Today, I showed up super late for work. Not because I am lazy or because I wanted to be late. But between last night and this morning, I genuinely forgot what time I was supposed to be there and despite waking up early, I got caught up.
I know this sounds like a common mistake. “That could happen to anyone!” But the truth is, this is a big deal to me. Some of you may know me for my recent baby steps towards opening a dialogue on mental health, but those who don’t know me personally may not really know why. I have been holding off on my own interview until the end of my project, but I think today is an exception for introduction.
The thing about depression and anxiety is that each one has its own symptoms individually, but in combination, even the smallest mistake feels a hundredfold worse than it probably even is. It causes doubt, creates voices that heckle you, no matter how much you know it’s not actually real. You get trapped in a silent battle with your own mind and the inward effects are far more detrimental than what appears outwardly.
As a result of this, I have suffered from a string of short term memory loss for as long as I can remember, primarily since 2009. When people think of short term memory loss they usually think it’s the borderline ADHD almost comedic behavior exemplified by Dory from Finding Nemo. While that does happen in some cases, it’s a condition endured differently by many different people, myself included. In my own experiences, I usually can’t remember important things, like the concept of time, if I’m going through a period of high stress. I actively listen and participate in conversations but it’s a rare guarantee I’ll have perfect recall if I haven’t had a good night’s rest. I can’t remember the names or faces of certain people unless I see them on a regular basis. If someone asks me what I did last week, I might not be able to recall everything as clearly as I’d like. It’s frustrating and humiliating to be at a constant drawing of blanks especially on things that matter a lot to me. This isn’t always a chronic issue, but it does come in phases (or as I like to better describe, “waves”).
You’re probably thinking that this isn’t a real issue because I’m young and live an active/busy lifestyle. I’m bound to forget something here and there if I’m always moving, right? But it isn’t just forgetfulness or carelessness – it’s a genuine discomfort with uncertainty, like setting out my clothes or packing my bag the night before only to wake up the next morning and doing it all over again, or second guessing myself four times before I leave the house because I swear I turned off the stove but I just gotta go back and check one more time, or knowing that I have an obligation to get to but I can’t specifically remember the details of it until it’s too late despite my best efforts to set alarms or calendar notifications. It’s the mindset of OCD, that things have to be a certain order or my mind refuses to rest, but in physical representation, a lot messier. I mean…I can’t remember the last time my room was clean, not because I’m purposely dirty or disorganized but because I am perpetually unsatisfied with my own attempts to be organized — in cleaning, I usually start out super motivated but then get overwhelmed and claustrophobic, and just wreck everything even more in the process of trying to make things better.
Today and most days don’t actually start out this painful though. It’s a gradual realization and suddenly a BOOM – how did I get into this nosedive? How do I get out?
I start to feel sick to my stomach, I try talking to myself to keep from crying at the utter shock and disappointment I feel. Some days I can get out of it after a few minutes. Other days, I’d rather just sleep and start over again. Either way, it takes over my entire being and I wish I could explain this to you without sounding like I’m asking for pity, because in reality, I’m not. I want support but not pity — the latter has a condescending tone and I deserve better. Me telling you this isn’t asking for you to solve my problems for me; it’s the hope for a simple exchange of understanding.
So what’s the silver lining?
This project, and the fact I can still talk to you today in confidence that I can do something good through the labor of love.
Sometimes when my mental health starts to dip over small things, I have to remind myself of all the wonderful people I’ve met in my lifetime and the opportunities my project, Mosaic Minds, has presented me in learning about others, myself, and in breaking the stigma of mental health. The truth is, even as someone responsible for bringing other people’s stories to light and capturing their everyday essence, I still struggle and have to push myself past certain roadblocks, too. I still have to remind myself things will be okay even when I don’t honestly feel that way in that particular moment, and that every new intake of breath is just as precious as the last.
So here’s to me, because I am both my own worst critic and my biggest fan.
And here’s to you all who continually choose to ride with me.
Thank you to those who have made me feel less of myself before — because of you, I have so much more to discover.
And thank you to those who have always lifted me up — I don’t take it lightly.