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It is easy to be unduly hard on yourself for having psychosis. Choosing to love yourself anyway may not be easy, but it can serve as a road map out of darkness and into a bright future.

I was so incredibly hard on myself after each time I was hospitalized for psychosis. I woke up every morning feeling defeated and like my life was over, or should be. I had no assurance, no confirmation, that my life as I knew it would ever return and move forward. I just had to force myself to put one foot in front of the other, believing that one day it was possible for my pain to be over and that I could recover.

It would have been so much easier if I had been able to see the future and know that my life would turn around and that my dreams would still come true. It would have been so encouraging to know that two years after my last psychotic break, I would secure a full-time job and a year later would land a career position. It would have been all the motivation in the world to already know that in five years I would marry the wonderful man I love in the presence of family members and friends who stuck by me. It would have been pure joy to know that in seven years I would give birth and become a mother. In those early months and years, though, all I could see in front of me were disability papers, medication, and a diagnosis, not to mention debilitating emotional pain and cognitive damage.

One Step at a Time

I had felt like the mountain before me was too formidable to climb, but I am so thankful I did not give up. My favorite quote by Dr. Martin Luther King is, “Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.” I had to trust that I was moving forward in the right direction without having everything already figured out or being able to look ahead. To take those first steps, I had to love myself and feel loved to believe that I was still alive for a reason and that I matter. I had to love myself enough to want good things to happen in my life. I had to love myself to take the next step visible to me and have hope for the future.

Self-Love Translates Into Many Things

Loving yourself translates into many other important things: The initiative to first seek treatment and then the persistence to stick with it. The tenacity to find the answers you are looking for and find the right doctor. The infinite patience you must have while your brain heals, and the wisdom to let the medicine do its work. The ability to realize that your illness is a medical condition, not a character flaw. The grace to know that you can still enjoy life even if you are not completely healed yet, and the faith that one day you could be completely yourself again. The confidence to accept you may need to take medication for life. The boldness to make the best decisions for you, no matter what anyone else thinks about mental illness. The recognition, acceptance, and appreciation of others loving you and cheering you on, because feeling loved and supported also helps with the motivation and courage to recover.

It Still Is Not Easy

You can still have love for yourself, even if you have competing feelings like shame, anger, and sadness. Even though it has been eleven years since my last psychotic break, I still blame and shame myself a little sometimes for having had psychosis, as part of a mental health diagnosis so stigmatized by society. I struggle sometimes with being kind and forgiving to myself, even though I know I did nothing wrong by having mental illness. In other words, none of this is easy. Coming to terms with how I feel about what I went through is still an ongoing battle for me, but I’m winning because love always seems to win in the end. I have found this to be true in my story, and I think love can win in your life too.

I had thought that the worst thing in the world was to lose your mind, but it isn’t. The condition of your heart matters more. The ability to choose love is the one thing that can never be taken away from you.

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Original article featured in Psychology Today | November 27, 2023. Image credit: Hassah Quajbir/ Pexels