You don’t have to deal with mental illness alone

Mental illness is just that, an illness. It’s not a choice. It’s not a failing.

By Kevin J. Sabo

For the Advance

I have dealt with mental illness most of my adult life.

First, I was diagnosed with depression, then Borderline Personality Disorder, and then, thanks to a past job, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

I have dealt with significant and severe depression off and on since I was a teenager. The diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder came later, in my early 20s.

Despite the mental health difficulties I faced, I managed to succeed at one of the most stressful careers out, as a frontline emergency services worker.

Since I left the ambulance service in 2013, I have struggled with the initial diagnoses as well as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Too many hospitalizations later, I still continue to struggle. I question my worth. I question my abilities. I question how I have ended up where I am. Though I do deal with my mental health regularly through the year, late summer and mid-winter seem to find me at my worst.

I’m not going to mince words, the last few weeks have been a struggle; my mind has been descending into the darkness that always seems to encompass it at this time of year.

My mind is at odds with what is actually happening in my life. I have been successful of late, passing the first course on my way to an English degree. I’ve been busy with the paper, and I am hard at work setting up a photography business. I have my goals within reach, yet I don’t feel worthy of obtaining them.

That’s the thing with mental illness. It clouds your mind. It lies to you, telling you that you are not enough. It tells you that you are not worthy of love or success, and no matter the evidence presented to the contrary, your mind believes the lies.

Eventually these lies get to the point that they are what you believe, and you start lying to yourself.

I struggle with these lies every day; some days worse than others.

However, the fact that I struggle isn’t a failing. In fact, it has built a strength that unless one has gone through mental illness, you can’t understand. It takes strength to keep walking forward when you just want to lay down and stop.

It can be the result of past trauma overwhelming someone, or even a chemical imbalance in the brain.

It’s an illness I deal with, just like people deal with diabetes or hypertension. The most important fact in all this is this, mental illness is treatable, even though it is not a one-size-fits-all approach.

If you or someone you love is dealing with mental health concerns, contact your doctor or Alberta Health Link at 1-866-408-5465. In emergency situations, call 911.

Depression and other mental illnesses are tough to fight, and you don’t have to go through it alone. I know I don’t. I see my doctor and therapist regularly, and that helps make things bearable.

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