Caitlin, September 14, 2019

“It's not always as simple as taking some medication and getting better quickly.”

Just because I’ve gotten help doesn’t mean I’m recovered.

These days many people are becoming more receptive to mental illness and the struggles that come with it. From social media trends for ‘checking on your friends’ to a social awareness on how pressure on young girls can lead to eating disorders, mental illness is now mainstream.

However, along with this increased understanding and social normalisation come many misconceptions.

Sometimes people compare mental illness to short term physical illness, saying 'if someone had the flu, you would understand why they couldn't come into work, or why they have to take medication - it's the same for mental illness.' But mental illness doesn't work quite the same way. It's not always as simple as taking some medication and getting better quickly. For many, mental illness is a lifelong struggle. Not all mental illnesses will be 'cured', but managed instead.

It's important for people to realise this difference, so they don't have unrealistic expectations about those in their life who may be living with mental illness. If someone begins medication or therapy, they might still be unwell after weeks or months - and it could be frustrating for everyone involved if this isn't understood.

I feel like this has been the case during my own struggle with anxiety, depression, and bulimia. Even knowing the reality of mental illness, I get frustrated when I find myself struggling after completing multiple therapy courses and taking medication regularly. The idea that we should be in charge of our own health, get treated and get better, pervades our entire society, and it’s no wonder that it can be a difficulty when attempting to recover. From breaking down in sobs in my living room because things have reached a low point again after half a year, to trying to explain to my friends that I’ve had to start yet another course of antidepressants to find the right one for me, it’s a continual process, and takes time.

Just because you’re currently seeking help, or in treatment does not mean you have to be 100% well and ‘recovered’. It’s something I’ve told myself over and over when I remind myself ‘it’s just a lapse, not a relapse’, but it’s still an issue in my own life and the lives of those around me.

Try to be kind to those around you, especially those who are struggling.

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Too many people are made to feel ashamed. By sharing your story, you can help spread knowledge and perspective about mental illness that could change the way people think about it.