It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything. It’s been a while since I’ve written anything that isn’t related to my thesis. It’s also been a while since I’ve felt able to write.
Anyone who’s ever had mental health issues will tell you that dealing with those issues is never a straight road. My road has certainly not been straight. I first went to my GP and told him I was sure I had anxiety. I was having panic attacks almost daily and was always worried about everything and nothing at the same time. He put me on some medication. Once that medication began to work, I felt less afraid of the world. And it was great.
Since then my mental health journey has taken some twists and turns. I have had therapy, I have had dosage adjustments. I have had the type of medication adjusted. I’ve had a psychiatric assessment. I have been put under the care of a psychiatrist. I have had two diagnoses. I have struggled to make myself eat, to sleep, to get up in the morning. I have struggled with my mental health. I have lived with my mental illness. I have survived despite my mental illness. I have achieved despite my mental illness.
My mental health is an integral part of me. But it does not define who I am, because just like I am so much more than a sprained ankle, I am so much more than my mental illness. Some days I remember that. Some days I forget, or I struggle to believe it. Mental illness has no magic cure. It may be treatable to the extent that it goes away, or it may be something that you live with and manage for a long period of your life. That’s part of what makes it so hard. If you sprain your ankle, you know there’s going to be a few weeks where there will be pain. But after that the pain goes away, and you know that from the start. Sometimes it’s hard to be sure that the pain of a mental illness will ever go away. That’s a tough thing to live with.
This weekend I will hand in my dissertation. It should have been a PhD, but it is a masters. It should have been submitted a year or so ago, but it is going in now. It has taken almost six long, hard years to get to this point. There were many times where I stopped believing it could happen. There were times when I felt that imposter syndrome was coming true for me. There were times that I could not believe in myself. There were times when I did not want to keep going.
In those times I leaned on other people. I leaned on my family, my boyfriend, my friends. My support network in college (special shout out to my TRiCC ladies and my GSU pals). They held me up when I could not hold myself up, when sometimes I couldn’t even ask for help in staying upright. They are the reason I got this over the line.
As I make the final edits on this thesis, I do not feel celebratory. I feel relieved. I do not feel proud, although I hope that someday I will feel able to. I am exhausted. I feel that this was much harder than it needed to be, and maybe that’s true, maybe it isn’t, but that’s how it feels.
I don’t know what I will do next. I’ve been so busy getting through the now, I haven’t looked to the future in a long time. What I do know is that whatever I decide to do next, I will do it with the support of my amazing people. And I will do it in the knowledge that I have gotten this far by doing the hardest thing there is to do when you have a mental illness.
I did not give up.