The inspiration, or the catalyst, I should say, to start Endurance and Irony came from a Facebook post I made, expressing my recurring bad habits/coping mechanisms. It received quite a lot of comments, way more than I expected it would. Each one described that person’s self-destructive, neglectful, and/or unhealthy habits. I was flattered that my post had inspired my friends to confide in me and each other; the relief and empathy I felt when reading through everything was eye opening. I received multiple “thank you”s just for my openness and honesty. I needed it that day, too, because 5 minutes after I posted it I was fired from my job. (It wasn’t because of the post, although they were closely connected.)
There is so much stigma revolving around mental illness. Earlier this year when Kate Spade killed herself, and then Anthony Bourdain, I was surprised at some of the responses I heard. Things like “Why would you kill yourself if you had all that money?” “But he had so much going for him.”; none of those things are relevant to suicide. Depression is an ugly, horrible beast, and it’s the most convincing one out there. No matter how successful you are, depression can still effect you. It can still force you to think the world is better off without you, you’re worthless, no one loves you, you’re an imposter, etc etc. It’s impossible, at least for me, to do much of anything when I’m at my worst. The thought of having to be somewhere by a certain time, for example, can draw me to tears. Bathing seems like the worst and most tiring task, not to mention dishes, or brushing my teeth, or sweeping the house, you fucking name it. I become completely non-functional. No, I’m not lazy. Ask anyone I’ve helped clean or organize, I am damn good at it. I will work for hours until I’m exhausted and in pain, and I will have done an impeccable job. But those are my good days (a bit of sativa also helps).
I’d like to talk about some of these habits/symptoms because I want you to know that if you’re going through this, someone else is too, and you will be okay. Also, it’s fine to laugh at yourself for being gross. You can’t be one hunnid all the time.
This one is huge. Whether it’s overeating, not eating at all, or just eating like shit, poor eating habits are a common symptom of mental illness. Unfortunately, it has a huge impact on physical health, which, in turn, affects mental health. I dabble in all three. The overeating may occur when I just want to indulge, because I’m sad and I think it will help me feel better if I eat an entire bag of tortilla chips or, like, six cupcakes in one sitting.
Not eating is something I do if I’m particularly anxious, in which case I’m most likely filling my day with any activity except eating. I will also avoid eating when the numbness takes hold. On those days I don’t even feel alive, and don’t see the point in eating. Other days I get irrationally angry that I can’t control the hunger, because the very thought of eating makes me sick. Eating like shit is when I cannot bring myself to cook, or clean the kitchen so that I can cook. Whatever is easiest, whatever’s available, is what I’m going to eat. It’s not usually a healthy choice.
I only have one piece of advice in regard to this, and that’s because Pinterest has already given us a plethora of meal-prep plans and super couponing tips: listen to your body. It will tell you when it’s hungry, full, or malnourished. If you listen to anyone, it should be your body.
I personally like being alone. I really do. I can laugh as loud as I want, I can yell at the TV, I can be obnoxious and silly with my pets. I like my home. It’s comfortable and feels good. So the reason I cancel plans or avoid making any might have something to do with that. Sometimes, though, I genuinely can’t handle it. The idea of faking it is too much. I cannot smile, I cannot listen, I cannot breathe. I can hardly even stand to be around my parents or close friends when it happens. In this day and age it’s so easy to communicate; this can be extremely overwhelming for me. I can usually tell myself that it’s okay to leave the phone on the other side of the house for a few hours, but that doesn’t always go over well with loved ones.
It’s common for us to avoid speaking to one another when we’re down, either because we’re afraid of bumming everyone out, or because we’re so scared of being judged and humiliated. It’s part of why I have a hard time setting up an appointment with a therapist. What person is going to listen to all my insane shit and not be appalled and disgusted?!
Prefacing conversations with something like, “I need to have a very honest conversation about what’s going on in my head right now, and I need you to listen and not freak out.” is great because you’re preparing the other person for something that might hurt or upset them. It’s not easy to observe someone you love in such pain, so making sure they know beforehand that the conversation needs to remain objective will give them a chance to prepare (Or opt out. Not everyone can deal with the heavy stuff and they shouldn’t be forced to).
Sleeping is my frenemy. Sometimes it’s all I can do, sometimes I don’t get any rest at all. Another aspect of this is missing days at work because I’m so miserable, mentally and physically, I can’t get out of bed. I can’t get dressed, I can’t eat or make coffee. I will get up to take care of my dogs and cats, but I go right back to bed. Most of the time I don’t even sleep, I just lay there, overthinking, until my body makes me do whatever is next. It’s truly like being on autopilot.
The insomnia is really awful. We’ve all had it before, or maybe I’m just under that impression because it happens to me so often. It lasts for one to two weeks, usually. I make matters worse by sleeping in when I can, and playing Mahjong on my phone until four AM. I often have to recalibrate my own sleep schedule to get back on track. Bring on the ZzzQuil.
No one could possibly say anything meaner to me than what I have already said to myself. I constantly analyze and criticize every tiny thing I do, say, am. When others tell me I’m talented, or gifted, or pretty, I tell myself they’re just being nice. For my entire grade school career I thought that I might actually be one of the special education kids, but no one wanted to tell me, so they were just really nice and pretended to be my friends. That sounds so insane, but I can’t tell you how true it felt. I have always felt like the most annoying person, constantly making an ass out of myself while people smile and nod. I have panic attacks because I work myself into a frenzy when I’m the center of attention; I hate what I’m saying, no one thinks it’s funny, I should just shut up, so I do. I have really great moments where I’m actually proud of myself for something, but then I overthink it and ruin it for myself.
Again, what has been helpful for me is to reach out to people who know me the best, so I can ask them to listen to what I’m thinking and help me rationalize it.
Self-harm, in any form, is what some of us may use to deal with the pain we are already in. Everyone has different reasons for hurting themselves. Often it’s about feeling physical pain to mask the emotional/mental pain, or regaining some form of control, or numbing yourself completely. This can take form in cutting, popping pills, binge drinking, not taking important medications, starving yourself, etc. etc. Sometimes it manifests in small actions, like chewing on your lips or cheeks or thumbs. Sometimes it’s relationship or workplace sabotage.
In my life I have used cutting and neglecting my medicine to deal. I did it to feel the sharp pain on my skin, to see blood, and to distract from what I was upset about. I thought, incorrectly, that physical pain was the only thing that could help me through the attacks. Cutting was something I would do very lightly, just barely breaking the skin, on my arms and legs. I had one of those hella punk rock sweatbands on my wrist (it had Brak from Space Ghost on it) that I used to cover up some of it. Mostly I wore long sleeves and was very conscious of who was looking at my arms.
I don’t cut anymore, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say my mind wanders there when I’m at my worst. No matter how shameful it feels, when I get to that place, I tell someone. Just so that someone can tell me that I don’t have to do that, and this awful feeling will pass.
If you get urges to hurt yourself, I would encourage you instead to do something equally powerful, but not harmful. Take a short, ice-cold shower. Have an orgasm. Go for a run. A shock to your senses can often calm you down, so why not make it feel good? Your illness has punished you enough. You don’t need to kick yourself while you’re down.
I would like to clarify: I am in no way comparing my struggles to anyone else’s; I am not talking about my experiences as if they are everyone’s, and I am not saying that my suggestions will solve your problems. What I do want is for anyone who is reading this to know that there is a large community of support and empathy out there for you; you’re not alone in your little black hole.
If you feel like you don’t have anyone to talk to, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is open for phone calls 24 hours a day, has an online chat option if you don’t want to talk on the phone, and a ton of very useful information on their website.
Please feel free to comment about your symptoms/habits, and/or what helps you deal with them! I am always willing to listen and learn.