Here Is My Face

 

Sometimes when I’m depressed I get this weird urge to take a selfie.  Maybe it’s because I need help convincing myself that I’m real.  Maybe that’s the reason I decided to try blogging as well.

There are times when trying to write myself through an episode of depression or anxiety, or just general unwellness is truly helpful and cathartic.  A little voice inside me whispers that this will turn into good art one day, and this is how healing and recovery starts.  And then there are days when I wonder if focusing on this part of myself is self-indulgent, or comes across as needy and attention-seeking.  Maybe that’s just my internalized stigma.  But either way, I’m still trying to find the balance between catharsis and… whatever the opposite of that is.

I took the picture on the left about a year and a half ago, back when things first started getting bad, although in reality how do you even determine those things? Beginnings and endings and middles are always getting mixed up and bleeding into each other.  It was on a day when I couldn’t bring myself to make the hour-and-a-half-long commute to school.  I was sitting at my computer, trying to force my brain to focus enough to get some studying done.  I was tired and depressed and confused and trying to convince myself that I was okay with being someone who didn’t give any fucks because that was easier than trying to figure out what was going on in my brain.

The second photo was taken this morning before I had washed my face or tried to make my hair not look weird.  I pulled up the camera on my phone, stared at myself in the screen for a few seconds wondering whose face it was starting back at me. Click.

That second girl is also tired and depressed and confused, with a few extra doses of anxiety attacks mixed in for good measure.  But when I look at her, I can’t help but think that she’s braver.  Is there bravery in letting yourself be messy, in letting people see your dirty kitchen counter and smudged eye make-up, in letting people pull you out of bed in the morning and answering that one phone call?  I want to believe there is.

Here’s to letting ourselves be messy.

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What’s Been Going On With My Brain (Self-Care and Shit)

Content Warning: suicidal thoughts

The past couple of weeks have been weird.  Not bad weird or good weird – just weird, which is basically my go-to explanation when I can’t quite figure out what’s going on in my head or what it is I’m feeling or whether I’m happy or sad or depressed or anxious or all of the above.

A couple of weeks ago, my partner drove me to the ER after a sudden onset of self-destructive behaviour on my part.  After a night at the hospital, some Netflix bingeing, a bizarre period of hallucinations (most likely caused by the overdose of meds), and a visit with the psychiatrist, I was allowed to go home.  I’ve been fine since then.

This isn’t the first time this has happened.  The last time was back in May.  I guess the main difference was that last time I kind of saw it coming.  Like a slow, downward spiral that I was pretty aware of, and for a while, gave up trying to get out of.  But this time felt so much more out-of-the-blue.  I thought I was doing okay, and then one bad night and my brain loses its shit and goes LET’S DO SOMETHING STUPID AND COMPLETELY IRRATIONAL TO NUMB THE PAIN BITCH.  I’ve tried not to think about that night too much, or imagine the other possibilities, all of the ifs.  If my partner hadn’t happened to come into our bedroom a few minutes after and asked me what was wrong.  If he hadn’t insisted on taking me to the hospital.  If it had been ten more.  Or the whole bottle.

I remember the first time I had suicidal thoughts, back in high school.  Not wanting to kill myself, but realizing that I just didn’t really want to exist, thinking that no one would notice if I was gone.  Looking back, I think that was when I realized that I wasn’t untouchable from those kinds of things.  Last May was when I learned I was actually capable of hurting myself.  And then a couple of weeks ago, I realized just how much damage I could do.  How dissociated I could get from myself.  That’s what sticks with me the most.  Not feeling like my body belonged to me.  And I hate how good it felt.

Since that night in the hospital, I’ve felt surprisingly fine.  But also a bit stagnant, like I have no idea how to help myself or bring myself to do anything or how not to be a tired and mopey human being 24/7.  The last few days, however, have been a little bit better, and I’ve decided to try something new related to self-care.

I feel uncomfortable talking about self-care here, because I’ve been trying to become more aware and critical about how the act of “self-care” has become overtaken by capitalism and consumerism bullshit.  I’m also incredibly guilty of falling into this consumerism-as-self-care trap and have been pretty reckless with spending lately.  So I’m trying to get better at “boring self-care” – check out the lovely makedaisychains on Instagram for her #boringselfcare posts and all-around wholesome content.  I wrote a bunch of things that I consider taking care of myself – anything from “take five deep breaths” to “drink a glass of water” – on slips of paper and put them in an empty tea tin.  My hope is that when I’m having a bad time, I can pull out a slip of paper and feel like I have a bit of guidance.  Maybe this will help, and maybe it will be completely useless.

Still, it feels good to have a plan – even if it’s just “lie down on the floor and remember to breathe.”

self care

Wanting to Want to Get Better

You know when you mention something in a conversation, just a casual remark, like “It’s been a long time since I’ve felt genuinely happy” or “I don’t really like the person I’m dating” or ” I keep watching this horrible British makeover show on Netflix even though I hate it” and then right after it hits you like “OH MY GOD I really do hate that show why do I keep putting myself through thirty minutes of the same bullshit every day? and “Oh my god why am I still with this person that I can’t stand to be around??”

(Side note: None of these examples pertain to my life at the moment.  They were just the first things I could think of.).

My point is, this happened to me a few weeks ago when I went to see my psychiatrist.  And that seemingly casual remark went something like this:

“Depression, in a weird way, has become kind of comforting to me.”

In retrospect, I should probably replace “weird” with “fucked up.”  Because I know logically nobody wants to be depressed and if it does seem like a friend sometimes, it’s an abusive, manipulative friend who keeps convincing me that I need them in my life.  It probably has something to do with the fact that my anxiety has been worse than usual the past couple of months, and sometimes falling into that numb, i-don’t-give-a-fuck-about-anything dark pit is a relief after days of feeling like I’m on the verge of a panic attack.

Sometimes it’s easy to wake up and immediately note that I’m depressed, feel it in my body, and the dull empty ache in my head and go through the day treating my body like shit.  Wantings things takes too much energy, so I settle for apathy.

I don’t know if I’m describing this well.

I used to think I knew everything I needed to know about dealing with mental illness.  I knew that it was a process, one that I would probably be dealing with for a long time if not the rest of my life.  That things would always be getting better and getting worse and getting better again.  That I had to take initiative to be happy with the person I was, to recognize my flaws and maintain compassion for myself at the same time.

But I guess it never occurred to me that the very act of deciding that I wanted to get better was also a process.  Because wanting to get better means setting goals for myself, setting expectations, low as they may be.  It doesn’t take away the bad days when leaving the house seems too exhausting.  Maybe it will hurt less if I just decide that this is the way I’m always going to be.  Maybe this thing inside my head isn’t even that bad, so what right do I have to want to get better anyway?

Right now, I’m struggling to remember that I’m allowed to let myself want.  It doesn’t have to be selfish, or a set up for failure.

Yesterday, my partner had to coax me out of bed at 1pm and force me to go outside for a few minutes.  My breakfast was the leftover Oreos and skittles sitting on the coffee table.  It took me most of the day to work up the motivation to write one page of an essay for school.

Today, I got out of bed at noon.  I made oatmeal for breakfast.  I published this blog post.  I want to write today, to create something, to try to make sense of the numbness in my body and the tangled thoughts in my head.  I think I can finish my essay.

Today, I want to want to get better.  And that’s enough, for now.

Chapter 1: Figuring Shit Out

I like the idea of writing into a void.  For one thing, it takes most of the pressure off.  It’s like throwing a bottle full of my stories into the ocean, letting people find them completely by accident and if they happen to like them they might give them to their friends or their family to read, and those friends give them to their friends and so on until a small little network has formed around a pile of words that might someday make its way back to me.

Or, if they hate it, they won’t be able to tell me because how do you contact a hermit who’s retreated into a secret cave and has sworn off human contact?

On the other hand, the idea of intentionally handing my writing to people and asking them to read it, trying to convince them that I think it’s good and worth their time, scares the bejeezus out of me.

I guess my point here is that I’m terrible at networking.  Also at failing, and having confidence in myself as an artist, and maintaining a healthy amount of self-esteem.  As much as I want to be one of those people who can get so absorbed in their art that they lose track of time, let the rest of the world fall away, I don’t think I’ve ever had that experience.  I’ve never been good at being brave in my writing.

There’s a lot of things I’m trying to accomplish through this blog.  Challenge myself to write on a regular basis and finish things.  Get more comfortable writing my thoughts down and sharing those with people.  Maybe even more accountability for projects I start to work on.  Force myself to reflect on my own mental health and how it affects how and why I need to create art and learning how to navigate that in my everyday life.

But mostly, I’m just trying to figure shit out and be a little bit braver at the end of the day.

 

 

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