By Caitlin Ainsworth
Have you ever felt like everyone around you was living a full life? Not to say they are — or you are not — but I’ve found sometimes through my own pain it can seem like everyone else has nothing to fight off. I wake up every day with immense dread that I’m no longer asleep, or worse, that I’m not finally dead. I finally find the courage to get out of bed five hours after my alarm goes off to go to the bathroom and maybe find some food, but after that I’m back into my nest of blankets and pillows that once in a while seems to guard me from the monsters in my head — the monsters that surround me.
I have five papers due on Monday. It’s Saturday night, and if I work on them now, I might be able to get three done. That’s good enough, right? Maybe I could get an extension for the other two? I have a test on Tuesday. “I should probably study for that; it’s a big part of my grade,” I say to myself.
“Why should you study for a test you are sure to fail?” Anxiety says.
“Why even bother? You’ll never be able to do well. You just need to sleep. You need to put your books away and just stop,” whispers Depression.
I put the books away. I close Word on my laptop. I open up Netflix, hoping to drive away the thoughts and voices in my head with some of the shows I have begun to binge the past few days. Hours go by. I haven’t moved.
To others, it might seem like I have less work to do, like I’m lying around all day. But in reality, I’m taking 21 credit hours this semester. I’m behind in my work and almost failing all seven of my classes.
I start to think where I went wrong. The voices creep back in.
“God, you’re worthless. You can’t even study for a simple test that will determine if you end up passing the class by the skin of your teeth. Why haven’t you been studying all this time instead of lying in bed? Are you really as much of a screw up as you seem?”
See, I feel like this every day. I think these things and do these things because most days I cannot do anything else. Because in my mind, I am holding up entire buildings and sword-fighting with demons and also pushing back a black ghost that looks like the Obscurus from “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.” In my head, there are thousands of things going on all at once, and I can’t seem to sort through it all to do the things I know are actually real, instead of only seeing the parts of my imagination and mental illness that I know are not real. If you struggle with this, too, you may understand what I mean. You may understand that it’s difficult to think about and write about, because it seems impossible to describe. It can seem hypocritical and challenging and dark and unhealthy.
Even though I do everything to stay healthy — maintain my appointments and take my pills — it doesn’t mean I’m better. It means I’m trying so hard to be better. It doesn’t mean I have an easy life, or that I can do whatever I want, like “relaxing” after class (if I even go to class). Some people might assume I have an easy life, that I am lazy for ignoring the immense workload I have from class, and this just makes me feel lazy. It makes me feel like I’m not trying hard enough and that I’m a disappointment to everyone around me. I’m sorry I’m a mess. I just wish others would understand that I’m trying, and that I’m getting better. I’m not “lazy.”