Most days are hard. Anyone who knows me knows that I predominantly write about my depression. I carry it day in and day out, constantly trying to find purpose for its place in my life.
I tell people they are important. And they are special. And they are unique. I tell people they are not alone. So often in discussions of mental illness, we focus on the hurt and the loneliness and the isolation we feel. The focus is often on accepting that those things are part of life and addressing them. It’s often about how we confront and overcome the mind games and self-deprecating thoughts that come with these things. Often the discussion ends talking about how no one should feel alone or like they’re the only ones that suffer. And all of those things are important.
But what about the other days? What about the days where we wake up and the sun is still shining? Or the moments where we make great memories with our friends? Those moments, however brief, where we are happy? What about those moments where the darkness separates, and for just a second, life makes sense again?
Some days feel like the darkness is infinite. It feels like this is my life and I will never get through it. But those days are not what help me fight. And they are damn well not what define me. It’s the times I spend with people who love me. And it is the times where I let my guard down and allow myself to see the positive things in my life. It’s the four friends that spent my birthday with me. It’s my nieces who love their uncle. It’s the stranger who reads one of my articles and tells me that it is exactly what they needed. These are the things that help me make it through the darkest days. These are the memories and the moments that pull me back from the edge when I think there is nothing left but to throw myself over it.
These are the things that remind me that it is okay to be okay. Mental illness will try its hardest to take your days and some days it will win. But every now and then it won’t be so overwhelming. Every now and then your heart will come alive and you will find the strength to fight back. Embrace those days. Do not run from them. They are as much a part of your journey as the hard days.
It is okay to feel like a person.
So many times we allow our mental illnesses to define us. “I am ______ and I struggle with depression.” “I am _____ and I am bipolar.” “I am ______ and I struggle with self-mutilation.” You are not your illness, your struggle, or your addiction. You are a beautiful person with desires, talents, and dreams. You are worthy of love and you are capable of giving it. You may have a past, but you also have a present and a future. You are more than the parts of yourself you don’t like or wish people didn’t see. You are special, you are unique, and you are important.
It is okay to enjoy the moments in your life. Often in depression, we are so worried about happiness coming and going that we don’t indulge at all because to have and lose is worse than never having at all, but maybe it is less about finding eternal happiness than about enjoying the moments as they come.
Maybe it is seeing your favorite band play live. Perhaps it is that ice cream shop in your hometown. It could be that person telling you they like the shirt you are wearing. There are things that warm your heart. There are things that bring a smile to our faces. It is not a crime to enjoy those times. We should do it more. Life is about the memories we make. It is about the people we spend our time with. It is about the things that bring us joy. Let those waves wash over you and for a moment allow yourself to enjoy the life you are living.
It is okay to not feel guilty about being happy.
If you are anything like me, this happens more than you’d like to admit. You enjoy a night or a movie or a date and in the midst of your happiness, you remember that there are people suffering all over the world or you remember the mistakes you have made. Then it is like a bus hitting you.
“How dare you? Don’t you know there are people sleeping on the streets? There are people who can barely find the strength to get out of bed and here you are eating ice cream and laughing. How can you sit there and smile when you hurt that person so deeply? They are struggling and you are out and about like nothing ever happened. You are selfish and self-centered.”
So you retreat from this momentary pleasure. You allow the apathy and sadness to flood back in. The darkness wraps you up like a blanket again and it is back to the status quo. But that is unfair to yourself. You deserve to be happy. You deserve to have days that are not a fight. You deserve to smile.
No, you are not perfect, but occasionally the roller coaster goes up and that is okay. That is the goal, right? To find happiness, to find purpose? Don’t shy away from it when you do. There will be bad days and there will be good days. Both are part of the journey.
It is a process after all. Take them as they come, but don’t fall into the lies of mental illnesses. It is as important to rest in your good days as it is to confront your bad ones. They may be few and far between or they may be every other day, but when they come, enjoy them.