When You’re Afraid to Get Better
By Julia Foley

Who am I without my mental illnesses? That is the daunting question that scares me the most. I’ve never lived without my illnesses. They’ve always been there, no matter what. And although they’ve gotten in the way of so many things in my life, I can’t seem to let them go. I’m afraid to get better. Every time I feel I’m becoming even a little more stable, I will find a way to sabotage whatever progress I’ve made. Sometimes I do it consciously, sometimes subconsciously.

Why am I afraid to get better?

It sounds silly and it sounds backwards. I know. Why would someone want to sabotage their progress and trigger themselves into relapse? I’ve been exploring that question just about every day. The only answer I could come up with is fear. Fear because your sense of self is based solely on your illness. I have borderline personality disorder. That, for me, seems to be the only thing I can truly identify myself with all the time.

And I know a lot of people stick with the saying “I am not my illness,” and that is completely OK, and I respect and understand that. But for me, and probably for many others, we feel like we are our mental illnesses. There have never been any other parts of us so prevalent and so crystal clear as our disorders. We find solace in them because they are the one definitive aspect of ourselves that we know to be true.

Would I become invisible?

I’ve also concluded that some of us may fear getting better because we think we will only be shown love and compassion if we are sick. That may not be true for everyone, but after reading about that online somewhere, it makes total sense to me. What happens when I get better? Will people stop paying attention to me? Will they stop showing concern? Will my therapist no longer want to see me? Will I become invisible to the people around me? Personally, I am constantly struggling with those questions. I feel like I only matter when I am not well.

You’d think being self-aware of these fears would make recovery easier. But it doesn’t. It makes it even more confusing because I still don’t have control over my illness. I am constantly fighting myself. I have no idea where to go from here or what to do with these fears. A lot of the time I’m just afraid to get better. And as strange and ridiculous that may sound to others, it is the truth.


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