Two years ago today I posted the above missive. Thanks for that Facebook memories. I actually felt happy to see it. Yep. I read a post I know I wrote from a place where I was genuinely suicidal, had already had several overdoses, one bad enough to land me in hospital. I had also been recently recovering from a genuine attempt at killing myself. Not long after this post I would be a guest at a grown up time out resort. For those that don’t watch Santa Clarita Diet a) why not and b) that’s fancy talk for a psych ward. But from here, looking back to there, I just feel grateful. Because I am here. Sat on my couch, in my favorite pj’s, tapping away at my phone. Writing this. That post wasn’t the last thing I wrote. Far from it. So I’m going to talk about it. Because I can. And because if you read it, you might find it useful. You might even laugh out loud. If I make you snort your tea or feel a bump in the old heart muscle, I’ve done what I set out to. Here we go…
I don’t think that post was an attempt at sympathy. I was genuinely thinking of depression as a terminal illness and suicide as euthanasia. I was begging for people to understand… sometimes living just hurts. Depression will give you pain I can’t describe. On all levels, in every form, pain. It god damn sucks. Back then I was in a bad place and I thought it was forever. It wasn’t. I’ve learned since that was my ‘wrong brain’ talking, and I’ve been actively ignoring it ever since. When the Black Dog barks you tell it to shut the hell up and move right along!
All things pass. They do. And then they come back again. And then they pass again. Life is kind of like bowel movements that way. No really, wait, I have a point! The pressure builds and builds like a stab in the guts until something shifts, you get up and get ready to take care of business and boom… sweet relief and… happiness? Momentary, fleeting. It feels good. You’re thinking about your last really, nice, big shit aren’t you? Are you thinking of that moment when it’s over and you feel ready to get up, get yourself in order and get on with things? THAT feeling is what I’m talking about. I’m a wizard with words. And mental pictures. Now, back to the story. No more toilet talk, promise.
Them’s were hard times for me, I was 32. I’d had a feeling for a couple of years that my 32nd year on planet earth would be amazing. That it would be a massive year for me. My year. And weirdly, it really was. Just not quite what I pictured. I’d had a big old major mental illness and some form of companion crazy since I was 18. They called it Schizophrenia for over a decade, now they call it Borderline Personality Disorder. Through it all, Depression and Anxiety were holding hands and skipping along in the background. I read that post now and I remember that girl in the deep dark hole. I feel her pain like a dull thud. An echoing heartbeat, a sharp breath. You know what else I remember? What I like to focus on when I think about that time and feel a little bit scared of myself? All the people around me, trying to pull me out of the dark. To literally grab me and move me into the light. I’m not using the word ‘literally’ as an excited teenager would, some days people would physically come and pick me up and drive me places. Appointments, lunch, or simply take me home and put me on their couches and cover me with blankets, cats, dogs and endless cups of tea. A change is as good as a holiday. Especially when you can’t quite manage the English language or get dressed.
Today I’m struggling. I feel really good writing this, in this moment. But it’s been rough for weeks, maybe a couple of months if I think on it. It’s a weird time of year. Winter is coming (as John Snow says) and I dunno… I feel tired all the way down. Mentally and physically. Fuck it, let’s just call it existential exhaustion. I know I’m actually doing really well just to acknowledge that. I mean look at where I’ve been! This ain’t bad at all. I know how to focus of the flashes of joy. The times I laugh out loud. To actively turn my focus to good things. Like this meme.
See? There’s always reasons to smile. Didn’t like that one? How bout this one?
I’m strong, I’m funny, but I’m also fucking tired. Officially they call it a return of symptoms. I call it a warning. From my brain and my heart. They’re getting pushy. When they give me insomnia, anxiety, hallucinations, paranoia, moodiness, extreme swings from happy to crying I have to learn to hear what they’re actually telling me. Hey lady! You’re doing great but you need to look inward for a hot second! Assess! What do you need? Probably a nap…
Being aware of symptom precursors like that help me avoid the big bad. I have been in therapy since that Facebook post and this time it’s working. I found a doctor I trust and who listens. I have a psychiatrist I see about every three months to check in and talk meds, and a therapist I try to see every fortnight. I like that part the best. Talking therapy works. Especially with all the rest as back up. I’m learning that needing to take care of myself does not make me a burden. It’s not a chore to look after myself, it’s my job. And if I stop doing it, my brain reminds me why I have to. Like a Fitbit’s annoying announcements ‘it’s time to get up and move’ my brain is gonna send me updates until I listen… or I risk falling all the way back to days like those again. Maybe that will happen one day, and if it does I will get back up again. I will. But I’d rather not have to because it’s hella stressful, expensive and takes a really long arse time. It’s bloody hard work.
I only work properly if I do some proper self care (insert dirty joke here). I need to take care of myself, or I start to shut down. Like systems shutting down to prolong life when a person is facing hyperthermia. I’m alive, but internally I’m focused solely on basic system maintenance. It’s not a lot of laughs. I’m not happy like that, and no one else around me is either.
I need rest days. I need things that nourish my heart and my brain. I’m gonna say no to things that don’t help. I have to say yes to things that do. I will tell everyone that today is a day when I’m not answering the door. It’s a lie down day. It’s a crochet, Netflix, reading type of day. It’s a cookies and pajama type of day. It’s essential to rest and recharge. After that? I need to get the fuck up. To show up for adulting. To get dressed, go out, talk to other human’s, get some air, smile at strangers. Occasionally shower or they won’t smile back.
*that cartoon is from Allie Brosh’s book ‘Hyperbole and Half’. Read it now, thank me later.
As cliched as it sounds life is all about balance. Sometimes it can feel like we’re wobbling on a razor thin line, and sometimes it will feel like we’ve got both feet planted on a foot wide plank. Those days you might as well dance. But if you get wobbly again and you need help, ask. There is no shame in it. Ask a friend. Ask a doctor. Scream it out on Facebook. Call a helpline. Jump in a support group. Just. Fucking. Ask. Because no matter how alone you feel, someone WILL answer.
That’s the most important thing I think. To feel heard. To know you’re not alone. If I have a take away from all of this it’s that I’m loved and wanted. When you have depression you’re brain will try to convince you of your uselessness. It will try to tell you you are completely irrelevant. Basically it tells you every day that you don’t matter. So to finally stand up and say hey, I’m important to people, that’s no small thing. Actually it’s the best damn thing I could ask for. Maybe that will be my next tattoo. I will have ‘wanted’ put somewhere on my body. Real pretty like, in calligraphy script. Or just that word, simple and un-presumptuous, somewhere I can see it everyday. Others may think; what a stupid word to choose. But I’ll see it and I’ll know. I am wanted. In a world that sometimes makes you feel about as big as a bug in some vast ant farm, that’s pretty special.
So to everyone I have in my life making it that little bit brighter, I am grateful. I’m lucky to have both excellent quality real life friends and soul sisters who live flung across the world and exist mostly in my phone. I owe so many laughs, tears, happiness and joy to my Glee Team, my Queen Squad, my Bubbles, Poodles and Pink Ted’s. I have friends who’ve become family and actual family who know all my stories good and bad and love this pink haired nutter anyway. Old friends who have put up with my nonsense for years on end and new friends who have dipped a toe in the upsie down world of Bonnie and decided to stay… I fucken love ALL you guys. Staying alive is a fight, but I will fight it every damn day because you all said I was worth fighting for. You yelled it, texted it, PM’d it, hugged it at me and wrote it to me until my stubborn ass heard it and believed it. I’m one of the lucky ones.
And if ANYONE reading this ever needs me to say it right back? I will. Every time. Because you’re worth it. You belong here. You are valuable to the world. You are wanted.