Sometimes I forget that I'm mentally ill. I forget that I have a sickness that has been a part of me for years, probably since I've been born. It's funny how it creeps up. All of a sudden I'm not eating or sleeping, and leaving the house is a chore. An angry text message, or a work email about a project I haven't finished, or a flat tire on my car can send me spiraling. The thought of interacting with almost any other person is overwhelming. And it is so much easier to just stay in bed and self-medicate.
Recently, after a night of drinking (and by drinking I mean 3 glasses of wine), I sat on my parents' couch shaking and googling "symptoms of schizophrenia." For the record, I don't have schizophrenia. I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder years ago, while I was still in college, before I could legally drink. And I treated my anxiety with medication and therapy. But it's funny how the medication works, really. It makes you feel normal again, so you convince yourself you're really okay and you don't need to be on it. But you feel good because it's working. And honestly, I've felt that good a bunch of times. Good enough that I stopped taking medication, stopped therapy, stopped yoga. I just keep thinking "I'm okay now. I'm fine, I don't need this anymore."
The thing is, I do need it. And there's nothing wrong with that. It doesn't make me weak. It doesn't make me less capable. it just makes me, me. I am a good person. I love my friends, my family, my chosen career path. And I am absolutely capable of being happy like any other person. But in order for me to be successful and happy and relaxed, I need to treat my anxiety. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Mental illness is stigmatized. It has been for years, and it will be for years to come. If it hasn't touched someone's life, why would they feel the need to learn about it? Even some of the people close to me don't get it. "Just relax" is something I've had said to me dozens of times. It's hard to explain to someone that it's not always possible to "just relax" or to "calm down." And I suspect I've had a few people leave my life, purposely, because of my anxiety. That is truly okay. I have a lot of love to give, and anyone that can't give that back and can't understand that there will be bumps (sometimes big bumps) in the road is not someone I should have close to me.
I will be okay. I know this for a fact. I know this because I am committed to feeling good and taking care of myself. And when I feel good, I can do anything. Seriously. I can cook a Thanksgiving dinner for 15 people, run 2 miles, write a research paper balance work, school, family, and friends, and do anything I set my mind to.
This is a reminder to myself. And a reminder to anyone else that feels like the world is collapsing in on them at any given point. Things can be awful. The world is an awful place. But I, WE, are capable of feeling good and okay. Admitting you have an illness is hard. But once you do that, the pieces start to fall into place. And it's all alright.
You can catch Theresa dishing out advice and tunes to others over of TMS' REWIND. You can't really follow her on Twitter, because she's private. But you can try: @Theresa_Martin