At first, I thought to be vulnerable meant sharing the awful and miserable parts of life. The ones that we often refrained from sharing. I believed that by sharing these stories, I was the most vulnerable I could be.
But that’s not how vulnerability works.
We are vulnerable when we share our emotions. Stigma has conditioned us to believe we should keep our feelings hidden, and those who choose to talk about their emotions are looking for sympathy or attention.
We are vulnerable when we talk about our hopes and dreams. When we share goals and desires we have not yet accomplished, we are putting ourselves out there and being real.
We are vulnerable when we share our work.
I feel most vulnerable when I share the thoughts I hold and the content I have created. I am aware that others may not understand or disagree with what I create, but regardless, I am putting myself out there.
While vulnerability can be opening up about a dark time or situation, it is not limited to.
Vulnerability is sharing your authentic self with the world, knowing that not everyone will be accepting of what you have to say.
I often feel every emotion intensely, so when depression hits – I feel empty. This emptiness is so unlike me. My head was filled with thoughts and ideas. Now i struggle to maintain a conversation, unable to think.
My stomach feels tight, and my appetite is absent. My body, weak. I’m exhausted, and I need a nap, yet I sleep for hours and feel unrested.
I crave bedtime when I’m safe, asleep, and not experiencing emptiness.
I usually wake up with anticipation. I enjoy the mornings most because my mind feels so clear. Now I wake up in a daze. My brain is foggy, and I feel sick inside.
I’m coping as best I can. Distraction is the only way through this: knitting, walking, reading, baking, and music.
Putting words to this feeling brings wholeness to my life.
I’m accepting this emptiness, and I’m fully feeling – or not feeling. Then, I will move on because tomorrow is a new day.
My illness is all in my head. Well, it is invisible to you.
I won’t lie; sometimes, I feel guilty because of how I am unable to engage and present myself fully.
I wish I could be carefree and easygoing, but that’s unrealistic for me.
Often, I want others to understand why I’m not those things.
My illness is invisible; others cannot read the thoughts that I have. Others cannot feel the pain and tension I experience. Others cannot grasp the emotions that take over my reality.
Sometimes my presence is all I can manage. I am juggling my mind and existence, and on stressful days that keeps my hands full.
There are days where I feel in control. My thoughts are more positive, and I have more energy. On these days I can be present. I feel like myself, and I can engage. These days remind me why the hard ones are worth it.
If you can relate to my words, I want you to know it is enough for you just to be you as little or much as you can manage. If you can’t relate, I hope you can better understand.
I’m fighting an invisible illness.
If you follow my Instagram, you know that I’m not one for big New Years’ resolutions. I find that most are instructed and unrealistic. While I could make one attainable goal, I don’t want to be held down by one big thing. I also find that the added stress results in little to no positive change.
This year I thought I would try something different. Instead of a goal, I am creating a mantra. A mantra is a word or phrase to set your choices and life.
My mantra for the year is Intention.
Since beginning to work from home, I find myself wasting a lot of time as a reaction or response from an emotion. I feel overwhelmed, and I distract. Helpful, but I want to do something more meaningful. I rationalize this downtime by reminding myself that I need to rest and keep stress down, but resting should only go so far.
Instead of telling myself to buckle down and get tasks done, which would only add anxiety and shame, I am using my mantra to make my choices more intentional.
By intention, I mean mindfulness and purpose. When I feel stressed and overwhelmed, I know from DBT skills that I need to stat mindful and self soothe. While watching TV is very relaxing, it does not keep me aware. Now, when I am feeling overwhelmed, I want to be intentional about how I cope. Music helps me relax and soothes me. To stay intentional, I may use my record player and focus on the lyrics. Taking it all in, being present in life. Or perhaps ill play some music and write. Allowing the thoughts and emotions flow through me. Afterward, I will feel less stressed and more relaxed, but the difference is my actions were intentional and productive.
What is your goal or mantra this year? Why did you choose it? What changes do you want 2020 to hold?
It was a Monday evening, and we had a night planned. Multiple dogs were on their way, and I was feeling good.
When my Mom told me she had bad news, I immediately knew. I had felt this odd feeling the past weekend and was thinking about my great-grandma often, so I knew.
At first, all I felt was guilt. If I had just visited her last weekend. If I hadn’t had car troubles a few months ago when I was going to help her move.
I hated how happy I had been all-day while my grandma was already gone.
After the guilt, came anger. Why couldn’t she make it till Christmas? I didn’t get to say goodbye
Then came the sadness. Holiday commercials made me cry – something I rarely do when it comes to television. I would be doing okay, and then it would hit me all over again, the pain.
Depression hit hard on Thanksgiving. A holiday my grandma used to host. My heart ached for her, and the day dragged on.
I’ve reached acceptance, but I’m not over it. I never will be. You don’t move on from grief. I will, however, move forward.
Remember these icebreaker activities you were required to do in grade school? The teacher would ask for a fun fact or three ways to define yourself. What makes you, you. Those ice breakers always brought extreme anxiety. Now just the fear of all eyes on me or speaking out loud. It was the fact that I had no idea how to define myself.
What I didn’t realize then was that I have the power to choose who I am.
I would answer that question with adjectives others labeled me as. I was shy, kind, quiet, and caring. While at times, I am these things, these characteristics don’t define me.
While I don’t find myself getting forced into an ice breaker activities, I do meet new people. I think about how I introduce myself, and the characteristics people see are ones that I CHOOSE to show.
I don’t want to be defined by aspects that are not me, and I used to see that as something external or out of my control. But now I know that I hold power.
Others may see aspects in you and label you, but at the end of the day- you define yourself.
I feel this external pressure to be happy and cheerful during the holiday season.
I get caught up with the holiday bustle, and I forget to slow down.
I want to be present when I’m with my family, but I also need to take time for myself and remember that it’s okay if I don’t always feel positive.
Even though it’s the holiday season doesn’t mean that my mental illness goes on holiday. Because of this, I need to set boundaries with myself. Taking breaks, going on walks, and most importantly, trying to keep a schedule.
Last year I was hard on myself. I wasn’t feeling particularly cheerful, and that made me feel selfish and ungrateful. This year, I am removing the pressure and expectation. How I feel is how I feel, and I can be grateful and full of joy even if I’m having a stressful day.
I remember the conversation. I hadn’t planned on having it and I did not fully understand my thoughts and goals, but I knew it needed to come out. “I don’t think I want to go back to school.”
When I began, the words spilled out. I explained how on-edge, irritable, and depressed I constantly felt. I worried about my safety and future. How could I enjoy life and take care of myself if my future career is taking 110% of my energy?
Tyler was immediately supportive. He suggested alternative careers and options for me.
That wasn’t what I wanted either. I realized it wasn’t about a specific career, I was taking on too much. I just needed a job.
I don’t think I processed my thoughts before having this conversation, but I don’t think it mattered. When I said what I needed to say, a weight was lifted off of me.
Life is all about having these difficult conversations. Putting yourself and your thoughts out there, being vulnerable, it’s awfully uncomfortable. Although, these moments and those conversations are periods of growth and development.
When we push our feelings down and don’t have the difficult conversations, we become stuck. In situations, jobs, relationships, and life.
We owe it to ourselves and our happiness to have difficult conversations. I know from experience how uncomfortable being stuck feels.
There was a point where I didn’t want to accept moments of happiness because I feared my illness wouldn’t be accepted by others. I feared that if I expressed these moments, my depression would be overlooked and forgotten. That I would be forgotten. I feared that these brief moments would be mistaken for my entire reality. I didn’t understand that I could feel happiness without necessarily being happy.
It wasn’t until someone suggested that I could call it something other than ‘happy.’
This small suggestion shifted my perception. I can be unhappy and experience joy. I can be happy and experience joy. I can be however I am and still experience joy, but only if I allow it.
Currently, I am at a place in my life where I can say that I am happy. Yet, this does not mean I am always happy. This means that I am now able to allow joy in my life without effort.
Happiness is not an end goal, but if often mistaken for one. By acknowledging moments of joy, instead of happiness, this end goal perception is diverted.
So I will leave you with this. Be happy, be unhappy, be angry, excited, and sad, but remember to allow and acknowledge joy. Because without joy, life has no meaning.
There will always be someone who doesn’t understand. Someone who rejects and invalidates your pain. Someone who judges your choices and actions.
Mental illness attacks from within. It changes a person in a way that many will not understand. Symptoms can be easily misjudged as rudeness, awkwardness, or unintelligence. This leads to continued stigma because many are unable to accept it as an illness and not a character flaw.
Your pain is enough. Your suffering is enough. You are sick enough.
You do not need to prove your pain. You do not need to cut deeper, eat less, or withdraw more to prove your illness. There will always be someone who is unwilling to accept what you’re going through.
Everyone experiences mental illness differently. For some, symptoms are easily recognizable, but for others they are hidden.
Remember, no matter the stigma, no matter the judgments, no matter the illness- you are enough. You no longer need to prove your pain; you are sick enough.
*This post was written to someone who needed to hear: “you are sick enough” Hang in there, you got this.