I will never stop fighting.
I will never give up.
I will never silence my voice.
I will never pretend to be someone I’m not.
I’m confused right now. I don’t know what path to take. I don’t know what to do. The darkness has eased a little, and I’ve finally stopped crying, but now I’m left in that void that lays between being in total darkness and living in the light.
No matter what I decide, someone gets hurt: my family or myself. As much as I don’t want to be selfish, I know that mentally, I need to do what’s right for me. At the same time I know I am extremely blessed that I have a husband who does support me regardless, even if decisions I make result in life being harder for us.
No choice is easy. I guess no big choice ever is. And honestly I care more about my family and their happiness than I do myself, but I know that sometimes I need to put myself first. Even if that’s hard. Even if that goes against everything I believe in. I love seeing my husband smile and laugh. I love seeing my girls happy and healthy. I love when everything in my world is status quo; when there are no mountains to climb and we live in the valleys for days.
But, that’s not life, especially not life with a mental illness. People don’t like that word, mental illness, and as much as I dislike labels, I have to own up to the fact that I do have a mental illness and I do have disabilities. But, I also need to remember that I am strong. That, although I see life and experience life differently than most, I know I have come so far in my 33 years. I have literally been through hell and back, and although I have scars, I wear them with pride. At least most of the time. Sometimes though, I want to blend in. I don’t want to be so different. So I hide. I’m good at that. I hide behind smiles and laughs. I hide behind being bubbly, because truly, when I am feeling well, that is who I am. But sometimes it’s also a mask I wear.
The world has never been a safe place to me, and that goes back to childhood. I experienced more before I was 14 years old than anyone should ever experience in their life. I saw a side of life that, although at times was good, most of the time it was bad and scary and all I had to rely on was myself, my inner-strength, and my never-ending hope that one day things would be different. These experiences have left me with scars. They’ve left me with anxieties and phobias. These experiences, although they happened when I was a child, shape who I am today.
A lot of people say keep the past in the past. And I agree, to a certain extent. You can’t always look backwards when you’re moving forward. But, you also can’t deny the experiences that made you you. I will never deny what I went through.
A lot of people say that you shouldn’t speak about it. That you shouldn’t tell people. That you should stay quiet, try to blend in, don’t let on that you suffer from mental illness. I don’t believe in that. I saw what my own father went through, and the stigma that followed him around. I saw how parents and kids that I grew up with treated my father, and in turn, myself. I believe in being honest and open; starting a conversation. I rather try to educate people than pretend that I don’t have issues.
Most of the time I’m fine. But, when something happens, when my world isn’t going as smoothly as I like, I can easily fall apart. And then it’s like dominoes. Once one falls, the rest fall, and I am left at the bottom of a dark pit with no way out.
When you live with anxiety and depression, you never know when it’s going to hit. You honestly don’t know what is going to trigger you. There’s words you should never say to me. Words that can send me into a spiral for days. There’s tones of voices that I will read too much into. There’s body language and phrases that can trigger flashbacks. It can be the least little thing, and something, like a flame, gets triggered and there’s no way to put out the fire. The only thing you can do is reach out to your support system, and let the fire run it’s course, knowing that a panic attack doesn’t last forever.
I want people to understand what it’s like to live with anxiety and depression. No medication will ever make me 100%. I’ve spent years medicated. I don’t want to be a zombie. I want to experience life with a clear mind. But, people think everything can be solved with one little pill. It can’t. People think talking to someone can solve everything, but it can’t. There are experiences so deeply ingrained that it’s hard to untangle the webs that you wove over the years to keep yourself safe.
The world is not a safe place to me. For me, I have the say the greatest invention was the cellphone. Because no matter where I am, someone can find me. No matter where I am, I can reach my husband or my mom. No matter where I am, as long as I have my cellphone, I am safe. My cellphone provides me with freedom. It lets me go outside of my house. It lets me go to the store. It lets me live a somewhat normal life. It’s always next to me or in my hand. It’s like my safety blanket, and I can’t begin to tell you how scary it is to think of not having my cellphone on me. It paralyzes me. It’s a coping mechanism I developed a long time ago, but it provided me with freedom I wouldn’t otherwise have. It makes me feel safer in a world that I can’t predict what is going to happen.
Even days when I feel alright, no one knows the small amounts of anxiety I deal with on an everyday basis. I analyze and over analyze every word that is said to me, how someone approaches me, my interactions with people. I over analyze every little thing I do. Is it enough? Is it not enough? Am I ok? Will everything be ok? Do I seem happy enough today? Did I say something that sounded stupid? Did that person not understand me? Is there something wrong with me? I have inner dialogues with myself all the time, and it’s all part of living with anxiety. But, most days I can hide those small amounts of anxiety and function ok, as long as I have my cellphone. I can text my husband just to say hi, to reassure myself he’s there. I can text him or my mother if I’m feeling slightly anxious and need someone to help me refocus. I can glance at my cellphone and know that I am safe.
Then add on top of that depression, and it can go downhill fast. My depression makes me hate myself. There is no light. There’s only darkness. My thoughts get filled with things such as “I’m not good enough”, “why do I even try”, “no one understands me”, “I just want to shut down.” And that is life with depression. Depression is a dark black endless hole that makes you feel alone and makes you feel like you’re not good enough.
Right now I’m struggling with both my anxiety and depression. I feel lost. I feel afraid. I feel alone. I can’t be trusted to make decisions right now. I can’t be expected to “snap out of it”. And I can’t check my feelings at the door.
I am me. The good and the bad. The light and the dark. It’s all part of me. All I need is understanding. All I need is time. Time to find myself again. Time to find the light.
So, know that the person who greeted you at the store today who is all smiles, might be dealing with demons you will never know about. Know that that person who is crying, they aren’t weak. Know that everyone deals with their own demons everyday. But those that deal with anxiety and depression deal with their demons on a constant, never-ending basis. And it’s tiring. It’s a battle we fight 365 days of the year. 24/7. So show love. Show compassion. Try to understand. Don’t label us. Love us.
If You Are Struggling Contact NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) – text NAMI to 741741. You are not alone.