I Am My Declining Mental Health

In the darkest of times,  I sit half-dressed on the cold tile of the bathroom floor with hair dangling down, knees pulled to chest, and tears streaming down my face. I rock back and forth to feel my bare back against the wall I have painted Swimming Blue myself, and I whisper over and over again: I am not my mental health.

I am not my mental health.

I am not my mental health.

I am not my mental health.

Perhaps, if I say it just one more time I will begin to believe it. Perhaps change comes between the 33rd and 34th time. Perhaps just once more can’t hurt…

I am not my mental health.

.

.

.

There is no change.

There is no difference between this time and the 100s of times before it. There is no difference between the writing of these words on paper, the typing of them on my screen, the way they read in a text from a friend, or the way they feel on my lips as they pass through while I stand in front of the bathroom mirror.

It still feels as though I am my mental health. 

It feels as though I am the monster of depression and anxiety that has eaten at me for as long as I can remember. It feels real, all-encompassing, and predatory. In my most darkest times, I feel as though I am no longer the woman I have strived for so long to become. I am no longer a teacher, a daughter, a sister, a friend. The very essence of who I am deep inside, the soul that lives within me, feels so foreign and so far away that it seems I can barely remember her name.

In the darkest of times,  I sit half-dressed on the cold tile of the bathroom floor with hair dangling down, knees pulled to chest, and tears streaming down my face. I rock back and forth to feel my bare back against the wall I have painted Swimming Blue myself, and I whisper over and over again: I am not my mental health.

Yet it feels so much like I am. 

The person that I once was feels as far away as the snow feels in the July summer heat, and while I know she is buried somewhere deep inside–whether in the tips of my fingers or the joints of my toes–it seems she will never come out from whatever hibernation she is in. I feel suddenly, in those moments on the bathroom floor, that I am my mental health. 

I believe I must be.

I cannot be something else, as there is nothing left to be. I am a shell of a human, filled with worry and self-hatred, and it suffocates so heavily that finally getting a small breath simply feels like cheating. 

I feel so deeply in these moments that I am the anxiety and I am the depression.

I feel, as clear as day, that I am in fact the second-guesser, the worrywart, the one that angers at a last minute change of plans. I am the person that strives to be something of a goal she can never reach. I am the woman that cries when her phone doesn’t ring, replays mistakes on loop in her mind, and feels that everything is personal. I am the woman that feels on edge at all times, does not sleep, and when she does, wakes in a cold sweat feeling as though the most dreaded thing has happened when in fact, it has not. I am the person insecure in every relationship, the one asking for continuous validation, the woman that feels as though silence means an end.

I feel that I am my anxiety.

Even worse, I feel that I am my depression.

I feel that I am the person that lay in bed with her hair splayed across her pillow and her teeth unbrushed. I am the woman that is tangled in blankets that have been slept in one too many times and pajamas that were worn last night, all day, and tonight again. I am the person that struggles with the concept of life and what living it means.

I am the woman that sits on her couch, in a home she bought and owns by herself, watching the clock tick forward, impatiently waiting until it is time for bed simply to find some relief. I am the woman that wears the clothes her mother has washed, sleeps in the sheets her mother has changed, drinks from the glass her mother has cleaned, and eats the food her mother has made.

I am the woman that hears her phone go off, reads your message, and cannot bring herself to answer. I am the person who is convinced, at her darkest moments, that she is someone easy to forget. I am the friend that passes through, the sister that doesn’t try hard enough, the aunt that doesn’t show up, and the daughter that is in too much need. I am the failure as the teacher, the screw-up as the child, and the clinger as the friend.

I feel that no matter what I do, the words that I say, or the coping skills I try, I am my mental health.

I am my anxiety. I am my depression.

I. Am. My. Struggles.

.

.

.

The flaw in this logic is that I am not. I am not the friend that needs too much and gives too little. I am not the teacher that does not work hard enough. I am not the screw-up, the uninvolved, or the selfish. I am not the phone call asking for a ride to the emergency room. I am not the worrywart, the helpless, or the broken.

I am those things as much as one with cancer is their lung, their colon, or their breast.

I am not my mental health.

I cannot be my mental health, because it is not something I am, it is something that has happened. It has happened, it has come, and sure enough, eventually, it will leave.

I cannot be my mental health because we don’t have anything in common.

My mental health does not smile while teaching children, feel warmth at the sight of a dog, or laugh with a friend. He does not answer the phone when a friend calls and talk them down from their hysterics. He does not work for everything he has and make sure to cherish it, polish it, clean it, and keep it. He does not buy your favorite drink because he knows you’re having a bad day, offer a listening ear at any time, or go the extra mile simply because he wants to.

He does not throw his head back with a laugh from deep within and allow tears to spring from his eyes at the most ridiculous of things that has become funny just because he is with someone he loves. He does not notice the miniscule change in voice of another that tells him something is wrong and he needs to remember to check in.

He does not take his medication like clockwork and spend hours in therapy attempting to become a better person, fix the things about him that cause others distress, and find who he truly is again. He does not work for hours in front of his computer from morning until night trying to figure out the best way to deliver high quality at his job.

He does not think about others, he does not care about anyone, and he definitely does not spend his energy wondering how he can best make the world a better place.

My mental health only cares for himself, and I cannot be him.

I am not my mental health, and it is impossible to be.

I am not my mental health.

I am a person. I am a woman. I am a sister, a daughter, an aunt, and a friend.

Though she be buried deep at present moment, she still grasps at straws to shine. While her light may be dim, it is not completely out.

I cannot be my mental health because I am not a thing that is happening to me.

I cannot be my mental health, because instead I am the woman buried.

While forgetting who she is was as real as the feeling of grief that takes residence in your gut, I have remembered and I will continue to help her stay lit. I will offer her kindling for as long as it takes to get her burning bright once again.

I am not my an anxiety or my depression. I am me, and after months, I have remembered her name.

I am Mollie.

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1 Comment

  1. Mark says:

    You are my daughter who I love with my whole heart! You are my everything! I am extremely proud of everything you have accomplished! I will always love you!
    Dad

    Like

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