By Mikayla Petchell
CONTENT WARNING: This piece discusses intravenous drug use, depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicidal ideation.
This morning I missed my 10:10 for the third time in a row.
My alarm went off at least 5 times. At one point I was dressed to walk out the door, although I hadn’t brushed my teeth or washed my face, but I couldn’t find my ID card so I fell back on my bed, crying. Caught in a ricochet of guilt for missing this class, for being so lazy that I couldn’t even get up in the morning, for not putting my ID card somewhere that I could find it, for not cleaning my filthy room, for staying up later than usual the night before.
Contrary to popular opinion, I didn’t spend the time that I should have been in class blissfully sleeping, although I have before. Nor did I skip class to do some leisure activity, although sometimes, when I feel much more well than I do today, I do skip class to do things for my soul. No, today, like most days that I can’t pull myself out of bed, I laid awake, staring at the walls, picking at my fingernails, dreading the emails I will have to send later today, begging forgiveness for the dark heavy, clouds that well up inside of me, that I very much wish weren’t there.
This afternoon I will have to draft an email begging this professor, whom I like very much, to believe that I’m a human being, to believe that I’m telling the truth, to believe that my struggle isn’t just in my head, although it is just in my head. I will have to believe myself to write this email, which is half the battle. Because, today as I laid in bed, I didn’t believe me.
Today, I thought about my father’s inability to get out of bed, and how my mother hates him for it. I thought about how she refers to his mental illness as “this depression bullshit”. I thought about how my brother doesn’t believe in mental illness, even though he jammed needles into his skin day and night for three years.
I thought about my depression bullshit. I thought about how nice it would feel to pull my flesh away from my bones. To crawl into a warm bed and sleep and sleep and sleep and sleep. To scrub my skin off of my cheeks and my jaw. To feel cool air roll through the top of my cranium. I consider whether or not the shock of a bullet will numb the pain for long enough that I can feel this new, cool sensation before everything goes hot and dark. Then I close my eyes and sleep.
The storm clouds have been rolling in for days, but every day I hope that this is the day they roll back out. The storm never comes, just the darkness, and the tense air, and the breathless open space, all life retreated to somewhere safer. And then eventually, it slips away, sometimes leaving a blue sky, sometimes leaving a mild overcast, sometimes hovering as a threat on the horizon. Every time they roll in, I’m unsure if they will ever roll out again, even though I’m supposed to tell myself otherwise. It feels like false hope anyway, because even if they go, they will only be lying in wait for the opportunity to smother me again.
Yesterday, I baked two pies, so I thought I was all better this time. But I didn’t do any schoolwork, although I’ve barely touched my books and notebooks for three weeks.
I didn’t clean my room, even though I’ve been tortured by the thought of ants and roaches for a week. I didn’t do my laundry even though I haven no more socks. This morning, in my desperate attempt to get to class, I wore shoes with no socks. Its thirty-nine degrees today. I also don’t have any washcloths. The clarity of my skin is one of my greatest points of pride, but it’s always in a state of repair from these times, when it hasn’t been washed in two days and the oil sits so thick on my cheeks that I can scrape it away with a fingernail.
Last night, I cried from rage and exhaustion. This time it was directed at the fact that I don’t have a romantic partner. At the fact that I may very well never be loved again. That I have no one to worry over the fact that my back is once again in impenetrable knots, or that I can’t seem to sleep at night without staring at the ceiling for 2 hours remembering the boy I once loved who now can’t love or be loved by anyone. At the fact that I am told daily that I am far too strong to cry over this sort of thing. At the fact that the bare bones of my life have too much weight for me to carry alone.
My friends sent affirmations. Affirmations about love. Affirmations about the heaviness inside of me that made me search for something to cry about in the first place. Affirmations about the fact that even though I feel so far underwater I won’t drown. But, some people drown. So many people drown. And I’ve never been so strong a swimmer as everyone wants me to be.
One of my favorite things to do is imagine the futures of the people that I love. I imagine one of my dearest friends in a cottage in the woods where she has a back porch filled with plants that are constantly dying and where she reads thick books and drinks black coffee while it rains, her husband cooking in the kitchen, music humming quietly. I imagine another driving along some sun-bleached coast, with a child in the passenger seat. I imagine another, very old, rickety old, drinking orange juice in her yellow tinted kitchen while a cat curls around her ankles and her wife snores too loudly in the next room. They come so easy, these visions of happiness.
I’ve tried to conjure so many for myself and I can make them, I can build anything that I want to if I try hard enough. But the world that comes to mind first, easiest, is of me only a few years from now laying on a bed, staring at the ceiling, begging sleep to come.
Author Info: Mikayla Petchell is part of Columbia College’s Class of 2018.