War and (No) Peace for the Weary

It didn’t occur to me that there was anything wrong until I entered a room filled to the brim with people–faces I knew, faces I didn’t. It didn’t occur to me that there was anything wrong until I entered said room and felt like my heart was going to beat out of my chest, as though my lungs were filling with water, and as though my spinning head was going to rotate off my body and fly away.

And I blamed it on my asthma, but asthma can’t be blamed for everything. No, this is worse. Much worse. Because inhalers can fix asthma, or at least get it enough under control that I can breathe almost normally.

This is anxiety.

This is the feeling of complete and utter doom that springs from fears that have their roots firmly established in things I’ve experienced.

Because even though I go out of my way and actively avoid large groups of people, it’s not large groups of people I’m scared of. It’s the overcrowding, the not enough space, the I barely have enough room to squeeze by you, claustrophobia. And I didn’t used to be this way. I can remember the time and place I became claustrophobic: 8th grade, in a school bathroom. And that memory is probably why I can never go to the Bathroom by myself. It’s probably why when I’m in a large crowd, I make myself smaller to give myself more room.

I need room to breathe, and room to pace to sort out my jumbled up mess of thoughts. I thrive in wide open spaces.

But, not too wide. If you get too far away from people, it’s easy to imagine yourself as the only person left. And that terrifies me more. I like being alone, but I hate feeling alone. And yes, there’s a difference. At night when I sleep in my own room, I’m alone. But I can hear the snores of my family as the house settles in for the night, and I can hear God in the wind that makes my house moan and groan.

And even though darkness is wide, it can make you feel claustrophobic. Because sometimes, the weight of it all makes you feel like you are suffocating. What lies beyond my field of vision is mysterious and foreboding. The future terrifies me.

This is anxiety.

When my heart is racing so fast I count it in beats per second, not beats per minute. It’s paralyzing fear. Similar to the time I went to Niagara Falls in 8th grade and had to cross a glass bridge. I had to be pushed across by my friends, because I’ve always been scared of heights.

And eventually my fear of heights became synonymous with the urge to jump and end it all. But one time I climbed to the roof of a mall in Guatemala, and I wasn’t afraid. I didn’t want to jump. And that’s the biggest step toward healing I’ve ever taken. But when I went to the mall the other week, I found out that escalators still make me feel anxious.

Anxiety is not a trend. It’s not something you should use to make you feel cool, because believe me, it makes you feel totally uncool. When most girls wear over sized sweaters, they look cute. When I wear over sized sweaters, I look like how anxiety makes me feel.

Anxiety is not a trend. It’s not something you can shrug off when it’s too warm outside. It’s not something you can decide doesn’t fit with the look you want today. And anxiety looks different on everybody. I’m 5 years old, and there’s monsters in my closet (and by closet, I mean my head). Because one day, you realize the monsters hiding under your bed were really inside you the whole time. Right now, I’m 19 years old, and the monsters in the closet still scare me.

Anxiety is not Instragramming a pumpkin spice latte while watching Dr. Who on Netflix, all while sitting in your room alone. It’s running your fingers of your left hand over your right thumb and wrist, tracing the scars left behind, because you don’t know what else to do when your Lit Class is discussing a book about sexual assault. It’s tapping your foot in Health Class when they discuss eating disorders. It’s leaving the crowded dining hall of your college campus to pace up and down the book lined halls of the library.

Anxiety is sleepless nights and silence. I’ve been so open about my struggles, but I’ve remained silent on this. Nobody wants to seem weak. It’s the silence I wish my mind would impose upon this freight train of my mind, the racing thoughts that I don’t deserve to live a normal life. I don’t deserve to be happy. But I also don’t deserve to be unhappy, because, comparatively, my life isn’t so bad.

Anxiety is questioning. Why are they being nice to me? Why are they laughing? Is there something on my face? There are so many questions and not enough answers. Not that I deserve answers anyway,  because there are beautiful people out there, beautiful sweaters stitched together with greatness. I’m a lackluster wool turtleneck held together with mediocrity. Turtlenecks make me feel like I’m choking. And wool itches like anxiety makes my skin crawl.

And maybe one day, I’ll be a fantastic heroine in some award winning novel. I’ll be characterized by my beauty, charm, and confidence. But, right now, I feel like a bunch of equations haphazardly thrown up on a black board some where. Maybe one day my numbers will add up to greatness or something close to that, but right now my 5 and 8 and my 11 and 14 don’t add up. No matter how I do the math, add, subtract, multiply, or divide, my life still equals zero. I hope one day it equals one. Because in statistics, a correlation coefficient of 1 shows a strong relationship. Maybe one day my correlation coefficient of 1 will signify the relationship between my past struggles and how great I became.

Right now, I’m waiting for the day when I meet someone who says, “Here, let me take your oversized sweater for a while. I’ll give you a break from the itching.”

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I Need to Sleep

People annoy me. 

Ok, technically, people don’t annoy me; people annoy my Depression. And it’s not like people annoy me all the time. They just annoy me when my Depression is at it’s worst, which pretty much sums up my recent days.

And when I find myself in this state, the state where every single thing anybody does makes me want to punch them in the face with a snarky comment, I find it best to stay in my bed, in my room, secluded from the world. It’s better for everybody if I sleep it off, or at least attempt to. (But that’s not to say I don’t ever use sarcastic comments, because I do. However, they are reserved for situations, and things, like Intro to Sociology or other 3 hour night classes, not people. Unless of course I consider you a bro. In which case, be prepared for the sarcasm.)

And personally, I don’t think it’s that people annoy me. More than anything, I think it’s that I annoy myself. I have all these dreams of things I want to do, but I never have enough motivation or faith in myself to do them. And it’s not as though I can got to the store and pick up a bottle of motivation or purpose in life. So, I pretty much have to make do with what I got. 

And I want to go out with friends and do things, but sometimes being around people is exhausting. And sometimes, doing things that used to make you happy don’t always make you happy (which is one of the biggest paradoxes I’ve ever heard). And that makes me feel even worse about my present predicament. So telling me to go and do something does more harm than good. 

You also shouldn’t tell me or ask me any of the following:

1)      Snap out of it. If I could snap out of it, I wouldn’t be here right now in this moment. Yes, I know everyone feels sadness at some point in their life, but in my case “at some point in their life” translates to “every freakin’ day,” or a hopeless pit of despair where it’s so dark, I’ve forgotten what light looks like. And I know everyone feels anxious, but that’s not the same as having an anxiety attack, which is best described as: “a terrifying lightning storm of despair, self-hatred, and the absolute certainty of my immediate death.”

2)      You don’t look depressed or conversely, you look depressed. Thank you, really I appreciate it. Thank you for letting me know I can’t be sad, because I don’t look sad. Conversely, thank you for letting me know you can see my sadness. I appreciate knowing that it must be real now.

3)      You must have asked for it somehow, or you must have done something wrong to be depressed. I asked for a pony, but all I got was this lousy feeling of impending doom. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

4)      What’s wrong?  I don’t know what’s wrong. If I did, I probably wouldn’t be here, right now, in this moment. Yes, it’s true that a particular event sparked what would eventually become known as Depression, but right here, right now, in this moment, everything’s wrong and nothing’s wrong, and I’m still trying to figure out how that can be. (You can ask me what’s wrong, but don’t expect a coherent answer).

5)      Stop focusing on the bad stuff. Thanks, now I feel horrible about myself, because I’ve tried this many times. I’ve listed out all the good stuff about life, but it hasn’t worked so far. And right now, I’m not feeling very hopeful, because the Evening News begins with “Good Evening,” and then proceeds to list off all the reasons why it isn’t. And yes, they usually conclude with a little “bright spot” showing that there is in fact light at the end of the tunnel, but this tunnel isn’t getting any smaller, and I’m not getting any closer, and really, right now, the light bulb is rather dim. I think it needs to be changed. And you know it’s bad when a listed side effect of anti-depressants is: increased suicidal thoughts. I’m sorry, but isn’t that why we started taking this little happy pill to begin with: to make us just happy enough so we weren’t thinking about suicide all the time?

 6)      Just pray about it. I have witnessed the power of prayer, but prayer can’t fix everything, and you’re making me believe that I don’t have enough faith. Are you implying that the way I feel somehow equates to my lack of faith? Because if so, let me explain to you that my faith is quite intact. Because it takes a lot of faith for me to get out of bed in the morning, to believe that the ground won’t fail beneath my feet. I have enough faith for the both of us.

 7)      Being busy will help distract you. Ignoring an issue, doesn’t make it go away. I’ve discovered this when I ignore homework.

 8)      Sleeping all the time isn’t healthy. Maybe not, but it’s the only escape I get from my feelings. If I could sleep for a week straight, I would. Because sometimes I have too much pain to be awake for. Sleeping is like death, without the commitment, because I know one day, I will be temporarily happy, and I want to be awake to see it.

 9)      You’re doing this for attention. This is literally the worst thing to do for attention. If I wanted attention, I would wear a clown costume as I was riding a unicycle while juggling. It’s much easier. And that way, the stares and whispers would be because of something good.

 10)   I understand. No you don’t. The only way you’d understand is if you have the same feelings I do.

11)      How are you doing? (or similarly, How you doing kid?)

Right now, I’m not doing much of anything except trying to survive. Some days I use up all my energy getting out of bed in the morning because the ground looks pretty shaky, and sometimes it takes everything to believe that I will be ok. Those are the days when I know I won’t be able to get along with people, so I hide away in my room. But really, this is pretty normal for people like me. So a better question to ask me would be…

12)      How’s it going?

It’s going. Because life moves quickly but also so slowly, and I move right along with it. Although sometimes it seems as though I’m moving in slow motion, because I have no idea what I’m doing or where I’m going, and I’m just trying to figure it out. So I’m going with the flow and also against the flow, because if society is going to tell me that I’m not beautiful, I’m going to prove them wrong, because my battle proves otherwise.

13)      Can I see your scars?

No, you cannot. Over the years, I have learned to wear my scars boldly, because they are a reminder of where I’ve been. And they serve as hope for the future. And I’ve had too many people make fun of me because of my scars. Self-harm is not a joke. It is not funny, and it is not something you should make fun of to get a laugh out of people. It’s a serious problem. It’s not ok to diminish the severity of this issue by taking pictures of fake blood in the shape of a heart or whatever because you think it’s beautiful. Because let me tell you, every time I cut into my skin I felt a little bit less beautiful, and I hated myself a little more, and I’ve spent the last three years trying to undo it. IT’S NOT OK. It’s horrible when you get to that point when you feel self-harm is the only way to feel pain. It’s horrible when you become addicted. And I hope I never walk that path again, but every day the struggle is real. It’s not a joke. And it’s not ok to use my scars or anybody else’s as a joke or an example of what not to do. Everybody deals with pain differently. Don’t make anybody hate themselves more than they already do.

So no, you cannot see my scars, because while you may think they’re beautiful, I don’t. I do my best to hide them, because all I want is to feel beautiful.

14)      How are you feeling?

I don’t know how I’m feeling. I’m feeling happy and sad and sometimes nothing at all. And I don’t want to feel this way. I don’t want to be cautiously happy and overwhelmingly sad. I’d give anything to not feel this way—my left kidney because I only need one, part of my liver because it’s the only organ that regenerates, my lungs because I feel like I’m drowning, my heart because I doubt anybody could ever love me, and if I still had my appendix, I’d probably give that too. 

So really, I’m feeling everything and nothing, but most of all I’m feeling terrified. Because life is unpredictable, and I don’t know if I can deal with anymore hurtful suprises, and I’m trying to make sense of this chaos, because out of chaos comes beauty, but when I look in the mirror all I see is ugly.

 

So, yes. Sometimes people annoy me. But being annoyed is better than feeling nothing at all. But, just so you know, if I think you’re annoying, I’ll probably just shut my eyes and take a nap.