While depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder and other diagnoses can make sufferers feel very alone, the truth is, most patients ultimately find a silver lining. And through treatment, they even discover a way to cope with their illness, going on to live full, vibrant and fulfilling lives and relationships.
If you're currently in the trenches and can't see past the chaos of depression or anxiety, let these true stories from women who have overcome a variety of mental illnesses inspire your journey toward health and clarity.
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"I Tried to See My Depression Through My Child's Eyes"
While she had planned on visiting her father's grave to apologize to him for not being there, her therapist intervened and asked her to dig deeper into why she was carrying around the tremendous guilt. "The counselor asked me what I would tell my son if I was in the grave and if my son was telling me this. I said I would want my son to 'put the guilt aside and live and be happy. No decision made yesterday can be unmade, and we can only sum up any mistakes as experience to use for life in the moment,'" she explains.
It was that moment of clarity that helped her rationalize her depression in an impactful way, allowing her to realize that she had a greater responsibility to get healthy: not just for herself but for her son. "I did not want him to grow up with a depressed mother who can't take care of herself or other people."
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"I Made Time for the Small Things That Brought Me Joy"
What worked for her? Learning to make the small things in life that brought her joy a priority. "I blogged. I said 'no' more often, and I stopped thinking for everyone else, and allowed them to take ownership of their outcomes. I made time for myself -- physically by getting up at 5 a.m. to pray and exercise. And I started eating lunch away from my office while shutting down my phone," she shares.
By making this shift, she held herself more accountable for self-care and prioritized her overall well-being over trying to make everyone else happy. In the end, that helped her to see the light beyond the clouds.
Image via Shannon Battle
"I Decided to Do It For Myself"
"I had been so blind to how bad my anxiety, eating and everything else had gotten, but sitting in my group talking about our motivation for recovery really inspired me to look deep inside my soul and realize that I wanted to get better for myself," she says. "I still have my bad days -- everyone does -- but I now have the tools to recognize when I'm slipping so I can pull myself out of it. I have never been happier or felt better in my life."
Eight months into her eating disorder recovery process, Alyssa posts about her experience on her Instagram, @RecoveryIsDelicious as a way to help others going through similar experiences.
Image via Alyssa Jeffers
"I Stopped Being Afraid"
"I knew I was on my way to recovery after fully accepting that I would never be the same -- and that was OK. I stopped being afraid of my diagnosis and all the stigma associated with being bipolar. I still struggle daily, but I am no longer afraid of the unknown. I embrace it," she says. Thanks to group therapy, art and meditation, she now manages her diagnosis and continues to push through the dark times to find the light.
Image via Patricia Bermudez