mental illness and milestones (the big 3-0!)

Today… I turn 30! Over the past few days, people have reminded me that celebrating another birthday is a gift compared to the alternative. As I sit here, I know that to be true, but it’s also difficult to face the hard truth that there have been times the past few years when I wasn’t entirely sure I’d make it to this day. At the risk of not wanting to sound like a Debby-Downer (“wah wah”), it’s not that I’m the birthday grinch, but birthdays evoke nostalgia and a seemingly inevitable ease to compare memories from previous years. The simultaneity of endings and beginnings embedded in what a birthday represents makes me a little unsettled and somber.

Today I’m going to avoid the big and scary questions that require me to look back at my 22-year-old self and measure if I’m where I thought I “would” be by the time I turned 30. Frankly, the 5-10 year plan I was commonly asked in job interviews in my early 20s, is quite different than my reality. But that’s okay. There can really be no illusions of where life will take you and frankly, there’s some good in that.

No five-year plan would have predicted where I am today. In fact, part of me knows that I’ve ended up where I am today, by not trying to get here. I used to believe that my value lied in my productivity as determined by what others deemed important, regardless of the cost that had on my mental and physical health.

When it comes to mental illness it’s hard to put a timeline on anything, simply because there is none. In my early 20s, I thought that a career I admired would erase the emotional pain I hadn’t yet dealt with. For years I “white-knuckled” through college, jobs, and graduate school with a debilitating eating disorder, anxiety, and depression that I successfully hid from most people… until I couldn’t anymore. Experiencing mental illness means you might not always do the “right” thing in a given moment, but I believe that my actions were the best I could offer at any given moment.

Productivity is no longer a line on my resume.

Productivity is now consistent with healing and prioritizing my mental health, which takes work. I remind myself that there is no age by which I need to be healed, and unfortunately, no end date exists where I can cross off dates as a visual countdown to promised sanity.

I’m going to spend most of today enjoying some solitude followed by a night time surprise with CJ. I’m craving a day outside accompanied by a book, a kayak, and some coffee, although a day in bed sounds glorious too! I’m thinking there might be some feels and I’m going to try to let them be felt without judgment. The happiness, the pride, the shame, the pain, they all have their place.

I’m going to allow myself to be surprised and bewildered at life’s unpredictability. I’m going to try to honor where I’m at on this given day, which is somewhere between a slip and a slide, yet still shuffling along.

I’m going to concentrate on being, rather than on doing.

I’m going to be grateful, yet real.

A lot has changed in my twenties (as I think occurs for most people) and in particular the last few years. I’ve gained relationships that have been built on some of the most honest and authentic shit imaginable, and I’ve lost some precious relationships as well. I’ve fallen madly in love with my person, who despite everything that has happened during the past six sojourns around the sun, hasn’t left my side.

This is probably the thing I value most, and it is completely independent of the number of years I’ve been alive. Age is but a number, my friends.

So here’s to 30, where perhaps my perfect Friday night of reading a book, eating ice cream out of a mug, and climbing into bed at 9:30 (or 8:30, doesn’t matter…) is more socially acceptable! #adulting

in strength and healing,

OJ

mental illness and milestones (the big 3-0!)

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