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Caitlin V McDowell
Caitlin V McDowell Feeling my way through the darkness, guided by a beating heart.
4mo Rogers, AR, United States Story
You Did So Good

My first big crash after rehab this year, I woke up in a panic. No idea why, I was panicking. Something was wrong. It was back and I thought I had escaped it. I woke up in tears and I had to get ready for work. I had to get myself out of bed, dress myself, look presentable, and get to work where I had to act like nothing was wrong. 

"Morning." My coworkers said. 

I was still holding back tears. 

I wanted to collapse on the floor and scream through my tears, "do you know how hard it was to get here this morning!! Can't you see I'm dying on the inside!! Can't you see that I'm sick and harboring a storm of emotions!!"

"Morning!" I said cheerfully instead.

That's the thing about mental illness. You're not bleeding, coughing, limping, or vomiting. You just feel like you're dying on the inside and no one can see it. 

I sat down at my desk, faced my computer, and pushed away the quiet tears that fell from my eyes. 

I did my job that day. I clicked my mouse around where it was suppose to go and did my job. 

When I returned home, I carefully crawled back into my bed and melted into the pool of tears that had been waging inside me all day. I gently sobbed and sobbed while I whispered to myself, "You did so good. You did so good."

I cried more and more as the words came out of my mouth because I knew it was true. I knew that I had won a silent battle that no one else witnessed that day. 

That's the thing about mental illness that I have grown to appreciate. It has forced me to foster a relationship with myself that I don't think would have happened otherwise. I wake up with myself in tears. Only I know the unseen battle that occurs in my head each day. Only I witnessed the warfare and only I can pick up the pieces of myself at the end of the day. 

Yes, there are others that stand beside us on the front lines, therapist, doctors, friends, and family, but at the end of the day, in the day to day moments, and the quiet space where your mind awakes each morning and greets its demons, it's you. Others can only be there so much, and then it's you. 

As I look back on this year, there are things that make me shutter and cringe, there are things that make me smile and laugh, there are things that make me cry both happy and sorrowful tears. When I look back this year, I say, "you did so good." 

Caitlin, you did so good. You did the best you could. You showed up. You cowered. You fought. You rose. You fell. You crawled. You cried. You surrendered. 

But you did so good. 

Caitlin, I write this with a lump in my throat, I am so proud of you. You did so good. 

Thank you. Thank you for showing up. Thank you for giving it everything you had. Thank you for your baby steps, and thank you for the risks you took. Thank you for putting yourself out there. Thank you for being honest. 

That's the thing about mental illness. It both requires and takes everything you have. There have been so many times over the years where I surveyed my life and said, "I lost everything." Whether it was a job, a relationship, my dignity, a place I called home, it felt like everything. At the end of each of those seasons, I showed my scarce hand to life and it raised me. For in my darkness, loneliness, most hopeless moments, when I felt like I had nothing to give, it was then that I dealt my most valuable hand. That hand was transparency. That hand was a Hail Mary. That hand was telling someone I loved them more than a friend. That hand was saying help. That hand was showing up to work anyway. That hand was publishing my story. That hand was staying here on earth. 

Push those chips in, my friend. Sink into that relationship. End that relationship. Take that job, hell, quit that job. Go on that trip. Say no, or say yes. Take that risk. 

Whatever it is that that small still voice is whispering to you. Push those chips in. 

This whole life thing is short. Please don't get to the end of it and say what if. Let's live. Let's all do the scary things together, and let's talk about it. 

At the end of this year, I would say that it was hell but it was also heaven. It was both, and I know I'm not the only one to feel that way. Let's battle together. Show that hand, and let's raise each other. What do you say?

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Caitlin V McDowell
Feeling my way through the darkness, guided by a beating heart.

26. Corporate suit by day and writer by night. Lover of the stars, moon, the velveteen rabbits, vans, leather goods, and thinking.

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