i see people online (i know, i know, a piece in which a millennial talks about comparing herself to people on the internet - groundbreaking!) posting about everything they’re achieving and, especially when it’s people who have openly documented their struggle with mental illness, all i can think is ‘why not me?’. you’re anxious and miserable and apathetic and exhausted - but here you are collaborating with people, making friends with like-minded people, reaching your goals, expanding your circle, increasing your platform. so why not me? why am i literally too consumed by fear to meet girls i know i’ll love for a coffee? why does it feel so goddamn hard to force myself into doing ANYTHING? why are you able to push aside your struggles so as not to interfere with your goals, when i can barely keep them at bay long enough to get out of bed?
the most frustrating bit of all of this is the inevitable end point on the journey of self-pity, which is - always - ‘i must just be lazy’. because feeling lazy takes you from the self-pitying ‘why not me’ to the self-loathing ‘oh yeah, because I’M A USELESS PIECE OF SHIT’. when you look at all these other girls succeeding despite struggling, all rationality about knowing fine well that everyone’s experience of mental illness is different evaporates out of your stupid brain quicker than you can think ‘this definitely must all be my fault somehow’. and, excruciatingly, it makes seeing others do well bittersweet. none of this is a competition, but when you feel like you’re losing against yourself, it’s hard to remain unaffected by someone else’s ‘against all odds’ success.
in a good headspace, of course, it’s easy to remind yourself that everyone has good & bad periods, that you’re productive and creative and efficient and quite brilliant when you’re feeling good, and most importantly that you have no idea how many breakdowns/self-destructive spirals/barely-holding-it-together 3am coffees/definitely-not-holding-it-together 5am doughnuts someone else has had in order to put out that new body of work that you’re so jealous of. but when you’ve been in the Valley of Apathy for what feels like 7 years, it’s really hard to look at the situation in a rational, well-informed, sensitive way. because, y’know, you feel like shit. because what poor mental health can do to you is neither rational, nor well-informed, nor sensitive. one day you’re fine and the next you’re looking on spareroom.com for a nice hole in the ground that you can rent out to crawl into and wait for sweet, liberating death.
the problem is, when mental health’s the thing that stands in your way, it’s a frustratingly inescapable fact that the only thing, therefore, standing in your way is yourself. whether it’s our fault or not (it’s defs not), it’s an undeniable fact that if your brain is what’s stopping you, then the only way that can change is if you change it. so maybe it’s a case of forcing ourselves until it no longer feels forced. maybe it’s doing stuff that terrifies you because you know that it’ll be worth it in the end when you’ve come out the other side a) alive and b) with a tangible product of your hard work/creativity/3am coffees. easier said than done, of course, when your mind feels like it’s literally turned itself inside-out so as to prevent you getting on with anything. maybe if we want to get shit done then we can’t allow ourselves the luxury of waiting til we feel like it.
maybe we’ve just gotta get competitive with ourselves. mental health’s a competition and i’m gonna win mine today.