Elizabeth “Eth” Hyman
When I was a kid, my momma used to yell out the car window on my way to school, “BE A GOOD FRIEND!!!” I’d look back at her with a concerned look, thinking, Why the heck are you so focused on other kids, Momma? What if people aren’t good friends to me??
Thinking of that now, knowing all the friends I’ve seen become consumed by mental illness and the gnawing possibility of death and pain ever at their necks, I kind of get why my momma said that. What does this have to do with being anxious? Nothing. It’s just an anecdote, or at least I think that’s what it’s called.
Bear with me, I’m pretty sure this semi-coherent article has a point.
The gist is, I’m anxious. Exhaustingly anxious. For a visual aid, picture a fax machine inside my brain that made too many copies…
I’m scared I’m having a heart attack, PRINT
I think I wanna lock my door one more time, PRINT
What is a stroke and how do I make sure I’m not having one, PRINT
Do I really love my fiancé or am I just wearing rose-colored glasses, PRINT, COPY, SEND. SEND! SEND! SEND!
From what it sounds like, you’d think I don’t live in reality, but I do. I really do, I just inadvertently dip my toes in the pool of “what-if,” and before I know it, the shallow end is a mile and a half away. Luckily, I’ve got some pretty darn good lifeguards. God, my fiancé, my parents, my grandma, my therapist, my primary care, this article… yeah, I’ve got plenty of backup, and I’m blessed to be as healthy as I am. 100 jumping jacks every day, and if I have the time, 20 minutes of exercise. 10-pound weights, apples, water, Gatorade, oatmeal bars, multi-grain bread, Vitamin C, sex (not that you need sex to be healthy, but personally I enjoy it), talking things out, occasionally writing them down, AND good sleep, so there’s no reason to be such an alarmist, but my brain mistakes a tension headache for a brain aneurysm and that’s not an exaggeration, so peace can be hard to remember. It’s nice to list it out though.
I’m quickly learning how awesome I am. I encourage you to do the same. If I were writing to someone like me, I’d say to level yourself, or find someone else to level you. There’s nothing wrong with putting a lot of your eggs in one basket, but just don’t use them all. A lot is fine but keep some for yourself. Keep your eggs, that’s the lesson…no, that sounds weird. I don’t know, just do something with your eggs, keep them, put them in a basket, scramble them, I don’t care! Just…ACT. Take action! Take your eggs, or your devastation, OR your diagnosis, and act! Move! Fly! Jump! Run! Read!
Just don’t sit down. Otherwise, you get glued to your issue. It’s like gum on a bench. You just gotta unstick yourself. Do what motivates you. Kindness motivates me, hugs motivate me, Jamie Lee Curtis motivates me. I see that woman and I feel like I can run for President. I think it’s the way she escapes the same guy literally a million times— that takes serious consistency. Rock on, Jamie. Anyways, the POINT is, acknowledge your junk, see it for what it is, treat it WHILE living your life, and go. Don’t ignore, but don’t get jammed, just acknowledge and go.
Yeah…acknowledge and go. Find a consistency in your life that makes you excited to wake up in the morning.
Whatever you think you need, I’d say that’s what you need, as long as it’s not blatantly detrimental. When I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder at 17, I was so used to telling everyone I had depression, that when I found out I really had it, not only was I relieved, but (in a very counterproductive way), I welcomed it into my life. I thought, “Well now we know, if this gets any worse, at least there can’t be any speculation about what was happening, we’ve got the facts right here.” I was too apathetic to my own situation; I was ambivalent to a passion, which (take it from me) is the first step to disaster in everything you do. I urge you to care. I know you can do it. Care with every action you take or don’t take, and notice I didn’t say think, I said care.
As a certified overthinker, yeah, thinking sucks.
Just follow my momma’s advice: “Be a good friend.” Start there, care about others and you’ll learn to care for you too.
In closing, I owe the inspiration for this article to my favorite author, Susanna Kaysen. I can’t wrap this up without mentioning her. She wrote a book called “Girl, Interrupted,” detailing her struggles with mental illness, apathy and what it means to be pitifully young in an ancient, painful, surrounding. It’s what made me want to become a writer. I figured if she could put her heart on a plate like that, so could I.
Thank you, Susanna, wherever you are.
This is so great! So well written and so relatable. Well done!!