Don’t Let Mental Illness Define You As a Woman
Womanhood means being everything to everyone while trying to figure out who you are and what makes you happy. We are seen as the pillar of the family, the source of comfort and kindness, and the beacon of unconditional love. Women are natural multitaskers who can do it all. Strong yet soft, stern but approachable, forceful and malleable in the same instant.
As a woman living with chronic migraines and raising a family, life became incredibly challenging. It wore me down mentally just as much as it did physically. Having major depressive disorder and general anxiety disorder almost broke me. I felt weak, worthless, useless, incompetent, unimportant, and disposable.
The negative self-talk took over, and I believed every word my mental illnesses were telling me every day. I started to personify those feelings and incorporate them into who I thought I truly was as a woman and mother. Through therapy and lots of self-reflection and inner-work, I learned to lean into the positives as much as possible and to love the woman I am, mental health issues and all.
You Are Not Your Mental Illness
Being diagnosed with a mental illness is no different than getting an asthma or diabetes diagnosis. They are all chronic conditions that need to be managed effectively so that the person can have a better quality of life. No one asks to be sick. Nothing you have done in your life created this diagnosis. It is not a reflection of who you are as an individual.
Modify Your Language
We say things like “I am depressed” or “I am anxious,” embodying our condition and symptoms and making them a part of our cellular DNA. Doing this makes it hard to separate the mental illness from ourselves. Instead, when you are experiencing increased feelings of depression or anxiety, say “I am having a flare up.” Changing up your language will change your perspective!
It Is Okay Not Being Okay
When you are in the middle of a particularly difficult flare up, remember that you are not your illness. It is okay not to be okay because it is a part of having a chronic illness. You will have bad days and that is okay. It doesn’t make you any less of a mother, sister, daughter, friend, employee, or human being. Learning how to let go may not be easy, but it can be done.
You Have Value and Are Worthy of Love
Despite what mental illness tries to make you believe about yourself, you have always been a valued part of the world. You remain someone who has talents, skills, and abilities to offer. You are worthy of love – especially from yourself. You cannot fill anyone else’s cup if yours is empty. Self-care is an important and necessary part of mental health and recovery. Take the time to learn some meditation and practice taking a few minutes out of the day just for YOU. Use that time to develop and strengthen a relationship with yourself that no one can break.
At the end of the day, you are enough as you are. In all of your incompleteness, brokenness, and every flaw, you are deserving of happiness. To help me weather the storms and conquer the tougher days, I came up with a mantra to remind me of who I am. I want to pass it on to you in closing.
You are not your mental illness.
You are uniquely made.
You are who you are supposed to be right now in this time and space.
Be kind to yourself.
You ARE worth loving yourself.
About the Author: Jaime Sanders is the author of the award-wining blog The Migraine Diva. She is a member of the Coalition for Headache and Migraine Patients and Headache and Migraine Policy Forum. Jaime works with the Society for Women’s Health Research Interdisciplinary Migraine Network and sits on the Patient Leadership Council with the National Headache Foundation.