I am 20 years old. A college student in my sophomore year at a private institution. I have a 3.8 GPA, two jobs, and a handful of extracurricular activities. I balance a social life on top of all of my priorities, striving to enjoy my 20’s as much as I can — through mental illnesses that push me back down. A depression that disables my every move — anxiety that shoves itself into every ounce of my body, intoxicating me with the negative worries of a nonexistent occurrence. Day-to-day, “living in the moment,” is a tool that I utilize, a mechanic of life that drags me into the next day whether I’m kicking and screaming or simply numbed, confined to the space inside the four corners of my mattress.
Open the back door. Walk inside. Turn on the light, just one switch, toss the keys on the counters and shuffle your feet a bit to walk through the kitchen of your two-bedroom apartment in Chicago’s northern suburb of Evanston. Your sister, who is fifteen years older than you and done with college — now owning the title of Dr., is not home, the lights in the living room are off. Shuffle your feet some more, the exhaustion of the day kicking in makes your every movement turn to quiet. Turn the hallway light on, open your door. Kick your shoes off, to the corner by the closet. Let your backpack fall gently to the floor. Undo your pants, right leg—left leg; shake them off to the floor. Shimmy over to the bed, the comforter grazing the panels of the floor, unmade from the restless sleep of the night prior. Grab your shirt from the night before. Swiftly take your day shirt off, throw it off onto the floor. Undo your bra; throw it on the ground as well. Take the shirt from the night before and place it on your body. Climb into your bed, curl up into a ball, and wrap the covers around you. You are safe. You are home. This constant sadness, worry will cease for a moment. Take a deep breath. Inhale deep. Exhale slowly. Take a deep breath. Take a deep breath. Once more. Take a deep breath.
Mondays seem to uncoil the anxiety within me step by step throughout the day. I go from sunrise to moonlight these days, my commute from DePaul to Evanston eating up so much of the little free time after class that I rarely have. College is the priority, but for someone who has so much trouble emotionally stabilizing on a day-to-day basis, priorities shift quickly like the tides. Depression does not affect each person in the same way. Anxiety stops at nothing. The two intermingled seem to do a dance around the little mental stability that may be left on a day-to day basis. I wade through the consistency of an illness that seems to never end.
Open the front door to your apartment and peer inside. The light is on. Slowly shut the door behind you. The television is on; the voices welcome you by buzzing in your ear. Your sister is home. She sits on the couch, invested not in the voices from the television, but the laptop that rests on her legs. She has no clue. No understanding of the confusion that seeps into you. Walk past the couch, place your keys on the dining room table. The hallway light is on. Your door is already cracked open. Push it slightly, walk inside. The light is on from before. Dial it a notch up. Unzip your wedges, tiptoe to the closet and place them on the second shelf. Take your necklace off, place it on the wardrobe. Slip out of your black dress, let it fall to the floor, and step around it. Stare into your reflection: sigh.
Tuesdays seduce me into a sort of numbness: routine. School. Work. Home. Home. What is this home anyways? What makes a home? Do I know what it feels like to feel the comfort of a place that takes away any worry that may inhabit the beauty of my mind? This mixed illness of depression and anxiety that greys any color that fills the inside of my brain: lifeless.
Fumble with your keys outside the back door to your apartment. Try key one, twice. Then switch to the three teethed one and remember that’s right. This happens so often you wonder if your memory is starting to go, or rather if you just do not care anymore. Push the door open, roughly. Throw your keys onto the counter, next to the microwave. Leave the lights off. Rush to your room, drop your backpack on the floor, and kick your shoes off. Climb into bed.
Certain nights call for a vanishing of priorities altogether. They call for a paralysis of the mind, a swift movement into a soft space; pause reality for some time.
Smile. The school week is done. The endless stream of thought and worry within your brain seems to halt just for a moment when this school day comes to a close; when you find yourself leaving the pressure of college behind and commuting back to Evanston; when you find yourself seeking the comfort of a home you’re unfamiliar with. Take your time opening the back door, quietly help it shut. Place your keys next to the microwave. Pause, take your sneakers off and place them by the back door. The lights in the kitchen are already on, as in the living room. Your sister perches herself in her normal spot, but picks her head up and says hello. You reply, but continue to your room. Opening the door, you let your backpack off and lean it against the wall. The light from outside is still there, slowly becoming dimmer; the darkness sneaking its way in. This parallels your mind. The day is done and yet this sinking feeling begins to fill up your chest. You stand idle in the middle of your room. This smile you wear isn’t real. You wish for days out of college, for a steady job. You imagine vacations spent on the beach, your feet sunken into the shoreline, eyes glued to a sunset that slows down time. A true release, a true safe space. A happiness that may exist, that only your fingertips have fumbled with for spare seconds within the past months. A happiness that will come soon, in time.
There are good days, days that finish okay. But it always comes back to this. Back to a constant stammer of thoughts within the mind that ripple out. That converse over days, run on sentences that never seem to end no matter how badly I want them to no matter how badly I need them to no matter how badly I crave to feel normal, to function as mentally stable 20-something. These four days. These days. They blur together, Monday could pass as Wednesday and I would not falter. Routine. Mechanics. Tools to process in a life that seems out of your own touch.