I’m going to begin by saying that this is likely the most intimate, personal piece of writing that I will ever put out into the internet. Continue at your own peril.
This has been a year for destroying and rebuilding. Words that shouldn’t have devastated me, incidents from which I should have moved on, experiences from which I should have grown left me shrinking and hurting and breaking. Though my life has largely been composed of ordinary moments, my mind has not been filled with ordinary thoughts.
This year has been one of unbearable anguish, so deep and insidious and oppressive that moments passed in which the fact that I could stand and move beneath it all seemed inexplicable. I have never felt this profoundly and purely awful before. I developed a narrative about myself that cut directly into the handfuls of self-esteem I’d managed to collect throughout my life and blew them away like leaves in a hurricane. Months passed in which every single step I took was accompanied by an internal monologue that insisted I was worthless, valueless, undeserving. I left myself notes to call my mother regularly, make plans with friends once a week, return emails, and continue completing my school work because, at the end of all this, I knew I needed something to which I could return. I needed people to whom I could return.
The worst part of it all, though, is that there was no significant precipitating incident to which I could point that would explain away these feelings as deserved and expected to pass in time. Perhaps the year was dotted with flashes of negative, but it was my share — no more than an ordinary person is capable of bearing. They were small moments — hurtful words of a friend, canceled plans, an unreturned phone call, an unacknowledged email — these events, ones I should have identified as inconsequential and fleeting, lined themselves up and became daily reminders that I was exactly what I thought: nothing. They became daily incantations, unrelenting and immobilizing.
These little experiences, ones that would normally leave only the faintest of dents in one’s armor, began to define me. I am the girl who is a deplorable friend, who is worthless, with whom no one wants to spend time, from whom no one wants to hear. Even now, as this all ebbs a bit, I can easily recall the language that I used to cut myself into pieces.
This past weekend, after a night of cocktails and laughter, a friend walked me home. As we neared my intersection, he probed for a better understanding of what is going on in my mind. He’d witnessed me peel away pieces of myself, the layers by which he once recognized me: cheerful, with a smile that can light up a room; curious, the first to look up the answer to any question that arises; empathetic, known to step between violent parents and scared children when the situation publicly presents itself (twice). The preceding months have been marked by my retreat into myself, into the space where, alone, those words I’d used to destroy and define wouldn’t be echoed back to me.
Standing on the steps outside my apartment, I sobbed into his arms, struggled to catch my breath, as he prefaced his words with the promise that he’d never walk away from our friendship; as he explained how difficult it is to be a friend to someone who believes she is undeserving of every friendship and relationship and experience that she’s ever had; as he acknowledged that, as much as he’d like to, he can’t help me; as he pleaded with me to do the thing that I’d been asked to do before.
I have this battle inside myself every few months. Things become unbearable, I become self-destructive, and I wonder how I escape from under it all. Friends have suggested, requested, begged, bribed.
Maybe it would help if you talk to someone. I haven’t yet. I’m not sure if I will. I’m not sure if I need to.
This is perhaps going to turn into a discourse on the state of perceptions of mental healthcare in the US. Despite assurances from my very closest of friends that their opinions of me will in no way be injured if I choose to seek professional help to sort these things out, I hesitate. The home in which I was raised had little time for feelings. My dad, after surviving a war went to his general practitioner to ask if his anxiety would ever dissipate. He said it would. My dad says he was right. My mon (and her mother, and her mother) believes that we should solve our bad feelings problem by not dwelling on it. Many of my friends, though, have spoken to someone and rave about their experiences. Some went a few times to solve specific problems, others have gone for years. As far as I can tell, none regret their choices.
On the other hand, someone I once called a friend told me that he thinks it’s cowardly and weak to obtain professional help when your problems are ones everyone faces; no one should receive special treatment. There was a (now discredited) rumor circulating around the time I was in college that visits to someone in the mental health field would be disclosed to your future employers, that it would be a stain on your permanent record, that you would forever bear the mark of instability.
So I try to find the right answer among these various points of view. It is likely the case that none is correct and that the answer is somewhere in the middle. Where ever it lies, it remains the case that I haven’t yet succeeded in fixing myself, that seeking the assistance of a professional would feel like an admission that I can’t do this on my own, and that I am subscribing to a shameful stereotype, affixing a stigma to the mental health community that it constantly works to eliminate. Is my own indecision an indication that I can fight and repair myself, or is it demonstrative of my intolerance?
I know that these kinds of experiences aren’t external problems like a bad hair day or a messy apartment; they aren’t bad grades or nasty words or things that happen to you; they’re rooted within the body, caused by the composition of chemicals and arrangement of neurons within the brain. I know that we would never stigmatize an individual who seeks cancer treatment when his cells have ceased regulating their own replication and instead multiply at an appalling rate with deadly consequences. Even with all the information, even with logic on my side, why do I chastise myself for failing like this. Even with all the information, why am I inhibited from reaching outside myself, acknowledging that I may not be enough? Even with all the information, why do I avoid using proper terminology, abstain from typing those words that at once describe and stigmatize?
This year, I’ve cried a lot. I’ve hated myself, hurt myself, cut myself down with my words and thoughts. I’ve experienced abject, absolute, consuming, exhausting pain. I’ve been more completely alone than I ever thought possible. I have never been here before.
Through it all, though, there were small lights along my path: patient friends who reinforced that I am loved and cared for and necessary; new friends who provided a respite and a renewal; unbelievable support networks emerging at exactly the moments they were most needed; tests to remind me of my own strength and resilience.
I have never been here before.
Washington Post uncovers the cases associated with FBI investigations into suspect forensic work. shocking. last week, I included a video about forensic DNA. today, here’s an article about fingerprints. also, how to improve eyewitness testimony. what can you do with all this information? well, maybe you’ll find it informative if you’re ever a juror for a murder trial.
the last time I had my eyebrows threaded, the woman asserted that I’d also like my upper lip threaded. when I declined, she asked, “are you sure?” at least I know I’m not the only one being bullied at my threading salon.
connecting artists to consumers and facilitating exchanges that are more akin to barter than purchase, Art Barter brings art acquisition to a wider audience. “Picasso and Modigliani were famous for trading paintings for meals, the Chelsea Hotel accepted art as rent, and Andy Warhol traded his talent for a video camera.”
while chatting about job hunting with my mom, she slipped this little piece of business etiquette advice into my inbox. we may be contemporary, forgoing stockings and the like, but we should still observe the five rules that still matter.
days spent on blankets in the sun, hoping to bronze or vitamin D-starved skin may be the norm, but for those days that are bluer than they are luminous, ten things to do when you’re feeling hopeless. my favorite tip — “Listen to kids talk about what they care about: Kids are hopeless. By that I mean that, until their parents, peers and the education system brainwash them to start planning and hoping for their future, and living inside their heads, they live in the present, without hope. By listening to them we can relearn what it means to live without the need to hope, to just accept and be.”
can you increase your intelligence by training your brain? there is some evidence to indicate that, yes, you can, at least when it comes to fluid intelligence — problem solving, learning, reasoning, etc. hint: games of the sort discussed in this article, called n-back games, are available on your iphones!
I have a habit of giggling at exactly the wrong moment and that this trait has helped me to avoid several traffic tickets. instead of inappropriate reactions, this physicist used a mathematical proof to escape the penalty for his ticket.
a blood test to diagnose depression. what will they think of next?
the real MILF island? this one isn’t much like the one envisioned on 30 Rock. (it’s in the Phillippines and MILF stands for Moro Islamic Liberation Front, an armed rebel group.)
fun iphone apps I bought and loved this week: NightCap (take better pictures in dark conditions); Night Sky (find constellations — so cool!).
can’t stop procrastinating? check out this article.
nearly one-third of all households contain only one resident [and other interesting facts about the rising trend of single-dom in the US].
when do negative thoughts become depression?
a new answer to the age-old question: can a man and a woman be just friends?
recommended yoga for runners (only ten minutes long!).
one-hundred years of technology in one graph.
this is what it looks like to be detained as a juvenile in the US.
brains, brains, brains.
a media guide to gender-neutral coverage of women candidates + politicians.
I’m looking forward to a summer spent in the woods and on the lakes of upstate new york (more on that later). if you’re thinking of moving somewhere remote, check out these destinations.
some fun, embarrassing, awkward, and uncomfortable “first time I had sex" stories from Sarah Silverman, Lena Dunham, Krista Burton, and more.
probably worth reading: Lil B’s eighty-minute lecture at NYU, which includes a discussion of his ant problem: “I was looking at insects. I do my observations when I go out. If I become a neurosurgeon or I’m about to come into some bugs, I’m rocking. With the bugs, man, you just be looking at them. Because I was having these big ant problems in my house. It was crazy. And these are people in their own way, too. As I was studying these ant colonies infesting my house daily, I’m not kidding you, I left food out and 20 minutes later r-r-r-r-r and I’m like, man, they already know! They get it down pat! And real talk, like, seeing these ants and studying them and respecting them, it’s like, man, they’re in their own community too. They’re trying to survive. They love. They fight. They telling themselves something. We can’t understand, but one day we will.”
finally, what fictional character shares your birthday?
seven people who gave up on civilization to live in the wild.
Kerry Max Cook was wrongfully held on death row in Texas for sixteen years (the years Cook spent in prison totaled twenty two). even after his release, he was not quite free, and, to this day, seeks justice.
can depression be good for you?
George Orwell | Politics and the English Language, 1946
the Hebrew University of Jeruselum and California Institute of Technology are working jointly to digitize the over eighty thousand records held at the Albert Einstein Archives the two universities. the project began on March 19, 2012 with two thousand documents, ranging from manuscripts to diaries to letters.
for those of you who are still hoping that Amelia Earhart will be found alive, she would have turned 128 this July. you might have better luck simply hoping for the discovery of Earhart’s aircraft and likely crash site.
Steinbeck passes along writing tips. on the other hand, “If there is a magic in story writing, and I am convinced there is, no one has ever been able to reduce it to a recipe that can be passed from one person to another.”
good news for some of us: it’s ok to be an introvert. though you my make up a minority of the population, your introversion is something to cultivate, not something to obscure. for others: tips on caring for your introvert.
you might consider purchasing Jonah Lehrer’s new book, or at least reading a bit about how to be creative.