‘You Aren’t Enough’ And Other Lies My Mental Illness Told Me

woman standing at sunset
Timothy Paul Smith

The idea for this article came to me while in the middle of another moment of weakness, and I decided it was time to talk about it. Not acknowledging our mental illnesses and pretending that everything is okay, I believe, is worse than the mental illness itself. I refuse to let my anxiety get the best of me, or my depression to feed off the worst. I no longer want to feel like I must stay quiet about topics that need to be talked about, so I am here to talk about my own.

For as long as I can remember, I have always needed something to keep me preoccupied. Without a project to make me feel like I am accomplishing something, or without a task to check off one of the many lists I create for myself, I allow myself to over analyze my life in a very unhealthy way. Even with those things to keep me busy, I am never not doubting my abilities, obsessing over my fear of failing, and am often convincing myself that I am not enough.

Why do I do this to myself?

I have always been hyper critical of how I view my life, and what I am doing with it. I second guess everything I do, and what I know to be true. For example, I could be 150% correct about something, but if someone tells me I am wrong or challenges my original thought, I will immediately question myself and think, “Have I been wrong this whole time?” The answer is “NO! You haven’t!”

However, my mind is just easily convinced that I am wrong in one way or another.

As I come up on my two years of sobriety, I am constantly being humbled by the compliments that are thrown my way about what that means, and how proud of myself I should be, which don’t get me wrong, I am.

But being sober doesn’t mean that my problems disappeared; it just means that my coping mechanisms had to change.

It was always easy for me to avoid certain thoughts if I drank enough to make them go away. Now that I am still faced with those same unwanted thoughts that enter my mind at any given moment, I am still struggling with how to properly cope with them. Writing has been the most helpful cure to what it is that I am feeling, and why I am feeling it, but constantly questioning your worth is hard on anyone, and it is a feeling that I know I am not alone in.

Up until my suicide attempt nearly two years ago, it never once occurred to me that mental illness was what I was battling on a daily basis. I had always thought that this was just my brain, and that was something I would have to live with. I kept it to myself because the shame I felt was always stronger than the idea of asking for help.

It was a constant back and forth battle of: “What do you even have to be sad about? People have it way worse than you. Why can’t you just shake this sadness? You have friends that love you and a family that would do anything for you, so why the hell are you sad? Get over it.”

It was thoughts like these that kept me quiet for so long. I felt bad about feeling bad, and I thought that if I could just ignore it for one more day, then maybe the thoughts would go away on their own.

But that just simply is not how mental illness works.

The night of my last drink, I thought I had come up with the only solution I had left; something I had thought about from time to time, but never something I would follow through with, or so I thought. The more you think about something, or obsess over it, the more likely you are to start believing in it.

Fast forward two years, and I am still here, something I am extremely grateful for.

So, why is it that I am still plagued with these moments of weakness? It is usually brought on by the little things that throw me off course. It could be something as simple as someone not responding to a text message of mine quick enough, which then leads to an endless spiral of thoughts as to what I did wrong, or why they may be ignoring me. When really, they are most likely just away from their phone and couldn’t answer me in a timely manner. The healthy part of me understands that completely, but the mental illness part can convince me of anything if I allow it.

The one thing that has saved me time and time again, is by speaking up and finding others that I can talk to about my own struggles. Where I had gone wrong for so long before was by holding it all in, and keeping secrets to protect those in my life, from myself. I know I have said it before, but one quote that has always stuck with me is, “You are only as sick as your secrets.”

By trying to protect everyone from my thoughts, I was internally suffering for no reason. With so much shame around this belief that people wouldn’t want to be near me if they knew that I was depressed, is ultimately what made me more depressed in the long run.

Your mental illness does not define you as a person. You shouldn’t shut yourself off from the world because you think you are alone. You are not alone, I can promise you that.

Just because people may not suffer from mental illness and what it is that you must go through, does not mean that you shouldn’t be willing to educate those who are willing to understand. Our minds don’t have to be the dark room we always feel trapped in. The more we are willing to open that door to let others in, the more opportunities we allow ourselves to let the light in as well.

I know that I don’t have all the answers to my problems, but I am no longer staying quiet about them. I ask questions, and I reach out to people who I can relate to. I do my best to make the loved ones in my life understand that my struggles are not their fault, and that I am getting better each and every day.

Sure, I may still have unwanted thoughts, and moments where I over analyze my life, and my worth, but I also am doing much better at not believing the lies my mind often tries to convince me of.

To whoever is reading this, thank you. I appreciate you. I love you.

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