If you do it enough, it becomes really easy – almost habit – to lie to yourself about your mental health.
You think, “I’m handling this. I’m functioning the best way I can.” And then you find yourself needing a few drinks to go to the grocery store. To go the doctor. To go to sleep. You lose a job. And then another one. Friends start to disappear. A relationship starts to fall apart.
You see it all going up in flames, but you ignore it.
“What the heck else am I supposed to do? It’s not my fault I have anxiety and these simple tasks seem impossible.”
I wish I could tell you there was one thing or moment that made me want to get help, but there wasn’t. Instead, there was a scary moment followed by a brief period of sobriety and a desire to change. And then I went right back to self-medicating. Rinse and repeat. Because of this cycle, I lost friendships, a relationship, and several jobs, and I almost lost my life. But somehow I kept managing to get myself back up and fight, convincing myself that I was coping the best way I knew how.
At the darkest, most miserable point in my illness, I left the life I had made for myself in Seattle and headed home to be closer to my family. For those first few months, I considered myself to be in recovery. I stayed sober for a while, got a job, and was doing pretty well. I met some people who I thought could be friends, but they ended up just being drinking partners. I’ve always had trouble really connecting with people, and I fell back into the bad habit of surrounding myself with people who really didn’t give a crap about me. I kept choosing those people over the people in my life who actually do care about me: my family.
Even during my darkest moments, my family still cared. They just hadn’t known how to help me because I hadn’t really wanted to help myself. I had become complacent. I thought, “This is the card I’ve been dealt. I just need to deal with it.”
And I did – until I didn’t want to just “deal” with it anymore.
The most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do is ask my family for help. I am a fighter, an incredibly strong person, and have always tried to handle everything on my own. But I realized I couldn’t do this on my own. During one of the hardest moments of my life, I was sobbing uncontrollably, broken and exhausted. I turned to my mom and said, “Please help me. Please. Can you please help me?”
And she said, “Yes.”
For the longest time, I thought it was better to be drunk. Now I know that it’s better to be sober. It’s easier to embrace healing and to experience life in full color. I celebrate my small victories, such as trips to the bank and the grocery store. I revel in the fact that I go to family get-togethers and parties and don’t feel the need to drink. I can actually enjoy all the little moments without feeling like the walls are closing in.
There’s no such thing as “fixed” or “all better now.” It’s a daily struggle. But with the help of my family, compassionate doctors, the TWLOHA community, and the will to have a better life, I’m finally experiencing joy again. I’m finally thriving, not just surviving.