Choosing to Stay Sick -- The Devil You Know

April 2, 2019 Megan Griffith

Choosing to stay sick when you have a mental illness can feel like choosing the devil you know. Learn how to stop choosing to be sick at HealthyPlace.

I noticed some time ago that I've been choosing to stay sick because it's the devil I know. I've been dealing with mental health problems for nearly half a decade, but it's only in the last year that I've finally started making real progress toward recovery. This is because I finally admitted to myself that I was choosing to stay sick because it was what I knew how to do. Recovery was going to involve a lot of truth and change that I wasn't prepared to face, so I just didn't.

Even though it's obvious to me now, I had no idea I was doing this for years, which is why this particular reason for resisting recovery is so difficult to avoid. It happens subconsciously. When faced with a decision between what we have and what we want, we often choose what we have because it's the devil we know. Sure, no one wants to be sick, but if that's what you're used to, it can feel safer than the idea of getting better because there's no way to know what that will be like. What if it's just another devil?

Choosing to Stay Sick Because of the Devils of Recovery

I'm currently working on leaving behind the devil I know to choose recovery, and even though recovery itself is a wonderful thing and I've seen so many improvements in my day-to-day life already, it has come with many, many devils as well. If I'm being compassionate with myself, I can understand why I avoided them for so long.

The biggest devil I've had to face is ambiguity. Four years ago, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder type II, but I could never accept the diagnosis. Instead, I obsessed about it relentlessly, questioned it, doubted it, drove myself to the brinks of distress and back several times a day. I needed to be absolutely certain that bipolar was the right diagnosis, and there just wasn't any way to prove it. This was clearly no kind of environment for recovery, I was choosing to stay sick because it was the devil I knew. For a long time, I simply wasn't ready to either accept my diagnosis or let it go because both options would require me to accept ambiguity into my mental health, and honestly, that still scares me. But I'm working on it, because even though it's deeply uncomfortable, I'm learning there may be no absolute truth to be found when it comes to my mental health, and my energy is better spent trying to get better, rather than trying to dig my way to the bottom of a bottomless hole.

Choosing Recovery Instead of Choosing to Stay Sick

So how do we move past choosing to stay sick and take on new challenges? I definitely don't have all the answers because I just started this whole process less than a year ago, but I have a little bit of guidance: you've got to acknowledge that you're resisting recovery because choosing to stay sick has some sort of comfort to it, even if you aren't doing it on purpose.

I know admitting this was incredibly difficult for me because I felt like it meant my illness was my fault and I just wasn't doing anything about it because I had gotten used to being sick, but I'm learning that this isn't true. Having a mental illness is hard and scary, and if our brains can find any comfort, they cling to it, even if that comfort comes from the illness itself. There's no shame in realizing you've been choosing to stay sick. When you're ready, you will leave that devil behind and face your recovery devils, and it will be okay.

APA Reference
Griffith, M. (2019, April 2). Choosing to Stay Sick -- The Devil You Know, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 16 from

Author: Megan Griffith

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