I’m writing this for two reasons. One, I feel like I’m hiding something and I need to get it out. Two, if anyone else is feeling this way, I hope they can feel less alone. The one thing this “thing” does well is isolate people, and that is not what we need. We need understanding, love, and support. If my story can help anyone out, so much the better.
For the past 15 years, off and on, I have been dealing with debilitating depression and anxiety. Debilitating would be putting it lightly. Arguably the anxiety part my whole life, but for 15 years at the “debilitating” level. So, basically, half my life.
In high school, I suffered the loss of my grandfather, who I was really, really close to. I got summarily taught that in MY family, we grieve in silence. We don’t seek help. We are solitary pillars of strength. In my “I am STRONG” mode, I went from having the highest GPA in grade 9 and 10, to pulling Cs and Ds after his death. I started having insulin resistance problems around this time. No one said a word. If they cared, I have yet to find out about it. I lost my aunt and was also in a wedding the same week. Carry on, keep your head high, and time will heal all wounds. Spoiler alert: time heals NOTHING.
Flash forward to my first year of college… I barely made it through first year. My uncle killed himself on an ATV. I failed out of second. My ability to concentrate and retain information, or even not have a panic attack during an exam where I wasn’t right next to a door, was basically nothing. I’d gone from having a genius IQ to barely being able to read a book. I transferred schools to just get out of town, and managed to graduate with a 3.4/4. They were much more accommodating. I lost a ton of weight. I get a good job, which leads me in to a better job at a government institution, which is where my life falls apart for the third time.
My mom got sick and my family left me out in the cold. I desperately asked for their help in dealing with it, but everyone refused to return my phone calls. It’s hard not to be bitter, but the people who were supposedly so close to me left me to die when I needed them most. Today, I can barely stand to even think of them, and yet, I’m expected to be all smiles when Christmas comes around. I haven’t seen any of them in two years… we’ll see how that goes. (Prediction: probably not well).
I had to quit my job. I gained all my lost weight back. I ended up being hospitalized for the absolute worst week of my life, and now I’m on insulin. Apparently their original Type 2 assumption wasn’t entirely correct. Type 2’s don’t usually end up at death’s door with ketoacidosis. I was in ICU for a week, denied my prescriptions that keep me from not having day-long panic attacks, and that allow me to get some modicum of sleep. As if not having the drugs wasn’t bad enough, the withdrawal from not having them made me want to SCREAM. I was attached to my bed with a catheter, three IVs, an arterial line, and a heart monitor. It was a great feeling, you know, being highly claustrophobic and all. I got left in a bedpan for two hours, which is actually the LEAST abusive thing that happened to me in the hospital. No one bothered to ask me how I was managing from a psychological standpoint. Then, I was unceremoniously thrown out to the wolves with a prescription for insulin and a “get over your paralyzing fear of needles on your own overnight” kind of handshake. Not even that… I got very “fuck you all and die” with one of the nurses over my lack of care, and they quickly produced my discharge papers.
I’ve gone through doctor after doctor. They’ve ranged from very helpful but overworked, to verbally abusive and accusatory. I’ve been hospitalized for one very, very long freaking day, where a nurse got angry with me for having a panic attack. I signed myself out. I remember screaming and sobbing and packing all my crap at midnight in the dark. That was my one clean shot at getting help. I’m supposedly in the “best” program in the area… and she was not the only one to be horrible with me on that day. The nurse in question received a permanent letter on her file and “sensitivity training”. That seems proportionate. (Hint: sarcastic comment). It’s created in me such fear of the medical profession that for my last GP appointment, I had at least a panic attack a day for the entire month prior.
So that leaves me to here. I’m going on 3 years now without a whole lot of help. I’ve been on every drug and tried every therapy. Any relief I’ve found has been something I’ve come up with myself. I’m having to rewrite “me” from the ground up, and all by myself. I’ve lost all but one of my friends, my family (save my parents), and any sense of who I am. I am rarely able to leave the house, as my social anxiety/panic has turned into full on agoraphobia. I swell up like a balloon every time I try to travel any distance, which is painful at best. Even when I’m not feeling like a marshmallow, I’m in constant pain of some sort from a previous injury, or the whole “if you’re not depressed enough, your lack of serotonin/whatever is going to make your whole body THROB! Have fun with that!” thing. Me getting out of bed and dressed on any given day feels like a victory, but it’s impossible to feel good about it. I once had a job that I’m told 600 people applied for. I literally ruled my own world. I was really crazy successful at my career (I’m not gonna say more lest I completely out myself). Now if I feed myself once in a day, it’s like, HOLY SHIT, stop the presses! It’s the worst feeling ever. I feel absolutely hopeless and like there’s no end in sight. I even feel stupid sometimes about the fact I haven’t ended my life yet. I’m a failure even at failing. Where’s the bottom? I keep feeling like I’ve hit it, but then, I keep falling.
Anywho… I wanted to be honest about this. Because under the fact that my brain is trying to kill me, and under the fact that I’ve been tossed aside by almost everyone I thought loved me, there is a really fucking cool person that isn’t any of these things. Like the writer Jenny Lawson (my hero) says, “Depression lies”. It totally does. This isn’t who I want to be forever (or at all). Unfortunately though, for me at least, I have to keep digging until I find the bottom of this thing. I’m going to have to be “depressed” until I’m not. I’ve never dealt with what has caused all of this in the first place, and I’m gonna have to feel it out until I do. Which probably means a lot more bullshit, a lot more panic attacks and a lot more failed relationships. A lot more of trying to figure out who the fuck I am. I hope people are patient with me in this. I’m taking a big chance here. I’m not trying to make excuses either. I’m just very aware of the fact that I am going to make a lot of mistakes in this state, and I own it. It doesn’t help that I’m very good at faking “okay”, which throws people off. I am rarely “okay”. I can’t think of a minute in the past 3 years when I have been okay. Even sleep (when I manage to get it) plagues me with night terrors. Ever woken up in the middle of the night mid panic attack? Worst. Feeling. Ever.
I feel so much like shit, I wish I had cancer instead. At least if I had cancer, people would “pray for me” and bring me casseroles and act like I wasn’t some kind of schizo-leper that’s going to freak out on them or get cooties on them or something. Brains are organs too. And they can get sick.
They can also get better.
Please, if you’ve read this far… do what you can to educate yourself about mental illness. The number of people suffering is STAGGERING. I would have counted myself as one of those who thought it was all just malingering bullshit. Please know better. Please reach out to someone.