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.
It’s the morning, and I can see the clouds outside my window. They look still and unchanging, as if someone painted them on the sky rather than them being a vital part of it. I wonder if the clouds looked back at me, through my little window, if they would say I look like a painting instead of a living thing.
I thought this sun would never rise, readers. Yesterday as I spent literally hours staring at the walls, thinking about all the cuts I could make, all the mistakes I’ve made; I believed today wouldn’t come. Instead, tears came, hard and unstoppable and loud. After hours of silence I couldn’t stop sobbing.
I’ll be honest with you now. I think the best thing for me and for the people in my life would be for me to just die. But I don’t have the courage. As much as I have trouble believing that things will get better, there’s a small, small part of me that is desperate for them to. I don’t want to throw away my life when so many don’t get that choice. But at least they were happy while they were alive.
I reached out to Fred again. I left him a voicemail, sobbing and telling him that I didn’t know what to do, that I needed him….he never got back to me. “He’s not the same person you fell in love with,” Caitlin told me. “Yeah,” I whispered. “But I still wish he cared. I still wish he loved me.” My life is at a pivotal point, readers. All I want is to go back in time, before I knew Fred was cheating on me, back when I was happy. But I can’t go back, I can only go forward. I have to start over. Because there’s nothing I can hold on to, except my life. And the thing is, no matter how many people tell me that I am important I am never going to believe it until the day when I can tell that to myself.
I am selfish, readers. I spend all this time on my blog writing about my repressed feelings and my shitty decisions. I cry and cut myself and call old exes instead of putting that energy into the world, to make it better. I used to be a good person. Now I’m just a person. I use relationships like lifeboats or security blankets so I can put my time and energy into someone else’s happiness, rather than trying to fix my own. But people change. People leave you and don’t pick up the phone when you are suicidal and crying. And there’s nothing you can do but watch it happen.
I need to start eating again, and actually taste my food. I need to take more walks outside and look at the sky. I need to stop going on dates with strangers and letting them use me (or my body) so I can feel useful again. I need to create things from my own two hands so I can see that I am capable of doing good things. I need to stop thinking that dying will clean up the mess I’ve made.
I wish I was a kid again. I know everyone says this when they are sad, but when I was a kid I was so good at being alone. I was alone all the time, and it was fine. Now I can’t even spend a whole day alone without the depression kicking in. I want to be self-sufficient, I want to not need people as much as I do now.
I like the idea of dying because I know the holes I would leave in my classes, my job, my family, even my friends, would close easily. Almost as if I was never there. And the pain I might cause others by committing suicide would fade, become dull, and their lives would make more room for people who could treat them better, for happiness and love.
I remember being at outpatient and checking the ‘suicidal feelings’ box each day. I remember the drive to the hospital, and thinking about all the people who I had to hide my visits from. I remember looking at the sky and feeling broken, but relieved that I could still feel something.
I don’t know what my life will become, or how long it will last, but I’m looking at the sky, readers. And I’m trying to feel something.
Did you ever picture your college life as a kid? Did you sit there, dreaming about how professional and put-together and fun-loving you’d become? Did you imagine how many friends you’d have, how your hair would become all long and shiny and straight, how you’d coast through classes on your way to a fabulous job?
Did you imagine having a threesome with your ex-boyfriend and current girlfriend?
My life is fucked. Because the only one of those scenarios that is true is the last, and like just about everything, I screwed it up. How do you screw up a threesome? You enjoy everything halfway, and then watch your girlfriend and ex-boyfriend make out and suddenly become so sad that you want to burst into tears and so mad that you want to punch them both in the face for kissing the other person. And then you get all quiet until they think you’re done so you can disappear into the bathroom and start sobbing hysterically (while listening to them continue). Finally, when your shirt is covered in snot and tears you let your ex come into the room to comfort you (but not your girlfriend). And then your brain hurls every reason you are wrong about everything in your face. And it sucks.
My life is fucked. How did this all happen? How did an innocent trip to visit me in my college town become a friendship between my boyfriend and girlfriend, and then become fucking? Why did they have to get drunk like that, and why did my sober-self have to agree to a threesome that had “bad idea” written all over it? How did I end up in this fucked up place?
I just want to fast-forward through this point in my life—the point where I can’t stay happy through a whole day, where I’ve distanced myself from most of my friends, where what I want and what is possible are two separate things. The worst part is how tired I am of trying to hide how unhappy I am to my girlfriend—but it’s not like I can be completely open all the time because all it will do is make her sad and make me angry. So I’m stuck in my feelings, at least until I can go home for the weekend and visit old friends that make me feel like my old self.
When I was in high school, and went through my second major depressive episode, I realized that college wasn’t going to look like what I imagined as a kid. I realized that every few years I was going to have to suffer through my oppressive depression and that my version of happiness would never be quite as simple as other peoples’. I realized that this depression would turn me into someone self-centered and pessimistic and angry, and that all I could do would be to look for the symptoms and try to catch it early.
But even in that scenario, I never pictured a threesome.
The longer I’m in college, the more I realize what kind of adult I’m going to turn into, and what a scary thought that is. I have this picture of my adult self in my head, carrying around a real purse that wasn’t bought from Journey’s and showing up to work with her hair in a way that looks both faltering and serious. Adult me wears slacks and blazers and drives a practical car that’s not from the ’90s. She gets things done. And if I’m right in my predictions, she will border on “emotional mess” and “type A personality”. Scary, scary thoughts here.
I have this prediction because right now my life is one to-do list after another, one rant session to my roommate Caitlin after another, and it doesn’t really seem to be changing. In the back of my mind, I’m dreaming of things normal college students dream of, like backpacking through Europe and moving in with my boyfriend. But in the front of my mind I’m panicking about getting into graduate school two years from now and trying to plan out a time to get research experience next year and trying to stay on top of the reading for all of my classes and trying to find a place to live next year with my friends and TRYING. I’m trying so hard to get it all right, but I’m not perfect, I forget and fail and it freaks me out. And freaking out will make me wish I could talk to my long-distance boyfriend and then I will get all sad and miss him and find reasons to be angry that should never exist. If this is any indication of adulthood, I think I’ll go ahead and run away with the circus right about now.
But, even though I’m drowning in a sea of things I need to do and am not doing, there are always the good things. I feel pretty good about myself appearance-wise nowadays, and that makes me feel proud, especially because I haven’t done a thing to alter my body, just my attitude. And I’m still completely in love with my boyfriend, which makes the whole planning-our-lives-together thing a bit easier, haha. My friends are great too, both here and back home. I feel confident that if I ever become super super stressed I could rely on them for help. And my mom is great too, as always. And the Vagina Monologues is coming up again, which is such a wonderfully empowering experience. So my life isn’t really in the pits, just sort of teetering on the edge some days.
As I look around me at this world of college students I can’t help but feel as if everyone either has their shit together more than I do, or less than I do. Apart from my friends, I can’t seem to find anyone else on my level of freak out and maturity. Are they worried about not measuring up to the standards of grad school admissions offices too? Are they wishing they could just skip a few years so they can be with the person they love, have their future figured out, and be done with French classes?
The picture in my head of my adult self will probably just stay a picture forever…I’m probably going to end up a slightly wiser, and older version of myself without some dramatic change of character and calmness (but I’m still holding out hope for the calmness and maturity…). But maybe someday I will buy a pair of slacks. And maybe some sort of clown-college-graduate-school hybrid will take me into their program. And maybe I’ll end up with a hybrid as my car, too.
I guess as long as there’s still time to speculate about the future, than I haven’t really screwed up yet.
Why the fuck am I doing this, again?
The eternal question springs again.
But seriously, I’ve just finished two pointless essays, and am about to finish one pointless screenplay. What the fuck am I doing this for? Oh right….diploma.
But why am I doing THIS, this blog thing? Sometimes it feels like I’m just talking to a screen. And sometimes is a lot of the time.
I mean, after all, who cares? In the scheme of things, I have a limited amount of people who care about all this bullshit I write about. And it’s not that having thousands of people read what I write would make what I say more significant or important, it’s just that… I want to know someone else feels this way too, you know? I want to know that somewhere out in this fucked up beautiful mess of a world someone can point to what I’ve written and say, “I’m with her.”
Let’s face it. In the world we live in, it is easy to feel like no one is on your side. And the you’re just standing there by yourself with your opinion, feeling like a jackass.
Lately I’m tired of everything at school. And by everything I mean everything. I’m tired of seeing the same faces, hearing the voices of my teachers, having to get up out of bed and dress to impress my peers…what bullshit. I don’t care about any of my classes anymore, with the exception of creative writing and pottery, where they let me do what I want for a change. In all my other classes, I have to sit there and pretend. I’m so tired of pretending….things I used to work my ass off for, like National Honor Society, don’t mean anything.
I had a thought this morning. In August, I will not have my parents anymore. I won’t have my friends, I won’t have my boyfriend. I’m going to a new city, a whole new place, alone. No one will be there to help me but me. I knew this before, but I brimmed with confidence and pride at the thought of being in full control. Now the fear of the whole situation is kicking in. I’ll be fine, but I won’t. Not at first.
And then I remembered that I had to go to school in the next thirty minutes or I’d be late. And I sat there, tempted to laugh with bitterness at the whole idea. High school? What a joke. Every day holds me back from knowing what that separation will be like in August. Every monotonous second drains me.
Meanwhile, I’m not taking medicine. I have an appointment with my psychiatrist soon, but as of now I am still teetering on the edge of CRAZY. Being in school doesn’t help this. I feel like a ticking time bomb. Being with my friends, writing, and being with my boyfriend makes the instability go away.
I have group tonight, though, so maybe I’ll get some perspective there. Hopefully.
Last night I had a complete mental breakdown.
Saying it like that, so matter-of-fact, makes it sound normal. And I suppose some types of mental breakdowns are normal, I mean everyone loses it from time to time, but this was not one of my semi-regular bouts of “What am I doing with my life?!”. This was straight-up bat-shit crazy.
I was driving in my car for 25 minutes, sobbing, cursing, talking to myself in nonsense….
“This is all a dream just a dream and tomorrow I’ll wake up and try to think of how the car ride home really was and I won’t remember so I’ll picture me just listening to the radio and smiling like I usually do when I’m thinking about [insert boyfriend’s name here] and that will become the reality yes that will be reality and this will be the dream and tomorrow I’ll think of how stupid this is and god how could I be like that, after all that was just some dream and I’ll try to think of how the car ride home really was and I won’t remember so I’ll picture me just listening to the radio and smiling like I usually do when I’m thinking about [insert boyfriend’s name here] and that will become the reality yes that will be reality…”
“I want mommy….I want my mom!….Mommy…I want to go home….I want [insert boyfriend’s name here]! I want [brother’s name]! I want [dog]!….Momma…”
“This isn’t real…this is just a dream…..”
And silence where I would consider doing crazy things like driving my car off the road, and death.
Needless to say again, I was beyond “losing it” and headed straight into “bat-shit crazy”. It is very embarrassing to write about…but a scary enough experience where holding it in would not help at all. Why was I flying off the handle? I had no idea. Lately my emotions have been very extreme. I had only a number of guesses to why this was….1.I was seriously crazy 2.I was pregnant 3.adverse effects from stopping my meds, even though I had been off them weeks. None of these things were especially comforting, as you can imagine.
About the pregnant thing…I wasn’t being totally crazy here, I mean, the possibility was very remote, but there….however, I tend to use pregnancy as the lead source of my anxiety. I convince myself that I could definitely be pregnant, I freak out even more, I add it to my stress, and it becomes one more thing I use to push other people away in my life, because after all, if I was pregnant it would only “become real” once I told people, and who wants that… Basically, it is the crazy part of me trying to gain even more control over my actions, if that makes sense.
About stopping my meds…About two weeks ago I ran out of pills and simply decided to not schedule a doctor’s appointment. See, somehow I’ve convinced myself that my parents hate me because I am on antidepressants and go to therapy. So I quit therapy, quit the pills. Now my parents would like me again, and not be so mad at me all the time, right? And for a week or more it was working…I was happy, and I was happy without being drugged up. And then this week began, where somehow my emotions have completely consumed me, and all of my thoughts. Even my dreams were becoming terrifying…dreams where I would become schizophrenic, dreams where I became a monstrous serial-killer-cannibal….
Maybe it sounds stupid, maybe it sounds fake….but it felt like a looming disaster coming.
Anyway, after that interesting car ride I mentioned above, I arrived home and cried to my mother for over an hour. And I stayed home from school today. And I snuck off when my mother went to run errands and took a pregnancy test, which was negative. And I also took some leftover pills I had of Prozac.
And I slept the entire day. I didn’t remember having any dreams.
As much as the ability to understand people and their situations is a blessing, there are some things I wish I didn’t understand.
Yesterday my dad asked me about group therapy, and how it works. He was trying to understand why I “need this”, while earlier at group I was in group thinking about Susannah and trying understand her decision to down thirty pills. Turns out, when I eliminated her from the situation, and thought of myself back in June it wasn’t so hard to understand her decision at all.
And that’s what group is for. No one else in our lives is able to look into our eyes and understand what it is like to be on the brink of ending your own life. And thank goodness for that, because they can make us want to be better for them. But they can also give you more reasons that you are on the brink in the first place. “All I’m doing is worrying Mom….” “I’ve pulled away from all my friends and hurt their feelings…” “How would Grandpa and Grandma feel if they knew I was like this?”
Guilt eats us away, even if we have therapists at our side. “They’re only listening to get my money.” “They don’t want to hear about this shit.” “They’re just watching for me to look away so they can sneak a peek at their watch.” But group, those other people around our age who voluntarily come here, they’ve been on your side of things. They aren’t there to judge you, or be worried about you. They are there to look you in the eyes and honestly say, “I’ve been there.”
“There” is a scary place to be. I remember the evenings I would be driving to work and thinking of what I had ahead of me: exhaustion, tears, sweat, and stress. Then I would see the lane next to me, full of the blinding lights that came with incoming traffic. And all of a sudden I would feel very calm. Just a few seconds of a decision and my hand could jerk and be smashed into nothing. And it’s all my decision. No one could stop me, not my parents or friends or teachers. They would all just have to deal with the fact I’m dead and cold and finally numb. Because I was tired of dealing with all the pressure inside my head.
“There” also means that “everything will get better eventually” is bullshit. Things haven’t gotten better, they’ve gotten me here, and it’s just been getting worse and worse. “There” means you have come to the point where advice is meaningless words, and love is a constant source of disappointment. Basically, no one but yourself can help you, and you are so weak and tired…feeling utterly helpless.
So that’s why I enjoy group and continue to go to it, though I’m feeling stable right now. Because I wish someone had said they understood when it was me. Being alone “there” is one of the scariest things I understand.