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Mental illness touches lives in many different ways. For some of us, the touch is permanent. It’s something we spend our entire lives fighting. It colors every facet of life and comes back day after day. Once we tackle one issue in therapy, we move onto the next, time after time for the rest of our lives.

I live with both chronic mental and physical illness. When I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety at age 15, I didn’t question that this was a lifelong diagnosis. I just assumed it would be because of my genes. I simply accepted the burden and moved on. It didn’t even occur to me that this is temporary for some people until much later. In fact it still boggles my mind that some people will eventually stop taking their medication or going to therapy.

I’ve been given a handful more of diagnoses since I was 15, but one stands out in its chronicity. At age 19 I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. I’d been diagnosed with “borderline traits” in the past, mostly due to self-harm, but since personality disorders can’t be diagnosed until age 18, I’d never gotten the full diagnosis. When I did, relief flooded me. I finally had a name, a reason for my fluctuating identity, delusional thoughts, and rapid mood swings. It felt good to be able to distinguish between the personality disorder and myself. And it was comforting to have a plan of action, even if there was no cure or even medication.

It’s not like things will never change. Our illness might never go away, but we ourselves get stronger. It’s like a muscle. The more we work it, the stronger it becomes. Maybe the problematic thoughts, or whatever you deal with, won’t ever go away, but you’ll become better and better at handling them. Things do get better, even though the illness may never go away entirely.

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