People have always told me that I am an eighty-year-old woman stuck in a young girl’s body. I had my life planned out. I was never a person who didn’t know what my life looked like. I knew the niche categories my love fell into and knew the depths of my heart early in life. I even knew what my life as an eighty-year-old woman looked like. My family would laugh as I explained my elderly life living in Florida, drinking tea, and going to old people yoga. But I don’t think it is likely that people who have been on lithium for most of their young adult life get to live to see a nursing home.
I don’t want to be another statistic written down in the next DSM, added to the people who have ended their life. So I sit in my fetal position, rebirthing a me willing to believe in a moment after this one. A life of smiling, laughing, and remembering hope. I think filling my apartment with more records will soothe the voice making home in my head. Or maybe new clothes will fill the gaping void left by years of swallowing pills in order to see what I actually look like when looking in the mirror. This way of life became more normal than waking up and eating breakfast. I wonder if this is all people think of me.
I wonder if they remember who I once was before I spiraled down a hill that seems to go down all the way to hell. If they remember the girl who once made stage her home and could make you feel the lyrics she was dancing to. The girl who wanted to go to New York City and be on Broadway. The girl who would sing Wicked as if she knew just how hard it was to be a green witch in this world of Oz. The girl who was filled with so much life that the only thing to do was live.
Now I wonder what it takes to feel just that again. There aren’t coping skills to use when you have been numbed for so long, so I started reading again. As if the day dreams of every story can drown out the thoughts in my head telling me I am another traumatic story. That one day I would be the person to turn to the medicine cabinet when life gets too unlivable.
My doctors have made sure to always let me know that I will get through this. That with every hard time I have had, I have gotten through. That if only I tried harder. Made sure to take each pill every morning and every night, that I would just be normal again. People have gotten used to seeing tears stream down my face, so now they don’t worry if I am safe. I remember the first time I wanted to die, everyone made sure they showed me reasons I shouldn’t end it all. Ringing my childhood home’s doorbell, holding gifts, such as a sign that has the word “hope” written in bold letters. (I still have it hanging in my room.) All people wanted to do was save me and it worked. But I have learned that people get sick and tired of watching tears swell up my eyes. With every depression episode comes more reasons to blame me for my brain. As if there is something missing from my daily work of making sure I don’t end up dead. I don’t expect people to care about me, let alone care about my struggles. But people blaming me for my own mental health is them still caring, just not in the way I wish they were.
Most days I don’t explain what I am feeling anymore. There was a point in my life when I couldn’t keep my mouth shut about what was going on in my brain. There was a sense that, if I only explained it more, people would not judge the way in which I am trying to simply survive. But when I noticed that people only use my words out of order and jumbled my struggles into one that made it seem like my self-awareness lacks, I keep my mouth shut now. There are only so many times you can push aside people making you feel like you living your life is making it hard on them. The sense of being a burden has been my number one struggle since the moment I stepped onto this earth, so people letting me know that is true only thickens the depression in my veins that I am already trying to fight.
I think that is why I am a writer. Because most days, there are so many words filling my insides the only way to get them out is in my own little pink leather notebook world. There I can feel without fear of scaring the people who love me. But I often wonder just why people can understand scary things in this world like cancer without ever having it, yet no one seems to understand the mentally ill. The only way people can understand being scared of your own brain is when they have been there. As if the chronically ill and mentally ill aren’t each dying a slow death they never asked for. There will be two people both the same in life, one physically ill and one mentally. The one psychically ill goes on vacation to see the world and receives prayers. People visit them out of the fear that they could be gone at any minute. But all the mentally ill get are doctors who don’t even care to look you in the eyes and friends who say that your struggles are too hard to be around. I wish I wasn’t terrified of losing people I love to a moment of loneliness like so many people lose their life to. But when you have almost lost your own self to that, it is impossible to ignore. I wonder if people know that they are killing us with every word that is not loving, that every side eye at a moment of hurt is a dagger that runs straight through all the hope we have left. As if it is just too scary to be around a person that can admit this life can be shit. No one wants to be around a person that isn’t faking a smile at strangers. Even if that person hasn’t smiled in months from the isolation that sadness brings.
No one talks about how the only person that can save you from the hell your mind brings is yourself. The strength you must have when not even doctors want to help you overcome the exhaustion being sick brings. Or the exhaustion of being the token traumatized sad girl of your family and friend group. You get sick of it all. The monotony of always being down, the repeated words that everyone says as they watch you burn in your own fire. When people look at you like you are one sad life story that will one day blow up after years of fuel, you start to believe it.
I am at the point in life where I know all I am. I know I will get back up the next morning and the next. I know I can live a life much grander than this. But I am not sure how. Maybe if I start to sit and put my face in the sunshine I will bloom again. Or if only people know just how hard I work everyday, it will change the idea that mentally ill people deserve to suffer alone. And I know I cannot change people in this world, But I can save people from their own mind if only people listen. If only everyone could just listen. Listen and care to understand that we are just trying to get through this moment and the next. So to the person reading this, all my words, listen and know I am here even in my darkest moments to do just that—listen to you without judgement, without preconceived ideas that this world puts onto us, the mentally ill. If we all band together to save each other just as addicts do in AA, maybe then we can save ourselves from ending up where all of us are working so hard not to be. I am always here. For listening to even the scariest moments within your life. And if no one has told you lately, I am so beyond proud of you for simply opening your eyes today. I know it wasn’t easy, but it is what will save you day after day. We can survive together, until we live again. I will hold the hope for you until you feel it again and love you until you love yourself again.