Yesterday was a hard day. The book my husband and I published, Sundays at Liberty Station, arrived on Friday, and five of the poets included in the book came over to pick up their copies. I loved it, but lately I have had difficulty with social situations. For some reason, I get so anxious that I can’t settle down. After the poets left, I laid down to try to calm myself. I couldn’t. I went from bed to computer, from computer to bed, and back again.
I called my husband. He was at work. He wanted to come home, but I told him I would be fine. I know he needs to work overtime right now, and can’t be with me. I have to support him in that. Mental illnesses don’t take a vacation. In fact mental illness doesn’t respect anything or anyone.
An episode can come on at a wedding.
An episode can come on at a funeral.
An episode can come on during your big presentation.
An episode can come on during a vacation.
My psychiatrist told me that some symptoms tend to get better with age, and others, like being social, tend to get worse. I’m definitely getting worse in social situations.
As a young woman I was a party girl. I loved to socialize. I was quick to make friends, and had no problem closing down a bar, taking a road trip, or hanging out in a coffee shop with a group of friends all day.
I can’t do it now. A few weeks ago, my friend drove me home before our poetry workshop, because I got overwhelmed by anxiety. I love my poetry workshop. I look forward to it. But everyone was talking, the room was loud and it felt like I was going to scream. I felt my heart racing, and I was consumed by thoughts that I was going to die. I couldn’t get comfortable. I couldn’t relax. I couldn’t sit down.
There are times when I cry for myself. I cry with such a deep sense of sadness at having to live through a mental illness. The days can be challenging, frightening, and hard like walking through thick mud in rubber boots. I just can’t always lift my feet, or at least I feel like I can’t.
But then I do. I lift them painfully, and slowly. I keep moving, inch by inch closer to a destination that is unknown. I am a fighter. I have strength beyond my own understanding. Everyone with a mental illness is a hero in their story as long as they lift their feet up and keep moving. Lift your feet. Lift them over and over and over again.
I’ll meet you at the finish line, I promise.