I’ve always had big dreams. Even before I developed and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I wanted to go to an Ivy League college or an HBCU, I wanted to become a doctor, I wanted to have kids, I wanted to do a whole slew of big things. However, over the years I discovered, often times the hard way, that these big dreams just weren’t within my reach. It had nothing to do with not being intelligent enough, or driven enough, or not trying hard enough. I simply have limitations that many other people don’t.
Just making it through undergrad was a struggle. It took me 8 years to finish. I never failed a class and all of my grades were well above the 3.0 threshold, but I needed a lot of breaks. So I took quite a few semesters off and transferred schools a few times. Once I graduated I gained some confidence and possibly became a little manic, because I applied and was accepted into grad school for social work at a school known for its very rigorous course work. I dropped out after 2 weeks because going to grad school and working full-time wasn’t something I could mentally handle. I didn’t quit because I was out of my comfort zone or lacked motivation. I quit because my mental health was more important. I had been hospitalized quite a few times in undergrad because of the stress, and this would be no easier.
Anyway, I’m writing this post for all who go on Instagram and Facebook and see the memes of “Your only barrier to success is yourself” or “The only limitation is a bad attitude.” I hate to use typical Tumblr words, but these memes are ableist to those of us with invisible illnesses. I would love to pull all nighters or work at a prestigious company in NYC with large time commitments and larger pay. I’d love to get a PhD and become licensed to counsel and prescribe medication. But, I know my limits. My need for sleep, need for time to myself, need for time to go to doctors appointments, and time needed for self care do not fit into these career and life paths.
This doesn’t mean that I or anyone else with similar limitations will not be successful, it just means that we have to find a different path to success than what we’re used to seeing. It also doesn’t mean that we only stay in our comfort zone. Writing this blog has taken me out of my comfort zone. Meeting new people has taken me out of my comfort zone. Half the time leaving the house is coming out of my comfort zone. But as you see, I’m doing it.
We must be careful to not internalize other’s ideas of what success and breaking out of your comfort zone looks like. This leads to us downplaying our accomplishments and can lead to depression. Acknowledging your limitations doesn’t mean you’ve given up. It means you have taken the time for introspection and know yourself. If you tell someone your limitations and they say you’re making excuses or need to get out of your comfort zone, perhaps this person isn’t someone you need in your life.
My life is nothing like what I had dreamed about, but I am making it into something better by acknowledging my limitations and working within and around them. Advice and motivational quotes aren’t applicable for everyone. They are kind of like medicine. They can make some people feel phenomenal but they can also make others feel disgusting.
Let me know your thoughts. What are your limitations and how have you worked within and around them? What are some examples of you getting out of your comfort zone?