Warning: This post talks about mental illness, specifically depression and anxiety, and mentions of suicidal and self-harm thoughts. If you or someone you know is suffering from mental illness or is suicidal, please seek professional help and guidance 1 (800) 273-8255 (National Suicide Prevention Hotline U.S.) If you are outside the U.S. refer here for international crisis centers and hotlines.
I’ve talked openly about my depression and anxiety before. I don’t keep it a secret that I suffer from both mental illnesses, and have since I can remember, even though I was formally diagnosed with both when I was 18. Mental illness runs in my family, whether they want to admit it or not, but my life was bound to be this way. I had little say in the matter.
Lately, things have been…less than good. My dark days are darker, and my anxiety is more than twice what it used to be. The funniest, well funnies thing to me about this, is I’m more medicated than I’ve been in the past. With my doctor we’re working on changes and it’s a lot of trial and error. There is no one specific science that can tell my brain to just be better; be more.
It’s frustrating because as anyone struggling knows, you have to start a drug, wait for it to work (or not), then hope if it does work, it keeps working. For me, things just stopped working. So my dosage went up, and another medication was added on. Things started working again, and then they stopped. Rinse and repeat…you get the idea.
Lately, I go through these dark periods that last 3-4 days where I can’t get out of bed. The time before my most recent episode was triggered by massive anxiety over the state of America and police violence against the black community. I want to be informed, I want to be involved, but I was too immersed and I broke. The news became a trigger; victims’ names caused all the breath to leave my chest. My sleep was more compromised than normal because I had nightmares about being murdered; or writing a tweet to let someone know, if I died in custody, it was not by my own hand. How could I expect to exist in a world where the majority of society doesn’t want me there? It was impossible to rest when my community was at unrest. However, when I know my triggers, I can avoid them, and just take some time to recover, and get back to normal. Well, my normal anyhow and that’s what I did.
This most recent time was out of nowhere. My anxiety was high, but not to the point where I thought I was going to be incapacitated. All I knew is one moment I was fine, and then at about 8pm last Tuesday, I decided the world was too small for me to exist in it, and I took double my night time medication in hopes of sleeping as long as possible.
Wednesday, I woke up, and everything was wrong. The world was no longer too small, it was also too dark. I wanted to hit walls, I wanted to break glass and cut my arms wide open in order just to see something alive fall out; to see a vibrant red where everything around me was gray. My room, which had already been in shambles due to some long-term anxiety issues, was even worse. Things were everywhere, sheets weren’t on my bed and I just did not care. Why? Because I didn’t think I deserved a bed with sheets. I didn’t…I don’t think I deserve peace and nice things most days.
So, that Wednesday, I took more pills in order to feel nothing. I slept all day minus getting up to use the bathroom, and feed my cats. My poor cats, they knew something was wrong because they mostly stayed in my room all day as a comfort to me. While my brain spun out of control, they were the only stable thing I could count on.
By Thursday, nothing changed besides my ability to sleep the day away, so I mostly just stared off into space and wondered what the point of my life was anymore. I cursed my genetics for making me this way. I threw fits of rage and anger because why me? Why this again? Why couldn’t I get up and go to work, and interact with people like most humans do? I couldn’t even feed myself properly. I mostly just ate a protein bar at some point because my medications make me a bit nauseated. I tried going online to see if my fandoms were doing anything to make me smile, but even the thought of that made me feel sick to my stomach because once again, I convinced myself I didn’t deserve the happiness fandom brought. The only thing I’d earned was misery.
Some friends checked in on me, and it was appreciated. They told me they cared, that I was loved, and they hoped I came out of it soon. I responded to some, not to others. In that moment, it all felt like pity…that those are just things you say to someone so you don’t feel guilty if they do something drastic…the seemingly meaningless texts or emails that they can fall back on to say they tried. Even with people reaching out, I had never felt more alone. It was the first time, in a very long time that I truly and fully did not want to exist anymore.
Admitting any of this, on this “paper” is maybe the hardest thing I’ve done in a while. And I fear that feeling will come back. That it’s a dark cloud that moves out of reach on some days, but is never really gone, and I don’t know how to make it go away. My therapist helps. My medications help. But they aren’t full proof solutions. Nothing is.
Then, Friday, something changed. I woke up and felt like I wanted to get out of bed. I felt like I wanted to make myself something to eat. I felt like I wanted to respond to text messages. The fog was still there, but it wasn’t as dense. That night, I decided to make myself some mac and cheese and as I watched the water boil over the pasta, the bubbles formed a heart. It was random, and accidental, but that bubble heart somehow sent a signal to my brain to say, “There is love when you’re not looking for it and you’re going to be okay.” When I saw that, I immediately started laughing. One, because it was SO stupid, but two, because it reminded me of an incident blogger Allie Brosh went through after a nineteen month long period of darkness. She was lying on her floor and saw a piece of corn, and she wrote:
That piece of corn is the funniest thing I have ever seen, and I cannot explain to anyone why it’s funny. I don’t even know why. If someone ever asks me “what was the exact moment where things started to feel slightly less shitty?” instead of telling a nice, heartwarming story about the support of the people who loved and believed in me, I’m going to have to tell them about the piece of corn. And then I’m going to have to try to explain that no, really, it was funny. Because, see, the way the corn was sitting on the floor… it was so alone… and it was just sitting there! And no matter how I explain it, I’ll get the same, confused look. So maybe I’ll try to show them the piece of corn – to see if they get it. They won’t. Things will get even weirder.
And after that bubble heart, I ate my mac and cheese, watched some TV, and smiled over Harry Styles’ face.
So, why do I write this? Well firstly, because it’s been a long time since I wrote anything this personal, since I felt like my mental illness stole my words. But secondly, because somewhere out there in the universe – whether it’s just one person or many – someone else feels this same way.
I write this for me, but I write this for you: the person struggling to get out of bed; the person who doesn’t know when was the last time they showered; the person who’s lost friendships because their brain is their worst enemy; that person who doesn’t have any tears left, but feels nothing but rawness in their chest. I write this for the person who doesn’t have a doctor, or access to medication; to those whose families tell them to just “cheer up!” To people who see the words “self-care” tagged on Tumblr, but sees someone who got a manicure, to cheer themselves up after a long work day (not that there’s anything wrong with that of course), and not the person who put away a pile of laundry after stepping over or on it for months but was too tired to blog about it. To those who struggle with this every single day, and don’t ever know if they’ll get better, but are holding on hope that something will change.
I can’t tell you that it gets better. If I told you that, I’d be lying. What I can tell you is sometimes it’s worse before it’s better, and sometimes it’s better for days and months at a time. And for some, for lucky ones, it stays better for a very long time. But if you’re like me, your “better” comes in waves, and that’s okay.
Really, I just wanted to say, and remind myself that it’s okay. And it might not be better, or it may not get great, but it will be okay. And it’s in those okay moments, where you find yourself again, and keep clawing your way out of the darkness; the light at the end of the tunnel may be shadowed. It might be dim. But it’s there, and you deserve to see it at its brightest.