I’m somewhere between six and nine years old and I hate the way the pants I’m wearing feel on my body so much that I throw myself on the couch near the stairs and cry, begging my mother to not make me go to school. Five years later I’ll tell myself that the recommended two sleeping pills is not sufficient and I’ll swallow a handful. I’ll do this every weekend, increasing the number of pills each time. This is my hobby. Later, I discover that if I take the Vicodin I was prescribed after knee surgery a few hours before bed I will wake up in the middle of the night and feel like I’m dying. It’s a feeling that’s slightly unpleasant and thrilling at the same time. I’ll struggle to deal with my anger in a way that isn’t violent, most often towards myself. Twenty years later, I empty the entire contents of my closet onto my bedroom floor and collapse in the middle of the room, convinced that I am a monster. Around that time a friend will tell me about her daughter’s anxiety and explains that one of her things is tags; She simply can’t stand to feel the tags on her clothes on her body. At that exact moment I can feel the tag of my sweater on the back of my neck and I make a mental note to remove it later.
My depression and anxiety has manifested itself in a number of self-hating and harmful ways and it becomes easy to convince myself that my appearance is what’s wrong. I recognize that at the root it is often about me not being enough and a desire to somehow become someone other than who I am. It’s easier to believe that my thighs or my skin or my stomach or my hair is what’s causing me so much grief than to confront the fact that something real is wrong and that something is beyond my control.
Just a month ago I sat at a bar in Providence that serves spectacularly greasy and delicious sliders and read about Karyn Washington on my phone in between bites and sips. There I was, alone in a place I had never been before at the start of my week-long vacation, reading a beautifully written piece about a talented and young black woman’s suicide. For a second I think, “Will anyone write about me when I die?” and then I go back to smiling at the bartender and order another beer.
This past Sunday I wrote about my fleeting suicidal ideations and think I may have scared some people. I can understand how it’s unnerving to read about how I searched my apartment for structures to hang myself on, words delicately placed between sentences on writing a script and me creeping on my neighbors like Tracy Chapman sourcing material for her next single. But this is exactly what depression is like for me. It is not this all encompassing thing that consumes my entire being. It does not prohibit me from seeing, thinking, feeling, touching other things— other really good things. This is not to say that there aren’t days that feel unbearable. There are some days when it is nothing but fear of being fired that forces me to pull my disgusting self out of bed and in the shower and on the train and to my desk and back home where I can finally get back into bed, the entire time just thinking about how awful it all is. And there are days when I have to sit on the edge of the bed, when I’m already running an hour late for work, and wait until I don’t look like I’ve been weeping all morning before I can leave my apartment. These days are rare now.
Most days, my depression pumps through me as ordinary as blood. The split second as I see the train coming and I think about jumping. The next second when I hope that someone pushes me. And the next when I get on the train and plan my new life with the beautiful man across from me reading Junot Diaz. It’s standing in line for my mid-afternoon coffee and suddenly wishing that I did not exist in this moment and thinking about getting out of line and how I would rather be anywhere but here. Then returning to the office and laughing sincerely at a joke my co-worker makes while we’re both standing in the kitchen. Or while chopping vegetables with my sharpest knife I’ll remind myself that I could end it now if I wanted to. And then the moment passes and vanishes into the air and it’s hard for me to reconcile the self who wants to die with the self who just wants to eat dinner. These moments have become as routine as brushing my teeth.
This isn’t a sad story, I promise. I’ve made it this far and so have you. I’m medicated and my medicated brain knows that no sad or angry or helpless feeling I’ve ever had has been final. I’m supported and I’m lucky to have people in my life who get it even if they don’t get it. I have friends that send me Spotify playlists and offer to stop by my office with a plate of sticky buns and friends that text me even when they know I’ve probably already fallen asleep but they’re worried and want me to know that I know they’re there. I’m increasingly aware that it can be difficult and exhausting to be in my life and I do my best to be there for those who are there for me. Being someone’s person doesn’t mean that you have to offer to fix them or that you need to provide any advice at all. It’s acknowledging that we’re all navigating this beautiful and terrifying mess together and it’s just a little bit easier when you know that you can rest your head on someone’s shoulder when you need to.
Be someone’s person. And it’s OK to let someone be yours.