i wish i had never discovered the question: who am i? it plagues me. the more i probe it, the more i become incomplete.
for the past year, i have tried to achieve simplicity, only to be faced with enormous effort. understanding is something that i love to do. it’s a gift and a suffering. i have been so determined to figure it out, to uncover the answers, to find the truth.
i found it. it’s called zoloft.
i have a mental illness. i have a mental illness. it seems it has slowly been taking over my life for the past seven years. i think too much, i feel too much. i have feelings about my feelings. i have thoughts about my thoughts. i am prepared for everything. i analyse everything. i look for patterns. i seek control. what if it gets cold and i don’t have a sweater? what if they don’t like me? what if he crashes on his way to work and i didn’t tell him how much i love him?
i love this about myself, i do. it makes me sensitive, understanding, empathetic, thoughtful. it also makes me a raving lunatic. and in the past year, it has given me an unbearable pit to lug around in my stomach, a heart that races at the mere thought of an uncomfortable situation, and a genuine will to disappear: stop feeling, stop thinking, stop breathing.
i couldn’t bear the thought that i wasn’t able to fix my brain with my own two hands. if i wasn’t doing yoga, abstaining from alcohol and coffee, getting eight hours of sleep each night, practicing mindfulness and gratitude, eating whole foods, and spending time outdoors ALL DAY EVERY DAY, then obviously i wasn’t doing enough. then obviously i didn’t deserve to feel weightless, content and free. my anxiety a privilege, my sadness a luxury. how dare i? how dare i feel unhappy in this perfect alpine life i’ve stumbled upon and been lucky enough to keep?
when i have been brave enough to share this experience with others:
1 what do you possibly have to be anxious about? just stop worrying so much.
2 i never would have guessed. you seem so happy! i thought you had it all together! you’re always smiling, your photos are amazing, you’re doing such cool stuff!
3 i’m so glad you told me. i’ve struggled with it too.
i am so thankful for the people in group three. (groups one and two, i shall voodoo doll you later don’t worry). people i admire who were, like me, unable to help themselves. it’s ok to need medication. it doesn’t mean i’m not strong enough, smart enough, capable enough, self-aware enough. yadda yadda ya. of course my anxiety doesn’t believe that hogwash for a second, but the great thing about anti-anxiety medication is that i just don’t care anymore! so i need medication? who cares? so i wasn’t the exemplar of mental health and resilience? fantastic!
it was the best decision i have ever made. even better than the time i changed my mind at the last minute: “oh actually can I have the fries instead of the side salad?” i feel like myself again. i have become reacquainted with this thing called relaxing. i am no longer engaging in activities based on how much i think they will reduce or increase my anxiety. i can do things simply because i want to. what a bizarre sensation!
with my new brain, somehow everything else has fallen into place. my exercise has started to pay off (despite my constant consumption of cookies), my relationships have strengthened, i’ve been able to achieve goals. my future seems more permanent, exciting and accessible. and i have been really enjoying my new job.
my new job. i work in medical recruitment. why? partly because it is the only semi-corporate non-hospitality non-tourism job within a 300-mile radius. but also because it requires meticulous organisation, attention to detail, efficiency, self-motivation, problem-solving, task orientation and understanding of human needs. i just said every single one of my favourite words in that sentence. oh yes, and lists! and checkboxes. and sub-checkboxes. need i say more?
the problem is that i am part of an all-female team. all of them are women. not even one of them is not a woman. are you following? i fear these creatures! i do! i do not feel at home with them.
i have grown increasingly fascinated by their dynamics, but this fascination is synonymous with rage. the positive pitch of their voices, the happy music they enjoy, the need for constant chatter, their relentless encouragement and enthusiasm–it drains every ounce of life out of me. i am utterly confused when they ask me to join them for lunch. why in the world? don’t you realize simply sitting next to you for the past five hours has been enough social interaction to last me for an entire month? and so i mumble something incomprehensible, slip away quietly, and search for the alone time i so desperately crave, in a corner where nobody will find me.
i am enjoying life. all of it. i am enjoying the routine and the structure and the purpose and the comforts and the mountains and the community and the friends and the income and the stability. i am enjoying using my planner religiously, and making as many lists as whoever-makes-the-most-lists-in-the-world. i am enjoying biking to work twice a week. i am enjoying quiz night on tuesdays, pub on thursdays, pizza on fridays, hiking on saturdays. i am even secretly enjoying my all-female team. for the first time in a long time, i am so happy exactly where i am.