Today, I told my supervisor “I do not feel well”, and for all intents & purposes, that was not a lie. Sure, my nose isn’t runny (at least not from a cold), no cough, no vomit, no high temperature …but, I just don’t feel …well. Which makes me quite the anomaly since I went to a wedding yesterday and was joking, laughing, dancing, and seemingly the life of the party. How one can go from that to crying their eyes out until 4am is beyond me.
But that’s mental illness for you. It isn’t a respecter of person. You could be a fireball of a personality, and this disease will still find a way to dim your light. It’s paralyzing. It’s painful. And every so often it induces that “I don’t want to be here” feeling in me. It’s when the smallest thing can trigger immense despair. It’s when you are awake countless hours…days and days at a time… because insomnia seems to be a first cousin of anxiety and depression, and it feels left out when not invited to the party. It’s when it’s takes an immense amount effort just to get out of the bed and function or to do normal day to day activities. It’s when everything seems cloudy, and you can’t see past all of the smoke. It’s when you feel like you are drowning. Then you begin counting failures, and mistakes, and traumas, and all of those things seem to outweigh the laughter. You think of how alone you feel. And the next thing you know, depression has you right where it wants you. It has you contemplating if you, the world, and everyone in it would just be better off if you weren’t here. I don’t get that feeling very often, but when I do, it’s heavy. Typically, what keeps me around most days is the thought of potentially breaking my mother’s heart …again. And actually succeeding this time.
But that’s typically when the rationalizing and negotiating begins. You say “OK, they might be sad at first. But their lives will go on.” You start telling yourself that you’re doing them a favor. They won’t have to have complicated conversations with you explaining why you can’t figure out what makes you happy anymore. You won’t have to tell them about how you are learning to take yourself on dates & experience social settings alone and they say “I do that all the time. What’s the big deal?”. You don’t have to try to re-explain why anxiety makes some of the most minuscule things terrifying. And you don’t have to confuse them with your ability to be the most extroverted person they know, self-sufficient, and seemingly have a “good” life, yet still be depressed. You won’t have to make people uncomfortable. Family will move on, friends have plenty to keep them distracted, and men…well, none of them want you anyway…so you surely won’t be missed. No one NEEDS you.
And then came Kanye. Kanye Fancypants Morris to be exact. In May of 2012 I was on temporary leave from work after experiencing an emotional breakdown. I had a breakdown years before in college, but since then I had been managing with my mental illness, juggling multiple responsibilities, and had even moved up to management at my job. But unfortunately, somewhere in there, I had taken on quite a lot, and forgot about self care. To add on to matters, for the first time in my life I was living all alone. No mom, no roommates, just me, and space, and thoughts…way too many thoughts. And out of nowhere a note was on my door one day that included the words “we are now a pet friendly building”. Within minutes I was looking at photos of dogs at shelters. I went into my search wanting a puppy. Thought I needed something young, untainted and full of life (unlike myself). However, what I came home with a week later was a 7 year old dog that the Washington Humane Society had named “Kanye”. A miniature poodle who was grossly underweight, required expensive dental work, had a huge burn/scar on his nose, in need of a serious haircut, but one of the kindest, most gentlest dogs I had ever encountered. The puppies all had a waiting list & an adoption fee, but they were willing to give Kanye to me that day, on the spot, for free, AND throw in free food. He was extremely amicable, but older, unattractive, had health issues, and highly undesirable to most. I thought, “this dog NEEDS me”.
Maybe I was the one that got adopted that day. Slowly but surely, this dog made me live. Whether I wanted to or not, I had to get up every single morning, rain or shine, and walk him. He was already potty trained, understood commands, and sought to listen & please (unlike the puppy I had pined for), and brought energy into a still place. This living thing, gave me a reason to not retreat. And even when I want to, he comes and sits next to me, licks my hand and gives me that look that says “If you rub me, you’ll feel better. I promise”. This little guy, that I get frustrated with, and impatient with, and may sometimes even yell at, still is excited to see me and forgives/forgets every little flaw that I possess. This creature, that despite his past, despite being neglected, despite the scars, despite his “taintedness”, wants nothing, but to love & be loved. And it makes think “maybe we aren’t all the different”.
And even when I leave him all day, come home, ignore him, cry my eyes out all night, and stay home the next day feeling debilitated, I am reminded that I can’t wither away. If it was up to me, most days I’d lock myself inside, but because of Kanye, I must go. And when I don’t want to, he’s patient. He waits. He may even jump in the bed, get close, lay next to me, and in his own little silent way, remind me that there is life after abandonment, wounds do heal, and that even if you don’t feel well…you are alive, and someone/thing in this world needs you. So take your time - cry, hurt, purge, rest, heal …then get up.