I’m okay. That is to say that right now, as I write this, I feel good. There’s a sense of contentment in my life and even the stresses that persist in some corners of it are manageable in my brain. Nothing is overwhelming. Nothing is unconquerable. Nothing is dire.
That doesn’t mean I was okay yesterday or I will be okay tomorrow. In fact, it doesn’t even mean I will still be okay after I finish writing this.
And that’s okay.
Sensing when those moments of mental haze are creeping up on you can be essential. For me, it’s a hypersensitivity to everything around me. I eat very little and sleep even less. I find myself scowling as I scroll social media with overwhelmingly negative visceral reactions to everything I see. In many cases, I’m angry about things that I’m not even angry about. I’m sadder than I should be over things that might not even be sad at all. My emotions are heightened. It’s almost an automatic reaction.
Before I know it, I’m analyzing conversations I had last week or years ago. Reliving past pain and frustration that have long since been put away, I find myself pulled back into situations that I forgot about while connecting dots that don’t go together. I craft scenarios in my head that never happened simply to hurt my own feelings.
When those times happen, I can’t imagine feeling any other way. Things may seem pointless, hopeless, and a myriad of other words with “less” tacked onto the end. My brain tells me that no one likes me and the ghosts of friends and enemies who left long ago all repeat the same poison to back it up. I could be surrounded by people and still feel alone.
Causing this instant domino effect could be something minor or inconsequential. Maybe a bill comes due that I wasn’t ready for or someone says something that hits me the wrong way. It can be next to nothing.
To be honest, it can actually be nothing. Walking through Target, pushing the cart in front of me, my mind will suddenly droop. Next thing I know, I’m shaking my head in disappointed frustration over no particular issue and can’t wait to get home. Once I am, I can’t wait to get out. I don’t want to stand up. I don’t want to sit down. I don’t want to lay down. I just want to rest, if only I knew what that meant.
Days like that can last for years and used to knock me out hard. I have to admit that sometimes they still do. It’s hard to dig yourself out of a hole on days when you feel too weak to lift the shovels.
What’s helped me make it through, especially recently, are moments like the one I’m in now. The ability to look back and write about those feelings of despair reminds me that they don’t last. You can’t look back on something if it never ended. The fact that I can tells me that they do end. For me, they all did. I remind myself of that.
The funny part is that I always knew it deep down. After all, I was always able to apply the precarious-predicament logic to good times. When something fantastic happened to me, I approached it with caution. I knew that there was a chance that the rug could be pulled out from underneath at any moment and send me back down the spiral. The good times, I knew, weren’t forever.
So, why isn’t that true for the bad times? It is. If it works one way, it works the other. Nothing is always.
The same can be said about the ways we talk to ourselves. Whenever I make a mistake or encounter an issue, I always make sure to mentally crucify myself into oblivion. Drop a glass? It’s an easy clean up, but one that I call myself names for doing during the entire process. Once I notice I’m doing it, I browbeat myself for my inner beatings. Before long, I’m cursing at myself for cursing at myself and there’s still a mess to clean up. It can be a seemingly unending cycle. If someone else spoke to me the way I speak to myself at times, I’d fight them.
We even warn each other not to say bad things out loud for fear they will come true. Try it. Tell someone, “I hope we don’t get sick before the big game” and watch them lose their minds. They’ll make a “poo poo” sound and pretend to spit on the floor. If it happens, they’ll blame you for “jinxing it”. Apparently our words have magical powers.
If simply saying things make them more likely to come true, then why don’t we say the good things out loud? Why don’t we wake up in the morning and verbally shout, “It’s going to be a good day”? Why don’t we declare all the things we want to happen in hopes that the say-out-loud Gods hear us?
I do. It’s fairly new, but I do. I try to get my daughter to do the same over her sideways glare on the car rides to school. It’s been a slow process over the past year, but one that has helped me feel better. That train of thought has chugged through every part of my life and the payoffs have been tremendous. It’s helped me get to a place where I can write this, mean it, and hopefully help others.
Mental health isn’t a cut and dry issue. As someone who is diagnosed bipolar, I know the annoyance of someone implying they can “make everything better.” This line of thinking doesn’t make anything better. For me, it makes it easier. It helps me find balance when I’m ready to teeter over the edge. For some reading this, it might not. If you think you’re one of those people and you’ve never tried it, though, maybe you should.
I’m going to be okay. You are too. We all are. Bad times, like good, don’t last forever. Life is about riding the roller coaster and being ready for every bump along the way. For many of us, the worst moments of our lives haven’t happened yet, but the best moments haven’t either.
THE DEAFENING SILENCE OF MENTAL ILLNESS
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