This month has felt like a whole year. Sometimes, in the moments in which my temporal lobe seizures feed me deluded sensations of deja vu and I review memories in a skewed and warped sense of reality, making connections that can be both helpful and haunting, I wonder if that’s why my bouts with my mental illness can seem to stretch into an age.
This particular depressive episode started July 11. Two weeks ago tomorrow. I’m not kidding when I say it feels like it has been months. Part of that is because of different things that have occured. A friend died by suicide. I narrowly avoided eviction. I had to have emergency dental work.
But it all boils down to the same thing. July 11 I spent the last hour of my shift crying for no reason. When I got to the spot where I normally cross the road, I stood for a moment and thought, you know, if I walked into traffic, it’s dark, no one would notice. No one would slow down. Perhaps it wouldn’t be the most peaceful way to go, but I would not have to fully make the choice.
I am here, writing this, so obviously I did not make that choice. Goliath was with me. That was part of what stopped me in that moment. He is the one constant companion I have and I could never physically harm him and no matter if I told him to stay beside the road, he would follow. We go everywhere together. Over the last agonizingly long two weeks, when things have gotten hard, he’s been the physical barrier between my irrational mind and the time to slow down and rationalize. I am lucky enough to have him with me every moment of the day.
And then when I stop to think, when the rational starts to take back over I remember my brother. My dad. My aunts and uncles and cousins and my grandmothers. I am not any stronger than those who give into the ideation, nor do I have anymore to live for. I simply am lucky enough to have goliath, a constant companion who gives me a long enough pause to force me to stop and think of those I love.
But that first night was enough for me to think back over the last number of weeks prior and look at some things. Before this last round of medication (the 3rd in as many months) stopped working, I had told myself I was getting much better. But the reality is this. I suffer from disordered eating. I have since college. It’s a co-occuring with my depression and anxiety and when it gets really bad, when my mental health declines, my BED gets full control. Time and time again I’ve seen the cycle start and stop and I’ve thought I’ve been the one putting the monster to rest and everytime it comes back. Worse than before.
At this point, I can’t ignore it. When I’m not binging, I’m not eating. I don’t purge it use laxatives but I feel like there’s a possibility of a massive yet after that statement. When my mental health spirals I seek control in some aspect. In something, anything and i self harm in this way. And then the shame, the self loathing. Everything every well meaning doctor and sidewalk doctor and “friend” has ever said to me comes out.
Even when I’m obsessively health, that’s the only other form. Those are the two modes. I’m either over obsessing about every bite of food that goes in my mouth or binging and the subsequently starving between binges. And of course, the ability as a woman who has been overweight my whole life to admit and be taken seriously by my pcp as a person with an eating disorder is more than I have been able to handle.
Until standing at that road crossing and for the first time in my life concretely ending my life felt like an actual choice. And i knew it was the shame and morbidity of my spiral speaking. And i knew that God, the universe, whatever you believe, if you are reading this and need hope from this story, had need of me. Because i wanted help. Because i have plans. So many plans for the future. Because i wanted to walk into that blissful oblivion that was death, yes. I can say that now because in this moment i am not on that cliff. In that moment it felt like all the tiredness I’ve carried, all the exhaustion I’ve written about for the past three years, the past 17 years of missing my mother, the past few years of missing my cousin, i could just let that go in that moment. And then i paused. And that little light that is everything i want to do clicked on and said “but who will do this? What about your plan to go to Princeton theological? What about wanting to demonstrate that same vulnerability you have worked so hard to achieve, through YAV through your relationships. That you saw at NAPC. That you want for the church. That you want for a community ministry because you feel God is calling you to demonstrate that. Because how do you heal and help those like you without talking about it.”
And so I’ve waded through these last two long weeks. I’ve felt like every piece of the puzzle is coming unglued. But tomorrow, I have an appointment to start the clearance to go to inpatient treatment. And I’m writing about it because someone needs to. Because coming out about this was harder than actually coming out. Because I am sick and I am more worried about what future employers or even my current employer might think.
I am worried about what my friends might think. I am worried about stigma. And then I realized, I am not alone. That there are millions of “me’s”. Someone posted the Presbyterian mission today article about the suicide epidemic and it mentioned Scott Weimer and I remembered how much he inspired me to be honest and vulnerable and truthful about who I am and what I am going through.
My name is Rachel, I am 31, I am genderfluid and queer. I suffer from depression, anxiety, epilepsy, migraines, and binge eating disorder. I have and struggle with suicidal ideation. I am a rape survivor. I will survive this. I want to be a presbyterian minister and I also want to get an msw because the church needs to have open and honest conversations about mental health, trauma, and disability. I want to see people like me in the pulpit. I want to see disability represented in the pulpit. I want to see mental health discussed. I want to see all of these things that would have been labeled as demon possession discussed, these uncomfortable conversations had because if I have to wrestle with it daily and in scripture, my church can at least wrestle with it in scripture without erasing me there.
Lift the stigma. Tell your story. That is how we start to do something about this crisis as well. The more we all start to talk about it, the harder it is to deny treatment. The more we talk about it, the less alone we all feel, the more likely we are to reach out to each other in that moment of need. Normalize open, honest, scientific conversations about mental health. Normalize truth telling about your pain.
Thank you for reading about this part of my journey. I will continue to fight. I wish I was able to blog it all, but I’m not sure I’ll be allowed, I’m pretty sure inpatient rules are strictly internet free.