Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Lies We Tell Ourselves

This post is part of the Scintilla Project, a two-week storytelling extravaganza that encourages bloggers to share stories based on a shared set of prompts. Click the link to visit the site and find out more, or to sign up! Visit the blogroll to find other blogs that are participating and to read their stories, too.

Prompt: What's the biggest lie you've ever told? Why? Would you tell the truth now, if you could?

"I'm okay."

Except I wasn't okay. There was nothing about me that felt okay. It was hard to breathe with the weight of the world crushing me, resting on my chest. I felt out of my place in my own skin. Getting out of bed was a monumental task - not because I was tired or lazy, but because all those hours of consciousness seemed overwhelming, and frankly, unappealing.

"I'm okay."

Except I wasn't okay. I had no reason to be this low. I was a sophomore in college, I'd been accepted into a competitive, limited-enrollment graphic design program at a university that I'd fallen head over heels in love with. I was making the best friends I'd ever had. I had the independence I'd always longed for.

"I'm okay."

I didn't want to ask for help - I was fine, there was nothing really wrong with me, people would think I was crazy (maybe I was crazy?), they'd tell me to get over it. I was supposed to be stronger than this. I wasn't supposed to be drowning inside my own mind. Was it normal to feel this suffocated? Why was it so hard to just be? It's normal to spend all your free time curled up in your bed, right? To wade through dark thoughts and become a completely blank shell of a person. It was normal for the straight-A student to stop caring, to skip classes, to half-ass projects, wasn't it? It's just college. College does this.

"I'm okay."

Leave me alone, I don't want to be awake right now. I can't deal with this consciousness, with this unbearable pressure of being. It's too hard. Everything hurts. Living hurts. Stop trying to help me, I don't want help. I just want to bury myself in my cocoon and let the world pass me over. I'll come out eventually.

I'm not okay.

They gave me mild antidepressants when I was 14. They told me they would help settle my thoughts, help with my anxiety-fueled insomnia, but I knew how to read labels. I didn't tell anyone. I knew it wasn't something that you wanted anyone else to know - it would have branded me even more of a weirdo than I already was. I lived in denial for several years, but I reached a point where I couldn't pretend anymore, and I couldn't lie to myself anymore.

When I went in for my annual physical that year, I hesitatingly, tearfully tried to find the words to say that I needed a life raft. I called it an upgrade to "big girl pills" but, really, it's hard to joke about anti-depressants, though lord knows I've tried. I was on the real deal now. My physician explained that they would even out my brain chemistry so that it would match that of a "normal" person. They wouldn't make me "happy" - they weren't that kind of drug. But they would give me a fighting shot at functioning like a human again.

I still take them. I suspect I always will. They're not happy pills or mood elevators. They're the brain version of, say, cholesterol medicine. They keep me balanced. I still have bouts of low-ness, but they're shorter and less overwhelmingly threatening than they used to be. They always pass. I just have to hold on.

Am I always okay now? No, not always. But at least now I can admit when I'm not. And when I tell myself that things will turn out okay, I know I'm telling the truth.


Kelly L said...

You're so brave. You know that, right?

Kelly L said...

you are okay because i said so. :) i was expecting this to go elsewhere, and i like the turn it took at "i'm not okay". i'm proud of you for knowing that you've got this going on and that you're very concious of it (though I still wish that you could / would get in and see somebody for maintenance).

PS I couldn't pick for that prompt yet so I'm waiting another day. I recruited my friend Sarah (who does nutty butter, btw) and I think we're planning on just writing for the prompts ad hoc. The biggest lie I ever told is something I can't share on my blog because my mom reads it.