The Gray Area of Mental Illness

Worth Living Ambassador Jessie Fawcett


Hello, my name is Jessie and I’m a student attending Ryerson University to obtain a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work. I am dedicated to being able to work in a juvenile detention centre in order to help aid youths who are struggling with their own lives. Mental health has always had a huge impact on my life and I’m finally starting to be able to share my story in hopes to help others who are also struggling with the same issues as well as shedding some light onto mental health

The Gray Area of Mental Illness

There is such a conflicting mindset when having mental illness. There are times when you want to be healthy and free, but there are also times when you either just want to give in to your illness and do what it tells you or to just let it defeat you. Not only does having mental illness create a vicious cycle of questioning your own sanity but when adding thoughts that question whether or not you can be you without it just creates more emotional anguish.

I know that, for myself, I often feel that if I recover completely that I will no longer be the person that I have always been. I feel like I will be losing such a crucial part of my persona that I will be unrecognizable and that my past self would be erased. In many ways, this would be a beneficial outcome due to the detrimental impacts that my illnesses have had on me. However, they have also created connections for me and gave me strength in their development. Without my illnesses I would not be friends with many people, I would not see things with the same perspective, and I would most likely not be taking the same career path as I am now. I would be a different person altogether. Now I am in no way saying that I do not wish for recovery, but what I am saying is that I am scared of achieving it. Nobody wants to be sick, but many of us are not particularly fond of change either.

I fulfill many types of activities now more than ever before. One illness that I am slowly, but surely, overcoming is generalized anxiety. I can talk to new people without breaking into a cold sweat, I can push myself to make phone calls to book appointments, I can state what is on my mind to others when I am distraught, I reach out for help when I know that I need it. These are some things that I could have never done before. Even though this disorder still haunts me, it no longer controls me and that is something of which I will always be proud. Yes, of course I still struggle with it, but in light of the fact that it would drive me to skip school or have constant panic attacks. I have come a very long way. This is also extremely physically beneficial as well since panic attacks are so damaging to the body causing extra stress to the nervous system. I would have intense anxiety throughout the day which caused me to develop blotches all over my chest and neck (looking like a rash). I hardly ever experience them now for which I am grateful. When in anxiety-provoking situations, I would scratch at my neck and hands to the point where I would bleed and burst blood vessels. I rarely scratch myself anymore. Generalized anxiety is definitely a disorder that I wish to completely recover from so I can move on with my life and decrease the number of unnecessary barriers and stressors that I have.

Depression on the other hand is a completely different story. Even though I have made substantial progress with this disorder, it still continues to run my life. It continuously makes harmful decisions for myself, decisions that I know are wrong but that I continue to pursue anyway because the thoughts are so loud. It makes me push people away, it makes me hate myself, it makes me cry for so long and so hard that my eyes are nearly swollen shut the next day. It makes me tear myself to shreds, it shatters my spirit like glass, it devastates me, it makes me a burden on others, it makes me selfish, it devours me and yet, for some reason I cannot picture myself having a future without it. It is not that I do not strive for happiness and recovery in this domain, it is simply that it has been controlling me for so long that I feel that I will not be me without it.

I spend countless nights crying myself to sleep because of how much I believe that I have no worth. I agonize over actions and words that I cannot take back. I fantasize about what it would be like to disappear. I imagine what others would think or feel if I was gone. My thoughts are so compelling that it terrifies me every time I have them. It is not simply the essence of wanting recovery, anyone can want something. It is about whether or not a person has what it takes to use their will power in order to change what needs to be changed. A person requires extreme self-control and dedication in order to attain recovery and sufficient change. They cannot only want it, they need to accomplish it. So, the question is; do I want recovery? Yes. Do I have what it takes to change? Yes. Do I want to change? I am unsure. I know that is not the correct answer, but it is the honest one. Like I said, change is difficult and not particularly pleasant. However, in order to achieve recovery, it is mandatory to act upon it.

It is not something that will happen overnight. I will need those closest to me to continue to have patience and encouragement in order for me to see this through. I do not want to recovery just for myself, I want to recover for those I surround myself with. I do not wish to continue being a burden on others. I want to prove to myself that I can survive this even when I don’t see the point of it. That is where the gray area comes in. I want to be free, but I do not wish to lose part of myself even if it means it will destroy me.

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One reply on “The Gray Area of Mental Illness

  • Nancy

    Again, thank you for your honesty Jessie. Every time I read one of your posts, I am enlightened. For instance, I had not considered the challenge of change when someone is working through mental health issues. I had never considered the types of feelings you describe. I simply took for granted that everyone always wants to feel better without considering this possible barrier to recovery. You are such a courageous young woman. Continue on your path to recovery. I promise you will still be yourself. And just imagine how many more people will benefit from your amazing qualities if you feel confident and happy more often. Don’t let mental illness hide those qualities from the world.

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