Warning: This is utterly unlike me and if it’s the first time you’ve come here you should skip this whole post and go read this one about how the GPS lady is trying to murder me. I just needed to get this off my chest tonight for me and for everyone else who suffers from this. I’ll be back to normal tomorrow, I promise.
I don’t usually write serious posts. When I feel myself sink into a depression Victor makes me stay away from the computer, protecting me from myself. He’s right to do it because I’m not well, not rational. I get bouts of depression and anxiety attacks the way other people get summer colds. The depression is easy enough to explain. “I’m in the hole” is my typical way of describing it. People who don’t know depression think it’s a metaphor and technically it is, but it’s more than that. When I get into a true, chemical depression my sight actually changes. I get tunnel-vision and things get all dark around the edges, like I’m stuck in a hole and can only see a telescopic view of the world around me. I lose my peripheral vision and within a day the depression starts. It used to scare me how dark it would get. I worried that one day the world would go dark forever. But secretly, I was a little relieved that there was a physical symptom to this disorder that feels like something you should be able to fix in yourself. But you can’t…just like you can’t cure yourself from being blind just by willing yourself to see. The depression is difficult but I’m lucky in that it never lasts long. It seldom lasts more than a week and I only have major episodes a few times a year. I live through it, knowing that any day the darkness will dissipate and I’ll crawl out of the hole, with no memory of what caused the episode. The anxiety disorder is more difficult, mainly because it’s so unpredictable. One moment I’m perfectly fine and the next I feel a wave of nausea, then panic. Then I can’t catch my breath and I know I’m about to lose control and all I want to do is escape. Except that the one thing I can’t escape from is the very thing I want to run away from…me. And inevitably it’s in a crowded restaurant or during a dinner party or in another State, miles from any kind of sanctuary.
I feel it build up, like a lion caught my chest, clawing its way out of my throat. I try to hold it back but my dinner-mates can sense something has changed, and they look at me furtively, worried. I’m obvious. I want to crawl under the table to hide until it passes but that’s not something you can explain away at a dinner party. I feel dizzy and suspect I’ll faint or get hysterical. This is the worst part because I don’t even know what it will be like this time. “I’m sick,” I mutter to my dinner-mates, unable to say anything else without hyperventilating. I rush out of the restaurant, smiling weakly at the people staring at me. They try to be understanding. They don’t understand. I run outside to escape the worried eyes of people who love me, people who are afraid of me, strangers who wonder what’s wrong with me. I vainly hope they’ll assume I’m just drunk but I know that they know. Every wild-eyed glance of mine screams “MENTAL ILLNESS”. Later someone will find me outside the restaurant, huddled in a ball, their cool hand on my feverish back, trying to comfort me. They ask if I’m okay, more gently if they know my history. I nod and try to smile apologetically and roll my eyes at myself in mock-derision so I won’t have to talk. They assume it’s because I’m embarrassed and I let them assume that because it’s easier, and also because I am embarrassed. But it’s not the reason why I don’t talk. I keep my mouth closed tightly because I don’t know if I could stop myself from screaming if I opened my mouth. My hands ache from the fists I hadn’t realized I’d clenched. My body shouts to run. Every nerve is alive and on fire. If I get to my drugs in time I can cut off the worst parts…the shaking involuntarily, the feeling of being shocked with an electrical current, the horrible knowledge that the world is going to end and no one knows it but me. If I don’t get to the drugs in time, they do nothing and I’m a limp rag for days afterward.
I know other people who are like me. They take the same drugs as me. They try all the therapies. They are brilliant and amazing and forever broken. I’m lucky that although my husband doesn’t understand it, he tries to understand, telling me to “Relax. There’s absolutely nothing to panic about”. I smile gratefully at him and pretend that’s all I needed to hear and that this is just a silly phase that will pass one day. I know there’s nothing to panic about. And that’s exactly what makes it so much worse.
I wonder how long it will take before he gives up on me.
I wonder how long it will take before I do.
UPDATED: It’s been 4 days since I wrote this post and I’ve been amazed by the outpouring of support by people who left comments or who emailed me when their stories were too personal to share in a comment. I’ve realized two things in the past few days…first of all, that I am incredibly lucky and grateful to have such amazing people who care, and also that this blog totally breeds crazy people. Either that or mental illness is a hell of a lot more common than I ever suspected. Either way? Thank you. And that’s not just a thank you from me. It’s a thank you from all of the other people who read your comments and thought “I’m not alone. I guess I never was.” There were so many comments that spoke to me, made me laugh or cry or think, but I can’t choose just one as comment of the day so instead I’m going to just say thank you, for letting me be me even when I’m not myself at all. You will never know the difference you make.
There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in. ~ Leonard Cohen