It's a question that shows up in my mind more often than I care to admit. Some days I feel strong enough to have a go at answering it, but at other times it overwhelms me. Perhaps that's why I chose to write this - for future reference on the days when the strength just isn't there.
Firstly, some context: I'm a mid-twenties female, and I've struggled with my mental health for 10+ years. Most notably with anorexia nervosa but alas, things are rarely so straight forward; there's been plenty of depression and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) thrown into the mix too. I'd like to be clear from the outset, before anyone assumes that I'm an ungrateful complainer - life has been a heck of a lot worse! At present, I'm (just about) holding down a full-time job, living independently, have a good circle friends and something resembling a social life. But the battle for my mind is still a 24-7 task. There are no days off, no off-switch, and I find myself frequently coming back to that question of 'when will I be fixed?'
The short answer is this: I won't be fixed. And if you're struggling with your mental health too, I'll be bold enough to say that you won't get fixed either. I'm the first to admit that initially, that sounds horrific. But hold your horses, let me explain.
For starters, what exactly does 'fixed' mean? Free of all mental distress? Happy, peaceful, fully content? No more struggles, no more breakdowns...dare I say it, ‘normal'? If, like me, these are ideals that you find yourself dreaming of on a regular basis, then here's a secret: nobody, not even the most mentally 'robust', will ever have those ideals all of the time (regardless of what their Facebook timeline suggests). It's not just the mentally ill who get distressed, feel depressed and have breakdowns; it's human beings in general. I'm not trying to trivialise the struggle for those with mental health issues, but rather bring them back into the bracket of 'human beings'. Unfortunately, our society (and to some degree even our own personal perceptions) sometimes places those with mental health issues outside of the 'human' bracket, be it consciously or subconsciously. This, I believe, is often the first place we go wrong in our understanding of mental health problems, sadly leading to all manner of misconceptions, prejudices and stereotypes.
The fact is, mental illness or no mental illness, we're all human beings - messy, fragile, chaotic human beings. I know it sounds a bit clichéd, but bear with me. Having a mental illness isn't as straight forward as a problem that needs a solution. From personal experience, it is more akin to having a pet dragon that needs taming, teaching and an assertive handler. Trying to eradicate part of your psychology is a futile mission. Apologies for this crude oversimplification, but mental illness comes about because something happens - something interrupts your relative 'peace of mind'. You don't just 'fix it' and go back to the person you were - you move through it and learn a new way of being. In essence, recovery is learning how to win the games your mind plays with you - to take the reins, so to speak. In this I believe there is real, tangible hope.
I don't for a minute claim that this is the only way of thinking about mental health. There will be things I've overlooked, gotten wrong or missed out, which is inevitable because I'm just one person and this is just one blog post. But I've decided to take the risk of putting my thoughts on a page - on the off chance that by sharing my experiences, I might help even just one person to get their head around the minefield that is recovery.