I’m in a better place than I was a month or so ago, when I last posted. That said, I think it’s important to reflect on and report what better means in reality. I’m in no way “over it” or somehow cured of the emotional and affective turbulence of depression and anxiety. In the spirit of living my life in the open, I want to share where I’m at now. This post will serve two purposes. First, to describe the reality of living with myself outside of a moment of crisis. Secondly, to use this period of up-ness to build a resource that might help me when I descend in the future.
CW/TW: descriptions of anxious and suicidal thoughts
The constant companion
I’m still experiencing some lingering depression. It’s hanging on in my body, but has mostly left my mind. That means that it’s still hard for me to get up, out of bed or off the couch. I’ll end up sitting, wanting to do something. I’ll sit down beside my door to put on my running shoes, then I struggle to stand back up and open the door. It’s also difficult for me to transition from one thing to another. This feels similar to the difficulty I have getting up. My body just feels stuck in whatever it was doing. I feel heavy.
So, I feel like I’m wasting a lot of time. I’m trying to be gentle with myself about this. I’m trying to reach out to people and tell them that I’m having trouble getting up and going. Perhaps you’ve gotten such a message from me.
I’m still me
I’ve been visited by thoughts of killing myself for all of my adult life, probably since adolescence. They’re not gone. I still have both general and social anxiety. They still tend to trigger more acute depression. I just recently had a panic attack that brought all of these things together.
Last week, a friend asked if I wanted to go to an event she and I had both marked as interested in on Facebook. The event would require socializing with a number of strangers. Just the question from her, the slight pressure of expectation that I might want to go, was enough to trigger a panic attack. I grew a bit dizzy. My chest tightened. My skull seemed to shrink, putting all sorts of pressure on my brain. The spiral of self-loathing started. Everything telling me that there is no way I could go to such an event. That if I did, I’d end up by myself amongst all the other people enjoying each other’s company.
I reached out to people to try to explain to them what I was going through. They told me that it was okay that I was uncomfortable going and that it was okay to not go. I got irritated with people telling me that I’m okay the way I am; the inescapable thought, I hate the way I am. I wanted them to validate my self-loathing. Tell me that I need to be better!
A familiar narrative resurfaced:
This is a perfect excuse to just kill myself. Fuck waiting. Just go to the bathroom, fill up the tub, and tear open my wrists. I explored that for a while. I thought about how I’d need to get a fresh razor. I imagined the blood swirling in the water, Pollocked on the white tub. I smiled darkly thinking about a friend who I know would be able to find a sort of beauty in that red on white and the muted red of the bathwater.
Then I fell into something like sleep. The panic attack lasted about two hours. At the end of it, I was exhausted. As I heaved my head up off the couch, the suicidal thoughts were further away. The day never really got better. Resetting required real sleep.
Outside of crisis, I still experience all of these issues. I’m learning ways to handle them. I reach out to people on a regular basis and let them know what I’m experiencing. My therapist encouraged me to think of the intrusive suicidal thoughts–the ones that happen even when I’m feeling good and there aren’t any obvious triggers–as a sort of warning system. It’s a part of my mind telling me that there is something I want to escape. So, I’m working on coming to terms with that part of myself, rather than trying to get rid of it.
My challenge is still to see myself as a whole person, wholly worthy of love. I’ve spent most of my life wanting to get rid of pieces of myself or make pieces better. It is an endless pursuit, though, because I don’t have a criteria for when I’m good enough. If I can think of a way to be better, then I’m not good enough.
I’m working on being gentler with myself. So, my idea for the end of this post is to consider the people who care about me, even though I don’t actually know why they do. I want to write down some of the reasons I think they might care about me. I can add to this list later on. Hopefully, since these are my own ideas, I can come back and read this during a low moment and actually believe the words.
Possible reasons people love me:
- I’m a person, just as they are, and people are inherently deserving of care
- I strive to take care of the people around me
- I want to ease people’s struggles
- I make an effort to understand people
- I share myself and my experiences in ways that help people feel less alone
- Justice and equity are important to me
- I do strive to be better and understand that growth is crucial
- I take responsibility for myself
- I don’t accept the status quo
- I’m funny and I have a good sense of humor about myself
- I give people the space to be themselves and I honor their authenticity
- I love easily and without obligation or expectation