I knew my teenage years would be tumultuous, because everyone knows they’re supposed to be. But no one told me my 20s would be even worse. Until the day I graduated from college, I’d had a script to follow: play with friends, go to school, do my homework, get good grades, get into a good college, go to class, get drunk more than I should, graduate. But there was no script for the day after, especially with multiple mental health disorders on deck. Suddenly, there was no more structure to my life—no classes to go to, no assignments to complete, no friends to see every day. All my life had been like that, and now it was all gone. Since graduating, my mental health has never seen so much instability. I’ve learned more about life and myself in these past four years than I had in the 22 before, but sometimes I would give anything to go back to those carefree college days, when my biggest worry was my grade on a test or choosing what event to go to.
Adjusting to this new, non-school oriented life has truly been an everyday struggle. Sure, I’ve had a couple of good jobs, but getting out of bed to go to work was often a Herculean effort. Often I would show up at 11 or 12—sometimes even 1 or 2—when my day was supposed to start at 9 or 10. And when I did show up, I couldn’t focus on anything and spent most of my day procrastinating. I’ve been on disability twice. If I hadn’t had such understanding supervisors, I know I would have been fired. And sometimes I think I should have been. I even went back to school for a year, when I had a big epiphany that I would finally pursue a medical doctorate. But soon into the program I lost all motivation, and by the end I had failed every single class, barely having done the work because I could barely get out of bed.
My biggest struggle now is not having an internal measure to go by; I don’t know what success means for me anymore. So I find that I compare myself to other people my age. I see a few of my friends going to Harvard for graduate programs, others landing their dream jobs, still others taking exotic vacations with their significant others, and it’s all I can do but feel like a personal failure, though I know I shouldn’t. They have become my barometer, and my focus on comparison has only worsened my self-esteem and confidence. Somehow, intellectually, I know that one day I’ll achieve something for myself and I’ll be satisfied with it. But right now, as I’m about to turn 26, I see no way out except letting more time pass. I will continue to do the best that I can—even if that means waking up at 12 instead of 1. I’ll continue my treatments, and I’ll seek out those few moments of happiness when I can. Because sometimes, that’s all you can do, and it’s ok. Growing up really is hard.