About Losing Control, and Snake Thoughts

Content Warning: depression, severe mental illness, hopelessness, thoughts about death

Seriously though, content warning. This post ends hopefully, but the journey there is not always light. Take care of yourself <3

I feel like I'm losing control. In 12 million ways I it feels like I am unable to get ahold of myself, and I can't even box it into one category. Is it irritability because of depression or because of hypomania? Is it depression? Is it mania? Is it excitement, euphoria, despair, self-hatred, narcissistic moments?

It's all of the above, all at once, all hitting me and washing over me, both a wave from above and a riptide throwing me back under.

It's so many things happening and I don't have a name for any of them and that, really, is its own things as well.

Honestly I think the problem is just life. Or maybe me. Is life just too hard for me?

It feels like my bones are trying to claw out of my skin. It feels like my brain is trying to explode out of my skull. It feels like my heart is trying to beat out of my chest. It feels like my body has turned against me in the same way my brain did all those years ago (and never turned back).

I close my eyes and think about my options.

I open my eyes and face the possibility that there are no options.

By turns I am devastated or encouraged by the fact that this is unchangeable. I could pick up my life, abandon my job, my friends, my city, move to another coast, across an ocean, immerse myself in a new life — even create a brand-new wardrobe, hairstyle, overall look — and this would be with me: I would be depressed. Anxious. Bipolar. Frantic.

It’s not like I haven’t done that before.

Devastated to know there is no escaping.

Encouraged to know it’s not up to me to fix this.

I do what I can and sometimes it helps more, sometimes it helps less, sometimes I run out of energy to do what I can and I let the waves rip me under, let the water pour over my head and wash me away.

But when it comes down to it, when the rubber meets the road, when it’s truly all said and done, what am I if not unable to fix myself? I can’t cure myself. I can’t change the way my brain is wired. I can’t will myself into being happy, into knowing joy, into not being ill.

So that’s good to know.

At the same time it doesn’t…make this easier. When it feels like my internal organs are contorting themselves in an effort to destroy me, when thoughts slither into my mind and hiss terrifying thoughts, coil around my throat like a snake, it doesn’t help to know that I’m doing what I can.

What I feel then is terror. Terror at how out of control I am. Terror at what I might do. Terror that one day I’ll have enough and decide that since I can’t change my circumstances I should change my state of existence.

5A5BD9C9-F15E-4F27-B8B8-49D2682BB7F4.JPG

It’s not something I want. What I want is — not even to be done with this, but to be able to cope. I’m trying so many things. Self-esteem workshop with my therapist, trying to learn grounding techniques to keep me from spiraling into panic, distraction, leaving the house and all the heavy feelings that sometimes come with it.

The picture to the left: I took it on a day when I woke up and all I felt was panic, rage, helplessness.

I forced myself out of my room, down the stairs, onto the train, and I rode it at least an hour to Bryant Park. It’s one of my favorite spots in the city, somewhere I used to spend long, lazy afternoons three summers ago, writing and applying for jobs and trying to stem the panic of that season of unemployment.

That day, it helped.

So I guess that’s the way it has to continue: I will try. When the loss of control hits, when snakey thoughts slither into my mind, when I feel like I’m losing everything, I will take a step. I will think about what I’ve learned in therapy. I will clear my head by changing my scenery. I will make this work.

And if I can’t? If I feel like all is lost and I have to end it now?

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline phone number is 1-800-273-8255 and there’s always someone on the other end.

There are hospitals for short-term emergency care. There are even treatment centers for long-term care.

There are options.

Take a deep breath, Karis. Close your eyes, count to 10. Open your eyes. Look around. Fairy lights on the walls. Music in your headphones. Help available a phone call or chatbox away. Take a deep breath. You might be losing control, but all is not lost. All is not hopeless.

And it’s not hopeless for anyone else, too.

Listen, I write this post not just because it helps me, but with the hope it can help someone else. Maybe it can help to know that you’re not alone. That mental illness is a shitty, creepy, disastrous thing, but that you’re never alone. We are legion out here, living this way. But we are living through it. So if you need help in any way — please seek it. And if you don’t think you can go to help through formal therapeutic channels, if you need someone to talk to, if you need a boost of courage, let me know. The thing is: we’re in this together.

In it, together.

Love y’all. Drop a line below or send me a note if you need anything <3

Grasping at Truth: Why I Write My Depression

Because it's the only way to know that what I think is true, is how I felt. 

Content Warning: depression, mental illness

I have written so much about my depression. I’ve written about it for everything from my college newspaper, to this very blog, to online Christian blogs, to seventeen.com.

Some people ask me why I do it. Why would I put so much of myself out there, when being mentally ill is still looked down upon by a huge slice of society. Why would I risk future jobs and future loves and future friends by being so honest about the things that, you’d think, make me weak, make me less-than. Why would I open myself up to people’s judgement and condemnation when I could just keep it all inside, lock it in a box and throw the key away and no one would have to be the wiser.

And there’s an answer to every one of those questions, a good answer: because the only way to eradicate stigma is for someone to fight it, and I can be that person; because being depressed, anxious, bipolar doesn’t make me weak, and if anyone in my potential future thinks it does, that’s on them, and not on me; because keeping my stories locked inside has only ever eaten away at my soul, at my heart.

Those are all good answers, and they’re true answers. But they aren’t the truest answer, they aren’t the deepest answer.

See, the truth is, my depression brain lies to me. It lies to me when I am depressed and tells me how bad I am, as a human, how little I deserve, how much I should let it all go; and it lies to me when I’m not depressed, telling me those things never happened, telling me I merely overreacted, telling me nah girl, you’re crazy!

My brain tells me I’ve lost it; that my feelings and thoughts were mere fabrications, close upon conjectures.

You never felt like that.

You’re making things up for attention.

I can’t believe you would do something like that; this is why nobody likes you.

I can grit my teeth, squeeze my eyes shut and just try to fight it off; I can try to grin and bear it and hope it’ll pass; I can beat my fists against the wall and scream; nothing works, though. The uncertainty remains.

Did I conjure those emotions out of nowhere? Did I really feel that poorly? Is it really all in my head?

And so, I write my depression. I chronicle the swings, trying to catch all of them, the highs and the lows, knowing I’ll miss a few, knowing that regardless I’ll be better off with any of them caught in the feathery arms of my journal, my blog, the Internet.

The Internet is harsh and full of judgment, but it lasts forever, and therefore the next time Depression whispers in my ear that I’m crazy, that there’s nothing where I think there’s Something, I know how to fight back.

"How are you?": Understanding the Mood Swings

"How are you?"

I am sinking into the despair of knowing this is never going to change, that this is my life forevermore, scrabbling to be happy and never reaching my goal.

I am soaring with the knowledge of some good thing - today, the solo travel trip I just booked, tomorrow maybe a cute boy flirting with me - and feeling hope renew, precious, dangerously small, in my chest.

How do I communicate the truth that both of these coexist at once in my soul? How do I say I am both terrible and amazing, and how does anyone understand that as much as I crave death, I ache for a full life even more.

When they ask, they are just being polite, but my problem has always been that I desire so badly to be seen. To be known and understood. I must really show them my pain, I think; then...oh yes, then they will have their answer.

Sometimes all it takes to get me excited is an empty train car, true story.

Sometimes all it takes to get me excited is an empty train car, true story.

“How are you?” 

It is the quick question they toss my way as we pass off shifts at the office, and I grimace then laugh because the truth is I’m both terrible and great and there’s no time to explain that I have never been okay, I never will be okay, but sometimes, for just a moment or two, I am not terrible. 

I don’t know how to explain it. I don’t know if it’s even real, if it even makes sense. My doctor tells me I have Bipolar II and that makes sense but sometimes…

Sometimes it is 11:15 p.m. at work and I am smiling and laughing and I feel like things are okay, I feel powerful, I feel beautiful and like I have finally found my niche, the thing I am good at and the people who believe in me. I blink and it is 11:45 p.m. and my fists are clenched onto the top of my desk and my heart is racing a thousand-miles per minute, I can’t breathe, I can’t think, there are so many emotions in my soul and in my brain and sending tremors through my body.

In the blink of an eye I go from life of the party to party pooper. I am fine until suddenly I am calling the Lifeline for Suicide Prevention, begging them to save me, save me, save me.

“How are you?”

Right now I am good but in 30 minutes I might be crushed by the heaviest of weights on my chest and it’s going to kill me, except…right before the moment it crushes me entirely, it lifts. And I breathe again, freely, completely, unburdened and full of unhindered joy. 

So how am I?

Truly, I haven’t the faintest. It comes, it goes, but the only steady truth is I am chronically mentally unwell, and I am fighting it. Daily.

"One Day at a Time," Anniversaries, & Hopes Unexpected

CONTENT NOTICE: depression, suicidal and self-harm fantasies, suicide attempts

It feels like it has been so many months since I was last happy. Feels like actual, literal months since the last time my smile didn’t feel like cardboard or my heart sink into the pits of my stomach like actual lead.

In October, there was a month-long period when I went off my medication, and if I think on it for a long time it makes sense that’s when it all started. Things took a downhill tumble, and then Nov. 6th, on my way home from work, I was waiting for my train at the subway station.

Can you tell where this is going? Did the content notices give it away?

I’ll try not to be too graphic, even though the images accompany me even now, five months later. It’s like…if I close my eyes, and just think about that moment, everything floods my mind again. I’m back there. My eyes well with tears, and I can’t breathe through the crushing panic in my lungs. Then my legs start to shake so I lean on the column behind me and just hope and pray that whoever it is, whyever they jumped…that they’re okay. That they survive. That the hurt and pain goes away soon and that they survive and that somehow, some way, they find peace and a way to tunnel into light again.

And then I flee the station. I just get out of there and I run and I howl the whole way back to work and I just fall down and I feel like I’m dying.

And since then…I’ve been in therapy every week. Seen the doctor once a month. Taken my meds every day. For like two months I was never home because I worked a lot and then when I wasn’t working I went out and hung out with my coworkers for the first half of my shift hours, and the second half I watched TV on the office couch (which are overnight, so there’s like…nowhere else I can go that’s safe).

It’s like I’ve been trying to put my life back together in all these different puzzle-ways since October. All through the fall and winter I’ve been drowning, grappling to stay afloat.

And then this week things got worse because, well…it’s the anniversary. The sixth anniversary (last Wednesday) of the first time I signed myself into a psych ward. It was a whole traumatizing event and I hated it so passionately and I was filled with an absolute and abject terror the entire time I was locked up in that…horror show. Every year this week hits me in the gut and it seems to get stronger.

I told my therapist this in my latest counseling session, but: I know some of that is on me. I could make it bother me less. But some of it, some of it is out of my control. Anniversaries of days like that, they just…they hit you hard. And they don’t always go away. For all I know, if the world and I are still here in 40 or 50 years, I’ll still feel this way. Every year, without fail. It’s like the cycle of the seasons. It just…happens.

So there’s been this crushing weight on my mind lately. Well, I say “lately.” I guess that’s open to interpretation. There’s this notes doc on my phone that’s pretty much a running installment of all the ways in which, as the post is now titled, “I wish I was dead.”

One of the perks of the graveyard shits: sunrise on the way home ;)

One of the perks of the graveyard shits: sunrise on the way home ;)

The first post is short and sad: “I wish I was dead.” And it’s time-stamped Aug. 19, 4:30 am (yeah, I work the graveyard shift, it’s just the way it goes).

It’s not like the note is littered with multiple comments from every single day, but there is at least one from every month between August and now. The thing is, they build.

By mid-October (Oct. 21, 9:45 pm), it’s a little longer: “I feel like I'm on a cliff and my brain is about to fall off and shatter on the rocks below.

And by the time February starts, they’re longer, more winding, more panicked and out of control.

See, these days, I’m recognizing the signs: a recurrence of a specific paranoia that has plagued me since middle school (“…they can hear me, hear my thoughts, hear the beating of my soul. They know, and therefore, they hate me: they must. They will seek to destroy me. I can thwart them. I can destroy myself first.” Feb. 19, 7:20 am.)

I’m having anxiety attacks about everything — from whether the small quip I made to the pharmacist about the dang chip reader was annoying and oh my word it was annoying she hates me why did I say that I shouldn’t have said that, I’m the worst, I’m terrible, I’m not funny and people hate me and everyone wants me gone and I can’t breathe and — to the email I’m sending my boss about whether we should change a work policy and BUT SHOULD WE CHANGE THAT POLICY THOUGH wow look at that, I can’t breathe again!!!

But the worst sign? The one that really and truly tells me “hey girl, crap is about. to. hit. the. fan”? The fantasies are back. The dark ones. The harmful ones. The ones that have sent me fleeing to the hospital three times over the past six years in an attempt to not act on them. The ones that make me curl up and clench my fingers, sometimes curling them into a fist and sometimes burying them in my scalp and trying not to scream out loud, trying to bury this pain inside of me.

It feels like all of this pain, all of this emotional and mental pain will kill me, utterly destroy and devastate me, if I don’t let it out somehow. Scream. Fight. Run. Yell. Hurt myself.

Does it even matter?

Last Wednesday I woke up for a video call therapy appointment and I cried and I told my therapist that I’m in so much pain and I think about hurting myself all the time. Every day. And it’s not that I want to. It’s just that I think about it because…I’ve only been alive for 25 years. But I’m so tired. They’ve felt so long. And I realized, on the call with her, that the idea of another 60 years on Earth…honestly the idea of another year, even just six months, living in my own mind, feels impossible.

I made it through the call, and set up an emergency appointment to see my doctor sooner than anticipated, and my therapist made me promise not to hurt myself. And then I logged off, and I got coffee and dinner and I opened up Netflix and wondered what to watch and that’s when I decided to take the plunge and start “One Day at a Time” and check it out.

And somehow, a binge of one season and nine episodes later, I found myself sobbing on my couch, realizing I’d never felt myself so accurately seen and portrayed on TV as I was in season 2, episode 9 (“Hello, Penelope”). I just broke down.

I don’t know why it was so unexpected. Literally the entire reason that I have written so much about my own mental health is because I know how much it matters to see that you’re not alone, and to see your experiences reflected back to you. And I even knew that episode was coming, because it’s been out for a year now and there was a ton of Twitter chatter about it last year when it aired. But it hit me in the gut nonetheless, and I sat on the couch and cried, and then I just felt…so much lighter.

The thing is (having since finished the show as well), I don’t feel “better,” or whole again. I still feel crappy. Heck, I completely broke down sobbing at work on Monday night: like, turned my back to my coworker, had to take my glasses off cause they were fogging up, shoulders shaking, etc etc etc. And the paranoia, the anxiety: they’re all there. Fully-fledged, full force. So present.

So, in all honesty, I’m not fully sure what the so-called “purpose” of this post is. It’s not like I have a nicely-wrapped gift I can offer you, a moral or a lesson or a story that has ended. I’m in the middle of this one. There isn’t a moral yet. Lesson? What’s that.

Maybe I just wanted to share. To feel less alone. I feel so alone a lot, and right now, on the one hand, it feels like my mind is eating me alive, but on the other, I had this beautiful moment of understanding and reflection of seeing myself in a character on TV, and I need to share it all.

I want to be less alone. I work overnights and it’s hard to get out and see people and I’ve been isolated a lot the past 10 months, and to be honest, the past five and a half months of intense depression have made it nearly impossible for me to gather the energy to EVER leave my house. Or, let’s be real, my bed.

So I guess this is me reaching out. Trying to be less alone. And sharing about the small hopes.