In 2013, when my life was in a spiral of suckage, I cried a lot. The people who knew me were not overly shocked by this, because -- let's face it -- things were incredibly difficult and an emotional, possibly snotty and sobby response didn't seem terribly out of line.
What most of the people who knew me didn't know, however, was that the crying was uncontrollable. I would wake up in the middle of the night, sobbing. I would be singing along with the radio, driving to work, and suddenly have to pull over because -- out of nowhere -- I would be weeping. I would cry in the shower.
I didn't tell anyone. My friends and family were already working so hard, helping to hold me up, and I didn't want to add to the burden I felt I was becoming. I just kept working through it and buying Kleenex and eventually got to the other side.
I wasn't crying all of the time anymore, I reasoned, so I must be all right. This despite the fact that I knew it was a lie. This despite the fact that, though I no longer woke up in the middle of the night, crying, I would wake up in the middle of the night gasping, sweating, mind and heart racing.
I looked okay. I played okay. I kept busy and worked hard and just kept swimming. I come from people who think that if you work hard enough, you can do anything. I applied this to mental health, apparently believing that I could outrun anxiety and depression and that, once I crossed the finish line in my imaginary race, I could stretch in a field of daisies, free and clear.
As long as I kept running, I was fine.
There were those midnight anxiety attacks. And there was also the extreme need to control my environment. This caused more than one person to ask, as casually as possible, if I thought I might need to go back on my medication.
Because of course I wasn't medicated.
Because of course, like so many other people, I thought I should be able to fix my brain chemistry by myself.
When I consider what I just wrote, "I should be able to fix my brain chemistry by myself" I can see what a flawed belief that is. Hard work will not amend chemical reactions, the way synapses fire, neurons. I know that.
But I keep fighting with it anyway, the idea that I can force my brain to work properly through the force of my will.
So I was not medicated. And when asked about going back on medication, my response would be as falsely casual as the inquiry: of course not, I'm fiiiine.
But at two am, the sheets twisted into knots, my hair plastered to my forehead, I'd know that "fine" wasn't a country I lived in or even visited.
I worked. I kept running. And then, I went on vacation for two weeks, and there was no work to do, and the snow began to fall, so there was nowhere to go.
It was when I found myself going to bed at 4:30 in the afternoon because listening to myself was so incredibly exhausting that it was easier -- and better -- to be asleep that I realized: I am not okay.
I still didn't tell anyone.
I woke up after sleeping for 14 hours for the third day in a row, got a pen, and started writing. I needed healthy habits. I needed to keep structure in my life but I needed not to be a prisoner of the structure. I needed to call a doctor and use the tools available to regain control of my life.
And I needed to talk about it.
So I am.
Because the thing that bothers me the most about all of this is the fact that I was so ashamed. I have been embarrassed by the fact that I was struggling. I found it humiliating.
As of right now, I refuse to continue to be embarrassed by my brain -- because honestly, that's what this boils down to. My brain. It has the capacity to do amazing things, this brain. It's done things I'm proud of and dreamed up moments of awesome. It's a good brain. It just needs help to work properly.
I'm still working hard, but I'm working hard to understand that I can't do this by myself and that I don't have to.
And if this is something that you've struggled with?
Neither do you.