What It’s Like

Mental illness takes on as many different forms as it possibly can because we are all beautiful and unique snowflakes, no two people think exactly alike. For example, if I were to say something like ‘Tuesday was the first time in 9 months I felt like dying’ there’s a very good chance ‘I feel like dying’ means something different for you than it does for me. So for context, this is what it’s like:

I am lying on the floor of my room reading about - I don’t know, Frank Ocean probably? - when suddenly my heart sinks deep into my chest and begins to scream terrible things at my brain. I’m not trying to be cute, I’m trying to convey overpowering physical changes in my body through use of metaphor. I’ve been told that practically, anatomically, what I’m feeling is caused by blood vessels sharply contracting thanks to a sudden release of adrenaline related to fight-or-flight instincts in the human body.

While I’m very happy for the scientists who discovered this, if I’m being honest having this information has never made me feel any less terrified about the whole thing.

For the next two hours I lay paralyzed on the floor as my heart yells terrible things at my brain and all I can do, have ever been able to do, is keep repeating that things will be fine. This is not real and the wave will pass if you just don’t let it get carried away or manifest physically. Once someone suggested I write down what was being said so I could process it and go ‘well, no’ to try and regain some form of control. This is what it looks like:

it’s not that big of a deal
‘My dad would probably be upset.’
he’ll be fine!
‘I’m sure some girl I’ve dated will be upset.’
they literally all have boyfriends and don’t talk to you anymore
‘My friends?’
everyone makes new friends eventually

The fact that this dialogue occurs entirely in my head, that when you break it down the entire experience can be viewed as my brain trying to convince my brain to destroy my brain, has always been the weirdest part of the whole thing to me.

If you (whoever you are) have followed along to this point, please try to remember the part at the beginning of all this where I said this hadn’t happened for 9 months. I’ve gone to therapy, I took more showers. I hung a scroll on my wall and wrote down all of my favorite jokes. With time and work it gets better. I accepted a while ago that it’s never going to go away - it’s never going to be easy to tell myself that I’m wrong about some of my thoughts but not the others. The fact that sometimes with little to no warning an invisible bit of myself will break and my only recourse is saying ‘no, your brain is wrong. you do not want to die.’ makes it genuinely hard to trust my brain when it says ‘this is a good idea, you should pursue this fully and wholeheartedly. You are making the right choice with your life, these colors absolutely go together.’

But, I’m still alive. And the longer I’ve been alive, more things have happened than I ever imagined were possible, things my brain can’t argue with me about. I have boxes full of pictures, I have drawers stuffed with old letters, I have never deleted a text thread on my phone. I am surrounded by constant reminders that being alive is an incredible thing.

Most days it’s enough.