I have received one comment from medical professionals too many times to count during my journey with mental illness.
The comment is words to the effect of “you have a level of insight not normally seen in those dealing with mental illness.”
While not wrong, the comment is frustrating for me.
At issue isn’t the fact that I can feel myself going down. The issue is that I feel myself going down, and can’t seem to hit the brakes. I often describe the feeling as being in a car headed over a cliff, yet unable to stop. The major thought left in my mind in this analogy is that “this is gonna hurt.”
There are times that I struggle between my cognitive, rational thoughts, and my emotions. Carrying the car analogy further, when I slide it often feels like each side is fighting for the steering wheel, the cognitive side trying to steer me away from the cliff, and the emotional side determined to see the catastrophe through.
During my low points, the struggle remains near constant, which goes a long way towards explaining the fatigue I feel during my episodes.
Due to the discomfort and pain I feel in my depressive episodes I’ve often seen the insight into the illness to be a curse, more than a help. I mean, if I’m going to feel the emotional pain anyways, I’d rather not be so acutely aware of it.
On the flip side, while having the awareness is painful during a slide, because of it, when I can feel myself sliding I can take steps to minimize the damage. I can work on making changes, such as getting my sleep back under control. I can make an appointment with the doctor. If I’m really struggling, I can always get myself admitted to hospital before things careen out of control.
Having insight into my mental illness is both a curse and blessing, and it is what has allowed me to get through my most recent depressive episode with no damage.
Yes, my emotions fight for control of the wheel in often unpleasant ways, but the further I go along with things, the more I am able to separate the cognition from the emotions in my down times, allowing me to feel, but not act on, the emotions I feel.
Still, despite the awareness, it makes for a wild ride.