It is a sunny but chilly Sunday. The hope for Spring is in the air, the birds are chirping, and the sky is a wonderful shade of blue.
In September 2020, my Mom found a lump in her breast. Life as my family knew it was turned upside down. It was breast cancer. Shit…
I recently heard from a few people I went to high school and college with, that I had lost touch with. They both told me they didn’t know what to say when they heard of my Mom’s diagnosis but the fact that they reached out means more than they will ever know. We did the usual, so what’s new, what have you been doing with your life, blah blah blah. And this is where I get anxious and almost embarrassed at times. That question comes up a lot, and it makes me stomach do flips, every dang time…What am I doing with my life…? In a group setting this is where I take a step back and try to blend in. I hear all these amazing things that people are accomplishing and doing, and I’m standing there like, hey I showed up here today, and sometimes that’s as good as it gets.
Accomplishments…they are kinda funny. They are different for everyone, everywhere. As someone who lives with an anxiety disorder, mine can be very different. At the age of 28, at this point in my life, society has expectations for me. I have expectations for me. Some of them are unrealistic and I recognize this. But I still hold myself to high expectations, because of the world we live in today. Talking with this friend, I told him that I feel like I am in such a different stage of life than others my age. I told him that I can’t hold down a full-time job, or a part time job, and I feel embarrassed about that sometimes. But this friend responded to me when I said I don’t currently have a job… “which blows because it’s not your fault the voice in your head is a lot louder than most.” I could have cried, happy tears. Some people get it, and some people don’t. But I’ve seen the “oh so you’re not working” judgmental look too many times.
So, these accomplishments, I keep them mostly to myself. Because who wants to hear my lame “everyday” accomplishments? A few weeks ago, I went to 2 appointments. Like, in person appointments. TWO! HUGE accomplishments for myself. But who wants to celebrate the fact that I got my hair done, and that I went to the dentist? Who and why? Who wants to know that I showered and washed my hair? Who wants to celebrate that I got out of bed? … I do and I wish more people would too.
I am so open and honest with my battle against my mental illnesses on here. I can articulate the thoughts, feelings, symptoms, and situations I experience with ease. But in person, things are different. Expectations, norms that come from society leave me high and dry. “Oh, you’re not currently working. What are you doing with all your time?”. This is where I try to explain what I do. I provide respite for families who have children with physical and cognitive disabilities. It’s not a traditional job, it’s not every day (although I wish I could do it every day). This job doesn’t come with the traditional “benefits” like a “normal” job would, but the benefits I get are so much better than a dental plan. When I am working with these individuals I am at my happiest. They don’t care if I show up with puffy red eyes. They don’t have unrealistic expectations for me, they just want me.
Together we celebrate small victories, whether it’s saying a new word, doing something on their own for the first time or taking silly selfies on my phone. We try a lot of new things together. They help remind me that little victories are still victories. And big or little they should be celebrated. It’s a love I could never put into words.
So, do I have the rest of my life planned out? Uhm, nope. Does that scare the living $h!t out of me…YES. Am I afraid of being on the wrong end of a stigma? YES. Will I celebrate the wins I accomplish…big or little? YES. That daunting question will never go away. It will always be lurking over my shoulder. But I will do my best to answer it honestly and be proud of that answer.
P.s. I showered today, for anyone living with a mental illness the act of showering can seem like an impossible task some days. Today it was a little win, but on a different day it could be a big win!