I have written and said and typed it over and over, yet I so often stray from my one essential truth: Writing makes me feel human. Writing makes me feel better. I’m not going to promise to do better, but I earnestly hope that I will, if only for driving need to record change as it happens. There is something ultimately satisfying about tracing the path of growth…and I’ve got growth on my mind.
Since I was about 14 years old, I have waged an uphill battle against mental illness. If I’m really honest with myself, I can remember being in the throes of anxiety as early as kindergarten. I didn’t want to admit it when I was younger, and I didn’t want to ask for any kind of help. I really kind of perceived my chemical imbalance as some kind of personal weakness or flaw that could be corrected with my own hands and thoughts. It didn’t occur to me until I was much older that those same hands were destroying, and those thoughts were doing harm. I convinced myself that whatever mood I was born into was the one that I had earned, purchased with action (or inaction) and the only way to pay my penance was to suffer through as stoically as possible.
It’s a common story. Working with teenagers now, I know how common it is to feel depressed, to feel hopeless, to feel at the mercy of home-brewed misery. And to take it a step further, I know what it’s like to feel like dying would be the only way to get out of the hole your brain has dug for your soul. I know what it’s like to feel utterly tainted. I used to look at my body and feel that it was a dead garden where nothing good could bloom.
Which made it all the more surprising for me when, at the age of 25 years and 11 months, I went to the doctor and all of my blood work came back excellent.
I don’t even know the last time I went to a physician’s office before February. I think I was still in middle school, right around the time my neuroses really started setting in. I missed a lot of school in 8th grade because I was sick constantly with grief and despondency. I would read my horoscope in the newspaper every day and feel a sense of dread if it predicted anything other than sunshine and kittens (and I promise you that I realize how insane that sounds–but I’m trying to be truthful in this documentation). So, to placate my school and my mother, I would go to the doctor a lot, usually citing a sinus infection–not altogether a lie, as this was something I went through a lot as a kid, but definitely exaggerated. He would listen to my lungs, check my lymph nodes, prescribe something, and I’d get to return home. I fed my sickness with dial-up Internet and isolation. It wasn’t a good practice…but I digress.
I was only going for two reasons: I needed labs done for insurance reasons, and my mother was begging me to do something about my crushing depression. I haven’t kept my feelings of inadequacy a total secret since they set in, and my saintly mom has truly spent countless nights talking me down off the edge. As one may be able to tell from a blog entry I posted circa December of last year, I had a huge blow-up in my personal life (that I’m sure I’ll feel like talking about sometime) and was worse than I had ever been since 2011. She had been absolutely gutted at my deep sadness and worried because of the way it was manifesting in me. So, off to the doctor I went, expecting to leave even sadder than I already was because I was, in my mind, a fucked-up husk of a proto-human. And also I didn’t deserve to feel better so I would do it because I deserved to be miserable. (Why are we so cruel to ourselves?)
And then I met Mary.
Mary was my sister’s nursing school instructor-turned-CFNP, and she was who I signed up to see. We started out talking about my weight, which is down from what it used to be but still not super great. That evolved into a pithy discussion of needing lab work done so I could keep my insurance. And then she looked at me and I swear to God it was like she saw through every square inch of artifice I’d drummed up. I started to say “…and I’m really not feeling that great mentally,” but I couldn’t get it out quite because I burst into huge fucking embarrassing sobs, and a lot of trauma came raining out of my mouth too. She was comforting. She asked questions gently and let me have my moment before I pulled it together. I left her office with a prescription for Prozac and immediately went to get it filled. I haven’t looked back.
I am eternally grateful to Mary. Since about the end of March, my life has become so much more tolerable. I am not the same person I was at the beginning of the year. I have moved past much trauma and more feelings of inadequacy than I EVER thought I would leave behind. I have taken the time to learn who I am when I’m operating as I should. For the first time in my adult life, I have been happy. REALLY happy, honestly happy in a way that I never dreamed possible–and I’ve been tested. There have been a couple of major life changes this year, and I have bounced back better off from every single one. I don’t spend my nights crying anymore. I actually SLEEP. I LEAVE THE HOUSE! And I make plans to see people and go places.
Most importantly, like I wrote in the last post, I have discovered that I like myself. That I’m a pretty good person. I’m a great friend. I don’t deserve to be miserable or used by those around me. I’m not perfect, but Jesus Christ, who is? That doesn’t mean I’m worthless.
Depression lies. Anxiety lies.
There is help out there. I promise I know what it was like to live in the gutter. I remember wanting to kill myself and trying to do so and failing, failing even at that. I remember what it feels like to drive hate inward and pick apart each and every flaw you can fathom. I never thought I was worth it–but I am. We all are. We are worth trying to find happiness and fulfillment.
Peace to you–and warmth, and love.