I’ve been wanting to write this piece for over a year now, but kept putting it off because I didn’t want to bring these realities to life, or to revisit them. After further consideration, I believe these are things that need to be said.
I’ve seen the countless memes, the series of photos about mental illness in general, but more specifically depression and anxiety, and I always share them so others know the struggle – but it is just a mere glimpse into the black hole of the abyss.
So here it is, in pure, raw form, what is really going on when I say “I’m fine.”
No one knows that I wake up at least 30 minutes to an hour before my alarm goes off in the morning. Even then, my feet don’t touch the floor to get out of bed. It’s a fight to drag myself out of bed to take on the day. It takes sometimes an hour to do that. However, once I’m up and moving, it only takes me 30 minutes from shower to dressed and ready.
That’s on a good day.
The mental fight wages on in my head. Sometimes the voices are so boisterous, I break down, cry, and even wish for death before sucking it all back up inside to get on with my day. I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy.
The voices in my head, they never leave me alone; sometimes I can ignore them, or only hear muffled words. Sometimes they are my mother’s voice, but mostly, it’s my voice scolding me for being an idiot, for feeling anything, nothing or too deeply.
My drives to work involve listening to artists whom I’ve found to be real friends over the years through their soul penetrating lyrics. Music has been there for me in my darkest of days, and will always be my constant companion.
This illness affects my work at times, manifesting itself into OCD, perfectionism and feeling inadequate in my abilities. I can get caught on one tiny detail that no one else will notice, but I must have that perfectionism in my work otherwise I feel as if I am cheating my employers.
When I worked in sales, sometimes the depression and especially anxiety were so overwhelming I would sit outside businesses psyching myself up so I could just get out of the car. Once I made it in to meet with a business owner I would at times stumble over my sales pitches and appear stupid; then I would berate myself in my head and make everything worse.
Even when I don’t seem to be depressed or anxious, believe me when I say it’s always there. You may see me fidget, play with my rings, or finger nails. Speaking of finger nails – I must keep fake nails on mine otherwise I will chew them to nubs, including my cuticles, to the point of pain and bleeding. So please don’t think my nails are a vanity thing, because that is far from the truth.
Evenings and weekends spent laying on my couch with no TV, music or sound in general are becoming more and more often. Motivation goes out the window, even if all I need to do is pick up a DVD from the floor that the cats have knocked over; it becomes a monumental task to get off that couch in those moments.
Sometimes I hate coming home after work, only because I know once I’m there, I won’t leave the house again until the next day to repeat my routine over.
I cannot write at home, I get distracted, anxious and fed up easily; I need the bustle and noise that a busy coffeehouse environment affords me. Yet even my coffeehouse writing and creative days are stalked by this invisible nemesis. If you see me at a coffeehouse writing, do not hesitate to stop and chat – sometimes it helps me to silence the noise, or to jar out words I might have struggled with before you said hi.
My eating habits vary from not wanting to eat to bingeing, depending on my mood. Lately I’ve favored the not eating unless I absolutely need to. I drink a lot of Gatorade when I’m like this, so I’m ingesting something of substance.
Nights are the worst. You would think that since I want to cocoon up in my blankets in bed, that sleep helps me escape – but alas, there is no reprieve. I grind my teeth, furiously at times, when I sleep. The pain of the grinding doesn’t start to affect me until I am a few hours into my day; it’s a constant reminder that I have no escape from the demons of mental illness.
I tried head meds last year. I’ve given up on that. The one med that I found truly worked, I cannot afford. Every other med my doctor prescribed made me worse or a zombie. I self-medicate with vitamins and natural supplements. And wine on occasion. Smoking marijuana helps, when I can partake.
I have a prescription of Xanax, but I prefer to not take it unless I absolutely need to. I try to save them for my panic moments when interacting with others. If I need to stop the never-ending spiral of thoughts, I’ll take one before bed so I can at least attempt to get sleep. They are the lowest dosing possible, but I don’t want to become dependent on them.
When friends of mine have a problem, I rush to their aid with no hesitation. Helping them helps me to shut those voices down for a while. It gives me purpose. It gives me a break from my inner dialogue.
If you’re one of the few people I trust enough to talk to, even small talk, that means I highly value you. The worst thing you can do is to ignore me, no matter how trivial it might seem. By reaching out to you, I’m trying to sidetrack those voices I mentioned earlier. I need that grounding. When I don’t get grounded, the sickness in my head swirls around, sucking me into a dark, over thinking black hole spiral.
Those times I post publicly to social media talking about my sickness, I am not attention seeking, nor am I having a run of the mill bad day. Please don’t assume its situational. Most of the time this sickness needs no triggers to envelop me. I can be having a stellar day and it decides to come out and attack.
I do however have triggers. There are a few people who know what they are and how to push those buttons. From family members to past lovers, including my ex-husband, they know exactly what to say or do to send my mind whirring and my anxiety rear its ugly head. My ex-husband was relentless once he saw he could take me down with mere words.
I struggle with thoughts of suicide almost weekly. The mental torture and pain sometimes becomes overwhelming and I don’t have the energy to fight. I entertain the thoughts at times, but I don’t want to be remembered for being a coward, for succumbing to the forces of evil, or the worst, to influence any of the young people in my life to even consider doing the same thing. Those young, innocent souls are the bright and shining beacons in the stormy seas of my life.
I’ve cut, burned and pierced my skin in the past to bring pain release. In my head, I think that maybe if my skin and body hurt then I’d be distracted from my mind. This is always a temporary fix, it feels good in the moment, then I feel like an idiot for doing the self-mutilation, and spiral into another depression, sometimes worse than if I would have just embraced and went with the waves of emotion.
Since childhood I’ve struggled with this curse. It is a part of me, however, I’ve learned just in the past decade, that this sickness does not define me. It is not the end all be all of who I am and who I want to, need to and eventually will be.
I absolutely do not want to live life as my mother has; letting the demons overtake me, allowing the sickness to grow and fester into bitterness, hatred and intolerance. I must consciously choose daily to transform these energies into some form of beauty, whether through my words, art, or just being a shoulder for another.
I am an artist, a writer, a creative soul, and an empathetic woman of great passion, depths and love. My depression and anxiety, while ugly and repulsive at times, are part and parcel to who I am, but I will never allow this illness to completely engulf and claim me as another victim.
I am a survivor and will continue to wage war against the demons, while making the best possible life for myself.
I’m Fine mixtape
- Walking in My Shoes – Depeche Mode
- Same Deep Water as You – The Cure
- Wave of Mutilation (UK Surf) – The Pixies
- Crucify – Tori Amos
- Red Rain – Peter Gabriel
- Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want – The Smiths
- Running Up That Hill – Kate Bush
- Mercy Rain – Peter Murphy
- Suffer Well – Depeche Mode
- Cold – The Cure
- Here Comes The Rain Again – The Eurythmics
- Don’t Give Up – Peter Gabriel & Kate Bush
- Where is My Mind – The Pixies
- Prayers for Rain – The Cure
- Clean – Depeche Mode