in the fade

  1. through the past, darkly: bringing my own mental illness to light

    I was going through my old blog yesterday, looking for something I once wrote about the Christmas season. I got hung up in my late 2001/early 2002 archives. I read and read and as I read I could trace the history of how my depression, anxiety and myriad mental health issues went from mild to acute. Or maybe just more pronounced. 

    I lived in a land of make believe. I was delusional. A compulsive liar to myself and to everyone around me. I lied about how my life was going. I lied about being happy and content with the path I chose. I lied about my relationship. I lied about stupid things like what I got for Christmas because I had to make it look like he was buying gifts for me when I was buying them for myself and presenting them as if he did. I had to keep up the illusion that I made the right choice, that I wasn’t crazy and making decisions only a crazy person would make.

    It was exhausting. And it took a toll on me. It’s so weird looking back on everything I wrote and watching myself fall apart. I recognized then I was falling apart but I was struggling so hard to maintain the facade of normalcy and happiness that I started to believe all my own lies because it was the only way my brain could deal with the duality. 

    It’s like reading the blog of a stranger. I don’t know who that person was. I barely remember living that life. I block out more and more of it as time goes on and then I end up going back and reading all of those posts and I remember, but I don’t remember. It’s like living through someone else’s memories.

    I wish I got the right kind of help sooner. I wish I didn’t go to a doctor who just threw pills at me without really ever hearing me out. I wish I didn’t feel too embarrassed to tell people close to me that I needed help. I wish I would have somewhere to turn to without feeling like I was being judged. 

    I swallowed the pills that doctor gave me and they made things worse. I listened to people tell me “there’s something wrong with you” and “you need help” with disdain in their voices. I felt weak. I felt useless. I felt helpless. 

    I stopped taking the pills. I spent three weeks in hell going through withdrawals. I stopped seeing that doctor. I started drinking heavily. I continued to live a life of delusion and sadness, I continued to pretend everything was ok, I continued to be mentally exhausted and burned out and I continued to feel like maybe the world - and my kids - would be better off without me.

    Just when everything was coming to a head, when the depression got worse, when the agoraphobia hit, when I almost lost my job, when I was drunk at work, when violence entered an already emotionally abusive relationship, I was thrown a lifeline.

    Not everyone gets that lifeline. I was fortunate. I am fortunate. It still took years from the point where I was thrown that lifeline to finally feeling whole and healthy, but I got there. 

    There are people who don’t get there. There are people who won’t have someone come into their lives who offers them a hand, a heart, a second chance. There are people who will remain alone in their struggles. It is a difficult, awful thing to feel broken. It’s even harder to feel broken when you are alone, when you have nowhere or no one to turn to. 

    I don’t know what would have happened to me had I remained in that world I no longer know. 

    Would I have snapped?
    Would I have killed myself?
    Would I have done something drastic and terrible?

    The crescendo of my madness was filled with anger, bitterness and rage.

    If help had not come when it did, my world right now would not be as it is. And how many other lives would I have changed had I continued on that path?

    I am fortunate. I am so very fortunate. 

    Not everyone is.

    It needs to be easier to get help. To ask for help. To find help. 

    It needs to get better or there are people who will never get better.

    Reading all those old posts make me ever so grateful for the life I have now. I’m grateful to the people in my life who listen and reach out and understand. I’m grateful for an empathetic doctor and good medication. I’m grateful that the life of mine I read about, the life that seems to belong to someone else, is gone, over, never to be relived. 

    Yet it’s still there, in black and white, in pixels, forever a reminder.

    Do I need that reminder?

    Sometimes. Sometimes I need to not take what I have now for granted.

    And sometimes it pushes me to ask why. Why is it so hard? Why don’t we want to talk about mental illness? How is it that the term “mental illness” makes people look at you in fear instead of with empathy?

    We are among you. We are here. We need your hands and your hearts.  

    [written at 4am, pardon the rambling nature]