feed, no matter how many speeches I have given to others about illness and willpower, nothing has prepared me for the freedom that has finally come from accepting my illness is real. When the difference is so stark from the wrong treatment to the right treatment, it finally proves to me that I wasn’t making it up, I wasn’t being weak. Coming to this realization is a kind of freedom that I have never felt before.
Treatment can be miraculous; if you’re struggling, seek help. I promise you it’s worth it.
On October 2, 2014 Healthy Minds Canada will host the Annual Silver Dinner in Toronto. Proceeds from the event will fund the important work done at Healthy Minds including anti-stigma efforts like this blog, and psychiatric research initiatives. Join myself and many of the other Healthy Minds bloggers on the great night for a great cause.
More info here: http://healthymindscanada.ca/event/silver-dinner-2014/
About Sarah Lindsay
Sarah Lindsay is in her mid-twenties and lives in Toronto with her boyfriend and their dog (who also has some anxiety issues). Sarah was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in 2005 at the age of 16 and is still trying to figure it out. Follow Sarah’s story on HMC’s Supportive Minds Blog, or additionally you can follow her on Twitter, Facebook or check out her new website: SarahsMoods.com