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    Accepting Your Best, Even When You're At Your Worst

    A graphic by @drawnbymary on a yellow background with the words "your best is enough" in white, green, and pink letters.

    TW// Suicidality mention

    2017 was the worst year I have ever had for my depression and chronic fatigue. Although I've suffered from these two illnesses for over 10 years, 2017 reminded me that I don't quite have them under control yet.

    During this past year, there were days were I didn't think I would make it to the end of the year, and more often, days when I did not even want to. The most mundane and necessary tasks like getting out of bed or taking a shower were impossible conquests for me. I tried so many medications and natural remedies to improve my symptoms, but the depression and chronic fatigue were still crippling. But, in spite of that, I knew that I had to keep going. The hope of the next day or the next month or the next year being even a little bit easier was the only thing that kept me going. Even in my darkest moments, when I did not want to try or even live for that matter, I knew I had to keep pushing. There were some times when the depression got the best of me, and wanted nothing more than to end my life, but luckily I was able to reach out to the great support system I had surrounding me in my friends, family, and doctors.

    Having depression so severe that I was suicidal was something that I'd been experiencing on and off since I was a preteen, but fatigue so severe that it made me lose my will to live was a new challenge. The depression and fatigue definitely fed into each other, each making the other illness worse. And as you can imagine, I had to make major changes to my life. I had no choice but to make my health my first priority. Luckily, my university Disability Services approved me for a reduce credit load, so the 7 I was taking during the fall semester were manageable on top of the full time job that is being chronically ill. This past semester, it truly felt like my illnesses were taking over my life on a new level. I had more hours of doctors appointments than classes a week, and I spent most of my time thinking of ways to cope and ways to try to get better.

    Throughout the past year, I kind of lost myself. I felt like I was just sick-not a student, not a young woman in her twenties, not a daughter, not a sister- just a sick person. My illnesses consumed and interfered with almost every aspect of my life: being able to (or not being able to) hang out with friends, go out, cook, do homework, etc. I quickly began to feel like there was nothing I could do to enjoy my life since my illnesses always seemed to get in the way. I felt like they were stealing my ability to live my best life, and keeping me from being my best.

    Depression also has a funny way of altering your perspective of things. It makes you feel like despite all your efforts, you are nothing. It makes you feel like no one loves you, and that you don't deserve to be loved anyway. It makes you feel like a failure and a burden. Hopeless. Lost. Alone. And since my depression got worse this year, so did my perception of self. I truly felt like I was at the lowest point of my life, and that it was only going to get worse, since in reality, my mental and physical illnesses have only gotten worse over the years.

    I fought so hard to keep this from becoming my reality. I know that I have a lot going on for a sick person: I'm able to go to school, I have a relative social life, and I'm able to still do some things that I love. But it's hard not to compare yourself to your abled and healthy friends who seem to have everything together. So I tried my hardest not to let myself sink further into my depression by remembering all the ways in which I was moving forward in life. To be honest, I could not have done this without therapy. Being positive, or even realistic, is a challenge with mental illness, and when you compound physical illness onto that, it's easy to lose hope. But I started each day reminding myself that I am good enough and I will try my best for the day. I also ended each day by counting all I had accomplished and every moment that made me happy. This exercise from my therapist really helped me see the reality that not everything was as bad as I felt it was, and even if it was, there were still positive things to redeem those negative aspects. So, slowly but surely, I started to realize that I had to try my best to fight these negative thoughts with more realistic ones.

    This eventually helped me to start seeing that I truly am doing my best. If you know me, you know that I am a type-A perfectionist. My ambitions are even higher than my standards for myself. So, ever since I started suffering from the symptoms of chronic illness, my biggest challenge has been coming to terms with the fact that it has impacted certain goals of mine, and the ways I can achieve these goals. For example, I often beat myself up for not being able to take the same number of college credits as my friends, or even graduate at the same time as them. It's difficult not to compare yourself to your peers, especially when you know the only thing stopping you from achieving the same things is your chronic illness. But over the years, I've slowly started to realize that even if my path looks different, and I may need to tweak my goals to accommodate what I am capable of, I can still achieve my dreams. And along the way, by trying to focus on doing my best instead of focusing on what I can't do, I hope I can start to realize that my best is, in fact, enough.