When I was in high school, I would tell my friends I was a phoenix. Honestly, I don’t remember now if any of them cared enough to ask what the Hell I was talking about. Or maybe they asked, and I told them some bullshit story that probably wouldn’t have made sense to me, let alone them. The truth is, I’ve never understood my affinity for that particular symbol of life, death and rebirth as well as I do now, at midnight, unable to turn off my mind long enough to sleep.
I’ve never been to a psychiatrist, not that I remember, at any rate. I never talked to my primary care physician about what I went through. I lied to my family about it. I don’t even know if I’ve told anyone who is actually a part of my life outside a computer screen. But now, someone I love is going through something I know I’ve been through. She told me that she’s thought of killing herself. And not that long ago. She’s on medication for the depression now, and she at least seems to be doing better.
In case you missed it in there, I’m self-diagnosed as being depressed. No, I am not “sad” all the time. I have my good days. But there are so many other symptoms to consider. Appetite shifts, insomnia, apathy, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, aches and pains, general malcontent, mood swings, suicidal thoughts. All are things I have gone through, and some I still experience. All of which has screwed up my life in so many ways. The strangest thing about my self-diagnosis is the fact that I have never wanted, and still don’t want, to seek help. A close second is the fact that the one and only time I ever seriously considered offing myself was not the moment I realized I had a serious problem. That came later. In college.
So, yeah, I would keep this to myself for the rest of my life, but this person I love so much…I know she needs and wants support. She doesn’t want to reach out to my mother (who suffered from a serious bout of depression after my maternal grandmother’s death) but she’s willing to confide in me. I don’t have the balls to tell her about this to her face, but I’m going to try to write it down. I’m going to try to get the words right. I’m going to try to be honest here, where I know she’ll see sooner or later. Where I know my parents won’t see, ever.
A quick recap of things I’ve already owned up to here on deviantART: I lost every single friend when I was in 6th grade, so about 11 years old or so. I was then bullied all the way up to my high school graduation. Stupid shit, gossip, verbal harassment, being called lesbian because one of my female friends presented as kinda “butch.” (This was before I realized I was bi, so I was a bit offended back then. Oddly enough, I was never attracted to her.) In sophomore year of high school, 14 years old, I planned my suicide in detail, then dismissed the idea as too selfish and cowardly. At 17, I came out at school and to my parents, and I started dating my first, and so far only, girlfriend. And suddenly, the gay slurs stopped. Which was a bit bizarre to me. Still feel like that one should have been the other way around.
The end of senior year through my first semester of college…that is the period of time I look back on as the best part of my life. Up until the end of my first semester, I was a straight-A-or-above student who’d taken AP English, biology and government courses in my last year of high school. I was relatively healthy, if asthmatic, allergic to anything that wasn’t food or medicine and about 30 pounds overweight. The only time I really got sick back then was when the water fountains at my high school all seemed to be contaminated with strep, so that I caught it back-to-back for almost a month.
Then my body decided that, since I wouldn’t kill myself, it would try to do the job for me. God, I’m shaking just getting ready to actually type this out…
I stopped sleeping more than four hours a night. I got nauseous any time I tried to eat anything even remotely healthy. I couldn’t focus on anything that I knew was important. I couldn’t bring myself to care about school, which had always been my refuge and my passion. I was so fucking tired all the time. I stopped having fun with my roleplay writing. I couldn’t bring myself to write anything else. And, above all, I didn’t want to tell anyone what was happening to me.
I still remember family suppers. My grandparents would be in town, so we’d be eating at the table. I’d be choking down every bite until I couldn’t take it anymore. Excusing myself from the table while they were busy talking about things that will never truly be important (but you’ll still talk about constantly because important things are hard to talk about), I’d lock myself in the bathroom and turn on the fan. Run the faucet. Try to make as little noise as possible as my stomach forced itself up through my throat, past my tongue, into the toilet bowl. I never forced myself to regurgitate the food. I just couldn’t keep it down. The only foods that didn’t make me nauseous were sweets and pastries. Thus began my love affair with Starbucks. I could at least pretend their banana bread was healthy, and tea has natural antioxidants, right? Forget the “freshman fifteen,” this particular issue gave me a college weight gain of about one hundred pounds.
Sitting in one of my anthropology lecture halls, we were studying primatology. I wanted so desperately to become a forensic anthropologist, just like Bones. Yet, for the entire hour of lecture, I only caught and retained about ten minutes’ worth of fragmented information. I had two lines of notes written. The worst part about this one…my family keeps telling me that if I was as passionate about anthropology as I claimed to be, I would have done more, done better, done whatever it took to make it happen. It’s not like I didn’t want to. I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t feel. I couldn’t motivate myself to do anything.
And at this point, I’m starting to cry. I can barely force these fucking words out. I can’t sit still. My throat hurts. I can’t do this…But I have to do this. This isn’t for me. This is for her. She needs to know I understand what she’s going through. That I’m proud of her for getting the help I still can’t bring myself to want. So, I’m going to force myself to keep typing while I rock back and forth, and keep blinking the tears out of my eyes so I can see the screen to fix every damn typo. I’m going to push through this for her. For her.
The moment that scared me. The moment I knew I was in trouble. The moment I knew I needed help. The moment I knew that I should tell someone. The moment I knew I needed the medicine. The moment I decided I would rather die than be put on medicine for this.
I was on my way to class. I collapsed to my knees on the sidewalk. I was that physically weak. I was so fucking shaken. I pushed to my feet and stumbled to the stairwell. I sat down. I pulled out my laptop. I didn’t go to class. It wasn’t the first class I skipped. I’d been feeling weak for a while, and the apathy was nearly impossible to argue my way out of. I could barely concentrate on conversations with my internet friends, let alone my lessons. But this…This scared me to my core.
I went to college for two years. I passed the first semester with flying colors. Over the course of the next three semesters, my grades fell consistently to the point where I even managed to get an Incomplete in philosophy. I flunked out of college. And I can’t regret it the way I know I should. Because the moment it was over. The moment I couldn’t go back if I tried…I felt better. I could eat again. I regained my strength. I could focus. I started sleeping about six or seven hours a night. I cared again. I could smile and mean it again.
So about that phoenix. Why am I so drawn to it? Why do I identify with that magnificent bird?
I’ve been seared to my soul, not once but twice, by the chaotic feeling and horrific physical symptoms of my disease. Each time, I came out of it with new knowledge, new strength, new levels of respect for myself and what my body is trying to tell me about who I need to be for my own sanity’s sake. I have literally risen from the ashes of my low times as a newer, stronger person. I have reinvented myself to be myself, to show more of my reality. To tell my story. To help others like me through my stories. To write and feel and know that I can relapse if I’m not careful.
I’m coming close to another relapse. I can feel the stress building. I can feel the apathy clouding my emotions. I can tell that my concentration is starting to slip. But I learned from last time. I’m pushing through it.
I can’t handle food very well right now? Fine. I’ll have a protein shake and a multivitamin. No sense spending what little money I have on things that are only going to make me more overweight, which will only increase my negative emotions.
I can’t focus right now, and I’m at home alone? Fine. Time to blast Jeffree Star songs, strip to my undies and dance with my dogs. See if I can’t trigger my endorphins to make me feel better.
I’m too tired to get up and do something right now? Fine. I’ll go online, catch up on my favorite blogs and chat with some friends.
I’m tired AND can’t focus? Well, shit…I guess I might as well turn on the TV for the first time this week. Snuggle with my dogs and laugh at Castle.
It’s one o’clock in the morning, and I should be getting up in a few hours, yet I can’t sleep? Fuck my life. Time to write something.