Note: I wrote this and then typed it up. I haven’t edited it extensively and I don’t want to. This was me just writing some things down that I decided might be worthwhile to be shared. If it helps even one person, then this post has done its job.
Originally Published: June 30, 2016
Let me tell you a bit about my mental illness. You might be surprised and you might learn something. I can tell you right now, this illness isn’t exactly what you think it is.
Remember, this is all just experiences from my life. I’m not a doctor, just a crazy young woman who prays quite a bit and reads quite a few books.
#1-3 can be more positive than #4-11.
1. I strive for perfection.
I feel that, in order to do anything, I have to do it better than everyone else. I feel I have to be perfect because, only then, will I be validated. I work really hard. I’m praised for “going above and beyond” in my job. I’ve always thought my grades were unacceptable if they weren’t As. I’m the high achiever always striving to do better. Isn’t this a good thing? Sometimes…
2. I always try to keep busy.
I always need to be doing something, even if that something isn’t really all that important. Sometimes this can be productive and sometimes not so much. I’ll deep clean my closet. I’ll do my laundry. I’ll read a book. I’ll write reviews. I’ll prepare for school. I’ll read a book. I have a really hard time just sitting, just being.
3. I have a pretty set schedule.
I like to know exactly when and how things are going to happen. This is one reason I love working in a school: Everything runs on a schedule! I know exactly what is going to happen when. I know exactly where I need to be at every part of the day. It is all a beautiful schedule. Aren’t schedules wonderful?
4. I’m always telling myself I’m not good enough.
It can start out simple: I’m not good enough for this amazing opportunity that has presented itself. This could easily be true. But, then, it progresses: I’m not good enough for my job. I don’t deserve my friends. I definitely don’t deserve my family. I’m not a good enough person. I can’t be loved. I am useless. I am pointless. I am a waste of space. I am nothing. This is the mantra that I hear all the time.
5. I feel like I am always wasting time.
No matter what I’m doing, I always feel I should be doing something more important. I’m always wasting time. I’m reading when I should be making dinner. I’m writing reviews when I should be preparing for class. I’m journaling when I should be sleeping. I’m never doing enough with my time. Somehow, I’m always wasting it.
6. I hate it when plans change.
Things are on a schedule for a reason: I function best that way. If you change plans with me, I will be freaking out internally. I will be trying to figure out what I did wrong. I will be thinking of all the reasons the plan should not change. I will be almost to tears internally, trying to mentally put my schedule back together.
7. I apologize for everything, even if it had absolutely nothing to do with me.
I’m sorry! are some of the words I say most often. “I’m sorry I was late” (even when I wasn’t). “I’m sorry you didn’t get mustard on your sandwich” (how was I supposed to fix that in the first place?). “I’m sorry that I’m sorry for everything that I’m sorry for.” You see how this goes? I feel like I always need to be apologizing for something, for myself.
8. I fake it with the best of them.
I should seriously have become an actress. I am so good at hiding my feelings. I can be breaking down inside, having a screaming match in my head, and yet I’ll still manage to smile and tell you I’m wonderful and everything is fine. You’ll believe me, too. I’m that good at faking it. No one knows when I’m crying on the inside. No one knows when I don’t think I can do it anymore. No one knows when I’m on the point of giving up. Just smile and wave, boys. Smile and wave.
9. I have a nervous habit so common neither of us recognizes that I do it.
You don’t realize I’m doing it. I don’t realize I’m doing it. It is so common that everyone overlooks it. When I’m nervous or scared, my right hand goes to my necklace and fiddles with it. I never leave home without this necklace: a small crucifix and a Miraculous Medal on a silver chain. It has become my armor and the world is my battle. Without this little nervous habit, I would no longer be grounded. I need this nervous habit that bad.
10. I can hold it all together… most of the time.
You’d never know I have a mental illness. I can hold it all together and I can fake it… until I can’t anymore. This isn’t every day or even every week, but it does happen. It gets to the point where I can’t hold it all together anymore. I am going against the current and I just can’t keep swimming. Usually, I’ll be able to put myself back together before heading out in public, so you’ll never know I lost it. You’ll never know that I’m really not okay. You’ll never know just how much the world is pushing in on me and how ready I am to just give up.
11. This one is the worst: Most people won’t even believe I have a mental illness.
My life looks perfect. I’m successful in my job. I have friends. I socialize every day at work (with children and my colleagues). I’m accomplished. I don’t fit the boxes labeled “depression” or “anxiety” or “mental illness.” Over and over I’m told to snap out of it, to pull up my big girl panties and deal with it. I’m often told it’s just the way life is or it’s a phase and all I need to do is pull myself together.
Let me tell you something: I’m not going to apologize for not fitting in your little, labeled boxes. I do have a mental illness and it does have a name: high-functioning depression and anxiety. The high-functioning means hidden.
You aren’t going to see it unless you are super-close with me (my little sister is pretty good at seeing it but not all the time). I’m really good at pretending everything is alright. You’ll believe me when I say “I’m fine” because I look fine. I may be fine on the outside, but on the inside, I’m far from okay.
I put myself down. I don’t believe any compliments given to me. I read nuances into text messages that don’t exist. I think every glance means something is wrong with me. I try to figure out what I did wrong that a plan needs to change. I apologize for being me because I’m afraid me isn’t good enough.
My life is not perfect but I can fake it. I can attempt to lower my expectations, take some time to relax, try to write myself a summer schedule, and try my hardest to focus on the positives, on the good. I can keep taking my meds, seeing my doctors, and saying my prayers. Somehow, with God’s grace, I’ll make it through.
If you made it all the way through this post, congratulations!
It is rather long, so thanks for sticking with me. *hugs*
Also, if any of this is you, too, don’t go it alone.
Please, get the help that will make you stronger.