- Aug 9, 2020
Musings of a Mentally Ill Mind
I feel like I should be in a high school gymnasium joined by 11 concerned faces turned my direction when I say “Hi my name is B, and I am mentally ill”. I hate the sound of it, mentally ill. It makes me sound like a serial killer. However, there is nothing so interesting about me as that. In fact if there is one word on this planet to describe me, it’s average. I live in an average house, in an average neighborhood, in an average town, with an average job, with an average income. Even my mental illness is average. I suffer from anxiety and depression first diagnosed in my late 20s, but I’m certain it’s always been there is some fashion.
I really want to change that label, mentally ill. Maybe I can change it to something that is purely positive like … Starlight. Could that change the stigma that comes along with the admission that my brain does not function correctly?
I suffer from Starlight. There that doesn’t sound so bad does it? Well as I think on it more, I’ve read that the starlight we see from Earth can come from such a distance that the light we see can be from a star that has already died. In that sense, maybe Starlight is the wrong choice. I’ll have to keep working on my label.
The stigma is incredibly frustrating. When the pancreas doesn’t produce the appropriate amount of insulin, you have diabetes. No one expects you to cheer up or shake it off when you are diabetic. My brain doesn’t produce the correct amount of serotonin and dopamine and yet that’s all I hear from people.
“It’s not so bad.”
“Other people would love to be you.”
My response is always the same. Does it matter? Does it matter that other people would love to be me when I don’t want to be me?
Telling my story is completely terrifying. I don’t want to lay my flaws out in all their glory, but maybe if I do someone somewhere will understand these flaws, and they’ll realize they are like me. They’ll realize they have experienced emotions that do not belong to them. They’ll realize that it’s not normal to be satisfied with your life one minute and want to throw it all away the next. They’ll realize that mental illness is just that, an illness, and it can be cured.
I am fully aware that I’m angry, I’m full of self-pity, I’m narcissistic, and I’m so, so sorry. This is my mental illness in it’s raw reality.
Anger is the most intense emotion that my illness produces in me. It’s a feeling of bitterness and imbalance. It’s the reason I question the existence of a higher power. I just can’t imagine if there were, that this benevolent entity would force me to live with this Sunshine? (label is still a work in progress) and give others what I call the ‘gilded life’, the perfect life. Why do some win and some lose at birth? What kind of god would choose between their children like that?
One particular gilded life I’ll refer to as TC, to protect the innocent, and he certainly is innocent. It’s strictly my skewed view of his life that makes me angry. I’m certain he’s the loveliest person, but I hate him. TC is the epitome of gilded. He grew up in a theatre family in a cultural metropolitan melting pot or so I hear from interviews I’ve read or watched. He has had nothing but success after success. He wines and dines with the elite and oozes talent, beauty, money, and privilege from every pore. I imagine his weekends are filled with beautiful people, insightful conversation, the perfect home, and trips to the beach. I’ll bet he has someone to do all those mundane average things for him that fill my days like grocery shopping, cleaning, laundry, and making the bed. I expect his weekdays include inspiring interviews, table readings, and costume fittings while I spend mine knee-deep in spreadsheets. It’s the dream life every human wants to live, but so few are actually afforded.
The really messed up part is that I can’t stop watching him. I should reiterate here that I am mentally ill, but I’m not a stalker, or any type of criminal for that matter. What I am is a corporate accountant, a wife, and a caregiver to two cats. When I say I can’t stop watching him, I’m not talking about through a telescoping lens outside his home. I mean it in the way we all watch the gilded, on Hulu, on Amazon Prime, on YouTube, on the evening news. You get the picture.
But why? I hate him to the very marrow of my bones, why do I watch him every time there’s an opportunity? I mean it’s practically vomit inducing. I’m a lot of things, but masochistic is not on the list, so I’m convinced I can’t turn my head from TC’s gilded life because I think if I eventually see the cracks and flaws in that life, maybe some of my anger will fade. Maybe my tragic averageness will start to be enough.
It’s everywhere - television, magazines, radio, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter – perfect gilded lives for as far as the eye can see. Damn! Why can’t it be me?
Sadness is the hardest emotion from my illness for me to work through. My sadness stems from my sense of failing, failing at happiness, failing at being a woman as I’ve never had children, failing at being enough as I am.
That compounded with the immense guilt I feel for being so angry, so jealous, and not being content with the many gifts I do have in my life creates a recipe for never ending tears. Some days are better than others, but at times the tears can’t be kept at bay no matter how hard I grit my teeth and paste on that insincere smile.
Lots of young girls dream of a fantasy romance as they grow into adulthood. I was no different. I dreamt of meeting a man like TC and having that man be intelligent, loving, and constant. He would think I was beautiful and be full of passion for me. We would live that gilded life together.
My reality was actually quite sweet as the boy I asked to prom my senior year said yes, and six years later to the day, we said “I do”. However, it’s now 17 years since, and passion is the farthest thing from his mind. I certainly don’t blame him or hold it against him. We’ve been together for 23 years and although I look ok for my age, I never was going to win a beauty contest if you know what I mean. Well not until they create Ms. Average America at any rate. I might have a shot at that!
My husband is my best friend. He is intelligent, loving, and constant like I wished for as a young girl. He is also hard-working, a true gentleman in the carry your bags, open the door, take your hat off inside kind of guy. He’s also pretty easy on the eyes, but 23 years, and mental illness takes a toll on passion. Sex becomes sort of mechanical. It’s nice but you don’t really have to have it, and this becomes another source of guilt. I should try harder. I should be sexier. He deserves better. The thoughts go round and round until the sadness returns.
Hope is the emotion that spurs the most fear in me, but I think it’s the most important for a chance at recovery. Hope inherently brings with it the chance for loss.
I’m going to begin seeing a new psychiatrist this week and my hope is frighteningly high that she will be the one that will know how to piece me back together. She could know the right prescription for my mental health. However, what if she tries and I’m too broken to be helped at this point? What if I just don’t have the strength to do what needs to be done?
Fear and hope hold hands in my heart, but I have to keep hoping. When the hope runs out the anger, sadness, and fear is all that’s left, and I’m not sure if anyone could live like that.
To answer the question of what it is I truly want in this life: contentment. I want my smile to be real. I want to be content with my place in this world. I want to have made some kind of difference when I’ve left it.
As you know, I will not be leaving behind any children, or a fairy tale life story, so maybe this is my legacy. My fight with Brilliance? (kind of liking that one) can be known and can be identified with. Maybe someone out there will feel a little better knowing that I’m here, I’m broken, but I have hope that the pieces will fit back together, and I won’t need to compare my life to anyone else’s. I want to inspire hope.
I heard the words “contentment is an emotion hard won” uttered on television once. That resonated to my very core. Not only is it hard won, I think it’s the only emotion worth winning. The rest is what we have to suffer to get there.
I know that today I am a work in progress, if I’m 100% honest, I’m still rooting for TC to fall in a well, but with my luck, he’d get some gorgeous scar and be even better looking afterward. However, I’m going to do this! I’m going to get back to being me, there is no other option, and I want to bring as many of us as possible with me. Join me on my journey toward mental health.