An Open Letter To Those Struggling With A Mental Illness

Dear Mental Illness Warrior,

I'm sorry you are dealing with a mental illness and the last thing you want to hear is 'it's going to be okay' but you are not alone, i promise. I know the stigma that comes along with having mental illness and I know just how hard it can be to cope with on a day to day basis.

All you see right now, is darkness, no way out. The demons in your mind controlling every emotion. You feel trapped. Trapped inside your own mind. With no hope. 
You are fed up of people telling you that it will be okay in the end. It's all going to be okay. You wonder when the end is going to come because you have been suffering silently for months maybe even years on end and you haven't seen as much as a glimmer of hope. Or things got better even just a little bit then your world came crashing down, shattering like glass.

You have good days, not the greatest of days but you get by. You have bad days that seem to out weigh the good, they out stay their welcome. Maybe deep down you know that it'll be okay in the end but it's impossible to see ahead of the dark, gloomy fog. 

Whatever situation you are in, I want you to know something. You can and will get better. On one condition, you want to get better and are prepared to stand up to your mental illness and not let it get the better of you. You can and will do amazing things, don't sell yourself short, you are amazing, strong and valid. 

Don't be embarrassed to have a mental illness, because this isn't your fault. When it comes to physical illnesses like the flu or a cold, nobody feels embarrassed saying that they have to stay home or they are showing symptoms of their illness. Society knows that you cannot help a physical illness, so why should you be embarrassed to have a mental illness? While it's natural to feel different because of a mental illness, it's important to remember that it's not your fault and there's nothing to be embarrassed about. You don't need to feel ashamed for taking medication to help make the day more bearable, it's not something you should feel the need to hide. 

I know you probably feel like you have failed. You might feel like you have no grip on structure and that you have no containment on the worst parts of yourself. Like the tears, your dignity flows away. I know how hard you struggle. Please, have hope. Hope that you can help yourself. Hope that you can keep going. Don’t let the stigma of your illness stop you from seeing the sunshine.

Every day, just once a day, step foot into the daylight, close your eyes and breathe deeply. Feel that? You’re still here. You’re alive. You’ve made it one more day. That, is a massive achievement. You keep fighting, not because you are weakened by your illness, but because you are inherently strengthened by it.

Remember to take care of yourself. It's perfectly okay to take a break once in awhile. If you aren't up for something, it's okay to say no. Sometimes we all need a night to relax and de-stress. Whenever I go through a depressive episode, I distract myself by watching my favorite television shows or watching YouTube videos. This may not be the same for everyone, so try something new until you figure out what works for you. Also, try to be productive to the best of your ability, so you don't feel worse later. Listen to your mind and your body, and if you need to rest, do so. 

I want you to know how proud I am of you. While your thoughts are controlled by negativity, stress, and panic, you are able to be strong every day. I am amazed by you. You show what strength truly is. You are not weird or crazy. You are a human being with feelings, who deserves to be loved. You are not your mental illness. You have real feelings and thoughts that can make it difficult to get out of bed in the morning. They are feelings that can make you question your worth and your role in this world.

I won't sugar coat things I can't tell you that it's all going to be okay, that it's going to be easy because it's not. Recovery isn't a straight road. It's going to be full of obstacles and bumps because it's very hard to change. I am still on my mental health journey and there are days where i want it to be over, days where it's just too much. There are days where i wish i had a magic wand to banish my demons inside my mind. It's not an easy road but I want you to know it's ok to take a step back, it's ok to take a day or two or more to focus on you, you are your main focus - remember that. 

You are not broken. I repeat. You are not broken. Don't try to change yourself. There's nothing wrong with you and you don't need to say sorry for anything.
 You are not the crazy stereotype that people see you as and you are not the exaggeration the media portrays either. Please remember illness does not define who you are. It never will. You are more than this and you know you have a million wonderful things to offer in this world.

Always celebrate your wins, no matter how small you may think they are. If you don’t feel you are up to whatever it is you need to accomplish today, then forgive yourself. Always forgive yourself. With each forgiveness, you will become stronger and you will realize, hundreds of “I forgive yous” later, there was nothing to forgive in the first place.

Take each day as it comes: a fresh start, you will fall down and you will get back up stronger, wiser and braver. Mental illnesses don't have a day off, you can keep fighting, keep going. I believe in you, focus on your goals and abilities. You can do it. Don't put pressure on yourself to recover quickly because it won't happen. But that doesn't mean that recovery will never happen. Please hang on in there because you are braver, smarter, kinder, prettier and stronger than what you think you are. 
I'm here with you every step of the way.

Your achievements should never be measured on the litmus test of your peers.You don’t follow the current. You travel on a different river of life. Yet, just because you don’t go by the same boat as the masses, doesn’t mean you don’t have a destination.

Celebrate the parts of yourself that make you unique. Cherish those parts. Nurture them so they can grow. Even if you can hardly see those parts of yourself, I promise you, they are still there. They just need a little attention. When you watch them grow, you will feel it right down to your bones.

When you see your accomplishments start to flourish, one building upon the other, growing around you, you will start to feel just a shred of dignity. Maybe even a little capability and quite possibly some small appearance of self-love.

Love and determination. That’s who you are. It’s a fight, I know. Every single day is the fight of your life, it seems. Thinking about the future brings far too much fear to face today. So don’t think about that. Think about how far you have come.
You’re a champion. So find that light in your life. Maybe it’s the smallest pinhole of light, but hold onto that. It may feel impossible today, but that’s the funny thing about life. It’s full of amazing impossibilities.

You are just one of them. You are one of those incredible stories of strength, courage and resilience. Even when you can’t even get out of bed, you are still a superhero. Remember that.

I support you, I accept you, and I am you,

-A Fellow Mental Illness Warrior

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