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Dealing with the Pressure to Succeed When You Have a Mental Illness

pressure to succeed when you have a mental illnessI don’t know if this is true for everyone, but I feel a constant need to succeed, and there are definite moments when I feel desperately overwhelmed with the amount of pressure I’ve put on myself.

For years I’ve had the goal of living in a mountain house surrounded by a large grove of trees. I’ve worked hard to try to get to that point, but here I am, still on Section 8, still receiving money from the government for my disability.

I’m frustrated and, at times, angry with myself for not being able to mentally do what I have to do to get to the point where I’m satisfied.

I think an awful lot of people deal with this same feeling. I was talking to a friend about it and our mutual general consensus was that we both just want more out of our lives.

It always seems as if some people are deservedly satisfied with their lives, as if they are perfectly content with their job and their living condition. I wish I could have that comfort. But their satisfaction may be an illusion. I don’t know the full story of their personal lives. They may be just as frustrated and confused as I am. The grass is always greener on the other side.

The fact is, there will always be something better, there will always be someone doing better, and there will always be situations that seem better. That can be frustrating, but there are ways to handle it without losing your drive. It’s not easy to put into perspective, but at the very least these techniques help me get some much-needed rest so I can try again in the morning.

The first thing I do is try to remember that things could always be worse. I could be out on the street, unmedicated with a heroin addiction. Remembering that helps me be grateful for the comforts I do enjoy. It reminds that, although things aren’t perfect, I have it pretty darn good. I have a roof over my head, a nice bed to sleep in, a comfortable couch, and amenities that would make many people jealous.

The second thing I tell myself is that there is plenty of time to get where I want to go. I’m only 30 years old, for god sakes. I’m young and, thankfully, still full of energy.

Finally, I try to be conscious of the fact that I shouldn’t compare my life — with its myriad paranoia, delusions, anxiety, frustrations and confusions — to someone who doesn’t have a mental illness. With that perspective, I think I’ve done well. I’m doing much better than a lot of people in my situation, and I’ve come an immensely long way.

Everyone has seen a fair share of struggles and made it through. On the other side of hardship is growth and wisdom. And that’s worth a lot more than a dream house.

Mountain home photo available from Shutterstock

Dealing with the Pressure to Succeed When You Have a Mental Illness

Michael Hedrick

Mike Hedrick is a writer and photographer in Boulder, CO. He has lived with schizophrenia for many years and his work has been published in Salon, Scientific American and The New York Times. His book is available here You can follow his blog on living with schizophrenia here

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APA Reference
Hedrick, M. (2018). Dealing with the Pressure to Succeed When You Have a Mental Illness. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 29, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 3 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.