Under Construction: My Journey Towards Independence

Chicago-west-loop Photo : Rachel Mandel

This week we’re talking about the things we’re afraid of. As someone with anxiety, this is great! I literally have tons of fears! Ask me about them. I’ll tell you a story or two. Narrowing down my fears, though? Not so easy. I started writing this post about success, about benchmarks and what you’re supposed to be doing in your late 20’s. However, while I was writing I realized while this is part of the issue, it’s not success I’m most afraid of; it’s independence.

I spent a lot of my 20’s fucking up, with crippling depression and a major anxiety disorder. I did a lot of things I’m not proud of. I mistreated a lot of people close to me. I didn’t take care of myself in any sense of the words. There’s a history in my family of codependence and fighting to be taken care of. This played out as I was growing up and I’ve internalized it, so much so that I’ve perpetuated the cycle myself.

Independence is simultaneously very straightforward and delicate.

The straightforward bits:

Can you live autonomously without the help of others?

Do you pay all your own bills?

Can you take care of yourself physically?

The not so straightforward bits:

Are you emotionally reliant on other individuals to an extreme?

Do you reciprocate emotional support to those you rely on?

I’d like to say I’m all the way there, but I’m not yet. I get a lot of help from different sources.

In September of 2014, I finally admitted that I couldn’t support myself financially to the degree I needed to. I had been in and out of the hospital, and was attending therapy three times a week. I decided to apply for disability due to my chronic depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety. In September 2015, with the help of a lawyer, I started receiving disability. A lot of people characterize those on public aide as being the most reliant, but for me disability has helped me take baby steps towards the independence that seems so big and scary. I’m able to cover my living expenses and some of my own bills now. I’ve been able to decrease my therapy, and was able to work a seasonal retail position. I’m working with an agency to find a more permanent job. As of right now, I’m doing better than I have in at least five years.

When I look at the upward trajectory my life seems to be going on, I’m proud, but I’m also still scared. In my family, I’m surrounded by those who either take on too much without getting the appreciation they deserve, or those who plan their lives around someone else taking care of them. I have to constantly remind myself that my independence doesn’t mean that I won’t always be run-down and unappreciated. That my partial dependency doesn’t mean I’m always looking to be taken care of. I control how I live and interact with others. That’s why I’ve decided to turn my fear into an aspiration. I’m reminded of a favorite quote by Art Williams, “I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy – I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.” I encourage everyone who reads this to embrace and face their fears. I thoroughly believe it will be worth it.

Mimi Haze : Writer. Lover. Feminist. Proud Fatty. If "Netflix and chill" was a profession, I'd be all over that shit.
Mimi Haze : Writer. Lover. Feminist. Proud Fatty. If “Netflix and chill” was a profession, I’d be all over that shit.