And in This Document, I Keep my Thoughts About Death

TW: this post deals with depression, suicidal ideation, and self-harm, in very open terms.

There is a document on my computer and my phone. I’ve kept it going for just about a year now, and mostly kept it a secret, though sometimes bits and pieces of my thoughts, fragmented as they’ve been, have made it into this blog. I mentioned it in a reflection post from February 20, “One Day at a Time,” Anniversaries, & Hopes Unexpected, and since then I’ve kept up writing in it, adding to the chronicles of my sorrow.

I started the document nearly exactly one year ago, according to the fact that I’ve dated and time-stamped each entry, and the first one came on Aug. 19, 2018, at 4:30 in the morning. I actually remember the moment so clearly.

It was my break at work. I had, for once, left the house to go for a walk. It’s the kind of thing the guys I worked with did often, and I did almost never. But that day — that day I was not okay. I walked down Grand Street, winding through the Lower East Side, and wound up sitting on the ground outside a park.

I pulled up the Notes app on my phone and wrote I wish I was dead

Later that night, right before my next shift started, I wrote I wish it would go away

And so it went. And so it goes. The notes have gotten longer over the year; I’ve added punctuation. Sometimes, I’ve gone as long as a month without adding to it; others, I’ve barely made it 12 hours.

This year has been, ultimately, one never-ending episode.

“Episode.”

That’s what they’re called, in my mind and maybe others’, these moments of depression that mar the rest of my life. Usually they last a few days; once or twice in the past they’ve lasted a month or more. But this one? This one has gone on for nearly a year now.

It’s been its own rollercoaster of an experience.

I have been so soaringly happy at times, feeling as though I were living on a cloud, reveling in the unreality of this reality I inhabit. Simultaneously, I have been devastatingly not-okay. I have sunk as low as ever before, my thoughts turning knife-like inward and slicing away my defenses. I have stopped cutting (and started again). I have gone ages without being suicidal (and then, been suicidal again). I have survived and come oh-so-close to not surviving

I researched long-term mental health care facilities. I have spent months at a time praying I would make it to the end of my shift so I could check into short-term emergency care. Once, in June, I almost called a cab to take me to the hospital. I was inches away from doing it, and then I … didn’t.

Over the past year, I've run the gamut of suicidal fantasies, imagining myself doing everything from leaping off a bridge to bleeding out to swallowing fistfuls of pills and letting myself get taken to Death's door...none of these are new.

It's the intensity, the density, the loneliness of it all, that's what's new. Such a long stretch of not-okay times. Packed so closely together, while I felt absolutely alone.

And meanwhile, I’ve tracked it all.

There are some who might say that tracking it makes it worse. After all, doesn’t reading back over it just remind me of those emotions?

Maybe. But it’s not like I would forget it anyway. I can’t. It’s physically impossible to not remember, and this way — this way I can track trends. And realize, something is wrong.

Of course, something is always wrong: I have a mental illness. But this time? This time, something is different-wrong. Something is longer-wrong. Something is deeply, unsettlingly wrong.

And here’s the thing: things are also so very, very good. I am disgustingly happy; I’m just also recklessly depressed. People keep telling me how I look great, how it seems things are good.

And they are.

I just…am in agony inside, and wish it would go away, and don’t know how to make that be. And if I can’t fix it, I can at least share it and say: help me. Share good things with me. Things that make you smile, make you laugh, make you cry but in a good way. Things that give you hope. Things you like. Quirks that set you apart. (Is it too much to ask you to say things you like about me? I would like to know. I would like to believe they exist.)

Also if you’re in NYC and you have any therapist recommendations that won’t break my bank, I would take them.

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.

It Comes And It Goes, And I Don't Know Why

I mean, yeah, sure, I know that it's because of "chemicals in my brain." And yeah, sure, I know that it's often triggered by events in my life. So yeah, sure, I guess I do "know why."

Except I don't.

I know, I know, I'm not making any sense! Am I making any sense? No. 

I don't know what I'm trying to say. I guess it's just...my depression is like a wave. It comes, it overpowers me and suffocates me and I think I'm drowning in it. And then, just like *that*, it pulls away, leaving me straggled on the beach, aching for a breath of fresh air. 

Just when I think I'm in the clear, it comes again, pulling me under once more.

It comes and it goes, and I don't know why.

I don't know why Saturday night a picture of a cute celebrity with a beautiful celebrity made me rage with jealousy. I don't know why that jealousy turned into sorrow. I don't know why that sorrow morphed into something so ugly I was lying in bed, sobbing, wondering whether tomorrow would be worth it. 

I've seen pictures of those same two celebrities together for ages. And yes, I'm irrationally in love with the cute one (he's a really good writer, okay!) and pretty sure he's rationally in love with the beautiful one (she's redhead goals, okay!), but for more than a year I've just shrugged and rolled my eyes at my own celebrity crush.

This pic was taken a mere hours before everything went topsy-turvy; I was  fine  that afternoon; not so much that night...

This pic was taken a mere hours before everything went topsy-turvy; I was fine that afternoon; not so much that night...

On Saturday, though, I broke down completely. I lost my ever-loving mind. I was in tatters. I wrote a blog post about the experience and it was raw and unfiltered and it somehow managed to bring me back to my senses.

I don't know why Saturday's episode started, and I don't know why it ended, because sometimes what triggered me then isn't a trigger; and sometimes what soothed me then actually makes things worse. 

It's confusing. I know it's confusing to people who don't live with mental illness, but it's confusing to me, too. Even I don't always understand what's going on in my head. Sometimes I don't even know how to describe my feelings, much less why they're there or what it means. 

In just over a week, I get to see a psychiatrist for the first time since before leaving New York. Hopefully she'll recommend a counselor that I can visit regularly. I am...beyond-words excited for this visit. I am stoked to get back on track with taking care of my mental health. I'm excited to spend at least an hour a week just talking about everything in my head, and having someone help me parse through the answers. Or give me some when I need that, too. 

The past three months have been hard. 

Here's the thing about being mentally ill: you're just as sick in Italy as you are in America. You're just as sick on vacation as you are at work. You're just as sick when everything is going right as when everything is going wrong. Yesbecause it's a mental thing, where you are, what you're doing and what's happening in your life can affect you. But that's true for physical illness as well! If you have a stomach bug and gorge yourself on mac and cheese and bacon, things will get worse. You'll spend the night puking in the toilet and wishing yourself dead. Yes, that's a graphic image. Don't eat mac and cheese and bacon when you have a stomach bug! (This has been a PSA.)

It's nature and nurture when it comes to mental illness. Yes, there is something physically (nature) wrong with my brain; at the same time, there are things in my circumstances, today and in the past (nurture) that can aggravate it. 

So many times, people think that it will be helpful to ask why I'm depressed and how it can be fixed. I so appreciate the thought behind those questions! I love that people want to help me, that they care enough to want to take it upon themselves to make it better.

But those questions also stress me out, because the truth is, I don't know the answers, often, to either of them. It's a mystery.

For so much of our history, mental health wasn't something that was taken seriously. It was misunderstood and it's only recently that people have taken the time to get to know it Doctors are still studying and figuring the mind out. I hope that my writing openly about what I go through can add to help, because it's an inside look at a depressed mind. But I think sometimes people mistake my writing for knowing the answers, and I just want to say: I don't always have them. I'm sorry. But I don't.

I know it's frustrating; you want to help. But the answer, from my heart: I don't know why it came; I don't know how to fix it; please just love me.