I’ve become such a frequent car-crier the only thing I have to wipe my snot as I call my mother is a Walgreens receipt for Funyuns and shaving cream. Ruled out alternatives include my boarding pass to New York and a still warm-from-the-printer prescription for UTI antibiotics, neither of which seemed optimal given at some point I’d be handing them to an unsuspecting stranger. In this moment I realize my depression has reached a new low. Instead of stock-piling fast food napkins and stuffing them in the glove compartment like any other self-hating 25 year old, I will have to make the pointed effort of buying tissues specifically for vehicle based breakdowns.
My mother answers on the second ring and is not surprised when a cheerful “Hey, you!” is met with jagged breaths. Like many of my loved ones these days, she is equipped with well-intended (though rarely well-received) optimism, and has stopped fighting the reality that my current version of self-care starts and ends with the simple act of reaching out. She reminds me I am wonderful, and it’s a stunning silence when I don’t protest. Though the tears aren’t new, the aftermath is foreign – the willingness to ask for help, the accepting of praise. Our pep talk wraps in a mere 16 minutes and leaves me steady enough to put the keys in the ignition and some credibility behind the mantra “I can do this.”
“Doing this” – picking up the pieces, gingerly putting them back where they “belong,” trying not to worry about the next inevitable cracking – has become increasingly tiresome. It is difficult to explain the sensation of not being suicidal but terrified to keep living. To know joy and want joy but always feel a twinge of guilt when it overstays its welcome in a body I’ve taught to foster pain.
I don’t know when everything started to feel so… heavy. How my mind can go from fine, fine, fine, fine, SOBBING HYSTERICALLY OUTSIDE URGENT CARE, fine. But if I’m being honest, that second fine is the lie I tell myself when yet another guy fails to make me feel whole; the third and fourth an attempt to remain sane as I hide in the bathroom stall avoiding emails I can’t answer. The oh my gosh, so out of the blue! sobbing is but a compounded clusterfuck of emotions I’ve told myself I have no right to feel: anxious, dissatisfied, lonely. Looking for a sure-fire way to stop loving yourself? Get upset about something and then tell yourself what you’re feeling is stupid. That you’re somehow better and worse than this, what good will crying do, stop choosing to be miserable. There is nothing quite like the exhaustion of second-guessing your own insecurities.
When I bring these thoughts into therapy or out to dinner with a friend, I’m told earnestly I am not alone. I’m young, this is common! Everyone has gone/is going/will go through this. If I were more of a sadist I might find that comforting, but alas, hearing everyone else feels paralyzed for reasons x, y, and z doesn’t help make it all better. You’ve heard that “How many [stereotype you’re arbitrarily pissed at] does it take to screw in a lightbulb?” joke, right? I’d like to present the “How many commiserating depressed folks does it take to come up with a solution to feeling ‘OK’ for more than a few minutes per day?” equivalent. Spoiler alert: our mindset is the punchline.
I’m trying so, so hard to take care of myself. I’m starting to recognize hunger instead of calling myself fat. I sleep with men because I want to and not because I think the answer to all my problems resides in a penis. I go to therapy once a week, go for runs as often as possible, and tell myself everyday I can do this. More often than not, it feels like a lie. It hurts, and it’s visceral, and it scares me. I want to promise it’s better than the alternative. I’m going to keep lying until it is.