To My Parents: I Am Lying When I Tell You I Am Fine
I’m not fine.
I am not fine, but even with tears running down my cheeks I will look you in the face and still insist I am. Why? Because I hate to admit that I need help, even when it’s blatantly obvious that I do.
Let’s debunk some things here. It is never just one thing, one person, or just one “bad day” that causes a spiral into sadness or an anxiety attack. It is layers upon layers of self-doubt, self-loathing, stress, overthinking. Sometimes certain things trigger a breakdown, but it is never just one thing that causes me to lay in bed for hours, staring at the ceiling. In these dark hours, I am going over every awful thing I have ever done. I am thinking of things I could have done better. I am thinking of the future, terrified I will never amount to anything. I am thinking of the present, the million better ways I could be spending my time to improve myself and my future, but have instead wasted staring mindlessly at a screen or in bed crying because I just can’t muster enough motivation to brush my hair, let alone “take on the world.” And I hate it.
I hate myself for being this way, and I know I shouldn’t because mental illness is not something you can control; it wasn’t my choice to be an emotional wreck. But that’s the thing — anxiety has a way of making everything seem like it is your fault. Things beyond my control become my fault. I think of all the ways I could have done better because I never feel like I have done good enough. I think about every last one of my faults, listing every reason I am a disappointment, a bad daughter, an awful sister and a dysfunctional human being in general.
My mood shifts often. What you need to know is that depression doesn’t just “go away.” It is not just here one day and gone the next. Depression is a dark cloud that is always looming over. Somedays the sun breaks through, and on those days, I smile, I laugh, I am OK. Other days, rain pours from this cloud and pounds against the ground, drowning out everyone and everything surrounding. On these days, I just can’t fake a smile; I can’t pretend I am OK. Most days, this cloud just keep the sky overcast — not a bad day, but not exactly a good one either. It’s just a day.
One very important thing you should know: It is not your fault. I know it is hard not to take it personally when there is nothing you can do to make me feel better, when I isolate myself, when I won’t speak for days. Know that you are doing everything right. It may not seem like it when you leave my bedside and I haven’t said more than two words to you, but your constant reassurance and letting me know you are there has helped me more than you will ever know. I know it is hard for you to understand my mental illnesses when I won’t tell you what’s wrong. I want to, believe me; I want to be able to tell you everything, but it is so hard to put it into words when I am in the middle of a breakdown. Not to mention, I feel like a burden on you already as it is, that I feel like you shouldn’t have to be burdened with my emotional turmoil. But that is not your fault either.
Depression takes all of my motivation, my joy, my positivity. It literally drains the life out of me. Anxiety makes me afraid of everything. My mind never slows down. The fact that I am too afraid to find a job weighs heavily on my brain. I am very aware that I am an adult and I need to start taking care of myself, but I am not functioning. I hate, hate, hate that I have to rely on you. That’s why I refuse to ask you for money, because I feel I don’t deserve it and you need it for the house and the kids and yourselves. I should not be a financial burden on you at 19 years old. I should be helping out, bringing some money in, paying for my own things. But instead, I sit in the same spot on my bed day after day doing nothing but being a burden on everyone. The slight indentation in the top left corner of my mattress is a depressing reminder that I am not functioning.
I am sorry. I am so sorry that I can’t just function like a “normal” human being — that you are forced to be more attentive toward me. But I hope you know I am so appreciative. I love you more than anything in this world, I just struggle to show it sometimes.
Thank you for not giving up on me, even when I want to give up on myself. Thank you for trying to be there and trying to understand. Know that I am trying to be better. I want to get better. I want to be functioning. It is because of you I am still fighting every day. Without you, I would have given up a long time ago. I am lucky to have such amazing parents that refuse to give up on me, that don’t scrutinize me for having these struggles and acknowledging that anxiety and depression are real and that they are very hindering and debilitating. Even I still struggle to acknowledge my mental illnesses as “illnesses.” I could never thank you enough.
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Thinkstock photo via Sjale