Sometimes, Surviving is Enough
I thought a lot about what I wanted to write on my blog for today, which just so happens to be World Mental Health Day 2020.
Because, you know, in a way, I feel like I’ve covered a lot that’s within the ballpark of stuff I can usefully write about: living with OCD, eating disorders, self-care, mindfulness, medication, self-harm, a partner with mental illness. I still think it’s important to talk about this stuff, and I pretty much take any opportunity I can get to speak on it, because reading other people’s experiences is always how I’ve made sense of my own, and I figured that the best way to thank the world at large for that was to chuck some of my own experiences out there in case they might help someone else, too.
But this year has been one that has offered spectacularly difficult circumstances in which to maintain our mental health. At the best of times, I’m a lightly-toasted wreck – and this certainly hasn’t been the best of times. I mean, yeah, okay, I did recap all of Lost season one, but that doesn’t make up for the whole not-seeing-my-family-for-a-year thing, you know?
And that means that I, along with so many other people I know, have had to shift what good mental health means for us. Before this started, I would say that I actually had a pretty good grasp on my mental illness – I had bad days, but I felt like I could cope with them. Now, almost everything that I might use as a coping mechanism at the start of the year just doesn’t exist anymore, at least not in a way I can access. Don’t get me wrong, I’m in a much better position than many people affected by the pandemic, and I’m grateful for that, I really am.
But, essentially, what I understood as good mental health had to shift a little. There’s this push to go, go, go, and that being “well” means being a constant, rolling success despite your mental illness. See? You have to tell everyone. It’s not holding me back. I’m not different because of this. You need to be a success story and an inspiration, or else you’re a burden, proof that mentally ill people are Too Different (or, at least, that’s how I’ve felt since my diagnosis). Don’t just survive – thrive. Live your best live. No, better than that one.
But honestly? I just haven’t been able to do that. I want to live my best life, I really do, but being mentally ill means that your best life is sometimes just…getting by. There are days when getting out of bed and brushing my teeth feels like an achievement, and honestly: I’m trying to embrace that. When things feel as unsettled as they are now, surviving is the best you can do day-to-day. And that’s what I’m trying to get through my thick skull right now: that in times of chaos, I don’t have to force myself to keep going like everything is normal. My best life might just be tending to my plants and kissing my cat’s head and watching some drag, and that’s fine.
On this World Mental Health Day, give yourself a break. Life is hard right now. Even harder if you’re dealing with mental illness. You don’t have to hold yourself to the standards that you did before – in fact, you never do. Things change, and so do you. As long as you’re still here, still kicking (not the shit out of yourself, but you know what I mean), you’re doing great. Love you.