Being an Adult

As my friends and I get older, I’ve begun to notice a recurring theme in all of our lives: Being an adult sucks.

When we’re kids, we spend so much time dreaming about what life will be like when we grow.  We imagine driving cars, getting married, having our dream jobs, going on new, grown-up adventures.  The thing is, while we were busy dreaming about this fantastic adult world, real adults didn’t bother to mention all the other less fun stuff that comes with age.  Like debt.  Taxes.  Caffeine addiction.  Relationship turmoil.  Responsibility.

Ewww.

The older we get, the more nostalgic we become for our carefree days of youth.  But I’ve been thinking.  It’s true, some of those not-so-great adult things are unfortunately unavoidable.  Most of us will have debt.  We all have to pay taxes.  But I think there’s a misconception about responsibility, and about becoming “real” adults.

For some reason, we all have this idea that once we reach a certain age, once we’re “grown ups,” we have to start living life and behaving a certain way.  We’re supposed to be mature and get real people jobs and get married and have kids.  And none of those are BAD things.  Not at all.  But for some reason, we’ve begun to view them as obligations rather than things that are actually really positive.

If you get a job that you hate just because you have to get a job, you’re not going to be happy.  If you marry someone just for the sake of getting married, you’re probably going to be even less happy than you are with the job.  That’s the problem in our world today.  To live, to get by, just means going through the motions.  When you take a job, make sure it’s something you can be passionate about.  Make it an environment you enjoy, where you thrive.  When you get married, make sure it’s to your best friend, to someone you genuinely want to spend the rest of your life with.  Not someone you’re settling for because you’re at that age when you’re supposed to get married.

Don’t live because you have to.  Live because you want to.

I’m older.  I’m a so-called “real” adult.  Legally, I’ve been an adult for almost ten years now.  But I’ve tried to hold on to the things that brought me joy as a child.  I’ve also found new joy in my adult years.

Here’s the deal.  Do at least one thing a day that makes you happy.  For example, today, I lit a fall-scented candle.  It makes my whole day 150% better.  Listen to your favorite song on repeat just because you can.  Don’t fall into the routine of simply going through the motions.  Enrich your life, even if it’s by simply lighting a candle or eating an extra piece of candy.  It’s okay.  You’re allowed to be happy.  After all, we spend most of our lives as adults.  We might as well make it worth while.

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What’s Inside

Today, it has been exactly one year since beloved actor, comedian, and Genie Robin Williams took his own life.  I’m still not entirely over it.  I realized that I haven’t watched one of my favorite Disney movies, Aladdin, in over a year because I’ve been afraid it would make me sad.

In the past year, my friends and I have opened up a lot to each other about our struggles with anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, etc…  Our discussions have lead me to look back on the lowest point in my battle with mental illness and to realize and be thankful for how far I’ve come.  But the thing is even though I’m being treated and doing 100% better than I was back in the darker days, it still hasn’t entirely gone away.  Most days I’m fine.  But I definitely still have moments of anxiety, of doubt, of fear.

I read an interesting quote the other day.

“You cannot always control what goes on outside.  But you can always control what goes on inside.”

This might be true for the lucky ones out there, but it isn’t true for those battling mental illness.  It definitely isn’t true for me.  There was a time in my life when I could control it.  I could control everything.  That’s the way I like it.  I’ll be the first to admit I have major control issues (not when it comes to other people, but when it comes to my own life?  Oh boy…).  But try as you might, you can’t control the little voices in the back of your head telling you you’re not good enough, you’re not smart enough, something terrible is going to happen, no one wants you around, you’re just getting in the way, you’re annoying everyone you love, on and on and on…

It’s horrible.  It’s impossible to feel good when you have this constant nagging.  The worst part is you know that it’s irrational.  It makes no sense that you should feel that way.  But that doesn’t make it go away.  If anything, it makes you feel worse.

I know it sounds like i’m not better.  I promise you, I am.  We all have days.  I’ve had a few over the summer.  I’ve become more susceptible to social anxiety, which is more annoying than anything, but it’s something I’m trying to work through and understand.  But I’m much better than I was back in 2012, when I was at my absolute lowest.  I didn’t even realize how bad it had gotten until recently, when I went back and read a few journal entries that i’d written before I went to get help.

10/3/12

The low self esteem is back, and this time, it’s not going away.

I’m trying.  I’m really trying to make it go away.  I’m trying to be positive.  I’m trying to engage in things I love.  I’m trying to tell myself that one day, I’ll be exactly what I want to be.  A writer.  A traveller.  Independent.  Confident.  A girl worthy of love.  

But I don’t feel any of that.  I feel immature and scared and crippled.  I feel even worse because I’m reminded constantly that I have no reason to feel all these things, that I’m a grown up, twenty four years old.  I see people all around me confident and happy and able to be happy for other people.  When I realize that I’m not like that, it makes me feel even worse.  

I want to be happy with who I am.  I want to feel proud of myself.  I want to be happy to be me.  I want to be the person I dream of being.  But I’m a time-waster.  I’m selfish.  I wallow in self pity when I have no reason to, and being reminded that I have no reason to makes me feel so much worse.  I try to deny all these things, because I know it will upset people around me if I act on them.  I don’t want to hurt anyone.    

I’m scared because I’ve never thought I would be one for depression.  I wish I could just run away, take some time for myself, stand on my own two legs.  Take some time from everyone I’ve ever known, everything I’ve ever been and I’m expected to be. I don’t feel free.  I constantly have this voice in my head.  “Loser! Worthless! Never amount to anything! No one should love you!”

I wish I had someone I could talk to, who understands what I’m feeling.  I need to grow up.  I need to let go of everything holding me back.  I need to go out and have fun.  I think that’s what really hit me in the face.  That I actually have to be forced to go out and have fun.  Something’s not right. When I struggle to get out of bed every morning, when the thought of living my day to day routine brings tears to my eyes, it’s time to do something about it.  

I want to finish my novel.  I want to feel worthy of love.  I want to feel like the happy, carefree girl I once was.  I want to enjoy life.  I want to be optimistic.  I want to like people again.  I want to feel that life is always worth living.  I want to be genuinely happy for my friends and not always thinking about all the bad stuff that could happen.  I want to stop looking at the world subjectively.  I want to stop thinking I know best.  I want to learn to love myself again.

Okay, so again, this is from three years ago.  I’m a very different person now.  I’m happy now.  I am all the things I wanted to be and more.  I barely recognize the girl who wrote all of that.  But I’m sharing it because I think it needs to be shared.  If I can help one person who is feeling the same way but is afraid to get help, then it’s worth it.

Like I said, I still have my days.  I’ve recently opened myself up to something that I think (or I hope at least) will be a very good thing.  I’m very, very happy.  I’m also terrified.  I’m scared to death that I’ll do something wrong.  That I won’t amount.  That I’m not worthy of this good thing.  One of the my biggest obstacles in my fight against mental illness has been learning to trust.  To put my faith and hope and love in other people.  I can be guarded.  I put up defenses because I’m scared to death of being vulnerable.  But I think I’m getting there.

Living with mental illness, be it anxiety, depression, OCD, what have you, is difficult.  I don’t think anyone who’s been there will tell you otherwise.  It’s draining to constantly be in battle with your own mind.  But you can overcome it.  It’s possible.  Believe me, it’s possible.  And it’s worth it.  Life is good.  Life is so good that sometimes, it makes me want to laugh and cry at the same time.  That sounds hokey, I know.  But it’s the truth.  Promise me you’ll never forget it.

Rest in Peace, Robin.  Your legacy lives on.  We love you.