This is it. The picture that epitomizes my struggle with mental health. The days where my head is so loud that I can't think straight. I want to cover my ears and and hide away from the sounds that exist only within my mind. My heart races like I am being chased and my breath comes up short and fast. My throat closes up and I am unable to speak. It's like trying to expel glass from my mouth, just to say anything. I feel that there is very little of me left, the blue of my mental illness seems to consume me. I lose my smile in those moments. For days or months, the muscles sit unused in any true way. I can force a smile if I need to; to keep the questions and well-intentioned concern from flowing at me, but it's fake.
I reached this point a few months before the pandemic and finally went to see the doctor again. This isn't my first time of reaching the point where I felt the water closing in over my head. Depression often feels like drowning to me. So, I went in and started to talk. Each session was tears and frustration at the things that I can't move past. It was homework when I have finished school, for now. It meant group therapy and facing the terror of being open with people face to face. I forced myself to be very honest with myself and slowly, bit by bit, I was able to advocate for myself. I was able to get the treatment that I needed to slowly bring the smile back to my face.
The reason why things got so bad this time is because I forgot to be gentle with myself. I forgot to make time for me. My world got flipped on its ear and I forgot who I needed to put first, once and a while. I let myself get so caught up that it wasn't until my session and Jennifer pointing it out, that I had never really smiled for one of my sessions with her (there had been three, prior to my cheer session). This person who I call my friend hadn't seen me truly smile in the whole time that I had known her, to that point. The smile that is in these pictures is true, because I learned how to make me a priority. It's because I have learned to lean on people, when I need them. I am teaching myself how to admit that I need help and that I am not a burden for simply needing a hand.
With the pandemic, this has become a daily exercise. I remind myself when I get up in the morning, that things aren't the way that I would like them to be, but that is ok. I am safe and the people that I care about are safe and I am worthy of love and help. Most of all, I remind myself that it can't rain all the time. One day this will all be over and I will have survived, because I am strong enough to make it through anything, even when I don't feel like I am. I have a mental illness, but that is not who I am. The blue will always be there, but I choose not to let it consume me.
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