This February, I’m doing #LoveMe, a challenge designed to help you learn to love yourself! One of my New Year’s resolutions was to be kinder and more gentle to myself, so I’m trying to be as positive as I can possibly be in 2017 and hope that doing this challenge will be good for my mental health and overall well-being. Check out my previous #LoveMe posts here!
Today’s prompt is:
Share a secret.
A secret? My secret is that I don’t function even half as well as I may seem able to. It would appear, at first glance, that I totally have my life together, but I don’t. On some level, I think that is true of most college students, or of young people in general, but what I mean when I say that I find it difficult to function is that mental illness gets in the way of things. In the way of my life, it feels like.
If the surprised looks on people’s faces when I talk about my mental health are any indication, I do a pretty good job of hiding what’s going on. I mean, I go to class, turn in all my homework, am often seen studying for hours at a time in my dorm or around campus, participate in several extracurriculars, and spend time with friends. In terms of my physical health, I try to get up early, go to bed at a reasonable time, exercise a few times a week, eat reasonably healthily and often, and so on and so forth.
I seem to have my life just as much under control as any other college student. But I don’t. Over the years I’ve gotten quite good at keeping up appearances. For instance, I turn in huge final projects and pretend as though the whole thing was a piece of cake, as though I didn’t sit at my desk for hours, paralyzed by anxiety, trying and failing to get started on my work, eventually falling extremely behind schedule and then having suicidal thoughts because I feel useless at everything.
And that’s just one example. I could go on and on. But I won’t.
Sometimes I feel as though everyone, even people I’ve never told, must know. As if I had “mentally ill” written in gigantic all-caps letters across my forehead in Sharpie? Yeah. And then when I do mention how I’ve been struggling, it turns out that people had no idea. So, yeah. I’d say that’s a pretty big secret of mine.
I’ve tried to get rid of my secret, though, by telling it. Because I think that one of the ways to combat mental illness is to be open and honest with others about what we’re going through so that people won’t feel so alone! In terms of this blog, I opened up about my mental health issues in a post this past fall.
In real life, too, I’ve tried to tell my secret so that, eventually, it will become less of a secret. Obviously I don’t go up to perfect strangers and inform them that I’m MENTALLY ILL, but if a close friend asks how I am I may very well say, “Not that great lately, actually, but I’m trying to make today better.” And then I ask for a hug. Or to get dinner together. Or if they can come over that night.
(Those things don’t fix mental illness, of course, but I find that when I feel really bad I just need to get out of my head and away from my own thoughts as much as possible. Hence spending time with other people is a good short-term solution.)
And as you all know from reading my posts of the past few days, I’m now doing #LoveMe as a way to achieve at least marginally better mental health. I’ve been open about having that as one of my chief aims of all these #LoveMe posts, I think, considering how often I’ve referenced my mental health/mental illness these days.
What is your secret? (Why is it a secret? Is it a secret you’ve kept from many people or from just a few? Why did you make that decision?)
P.S. I apologize for publishing this post so late… I realized there was more I wanted to add to it but then today was a very bad mental health day so that kind of took precedence. Gah. Oh well, I’m proud of myself for otherwise succeeding at getting posts written + scheduled + published bright and early with regularity.