I am standing on a precipice.
I have stood here before.
The circumstances in my life are becoming overwhelming for me. I complain a lot about things and the way they are, but rarely do I tell people how much and to what degree these things affect me. I feel guilty for feeling the way I do about these stupid things… The small things, if you are looking at the grand scheme of life… But they are things that are and have been slowly chipping away at everything that makes me feel whole.
I am starting to see that my fighting the circumstances is becoming a futile, losing game.
How can I complain about these things when people have it so much worse than I do? People have lost people, people are at war, people are homeless, jobless.
My problems are selfish.
My job/living/family/social situations and obligations, however, are preventing me from enjoying the process of creating and learning something new every day. In the grand scheme of things, and considering the hell and torment that others face, I feel guilty for even caring about it, but I do because those things are essential to the core of me. Those things are my very soul. They are my release. They are the only means of exiting my head for a while to find my own brand of happy. They are my drug. Not getting to participate in these activities fully, not being able to emerse myself in the process, but instead only dipping a toe… It has become a problem. A problem that is constant, and it is tugging at me, and I am losing my grip. If I can get out of my mind for a while, and I mean REALLY exit my mind, I can usually delay the process, the cycle. In as much as I have been shooting more, journaling more, trying to problem solve at work more, volunteering for more responsibilities at work more, it has not stopped or slowed the process… Creating, photographing, painting, writing, problem solving, creative thinking, instead of being my source of pleasure, have become a source of stress. This is how I can identify the point of the cycle that I am in right now. Unfortunately, I am passed the point where I can control it.
So, I am selfish. People are dying. People are hungry. People are sold, attacked, raped, murdered, and here I am depressed because I don’t have time to emerse myself in creating. I am selfish, and I am an asshole, and I deserve every second of anguish I am giving myself. Drug therapy would lessen my pain, but I am terrified of drugs and I won’t touch them. My blessing, my curse.
My problem is, without these acts, without the learning, and the challenges, and the creating, I become more depressed. It is as though there is something dying inside of me, a light extinguishing, perhaps. I don’t choose to get depressed from it, it just happens. One day I wake up and I feel a little anxiety and I don’t know where it comes from. Then I wake up the next day and it is still there. I blame the job, or my schedule, and I go about my life, and then it grows. By the time I really start to notice the shift, other people are already noticing it. “Why are you shaking?” “Quit bouncing your leg.” “Why did you cut your nails so short?” “Are you okay?” “How many times are you going to apply antibacterial gel?”… Again, I ignore it.
Next, I will put on a pound or two. I will be eating a second bowl of ice cream, and I will stop and think “God, I am fat.”
I will wake up one night in a panic attack.
And then another.
And then another.
I will start having nightmares (like today… Giant snake devouring kittens. Thanks, brain.)
I will eat an entire bag of potato chips without realizing it.
I will shame myself for the potato chips.
I will gain a few more pounds.
I will eat shitty foods and cry while I do it.
My anxiety levels will begin to skyrocket.
I won’t be able to get through a day without some type of episode.
I will watch my body gain and gain, I will watch all my hard work to get in shape die off as I puff up.
I will begin starving myself, to the point of heart palpitations.
I will grow terrified of the heart palpitations and I will binge.
The palpitations will cause panic. I will associate that panic with foods. I will grow new phobias like the three peanut/cherry/mushroom phobia years. I will begin avoiding foods that have “caused” me to panic.
I will start shouting at people for no reason. I will start drinking more. I will cry without warning.
The last time all this happened, I started dreaming of dying. I stopped wanting to live. I had lost all joy in everything, there was nothing left to live for. I was a burden, and a heavy one at that. I was so convinced that I was going to sleep walk and harm myself or others that I started putting objects in front of my door before I went to bed. I would have such vivid nightmares that I murdered people that I would wake up and check to make sure I hadn’t gotten up out of bed. I would check under my fingernails for blood. I would check my shoes for mud.
When this happened the time before last, I found solace in self-mutilation. I was a cutter, but to hide it from the world, I used pins and needles. Less marking, less scarring, less having to blame my cat for my wounds. Pins and needles look like a paper cut.
So, here I stand, on the edge of another episode. My therapist will tell me that I exhibit all the classic signs of bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and phobias, possibly also facing an eating disorder, and I will stop going to see her. I will blame my insurance, but really, it will be because I don’t want to hear it. She will tell me to see my GP and get put on Ativan and Lexapro, and that will be the day I stop making future appointments. The last “episode” I had right around four months ago, my GP stared at me for a long time before he blurted out “you’re like a caged, frightened animal. Your posture, the shaking voice, the trembling, you are terrified.” He is right. I am. I remained in that state for a week before I just woke up one morning and it was gone, the only remnants was a pounding headache and sore muscles. I can only equate it to the sensation of holding your bladder for 12 hours and then suddenly, using the facilities. I actually felt the anxiety leave me and the next morning, I was normal.
I am fucking normal.
This happens to normal people, too.
Or does it?
Yes, of course it does, because it is happening to me and I AM FUCKING NORMAL.
And then I cry.
Because normal people cry.
I will wonder how long this part of the cycle will last.
I will wonder how many people will throw their hands up and walk away from me this time.
I will wonder how many people think I am faking it.
I will wonder if I will be normal for the rest of my life.
I will wonder if I will ever enjoy life again.
And then I will.
I will wake up one morning in a few weeks, or a few months, or a few years, and I will feel better.
I will feel vibrant.
I will feel like hitting the gym, I will go back to craving healthy foods again. You won’t be able to keep me from running… On a treadmill.
I won’t get angry because I survived another sleep. I will be happy that I get to walk the planet for another day.
I will call all the people I avoided and I will tell them that my work schedule had been so crazy for a while, but I am back now and we can be friends again. Some of them will. Some of them won’t. Some of them will take a while to warm back up to me. Some will tell me that I need prescriptions. Some will tell me how they take prescriptions. Some will tell me to change my diet. Some will tell me to stop being dramatic. Some will tell me that these mental disorders don’t exist. Some will call me a crybaby. Some will post memes to my Facebook making light of these disorders (my favorite is the one about the eighteen year olds storming the beaches of Normandy and nowadays eighteen year olds need a safe place because their feelings are hurt). Some will post inspirational quotes on my Facebook. Some won’t realize anything was wrong. Some will say “but you always seem so happy.” Some will simply roll their eyes.
Some will be in the trenches with me for every moment of it. Some will feel it with me. Some, I will catch taking glimpses at my arms to see if I have fresh cuts.
I don’t want any pity. Please trust that I know who the people are whom I can call upon when I need it the most. This PSA was written more for me than for anyone else, but it will hopefully serve as a warning for those who know me, those who knew me the last time I was like this, and the few that are still in my life from the first time I was like this.
I will cry.
I will scream.
I will avoid.
I will ignore.
I will feel like a giant turd for treating people that way.
I will guilt myself further.
I will make it worse.
I will sleep all day.
I will gain some footing.
I will lose it again.
But I will come back eventually.
I hope I have written all of this and it turns out to be nothing. I hope I wake up tomorrow and all of this is gone. I hope I get my camera out tomorrow and I feel joy in it again instead of stress and loathing.
For those who have to watch it happen again, I am sorry to keep doing this to you. For those who will be seeing it for the first time, I am sorry that I am like this.
I don’t know how to fix it, but if there is one thing I have learned from this, it is that it has made me more compassionate and empathetic the longer I have had to power through it, maybe I will come out on the other side a saint. Maybe I won’t. I don’t know.
All I can ask is that you buckle up and ride it out with me, because I certainly hate to lose people in this process.
I promise you that I will be fighting myself internally exponentially harder than it will appear I am on the outside.
Here we go.