Earlier today I got to talking with a very good friend of mine about societal expectations vs reality, especially for those of us whose lives dwell somewhere on the mental health spectrum. We specifically were touching on work and sleep patterns, how society expects us to be one way, but how we are creating and living life on our own terms, in a way that not only works for us as people, but also within the confines and limitations of our mental health. Society has very strong opinions about how people should live their lives, we see it reflected every day in movies, media, posts online, within our families, and beyond.
For some they are in the mindset that having a college degree automatically sets you up for success, that somehow that degree makes you smarter, better, more reliable. However, for those of us with mental health, college may not always be the best avenue for success. Between the pressure and expenses of college, it can become very overwhelming very quickly. I am in no way knocking college nor am I denying the benefits of having a college degree, but rather saying a degree doesn’t necessarily guarantee you success. Several of my friends have various college degrees across many subjects, but few of them actually work in the fields in which they have those degrees for. Instead, they have mountains of debt, but are unable to enter their desired field due to various factors such as a lack of the necessary experience, an over saturation of prospects vs positions available, and more. Then there are those who work within their desired fields, but it is not enough to make ends meet, or they are working so much, they have little time for a life outside their jobs. I tried the college thing a few years ago, but mentally I wasn’t in the place to be dealing with the stress that comes from college. A part of me would love to go back to school, but the money required is a major hindrance for me, as I already have an exuberant amount of medical debt, as well as a lack of consistent income which I will touch on later in this post. Times are far different than when our grandparents or even our parents pursued higher education, as the cost of living and tuition have gone up significantly while the minimum wage hasn’t risen enough to account for the rise of expenses of everyday life
For others, they have the mindset if you are not working a full-time job, you are lazy, you are a plight on society, you are worthless. Yet, for those of us with health conditions, and even those without, there are a plethora of reasons for why we may not be working. For myself, and others who live with mental health and/or chronic illnesses, we are unable to work full time or even part time hours. Many of us have to rely on friends or family to survive, use programs such a SNAP/Welfare (which comes with its own strong opinions from society, we will touch on this later), or we have to start our own companies or get creative with ways to make money. I did the working full-time thing, for quite a while, I was even working 2 jobs at one point, but was still hardly able to afford my bills and worse I was putting my health in serious danger. Eventually after pushing myself so hard, after putting my health on the bottom of my list, I broke. I found myself in my mid 20s physically and emotionally broken and unable to work. I tried to apply for disability, since I live with severe mental health, but was denied more times than I could count. Despite having a lawyer and years’ worth of proof, they still kept denying me. I also applied for programs like SNAP and state insurance, but that only covered groceries and left me less than desirable options for doctors. That didn’t help me with my regular expenses like shampoo, conditioner, rent, etc. Then there were the comments and the looks you get anytime you pulled out your EBT card. People would scoff, they would call me lazy, they would say that I am abusing the system, they would tell me to just get a job like everyone else. So many more comments were made, but you get the idea. Then there are those who want to or even are able to work, but there are no jobs available for them. To which most people respond with, “Just move to an area with jobs,” yet they fail to grasp the fact that moving is expensive and it isn’t always a viable option.
Since, I stopped working in the manner in which society expects me to work, I have bounced from one work from home job/idea to another, with little to no success. I have had idea after idea for ways to create income, for businesses to start. I have even tried starting a few businesses but have once again have little to no success. You see, when for those of us who live with mental health or any chronic illness, we live life by a whole different set of rules. The never-ending struggle and battle is to find/create a job that works for us on both a monetary level, but also within the limitations our health conditions places upon us. To the outside observer, I may look flaky and unreliable, I may look flighty, I may look like I am unmotivated, or even lazy. Yet, few realize how hard I am working to create consistent income. Few take the time to understand, that each of these ideas, each of these attempts, each of these businesses are my efforts to create income. While they may fail or it may seem like I give up too quickly or easily, that is rarely the case. I have lived with my health for long enough and spent far too long getting myself to a more stable place emotionally and physically to risk my progress for a job/company that will ultimately do more harm than good. Initially the idea, may seem viable, but as time progresses, I may come to the conclusion that for one reason or another it isn’t actually as viable as I had hoped, predicted, or expected it to be.
For those of you, who wish to comment something along the lines of, “just suck it up and stick to something,” as I said above, I REFUSE to risk my well-being for money. I did that before, and it nearly cost me my life. I vowed to myself I would never do that, I would never put myself in those sorts of situations, I would never put money above my health. That, however, doesn’t mean I am giving up on creating consistent income either, as anyone who knows me, knows that I have an abundance of ideas for creating enough income to give me the financial independence I seek. I will exhaust every idea until I find one that works for me. There are also those who think, I am okay with my life like this, that I just sit on my ass all day doing nothing. Yet they do not understand how hard it can be to just get out of bed some days, they do not see the massive amounts of work I am doing on myself, on my health, on so many things. Many fail to realize just how exhausting life is with mental health, or even how much work it is to function more days. MAKE NO MISTAKE ABOUT IT, THIS IS NOT THE LIFE I ENVISIONED FOR MYSELF, NOR AM I HAPPY WITH HAVING TO RELY SO HEAVILY ON OTHERS. What people do not see is the hours spent on my computer writing, working on business ideas, researching viable work from home jobs, working on myself and my health, growing, and more. Every single day I work towards my goals, even if some days they are small steps, even if I get knocked back several steps, even if I fail at one idea, I refuse to give up.
For others they have the mindset that if you sleep all day, once again you must be lazy, yet for many of us, especially once again with mental health ailments, sleep quite frequently alludes us. For many of us, like myself nighttime is when we are most active or when many of our diseases are at their worst depending upon the day. I personally have tried just about every remedy, idea, medication, and solution out there for getting consistent sleep, but sleep still alludes me a lot of days. I am far from lazy, but insomnia has always been a massive issue for me. For years, I have tried to force myself to get on a more “regular” or “acceptable” sleep schedule, to absolutely no avail. It may work for a few weeks or even a few months, but eventually I revert back to my wonky schedule. Most nights, I was/am lucky if I get an hour of sleep, which is spread throughout the night, depending upon the day. A few months back, I decided to stop fighting my sleep schedule, to give myself permission to find a sleep pattern that works for me, society be damned. Let me tell you, that was the best decision I have ever made. While, I may be sleeping my day away according to some, I am getting real consistent and restorative sleep for the first time in my life. By allowing myself to go with the flow of what works for me I am no longer fighting sleep, I am no longer forcing it. I find myself falling asleep easier and staying asleep. This is not to say there are not days where I still struggle either, but I am getting more sleep than I have had previously. Small steps in the right direction are something I will always take. Part of this is due to discovering a new CBD which helps to manage my pain, anxiety, PTSD and other health ailments while I sleep, but part of it is also due to allowing my body to work at its own schedule. Here’s a little fact for you as well, for those of us who are considered “night owls,” this is not on accident, but rather a leftover biological response to the times of cavemen. Back during those times, we had to have someone watching the village/livestock/family 24/7 to prevent attacks from others, from predators, etc. For those of us who find we work better during the night, we never fully evolved out of that mindset, that need to be awake to protect. While my sleep schedule may not be societally acceptable it is a schedule that works for me, far better than anything I have ever tried, and for me that is more important than anything.
Far too many years of my life, far too many days, far too many nights, were wasted worrying about what others thought, were wasted trying to fit within the limiting societal expectations, molds, and boxes. I spent so much time risking my health, my life, my peace of mind, and more trying to be what everyone wanted me to be. Little by little, I started fighting against those expectations, I started breaking free of the mold, I started making myself the priority. Over time, I have started caring a whole lot less about what people think of me, what they say about me, what they expect of me, and a hell of a lot more about what works for me, about what is right for me, about putting my health and well-being first and foremost. I’ve stopped trying to justify myself, the way I live my life to others, because quite frankly, I just don’t see the need in it. I still try to educate people, but I no longer take what they say or think so personally. I think that is the most difficult thing for all of us, but especially those with invisible, chronic, or mental health ailments. There is something incredibly freeing about not caring though.
As always my Beautiful Badass Unicorn Phoenix Goddesses/Gods,
I hope you have a magical day!