In the eyes of others, it makes me a liar. Lazy. Inadequate. Delusional. Crazy. I can’t say I have a diagnosis because everyone I tell is conditioned to think I’m either a deranged psychopath or I’m faking it because I’m simply too fragile to face life like a normal person; underwhelming unable to walk through a typical routine without having an upper to keep me stable. Do they think I pity myself so much to induce a self-hatred strong enough to keep myself so far from mental catharsis? Do they think I find this fun?
I just got back to my room after a failed attempt to go to class. I’m sitting here, writing this, trying to think of something to email my professor to sugarcoat what I’m feeling, to really drive home the point that class today was unbearable for me. You see if it was the flu or a bad head cold this would be easy. I would simply relay the symptoms and be excused with a general “feel better” and a hidden relief that I wouldn’t be getting anyone else sick. To send an email saying I just had to take a breather on a 4th Ave. step because my lungs felt as if they were collapsing and my body was shaking so badly I could hardly walk doesn’t do the trick.
I was supposed to go out to dinner with my friends a few nights ago but couldn’t get myself out of bed due to some unwelcomed existential dread about nothing in particular. No, it wasn’t something my horoscope said. It wasn’t something I was anticipating in the upcoming week. I wasn’t “nervous.” I was simply incapable. “But it’ll be fun,” they said. “You never go out with us.”
I fear having to tell people I’m on medication because the second I do, I see my fears written across their faces. The fact that I have to take a dose of something with an unpronounceable name twice a day just to make me feel like I’m residing on some middle ground that makes me capable of mandatory human function immediately sets off alarms that I am a lesser person, lacking independence and radiating unpredictability. All of a sudden I’m the crazy, mentally unstable girl completely incompetent and incapabe of any mundane task in front of me. I don’t even dream of revealing I have a Xanax in my bag in case of emergency, because the one time I mentioned it, the faces of my friends were the same as I’d expect if they saw me shooting up heroin in the bathroom of the bar.
I’ve begun to believe it myself. Every time I feel my chest get heavy, my hands get sweaty, my vision become disconnected, I tell myself to suck it up: that it’s all in my head. Maybe it is. That’s certainly where it lives. But tell that to my body when I’m locked in my room, unable to move or think or breathe. Tell that to my ears that simply decide to stop hearing and scream with hollow ringing that disorients me to the point of defeat. Tell that to the girl who has sat on grimy floors in restaurant bathrooms and called for cabs with no goodbye because, for a few moments, she can’t remember how to exist.
They say there’s a science behind it. That it’s just how I work. They say it’s a sickness, real as cancer. But how am I supposed to believe it when I can’t convince myself it’s not self-induced? How am I supposed to survive an illness I’m not convinced even exists? How am I supposed to love my mind if I constantly doubt its ability to decipher reality from fiction?