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The Bravery It Takes to Keep Going When Mental Illness Keeps You From Functioning

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My name is Brittany. I have depression, generalized anxiety and ADHD. I am 31 years old, and I’m still trying to figure out how to “adult” successfully. I don’t know why I find it so hard. Is it just me? Does everyone feel this way? Or is it the depression? Or the anxiety? Or the ADHD? Maybe it’s all three. Or maybe it’s just me.

I’ve read all the articles. About how to cope with depression. Little tips and tricks to get through the day. I’ve read first-hand accounts for living with anxiety. I’ve read about people with “high-functioning” depression. I wanted to relate to them. I want to be “high functioning.” I’ve watched videos of people explaining how the ADHD mind works. And I understand it, but I still can’t relate to it. Those people have motivation, purpose. They are successful. They have accomplishments.

I wanted to read the books. About motivation. About not giving a fuck and living my own life. About making better decisions and being successful. But I never read the books because it takes motivation to go out and get the book. And getting the book means committing to reading it. And I know I wouldn’t finish it so it would be a waste of money. And I would feel guilty for wasting the money, which would make me anxious. And then I’d get depressed because that’s the obvious next step. I mean, let’s face it, I make terrible decisions in life.

See how this works?

I used to go to counseling. It went really well. I thought. But I got so stressed out trying to balance (the stress) of a new job with missing work to go to the counseling appointments I needed to go to be a “functioning” adult to keep my job. I got so stressed out that I missed an appointment. When she called to check on me I apologized and made another appointment and promised her I wouldn’t forget. But I did. And since then I lost my job and I haven’t had the motivation to call for another appointment because I am too embarrassed. Because I’m not supposed to miss appointments. Because adults should be organized. Because adults shouldn’t lose their jobs. Over and over again.

When I was going to counseling, I remember her asking me if I thought I was always going to have depression. I said yes, and she disagreed. It’s part of me. Just like my hair, or my nose, or my skin. It’s always been a part of me. It’s been there for as long as I can remember. It is who I am.

She looked at me with sympathy, like she felt sorry for me. She said I won’t always have these illnesses, that this is just temporary. Temporary. What is that? How can the way I am — the way I have always been — be just temporary? Who am I then if my mental illnesses are not part of that? My mental illness shapes every aspect of my life. When I go to bed, if I sleep at night. What I eat and when I eat. How much I eat. When I shower. When I go out. What I wear. How I spend my money. If I can pull it together for eight hours a day so I appear to be a “functioning” adult to keep my job.

My name is Brittany. I have depression, anxiety and ADHD. And it does define who I am. I’ve been medicated for the last 10 years. The first five years entailed a lot of denial. I refused to accept I was depressed. I didn’t want to have a “weakness.” I didn’t want to be sick, to have an illness. All the physical symptoms I had must have another logical explanation. My brain couldn’t have been causing all of this…or could it? Over the last five years, I’ve been on a bit of journey of acceptance with myself. And it’s been freeing, to an extent. I’m learning how to be kind with myself. To be accepting of my so-called “flaws.” Learning my limits, how to properly express myself. I’m learning to be understanding of myself. The last five years have had a lot of ups and downs. I’ve failed at many things. Jobs have come and gone. Friendships have been strained and lost. Opportunities have been passed by. Every day is not a success.

My journey has taught me that those with mental illness are some of the strongest people you will ever meet. Fighting every day with their own mind, their own demons. But yet, somehow, we keep going.

And that, my darling, is brave.

Getty image by sabelskaya.

Originally published: July 3, 2019
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