Adolescent angst is annoying but also somehow cute. We’re all nostalgic for those days when life was filled with drama and every little thing was “the end of the world.” Then, adulthood comes along and life gets harder but we’re supposed to be happy all time time unless things are real shit… I mean, like cancer shit. Otherwise, as long as we have a stable job and can afford basic cost of living we shouldn’t be sad. There are so many reasons to NOT be sad. Yet, when we are sad, what should we do about it? Who should we tell? What should we do with the dark thoughts in our minds?
I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately because of my cousin’s suicide attempt. As I’ve written about a bit in the last few weeks, it brought me back to my own quasi attempt in high school taking six tylenol and then realizing it was a bad idea and stopping myself from taking more. I never really wanted to die. I just wanted to not be so alone in my sadness. I wanted to be allowed to be scared and confused and maybe I wanted attention but more than anything I wanted to feel not so alone.
As my aunt and uncle run around to figure out what to do with their now post-suicide-attempt daughter, contemplating sending her away to therapeutic boarding school, I remember how my own attempt did little more than create an awkward conversation with my father in the hospital the night of, only to go back to school the next day and act as if nothing happened. It wasn’t a big deal as I didn’t really make that much of an effort to end my life, but what was a big deal is that the feeling of inadequecy and hopelessness never actually went away. Do I still want to kill myself? Yes. Will I ever do it? No. I never wanted to die. But I still feel hopeless. I still feel lost. I still feel like a failure. I still want to disappear.
I can tell a therapist, sure. $150+ a week for “talk therapy” where I discuss my problems. I can go do yoga and meditate and develop coping skills to deal with these feelings. But the feelings won’ t go away. What I’ve realized is that I need to stop wanting to be more than who I am. I have this completely delusional view of myself as someone who should be able to be successful and put together and say the right things at the right time. In reality, I’m a person with severe mental illness and ADD and there are things I can’t do. I keep pushing myself to BE something I’m not, but I do that because I don’t have a clue who I am. And, are we really meant to “be” anything other than creatures that eat and sleep and try to keep our children safe? Are any of us born to be CEOs or doctors or lawyers or marketers?
I realize cognitive behavior therapy says that I should change my internal monologue. Instead of saying I can’t do things, I should tell myself I can. Or, I should tell myself I can learn and grow and be better. Growth mindset for the win. I just find every time I do believe I can improve I fail and I fail hard. I get too scared. My anxiety overwhelms me. And even when I do work it’s not good. I’m just not good at it. My boss doesn’t like the work I’ve done. I don’t like it either. Occasionally I’ll do a project that I’ll be proud of, but there’s always something wrong with it. I realize perfection is impossible but some people are better at making things really good and my stuff just doesn’t look professional or polished. When looking at hire and fire planning for the next quarter my head is the one that should roll. I can’t even argue with that.
Maybe there is another job out there that is a better fit for me, but after more than 10 years in the workforce all I’ve found is that I can’t maintain a job. I am not saying this is ok… everyone needs to work and I need to learn how to maintain a paid position. I am not so mentally ill that I need to go on welfare. I clearly can get hired and keep a job for a little while. Sometimes I last six months – that’s about how long it takes to get hired and removed as a “bad hire.” One year is how long I last when I manage to have a few early wins but just cannot maintain big wins consistently and my weaknesses shine through. I’m sad because I’m bad at work. Not my work. Work in general.
The funny thing is that I don’t like to not work either. I like working. I like being productive and contributing and striving for goals.
Ironically I’m writing this listening to a presentation on mindfulness at a conference. There’s a lot of studies about how mindfulness can help reduce stressors. But all of the mindfulness stuff helps just for the moment. It doesn’t make me a better worker. It doesn’t make me a better person. It doesn’t remove any of the sadness.
I don’t even know if I’m actually depressed. I am just sad. Sad because I can’t do this long term. I have to constantly be pretending to be someone I’m not and faking people out and then I get found out and I start over again. A lot of people who read my blog say it’s because I’m in a startup environment and maybe that exaserbates it but no matter what role I’m in I feel the same way. I know I do better in creative roles where I can come up with ideas over those which are routine and require repetitive tasks. But the I get drained from my creativity not being good enough and just mentally spent. I feel the years being taken from my life with every moment of stress, every second I do not take a full breath and my heart beat speeds up and I feel like I’m going to pass out.
But I can’t talk about this. My husband doesn’t want to hear it and I don’t blame him. He knows I’m sad and there is no use repeating it over and over again. It doesn’t help our relationship, it doesn’t help him and it doesn’t help me. So I’m learning how to hide my sadness better. I haven’t accomplished that yet, but what I’m trying to do is figure out how to really bottle it all up. I’ll write about it here, which is why I write about depression on here so often, but I won’t tell my friends or family about how I really feel. Ideally, in the perfect world, I’d be able to find a job that I can do good enough and maintain and not feel like I need to be special or great or unique or wonderful but instead be satisfied with being average and good enough. I will never actually be satisfied with that, but if I can find a role that I can just do – even if it makes less money – then it would be worth taking a pay cut. I just don’t see how any other role will make me happier. I’d be equally miserable with lower salary. And I can’t even get other types of jobs now. If there was anything else out there that would be a good fit – maybe I should have been a doctor or a filmmaker or an engineer – it’s just too late. It’s too late not because of my age but because of my mind and my inability to focus and my fear and my lack of ability to learn and grow.
I AM NOT complaining. I am just sharing how I feel and what I think and why I’m sad and why this all feels hopeless. I’m not allowed to go on antidepressants right now because I’m maybe trying to get pregnant, and I don’t really think a medication can help me solve the core problem of being ineffective as a human adult. I think the reality of that is worth being sad about. I should do something to fix that, but I don’t know what. I can do small things, sure, and even that’s a huge challenge. Small steps do add up to big ones but the challenge here is so big, the mountain so high, it seems insurmountable. That’s when the suicidal ideation gets strongest. I’m not going to kill myself please know that. I’m not writing this post to talk about actual suicide. I’m writing it to share what I think because I use this blog to be completely open and honest about my mental illness. So I’ll be driving home or sitting at my desk and I will think about jumping out a window or in front of a train. My logical mind then proceeds to have me waking up paralyzed in a wheel chair (hence why I’d never even try, among other reasons) but still… the thoughts are there and they are so real. It’s bad to think them because the more I think them the more real they come. They become obsessions. They become the only thing I can think about. They take over my thoughts and start to sound like good ideas even though I know they aren’t. I am lucky I have my husband who I think about and who is plenty reason to not ever end my life, should I ever become so obsessed with the thoughts that they suddenly seem like a better idea than they do now.
In the mean time, those thoughts instead are turned into stuffing my face with donuts or candy, or binge shopping at outlet stores or doing something else that isn’t healthy but isn’t deadly either. It’s not nearly as horrible but it’s all still a form of self harm and it’s a temporary release. So when I hear about my cousin’s depression and suicide attempt I wonder if any of this is what she feels, or if her story is completely different. I’d never tell her all of this – I think it would be very harmful. I told her that I’m still depressed sometimes but I didn’t go into the details. Maybe one day when she has gotten out of the darkest part of the depression and grown up a bit we can compare and contrast our delusions.
I am just so tired of being a failure and I am embarrassed by who I am. I can’t be this person when I have kids. I either need to change or learn how to fake being normal and healthy. It’s time to hide my sadness once and for all. It won’t go away, and I won’t get better, but no one (except maybe my blog readers) needs to know.