Always Keep Fighting, But Also, Love Yourself First

I know it’s been awhile since my last post–I was taking some time to finish my memoir, which is being sent out to publishers as I write (ack!), gearing up to graduate in June (ack again!), and planning my upcoming July wedding (double ack!), so time has been limited.

But, being busy isn’t the only reason. I’ve also been struggling, a lot, with my own issues. I have a slew of alphabetic diagnoses (PTSD, ADD, and GAD–Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder from domestic abuse, Attention Deficit Disorder from birth, I guess!, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder), and sometimes keeping up with everything, or anything, is hard. I hit some snafus with my health insurance, so I was off my ADD medication for a couple months, so even getting through a day without falling apart was hard. I think sometimes people assume ADD means just being flighty, but that isn’t the case. It means that everything is a distraction, a roadblock to completing a goal, whether that goal is writing a blog post, editing an essay, or just washing some dishes. It means day-to-day life is exhausting, because willing my brain to focus on anything other than a video game or a chapter in a YA novel (thank goodness for YA on my ADD days!) wears me out. And then you add anxiety, which means that any failure to focus is magnified a thousandfold, and my PTSD, which means that I assume that messing up will result in my fiancee hating me (thank goodness he is a good, patient man, or I would not be getting married), and it gets hard.

I’m not writing this for pity, or for attention, though. Well, not for attention for me. I am adding a new section to my blog called “Pop Culture Matters,” and this is the first post there. I started watching Supernatural a few months back, after the urging of my fiancee and my dear friend Shannon, and fell in love with the storylines, even the more outlandish ones, and the characters. I mean, Charlie (played by Felicia Day) is everything I want to be! But, more importantly, I fell in love with the actors. Not romantic love, of course–sadly, haha!–but the kind of love you find when a group of celebrities uses their fame for good.

That brings me to Jared Padalecki, who plays Sam Winchester and who I first discovered as my least favorite Rory guy on the Gilmore Girls. Anyway, I have been following one of his campaigns, #AlwaysKeepFighting, even before I started watching Supernatural. When you are diagnosed with mental illness, sometimes every day feels like a losing battle. I’ve lost some dear friends to their own battles, and I miss them every day. Padalecki’s message of always keep fighting, to not give in to even the worst pain, has been a life saver. We expect celebrities to be perfect. We put them on a pedestal and make them our idols. But by admitting his own struggles with mental illness, he has provided a guidepost to fans who may otherwise feel alone. (And two other actors, Jensen Ackles and Mischa Collins, just rolled out the #youarenotalone campaign, which I will discuss in a later post).

Yesterday, on the one year anniversary of #AlwaysKeepFighting, Padalecki rolled out a new campaign in a live chat on his facebook page:#LoveYourselfFirst Video. I missed the live chat, but watched the video a few minutes ago, and had a long, necessary cry. When living with mental illness, especially on bad days where all you can do is keep fighting to not give in, it is easy to hate yourself, to think you are defective or wrong or damaged. What is so hard, and what we need to be reminded of, is that even in our worst days, we are worthy of love. Even when we feel our most alone, we must remember to love ourselves first.

I struggle with this. I hate my ADD a lot. I hate that I can’t focus, and that when I’m not on my meds, small tasks feel impossible. I hate the anxiety that makes me feel like a failure, the inner voice that says “this is not good enough.” I hate the PTSD that makes me feel damaged, dirty, and unworthy of love. But those, while a part of me, are not ME. I also work in mental health, and know that when our lives are centered around helping and protecting others, it is easy to neglect our own self-care.

I needed to see the video above. I needed the reminder to care for myself. To love myself, or at least try to, before trying to love others. Self-care is important.

And, to any of you out there fighting, I love you as well.