I know that it is hard for you to understand what I am going through because you have never felt this way before, but thank you for trying. I recognize that my illness is not something that you can see, but it is real and it does impair me from functioning in the same way that a physical illness can. Although this illness does not define me, it is a part of who I am so it is important that you understand. I want you to know what happens to me when I seem to disappear from myself and where it is that I go. Please be open and willing.
First of all, it is not just sadness. Yes, I do feel sad a lot of the time, but it’s more nuanced than that. Sometimes I don’t feel anything at all, and other times I feel so many emotions they overwhelm me. Sometimes I feel like I am standing above myself looking down at a completely different person. But almost all of the time, I am fighting my thoughts and my emotions, trying to manage and regulate them- this is one of the reasons why I am so tired all of the time. Unfortunately, happiness just doesn’t come as easily to me and is something that I have to work towards almost every day. Managing and regulating my emotions is an onerous chore.
Secondly, my illness is not something that I can control. I have learned to manage it, but I cannot predict when an episode will swoop over me and take hold. In these episodes, it takes me twice as long to comprehend what I’m reading, staying focused is nearly impossible, forming words feels like speaking in another language, and my memory becomes clouded. During these times, it is especially hard for me to discern between my own voice and the voices in my head that tell me I am worthless, hopeless, and completely alone. I realize only after the episode has subsided that the voices in my head belong to my illness and not to me, but in those moments they seem to drown out my own voice completely.
I used to pretend that I wasn’t ill and that I was just “moody” and “emotional.” I would go through cycles where, upon feeling better, I would convince myself that this was something that I could will away with strength and that I didn’t actually have. But this belief was foolish and irrational. It turns out that getting treatment and accepting my illness has been one of the biggest signs of strength and has helped me get to a place of acceptance, understanding, and peace. I am now better equipped to recognize and regulate these feelings when they arise, and I am figuring out what works for me. Laughing helps. Ice cream, hugs, good movies, good music, candles, meditating, lattes, going for walks, journaling- these things ground me. But being around people helps lift me up and pull me out of my mood most effectively. Building a strong support system has helped cushion the intensity and duration of my episodes, so thank you for making me feel loved.
I’m still figuring out what works and what doesn’t work for me, and this has been a long and arduous process. Please be patient. I know that this isn’t easy for you but trust that I am doing my best to battle this. I take pride in my journey and my recovery, and as much as I detest this illness, I am grateful for it. It has allowed me to see the splendor in life and appreciate the good days when they come. Although it has been one of my greatest challenges, battling this illness has made me someone who is more self-aware, resilient, and compassionate.
Friend, you should know that I truly value you even though occasionally it doesn’t seem like it. Know that when I push you away to be alone, I want nothing more than to be around you but I’m scared that you won’t like this version of me. I withdraw because I don’t want you to feel burdened by my presence. So please, don’t be afraid to push a little harder and ask me what it is that I’m truly feeling. If I need to be alone, check in with me later to see how I’m doing. Invite me to something to distract me from my thoughts. Give me a hug. Even sit in silence with me. Your presence is welcome-trust me. Even reading this letter has shown me that you care and are willing to understand, so thank you for taking the time to listen. I appreciate your attention more than you will ever know.
With Love and Gratitude,
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