Last Night

Last night, you dragged me home from the pub -drunk- after a drink too many of Chardonnay. And this morning, as I nursed my hangover, you  shared with me how scared you were last night. And yet, I have no recollection of the night’s events.

You are not the only one to tell me that you’re scared. My therapist says that my nihilist attitude scares her. My friends and family keep checking in on me, because they are afraid I might act on my suicidal thoughts. Strangers keep a distance and think twice before befriending me, because I scare them away.  And I know you have my well being in mind, I know you want the best for me, and you mean well when you check in on me. But, still, it hurts to know that I scare people.

Let me tell you how I feel. I’m scared too. I scare myself every night. And when I wake up in the morning, the fear is still there. I am scared by my suicidal thoughts and even more so that I can’t stop them. I am afraid that I might not be strong enough today and engage in self harm. I am scared by my bitter attitude, knowing that it pushes people away and leaves me on my own to fend for myself in this scary world. I’m scared of my urges to drink and smoke, because I don’t know if I’ll be strong enough to not act on those urges. I’m scared to look at my bottle of medication, because it triggers more fears. I wake up afraid, and go to sleep afraid; I can be my biggest enemy.

Last night, when you dragged me home and told me how scared you are, I wanted to hold on to you, keep you close, and tell you how scared I am. I don’t want to scare people away, because I know how it feels to be scared of myself. Last night you experienced what I experience every night. (and sometimes every day)

So please, when you feel afraid, know that I am just a frightened little girl and I need all the support I can get. I know it’s hard, but together we are stronger and together we can conquer our fears.


My Little ‘How To Accept Myself’ List

I tell people all the time, “Don’t let anybody define your unique experience and struggle with mental illness. Don’t let anybody prescribe some generic emotion you’re supposed to feel.” And I mean every single word; do not allow anybody, family, friend, or professional, to tell you how life should make you feel.

But I, myself, wasn’t always so sure of my emotions. Whenever I hit a rough patch, I would reach out and ask if it’s OK to feel a certain way. Sometimes, people would tell me that my situation would make them angry and if I wasn’t angry at that point, I would start riling myself up. When my attempts were unsuccessful, I would get frustrated with myself and that always ended with me being angry only at myself. Other times, people would ask me why I’m not sad after triggering events, causing a turmoil of emotions and self-doubt. Worse than feeling negative emotions, is doubting oneself and constantly questioning if your mind and heart are in order.

When I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder it made me turn my thoughts inwards and honestly think about what I want to feel as opposed to what I should be feeling. In the past, when my therapists were talking about the five stages of grief, I perceived their words and translated it in a literal sense. It is commonly known that grieving is a process of five stages; denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Though some people see themselves and their experience in this cycle, not everyone does. Most mornings, I found myself waking up and making a conscious decision that today I will be in the bargaining stage, or today I will be in the acceptance stage. And those of you who have been dealing with depression will know that emotions don’t tend to work this way. Depression isn’t wired to hit the acceptance stage when you set it to. Depression is so numb that it doesn’t fully grasp what anger is. And the more expectations I set myself as to how I should feel, the more I set myself up for disappointments which only made me more depressed.

Speaking to my therapists didn’t help, because I kept measuring myself up to a process and therapeutic terms that didn’t fit in my world. Only when I hit rock bottom, did I realize that if I am not going to define my own terms, my own emotions, and my own process, I will end up spiraling down into an endless of pit of self-destruction. I knew that I had to do something big to pull myself out of the rut. I had to learn how to let go of prescribed emotions, expected feelings, and normal thoughts and terms. I had to learn to accept myself for who I am. The only question remaining was how I was going to make those changes? Three daily rituals that I implemented helped me immensely in reteaching myself that what I feel and what I think is perfectly OK because it’s unique to my experience.

  1. I started keeping a daily journal, writing down at least two positive things about myself every night. If I helped someone during the day, I would record that I am kind, and if I struggled to get out of bed in the morning but still did, I wrote that I was courageous. It wasn’t always easy. There were days when I did not see a single good thing in myself and was only seeing the worst which was pulling me down. On those days I simply wrote that I like the sweater I’m wearing and that I still have good taste in fashion. Although it may seem like a minor thing, it gave me something positive to associate with myself. Sometimes, I decorated those journal entries with sketches, art, and poetry for added positivity.
  2. I stopped obsessing over what prescribed symptoms should be. Though most people feel anxiety a certain way, not everyone does. Some people grieve best when they cry and others when they distract themselves and laugh. I allowed my emotions to decide for me and stopped telling myself whether what I’m feeling is right and wrong. It’s not easy to stop obsessing, and it takes time. Yet, every time I caught myself in the act, I would stop, take five deep breaths, and let the expectations go.
  3. I also learned to communicate. Sometimes, people don’t know what we feel until we tell them. And until we tell them what we’re feeling, they will tell us what we’re supposed to be feeling. So no, I didn’t disregard my therapists and the people who care for me. I just learned to accept my feeling first and then communicate it, instead of asking them how or what to feel. And I’ve come to realize that most people are a lot nicer and accommodating when they know what you’re going through.

I am still learning to accept myself for who I am. But I definitely like myself a lot better now, than when people dictated my life. Yes, I still ask for advice and support when I need help, but I don’t let it define who I am. Sometimes, I forget and I do, but when I do I look back at my little list and it makes me feel better.

My Linear Equation

I smell the white chalk dust, which I hear
Against the board, and the sound of pencils moving fast
Against paper.
I hear her voice in the distance, still
My body is confined to a blue plastic chair; my cell
And a wooden desk.
My mind is at the vanity mirror this morning.
I think she talks of grids, and while my peers
Chart it out on graph paper
In their notebooks
I remember the razor blades and dried up blood
And the charted graph I have on my arm
As proof.
I’m wearing a navy blue, cotton shirt; its sleeves covering the gauze
And it hides my well-kept secret.

Why has she stopped talking? Does she know?
She wants to confirm I’m following.
Yes, ma’am
I understand every word, term, and concept
I’ve got parallel lines and perpendicular too
I know how to graph and how to read charts.
Only yours is in pencil,
And mine is blood.



We Are As Sick As Our Secrets

I was in my therapist’s office, silently biting my lip, fidgeting my feet and terror in my eyes. My therapist has hit a raw nerve, a wound that wasn’t fully healed yet. Something I have shut down and did not allow myself to feel. 

As soon as the secret compartment in my heart was knocked on, I was on high alert. My fears were rising. To me, my emotions were secret. Don’t ask, don’t tell. Slowly, my emotions were eating away at my inner linings, making me feel so much more insane. The more I fed my fears and secrets, the more they thrived… creating a monster so big and all the while making me so sick. 

My therapist kindly and slowly probed, trying to figure out what has set me off; why I’ve shut down and refused to talk. When I told him that I am afraid of my secrets being out in the open, of being shamed and rejected, he said this, “We are as sick as our secrets.”

That statement was the most powerful statement of my life in the past three years. I have learned that when I lock up my fears, emotions and depressive or manic episodes, I am allowing myself to be defined by my disorders. And I don’t have to be defined by it. I am so much better and so much stronger than my conditions. But when it’s a secret and I carry it alone I am as sick as my secrets. 

Yes, my fear of rejection is very big. And when I share what I am going through with you, I am afraid that you will shut me out, knock me down or make fun of me. But the risk of me keeping it inside and allowing it to take up space in my heart is far greater. So, I have taught myself to become vulnerable and open up and share my secrets. Because only together can we destroy them. Only together can we learn to fight the demons and together we can reduce and eliminate the shame and fear that comes with exposing our secrets. And when I let you in on one, I know I will never be as sick as any secret, disorder or mental condition.

Keeping those dark secrets also saps our energy from us. When all the energy is needed to fight the mental illness, depression and anxiety, we can not afford to have our little amount of energy going into keeping a secret. When there is no benefit to it, only self harm.

If you are a friend I open up to, accept and respect my vulnerability. I have chosen to be stronger than the devil in me. Validate that. No matter how you feel about it. You don’t have to give advice or share your opinion. All I expect is just for you to validate the fact that I have shared something that has been eating away at me. Acknowledge my strength. After you have done that, you can ask me what I expect. I am open and honest. Ask me whether I just wanted to share or if I want advice. Ask me if I want help and if so how you can be of help. If I tell you that I need help and it’s something you can’t do, please tell me. I appreciate your listening and honesty and I’ll know that I can always come back even just to talk.

And to all of you carrying heavy baggage in your heart. It’s time to rise up and be stronger than your sickness. It’s time to grow and to stop leading a life defined by our secrets. Allow yourself to be vulnerable. Open up to a good friend. Share your fears. Talk to your therapist. Because you know what? We are as sick as our secrets.