My Mental Illness is a Storm

I’m always searching for the right words.

For my stories. For my life.

After all, words are the form we give ideas, a way to make the intangible tangible, conceivable, real. Words confess, they admit, they ground.

I’ve always been an anxious person. Neurotic. Hyper-vigilant. I have high walls, struggle with change, emotion, vulnerability. At some point, it tipped. When I get overwhelmed, my body shuts down. I start shaking, in that teeth chattering, heart stuttering, flushed and sick to my stomach way. I try to mask it, to pretend I’m okay, and sometimes that works, and sometimes it gets worse and worse until I’m sitting on a bathroom floor, wishing I could find the plug and pull it.

It’s always been a war, mind versus body, mind over body, body over mind.

For someone who’s pretty good with words, I’ve struggled to find the right ones for this. For myself, but also for my family and friends, who wanted so badly to help, to understand, the storm in my head.

A storm.

It’s taken me a long time to settle on that word. But the more I think about it, the more it fits.

Sometimes my mind is so cloudless and blue that it’s hard to imagine there ever was a storm, let alone that I’ll see one again.

Sometimes there are dark clouds in the distance, I can see them, but I’m able to skirt the weather. Other times I can’t, and I’m forced to watch the weather roll in.

Sometimes every day for weeks the forecast is dark, and I have to keep my umbrella handy, shuddering at every distant piece of thunder.

Sometimes whole seasons are made of lightning, hail, turbulent winds.

Sometimes the storm is so bad that all I can do is hunker down somewhere safe and remind myself over and over that storms pass. It’s what they do.

One of the most insidious things about mental illness is that it lies. It tries to convince you that this–how it is at its worst–is how it will always be. That the storm in your head is the new constant. That because all you can see is bad weather, that’s all there is now.

All there will ever be.

You will never see the sun again.

But that’s not how storms work. Which is why this metaphor is so important.

Because no matter the weather, the most important thing for me to remember–for anyone to remember–is this:

Storms pass.

Sometimes fast and sometimes slow, sometimes without any damage and others with wreckage in their wake.

But they pass.

I guess I’m putting this here as a reminder–to myself and anyone else who needs it–that storms are meant to be weathered.

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27 thoughts on “My Mental Illness is a Storm

  1. thefantasybookcollector says:

    Wow, I love this. Can really relate to this at the moment struggling with my own mental health. Thank you for adding some sunshine to my day!

  2. Just a brief note to say thanks for writing this – you are, as ever, on the mark, but this means more than that.

    I believe (like you) that the only way we can remove the foolish stigma hanging over mental illness and those under or near its shadow is by talking about it. Such conversation helps – and it helps all – the reader and the writer, the sufferer and the onlooker, the friend, or concerned family member, as you well know.

    Every time I see someone I respect sharing their own thoughts on this topic I get a little surge of hope and happiness, even when I am myself weathering a storm. And that is a good thing.

    Thank you.

  3. I fight the storm, too.
    Thank you so much for putting your voice out there and reminding me that I am not the only one. It was such a huge relief to me when I was in college and realized for the first time that there were other people with this crippling anxiety, too. I wasn’t the only one on earth who struggled with this. And somehow, that makes it a little easier to fight.
    Keep fighting and making your beautiful books. I can’t wait for the next one!

  4. Sholehah says:

    Very nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wished to say that I’ve truly enjoyed browsing your blog posts.
    In any case I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!

  5. Bridget Klein says:

    This genuinely made me tear up while reading it. I’ve tried many times to write about my mental illness, but nothing ever seems sufficient.
    This, however, is utterly perfect. It hit what I constantly feel so spot on, and in such a beautiful way, that I couldn’t help but cry.
    Thank you for writing this.

  6. lexcade says:

    YES. Yes to all of this, the perfect way to describe what so many of us can’t put into words. Thank you for writing this.

  7. Kelly Ramsdell Fineman says:

    Beautiful analogy, brilliant post. Much love to you.

  8. Stephanie says:

    I needed this today. Thanks. πŸ™‚

  9. Rebecca Diem says:

    I had a time like this recently where I had to sit and struggle to find the good memories that would prove the lies wrong. Thankful for friends and family who do their best to understand.

    A storm is the perfect metaphor. I love that. Storms pass, and the work we do to stay healthy and strong are like building a solid foundation and preparing for inclement weather.

  10. Willena says:

    Beautifully written. Thanks for translating your particular mental illness so that everyone can understand it.

  11. Rebecca Lees says:

    Dear V, I just wanted to say how inspirational you are and how your writing is just simply beautiful: Your characters are just perfect! Each and every one is so perfect and their imperfections make them so beautiful because they are so real. But I have to say Rhy is my ultimate cinnamon role because I love how open he is with who he is. And I love how the people love him for it like I (and so many others) love him! His gold is literally perfection and his crown is just amazing!!! In ADSOM we saw him as this carefree, loving prince and brother but in AGOS his change was so heartbreaking because you could see how broken he’d become and how he blamed himself for the events that had happened. Here’s one of my most favourite lines because he is so beautiful: Kell nodded. β€œYou wanted strength.” β€œI still want it,” Rhy whispered. β€œEvery day. I wake up wanting to be a stronger person. A better prince. A worthy king. That want, it’s like a fire in my chest.”

  12. ForkInPage says:

    I wanna write something that’ll tell you how much I appreciate this post – but no words would do justice.

  13. b says:

    I love this and need to hear it and wrote it down to keep close when the weather gets stormy. Thank you

  14. Ellie says:

    Reblogged this on ellietaylorbooks and commented:
    Wise words from my favorite author… This is an apt description of what my bipolar disorder feels like on a regular basis, and I think it’s kind of lovely/weird/fantastic that I too have considered my anxiety and illness to be a storm, and often use this type of thinking.
    Best wishes.

  15. Ellie says:

    Thank you. The words were perfect.

  16. […] β˜… Padfootandprongs07 over on Booktube got a lot of manga! β˜… Rabbitbookz talks about why she reads a lot of English as a Dutch person (Dutch) β˜… Lovely Cait from Paper Fury explained how to translate what the bookworm creature is saying. She also posted about who Young Adult is intended for yesterday, a reaction post to a recent article in the Guardian β˜… Inge from Of Wonderland talks about why authors need bloggers β˜… Some bookish confessions from Annika over on Hiding Books. She confesses she can’t DNF β˜… Karina from A Reader under the Sea talks about gaining more exposure on bookstagram β˜… Aimal from Bookshelves and Paperback shared some of her wallpapers for A Gathering of Shadows. β˜… Victoria Schwab, author of A Gathering of Shadows, shared that her mental illness is a storm […]

  17. Thank you for this ❀ Means a lot.

  18. Eleanor Espinosa says:

    This is genuinely from the heart…

  19. Eleanor Espinosa says:

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  20. Eleanor Espinosa says:

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  21. katienicoledifilippo says:

    Thank you! I need this reminder sometimes. It can be so hard to answer the question of “what’s wrong?” Even for myself.

  22. Josie says:

    I refer to mine as a fog. It’s so thick it makes me sluggish and I can’t think through the haze. And I don’t talk about it, to anyone. Ever. I don’t why I have just now. Maybe because your storm reminded me of my fog and that our weather patterns, although different, are not something that should be ignored.

  23. bjwillis90 says:

    The last few years have been one more-or-less continuous storm for me. Thank you for reminding me that, however long that storm persists, there is blue sky at the end of it.

  24. […] via My Mental Illness is a Storm β€” Victoria (V.E.) Schwab […]

  25. dontyoustop says:

    Just wanted to say, wow this has really inspired me thank you so much for writing this and sharing your story, I relate to this so much, and its totally true storms do need to weathered. Thank you for reminding me and others of this.

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