People with a mental health condition are well acquainted with the struggles of recovery. If you’re reading this, chances are you have had a similar experience. Personally, I remember struggling with my mental health a few years ago, and eventually having the privilege to seek professional help from a psychologist. I still remember the feeling of uncertainty that came with recovering. Sometimes, the sheer unfamiliarity of it all made me feel as if it would have been easier to just give up and regress back into my destructive habits. When I consulted my friends who were also struggling with a mental health condition, we discovered that this seemed to be a common experience for people in recovery. So, why does it seem easier to stay “ill” than to be healthy?
Your condition may have become a part of your self image and identity. Mental health conditions usually start developing during adolescence, which is a key period of self growth and formation of identity. Even adults who develop a mental health condition may integrate their diagnosis into their identity with enough time. Those with a mental health condition, especially adolescents, are vulnerable to having a self identity warped by the diagnosis. At some point, you may even feel your personality is inseparable from it. As a result, there may be an inevitable sense of loss and confusion when recovery takes place. The identity crises that result may be daunting enough to lure you back into the trap of being in the same mental health state. Remember that your diagnosis does not define you, and symptoms or traits are not representative of your character. It’s a difficult process, but being introspective and separating yourself from your struggles can truly be a big step towards recovery.
Quite frankly, being miserable is easier than being happy, especially for those struggling with their mental health, who are used to it. I see sadness as a sort of heavy mist that enshrouds oneself. It’s easy to simply sink back into the feelings of depression, and let it safely suffocate you. By contrast, being happy requires energy – which is not a given for some that are struggling. For many, it’s simply much easier to stay sad. However, being sad makes one lose their motivation, their energy, their productivity etc. which is just a vicious cycle that exacerbates your sadness. To counter this, slowly building up positive habits, such as talking with a friend or engaging in a hobby can gradually lift you out of the depression hole. Although it is easier to be sad in the short run, it is not a sustainable way to live, and you will most likely thank yourself for taking the path of recovery.
Personally, I know that I was reluctant to recover because I was also afraid of losing the support I had. I feared that becoming mentally healthy would mean that I was no longer deserving of the positive attention and love from my friends and family, and the kindness to which they treated me. If you feel the same way, please know that everyone, regardless of their mental health, is deserving of love and support.
All in all, it is totally normal to feel that you want to stay “ill” rather than recover, and there are many potential reasons that may be causing this. The first step to recovery is acknowledging the need to recover. When working through these mental obstacles stopping you from recovery, always remember that recovery is not a linear process and relapses are normal too. Patience and perseverance are key to recovery. As long as a continued effort is made, a healthier state of mind can be within reach.