Yesterday, I talked about my mental health induced exhaustion, a semi-regular part of my struggle with mental illness. Normally, it just makes the day a challenge as I seek out caffeine the way a dog seeks a bone. Unfortunately, a week and a half ago, my exhaustion led to a more problematic situation.
I was driving home from the train station, excited as I always am to escape the stress-inducing train, and, in my tired state, I missed a stop sign and hit a vehicle turning left through the intersection. It was a drive I take every time I commute into work, so as fatigued as I was I was basically driving on auto-pilot. Until I wasn’t.
The accident was my fault, no doubt about it. Yet, accidents happen. Everyone was okay (except my car, which was totaled). And despite friends and family telling me I shouldn’t beat myself up for being human and making a mistake, it isn’t always that easy.
When I make mistakes, particularly mistakes with as unfortunate consequences as this one, I constantly berate myself, since in retrospect it would have been so easy to just not make that mistake. In essence, the mistakes feed my anxiety, causing the whispers in my head to grow into a cacophony of internal voices saying everyone will judge me for my failures, no one will like me, despite obvious evidence to the contrary as person after person told me they were glad I was okay.
And it worked. Especially because my wife, who came to rescue me from the dark tale of my boom-smash, was one of those people. She talked me down in a way that only she could.
Because the truth is, and sometimes it takes a boom-smash to see it, that no matter how dark it is around you, there is a light you can reach for. It doesn’t have to be a person, it can be anything that grounds you, anything that brings you back from the lies told to you by your mental illness. Everyone has something good in their life, something to live for, something that makes them a value to be here.
Boom-smashes happen. Depression, anxiety, and mental illness happen. Yet it is what happens next that is important, whether you will let the boom-smashes and darkness derail you, or whether you will stay grounded with what matters. I know what I am choosing, and I hope you do too.