There’s an invisible race that goes on inside my head.
It’s like a mental health relay with varying distances. Sometimes it’s 100 meters, 400 meters, or even more. I call those distances “waves.” If I’m on a good one and people ask me how I am, I say that I’m riding the wave as long as I can, silently knowing what comes after the wave reaches its peak. The runners race along the wave, gripping the golden baton with all their might.
I am the baton in these relay races. I am passed around, from one emotion to another, and hope for a smooth transition each and every time. No matter how much I hope, every so often, I drop. I slip out of the runner’s hands as they feel the agony of their mistake and drop to their knees before I touch the floor.
I end up in a state of poor mental health. It often feels like a downward spiral and I’m starting at the top. You know in a cartoon when a character is climbing up a tall building, or hanging around a ledge and suddenly realize how high they are? The character looks down to the ground with their back against the wall, as the camera quickly zooms out. Anxiety seeps out of my body, and my mind starts to feel alien. Then, an unusual but all-too-familiar grey cloud appears over the stadium where these mental relays take place.
I wait it out.
This is what I’ve learned to do. I take Citalopram (an antidepressant), a vitamin D supplement, and probiotic tablets everyday because I’m scared of what happens when I don’t. I get scared that I, a marathoner, won’t be able to run again or that I, a swimmer, won’t be able to swim again. Those are the activities that keep me going in times of need.
I’ve sat in complete darkness, not knowing what comes next, wondering if tomorrow will happen, and hoping that day will and won’t at the same time. I’ve looked into seasonal affective disorder, thinking this must be why real clouds give me ones in my head. I’ve had weeks with an upset stomach for no apparent reason. I know all of those things to be my truths, and I take my medicine to counteract those truths, feelings, and scenarios so that I can feel closer to what I want to be. I don’t want to be normal—I want to be a happy version of myself.
It hasn’t been easy to get to a stage where I can accept my truths and grow from them. Each down and each crash feel like pieces of my puzzle that change ever so slightly. Pieces from my past no longer fit into the same place, and I suppose that’s what growth and learning are about.
After some time, the clouds clear from the stadium. The runner picks me up and continues the run. I don’t start over. I just pick up where I left off and continue my journey towards happiness.
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Writer: Nathaniel Cole