I have depression.
I have anxiety.
I have an eating disorder.
That was scary. It’s not that you have a right to know this, but I want to share this part of myself with you. And that is my right. I don’t like hiding or pretending these aren’t parts of me just as much as my green eyes and brown hair. I’m not ashamed of things that are part of my DNA and my brain, just as I’m not ashamed that I suck at sports or have a knack for coming off as abrasive. I deal with my diseases, mental and otherwise, every second of the day. Not just when I’m taking my prescriptions or going to see my therapist, but every second that passes. I wonder if I feel happy, if I feel sad, if I think I soon will feel happy or sad. If I feel happy I wonder when the sad is coming and vice-versa. It’s a skill learning to silence these voices and live in the moment, whether happy or sad. But I’ve started to listen and now I can enjoy the happy and get through the sad as they come and go.
My head wasn’t always screwed on straight about this though; I’m no “optimist”. I spent months and years struggling to get out of bed in the morning, to dress myself, put makeup on. Sometimes I would drink too much, sometimes I couldn’t laugh. Sometimes I laughed too much and wondered who in the room knew that I was acting. For those years I could’ve been nominated for an Oscar for my performance. I was always “fine”, always put together, always ran the water so I didn’t have to inconvenience anyone else with my secrets. I went out with friends as much as I could and claimed I was sick when my episodes were too bad for me to even breathe.
This is mental illness, and as much as that sometimes scares me, it is a fact. I started seeing a therapist and taking medication about five years ago, and I have gone through every cycle of emotion about it except embarrassment. The first year I was scared – scared that everyday I took pills I was turning into a zombie without any thoughts or feelings of my own. Then I was in denial – that I had problems, that they needed constant treatment, and that they might not ever go away. Then, the scariest of all – complacency. If I was going to feel this way forever I thought I certainly wouldn’t last long. I’d be like one of those rock stars who died at 27. But as hard as that valley was to get over (and I know another one will follow) I am past it – for now. In many ways depression is like alcoholism – you are treated, in treatment maybe, but never cured. Always dealing with it and recovering.
I frankly think it’s disgusting that mental illness is denied or hushed up, or all out ignored in our society. Thousands upon thousands of people suffer – knowingly, in silence, or in pain – from mental illness and don’t get the treatment they need and deserve. It can kill you. It often times does kill you, one way or another. I don’t think that this would happen if we could just talk about it. There’s treatment and help if you just know how and where to ask. For the longest time I’ve been terrible at asking for help. I stopped asking for my homework to be reviewed by my parents in 3rd grade and I prepped my college applications on my own. This is because I’m independent, shy and stubborn. I don’t want anyone else’s help. I don’t need anyone else’s help. If I accept someone’s help then my voice is lost, my control is gone and whatever I achieve was not meant for me to have anyway. It took me a long time to get past this mentality. It’s brave and risky and smart to ask for help, not cowardly. So wo-man up and ask for help if you need it.
I have big dreams. I want to do big things with my life, and I won’t accept anything less than the best. Often that gets me in trouble and people tell me that “the perfect is the enemy of the good”. But I don’t want “good enough” for this one life that I have. I want shocking, beautiful, thrilling, mesmerizing craziness that feels like I can never stop spinning. I have goals and plans, and as of right now, this is the only thing standing in my way. Because I refuse to hide who I am, there are some people who are going to doubt me, to shun me or flat out refuse me. But I hold out hope that one day I will live in a world where I can be a powerful woman and still have an admitted, treatable illness.
I’m lucky because I have terrific parents who are supportive in every way. But not everyone does. Even that’s not the end of the world. As supportive as my family is, there have been months where we don’t know how to talk to each other, where they whisper “but how are you feeling?” and we’ve cried and screamed over it dozens of times by now.
And to everyone out there who claims this is “not a real thing” – STFU. Really, though. Until you’ve walked in my exact shoes (and mine are high, pointy and pinch your toes), and those of millions of other people around the world, you can quiet down. Luckily you aren’t the one whose couch I sit on Monday evenings, who writes my prescriptions, or the one who talks me down when I’m on the edge. Those are the people who have chosen to walk this path with me, as rocky as it is and as many potholes as we fall into. They love me and I love them.
I want this blog to show all the parts of myself. There are fun, silly, girly parts and there are scary, deep, depressing parts, but that’s who I am. I’m insatiable, intense, depressed, loving, sarcastic, creative and I’m not finished adding to that list. This is me.