Keeping the Mental Health Dialogue Open: Why Not Being Okay Is Okay

As many of you know that are #blessed enough to call me your friend on SnapChat, I’ve visited my old alma mater this past weekend. Yes, I am that post-college sonofagun who shows up (mostly) uninvited to your house party, holding a bottle of Jack in one hand and a half-eaten Doritos Locos taco in the other. I was supposed to have graduated, like, five years ago, right? My prime is over! I have better things to do now, like go on Tinder dates in Wisconsin to bars called “The Leglamp Lounge”!

Not exactly.

It was Alumni Weekend for volleyball, and it was time to go back just so I could get those butt-muscles sore in a way nothing else but chucking your body on the floor after an inanimate object can do. Also, to mostly spend time defiantly yelling out, “REMEMBER THAT ONE TIME AT THE NCAA TOURNAMENT WHEN WE PLAYED PENN STATE? LOL THOSE WERE THE DAYS, HASHTAG CHAMPIONSHIP RINGZZZ” after the opposing Varsity team aced us, like, ten times in a row. If I weren’t so preoccupied with cussing myself out for every mistake I made, I might have tried networking and passing out the two hundred resumes I brought with me per my parents’ wishes. (Lol, jk.)

So last Thursday, I overpacked myself ten changes out outfits and jet-setted (is that even a word?) off to the pee-encrusted, hallowed halls of LaGuardia Airport.

In theory, it sounds romantic. Fabulous Kristin Hovie, off to the Big Apple…wearing mediocre-designer shades, a Calvin Klein dress, heels, and tripping into nearly every vendor on the street because the homeless men can smell her deep-seeded fear of being hit on… If that’s what you call romantic, or even remotely dreamy.

But that’s not really what it felt like.

The night before leaving, I was about to call the whole thing off. This entire spring and winter have not been easy for anyone with mental health disorders, bipolar kids like me included. Four days prior to leaving, I was sobbing on my bedroom flooring yelling over and over and over again to myself that I didn’t want to live anymore. I didn’t know if I should call the hospital or not, was this what it felt like to go full on bat-shit crazy?

I was sick of feeling completely off the tracks and lonely, but a moment of clarity allowed me to make the decision to call my sister instead. Thank god I did.

My life had seemed to continue into this downward spiral for the past couple months, with several medications not working or making me angry and bitter, some producing unwanted side effects that made me dizzy and unable to wake up some mornings. It’s the nature of the beast. Sometimes you have to take the shitty side effects for what they are, because it’s better to be angry and anxious than suicidal. No one said it would be easy.

I was barely mentally fit to fly out to New York. The only reason I ultimately decided to go was because it was the lesser of two evils. Go and explain to everyone your shitty job, still no significant other, and you were mentally worse off than you’d been in two years? No thanks. It was that, or continue to sulk around in misery at home trying not to regret every major life decision that led me to where I were now…seemingly nowhere.

How in the hell was I supposed to go back and fake that my life had truly gotten better out of college? I guess I’d just have to fall back into old patterns of trying to fake people out.

It only took me a day being around my friends and sister at school to realize how lucky I am to have them and to be alive. It’s a feeling no pill can ever replace. I had let myself get into a detrimental routine at home, taking everything for granted. When one of my best friends showed me around the amazing place she worked in New York City, I wasn’t bitter or angry. Instead, I felt inspired. After months of sitting around hating where I was in life, unable to recognize dark thoughts through the fuzzy haze of depression and feeling like any talent I’d ever had was going to waste, I wanted to make some changes.

So why drag you guys through this very dramatic retelling of my life for the past few months? I feel like sometimes people approach me and think I’ve completely overcome the anxiety, OCD, and mood swings that used to haunt me my sophomore year. Truth is, I’m writing this for those who are really struggling right now, have been recently, or ever have. I’m here with you, I’ll be down in the trenches with you when you need t. 

Anything I’m going through, or anyone with a mental health disorder is going through is going to be life long. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to say there will be a specific moment when I’ll stop having thoughts of suicide, or my obsessive thoughts stopped causing me to stay up for hours at night, amongst other things. To me, I think those thoughts will always be there, just less prominent. Any maladaptive thoughts in the future will increasingly fade into the distance, like a voice I can continually get better at shaking off as I continue to get better. I can tell this has already started, and it’s a beautiful thing.

And for once in my life, that’s enough for me.

Being around some people that I care most about in my life reminded me that there’s always the opportunity to be inspired by things. I don’t have to be this unflinchingly rigid, worried, and fearful shadow of my former self. The fact that I remembered I wasn’t fighting this battle alone gave me enough courage to go to school not fearing the misunderstandings, not quite healed pain, and imagined tensions that had previously been swirling around in my head. I could’ve remembered all the “bad” things about going back, but I didn’t.

When shit gets rough, I like to think of the strength I’ve seen from those around me. I hate that I see so many people I know going through their own battles, because to an extent, I know the pain they’re feeling. Though it breaks my heart to know more and more people I know are affected by their own disorders, I find strength in knowing I’m not alone. I think you, who are struggling, can find this in me too.

More and more people are opening up to talking about their disorders, or even just taking the steps to get help. I don’t think this is because we, as a generation, are getting “weaker” or more “sensitive”. I think it’s because we’re finally allowing ourselves to become more okay with admitting we’re not entirely okay. And that’s pretty fucking baller.

If you’re struggling with something right now, and many people are, just remember you’re a hell of a lot stronger than you can ever believe. There’s so much to live for. Sometimes it takes one of your friends just dancing like they don’t give a flying fuck in a college bar, watching a baseball game surrounded by people who you care about, or playing 80’s metal songs in a decrepit building that just nearly got condemned to remember you’re one hell of a lucky human. It’s those little things that make it all worth it.

The community of people with mental health disorders is a large one, and it’s becoming easier to find solace within each other. Use this to your advantage, and remember you’re a fighter. It took me a couple months off the beaten track to recollect and find myself again, but I’ll take the lows if it makes the highs that much more worth it.

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