The room is dimly illuminated by early evening light. I hear my roommate typing on their laptop; rustling around the room quietly so as not to wake me. I stare at the inside of my blanket; my body heavy with the weight of all the things that I am not and have not done. My hair is a tangled mess of knots – like the knots in my stomach as I consider all of the responsibilities I have missed today. My sheets are soaked with sweat, but I am freezing. I cannot move. I cannot think clearly. Anxiety swirls up inside of me like a hurricane ravaging an entire city – a rabid dog biting away at my self-esteem. I missed all of my classes today – oh god – it’s the second time this month, but I can’t get up. My depression is a thick brick wall, on the other side of it lays my life and the world that continues to go ‘round, but I cannot get out of bed.
When a depressive episode strikes, it can feel as though your world is coming to an end. You feel horrible in ways that you cannot articulate, overwhelmed with intrusively negative thoughts and feelings. You cannot breathe. You cannot move for fear of agitating the monster in your head. Others will ask you what is wrong and you will not be able to answer because you honestly have no idea yourself. Sometimes there is no trigger. Sometimes anxiety and depression creep up on you in the dead of night and take your mind and body as their hostages.
Your mental illness does not care that you have a deadline coming up or an important exam to study for, but that does not make the deadline any less pressing or the exam any less important. Figuring out how to balance the demands of your life when mental illness is taking up so much of your physical and mental strength can be exhausting. It is a constant battle between responsibility and self-care in which too much of either is detrimental. It’s like when Alice falls down the rabbit hole – except Alice is depressed and the rabbit hole is her bed for days, even weeks, at a time.
It is easy to spiral and abandon responsibilities when battling mental illness. Sometimes that is perfectly okay. Life is hard and everyone deserves time to recover. However, life goes on whether you join it or not. Take a day. Maybe even take two or three. But you must be able to pick your life back up and move forward. This can feel impossible. Trust me, I know. Even with a variety of coping mechanisms and a loving support system, getting back into the swing of things when you are feeling so low is a daunting task, but it is not insurmountable.
Find the people who will love you unconditionally and let them help you get back on your feet. Remind yourself constantly that you’ve survived this before and will survive it again. Your mental illness does not define you. What defines you is how you deal with it, learn from it and come out on the other side having conquered the ever-illusive monster in your head. So take a breath, get out of bed and face the world. You are stronger than you know.