There's a burden that comes with mental illness that is hard to see. It took a year of therapy for me to see it and it has taken much longer for me to understand its impact. Honestly, I'm still trying to understand it.
So what is it? Well. Mental illness makes life painful, difficult, confusing, unbearable and... so many other things. No matter how long you've lived with it, there have been times where you just wished things could be different. That is where The Burden lives.
When you start looking for treatment, you are trying to find a way for a better life. Find a way to ensure that in the future you aren't suffering. But something you don't notice is mental illness sneaking in and sitting in the back, heckling you. Soon you're thinking:
What if I start feeling better? I wasted all that time feeling so terrible, I could have been so much more if only I got help sooner...
It becomes harder to imagine life differently because you have regret pulling you back. You start blaming yourself for not getting help sooner. You kept yourself down, you could have... what if you... if only...
That's The Burden. That questioning. That loop.
It wasn't until I really faced what that meant that I felt like I could manage my depression. With work and maintenance. It's a Burden that is easy to think you can't get past. It's easy to believe that you can't push past it because you have this mental illness, there's a reason you have this Burden. It just is unavoidable. You just have to deal with it; you have it forever.
That is true to an extent. But there is also a point where it turns into a crutch. Yes, your mental illness is there and has a direct effect on you, your life, how you think, and how you are. But it isn't WHO you are. It doesn't change the person you are unless you don't push back. If you don't start to question your thoughts and feelings then you might be that mental illness. It is so hard to pull your personality away from mental illness.
It might help for me to explain how I view my own mental illness. That voice in my head saying "Nothing you do matters," isn't me. I spent so much of my life thinking that I was telling myself these things, that I was making myself miserable all the time. I blamed myself for the self hate that was forced on me. That blame just made this feedback loop from hell, and it kept going on forever. Eventually building up and breaking me completely. I didn't question it at all, because who knows me better than me? Who knows all my thoughts and feelings? I know everything there is to know, someone else can't possibly judge me accurately, they can't know how truly messed up I am.
My therapist gave me the book "How to Tame your Gremlin" and that was a huge turning point for everything. The book helped me break out of the loop. I stopped blaming myself for the emotional abuse that I had inside. I stopped looking at that voice as part of who I am. The negative self-abusive thing is not me.
Being able to see my depression and anxiety as something separate from myself was a game changer. It's like in "The Wizard of Oz." When you see the man behind the curtain, it changes the meaning of everything. I co-exist with my depression and anxiety. But each are their own entity. They can work together and build off the other, and they do.
So to anyone in therapy, if you feel like you're not progressing, like you're missing something, you don't know how to move forward and live a better life... Stop and see if maybe the fear of seeing your life until now as a waste is why you're feeling stuck.
If you are? Tell your mental illness to shut up. Life is never a waste. You grew in all that time. You would not be the person you are right now if things were different. Wallowing in the past is going to fuel the worst of your mental illness. Take that energy and use it to push back. You're worth the effort.