I Feel Like Shit, Too
Three years ago, my ex committed suicide. Today, people still ask me how I feel about it. It’s (incredibly) sweet, but I don’t have a complete answer. And the answer is assuredly not: “fine.”
Last week I felt depressed. Not sad, or bummed, or notably upset about one thing or another — but “has no interest in getting out of bed this morning” depressed — which, for someone as lucky and busy as I am, is pretty scary.
Does not feel like this.
I didn’t know what to do with it, and I didn’t even realize how long I’d felt off until my current partner pointed it out. When he did, I figured we should probably break up, because this is only something I’ve learned how to handle alone. I didn’t want to explain, and I didn’t want to drag us down.
For context, I might be one of those people with a minor chemical imbalance—I’ve never been tested, but feelings of anxiety and depression are not unfamiliar to me. Nor is the occasional panic attack. It’s not ideal, but it is pretty common these days, and not just among those with “riskier” careers. We’re all juggling a lot, and we don’t take much time to ourselves, with goats, etc.
Last year around this time, in response to the same “so.. how are you feeling?” I wrote to some friends:
“I feel angry. I feel sad. I feel conflicted and constricted and sometimes just totally immobile. I feel like people should stop telling me to feel guilty because they’re my feelings and I’ll feel what I want.”
I suppose I have a flair for the dramatic.
But I remember truly feeling all of those things. One particularly stuck morning, I sat down on my kitchen floor to cry. (I guess I also felt like the couch couldn’t serve its purpose that day.) I didn’t get up for two hours. And I don’t think I cried for two hours…I think I just sat there.
Once I become more committed to a personal yoga practice, dug into meditative breathing, and quit trying to numb myself with TV and booze, I was able to manage my moods a bit better. More importantly, importantly, I was able to sleep. Which was pretty important, since a lot has happened in the past 12 months, and sleep deprivation is a major cause of the major blues.
But, don’t get me wrong, it was fucking hard. Because the path to “recovery,” “health” and “healing” isn’t linear, tangible or complete. The words themselves feel trite and overwhelming, because I still have my moments. I still feel like I should have known what to do.
Like I shouldn’t have given up trying just because I was exhausted. Like I should have left more unanswered messages. Like I should have physically forced him to get help.
I know it’s not anybody’s job to save anyone else, but that’s just how I feel. It seems ridiculous that I couldn’t have stopped someone I loved from crumbling before my eyes.
People call this “Survivor’s Guilt,” which is a term I loathe, in spite of my affinity for Destiny Child’s “Survivor” — something I am not sorry about. Of course “survivors” feel guilty. Sure, we did what we could with what we had available at the time. We can logically arrive to that conclusion, in time.
But trauma doesn’t reside in our cognitive brains. It’s reptilian, subconscious and often has to be dealt with on a somatic (physical) level. No matter how productive or practical we become, trauma lives in our bodies. Regardless of how truly lucky we may be, life feels, in our bones, really hard sometimes.
And to make it worse: we pretend like it doesn’t. We do this for our resumes or significant others or for people we think won’t understand, but maybe here’s the silver lining: they do. Or they’ll try to.
People surprise you.
And in acknowledging that things are not always fine, we can better appreciate that pain — like everything else — is temporary. That there is no light without dark, that things can and will and always do improve. I forget this sometimes: the nature of duality. Because things feel bad they will also feel good. Simple as that.
There are tools out there to help us navigate the lows. Secrets forums, healing arts, 5htp (seriously — try it), and the more obvious support groups and hotlines. I’ve been very lucky to have accessed resources that made me want to feel more than “like dog shit TBH.” Yoga, acupuncture, manual and talk therapy — not to mention running, music, writing and others.
Not everyone is this fortunate, and most of us have experienced “trauma” in some fashion — at the very least chronic stress. So I’m glad the stigma around words like “help” and “healing,” “therapy” and “mental illness” seems to be shifting. I’m glad people are becoming more aware of how important it is to take care of themselves, and are experimenting with what that means on an individual basis.
Because we can’t take a hard pass on pain.
We hope one day to release it, but more often, I think we learn how to manage it, and let it guide us in the right direction. We can find strength in suffering, that teaches us to stand up when, previously, we may have sat down. We can reflect on what went wrong and try to make it right, for next time.
Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t make his mind “right.” Certainly can’t now. So instead of continuing to overanalyze a brain I can’t access, I’ve poured my pain into a lot over the past few years: engaging work, interesting people, fostering animals and some other things. I look around me at the people that have stood by, behind and sometimes in front of me, and I love them back. I try to support them and lift them up. I literally write down what I’m grateful for. I take risks, with fewer concerns around embarrassing myself, because I’ve suffered worse.
And I remind myself of something one of my teachers said: that guilt is seductive. It’s easy. After awhile, it’s comfortable.
But no matter the guilt, if you’re a “survivor,” you know you can’t give up. You’re too familiar with the pain on the other side of it.
So let me say, if you are not — if you do not have experience losing someone to suicide — talk to someone who is.
Talk to me.
I’m prettyyy (maybe too) comfortable with getting personal in a public setting, and I promise you, your story is worth it, even if it feels like nobody is listening.
If you’re in the dumps — do not forget, we out here. We get it. And even if we don’t, we’re here for you.
There is a New Normal on the horizon, no matter how lost you feel right now. There are people right here that will help you mellow your stress, anxiety, depression, sense of hopelessness — that will help you name it. Transform it. Use it.
And I promise, there is an upside. “Crazy” incites innovation. Weird breeds greatness.
So today, mostly, I feel like I owe the greater internet (and the small number of people who will read this thing through) an apology, because I’ve been all too quiet about my demons and how I’ve learned, for the most part, to use them to my advantage.
I also feel like I’m about to get a phone call from my mother, but rest assured Ma, we’re all going to be fine.