I was packing today (I leave in 3 days, y’all…going back to college!) and came across an old diary from two years ago. I hadn’t seen it in years, and I read through the whole thing.
It detailed everything from getting asked to prom to being “dumped” by my prom date a few weeks after the actual dance to getting my first kiss (yeah, that seems a little out of order, but that’s how I live my life) to having my first boyfriend to going to college to…and then it stopped. And as I write this, I realize it was that time, October 2011, when everything slid downhill. It’s funny when you’re so ecstatically happy and in love with someone and in love with your life, and then suddenly you want it to end. I’ve contemplated this so many times on this blog, each time gradually a little deeper, a little darker maybe, but I’ve never written about this because I’ve actually never thought about this. This post was supposed to go in an entirely different direction, but I may have just had a revelation.
I’ve thought about how terrible I felt at the time. How I couldn’t get out of bed, and how my relationships with everyone but about 3 people suffered dramatically, and how I ate stale, dry cereal in bed one night for dinner because I didn’t want to leave my room. And I’ve thought about how terribly tragic that all was, but I’ve always thought about it like it happened to someone else. In a way, it did, because I wasn’t myself. But depression is scary in one specific way: there is no outside force acting against you. Sure, maybe you’re Vitamin D deficient, maybe you had a traumatizing life event, and those are outside forces, but it isn’t a bacteria, it wasn’t a car crash, it isn’t something you had happen to you.
It is you. Or it feels that way, anyway.
I remember thinking I was eating away at myself. Having spurts of thoughts like I am doing this to myself. Having other moments where I liked feeling so miserable because at least I felt something. Not wanting the panic attacks to go away because I didn’t know how to define myself without them. Not caring that I was being destroyed because I had nothing to be whole for anymore.
I’ve never really talked to my father about this. I had a really amazing conversation with another blogger about it, and they said they’d never talked to certain members of their family about their suicide attempt even though it must’ve been at least 25 years since. It’s weird…we can’t tell the people we love but we can tell strangers. It’s no fault of mine, and it’s no fault of my father’s, but I’ve just never really told him. And it’s been almost two years, and sometimes it feels too late to bring it up because it’s over. But I think I’m still a little traumatized by the realization that at one point I didn’t want to live anymore.
I think it somehow makes it hard to explain to someone that you had suicidal thoughts because doesn’t everyone? Doesn’t everyone have that moment when they’re looking over a bridge and they have the urge to fling themselves down into the abyss below? Well, sure, those thoughts happen all the time. But they arise from changing levels of adrenaline or something, and you would never just chuck yourself off a bridge on a whim.
You might swallow a whole bottle of pills, though, and fall asleep forever. You might think about that in the middle of the night after a panic attack. You might take a few extra of those pills, pills you were supposed to take for sleeping, and see how deep you could go, knowing you’d wake up because 3 isn’t an overdose but 30 is.
I always thought it’d be more dramatic, like you see in movies. The heroine, tears dripping down her face, picks up a bottle of pills, closes her eyes, raises the bottle, and…slams them onto a table. No. I won’t do it. But real life is seldom so concrete or exciting. I thought about it, long and hard, wondering what my family would do without me, deciding that they’d be fine. I thought about it, but…I couldn’t get out of bed to do it. I couldn’t fight the depression long enough to end it. And that part is the only part that seems dramatic to me. It might fit into a movie. “I couldn’t fight the terrible weight pushing down on me, George,” Selma said in her light Southern drawl. “I couldn’t move to numb the pain.”
And I make fun of it, like that, because that’s the only way I can handle it without breaking into a million pieces and crying myself to sleep. But that moment, marred by a haze of one or two too many sedatives, is strangely sharp in my mind. I’d blocked it out until a few months ago, but…it’s not that I decided against doing it. I was just too tired. The pills probably didn’t help the grogginess, but it seems like maybe that grogginess saved my life.
When I was seeing a psychologist, I was saddened by the fact that I couldn’t remember a lot of my time in the fall of 2011. It was like I knew I must’ve been doing something…I was breathing and alive after all…but that time is just blotchy black spots in my mind. My psychologist said that my mind probably wasn’t ready to let me remember everything. Like maybe I needed to ease myself into the reality of that period in my life. So I read diaries and remember. I open notebooks and see “Am I crazy” scrawled across pages in red pen, written during a panic attack. I hear a song and cry. I wake up from dreams and flash back.
It’s like PTSD, only mildly satisfying, because remembering makes it real. Remembering gives me a reason to feel bad for myself. I can’t remember for too long, because then I’d get nothing done. I don’t want to live in the past, and I don’t want to wallow. But I do want to allow myself to simply remember. Remember that something terrible happened within my mind, and I — very slowly and against more than a few odds — fixed it.
There will always be books like The Bell Jar that take me back to those few months. I’ll go back to the town I used to live in someday, and I’ll probably remember horrible moments and cry and cleanse myself, stand up straight and walk away. I’ll find old notebooks, old poetry, old watercolors. Therapy tools. I’ll find them and remember, and I’ll bow my head. But I’ll move on. Someday, I’ll move on. For now, I’m in limbo, living an amazing life that would never have happened if those thoughts had turned to actions.
I write frankly about these experiences because writing allows me to process. Your feedback is, as always, greatly appreciated. However, this blog is meant to be a safe place for both me and my readers, so I will ask that any negative comments be taken elsewhere and appropriately shoved up your arse.