What does it mean to be well?

For the longest time, I wrestled with my desire to be okay. Not successful, not happy, not fulfilled. But to simply feel okay. In a lot of ways, I had met the traditional, external markers of success. I had my own apartment, I had just started my teaching career, I had a prestigious education, I was financially independent and comfortable, and I was (am) a good person. But for the longest time, I knew that something wasn’t right.

Feel free to peruse any blog post on this website and you’ll see mentions of my mental health, trying to grapple with mental illnesses and what they meant for my personality. Shit, my worth. In some ways, I felt like my desire to conquer my mental health had propelled me to some of my bigger accomplishments. I was able to prove that I could be, in spite of. But two things happened. First, I realized I no longer wanted the life that I had created. And after I created a newer life for myself, I realized that I had done the same thing again. Something changed the second time around though. I knew I wasn’t okay. 

Every few weeks, my body was developing a new ailment. In the span of 18 months, I had over 20 prescriptions. My whole view of myself changed when I wasn’t able to shower standing up, and at certain points, wasn’t able to keep food down. I wasn’t able to work for three months last school year. And after countless specialist appointments and urgent care visits, I learned that my body is actually pretty stereotypically healthy (what?). My body was screaming at me that I wasn’t okay, despite what a test might say. I had to make changes. I had to finally accept that no amount of willpower could make impossible situations work for me.

So what did I do? I sought help in the form of therapy and medication. I accepted my reality as someone who will always have mental illnesses. The hardest part of the journey was that however much I wanted to prove things to myself, I had to recognize when something wasn’t for me. In this case, it was teaching. I fought with myself every day in 2022 to stay a teacher. I cried over my students and their families, cried over my anxiety attacks thinking of them, cried over working six if not seven days a week, cried over my body withering away from the stress of it all, cried when New Years 2023 hit and I felt I was in the same place I started. And through the tears, I made a plan to leave.

I had to recommit to myself and realize that if I want the most out of this life, I have to accept the ebbs and flows. I have to accept that no amount of incense, meditation or rationalization will make the impossible possible. No, sis, you cannot change him, them, or the situation. I have to take care of myself for who I am, not who I want myself to be. After struggling through my early 20s and dreaming of the position I wanted to be in, I had to accept that maybe, things don’t always go according to plan. Maybe, that diversion is for the best. Sometimes, the best self-care is to be flexible. So now, I work from home. I can lay down when I don’t feel well. I exercise as best I’m able to. I talk to my loved ones and also keep some thoughts sacred for myself. And most of all, I recognize that I’m in process and will forever be. There is no “arrival.” Just continuous goals, milestones, and yes, challenges. But in the end, accepting the challenges was the most important part of all.[Image description: Allison is wearing a maroon matching sweatsuit. They are posed in a mirror selfie with a peace sign up. Tattoos show around their wrists.]

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