I was admitted three Wednesdays ago around 8 p.m.
I knew how I had gotten there but I also didn’t know.
I knew I was depressed and anxious and angry and also so overwhelmed and I knew that it had been getting worse since we came out of quarantine.
But it wasn’t the isolation or the pandemic that did it to me.
I don’t really remember not having that feeling of existential dread, always thinking of the worst-case scenario and planning as if it would happen.
Hope for the best, plan for the worst they’d always say.
For me, best was perfection and the worst was anything other than absolute perfection.
I don’t remember when it started, but I know I started anxiety medication when I was in the fifth grade.
Lots of girls were mean to me that year, more so than usual, and I remember I went down a point on my MAP test and I had my first full blown off the deep end moment — like full on sitting and rocking and crying really hard and screaming on the inside.
I remember feeling so hot and so shaky — like I was a volcano ready to erupt. But I didn’t. I usually didn’t, or at least not in public.
The first day in the hospital, I sat alone.
Most everyone looked the same, frowning, pants sagging because of drawstrings being cut out, no makeup, crazy hair.
That day, we did therapy Jenga, which is like regular Jenga but with questions written on each block.
Most of the questions were about different coping skills that we could use to help us through cravings, triggers or episodes. Most of the group therapy sessions were like that.
“Read your Bible, meditate, go for a walk” — all the same suggestions I’ve been told for years. All things that haven’t brought me comfort, in fact, most of the time the suggestions would make me angrier because they were coming from someone who seemed ignorant, someone who wasn’t in my shoes.
I know you aren’t supposed to admit when things are bad and you are supposed to look on the bright side, but it usually makes me feel worse.
Trust me, thinking positively is easier said than done.
For me, sometimes it truly feels impossible to find the good in being granted another day on earth when I can barely roll out of bed and brush my teeth without having an absolute breakdown. It’s hard to go to work and be strong for everyone else when I can barely take care of myself.
I think that’s one of the things that bothers me most: If you don’t struggle with depression — and I’m talking clinical depression, not just being down or sad — you truly do not understand.
I don’t remember not feeling anxious and overwhelmed. It’s been there for as long as I can recall.
I think about it kind of like when a parent holds a child, there comes a time when you never hold them again. You set that child down and you never carry them again.
For me, I couldn’t pinpoint something that caused my issues.
I don’t really have any outstanding event that gave me PTSD, I wasn’t abused or struggling financially. I have always had food on the table, a warm bed and a loving home. I never have been without needs and most of the time, I got all of my wants too.
But mental illness doesn’t work that way. It doesn’t choose who it affects and how it affects them. It doesn’t always just happen after a traumatic event. It starts small and you just brush it off — you learn to cope, you learn to lock it away and throw away the key, but sometimes it makes an appearance and we tuck it away back in its place never to be seen or heard from again.
Until you can’t do it anymore. And it grows and then you realize that the place you locked it away in isn’t there anymore and there’s nothing you can do except acknowledge this beast looking at you square in the eyes, because there’s no running from it anymore. It has to be known.
And then you realize that it isn’t a beast. It’s your reflection. It’s little you. It’s teenage you. It’s future you.
And you have to accept it and learn to live with it and to love yourself anyway.
At some point, you have to look at yourself and make a decision, because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who or what caused it because it is your responsibility to acknowledge and take care of it because it’s part of you.
So here I am.
My name is Frances Alexandra Brockman, I struggle with my mental health and I am in treatment so that I can live a life in recovery.
My name is Frances Alexandra Brockman and I am choosing to embrace myself, mental health issues and all, because there is so much more to me than meets the eye.