** Trigger warning: suicide, self harm, unreality, dissociation, medicine, mental health, drugs **
During fall mid-semester break this year, I visited my then girlfriend’s college in New York. My last night there, she asked if I wanted to smoke with her. This was not an unusual question for me at the time. I had recently bought my first pipe and had been smoking with a varying level of regularity for the past year. I liked it. It made me see everything in just a slightly brighter way. I giggled a lot. For a person who has suffered severe clinical depression since middle school, feeling so light and carefree is a gift. My mom always tells me that “maybe instead of becoming addicted to antidepressants, you should try yoga, meditation, and thinking happy thoughts, and…”. But the thing is, my medication does not make me giggle. It does not make me feel like the world is a better place. It does not make me feel that the dogs I pass on the street are definitely god or my soul mates, nor do they make me exclaim, “Wow! Did you see him wag his tail! I love him!” Medication helps me get out of bed, go to class, and exist in a slightly better functionality. When I walked on the Golden Gate Bridge during winter break, my medication did not keep me from imagining myself on top of the waves, crashing down, down, down. But it did keep me from the physical impulse of climbing over the barrier.
And that is good. That happens a lot. It is good that there is something keeping my feet on the ground.
Medicine is like finding sleeping pills in your soup and hoping you’ve already swallowed enough to kill you but not eating any more. Medicine is like putting on a concrete swimsuit but not getting in the water, for me, at least. I’m trying to articulate what I’m going through so that maybe if I ever go to therapy again I will have something to say. Or, at least, something to show for why I can never talk about my feelings and say what is wrong with me even if I am paying $75 dollars an hour to see a psychologist. Just knowing what the hell is going on in my brain might give me a little peace. I’m just trying to keep my head above water.
This one morning at the airport, when I tried to take my medication, I choked on the pills as I swallowed them. That is a little ironic, right? The things that keep me from actively ending my life actively trying to kill me.
Maybe this is only funny to me.
I’ve google searched forty-two different ways to make my chest stop hurting and maybe one day I’ll find an answer that isn’t “delete her number and get over it!” or “Do some yoga!”
I know I am not the only one trying to find ways to keep myself afloat, but sometimes I wonder if I am the only person who does not know how to keep their brain from being a personal menace.
For some reason, I almost find that funny, too.
And in the midst of all of this, I believe in love. It is the only thing I believe in. It hurts so bad being alive and loving everything so deeply, but I am getting better and working through this because there are so many reasons I still want to be here. I know I am going to be okay because this is not the first time I have hit low.
I am surrounded by beautiful people and beautiful places and I am learning and growing and I want to stay alive. I want to see where I take myself. I want to see my friends smile. I want to dance on the grand piano in every common room on campus until I cannot see straight. I want to tell everyone on earth how much I love them.
I am growing clover between shards of glass behind my eyes. I am trying to be better and I am going to be better.
Sometimes, I am overwhelmed by my circumstance. I do not want people to ask me how I am because I am scared that one day I will tell somebody all about that one time I smoked with my ex-girlfriend and had violent hallucinations and panic attacks for four hours straight. It still makes me scared that I am not real if I think about it too much. That is why I do not get high anymore. I am scared one day I will tell a stranger that once I almost let myself un-sew the veins under my wrists and I am not sure how to shake the feeling that one day I will be braver. I am putting a blanket over it in my brain so I do not have to think about it so much and maybe I can just talk about classes and the weather and answer “fine” when people ask how I am. I am scared of how vulnerable I am. I don’t want anyone to ask how I am. I just want to say things sometimes and have somebody there to listen
Medicine is like making yourself knives for breakfast but choosing not to eat them.
With all of this going on, I wonder sometimes if I am actually going to survive academia. I am in three different online support groups and all of them require a content warning when a member posts about any kind of academic topics because sometimes the very idea of school workloads makes my stomach crumple (and I am not the only one). I am working as hard as I can, but sometimes getting out of bed to use the bathroom once or twice in a day is the only thing I am capable of. Try telling your professor that is why you left your six-page paper until the night before and then did not finish and instead cried about how it is just too much to handle.
And yet, I do not know why the fuck I am so in love with being alive.
The world has been hurting me in so many different ways and I am still finding silver linings. I do not know why so many things that are so dear to me so often put knots in my stomach, but I am good at finding new reasons to survive. I may choke on my medicine sometimes, but it always goes down. I am bigger than my mental illness.
I am conflicted with the feelings that have driven me to write this piece. On one hand, I am embarrassed to be sharing so many intimate details about my mental health and daily state of mind. On the other, I realize that embarrassment stems from the stigma that envelops discussions about mental health. We are suppose to be ‘hush hush’ about our problems if we are not neurotypical, we are not suppose to make people uncomfortable when we talk about how we are feeling. If you do not believe that there are people who have had experiences similar to mine that exist on this campus, we have a problem, inherently. If you pity me, we also have a problem. This isn’t a pity piece. This is a piece revealing something about me; I am a student at Mount Holyoke and I have a mental illness that sometimes leaves me unable to function on the same level as some of my peers.
I am not the only student on this campus who deals with mental illness. I am not the only student at Mount Holyoke who is not neurotypical. I am not the only student at Mount Holyoke who has suffered trauma, or who has had a horrifying experience with drugs, or has trouble existing on a regular basis. We are passing each other like ships in the night, remaining silent about our experiences and that is a problem. It is so important just to know that you are not alone. If you only take one thing from this piece or find that you relate to me on some level, take this:
You are not alone.
Mount Holyoke has the potential to be a place where students can feel safe and supported by their peers, their administration, and their professors. These are just my experiences, my problems, my glass jar full of fireflies and bad feelings. I am talking about them. I want people to know that I have been through some shit and that I am working as hard as I can but at the end of the day, I will always need a little extra push. That is not something I should feel ashamed of.
This will not be something I will be made ashamed of.
This is not something you should be ashamed of. We can make it through this.
I am here, surviving with my concrete bathing suit and breakfast full of knives and the weight of this mental illness I’m carrying around and sometimes I am going to need a little help.
Be patient with me.