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Under the Facade

But if you just tried hard enough… if you exercised, changed your habits, stood upside-down with a rose between your teeth… you could be happy.

Today, I write anonymously. You see, there still so much stigma with mental illness. People don't talk about it much, and when they do it's often sugar coated. Sure, it's less taboo than it used to be, but people generally don't like to hear about the gritty realities of life.

The problem with mental illness is we don't know enough about the brain the definitively diagnose. It's all based on symptoms. It's a spectrum where one end is a completely normal level of (sadness/fear/joy/anger) and on the other end, it destroys your life. Most people fall somewhere in the middle so we have to decide at what point things are abnormal.

It's also difficult because symptoms don't typically just appear, it's gradual. So many people don't even realize what they are experiencing isn't "normal" until they tell someone about it. You get so used to feeling a certain way you don't even realize you don't have to.

For me, I have good days and bad days. As I get older, I have learned manage my symptoms more effectively and to ask for help when I need to. But today is a bad day. If it was a broken bone, there would be no question as to why I was in pain, but I sit here writing and feel the need to explain myself. I watched an unexpectedly sad TV show 4 hours ago and am still struggling not to cry. I woke up today exhausted, having to fight for the motivation to get up and shower. I went about my daily tasks, pushing myself to just get done what I needed to get done. All day, nagging voices in my head (no, not the “need to be hospitalized” kind), the running commentary of self-doubt and decades of low self-esteem. 

Logically, I know I am an intelligent person with a lot going for me and successes other people only dream of. But right now, I don't believe it. In this moment, I am a failure. Everything I touch is doomed. No matter how I try, I will never be a success. The worst part is, I know the steps to try to fight it and I know that they’re effective, but I struggle to find the strength to keep trying. It’s like fighting a multi-headed monster - as soon as you conquer one demon, another rears its ugly head. Everything took more effort than it should have today and I’m tired. I feel like an empty shell, going through the motions of life, but not really experiencing anything. Colors seem more muted, a world of grays where there used to be a vibrant rainbow. Other people have things figured out and I'm here in shambles, putting on a front.

When I try to tell people my feelings, I’m told to try running or praying or eating gluten free. I’m told to just try being happier, as if that hadn’t crossed my mind. How can I hang out with my friends when even getting dressed is a challenge, let alone having to interact with others - even those I enjoy being around. The very things that would be most helpful are the hardest to do. Some days, I just need a break from everything being so hard and want nothing more than to lay in bed doing literally nothing.

I don’t tell you this to garner pity - that’s entirely unhelpful for both of us. I am sharing so that maybe you understand there is so much more going on beneath the surface. Maybe you know me. Maybe I sit next to you at the office or maybe we have biology class together. The point is, I could be anyone and you’d have no idea.

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