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It's Complicated

March 22, 2018

My relationship with my mental health is complicated. It’s been complicated since before I understood the reality of mental illness. Since my mom explained to me what anxiety was when I was in kindergarten and couldn’t eat because of the knot in my stomach. Since before that when she held me down to calm my shaking and screaming and kicking and broken breathing; when I was too young to understand what was happening. Since I started thinking about every potential for death but didn’t fear it. Since I started imagining everything that could go wrong and what I would do at any given moment. Since I first learned about suicide. Since high school when the wrong combination of toxic friendships led to threats of suicide and self-harm, unless I behaved differently. Since my first medication made me fall into an incredibly scary place where there is no up, only down and deeper. Since I got diagnosed with general anxiety disorder. Since my first depressive episode. Since my first run in with eating disorders. Since people started telling me that what I feel isn’t real and it could be changed if I just thought differently.

 

It’s been complicated as far back as I can remember.

 

2012 

Worthless hopeless helpless undeserving scared anxious done depressed exhausted.

I can’t do it. I’m scared. I’m worried. I hate myself because I’m not good enough for my parents or my friends or my sister. I feel like I’m failing. I’m broken and unfixable. I want to disappear. I can’t focus on anything. I’m shutting down.

What’s wrong with me?

I want to curl up and sleep until my head gets better. Until I can focus. Until I feel like maybe someone will be proud of me. Until I’m not scared to see my sister because I don’t know which one of her I’ll see that day. Until I’m not scared of going to school. Until I’m not scared of letting people down. Until failure doesn’t feel like the end of the world.

My brain is tired. It’s telling me I can’t do this anymore.

Why? Why am I always so worried? So scared? Why can’t I find any motivation? Why am I always sick? Why?

What’s wrong with me?

Worthless hopeless helpless undeserving scared anxious done depressed exhausted.

 

2014

I stood looking at everything, seeing nothing. In the roaring wind, I heard silence. In my mind I saw only a jumbled mess of confusion. They told me that everything gets better.

My back pocket vibrated, and I took a step back to look at my phone. My hair whipped around me as the wind stung my face and I read the text. They told me that they loved me.

I closed my eyes to stop the tears. I saw my parents fighting. I saw my scores flash. I saw perceptions differ from reality. I heard my sister chastise me. I heard criticism from every side. I felt my anxiety overtake me. I felt my head endlessly pounding. I felt the end seep into my bones. They told me I was overreacting.

Suddenly I was standing looking up at a teenager on a roof. She jumped, and I was gone. They told her that things get better, but they didn’t seem to change.

They told her a million reasons to live but all she could think about was one reason to die.

 

2015

My sister wrote a poem about us last fall. In that poem she said "she isn't me she isn't me she isn't me. She's... stronger." But because I don't have the "red brown blue purple white scars that dance across [her] body" she doesn't see my pain. She compares us, and so do I, but despite being one of the few people to ever witness one of my full-blown panic or anxiety attacks she doesn't understand that my scars run deep like hers. While I'm lucky I don’t have her visible scars, it's only because my self-inflicted pain is executed differently. Like my sister, I have my own unique relationship with the world, and similar as we may be we’ll never truly know what the other feels. My punishment isn't physically visible; it’s rooted in the deep desire to wash myself away. But this isn’t her story. It’s mine, and it’s not over yet.

 

2017

Imagine you’re 9 years old and you learn that your uncle didn’t just die, it was suicide.

Imagine you walk in on a family member cutting herself in order to redirect her pain into something tangible.

Imagine you’re on the phone and a friend tells you that you’re the only thing stopping her from taking the knife in her hand and slicing across her wrists and upper thighs.

Imagine your friend texts you after seeming upset for a while, imagine he says: “I needed you to hate me… and yesterday it got even worse and I even thought about driving into the river.” Imagine he explains that he could only make this decision because he knows you don’t care so he continues, “if you see me tomorrow it will be because I couldn’t do it but if not I will have at least tried… this might be goodbye so bye.”

Imagine you internalize the pain of all your friends while simultaneously fighting your own demons.

Imagine you’re slowly learning to fight back and though there are still days when you take too many steps backward, you continue to survive and move forward.

 

So yeah, there have been many downs, but it’s not all bad; there have been good days too.

 

This is my reality and its… complicated.

 

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I wrote most of these journal entries at points in my life when I ached for a change and a peace of mind that I couldn’t find.

Looking back at each of these stories I am more aware now than than ever of how much I have changed and grown over time. I don’t credit my growth to my battle with mental health nor do I blame it for my setbacks, it’s simply a part of who I am.

- Leila

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