Three years ago, when I asked my son what he wanted for Christmas, he said: “I would want you not to have mental illness anymore. I mean, I don’t really need anything else in my life, and no thing could make my life better.”
Last night, a friend called and said she had tickets to an NHL Hockey game for that night, and would my son, Jeffrey, and I like them. In the past, my first thought would be “Can I go?” not, “Do we want to go?” Normally driving 1.5 hours at night, to a place I had never been, in sports traffic, finding parking, finding our seats, and being in a coliseum by myself (without my husband to help me,) would have been an absolute “no.” I could not have done that on my own.
Instead, we said “yes,” and it wasn’t until we were there and saw the fundraiser for that evening that I noticed how far I had come. They were raising funds for an organization that trained service dogs.We tried for years to get me a service dog, just so I could be able to go to events like this. And, here I was, taking my kid to a hockey game on my own. No assistance needed.My emetophobia was not triggering constant panic about being in an enclosed space that I do not know, with tons of people. I figured out how to drive there, park, and get inside without being overwhelmed/scared and thus either breaking down or being angry around my kid. My son did not need to hold my hand to help calm a panic attack or help me find all the bathrooms and exits before we could sit down.
A year ago, I would not have been able to do this. Maybe not even six months ago.
I have lived with co-occuring mental illnesses for my whole life. While I have never given up on one day getting better, one day being able to grant my son’s Christmas wish of his mother being recovered*, I never knew if it would happen. I never knew if I could be the parent who could take their kid out and have fun rather than struggling to go out and not have a mental and physical breakdown.
Everyone’s path to management and/or recovery* from mental illness is different. What works for one person may not work for you.
What I really want you to know is that you need to keep trying.
Even when you think you won’t get any better.
Even when you think you have tried everything, multiple times.
Many of us have no idea what will work or when it will work, or even if it does work, how long it will last.
Do it anyway.
I would say do it for your family and the people that love you, but really, do it for yourself.
You deserve it. You deserve to be able to function to the best of your ability.
* A note on recovery from mental illness: I believe that most of us with co-occuring disorders and long-term mental illness do not recover in the sense that the illness is gone and does not return. Recovery is a sliding scale and it really means to be able to function as best you can.