Today I want to talk about death: Wanting, waiting for, dreaming of death.
It’s morbid, I know. As much as I love to keep things light, I know I didn’t create this blog to roll in fluff and eat fun dip. I created it as an outlet for honesty, and sometimes that means getting down to the grittiest parts of what put my life in motion. So I’m going to talk about it.
I think, to some degree, we all question what death feels like. I can remember being about 6 and wondering if it would be painful, and if people would miss me. I remember wondering what would be waiting for me when I ceased to exist. I suppose the real difference between that time and now is that I no longer think about those things. I don’t wonder what lies ahead. Maybe it’s because I don’t know if I believe in any kind of afterlife. Maybe it’s because I just don’t care. I’ve never wanted revenge, or the satisfaction of knowing that the people who caused me pain would have to live with my memory. In the times that I’ve wished for death, I’ve only imagined it as slipping into a state of nothingness. Quiet.
Quiet: It’s what I long for more than anything. I think about it so often that I swear I can taste it. It doesn’t really make sense for a 22 year old girl to want that. I should crave the vibration of bass and squeals of delight and the dizzy chaos of being young. It’s not that I don’t wish to want those things. I do. I want to dream of freedom, recklessness, the feeling that time is on my side and that I can do with it what I please. But instead, always I wish for a sweet, endless silence. Every story has a theme, right? Well, this is it. And I figure that today is as good a day to share my story with you as any, so here goes nothing.
This is me.
Annnnd this is a far more accurate portrayal of what I look like in everyday life, without makeup and spectacular lighting.
It’s a bit difficult knowing where to begin in sharing all of this, but I am going to try to be as detailed as possible. For 20 years of my life, I was a curious, confident soul. This is not to say that I was without insecurity, because anyone who has followed my blog thus far knows that this is not the case. What I mean is that I was an open heart with a certain bullheadedness that was enough to power me through any darkness I would encounter. I liked myself, I relied on myself, and that was enough. In December of 2011, I started to feel differently.
I had just moved out of the city limits and settled into rural life with Sean, my fiance at the time. His work led him out of town, and I found myself alone a lot. I slept fitfully, until one night in particular when I could not fall asleep at all. A strange feeling came over me, a sudden desperation that I had never known. Anybody who knows me understands my unwavering hatred for housework of any kind, and yet, I found myself scrubbing walls, sweeping floors, rearranging clutter for hours until morning. I screamed and shook the entire time. This cycle continued for a week until I allowed myself to feel the weight of it, and I became frightened. Still, I kept quiet because I had no way of really understanding what it was that was happening, and I wouldn’t allow anybody to think that I was nutso.
The insomnia continued, and though I felt like a zombie, my mind was moving so swiftly that I couldn’t sit still. I’ve always had an active imagination, but I started to notice things that overwhelmed me. I would come home to a tap left running, the lights on, a television blaring, and things that had been moved from the places in which I had previously arranged them. I started to believe that I was being haunted by an evil entity. This made my nights alone more frightening and sleep became something I refused to consider. As the sun rose and set, the patterns of my behaviour became more erratic and took such a toll that people started to notice. Sean was concerned and suggested I see a doctor.
My experience with doctors and medical intervention in general had left me a bit sour, so at my first appointment I said something along the lines of “I feel weird.” She asked “Weird like how?” to which I responded “I’m not sure.” Part of me didn’t want anybody to know the extent of my symptoms, and I think I was more afraid of knowing what was happening than the fact that it was occurring at all. She pried out of me what she could, and I came away with some antidepressants and a small dash of hope. It couldn’t be that easy, could it?
Soon afterward, I started to hear things. It started small at first. Have you ever walked in to a dinner party and heard the sounds of forks hitting plates and the hum of garbled conversation? It was a lot like that. I would hear it and it would be gone as fast as it started. It concerned me, but not enough to tell anybody. ( I mean, how in the name of Sandra’s virginity was I supposed to explain that?) However, it wasn’t long before I would be left without a choice in the matter. They came like whispers. 1, 2, 5 at a time. When a voice starts speaking to you, you don’t really question the blurred line between imagination and reality. You just answer. And I did. They were as real as any conversation I’d experienced, besides being quite nonsensical. Now, you can’t very well talk to yourself all day without other people noticing that you’re doing it, so the jig was up for me. Along with the voices came hallucinations. One episode was particularly vivid and ultimately ended my working life. I was a receptionist for an oilfield rental company, and my main job was answering the phone. As I hung up, I scratched the back of my head. When I pulled my hand back, I noticed that it was covered in a large clump of hair. The more I touched it, the more hair would appear. I started to scream and wail. By the time everybody had come from their offices to see what the fuss was about, the hair had vanished. My hands were clean. It was all still very much attached.
That was the day I realized that I was facing more than I was capable of dealing with on my own. My employer suggested taking a leave of absence until I was refreshed enough to return. Though I was grateful for their understanding, I was more humiliated in that moment than I had ever been in my entire life. There is something very soul-crushing about losing sight of what is real and what is an illusion. I didn’t understand how my state of being had plummeted so very far in such a short amount of time. A deep depression sunk in, and while I’d been sad before, this was a different ball of wax. How would I tell people of my experience when simply thinking about it made my insides burn? How would I keep a positive attitude while I was constantly tortured by the very tool necessary to maintain it?
I want to tell you that it got better, and that it wasn’t long before I returned to my bubbly, personable self. But wouldn’t be the truth. That day led me on a journey, alright. A journey of psychiatrists and diagnoses and medication that I couldn’t pronounce. A journey of darkness and the nasty backlash that comes about when fighting with oneself.
That brings me back to the theme that began this post. Wanting, wishing for, dreaming of death. Of nothingness. Of quiet. See, I just don’t have the luxury of peaceful moments anymore. There they are, in my head, talking, talking, always talking. I had always thought that at 22, I’d have a healthy fear of death. I thought I would be drinking in every experience within reach before the sand ran out. At the very least, I didn’t imagine that I would think much about death at all. Not like this. But I promised myself honesty and total disclosure, and here it is. I felt that this post was important to write for 2 reasons: 1) I know that there are A LOT of people walking around thinking about this. The circumstance might be different, the feelings may vary, but the idea of death consumes many lives. I want anybody who stumbles across this post to know that they are not alone. That they are not selfish, ungrateful aliens. 2) If I’ve learned one thing fighting the grip of mental illness, it’s that what I think and feel is not always accurate. I cannot always trust those thoughts and feelings to be fact. And because of that, I know that it is unwise to make a decision, especially one so permanent, under the influence of deep pain.
I’ve mentioned before that I don’t believe in God. Some people ask “If you don’t believe in God, what is the incentive to get through this?” Here’s my answer: I DO think it is important to believe in something. I think faith is a key component in overcoming any obstacle. For me, it’s about where I choose to place that faith, and right now, it belongs in myself. I believe in tomorrow. And on days when I can’t believe in tomorrow, I believe in yesterday. Yesterday held a lot of great moments, and even more importantly, it held a lot of mind-numbing, shitty ones. And despite those shitty days, the sun rose again, with new possibility. So maybe today is hard. Maybe today I don’t know if I can hold out. But I just can’t cheat myself out of the possibility of a better tomorrow.
And that journey I mentioned? It’s also been a journey of self-acceptance, of understanding, of patience. I may not be whole, but my character has so much more depth because of it.
I want everyone out there to know that it’s okay to feel beaten down and defeated. It’s okay to have moments in which you feel small and insignificant. Life is going to hand them out like tootsie rolls on Halloween. It’s OKAY not to know what to do next. But whatever you do, however you feel, don’t CHOOSE this feeling. If today you are given the option to feel even a small dose of happiness, always choose to feel it. Don’t let yourself forget what it’s like because you are so used to feeling sadness, or because you don’t feel that you deserve it. I want you to know that you do. Please remember that most battles last for years. Remember that there will be blood and tears. But most of all, remember a time before the battle began. Let it guide you through the haze and the smoke and allow you to believe that there will be a time when the battle will cease.
Now that you know my struggle, maybe you could tell me about yours. For as unimportant as you may feel, I want to offer you friendship and hope. I want to support you. I believe in YOUR tomorrow. I can’t promise that my words will heal. I can’t promise you prosperity. But I CAN promise you compassion and support. So what do you say? You can find me here, on Twitter, or on Facebook. I’ll be posting at least once a week to talk. To talk about what made that week difficult, and what made it bearable. I’m going to talk about progress, or lack-thereof. I’m going to talk about the other useless things that filled the cracks. If you would like to join me, just click the follow button.
I love all of you. Thank you for taking the time to read my story. Though it was painful to write, I’m so glad for the opportunity. And if you should choose to share yours with me, I hope that it’s as cathartic for you.