Do you ever wonder how your life would be like if you didn't have mental illness? I bet many of us do. I do. I think when it comes down to mental or physical condition it's not a matter of "if", it's "when". "When I feel better, I can start exercising again". However, as times flies by, there are moments when we question ourselves: "Will this "when" ever happen?", "Will I ever feel "normal" again". It's frustrating, I get it.
Mental illness feels like an emotional prison, where we were put for no reason really. It's not like we deserved it. It's hard to lose that freedom we once had (if we ever had it), when we could have read a book without anxious thoughts distracting us, exercised without pain constantly reminding of itself, or we could have started any project without overthinking it to the point it paralyzes any activity. And it's still sometimes a challenge for me to accept this "new normal" (although it's not really new to me). I really wish I could go back and change something I maybe did wrong in the past... But here I am, and reality is that I can't go back and change anything. I don't even know if me changing some things would "fix" the outcome, so the question is "What should I do now?"
The answer to the question in this title is "I don't know". Nobody knows if you will ever feel the same way you did before you started to experience mental distress. Because mental health conditions are not fully understood, it's very hard to predict what kind of treatment will help, how long it will take and whether it will help at all. It's not great news, I know. It's been more than 10 years I have been dealing with anxiety disorder, but I can say that today I feel much better than I used to 10 years ago when it first started. I don't feel like I am constantly on edge anymore, and I am pretty sure that I did everything what was in my power to achieve this progress. Here are a few things that I can recommend that helped me along the process, and hopefully will help you.
It's interesting that I often don't remember how my life was before anxiety disorder. All I know is that how I have been feeling for the last 10 years or so is not normal. The reality is that having anxiety is normal from time to time. It's when it becomes an ongoing thing - that's when it can be considered abnormal. Some of us are more anxious than others, and before my anxiety disorder I would still have gotten anxious often, so for me it's "normal". When I see that anxiety is kind of playing on the background aka it's just constantly there, that's when I call it a relapse.
Define your "normal". Find out more about your personality type. Maybe you are a person who rarely gets excited, it doesn't necessarily mean you are depressed. Pay attention to details. Having an understanding about your own "normal" will help you set realistic goals and know what to work on.
I know it's easier said than done, but I have been constantly working on it, and I believe it helps. I will always be a person who gets anxious easily, however for me it isn't about never getting nervous, it's more about setting myself free from constant anxious voices. Sometimes we are so obsessed with feeling perfect that we don't notice even small progress we make along the way. Noticing it is incredibly important for our recovery. If it's something you are struggling with, writing a journal may help.
Stop waiting for it to go away
When it comes down to my anxiety disorder I spent many years waiting for it to go away, I would constantly observe myself and look for new ways how I can change so I don't feel this way anymore. Lack of success (or should I say perceived lack of success) made me impatient and as a result more anxious.
Some of those unpleasant feelings and emotions will stay, and the goal is not to get rid of them completely, but to learn to co-exist with them. If you learn to live your life despite them, you might experience moments when you forget about them.
Don't dedicate your life to searching for a cure for your mental illness. I am not telling you to give up on your health or lose hope, I just want you to try to find peace with your current situation, which in turn will help you feel better.
Resistance to change causes a lot of pain. Learn to let go of your past self.
I don't like remembering about my past and grieving over things that are not the way they used to be. It doesn't mean I never do it, but I find it's very counterproductive as we can't bring back what's passed and the best what we can do for ourselves is to set ourselves free from hoping to go back or life to be the same again. Everything constantly changes and transforms, embrace change.
I would recommend focusing on the present. If you are struggling with something today, what can you do to help yourself to feel a little bit better? Not the way you used to feel, simply better. It will take weight off your shoulders of constantly trying to meet that high standard of feeling good, aim for feeling good enough instead.
I hope you enjoyed this post. Let me know if you can relate to what I wrote. I am looking forward to seeing you again soon on Pillows&Trees.