6 Ways My Mental Illness Changed Me

woman napping

I am a firm believer that although our past is a part of who we are, it is not the definition of who we have become. Though, I can’t help but feel a little ache in my heart over the memories of an easier time, before my mental illness took the reins and changed all the things in me that made me, me. It seems that over the last eight years, I’ve changed.

I am tired, all the damn time

I don’t mean having a yawn now and again or needing to take a little nap in the day. This is the kind of tired that no amount of coffee can ever fix. It’s a level of exhaustion that makes it hard to move or function, even on the good days. It makes it impossible to live a good quality of life when washing your hair has the equivalent energy usage of running the London Marathon. Every day is a ‘bed’ day now.

Socializing is a chore

Being social is part of being human, in fact, you could say our whole species exists because of our ability to communicate. I have such fond memories of being around friends and loving life, but today that can’t be further from my new reality. Talking to people is something that no longer makes me happy, it feels so impossible to even text ‘hi’ without inducing a panic attack, why is something so easy, so hard? The worst part of it all is that it gets pretty lonely, but I just can’t reach out – catch 22.

I am less focused than a goldfish

I mean this one, I have seen those super cute videos of goldfish shooting hoops and being trained to do cool tricks, yet, I can’t seem to focus or concentrate on anything for more than a few seconds. I can literally feel my enthusiasm fade away from everything I need to do; I’d just rather be in bed. It makes it so hard to sustain a job or get an education when nothing seems to gage that spark of interest in you. You think boredom is annoying? Well, try being annoyed at your boredom!

I am a scriptwriter

Not in a literal sense, though that’s a pretty sweet job to have. It’s in the way that everything that I have planned, from a trip to the shop to an event many months away, becomes more dramatic than the soaps on TV. For every situation, I can come up with a dozen terrifying outcomes which are never, ever, close to the actual outcome. It makes it very hard to get excited about a holiday or anything really when your mind is giving you ‘the top ten reasons why this is a bad idea.’  

Tom and Jerry take up in my brain

By this, I mean that I seem to have two dominant voices in my head. One is the very adult (parent-like) and rational version of me who is pretty wise and strong. The other, is very childlike and irrational, making everything so scary – like I just need to jump in a closet and hide. It becomes a battle between the two, fighting to win the center stage and honestly, it’s not a show I enjoy.

I am the modern-day Sherlock

It seems that everything, in my mind, has to have a reason or be questioned. It’s a voice in my head that takes everything literally and says, “but why” and makes me do a full-on compulsive investigation before I sleep. It can be frustrating to relax when you always need answers, when something things just are, needing no explanation – but try telling my mind that.

Living with a mental illness is an incredibly hard thing. Every day can make you feel so much further from the person that you know you are inside.

The important thing to remember, which I always have to tell myself, is that my illness does not define me and the only thing that has really changed, is that I am stronger and a freaking warrior.

You are still who you are but you are dealing with a lot of heavy things, and your body is just responding to that. Mental health is a completely natural thing, inside all of us, we just respond to things differently, that’s what makes us individuals – keep fighting, and you’ll find your peace.

Written by Charlotte Underwood