This week on my guest post series, I’m so excited to showcase Kate Kern’s powerful story about mental health and recovery. I’m so honored to have her share her story on my blog! Make sure to check out her twitter below!
Shortly after my 20th birthday, I lost my mind. It took me 2 years, over 25 hospital admissions, and hours upon hours of therapy before I would even begin to get it back. From that point, it took me another 2 years, a handful of additional hospital admissions, and even more hours of therapy (as well as personal self-development) to get to the point I am at today. Honestly, as hard as it was, it was all worth it because I have become a person I am proud to be. I am an entrepreneur, a traveler, a mental health advocate, and my own best friend. I talk myself through problems successfully every day and am no longer suicidal or self-destructive.
Part of my mental health advocacy is sharing what I have learned through my journey, in the hopes that it will inspire other people who are in the dark places I was in. Here, I’m sharing five lessons that I learned through my illness and recovery.
- Hope is everything.
At one point in my illness, I spent 8 ½ months in a residential treatment facility. After working with me for several months, my therapist there told me that I might not be able to realistically expect a full recovery. Even in the scary place I was in, I knew that she was wrong.
Throughout my illness and recovery, I have generally believed that no matter how bad things got, it was possible for them to get better. That is why I kept seeking help, kept talking about my intense feelings, and refused to accept no for an answer. I actually attribute my survival with that innate sense of hope.
- Everything is survivable.
My circumstances and feelings have not always been comfortable. To this day, I still feel uncomfortable on a pretty regular basis. Who doesn’t? However, as the saying goes, my track record for surviving that discomfort is 100%. Also, though I’ve struggled a lot with using self-destructive behavior to cope with those strong emotions and difficult situations, I’ve learned now that those behaviors are only self-defeating and make the discomfort feel worse and last longer.
I’m getting ready to go on an open-ended trip through the U.S., and I know going into it that it won’t be a vacation. I’m going to be on a pretty extreme budget, I’m going to be outside of my comfort zone most of the time, and I’m not planning on having a “home” for the indefinite future. Luckily, recovery taught me that everything is survivable, and on the other side of that survival, there is often something beautiful.
- I am all that I need.
These days, I consider myself to be my own best friend as well as my own therapist. This self-love and self-acceptance is a huge departure from how I related with myself earlier in my twenties. I actually think about myself kindly now, and I feel like I truly know how my mind works — which allows me to combat unhealthy or self-destructive thinking patterns with calmness and clarity.
Throughout my recovery, I’ve spent a lot of time alone. Solo camping, hiking, and road tripping has been a huge part of my journey, and all that alone time has given me space to learn about and deeply accept myself. I don’t always like everything about myself, but I have learned how to coexist peacefully with those uglier parts.
- It’s okay to accept help.
This is the other side of point 3. I think they’re obviously very different ideas, but they can coexist together. That said.
One of the earliest memories I have of recovery is of sitting in an Emergency Room cubicle with my therapist and another therapist from his clinic. I felt terrible, emotionally and physically, but what stands out for me about that moment is that I was actually willing to accept help from the professionals trying to help me. We were discussing treatment options and ways to get me out of the current crisis, and I was participating in the discussion and being honest about how I felt.
I was an incredibly angry and difficult patient to work with for the majority of my illness. I was resistant to actually getting help, even though I kept seeking it out. I wish I could take back all my horrible words and actions, but I can’t. What I can do is accept help now. I handle my life pretty well on my own at this point in my recovery, but I’m not ashamed to ask for a hand on the rare occasion that I can’t pull myself out of a situation or feeling — and I think accepting help from professionals, especially my therapist, was really important in my recovering.
- Everyone makes their life work in a different way.
During all 30+ of my hospitalizations, as well as all my time in community-based treatments, I definitely met a lot of interesting people with a lot of unique challenges. I think it’s easy for society to dismiss people who are different from them, but my experience with fellow patients throughout my illness and recovery has taught me that there is no wrong way of being a person. (Besides the obvious stuff, like horrible cruelty to others, etc.)
It’s easy to judge people’s lives when we don’t have all the information. It’s easy to judge the way other people live without knowing why they live that way. Whatever their circumstances, people make their lives work somehow, and it’s not up to any of us to judge the way they do so.
All In All…
I wouldn’t wish the experiences I had during my illness on anyone. Some of the conversations I had and situations I landed myself in still keep me from sleeping some nights. However, I learned a lot, and I don’t think I would take the experiences back if I could. After all, I’m pretty proud of who I am today, and I think all the struggles were a big part of what got me here.
As I mentioned, I’m leaving in a couple months on an open-ended trip across the United States. Along the way, I will be interviewing suicide attempt survivors about their experiences with hope. I want to know what gives survivors hope now, what gave them hope in the midst of their struggle, and what factors they attribute to their survival. I will also be raising money, partially for travel expenses to new states but mostly for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. If you are interested in donating or being interviewed, or simply getting more information about the project, you can visit my personal website or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One thing I didn’t talk about was how the journey of becoming an entrepreneur has changed my life and enhanced my mental wellness. The lifestyle freedom entrepreneurship is amazing, and I want to help other people experience it. I’ve been working with web development and design projects since I was 15, and I recently took my services professional. If you need a new or updated website for your business, you can read more about my services at KernsWebDevelopment.com. I create beautiful websites for business owners so they can focus on their areas of expertise, and I have packages for all time frames and budgets.
I want to leave you guys with a simple statement: recovery is a beautiful journey, and you can do it. It’s hard, sure, but it’s doable. I believe in you.
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