“What have I become, my sweetest friend?
Everyone I know goes away in the end…”
- ‘Hurt’ – Nine Inch Nails
“There’s a reason you don’t have more people in your life.”
This was said to me once– maybe recently, maybe in the far-too-distant past, or maybe somewhere in between– and there is a reason: me. No one else is responsible for my personal actions and choices, ergo I am solely to blame for any crippling loneliness I procure from my largely isolated existence. Maybe if I was a better person, or if I was more deserving of kindness, and inclusion, and– the thing I yearn most desperately for but can’t find, or accept I’m worthy of receiving regardless– love, then I wouldn’t always feel so horribly. If I wasn’t such a selfish jackanape– or in possession of the personality and cordiality of a leper– I’d be a bit more socially welcome, and a smidge more emotionally stable.
Look, we’re all guilty of a vast number of personal mistakes and blunders. But I, luckily, possess that wonderfully helpful tendency to obsess on every mistake– both real and imagined– until I’m more frozen than Arendelle, ignoring the outside world from my couch. I’ve second guessed so many of my life decisions, both large and small– ‘don’t sweat the small stuff’ was coined for basket cases like myself– that the idea I only question those choices twice feels quaint. The films of personal despair that I replay in my mind don’t usually expire with time, and they aren’t simply ousted by a net positive of happy memories and thoughts, either.
I don’t even need to do anything to second guess myself; just consider a thought, or something I’ll say out loud, or a potential course of action, and presto! The negative mental bombardment will pummel me into submission until I either do nothing, act sheepishly and/or boorishly, or mutter a slurring of words that make clear I’m no better than a spatchcocked turkey. It is uncanny how cruel that inner critic inside me can be, and how swiftly that depression demon can single-white-female the real me from existence, leaving only– as a coworker coined it– ‘Mad Mr. Mumbles’ in its wake.
Suffice to say, I know I’m not perfect, and as I highlighted in an essay last week, no one is. Recognizing this reality is a crucial element for personal growth, but recognition alone hasn’t been close to enough. If you aren’t able to find a balance in your self-reflection, and you aren’t able to live, learn and let go, how can you possibly expect to function happily– let alone thrive– as time’s arrow marches forward?
The fact that I haven’t written any new depression essays since January– or anything at all, for that matter, until the tragic death of my uncle last month from COVID-19– makes me a failure, plain and simple. After all, I’m either successful in my efforts as a writer, in honing my craft while improving my mental disposition, or I’m a complete failure; there’s no in between, right? It’s not like life’s most pressing concerns have any depth or complexity, so there’s no doubt that my success and happiness in life– in any capacity, from the micro to macro– comes down to a simple either/or scenario.
Even I must admit: that is some truly flawed thinking, and it creates an endless bevy of potential failures and self-fulfilling prophecies for one to encounter. Really, with such a viciously rampant cycle of hopeless pessimism running through your head, how can you believe you’re capable of any success, or feel confident you’re worthy of anything good in life? You can’t, and– as the past two years have demonstrated for me– simply acknowledging you require some sort of mental tinkering and rewiring isn’t enough to fix those problems.
I wrote about going back on psychiatric medication in January, and while it was an immensely important step in my journey towards mental peace and personal acceptance, it was still just one step. Medication is not the end all, be all, and, unfortunately, there is no magic bullet available to stop me from being a gloomy Gus. Becoming the person I used to be– as well as the person I have always been destined to become– requires real work, and takes genuine effort beyond a simple recognition and a pharmacological band-aid.
There is a reason– or, more accurately, an abundance of reasons– why I don’t have more people in my life, just as there’s a reason why I find myself feeling so alone and abandoned as I rapidly approach the ripe old age of 34. Yet it’s just as true that I don’t have to feel this awful, or fall victim to that vicious inner critic– aka ‘Mad Mr. Mumbles’– which strips away my self confidence like a psychological paint thinner.
I’ve made it abundantly clear that I have not liked myself– or who I am or have been– for as long as I can remember; yet I’ve stubbornly refused to do much of anything about it beyond kick and scream. So for the first time in my life, since April, I have been actively working on increasing my inner tranquility, and my outward comfort, by ‘seeing’ a therapist (or, more accurately in this age of social distancing, speaking on the phone). It, like taking prescribed medication, is only one step in my psychological journey, but for the first time in a long time, I can see the progress in myself, and I can feel the incremental improvements.
The work has only begun, and will undoubtedly continue until my screen eternally fades to black. I realize engaging in psychiatric counseling is by no means revolutionary, but it’s something, and as Bob Wiley– and I— have preached in the past, self improvement is all about baby steps. Finally acknowledging the potential benefits therapy can have on me personally is just one step, but it’s a huge one nonetheless. I have stubbornly resisted any help for my mental illness, beyond medication, for far too long, and it’s gotten me nowhere. Finally admitting I’m unable to fix this alone isn’t cowardly, it’s commendable, and for once, I’m choosing to give myself the credit I deserve.
Better late than never, right?