Authors’ Note: POTENTIAL TRIGGER WARNING
If you cannot handle an honest take on life and discussions of depression and mental health, please do not read below this image. Thank you.
It didn’t set in until this month.
The majority of my days are Groundhog Day-esque. Lather, rinse, repeat. Dull. Uninteresting. Zero challenge involved. Over time, this method of “living” has worn me down. I’ve kept silent, but today I feel the need to say “I HATE IT. I hate everything about it.”
A little over a year ago I sat in full blown tears when I realized there was never going to be something in this world to cure me. With multiple diagnoses which are highly comorbid, I remember trying to hold back the tears by saying, “I can’t cry. I’m wearing $30 mascara.” I tried blowing it off. I tried using humor. I failed miserably, and no one noticed.
As someone who unintentionally fell into advocacy, fueled by my rage post the ER visit from hell that I still can’t fully talk about without going into the “red rage zone”, I spend a lot of time fielding questions and phone calls, dumbing down information for people so they sort of understand what I’m saying, and doing my best to help others. All while I’m dying inside more and more each day.
This past Spring, a nurse got in my face and asked if I was suicidal. I replied multiple times with, “I have a therapist. I’m fine. Thank you.” and ignored the question because, quite frankly, it didn’t pertain to why I was there. If I come into an office with pneumonia or go to Urgent Care or the emergency room with a broken bone, do NOT ask me if I’m suicidal. It doesn’t pertain to the injury or illness at hand, and medical professionals should NEVER scream and/or get into the face of someone who has a trauma history and a clear-cut diagnosis of any form of PTSD. If I had reacted by physically harming her (I romanced the idea for a good twenty minutes or so.), I would be in the wrong. I would have looked like “the mental patient”, or worse. By pulling myself together and reminding myself of who I am, that bitch still has a face. For now.
“Mental illness” is a phrase I loathe using. It’s a phrase that is incredibly hurtful to me, and always has been. Perhaps because it is so often said in fear, in blame, with malice, or with false empathy, I’m not entirely sure. I prefer to say “Everyone’s brain chemistry is different.”, which is accurate. I could probably get at least one doctor to agree with me on this.
I have openly and honestly discussed my battle with a difficult form of depression. For me, it is virtually un-treatable, so they refer to it as “Treatment Resistant”. I’ve failed more than twenty-five medications, and this year, I failed another. I just started taking something new (to me), but it’ll be a while before I know if it helps or hinders. My first dose definitely affected me and the side effects after the medicine left my system were not high on my list of “Let’s do this everyday”. On one hand, I am lucky because my doctor is trying new things and he has challenged us both with his commitment.
I also suffer terribly from anxiety, Complex-PTSD, and chronic migraines. Two of these diagnoses are hereditary. My headache specialist happily informed me that since my father got occasional headaches (I inherited my pain threshold from him. My father wouldn’t take so much as an aspirin unless something was bordering on emergency.) and my mother had a few migraines in her life, that I most assuredly inherited my migraines from one side of my family or perhaps both. This was nothing I didn’t already know.
Everything that makes me unique, smart, sharp, tough, witty, snarky, and a bad ass stems from at least one or two of my collective diagnoses. It does not make me better or worse; though people would love for you to believe anyone with different brain chemistry is going to either cause you harm or harm themselves. We are treated as lesser. We are labeled and ostracized. Within my own family, I’ve constantly been told I have nothing to be depressed about. I’ve experienced both exclusion, ridicule, and have seen everyone’s true selves. And yet, I see signs of various mental illness in a great many of the very same people who sit in judgment of me, feeling superior because they would never cop to their diagnoses, if asked. They are in denial, and I used the words “mental illness” for them because I have never seen anything special or unique about any of these individuals. I have never thought, “Wow. This person is something special.” When people describe me, it is usually in a positive light and the word “incredible” is often used. It is interesting phraseology, but I’ve also been told I “just want attention”. What crazy, delusional person would say such a thing? Fifty percent of my genetic make-up. 😦 I can’t take this person too seriously. If I did, they’d never walk, talk, or breathe again.
People often underestimate me, and they absolutely underestimate my ability to come back when challenged. If I counted how often a person has said I’m “so nice”, “so sweet”, “the kindest soul”, and/or “so caring”, I would be richer than Bill Gates. These are not words I’d ever use to describe myself. The inability to read non-verbal cues is apparently something many people either choose to suffer from or simply don’t realize they’re doing. If you spend two minutes looking me in the eye, you might catch a glimpse of the real me. “She may be small, but she is mighty.”
My mother once told me I’ve had the most interesting facial expressions since the day I was born; that she knew I was not only looking at someone, but I was also looking through them. She told me, “You see people exactly as they are. Not as they pretend to be. Sometimes, that scares people away, but it’s only scaring the wrong people away. The right people will always stick by you because you’re incredibly loyal.” When I think about those words, I can almost hear her voice again.
I have my moments. I can certainly be nice, sweet, kind, and caring, just not all on the same day, lest I ruin my reputation. 😉 I have limitations on how much niceness I spread around.
My physical and emotional pain is completely invisible. Unless I mention it, no one would ever know, and thus far, only one person seems interested in understanding the complexities of it all. I don’t have a lot of facial expressions. I’m predominantly quiet, unless I have something to say. And you’ll often hear the word “formidable” used in the same sentence as my name, providing the person is smart enough to grasp the fact that I’m not passive.
When other people talk about various forms of mental illness; OCD, anxiety and/or panic attacks, bipolar disorder, trauma, or personality disorders, they tend to be shocked by my openness and honesty. I suffer silently and I suffer alone. I have ceased to discuss it with family because I question their concern for me. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt someone’s concern was genuine. No one has EVER taken a call from me when I was in a crisis situation. People don’t call to check in on me, either, but they’re very quick to dial my number over the slightest thing bothering them, and I find myself exceedingly annoyed by the ridiculous questions I get via text almost daily. Loyalty, compassion, and the ability to be emotionally present are the things I provide, but they’re also the things I am not provided with.
So, it took me all this time to realize I am passively suicidal. And despite knowing this; people have consistently said or done something this year to hurt and upset me. My thoughts, feelings, and overall health has never been taken into consideration. No one has ever said, “Man, she’s going through so much right now. She’s fighting for her life. I’ll wait to talk to her about this until I see she’s feeling stronger.” My suffering is almost completely ignored. I wish people could see how horrible this all is for me and not attack me. I wish they could take my suffering into deep consideration; not as an excuse to avoid a discussion, no, but as a solid reason to know how close I am to the edge.
I can’t remember the last time someone asked how I was doing and it wasn’t someone in customer service. I can’t remember the last time someone genuinely cheered me up. I wish someone would understand how much pain I keep contained. I’ve never used my health as an excuse and I’ve never hidden behind it, but I often think people forget I’m human. The fact that I openly declared being passively suicidal should be enough to get friends and family to sit at attention. I can’t tell you how many times this year I truly believed my life was just moments from ending.
Because it was something I felt I needed to do, I went back into therapy last year. I was seeing someone once a month, and that particular situation worked well, until the therapist left the hospital she was affiliated with. She let me know well in advance, and even when she told me, it wasn’t a shock or a surprise, but it then took me time to find someone new. I saw two people, initially. One I automatically deemed “too young”, and I don’t mean chronologically. I mean in the sense that I didn’t feel she was prepared to genuinely assist me. She immediately got under my skin in a way that let me know she was not a good fit, and I also felt incredibly uncomfortable in the building her office was in, and the surrounding neighborhood felt unsafe and emotionally charged. I shouldn’t be going anywhere if I have to second-guess my personal safety. The second person was okay, but when she pissed me off in two separate sessions, completely twisting my words and practically stabbing me in the hand with a few of her questions, I was hesitant to go back. I mentioned it to my doctor, sort of in passing, and I appreciate the fact that he looked at me and said “Why are you trying to force it?” Beforehand, I felt bad. I never want to waste someone’s time, but he said the perfect thing to me in the moment, and there was nothing about his tone that bothered me. If anything, I was relieved that he knew me well enough to say something. He helped me get set up with someone in the same office, and thus far, things are going well. I feel like she’s got a good head on her shoulders and, because I laid all the dos and don’ts down in the first appointment, she has been good about letting me take point on how I want to proceed. She feels she’ll be able to help me, but she has no idea how hopeless I truly feel.
In the past when I’d read about how people were pushed by friends and family, or maybe one more than the other, into suicide attempts, it appalled me. I would think to myself, “No, not my family. They love me.” But the truth is, people like the idea of me, especially in passing, but love is rarely found in my life. I have friends who likely have more combined love for me than twenty family members, but my family would all deny this. It took me a long time to understand that love means different things to different people. Anyone who ever loved me unconditionally is long gone, and the pain of that sits deep within me.
I often hear people say “I love you.” in passing. It’s the end of many phone calls, but it means more to me than it does to other people. To me, it is a truth, or I won’t say it. There are many ways to say you love someone. It can be by helping them through difficult shit, or telling them to drive safely. It can be so many small and large things, and yet, I feel so devoid of it from people. My cats display more love when they look at me than most people ever could, yet I know many people are quite fond of me. It’s a short list, but I don’t doubt any of the people on it.
Inevitably, once this is published, I will get texts, e-mails, and a few phone calls. This will happen either all within a few hours or over the course of a week. People will ask me questions, pretend to be interested in what’s going on in my life, etc. I will also be accused of writing about each person in my life specifically, be accused of placing targets on their backs, as if I’ve got the time to psychoanalyze all of them and as if my readers are going to attack them physically in the streets! It is ridiculous behavior, but at least they’re all consistent. 😦 I’m supremely honest, so I MUST be targeting them. I mean really, the world seemingly revolves around a LOT of fucking people whenever I speak the truth. It’s baffling, to say the least.
All I want are some good days. Good moments. No pain. I’m desperately trying to survive this life. I’m tired of crying, something I almost never do. I’m tired of the emotional abuse. It is a horrendous burden to bear, especially when someone tells you you’re not being abused, or that you deserve every last ounce of hatred and vitriol a person can spit in your direction. I understand being upset or angry, but I’m tired of it being taken out on me as personal blame. Every time it happens, I reassess my life. No one should have to fight this hard just to stay alive.
It’s important to talk about feelings. It’s important to work things out of your system. Unfortunately, writing this was not a purge of emotion. This is an explanation of my daily life. It is slowly killing me, and those who know me refuse to see it.
I didn’t know until this month. I didn’t know how completely unimportant I am to people who should always have my back. I’ll stop here, though, because the emotional wounds are deep. I’m not sure there are enough sutures on the planet big enough to fix all the emotional harm that has come my way. But I’ll be damned if people don’t start backing off.
When you can’t see past the tears, and can’t breathe without feeling spikes in your chest, passive turns to aggressive, and absolutely no one is more determined than I am once I’ve made a decision. I need love and support right now, and if the people in my life can’t provide safety and a calm, quiet place for me to exist, then I need to stop being the dutiful family member and friend and prioritize nothing else except my own desires.
I know now, and this changes everything.
copyright © 2018 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity, LLC. Further protected under the Digital Millennium copyright act. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.