Autobiography · Mental Health

ER

Last night I went to the ER for an infection. A burn I got on Thursday, instead of healing, started to get red around the edges. Spreading up my arm, swelling. The intake nurse flew through the questions they always have to ask. “Do you feel as if you are a danger to yourself or anyone else?”

She didn’t notice the pause. Where I weighed out if it was worth another ambulance ride, another week in a psych ward, another stack of bills I’ll never be able to pay. More missed work, another set of unanswered phone calls. Hours in hospital beds waiting for social workers, doctors, nurses. Was it worth it?

“No,” I said. And she moved onto the next set of questions.

“How tall are you?”

What I should have said was, “Of course I am. I was released from a psych ward at the end of October and it’s not as if much has changed since then. They turn you back to the real world with no more coping skills, just a different set of medication and legs in need of shaving. Of course I’m a danger to myself. I sat in front of my sister’s house for forty-five minutes before I convinced myself I could drive home without jerking the steering wheel hard to the left and smashing into a barricade. Of course I am. My brain is a running list of ways to stop existing, interspersed with a few warm thoughts of my family, my partner, my friends. But how long before those aren’t enough to keep the fire burning? Of course I am. I’ve been toying with the idea of suicide since I was twelve-years-old and I’ve still yet to learn how to keep those feelings at bay for any significant amount of time. Of course I am. I am always a thread away from throwing myself off a bridge. But I haven’t yet, so maybe I never will.”

Instead I kept answering questions and waiting for a doctor to come look at my arm. Kept on point for what that visit was about, then Googled more inpatient psychiatric facilities as soon as I got home. I keep wondering if I’m going to have to give up my job, my apartment, my life in this city for another stint in a psych ward. For an outpatient program. For something else than what a therapy appointment a week and a monthly check-in with a psychiatric nurse practitioner can offer. But I guess we’ll see, won’t we?

For now I just keep my nose down. Play Taylor Swift albums loud. Try to remember to eat well, not sleep too much. I focus hard on existing. I’ll figure it out.

Photo courtesy of Samuel Zeller.

Autobiography · Mental Health

Stay

Tanya said she saw him stumbling around the city last night. Could have sworn she saw him hanging out with a bunch of unhoused kids downtown last week. I haven’t heard from him since he was in the hospital. Not since Corey and I sat by his bed for days. Got him transferred to inpatient care. Made sure he was set up with resources when he got out. He hasn’t called since then.

I’m learning not to blame myself for it. Not to say I could have done more. Not to make up stories about all the different people I could have been. Ones that would make him want to get back on his feet, make him want to stay clean. Learning to tell myself I did all I could. That we did more than anyone else was willing to.

It’s a lot like forgiveness that way. The ability to realize I can’t blame myself for the things in my life that don’t work out. That it’s not my fault Derek seems to be falling back through the cracks. Not my fault my marriage ended in divorce. Not my fault I’m depressed. None of this is my fault. It’s all about what I can make myself do with it.

It’s a lot like acceptance that way. The ability to realize there is no great flaw in me that makes me incapable of saving these things. The ability to finally look around and see that all the people who really know me still love me completely. The ones who have crawled through the dirt with me. The ones who have watched me fall back down over and over. They never quit. They never give up on me. And those are the ones who matter. The ones who stay.

So I hold up my end of the bargain for them. I keep asking for help when I need it. I keep my appointments with psychiatrists and therapists and medical doctors. I find ways got get involved in my own life again. Ways that make me feel like I have something good to accomplish.

I stay on track. I stay. And I thank those who stay with me. Who help me every day. And to the ones who believed enough in my ability to keep going they were willing and able to help me out monetarily: Amara, Andrew, Julie, Julia, Tara, John, Alexis, Veronica, Feiya, Mason, Bobby, and Pat, I thank you. For showing me I’m a cause worth believing in. I will not disappoint. I will stay.

Photo courtesy of Markus Spiske.

Mental Health · Personal Development

Dopamine

"The journey is the reward" © Nishanth Jois, 2012. CC BY 2.0.
The journey is the reward” © Nishanth Jois, 2012. CC BY 2.0.
Faith. It’s all going to come down to faith, isn’t it? Establishing belief that if I work hard on the things that matter I will see improvement.

Noticeable difference.

Faith. Even when it seems like I know better, I don’t. Forgetting every time I felt like I gave my all and got burned anyway. It doesn’t have to be that way.

I am not finite. There is no “all”. No matter how empty, how hopeless, how beaten down I feel. I can always get up again. There is always something I haven’t used yet.

It’s easy to feel I’ve been doing everything I can my entire life. Easy to assume that if any of it were going to make a difference it would have by now. Harder to learn to see the difference between fighting and learning. It’s never been about how hard I can punch, only how quick I can dodge it.

Divert. Disperse. Learn a different tactic.

Don’t try to stop the river. Rivers always find a way. At some point, the dam breaks, and you’re worse off than you were in the beginning. You must be gentle. Coax it. Day by day.

We don’t need elaborate gestures. Don’t need fireworks that draw our eyes up, then fade out into nothing. We need constant pressure. And I know that’s harder.

Harder because there are no grand ceremonies. No celebrations or finish lines. We just trudge forward and hope we’re doing better than we were.

Faith. Understanding that growth, that improvement, has always been gradual and near invisible. Only observable by looking back. By remembering where we were a month, a year, a decade ago.

This is not a fight. It is a slow and steady climb. And yes, it’s easy to feel like Sisyphus. But the boulder isn’t rolling down. We never go all the way back to the bottom again.

All the work is always counting. We will continue to push our limits and surprise ourselves. It’s okay to take a moment and throw some confetti.