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What It Looks Like to Be Brave With a Mental Illness

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To many people, being brave involves stepping out of their comfort zone and doing something courageous. Some people can choose when they want to be brave. Some people can choose to never be brave at all. Some of us have no choice — some of us have to be brave every second of every day.

Some of us have to be brave at 7:46 a.m. when our alarm is buzzing in our ears, when we don’t want to get out of our bed, when our eyelids are heavy from a restless sleep and our feet are cold. When our hair is greasy and we just really can’t do anything today. When all we want to do is sleep…

But instead, we are brave and we drink our coffee and brush our teeth.

Some of us have to be brave at 8:15 a.m. when we really want to wear that cute pink top, with our overalls and our beat up work boots, but in the back of our minds we know it doesn’t really match and that someone will probably laugh at us. We know that we look pretty cool and feel pretty. But we know that other people probably won’t think the same way as us. We almost take our boots off…

But instead, we are brave and we wear whatever the heck we want.

Some of us have to be brave at 8:52 a.m. when we are walking into our classroom and we become overwhelmed because the seat we usually sit in is taken. We don’t want to stand in the front of the room for too long while looking for a seat because everyone will look at us and our face will get bright red and our palms will sweat. We want to just walk out…

But instead, we are brave and we find a seat.

Some of us have to be brave at 12:42 p.m. when we are looking for a seat in the cafeteria. When we’ve circled the dining hall three times and still can’t find a seat. When everyone else is sitting with their friends. When everyone else is laughing and talking and smiling. When we see people looking at us, probably judging us. We think that maybe we can just pack our food up in a napkin and take it to eat outside on a bench even though it’s cold outside…

But instead, we are brave and we ask to sit next to another pack of “loners.”

Some of us have to be brave at 2:00 p.m. when we are sitting in our weekly counseling session. When we don’t want to tell them that we are really struggling. When it’d just be easier to say “I’m fixed! I did everything you asked me to do last week… I meditated… I did deep breathing… Friends?  Yes of course I’ve made a ton of friends. Yes, dating is going great too. Gee thanks, looks like we’re all done here! Bye…”

But instead, we are brave and we tell them that we need help. We really need help.

Some of us have to be brave at 3:05 p.m. as we walk back to our dorm, with stained cheeks from running mascara and red eyes from stinging tears. We forgot our sunglasses this time, we always need our sunglasses after an appointment. We just want to hide behind a tree until it’s dark out and no one can see our eyes…

But instead, we are brave and we wear our tears proudly, like a badge of honor.

Some of us have to be brave at 4:03 p.m. as we wander around the gym looking for an open treadmill, when we’re awkwardly walking around with our inhaler and water bottle. When we don’t really know where to put our jacket — should we just carry it around or put it in a locker?  When we don’t find a treadmill, we think about how easy it would be to just leave. Everyone looks pretty intense here. We think that it’d be better to come back tomorrow…

But instead, we are brave and we run on the track instead.

Some of us have to be brave at 6:17 p.m. when we’re eating our dinner (alone again) and the boy we texted an hour ago still hasn’t replied. Did we do something wrong? We must have. We really are going to be single forever. We feel like we should just text him again and apologize for bothering him and wasting his time…

But instead, we are brave and we just forget about it, because it’s his loss.

Some of us have to be brave at 8:04 p.m. when we’re sitting on our bed in our towel after a hot shower, thinking about how bad our day went. Thinking about that stupid remark we made during class, and how we tripped on the sidewalk in front of that cute boy. We don’t really want to study, but we know we have to. We don’t really want to sleep either, but we just want this day to be over. We feel defeated. This day was a waste; every day is a waste. Sometimes we feel like just giving up…

But instead, we have to be brave.

That’s the thing. We don’t give up. We continue to wake up every morning and be brave. We continue to fight this internal battle. We continue to practice loving ourselves, loving our flaws. We know this is hard. We know that some days, we won’t be brave enough to get out of bed. And that’s okay too. There is just one thing that we all need to remember:

We are all brave in our own way, and we are going to keep being brave, one day at a time.

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Thinkstock photo via Wavebreakmedia Ltd

Originally published: February 27, 2017
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