CW: mental illness, suicidal ideation
To: “Depression” (email@example.com), “Anxiety” (firstname.lastname@example.org), “C-PTSD” (email@example.com)
From: Jenny Trout (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Subject: What team? WILDCATS
Dear mental illnesses. As you may have gleaned from the subject line, I come to you with a proposal of teamwork. We’re all in this together. You’re the Troy to my Gabriella, the Ryan to my Sharpay. Actually, the everyone to my Sharpay. The important part is, I’m Sharpay at the denouement of every HSM story after she realizes yet again that being a team player is better for everyone and we all help each other to be stars. And that’s why we’re all going to do that from now on.
Depression? I totally understand where you’re coming from. You’re right; somedays, it’s just too overwhelming to get out of bed. And you’re trying to do the right thing by me in supporting, nay, encouraging me to take a break. But sometimes, you want that to be a forever break. And that doesn’t work for me. I know you think you’re helping when you suggest that wading into freezing lake water with my pockets full of stones might be an easy way to get some time off. And I know a lot of the time, this is an idea you’ve already brainstormed with C-PTSD. But the advice you two are coming up with? Really not working for me. Imagine if I really did drive my car off a bridge. What if I lived? Can you imagine the bullshit hassle? First would be the hospital stays, then the hospital bills, probably some surgery, some in-patient psychiatric supervision, and then when that’s all over you’ve got to fight with two different types of insurance, it would be a nightmare. By the way, Anxiety is really good at extrapolating things out that way. I’m sure that if you just consulted with it, you’d see the downside to this plan, and the other plan, which is the one where I neglect bills, notices, important mail, my children, my pets, my friends, my hygiene, basically I just cancel whatever is going on that day to stay in bed, Google all the reasons people hate me, and just leave Big Mouth running on a constant loop in the background until Depression Kitty shows up and I momentarily pay attention so I can chuckle with wry humor at how same and a mood it makes me feel, without ever acknowledging that I shouldn’t take pleasure in the fact that everyone in society is fucking miserable all the time, always, forever, isn’t the helpful shuffling around of my schedule as you think it is.
But Anxiety, while I appreciate how you constantly motivate me to be and do better, I think we can find a better way of doing that. Maybe a pep talk that doesn’t start with me getting up to refill my water bottle and ends with my entire family being homeless because of that minute-long break. You definitely shouldn’t be sharing my biggest fears with Depression; it has absolutely zero productive ways to use them. What generally happens, I imagine, is that you see me not working and you think, well, she’s never going to get back to it. And if she doesn’t get back to it, she’ll be another day behind. And if she gets too far behind, we’ll be homeless and probably dead and eaten by rats in an alley. I guess I can see where that might be a concern. After all, my failure to manage our life is the reason we almost were homeless. And admittedly, there are two rats in my office. But I think the more important point we need to focus on here is that those rats are in a cage. They’re probably not going to eat us. Also? People probably do think I’m lazy. But remember: what other people think of us? Is not the end of the world. We have to keep on keeping on. Remember how we started taking those pills and OCD decided to go on hiatus? Consider sucking up some of those brain-altering pharmaceuticals, yourself.
Now, C-PTSD. You and I have a lot of work to undo. ABA ruined what should have been a perfectly awesome brain. But you and I have to be on the same page here. Having my own emotions isn’t actually inconveniencing or hurting anyone, just so long as my actions aren’t inconveniencing or hurting anyone. I’m also allowed to set boundaries. I shouldn’t be grateful that my friends and family love me despite all the shitty things about me. I should be grateful that my friends and family love me and recognize all the cool things about me. And nobody is trying to kill us. Nobody will reject us if secretly, in the quiet of our mind, we let ourselves be mad or sad or uncomfortable. And that touch of the ’tism that ABA was supposed to fix? It’s not the burden to everyone around you that you think it is. Like, 70% of all the people you choose to hang out with are also “on the spectrum.” Look, we deserve to not be victimized by weird childhood traumas we couldn’t express because bad therapy trained us to pretend we were fine with everything all the time and that if we weren’t fine with it, that was selfish of us. I promise, hand-to-god, that we do not have to be constantly tense and ready to defend ourselves or flee from imaginary dangers like someone coming to the door. Yes, they might be pushy. Yes, you might have to assert yourself in a way that might feel rude to them. I promise, they don’t know we’re broken and also, we’re not responsible for how they feel when we don’t want to go to their church. Oh, and PS. expressing our anger at Papa in the one whole argument we ever got into his whole life? Didn’t kill him. Time and Russian-level alcohol consumption did that. We’re not to blame, no matter how much our perception of how our emotions damage other people insist otherwise.
You guys. We’ve got this. We can be a team. Imagine how much time off you’re going to get once you’re not constantly bombarding me with all this helpful advice. Look how much better we feel now that we’re letting go of some masking behaviors. Imagine if all of us could just kick back, put our feet up, and function? I know we can get there.
Jenny, the brain you ride around in.