*TW* Old Faithful

Today I had reached a breaking point. I couldn’t hold out any longer. So I went for my usual. Cake. I had been thinking about it all day. For several days in fact. Just imagining how good it would be. Imagining how great it would taste. Imagining how it would make me forget everything but the cake. Imagining how it would numb me out. Imagining every little piece right down to the last bit of it, the last detail, and the last bite.

I even tried to placate the urge with several substitutions since eating a whole cake is not the best idea. I tried donuts. And I have to laugh at this attempt because in no universe is a donut as good as a cake. And not just any cake. But a Sobeys cake. A creamy, soft, sweet Sobeys cake with their icing that tastes like whipped cream. (For those of you who are vanilla cake fans I highly recommend their cakes and cupcakes.) And I had tried to trick myself with donuts. Idiot. Unless they are Sobeys cake in the shape of a donut with Sobeys creamy icing on top then it’s a sad effort, although that would be a great donut. Donuts for cake? Please. Don’t even try.

I looked at the bakery shelves again. Nothing. It wasn’t there. None of them were. There was nothing. And something inside me not only panicked but cried.

How could there be none? How could they be all gone? How could there not be one cake here for me? Not one cupcake? And don’t even try to pawn off those custard or raspberry or rich hazelnut cakes on me. As far as I’m concerned they aren’t cakes to begin with. So as far as I was concerned Sobeys had no cakes out. But that can’t be? There had to be some somewhere, right? In the back, maybe? But no. They couldn’t be out of cakes? I asked. And they said, what they had out was it and it was gone.

No. No, no, no, no. It can’t be. None? What do I do? Okay, what do I do? I’m a little unsettled. I look around wildly, trying to figure out my next move but I’m lost. What do I do? What can I do? I’m stuck.

I feel my heart racing and my cheeks are starting to get warm. What do I do? I feel close to tears by now because I really am lost. I really don’t know what to do. I hadn’t considered this. I didn’t have a ‘plan b’.

Some people might call that a sign. They might say that that is the universe’s way of telling me that I shouldn’t binge. Pfft. Please. I call it poor planning on the part of the Baked Goods department manager. If I were feeling in a more optimistic, philosophical place I might agree but I’m not. As far as I am concerned the universe is telling me that he sucks at his job. That’s what I’m getting from the universe.

Baked Goods guy had one job. And he failed. And now I am stuck. I felt a fear creep over me because I felt so lost. I hadn’t made any backup plan. It hadn’t once occurred to me that they would be sold out. Every other time I was there they had cakes. Even the cupcakes were good enough to suffice but they were all gone too. There was nothing.

I looked around at the people nonchalantly shopping and tried to at least look calm. But inside I was freaking out. I wanted to grab the girl behind the bakery counter and shake her, find me a cake woman! Go bake it right now if you have to, I’ll wait. Ooh fresh Sobeys cake. Sigh. But I couldn’t do that anyway because I already knew from past visits that they don’t bake their goods on site at this location. What kind of a bakery does this?

You’re telling me out of this whole store you don’t have one oven? I looked around again at the other shoppers and the bakery girl, trying not to lose it. It wasn’t her fault. Well it kind of was because she sold them. Her and the Bakery Department manager guy. Together they had thrown a big wrench into my plans.

I started to roam the store like I was looking around and shopping but I registered none of it. I didn’t even realize how far I had wandered trying to figure out my next step until I found myself three aisles over in the frozen foods. Oh look, frozen pies. I don’t even like pies.

I knew I should just leave and try to figure something else out. How far was it to another Sobeys? I calculated where I was and how I would get to the other location but it wasn’t close, and would require a few transit transfers. And I felt stupid to go all that way, and out of my way, just for cake. But this isn’t normal cake. It’s Sobeys delicious, soft, and creamy, make-everything-better cake. Didn’t that deserve some travel effort?

But I knew it didn’t. Deep down I knew that as much as it felt like it was worth it, it really wasn’t.

I found myself circling the store and ended up back at the bakery again staring down the empty spots where the cakes and cupcakes had been, willing a package or a small cake to suddenly materialize. Hoping against hope that maybe they would get a fresh shipment in and I would get my cake. But no. Nothing.

Now what? I knew I had to leave, and soon, because I was starting to feel the panic really grip me, and it would only be so long where I could hide it from other people. And the only thing worse for me than no cakes or cupcakes was passing out in the grocery store because there were no cakes or cupcakes. Sure they wouldn’t know but I would. And I couldn’t live with that. I had passed out or collapsed or freaked out because there was no vanilla cakes or cupcakes? No thank you. That really would be a new low for me. And frankly I was already low enough.

In the end I numbly walked from the store to the nearest bus stop and somehow made my way home, although I don’t remember any of it. I know I tried to think of what other baked good I could substitute in the meantime but nothing measured up to what the cake was going to give me. I actually felt disinterested in all my other go-to goods that I finally went home empty-handed.

I felt so lost and alone and disappointed. I felt like crying. I felt like I had lost my armour and my safety net. I felt like a friend had a stood me up. I tried to talk myself into taking it slower and trying to work through the pain of being exposed and vulnerable but it just left me more anxious.

It was then that I turned to my other outlet, and I self-harmed. It was the only thing I knew would work. It was the only way I felt I could cope. No cake? Then it’s time to self-harm. I couldn’t help it. It was a bad night. I wish I could have made it through somehow without resorting to self-destruction but I just couldn’t do it.

I feel ashamed and like a giant failure. I am learning skills that should help me with this and yet my mind blanked and all I could see was the cake and then the self-harm. I’m hoping that the next time, and there will be a next time, I will be able to draw on the skills, even if only for a moment, and try to get through it without hurting myself.

The Pain of Losing Everything

I am terrified. I know that life has no guarantees and I hate it. I’m going to say the thing that most people won’t. I don’t care that life just is what it is. I don’t care that life just doesn’t work that way. I don’t care that life isn’t fair. I don’t care that life treats everyone like crap. I want guarantees. I want life to work the way I want it to work. I want life to be fair. I want life to treat me kindly. I want life to care what happens to me and makes sure that I don’t get hurt. I don’t care that that is a utopian goal that will never happen. I still want it.

I’m not asking for fame, or glory, or money, although the last one would be a huge help to making things better but in all honesty it’s really not mandatory.

I just want to be able to know that someone I talk to in this hour is going to still be in conversation with me until it naturally ends. I want to know that when someone says I’ll be right back that they come right back. I want to know when someone says they’ll call me that they call me. I don’t want to wait weeks, or months, or years, for someone to catch up. I want to know that someone who says they will be there will be there. I want to know when someone says talk to me anytime that they are there when anytime arises. I want to know that when someone cares they actually care. I want to know when someone says they like me and they enjoy spending time with me that they show me they like me by spending time with me. I want to know that I am remembered despite not being right in front of a person. I want to know that everything will be okay, and that it actually is okay.

I hate that life throws curveballs at me. I hate that life in one year is nowhere near the same in the next year. I hate that the start of the year, January 1st will have a completely different outlook 364 days later on December 31st. I hate that things change. I hate that people leave. I hate that people lie. I hate that people betray. I hate that people are mean. I hate that people who say they will be there are not there. I hate the pain that comes with the loss of something or someone important. I don’t want to grieve my losses, I want them here, all of them. I hate that dreams never come true. I hate that life always wins.

I don’t want 24 hours to change my world and turn it upside down. I hate that life doesn’t care who it hurts and what it takes away. I hate that people let me down and disappoint me. I hate that I am not memorable enough to be everyone’s favourite. Or at least favourite to a few people.

I hate what life takes from me. I hate that people I thought would always be here are not here anymore. Mostly I hate the pain of losing what matters to me. Regardless if it’s a person, a treasure, a moment, an opportunity, or a dream. At some point everything leaves or dies. And all that is left behind is the loss and the pain. The sharp pain that jabs my heart whenever I think of them. The sharp pain that pierces me so deep I wonder if this time it may break me. The pain that leaves me breathless. The pain of losing everything.

I just want to know that it will be okay. I just want to know that I will be okay.

The Demon’s Retreat

Nighttime is the hardest for me. Particularly when I am having a hard time falling asleep. My mind seems to go a million miles a minute and no matter how hard I try I can’t get it to quiet down enough to fall asleep. It doesn’t matter how long it takes me to fall asleep, whether I go to bed an hour before falling asleep, or four hours before I fall asleep, the thoughts bombard me regardless.

It feels a lot like an assault of the mind. The thoughts and emotions are mean, nasty, and hurtful as they overwhelm my mind and leave me just staring at the ceiling of my room, praying that I am given a reprieve in which I can finally fall asleep. I think of each of the thoughts and emotions as demons because that’s how they look and act to me. They are evil and relentless in their pursuit to torture me. They will stop at nothing to have me believing every bad and negative thing they tell me.

As I lay there I think of everything I should do, of everything I shouldn’t do, of everything I have done, and did wrong, of everything I haven’t done, of everything I want to do and don’t, of everything I have said or done and failed at. The demons come at me with a ferocity that leaves me hurt and crying. They tell me that I am unworthy and unlovable. That I am stupid and incapable. That I am helpless and useless. And that I am hopeless and a total failure. They tell me that no one likes me, and no one will ever like me. They tell me that I will always be alone. They tell me that I will never accomplish anything, and I may as well give up trying. They tell me that I deserve to be unhappy because that’s all I’m worthy of. They will run through my mind with flashy words and images that prove how unlovable and unworthy I am.

They show me all the negative things I have done and said and thought, all the mistakes I’ve made, all the times I didn’t do something for someone else, all the times I said no when I could have said yes, all the times I could have been there and I wasn’t, all the times I lied and did what I wanted, all the times I manipulated people to get what I want, all the people that I’ve hurt, and all the damage that I have caused. They show me each and every time I fell short as a friend, as a daughter, as a sister, as a wife, and as a person, and how it should be plainly obvious that I deserve nothing but heartache.

In the darkness, alone with my demons, they tell me that I will never realize my dreams because dreams are reserved for the good people, and I am terrible so I am not eligible. And no matter how much it hurts, and how much I see the lies of the demons in the light of day, I can’t help that at night I believe every word they say.

As nighttime turns to daylight the demons retreat to the back of my mind until they can emerge again and torture me until my chest aches and the tears fall. I think that the demons hide during daytime because the light takes away all their shadows and shows all their lies. In daylight I can believe that I am worthy, and I am not a total failure. It usually takes someone telling me that but I am much closer to believing it than I do at night.

I love and hate what the night can bring. I love that I can hide in the shadows I create and I can cocoon myself into a space where no one can reach me and hurt me but it’s a double-edged sword because the demons always know how to find their way in. They can squeak through the tiniest cracks and then the small space I thought I could feel safe in is now filled with my scariest demons. It leaves no room for anything else, and I just have to wait for daylight and the demon’s retreat.

The Darkness

Late at night, when I am all alone, my world shrinks to what is inside me. It’s a darkness that creeps up and takes me down. I can stall it with distraction but I can only hold it back for so long. And when it’s released it is relentless in its efforts. Every bad thought, every painful emotion, every harsh realization is suddenly stronger and starts to take on a life of its own. And as it grows stronger I get weaker. And I believe everything I hear in my head. 

All the bad things about me, all the bad things I think, and all the bad things I do, they are all true. In the darkness the bad things are even worse. And it breaks my heart. 

I am nothing. And that breaks my heart too. 

Everyday People

When I have to go outside it takes me some time and effort to make my way out. Some days are easy, where I don’t have to prepare myself. I don’t have to work up to anything. I can pretty much just go. And some days are hard, where I need a lot of time to work through the anxiety. When I need to somehow ease the anxious feeling in my stomach and chest. I need to ease my urge to hide and avoid, and often either slow down or soothe a panic attack. Those are the days I may not make it out but I still try because sometimes the tips work.

When I am outside the anxious feeling doesn’t really go away. It stays in varying degrees of intensity from when I leave my home and it doesn’t ease until I’m back home, and even then it doesn’t totally disappear. The time that I am out I am hyper-aware of my surroundings and how long things are taking. I am aware of the people around me and I am aware of the length of time I will be in any given place because I am almost counting the minutes until I can finally go home again.

I have to be very careful about this state though because if it gets pushed too far, and the anxiety overwhelms me, it can push me into a numb, dissociative state. Where I am on automatic pilot and I am sort of aware of my surroundings but it’s a blur and most of the time I can’t recall where I was or how I got there.

When I’m on the bus I watch the people around me. In part I do it to be aware of who is where, what they are doing, and are they posing any threat to me in any way? But sometimes I find myself almost mesmerized by them. I’m mesmerized by their mundane ways of sitting or standing on the bus. I watch them play on their phones, or read a book, or talk to someone they are travelling with, or just staring out the window, and I find myself feeling envious of them.

These people, just normal people, they get on the bus and choose their place to sit or stand and they settle in for their ride. Without a second thought they are just taking the bus and doing whatever they need to do to pass the time on the ride. And they look normal. They look calm. They look bored. They look complacent. And I envy that.

I envy that these people can just walk onto a bus without sizing up the world they’re entering. I envy that they sit down or stand like they own the place and they aren’t thinking of anyone or anything around them let alone if they’re wondering if something is a threat. They aren’t surveying the scene from moment-to-moment. They don’t look like they’re counting anything at all. They look and act so normal. And then I briefly think of how many thoughts I have had in the short time I’ve been on this bus and how many worries and fears I’ve had and I feel jealous that they sit there like normal, everyday people.

I’ve wondered if anyone has looked at me and thought of me as weird, or thought of me as unworthy to take up space on the bus, or any other kind of thought. I’ve wondered if they are judging me or making assumptions about me. Are they thinking I don’t belong here? Are they thinking I shouldn’t be here? Are they thinking I’m a fraud? Are they thinking I look like a bitch? Are they thinking that they hate me?

It makes me feel like a freak. It makes me feel like I’m a nutcase. And it makes me feel alone.

These people go about their day, seemingly without a care, and they work, and live, and function. They go out. They do things. They talk to people. They interact. And I think of my own day that has been filled with anxiety, panic attacks, fear, worry, and shame, and all that races through my mind from the moment I step outside my door to when I step back inside my door and I can’t help but wonder, “how do they do it?”

How do these people leave their homes so easily? How do these people just walk to their bus stops and subway stations like it’s nothing? How do they get on the transit and they’re only concern is if a seat is available and making sure they catch their stop? How do they manage to just take the bus? How do they manage to be around other people as if it’s nothing? How do they sit there and wait for their stop like it’s no big deal? How do they not worry, and wonder if this will be okay? How do they not worry what others are thinking? How do they not care? How do they not feel anxious if they will be okay? How do they not work to hold themselves up enough so that they don’t pass out? How are they able to sit there so complacent and not have a panic attack? How?

My excursions are plagued by any number of worries, thoughts, anxieties, and emotions, and sometimes it’s bad enough that I can’t even leave the house. But these everyday people, they seem to have none of that. They live and function normally. But how? How are they able to function without a thought? How do they function without anxiety? How do they get up and go about their day without worrying about everything?

I wish I could be an everyday person. I wish I could just go about my day and that’s it.

Nailing Jello to the Wall

When I wake up in the morning, for a brief moment I am in a state of neutrality, where I don’t remember my dreams, I don’t remember the nagging thoughts of the previous evening, and I am not yet aware of the new nagging thoughts of the new day. It’s literally only a moment, and then the weight of the day sets in and any reprieve I did have is gone. I’ve tried to stay in that blissfully unaware and neutral place but I am never able to hold on to it, and just when I think I can sustain it, it vanishes as if it were never there in the first place. It’s like trying to nail jell-o to the wall.

Once the day starts, or rather, my day starts, I’m not even out of bed before I feel the enormity of what’s before me. And it doesn’t have to be a day filled with plans and errands and appointments, it could be just getting up to go to the bathroom, or to get a drink, or to take my meds, or to eat breakfast. And it feels like, as I even sit up in bed, that I have the weight of the world on my shoulders. It takes everything in me to just sit up. I feel as though I am weighted down by lead. But I know I need to get up because I need to use the bathroom, or I need to take my medications, it’s just that my body is not cooperating. It’s too heavy from the world and all the lead.

It’s not technically a physical issue because I am able to sit up and get up and walk to wherever but somehow it feels like I have lead feet and lead legs, and my body is weighed down by bags hanging over my shoulders filled with lead. It’s a torturous feeling, and I look down at my feet and my legs and wonder how I will find the strength to stand and move. Somehow, after a time, I do manage to stand; part of it is the biological urge to go to the bathroom and part of it is finding whatever I need to inside to finally move me, whatever that is.

When I am finally standing though I feel dizzy and unsteady. Like my body is somehow tainted and struggling with some unknown entity that keeps me from feeling normal. I try to move but I feel too heavy and confused. I feel as though I am trying to move through tar with my lead body while carrying bags filled with lead. It’s a scary feeling to be able to feel every inch of your body at ten times it’s current weight, and not have the strength to move it. Each step feels like it takes forever, and if I am lucky, by the time I do finally make it to the bathroom and start my morning routine I will start to feel lighter. Like piece by piece the lead is coming off me. But there are days where it doesn’t.

There are days where I feel like the lead is with me every step of the way. I’d like to say it’s the just waking up fog and lethargy but when the heavy feeling is still there one, and two, and three hours later, sometimes even longer, I know it’s not from just trying to wake up. I don’t know what causes it, and I couldn’t tell you if there’s any rhyme or reason to it because it feels like it hits me out of nowhere for no apparent reason. Sometimes it’s every day, and sometimes several weeks will go by and I won’t feel it.

All I know is that it’s a dreaded, torturous, heavy feeling. To get around my home is like moving through molasses and if I have to go outside I find myself having to calculate every step I take. I move slowly and with a purpose otherwise I might not move at all. The little things like the curb or an uneven sidewalk, is enough to throw me into a panic because I’m not sure if I can make it. And that just stuns me when I think of that. Do I have enough strength in me to step up (or down) the curb of a sidewalk? Imagine that. Do I have enough strength in me to lift my foot just a few inches from the ground? Do I have enough strength in me to make sure my first foot reaches the curb? Do I have enough strength for my other foot to follow? Do I have enough strength in me for my whole body to make it that far? Will my body hold? Will my body give out? And if there are actual steps or a staircase I am daunted by the task before me as if I’ve just been asked to scale Mount Everest.

When I am walking I will literally eye each step of the sidewalk or pathway before me and wonder if I could just stop and lay down here, right where I am, no matter where it is. I don’t care if it’s a snow bank, or if it’s raining, or even if it’s icy, I just feel like anywhere along my path I could lay down because I just might collapse at any second. It’s an odd feeling to know the stretch of a walkway and the greenery attached to it, not because of its landscaping, but because I have recently scrutinized its capability to act as my ready made resting place.

In the fall, all the piles of leaves that could easily be re-purposed as pillows or blankets for when I may fall under the weight of my world. In the winter, the snow that looks like it could cushion my fall and cocoon me. In the spring, the mud that could shape itself around me. And in the summer, the grass that could act as my fresh-smelling bed.

It’s a paralyzingly feeling, and there are days where I can honestly say that I have no idea how I found the strength to even get out of bed or how I managed to make it home because there were several times I was sure I wouldn’t. I was sure I would collapse on the sidewalk and curl up on the lawn. I was sure that that curb would become my pillow, and those leaves would become my blanket. I was sure that this snow bank would become my own little igloo. I was sure the weight of my world would crush me and bury me right where I was standing.

However it happens I wish that it didn’t. Because it’s exhausting. It’s exhausting to see the hallway to your bathroom as a corridor that stretches for miles and miles. It’s exhausting to get dressed when it feels like bags of lead are tied to your arms and legs. It’s exhausting to see the 5 minute walk to the bus stop as a year long trek to the other side of the world. When the day before you feels like just the slightest nudge too far and it will crush you, it’s exhausting.

I try, every time, to “walk it off”, hoping that it is only a temporary feeling, but it sticks around more than it doesn’t. So I am forced to do what I can to make it through the day with a lead body. It’s gotten bad enough a few times that I’ve just cancelled whatever plans I did have, and stayed home in bed, periodically testing my body to see if it’s still carrying the weight of the world.

I hope one day not to be found on the side of the road or under a pile of snow because I just couldn’t go any further. I hope that I will always somehow find a way to make it home. I have briefly wondered on a few occasions if it would be a bad idea to crawl home, or roll myself home, but I’m pretty sure that would cause a lot of unwanted attention, and most likely intervention by the proper authorities so I’m holding out that I will make it home as vertical as possible.

I also hope to one day find a way to nail the jello to the wall and stay in my oblivious state where things are good, and nothing can hurt me, and I don’t carry the weight of everything inside me. Because it is a heavy load, and I really don’t need any extra weight, thanks.

 

If Only It Were Physical

Because what I struggle with can’t be seen doesn’t mean I am not having a hard time. Every day I wake up and I have to work to get to a level where I can function. There is so much that I hide because it feels easier than trying to explain the chaos that’s going on inside me. It takes every fibre of my being to cope at a minimal level, and when I have to hide it the effort is doubled.

I use a number of ways to cope, most of which are destructive and unfortunately hurt more than they help in the long run but in the moment they help. They take the pain, confusion and sadness away. They allow me to actually get out of bed and even though I may only get to the minimum level of functioning at least I am still functioning.

The days where I don’t reach the minimum level are torturous and lead me to even more destructive ways to cope. If I am lucky they can numb me out enough to try and get back to the minimum but it doesn’t always work out that way.

I hate all that comes with the struggle and who I am because it feels like I am broken. And I feel like I am totally alone and unworthy.

The struggle with the disorder is only the beginning. What follows are multiple concurring disorders that leave me feeling paralyzed, debilitating thoughts, overwhelming emotions, and finally the destructive coping mechanisms that allow me to basically function but also have the added bonus of screwing me even further.

Just because it can’t be seen in the way I walk or heard in the way I talk doesn’t mean there isn’t something wrong. I know it can look like all is well because a lot of the time I can hide it so in some ways I understand why someone might think everything is good. But when the chaos becomes too much and I am not able to hide it anymore, or not as well as before, doesn’t mean the struggle isn’t real.

I can’t explain why I feel the way I do or why I think the way I do unless I explain my disorder, all the concurring issues, and my whole history, and that would just take way too long, and even then it may come out wrong.

Struggling with a disorder can be all-consuming. It can take every bit of energy I have and it can leave me drained in every way possible.

I can’t help but feel like if it were physical it might be easier. People wouldn’t question what I’m struggling with, or even if I’m struggling. There wouldn’t be any hesitancy in giving me care or compassion or patience or help. It would be understood that I need to heal and that I need help. It would be easier to ask for help too because I could just point to what was broken or bleeding and people would just know and help. If it were physical it would be understood why I need time and why I can’t function. It would be out in the open as to why I’m needing care and there would be no criticism, no judgement, no assumptions and no misunderstanding. She’s hurt she needs help.

I know that it seems backwards to think this but I can’t dump out my brain and I can’t open my body and show you what’s consuming me and where I hurt. Because where and how I hurt can’t be seen in cuts or bruises. When I feel broken I can’t take an x-ray and prove it to you. When I feel the pain coursing through me I can’t have my blood drawn and show it to you. When I feel empty I can’t go for an MRI and show you that there’s nothing inside. Believe me I wish I could. I wish I could show you where it hurts and that bandages would help. I wish I could empty my head. I have hoped for that on many occasions. Although probably for different reasons.

Mental health issues are serious and should always be treated as such. They are complex and often debilitating issues that require just as much care and compassion as any physical difficulty would. I’m not trying to compare physical issues to mental health issues because they can’t be compared. They each have their own struggles, difficulties, and methods of treatments. What I am saying is that just because mental health issues can’t be seen the way a number of physical issues might doesn’t mean it needs any less care.

As anyone who has struggled with mental health issues probably has experienced themselves at some point, the disapproving, disbelieving looks, and the discouraging words from family, friends, and even health care professionals; that it’s all “in their head”, or that they should just “suck it up”, and that everyone has problems, what makes them so special? This is just a tiny sample of the comments that have been made to me, and I’ve also had much worse. My fellow strugglers I’m sure can add their own to mine.

The common thread for all of us is that we were either disregarded or disbelieved, or both, and often left alone, and sent on our way with no help. This is an all too common occurrence for many who suffer from serious disorders and mental health issues. What we struggle with is hard enough without having people disbelieve us, or disregard us. As more and more people speak out the stigma is starting to be challenged, and more and more people are realizing that anyone struggling with mental health issues needs care and compassion, but we still have a long way to go, and with every voice that speaks up and out we get closer and closer.

Maybe one day there will be a test that can show you what’s really going on inside of me, but until then you’ll just have to take my word for it.