I remember it like it was yesterday. I was 18 years old, institutionalized on the mental health floor, and trying to justify my suicide attempt in group therapy. Another woman, about twenty years older than me, scolded me out because I wanted to kill myself and told me how lucky I should feel because I was getting psychiatric help at such a young age and that she had to live with her illness longer than I had been alive.

Well, here I am, woman almost fifteen year later, and still getting psychiatric help. I’m still in therapy and have been in the looney bin several times since I was 18. So what does that make me? A failure? Worthless? Wasteful? Shouldn’t early intervention mean that my life would be a panacea and I would have no problems?

If that’s the case then I have failed miserably. I’ve been in therapy for a long time and I’ve been to alot of groups with varying ages. I never tell someone younger than me that they are lucky to get help early in life. I never feel jealous because they are getting help as a teenager.

Just because you receive help doesn’t mean you are helped, and that is the difference. And the help you get may not be what you really need, but it may just keep you alive for the moment.

I remember all my therapists. Some of them were great, some not so great. I’ve still got some of the same problems I had when I first started therapy fifteen years ago. I still dissociate; I still am depressed; I still have an eating disorder; I still self harm. If I wanted to I could throw a pity party and mope and mourn all the years wasted and sacrificed to ineffectual therapy. But even though I still have a long way to go to achieve mental health, I know that I’ve made progress.

Every stage of my life has given me opportunities to grow. I’ve done the best I can do at any given moment. The wear and tear I’ve experienced in my life has afforded me the opportunity to gain wisdom, so the therapy wasn’t a waste. And I’m not a waste because I’m not the poster child for mental health.

So to the woman that told me 15 years ago how lucky I was to get help early, I say fuck off. By saying that you invalidate me and how I’ve been scraping and clawing and scratching my way up the mountain for help. I’m not going to let myself feel like a waste and a disaster just because I’m not “fixed.”

To the rest of the world that might look at me and say “what the fuck is wrong with you that fifteen years of therapy won’t fix?, I try to tell myself, “Big deal.” So what that I’ve been in therapy for 15 years. That shows a sign of hope. At least I haven’t given up. At least I still try.

I know that one day my smile will be genuine and my laughter authentic. Then will I celebrate all the years, whether it’s 15 or 25, that I struggled and battled to be happy and free.