To My Fellow Warriors Battling Mental Illness Full-Time
Throughout my years of being mentally ill (P.S. that’s all of them), I’ve managed to acquire a sizable number of ways to relate and explain what having a mental illness is like to someone who doesn’t have one. I’ve labored under the impression that a gentle education will breed a welcome understanding.
But on a night like tonight, that is, 24 hours after the fallout from forgetting to take the entire morning dose of my meds, I do not feel like giving a “gentle education.” So I’m going to tell it like it is.
Having a mental illness is really fucking hard.
Having a mental illness is a full-time job, one of which my genes and childhood trauma involuntarily signed me up for. If all I had to focus on was my head, chances are things would be a little easier, but, then again, there’s no real opportune time to say “yes, emotional dysregulation, I think now would be the perfect time to help me communicate with my husband!” No one answers the question, “How was your night last night?” with “Oh, fine, I hung out with my old pal ADHD and spent a good hour hyper-focused on rearranging my desk when I had a million things to do.”
In combination with teaching, grad school and oh, I don’t know, life, the gigantic amount of pressure I heap on myself is crushing. And on those days, pardon me if I just don’t fucking feel like explaining to you why I won’t answer the phone. It’s why I get immensely impatient about having to justify my reasons for my behavior when my reasons and my behavior don’t even involve you.
For a long time, I thought my mental well-being and lack thereof was a failing on my part. That I just couldn’t be enough, do enough and live well enough. My modus operandi has always been to practically kill myself (or at least want to) pleasing everyone else and making them comfortable with the needs I have based on the diagnoses I’ve been given.
And while I think education is valid and important, the best lesson I ever learned in all of this is that my responsibility has never been to make everyone comfortable with who I am. And it’s nights like the last where I’m sobbing uncontrollably for like, the fifth time, with my husband holding me that I need to remember it the most. Because it wasn’t all that long ago I was sitting on an ER bed with my husband and father explaining to the staff that yes, I was certain that I had surpassed my ability to cope.
So for those of you who aren’t struggling, I am sincerely happy for you. Please take your good fortune, exchange it for empathy and pass it along.
And, to my wonderfully complicated — albeit struggling — people, know your amazingness is appreciated on the good days but especially on the bad ones. You have the right to live exactly as you are — the rationale is always optional. Commit it to memory and keep surviving like the tough motherfucker you are.
Getty Images Photo via MistakeAnn