I know it’s important we talk when we’re hurting, but I’m starting to think that, for me, anyway, it might be just as important to talk about the times like now when I’m doing okay.
Why? Let’s call it a message for my future self, in case I’m not always this lucky.
Hi Future Me! It’s Past You, I thought you might like to know that as of November 30th 2019, you haven’t obsessively thought about killing yourself for a month. Hope you’re doing good. S x
See, one of the things mental illness does is mess with my sense of time. It makes the clock hands spin simultaneously too fast and too slow, dragging out moments of despair to infinite-seeming duration, while also making me super aware that my life is racing away at breakneck speed that there’s so much to do, and no time at all to do it and every second I crouch there in a foetal position with a bellyful of panic-scoffed cake makes it worse and worse and ….. you get the point.
In those moments, it feels like I was always that afraid, which makes it easy to believe that I will always be that afraid. Memories of times when I wasn’t are compressed to vanishing point.
Honestly, this is what makes suicidal ideation feel so dangerous. People say ‘it’s a permanent solution to a temporary problem’ and that’s absolutely true, but the problem doesn’t feel temporary when you’re in it. Leaving myself notes like this one as evidence that it is temporary, well, that feels only prudent.
One of the other things my malfunctioning mental widgets make me do is disdain my own accomplishments. I move the bar every time I succeed at something, so that success is barely adequate:
Oh you wrote? write faster. Oh you ran? run another mile, and so on.
Recently, I realised the same misfiring circuit was making me dismiss my current spate of good health. Not that I think I can take credit for my mental state, exactly; I’ve taken some steps that contributed to it, therapy and meds etc, but it’s probably got at least as much to do with life changes, and the unpredictable tides of brain chemistry, but it’s simply the case that I have at times in the past been in a pretty bad way, and at the moment I’m not, and that’s worth celebrating.
If nothing else, mental circuits, like muscles, strengthen via repetition, and I figure any practice I can get in battling the inclination to discount to zero good stuff in my life, has to be worthwhile. Being kind to yourself isn’t an indulgence, it’s a survival strategy.
Odds are, this stint in the sunny uplands of mental health won’t last forever. It never has before, and I know, Future Me, that your initial instinct when you read this back will be to clutch it to your chest and weep tears for how far you’ve fallen, but listen to me closely, Fuck. That. That’s precisely the wrong lesson to learn from this. The swampy pit you’re currently in is no more inescapable that my present hilltop. Nor, in all likelihood, will be the pit or hilltop after that. Maybe at some point, you’ll get to settle down on a nice hillside somewhere, but in the meantime, enjoy the sun when you’re in it, and for god’s sake Stacey, try to learn to anticipate it when you’re not.