To Those Struggling To Get Back On Their Feet

“I’m just a little bit caught in the middle. I try to keep going but it’s not that simple.”

This article was originally published for The Odyssey on August 21, 2017.

Hi there,

I know you’re struggling. I know you’ve been struggling for a long time. It’s getting bad, isn’t it? It feels like you’re drowning all the time, like your feet are trying desperately to reach the bottom, but it’s like someone moved it lower, right? Your legs and arms are tired from not only holding yourself up but other people, too. You’re fading, your breath is running out, and you feel as if this is it.

Every time you feel your head bob under the wave, under the tide or under the current, you always find some way to make it back to the top. Whether it be a helping hand or some strength you never knew you had, there is hope.

I know you don’t want to hear this, but it has to be said. You need to keep going. You need to keep fighting. You need to keep your head up. You cannot give up; there is no giving up. Don’t let yourself drown. Don’t let yourself down.

I know it’s tiring. I know you’re done with the world. I know you’re done with the people around you, even the ones who are helping, even the ones who you’re helping. I know you don’t want to get out of bed. I know you have little interest in doing the things that once made you happy. I know this and so much more. Trust me, I’ve been there.

I, too, feel as if there is nothing to hope for tomorrow. Hell, I lost my faith at the beginning of the summer and it’s only just starting to make a cameo back into my life. It’s going to take a while to re-teach myself to keep faith in things that you can’t see or hear. It’s going to take a while for me to heal. It’s going to take a while for me to feel comfortable again.

When life stops throwing you curve balls and starts throwing you things much worse than baseball analogies, you need to keep your head up. When the raining and pouring stops and you’re faced with a full-blown shit-storm, keep your eyes on the horizon. When your heart is so broken you can’t process anything short of positivity, force yourself to move forward.

You can’t do this alone, but you can do it. You’re not alone. I’ve been in dark, shaky places. Most of the time, I feel like I’m wearing shoes on the sandy beach, with my ankles sinking and my feet feeling wobbly; unable to grasp any solid ground. My hands are always out in front of me ready to feel the ground if I fall down on the way to wherever I’m going. I try to prepare myself for the absolute worst. It’s okay to brace yourself for the worst, even if the worst isn’t coming.

This is a rough period in your life. Whatever you’re going through has your on your tippy-toes all day every day just to ensure that you won’t be caught off guard by anything worse. It has you on your knees, looking up at the sky wondering if anyone is watching you. If so, why would they let all of this bad stuff happen to you? Why aren’t they helping you navigate it? Why aren’t they helping to fix it? Why do things keep getting worse?

I don’t have any answers for you. I don’t know if anyone is in the sky, or Heaven or the afterlife. I don’t know if we have guardian angels or gods. I don’t know if the universe is a being who watches out for you. In this dark time, I’m not sure of anything anymore.

The only thing I know is that we have no choice but to go on. We have made it this far, and even thoughts of giving up scare us. It would be too easy, you know? It would be entirely too easy to give up, to start over, to start new. It would be impossible. There’s always a catch; nothing worth having ever comes easy.

We are in the long-run. We are in a fight to save ourselves. We hold a compass that only points forward. You can stop and rest as long as you like, but that dial will never point any direction but forward. Take the time to heal your bones, to heal your senses and your overall well-being. Take the time to be caught in the middle. But, remember, at some point you have to get up, dust off those hiking boots and continue on that journey.

Because we’re at the bottom. It feels as if we’ll never make it to the top. Maybe the top doesn’t exist. Maybe life is just one large incline in which we can fall off of easily, but can never surpass. I don’t know what awaits you toward the top; nor do I know that there is a top, per se.

What I do know is this: it gets better on the way up. You will gain your footing. You will take all the time you need to do so. The climb will begin again, but it’s up to you to begin. You are the main conductor of this journey.

You will be okay. We will be okay. You are never alone and you matter more than you can imagine. You were put on this Earth to rise up and scoop up all the opportunities that you possibly can. There will be a tomorrow. There will be an after-tomorrow. I don’t know what it holds for you, but I do know it holds you.

Let it hold you. Let yourself exist. Let yourself continue. Let yourself persevere.

You will find your footing once again; negativity isn’t permanent. You will find yourself again, one way or other. We always find ourselves where we are seldom looking. You’ll find your way out of the middle and back to the top, or at least further than you are now.

You will find your feet again. Let yourself find peace, no matter the circumstances. Let yourself live again. You owe yourself that much.


Yes, My Mental Illness Is Debilitating

“I’m just a little bit caught in the middle. I try to keep going but it’s not that simple.”

This article was originally published with The Odyssey on August 9, 2017.

I’m sick today. I feel shaky, my hands are sweaty and my head hurts, among other things. I have a laundry list of complaints that include body aches, bloating and a fluctuating change in appetite. I’ve been to the doctor, but they say I’m healthy.

They’ve checked all my boxes, noting that I’m doing well with eating vegetables and fruits. This is a different kind of sick. This is the type of sick where I don’t want to see the sun, don’t want to get out of bed, don’t want to see anyone ever again. I have mental illness and it’s debilitating.

I’m not intentionally ignoring you. I’m not ghosting you on purpose and I didn’t read your text and not answer to hurt you. I haven’t answered emails in days because I know I will have to prepare myself to truly process all they have to say. I know I was supposed to have that file sent to you last week, but it’s honestly on the bottom of my to-do list.

It’s not that you’re unimportant to me; you are very important to me. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about all the things I’m not doing to show you that. I haven’t forgotten about the things I was supposed to do for my boss, my mom or my doctor either. Everything is piling up and I’m less than thrilled.

I feel like an anvil is crushing my shoulders. My head is filled with pressure and my ears are ringing nonstop. I don’t know what I did to my neck or my back, but I feel terrible. I am not only sluggish but fatigued. I’m absolutely exhausted and I haven’t even made it out of my bed yet. Everything is so dark and I feel as though I don’t deserve to see the light just beyond my blinds.

My phone is right there. You’re probably near yours too. If I just picked it up and dialed your number, you’d probably answer. But what if you don’t? What if you’re too busy to answer? What if you’d rather not talk to me and you press ignore? It’s better I don’t touch the phone at all.

It’s been hours since I woke up and my stomach is growling. I know I should feed my body something to sustain it, but I can’t think of anything I want to eat. I can’t think of anything appetizing and make myself sick to my stomach just thinking about food.

Even if I manage to get out of bed today, I will not be productive. I will hug myself in the shower, neglecting to wash my hair, as strands or even locks of it twirl around the drain. I will put off getting dressed for too long. When I do get dressed, I’m lucky if I put on a bra or socks. I honestly feel as though every move I make is forced.

I return to my room and sit on my bed, staring at the wall for probably hours. You text me, but I don’t answer. You felt obligated to text me. You don’t really want to hear from me. I don’t want to annoy you. I don’t know what to say to you. I opt for nothing at all.

How do I describe how I’m feeling? I would write a text, backspace, rewrite, delete, edit, compose again, and finally lock the phone altogether. I just feel…empty. No, that’s not it. Tired. That’s too simple. Jumbled. Confused. Overwhelmed. How can you be overwhelmed when you haven’t done a single thing today? Scared. Anxious. No, not nervous. Anxious. Panicked. Suffocated.

Despite all those adjectives, I feel my true feelings don’t even scratch the cusp of those descriptors. This overwhelms me more.

Later I may manage some food and maybe I’ll manage too much. I’ll eat too much, returning to the nauseating sensation that plagued me just a few hours earlier. With a heated blanket and a heating pad, I swaddle myself. I overheat. I sweat, I hyperventilate and panic.

I don’t want to see anyone. The question of whether or not I should contact you is not even a thought in my mind anymore. I can’t stop thinking about all the things I’m not doing. I can’t stop thinking about all the deadlines I have missed. I can’t stop thinking about all the people I have disappointed. All the people I have let myself disappoint. All the people I have let myself let down because I couldn’t force myself to get through another day.

I am constantly fighting with myself. There is and will always be a crazy battle raging inside of me. I am either not doing enough or doing entirely too much. I am either not eating or stuffing myself. I am either over-sleeping or barely getting 4 hours. I will never do anything in-between. I will never do anything half-assed. I have mental illness and it debilitates me.

I hate that it debilitates me. I hate that I let it win some days; that I let it convince me to stay in bed, avoid all contact and sunlight and convince me that I am not worth it. I hate that it discourages me from doing things I love. I hate that it makes everything difficult. I hate that I woke up feeling exhausted.

Though I despise my mental illness and absolutely wish it would slink away to give me a chance to catch a fucking break, I have to let it engulf me sometimes. I have to let myself rest. I have to convince myself that it’s OK to let myself rest. I have to put myself first and I have to give my body time.

Though I shouldn’t go days without human contact, a shower, a decent meal or any sense of productivity, I have to let myself breathe. I have to learn to do things in little steps, instead of overwhelming myself.

Maybe we’ll opt for dry shampoo and face wash tomorrow. Maybe I’ll try to text a few people tomorrow. Maybe I’ll order in or ask a friend to bring something over. I’ll answer a couple of emails. I’ll check some things off the to-do list.

I have mental illness. It’s debilitating. I don’t want to get out of bed sometimes and I force myself to get out of bed other times. It’s not constant but it never goes away. I’ll talk to you about it after I have my latest episode. I’ll try to describe to you what I’m feeling.

I’ll try to open the blinds and let some light in. Maybe I’ll open the window. Maybe I’ll go for a drive. I’ll try to watch a movie I like or listen to music I like. I’ll attempt to go to work. I’ll attempt to get my work done.

My mental illness is debilitating. Sometimes, I let it convince me of things I know are not true. Sometimes I let it lock me up deep inside myself and convince myself I’ve forgotten where the key is. I let it convince me that I don’t even have the key. Sometimes, I gather all my might and kick it up to high heaven. I let my mental illness know that today is not the day. Tomorrow might be, though.

It’s hard. It’s never going to stop being hard, but I’m never going to stop trying. I have mental illness. It’s debilitating. I let it hold me when I can no longer hold myself, but I never let it win.

No, I Won’t Reach Out To You When I Am Having A Breakdown

When I am having a major depressive episode, anxious meltdown, or drowning in my mental illness, don’t expect me to come to you.

It’s just not something I’m comfortable with.

This article was originally published with The Odyssey on June 27, 2017.

When I am having a major depressive episode, anxious meltdown, or drowning in my mental illness, don’t expect me to come to you. When I have a breakdown, I feel as if the entire world is resting on my shoulders, but my shoulders are weak and could give out any minute. I feel as if I am paralyzed; I cannot stand up. I cannot stop crying. I am frozen. I won’t ever reach out to you when I’m feeling like this. It’s not personal. it’s not a cry for help. I just can’t function like that. Let me help you understand.

It doesn’t matter how long we’ve been friends. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve come to me with your problems. It definitely doesn’t matter if we’re in the same proximity. When I am breaking down, I will not reach out to you for help because I don’t think I need help. My first instinct is to doubt myself – I automatically think that my trigger was self-inflicted, or I was being too sensitive. My second instinct is to hide my feelings. I shouldn’t bother anyone else with my problems. People have problems of their own, and I’m freaking out over nothing. My third instinct is to push it down, far away and act like it never happened. I should be stronger than this.

When I don’t come to you, don’t take it as an insult. Don’t think that I’m avoiding you, or that I’ve been speaking to someone else over you. Don’t be upset with me because I wasn’t able to express myself. I’ve never been very good at expressing my feelings. It’s hard to explain why I was fine a second ago, and now I can’t stop shaking. It’s even more difficult to let myself be so vulnerable. When my mental illness strikes, I’m as raw as it can be. There are no shields, gates or guards up; I am completely naked and surrounded by darkness. It’s terrifying.

I’ve tried coping mechanisms, but personally, I’ve found that riding it out is the best way for me to handle a breakdown. When I open up to others while breaking down, I feel it is often harder to calm down because I feel like I have to prove or explain myself. I don’t always know the reasons for why I become upset. I rarely have the answers.

When I’m breaking down, don’t expect me to reach out to you. Don’t expect me to come to you when I’m letting my anxiety and depression get the best of me for an unexpected amount of time. Don’t ask me to talk to you while I’m crying, don’t ask me why I’m shaking, and don’t ask others what is ‘wrong’ with me.

I know that people aren’t so great at handling grief, depression, or mental illness in general. It can be hard to reach someone, especially when they have a mindset like mine. It can be even harder to know what to say and what not to say. A trigger could disguise itself as a compliment; you never know what weapons you’re expelling when you speak. It’s a difficult situation. I choose not to back others into the corner that is mental breakdowns because I don’t want anything to become worse. When I’m at my lowest and most vulnerable, I can’t chance anything going wrong. I don’t have it in me to handle mistakes when I’m down like that. When I’m down, I’m not feeling very strong at all.

What I will do is come to you after a breakdown. I’ll text you, call you, or return to our hang out after I’ve cried my eyes out and calmed myself down. I might tell you about it if I’m feeling a bit stronger, or I may wait until I’ve got my feet planted firmly. I’ll talk to you about why it happened, and maybe we can discuss ways to maybe soften the blow the next time.

I will reach out to you when I feel I am strong enough to. Please understand that you have done nothing wrong. I will reach for your hand when I feel safe inside myself enough to do so. Let me return to my strength before we can be strong together.