For the longest time I thought the only cure to my mental illnesses was death. I thought nothing to make me feel better, feel like it was just a chapter or two in the novel that is my life, or like I deserved any better. These disorders I’m labeled with, OCD, general anxiety disorder, major depressive disorder, they’re like being locked in a cage with Lucifer.
I spent a lot of time fighting myself, fighting all of the labels in my medical charts, fighting my inner demons, telling myself that this can’t be all there is. I knew, somewhere deep down, that there was more than all of this physical and emotional pain that I was experiencing.
For a while I could just tell myself it was just middle and high school and it sucked for everyone, especially the awkward ones like me. I was pretty friendless, I was incredibly weird, and I wasn’t sure why I kept feeling like I wasn’t in the right place, like there was something increasingly wrong with me the more I developed into a teenager and really started to grow up. I didn’t know that there were options that might have really helped me grow up into who I thought I was at that age, but even if I did know I had no idea who I was or who I was going to be. I had no idea who I was.
So I found some things that brought me joy, writing, playing softball, music, and I stuck with those. I did what I could to find the things that made me feel like I could define myself. I grew up and my attachments grew even stronger, until college.
I stopped playing softball after my club ball season was over in summer of 2013 because I was tired of the physical pain that I was always in. I also stopped feeling like it made me happy. That should have been a huge sign that something was changing. I never told anyone how detached I felt because for so long it made me so happy that I didn’t want to admit it to myself. But three years later, I can finally say I fell out of love with the game. It was too frustrating. Yes, part of it was the most stress relieving part of my life, but in hindsight it was also the most stressful part of it too. It was a game of trust and I’m not a trusting person.
I will never say it was a bad part of my life, however. It taught me a lot of lessons and for a while I really did have fun with it. It taught me valuable skills, helped me make friends, and it gives me something to look back on and say I was good at it, even if I didn’t continue. Granted, I wasn’t the best and I knew that, but I played because I loved the game, not because I felt like I had to, and while winning did matter, it wasn’t the point to me. For me, the point was trying and giving my all, even if it didn’t lead to victory.
The hardest part of coping with mental illness was thinking I needed to be okay all of the time, like I had to hide any and all feelings I was having about the depression, the anxiety, and I needed to play strong. So I spent a lot of time alone because I knew I couldn’t do it as long as I needed to. Even then, I kept beating myself up because I thought I needed to be out there and being okay and doing what was expected of me. Little did I know the highest expectations were coming from inside my head.
Fast forward to college. All of the sudden I was on my own, living with a stranger, and drowning in academic responsibility. The first semester of college sucked times about two million and six. But I knew that if I was going to make a name for myself that I needed to keep going, so I pushed. I sought out help from the people who I had available and I changed my situation, found a better roommate, and the second semester was so much better. Semester three was rough and I broke in November. I decided that I needed to just end the pain because it wasn’t going to get better. I thank God every day for the part of me that knew to talk to someone, to find help. And since then I’ve been getting better.
Semester four was… interesting to say the least, and I fell bad into old habits where I cared for others a lot more than I cared for myself and academically I suffered. I came out about my past and my personal relationships suffered, some to a point where thinking about them how makes my heart ache, but I survived. I cut out parts of my life that I didn’t know I could live without, but I took the risk because I needed to live without them. I needed to focus on me and I couldn’t have people drag me down.
Fast forward again to August 2015, I found myself moving in once again with the one roommate that worked and I was stoked to be where I was. Things were going to be great, I knew it. And I wasn’t wrong. Sure, there were some times that I didn’t want to be at school (strep throat followed by a mono scare that turned out to be an allergic reaction, loss of family members, etc) but overall I was in a good place. September 25 I took a chance on someone and it turns out (thus far) it was a great chance to take. I found a key to my happiness and he unlocked parts of my brain that has helped me mentally grow and develop the positive thinking that I’ve been trying to find for the longest time.
All of the sudden I stopped feeling self conscious about how I looked, I didn’t worry about saying things that were too weird because I had found someone that I could connect with on every level from the start. I’m not saying he is the only reason for my happiness because that would be absolutely insane and it would scare me if that were true, but what I am saying is that he helped me realize that everything I thought I should be unhappy about was just another reason to love myself that much more. By finding him, I found a reason to look in the mirror and be happy instead of haunted by the image. In finding myself I stopped being scared that I might say the wrong thing and learned to ask for forgiveness rather than permission to speak. The ache in my heart from losing people subsided, for the most part, because I was able to realize that if they didn’t love me for me it was their loss, not mine.
All my life I thought I was falling, but the truth is I was just learning to fly.