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Can We Embrace the Complexity of Mental Health?

As a survivor of mental illness I have been paralyzed by the depths of depression. The kind that hurts your whole body. The kind that leaves you exhausted in every way imaginable. The kind that destroys friendships. The kind that hurts your schooling or work.
12/17/2014 11:10am ET | Updated February 16, 2015
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A Recovering Therapist's Perspective

It has not been easy to be a mental health therapist in the world these last several weeks, especially here in Saint Louis.

Hell, it hasn't been easy to be human lately.

So much pain. So much violence. So much suffering. So much judgment. So much intolerance.

So much powerlessness.

And yet I believe in the power of forgiveness; of ourselves and others. I believe in the power of recovery. I believe in our abilities to heal. I believe in the power of connection and love. And, I really believe in the power of courage.

As a mental health therapist I have been educated, trained and my professional experience speaks to embracing all sides of everything. To not only seek understanding of all sides of everything but to also have empathy for all sides of everything.

Sometimes this can feel like a heavy burden to carry, especially when it comes to my personal life. It also means that I seek answers in many places and from many different angles. Such as in the case of the heartbreaking suicide of Robin Williams.

And, needless to say, many angles have been presented.

I have found myself frustrated and angered and I have found myself understood and thankful. Which I guess just brings us right back to that feeling, seeing and understanding all sides of everything.

But today in one of my sessions I was able to bring the many angles to light with one of my fellow survivors of anxiety and depression. And, within that light, I think and hope, I opened up enough space for all of us who struggle with anything to breathe a little easier.

I have depression

As a survivor of mental illness I have been paralyzed by the depths of depression. The kind that hurts your whole body. The kind that leaves you exhausted in every way imaginable. The kind that destroys friendships. The kind that hurts your schooling or work. The kind where nothing means anything and yet everything seems like too much. The kind that is so dark that you simply cannot see any light; where you don't recognize yourself or anyone else for that matter. And, the kind that makes the impossible choice somehow seem like the only choice.

I can practice my recovery

As someone who practices recovery I know the choices I must make every day to acknowledge, embrace and treat my depression. The choice to take meds when I need them. The choice to really work in my therapy. The choice to practice self-care. The choice to embrace the dark, move through it and let it pass because on some days that feels like all I can do. And, the choice to do this all with wholehearted courage.

I am a therapist practicing recovery from depression

As a mental health therapist I understand the disease. I understand the causes, both environmental and genetic. I understand the chemical, emotional and spiritual make up of it. I understand that the disease is not a choice but fighting for recovery and holding onto hope is. And, I can understand that sometimes that choice just feels too difficult to make.

This understanding all sides of it sometimes feels like too much and even too confusing. Leaving me with several different voices in my head:

It's not fair. Why do I have to suffer from depression? Why do I have to work so hard at just being okay? Why does it always linger somewhere in the background just waiting to cut off my light?

or

It's too hard. I can't keep trying. It never gets better. I am exhausted. I don't want to fight any longer.

or

Just get out of bed. Just make the choices that make it better. Just take the meds. Just set a schedule. Just freaking do it. Just...

or

Yes, I have depression (or anxiety or addiction, etc.) and I have to choose to do these things every day to be the best version of myself. Some days are good and some days are rougher. I don't need a reason or an excuse as to why I have depression. But, I can do the work to understand myself. Because this understanding will move me closer to who I am supposed to be and who I want to be.

and

Everything can and will pass. We are never really alone. And, love, light and hope are always there.

The last few months I have been plagued by opinions, judgments and the research coupled with my own experience as a sufferer, a survivor and a practitioner; with all of the voices above.

What I was able to understand today with my client was that maybe we can embrace that it is all just really complex. That most of the time we will never get the exact, sure-fire answer as to why or how. But, within that we can still understand.

We can still have compassion, for ourselves and others.

We can choose courage.

And, it is only through this compassion and courage that we can and will find our truth.

And, that this can be and is enough.

I promise.

To read more about my story and my recovery make sure to pick up a copy of Ever Upward: Overcoming the Lifelong Losses of Infertility to Own a Childfree Life available now.

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