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The Everyday, Internal Battle of Mental Illness

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“How was your day?” my mom asks on the phone.

This question always slides right past me, never through me, because digesting it means I have to sum up my day in a concrete, finite way. Does she really want to know how my day was? I wake up to an unpleasant alarm on my phone and immediately want to hit snooze. I’m not even still tired, am I?

I’m just dreading this day. Another day. I feel like it would be so much easier to just be dead. I’ll just set my alarm for another hour. Then, I’ll sit in bed feeling completely useless and lazy.

OK, how anxious am I this morning? Too anxious for coffee or just the right level so coffee won’t send me over the edge? It feels like each atom within me is fighting with the one next to it. There is so much pressure building up inside me and I can’t sit still, slow my heart rate or think of anything besides cutting myself. OK, nope, no coffee for me today.

I start to cry into my cereal. Why am I crying? Why is this sudden gaping emptiness washing over me? I feel like a planet being knocked out of orbit. Where is my mind taking me now? My mood swings until I’m toppled over, curled on my bed wanting to cease my existence. My mind automatically resorts to suicidal thoughts when I’m stressed out. I should just die. I want to cut myself.

I should use some other coping skills and not give into my mental illness, but my mind won’t stop. I can’t breathe and I can’t think of anything besides hurting myself. I text a few friends. There we go. Nobody answers because they work daytime hours and I work evenings. So I still feel alone. Wait, what if they hate me? What if they only talk to me because they feel bad for me? What if they’re not actually busy and just don’t want to respond?

It’s 1 p.m. I need to get ready for work. I’m going to delay my shower as much as possible because I feel paralyzed. I don’t know how I’m going to get through this shift. I can’t be a psych nurse. I can’t do this. How am I supposed to take care of other people if I can’t even take care of myself? OK, shut up, mental illness. I don’t have time for you. At least I’ll be able to distract myself from you at work.

Oh god, I’m so anxious to drive. Please, please, please don’t let me get into a car accident or have my car break down. It could literally happen at any moment. Any. Moment. When I switch lanes on the highway, no matter how many times I check, I imagine another car smashing into mine.

Phew, made it to work. Time to pep it up. I smile, laugh and greet all my coworkers and patients. “We’re gonna have a great night, guys!” I tell them. I believe myself and get my work done quickly and efficiently. I feel so much better. Thank goodness.

In the middle of my shift, I space out at the computer while I’m charting. A coworker starts chatting with me, and I suddenly feel completely detached from everybody around me. I feel so alone and worthless. I might as well just be dead. I’m in a world completely alone, and the emotional pain pierces through me like a thousand knives I can’t stop fantasizing about.

I hide in the bathroom for a few minutes and count down the minutes until I can go home and retreat into isolation for the night. Finally, bed. Here’s to another day survived with you, mental illness. I can almost feel your grip around me right now and you feel so comfortable, so familiar, but guess what? You are not welcome here. You may be a part of me, but you never defined me and you never will. I’m a warrior and beyond worthy of life, and you will be defeated.

Maybe tomorrow.

Image via Thinkstock.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

Originally published: September 12, 2016
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