Letter to Brian: May 6, 2016

Dear Brian,

This past weekend, success for me meant I put away the dishes in the dishwasher so I could load the ones that had been sitting in the sink for over a week.  It meant that I brushed my teeth and I showered and I left the house for a whole hour to buy groceries.  I realize that doesn’t sound like much of an accomplishment, but the way I’ve been feeling the past few months, I have had to find pride in winning even the tiniest of battles.  It’s really difficult to describe to people who don’t experience depressive episodes what it really feels like in your body and in your mind.  You know how when you’re sick with the flu and your entire body aches all over?  You feel sick to your stomach?  You can’t ever seem to get enough sleep?  Absolutely anything and everything feels like a daunting and exhausting task?  When you’re feeling that sick, sometimes just getting out of bed and standing long enough to take a shower is enough to wipe out what remaining energy you have left?  That’s what chronic depression feels like physically.  And lately, I’ve been able to add a constant and nagging feeling of anxiety and hypervigilance that won’t seem to leave my side; I just feel so agitated.  All. The. Time.  I guess it might be time to look at switching medications.  Again.

While it doesn’t occur nearly as much as it used to, I’ve still been struggling with the self-injury.  I had an incident a few weeks ago… before that one had really even begun to heal I ended up doing it again this past Monday.  I was feeling terribly sad and anxious and nervous; when I’m feeling that much intensity inside already it really doesn’t take much to push me completely over that edge.  I made time in my lunch break to rush home and within a 15 minute timeframe I had gotten home to my apartment, gathered my tools, harmed myself significantly, bandaged it up and left again to head back to work already feeling the relief of that release.  On my way back to work I stopped for a Diet Coke and the cashier at my local convenience store said to me in his endearing accent: “Always with the smiling face you have, I love to see it! Such a long time since you were here to show me the smile. Smiling is the best medicine!!” He obviously had no idea that I had literally just sliced my leg open to the point that a vein was actually visibly showing not even 10 minutes earlier and that underneath my dress was a huge bundle of bandages covering up that gaping wound in my upper thigh. What can I say? I’m a master of disguise.

I distinctly remember one evening in junior high school when I had a friend over for dinner and to help each other get ready for the school dance that night.  I was doing her hair and makeup and she looked at me and said, “You’re always so happy and you always cheer me up. I wish I could be happy like that all the time… like you are.” I remember being so confused and thinking to myself, “Boy if she only knew that earlier today I was thinking up ways to kill myself.”  You just never know what is going on inside of someone or what battles they are fighting every day.  It shouldn’t hurt to hear someone say, “You’re so happy and cheery all the time, I love it;” but it does hurt.  A lot.  Because most days I’m faking it so my disposition is more palatable for those around me.  If I showed them how I was really feeling inside, I fear that no one would ever want to speak to me.  Some days I do experience joy, though… genuine joy.  Maybe that’s what keeps me going… those moments where there is proof of life in there somewhere!

I literally still see myself as that seriously awkward and profoundly bizarre kid that didn’t quite fit in anywhere. The one whose grade school friends easily transitioned into the “cool crowd” in junior and senior high school and pretended I didn’t exist when their new friends were around.  And most of the time I still feel as though the people who invite me out to dinners and happy hours and concerts are only doing so out of pity or obligation or because they simply don’t want to hurt my feelings.  It doesn’t ever occur to me that they really might enjoy my company.  If anyone out there has any advice as to how to develop a healthy self-esteem, I’ll be first in line.  Seriously, sign me up for that shit.  How many years of therapy should it take until that catches on?  I guess you first have to have hope, wouldn’t you?  I mean, it’s like not wanting to fix a part on your car because you’re going to be selling it soon anyway…. is it really worth it?  But, I digress…  I remember back in school even feeling that “vibe” from other parents and teachers who could see how awkward I was; I didn’t have that “magnetism” that the class clowns and the prom queens had… you know the type– the one that can walk into a room and everyone turns to notice them and they say something ridiculously charming and the whole room laughs with them.  Even teachers gravitated more naturally to those students, presumably because they were more engaging and fun to be around.  I was far too shy to get involved in the class participation and in terms of the social order of my peers I was the one most likely to get a snowball shoved in my face by one of the bullies for wearing a men’s suit and wing tips to school that day and who often spent her lunch hour crying alone in a corner of a secluded hallway.

I had myself a nasty fall in the shower last weekend… I totally lost my balance and fell backwards out of the shower and planted hard on the bathroom floor after hitting my head on the wall.  Super classy.  But boy, was I sore!!  A few days later the pain was really getting to me so I decided to book massage.  I’ve always been deeply surprised that I allow myself to be vulnerable enough to do that; considering my long history with an unhealthy fear of physical touch, I’m baffled that I find the courage to do that, honestly.  And even more so because I’m absolutely covered in scars that run all up and down my arms, legs and my breasts.  I never know how a new massage therapist (or doctor, for that matter) is going to respond to that.  Some people are absolutely silent about it. There’s absolutely no way that they don’t see them, but they simply choose to not bring it up.  I find that to be a great relief to me.  But most practitioners bring it up immediately.  That was the case this week.

I was already on edge because it was going to be a male therapist and given my early-rooted fear of men, that’s typically a deal breaker for me; but I was in so much pain, I took the first available appointment I could get.  He asked me what brought me there and if I had any specific areas on which I needed work.  I told him about the fall and that I wanted the focus strictly on my upper body– from the waist up.  He tried to steer me away from that and say that it would be beneficial to me to at least do some work on the lower body as well, particularly since I had booked a whole 90 minutes.  After a few timid attempts to get me to agree to that I decided to just be upfront and said, “Well, I have an injury on my left thigh.  It’s bandaged up, and it’s extremely painful; if you work on my legs, please just work from the knee down.”  That didn’t seem to phase him so he said, “If you’re comfortable with it, we can just try and work around that area… and you can let me know if you feel any pain.”  So I reluctantly agreed.

The first extremity he worked on was my right arm.  Immediately he said, “Wow, you have sooooo many scars!”  Again, I was upfront and I told him that yes, I’m covered in scars and that they are the result of years and years of self-inflicted injuries.  That I’m on medication and I see a therapist regularly but sometimes it still happens.  That the bandages on my legs were because I had done it again recently.  I was feeling pretty anxious inside thinking what he might possibly say to me next. His response made me relax immediately.  He just calmly said, “Hey, we’ve all got to deal with the chaos in the world in a way that works for each of us, you know?” Yes!!  Soooooooo much yes.  When it came time to work on my left leg, I felt an initial twinge of panic as the blanket was moved to expose my leg and the bulky bandage I’d been hiding for the past few days.  It was a surreal feeling to allow this stranger to see that and somehow I managed to let my fear of judgment just fall away and allowed myself to really relax.  I confuse the hell out of myself some days.

I had a ticket to a concert last night and I just couldn’t seem to force myself to go. I really wanted to go… but the energy just wasn’t there and the thought of driving there, parking, being in a crowded room all seemed just incredibly unappealing to me.  Somehow, it seemed like a better idea to sit on my couch and binge-watch Netflix while sipping whiskey in my underwear and have food delivered from the Chinese restaurant ACROSS THE STREET from me. (For the record, I did not answer the door in my underwear.  I do have standards.)  But it is what it is… I missed the show and don’t feel all that bad about it.  Maybe I’ll try again another time.  And maybe I won’t.

Well, my well of words has temporarily run dry… not too much more for me to say today.  But thanks for letting me get all of this off my chest, dude.  Please tell Mooooomie how much I miss her.

Much love,
Laura