It’s bad when I decide to get out of the house and head to a coffee shop (any coffee shop), but when I get there I don’t talk to anyone and spend every last second feeling like every set of eyes is on me. It doesn’t matter how many times I tell myself there’s no way that EVERYONE is looking at me. That it’s self-centered to think that way (I’m not that important, really I’m not). I still can’t stop feeling awkward and unusual and lonely and scared. I pack up my backpack (if I even go into the coffee shop to begin with) and walk to my car and realize that I barely talked to three people all day (all to do with work) and that I haven’t actually touched another human being – actual, physical touch – in a week. The next day, I go out again to try and make some kind of contact but the result is always the same (because I am always the same). And this isn’t the worst.
It’s bad when I need to go to the grocery store or I want to go to out to dinner (or just go anywhere) but I have to sit in my car for 20 minutes just to calm myself down and talk myself up before I can actually walk in. When I finally go inside, something will happen like a dirty look or a rude comment (I happen, and I am awkward) and I imagine the worst of every person I see after that. I leave so I can hide in my house for the next one or two or three days to feel safe (even though I’m not safe there either). I feel brittle and weak, as though it would take nothing but a strong wind and a stray gaze to break me into a million pieces. But that isn’t the worst.
It’s bad when my friends text or call and I ignore it because I’m scared or nervous to actually talk to anyone and I just want to hide and be invisible. But I also want to go out and have fun and be with the people I care about (love) deeply. I want to tell them everything about what’s going on in my mind and have them (or someone, anyone) really, truly see me. Then the worry sets in that if they see me, they will reject me because who would want this kind of neurotic person in their life? I look at my phone later to reply or call back but I feel offbeat because I haven’t seen them in weeks. One friend gave me a standing invite to join his family for Sunday dinner and another friend invites me out to movies and concerts with her family (bless them for not giving up). I have more friends who have dropped off my radar. I know if you say no enough to someone, they’ll stop asking altogether (and I deserve that, don’t I). This illness in my brain wants to sabotage my relationship with my few remaining friends so it will tell me that they’re just being nice when I’m just a burden. They probably consider me a charity case (but isn’t that true)? My friends re-issue their invites and I claim a headache (which is sometimes true) or that I’m busy or I might just wait to reply until way too late and say “so sorry I missed your text” (which is sometimes true). Maybe, eventually, these remaining friends will invite me less and less (until they stop too) and it is what I both expect and dread. And all of this is not the worst.
It’s bad when all the negative starts racing through my brain and I can’t sleep at night. Not sleeping at night leads me to sleep away my days off (although it isn’t like I’m doing anything else with my life). On work days, I run on 3-4 hours of sleep and live on energy drinks. The cycle will repeat itself until (if) I can get my brain to just shut up. I try melatonin to help me sleep and it might work for a while. And I try Benadryl and it might work for a while. I try over the counter sleep aids and they might work for a while. I’m too afraid to try anything else because I don’t want to be an addict (although I’ve never been in danger of that so it’s a silly worry to have when your mental health is in decline). Nothing seems to work for long and it leads to more sleepless nights. My thoughts become more and more obsessive and they don’t or won’t stop (“ATTENTION: this depressions’ current topic is death – feel free to think of nothing else”). My heart starts to race and I’m terrified of an endless nothingness; of my brain stopping and my consciousness ending and I am simply no more. I will be gone and nothing someday. And I want to solve it, solve death, as though it were a math problem I could figure out. After hours of tossing and turning in bed, I get up and go into the kitchen where I find a tiny sugar ant and crush it with my finger. I wonder if the ant suffered or if it knew and panicked and prayed. I cry over an ant that I murdered simply because he had the audacity to be in my home. People are that fragile too. People die all the time, every day (every second). The world keeps spinning, we binge watch tv shows and talk about them at work, we buy new smartphones and send 140 characters into the void, we get new cars, homes, clothes and we think that they matter. But what really matters when we’re all fated to die after such a short time? What do I matter, in the scheme of this world? What is the point of anything when life is so very short?
I think about my brother who’s been gone for over 20 years now. He was just on the verge of 18 when he died; it was so sudden and unexpected. He had so much energy, light, charm, and fun in him. And now all of that is gone; he is gone forever and I’ll never get him back. How can that be possible? I only had him for 13 years. My parents only had him for 17 years. It isn’t right that we only had so little time together (we should have forever, I want forever). I think about all of my grandparents who are gone and how one of those family lines somehow managed to dwindle down to me and one other cousin. If neither of us have children that branch ends. All of the lines of people who lead down to us become nothing. I think about my infant sister who only got to have 5 minutes of life. How cruel is it to only have 5 minutes in this world? I think about my cousin, who was said to have died instantly in the car accident. Like my brother, he only had 17 years and then he was gone. I think about my dog who I had for 16 years. She was probably the only being I’ve allowed myself to love wholly, completely and honestly (without fear). My dog is now ashes in a box on a mantle place. Is she nothing? Is she gone? I think about my brother again, probably worms and bones in an underground box in a town I haven’t seen in years. I cry and I panic. My heart is beating so loud, it feels like it’s going to jump out of me like some sad, little alien chest-burster so it can run away and grow up to be a bigger, stronger heart. I don’t want to keep thinking these things. I want my brain to stop. I want my heart to calm but it doesn’t and I don’t sleep. And this is still not the worst of it.
When I hit this absolute low and am scraping my own personal bottom with panic attacks, crying that I hide so no one can see me (so I can be invisible), I stop sleeping and I sleep too much, I don’t go out, I eat too much, I avoid people and places, and I am alone (always alone, the theme of my life). I want to reach out to someone; my parents, my friends, anyone who might understand. I want to tell them I need help. I need a hug. I need to be with people who care about me because I’m so very low and I don’t see a way up. And that illness inside my brain, it tells me this cannot happen. It tells me to put the phone down because nothing is wrong with me and even if there were, who could help with this? It’s just weakness. It’s just a defect in my person and no one but me can fix that. It tells me that it’s better this way. It tells me I deserve this and that maybe if I were a better person, a stronger person, this would be different; that I would be different. I am not any of those things.
I ignore the sink full of dirty dishes and the piles of dirty clothes (what does it matter, no one sees me anyway). I go into my dark bedroom where I lay down under a mountain of covers. There’s no more crying and no more panic, no more looking at the phone, no more going out, no more trying. We’re past that part. I go numb and hollow and that’s when it’s the worst; it’s when the depression wins.