when i read Maya of Charmingly Styled‘s post on #realbloggerbeauty, i instantly knew it was something i wanted to be part of. i have been in the blogging world for over four years and it is a fabulous community of people. through blogging i have met people from all over that i never would have known. and they are truly lovely people who have real stories, real issues, real talent, real passion, real insecurities. and most of the time are really down to earth. but it’s not all rainbows and sunshine. most of the bloggers i read and interact with are women. and ladies, we can be downright mean. and with all the different social media outlets we now have a growing list of places to compare ourselves to each other. blog envy is a real thing.
it’s hard to see these blogs that every single post seems are so perfectly written, outfits every day that like they belong in a magazine, pictures of bagels that look like art, an instagram of the sky that gets thousands of likes, a blog post that gets hundreds of comments… it’s tough not to compare. it’s hard not to base part of your self-esteem off of how many likes, favorites, retweets, comments and follows you get. none of us can deny the instant gratification of an instagram picture rollin’ in the likes. or that we question how good a post was if nobody comments on it. i love being a blogger; and as a lifestyle blogger my blog is all about me and my story. but it’s very scary to put yourself out there in the world. for all to read. and judge. but if one person can read my story and say, “me too” or “i’m not alone” than that right there is something special. well here i am. sharing a story, my story, one that i’ve not told you before. but thanks to #realbloggerbeauty i am proud to share what makes me beautifully imperfect.
a dear friend once said, having a mental illness is like being part of a really cool club with a really shitty initiation process. which is so true. there are so many people who struggle with mental illness of some sort but the social stigma around talking about mental illness is strong. through blogging and social media connecting people with the same struggles, the stigma is losing strength, but it’s still there. and through #realbloggerbeauty i want to break the silence. i have dealt with depression, obsessive compulsive personality disorder, and anxiety since i was 17. throughout the years i have learned a lot about myself. and while i wouldn’t wish my mental illness on anyone, it is part of who i am. and i’m still learning to be ok with that.
the majority of my junior year of high school was spent in tears, feeling left out, not good enough, not cool or pretty enough. i was losing interest in things that at one time i had enjoyed, was extremely irritable and constantly sad. i didn’t have many friends. at first, i thought it was just part of being a teenager. but my mom saw something deeper was wrong. i’m so thankful she did, because as difficult as the road that followed was, i couldn’t imagine going through it without help. after a visit with a psychologist/ psychiatrist it was determined that i had clinical depression. aka depression. and i started on a continuing journey of therapy, medication and learning how to be stronger than my mental illness.
one of the hardest parts of dealing with depression is pretending that you are happy. it’s truly exhausting. the fake smiles, small talk, the constant burning desire to just run away and cry. after an extended period of social interaction, i would be wiped. emotionally, and mentally spent. it’s hard to pretend that you’re ok, when you aren’t. but when people ask you how you are, you just say fine. because it’s not worth it to say how you really feel. it’d be too hard to explain and quite often people aren’t sure how to react when you say you struggle with mental illness. more often than not they say something that is supposed to be supportive but comes off hurtful. like, “oh you don’t look depressed. yes, i’m sorry. i forgot to carry my literal dark cloud around with me today.” and we are getting to overuse the word now, depressed, that it’s thought of just meaning to be sad. but it’s this overwhelming feeling of nothing and everything; wanting to cry for hours about nothing; just having a conversation with someone feels like a chore; telling everyone you want to be alone, but secretly praying they will come and ask if you are ok; feeling like it will never be better. and the scariest part? finding comfort in that. because you would rather be certain that you are miserable, than risk being happy.
fast forward to last summer. i loved school and knew i wanted to get my MBA. i thought it would be a great time to start; had a few years of work experience, minimal responsibilities, it would be great. i applied and was accepted and i was ecstatic. i couldn’t wait to start learning again. after my first class i was feeling great. and then suddenly i was in Indianapolis at a conference sobbing in my hotel room trying to write my first paper. i couldn’t do it. i didn’t know how to write a paper anymore. i didn’t know how to put my thoughts into words. everything i wrote i instantly deleted. it wasn’t good enough. i was up until the final hour but i finished it. i thought (wished/hoped/prayed) that it was simply because it was the first one. the next one would be better. i wish that was the case. and i could say that i would be graduating in the spring – but this story has a different ending. school became paralyzing for me. i had a physical reaction to working on a paper. i would get extremely panicky, short of breath, unable to focus, i quite literally couldn’t write a paper. i just started sobbing. i couldn’t write anything because in my head it wasn’t perfect. and it had to be perfect. it had to live up to my extremely high standards. and if it couldn’t be perfect, then it couldn’t be done at all.
i thought i could “battle” my way through. i really wanted to be back in school. i didn’t want to quit. but the week that followed was even worse than the one before. and when i found myself practically running away from my computer cowering in the corner having a panic attack… i knew i couldn’t continue like this. it wasn’t healthy. and sometimes knowing when to stop it better than trying to keep going. and before i even finished my first class, i had to leave graduate school. i couldn’t understand what had happened to me. and after talking with my psychologist i started to learn about obsessive compulsive personality disorder (ocpd). being able to call it by name, makes it somehow more bearable. and reassures you that other people out there feel like you. i am not alone. that feeling of being unable to complete a task due to perfectionism? that feeling that i have to abide by rules, lists and a schedule? unable to be flexible and the feeling that either it’s going to work out or be utter disaster? i’m not the only one. what is ocpd? it’s a gift that needs a little grace.
i’m my worst critic. i never feel good enough. and i still have anxiety and lay awake at night because i can’t calm my thoughts, or feel sad just because that’s how i woke up that day, or unable to write a blog post such as this because i’m afraid it won’t be perfect. and that’s something i will continue to work on. and thanks to my mom and dad, my friends, starks the pup and my incredible fiance, it’s getting easier. and thanks to them i’m reminded how far i’ve come. no apologies, no regrets, no excuses – this is my story. i have depression, anxiety and obsessive compulsive personality disorder, i take medication, i see a psychologist, i have meltdowns, and panic attacks, i live in fear of perfectionism and that’s my #realbloggerbeauty
note: first, thank you for making it this far down. i know this was a bit of a novel. but this is one of my stories i’ve wanted to share for some time now. it’s hard to put how i feel into words, so that you for bearing with me as it’s a little choppy. if you struggle with mental illness, i hope this brought you some comfort of “me too” and i’d love to hear your story. xoxo emma