I am still alive

It’s Sunday afternoon. Sometime in the last two hours since I’ve been up I’ve managed to have cereal, make myself an espresso with my moka, sweetened with cane sugar and dressed up with soy creamer, and pluck my chin hairs. Chin hairs are an inevitable fact of many women, but it’s not often talked about because people are embarrassed or it’s somehow a taboo subject. But it’s my blog and I’m free to talk about what I want here.

Friday night I went to bed at midnight and I spent the entirety of Saturday in bed. I didn’t want to face the world and I didn’t want to be living. Staying in bed, holding my teddy bear tight, drifting in and out of sleep in my darkened bedroom alone, is one way I avoid the world. It’s not that I don’t feel like I deserve to live. This time it has nothing to do with deserving. I just don’t feel alive, and I self-perpetuate the cycle by actually staying in bed with my eyes closed, doing nothing but thinking and sleeping and having nightmares all day long, which reaffirms that I’m not really alive because I’m not doing things that “normal” living people do, like being upright instead of vertical, talking with people, making plans, going out for hikes, making coffee.

It’s a big deal that I made myself coffee today. I love good coffee. Most days I make do with the crappy coffee that’s free and made en masse at work, but on weekends I deserve more. I dream of getting up at a reasonable hour every day of the weekend, say, by 10:00 and making myself coffee with my newly purchased Lavazza coffee grounds which for some reason need to be refrigerated. I bought a whole thing of cane sugar just for that purpose. I bought the soy creamer, because it lasts much longer than regular dairy creamer. Yet it was already 2:00 in the afternoon by the time I got around to making my coffee. Still, it felt good making it, pressing the coffee grounds down in the metal container of the moka, smelling the coffee grounds, preparing my large coffee cup with cane sugar, waiting over the hot stove for the first of the espresso liquid to boil up. It made me feel alive because I was doing what living people do. I was doing something I enjoyed.

I think my armpits stink because I sweated under my big down comforter yesterday, though we had the air conditioning on. My long hair is greasy on the top because I haven’t showered since Thursday, and it’s now somehow four days later. How did that happen? How is it that I have to endure this weekend for a bloody third day because of the holiday tomorrow. How is it that I despise weekends because of this cycle of not-living-but-sleeping-all-day-instead and then I don’t enjoy my weeks either because I don’t find fulfillment in my job. Yet I am still here. Still on this earth. Still breathing. And I am privileged because I am a citizen of this country, I have access to clean, running water, I am in good physical health, and I am not homeless. Still, knowing those things don’t help with my depression.

It’s my depression and I’ll do with it what I want! You say ‘action before motivation’? I don’t think so! Says my depression. You’re not doing anything today, it says. You’re going to stay in your dark room and deal with the nightmares, which usually have to do with the sexual trauma of my past, and you’ll suffice to eat once a day, and miss taking your morning medication that is supposed to stimulate you, because you’re confined to your bed. You’re going to stay there all day, says my depression, and pretend you’re not alive. If you’re not going to give in, not going to kill yourself, you can punish yourself in other ways.

Shoot. Am I punishing myself by staying in bed all day? I didn’t realize it until I took on the voice of my depression. It’s a form of self-punishment. It’s definitely not ‘lazy’. I texted my younger but adult boy cousin that I slept all day and his reply was “bum!”. I couldn’t help but replying: “I’m entitled to my bum days. By the way, bums actually work hard to earn a living collecting recyclables to turn in for dollars. They’re not all lazy. Most homeless people have severe mental illness.” No response. What do you say when someone comes at you with hard truth like that? Most people don’t want to think about the other people suffering out there. But what can I do about it? The best I could do would be to stay awake and study, although the motivation isn’t there, pass this exam and go to grad school where I can learn to be a therapist and then help the underserved populations of my community. That would be community service. And when you’re in the helping profession, it’s inevitable to do some charity work on the side. My therapist took me on as a charity case for years. How could any conscientious being not want to give back somehow? I’ve been seeing him for eight long years, and that time hasn’t flown by. It has been arduous and challenging. It sure was hard to stay alive, but he helped to keep me alive, along with other supportive people, and here I am today, alive even if I don’t exactly want to be. I’m alive for a reason. That reason is to help people. To do good in this world.

Money matters. To say otherwise would not be true. You have to have enough money to live. My girlfriend who is a psychiatrist, was recently interviewed by some students who asked her what motivated her to choose the profession she is in, among other things. “Don’t believe anyone when they tell you that money doesn’t matter. It does.” She helps people every day, but it also pays enough for her to pay rent, to send her son to a private school where he can get more individualized attention because he has ADHD, to pay back her student loans, to fight custody battles with her ex-husband. You need money to do all of these things and more. She takes her son on vacations and he is the center of her entire life. Yet she accomplishes so much. “I see the strength of the human spirit in each and every one of my patients, in the adversity they endure and how far they have come,” she says. She admires her patients. She helps them and gives all of herself to them. She doesn’t hide her tears if something comes up that elicits them during a session. She is very emotional and thinks with her heart, and is emotionally connected with her patients. She has seen them grow and become more stable during the treatment period. That makes a good helping professional.

I have to remember that my therapist cares so much. Of all of the humans in my life, he has been able to connect most with me. He has helped me through my most difficult times. He has never rejected me, never lied to me, never been judgmental. He has always been there for me. He always reads the emails I send him every day still, because I need that form of therapy, a one-way journal, a connection with the most important person in my life. He doesn’t respond to my emails, because that would take too much time, and because that’s not a part of the way we do therapy, it’s the face-to-face in person contact for 50 minutes a week which is the therapeutic process, but I know I’m special and that we have a special arrangement, and he doesn’t charge me for the extra time he spends reading my daily emails. I know he reads them, one, because he said he would and he always fulfills his promises, and two, because he references material I’ve written to him during our talk sessions. I am so lucky to have found him. It took trying about five therapists over the period of two years before I finally found him, yet, I persevered. I knew I needed help and no one, not even an abusive husband, was going to stop me from getting the kind of help I knew I needed.

After writing for an hour, I feel much more connected to the world and to myself. I don’t feel quite so empty as I did a few hours ago when I finally had the courage to get out of bed, to wake up, to face the day. Nothing about my environment has changed. I’m still sitting on my lovely couch, with the blinds open, and the sunlight spilling in from outside. Yet, internally, in my mind, a shift has taken place. Writing gives me purpose. It does give me a reason for living. I need to tell my story and I need to be heard. I want others to be witness to my life. My therapist is already a witness, and this means so much to me, but what if, by writing about my inner world, someone else reads what I’ve written and they somehow connect with something I’ve said? A few sentences. That’s all it takes to change someone’s day, to open up someone’s perspective of the world, to let someone know they’re not alone in their suffering and that the human spirit can endure in each and every one of us, if only we let it. When I’m at my lowest of lows, when I’m feeling suicidal, when I just don’t want to keep on living, there is always this small seed of hope within me, a minuscule inner voice that says, “don’t give up. It will be worth it one day. You are worthy of living. You are beautiful inside and out and you deserve to live. You have to live. You don’t have a choice but to live.” The truth is that I do have a choice. If I had really wanted to take my life, I would have done it. I wouldn’t have called the crisis line to have ambulances take me to the emergency room, or to have policemen beat me down just because I had a knife, which is considered a weapon, in my hand. All of these actions kept me alive and it’s because of me, ultimately, that I am still alive.

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