The Last Day Of April

I’m still here.

My brain is telling me that I can’t do this today. My brain wants me to stop.

On a bad mental health day, the voice in your head is the loudest. It’s the angstiest, the angriest, the most adamant. You can’t do this, it says. Stop.

And yet, here I am. Typing. My body retains life. My breath enters my body and then it leaves, over and over and over again. My heart is breaking but it beats.

On days like today, all the inspirational quotes become platitudes. Everything I say to myself on better days, to help me get through, becomes meaningless. Recently, I read this quote:

“If you’re depressed, you’re living in the past. If you’re anxious, you’re living in the future. If you’re at peace, you’re living in the present.”

I know, I cringed too. But today, feeling as I do — ready to give in despite my body’s rebellion — I wondered.

I’ve felt like this before. I’ve read this ending over and over. Today, I can write. Other times, I haven’t been able to. But I’ve come out the other side, every single time. I’ve done this before — and I’m sure I’ll do it again, but depression doesn’t let us think ahead like that. This is it, right?

I’ve done this before and I’ve survived before — so why is this time different? Depression sends our minds backwards, reliving our worst moments, the recurring feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness — but never the survival.

And sure, depression looks disapprovingly on positive thoughts and kindness to ourselves. Depression offers a comfortable dystopia, one where your thoughts must match a specific pattern in order to be acceptable.

I’m not Neo (or am I?) but I can see through that. I’ve worked so long on self-care, intentionality, acceptance. The journey to understanding and coping with your personal mental health is a long one. I’m still learning, still trying to work out my own brain. Honestly, I don’t think that will ever stop. The nature of recovery is that it’s a constant, a new safety net to fall into beyond the stability of your instability.

I believe that we each make a choice when we approach mental health. When I had my first depressive episode, I wallowed. I didn’t know what else to do; I had no other information to make a different choice. Since then, I’ve seen how strong I can be. I’m here typing, aren’t I? That wasn’t a visible option for me until a couple of years ago.

I’ve known people who hit their thirties and still don’t know how to deal with their mental health. I’ve known people who show incredible insight before they reach 20. Everyone has their own experiences, their own data from which to make decisions. From my experience, I’ve chosen to be mindful, of my brain and my body and my emotions.

That doesn’t always work. Making a choice that helps you doesn’t automatically fix you. The only reason I’m typing now is because I’ve had an entire week of bad days and today is the worst yet. A mindful approach to my mental health hasn’t assuaged any of the guilt or terror or desperation of the last few days.

I don’t have any more platitudes for you. I don’t know whether this piece is catharsis or distraction.

So maybe it’s a reminder: I’m capable of carrying this weight. We’re all allowed bad days or weeks or years. Emotion, no matter how awful or all-consuming, is ultimately temporary. Be conscious — of your past and your present and your choices.

And our choices should be the ones that we need the most in that moment. There are no bad decisions. We only supplement our choices with awareness. Maybe this lets us cope better in the future; or maybe it just helps us accept that there is no ‘better’. That coping is enough.

Wallow today if you need it. Or write. Or draw your shoulders back and follow your breath in, and out, and in, and out, until you’re reminded of how alive you still are.

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