Rain or Shine: Our Loved Ones And Mental Illness

I’ve lived with me for a long time.
I wake up to me. I eat with me, talk to me.

I’ve lived with me for a long time.
But you haven’t, and that’s what worries me.

Because I know how I can get, how sometimes I’ll wake up and not want to get out of bed.
And sometimes I’ll get sad almost out of the blue and sometimes I know why and sometimes I don’t.
And sometimes I’ll forget my pills.
And sometimes I won’t want to go out. And sometimes when I do I’ll get nervous, won’t speak, and stare at my shoes.

And I know that sometimes I won’t want to eat and I’ll clutch at my tummy and wish I were smaller.
And sometimes I won’t want to do work.
And I know I compare myself to people around me and worry I’m not good enough and say it and believe it.
And sometimes I’ll just want to curl up in my bed and stay there for as long as I can.

I know how I can get.

And so I worry that one day I’ll be too much for you, that one day, another sad face will be the last straw, that you won’t want to deal with anymore quiet answers and sad eyes. I worry that one day another reassurance will be the last one and eventually you’ll get tired of picking up pieces.

But remember that I love you, deep down to my soul and no matter the day or the circumstance I will always love you: when I’m quiet or sad or curled up in my bed I will always love you. I will always need you.
You are the light that brightens my days. You are the smile that creeps across my face. You are my happy places

And if I could, I would make it so you’d never have to put me together.
But if I have to break down in front of anyone, it’d be you.
And I promise that no matter how I feel today, tomorrow, or the next day, no matter how sad I get, I’ll always need you. And I may not be whole, but my whole heart is yours.


Sometimes the scariest thing about having anxiety, depression, or any mental illness is the idea that your illness will push people away. Eventually, even though they say they’ll always be there for you, people will get tired of making you feel better and picking you up and dealing with your bad days.

When I was first diagnosed with depression at seventeen, my parents were supportive and understanding. But after a few months, when I had mornings where I couldn’t bring myself to get out of bed, the understanding from before seemed to have worn thin. It wasn’t words of compassion anymore being raised up the stairs to me, it was “Get yourself together,” or “Maybe if you didn’t spend all day in bed you wouldn’t feel like this,” or, “I’m tired of you using depression as an excuse.”

And I’d get angry at them for not understanding or sympathizing with what I was going through but at the same time I couldn’t blame  them. I’d wake up sad and would barely eat. I wouldn’t talk as much as I used to. I’d come down for a glass of water then go back up to my room for the rest of the day. Eventually, I’m sure, they just felt tired of trying to make me feel better and it not working.

I knew it was difficult, having a daughter with depression, just as it would be difficult having a friend with depression. So I hid my feelings from my closest friends and put a smile on whenever I was with them so I’d seem as normal as possible, as put together as possible, so they didn’t have to put me together themselves. But it was always in the back of my head: I can’t do this forever. I can’t keep hiding myself for forever.

Eventually when I went away to college, I was lucky enough to meet a girl who I trusted with my whole heart that I was comfortable enough to open up to. But even after being close to her for almost a year, I realized that I was still scared of her getting tired of hearing me complain or hearing me tell her that I couldn’t do it anymore, or cheering me up or telling me that I’m enough. “It’s not your job to do that,” I’d tell her. Because it wasn’t. Even though she was my best friend, even though she said she wanted to be there for me, her job wasn’t to keep picking up my pieces. And I worried I would suck all of the happiness out of her when I had my worst days and I didn’t want to do that to her, or anyone that I loved – in friendship or romantically.

Just as I had feared pushing my closest friends away, I started to consider myself impossible to be in a relationship with anyone. Because who would want to be in a relationship with someone they’d have to constantly pick up or put together? Who would want to date someone that needs reassurance that they have purpose and worth? Who would want to be with someone that sometimes just can’t see the light when they’re having a rough time?

No one, I always thought. And I wouldn’t ask anyone to, I’d tell myself.

When I finally did meet someone who wanted to be in a relationship with me I was terrified of him having to deal with me and my depression. As we started to get more serious I thought to myself, “Oh God, I can’t let him get too close or attached. He shouldn’t have to deal with someone like me.” Eventually I told him about my depression and he said he would be there with me every step of the way, to help me, to support me, listen to me, and most importantly, love me.

Since then, I’ve had my rough days. I’ve had my days where I cried to him over the phone about not being able to do anything or about how I felt like a failure. I’ve had my days where I would be nervous to be around other people because I was too anxious and didn’t want to talk to anyone. I’ve had my days where he’s asked me what was wrong and all I could answer was “I don’t know.”

But he’s stayed. Just like he promised.

And my best friend stayed. Just like she promised.

So to those who were in the same place I was, afraid to open themselves up to others for fear of being too much for them, I beg you not to close yourself off from the people around you. Don’t think that no one wants to deal with you and your illness. Because when people truly love you, they’ll do anything they can to see you be the best you possible. They want you to thrive and they want you to be happy. Don’t be discouraged and think that you have to go through your hardest times alone. Talk to your loved ones about you feel. Trust the people that you feel are true to you and let them in because you’ll end up closer to them than ever and will know you have a true companion. Allow yourself to be helped and to be loved.

And to those who love others suffering from a mental illness, to boyfriends, girlfriends, best friends, and parents, know that the people you love who are suffering from something are still the same people you fell in love with when you first saw them. Your daughter is still the loving little girl you raised. Your best friend is still that vibrant, ridiculous, and caring person you first wanted to be friends with. Your boyfriend is still the sweet, doting, funny man that you fell in love with when you met for the first time.

What drew you to us in the first place is still there. We’re still that person.

Some days, our illness might get the best of us, but our true selves are still there. Know that we know you are doing your best to help us and make us feel better and pick us up when we’re down. Don’t take a depressive episode or moment personally. Chances are we’re being affected by things that have little to do with you and even though we might not want you to see us down or depressed, we know that if anyone will understand, it will be you. Be patient with us. Know that we’re trying to get better. Sometimes we’ll hit snags or slip but we want to be better, for ourselves, and for you.

And don’t get discouraged or think you’re not trying hard enough to make us feel better if we don’t cheer up the moment you attempt to cheer us up. Sometimes our episodes don’t go away that easily. But know that we are thankful that we have someone who cares enough about us to even try. Plenty of people have left us to sit in our hard times alone, but not you. You love us enough to try to make us happy. And even though we might not feel better immediately, please know that you trying matters. Because it means you haven’t given up on us. And when we know there’s someone in our corner, days don’t get as dark as they used to. And we get better, because we have you.

For more info and tips on showing love to someone with depression, check out this article by The Darling Bakers.

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The S Word: The “Selfishness” of Suicide

A month ago, many were shocked by the news of Maddie Yates, a high school student from Louisville, Kentucky who committed suicide after posting a video about her decision to do so on Youtube. 

And as events like these do, it brought up many peoples’ thoughts and feelings about suicide. And what always seems to pop up, amongst the outpouring of love and apologies and sorrow, is the one person who takes it upon themselves to call the person who took their life selfish for doing so. “Think about your family,” they say. “Think about the people who love you. It’s selfish of you to do that to them. Maybe they should have thought of them before doing something so selfish.”

And I can understand the concept. How could someone think about one of their family members finding their body lying motionless and still find the gall to kill themselves? How could someone imagine the pain their family and friends would feel in their absence and still go through with their suicide? How could someone be so selfish?

At the age of fifteen, I was hopelessly depressed, and had been for at least a couple of years, though undiagnosed. Four years earlier my brother, my best friend and idol, had passed away, slapping me out of a place of innocence and into a harsh world without him. Now fifteen, my parents sent me to a new school that I hated where I had very few friends that felt more like a prison than a high school. I barely saw my former friends and was kept in my house except for when I went to school. I grew to feel worthless and alone. Every day was painful to go through and eventually, I thought of how I could escape it all if I just took my own life. My parents could be rid of the burden I was becoming on them, their lifeless daughter, roaming aimlessly, haunting their home. Everything would be better for us all 
if I were dead.

It was a recurring thought, one that first came into my head a few months after my brother died at the age of eleven, thoughts that turned into action. They were the darkest parts of my life but I’ve made it through to the other side, though not without mental scars to remind me of where I have been. When I hear about others who have taken their lives those scars throb in pain for the ones who saw no other escape. But those scars set on fire when in the presence of someone who insists on the selfishness of a person who took their own life. And though I speak from experience, I speak objectively to the need of change when it comes to how some view these individuals. For there is trouble in the thinking that people who commit suicide or attempt it are selfish, and it comes about in two ways:

One, the idea that these people don’t think about their families and their friends when they think about or make the decision to take their lives. The biggest problem: it is almost impossible to assume the feelings and thoughts that these people might have unless you have been where they are. It is so simple to say, “How could you not think about your family and how they would feel, what this would do to them?” when you’ve never hit that bottom.

Even Maddie Yates had trouble struggling with the idea of selfishness in her video, possibly convinced because of the words of others that insist that people who think about it or plan to take their own lives are selfish, but her words don’t express selfishness. They express pain, a loss of hope; they see no other way:

“I know this is selfish. You know, the doctor prescribed Prozac for depression and anxiety, but those are just fancy words for “selfish”. I know that I’m going to hurt everyone who loves me and I really do love them too. But I’ve been like this for so long, and there’s still a chance that the worst day might still be coming. And I just don’t see how this is a bad idea because it’s like someone’s on the 12th floor, and the room behind them is on fire. And they’re standing on the window ledge and they have a choice whether or not to jump and get away from the fire or just stay and die a slow, excruciating death. It feels like that.”

She felt that there was no other way to escape the pain she was feeling, the hopelessness, the loneliness. She saw no other solution but to continue suffering and let her pain burn her alive. And that’s what being suicidal is like. No one immediately jumps to taking their lives on a whim. It’s a perceived solution that comes about after being battered and battered, over and over again until your heart and mind are weathered and worn and you can’t go on.

People who think about attempting suicide or who commit it do think about their families. They sit on their beds staring at the instruments they might use to take their lives. Stare at them and think about the ones they love. They think about their mothers and fathers trying to explain to their little brothers and sisters why they won’t see their big sibling anymore. They think about their pets who will go looking for them. They think about their friends who will all wonder what they could have done. And the visions of the people they love being crushed by their death hurts. It pains them immensely. Imagine that burden, the burden of knowing you could hurt those you love in such a way. Why would anyone put themselves through that? Because it’s the only way to escape the burden of the pain they are feeling. The love of our families and friends is one that can lift us up but if you are stuck in the deepest hole you’ve ever been in, stuck there for years, that pain can hurt you and hold you down even more.

The other trouble with thinking that those who think about or commit suicide are selfish is a familiar one, related to the troublesome way that many people view those suffering from mental illness, the idea that suicidal people are thinking about suicide with a mind like theirs – a healthy mind. But the mind that is seriously considering suicide is not a healthy mind, like that of the person who can decide how selfish the committing of suicide is. A person who commits suicide is often depressed and suffering mentally. They are suffering from an illness that is affecting even the one organ that controls everything about their bodies, the central command center. Calling a mentally diseased person selfish for thinking about or wanting to commit suicide is like punishing a sick child for vomiting on their bedsheets. It is a symptom of something serious and sinister under the surface. No person is programmed to want to take their own life. What person would want to? Unless their mind wasn’t working the way it is supposed to. Unless their mind is affected by something that would convince their mind that the only solution for the pain they are feeling is to kill themselves, to take themselves from the people they love.

Some people say of suicidal individuals, “I’ve had rough times too. I’ve had a hard time and life hasn’t been easy for me. It’s not easy for anyone. But I didn’t kill myself. Plenty of people haven’t.” But this type of thinking emphasizes the difference between the mind of someone who suffers from a mental illness and the mind of one who does not and this is what we need to understand and explain. Individuals who think about or commit suicide are people who need help. They are suffering from things that alter their minds in ways someone without a mental illness couldn’t imagine. Mental illnesses distort the mind, make it see and hear things that aren’t there, and feel things it shouldn’t. They turn capable people into sacks of skin that can barely get themselves out of bed and out their front door. 

 

Instead of punishing these people and calling them selfish, we should look into fixing what’s wrong. Instead of punishing them for exhibiting a symptom, let us go to the source and help free them from those symptoms. These people are not selfish, they are ill, hurting, and often alone. They don’t deserve our judgement but our help, our open arms, our open ears.

We might not be able to save those who are already gone.
We might not be able to save Maddie.
But we can save people like her, like fifteen year old me. 
We can save so many others, but first we must put away our pointing fingers and be willing to give them our whole hand.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, seek help. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
You have worth. You deserve to live. The world needs you. We need you.

Mental Health Awareness Month

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“When we hear mental illness we think of the more severe persistent mental illnesses, and I think what we forget is that mental health effects all of us and often times we ignore our mental health,” – Melissa McCauley, Mental Health Liaison.

When our bodies are sick, we will go to great lengths to repair them. Our friends and families will rally around us to see us get well with endless support and pride.
But when our minds get sick, sometimes we aren’t supported, or believed, or even understood.

May is Mental Health Awareness month, a time where, hopefully, for even just a month, we can try and look through the stigma of mental illness and the shadow it casts on some of our citizens, friends, and family members, and seek to understand how it affects the people we love, the people we know and interact with. Mental illness is a monster that can stunt the growth of capable minds and keep the brightest faces from walking out their front doors. But with understanding, we can see the illness as the monster, and not see the people suffering from it as the monster.

Educate yourself. Talk to someone. Open your mind and learn. This is a really important month and I hope people become aware and make the most of it.

Look for mental health and mental illness related posts on Adventures With Adulting, as I feel that through stories and conversation, we can learn so much about how mental health affects the people around us by talking to someone who goes through it every day.

 

Stop The Ride, Please: The Struggle Between Work and Well-Being

If you ask me, the end of the school year is the worst time of year: papers on papers on tests on tests on study guide on study guide after study guide.

I don’t do well with pressure, but I do even worse with pressure when I can’t let off any steam which is why I don’t do well with pressure…(et cetera, et cetera, as the vicious cycle continues).

The worst part about not being very good with pressure at the end of the school year is the part where something that throws me off emotionally happens between my final on Tuesday and my final on Wednesday morning and I barely have the time to process it, let alone deal with it. Instead, I have to stiffen my upper lip and walk home to do more studying, all while my eyes sting and I’m trying to sniffle quietly, so as not to freak out the guy standing next to me at the crosswalk. But even when I get home and open a book to study, I’m in a place emotionally where I couldn’t concentrate if I wanted to, with my body drooping over my notes and notecards, my stomach grumbling but having no desire to eat or move, all while a part of my brain shouts, “I don’t have time for this, I have a final tomorrow!”

Dealing with depression and depressive tendencies while being a student is and always has been tough, but it gets tougher when you feel like you don’t have time to even think about what’s happening to you or what’s affecting you at the moment. You can’t address how you feel to try to make yourself feel better and you end up sinking further and further into a melancholy place, which is the last you want to be when trying to study or get work done. And it’s something that I so look forward to being able to put behind me, the constant struggle to keep up with both my work and my emotions, as well as the half-hearted attempt to seem like I have everything under control.

Because I don’t, and rarely do I, over circumstances or outcomes of happenstance, or sometimes my reactions to those circumstances. I can’t plan my episodes or try and pencil them into my schedule and I’m tired of having to struggle with the pressure of dealing with school and all its parts and my emotions, my mental health. And work will come when I’m out of school, of course, along with depressive episodes, but in that realm, for the most part, I have a night to unwind, to be comforted, to figure myself and my emotions out. But semesters often feel like a carnival ride I’m strapped to that keeps turning and turning all night and all day, despite my attempts to breathe or at least keep my lunch down.

And I just don’t do well with that. I need time, and as easy as it sounds to say, “Make time,” sometimes, you can’t make something out of nothing – and if I don’t have time, where am I even supposed to find time to make it? (That’s just science people). I’m just ready to stop having to put myself and my emotions behind so many other things. Long after the papers are graded and my diploma has been hanging on the wall, I’ll still be living with my mind and I don’t want to suffer then because I had no room to detoxify my mind now. I want my mind and its health to be a priority and I crave the ability to stop putting it last because I shouldn’t have to and I no longer want to.

Tip Time:

If you find yourself feeling held down by pressure, depression, anxiety or even if you just had a bad day, there’s still things you can do to make yourself feel a little better, even when you’ve got a full to-do list. You shouldn’t have to force yourself to bury your emotions or pretend they aren’t bothering you just because you have work waiting for you. Stand up for yourself and take a small step or two for the better. Try one or a few of these tips to help you feel a little brighter so you can work a little better:

  1. Take 30 minutes to talk to a close friend or relative – On the phone or in person, whatever is easiest. Sometimes when we’re having a rough time, we need to turn to the people we trust the most or the people who we know are always there for us. Call or talk to that person and say, “Hey, I’ve only got about 30 minutes, but I really wanted to talk to you. I’m feeling a little bummed,” and let them help you feel better or at least feel like you can accomplish the tasks you have waiting for you.
  2. Watch a show that makes you laugh – What’s your favorite sitcom or cartoon? Studies have shown that laughter can help make depressive or bummed out feelings dissipate for a bit, releasing some endorphins and helping you smile. After watching an episode of your favorite funny show, you might feel a bit more perked up and feel like you’ve released some stress, putting you in a better place to do some work.
  3. Take a short walk – A lot of people list exercise as something to do while you’re feeling down but sometimes it’s even tough to get up and lace up a pair of running shoes, so instead of, “Go exercise,” I say, take a stroll. Walk to a nearby park or store or just around the block, even. Fresh air and sunshine can make your body feel better as well as your mind. Plus, you have time to think about whatever you want or to not think at all.
  4. Play with your pet – Let’s be honest: sometimes it’s hard to be sad when a cute and furry creature is pawing you or panting happily at you. Playing with your pet for 20-30 minutes is not only a great way to take your mind of things that might be making you feel down but it’s also fun! Not to mention that petting a cat or dog can enhance your mood, reduce stress, and just make you feel loved.

Lessons For The Emotional Handyman

My Dad is and always has been a fixer. If anything broke in our house, he fixed it. If anything came off of its hinges, he’d fix it. If a nail popped out of some hole, he could tell you what painting it was holding up, who painted it, and in what style and era. He fixed everything.

When I was a little kid, I used to think, “Wow, my Dad can fix anything. I want to be like that. I want to fix things!” But my mother bought me a kitchen set as a little girl and not a tool set (gender is a social construct) so I couldn’t fix things with hammers and screwdrivers.

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Since I couldn’t use my Dad’s tools, I had to use tools of my own. And with those tools I became an expert at fixing things, but not the things my Dad was fixing: toasters, door frames, roofs and the like. No, with a different set of tools I decided to fix different sorts of problems. I became an emotional fixer.

I was very good at being an emotional fixer. Too good in fact. SO good, that I’d often put myself behind at least three other people to make sure that they were getting what they needed. I whipped out my tools quickly whenever people approached me as an emotional fixer-upper. Patience? You got it. I’d whip it out. Time? Of course! Endless amounts. And I’d whip that one out. Regular compliments and stories to make you feel good about yourself? Right here in my tool belt! If you had a problem I was the one to fix it, no questions asks, no wait time, 24/7.

But as the years went by and the longer I dabbled in being an emotional fixer, I found myself getting worn out and tired. I started to ask questions like, “Why am I always ready to give someone an emotional jack when I can’t find someone to help me move an emotional box from one part of my brain to another?” “Why am I available 24/7 for emotional service when I can’t seem to find anyone to help me during normal business hours?” “Why do I care when people ignore the appointment cards I leave them or don’t ask me to help when I can tell they’ve got an emotional chip in their paint?” I was a fixer, but my hobby seemed to have become a job, one that I was getting tired of performing. Yet at the same time, I couldn’t seem to give it up. I’d still get up when my phone rang, pick up my tool kit, do my job, then come home and sulk. And when your hobby starts to feel like a job, it might be time to get a new hobby.

The fact is I like helping people, especially those I care about, but it’s taken me a long time to realize that it isn’t my job. It is not my life’s work to fix everything that goes wrong with the people around me. I can’t. It’s impossible. Things are going to go wrong. Their feelings will get hurt. They’ll get insecure. They’ll get sad. But it is not my job to run for my emotional tool belt and fix them.

I never realized it, but I was learning a lesson when I would ask myself why others didn’t seem to make as much time for me as I did for them or when I would talk to someone and they wouldn’t pay me as much interest or give me the reassurance and hope that I would do my best to give them. I was learning that sometimes, you just can’t. You should make time for the people you love and you should do your best to help them, but you can’t always drop everything to do that. And you shouldn’t. Because you are not at anyone’s beck and call. And you shouldn’t feel like you’ve done something wrong because someone isn’t coming to you for help. It is not your job to be someone’s emotional repairman and when they start to see you that way, you’re the one who ends up frustrated and worn. You deserve peace of mind too. You deserve a chance to think to yourself, without having to worry about what’s wrong with someone else. What’s good with you? How are you doing?

So it’s okay to hang up your emotional tool belt for a day or two. It’s okay to tell someone “you’ll talk to them later” or to say you aren’t available right now. It’s okay to see someone having trouble but they don’t want to talk to you about it even though you asked. All of that is just fine. You aren’t selfish. You aren’t a bad friend. You don’t have to wear that fixer hat every day. You were not chosen by your loved ones because they assumed you would fix all of their problems. After all, let’s face it- we all have those loved ones that are impossible to fix…
You were chosen because they wanted to be around you – the person you are without that fixer hat. And it’s okay to just want to be that person. It’s okay to just be that person. It’s okay to take off that tool belt (or at least take a few breaks).

40 Days and 40 Nights

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I may not do Lent the way I was raised as a little girl, all dolled up in a church dress with strappy shoes and a big white bow. Then I put a quarter in a little cardboard pamphlet every day. When I got a little older I gave up things like the cookies I’d eat during lunch at school and would give the money as an offering on Sundays. One time my parents suggested I give up french fries. I laughed heartily. And the idea still makes me chuckle.

I don’t go to church anymore (backsliding Pastor’s Daughter on the loose) but I still think there’s merit and reward in taking a step back every year and looking at yourself and asking who am I? What’s holding me back? What are my crutches? What are things I can do to be a better person, for the world and for myself? What about myself can I change for the better? Even if you aren’t the most religious person in the world, I think there is self-awareness that comes in giving up something for 40 days, or even a week or two. Whether you give up television (or just a tv show for the less motivated) or go without ice cream stop using facebook, whatever you do, you’re giving yourself a chance to see yourself differently. Even if it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, you get a glimpse of yourself “If I didn’t do this” or “If I didn’t have that” or “If I did this instead.” In high school, cookies cost $1. But at the end of one school week I had $5. By the end of 40 days I had over $30 to give to my church, or to a charity, as I did in later years. These things add up. Money adds up, time to think to yourself (instead of watching Project Runway) adds up. When you give up something, you make room for something better to take its place or to happen.

That being said, I thought this year: what can I give up? What can I let go of for forty days? My friend Emilie suggested french fries, and I”ll tell you: that joke is just as funny as the first time I heard it.

So I thought some more: What’s something that would challenge me? Something that would really push me? Then, admittedly reluctantly, I figured it out: I, Frenchie Augustin, will go forty days without cursing.

I don’t know if it’s endearing that I’m going to try not to curse for forty days or not so endearing that I curse so much that I’m considering giving it up, but that’s beside the point. And I realize that I could probably give up something more important and introspective, like, not being so negative all the time (but whatever, life’s difficult), or not allowing myself to say “I can’t do this” for forty days (which is impossible, I couldn’t do that). As a matter of fact when I write it out it kinds of sounds childish…but somewhere deep down, I feel like this can be something of merit.

I curse so often that it’s practically my second language. It flows out of me, almost elegantly. If I’m to avoid cursing, I can’t just haphazardly let my mouth run while my brain turns off. I’ll have to think about my words, about what I say or will say, what I want to say. Now that I think about it, maybe I can keep myself from telling myself that I can’t do something or I can tell myself to stop being negative. Perhaps this exercise will give me new control over not only my mouth and what comes out of it, but control over my mind and the messages it sends to my mouth and understanding of the power of thoughts becoming words. Maybe I’m not giving up cursing for Lent – rather I’m picking up control.

And who knows, maybe I’ll be enlightened by the end of it (if I make it to the end). So enlightened, I could write a fucking book about it.

…that one didn’t count.

Being Alone

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As much as colleges seem to tell its students how individual they are, how important their personalities and qualities are, it also gives the impression that should you choose to keep your individual to yourself, you’re just being selfish.

“Join this club!”

“This club needs you!”

“Be a member of this club or else you’re lame and have no purpose and no one will hire you for a job ever.”

How contradictory.

I like being alone. A lot. Not that I want to be alone forever – I’ve experienced days upon days (upon weeks) of alone-ness and if not carefully executed/monitored, alone-ness can turn into loneliness, and that’s a detrimental island.
But, back home I’d beg my mother to let me run an errand for her just so I could drive to the store by myself sometimes. Even a drive to Costco and back was enough to make me happy. And living on my own in Phoenix has shown me the comfort in being alone as well: walking here and there, running errands, shopping alone, people-watching alone. It calms me.

To be alone: “having no one else present; on one’s own”. That’s important, I’ve come to realize. It’s vital, even.

My freshman year of college I had a roommate mix-up at the start of the year and for the first half of the semester I had no roommate. My new friends asked, “Don’t you get lonely?” or “Don’t you want someone to talk to?” But the answers were always no. I had them, after all. I hung out with them, ate with them, laughed with them. But when I went back to my room, it was like my sanctuary. And I can’t wait for that sanctuary to come again. To walk into a place that was waiting for you to come back, just you. Maybe pat a dog’s head on the way in, cook myself dinner, pour myself a glass of wine and just be.

We’re surrounded by people every day – people we know, people we don’t. We fake smile at tens of people every day, tell people, “I’m great! How are you?” on our crappiest of days. We clothespin smiles to our faces every day. Then go out into the world and throw our energies at people, constantly, as we listen to them, or talk to them, work with them, smile at them. We wade through people all day. But when you can be alone, you can finally take those clothespins off your cheeks. You can smile for real, or frown if you want to. You can sigh, you can cry, you can scream. You can breathe. It’s just you and yourself. You’re the focus when you’re alone. No more pandering to others or putting on a front. It’s about you.

Being alone is necessary. And it’s okay to be alone or to want to be. Sometimes I’d feel weird about liking the idea of being by myself because college bombards you with pictures of friends hanging out, walking in pairs. Everyone (or what seems like everyone) is going to parties and if they aren’t, they’re always doing something, being movers and shakers. And all that is fun and and should be taken advantage of and it has its place. But so does being with yourself. It’s then that you listen to what’s in your own head. Too much time around others can drown out who you are. It’s in the silence that you acquaint yourself with yourself.

My favorite thing about parties (next to a few other things…) was being a tad bit intoxicated, but putting my key in my apartment door, locking it behind me, then walking to my room, closing the door, and laying on my bed, looking up at the ceiling. There, while the remnants of my time with others fades, the memories will play in my head, but I don’t have to talk about them; there’s no more buzzing in my ears. I could just close my eyes and be, feel the moment, feel the sheets, feel myself with no one else present, but me.