When Do You Stop Being ‘Mentally Ill’?

You can cure a physical illness; that’s fairly common knowledge. You get medication (or you just wait) and it gets better- and then you’re not ill any more.

Mental illness is kind of different; I was wondering the other day if I’m still mentally ill. I mean, before xmas I was very depressed- properly, clinically depressed- so I would have been classed as ‘mentally ill’, but after months of medication and self help I don’t need the pills anymore and I don’t think about dying quite as much as I used to.

So… do I still have depression? Am I still mentally ill? If I am then what do I need to do to become ‘sane’ again? Who decides that I am ‘sane’?

I really don’t understand, and I don’t think many other people do either. I’ve written about this sort of thing before regarding self injury and just came to a jumbled conclusion that I wasn’t sure when you stopped being a self-harmer. In a way I think that the SI version of this issue is a lot clearer cut than just looking at mental illness.

I’d place a lot of money on the fact that I will, at some point in the future, become depressed again. I’ll also most likely hurt myself again… neither of these things are my choice, but based on past experience the likelihood of those two things happening to me is very high.

So am I mentally ill? Right now I’m not depressed- well, I’d probably still meet the grade, but I don’t really feel bad- I can function as a human being. I’m not really hallucinating or having delusions. I don’t want to die. I’m not self-harming. Okay, so the way that my brain works isn’t very helpful and I have a few issues from the past that I’m still working through, but on the whole I’m not in need of psychiatric medication. Therapy might be helpful- but therapy is generally always helpful; we do live in a mad world after all.

There’s also another strand to it; ‘mentally ill’ can become an identity. I know that it has for me; I retaliated against the hate, shame and fear that surrounded what was wrong with me by reclaiming the term ‘mental’ and using it with pride. This blog was built around my mental health problems. What happens to me if I’m not mental anymore? I’ve spent over five years struggling with depression, self-harm and other symptoms; but I’d say that dealing with those issues doesn’t take up my life any more, they’re not nearly as bad as they used to be.

Something about me and my brain makes it prone to depression, it could be physical, chemical or psychological- or perhaps even a combination of the three- so I know that my experiences of mental illness are far from over, but it’s nothing like it used to be and I’m able to function fine on a day to day basis.

Am I still mentally ill? If not then when will I stop being mentally ill? How can I stop?

’til next time,

Wren x

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2 thoughts on “When Do You Stop Being ‘Mentally Ill’?

  1. Speaking for myself, I remember feeling different levels of “wellness” and “not-depressed” on my road to recovery. It took about a year to get me out of the “I’m so depressed I want to kill myself” mode, but it took much longer than that – at least 6 years, if I remember correctly – until I felt like I was really excited about living. It was a struggle, for sure.

  2. It’s a very difficult question for sure. Depression has an annoying habit of returning, sometimes out of the blue and when you are at your happiest. There are still remnants of depression left in me, and there are times when I think of how it used to be when I wasn’t depressed. Recently, I’ve gotten married and moved countries so I’m keeping busy and looking forward to new things. That’s helping me for sure. But I don’t know if that would help everyone.

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