Monday, February 20, 2017

Galaxies Within, Yearning to Be Free

I was 16 the first time I cut.

I had stolen some alcohol from my parents in an attempt to fall asleep, to shut up the constant stream of negative thoughts that bombarded me at night.
It didn't help.
I lay in my bed, the world spiraling around me and the voices still whispered, vile words dripping with poison.

I tried everything to sleep through the thoughts that pounded against my skull like too many stars trapped in a vacuum.

Self Harm: Original Photography by Emily Smith
My thoughts drifted to a conversation I had had a week before. My best friend had explained to me  how cutting helped her cope with the things she couldn't control.

She said being able to silence the mental pain with physical pain was fascinating and that it gave her a peace about the world around her.

So I got up. I was sluggish from the liquor, floundering in my mind, but I trudged to the kitchen looking for my dad's medical supplies. I found some small, at home surgery kits and I took one hoping he wouldn't notice.

Once back in my room I pulled the sterilized scalpel from its crisp, clean wrappings. I studied it for what seemed like hours but was probably only minutes.

Then I slid up my sleeve and made a single cut along the upper part of my left arm.

The pain wasn't immense, honestly, I'm so clumsy I've had worse falling down the stairs. But it was instantaneous and unexpected and that made all the difference.

I cut several lines all over my arm to see if different places hurt more or less. I crisscrossed lines, making a tic-tac-toe effect. I didn't cut deep. I didn't want people to realize.

I made it look like a scrape from falling instead of intentionally, inflicted incisions.

The pounding in my head resided as red galaxies dripped out of my veins. It was like the solar systems that had been burning bright behind my eyes had found a source to escape the black hole they were constantly being sucked into.

I breathed more easily than I had in what felt like forever.

I sterilized the scalpel and wound with alcohol, washed up the blood and wrapped my arm in gauze. I hid the evidence and fell into the deepest sleep, flying through the solar system unhindered by the things in my head.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

It's a Struggle, but I'm Still Here

Warning: This post features talk about suicide

I'm 23 years old today and four years ago, I didn't think I would make it to 20.

I was 19. I was lost, devastated, drowning in toxic thoughts that refused to relent.

I was cutting almost every day, smoking cigarettes to help me breathe, taking shots to sleep at night and just begging to not wake up in the morning.
Cool steel against my skull.
I don't remember the exact thought that triggered me into action. I know I had considered this act many times. I had picked up the gun too many times to count actually. Cool steel against my skull. I had always stopped. I had always set it back down and walked away.

I don't remember what had left me so vulnerable to those thoughts that night. I don't even remember what day. I remember taking a couple shots, cutting and lying on my bathroom floor, silently sobbing. I remember wanting things to stop, for me to stop.

I couldn't use the gun. Everyone was asleep. I didn't want to make a mess. I was already an inconvenience, I just wanted to leave and not bother anyone anymore. A mess would just cause more problems.

Pills. My parents were medical, maybe they had something stronger, something that would let me sleep. Let me leave without causing problems. I stumbled to the medicine cabinet. I just started grabbing bottles. I don't remember what. I picked random numbers from each till I had a handful of colors. I put everything back in its place perfectly. I grabbed a beer and trudged back to my room.

I wrote a note. I honestly don't remember what it said. I just know I wrote something. I remember I wanted them to know it wasn't their fault, it wasn't anyone's fault. It was me, I was the problem. They had to know it was all me not them.

I took the pills, a rainbow falling down my throat. Washed it with alcohol and prayed God would forgive me and still let me into heaven.

I woke up to my mom yelling at me that I would be late for school. Everything spun, my vision swam, my head felt like it would split open and I ran to the bathroom and puked till all I could taste was acid. my throat burned, my skin felt like ice, everything felt wrong. Everything was wrong.
"I wasn't supposed to wake up"
"I wasn't supposed to wake up, it was supposed to be over, I was supposed to be over." Sobbing overtook me and I couldn't breathe.

"I'm supposed to be gone! I'm not supposed to be here!" I silently screamed. I was angry, I was in so much pain. "It was supposed to end. Why didn't it end? Why didn't I die?"

I felt more helpless and alone than I ever had before. I didn't want to move, didn't want to think.

But I got up. I showered. I pulled myself sluggishly through my morning and to school.

I passed through school in a toxic haze, running to the bathroom to puke every hour till all I could do was dry heave. I was miserable. I was exhausted. I ended up hiding from my classes that afternoon by crashing in my acting teacher's room. He didn't ask me for an explanation. He just patted me on the shoulder and let me sleep in the practice room. I was so grateful I cried.

I didn't go home that night. I spent the night at a friend's house where I would be relatively safe from myself.

Then I woke up the next day and kept going.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Beaten Down Feelings and Invalidated Pain

Depression doesn't care about your social standing, your grades, your home life or how well off you are.

Depression can surface unexpectedly and without warning to those it decides to infect.

And yet, people have the audacity to believe it can only be present in a certain type of people. If you don't fit the bill, you must be lying or going through a "phase."

I'm here to tell you that's total bullshit.

I was always the perfect child. I have a loving family and a good home life.
Family Portrait by Leah Dile
Never did drugs, always on time, never skipped class, stayed out of trouble and tried to be a good influence. I was the "goody two shoes" and proud of that title. I passed my classes with flying colors, had the voice of an angel and I knew exactly where I was going and how I was gonna get there.

Then my junior year of high school came and everything changed.

I began feelings things I had never experienced before. Feelings of regret over nothing at all. Anxiety over every situation. No confidence in the things I excelled at. Lose of enjoyment in the things I loved. Exhaustion, but sleep eluded me as my mind overflowed with negative thoughts. All of this built up to an intense pain, always just behind my eyes, right where I couldn't fix it.

I tried to hide it. I tried to pretend like I was fine, it would go away on its own, it was just a fluke. 

"Are you okay?" "I'm fine just tired."

I spent months like this, secluded in my own mind trying to figure out what I had done to bring myself to this mental low. When I couldn't come to any conclusion, I turned to the internet and my school's counselor. 

Original Photography by Emily Smith
I realized I was showing signs of depression and I approached my mom. My mom who had always loved me, always told me my feelings were valid and always would discuss things even if she didn't agree with me. I knew I could turn to her and she would help me.

She told me that I was fine.

"You're in high school, it's just a phase." "You don't have depression." "Counselors and therapist and psychiatrists just blow things out of proportion you're fine." "You just need to sleep more." "You just need to lose weight." "You just need to exercise more."

Having the person who had always cared before refusing to listen to you is one of the hardest things to ever happen.

I turned to friends next. Many of them said it was hormones, others became angry saying I had it too good to be depressed. Others just laughed it off like it was an awkward conversation they didn't want to have.

There were a few who tried to help and I am so thankful for those teachers, friends and my boyfriend at the time for listening to me, even if they weren't sure how to help. The fact that you cared carried me through to graduation.

However I mostly suffered in silence, too beaten down and broken to reach out. It took me three years after high school to even consider therapy.

I know this seems like a long, meaningless story, but all of that goes to say please, do not, for the love of everything that is pure and good in this world ever invalidate the things people are feeling. If they reach out to you there's a reason. Don't brush them off, you're impacting them more than you could ever know.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Beating the Terror of Writing for Others

I’m gonna be real honest with y’all:

Writing this blog freaks me the fuck out.

When I think of posting my words my body begins to panic. Stomach churning, hands shaking, heart speeding, queasiness, nausea, short breath. The fear of judgment can be absolutely overwhelming. 

The judgement and invalidation I have received over the years makes me hesitant to tell others of my mental illness. It makes me cringe, because I know most people don’t see my depression and anxiety. I’m what some people would call high functioning.

I constantly worry about others opinions, but upon meeting me you would never know. I am an incredible confident person in public. I have no worries about the words others say. I smile. I am in control. I am strong. I'm the person you come to when you have a problem, need advice or just a shoulder to lean on.

In reality, I am a nervous wreck. I will sit and stare off into space for hours on end, unable to force my body to obey my mind. Getting out of my car in the mornings is a struggle and in the evenings, I hide there, reveling in the safety of a place I've known for years. I play on my phone so I don't have to think and forget even the most important things as I panic over the list of goals I feel I cannot achieve.

I have so many drafts for this blog and I cannot force myself to post them. I worry they are not perfect, that they won't convince you to believe me, to be interested.

I hope I don't bore you. I hope you find some comfort in my words. I hope you know I care. I hope you can learn something of others or about yourself through me. I hope my words are enough.