I have a fiercely independent personality. A surefire way to piss me off is to insinuate that I can’t do something. I’m not against accepting help, but it damn well better be on my terms. I pride myself on being able to handle things on my own. I work hard and do everything I can to be professional. Even when its perfectly reasonable (and necessary) to accept help I’ll still dig in my heels and try to do it myself. I’ve always been that way.  When I was 4 I pitched a fit because I couldn’t read a book by myself and refused to have someone read it to me.

Except mental illness doesn’t give a shit about my independence.  And it really doesn’t give a shit about my ability to live on my own and pay my bills.

Up until now, I refused any help that wasn’t my own.  I insisted on paying all my bills, paying for all of my doctors appointments.  I didn’t give up until I had my own apartment.  I had every intention of getting a second job to pay for said things.  I even got as far as interviewing for and and accepting a position. I adopted the philosophy of show no weakness and hid my struggles from everyone.  Even while I had been in therapy for years, I still refused to give up control. If I tried just a little bit harder….

But as I said, mental illness doesn’t give a shit.

Starting last November, I started giving up my independence little by little. I accepted financial help.  I came to the realization that I can’t work a second job and salvage my sanity at the same time. Side effects of medication and crippling anxiety forced me to ask for support. Severe symptoms required me to back out of plans and frequently miss work. It took the threat of suicide for me to really ask my parents for their help.

And then last night.

You don’t need the details, but lets just say I should have called my parents to stay with me.

This morning it hit me.  Whatever illusion I had of my independence is gone. Admitting you may not be safe with yourself is the ultimate white flag. I will never truly be completely and totally self reliant like I always thought I would be.  But really, maybe no one is. Maybe that was an unrealistic expectation from the start.

Moving forward, my independence is going to have to look different, because I can’t give it up.  I’m too stubborn for that. My independence is going to have to be in the choices I make–in knowing what I can and can’t handle and choosing when and what kind of help I need. It’s going to be in living on my own, even though I can’t do it by myself. Although, there may come a day where mental illness doesn’t give a shit about that either.

I told a friend a while ago….

I’m going to do as much as I can for as long as I can, and that will have to be enough.

I’m not giving up or giving in, I’m acknowledging my limits.  I don’t know what kind of place I’ll be in next week, next month, or next year, and I need to be able to make peace with whatever happens.

I never, ever thought I’d be sick enough I would have to surrender what I always considered the golden prize- total independence.

But as I said, I’m going to do as much as I can for as long as I can, and that will have to be enough.

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One Response to Independence

  1. Patricia says:

    I don’t think there is such a thing as total independence. It would be a sad thing if there was. Part of human nature is the need to connect with others. Doesn’t matter the state of your physical or mental health. Asking for help is sometimes difficult but it is not a defect of character.

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