Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Option Number 3: Go to Mars



"So. What would you do if you won't kill yourself?"

Jess and I were sitting in her apartment, drinking tea, and I was walking her through my options for life.

"Well, like I said, Option Number 1, end life, not gonna happen. Option Number 2, try to get picked up by some year-long Bipolar study..."

"In JAPAN!"

"Yes. In Japan. That would be awesome. And then there's Option Number 3. You're gonna like this one. Because it is so perfect. Option Number 3 is...I apply to be one of the people who go to Mars."

There was a brief silence. Jess looked at me with a big smile. Because she got it. The brilliance of the thinking behind Option Number 3. We listed out the benefits:

"You get to leave Earth, forever. You no longer exist here (which, would be hard, saying goodbye to family, etc), but then it's like, you spend four years traveling to Mars and then - let's be honest - eventually you will just die there!"

It sounded and felt like the most brilliant plan. Volunteer to go to Mars, leave Earth forever, start over, and then who CARES about how mentally ill I feel cause I'm a bagillion miles away on planet Mars and, well, who gives a fuck??

At least that was the thinking behind the "brilliant" idea.

I know that I would probably not even make the cut to go with the Mars crew (who wants a Bipolar chick onboard anyway?) but the feeling was similar to how it feels to fantasize about winning the lottery. If you spend enough time imagining what you would do with all that money, you experience a mental/physical unburdening that feels fabulous.

One of the hardest things about Depression is that you just don't want to be here. You don't really know where it is you want to be it's just...not here.

I believe this to also be true for people struggling with physical pain, grief/shame, severe anxiety...Human misery is kind of, well, unmotivating on the life side of things.  

My current battle with Depression has been going on for about a month. Coming off a hypomanic phase, my doctor and I increased my Lithium and it's been bad news bears ever since. I'll be seeing her again this week, but, honestly? Let me tell you something. There is no easy fix to mental illness. There truly isn't. If you look at Anorexia (yep, it's a mental illness), Bipolar, Schizophrenia, Depression, Anxiety, OCD...these are conditions that people manage for a lifetime

The ebb and flow of an out-of-control brain. For a lifetime.  
Years and decades and life phases (that you may or may not be able to achieve cause your brain is so unreliable) and tooth-and-nailing it through the agony and scratching together enough bravery to accept your fate and keep trying even though it is so tiring and exhausting and embarrassing, and, and, and, and... 
You might want to run away to Mars, too.

Look, I am not going to apply to go to Mars. I am not really sure what I am going to do. I do know the things I am not going to do (Option Number 1) eventhough, full disclosure, I definitely do think about it sometimes. I think even people without mental illness think about that. We don't really talk about it because, well, people like me (with a "diagnosis") don't want to get carted off to a 72-hour hold in No Shoelaces Allowed land. People like me also don't want (well-meaning but holy shit!) friends to call the cops on them.

Honestly, I just want to feel OK. I want to be able to be bored and be able to answer when someone says, "How are you doing?" I want to say, "I'm good!" or "I'm fine" or even "Meh" but meh really means, eh, I'm fine, just my job sucks a little but no big deal, seeing a movie tonight...

Here is what I would say to someone if I weren't constantly lying and faking it:

Person: "Hey, Susan, how are you?" 
Me: "Hey, yeah, thanks for asking. Basically I am miserable most of the time. Yeah, basically as soon as I wake up I don't want to get out of bed, I avoid people, I wish I could sleep but I can't, I wish I could become a drug addict or alcoholic, but I can't. Oh! I forgot to mention! I feel like a complete failure. I have no friends, no future, no job. I spend a good one to two solid hours per day worrying about the certainty of dying alone... So, yeah, that's me. But, how are you?"

I am not even exaggerating. And I know that might be hard to read (especially if you know me), but I'd encourage you to see what even I know as I write this (even while depressed!) is that, the kind of thinking I wrote above is a symptom of the illness. Hopelessness, feelings of shame/guilt, anxiety...these are symptoms of depression. 

Do you see why it's so hard, though? Your head (that chemically imbalanced squishy brain, asshole) is telling you lies, lies, lies and it is really hard to believe the truth (i.e. you are safe, you are OK, you have friends, you still have plenty of time to get married/have a family, etc.) It's like the command center, the Executive Function, get's hijacked and you are along for the ride.

It's like being strapped into the last row of a 747 airplane, and a hijacker pilot is flying the plane erratically. And you are all alone, the only passenger. And no one else even knows you're stuck in an airplane held hostage by a hijacker. 

(I could continue that metaphor with how once people find out you are trapped flying on a hijacked airplane they try to offer up fighter jets (meds) and parachutes (therapy) but nothing seems to save you, but, whatever, you get the point.)

I am not sure how to end this blog post because I have yet to figure this out. Even though I write about it and read about it and do all the things (meds, doctors, therapist, exercise, aromatherapy, arts n' crafts, tai chi, meditation, Mindfulness, etc) and even though I was diagnosed over a decade ago, I am still getting my ass kicked by mental illness. And, as I've recently revealed, It's been a good three years of spectacular mishaps that have really worn me down. 

I think part of the reason I'm documenting my struggle is that I need to let go of some of the burden and put it on you, dear reader. Yep, if you read this far I'm gonna say that. I need you to suffer a tiny bit of my suffering so that you get 5 (or even 1 or 2) minutes in my shoes, every once in awhile.  

And, for that, I want to say thank you. Thank you for reading about one person's experience with mental illness and thank you for perhaps taking 5 more minutes to learn a little more about mental illness and it's profound effect on millions of people and how you might be able to support an end to stigma against mental illness. I'm grateful that you care to know more.


Gratitude for you, fellow space traveler.
Susan




1 comment:

  1. Thank you! Thank you for writing and sharing a part of your life and struggle with mental illness. It is a tough journey and good to be able to share it with those who care about you in your blog. I like going to Mars! What a great idea... 😊 Anyhow, I want to encourage you to keep doing those therapeutic things you're doing. Eventually you will get through this depression and things will get better. I believe that! 💚💜

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