Symptom 2: Feeling worthless, hopeless, helpless
I would drive to school, go up the three or four floors of the parking garage, and park ten feet from the elevator and stairs. I would put my car in park, turn it off, and sit there. I was at least twenty minutes late to class but I had made it to campus. In the broadest sense, I was at school.
And that achievement warranted a reward. I would slip my shoes off and crawl into the backseat of my car where the contents of my closet had accumulated. I would grab the nearest sweater and form a makeshift pillow; I would spend the next forty minutes to an hour sleeping in my car, unable to even get out, let alone walk to class.
I never told anyone that was how I spent my class time. My roommates were just happy that I had left the apartment – the backpack was just enough to complete the lie and would silence any questions they could have. My parents knew even less. They would call me in the morning to wake me up and I would say that I was up and getting ready; when they called at night I would make up some kind of story about a class I never attended. I kept this going for too long. It wasn’t even a difficult lie. I was only lying about half of it – I had gone to school, I was on school property.
The naps in my car, the elaborate lies to my friends and parents were necessary. They acted like Tupperware, protecting a truth that I feared no one would understand. Not going to class paled in comparison to sleeping eighteen hours a day, binge eating two loaves of bread in a sitting, irrational distrust of friends and their intentions, and a devout and obsessive hatred toward every thought I had and every decision I made.
At some point, however, even driving to school proved to be too much. The thought of getting ready would incur thoughts of inadequacy, as I questioned, “What did I think was going to happen when I ate both loaves of bread? Of course you won’t fit into anything,” or ‘I can wear a circus tent and paint my face green and my attendance would be just as appreciated as if I never rolled over and gotten out of bed.’ I would start from the outside to the inside, slowly destroying any connection to myself, breaking the ties I had to my own self worth. And I did all of this without anyone knowing. For two years.
Sure, I’ll admit to some ugly moments of weakness. Like calling my parents at two in the morning only to have them listen to me cry and try to articulate how I was feeling – piecing words together, something I had always been capable of, felt like I was peeling my tongue apart. I would confess my sadness, tell them I was doing everything I could.
“Yes, I made an appointment with the counselor.”
“She won’t say anything in an hour that will change how I’m feeling.”
“No, I promise I’ll go. No, you don’t need to come down here.”
“I’ll be okay. I need to go to bed. Night, love you.”
I’m not going to tell you that one visit to said counselor changed my life, because it didn’t. Actually, it was stressful and the preliminary, “from finals-induced panic to Mischa-Barton-on-The-OC sad, how are you feeling?” questions made me want to scream and run as fast as I could out of there. But eventually I no longer had a better option than talking to someone. Key word being ‘better.’
The time and choices I took to get better are too many to fully express here. And to be blatantly honest, my way will not work for you. Your way would not have worked for me. Depression is the most intimate experience you will hopefully never face, which unfortunately means that its treatment is as personal as the harm it inflicts. My behavior, like sleeping in my car to satisfy my guilt for missing class, was my own. Everyone’s sadness is unique but so is their happiness. It’s not as simple or as ideal as just waking up one morning feeling better; but its that one moment of clarity in which you decide that you have a choice. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life sleeping and I didn’t want my story to be so short.
So you defy your doubt and your fears and you ask for help, because as isolated as I felt, I was met with an outpouring of support from people who were just waiting for me to reach out. And it was the most terrifying and bravest thing I have ever done.
The author of this piece chose to remain anonymous.
Graphic by Joey Fisher
Scars is a visual series that is here to express those days where you can’t get out of bed, but mostly for other women to know that they are not alone. You can see the entire series here.