Content warning: depression, suicide.
“Where do you want to start?”
This is the hardest question to answer when beginning your first session with the therapist.
As I’ve answered before, let’s reel it back to high school, spring semester of senior year. I was in a very bad place in life, hopefully the worst to ever be.
I had severe depression and loneliness, resulting from factors in life both uncontrollable and controllable but in a viciously negative feedback loop of addiction and dependence. I had outcast myself at school, giving condescending stares at my fellow classmates thinking I was better, feeling trapped in an education system of mundane and pointless tasks. Without friends of my age, I turned toward the rest of the world and its people. They taught and showed me how the non-elitist society I did not grow up in worked and lived. Physically, I was at my worst. I was frequently injured, recovering from an year long fight with anorexia, relying on alcohol as a method of coaxing insomnia to stop nightmares. There was a sort of impenetrable wall that I had built to try to hide it all. Only few knew much more than the tip of the berg. And of the few, one led himself to his suicide after a relentless night of drinking over shared miseries, in front of my very own eyes. This was April 19, 2015, my 18th birthday.
When my parents found a peephole in this wall, maybe a cigarette in my bag or a failed attempt of discreetly coming home drunk at 4am, and caught the hedonist in me, I threw a tantrum. I lost conscience from the panicked thought that I had been caught in my hiding. It tore me away from them. I couldn’t tell them anything; they wouldn’t understand. I knew they didn’t, because my mother sent me to a psychiatrist that scoffed my behavior off as adolescent angst. I lost the little trust I had in society, with my innocence tested and stripped off.
Then I went to college.
Mudd is, well agreed among us Mudders, not the place where mental health tops priorities. I was met with mountains of assignments and classes, social temptations to drink and party, pressure to be politically correct with peers that came from so many backgrounds so different from my own, relatively homogeneous and sheltered one, etc, etc. Most importantly, there was no time for things like self-reflection.
This was the perfect environment for me at the time. I built an even higher wall, but one that was easier to disguise and tuck away, perhaps even make a part of my true self. The people I had chosen to run away from were now 6000+ miles away. I could choose to not pick up that phone call, and to therefore really cut myself off from those that decided to care about me.
I was beyond distracted. Every crevice of time I found, I filled with work and work and work. I gave zero attention to my past, and there was not much to remind me of it, besides some Facebook photos and a tattoo. I passed out in bed every night, exhausted. And for many, many moments, I was really happy. I thought I had found parts of myself to love and parts of the world to enjoy without reason. I thought I had forgotten what made people miserable other than endless deadlines. School drama and problem sets simply could not compare to suicidal friends and tattered relationships with society. With distance and time, I was able to mend my relationship with my parents, who had either semi-given up on fixing their daughter or chosen to focus on my achievements that they were proud of instead. I began to try to love people, and to trust them. It looked like things were going to work out, after all.
In retrospect, this was the perfect environment for my past traumas to fester and grow into a hideous monster, waiting for me to peek outside.
I repeat: there was no time for things like self-reflection at Mudd.
Finishing school, time was all I had. My environment had yet again changed itself completely. I no longer had the excuse of work, which had once seemed neverending. I was bored and lonely on weekends, no matter the number of hobbies or parties I attended. I became hyper aware of details in life that I had no capacity for before. In particular, I found myself becoming sad.
Upon feeling this creeping sense of dread as my birthday neared, I decided to consult a therapist. Despite my previously extremely negative experience, I thought it would be the best for me.
The first session I had with the therapist came around and I was anxious. During the 1 hour session, I stared at the clock for just about all of it as I tried to patiently relate my experiences and problems. Her responses, her questions, they all seemed pointless and expected. I wasn’t sure how she, a complete stranger, was going to even start helping me.
By the time we were done, I had told her more than I had ever told anyone. Tried to strip down the wall as much as I could. I thought it would be helpful, yet I was left further perplexed. It had been my first time, ever, to tell anyone about my life to this extent, even less so to a complete stranger whose name I had already forgotten.
And from this, the monster seemed to have been awoken from its sleep.
I began silently digging into myself. I found again my inner thoughts, my memories, my instincts, and ultimately at the heart, I found a twisted and neglected child. I despised what I had had to go through but I despised even more how I had almost forgotten such things. I asked whether I deserved the happiness I felt; I was horrible for the harm I had caused to both myself and others. When fate started pulling strings in ways I had not planned or wanted, I noticed it more and with greater effect. I told myself it was punishment for being prudent and comfortable of my fortune. Sometimes, I told myself it was not enough, that I needed something worse and more real to remind me of what pain was like. I started drinking a lot more, and alone. These nights reminded me of the still-existent youth and immaturity that I so detested.
Let’s pause, skip ahead to today for a second.
I am not fine. It would be a blatant lie to say that I was. Rather, I am sad, but grateful and perhaps hopeful. I have the time to take to understand myself. I’ve had the opportunities to jump into fire in frustration at my own mental state and come out, alive but burnt. I am trying hard to be patient with myself, to take emotions and impulses under control and moderation.
I am talking. I have been fortunate to have found new friends to discuss and explore my life with. Yet I am talking with no fruition if I cannot find help within myself, or if I cannot find anyone that is able to relate to me at a deeper level. Writing this post is an attempt for me to barf out my experiences and my feelings, perhaps to find some sort of catharsis. Writing in general has always served that sort of purpose for me, but this particular post has taken me many teary nights to write, and it has taken me many more to find the confidence to actually publish it.
Nearly every night, debilitating feelings of what I could only describe as a mixture of loneliness and helplessness swarmed over me. I cried more times than I could count in the last two months. I hated feeling ill inside. I was being mean to my body.
I found refuge at work and at the gym, always returning home very late, afraid of being alone again. I traveled, I partied, I wandered around, finding excuses to do things that would distract me.
I was no longer running away from anyone else. I was running away from myself. I tried finding someone to depend on, to relish in the fake sanctuary of these walls. I tried and failed and thought twice, laughing at my own pity and fallacy in falling in the same traps again. If anything, I needed to stop building any more walls, to stop trapping myself in being afraid of trusting others, and to start tearing them down and releasing the monster back out into the wild where it belonged.
I know that when I set a goal that I see as important, I can and am able to see it come through to reality. The stinging pain of the mistakes and stupidities I’ve committed have driven me to try to get better. To work on a mentality that is less vicious and more open to negotiation. The scars that I’ve left are good reminders of the imperfect self that I have to come to live with and love.
If you’ve read this far down, thank you. I am a creature that craves attention and love from others, and my writing, with the intention for others to read it, fulfills that bit of neediness in me. This is not a post of resolution, or conclusion. It is an update of a story that won’t just end with a fairy tale happily ever after.
I just want myself to know and promise that I’m trying to do the right things.