One morning, ten years ago, I woke up and couldn’t move. I thought I was dying. Of course, I wasn’t, but ever since that morning, I’ve been on a crazy journey, fighting mental illness (depression and social anxiety) the entire way.
I can’t say that it’s been an easy road; it hasn’t been easy or simple. But it’s been rewarding, and I hope my thoughts can help you if you suffer from mental illness. Many people struggle silently with depression at some point in their lives, yet most don’t talk about it because of the stigma which surrounds mental illness.
Here are a few steps that have helped me, and others, overcome the pain of dealing with a mental illness.
1. Accept the Fact that You Suffer
We’ve all heard that the first step is the hardest to take. The first step to overcoming mental illness is acceptance, and it’s viciously difficult.
Society and marketing have taught us that we need to be perfect. If we aren’t perfect, we are failures. I don’t know about you, but I hate failing, so life was tough for a long time.
I was filled with shame because I suffered from depression, and I didn’t want to be seen as weak. So, I put on a brave face and increased my anxiety to a point where I couldn’t talk on the phone without vomiting.
It’s okay to not be perfect. And it’s okay to suffer from mental illness. Once you accept that, it will be far easier to move to the next step.
2. Accept It the Right Way–You Are Not a Victim
Ever since I’ve started writing and speaking about my experiences with overcoming depression, a flood of people, secretly suffering, have shared their stories with me.
One problem, unfortunately, is that many of them accept depression in the wrong way. They feel stuck like a magnet to a fridge and think that they will be depressed forever. The good news: nothing could be further from the truth.
Depression isn’t a choice, but the way you handle depression is.
The victim mentality will keep you unhappy, and it could lead to a life of locking yourself in your room and hiding from the world, like I did at one point.
Happiness might try to elude those who suffer more than those who do not, but it’s worth the fight, and trust me, you will enjoy happiness on a higher level because you had to work to get there. And once you get there, you will be grateful for the tough times.
Never quit on yourself, ever.
3. Come to Grips With Who You Are
A huge part of my recovery was coming to grips with who I am. I am an introvert with a sprinkle of extrovert qualities. We all crave to be the popular kids, and I did too. But unless you’re a loud kid, who is willing to experiment with life and enjoy being around a lot of people, then it can be tough.
I was–I am–a quiet guy. Being the life of the party was never in the cards for me. It’s just not who I am.
I learned a lot about myself during my recovery. I learned baseball doesn’t have to be my life, even if it was almost a career path at one point. Just because I was doesn’t mean I am.
It may sound trivial, but baseball was a big delusion in my life. I played Division I, and my Junior College won the JUCO II World Series, and my JUCO inducted me into their Hall of Fame in 2010. Baseball was always a part of me. Whenever I came home to visit, everyone would ask me about baseball: How is baseball going? When are we going to see you on TV? Are you a big college coach yet?
Baseball defined me, and until I came to grips with the fact baseball isn’t who I am, it was tough to get over some of my mental struggles.
You are not defined by anything other than yourself. Be who you want to be and how you want to be it.
I’m a writer. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do. It just took a while to come to terms with it.