On New Year’s Eve 2016, I put on a white sequined dress and a white rabbit fur coat to go out to a bar for an hour and a half. I had two small glasses of wine, and then went out to some shitty dive for a few glasses of cheap champagne with a couple of friends.
2016 was a hellion of a year: I moved to Portland on a whim, to run away–once again. Unceremoniously exiting left was a skill I had honed into an art form. Now you see me; now you don’t. My CPTSD was reaching its peak of unsustainability; by the end of the year, when I wasn’t self-medicating, I was chopping off my hair in a (clichéd) rage and putting matches out on my wrists. The few friends I had in town were either active alcoholics or rubberneckers–people who either capitalized or reveled in my own self-destruction.
I knew things would have to change, otherwise I was going to die. Maybe not immediately, but within the next few years, I would try to kill myself, again. I wanted to die every single day, and toward the end of the year, suicidal thoughts were constant. I started painting again, just to keep my hands busy.
Every day, I woke up and burst into sobs. I wrote on my bathroom mirror in lipstick: DAYS WITHOUT CRYING, with the prayer that I could start counting them soon. I ran through the list of ways that I could kill myself–what would be the least painful? I started researching bridges suited for jumping. I took inventory of the pills in my medicine cabinet, more than once–laying out the bottles on the bed, trying to calculate how much would be required to send me off. I considered how much will and risk it would require to throw myself in front of a truck–and whether or not I could do it knowing it would traumatize or hurt someone else in the process.
Trigger Warning: rape, sexual assault, non-consent, victim blaming, et al.
Tell me, reader, what does this sound like to you?
Ah, yes. Another day on the internet, where a clickbaity hot piece-o-garbage has us all running to our thinkpiece machines to churn out an adequate response! WHAT A GLORIOUS DAY!
Recently, essayist and seemingly professional troll Amanda Lauren published an article entitled, “My Former Friend’s Death Was a Blessing,” on xoJane, which detailed her relationship to a former friend–or rather, detailed said former friend’s social media activity after their fall out, and that friend’s unexpected death.
Lauren’s perspective was that her former friend’s mental health issues made her death an ultimately good thing:
I felt like Leah’s death was inevitable. Every box for being a danger to yourself or someone else was checked. A few weeks later I got another Facebook message from a different friend, saying that Leah passed away. She supposedly hit her head and drowned in a bathtub. Sadly, I really believe knowing who Leah used to be, that she would have wanted to die that way. Big and dramatic with an obit in the New York Times. Her better self would have been strangely proud. She would have laughed. Then again, it doesn’t really matter how Leah died. She might have drowned, but schizoaffective disorder was the hand that kept her head below water.
It sounds horrible to say, but her death wasn’t a tragedy, her life was. Her sister died when she was in college. Schizoaffective disorder robbed her of reaching her potential. There were some other things along the way. She was alone and terribly unhappy when died. Leah with the big heart didn’t deserve that. Judging Facebook pages, we all compare ourselves to other people, what they have, what they don’t, and their accomplishments. This girl had nothing to live for.
Naturally, the piece (and lack of empathy or perspective within it) inspired a new fashioned internet shitstorm, leading to the initial byline being deleted, and then eventually the article being replaced by an apology from xoJane founding editor Jane Pratt.
Lauren is not unfamiliar with being the cause of angry internet flurries; she has written a variety of other controversial and downright vapid pieces that have drawn a lot of attention to her. In an interview with Gawker about her most recent bid for Most Disliked Confessional Writer, she stated that her article was an attempt to draw attention to mental health issues and the lack of support for those who have them. Seems like a clumsy attempt at backpedaling to me, but what do I know about what lives in her head?
When I read Lauren’s article, it reminded me of a conversation I had not too long ago, during the second worst mental health crisis of my life. Someone I had considered a close friend outrightly accused me of lying about the state of distress I was in, amongst a slew of other insults about how selfish and “narcissistic” I was for trying to seek a space to calm down before having further conversation with her about it. During that time, I was having crippling panic attacks every day, seeing several doctors, and frantically trying to receive care to bring myself back down to a calm state.
See, I have Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD). It looks a lot like PTSD, but with other long term side effects. PTSD is caused by a singular traumatic event, and CPTSD is usually the result of sustained, long-term trauma, and/or a series of traumatic events, which means the impact of it looks slightly different over time. Rather than a singular source, it has multiple, and creates a higher level of activation that expresses itself as anxiety and hypervigilance. CPTSD is most well-known amongst veterans who have been in long-term, sustained combat, but they aren’t the only ones who are capable of falling prey to it.
As one of my doctors described it, I exist in a state of “hyperactivation.” Her analogy for it: If she was in a room, and a snake entered, she would become activated. That would be a present threat, and her body and mind would respond accordingly. If something else happened, even something small, that caused stress, the combination of things would cause her to respond even more intensely than she might if the snake wasn’t with her in that room.
For me, the snake is always in the room.
Acceptance is a small, quiet room.
When I arrived at the building, I was ten minutes late, and the short winter days had already caused darkness to fall in the early evening. The rain came down upon the red-brick building, and I let myself in the unlocked front door. I walked down the long, thin corridor, passed the mailboxes, and into the back of the building, only to realize that I had missed the stairs, obscured by a heavy firedoor right by the entrance.
There was a couple already looking at the apartment, and although in another circumstance I might find them charming, pleasant–potential friends–they had become The Competition for this four hundred square foot space that I was determined to call my own. I succeeded at securing the apartment by throwing the application fee, in cash, across the property manager’s desk, and telling him, “You’ve taken my money. It’s mine now,” while laughing. He’s not sure what to do with me (I’m rude), but he does what I say. Four days later, the place is officially mine.
I’m currently sitting on my as of yet unsold couch in a robe and sipping on a glass of scotch while waiting for the hot curlers in my hair to work their glorious mane magic. Just like the rest of you basic bitches I am assessing the year that has passed and I have concluded that 2015 was a motherfucker, but the kind of motherfucker that I’ve always liked.
Folks have always been telling me that as you get older, you give less fucks. I’ve gotten a little older, but it turns out that I still give a lot of fucks; I am a tried and true fuck giver every single fucking time. “Give less fucks,” is terrible advice to a hyper empath and person with Big Feels, as it typically fosters an inevitable shame spiral:
Oh god, I give too many fucks! And now I give a fuck about giving fucks! And now I give a fuck about giving a fuck about giving fucks! And then I find myself scratching my nails off the brick walls of this fuck-filled room I’ve sealed myself in and I’m coughing on the fucks so hard that I start to puke and suffocate on my own vomit and then I’m fucking dead (and without fingernails, which is gross).
My first night in Sacramento is spent lying awake in the dark listening to the rain fall. My legs keep getting caught in the sheets; the sound is comforting, but I cannot sleep. Everything feels wrong. I’ve lost even more weight in the last two months; the clothes in the closet were already slightly too big, but now everything is unwearable. When I last left this place, the heat was still in the hundreds. Now, a deluge.