A girl with too many thoughts...

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

I Feel Guilty For Being Okay

I have said this before and I will say it multiple times again: the symptoms of any mental health condition can (and most likely will) fluctuate in severity. Sometimes, you feel fabulous - as though you are on top of the world and can conquer anything that life throws at you (why can't I feel like this all of the time, I ask?). Other times, well...not so much. These up's and down's are something I deal with regularly and after the last month of constant lows, I have finally reached a more stable, rational mind set again.

So this is all well and good and I should probably just enjoy these rare, fleeting moments of clarity, right? But let's be realistic here, my brain would never allow me that luxury...

You see the thing is, when I'm generally feeling pretty good and managing my mental health conditions, I start to feel guilty. I feel guilty because I question whether I really had a problem in the first place or if I was simply exaggerating it all along. I feel guilty because mental health services have invested their time and money into helping me cope when I am now coping perfectly fine on my own (couldn't I have just done this all along instead of wasting precious resources?!). These 'symptoms' that I complain of that are no more than a distant memory now could surely never have existed if I no longer feel them?

I mistakenly assume that since I have been 'officially' diagnosed with a mental health condition, then I am obligated to show obvious symptoms of that condition 24/7 (I may as well walk around with a post-it note on my head explicitly stating my diagnosis). It's as though if I was to have a few weeks of normality in my life, then people (i.e. myself) may accuse me of a) faking the condition all along or b) being absolutely, 100% cured (and then act surprised when the symptoms return with a vengeance no more than two weeks later).

Here is an example: I suffer from a restrictive eating disorder, more formally known as anorexia (but I prefer not to use such terminology as I do not believe I am anorexic). This leads me to go through periods where I may considerably restrict my food intake, in an attempt to maintain or achieve an underweight BMI. It also means that I have a lot of (mostly negative and irrational) thoughts surrounding food. (As always, this is just my experience and not everybody with an eating disorder will experience the exact same!).

However, just because I have been diagnosed with an eating disorder, does not mean I suffer from said eating disorder to the same degree all of the time. Now and then, I might actually have 2 weeks of eating a pretty normal diet (whatever that means) - to an outsider it may even appear that I am perfectly 'normal'. However, that doesn't mean that I am magically cured (or was faking it before), it simply means I am managing my symptoms more effectively at that particular point in time. However, I will likely go through the stages of restriction and then eating 'normally' again and again and again and again and again (and so the cycle continues...).

All I'm trying to get across is that I often feel a lot of guilt when my mental health conditions aren't affecting me so severely. I feel like in order for my illness to be considered 'real' and 'valid', I must be constantly struggling. It's like I have to prove to myself and those around me that my mental illness is in fact real. However, I am slowly coming to accept that I shouldn't feel this way. I must realise that sometimes my mental health is going to be worse, sometimes better, but at the end of the day it is still something I am constantly having to manage.

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