A Morning With Mental Illness: An Open Letter

Welcome to My Morning

I have woken up. Already I can feel my palms are starting to sweat. There’s a possibility that it means a panic attack is coming on. For no known reason. I take a second to be grateful that I didn’t wake up from having one because that feels like waking up from drowning. This way I have a chance to actively fight the thoughts that make me believe that I might be dying. It’s time to focus on techniques that get me out of this mindset. I look around my room. I think of how my sheets feel under my back. I can see the sun shining through the window. I can smell my husband’s hair on the pillow by mine. I see my dog curled up by the bed. I haven’t been conscious for a whole minute, but I have already engaged all of my senses to remind my brain that no, there is no impending attack. I’m ok.

To anyone who has told me I would feel better if I was just more positive. To those who say that people who need medication are lazy scum. To the anonymous helper who advised that if I just focused on being in balance, all of my issues will go away. And of course, the kind soul who implied that this is all for attention. I am dedicating this description of my day to you. As someone who believes we learn better when we are given information and asked to draw our own conclusions, I would like to offer insight into what I have to deal with, instead of just advising that assumptions are usually incorrect.

 Photo by  Kinga Cichewicz  on  Unsplash  | Cover Photo by  Nathan Dumlao  on  Unsplash

Photo by Kinga Cichewicz on Unsplash | Cover Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Already, in order to wake up and have a chance at a productive, I need to think of every inch of my body. If I don’t do this my brain will run haywire and might suddenly decide I don’t have enough air to breathe. But hey, I could just smile, right.

The anxious feeling has not subsided.

I need to do more to ground and distract myself it seems. I step onto the floor. Except I cannot just step on it. I need to ask myself, what does the floor feel like? It’s cold, but clean. Aware, I realize I kicked off one sock while asleep as I feel the soft cotton on only one foot and the cold hardwood under the other.

As I walk over to the bathroom, I feel like I can’t make sense of my thoughts. Am I happy? Sad? As I focus on untangling them, I come to terms with the fact that today will be another day where it feels like my head is full. I am already tired of thinking and only five minutes have passed since I opened my eyes.

Ok, I think, I wanted to sit down and write again today. I love doing that. But now my mind has moved to remind me how terrible of a writer I am. I know because my mother told me so when I was eight. I can recall every single detail of her facial features as she told me that. I can feel the paper hitting my feet as she throws the notebook back at me.

Somehow, I am brought back to the present and realize that I have made it to the bathroom. I quickly turn on the light. Since I am aware that was a flashback, I use the sudden bright light to help me stay present so that I don’t get lost in the rest of that memory. It’s just a memory, but since I have so many thoughts moving in my mind, it’s hard to tell. I don’t have time to really acknowledge any of them, but the conclusion I choose to focus on is that I am safe again.

 Photo by Lum3n.com from Pexels

Photo by Lum3n.com from Pexels

I grab my toothbrush and brush my teeth while walking around getting ready. I’m putting together my to-do list at the same time. Except it’s not clear what order things are in. I need to write them down. I start feeling a bit frantic. I NEED to write them down right now. If I don’t write them down I will forget and not do anything which means my day will be worth nothing. I growl as I shuffle past my dog, who just wants a morning greeting. He’s by my side as I rush into our office with a mouth full of toothpaste to get a piece of paper to write down the list.

Except I already forgot everything I wanted to write. I am forgetful like that. Because I am just a lazy asshole who doesn’t want to do anything, so I must be sabotaging myself to make sure I stay a lazy asshole. Wait, I remind myself, breathe.

Or is it because so much is going on, I simply don’t have enough short-term memory? I read that it’s normal for that to happen. No, I know it’s because I am garbage. I catch the thought again, and feel pain understanding how I really do believe it. It takes so much out of me to consider that this isn’t the case. I recall what my therapist and I have discussed what to do when this happens, but still cannot remember what it is I wanted to do before I walked into the room.

I hear my husband get up. He walks in on me in the office, holding a toothbrush between my teeth, mouth foaming, pen in hand, frozen over a piece of paper. He asks if I am ok. “I’m trying to remember something,” I grumble. Great, now I must also sound like a jerk first thing in the morning. No wonder he’ll likely leave me in five years for someone nicer. No, of course he didn’t say that to me. He never would. He’s a very sweet, kind guy. I have just decided he will. Same way I am sure that I am garbage and that I am lazy.

Giving up on remembering my intention, I walk back into the bathroom. I can’t remember if I actually brushed my teeth, so I start over. Finally, I walk over into my closet trying to make up the time I lost as I race against my mind to accomplish ANYTHING. Anything at all.

That’s ok, I remind myself. I am on my hardwood floor, the air is cool around me, the sun is bright out the window. All senses are engaged again in order to re-ground and restart. I start getting dressed. I go back into the bathroom to get my deodorant. I try to recall if I brushed my teeth this time or if I was just holding it in my mouth again. I commit to staying in the bathroom for a few more minutes to finally finish the task. I breathe in. I try to recall my to-do list.

 Photo by  Jonny Caspari  on  Unsplash

Photo by Jonny Caspari on Unsplash

I keep an outline of a schedule for everyday of the week that I fill in as I go. It says today is social media focused, which I am not good at. I will need to do research, which I enjoy, but I am sure I will miss something important and everyone will finally know how much of a fraud I am. Also, the bathroom needs to be cleaned. It’s been a few weeks since I did it last. I remind myself that a good wife would clean her bathroom regularly, so it’s another thing I should be better about.

Ok, I write down: Bathroom, Social Media, Research, probably not Writing. Then what? Hopefully I have a doctor’s appointment. I will have to check my phone. I decent person would go to an office job, but I can’t seem to get past a second interview. Five recollections flash in my mind at once, two job interviews and two jobs I have had to leave due to panic attacks in the middle of work.

No Marie, there were also toxic people working there, you didn’t leave because you couldn’t do something or were broken or weak. That leads me to my grounding mantra for today: “I am ok, I am worthy of my own love.” I don’t believe it, but I have to keep repeating it, because on some days faking it ‘til I make it works.

I am finally done brushing my teeth.

Let me think of that same morning but this time focusing only on being positive … Hmm, it appears that would be exactly the same.

Yes. Everything is a battle in my mind. Everything. Some days the bad thoughts either just don’t come in, or they are just not intrusive enough that I have to fight them. On those days I do seem very positive, because my mind isn’t spinning faster than I can acknowledge it. This is who I am, and sometimes an easy answer just doesn’t work, no matter how badly I want believe in it.

Some days I wake up and realize that I have already lost. The first thing on my mind was how I am such s**t that I don’t deserve to waste any space. I look over at my husband and think about how he’s stayed with me out of pity. I look at my dog and think about how he only likes me because I feed him.

I don’t ask for anyone to feel bad. Indeed, I would prefer not to be treated like a fragile vase. I just ask those who have not walked in another person’s shoes, and that’s all of us, to avoid assumptions. With four-fifths of our population (possibly more now) agreeing that mental health is a national health issue, how is it that the aforementioned opinions are still formed? And with such malice. You don’t have to agree with everyone you meet, you don’t even owe them your respect, but you will do much better to assume the best in others instead of the worst. What if they don’t disappoint you?

 Photo by  David Mao  on  Unsplash

Photo by David Mao on Unsplash