As some of my readers know, I’m currently working on a memoir. This week’s blog post features a few thoughts I captured one morning before going to work. This is not how the material will appear in my memoir. No, this is simply a building block. I will pull this piece apart, rewrite certain sections many times over to add detail, develop scenes, and create the actual story. By sharing this now, I’m simply giving you a sneak peek at my theme in the hope that when my memoir is published, you might be interested in reading it.
Nineteen years ago, I was thirty-two years old, in the throes of mental illness. I had been teaching but was on sick leave, certain that I would never work again. My husband had a good job, but he was absent a lot of the time because of it. My sick benefits had just been cut off. Some asshole psychiatrist from the insurance company said I was fit to work. How ironic that two weeks after that prognosis, I was admitted to the psychiatric unit.
By that point, I had been dealing with poor mental health on and off for about sixteen years. But I had hit a new low. I felt overwhelmed and alone, my mind a maximum security prison. I didn’t even have the energy to put my children to bed when my husband was away, so there were nights they fell asleep on top of their beds, fully clothed, while I drifted off on the couch watching marathon sessions of Law and Order.
I suffered from depression, anxiety, panic attacks and mood swings. At times, I drank too much because it made me forget. I often questioned if life was worth living. In fact, at times, life was so painful that I saw only two choices: end it or change it. Thankfully, I chose the latter.
Today, I’m healthy but it took a lot of work. I had a lot of support, but none of that would have mattered if I hadn’t decided to take things into my own hands. Many changes I needed to make caused pain for me, people I loved, and people who loved me. There were a lot of things I didn’t do right. I hurt people. I hurt myself. Through it all, I kept going, my survival instinct intact.
It pains me to see people suffering because I can relate. I know what it’s like to hit rock bottom and wonder how you’re going to scale the slippery slope back to the top. I know how it feels to use every bit of strength you have to climb a foot only to fall back two. Too often you feel like a lost cause, convinced it would be easier to wallow in a cesspool of dark and anxious thoughts, accepting your miserable lot in life.
I’m grateful for the life I have now and try never to take it for granted. I know how easily health and happiness can slip away.
What I want people to know is that there’s a way out of despair. Life can be dark. And tough. But it can also be bright and about as easy as you want to make it. Perception plays a huge role in this.
There came a time I decided to pick myself up and move forward. It wasn’t easy and things didn’t happen overnight. I’m still a work in progress. I will be as long as I’m alive, and who knows, maybe even after that.
I still deal with anxiety and a bit of depression from time to time, but when things are rocky, I take time to reflect on the reasons and develop a strategy for overcoming the malaise. I also remind myself that I have some control over the situation and I have options. Most of all, I don’t lose hope. Tomorrow is always another day, and it’s often a better one.