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What No One Tells You About Getting Better

Congratulations! You got out of bed today and it wasn’t even that hard! And you feel happy! Maybe you even went to the gym or ate the appropriate amount of meals for a human being! These are all great things and you should be feeling on top of the world…right?

Maybe it’s not that simple. You see, colleges are constantly encouraging students to get help when your mental health is in decline. There are tons of places to go or phone numbers to call when you’ve hit complete rock bottom and can’t seem to pick yourself back up. While this is all extremely important for maintaining your health and well-being in college, what happens next? What happens when you start to feel better? When you finally get the right dosage of medication or see the right therapist? When your emotional, social, and academic lives all seem to be doing alright AT THE SAME TIME???? When you feel some sort of stability in your ever-changing world?

Here’s the truth: recovering from anxiety, depression, or any other mental illness is a challenge in itself. In fact, most suicides occur not when someone is at their worst, but when they start to feel a bit normal again. They discover a new-found energy that allows them to put thoughts into actions, even when these thoughts are detrimental.

Individuals who live with mental illness, particularly depression, become used to feeling upset. They have developed a dependency on it. In a world where everything is constantly moving and changing, a person’s mental illness seems to be one of the only constants in their life. The sadness starts to feel like home.

In my own experience, getting better was an unwelcome push out of my comfort zone. I struggled to accept feeling happy or even “normal” and I found myself constantly on edge, waiting for something bad to happen. I refused to believe that this was nothing more than a temporary high that would be followed by a crushing low. It took several talks with my family, friends, and therapist for me to come to terms with the fact that maybe I truly was getting better. That this was a good thing. After living with mental illness for two years, the miniscule changes that occurred daily were starting to add up and make a noticeable difference. Instead of being anxious or pessimistic about this, I had to train myself to embrace it.

Suffering will never completely go away. There will always be some degree of pain in a person’s life. While this may be a cynical perspective, it is important to be aware of how much you are suffering and make room for it in your life instead of ignoring it or pushing it away. Over time, however, the pain will become smaller and smaller and allow more room for other opportunities, relationships, and experiences. But that doesn’t mean the hard part is over. Learning to adjust to your new normal takes time to understand and become comfortable with, but it’s a necessary challenge on the way to recovery.

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