The first step in recovery is admitting you have a problem. We’ve all heard this sentiment reflected in television comedy, advice columns in magazines, and (if you’ve reached this step in your recovery) during individual or group therapy. It’s a cliche, but it’s also very true.
You can’t overcome an issue unless you have come to terms with the existence of the issue.
With that being said, overcoming problems– be it addiction, interpersonal issues, or any number of other issues in life–requires a lot more than simply being aware of the problem. This may be the first step, but it’s certainly not the last. In fact, many people become stuck in the awareness phase of dealing with a problem because they believe that it awareness of an issue will allow the issue to resolve itself. Unfortunately, this is rarely, if ever, the case.
In my experience, being aware of an issue is undoubtedly important, but so too is having the desire to overcome or resolve the issue. If you do not want to change, you won’t. It’s as simple as that. If you have absolutely no motivation or reason to change and overcome your problems, you won’t overcome your problems.
I think it’s important to recognize the process of self-improvement or problem solving as a slow moving, multi-step process. As Cristina Yang points out in the latter meme, overcoming your crap is not the same as being aware of your crap. You can be aware of an issue and do nothing to change it.
The truth is, if you want to make an impactful change in your life you need to be in it for the long haul, whether that means a few days, weeks, or even years of work. This is what it takes to recover from mental illness. You have to really want to recover or you will find yourself relapsing. You have to stick with it even when the process gets uncomfortable. Having a diagnosis is not enough. Just because you now have a label for the symptoms that you’ve been experiencing doesn’t mean you will magically be cured. I used to think that having an official diagnosis would be absolutely imperative to my recovery but two years after my diagnosis I’ve learned that the only way to truly make progress is to work hard and commit yourself to recovery no matter how challenging it becomes.
The same sentiment can be applied to overcoming the overarching societal stigma that is attached to people who struggle with mental illness. It’s not enough for people to acknowledge that a stigma exists (although this is definitely an essential first step). Instead, we need to acknowledge the stigma and then take a collective action to combat that stigma. I’ve committed nearly two years of my life researching how the media impacts societal understandings of mental health and the sad reality is that there really is not much progress being made despite the increase in anti-stigma outreach efforts made by organizations and individuals such as myself. Mental health issues continue to be the butt of sitcom jokes and the subject of TV dramas that oversimplify and misrepresent the realities of such illnesses. This information is then consumed by the general public and internalized as fact rather than fiction which in turn perpetuates misinformation and stigma.
Being aware of the oppression and stigmatization of people who suffer from mental illnesses is not enough. Awareness of the issue will not solve the issue. You need to take action to make a change. Do something about your crap, society. Stop oppressing people for illnesses that are not their fault.