You’re always told to talk to someone about mental health stuff. Don’t let it stay bottled up, let it out, don’t let it all fester. Go talk to someone.
There are phonelines to call, people whose entire job it is to sit and listen to concerns and neuroses and worries. Others who get training, have years of experience listening, understanding. There are levels of service, all sorts of professionals who your doctor can point you at, therapists and psychiatrists, counselors and psychologists. There’s so many people out there willing to listen, paid to listen. Go talk to someone.
For some, there’re family and friends, people who care and worry and want to help. People who’ll notice when you’re not yourself, who’ll realise something’s not right. People who’ll insist that they want to listen, that they’re there if you ever have anything you need to get off your chest. Go talk to someone.
Maybe you don’t. Maybe you find some other way, you start a blog or a journal, you pour your thoughts and your feelings out and try to explain what it is, what the problem is, why you feel so terrible. Maybe you paint or draw or sing or run or whatever, trying to drive the thoughts out of your head and into somewhere else, somewhere they aren’t constantly circling one another in your mind like a flock of vultures waiting to tear into the barely breathing body of your psyche.
But perhaps you do. You summon up the courage from somewhere. Maybe something forces it, maybe someone tells you to go get help, maybe you just know, you’ve had it drilled into you for years that the way to deal with this sort of thing is to tell somebody. You go to the doctor and ask for an appointment, and when they ask for an outline of what it’s for, you choke back the tears, spit words out over the lump in your throat, clench your hands and drive your nails into your palms, just so you can mutter out something about mental health. And you see the expression change, the look of routine boredom soften and melt into pity and you feel so utterly, pathetically, childishly ashamed.
You go home. You sit and you breathe, hard and deep, as if you’ve just finished sprinting a marathon. Somehow, you’re wholly, totally spent. But it’s done. The appointment’s made, you’ve managed to get a professional, someone who you can go and talk to. Surely that’ll help. It’ll chase some of the feelings away, talking to someone. That’s what you’ve been told, after all.
It finally arrives. The day you’re supposed to go, the day you can finally escape from underneath the crushing pressure that’s been weighing you down, trapping you in place. You finally go and talk to someone.
And it all sounds so tedious.
Not just tedious. Pathetic and self-indulgent, as if you’re wallowing in your tiny, irrelevant problems. Procrastinating, finding excuses. It’s ridiculous and self-serving. Everyone else goes through exactly the same stuff, has the same things happen to them, and you’re the only one who collapses. You’re the only one who indulges in the luxury of shutting down and ignoring it all.
You know it, as well, know the words and sentences sound so petty even as you’re saying them. Know that whatever reasons you can think of to explain it all sound so very minor. Trying to express the sheer hopeless enormity of what’s happening is so far beyond you that you’re panicking, you’re overcome with the ludicrous impossibility of describing the indescribable.
You went and talked to someone. You tried to explain what you’re feeling like, why you’re feeling it, but you can’t. Trying to put it into words just doesn’t, can’t happen.
All that’s left are the facts. Ineffable, ephemeral feelings stream, billow away from your grasp as soon as you reach for them. But facts, what you do, what you know – they’re concrete. You can describe them. You can go through them to try and give some sense, some picture of what it’s like.
It begins as soon as you wake up. It’s looking at your watch and seeing it’s 2 in the morning and knowing that you won’t be getting back to sleep. It’s lying, trying to see patterns in your ceiling. It’s being unable to see those patterns because of all the thoughts. It’s all those thoughts fueling all the worries, the worries that make you twist and writhe and cry silent tears into your pillow. It’s putting on the radio, picking up a book, trying to chase the thoughts back to the hidden alcove of your mind where they came from. It’s the thoughts coming flooding back as soon as you stop.
It’s switching on the shower so the noise drowns out your screams. It’s screaming just quietly enough in the shower that no-one else can hear.
It’s punching solid walls, trying to channel all the emotion somewhere outside yourself. It’s hiding your reddened knuckles so that no-one notices. Because someone will notice, someone’ll notice and question. So it’s mastering the art of the awkwardly mumbled lie, the sentence that hints at an explanation but never actually says anything.
It’s forcing yourself to smile, telling yourself that you need to go out. But since you don’t want to, since all you want to do is curl up and not have to feel, not have to make an effort, it’s inventing excuses to leave early, to not go at all.
The result is that it’s systematically alienating people. It’s pushing away everyone who shows an interest, driving away everyone who cares, because it’s fucking easier.
It’s persuading yourself that it’s better that way, that everyone’s better off without you, because it’s knowing, deep down, that you’re a loathsome bastard. That you’re boring and awkward and weird and everyone’s having a better time without having to deal with your awfulness. It’s the self-fulfilling prophecy that implies, because you ignore everyone and withdraw from everything and embrace the selfish ivory tower.
It’s sitting, staring at a blank computer screen. It’s setting aside a couple of hours to read a book and being unable to read a single page. It’s days that are somehow never-ending and over as soon as they’ve begun. It’s days that last so long that you’re watching TV you don’t even care about, refreshing websites, just to fill the time. Then it’s looking back over your day in the evening and realising you’ve done nothing, that all the stuff you intended to do, all the things you wanted to achieve, have just been shoved to the next day. Again.
It’s being asked how your day was and changing the subject.
It’s staring at the clock, checking your watch every five minutes, waiting. It’s going to bed as soon as it’s 10 o’clock just because you can’t think of anything else to do. And then it’s lying awake in bed.
It’s that same day being repeated, ad infinitum.
It’s living under the weight of the constant, crushing anxiety. The worrying, the pressure, the inability to ever relax. It’s being unable to actually enjoy anything, always being aware of that nagging voice in the back of your head, never able to lose yourself.
Unless you’re drunk. Then it’s chasing that fleeting moment of dissociation and hating yourself for it even as you do. Redoubling your efforts to avoid it and always falling back in. If you don’t, then someone might notice, and you might have to explain.
Inevitably, it’s the turn your thoughts take. The featureless, indistinguishable days. Lying awake, paralysed by terror, dreaming of how it could be better. It’s the only solution that seems realistic. And so it’s soothing yourself, calming your mind, by drafting your letter. Figuring out what you’d say, what you’d leave. Who you’d write to and who you wouldn’t.
It’s having ‘fatal dose paracetamol’ in your search history.
But it’s still not doing anything, because you’re still a coward. You’re still the same hateful fuckup, the same ball of self-loathing who can’t achieve anything. So it’s everything dragging on, no end in sight.
If the whole of human existence is predicated on the delusion that tomorrow will be better than today, it’s knowing the falsity of that statement. It’s the knowledge that tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that, will be just the same. That it just stretches on into infinity. It’s an awareness of pointlessness, of total, all-encompassing futility.
It’s not something you can talk to someone about.