On my Mental Illness Resume you’d find a couple of hospitalizations, one involuntary, one six-weeks long; many episodes of suicide ideation (with one plan to die); substance use disorder (moderate); the saddest, saltiest tears ever cried; and heart-wrenching pain that make me think my heart will break into a million pieces. Maybe it did.
I’ve been mentally ill for a long time. But I’ve been in recovery for four years, meaning that whenever I flail, I fall back onto my wellness plan which details healthy ways I can take care of myself to get to a better place. I can still feel pain, but it’s now second nature to practice self-care and be resilient.
My heart is still able to hurt. But then my brain will tell me, “Heather, it won’t hurt like this long. In an hour it’ll be better. Tomorrow it won’t be so bad.” And I believe it, because when I was so depressed in the psychiatric hospital, and I was in so much pain, it did get better. I did get stronger. It wasn’t so bad.
This is my lived experience: I know the pain won’t last forever. This is how it is because of all my hard work toward recovery.
But what about pain you don’t expect? One day my best friend, with no warning, stopped talking to me. There was no fight. She just stopped texting/calling me. For the past 12 years, we have texted 50 times a day, minimum. I asked if she was ok. Was she mad? Is anything wrong? I asked our mutual friend if she had heard from her? Yes, she’s fine.
Okay, so why not me?
My heart started to break. I cried, scaring myself with my guttural wails. Then after a day or two, my brain said, “You’ll be fine. It’ll get better, easier, tomorrow.”
My tears did dry. But I obsessed over the reasons why she wouldn’t respond. I kept sending texts hoping she was okay.
After a week and a half, I texted her that I was miserable without her, and I was so sorry if it was something I had done. That I needed her, and I hope she would text me back.
Each day it does get easier. I no longer save memes on my phone to send her. I don’t obsessively check the phone, waiting to hear her text tone. Intellectually, I know that I’ve been ghosted, and there’s nothing I can do to change it.
Thank God I’ve been through what I have, so I’m strong enough to get through this. It might not seem like much to get through, but it is. She’s been a sister to me.
I could be balled up in the corner sobbing, unable to get anything done. But lived experience — I’ve been in more pain before. Or at least the same amount.
It’ll be better tomorrow. And the next day. And hour after that.