One thing I found key to recovery was preparing to walk away from the illness. After years of fighting, I didn’t know how to live without mental health problems to manage. My existence was just a reaction to controlling anxiety. I only knew how to feel good by first feeling bad and then controlling that feeling.

Doing therapy was great for getting over the obvious mental illness compulsions I was spending so much time on, but after I was done with those, I still had a life that was completely oriented around fear and anxiety. I could easily pass all of that off as “normal”. To the outside observer, it was no longer possible to tell I was dealing with any mental health issues, by I was standing on the edge of a cliff, balancing there. I didn’t know how to function without anxiety in my life, without intrusive thoughts and paranoia to fuel all of my actions and occupy my mind. Our mental health system is focused on crises so people are always falling back over that cliff into mental illness again where they can get help. Without changing the fuel for my life, I was going to fall right back over that cliff again because I thought I desperately needed the enemies at the bottom of the cliff because I only measured success by beating them.

When we make that battle the focus of our lives, our identities depend on keeping that enemy in our lives. It may sound paradoxical but as long as success meant recovering from mental illness, I needed to be struggling with mental illness. It was a big step to drop the labels, to stop seeing myself as somebody that had to fight these enemies constantly, but instead focus on putting myself into things I actually wanted to keep in my life.

Prepare for peace with your brain.

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