Part I: The Problem
God, why did you say that? You are so annoying. Nobody wants to hear that. If you would just shut your damn mouth every once in a while, everything would be okay. Everything you say is pure, utter nonsense that makes everybody else uncomfortable. You should just go away and spare everybody the pain of your presence.
There is a person living inside my brain who absolutely hates me.
Of course you hate yourself. You’re garbage. That’s the correct way to feel about garbage.
It helps to recognize that I don’t actually believe these things about myself. But what makes you crazier: thinking these kinds of thoughts or thinking that somebody else’s thoughts are populating your head?
Everybody is depressed these days. You think you’re original? You think your depression is worse than other people’s? You can’t even do depression right, you disgusting excuse for a human.
Some days, I can function pretty well. Other days, I can do little more than lie down and let tears stream silently down my face. Sometimes I’m productive and interesting and I can laugh. Some days I’m so irrationally angry that I can’t stop screaming and I don’t know why. The world is often beautiful, full of color. Sometimes my anxiety makes me claw at my own face.
Why can’t you just handle it like everybody else does? Look around. Nobody else is this upset. You’re the only one. You’re weaker and less adaptable than everybody else. You are worthless. You will never be okay.
I wasn’t always this way. I don’t know what happened.
Part II: The Realization
This is the pattern of my childhood:
1. A brother does something mean/annoying/childish/whatever
2. I explode in anger
3. A parent does nothing about brother’s indiscretion but spends hours trying to fix my behavior
4. I get angrier because I’m angry for legitimate reasons that nobody acknowledges and the behavior that caused it is ignored and I have neither the self-awareness nor the vocabulary to express it that I do today
5. I get in trouble and brother doesn’t
6. Rage about the initially insignificant incident follows me well into adulthood.
I’ve been barely concealing Hulk levels of rage as long as I can remember, so I am perfectly aware that my expression of anger is often inappropriate. Because I grew up in a time when only “crazy” people saw psychologists, I didn’t get help until I was 22.
The first psychologist I saw sucked. I told her about my life, and she called me a “poor baby.” I didn’t schedule a second appointment.
Then I met Dominic. My psychologist let me call him by his first name because he didn’t want to treat me like a child, or at least that’s what I took the gesture to mean.
Dominic diagnosed me with depression and taught me that sometimes people unconsciously translate sadness into anger because it feels active instead of passive. In other words, you feel less helpless and more like you’re doing something about it. I declined medication, and Dominic started helping me deal with the root causes of my anger as well as teaching me strategies for dealing with it in the moment.
My insurance ran out after 4 visits, and I could only pay cash for a handful of additional sessions before I ran out of money. It wasn’t enough. Knowing that my anger comes from deep sadness means that though I still feel the anger, I now also recognize the despair underneath.
I don’t want to get into it, but I’ve gone through more stress than the average person does in one lifetime. I probably need to be medicated, but the thought of changing the chemical processes of my brain terrifies me.
I’m incredibly privileged that I don’t need to work right now because I can’t. I can’t work.
How can a person hold down a job when she can’t guarantee that she won’t burst into tears seemingly out of nowhere? When somebody might make a sound that digs into her ear and bores into her soul, and her entire body constricts and she can’t move until the sound is over and then she has to go home and lie down and wish she were deaf? When she’s overcome with feeling asymmetrical and she has to keep twitching all her muscles so that both sides of her body can achieve evenness (which doesn’t exist and I can never do it but I have to keep trying because if I stop I might just die)?
Part III: Living with It
For much of my adult life, I haven’t had insurance because I lived out of the country most of the time. I haven’t seen Dominic in eight years, and I really need to. Even if I could, though, he’s retired now. I checked.
So I’m dealing with it sans professional help. I’m coming out of a solid year of what one would call a nervous breakdown. For the last couple of months, though, most days have been mostly good. There are things that help. Here’s what’s been working for me.
First, I’ve been talking to people who care about me. Even when people don’t understand exactly what’s going on in my messed up head, it helps to feel listened to, cared about, and appreciated. They also reassure me that my self-deprecation isn’t warranted, which helps me to ignore it most of the time.
Second, I am highly disciplined for a barely functioning person. I’m sure you’ve heard of bullet journals. They are all over the internet right now, and for good reason–they’re amazing. I took to it slowly, watching the fad progress and reflecting on how I could make it work for me. I have 4 sections in my bullet journal: Normal journal, goals, monthly calendar, and weekly calendar (used as to-do lists).
I have color-coded small goals that I need to achieve a certain number of times a week. For example, I get to color a square purple every time I floss my teeth, and I need to do it 5 times a week. I get to color a blue square if I hit 10k on my phone’s step counter, and I need to do that 4 times a week. Now, instead of wallowing in a pit of despair, I can make myself get up and floss my teeth. If I can do that, I can certainly go for a walk outside.
I have 10 daily(ish) goals, all in different colors, and when I’ve colored a bunch of squares in, I have actual, beautiful proof that I’m accomplishing something, and I feel good about myself.
Granted, I still have dark days, but they’ve only been lingering for a day or two. I don’t know how long this will work for me, but for now I’m going to keep doing it. At least I’m well enough to write again.
I shed more than a few tears writing this post, but being able to say it all feels victorious. If your daily struggle feels like mine, I hope you get to have this feeling, too. I feel, for the first time in a long time, that I might be okay someday.