Shattered. Broken. Falling to pieces inside. I’m trying to hold myself together with tape and glue and little bits of string. I think if I wrap my arms around myself and hug myself tightly enough I can hold it all together. But no amount of patch work can fix me. Broken beyond repair. The cognitive behavioral techniques aren’t working right now. The anti-depressants, the mood enhancers: they can’t fix me tonight. Some days those things are enough. Some days, with the help of the tools in my arsenal, I can fight the good fight. I can feel happy and sane. Other days – nothing is strong enough. This war that I call a life is exhausting. Every day is a battle to see who will win: me, or the negative thoughts inside my brain that are telling me there isn’t anything worth fighting for. Oh sure, I have a family and friends who love me. I have two beautiful dogs who depend on me, but some days those things can’t break through the pain. When I’m sitting there, holding myself together, quite literally, I can’t feel any of those good things. It’s like they can’t reach through the brokenness to heal my shattered heart. It’s an emotional pain so real that it becomes physical. My heart hurts. My heart hurts to its deepest core. And nothing I can say or do or think is strong enough to ease the pain or break me out of that dark place. A therapist I had in college once asked me what my feelings would look like if they were a physical manifestation. I described it as a black ball inside me. It starts off small, but it feeds off my pain. The more I hurt the more it grows, and the bigger it grows the more I hurt. It is a never-ending cycle of darkness and pain. And the black ball wants nothing more than to consume my entire being. In those moments, even just the simple act of breathing is painful. And all I want is for it to end. It seems like it never will. But there is an end to every storm. Even the storm of my emotions. Depression lies. Depression tells me that there is nothing good in this world and everything is pain. Depression tells me no one cares about me. Depression tells me there isn’t anything worth fighting for. And anxiety? Anxiety tells me of course no one cares about me; why would they? What is there to care about? I’m not good enough for anything or anybody. Anxiety says only bad things will come out of anything I try to do. Anxiety says I’m broken and I’ll never fit in with other people. They double team me like that – depression and anxiety – filling me with every bleak thought and painful emotion that a person can possibly stand. Depression is a lying douche noodle, and anxiety is the biggest bitch I know. And some days I wish they were real, physical forms. Then I would have something to punch. Something physical to fight. It would be so much easier if the fight were physical. The mental battle is so utterly exhausting. Some days I just get tired of fighting. I struggle to hold myself together with tape and glue and little bits of string, and I hug myself tightly until all the pieces click back into place. Until I can take a breath without my chest hurting. Until I can think thoughts that aren’t only terrible and black. Until I can stand to fight for another day. Because, one day this gets easier. Even if it’s just for a little while. It gets easier. And until then – I’ll be tape and glue and bits of string.
“I just wish I was normal.” “Why can’t I be more normal?” It’s something people with mental illnesses struggle with. They compare themselves to the normal people. The ones who have everything figured out. But nobody’s life is perfect. No one has everything figured out. Millions of people are just struggling to find their way in our constantly evolving world. What is normal anyway? What criteria must a person meet to be considered normal? Merriam – Webster defines normal as “conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern,” but I say normal does not exist. It isn’t a physical destination or a state of being. It isn’t anything. Normal is a fictional status that people struggle to reach, but never can. But the question I have for you is this: why would you want to be normal anyway? You were not made to fit someone else’s image of who you should be. You were made to stand out. To be different and beautifully, oh so beautifully, broken. How monotonous and predictable would the world be if we were all the same? People are born to be unique. Everyone has the quirks that make them stand out from others. For some of us those quirks occur because of mental illnesses. Jenny Lawson once said, “She taught me it was better to be beautifully broken than perfectly the same.” That poignant statement resonates with me. I might have mental disorders that sometimes make me feel like I’m crazy or different, but they are mine. I wouldn’t be me without my mental issues. I fight to overcome the things depression and anxiety tell me about myself, but I don’t want to know how different I would be if I didn’t have those struggles. Because I wouldn’t be me. I may not always like myself or see what an amazing and beautiful person I can be, but there are people who love me just for who I am. There are friends I wouldn’t have if I was someone different. People who see my beauty. People who hold me up when I’m falling apart and make me laugh when I just want to cry. And I would not give those people up for all the normal in the world.
Are you struggling with work, school, life, adulting, or even just functioning as a human being? It’s okay if you are. I’ll tell you a secret – so am I. Some days I wonder how I got here. I didn’t have a rough childhood. I was actually pretty blessed as a kid. I was blessed with parents and a large extended family who all love me and support me. I was blessed with a brother who reminds me of the type of person I want to be. I was extremely blessed with amazing friends who have always been there for me when I need someone. Even with all those things there are still some days that I can’t function. Some days where I want to leave work to crawl under my covers and hide from the world. Some days where simply interacting with other human beings is almost more than I can handle. On those days, I feel so alone. It feels like no one can understand the pain I’m feeling. And that is just not true. That’s the depression lying to me and attacking my brain. That’s my anxiety telling me that no one else understands, and that I’m just weird. No one else feels like I do. There are so many people who suffer from the same disorders that I suffer from. Depression and anxiety may manifest themselves differently for everybody, but there are bunches of people who can understand how I feel. So, I have a message for those of you who sometimes feel alone, misunderstood, and hopeless: You are not alone. You are not the only one who feels this way. There is nothing wrong with you. You may be broken, but you are broken in a way that makes you beautiful. Because while negative emotions may weigh more heavily on you than they do on others, positive emotions can also carry you higher than those “normal” people can ever go. People like us – they feel more. The feel more sadness, but they also feel more joy. So, when you are ready to give up just know that’s depression and anxiety double teaming you to keep you down, because once you are flying high with happiness they can’t touch you. They have no power over you there in your happy places. And when you are down, and those evil doucheroos have their hold on you, do whatever you can to stay sane – to stay you. Build forts out of pillows and sheets to hide in. Sing the songs that make you want to hold on to life. Color, knit, draw, write, talk to friends, just do whatever you need to do to hold on to yourself. I’m writing to you from my blanket fort with my stuffed raccoon, Marvin, while I try desperately to cling to the things that keep me afloat when my depression and anxiety are threatening to drown me.
I’ve been there; I know those feelings all too well. I’ve clung desperately to life when all I wanted to do was give up, because just being alive hurt too much to breathe. People like us are unique and magnificent and beautiful, and yes, a little bit broken too.
So, my theory is this – Everyone travels thorough life with their own personal struggles: their own demons. – My demons are depression and anxiety. They whisper to me in the dark recesses of my brain. My demons are constantly telling me that I’m not good enough; I’m not pretty enough or smart enough; I’m not thin enough; and I’m not kind enough. Basically, the mantra they repeat over and over again inside my head is that, no matter what “it” is, I’m not good enough at “it” or for “it.” And life is hard enough. Life is hard enough without these demons in my brain telling me I’m a failure. Telling me that I’m weird and awkward, and that nobody likes me. So every day I fight my demons. Some days I lose. Some days I’m not strong enough to silence them, and I lose myself to the lies they are telling me. I can’t get out of the house. I can’t write or read or watch TV or talk to friends or do anything that makes me feel like a normal, functioning human being. On those days I hug my puppies close. I hide under the covers. I pray. I cry. I fall apart. And those days suck. They are hard and unforgiving, and if my life was full of nothing but those days I would have given up on it a long time ago. Once I tried to explain to my mom what those days feel like.
“It’s not that I want to kill myself,” I told her, “It’s more like, it feels like…like things would be better if I just died.”
And that’s the truth. On those days living is so hard and hurts so much that not being alive sounds like the better option.
But then I have the other days. The days where I’m strong enough to beat my demons. Where I shove them into the very back of my mind, and I tell them to shut up and to stay where they are and let me live my life. And then I’m okay for an hour, or a day, or a week. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, I’m okay for months at a time before the demons get strong enough to break out and take over. And it’s during those times – when I’m in control of my thoughts – those are the times when I’m really alive. I can enjoy life. I can have fun with friends. I can just be me without worrying if being me is enough, because during those days, I know it’s enough. I’m happy just being me. I can do the things I love, and actually enjoy them. It doesn’t take everything I have just to get out of bed. I can go on adventures and participate in crazy shenanigans. I can throw all I have – everything I am – into just living my life. Those are the days that make my life worth living.
When I can’t fight anymore, and I give in to the sadness and anxiety, I can cling to those good days. I can cling to the memories of good times with the people I love. I can hold on to those things. They help me fight in the darkness. They help keep me sane. But most of all they remind me that things won’t always be like this. That one day I will wake up, and I won’t have to convince myself to get out of bed. One day I’ll wake up looking forward to the day. And that day – that day will come; no matter what lies my brain might tell me. Those days are like the full force of the sun breaking away from a solar eclipse. One minute everything was dark and there was no hope, but the next minute I feel the sun soaking in to my skin. Its bright rays have chased away every shadow of doubt, and I can live my life again. Those days, those days are worth it all.