5 Contradictions Of Living With Mental Illness – Scary Mommy

5 Contradictions Of Living With Mental Illness

living with mental illness

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Y’all, I’m basically celebrating my 10th anniversary of insanity. Insaniversary? Is that a thing? Can we make that a thing?

(OK, so according to Twitter, Insaniversary is kind of a thing. By some ableist gym in the Bronx. But I’m ignoring them. Tweet me about your first episode. #insaniversary)

Ten years ago, I had my first bipolar depressive episode, and I’ve been a bundle of fun ever since. Lucky me, I’ve got a bunch of other diagnoses that have been tacked on with it, so shit never gets boring around here.

One thing I’ve noticed about mental illness is that it’s a mess of contradictions. It tells us one thing, urges us to do another. We have one desire, but then act totally to the contrary because…reasons.

And sometimes, we want two totally opposing things at the same time. Don’t know what I mean? Here are five examples of the total mindfuckery that is living with mental illness:

1. I’m painfully bored, but I don’t have the energy to do anything.

Oh my god. I have never been so bored in my life. Every cell in my body aches for variety, interest, entertainment, something. If I sit here one more minute staring at the wall, I may totally lose it.

But I can’t get out of bed. And I can’t find the motivation to do anything. And nothing sounds appealing to do in the first place. I guess I’m taking a nap—for the third time today.

2. My messy house is giving me anxiety, but I have too much anxiety to clean.

Everywhere I look, there’s chaos. A sink, overflowing with dishes. A table, covered in weeks and weeks of junk mail. Dirty laundry pouring out of the closet. Recycling and trash spilling onto the floor.

The sight of all of this garbage leaves me on the brink of a panic attack. I should do something about this.

Oh wait, just kidding, I’m having a panic attack. I’ll do nothing about this. I think I’ll wrap myself in a blanket and hyperventilate instead.

3. I want to be close to you, but I’m going to push you away.

Maybe my comrades with borderline personality disorder will understand this best. I want close relationships—deep, loving friendships and passionate, tender romances. I want to feel like our souls are connected. I want to be able to tell you my deepest, darkest secrets.

And just when we’re getting there, that impulse pops up in my brain—RUN. RUN AWAY. I’m scared of being known by someone and simultaneously crave being known, so I’m pulling them close one day and then pushing them away the next. I can say from experience that it is not an effective way to get to know someone.

4. I want to get my work done, but I can’t get out of bed.

My alarm has gone off, and that urgent, panicked voice in the back of my head greets me this morning with a reminder: Sam, you have a lot to get done today.

To which depression responds: Cool story, bro. Because depression doesn’t care about my to-do list. Depression doesn’t care about taking a shower, eating breakfast, brushing my teeth, and it certainly doesn’t care about whether or not I fulfill my work obligations.

Nah, depression is like, I have a great idea, let’s do NOTHING and let’s STAY IN BED.

I would love to be a productive and composed adult human. I would love to meet all of my deadlines and then some. But depression has other plans. Depression steals my energy, motivation, and ability to care. Depression suggests that I spend the next two hours crying, so I oblige.

Then depression is like, lololol.

5. I want to feel better, so I’m going to do things that make shit worse.

I’m just going to assume that I am not the only one who does this, particularly when I’m depressed or anxious. I’m an extrovert, so I know that leaving the house will make me feel infinitely better. But I have lost all motivation and energy, so I stay in my apartment and, predictably, feel worse.

I’m aware that my mood is easily impacted by my surroundings. But when I’m depressed, something about listening to devastatingly sad music really appeals to me. So I immerse myself in a Spotify playlist that may as well have been titled “Doom, Doom, Doom” and, predictably, feel worse.

I know that spending time with friends makes me feel better, but I’m completely convinced I’m a burden. I cancel all my plans, curl up in a ball, convince myself that I’m alone in the world and, predictably, feel worse.

I could eat a delicious meal, take a luxurious shower, play video games for a while, or engage in any number of self-soothing behaviors. Or I could stay in bed and eat popcorn because that shit requires too much energy.

You guessed it. I feel worse.

Lol, you guys, why do I do this to myself?

Oh wait, I know: Mental illness is an asshole.

♦ ♦ ♦

In the midst of all these frustrations, people might mistake our behavior as being irrational. But you know what? It makes perfect sense to me. We’re up against something that saps us of our willpower, our energy, our motivation, our ability, and as we desperately try to push back, what others see as a “contradiction” is really our best attempt at surviving.

So if all you could do today was stay in bed and eat popcorn, I’m right there with you. If you’re on your third or even fourth nap, I totally get it. If you just had the “there’s so many dishes I’ll hide in this blanket” panic attack, solidarity to you, as that was me just the other day.

The fact that you’re still alive despite the weight of something so heavy, so persistent, so disabling—that is a tremendous feat. Whatever your illness, whatever flavor of insanity you’ve got, just know that there’s someone out there who’s damn proud that you’re still here. (Hint: That’s me.)