|Photo credit: someecards|
Since I was in my late teens, I have been forced into a 'relationship' with someone incredibly condescending, rude, disrespectful, negative, and an all around asshole. She's frustrating, she's tiring, she's caused me to question everything in my life - especially when good things happen. When bad things happen - well, she's like a kid in a candy shop - touching every raw nerve, leaching all my negative emotions to the surface, saying nasty things that cause my belly to ache. Sometimes I am successful at maintaining some distance - some space from her. Sometimes I get brave and call her out on her bullshit. Most times I walk on eggshells and hope she isn't going to suddenly show up.
Why do I keep her around you might ask? Well, walking away isn't quite as simple as it seems. You see, this jerk lives inside me - she inhabits every small corner of my brain, monitoring my thoughts, my movements, my emotions.
For years - and I mean YEARS - I have fought tooth and nail with this b****, most times successfully, and many times unsuccessfully. I have lived in fear of her rearing her ugliness during times of great joy, and I have lived in dread of her know-it-all voice echoing through my head when times are tough. I have fought back when she scrambles all the thoughts in my brain, leaving me struggling to know where to start and feeling overwhelmed. I have tried not to give in when she attacks every muscle in my body to the point that all I can do is stay in bed and rest. There have been nights where she tries to convince me I have nothing to live for, that I am worthless, that no one loves me - and I get up exhausted the next day because I have been arguing with her ALL.NIGHT.LONG. My husband will tell me he loves me, and I struggle to believe and embrace this because - well, you get the picture.
It has been difficult living with this internal conflict all these years - it has taken a toll on my relationships with others, my ability to work, and my confidence. It has been frustrating doing all the right things (exercise, counselling, medication, etc.) yet still feeling like she can arise and bully me at any time she feels an opportunity.
So this year, I've decided to try something different. Instead of trying to push her away and drive her down, I'm going to embrace and love her.
When she's telling me I'm worthless, I will wrap her in a hug and tell her that it's ok to feel alone and unwanted, but I have a lot of worth and am willing to share it with her.
When she's telling me that I can't do it, I'll hold my head high and say "yes I can - we can do it together".
When she attacks my body creating an exhaustion that is difficult to understand, I will remind her that I will cuddle with her, but only for a little while because let's face it, we have things to do.
When she tells me the medication I'm taking isn't working, or I don't need it anymore, I'll advise her that she shouldn't feel scared of being happy - it's a great feeling. Then I'll bring her along to my psychiatrist appointment so she can feel reassured by a professional.
When she tries to muddle my thoughts, I'll surprise her with a pre-made list of things to do and suggest she needn't be anxious, I have things under control.
When she snarls that no one wants to spend time with me, I'll invite her along for lunch with my best friend who always knows just what to say to make me feel better. Maybe it will work for her too.
In the end, I might as well make peace with this person, because after 30 plus years, she's made it clear she isn't going anywhere - despite my best efforts. You know how the saying goes … If you can't beat them, might as well join them - except this time it will be on MY terms.
This post is written in honour of #BellLetsTalk day. While I believe we should be open to talking about mental health issues daily, I do appreciate the opportunity to bring it to the forefront on days such as these. The fact of the matter is mental illness is an invisible disease - there are no blood tests, no physical deformities, no genetic markers - just some screening tools that can suggest it does indeed exist. This makes it hard for people to understand. If you have never been so desperate that you've thought of harming yourself, it is incredibly difficult to understand and empathize with someone who has. It's hard to appreciate how asshole-y a brain can actually be. Sometimes there are triggers, many times there are not. Even once treated, the risk of what I call "a flare-up" is always present - and when this happens it can be discouraging. Not one person who has a mental illness actually WANTS to have it - just as someone with Diabetes does not actually want to be diabetic. Wishing it away, pretending it doesn't exist, blaming someone for a lack of a positive attitude will not.change.anything.
If you, or someone you know is struggling, PLEASE ask for help. Ask your family, friends, pastor, teacher, counsellor, Dr. - anyone you feel close to. You aren't alone. There are many resources available to you. Is the process easy? Not in the least - but don't get discouraged. You are worth it!