I’m sure you’ve all heard the expression, if not uttered the words yourself:

“There just aren’t enough hours in the day!”

I get it. I’ve said it. I know the reality of waking up barely in time for your 9 o’clock class with the list of all the things you plan/need to get done that day, and going to bed late that evening disappointed with how little you accomplished. We all deal with this to varying degrees, at different stages of life and that’s okay.

What’s not okay is not making time to practice self-care, especially when you have any form of mental illness.

As someone who struggles with mental illness, I am guilty of putting self-care on the back burner, pushing through my days and attempting to tackle each task on my too-long to-do list.

This past year, the act of ignoring how I was truly feeling and my own mental health really caught up to me. I found it harder and harder to care about school, my numerous commitments or even other people, including family and friends. I knew all these things were important on a rational level, but I just couldn’t bring myself to care or do anything about it.

My depression would last for weeks on end, and I just couldn’t seem to shake the cloud of sadness that hung over me everywhere I went and throughout everything I did.

There were good days, but the bad ones quickly outweighed them. It took a long time, but eventually I found the courage I didn’t have before. I stopped denying my feelings and decided to reach out for help.

Like getting in shape for soccer after being on a break, it took time, stamina and patience to practice the amount of self-care I both needed and deserved. During this process, I wasn’t myself, because I had been so high functioning, and still am, while having an unaddressed illness.

I hurt people along the way, people I care deeply about because I didn’t know how to describe what I was going through. And for that, I apologize. But I will not apologize for practicing self-care.

I’m still working on myself, and I’m nowhere near where I want to be. I now struggle with anxiety on top of depression, and have had to learn how to deal with a new sense of hopelessness and fear while trying to work three jobs, be a full-time student, run a newspaper and have a social life.

I’ve also learned to accept the things I can’t change in other people’s lives. I’ve learned that it’s not just okay, but extremely important to set emotional boundaries with people, if it means you’re in a better place.

I am valuable. I am worthy of self-care. This is something I have to say to myself daily, even on the days I genuinely and wholeheartedly don’t believe it.

But I am. And so are you, each and every one of you. So please don’t forget it and remember that you are not alone. You are never alone.