When I had my bad days, my mom would throw a blanket over me and say “Bella, this is like having a broken leg. It’s just as serious.” She was right. My severe depression and anxiety were just like any other ailment. My eating disorder was too. They all deserved treatment and I sure as hell deserved to get better. But, no matter how many times my mom said that to me, I never truly felt that way. I never felt sick enough. Some days, I wish I was even sicker. How messed up is that?
See, if someone breaks their leg, you can see the cast. You know they’re hurting. You never ask, “Well, did you really break your leg?”. With mental illness, you are constantly wondering if anyone believes you or if anyone even notices. While, yes my mom noticed when I didn’t eat dinner or my roommates realized I wasn’t getting out of bed until 4 p.m., mental illness can be a tricky thing. For a long time, I let these illnesses control my life because to me, I wasn’t sick enough to do anything about them. I was still functioning…for the most part. I wasn’t losing a dramatic amount of weight, I was still going to class, I was still seeing friends. All of this put me in a weird limbo consisting of struggling immensely but not exactly enough for me to feel like I deserved any help. And so, for a couple of years, this is how I lived – confused, sad, angry, numb, and always wishing I was sicker.
I honestly believed I was alone in this twisted feeling until I finally admitted myself into an outpatient program for my eating disorder – which I felt was the root cause of a lot of my other issues. This is extremely common when dealing with an eating disorder since it is a very physical illness and a lot of comparison in levels of sickness can occur. This is why I didn’t seek help for nearly 7 years because in my mind, there was certain “sick” I had to be and I just wasn’t there. I wished I was every day, though.
However, I quickly realized how this feeling of “not being sick enough” also finds its way into almost every mental illness. Maybe you didn’t get out of bed until 2 pm yesterday, but your mind tells you that you have to stay in bed all day to be sick. You need to have 3 panic attacks per day instead of 1. You need to eat 400 calories instead of 600. You need to be more depressed, more anxious, more bipolar, to deserve help (or empathy, sympathy, compassion, support and whatever else may come with help). Whatever it is, it’s never enough. It’s terribly ironic and it’s also heartbreaking because I’ve met so many people who feel this way too. Part of me believes that this feeling is rooted deep inside the stigmas that society has created surrounding mental illness – that it looks a certain way, that it means you’re non-functioning, or that it’s a bunch of B.S. Unfortunately, we absorb these ideas like sponges, often subconsciously, and then when we find ourselves struggling, they rear their ugly heads. Have you ever heard of someone wishing their cold was worse? Nope. Yet, here many of us are – wishing we were sicker.
Anyway, what I truly want to say is that the simple thought of “I’m not sick enough” or “I need to be sicker” automatically validates your current state of struggle. You don’t need validation from anyone else, any other doctor, friend, or family member. Those thoughts alone, already mean, yes, you are “sick enough”. I am telling you that you’re already there, and you deserve help. You don’t need to be more of anything or less of you to deserve to get better.