I struggle to get up every day. Sometimes, getting into the shower is more than I can do. I can go days without showering, washing my clothes, and these are things most people who do not struggle with mental illnesses like depression or anxiety can understand. I wash my face, wet my hair and brush my teeth and as the Kristofferson song goes — “put on my cleanest dirty shirt” — because every ounce of energy I have must be focused on going into work and dealing with the abusive and unstable environment incumbent of working where I do.
I am dealing with workplace bullying, harassment and sabotage, all documented, witnessed by co-workers and through my increasingly dysregulated emotional state. Requests for assistance through human resources, the need for my family, friends and co-workers to be supportive and mean what they say when they tell me, “they have my back,” have been offered and asked for. But, as I’ve quickly learned, what people say and do — my expectations versus reality — are very, very different. Sometimes, I don’t know how that looks; I only know how I think it should feel.
Most people don’t appreciate the intensity of emotions and feelings for someone who lives with a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder in conjunction with chronic depression, anxiety and panic issues. My feelings are overwhelming and the pain — emotional, psychological, and yes, physical — push me into episodes of tears, hopelessness, a weight on my chest that makes breathing hurt. It exhausts me. I am exhausted by all of these competing emotions and feelings in my mind, sometimes to distraction, and I can only focus on the hurt, the pain, the anger, the frustration and isolation these things produce. I feel alone most days because no one can empathize with what I am feeling and dealing with, or sympathize with the extreme highs, lows and pain that are a part of my everyday.
I vomit those negative thoughts and ideations because as my work stress increases, the things happening to me feel so isolating and I need someone, anyone to hear me. I feel like if I shout, people will hear me! The truth is I cry and shout as the only way I have learned to express myself. As a child, everyone yelled, cried, threw things and left. I still yell and cry as my emotional response to everything whether happy, sad, angry, frustrated, hurt, etc.
I hate that I feel this way. I hate that I am not more positive. I hate that I cannot be less emotional. I hate that it seems most people cannot handle me. I hate that it seems most people choose not to be around me because I am too much. I hate that every day I feel less confident. I hate that every day I feel less significant, less important, less needed, let wanted. I hate that every day I feel more and more as though my absence is better than my presence for the people I love. I hate that my hurt bleeds into the lives of the people I love. I hate that I am a walking wound, oozing sadness, anger, frustration, complacent to what I need to do.
But what do I need? I don’t know what cocktail of medications will work, given what I’ve tried. I don’t know that a psychologist vs. a psychiatrist will offer me the kind of support I need. I have had several significant things occur that have me extremely mistrustful of these kinds of therapeutic responses. I know I need something, but at the same time, I am afraid of what it will be. I need to work to live. I can’t do intensive, which is really what I think I need. I want to feel better … but honestly, I don’t know what better feels or looks like from this place of several years of unchecked and neglected mental illnesses.
I pretend I’m OK because this is what makes everyone around me more comfortable. It helps my mother sleep at night. I pretend so I can be included. I pretend so I can be left alone, all while feeling as though the people who love me should know how much I’m hurting and need them to acknowledge my emotions and feelings, but they never do. As a result of these failures, I hurt more. I feel more misunderstood, isolated, alienated, unloved, disliked and burdensome. In short, I am on a sick, sad carousel of emotional outbursts, where I’m stuck going in circles saying the same thing in a hundred different ways and despite this, I still can’t articulate my wants and needs in a way people understand. This inability to feel understood, this situation where I’m told either directly or as I perceive through the actions of others, isolates me, it alienates me further from the very people I need to be the closest. This cycle exhausts me. It is another reason I feel too tired to live. I feel no joy in my life. I see no purpose. What is the point?
Then, I remind myself I have a beautiful son whose heart I cannot break, and so I suffer. I suffer as quietly as possible for as long as I can. But, inevitably I crack and everything I’ve just described comes in a tidal wave to the forefront and unfortunately, the only person in my life is my 72-year-old old mother. I love her so much. I fear losing her, but I also feel like I’m pushing her away. What she doesn’t know is that the harder I push, I need her to push back. I need her to say that she knows I’m pushing and that no matter how hard I try to get her to say she doesn’t love me … she does. She loves me and she won’t leave me as she has in the past. Because those times she left, I told myself there was something wrong with me, that I wasn’t good enough. She doesn’t believe she left, and maybe that’s her truth, but my reality is that she did. Everyone leaves. My family, my child, my partner, my friends, my work. Nothing stays because my mind tells me I’m not worth it. I’ve spent my whole life trying to feel worth it, needing people to tell me I’m worth it. I’m plagued by a push-and-pull existence. I’m sure and then uncertain. I’m loved and then not. I’m smart, then “stupid.” I’m employed, then not. I am fun and then I’m sad. I am talkative and then can’t hold a conversation to save my life. I feel confident and then suddenly see someone looking at me and I feel terrible, ugly, so ugly.
I don’t know if these words will make understanding any easier. I don’t know if these words will make up for the hurt I cause because I hurt. What a confusing and hard manner of being. It is hard, and when other stressors enter my life like workplace bullying, loneliness, etc., my episodes and rages come more frequently because I am overwhelmed. I am drowning in the shallow end. Unfortunately, the only person on the shoreline is my mother, who isn’t equipped to deal with my issues. I know I hurt her, and sometimes, it’s just so she can feel even a fraction of the pain I feel all the time. But in the throes of a rage, I am selfish. I don’t fully appreciate her feelings, and so the shame of that follows me too.
This is for my mother. This is an apology. This is a statement of love. This is a plea for understanding. This is confirmation that I know how hard it is to live with and love me. This is an acknowledgment of my mother’s attempts to understand.
This is a letter to my sister who is so uncomfortable with my emotions because she copes differently.
This is a love letter to my son, whom I love and adore more than anything in this world, and how I know he needed distance to cope. I understand and I have never faulted you for finding your way. I am proud of you.
For my friends whom I don’t communicate with as often if at all: I miss you, and my absence has nothing to do with you.
To the world that says people like me are broken, faulty or not “normal,” read these words as confirmation that I am more human than most people because of my feelings. My heart and mind, and how it doesn’t work, doesn’t meet the world’s demands and challenges, and speaks directly to the manner in which the world’s lack of humanity affects my humanity. I am more human because of the diagnoses that are survival instincts, responses to multigenerational traumas of my family manifest in one little girl born into the world more than four decades ago. I am not broken. My issues are not shameful. My diagnoses should not be hidden but given voices and faces. I’m not sure if having a louder voice, a more visible face will help … but I do know it can’t hurt more.