In honor of World Mental Health Day, I wanted to pen a letter to the mental illness that has impacted so much of my life. Yes, I realize that World Mental Health Day was October 10, but if you know anything about mental health struggles — they don't always let you get things done on time.
It is incredible to see how much you have grown and evolved with me throughout the years. I remember when your greatest hold on me kept me from the lunchroom in seventh grade. I'd sit in the library or chat with the school secretary because, in the library, I was "catching up on homework," and in the office, I was "getting caught up in a conversation until, oops! Lunch is over!" You turned a room full of my peers into a setting scarier than any haunted house I've ever refused to enter.
I thought I'd gotten rid of you when I started at a new school. Since no one knew me, you became the shy one. There were no memories of relationships for you to manipulate in my mind. It was there that I found the place I excelled most — the classroom. Though, you still found your moments to keep my hand down, forcing me to question if the answer I knew so certainly was correct. But I persisted — I let my drive to learn push you out of my mind long enough to get through each 40 minute period. There were days when you won the fight. Those days were foggy and usually followed sleepless nights when you'd kept me up with all of your theories of how my life was falling apart. Were you setting me up?
You forced me to question relationships at every stage. You have made me skeptical, paranoid, and you've even broken my heart. Simple conversations have left me embarrassed and gasping for air. Those moments were the influence of your judgment and pessimism. But in a way, you've also saved me. You've protected me from people that never would have been worthwhile. Those statements don't mean I am grateful for you.
Sometimes I have to laugh at the things you've made me do. Was putting me at my desk 45 minutes before the start of my zoom class really necessary? Or making me believe if I got up to pee, I'd be late to log on and probably be marked absent? Did you do that because you were bored? Am I so gullible that I let you kept me in that chair, leg shaking until I was far enough into the class where I could turn off my camera and run to the bathroom? It is simply the effect you have on me.
I have a secret for you. I've learned your Kryptonite — reality.
I've learned that writing down moments in my life has allowed me to see you for what you really are. You are a distortion, a disruption, and a catalyst for my descent into madness. There will be days when you will win our battles. That is something I have come to terms with. But I plan to, and I will, win the war.
Anxiety, I don't know who I'd be without you. You are a part of me whether I like it or not.
However, this still doesn't mean we are or ever will be friends.