The Tale of Two Chelsea’s

Having a mental health diagnosis can feel as though two very different sides of you are at a constant battle; two sides of a magnet that refuse to touch. I have the side of me that is motivated, chipper, eager to walk out the door and take the world for a spin. The side that feels as if she is floating up towards the sky. My soul so light and airy, my heart pulsing and alive. The other side of me lounges on my couch in my sweats, ordering delivery, having not showered in days, avoiding any and all work that needs to be done, people who want to chat, and responsibilities that need attending. It is more than a lazy day. My heart is heavy and chest feels constricted. It is my body shielding me from my anxiety, desperate to keep me safe and secure. It is protecting me from a world that can not be tamed. For the longest time, I’ve separated these people; the “healthy Chelsea” and the “sick Chelsea.” By doing this, I aimed my goals on aspiring to be my healthy side. Maybe I’ve been taking the wrong approach?

In all honesty, my “sick Chelsea” is no longer debilitating like she was during past relapses. When push comes to shove, I complete the work I need to and can call it a day. Sick Chelsea has evolved. Since I was eight years old I was more often than not, “sick Chelsea.” I can’t remember who I was before the onset of my Tourette Syndrome. From “sick Chelsea” was born “survivor Chelsea.” She learned how to persevere no matter what was thrown her way…and there was a lot! After I survived, a feat I often never imagined, I learned how to thrive. There were even these small moments where I felt unbelievably alive (Apologizes for that rhyme. This isn’t meant to be a poem!) I would feel my ribcage expand and make room for my heart to beat without constraint. It was the moments like this where I finally felt like my soul and my body found a home. The peace I feel in times like this brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it. Every cell in my body desires to be her. However, I read a book recently that quoted the analogy of “the kingdoms” by Susan Sontag. It says,

“Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship, in the kingdom of the well and in the kingdom of the sick. Although we all prefer to use the good passport, sooner or later each of us is obliged, at least for a spell, to identify ourselves as citizens of that other place.”

Susan Sontag, Illness as a Metaphor

The book I read, Between Two Kingdoms by Suleika Jaouad helped me to learn – just as Suleika did – that maybe we have to come to terms with our new self, who took souvenirs from the kingdom of the sick and brought them with her to the kingdom of the well. Although it is helpful to separate my various personas to recognize when my mental health is struggling, I no longer think it is beneficial to hold these aspirations of being “healthy Chelsea.” No matter where I am mentally or how I am feeling physically, I am just me. I am Chelsea and every day will feel different. I have some work to do with her because as of right now, it feels like a colossal disappointment. I love who I am, don’t get me wrong. And maybe one day I will feel like this glorified “healthy Chelsea” most of the time, however, as of right now, I am not sure if that is how life is supposed to be.

I always thought I was good at staying present and enjoying the journey – not anticipating the destination – but after experiencing what almost feels like grief for a life I imagined with this constant freedom and airiness, I know what I need to begin reflecting on during my next meditations and therapy sessions. I need to do less separating and more discovery of who my single self is. My self who has all these powerful sides to her that show themselves when they are needed. The side that is actually very healthy and currently thriving despite not always feeling that magical energy that can flow through my veins. The separation was once a tool to cope with my mental illness but now, as someone in recovery, seems to hold false expectations and projected futures. I have felt “healthy Chelsea” most of the week, so I realize she is not going away, she is just returning to “The Chelsea.” She is me. I am her. Are you confused yet?

~ Stay Chipper Friends ~

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