It all starts with hope. A belief that particular actions taken, working toward a particular goal, will allay the emotional disaster you know will happen with or without your plans. What you never see coming, is that your definition of emotional disaster doesn’t come close to how bad it can get. So, while holding onto that hope, you try and try to negotiate the onslaught of your own mind. It is the equivalent of holding onto a lifebuoy ring with both hands while treading water in turbulent seas. You have to keep moving to fight off the numbness that creeps in and you find yourself gradually letting go of that hope, that lifebuoy, so that you can move your entire being. Before you realise what you have done, hope has slipped away and you have nothing to help you stay afloat.
At the beginning, those actions, those plans, they are all achievable. What consumed you was the anticipation to get started. You have drive, you have a renewed sense of energy, you have direction and you have promise. For the first time in your life, you know that with all the fear and anxiety that comes with change and taking control, this is something you want, and this gives you all the momentum you need to start. And, what a force you will be. All of this, this is what you later remember passion to be.
Soon, you get caught up in your plans. With the desire to do well to give yourself the best chances, you get distracted by the stress and the reality of the hard work your dreams require. You continue on regardless. Additionally, you keep pushing yourself to fit in those things that can help maintain a decent level of mental health; exercise, good nutrition, and sleep. Only thing is, you were never sleeping well anyway, and between full time work at a job you hate and studying, exercise takes a back seat – you fit it in when you can. At this point though, your studies make it all worthwhile. It engages your brain, activates all aspects of your innate talents, and it reminds you that you really want what you are working for. The promise, the hope; they are still there.
Distraction. While you are looking the other way, the old feelings creep back in. Those feelings that existed before you made your plans. Hate, anger, despair, loneliness, pain, isolation, helplessness, faithlessness, sadness, fatigue, anxiety, depression. They all settle back in comfortably, and you slowly become aware of them. Your job, which you knew you hated but tolerated due to necessity, becomes unbearable so that waking up from your increasingly restless and dream-filled sleep gets harder and harder to do. The tiredness accumulates, so that whatever exercise and studies you had planned for gets pushed back day by day, and that unfulfilling sleep becomes your priority. That unfulfilling sleep becomes all you want. You blink, and your focus shifts.
You do not notice early enough that the constant tiredness made you sacrifice future prospects for the daily struggle. Made you conserve energy to just get by; to function at a bare minimum so that you can still do it all but you lose sight of the why. Passion gets traded in for subsistence. It doesn’t fully register. You are aware of the decline, but you are also aware that you are still grinding through life. You know your medications have been changed a lot, and either don’t work or have caused you significant problems. You maintain patience because you also don’t realise that you are not being helped, just being moved along. You think that everyone faces problems when working toward a big change, so you also move yourself along. This is the turning point that you don’t see. This is when you unknowingly resigned yourself to the deterioration of your mental health.
You only pay attention to how far down you have plummeted when you can’t stop being aware of a broken paper clip. It draws all of your attention. Forget that you are at work, forget that you are in a public place. Forget that it has been more than a year since you have self harmed. Forget that it is unclean. You need to cut yourself with it. You hold out with great difficulty, for what feels like hours, but you succumb. There, in a bathroom stall, that’s where you know you are in trouble. All you can do is cry as guilt and shame come flooding through you. All you think about are the people you let down, all these people who are not you. You apologise, and you ask for forgiveness, but again, not for you. How can you possibly ever forgive yourself? How can you possibly earn that from yourself, especially if you have no follow through; especially when it feels like all you can give yourself are hollow promises. You are in shock, your mind stops working, and you are in that place again. Welcome home. Soon, harming yourself will be guilt free and sought after, and you will relish the freedom that comes with destroying yourself. At this point, you let go of hope.
Months go by and you are on repeat. But time…time dilates. A day feels like a week has gone by and you can’t seem to concentrate on the present or remember the past. Your mind attacks you. Endless thoughts of self harm, auditory and visual hallucinations, residual images from your nightmares creeping into your vision, constant feedback of struggling with no respite. Stress builds. Anger builds. You make friends but they aren’t physically present, so nothing takes you out of your own head. You start sinking in that turbulent sea, the cold water starts washing over your face as you try to keep breathing. As you walk around, in your mind you are constantly on your knees and you are begging to be left alone by everything and everyone. You want to cry, but there is no privacy to do it. You want to scream but the catch is the same. Every form of release is internalized and is not heard by anyone. You know that everyday you have to relearn trust and safety in people and if one day should slip, it could mean days before you open up to anyone. It has been a while since you even thought about your future. You can’t even bear to think about your present. Self injury is the only thing that gets you through the day and calms you before bed. Eventually, this extends to alcohol and prescription abuse. You let it happen because it is the only thing that lets you escape the desperation of your days. Quite possibly, the harm is the only thing keeping you alive. One day it occurs to you that you don’t want to be alive anymore, so you let it happen because maybe you are hoping to wake up dead.
There it is again. Hope. Not for a future, not for a life. A hope in death. You’ve never felt visible or wholly real, so why not death? You are suffering, so why not death? Pain and anguish seem to have taken over every part of you, misery dominates your mind and the energy that fuels it all seems laced with this mental illness that is depression; so why not death? Medication and functioning don’t seem to be working. You mistrust your friendships anyway; in the morning they won’t seem real to you – you have no attachments, so why not death? Cut a bit deeper, submerge yourself for longer, burn a bit more, medicate. As before, you hold onto that hope and you make your plans for it. A date is picked. A plan is made. Motivation settles in around everything else, and you anticipate and count down to it. You stop your meds so you think that this is clear thought. Your choice. You are in control again. It feels good, comforting.
You have made friends. You tell them your decision, and you interact with an end date in sight. You tell your mental health team because you don’t care anymore. It is an inevitability that they should come to terms with. You feel obligations in the people you have connected with. An obligation to listen to them at least. All you hear is to give life another go. Never mind now that you have unconsciously cut yourself off from the things that used to give you life. Never mind that what seems to give you life is the thought of your own death. What animates you in the mornings and gets you going through the days is that the faster it goes by, the closer you are to fulfilling your big goal. A big source of stress is taken away and you think that now is the time to appease everyone. Get going. Try as you might, nothing satisfies you. There is a blankness that extends beyond your horizons on every plane of existence. How do you tell people this and know that they fully understand, because they keep pushing and pushing and asking you to live. Tryin feels like being pushed through a metal grating, and you push, and you wonder if this, too, is self harm. Socially sanctioned self harm. Trying to live adds to your depression so much, you are convinced that now, it is the very cause. You become that person on their knees again, begging for mercy and wanting only to be held by love, away from this hateful world.
Medication is brought up again. By everyone. By you. The only thing missing in you attempts at life. No one but you sees that your attempts at life are making you want to die. Your instincts are telling you, you want to die. You are begging for it. The ultimate change. Medication is brought up again. They want to change you. They want to change your fundamental being. They want to take away your choice, your freedom. They want to erase you and subdue you and they want a more docile version put in your stead. Retreat from all of them. You survive long enough to die, if you just retreat. You lose your trust again. You think about dying long enough to know that it isn’t just you in your brain anymore and that mistrust turns inward. You are not safe anywhere. Your depression takes a form, and it is a version of you that leeches off whatever original there was. You are at war and no one can help. You are alone and no one can help. No one can help. Medication is brought up again. You think about dying again, no, not just dying but exploding, igniting. Still, you survive. By this time, surviving feels like wading through drying concrete. Still, you survive. Medication is brought up again. You know that this time, you should listen. You reached your limit. You think that nothing could possibly make it worse, because you feel nothing but misery and fatigue. You don’t know how much more you can take. You listen. I listen.
Listening comes with ill feelings: bitterness, anger, disappointment. For myself and for others. Everyone, actually. I swallow my pride as I swallow my pills. This gives others hope. There’s that word again. A hope of my rehabilitation based around these little pills. It would seem, the only hope. The emotions grow; bitterness, anger and disappointment. I note how much more tired I am since taking these meds. I note how much lower I can feel, how much more I can cry and how much weaker I feel – like I cannot carry all of these feelings and thoughts any longer. And, my planned death date comes around. I feel calm. My choice of life or death was going to come from a cool, calculating place. I remember the only connections I seem to have left to me in this world; my friends. They are far. They cannot be in my presence, but they are present. I do care. I do feel. I do remember. I live.
I am not happy that I am alive. I wake up disappointed each day that I still am. I still have to somehow remember those connections, those anchors. Caught between wanting to unburden myself and not being a burden. Listening to the people I respect and trying not hate them for wanting and to help. I am still on my knees. I am bitter and angry that with each day my fatigue grows and my misery deepens, and that I am being asked to hang on for a little while longer when every part of me was spent before I listened. I reached the end of my tether; weak, broken, unable to stand or move or think or focus or trust or believe. Blinded and numbed to a life beyond this misery; still in the dark. I lost myself completely. Like this, I reached the end of my tether; and I am asked, time and again, to jump with hope for a memory.
With each passing minute, I think that it can’t get any worse; the thoughts, the feelings. When, each minute, it does.