I possess a photographic memory. Some argue that such a thing does not really exist. I invite those dissenters to spend a day or two or twelve in my brain. I can recall every outfit worn on every first day of school ever, college and kindergarten included. I remember the shirt my grandmother wore the day she told me the dog who bit my face when I was nine months old died; I remember being bitten by that dog. I remember things people said in the heat of the moment and in the dull moments in between; and yes, I know what they wore at the time.
I remember a late night in my junior college dorm room, windows cracked because we lived just over the boiler room. I remember writing, as I always did, the only light coming from my gigantic Gateway desktop. My roommate gone, I turned the music up a little louder than usual.
Once I made my way through Jewel’s 1998 Spirit album, I turned on Puddle of Mudd’s song, “Blurry.”
And I played it on repeat for hours.
Now realize, I didn’t receive a diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) until after my oldest son arrived in this world. We’re talking late winter, early spring 2006. Ten years ago. Prior to that point, I just thought I was straight up crazy.
As my senior year of high school progressed, I felt extreme panic—though I didn’t know that’s what it was a the time. Choosing a college and a major and a significant amount of debt sent me into a spiral of what I now know to be continuous panic attacks accompanied by cutting as a (poor) coping mechanism. A teacher turned me in to the counselor at the time, and I, being the intelligent woman I am, lied my way out of what could have become a hospitalization at the time.
The summer between my junior and senior years of college, I didn’t do so well with the redirection and ended up in ICU and the mental ward of the hospital for five days. The same panic and fear persisted the upcoming changes in my life, but the doctors during my stay didn’t pinpoint the problem and sent me on my way.
Let’s not ignore the fact that once diagnosed with a kidney disorder while pregnant, placed on Level III bedrest, and unable to work or save money during a pregnancy during which the father of my child provided no support, I panicked to the utmost. That panic resulted in the ultimate placement of my daughter for adoption.
It wasn’t until after my son was born and I had a giant panic attack attempting to breastfeed him and stayed in a high level of panic during his first three months that anyone said, “Hey, is this your norm? Because it’s not the norm.”
I didn’t know that the general population didn’t feel an overwhelming sense of dread waking in the morning. I didn’t know that I could feel anything more than hopeless or worthless. Add in the depression of losing a child to adoption and subsequent giant losses in my life, and I forgot what it felt like to feel anything more than nothing.
Therapy and medication helped, off and on, over the years. I experienced a number of stable, as-normal-as-can-be years. And then 2014 happened. 2015 involved a lot of work on my part, but improved. For the most part, 2016 featured me with my head above water.
Until it didn’t.
Now I feel like that junior in college, sitting under her loft bed in a room lit only by her computer, typing out bad poetry while listening to “Blurry” on repeat. I didn’t know who I was. I didn’t think I deserved to know who I was. I didn’t understand that I could ask for help; didn’t understand that asking for help wasn’t a giant sign of failure.
In those very dark months before my first psychiatric hospitalization, I just thought this is what life felt like. Everyone lived in their own bubble and generally wanted to pop themselves on a daily basis. I know—I can recall each thought of that night—that I wanted to die. I didn’t know how or by what means, but I knew I didn’t want to live any longer. I felt tired of feeling blurry, of not knowing who I was or what all these anxious thoughts meant. I just wanted them to stop.
I live there now sometimes. More frequently than I’d like.
“Everything’s so blurry. Everyone’s so fake.”
I’ve started that dangerous process of pushing people away. “I’m fine.” I’m not. I just don’t want to admit how bad things are inside my messy mind. I don’t want to be held accountable for actions or inactions. I don’t want to think long term. I don’t want to do anything. I am lost somewhere inside myself.
Someone asked me questions that night as I listened to that song. Questions that poked and prodded at places I didn’t want to deal with just yet. They prodded me to go to bed instead of go through with any of the thoughts in my mind.
One thing I’ve learned about getting older is that people are less likely to poke and prod as we age. We don’t want to get messy with one another. We don’t want to disrupt order or friendships or life as we know it. Even for those closest to us—even our spouses—it’s easier to just type out some placating bullshit about how “you can do it” and “it will be okay.”
I hope I’ll be okay. I’m fighting to be okay. But the truth is that my mind is waging a battle I can’t even begin to understand what to do with, how to fight right now. What do you do with that? How do you shake it off and say, “Well, tomorrow is a new day,” when you know, damn well, tomorrow is just more of the same.
I don’t know right now. Everything’s so blurry.