A Day in the Life of Mental Illness and How You Make it Worse.

I open my eyes today and something is off. It’s Sunday. The room looks the same, my alarm sounds the same, my coffee tastes the same, but I feel like I’m not here. I do my morning routine; scroll email, social media, check the headlines, play bejeweled blitz, but I can’t shake something. Somethings off. Maybe I’m tired? No, I slept for nine hours two nights in a row. Maybe I’m hungover? No, I barely had a buzz last night. Maybe I’m dehydrated? No, that’s not it. So, what is it?

My partner tries talking to me, but I can’t focus. I can’t hear him. I feel no connection to his words. I’m confused. I don’t want to engage because I don’t know what’s happening. I’m not going to look at him. I’m being an asshole. Is something wrong with us? No, I adore him, but I’m not connecting with him. What’s wrong?

A workout will help. I don’t want to eat, but I need to force it. I need the track. That is my happy place. I lace up my sneaks and stand up. I see myself in the mirror and I look weird. I don’t recognize myself. I can’t connect to my reflection. I need to hurry to the track. A workout will stop this.

I open the front door and the heat hits me like a mack truck, and usually I’d bitch out loud about it, but today I don’t even flinch. What if I get overheated? For some reason I don’t care today. I’m usually strategic about time and temp on big workouts, but today I don’t seem to care. I crank my car and remember the anxiety I felt last time I was in there from my brakes grinding. But today I shrug it off. Maybe they’ll give out and I’ll crash and die…..

ALARM BELLS.

What? Why would I think that? Why would I even consider that? What kind of fucked up thought is that?

Just GET TO THE TRACK.

I’m stuck behind a couple on a motorcycle, keeping the standard, safe distance from behind. The guy is pointing to things as they are cruising. They seem so happy. I try to look at what he’s pointing at, but I have zero peripheral vision. I wish I was them. I wish I could be on a motorcycle, feeling the wind, casually taking in the sites. I feel jealous.

I follow them for 5 miles when I realize how hard I have to concentrate to keep the safe motorcycle distance. I don’t feel connected to my feet on the pedals. I hear cars around me, but I can’t connect with the sounds or the humanity of the people driving.

I HAVE to be hungover. Please be hungover. WHY didn’t I have more wine last night so this could be something I’ve done to myself? Maybe I really am and I’m just not feeling it yet?

The deep numbness absconded with my usual anticipation and giddiness of pulling up to the track. I feel pins and needles all over my skin, but it isn’t positive. It feels like my emotions are trying to ignite and crank up, but keep stalling.

I close my eyes and walk toward the entrance. I see the grass on the football field. There’s my connection. I will sit on the grass for a while. The smell of grass and the feel of its morning moisture always brings nostalgia for my college running years. Those memories are so potent, they always pull me in.

I bend over and run my fingers through the blades. The water left on my hands is hot from the sun already. It feels invasive. The heat isn’t soothing, it matches the numbing heat pulsing through my veins. I pull back, alarmed and scared.

Just get your heart beating fast.

Lap one, I feel nothing. I hear my feet hitting the asphalt, but I can’t feel it on my feet. I start to panic. My heart is racing. My breathing is too quick. Maybe I should stop? No. Don’t give in.

Lap two, I catch a glimpse of the church across the street. The large glowing cross cuts right into my chest like a shard of guilt bringing back all my old ways of combating the numbness. Maybe you did something wrong and this is your punishment? I start to think of what I could’ve done. NO. Stop, now. Don’t go there. What if your scrupulosity wasn’t real and you really are a horrible person and this is why you’ll never be free of all this? I can’t. I won’t. How does this feel so real? I believe NONE of this, but all of a sudden it is like I slid right back into the clothing I wore when I was 21, knowing it doesn’t fit and isn’t who I am anymore but the familiarity is too hard to resist.

I decide not to give in. I commit to not doing any compulsions. Just let the thoughts be here, swirling and torturing, but not reacting. But, I’m still numb. I feel like I’m running 3 feet off the asphalt. Maybe I’ll trip and fall on my elbows to feel pain and see the blood. I need to feel grounded. Maybe I trip and run into the fence and can cut myself deep enough to go to the hospital. I’ll be safe there and I wouldn’t have to tell them what’s really going on. If I injure bad enough, I could stay for a couple days? Stop it. Now.

I pick up the pace. Okay, I’m depressed then. I’m having symptoms then. Okay, then deal with it. But what if I’m not? What if this is just who I have to be now? What if I can’t connect again ever, lose control and kill myself? STOP! Why did I just visualize a razor…a rope…a car crash? What if I can’t stop myself? What will people say? Will they say the same things they said about Chester Bennington? Will they say I’m a coward? Will they say I’m selfish? Why am I still thinking about that? It was sad, but seriously, deal with it already Chrissie.

I start my ascent up the first round of bleachers and it hits me square in the face. I cried all day last Friday upon hearing the news of Chester’s suicide, but it cut deeper to see the misunderstandings, the ignorance, the unwillingness to understand the reality of mental illness. I LET IT GET TO ME. It festered. I wrote it off as just ignorant morons who would say heartless shit like that, but those words cut into me. They tapped the button I keep deeply protected inside of me. The button I shield, pad, and dare not go near. The button that reminds me that I was capable of going almost all the way to death by suicide, so what will stop me if it happens again? Why couldn’t Chester stop it? Why couldn’t friends I have known in the past stop it? What if it gets so bad for me that I can’t stop it?

I failed. I let that button get pushed and instead of rushing to face where it is putting me, I ignored it. It spread like fire through me. It was blazing underneath the surface, but I distracted my way around looking at it the last few days. I’m fine. I don’t care. People will never understand and they are just idiots. THAT’S the reality. There’s nothing I can do and I can’t care.

But I do care. Because words hurt. Assumptions cut deep. Dismissal of the anguish of mental illness tears my insides up. But I didn’t think I deserved to feel it. Emotion over a celebrity that I don’t even know? Anger and emotion over people’s stupid comments and arguments that I’ll never even meet? The fire was beckoning me to engage, feel, and heal. But, it burned out. I felt it burning out, too. And now here I am. Not facing it forced the lighting of the match to a dangerous response. I’ve allowed feigned apathy to take over. Now I’m numb. Now I’m disconnected. Now I’m lost as shit and I can’t feel enough to believe it can get better.

25 minutes and 500 bleachers later, I’ve spiraled into viewing myself strapped in restraints as the doctors supposed to treat me mock me for needing medication and being weak, stupid, and choosing to feel this way. I can see it. I can feel THAT, but I can’t feel the breeze on my forehead. This. THIS will be the time I will never get better. I tell people in my work everyday that cycles will pass and you WILL feel better, just hang on. But here I am, I can’t hang on. I can’t even feel my fingers gripping the ledge. I guess I’m a hypocrite. I guess everything I do, everything I represent, everything I’ve worked for is a lie. I’m no one to be looked to for support, I can’t even help myself. I’m not credible. I shouldn’t even be allowed to talk to anyone else with mental illness because I’m a phony.

A dog startles me running up the bleachers beside me. My thoughts stop. I felt the sweat dripping down my temples beginning to clog and muffle my headphones. The dog owner is frantically searching the embankment and I yell ‘He’s over here, he’s fine’.

I heard my voice. It was real. It echoed in my ears. She smiled and thanked me. I briefly wished I could be her. I wish I could be anyone right now but myself. I wish I could be up to my knees in shit emptying out porta-potties right now if I didn’t have to be a slave to my mind.

I wondered if that lady knew what I was thinking. Did she have any idea how good she has it? Does she know that I have to be on psychotropic drugs just to fucking feel anything? Would she be scared if she knew I was? So many stupid-ass people think that taking anti-depressants means I’ll turn into a fucking murderer. If she knew, would she run away? Why do I care? That medication saved my life. Why do I hesitate when I say what drug I need at the pharmacist out loud? Why do I lower my voice? Why do I feel ashamed sometimes? Why do millions of people who suffer have to be silent because a small group of narrow-minded people refuse to change their tenets on mental health?

Anger. My favorite emotion surfaced. I’ll take anger and rage any day over numb. And it came to my rescue.

I finished my workout pounding the anger out on the track. And I’m still angry as I write this blog. I’m angry that I have a goddamn illness that makes me question whether I have it or whether I should be justified with it. I’m angry that millions of people suffer with mental illness, have days exactly like I’m having today but stay silent out of fear. I’m angry that people are too scared of their perception of mental illness that they can’t tap their own hidden and protected button of empathy. I’m angry that everyday people die by suicide because they are too afraid to tell anyone they are scared because of judgment. I’m angry that it’s 2017, I’m 20 years into medical recovery from my mental illness and days like today still scare me so bad that I feel like a weak, pathetic human being and that I could validate those feelings if I read negative comments on social media.

I’m also angry that I can’t bottle up today and have people drink it and feel it, if only for a few hours and make them understand that their words hurt. I wish I could show them that their ignorance and willingness to express it makes people’s symptoms worse, and directly effects their ability to ask for help. People die by suicide because of that ignorance. And THAT makes me angry.

But I can’t bottle it up. I can’t make people feel it. So I’ll use my words. And maybe these words will make someone, somewhere understand how much we HATE days like this, how much we HATE our illnesses, but desperately want to be validated and empathized with instead of made to feel like it’s our fault. We don’t want to live in fear anymore. And we shouldn’t have to feel anger in order to communicate the realities of suffering that plagues each of us with mental illness.

Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts,

Chrissie Hodges

Mental health Advocate/Public Speaker; Peer Support Specialist/OCD Resource Consultant; Author ‘Pure OCD: The Invisible Side of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder’

http://www.chrissiehodges.com

http://www.treatmentforocd.com

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4 Responses to “A Day in the Life of Mental Illness and How You Make it Worse.”

  1. AMAZING! You capture the true essence of a morning’s thoughts for those navigating the path of mental illness. I TOTALLY related to your sentence about taking anger and rage over numbness. Although I’ve discovered ways to prevent it, the numbness of depression sometimes still stops me in my tracks. makes me question my entire being, and chokes the very essence of life out of me. Thank you for sharing this blog and I pray that those not dealing with mental illness will read this and have a sense of what a morning can be like in our head.

  2. Thank you, Chrissie, for sharing such intimate feelings. It really does help to spread awareness.

  3. Denise B. Says:

    You speak for everyone who has been down that road of some days, remembering that cycles pass, and other days, being sure that you are stuck forever in that shitty place. I hurt for you because I know what it feels like for me, and I get some sense of what it feels like for you, after these years. I’m glad, I guess, that you connected with the anger as a rescue. It’s better than the alternative of staying numb. Love you.

  4. Rebecca Says:

    Hi Chrissie,
    Such a great post! This is exactly how I have been feeling lately. I’ve been having ERP for my OCD the past two months with a therapist and I’ve been struggling lately. I hate having this disease and having to struggle so much and have so much anxiety and so many thoughts. Its so frustrating. I can’t tell you how many times I have felt this exact same way. When pushed too far I just feel numb. I wonder how easier other people’s lives are that they don’t have to go through all of this. I hate OCD, but I’m happy that I’m at least trying to get better even if its hard and I’m doing better than before. But I also feel pathetic at times, and stupid because these are all just thoughts yet they suffocate me at times. Thank you for sharing this, I know how hard that must be but know that so many people relate and that these posts help!

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