Trigger warning: mental illness
Anxiety is omnipresent; it floats in and out of my every day, interrupting even the most simple and laid back moments. When it isn’t front-and-center, it is still within earshot, ready to destroy the walls of reinforced steel that I have built around myself. It crawls into bed with me at night, and my only reprieve is slipping into a fitful sleep with the assistance of my prescribed anxiety medication, which I’ve been taking for nearly seven years.
There is a certain stigma attached to the use of prescribed medication, and if I’m being honest, I don’t see that stigma being alleviated anytime soon. I truly believe that the stigma comes from both pure ignorance and lack of education. It is quite simple, really: if you are not directly affected by mental illness, you do not understand the gravity of its presence; you don’t understand the ins-and-outs of the life-saving medication used to treat chemical imbalances.
It is a privilege to wake up each day and not have to take medication before you do anything else. It is a privilege to not have to think about antidepressants at all, actually. It is a privilege to go to sleep at night and fall asleep almost instantly, instead of lying awake with paralyzing anxiety clawing at you from the inside out. It is a privilege to never know what a panic attack feels like, and it is a privilege to never have to wonder how long your next anxiety attack will grab hold of your nervous system and dismantle all of the work you’ve done to keep the attacks at bay. It is a privilege to never have to endure medical gaslighting at the hands of insurance companies. It is a privilege to never experience the immense financial strain that comes with being on unpaid sick leave from work. It is a privilege to live each day with your health intact. These are all privileges I am not afforded. I have lived with the list of aforementioned afflictions for most of my adult life, and it is devastating.
I feel compelled to say that I am not a mental health professional. But I am an expert when it comes to my body, my mind, and the way in which I heal and take care of myself. My body and I had a cohesive relationship until I was diagnosed with severe anxiety, depression, and OCD. My PTSD and autoimmune systemic disease arrived much later, two more villains to add to the lineup.
Needless to say, my relationship with my body is now tumultuous and turbulent at the best of times. And as I write this, I am in a deeply committed relationship with myself — and only myself. I have made the decision to stay single until someone enters my life and loves me where I am at, with all of my flaws and baggage in tow. I will wait for the one that holds space for me in the most gentle and affirming way, the one that I can trust with my wildly damaged and beat-up heart. I do not come without complications — I am messy and emotional and a little wild. I am a perfect storm, a force of nature wrapped up in a small 5’2 frame. But I am learning how to be proud of the woman I am and the woman that I am becoming. And that means never settling for another human being treating me like I am the second choice ever again.
For me, there is a direct correlation between relationships and mental health. I have trust issues that are so deeply embedded into my psyche that I am only now facing them head-on. I have been abandoned at my most vulnerable by people I loved, I have been told that medication doesn’t help and that I don’t need it, that I’m weak for using antidepressants. I have been emotionally and verbally abused so severely that it is no wonder I have substantial trust issues. My late paternal grandpa had a saying that I always carry with me: “There’s only two people I can trust – me and you. And I’m not so sure about you.” I hold these words very close to my chest, but I’ve begun to wonder if it is to my detriment, because I’ve arrived at a place where I no longer allow anyone past the welcome mat that lays at the entrance of my heart.
I see myself as nothing but a burden, and so to protect myself, I don’t even bother to let anyone inside the corners of my mind. The cozy, rustic rooms of my heart lay vacant or occupied by the love that I cannot let go of. I have so many complicated pieces that make me the young woman that I am, and I have come to a fork in the road – open my heart once again or remain closed off from the world, content to live my quiet existence and carry the heaviness of life on my own. After all, you do not keep returning to the fire if it’s inferno has burned you time and time again – you walk away and move the fuck on.