A glimpse into how my mental health works

I lost my phone. For some people, this is a huge catastrophe where lives are at stake and state secrets are about to be revealed from the archives hidden deep in the recesses of undeleted text messages taking up data space. For some, it’s a minor inconvenience that means getting a shiny piece of new technology. I consider these the two extremes for phone loss.

Me? I am neither extreme, I just feel like a failure. This is how I feel any time something small goes wrong. Today when I discovered my phone was missing, I was chill. I calmly went back to the classroom I work in and looked through, then I went back to my car and sifted through my purse and between the seats, nothing came up. Now I’ve got pressure on my chest, something is wrong and it’s my fault. I go back again to my classroom to search once more, this time with more drawer slamming and doors being flung open and closed harder.

I go back to my car again, wondering if my coworker accidentally took it. I ease a bit thinking that was a real possibility, which then took the pressure off my chest of my failure. I started driving home, only I started realizing that I had no alarm clock in my apartment. My phone had always been my alarm. Pressure on my chest again, I’m a failure because I never thought to get a basic alarm clock to keep in case of power outages.

I get home quicker than usual, more to do with my speeding through yellow lights so I could get to my computer and email my coworker and boss. My computer is linked to my text messages, so I contact my boss and ask him to check in with my coworker. She doesn’t have the phone. Fuck my life.

Pressure increases, tenfold this time. I stomp out of my apartment and down the stairs into the underground garage, this time tearing my car apart looking for my phone. Cracks, crevices, pockets, I even looked in the trunk even though I hadn’t opened it in well over a week. Pressure spreads from my chest to my head, I can feel my eyes heat with the potential of an anxiety attack, but I shake my head hard to ignore the sensations of tears building.

I get back to my apartment and take to my laptop with more key slamming and cursing under my breath; I can’t access my iCloud account to use Find My Phone. Cue hyperventilating and pacing. My hands are combing and gripping my hair as I try to keep breathing through the pressure, but failure has set it’s nasty claws in. How could I be so irresponsible? How could I have not had it in my purse when I left? Why don’t you have backup plans for this? Why don’t you have a landline? Why don’t you remember your iCloud security questions? Why are you so thoughtless and stupid?

My boyfriend, who’s just landed after having been in London for the weekend, is doing all he can to make it seem like it’s no big deal. I know it’s not a big deal. I know there are hundreds dead in Haiti, I know Donald Trump is spreading rape culture, I know Black Lives Matter, I know there are refugees taken from their homes trying to find a place to live in a country where ‘charitable christians’ want to turn them away. I know there are a million worst things going on right now than the temporary loss of my phone. It’s not about my phone, it never was. It’s about the fact that I have never been able to allow myself to make mistakes without punishing myself internally.

One small misstep, and my anxiety is all over me. The other day a coworker kindly corrected the way I was communicating with a special needs student. It wasn’t a major mistake I was making, it was a simple correction of rhetoric to use, but in my chest and mind I felt like I’d ruined this students life. I beat myself up for the years of psych classes I had taken where I’d learned proper communication with special needs students, I cried in the bathroom because I feel like a terrible instructor and role model.

On the outside of these moments, I recognize that I am simply a human making small normal mistakes that others have. I see that I’m not a failure, but in those moments of common missteps, my anxiety’s smoke chokes me until I can’t breathe. The bitch is standing behind my shoulder whispering “Oh look at that, you fucked up again. How original.” And there is literally nothing I can do to stop it.

This is just the tip of the iceberg for me when it comes to mental and emotional health problems. Most people have written me off as a drama queen, unfortunately I went through most of college with little to no help when I and a friend were being bullied. The few times I tried explaining what I was going through, I got as far as “The people in the drama department are-” and almost always I would get some variation of the sarcastic comment “Drama in the drama department! How surprising!” Because people didn’t take me seriously then, I now struggle to tell people when I am upset or hurt because I’m afraid they’ll once again write me off as being dramatic. How is it just being dramatic when it’s reducing me to tears in a bathroom at work? What about when I’m lying awake in the middle of the night going through every single thing I fucked up that day? How is that just being dramatic?

Of course I’ve stopped telling people when things get to me. I excuse myself politely to have a moment alone, which is really all I need mostly. I can get a handle on myself and step out from the darkness I easily find myself falling into, but talking about it is a whole different story. Thankfully through this blog I’ve been able to feel more open and honest about my feelings and struggles. I’ve always found I can process my feelings more deeply and successfully when I can write out what I’m going through and what it’s making me feel. The fact that people happen to read and relate to what I write on here is just a lovely compliment, as I really never expect anyone to take what I say seriously.

My mental health makes it near impossible for me to deal with mistakes I make, no matter how big or small. Doesn’t mean I’m going to stop making mistakes, nor that I am a failure as a human being. It just means that I work harder than most at forgiving myself and moving forward, and I take a lot of pride in that. So for those of you who also feel like complete utter fucking failures, you’re so not alone. I’m right there failing with you, albeit with a little more style perhaps.

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