We’re finally talking about mental health. Not as much as we need to be, sure, and politicians will tweet #TimeToTalk while cutting the funding to NHS mental health services, but we’re at least started the conversation. But even though now we all know that it’s #OkNotToBeOk, it’s still really fucking hard to actually admit that we’re not ok.
Content note for suicide, depression and mental illness.
I’m not ok.
Before you read on, I want to assure you that I’m safe. I’m not ok, but I am safe. I’m not writing this blog post because I am considering ending my life: yes, I’m thinking about suicide right now, but I’m writing this so I can look back in another twelve months and know that I got through it. This is an incredibly self-indulgent post, but if you can’t be a little navel-gazing-y on your own blog, where is it acceptable?
And after all, we need to normalise people saying that they’re not ok.
I’m not ok – though honestly it would be surprising if I was. Are any of us ok at the moment? We’re mid-global pandemic and frankly just surviving is a huge achievement right now. Lockdown amplifies every one of my worst depression inclinations, because when I feel like this I want to hide from the world. It’s so much easier to do this, and fall into other self-destructive habits, when my isolation is government-mandated.
It’s not a surprise that I’m struggling, but I really am.
I’d be struggling right now even if I hadn’t hit my lowest depression point in twelve months right before social distancing started. I’d be struggling right now even if I could sit in coffee shops writing smut and use all my usual coping mechanisms of being around people while not having to talk to them beyond ordering a hot chocolate. I feel guilty to talk about that though, because so many people are dealing with so much more shit than I am right now. People are dying, and I’m complaining about the fact I feel sad.
But possibly ‘sad’ is rather too soft a synonym for ‘suicidal’.
Sometimes when I talk to my doctor or a psychiatrist, I get the impression that they’re surprised by how not-ok I really am. After all, I’ve turned up for the appointment with them, haven’t I? I’m wearing clean clothes and I’ve showered in the last two days and I’m not crying. I can talk calmly about my mental illness, my voice only shaking a little when I admit that I think about suicide every day. Every single fucking day.
Fuck fuck fuck, this isn’t normal and I’m not fucking ok.
For the level of depressed I am, I’m relatively high functioning. I can get to a psychiatrist appointment, but I can’t do anything else. It feels like the rest of my life is on pause because all my energy is just going into staying alive. It’s exhausting. I mean, it’s also exactly where that energy needs to go. If I can only do one thing, it should be not killing myself… it’s just that other people don’t see how much I’m struggling.
Partly because I hide it, because it’s hard to admit that I’m struggling.
I am not ok. That’s hard enough in itself to say. You know what’s even harder? Saying it again tomorrow and again the next day, because it doesn’t get better. Nine out of ten of my days right now are bad ones. And I’m counting a day when I consider how to kill myself a good one, which I don’t think is normal. Is it normal that I say ‘I want to kill myself’ out loud in a day more times than I say ‘I love you’ on a video call date with my enboifriend?
It’s not, and I’m not ok.
I know things will get better. Of course things will get better. But how long will I have to keep living like this, in a place where I’m so not ok that every single second is exhausting? I’m throwing all my energy into just surviving, and Sitting on the sofa, crying and pulling my hair because it’s really hard to understand why I should get through it. How long do I have to keep living through the minutes, sitting on the sofa, crying and pulling my hair because I cannot understand why I need to keep living through these awful minutes.
Four years ago I told someone for the first time that it felt like I was living life minute to minute. Second to second, sometimes. I just needed to get through the next thirty seconds and no, the pain wouldn’t get any less awful but I would be half a minute closer to being able to go to bed and let sleep numb the pain for a few hours. I started taking anti-depressants a week after that confession. Now I take anti-depressants and anti-psychotics and I’m still struggling. I’m better than I was four years ago, but I’m not better.
If there’s going to be months, years, more of being this not ok, is it worth it? I know one day I will feel better than this, but the bad days right now are so very bad. Will I ever get to a point where it’s worth having lived through all these shitty, shitty days so I can get to one which – with medication and therapy and so much work – will be slightly less shitty?
Sometimes I’m not sure it is.
Typing that is really scary; again, I want to remind you that I’m safe. I’m safe, but I’m not ok. It’s just really hard to admit that I’m not ok. So if you struggle to admit that you’re not ok, please know that you’re not alone. Vulnerability is fucking hard, y’all.
Quinn Rhodes (he/him) is a freelance journalist, sex writer, and professional transsexual. His work focuses on dismantling shame and queering sex.