"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.

On Loneliness, with a Smidge of Missing New York

Content Notice: depression, self-harm

I feel so lonely lately. It's partly because, well, I moved to a new city where I have few friends, and since I don't have a job I don't really get to interact with other people unless I really go out of my way to do so. So I am, truthfully, alone a lot, and my brain, my extroverted, depressed, twisted little brain, doesn't handle alone time well. 

But there's more to it than that. I am...existentially lonely. Even when I'm connecting with someone else, when I'm in the midst of entertaining others and hearing their laughter bubble up and knowing that I did that, I made them make that joyful sound, I feel like I am the only soul in the world. 

In high school, I wrote this description of it that I think is apt; I'm gonna paraphrase, because honestly I'm too lazy to hunt for the original file, but basically: I feel like I'm in a desert. It's hot, it's arid, it's full of sandy wind. And I can see people hanging out in a beautiful oasis mere steps away. I want to join them, oh so desperately.

I make my way toward them and I'm so close, I'm almost there, when — something stops me. An invisible glass wall, impenetrable but crystal clear, separates me. I start to yell, and bang on the glass, and kick it and bash my head into it and I'm doing everything I can to do their attention. But they can't hear me. I scream myself hoarse and punch the wall until my knuckles are raw, but in the end, I'm still alone in my desert. 

But wait, it gets worse. Because as I progress, I see there's a tiny hole in the glass. I walk to it and yell and, lo and behold, someone comes toward me! We can't reach each other, but we can communicate through the glass, and this is the happiest moment of my life. My soul is flying! I've never been so ecstatic, never felt so connected, so understood and seen

And then it ends. The oasis calls my new friend back, and with a wave and a promise to come back, they saunter off to rejoin the rest of humanity. Now I'm alone again, and it's so much more bitter than it was before, because I've had a taste of what life could be. And I'm still cut off from it.

Sometimes depression is hard to understand because, like grief, it isn't always constant. I have my moments of happiness, I can smile as brightly as the next girl, my joy radiates forth.

But it isn't real. When the people are gone, the lights are dimmed and I'm alone in the aftermath, I plummet back into darkness. 

It feels like no matter what I do, I'm not seen or understood. So I do what I can. I...I beg friends to let me hang out with them. I write blog posts like this one. I cut, sometimes. I cry in public. I ask people for prayer. All I really want is for someone to look me deep in the eyes and say, Wow. I'm so sorry for your pain. Let me hold you for a moment.

I think this is why I crave a romantic relationship so much. Because I feel like, if I could just have a boyfriend, I would always have someone to hold me. Someone to see me. There would be someone to walk me through the dark nights, yes, but...there are things about myself I love, and I want to share them with someone and have someone devote themselves to me.

I don't know, maybe part of the problem is me. Because I rely so heavily on people. I'm a people person in the extreme, an extrovert to a fault. When I love people, I want all of them. And that's unrealistic to ask of a friend, even a family member. 

[An aside: it's really hard when all of your friends are in relationships and/or have babies. Talk about not being able to ask much of people...]

I want to be known, intimately and deeply. And I know, I know what you're going to say: that God loves me that way and he knows me intimately and deeply. Hearing that honestly doesn't help. It just wracks me with guilt. 

I want to stop feeling so alone. So empty. 

And you know what else?

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I freaking miss New York. 

I miss the endless amounts of people, the beautiful architecture, the sounds of traffic. I miss my friends, I miss working, I miss my apartment. 

The missing weighs on me and pulls me down, deeper into the mire of loneliness that just suffocates me all the time.

And I don't know what to do about it. I don't have an answer for myself or anyone else. I'm just lonely, and homesick, and really, really sad.