The lies we tell ourselves

Every year at my annual checkup, my doctor asks if I’m depressed. It’s on that quick checklist of questions they have to ask.

Every year, I smile, maybe chuckle a bit, and respond “haha nope!” despite the suicide notes or cuts made that year. Honestly, I just didn’t want to deal with it. After all, I had gotten out of bed that day, I had made it to the doctor’s office, I was obviously okay. It wasn’t so much a lie to him as it was to myself.

I’ve started taking care of myself since then. I’ve talked to a therapist when I needed to, I acknowledge to myself when I need help, and I give myself a break when I need it (most of the time).

So this year at the doctor, I changed my answer. “Yeah, I’ve been struggling a bit.” And he responded, “Really? Are you sure? You don’t look depressed!””Haha yeah I guess I’m okay,” I said. I let it go. And I’ll probably never bring it up again.

And I think I am doing okay. I’m certainly doing much better than I was a few years ago, but this summer’s been tough on me. After receiving bad news from the doctor, my grandmother passed within a matter of weeks. My dad’s health has also been deteriorating lately. All of this has taken a serious toll on my mother. So I think I”m okay because I have to be okay. And because I’m working forty hours a week and I don’t have time to… think.

I honestly think I’m just holding out till I leave for Japan and hoping to god that it’ll fix me. Because I’m starting to crack at the edges. But hey, I guess I’ll just tape myself back together and keep going because after all “I don’t look depressed”. I must be okay.

Surprises

I’ve been off antidepressants for nearly a month now. And its been kind of a wild ride. I first went on about a year ago after my anxiety debilitated me to the point that I constantly thought I was having a heart attack and I couldn’t sleep every night for fear that I was going to die in my sleep. Despite a chest x-ray and an EKG, I visited the doctor’s office or the health center at least once a week with a different ailment in my head. I finally succumbed to medication, and it really made a difference.

Of course there were the side effects. I was numb, emotionless, I couldn’t concentrate. When I wasn’t in class or even if I was, I was asleep. But I stopped constantly believing I was on the edge of death, and honestly, it was worth it. My anxiety vanished.

The only problem was that I simply didn’t care anymore. I didn’t care about my grades which I had previously lived for, I didn’t care about what I did with my body. And I became really impulsive. This continued until I nearly failed all of my midterms, and I saw that something had to change. At this point, I lowered my dosage slightly and more or less coasted to where I am now, not in a particularly successful way, but at least I made it.

I finally decided I needed to stop. I was sick of wasting my life sleeping all the time and honestly, I hated being dependent on medication and I was willing to do whatever it took to stop. I was worried that I would spiral into a depression, that my anxiety would again debilitate me, but I wanted to have control again.

So here’s what happened: I spent a few weeks more depressed than I have ever been. I considered cutting again and I spent more time crying than not. My anxiety came back too, slowly but surely, and I had one of my worst panic attacks ever. But I started caring again. I found myself truly smiling and being genuinely happy for the first time in months. My foggy thoughts disappeared and I was able to think clearly and logically. And lately, I’ve found myself experiencing really deep emotions, the gut wrenching tearing up in a good way kind. And caring. Really and truly caring. My anxiety continues and every day I still have moments when I’m certain that I’m about to have a heart attack or my eardrum’s about to burst (which is a whole nother issue), but its no longer constant, and I’ve been able to talk myself through the situation.

It’s taken a really long time to get here, but I’m finally starting to feel like me again. Not just a shell walking through life, but a person that really and truly cares. I’ll always be a work in progress and I know that with all that’s going on in my life I may still face some very large obstacles in my near future. But here, right now, in this moment, I’m satisfied. And that’s what matters.

This is my experience and it is in no way universal, but have hope. Sometimes, its all you can count on.

Hopelessness

So today I spent 12 hours at orientation for my new internship that starts Monday. By 3:00, my anxiety started to creep, by the time I got off the metro, my head was about to explode. I took a shower and passed out and when I woke up, the thoughts started to creep.

Last week I was trying on my pants from last summer to see if they still fit. They didn’t. Today, after I woke up, I saw myself in the mirror and I burst out crying. I saw the fat and the eczema and the ugly. Just so much ugly. I was physically repulsed by myself.

And then the thoughts came back. Thoughts that I thought I had pushed away… because I was stronger than that. Thoughts that maybe just one cut would make me feel better. That no one could ever want to be with someone as ugly as me. That maybe the world would be better off without me. That no one would be miss me anyway.

And then guilt. Because I didn’t value my life the way I should. And because of how much my family needs me right now. Really really needs me. And here I couldn’t even get over myself. My thoughts spiraled and I honestly didn’t know how to get out.

I’m on Netflix now. Nothing like a little Orange is the New Black to distract me from my thoughts. But I’m scared. I’m scared about making it through the summer alone. Because lately I have not been kind to myself and my thoughts have only gotten scarier.

My goal:
1. Find a way to stop my thoughts from spiraling when they seem out of control.
2. Stop caring what other people think. They’re only one of billions.
3. Learn to affirm myself.

It’s okay to wander off the path once in a while, as long as you eventually find your way back.