I have thought a lot about the future. What it holds for me and what it has the potential to hold. There are endless possibilities that exist. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and every choice has a thousand different outcomes. The question then becomes how we make the decisions. What molds us? What influences us? Do we live constantly wishing to do as others want us to, or do we follow our own passions and pray to God that the path we chose ends in happiness and not complete sorrow. There are times, though, that I find myself wishing I could know the outcome ahead of time. I have been hurt so many times that it is a scary thought to take a blind step. But at the same time, the opportunity to take those blind step is exhilarating. Now it is my decision to focus on the glass being half full or half empty.
This forum is definitely a difficult thing to manage. It is an online journal and available for the world to see (lest I change the settings, but then the question becomes why use a public forum to begin with, why not just write in a paper journal or type in a Word document, but I think the answer lies in the necessity to share these ever-present issues and try to find commonality and compassion, a connection in a sea of anonymity). To discuss certain personal issues becomes a matter of choice at what you want the world to know versus what you think should stay secreted away. One phrase I have come away with after reading countless memoirs on drug addiction (my addiction, as I read more about drugs than I have ever experienced using them) is that we are only as sick as our secrets. And if that is the case, I cannot imagine a healthy person anywhere. We all have things we feel ashamed of, we all have issues, whether superficial or bone deep, and we are all attempting to figure out how to navigate through the murky waters and find what is best for us. Facing demons is scary, but they stay demons, growing larger and more frightening, unless confrontation occurs. I feel the utmost respect for people who have looked themselves in the eye and admitted to their problems and began the first steps towards a type of recovery. Emotionally, physically, mentally, those steps are what makes the person stronger. I want that strength.
The last couple of months have been difficult for me. I have had to experience some of the most emotionally demanding issues and even though I have come away walking, I feel wounded inside and out. No physical bruises or cuts and scrapes exist, but I sure as hell feel the emotional toll and wonder if I have the strength to continue moving forward and not give up and take the easy way out. Which is to just stop. To freeze. To fall into a routine just as detrimental, if not more so, than the life I had lived up until weeks ago. I went back on antidepressants. I began them when I was in high school and weaned myself off during my freshman year of college. I developed various coping skills that allowed for me to funnel my negativity and emotional pain into different avenues and use it to move forward. I feel like I have lost those skills and I definitely feel like I lost sight of what my life meant to me. I lost sight of the myriad of options available to me and allowed for someone to dictate my life, my mood, and even converge on my goals, pushing them back until it felt like they no longer existed. The crossroads are laying before me again and I want nothing more than to move forward and make a positive decision, but I feel frozen, terrified, like no matter the decision I make, it will be the wrong one. But what do we ever learn if we do not make the mistakes?
I am not sure what people think when they hear “antidepressants.” I know when I was younger I always feared telling anyone I was on them because of the backlash and social stigma often associated with them. The truth, though, is that some phenomenal amount of people use them. We are a highly medicated society. And yet, there is still a stigma involved in having mental health issues. A psychiatrist diagnosed me with major depressive disorder. I am almost positive that I have bipolar II disorder, where the waves of mania and depression are not as fiercely swinging to and fro, but dominated by longer periods of depression with shorter moments of mania. I have never really discussed it with anyone until recently when I went into my psychiatrist’s office after months of a painful break-up with my fiancé and expressed the wish to go back on a mood stabilizer. There were moments in the past six to eight months where I could not function. I was so paralyzed with negativity that I could not even make decisions. I would not eat, starving myself and consuming ounces of vodka because it numbed the pain enough that I could actually think and not just feel the insane pain deep within my chest. When the difficult decision to split finally surfaced and the actions that preceded it came more to light, it was a relief because it felt like I could begin taking the small steps towards a recovery. Apparently my mind did not think the same thing.
When I got home from California I would alternate between these moments of intense highs and below the surface lows. I would be ecstatic nearing on insanity, filled with energy and emotion and then find myself contemplating the joy in dying from a terminal illness, praying nightly that God would take it out of my hands and just curse me. I still have those moments, where death seems like a close friend who I want to acquaint with, while also getting as giggly as a school girl. With the antidepressants, the intense lows become manageable. I am able to wake up, shower, get dressed and go about activities with relative normality. But the lows are beginning to break through the drugs. The weight in my chest is becoming stronger and the black hole is opening more regularly. One of the new symptoms I developed, in moments of extreme stress and emotion, I have dissociative episodes. It’s this odd sensation of being connected to your body but not comprehending what is happening. Many people relate dissociation to multiple personality disorders and schizophrenia (which, frighteningly run in my family), but I have not had anything like that. I am not hearing voices or talking to people who do not exist (hopefully), but I have the distinct impression at times that I am outside my self. It’s like watching your life from the third person. I know I am writing and I can feel my fingers move across the keyboard, but my mental capacity of the situation falls horribly short. It’s like I cannot fuse my mind and my body. It’s terrifying.
I am reading The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, which I love, but he discusses this concept within the text about the Heart of Stone (I believe that’s the name). It is an ability needed to perform sympathy, or in laymen’s terms, magic. What needs to happen is this inner calm in which separation of mind and body happens so that you become unflappable. The purpose in the book is so that you can have multiple parts of your brain working simultaneously. I imagine that kind of control exists, but that’s the thing, it’s a control. It’s active. My separation comes sporadically and unintentionally creating this odd dichotomy of acknowledgment and comprehension and having no comprehension. It’s a sense of chaos personified because it is witnessing yourself as if you were outside of yourself. Can you imagine that?
And here I sit, writing this all out and letting the emotions flow into me. This day I started on a positive note and it has slowly beaten me down. I am not sure what the poison was or how it seeped into me, but it did. I can feel the blackness and I can feel it physically as it spreads through my chest and limbs. It’s like when you are imbibing and you can begin to feel a buzz slowly radiate out in your limbs. It’s like that, except it’s not a pleasant numbing sensation, but a painful weight and burning scratches. It feels like there are nails under my skin and they are dragging, peeling the fragile layers apart. My chest feels heavy and the backs of my eyes burn because there are tears sitting there wanting desperately to flow forth. I don’t want it though. I want to push forward, through it all, and I want the pendulum to swing back to happiness and smiles, but it’s not. I am sinking, slowly, painfully conscious, into a darkness. And the darkness scares me. I have had dreams, nay, nightmares, lately. They involve Jonathan, my ex. The world begins shaking beneath my feet. It’s like an earthquake, but it’s not, because it feels like it’s internal, too, like my body is giving out, failing. I look up and Jonathan has blood everywhere. There are gashes on his head and the blood is coming fiercely, streaking down his face and running into his eyes giving him the look of someone who is crying red. His middle is also covered in blood, though I cannot see a wound. His shirt is sticking to his abdomen and it is completely soaked and his arms have scrapes and the skin looks flayed from the muscle. He just cries out in pain and then everything goes completely black. There is a darkness so intense that I feel like I am blind. Nothing is penetrating it; the world is in complete pitch black. And then he begins crying. It’s this echo that tears through me, and I feel his sobs in my chest. I begin crying and panicking and I begin reaching my arms out hoping to grasp something, anything, so I can find my way to him and help him. He has wounds and I need to help him, but I cannot see anything. I have woken up for three nights in a row, and from one nap, sweating profusely (soaked my clothes), with tears in my eyes, hyperventilating, shouting his name. After every nightmare I text him and ask after his safety, tell him to not go into the darkness. He has witnessed these moments where I seem to speak poetically and somewhat prophetically, asking him for no clear reason to act safe or do something. He helps to reestablish a sense of time and space, reminding me I am in the here and now and not some dream world. The nightmares have been so real, though, that I wake up with the salty, sweet, coppery smell of blood in my nose. It scares me.
I had a similar dream when I first moved to Davis. I was in the dark, unable to see. I would feel this searing pain and look down and my hands would be clutching my belly, like where a baby bump would be, and there would be all this blood. The pain would not be there anymore, just all this blood. And I would get the impression that someone was there watching, waiting in the shadows. It was an oppressive feeling that would wake me up and I had the unsettling feeling that someone was in the room watching me. I would look around, wild-eyed and scared, and obviously find no one there. I would close my eyes to try to sleep and all I would see was my arm and someone taking a knife and piercing skin and tearing the layers off, revealing glistening muscle underneath. It repulsed me and I oftentimes would not sleep because of this. It got so bad that I began taking over the counter sleeping pills. At first they did their job, dropping me off into sleep, but then they began to fail. I would wake with the same nightmare, be unable to relax, and so I would take more. At one point in December I was taking upwards of ten sleeping pills throughout the evening and still not sleeping. By the time I left Davis in March I was abusing sleeping pills throughout the day and night just hoping to numb my mind and pain long enough to drift out of reality for some time. My life for the last six to eight months has been one disastrous decision or action after another, and it has affected so many people and loved ones that I feel ashamed to even admit it. We are only as sick as our secrets, though, right? Now that it is no longer a secret, I want to move forward.
I still crave them. Just like I crave alcohol more than I would like to admit. It’s so easy to allow something else to fill the holes. There is a quote, and I forget who says it, that states that someone should tell alcoholics that you should not drink to drown sorrows because sorrows know how to swim. And no truer or finer words exist. We all run away from our problems and we always fail to see they follow us. What begins with us has to end with us, so we can no more escape our problems then deny breath. Either way, it will kill us. Turn around and face the problem, look in the mirror and recognize that there is strength beneath the surface and that with loved ones and help you can accomplish anything as long as you want to and as long as you are willing to put in the hard work.