Today, I had the startling realization that my mental illness is not my fault.
This morning, I received an e-mail from work saying that I needed to submit a doctor’s note, as I have called in sick for my past two shifts. I believe this is the policy, but of course I took it personally, and decided that everybody at my job hates me and thinks I’m lying.
I filled out a thought record about this situation. (In brief, a thought record is a therapy tool where you record your distressing thoughts and counter any cognitive distortions). My thoughts were generally about work people thinking I’m dishonest and irresponsible. And I realized that I am so afraid of these judgments because I think they’re true.
I have been dealing with mental illness for my entire life, and have been receiving treatment for 7 years. To this day, I still feel like I’m lying when I miss something for mental health reasons and then say that I am sick. But I AM sick. My illnesses won’t show up on an X-ray or an MRI, but they’re real. I don’t miss midterms and work shifts because it’s so much more fun to stay in bed and deal with all the repercussions.
Sometimes I feel like shit in the hospital, because the people around me are here by misfortune, but I did this to myself. But I never chose to be depressed. And I would choose the alternative in a second if I could.
I did not choose to develop an eating disorder that forced me to take a year off school to receive treatment. I did not choose to require disability accommodations and a reduced course load to complete my undergraduate degree. And I certainly never chose to spend my weekends with my legs cut up and an IV in my arm. (No really, I don’t do this for shits and giggles.)
Ironically, it’s my own illness that makes me hate myself for having it. My depression thinks I’m a piece of shit for staying in bed all day. The perfectionism that contributed to my Anorexia is disgusted that I won’t complete my BA in four years. My anxiety is terrified that I will never be able to function normally. My OCD is busy counting to 11 and making sure there aren’t too many colours in my outfits, so it doesn’t really fit into my whole analogy, but that isn’t the point.
I am a person living with chronic illness that disables me on a daily basis. I am a person who deals with so many obstacles that sometimes I would rather die than face them. But I have made it this far. I have survived to see my 22nd birthday. I have completed two-ish years of university. I access every resource I can find, because I am willing to fight for a better life.
I am sick. But that is NOT MY FAULT.