I’m Not OK, but Maybe That’s Not Bad
Earlier this term MHA directors were approached by an upper engineering student who wished to stay anonymous as they shared his Mental Health journey by writing this story
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In addition to running this blog, the mental health awareness directors also run Post Secret every term. This is a service where people can submit short anonymous secrets, confessions, or just about anything they want to get off their chest. We write them out and stick them up on a wall for everyone to see. You can submit a secret here: https://goo.gl/ATnDFX
I’ve appeared on the blog before, and I talked about a particularly difficult point in my life, now long in the past. I don’t think I mentioned the whole story, but that chapter ends a bit less positively than I had indicated. I took a handful of pills as a “dry run” to see what it would be like to OD, and I discovered two things: taking much more than the recommended dose of a drug will hurt like hell and can really do a number on your liver for days afterward, and a handful of pills isn’t enough to kill you. I don’t want anyone reading this to worry though, I made a full recovery back then and I’m not currently suicidal, but I’ll expand on that a little bit later. In this entry, I wanted to focus a little more on the present, and what I’m feeling right now. (Author’s note: a great deal of this entry was written through tears because I’m only now facing my demons head on, and it is not easy to handle these realizations about myself)
I think there was a catalyst for a lot of this that occurred in the latter portion of the W17 term, though there were definitely warning signs before, and I think it would have built up regardless. It’s taken me a long time to come to some of the realizations that I’m about to talk about, and I’m sure there’s still more for me to discover. It’s been a hard period of introspection for me lately. I’ll start at the beginning of this year  and go from there. The setting: Waterloo, ON. Donald Trump is President of the “greatest” nation on Earth, and it seems like everything is going to shit globally.
In W17, I went through a break-up. There were no hard feelings at all, and we are still on amicable terms now. It’s taken me until just now to realize that the relationship was barely fulfilling in any meaningful way. When I am thinking about my exes, I don’t even count it, and instead go back to my previous ex, who broke up with me in 2015. I’m lonely. I feel lonely like I’ve never felt in my life, which is extraordinary, because I feel like I have good friends around me, both men and women; people whom I cherish and love, though I may not say it or show it all that well. Thinking back on it now, I can only remember twice in my life having a best friend who would call me the same, and I’ve unfortunately failed to keep up with both of them. Other times, and especially so in the past 10 years, I’ve been a bit of a drifter — always wandering between friend groups, and never really feeling like I belong in any of them. People talk about inane things and I find it hard to relate and reciprocate, so I move on, and I don’t get close. I mentioned above having friends right now — I don’t know how many of those would call me friend in return, and I’m afraid to ask how people feel about me because I’d rather live with the pretense that there are people who love me in return, and who care about my well-being, than having to face a rather unappealing truth (if the friendships are one-sided). And right now more than anything, I want someone to hold me, and to talk to me, and look at me like I’m special. I feel unloved, and that is so hard for me.
It’s hard to feel like anyone could love you when you absolutely don’t love yourself. I like to make a lot of jokes about being fat, and having gained so much weight since I left high school, because I either joke about it or I let it kill me inside that I’m in a body that I no longer recognize. I look down and I can feel my belly, but it is not mine; I’ve always been the littlest bit bigger than my more athletic friends, and I’ve heard that I’m just big-boned, that I’m shorter, so I have the same weight on less body. The worst part is that I know that I could change this. THIS. I should have control of my own body, but I haven’t been able to stick to any kind of workout regimen or strict eating schedule in a long time. I can’t exercise at night, ok, so I’ll do it in the morning, but I stayed up until 2 am aimlessly scrolling endlessly down a page of social media. I wanted to sleep early, I really did, and I wanted to stop scrolling, but I couldn’t bring myself to stop until I could barely keep my eyes open. Then I rolled into bed and fell asleep, but since I slept so late, I woke up late the next day, and I missed my first 2 classes, and, crucially, my morning exercise and breakfast. Since I woke up so late, I couldn’t get to sleep early the next night, and the cycle repeats. I’m still trying to break that cycle, and I’m doing a little better this term, but it’s an uphill battle, and I can’t even begin to exercise until I’ve fixed my fucked up sleep schedule. There’s more that I don’t like about my body, but my weight is the only issue that I can fix, so it’s the only aspect of body image that I can fixate on as a personal failure.
Last term I slept in late repeatedly, and missed attendance in both my hardest and easiest courses, so of course I didn’t do well on either of them. I really don’t like to make excuses for my grades, because it sounds really whiny, and I don’t like the kind of person who tries to explain away bad grades with extenuating circumstances that should be well within their control. Color me a hypocrite, because I’m going to complain. I, like I’m sure many of you, was a prodigious child. I didn’t have to put in any effort in grade school and high school because everything came easily. My mother always told me how smart I was (am), and that solidified in my mind this idea of intelligence where you don’t really need to try — everything is effortless or you’re not actually smart. And god forbid you should actually put in effort and still not get good grades — then you might as well just go work for McDonald’s. So I’m stuck in a cycle of needing to put in a lot of work to do well, and not actually knowing how to study or what to do to do well. Last term I was almost in the bottom third of my class, and in my mind, it’s easier to stomach that and complain about my circumstances than it would be to actually try my hardest and devote myself to getting better grades, and risk not being in the top portion of the class. I’m trying to put in more effort this term, but there’s a lot of stuff built on concepts from previous terms, and every time I talk to a professor or my friends, I feel inferior and unworthy of my program. They must think so little of me, this brazen young man who peddles in scathing commentary, but has no real merit in the class, who doesn’t belong in such a demanding program if he’s not willing to put in effort and respect the things we learn… I know they don’t think any such things, but what if..?
The catalyst that I mentioned before comes into my story now. In the latter portion of the W17 term, I came face to face with myself. This person wasn’t me, but they felt a lot of the same things as I do, and they felt it very strongly. This got me thinking about myself, and that’s where a lot of the above introspection comes from. Their story isn’t mine to tell, so I’ll try to keep the details sparse. They inspired me to go to counseling services, where I was seen immediately by an intake counselor, and then scheduled for a session that same day with a counselor in counseling services. I got a big reality check in counseling, and it did a lot to put my mind at ease. Now, I’ve got another appointment coming up, and I can hopefully keep going back and keep improving. I’m hopeful that I can get good support and can learn to manage my problems.
What this person showed me was the following. Ever since coming to university, I’ve had to resolve myself to being second-rate. I’m not top of my class, I’m not a stud, I’m not even all that competent on work terms, but I’ve squeaked by, so I’m still here. I hate myself for not being exceptional. I hate that I’m not living up to the ideals instilled in me by my parents. I hate that I’m awkward and unsociable and often downright mean. And I am afraid. I am so afraid that this is all I will ever amount to. I don’t want to die, but by the light I wish I didn’t exist. My existence is miserable and so average, and I am so depressed that I rue the day my mother first saw my father. But I do exist, and my pain is a part of my existence. As afraid as I am of being average my whole life, I am even more afraid of death. I don’t want to die anymore, though sometimes when I’m driving it seems like it would be easy and even convenient not to turn at the bend, and just crash into whatever lies over the edge of that cliff, I always turn. I don’t believe in any gods, so I believe only in an endless expanse of nothing after death, in the same way as I have no memory of before being born, I don’t think I would feel or hear or see anything after I die, but I sure know I would not be thinking, and I would not get to experience any pleasure or pain. As much as it hurts to be here, the pain is grounding, and when good things happen and I am happy for a bit, that helps me carry on. More than death, I fear dying. What if I have regrets? What if I still live, but in a more miserable state? What if…? Pain and what-ifs keep me alive for now, so I can look forward to the future with hope.
I am very grateful to the person mentioned above, because they reminded me that I am not alone in feeling this way. I want to reach the mythical point when I can settle down and be happy. I want to have kids later, and I want to be with someone beautiful and with whom I am happy until the day I die. But I need to reach that point first. I find strength to carry on day after day in all the little things — people count on me to do things, I still have schoolwork to do, I have extra-curricula out the wazoo.
I am enormously busy, and that is a two-ended blade at times. I’ve been so stressed out and so busy for the past month between wrapping up W17 and starting S17, plus all the personal stuff that went along with both of those, that I needed to take a day completely off. I needed to unplug and just do things that aren’t school, or extracurricular. I did my laundry, and I went shopping. I folded all my clean laundry and I managed to fit in a little bit of online game time with some online friends. Now as I sit here and reflect on this day — the thing that stands out the most to me (and this will probably get me through a decent chunk of the coming term) — is that one of my friends reached out to me and asked if I was OK. It probably only took a few seconds after reading a message in one of my group chats, but by doing so, they let me know that they care. Nobody has reached out to me like that in several years.
If this is to end on a positive note, I guess that’s the best way to go. If nothing else, one person cares.
I’m definitely not OK. I think I’m depressed, my life is a complete mess, and I can no longer see a future with happiness in it as anything but a dream. But for right now, I’m dealing with my problems, and I need lots of help, but that’s OK. For now, even though I’m not OK, I don’t think that’s Bad. As long as I’m here, I can keep trying.