My name is Ashton, and I’ve got my life together.
Let me share a little bit of my story with you. I’m a middle class woman with a beautiful 7 month old baby girl, a nice apartment, two cars, and no money problems. My fiance loves me and we spend time together often. I go to work on time, and I’m one of their best employees. I smile at everyone and I’m there for everyone. My friends love me. People trust me and share their problems with me. I’m respected by my peers and I pay my taxes and my bills two weeks early. My family is proud of me. I’ve got a four year degree and a 4.0 GPA with
Now I want to share with you the story of a different woman, someone I don’t really like that much, to be honest. She has a panic attack every time the alarm clock goes off at 7:46 a.m. She worries daily that she’s going to be suddenly evicted, or lose her job. She is afraid of the dark so she sleeps with the light on. She hears voices in her head, sees twisted peripheral images as she walks down the hallways at work, the voices of her superiors a gargled blur. She has to sit down for a few minutes every hour to remind herself she’s still alive, and not unconscious, or dreaming. She thinks about quitting her job every day, just so she doesn’t have to work. To live. To function.
Her name is Ashton, and her life is falling apart.
Yep, that’s right. It’s me. It’s all me. And If you’re like me, you probably know what I’m getting at.
It’s called being a highly functional, mentally ill person, and it’s horrible. But I’m ok…no really!
I’m talking to all my dear friends out there in the world that know how to succeed , and do. Who cope, who function, who do everything right. I’m talking to the people who say “I’m fine,” when they want to say they didn’t want to wake up that morning. The people who smile at other people when they’re dead inside, and solve everyone else’s problems but their own.
Here’s something maybe no on ever told you: Just because you’ve got your life together, doesn’t mean you’ve got your life together, unless going through the motions is what you call “living.”
Here’s something I’ve noticed in my [way too many] years of therapy: too many therapists gauge the severity of someone’s mental illness on how well they function in society and in their relationships. I mean, if you’re able to do what you need to do, it must not be that bad, right? Wrong. And trust me, I’ve lived that scene. I’ve seen so many doctors and shrinks, I should already be in one of their tv ads by now. But it’s not, ultimately, making sure we function in society and relationships, is it? Not really. It’s about how we feel about ourselves. So I’m going to ask you today, and be really honest:
How do you feel about yourself?
Some of us are so used to being ok, or having to be okay, we may not even have an immediate response to that. You may have to think about it for a little bit. What things have bothered you today? How do you feel about the way your life is going? How’s your emotional state when you wake up in the morning? I don’t care if you have the perfect husband, beautiful kids and a lap dog with bows on its ears. If you are not happy with yourself or your life, you aren’t doing well at all. Outward success is not, and never has been, an indicator of personal peace or happiness. Of course, it can be, but too many people equate the two.
For all us high functioning persons, thinking about this is going to be hard. Why? Because sometimes, the only thing in our lives that hasn’t fallen apart yet is that societal projection, that mask, that persona we project onto people that makes them like us. That makes us not fall apart. That perfect behavior that makes people think we’re wonderful. It’s all we’ve got, so we deny we need help. We push on. We push through. So thinking about our emotions or what makes us upset or how we really feel, well, it kind of throws us out of our groove.
I’m here to encourage you to derail a little bit. Just for a little bit.
I’ve got my life together. And also, I’m one French fry short of a happy meal. And you know what? I’m okay with that. The one thing I’ve learned over the last 20 years of suffering, is that in order to function well, and truly well, [not in the plastic Botox smile kind of way,] is to have those moments, those days, those hours, or even seconds, where we LOSE IT. I’m talking screaming into a pillow, writing in a journal, crying, doing something. Anything. Whatever activity redirects you to what’s really going on inside, to your inner dialogue. Anybody that knows me well, knows I’m all about self-awareness. I’m one of those weird people who will sit in a room by themselves for a half hour just getting their emotions and thoughts together, so that they can face the world with a little more confidence and function better. I’ll do yoga in my living room after a chaotic event, just to make sure I don’t have a panic attack later; I’ll meditate several times a day, just to redirect my thoughts to what’s going on inside. Does everyone need to do that? Pshh no. But the point isn’t what you do, it’s that you are conscious of that inner dialogue, which is constantly running, taking notes on what’s going on in our lives, even if we’re not aware of it, and most importantly, being honest with yourself about how you feel, so you can take charge and really progress towards healing.
This is what I’m all about. I want to help people get in touch with themselves, so they can go out and live the life they truly WANT to live. I have about 20 years of life experience with some scary diagnoses and years of therapy, and I know what works and doesn’t work for me; and hopefully some of these things will work for others too.