The progress bar

All my homeschool courses come with this little handy-dandy feature–a progress bar. Every time I submit an assignment, the bar turns yellow; and when it’s marked it turns green, and gives me another two or three percent of progress–and calculates the assignment’s impact on my total grade.

I actually love that feature–I can’t imagine how my public school friends survive without being able to keep track of their work like that.

But sometimes, maybe I take it too far.

***

I went into my sophomore year of high school feeling strong, and sturdy, and good. But something has changed since September.

I don’t get as scared as I used to, not to the same degree. Because instead, I just… I don’t care. I have to force myself in the doors, log onto a computer, and make a bar chart about, I don’t know, the logging industry or whatever. Because I’m just so tired, and I don’t know how to believe in things right now. I feel so jaded, and cynical, and cold–and sometimes at the end of the day, I’m so tired, I can barely stand up.

So I plot out my week in my planner. I cross things off as I go. I bite off more than I can chew. But I keep going.

Until I can’t do it anymore. Until I’ve gone two weeks without a proper night of sleep. Until I’m so tired I have to drag myself kicking and screaming into doing schoolwork. Until I don’t put out enough blog posts, until there’s not enough time… and suddenly, I can’t even fit my own rubric of success.

Let alone someone else’s.

The thing is, I thrive off working. I always have. I go insane without something to direct all this crazy anxious energy in my head towards–the same way a little kid goes crazy when they’re stuck inside for too long with nothing left to do. If you don’t get them occupied, pretty soon they’ll be taking a crayon to the walls. Without something to do, I slide into depression. I fixate on meaningless things, I stay up too late… it’s a recipe for disaster.

But at the same time, I can’t just overstimulate my problems away forever. Can’t just overwork myself in an effort to outrun my mental illness, only to eventually burn out and end up in the exact same situation I was so afraid of.

***

Depression, and anxiety; they can’t be battled the same way I handle my school courses, or my weekly tasks. You can’t just power your way through based on sheer determination and logical reasoning. You can’t measure recovery in neat little green and yellow boxes. You can’t suck up to them, you can’t bargain or plea… because they don’t care.

And maybe it’s time to admit, to myself–and to you–that I’m scared. I’m scared of my mind, scared of the place I go when it gets bad; because I don’t know how to fight it–only how to ignore it until it goes away.

I know what my old therapist would say. She’d tell me about taking charge; about showing my brain who’s boss. And I’d try to, for a while. And then I’d stop. Because I’m busy, because life is hard, because those are the excuses I make to get out of everything I don’t want to do, and I really should get better at seeing through myself.

I started a new medication. I don’t know if it’ll work or not, but I’m willing to give it a try. Because I’m desperate. Because I’m scared. Because I don’t know what to do, but I do know that I want to live. I know that deep down, I am not a cold-hearted, cynical person. I cry, and I get ridiculously attached to my plants, and I spend ten minutes psyching myself up to ask the lady at the grocery store where the canned olives are. And I hope. And I care. I care even though it hurts sometimes, even though there are days, or months, or years when all I want to do is quit.

Because I refuse to die. I refuse to back down, in a world that feels… like it doesn’t want me here at all, sometimes. Because that’s who I am.

A fighter.

And maybe today, my small revolution is just… making my bed. Finishing another essay; even if I do get a bad grade on it. Letting go, for just a moment, of that stupid progress bar in my had. Even if that’s futile. Even if tomorrow, I’ll be back on my bullshit again.

But it matters. I have to believe that it matters–that it’s worth it.

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