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    Posted May 3, 2014 by
    Rochester, New York
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Going public with mental illness

    Success is doing the best you can with what you've got

    I hope you will be very careful about how you present these 'success' stories. Diagnosing mental illness still has a subjective element, and sometimes doctors don't ask all the right questions. In addition, one person's symptoms may be less manageable to someone else with the same diagnosis, due to family support, job and economic pressures, as well as whether or not they learned resiliency in childhood.

    To some, simply getting up each morning, getting dressed, and perhaps attending a day care or workshop situation is a major accomplishment. Some hold down a job, or are able to maintain a marriage, while that is too far out of reach for others.

    Also, the course of mental illness is not a straight line with an even trajectory. Even with treatment, some people don't achieve remission, or remission is short lived. Some people have dysthymia, with repeated bouts of major clinical depression; some never experience those depths.

    While it may be inspiration for some people to read success stories, doing so may cause others to feel like abject failures. When they should be proud of achieving what they can, knowing someone with the 'same diagnosis' has earned a PhD, works in a competitive field, is married and has raised four children (a true story)..could be an unrealistic expectation for them.

    Even people without mental illness can feel dejected - not inspired - by other people's achievements. Think of how this can be for someone who is already depressed.

    I've managed to achieve a few things in my life, living with daily, constant, low grade depression, since I was 12, and a few episodes of major depression long the way....but I'm not going to list my accomplishments here.

    Maybe I was lucky. Maybe the timing of my major depressions was such that I could get some things done in between.

    But I lost some things, too. I have not maintained some cherished relationships, because I didn't want to whine and complain, and there were long periods of time when I didn't feel I had too much to offer. Or the effort of getting through the day was all I could handle, without 'socializing'. But that's me.

    Maybe my depression is not the same, or 'as bad as' someone else's. It would be wrong for me to say "If I can do it, you can do it too."

    I feel badly about the things I've lost, the opportunities not taken. I feel ashamed of those days when I couldn't get out of bed, or the times I didn't do a better job at work. I feel particularly bad about the good friends I wasn't there for, or when I didn't say or do the right thing because I was dealing with my own struggles.

    No matter how many times you hear 'it's not your fault', it often still feels like it is. Maybe others with mental illness don't feel that way, but I think it's not uncommon. There is still a stigma, and sometimes we are not only struggling against other people's opinions of us, but often our own as well.

    So, I'm almost 60 years old, and I haven't harmed myself, or thought of doing so in a long, long time. My mother committed suicide when she was younger than I am now....and that is an accomplishment, all by itself.
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