Isa is from a very small village in Germany near Munich and she loves to read because it helps her survive. Her goal is to be happy, she said, “I want to exceed my self-created borders, live a healthy relationship with food, have a full functioning body and just to be content with myself and my environment.” Isa also wants to appreciate what she has already achieved. Not only that, she pictures herself in another country, studying psychology and simply living my life.
Isa was diagnosed with recurrent depressive disorder, but she doesn’t want to be identified with the name of a disorder. She said, “you can’t say a person has this or that just by knowing specific symptoms because there’s so much more than ‘just’ these symptoms that constitutes a human being.” Isa has several problems with eating and the relationship between herself and her body. Thankfully, she’s able to recognize negative thoughts early enough to control it. She also said, “one of my biggest problems is the depressive episodes that sneak into my life, mostly unseen and expand so much that my whole life consists of them. And I think the worst is that I never know how long they’ll last. Sometimes just one week, sometimes they extend over months.” Isa also has specific symptoms of a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), that appear during depressive episodes.
Her mental disorders were triggered by a traumatic experience a few years ago. Now-a-days she recognizes it’s also due to not reaching out for help on time because she did not acknowledge that she had a serious problem. Isa is receiving behavioral therapy and treatment for her bad eating habits. Isa has been battling various opposing symptoms, she said, “on some days I just feel the overwhelming urge to stay in bed and never get up while on other days I feel like I could do anything.” Her other symptoms are panic attacks, chronic fatigue, the feeling of constantly having a cold, concentration issues and sleeping problems.
Due to this Isa struggles with daily situations like school and going outside the house. She said, “it’s very hard to attend school regularly and to meet my own requirements. I often think that I’m not good enough for any friends or relationships, leading me to isolate myself from people who care.” At times Isa is filled with self-hatred and self-confidence issues. She has self-harmed herself with cutting, but thankfully she’s self-harm free for about a year now. Isa has thought about suicide, and has never attempted it she said, “I think I wouldn’t have the courage to do it, especially because somehow I love my life too much to do something like that.”
Isa couldn’t maintain relationships, she said, “people couldn’t handle my extreme mood changes and the never fading trust issues.” This made her feel sorry, for hurting those who wanted to help her. For Isa, there wasn’t an actual turning point, it was and still is a long and slow process of learning, realizing and changing. She said:
“I think the most important insight for me was regardless of whether how bad I feel, I DESERVE to be happy. Not just to be alive, but to appreciate and to enjoy the privilege of so many things. I’ve learned to cherish the small things in my life, to value everyone as much as they deserve and specially to value myself. To treat me like I would treat anyone I love and to see myself as a friend, not as an enemy.”
“I can’t say that I’ve overcome those illnesses and that I’m completely recovered, but I think it’s more worthy to say that I am fighting even though I’m close to giving up on some days. And I think that’s something everyone needs to start, going in small steps towards a better life.”
The strategies Isa use to get better was to go out on weekends, opened herself up to her therapist and accepted help the people offered her. She also allowed herself to feel the things he has suppressed, by observing it and identify the negative thinking patterns. She said, “Sometimes they were hard to identify because they came in disguise, but once I’ve got to know myself better I could see them clearly.” Her friends helped by going out with her, and her parents learned to deal with her moods swings and let her stay at home on her bad days. Isa’s therapist helped by teaching her how to start all over again. She said, “I’ve underestimated professional help and now I notice how much it can help you.”
This is the lesson Isa learned from this ordeal:
“I’ve learned that even if life hits you harder than you thought it ever could, it still goes on. And even if you feel like dying one day, it will get better. It will always get better. There are bad things, but life consists of so much more than the negative.”
This is her advice for those battling with mental illness:
“Do whatever makes you feel like after something bad has happened. Bury and isolate yourself for days, don’t talk to anyone, cry as much as you want to read 1 or 100 books, watch sad movies, listen to sad music and just feel. Feel the things you need to feel and don’t make the mistake to suppress them. There’s nothing wrong in crying for two hours straight. But even while you do those things, never forget this: There’s a life. A life that waits for you to live it. And even if you don’t feel like it, never give up. Never stop hoping and believing in things to get better. Because they will, they always will. Nothing lasts forever and neither will these feelings. And the only person who it starts with is you. You are the one to change your life, to start with a new perspective, a new self. Challenge yourself but don’t expect too much, change comes in small steps, but if you never start, it never will. No one can save you, learn to realize that you’re your own savior. And the most important: Never, NEVER, forget, that you’re worth it. You’re worth every bit of this life and every good moment that will happen in the future (I promise there will be so many). You deserve the best and you will get the best by simply being the best version of yourself. You’re strong enough, you’re enough and every part of you deserves it to be alive.”
If you or anyone you know needs a safe place to vent out and recieve advice feel free to become a member of the Mental Illness Recovery Series Group on Facebook.