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.