Recognition is everything.
What I’ve learned through this peer support position is that there’s a difference between “accepting” your “illness” and recognizing the way you think. I would even be daring enough to say that it’s simpler to accept your “sick” than it is to recognize how you think and constantly challenge it.
I do not mean fight it. I do not mean the day to day fight we all endure with anxiety or depression or voices or mood swings. What I mean by constantly challenging it is learning to live with some discomfort.
That’s the line that was in the description of the job position listed online. They didn’t call out for “mentally ill” people. They didn’t request “sick” people. They didn’t request “people who have accepted they are crazy”. They requested for people who have learned to live with some discomfort.
While exercising my right as a student against the financial aid department today, I felt the anger bubbling and the paranoia joining in: I was sure the woman at the counter, the one who I’d had trouble with in the past, was a racist woman who had messed up my account on purpose . I was sure she had entered the wrong information into the system on purpose a month and a half ago when I turned in all my paper work. She wanted to see me squirm. She didn’t like that I wasn’t someone like her, so she didn’t care whether or not I got my money. She wanted to keep me poor like the rest of the non-white, non-hispanic students at my college–all 26 of us.
I stormed out of the office shouting about their B.S. I slammed my car into the wrong gear and sped off down the street. I sent a very discontented email to the heads of the financial aid department and, as I suspected, I was in the right: they’ve fixed all the trouble and I will be getting my money soon.
But while all of this was going down, the woman was in the back of my mind. So was all of the other people in the recent past who I’ve felt were purposefully conspiring against me, whether it be whole organizations, peers and guests at work, students, professors, e.t.c.
It’s one thing to be aware of the paranoia. It’s another thing to sit in a seat, breathe, and realize even if the woman did plot against me, everything worked out in the end. It’s another thing to sit in a seat, breathe, and be okay with the reality my brain created because in the end whether it was real or not, neither truth really mattered. What mattered was the outcome.
I don’t have all the answers. All I can possibly know is what I experience. Perhaps that woman has been conspiring against me this entire semester. Perhaps she does have some hagish vendetta against me: what does that matter? She hasn’t prevented me from doing anything. She hasn’t physically attacked me or telepathically attacked me.
And as my kitten stretches out on my lap and gives me quick little kisses with her tongue on my cheek, her simplicity makes me see how meaningless trivial experiences like this are. The bond we’ve created this last week will outlast any conspiracy against me. It will outlast any anxiety, any depression, and any physical part of life. There’s so much more in the world that we can’t see, that we can’t manipulate with our hands, that we can’t tear down with our words–things in the air, things in the soul, things in the heart, that should be the focus of our lives.
So what if you experience something better or worse than your neighbor. It doesn’t make you better or worse or sick or sane or ill or healthy or wrong or right. All of it just makes you human. Let the bad days exist. You couldn’t possibly know what’s coming tomorrow.