| Anonymous |
There’s a pair of green socks that hides at the back of the top left drawer of my dresser. A dark olive, baby food vomit kind of green. They’re neatly folded and still untouched in plastic that crinkles violently against the mismatched pairs around them.
For a while, I kept those socks as some kind of token, a memento from a trip to rock bottom. After a while, though, that stopped making sense as rock bottom got progressively further down and I stopped collecting souvenirs from every trip into its depths.
At the time I thought that admitting myself to the emergency room for a psychiatric evaluation was going to be the first step in a better direction. Or at least that’s how the pimple-faced sounding young man on the crisis hotline made me feel. And twenty minutes later, when the police officer came to the room and snapped an electronic tracking band too tightly around my wrist, I started sobbing in embarrassment but reassured myself with the thought that surely I could not sink any lower.
I was wrong, of course. In the following months I ran into roadblocks and disasters that were both of my own making and completely out of my control. I smashed up belongings and took a blowtorch to some of my closest relationships. I fucked up work assignments and dropped out of social commitments and generally went from trying to do everything to just trying to take a shower before work every day. I peered into the bureaucratic depths of our healthcare system and got my own taste of just what people mean when they lament the state of mental health services in this country.
I know I’m wading through the mud that is my own mental health in the best of circumstances. I have health insurance. I’ve still been able to get myself out of bed in the mornings to straggle into work, even if it’s been almost an hour late some mornings. My boss has only caught me crying uncontrollably twice, and backed away looking simultaneously horrified and bewildered instead of prying. I’m still paying my bills, and feeding myself, and appearing to smile in the multitude of photos my best friend uploads to Facebook.
Maybe that’s why the few friends I’ve told about my situation are understanding, but keep feeding me infuriatingly simplistic advice from The Alchemist and Deepak Chopra and Oprah about letting The Universe take its course. About how hard times just make you stronger! Maybe that’s why my mother was shocked that I crumpled when my health insurance was inexplicably cancelled in the middle of all this. She kept saying she didn’t understand why I was so upset, after all nothing really horrible had happened to me, “I hadn’t been mugged, or raped.” She repeated that twice; I’m not sure whether to reassure herself that these things had not happened, or to remind me that the things going on in my head weren’t really as bad in comparison.
Now when they tell me those things, I just nod and tell them they’re right. I’m done trying to make people see that I’m not okay. I’ve left bruises and scars on my body and bloodstains on the carpet and holes in the wall trying to tell somebody that I’m not okay. Most of the time they don’t acknowledge it. The one time they had to, my mother said matter-of-factly, “Please don’t do that anymore” and we never spoke of it again.
I don’t know how to explain to them that some days, I just want to be dead. That for months I cried nonstop and felt a suffocating tightness in my chest that wouldn’t let up. And then suddenly one day it was gone, but in its place I felt absolutely nothing. I don’t know how to show them that in spite of the fact that I still get up in the morning and show up to my commitments, I don’t feel like I have any control over my mind or my body. That I run at night, alone, because I’m more afraid of staying inside with myself than of any danger I might meet alone in the dark.
I don’t know why I keep those hospital socks in their little plastic wrapper. I do know now that they’re a marker of neither the beginning nor the end, nor the beginning of the end of this. They just sit there, like me, waiting for something decisive to happen to make sense of all this.