Hey there, party people. If you’ve been here a while, you know that I struggle with my mental health. Sometimes I’m up, sometimes I’m down, sometimes I’m non-functioning. Right now, I’m in the non-functioning stage. Since I’m open about stuff like this I thought I would keep you all abreast of what’s going on. If you’re not in a good place mentally, probably you should stop reading here. You don’t need my bullshit on top of yours.
About three weeks ago, I had another major breakdown. My husband (who is awesome) was talking me through things. We’ve both had pretty harrowing experiences with the death of loved ones in the past three years. Mine was being at the ER with my grandfather as he died. For my husband, it was finding his mother dead in her apartment.
“It’s just like with your mom, right?” I asked him through hyperventilating, panicked tears. “You see her that way every single day. You remember finding her every single day and you like, relive it constantly.”
And he said, “No, Jen. I don’t.”
And then he said, “That shouldn’t be happening to you.”
For the past three years, any time I haven’t been bombarding my brain with something, anything to do, I’ve been in that emergency room. Taking a shower is hell because there’s nothing in there to distract me. I step under the water and I’m walking up to the desk with pills and clothes clutched in my hand, only to have the nurse say, “We don’t need those right now.” And in my head, I change things. I shove the bags at them. I scream at them that they have to take them, that they do need them. Or maybe the scene begins standing outside the trauma room, watching them perform CPR on my clearly dead grandfather. He’d fallen when he’d had his heart attack or stroke or whatever it was that took him out and he’d hit the back of the toilet, badly injuring his head. The scene was gory and chaotic and I see all of it in mind several times a day, even when I’m not actively reliving the scene. My mind has to be constantly in motion or else I’ll get trapped in that night. But I also can’t concentrate on anything for more than a few minutes at a time. I check social media. I play a game on my phone. I write a few lines of a blog post. I write a few lines of a book. I text someone. I eat something. Rinse, repeat. If I try to focus for too long, the distraction fails me. I take several naps every day.
This has been going on for three years and I thought it was just a normal part of grief.
As a result, I’ve really isolated myself. I avoid my friends and extended family. I don’t want to talk to anyone. I get constant anxiety attacks. On a family vacation to Great Wolf Lodge, my kids took part in a CPR demonstration. Watching them do chest compressions on Rescecutation Annie while Tom & Jerry (one of my grandfather’s favorite things to watch) played on a TV in the background sent me right back to that emergency room. I wasn’t at a waterpark with my kids or my husband. I was trapped in that memory, all alone. I rationalize withdrawing from people and events with, “If I don’t stay close to people, it won’t add any more of this grief when they die.”
And that’s weirdly true. I didn’t feel grief for the five loved ones who’ve passed away since. I didn’t go to their funerals, except for one. When my best friend’s mom died, I did manage to go to the funeral. I sat on my bed, dressed and ready to go, repeatedly slapping myself in the face and calling myself a selfish bitch for not wanting the leave the room. That self-harm gave me the motivation to get to the church.
Self-harm is a huge component of my sickness. The night my grandfather died, I broke my big toe kicking a crash cart. Since then, I’ve intentionally and repeatedly scalded myself, pulled out chunks of hair, clawed my face and arms bloody, slapped myself, and bashed my head into the wall hard enough to cause a concussion.
Through all of this, I’ve consistently told myself that I am weak, I am selfish, I’m just being dramatic, I don’t deserve to think I’m actually sick, and most importantly, everyone is tired of me talking about it. I’ve become boring, people hate me, and everyone thinks I should suck it up. So, I’ve gone on, sitting in the shower and reliving a traumatic experience, telling myself I’m being childish because other people have it worse or have had worse things happen to them, locking myself away to slap my own face and call myself a bitch because I can’t get work done or stay on top of the housekeeping or because I lost my temper and yelled at my kids. I tell myself I’m awful and that everyone would be better off without me. Some days, my bright side thought is, “One day, I’ll be dead.”
That shouldn’t be anybody’s glass-half-full scenario.
A few days before the anniversary of my grandfather’s death, my grandmother fell. When I arrived, she was sitting on the floor in the bathroom, more embarrassed than hurt but unable to get up. The ambulance came. She was fine, just bruised and twisted up a little. She didn’t even go to the hospital. I drove home screaming. Just screaming. It didn’t make me feel better but I couldn’t stop. I just drove and screamed, drove and screamed. I pulled into my driveway and stayed in the car, repeating over and over, “It didn’t happen again. It’s not happening again.” But it was happening again. The drive to their house, the time of year, the ambulance, the fall in the bathroom, and suddenly I was back in that hospital room and I couldn’t get myself out.
My husband said that’s not normal. He made me call the doctor. When they asked me why I needed an appointment, I broke down. “There’s something wrong with me mentally and I don’t know how to get help. Help me.” Thankfully, they had an appointment that day. I went home with a prescription for Zoloft and a referral to a therapist. Seeing the therapist made me feel better and worse. I went into the office full of anxiety, sure I was going to be sent away after being scolded for wasting everyone’s time. Because I’m not as bad off as other people, because worse things have happened to other people, because my problem is that I’m lazy and stupid and I just want attention. Obviously, that didn’t happen but I was pretty sure that it should have. She gave me the number for a suicide helpline and all I could think was that I should never tie up their phone with my problems because other people deserved to live more than I ever would.
Through it all, emails have gone unanswered. My work has suffered. The book I wanted to release this month? It’s not even halfway done. I’d planned out a whole schedule for this blog for 2019. I haven’t gotten a quarter of it finished. Every now and then I’ll hit on some kind of “organization system” that seems to work but then it all falls apart because it’s a skyscraper built on a foundation of popsicle sticks. My memory is shot. If you asked me whether an event happened last year or the year before, I couldn’t tell you. I forgot that one of my uncles is dead. Earlier this week, I was shocked to realize that a friend of mine got divorced from her husband. It wasn’t that she hadn’t told me or I didn’t know. I just…forgot. Sometimes, I’m in a daze where I don’t know what’s going on at all. My grandmother mentioned my mom today and I couldn’t remember ever having met her.
Yet on the outside, I can fake being remarkably capable. I’ve been volunteering at local theaters. A friend who sang in the pit with me on a production said, “You were the one I was listening to so I could remember where we were.” I’ve been props master for several shows and pulled off feats of frantic mid-performance hot gluing. I’ve had big roles that required dancing, singing, and memorizing lines. I can pull all of that stuff off. I can stick to a running program (when my foot isn’t broken) and hit my goals. I can hang out with friends and laugh and talk and seem like me. But I stopped being me a long time ago. I have no idea who I am anymore.
I’m probably going to make more posts like these. Long, rambling, poor-me pity-parties that will result in weirdos sending me emails telling me to kill myself or leaving comments here talking about how much they hate that I’m dramatic and attention-seeking. It’s okay. I already think that stuff myself, all the time. And I do way better at it than any random internet person ever could. Because deep down, I know that this is ridiculous. Nobody wants to hear this bullshit. And I do write it in such a melodramatic way. But right now, I have all of this…whatever. I don’t know where to put it, so it’s coming out here.
But I promise it won’t be all my self-focused bullshit, all the time. As I said, I can be pretty good at faking being capable. But this is what’s going on behind the curtain. I just felt like being honest.