Black-Eyed Dog

(Content warning: mental health, anxiety and depression)

I’ve been struggling with what to say here, if anything.  I thought that maybe it was too raw to be coherent, or using the Internet when I should just be writing in my actual journal.  But then my very coherent, very Internet-appropriate thought was…”Fuck that.”  Fuck that because there’s a silence around talking about struggling with mental health that is hurtful at best, fatal at worst.

So…I’m struggling.  I’m hurting really bad, and for all of my vigilance and self-care and empowerment of myself and others to take their mental health seriously, it took me by complete surprise.  I thought I was physically ill because I had pains in my legs, was tired all the time, had trouble concentrating, and kept forgetting things.  Mostly I was just so tired.  Two blood tests and a doctor’s visit and a phone call showed that there was nothing physically wrong with me, but the doctor latched on to me telling her that I don’t sleep so much, and my anxiety has been really bad lately.  I brushed it off when she asked me more about that, and then balked when she suggested that may be the cause of my physical symptoms, that maybe I needed to see a psychiatrist.  That couldn’t be it because I was fine.  I was FINE.  I WAS FINE.

I have worked really hard to own that I had serious mental health struggles in the past, and to be grateful for that time because it taught me a lot and crafted the person I am now.  The script was that I had gone through years of very serious depression and anxiety, and while it had been really hard and I still carry those things with me, I was managing it.  I was very careful to watch for my triggers and signs that I needed to take better care of myself.  This all seemed very healthy and strong, but I hadn’t realized how much of my identity was wrapped up in successfully managing my depression and anxiety.  At some point, some unspoken agreement had been made with myself that deep depression was something that Past Wren had gone through, and Present and Future Wren may experience the occasional anxiety attack or short depressive episode, but we were not Anxious.  We were not Depressed.  Going through that state again was/is actually my deepest, darkest fear and now I was being told that I was so much closer to it than I thought.

I’m not fine.

At the end of my phone call with my doctor I agreed to take her referral to a psychiatrist, and started sobbing as soon as I hung up.  I knew that she was right.  The feelings that I had been putting aside (because of course I never sleep, and of course my chest hurts all the time because I’m anxious…that’s just normal life, right?) became clear for what they were, and they were so familiar.  I thought I was so smart, I thought I was so vigilant in watching for the signs of struggling mental health.  But once more depression and anxiety had crept over me like a fog, had slipped in and around me so that the signs and feelings just became part of every day life.  As soon as I realized this, all of the mental health stigma that I had actively spoken against came roaring back to me with a vengeance, and the track of nasty self-talk started.   I told myself that I was crazy.  I told myself that I was crazy and broken and always would be, and I would always be a burden on my friends and family.  I had failed.  Other people had real problems and this was just my dumb brain having a big dumb sad.  I was too scared to tell anyone about it, so the self-talk track was the only voice in the conversation.  I didn’t really stop crying for about three days.  I pulled it together when I had to for work and rehearsal, but as soon as I got in the car to drive away or as soon our scene ended I fell apart again.

I didn’t really stop falling apart until I started talking.  When you tell people who care about you that you’re a fucking mess, for some reason they just say really nice things about you.  My friends, you guys.  Holy shit, my friends.  I’ve somehow managed to assemble a crew of fiercely loving and supportive people and I don’t know what I’d do without them.  I am laughably bad at asking for help, and I’m working on it, but thank god they see through my bullshit.

I’m still not fine.  I have some appointments, but I still don’t know what I’m going to do and how I’m going to be okay.  I still walk through some days in an exhausted fog, and others in a state of low level terror of nothing in particular and everything all at once.  I want to get a whole bunch of tiny trophies to leave by my front door that say, “You got out of bed today!” and “Way to put on real pants, gurl!”  I’m still a fucking mess.  But…maybe if you’ve ever been a fucking mess you get it, and you can sit with me.  We can be real quiet and see if the storm will pass.

 

There are so many resources and writings about mental health, but here are a few that I’ve either encountered recently or have stuck with me:

Meditation vs. Medication: Facing Depression (A graphic essay)

When Taking Anxiety Medication is a Revolutionary Act

30+ Alternatives to Help You Stop Using Ableist and Homophobic Phrases

“Headspace” TED Radio Hour

“Depression Part Two” Hyperbole and a Half

John Kenn’s amazing post-it note monsters used in the featured pic

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