Some mornings you wake up, and you realize instantly – today will be hard. It happens the minute you open your eyes, as soon as you are conscious of your first heartbeat. For those of us who battle with mental health illness – this feeling breaks you, even before you have a chance to put up a fight. Because today, you will not find joy in the simple things that make you smile on every other day (puppies and Balam Pichkari and fresh orange juice and mid-morning phone calls). Because today, you will be wracked by a constant nagging feeling of inadequacy, and self-doubt, and guilt (“The mask will slip today. They will see the cracks. The will realize that I am nothing like them. What did I do wrong to make them act this way. I will probably fail them”). Because today, even those that love you most will be frustrated by you, angered by your silence, bored by your pain, and annoyed at your inability to answer the hardest question of all, “What’s wrong?” Because today, you know you will find yourself completely alone with the quiet darkness in your head.
And that’s when you have to decide that the solitude will not break you.
It won’t be easy – because your illness will find ways to hurt you. It won’t be easy – because those that claim to/want to understand, will misunderstand. And that will hurt you. It won’t be easy – because although you really just need someone to listen, you will retreat into silence. And that will hurt you. It won’t be easy – because, completely unfairly, you were dealt a difficult hand. And that will hurt you. But the hurt is not the end.
That is when you hold on to something in your heart and physical space that grounds you. A ring, a song, a hug from someone who cares, a memory, a cup of coffee. A reminder, from this world that you inhabit, that affirms to you that you are HERE, you are strong, and most of all – you are important. That this world will be irreparably empty if you were to disappear. That you are full of love, full of light, full of inspiration. That you are going to go on to do incredible things in this world – to fight for what you believe in, and find ways to help those who have less than you, to support the people you love most, to create art that moves and inspires and lifts, to make life better for someone else who suffers like you. And while you think of all these things, and they seem unattainable and distant and impossible – remind yourself of the many times you have faced a day like today and survived. Remind yourself of the last time your mind and body started to fail you – and you fought back. Look back at the last time you were here in a moment as dark as this one and remind yourself of how spectacularly you’ve burned, how tall you’ve grown, and how your magic has, despite everything, changed this world. Look back and find inspiration – in all that you were, all that you have become, and all that you are going to be.
Today seems impossible, and as always you suffer in silence. But, don’t for a moment apologize for your illness or your pain – it is not to be ashamed of. Don’t for a second think that you are any less than those who are different from you. And don’t, for God’s sake, let ANYONE convince you that you are wrong to be you. Find those spaces (within yourself and outside) that let you be free. Find ways to be good – to yourself and those that you love. Don’t let the pain make you hurt those who matter – especially not yourself. You, you beautiful thing, are better than that.
And to those who truly love us and care – I know today won’t be easy for you either. But please, be especially interested in the things that I cannot seem to say – it’s hard to talk when trying to swim up from under a wave.
Don’t get lost – because YOU are cherished. X