I’ve planned on being a therapist for the past 12 years, which is more than half of my life. I’ve always planned on being someone’s wife and mother. I planned on being among the small percentage of those with a Personality Disorder who can hold a steady job, be in a relationship, have children, and be mentally whole. I planned on doing it all.
I’ve spent the past year in a Clinical Counseling program. I was exceeding my expectations. My professors told me how much of a natural I was, how I would be useful and help so many people like me. That’s the thing; I was doing well in school. From the outside, it looked like I was doing it all. But I thought I wanted “bigger and better things,” transferring to a top program in Colorado was my next step, or so I planned.
One of my favorite aspects of the world is how unpredictable it can be. I honestly can’t believe I feel this way now. I once viewed the world’s unpredictability as frightening and painful. I’ll tell you what changed. I took the summer off of school in preparation for a potential move. It only took two weeks of no school and no job to realize I was the happiest and healthiest I’ve felt since I can remember. I’m also mentally unstable due to medication changes, but even so, I am so happy, mindful, alive. I understand what a lot of you are thinking – everyone would be satisfied if they had no obligations. Maybe so, but I’ll tell you why that’s not the case for me.
I’ve struggled with anxiety for most of my life, Depression since age 18, and I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder at 21. Although my personality disorder feels constant in my life, I view my diagnosis as an explanation of why I am the way I am. I don’t remember the last time I was genuinely happy about myself and my life. I experienced happiness on occasion, but it was never constant. I was always in crippling fear, overwhelming sadness, hopelessness, despair, and internal rage. I looked like a successful young adult with a Bachelor’s Degree in Graduate School, dog mom, a loving girlfriend, and daughter, devoted friend, athletic, successful, (happy?). I looked like I could do it all, I wanted people to believe that, and I just about fooled myself in the process.
Look ahead 5, 10, 15 years, and what do you want in your life? I want to be a mom, friend, wife, artist, writer, and advocate. I thought I wanted to be a therapist too, but was it my dream or something I did because people told me I was “good?” I would be a competent therapist, and I could help so many people, but would I neglect myself in the process? I throw myself into whatever I’m doing, and it becomes my identity. I don’t want my identity to be a therapist, so drained from work that she struggles with her mental health, neglects her marriage, takes it out on her children, self-sabotages until she ends it all. I don’t want to be that person. I want to be Ashley.
My life felt like it was crumbling underneath my feet. Who am I? What am I going to do with my life? Taking time off of school, sharing my story via Instagram, and meditating, I’ve discovered who I am. I still don’t know what I am going to do with my life, but I do know what I need to feel mentally whole. I need to write. I need to paint. I need to read. I need professional support, family and friends, a family with children of my own, and some part-time work on the side. I need so much control in my life because of my mental illness. I can’t live life like everyone else. I thought this made me broken or a failure, but I would never view a client in this way. That made me think. Is it okay if I can’t hold a full-time job, have a career, or equally accomplish what those around me can? That’s doesn’t mean I’m a failure, and it doesn’t mean I’m broken. It means I’m healthy. I know my limits, how to care for myself (which feels like a full-time job), and how to feel whole. I thought I could do it all, and I can. However, my doing it all is going to look a lot different than yours, and that’s okay.
For now, I’ll love, write, read, paint, run, meditate, and live. I no longer have my life planned, but because of that, I feel free.