Yesterday was a bad day. I was filling out job applications (that in and of itself feels like a full-time craptastic job) and for those with in-depth applications, I have to go into details about that time when everything fell apart. And while it’s been years and I should be over it, writing about it for hours upon hours tears the Band-Aid off the wound and anger and a bone-deep grief comes seeping out. And if we’re being honest, before I’d even started on that soul-sucking task, I’d been off.
I have seriously messed up dreams. Not as often as I used to, but if I take a nap or fall back asleep after Mancandy has gone to work there’s a pretty good bet I’ll have one. This morning’s dream involved driving my mother and grandmother around in a Prius (which I don’t own) and stopping for BBQ (at a place where an abandoned gas station sits currently) and watching a gas truck slowly and methodically crush a Great Pyrenees (didn’t realize that’s how that was spelled) beneath it. After the initial crush, he backed up and went back to completely smash the bits left intact after the first run. Other dogs milling around (the deep south firmly believes in having at least one-yard dog that they refuse to vet so that there are quickly multiple yard dogs) kept grabbing bits of bloody meat and running around while the truck threatened to hit them. I was trying to keep my passenger’s eyes covered and my hands over my mom’s ears so she wouldn’t hear as much. The truck was directly behind me and I couldn’t get out, we were forced to just sit and wait for the show to be over. It was gruesome and makes zero sense. But that’s a fairly stress-free one compared to the normal stuff my brain throws at me.
The one yesterday was much, much worse. By today I’ve had some distance and I can keep myself from replaying the worst of it over and over. Yesterday I felt raw and nauseous all day. Having to explain things I’d rather not discuss repeatedly all day didn’t help. By late afternoon I was ready to start breathing fire and crying (which is an odd combination but exactly what I felt like doing).
By the time we were sitting down to a late dinner I could tell Mancandy was walking on egg shells around me. My first instinct was to blame him. I mean, I hadn’t done anything. I should be the one on egg shells! I had this horrible stuff in my mind, I was sad, I was feeling super-duper fat, my skin was broken out even though I’m in my stupid thirties, I was pretty sure I was melting into a puddle of Italian grease despite a shower, the weather was hot and sticky and I hated it, I wanted to eat everything in the kitchen (even the stuff I don’t like) until I puked and then go eat some more, and I was pretty sure I was a complete and utter failure and he’d probably notice that and cheat on me and it would be horribly painful so I should probably just plan to leave anyway…
And then the epiphany hit. I’m PMSing! The dream and the applications would normally have upset me, but they wouldn’t have pushed me so far. This surge of instability flowing through my veins would pass. I’d be fine. And somehow, just having that realization calmed me.
I blurted out, “Oh thank all the little brown potatoes, there’s a reason I’m going crazy!”
He looked like he was trying to avoid a bear attack by being very still. “I didn’t think you were going crazy.” He was using a very soothing voice and not moving. This annoyed me but I frantically shoved the crazy back down.
“I’m PMSing!” My tone was too bright and I was basically yelling it at him in my excitement. He tends to think of females as creatures who don’t have gas or bowel movements, so any discussions of menstruation tend to make him go pale and find an excuse to run away.
He nodded as if we were discussing strange weather. “Oh. Um. Good?”
I tried to save the situation. “I am just saying when you feel crazy all day you start to think maybe you are crazy but now that I know there’s a reason I’ve felt crazy I feel less crazy! It’s a good thing!”
He kept nodding. I took pity on us both and hushed.
My mentally handicapped cat decided that was the best moment to flop down on his back in the middle of the room and yowl/smack at the fan 12 feet above him. We both focused on that and he looked like a man who escaped a death sentence. It made me want to chew on his face and cry and then I had an intense craving for beef jerky and I thought going to bed might save us all from…well…me.
This morning, after waking up from a nap I only took because he gave me some sort of allergy medicine that sucked all the life out of me and made me a zombie, I started to straighten things up and get laundry/dishes going. I am much more centered today, despite the very detailed dream. I realized I am so incredibly lucky. I felt such relief when I realized the “crazy” was going to pass. It actually felt as if a cool, clean sensation rushing over my overheated brain. There was a reason I felt that way. I was not losing myself; I just had to hold on until my hormones quit being assholes.
One of the pieces I’ve written and erased many times is about being surrounded by people with various degrees/types of mental illness and the difficulties/gifts that imparts. I’ve not found a way to be both honest and unobtrusive (I’m learning so much, I really thought that word should be “unintrusive” but spellcheck swears it’s unobtrusive…) to family and friends, so I’ve yet to be able to write it.
While I can’t write that piece, I can say that I’ve been given just a tiny taste of knowing I’m being unreasonable and paranoid and depressed but unable to stop. How dark that must be for someone who doesn’t get a break from it. It’s a horrid feeling, to feel so angry and worthless and disgusting. And I’m quite sure I didn’t feel a fraction of what those with severe conditions face. And they don’t get the luxury of feeling that way for a day and then getting a break the rest of the month. I imagine for many it’s a constant. I’m grateful I don’t have that type of imbalance. I can barely hold it together for a few hours. I wanted to eat the man’s face off!
In all seriousness, if that were a constant state I could understand suicide being a valid option. That small taste of despair and sadness and hopelessness, just a little taste, was quite enough. My heart breaks for those who only feel that. And it infuriates me that our options for those with mental illness are absolutely inadequate. Without good insurance, there’s very little quality care available that’s also affordable. Even with good insurance, some plans do not cover much in the way of therapy. They’d much rather GP’s prescribe drugs than pay for an individual to go to therapy, and in a crisis that’s not always enough. And if you have good insurance and are able to access therapy with a therapist you trust, many people cannot afford for their family and friends to also go to therapy. Since there are few options for those of us who face handling a situation we are woefully unprepared and/or untrained to handle, many are unable to cope.
I am the first to admit I have struggled. Loving someone whole-heartedly does not mean there are not times you feel absolutely hatred, rage, fear, and sorrow when they behave in ways you cannot understand. The stigma associated with these conditions only serves to further isolate those who need support the most.
I’ve got no solutions to any of it. I try to make the right choices and say the right things, but I’m sure I fail quite often. And I’m going to try to remind myself of this perspective on things when those I love act out in their anger and grief. When emotions whose depth I can’t truly understand sweep family and friends away into a place I can’t go, I will do my best to still be there when they come up for air. I’ll try to have more patience, and take things less personally. Because I’m quite sure at some point about a month from now I’ll look at people around me with pure hatred because they breathe too freaking loud, or he’ll pick up the wrong texture of toilet paper, or a commercial will make me sad and I’ll be suddenly enraged at the fact I’m crying and I’ll have to try to have perspective through emotions so strong they have personalities all their own.
It’s easy to laugh at my own ridiculousness when my hormones decide my inner landscape is boring, but having that constant internal chaos must be one of the most difficult things to survive. For anyone reading who struggles against the inside of their own mind, keep struggling. It’s not fair to ask it, but the more you speak up about the struggles, the more we normalize mental illness rather than try to hide it, the more things change. Let’s make it completely normal and accepted to talk about how bad things get so that hopefully we come up with better ways to make help accessible and meaningful for everyone.