It’s pretty easy to count the challenges I face, battling through each day with anxiety, depression, and Sensory Processing Disorder. While my friends and family with better-balanced brain chemistry may not experience my feeling of being very down or bordering suicidal after an overwhelming week, they have grown to understand why I might not be up for a Friday night party the week of final exams. They listen when I explain that the best way to calm down my overstimulated body is to sit by myself in a quiet, dimly-lit room for some time.
Not Quite a Vacation
It is tough to, at times, sit by and let managing my mental illness keep me from activities or being social. This summer, for example, my grandparents took my extended family to the beach for a weekend. We had nothing to do but alternate our time between the ocean and the pool. It was exactly what a vacation should be: relaxing, quiet, and without any sort of responsibility. Yet, by Saturday night, I could not bring myself to show up for dinner. I was mentally drained.
So I called in sick. Did I have the flu? Was my body sleep deprived? No. But did I need a night free of any sort of stimulation? Absolutely. It is not like removing myself from dinner was easy; it was really hard. I wanted to be with my family. I wanted dinner! But my heart was racing and my stomach was hurting. My brain was telling me that it needed a break.
And so I did it: I went to bed early. When I awoke, I felt a million times better than the night before. I’m still upset that I missed out on Saturday night, but while my body may have been on vacation, managing my mental illnesses takes no break. I know that without my “quiet time”, the rest of the weekend would have been difficult and painful.
What’s The Moral of The Story?
For those of you with daily mental health challenges like me, be sure to take care of yourself. Missing dinner tonight means you’ll be all set for the day in the sun tomorrow. While, granted, this tactic may not work exactly the same for everyone, it could very well make the difference. I know; it’s especially difficult when your family doesn’t seem to “get it”, but the rest of your weekend, or week, or day is worth it.
Perhaps more importantly, to those of you with friends or family with mental illness, please hear me when I say that mental illness does not take a vacation. Just like a person with chronic physical illness monitors every part of their body regardless of their daily schedule, so too a person managing a mental illness must monitor his or her symptoms regardless of what they may have going on. Though managing our illnesses is not always what those of us with mental illness want to be doing, it’s what we need to be doing.
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