The worst thing about mental illness is not that it cages your life, but that it cages your soul. You feel trapped, doomed to live life as a person that doesn’t feel or resemble the real “you”. More than anything else though, I think it makes it nearly impossible to find hope in your life. It seems like everyday leaves you feeling farther and farther away from where you want to be and sometimes it feels like the more effort you put into getting better, the worse you feel. I’m going through one of those times right now. Year after year my anxiety disorder has taken more and more away from me, until about 5 months ago when it got to the point where there was little else it could take. I have improved since then, but results are coming much slower than I anticipated, and the frustration of wanting to get back out there and live a normal life is taking its toll.
The past week has been especially hard, but I noticed something just a few days ago that I believe really explains why I’ve been feeling so bad. We do so many things out of habit or do them without being conscious of them. Our thoughts are no different. A few days ago I began to become aware that many of my thoughts began with, “I’ll never”, “I can’t”, “they won’t”, “why do I” and “what if”. All these thoughts produce feelings of either hopelessness, self-pity, or doubt. So no wonder I was miserable. My outlook on my situation was setting up my mind to think a certain way. Shortly afterwards, I happened to catch a commercial on t.v. for the Wounded Warrior Project, and it really humbled me. Yes, I have my share of problems, but there are many people out there that have it much worse than I do. Many times our own ungratefulness causes us so much pain. When I’m only counting my burdens and not my blessings, things tend to look much bleaker than they actually are.
The great paradox of difficult times in our lives is that usually when we feel the worst we’re growing the most. I was in a similar situation about 7 years ago when I first got sober from alcohol. It felt like the worst time of my life, yet so many wonderful lessons were learned from it. In the midst of my pain, I didn’t think that God had a plan for the suffering that I was going through, and now I can look back and be grateful for the journey. Most of the time we feel the worst when we start trying to determine our future instead of embracing the one that God has planned.