Up on the Healthy Mental Health Mountain



2020 has been a hard year.

That seems like an understatement. And maybe there are some people who are handling it fairly well.


But I'm not, and a lot of people I know aren't.


I am...having trouble. Stuff is just extra hard. And yes, because of additional personal drama along with 2020ness, but life didn't stop because of COVID. It definitely hasn't stopped because of systemic racism and the surge of civil rights fight that's going on right now.

I started 2020 by weaning off my anxiety medicine...bahahaha. Sometime in July I went back on it, because I was literally just sitting in my house crying. I was in a bad place, and I decided to grab a lifeline. But I also decided to look into therapy. I have been a big proponent for therapy, and encouraged it in others.

I didn't grow up with the idea that therapy was good. There is this little internalized idea, even with all the knowledge I have as a liberal millennial,  that therapy is for people with real problems. Like, schizophrenia or something. I know that is bullshit, complete and total bullshit. But again, I have always had issues knowing if my anxiety was "bad enough" to...ya know, actually matter or deserve attention.

Anyway, I started therapy because...everyone in my life has their own problems. I don't mean this dismissively, but I noticed a huge tendency in myself and others to relate things back to themselves. And I don't want that. I want someone to focus solely on me, but without guilt or the weight of how it will affect them. And that's hard with family or friends, because our instinct is to compare or fix.

So selfishly, I don't want to care about how the person listening feels. Because I want to fix me.

But not selfishly, I don't want to add more to the people listening.

Because everyone has their own shit, and heaping my shit on their shit makes their burden heavier.

When I initially had my "I can't take this anymore, I am suffering from anxiety" moment a few years ago, what I heard from everyone was "Yeah I had no idea, you seemed fine." High-functioning anxiety isn't a specific diagnoses, but it seems the most applicable to what I experience.

All that to say, my specific anxiety journey has been largely self-managed up until now. It's been a mishmash of things I remember from school, things I've heard others say, podcasts from professionals, Pinterest...and most of them have helped to some degree. In fact, that is one thing my therapist has said- I'm already doing a lot of the work.

The other night, I couldn't sleep. I didn't feel particularly anxious, that I could identify. I was just...not sleepy. This has been a habit for me the past few weeks- I'm miserably sleepy during the day, but then at night I have trouble sleeping.

Rather than toss and turn and feel guilty about waking up Hubby, I went out to the living room. And I did something that I've heard recommended for people dealing with a lot of emotions.

I wrote a letter, to someone who has (probably unfairly) become a fixture for all my anxiety.

It was about a topic they mentioned, in a semi-big deal way recently...but also something I have been waiting for years. I have a personal guilt about it, even though I can rationalize it. There is a specific decision in my life that I have always known would have repercussions, and I've just been waiting on them.

And the thing is, when it finally came up...I was distraught. But I never wavered.

I never wished I had made a different decision. I was completely willing to live with the consequences, even if it was this worst case scenerio.

Now, let me say...without getting into the details, it's not like I murdered anyone (or broke any laws). I just made a decision that could hurt someone's feelings. But I had a lot of reasons to do it (and continue doing it), and it is well known that it's a good decision. Sometimes, even the "right thing to do" is still hard thing to do. And because people I love have to deal with the repercussions, it hurts. It hurts to know that someone you love hurts, and it hurts to know you are the reason why.

So I had all these feelings, some justified and some not, and I decided to write them in the form of a letter.

When I was doing it, I asked myself if I would ever actually print or handwrite the letter and give it to the person I had addressed it to. But after a few weeks, I know that I wrote it for me. Because writing it out, saying what I wish I could say to this person...it gave me a peace about my choice that I have never felt.

I have always known why I made my choices. I've had it vindicated by way more people than it's ever been questioned. I've seen it vindicated by the people most negatively affected by it. I have just still held on to guilt about it, because I thought...guilt was a sign of love. I thought if I felt enough guilt, it would somehow make it okay that I hurt someone, or I could use it as a shield "Oh, this decision is hard for me too, I'm doing it just because it's easy to be hateful to you!" Which...guilt is possibly the most pointless emotion ever (other than jealousy).

But something I've learned, and this is such an "Oh I'm getting older" thing, is what I said at the beginning of this- so many people have their own shit. And "mental health" is not a thing that you opt in or out of...it's something we all need to work on.


People may claim to not "suffer from mental health," but in reality they just have their own way of coping. Sometimes they are healthy, sometimes they are healthy for a little while.

Either way, I can't manage it. I'm literally dragging myself through my own journey.

And my concern has been for so long that if I don't try to manage people or "meet them where they are" then I'm heartless or uncaring. So in this letter, I just said that.

I admitted my worst fears. And I told this person, in my letter that they would never see, why I made my choice. Why my life was the way it was. And I told them...it wasn't changing any time soon. In my head, and on my computer screen, I said that the damage was done. We could move forward, or not. They could accept it, or not. They could realize that no one gets through life without being hurt.

And over the course of time, I realized that also means...none of us get through life without hurting someone.

The frustrating part is that, when this issue did come up, I was compared to someone. And logically and psychologically, I completely understand why this was the person chosen. It makes sense, from a certain perspective.

It's also completely unfair and ridiculous from another perspective. Because while this person didn't make the decision I made, they have made some others that seem pretty damn questionable in their own right.

And you know what? Their questionable actions had consequences. And then, eventually, they were forgiven, or everyone just moved on. I remember their imperfect phase, but I'm basically the only one who remembers anything (a great memory is not helpful re: anxiety).

I have a long standing idea that I am never just...good enough. And in this letter, I asked why good enough wasn't...good enough. And I admitted that I wasn't perfect, and that if this was my big imperfection...then it was just going to have to be my big fucking imperfection. And who cares? Because people are not perfect, and if this was my fuck-up, then I shoulder that and refused to apologize anymore.

For the first time I became okay with my own imperfections.


If I'm crying over it at midnight by myself and still feeling like I would go to battle for it, as broken and brittle as I was in that moment, then it was the right thing for me.

I've had to accept hard things. I've felt repercussions by the decisions of others. And they defend them, because they had their reasons. If someone chooses not to respect my reasons...that's on them.

I made my decision. They can respect it, or not.

I can only meet someone halfway if they are also willing to meet me halfway.

And if they don't, then they are responsible for the further damage. I own up to my part- but I will no longer take on the repercussions to how someone chooses to respond to me.

It's hard to grow up. It's hard to deal with pain, and hurt, and frustration. It's hard to see people act differently than you would.

But by God, they are going to. Because people are just not the same. And that's beautiful when we can respect it.

It's fucking terrifying and painful we refuse to acknowledge it.

I can only choose which side I am on.

And for the first time, maybe ever, I am fully okay with that. It's painful, but it's a pain I know I can endure.

Weirdly, this hypothetical move to tell this person- Accept me, or not- made me realize I also have a choice. I have to accept them too. I don't like the way they do things, but I acknowledge their hurt and their issues and their reasons (even if they don't do the work to realize it themselves). I love them as much as I possibly can. And if that isn't enough...then yes, it is terribly sad and painful. But it's also the best I can do, and I won't feel bad about that anymore. And if they think it's not enough...then they aren't loving me the way I want and need either. And that will just be a sad fact I have to live with.

I'm from North Carolina. We are, yet again, looking at another hurricane that is potentially passing our way. And we will prepare, and hunker down, and deal with the aftermath when it comes.

I could move somewhere that doesn't deal with this as often.

But, I'd have to learn how to deal with snow and ice, or hurricanes, or forest fires, or earthquakes.

There is no easy life. There is no avoiding the pain.

There is only choosing what you can live with.

Right now, I can honestly say I am at peace with my choices. And that feels surprisingly healthy and nice.

I realize this might seem random and convoluted.

But basically, I am doing some work on myself...and it's working.

I feel good. I felt really bad, and now I feel good.


I'll probably feel really bad again sometime. But I will also feel really good again sometime.

And the good is totally worth the bad.

3 comments

  1. I used to wake up at night and write letters to my "muse" all the time. It was the only way I didn't lose my shit on significant others. I worked through so much of my own shit that way and then I stopped because SLEEPSSSS and I really should get back into it. I also hand wrote all my stuff, which made me even more tired.

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