Have you ever felt like you are yourself but not yourself at the same time?
Have you ever responded to “how are you?” with “good” when you really were as far away from good as you have ever been?
Have you ever imagined every possible bad or horrifying outcome before the possibility of a positive one even crossed your mind?
Have you ever lied in bed at night and replayed every last conversation or encounter with someone you loved that is now dead, knowing that you will never hear their voice again in real life and regretted not saying something that now is the only thing you could ever think you would want to say to them and hated yourself for it?
Have you ever had a re-occurring nightmare almost every night for three years where everyone you know that has died or come close to death does die and when you wake up crying and shaking and unable to catch your breath only to realize that that nightmare is indeed your reality?
Have you ever thought the world would be better off without you and actually tried to do something about it?
Have you ever not been able to explain how you are really feeling to someone who takes offense to your attitude or actions because you yourself don’t even understand what you’re feeling and why and you can’t justify why they shouldn’t be offended or think that you love them any less because of it?
Have you ever made such a far-fetched connection to something that happened that could never be your fault but felt like you were the only person that could have stopped or changed the outcome of it and no matter how many times you hear “that’s crazy it isn’t your fault there is nothing you could have done” you can’t help but think that you could have?
This is anxiety.
This is depression.
This is me.
I have never been one to ask anyone for help. Why? Too much pride, maybe. Wanting to prove I can handle everything myself, maybe. Not knowing my emotional, physical, and mental limits because they are so sporadic and unpredictable, definitely. This tendency began for me my junior year of high school. Since then I have isolated myself. To the outsider point of view who hears of my numerous close friends, sees my pictures of going out and having a ‘good’ time and hears of my adventure stories, that would seem like a complete and utter lie. But to me, the one who feels like I have to do these things to seem normal and not in a completely depressed and anxiety flooded pit, I am isolated. I know that every teenager says the famous words “you just don’t understand how I feel!!!” classically storming off into their room to angry tweet about their parents or siblings or friend that they encountered boy drama with… but that is not the angle I have. My angle is a scientifically proven chemical imbalance in my brain, which in fact, anyone that doesn’t experience this first hand really does not understand. I am not saying this to discredit anyone’s strength of trying to sympathize and understand what I do, what I say and why I do. I am not saying it to make anyone feel less intelligent. I am not saying it to sound unappreciative of the effort my friends and family have made to sit with me and listen as I try to even begin to explain my thoughts. I am saying it because it simply is a fact.
One of the common outlets for these feelings is self-harm (a.k.a. cutting). I struggled with this for two years. I know what you’re probably thinking, “you did it for attention” or “you’re telling me for sympathy points”. But, yet again, not my angle. If I truly wanted some sort of pity or attention from my actions, people would have heard of this or seen it two years ago. Here is my angle. If people are going to hurt me, or by people dying it is going to hurt me… why should I let them control how I feel? Why not put up a strong emotional front to appear unbothered so they don’t get the satisfaction of their actions and then control what I physically and emotionally feel later when I am all alone? Now… I am not condoning this coping mechanism for anyone at all…ever. It is an unhealthy habit and I am so glad I have conquered it and no longer feel dependent on a razor for comfort. However, it did help. It kept me “level headed” even though I clearly was not and still am not. Whenever I felt alone, it was like my own twisted friend and no one could turn against me. When I couldn’t get to sleep because I was upset and falling too deep into my thoughts, it got me to sleep. Whenever I felt like I had no one else on my side, it was there. I don’t expect this to make sense to anyone, but again, I am who I am and I have done away with constantly doing or explaining things to make others happy.
Easily, the worst feeling anyone can have is no longer wanting to live. Most can’t even fathom that thought. Many can fathom it but know they would never act on it. Some would consider acting on it. A few would attempt it and fail. And a select group, unfortunately, have succeeded. I seem to have been in between attempting and failing and considering it. After my grandfather died of a heart attack followed by my uncles liver failure (both of which were two of my favorite people on this earth), all I wanted was to be with them again. Whilst drinking a concoction of cold and flu medicines, various alcohols, and taking whatever medicine in the grocery store I could get my hands on before the age of 18… I passed out. The last thing that crossed my mind was “I don’t really care if I wake up tomorrow or not.” Clearly, I did. And when I did, I cried. I wasn’t sure if it was out of happiness I was alive or utter disappointment that I had failed. But, there I was. Hungover, throwing up from all the medicine that had probably eroded half of my stomach lining and destroyed my liver, and not knowing whether or not I was ok with the fact I was still alive. That. Right there. That is the worst feeling I think a human being can feel. There are people whose babies didn’t make it during a pregnancy or in the delivery room. There are people who either a family member, friend, or they have died innocently in a car crash that was in no way their fault. There are people who die out of nowhere from a failed organ. All of those people who wanted to keep living but were ripped from the earth. And then there I was. Still living my life, and not sure if I was happy about it or not? I was disgusted with myself. That day, I knew I needed help… but being me, I asked no one for it.
The problem I had was that once I overcame one unconventional coping skill, I clung to another that was equally unhealthy. After I stopped cutting, I began to smoke cigarettes and drink more. Not drink like alcoholic level of drinking. But I also am not just drinking when I go out with friends. I have found myself drinking for pain, not always pleasure. As far as cigarettes, I smoked continuously for about a year. After my mom found my cigarettes in my car I hit a lowest of the low point. I felt disgusted and disturbed. I felt like she had lost hope in me. So, I quit. Quit smoking cigs that is… I continue to maintain a nicotine addiction with an e-cig which I am hoping I can reduce the use of soon. See, here’s the thing. It isn’t that I refuse to adopt healthy coping mechanisms. It’s just that those ones are not very effective for my state of mental and emotional instability. Coping by exercising or drawing and so on temporarily distracts me and changes my physical action but it does not affect my long-term state of mind nor does it continue to distract me when I am lying in bed trying to block out all of the anxious and depressing thoughts that seem to be most active at the worst times. What does do this is the buzz I get from nicotine and the carefree feeling I get when I am drunk. These are guilty pleasures that I do currently still turn to.
I believe that there is a significant difference between getting help and wanting help. Getting help can entail being forced into therapy by parents or school. Wanting help means reaching out to someone yourself and admitting you have a problem. For two years I knew that I needed help, but I didn’t want it. I never wanted to openly admit that I had my demons. I never wanted to admit that I couldn’t control my own mind from spinning out of control. I never wanted to admit that I alone could not figure out a healthy way to handle my stresses and my highs and lows. I never wanted to admit that I was not OK. Finally, I came to a point where I had stopped cutting, I quit smoking, but I was still not ok. I thought that if I limited or cut off my vices that I would suddenly feel more in control, which was false. December 2016, I began grief/loss trauma therapy. My first session, I put up my typical sarcastic joking wall to try and stay strong. Eventually I cried and everything came spilling out. At the end of the hour, I actually wanted to come back for another session. As a matter of fact, I wanted to continue these sessions long term, which was huge for me because I was uneasy even walking up the stairs to that office. See, I had tried this once last year without telling my parents about it and I ended up running out of the room in the midst of a panic attack after 15 minutes and never looked back.
During the second session with Jess (my therapist) she provided me the diagnosis of depression, anxiety, and possible ADD. I have not told my parents about these diagnosis’ because the only thing they know of as the reason I am there is due to the loss of my friend Paige to cancer, Poppy to a heart attack, Uncle Joe to liver failure, and the two suicide attempts by Cierra. As of this moment right now (10:31pm on January 7, 2017) they know nothing about my self-harm, addictions, and most definitely not my suicide attempt/contemplation. “Why don’t you tell them? They’re your parents they will listen and love you no matter what!” The number of times I have heard this are infinite. Here is the thing about my parents. While I do love them and that will never change, the Tegan that they love is not me. The ‘me’ that they love is just going to college and has a job and sometimes goes out with friends. If they knew the ‘me’ that smokes weed, drinks four nights a week, has a crude and unusual sense of humor, and, now, has been diagnosed with two MAYBE three mental illnesses… I honestly don’t think they could look at me or love me the same way. Maybe that is a shallow way of thinking… maybe. But having grown up with a sister who got perfect grades throughout her school career, went to UCONN Storrs for Material Science Engineering and was hired at one of the top military helicopter producers in the world before graduating college with a starting salary of $60,000 per year, and never had a mental bump in the road… how could I not feel like a disappointment if they knew me?
According to Jess, part of my stress and anxiety is the fear of disappointing my parents due to Rheanna’s success and their highest of the high expectations for me because they think I am a second Rheanna even though they insist I am my own person when it is convenient for them. My parent’s make my mind race a mile a minute every time I want to sit and relax. To tell my parents (who believe that many mental illnesses are an excuse to not be productive and take medication to abuse it, especially ADD) that they are one of the major causes of this would be like telling an extreme republican that prochoice fight was inspired by them. Whatever analogy you wish to use for it, it is just an impossible conversation. One that I probably will never be able to have with them… which is kind of why I am writing this right now… If I do chose to give this to you (mom and dad) I want you to know that I love you and the reason you have this letter is because I want you to know me but I could never disappoint you with all of this face to face. I can’t even say that I ever want to talk about this face to face even after you read it if you ever do. I just want you to know what my mind is like and what I have come far from but still need to work on, hence being in therapy.
Mom and Dad:
I know that you do not understand my choices in the people who I surround myself with. I know you think you could make better friend choices if you were in my place. But the thing is, you are not me. I am me. And if I find Cierra to be one of the most meaningful people in my life and I actually offer up that information to you KNOWING your opinion of her, it really does not help my trust with you when you call her, my other friends, and me white trash. If that is all that you have to say to me then please just don’t. In my head I already am the problem child, I am a bother, I am an inconvenience, I am a disappointment, I am not Rheanna, I am me which is the problem. I do not need affirmation from either of you that this is the case. What you don’t know about Cierra because I haven’t bothered to tell you because you are stuck on the negative is that she was there for me when no one else was. She was there when I was trying to quit cutting and she has talked me down from the ledge of my own brain. She stopped what she was doing, came over, and held me during my panic attacks during school and after work when I was crying and heaving and shaking. To you she will always be the girl who got pregnant and screwed me over. But I have become stronger because of it and we both have changed in two years. Accept it or not but Cierra is in my life.
Dad, I know you have a lot of people to remember and I know maybe you get frustrated with yourself when you forget names. But nicknames for my friends does actually kind of offend me. It is as if you are saying that the people in my life right now EVEN IF they won’t be in a year or two are not important enough to remember and that hurts. Please, do not refer to Cierra as “bonehead” or any other nickname for idiot, because everyone makes mistakes sometimes and if I or anyone else held those against you and labeled you with a nickname because of them, I am certain that you or anyone close to you would also be offended.
We all have our own things to work on… whether you chose to try to tackle them or not is your own choice. I have decided to. I am going to work to get better. I am going to surround myself with people who I think are going to help me with that. Whether you like them or not, they will be around because I make my own decisions. I know what will help me. And if you chose to support me, then amazing and thank you. If you chose to not be involved because you do not respect or like my decisions then also thank you, because either way, the weight of your expectations will have been lifted and that too will help me improve myself.