For the past month, I’ve been receiving treatment for my depression via an outpatient program run by a nearby hospital. For three days a week, four hours a day, I am immersed in a world of people who know I have severe depression before they know anything else about me. Together, we all sit in a room and deal with our messed up lives. It’s an interesting experience.
The first day of outpatient is usually the worst. You walk into this place thinking, “This probably won’t work…” “What am I even doing here?” or “God, could things get any worse?” It’s like being in a zoo, only you’re the animals and spectators…you feel like everyone is looking at you, wondering why you’re here, but at the same time you are looking at everyone else and wondering why they are here, too. It’s a room full of strangers who know you have a mental illness before members of your family or your closest friends do. You are instantly humbled, and incredibly defense. “What will these people want from me?” you might wonder. Yet in outpatient, questions never last long…
The day begins in community group, where everyone in the program (roughly 30 people) congregate in a big room and listen to the group leader read off a little thing called “The Daily Promise”. “The Daily Promise” is a book that has a passage for each day that asks you to think about your life, your choices, and your attitude. For instance, one day might ask you to contemplate whether you dwell on the past, present, or future. The group leader will then go around and ask everyone this, and then offer some bit of advice about their situation. It’s not really met to be therapeutic so much as it is meant to start your day off with some positivity, and get you to hold yourself accountable for your feelings and choices. It’s also a little bit of social time, where you ask about people’s weekends and if they caught the game last night. Some people tend to utilize this more than others. You have a strange set of cliques: the middle-aged ladies who discuss cooking recipes, the middle-aged men who are gruff and bitch about traffic, the really old people who make occasional small talk to the people next to them, the young women who are gossipy and thrive on scandal, the young guys who talk about the same stuff you heard from guys in middle and high school, and finally the quiet people, who sit there and do anything except talk to other people. The cliques are present, but fade when it’s time to open up.
There’s a strange sense of community at outpatient. People say hi to another or smile even when they’ve never spoken to each other. While people may ask why you’re there, there’s never judgement in their voices or criticism in their advice. Everyone understands the hoops you must jump through when dealing with health insurance, and everyone takes some kind of medication. We are each other’s community, and we understand each other in a way that most people in our lives don’t. While my parents or friends don’t understand how or why I can say in bed for days, people in outpatient nod their heads and murmur “I know what you mean” in agreement. When I mention not having the energy to see or talk to people, other patients offer suggestions while everyone else asks, “Why?” Even though the people in outpatient don’t necessarily know your story or know who you are, most of them know how you feel, which is a really big deal.
In the real world, no one talks about their problems or struggles with them due to abnormal brain functioning. In outpatient, everyone has problems, everyone has an illness. You look at people and see that they have a history, a whole story that leads them to where they sit in front of you, and you see the possibilities in life. I see old men grieving for a spouse they had for forty years. I see middle-aged men fighting their addictions for their families. I see women who have been beaten up and betrayed by those who claimed to have loved them, and I see children who yearn for parents that love them as they are. We all have problems, we all could be worse off, yet we are here, we are surviving. Everyone in the room is trying and fighting for their life, for their happiness. And it gives you a sense of hope in the world…all from a bunch of strangers.
The day continues with group therapy. You’re assigned to a room with about ten people total, and throughout the day two or three therapists come in to give lessons or facilitate conversation. This is where you learn the famous coping skills, the relaxation techniques, and the tips for effective communication. It’s also where you are put on the spot and asked about your life. You hear a lot of stories in group…from spontaneous marriages and trouble with the law, to dead-end jobs and ungrateful families. Some people open up right away and others need prying. But we all get our turn to say what matters, and why. It’s been in these group meetings where I’ve discovered something I had long forgotten: that I have a voice.
Outpatient has given me a strange sort of confidence boost and slap in the face all at once. After many weeks, and many contemplative conversations (not to mention getting on meds), I’ve sort of woken up from my depression fog. The colors and happiness in the world are coming into focus, and actually seem within reach. By getting out of bed, driving to the hospital, and spending a significant amount of time with the sole intent of bettering myself, I feel productive and proud of myself for the first time in ages. I’m accomplishing something that is difficult but necessary, and I’m doing it because I am worth it. After months of a downward spiral, I’ve finally gained the motivation to start fixing my life, one baby step at a time. This isn’t to say that I haven’t gone over the mistakes that I’ve made. I look at the things I am learning, the skills I am building, and see all the times I should have used them. Throughout my depression I’ve broken a lot of trust, hurt many feelings, and pushed away a lot of wonderful people. Some of it I can fix, but others I’ll just have to learn from. Acceptance is a major part of healing, especially when there’s a mental illness involved, so accepting my mistakes and letting go of my self-hatred have been essential during my time in outpatient
I know no matter how much I describe it, there will always be people who don’t understand outpatient, or why I needed it. Depression is an invisible illness, and a lot of people have trouble accepting that, especially when treatment is expensive and/or intense. But, for the people who are reading this and learning about my experience in outpatient, I hope what you take away from this blog post is that you never know how deeply treatment can effect and help someone, so please do not judge it. Anytime anyone admits to having a problem and commits to fixing it, they are taking a fundamental step toward recovery. So remember that recovery takes time, and looks different for each person. I don’t know how long my recovery will take, and I don’t know how long I will be on meds, or struggle with depression, but I do know this: I am a strong person, I deserve to be happy, and I’m glad I chose to go to outpatient.
I’ve been avoiding writing this post all week. Sunday night I came back home after ten days in Central America with my ex, Jessie. How did I feel? I felt like it was a dream. I was incredibly sad to leave that country that I had just barely begun to know, and yet relieved to be back home and confront my life again. During that week I could see the life I would have had with Jessie had we stayed together, and it left me with conflicting feelings. Jessie left me with conflicting feelings.
It’s heartbreaking to love someone, really love them and let them deep into your heart, and know at the end of the day it’s not meant to be. Jessie belongs there, and I belong back in the US so I can fix the life I broke… It’s the hard truth that I kept avoiding by saying things like, “there’s nothing between Jessie and I.” In fact, there are lots of things between Jessie and I. There’s a whole history of moments, of laughter and love and sex and tears, where we discovered hidden parts of ourselves we didn’t know existed. There was a present, filled with tension and anger and sadness at everything that couldn’t be changed. And there was a future, one we dreamed of together, in the countryside of California and all over the world, where we started a life and a family that will ultimately never come to be. There’s a world between us, literally and figuratively, and it’s a world we both had to walk away from on Sunday.
I am a person who is without direction, ambition, or hope. My mind unravels and weaves together my experiences each day in ways that either pull me further, or further into, my depression. I don’t have much in my life—no job, no dream, no motivation, but I do have love. You don’t feel this much hurt and pain without it…because only love brings you truths so important that they become integral to your person. I have loved some wonderful people in my life, and it has given me wisdom that I will never forget. I’m so thankful I was given the opportunities to love and be loved…but the time has come to learn to love myself. I can’t keep disappearing into relationships in order to feel motivation to live…it’s time to find that motivation inside myself instead of getting it from someone else. I won’t lie, I’m terrified that I will never be able to love myself again, or find my own reasons to keep living, but I have to try.
Now that Jessie and I have gotten closure, and have freed each other from expectations and hopes of what could have been, there is nothing from my past standing in the way of my future. I can rebuild my life, with a new job, a new college, new friends, a new apartment, and a new relationship with Fred. I don’t know how any of it will work out, but I think that there is a real possibility that my life will take a turn for the better. My only goal now is to literally be happy, and it won’t happen overnight. On Monday I start intensive outpatient treatment, and while I feel dread I know it is for the best.
One chapter of my life has closed, and I do feel very sad that it is over. But maybe this next part of my life will be the best yet…
In a nutshell, that’s why I’m still here.
Everyone in their 20’s can relate to the same struggle: figuring out which path in life you would like to take. Even when you outgrow your 20’s, it seems that many people are still searching for this answer in their 30’s and even 40’s or 50’s. This is a dilemma I’ve written about again and again, and though this seems to be a recurring theme in every problem I encounter I am no closer to finding my path. Or am I?
Tomorrow I’m getting on a plane to Central America. My reasoning for buying this ticket to a country I’ve never been to and my reasoning for going are very distinct—I bought the ticket because I was in love and I wanted salvation for my relationship. I’m getting on the plane because I am in search of inspiration and direction in my life, and after a severe bout of depression I need to do something kind for myself. Also it was a nonrefundable ticket.
Back in January, I was in a long distance relationship and my partner had just moved to Central America. I was incredibly sad and lonely, and my depression was creeping back into my life. So I bought the ticket as an incentive for myself to keep going, and something me and my partner could remember in our moments of doubt. I thought that if I liked being there enough, maybe I could briefly move there during the summer, and then wait for my partner to move back to the U.S. in December. Life had other plans, though. My relationship disintegrated, my depression worsened, and my ability to plan for the future vanished. But the plane ticket was still there, waiting for me.
Now, in the present, my circumstances are different. My plans for the summer are school and work back home where I grew up. I’m transferring schools, finding a new job, and exploring a different relationship. Everything I’ve recently done has been to better myself, and instead of worrying about someone thousands of miles away, I’m preoccupied with changing my life in helpful ways. So I’m using that plane ticket, getting on that plane, and spending a week in Central America.
After my life went to hell in February, time kept moving faster and faster. This trip has sort of snuck up on me, and honestly I don’t think it will feel real until my mom drops me off at the airport tomorrow morning. I’m excited but hesitant…my life has reached a steady rhythm and I’m nervous to disrupt the balance again. Especially because it means spending a week with my ex Jessie, who doesn’t exactly encourage my more rational side. Jessie brings up our old relationship all the time, and I’m worried he’s going to forget that there’s no relationship left. He’s in Central America, I’m in the U.S., end of story. I’ve moved on, and so has he. Nothing good can come from beating a dead horse.
Right now I’m done with planning out my future within relationships. In a few years it might be more realistic to start doing that, but until then I just want to enjoy the moment. After all, I need to find my passion and indulge that while I’m young and I still can. So I’m pursuing my passion for travel right now, and then hopefully pursuing my passion for creativity when I get back to the states. What was once a trip about figuring out the future for Jessie and I has become a trip about reawakening my hunger for life. I was severely depressed, I made changes and started to recover, I found stability, and now it is time to wake up again, and start my life over. I’m embarking on a path, and seeing where else my life can take me.
It’s been a week since I moved back in with my parents and I still can’t catch my breath. Everyday I’ve been busy, whether it’s avoiding my responsibilities, catching up with old friends, trying to fit all of my stuff in my old room, or searching for a new car. I’ve been feeling better, but it’s the kind of better that has fine print attached—“Feelings of happiness have a high probability of fading within 2-3 weeks. As your schedule clears, side effects may follow that include time to process that your life is still messed up, and that you still have no idea how to fix it. Proceed with caution.”
In the short time I’ve been back home the distractions have been endless. Somehow I’ve managed to round up a couple of dates, some nights out drinking with my old friend Val, and seeing a few movies with Fred. My parents have hardly mentioned getting me into treatment, although my mom is convinced I need to be back on medication ASAP. Rightfully so, might I add. But there’s no doctors appointments booked, or any attempt to find a new part time job on my end. The temptation to avoid the problem is winning out over my fear of not getting better, and other stressors that are less important take up space in my mind. I know I need to confront the source of my depression—not only the chemical imbalance, but all of the insecurities, the social anxiety, and the fear of trusting both myself and others. The time has come for me to grow up and face the demons of my depression.
Getting help is a process, and it’s not as simple as most people make it out to be. Like last time I did outpatient, there was an act of desperation that brought my depression to the attention of others. After that, there were the precautionary steps where I moved back in with my parents and the idea of treatment was tossed around. Now it’s come to the step where I need to put the plan in motion, to go get help.
Treatment can be a scary thing for people who have lived with an untreated disorder for a long time. Even though I’ve been going to therapy for a few months, the idea of walking through those double doors marked “Behavioral Health” for everyone to see is daunting. Depression can be a really secretive disorder, and letting strangers know you struggle with it by the mere act of being in a treatment center leaves a person exposed and vulnerable. Our society is one that praises people for “toughening up” and “pulling yourself up by the bootstraps”; sometimes getting help can feel like failure for someone who’s tried so hard to keep their disorder in the dark. It’s important in these moments not only to be supportive of the person seeking treatment, but to also let them confront these feelings on their own. You can’t force another person to reveal what is going on, as many people in my life have tried with me. You must let them peal off the layers of security slowly, and allow them to dismantle the walls they’ve built on their own. It’s a significant moment when someone with a mental illness accepts help, and it’s one that must be acknowledged, respected, and given patience.
After I completed outpatient the first time I felt better than I had in a long, long time. I was seventeen, and for the first time in five years I believed in myself. I believed I could fight for myself, protect myself, and find happiness. I knew I had something worth living for—I knew I owed it to myself to live a full, happy life. Now I’m back at square one, utterly confused and hopeless, but there’s a difference. I remember that feeling…I remember that once I survived, I pulled myself out of the hell I was living in and I fought back. And I have hope that I can do it again.
So I guess this is all to say that if any of you readers are going through treatment or even considering treatment, I’m proud of you. I believe in you. I know that you might feel like you’ve set yourself up for the impossible, but keep trying. No matter how many sessions in therapy, no matter how many pills you’re prescribed, no matter how many treatment centers or desperate phone calls to your loved ones…You can do it. You are worth rescuing. You deserve a happy life. Hope exists, and it’s waiting for you.
Once upon a time, there was a high school senior who, like most high school seniors, wanted to get the hell out of her hometown and away from her parents. She dreamed of a magical place she could go to where she could live and learn about wonderful things that would someday hopefully make her money: college. And then three years later, after many semesters of hard work and determination (while at the same time indulging her laziness), she dropped out so she could move back home with her parents and start intensive therapy (along with meds). And all of her dreams disappeared, POOF! And she didn’t live happily ever after, because she had no degree and would therefore probably die in poverty due to America’s capitalist, bullshit society. The End.
Despite the pessimism heavily influencing the end of that story, I feel surprisingly calm about my whole life going up in flames. Now before you start reasoning with me, and saying, “People take time off of school all the time, relax. You’ll go back and finish your degree. There’s plenty of time to figure out your life, but first you must let yourself heal, young grasshopper” just hear me out. No one wants to take time off, because then you failed. And even though all your friends and family are telling you this stuff about how school will always be there and everything is okay, you are sad because this was never part of the plan. No one is happy for you unless you are productive, and taking time off of school is not productive.
This is why millennials are so fucked up and why everyone complains about them. From the time we’re kids we’re spoon-fed this bullshit idea that everyone who is a good person has a college degree, a well-paying job, a picket fence with a husband/wife and 2.5 kids. And it’s a lie. Good people don’t always get to go to college, and good people don’t always get married or stay married or even have a house to live in. But everyone always dumps on those people because they didn’t live up to the “American dream”. So we panic when there’s a chance we won’t be a part of the normal, disappearing middle-class; we run ourselves into the ground with our high, over-acheiving standards. And then other generations get to point at us and wonder, “Why aren’t they succeeding? Why are they so freaked out all the time, so emotionally fucked?” This is the struggle of the millennial. This is the problem we are all trying so hard to hide.
But I can’t hide it anymore; if I stay in school I’ll continue to skip classes and fail because I don’t have the energy to get out of bed or leave the house. I can’t seem to bring myself to go socialize with people because it stresses me out so much that I’ll sit in my room crying. I’ve become so stressed and tired and worried about money that I hardly eat and have begun to pull out my hair again (a really weird habit I’ve developed in college). So Wednesday morning I was emailing my professor about an assignment I didn’t turn in by mistake (but spent hours working on) and I just started to cry because I knew I couldn’t keep doing this; it was over.
Monday I drove two hours from college town because I didn’t want to go home and spend another night alone. This week I’ve skipped all of my classes and even a shift at work. Yesterday I just slept all day, only leaving the house to go to work that night. It’s time to make a change, and try to put myself back together, rather than keep trying to pretend I haven’t fallen apart. And don’t get me wrong—this is going to be really hard, and it’s probably going to seem hopeless at times, but I have to do it.
My big mistake in all of this has been isolating myself all semester, and even last semester. Neglecting to tell people about your life only contributes to loneliness, and putting on a brave face doesn’t make you stronger. I’ve distanced myself from a lot of really great people because I thought that they would judge me, and I knew they couldn’t take away the sadness I felt. But it was wrong; people remind you of the good in life, of the strength in love and friendship. People are what make my life meaningful, and pushing them away has only given me less to live for.
So I’m starting over, I’m pressing the reset button on my life in the only way I really can. Maybe I failed, but I still want a shot at succeeding…and the only way I can do that is if I beat this depression. Again.
Sometimes people have the luxury of reducing their identity down to one thing. “I’m a writer.” “I’m a partner to SoandSo.” “I’m a student.” “I’m a traveler.” “I’m a democrat.” You get my drift. This can be a really nice thing, because it can give a person a sense of purpose, a direction for their life. Or, even if it doesn’t give a direction, it can soothe the existential crisis in their hearts because they finally have a name for who they are—they can put a word to a feeling. But not all people have this luxury; some people feel hopeless disconnection with the rest of the world and everyone in it.
I bet you can guess which type of person I am right now.
When most people are going through a rough time they stop and examine their identities—you know, they start hanging out with their friends, they pick up an old hobby, they go home to their family. Going back to your roots is an important part of the healing process, because it reminds you that you used to exist (and do an adequate job of existing) before your crisis. But sometimes a person has nothing to go back to—nothing seems to quench the pain, nothing is comforting enough to cling onto. So they spiral…they are like a dying star, collapsing onto themselves until they implode. And when they implode, everyone likes to shrug and say stuff like, “Well, if they needed help so badly, they could have come to me. Geez, it’s not that complicated.”
Here’s the thing, it is complicated. When a person without an identity or a support system has depression, their first instinct is basically everything you know they shouldn’t do. They don’t want to call a friend, they don’t want to go to the doctor, they don’t want to go see a funny movie and they don’t want to take a hot bath. The first instincts of depression always are along the lines of: do nothing, say nothing, pretend everything is fine, curl up in a ball and cry, stare at the walls until you don’t feel anything, drink until you don’t feel anything, smoke until you don’t feel anything, do anything that makes you feel nothing, entertain ideas about walking out in front of traffic, etc. And this isn’t a little devil on your shoulder telling you to do these things, it’s your brain. Your brain, the essence of who you are, is telling you to essentially give up. Not only is that completely fucked up, it’s heartbreaking.
So what’s a person to do? You can’t trust your brain, you can’t go to other people for help because there’s no one left to really go to, and you can’t fall back on who you are because you don’t know who you are. You’re stuck, hopelessly stuck in a life you hate and in a situation that destroys you.
This is where I’m at right now readers, and the thing is, I don’t have any answers. I know I need to be back on meds because therapy alone doesn’t seem to be enough, so that’s something, but the meds will take a month to kick in, and I need something that’s going to help right now. Should I quit school? Should I run away? These don’t seem like the right answers either. I don’t want to throw away my life when I know my grandpa would be here if he could, so killing myself is out of the question. But staying this way seems to be impossible. What do I do?
No one is left, readers, no one but my mom and Fred, and they are far away. Maybe I should move back home. Maybe I should be institutionalized. The only thing I can think to do is listen to my heart, to trust my heart. But my heart is just crying.
I look back at my life and see a person who tried to do the right thing. But sometimes it isn’t enough. Sometimes you try your whole life to be happy and you fail. But I’m not dead yet—this depression I’ve been struggling with since I was twelve might kill me one day, but today I’m alive. So I’ve got to keep trying.
I don’t have an identity, I don’t have any friends I can reach out to, I don’t have a partner, I don’t have a family I can talk to. But I’ve got my depression. I guess that is the only thing I will always have, forever and ever.
My (romantic) partner leaves for Costa Rica next Friday. The universe is telling me, “Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! I’m taking away your source of happiness and love!” Nothing like starting 2016 with utter heartbreak, huh? But life goes on.
As you could probably tell by my last post, I’ve been contemplating my depression and its relationship with my romantic partners. Naturally, when breakups happen I’m not exactly a ray of sunshine, but I think it’s more than that. For instance, this past semester I dated quite a bit (at least compared to the past 3 years of my life). The more I felt like shit, the more reckless I became, racking up messages off of Tinder and
likes off of Okcupid. I did the little dating dance, where you like their profile, send some flirty messages, go on a date, and then never talk to them again. This didn’t exactly make me feel better, but it took my mind off of things. “I’m getting out,” I told myself. “I’m meeting new people and trying new things. Depressed people don’t do that.” The dating dance was sort of a denial dance as well.
It’s like when I was seeing this one guy Jeremy (I’m not even going to bother changing his name…that’s how little this guy really meant big picture-wise). Isaac had just kicked me to the curb, my then ex-girlfriend was dating someone else while also seeing me, and I was harboring a mess of sadness and angry about Fred. Jeremy was simple: we went out for a beer the first night together and by the end of it were making out hardcore on the hood of his car. I knew he wanted to fuck me, and as long as I was just interesting enough (but also boring enough not to encourage true feelings) he would help me waste my time. So we kept seeing each other, and it was fine. Then when my ex-girlfriend and I got back together I just quit texting him. And you know what? He never texted me back, either. It was over just like that…simple. And I felt completely fine about it.
Now, while this kind of behavior didn’t bother me in the moment, I realized how superficial it all was once I remembered the people who had actually mattered. Thoughts of Fred, Isaac, and my now current partner made me remember how much I was still missing. The lack of romance in my dating left me empty, and while empty was less risky it was also doing nothing to help my depression. Empty distractions did nothing to sooth the heartbreak I still felt, and even though I had physically moved on, my brain was still stuck.
I worry that I will fall back into this old pattern once my partner leaves for Costa Rica. It’s not like I want to date anyone else…I need to use this time to focus on building myself back up and getting my balls back, haha. But I’m terrible at dealing with loneliness, and when I get lonely the depression usually kicks in. So what then?
Well, I’ve started seeing a new therapist for one thing. After weeks of back and forth scheduling, I finally had my first appointment and it went alright. But seeing a shrink won’t fix everything. So, to fill my time otherwise, I’ve started painting and crafting. Right now it’s just Christmas gifts, but since it makes me feel super calm I’m going to do my best to keep at it. And then I’ve got a few goals for myself to reach, since I’m sort of anal like that. I want to make more friends to play board games with, and I want to work with my therapist on believing the friends I currently have don’t hate my guts. It’ll be a process.
I know I sound like a real bitch, with my “dating” habits and the fact that I’ve spent this blog post talking about myself rather than the amazing person I’ll be losing. But what else am I supposed to do, just tell you all I’ll cry myself to sleep and resort back to cutting myself? I’m not doing that shit again—I’ve got to keep my eyes on what I can make better in my life, despite my shitty habits. Because even though the universe is shitting on me this holiday season, I refuse to believe that’s all my life will become.
There’s gotta be more than just loss around the corner.
I’m better now. I know it was probably scary for you that night when I showed up at your doorstep covered in cuts. I was scared too.
It was so scary that night, when I kept cutting and cutting and cutting. I don’t know where it came from, or why it happened. I just woke up earlier that week and felt the depression lurking behind me. I’d distract myself with work, school, music, and Netflix, but it was still there waiting for me when I had a moment to myself. Every night I’d close my eyes to go to sleep and see it swallow me up in the darkness. I had no answers about my future, my present, or past. All I could think of is every shitty thing I’ve ever done, every person who I felt secretly hated me, and how no matter how hard I’d try, I couldn’t stay happy. The depression always found me eventually.
I was scared. So scared to open up and talk about this weight I felt on my shoulders. You were the only person around who really seemed to care. Despite months of trying to keep you at arm’s length, I ended up letting you in my heart. And I really didn’t want it broken.
I only mentioned this to you once, in a very short and dismissive manner, but I was in a couple of serious relationships before you. One of them lasted two years, and I found out he cheated on me during those two years while I was seeing you. I didn’t want it to affect us getting to know each other, but it did. I was still very upset about my ex cheating on me and was struggling to trust others, as well as myself. And in a lot of ways, I felt so worthless. I wasn’t ready to believe in kindness again. I wasn’t ready for you.
When I told you about my depression that night, and said: “You don’t have to say anything…I know this is a lot to lay on a person and I don’t expect you to fix it or anything…and I totally understand if you don’t wanna see me anymore…but I just need someone to listen and accept me despite it.” I meant it. I don’t blame you for telling me days later that you just couldn’t do it. Sometimes I feel like I can’t do it either, honestly, but I have to. And I’ll be stronger for it. I know how stressful and heartbreaking it can be to watch someone you care about hurt so badly. It’s a terrible helpless feeling, and I understand not wanting to sign up for that. But I hope one day you will love someone enough to be willing to do that for them, because it is one of the most rewarding and life-changing things you can do—to bring someone hope.
My depression is my burden to bare, and I’m sorry if I made you feel overwhelmed and stressed because of it. But I’m not sorry I told you about it. I put my heart on the line, I took a chance, and it was a really hard thing to do. And I did it because I believed in you, I trusted you, which wasn’t a mistake. I still think you are a great person, and I’m glad I at least got a shot with you. The thing is, while I will always be grateful that you held me that night, as I willed myself not to cry in your arms, I will admit that it wasn’t a hard thing for you to do. The hard part comes after, in the morning when you realize that last night will not be the only night filled with tough conversations and tight hugs. And that’s the part that so many people seem to struggle with…every guy I’ve met seems to want to be my knight in shinning armor until they realize that this battle isn’t a one time deal. So I’m glad you were honest and told me you couldn’t do it. I’m glad you left instead of whispering in my ear that you wouldn’t hurt me.
There are people out there who love me in spite of the depression. They pick me up each time and let me know I’m loved even when I don’t love myself. They keep me going, because I know they will always be there on the other side, when the depression is gone and my smile is back and things are easier. Their love has no mental health conditions, and their opinion of my never wavers based off of my depression. They are my friends and family and partner, and they are the ones I should have gone to that night when I knocked on your door.
It’s easy to want that significant person in your life to be the one that you lean on, and it’s hard to tell the people you’ve known the longest that you’re struggling again. Thank you for teaching me that I don’t need a knight in shining armor, and that the ones who will fight for me the hardest are the ones who have always been by my side.
Wishing You the Best,
My meds ran out on Friday (maybe Saturday?) and already I can feel the little control I had over my life slipping out of my fingers. I wish I was 18 again, back in group therapy so I could feel some sort of validation. You never realize how comforting “I know how you feel” is until no one says it to you anymore.
There was a comfort in group that I don’t find in regular life. It was an unspoken knowledge that “I was sent here by someone who cares about me, because I worry them” and we all could see that underneath everyone’s layers of silence that they wanted to be there too, because they felt lost and scared/numb. It was really nice to feel like you aren’t weird or unstable anymore; everyone in the room had their own emotional baggage that made yours seem less burdensome. It was only after group, when we all went back to the real world, that society’s “what’s wrong with you?” weighed on our shoulders.
I bring all of this up because my mom texted me over the weekend. I asked about spending Thanksgiving with my girlfriend’s (I’ll get to that part later) family earlier in the day, to which she said that was fine with her. But then I got this text:
I have been feeling sad all day; I confess that the idea of you preferring to spend Thanksgiving somewhere else instead of with us is bothering me. Especially because you don’t come home very much anymore. And I know what will happen when I tell your dad where you are instead–that it will be miserable for all of us here at home. I know you haven’t been feeling great lately and I do not want to place any additional “stresses” on you, but I have to admit that I am sad about the whole situation. I just feel that my family is being torn apart.
So I called her, and she was crying. It kills me that she was crying. My mom hardly ever cries…not when I told her I was depressed, not when I told her I was bi, not when I told her I swallowed a bunch of pills, not when she dropped me off at college. But her tears poured over me, and I did my best to be strong, though I wanted to cry too. “…It’s okay Mom, you can tell me anything…you don’t have to pretend that this makes you comfortable if it doesn’t, I understand that you’re having a hard time with it…I know I’m not the daughter that you and Dad expected…I’ll spend Thanksgiving at home if it’s important to you, it’s not big deal…” But what she was saying was a big deal. “…I don’t want you to never come home…I don’t want you to have one parent that doesn’t want to be around you…It’s hard to have one kid that doesn’t want to talk to the other…”
Readers, if I could have changed my sexuality right then, I would have. But I had ventured too deep into the rabbit hole, I had come too far to go back to feeling ashamed and disgusted by my feelings. So I was stuck, tearing my family apart.
Since high school, I’ve considered my group of friends to be my family. They were the ones I went to when I was crying, when I couldn’t stand to be in my house any longer, when I needed to rant, or when I wanted to share my hopes and dreams for the future. They were my best friends, my hooligans, my siblings. I loved them with all of my heart; they were the ones I was scared to move away from when I went to college. But my pseudo family is also being torn apart. Ashley and Brendan live together back home, and thrive off of the company of their families rather than the company of their old friends. Polly and Michelle are both off at their respective schools, and beloved Daniel moved with his family to Texas. Everyone is apart, and only four of us seem to care.
With no families to fall back on, I’ve gone back to my loner ways. Netflix, sweatpants, and junk food are my family now. And friends? As much as I love and treasure my college friends, I feel like a burden to them. Fred is a friendly reminder of the life I could have had, which brings up painful memories and anger, so I also try to avoid him. As of now, my strategy in life is to hide under my covers and block out the world.
But there is one bright spot. My girlfriend, formerly my ex-girlfriend. We got back together, and it was actually a simple decision. She loves me, I love her, she is good to me (despite everything), and I want to spend as much time with her before she moves to Costa Rica as I can. Sure, it’s a short-lived commitment, but there’s no one else I’d rather spend my time with. She takes care of me, and makes me feel strong enough to take care of her back. She’s the only thing in my life that makes me feel normal and lovable, and she makes me excited about things again. So I’ve quitting dating around, and am just dating her. In a way, it feels like we’re in our own little world, just holding onto each other until it’s time to let go. It might sound like she’s my lifeboat, but really she’s my wings. She helps me fly toward hope and perspective.
So that’s where I’m at. I’m sad and happy and struggling, but as much as I might feel to blame for the wrongdoings of the world, I’m still trying. After all, there’s only one more week until Thanksgiving Break. I can hold out for that long….right?
They never told me.
They never said anything about what to do when your mom cries to you, because your sexuality is tearing the family apart.
They never mentioned that the older I would get, the less I felt worthy to have friends, or that I would constantly feel like my friends didn’t actually like me.
No one talked to me about how sex could be used as a bargaining tool—I give you my body, you pretend like you care.
I don’t remember hearing anything about what to do when you’re 13 and your best friend gets molested, and you’re the only person in the world that knows.
And how to react when your supposed soulmate cheats on you, and your trust in love is broken.
No one told me that the urge to cut would stay when I went to college.
I must have missed the talk where you learn how to feel happy even though you are constantly tired and barely keeping your head above water in classes.
I guess someone forgot to teach me how to look in the mirror without seeing all the mistakes I’ve made.
Why didn’t someone warn me about how all of my childhood dreams would become ruined?
Who was supposed to send the instructions about being rejected by your family?
Because I’m drowning, and I can’t swim.
No one brought the life jacket.