Yes, My Mental Illness Is Debilitating

I’m absolutely exhausted and I haven’t even made it out of my bed yet.

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But I’ll never stop trying to fight it off

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.

18 Signs You’re A Strong, Independent Woman

Know yourself, know your worth.

“Here’s to strong women, may we KNOW them, may we BE them, may we RAISE them.” – Unknown

This article was originally published with The Odyssey on June 18, 2017.

Strong women are a gift to the universe. They help us live, learn, and grow. They shape who we are even if we don’t know them personally. Without them, we literally would not exist. Here’s to all the strong women out there – may we raise more girls to be brave, fearless, and proud like you.

1. You believe in yourself and others.

Though it may not always be inherently obvious, you know that you and your friends are capable of anything. You’re willing to encourage everyone and anyone who needs an extra push and when it comes to self-motivation, you’re willing to give it your best shot.

2. If the path is unclear, you’re willing to find another way.

Sometimes the rules aren’t clear, or they don’t make sense for everyone following them. You’re willing to think outside the box and find an alternative solution that will benefit everyone.

3. You’re more of a leader than a follower.

If you’re willing to find a way around the rules, you’re likely more of a leader than a follower. The world was built on strong, independent women, and we have no shame!

4. It’s more comfortable for you to do things your own way.

It’s not that you have a superiority complex or anything, but sometimes it’s more comforting to complete things the most efficient way possible (in your honest opinion).

5. You’re a role model to someone.

Even if it’s a neighbor, co-worker, a niece, or nephew, you matter to someone. Someone probably thinks you’re really cool even when you think you’re not looking so hot. Remember that you are always going to be #goals for someone.

6. You’re an emotional rock.

People come to you for help, whether it be emotional or physical. You offer a shoulder and stay strong for people who need you. It’s one of the traits that makes you so strong.

7. People rely on you.

Whether it be for money, work, friendship, or something else altogether; people rely on you. You’re dependable, and people know you won’t let them down. You’re an important person to know.

8. You’re passionate about whatever you do.

You put 100% dedication into everything you do, and people really value that. You know that the job isn’t done until you’ve seen it through to the end. You’re not afraid to do whatever you can to get to the finish line.

9. Honesty is something you value.

There is no strength in lying, in faking it, or in two-faced relationships. You know that honesty is important in every single endeavor. You set an honest precedent for everyone around you.

10. You ask for help when you need it.

Part of being strong is knowing how to ask for help. Being strong doesn’t mean carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders alone; it means knowing how to delegate and ask for help when you require it. A strong woman did not become strong without the help of other strong women.

11. You get shit done one way or another.

Even when you procrastinate something, you’re multitasking and getting work done. Even when you’re taking a break, you’re actively thinking about something else you have to work on. Finishing things isn’t a problem for you, no matter how much time you may need to finish them.

12. Even when you feel like you can’t pull yourself together, you do.

You know that tomorrow is a new day and everything will work itself out in the end. Even when it doesn’t work itself out, you figure something out and find a different way. You’re a perseverance expert when it comes to getting yourself together.

13. You test the limits.

Part of being a strong woman is breaking the bounds, changing the game, and making history. Whether it’s arguing for a pay raise, fight for equality, or something more personal, like escaping your comfort zone – there is no test to see how far you’ll go.

14. You empower other women, instead of putting them down.

You know that no strong woman became strong on her own. You empower and encourage other women instead of tearing them down. You stand with your fellow #strongwomen, and push them toward greatness.

15. No one needs to tell you how to live your life.

You are strong and independent! You don’t need anyone giving you directions or orders. You know this and refuse to accept those who attempt to order you around.

16. Sometimes you put others before yourself, but you still take care of yourself properly.

Part of being a strong person is knowing that there are others you either have to or want to take care of. Despite this, you still know how to engage in self-care. Without it, you know you won’t be strong enough to care for the others.

17. Even when you don’t feel strong, you hang in there for the people who need you.

Even on your worst days, you keep going. You’re not only someone who refuses to throw in the towel until everyone is safe and okay, but you’re also someone who makes sure everyone is comfortable and content before truly reeling it in for the day.

18. You know you’re a strong, independent woman who doesn’t need anyone to tell her otherwise.

Sometimes it’s not always obvious, but you know damn well that no one can undermine you. You know when you’re right and you know when you’re wrong even if you’re reluctant to admit it sometimes. You know when people are underestimating and undervaluing you. Know yourself, know your worth.

Your Worth Is Not Defined By Your Final Grades

You’re stressed, you’re tired, you’re feeling disoriented and out-of-place.

Your worth has never been measured in numbers. Why start now?

This article was originally published for The Odyssey on December 12, 2016.

Somehow the fall semester has flown past us and it is now time for finals season, once again. Tensions are high as we all finish up learning what we can in our classes and begin to cram. Stress is our new best friend, along with coffee, sleep and oh, don’t forget, anxiety. Remember that your worth is not measured in points. Your self-esteem should not be measured in letter grades. You are worth so much more than your GPA.

College is all about pushing yourself and challenging yourself. That does not mean you should push yourself to the ledge. Yes, the curriculum and the assignments are stressful and difficult. Yes, you will not get a healthy amount of sleep. Yes, even with prioritizing your work, finals week will provoke exhaustion that you never knew you had.

You’re stressed, you’re tired, you’re feeling disoriented and out-of-place. For as many calories you consume drinking coffee after coffee, try to equal that same amount in cups of water. Take naps, and showers. Please take a break from working so you don’t shut down.

Regardless of how you do on that paper, that exam or that presentation, you are worth so much more than your college GPA. You are not that number, letter, or pass/fail mark. You are not your effort, no matter how much or how little there is. You are not measured in papers, presentations or exams.

You are measured in love, in liveliness and in hope. You are measured in generosity, in positivity and in perseverance. No matter how you spend your time this finals week, know that no matter what, the sun will rise tomorrow. It will rise again the next day, and the next. Tomorrow is another day, and while your routine may blur time together, remember that this too shall pass.

If you find yourself in an environment that does not view your worth in this way, escape it. No one deserves to feel as though their life is measured by how well they do in college. College is not for everyone and that is totally OK. Someone once said, “Everybody is a genius but if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it’ll live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

You are not stupid, regardless of how you perform in college. Life has many paths for you, and if the sun doesn’t appear to be coming out on your end, seek another path. Know that you are invincible, that you will not stop until you find your calling and that you know yourself better than anyone else.

So, as we all embark on finals week, whether you’ve been here before, or this is your first, remember this: breathe. All you can give is your absolute very best. If that is not enough, so be it. You will not crash and burn if you do not pass a class this semester. You will not combust, you will not shut down, you will rise above it. You will get back on the horse. You will stand on your own two feet once more.

Your life, your dignity and your self-worth have never been measured in numbers. Why start now?