Every Morning, I Put My Mental Illness Into a Box

Every morning I wake up. I go through a battle between my depression and anxiety and I am completely exhausted before I even get to work in the morning.

However, when I finally finish my morning battle, I have to do my absolute best to cram my depression and anxiety into a box. The box isn’t very strong. Maybe the strength of a cardboard box on a good day. On a bad day, the cardboard box has sat out in the rain all day. It’s one of those boxes you pick up and the bottom falls out and your stuff goes spilling everywhere.

Anyway, I cram my mental illnesses into that box every morning on the car ride to work. Some mornings cramming things into that box takes more effort than others. Some days tears stream down my face as I struggle to get them to fit. Some days they’re just too big. On those days I want to stay home and be sick, but I’ve only been at my job for seven months and I don’t have enough time saved up to take sick days. So no matter what, I get everything packed into that box.

I put on my smiling happy face and I walk into work. It doesn’t matter how bad my morning was. When I walk into the building, I leave it all outside. I’m a preschool teacher and I cannot show my students how upset I am. The worst they have seen is when I’m legitimately sick, but even then they never know how bad it really is.

Luckily, I have an amazing co-teacher who lets me vent when I need to the most and I allow her to do the same. She’s become a close friend and I don’t know what I would do without her. However, she’s still just a coworker. We don’t hang out outside of work. We haven’t met each other’s other friends. She does not know the extent of my mental illness. No one at work does.

Most people who have not lived with me or spent more than a night with me do not know the extent of my mental illness. They all think I am a happy go-lucky person every single day. To be honest, I wish I had the energy to be that person all the time.

Some days I do and I’m that person even when I’m at home with my dogs. But other days the second I get back in my car at the end of the day, I am done. My smile fades and I let myself break down. I let my mental illness back out of the box. The second I open the top they come flying at me like the dementors from “Harry Potter.” Except I don’t always have expecto patronum to stop them. They just attack me until I’m drained. I feel really bad for my dogs on my worst days because I can manage to feed them and walk them, but playing with them does not always happen. Some days I let them out of their crates, we go outside, come back in, they eat and then back to their crates they go while I crawl back into bed. I always make it up to them on my good days and we play and cuddle all day long.

Hiding my mental illness day in and day out feels like acting. I memorized the lines. What’s wrong? “Nothing, I’m just tired.” How are you? “I’m great! How ’bout you?” I go through each day as if nothing is wrong. People know me as a very positive happy upbeat person. Someday, I strive to actually be that person. Until then, I’ll fake it till I make it.

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