On a brain that is anxious and depressed and is also mine and beautiful.

This is a reminder to take care of yourself.

I hear that saying a lot, and it is good advice. It’s also sometimes difficult to accomplish, particularly when you don’t even know what it is that you need. I haven’t had an anxiety attack in awhile, but I had one lately, and I’m writing more for myself than for any of you right now. Perhaps that’s selfish. It probably is. Maybe there’s also something here that will help those of you who feel alone. I suspect that my truth is very similar to the truth of a lot of people. We just don’t talk about it, for all of the reasons you might expect. Because we don’t want to seem crazy. Because the label of “struggling with mental health” doesn’t apply to the immensely capable people we are in our daily lives. Because we don’t want others to worry about us. Because we don’t have the energy to make our loved ones feel better when we confide this in them. Because it can be exhausting to say “I’m fine” to someone, knowing it will be true eventually, even if it is not true in the moment. Because it doesn’t make sense that fierce, hard-working, smart and loyal people can also be reduced to the point of incapacitation over nothing in particular. Especially when that person is you.

I guess all I’m saying is, take care of yourself. Whatever that means. Whatever that means to you.

I’ve lived with anxiety and depression in mostly low-grade forms for a long time now. They suck, but it’s okay. It could be a lot worse. Still.

I’m trying to love my brain, because it is the best and only true partner I have ever had. My brain is my ride-or-die, my long-term relationship, and the only one I’ve got, like it or not, now and forever. Picturing my brain as my boyfriend is a useful device for explaining the sense of betrayal and devastation when I wake up and my brain is not there. Or is there, but not fully present. Dull around the edges. Cloudy. Like when you’re with someone for a long time, so long that you’re eating breakfast together and looking at this person across the table and feeling like you’re eating breakfast with a stranger, that’s how far away you are from each other, even though you are as close as two people can possibly be. That neither of you are really in the room. That’s what it feels like when my brain decides to leave.

I’m trying to love my brain, even though it can feel like an abusive relationship, the kind that your friends warned you against, slamming drinks down on tables and wagging fingers, girl, hell no, you deserve better. When my brain is good, it is good: it is the right joke at the right time to the right person, and it is devouring the stack of books beside my bed. It is the ability to break complex ideas down into simple, digestible thoughts, and it is a spyglass focusing on individual tiny beautiful things. It’s the mechanism through which I process pleasure and laughter and the unknowable magnitude of living in the world. My brain is my language, my sense of humor, my taste buds and my preferences, my hunger to create and to be surrounded by art.

And so when my brain leaves, it’s not like the world around me collapses. It’s nothing that dramatic. It’s just like when your best friend is in the room, and then they walk out the door unexpectedly, and you feel their loss. They’re not dead, and the world around you didn’t suddenly become predatory and dangerous. You’re still in the same room. You just don’t know where they are, and when they’ll return. You feel their loss. You wonder why they didn’t tell you where they are going, or when they’ll be back.

If a partner treated me the way that my brain does, I would have dumped him awhile ago. I’m not here for that from anyone but myself. And yet, I am still trying to love my brain. I am married to my brain, my arranged marriage that is the source of pain and is also the great love of my life. I will wait until my brain comes back, because it always does, and when it does, it is glorious and I feel so whole. If I cry while I wait, it is simply because I miss my friend, and because without my friend, I am not myself. I take deep breaths. I am a writer, an artist, a teacher, and a friend, and I am all of those things because of — not in spite of — my brain.

I don’t know if these words are any good. I can’t evaluate my own work even on the best of days, so on the bad ones, it can feel extra challenging. I’m fighting the urge to delete all of this right now, but I also know the importance of the shared experience, so maybe if there’s someone out there that reads this and sees their own brain mirrored back at them, then I’ve done some good today, and that is enough.

I am fine. I am already fine, and I am going to be fine. My brain is coming back, and it is so good.


Did you like this post? They’re not all so vulnerable, I promise. There’s funny ones with jokes on here, too. Consider helping me keep writing! And thank you for reading.