Content warning: talk of suicide, depression, anxiety, death.
Spoiler warning: Night in the Woods.
Author’s note: This is probably really ramble-y and disjointed, but I needed somewhere to put my emotions and general state of being. I hope it makes sense on some level either way
I guess the truth is, I’m not feeling very well right now. It’s quite shocking and more than a bit distressing because I’m in a place of otherwise positive personal growth, but my mental health has been rapidly deteriorating.
I don’t really want to exist anymore. Not in the ‘I want to kill myself’ way (which, while terrible, at least I can make some sense of), or the ‘everything is too exhausting’ way. I think the more apt description is that I feel like the water which has been around knee-high for a while is now threatening to swallow me up. And I would let it, I would let it drown out every part of who or what I am. Not that I know what that really is anymore.
A few years ago, I played a game called Night in the Woods for the first time (I’ve replayed it many times since then). In it, the main character Mae, trying to explain an experience she went through as a kid, says about the world in general: ‘It’s all shapes’.
It’s something like that I’ve been feeling for a while now (though in a slightly different context than Mae). The world; the people and things around me, everything just feels like shapes – vague forms. It’s like the things and people I have cared about – that I still truly care about – are all too much; everything is a bit too overwhelming for me to care about. Too big, too close, and I am nothing. And I want to care so much – too much – but it’s like I poured it all out and now there’s nothing left; I’m running on empty. I don’t really know what ‘it’ is (it’s likely a lot of things), but I don’t have it right now, and instead it’s all just… dread, and anxiety, and a deep strong sense of emptiness.
Over the years, I have dealt with something called depersonalisation; it is a form of dissociation which affects how you perceive yourself. In my general case, I sometimes do not feel like I belong to the body I inhabit. I know this feeling is irrational, and that this is my body, but sometimes, when I’m talking to someone, or I’m brushing my teeth in front of the mirror, I feel somewhat like a foreign entity in a body that isn’t mine; in a body I know, but which isn’t mine. I still feel me – whatever that means – but not the person who should be in this body. This feeling has suddenly grown a lot stronger, and it’s very hard to live a normal productive life when you are constantly overwhelmed by anxiety.
This feeling has been preceded by – but not necessarily related to – an event which happened in the Autumn. In early September of 2018, my grandfather died from unpreventable causes, just days before my mum and I had to leave for the UK so I could settle in before my master’s course started. I’ll confess to never having properly processed my grief. Firstly, because it’s hard to do in a different country, in a city where you know no-one, and where you have no physically present support. Secondly, because I didn’t allow myself to. I did not feel like I had the right to grieve. See, I am not biologically related to my grandfather, and so, while he was always my grandfather, I felt like my grief was less valid. I made myself small, I disappeared and became invisible. And when I came home for the holidays, everyone had dealt with their grief (to varying extents) and I had not, and that was hard; it was hard to sit there and listen to people talk more or less casually about this man whose death nearly everyone but me had processed. It was hard to come home to a bag full of his belongings and having to deal with hard emotions without feeling like I could talk about my issues with anyone. It wasn’t that anyone wasn’t emotionally available, it was that I knew my questions and demands had no answers or solutions and that they would be difficult to deal with on an emotional level for the people around me.
I was wrong: I also deserve to grieve, even if my grief might be different than others, and even if that way of dealing might be impossible this time around. My grandfather didn’t get a marked grave or an urn; not because we didn’t love him, but perhaps because the general consensus was that he wouldn’t have wanted it, which is a beautiful and respectful thing to do. However, it also means I have nowhere to go that won’t overload my mind with memories of him; I don’t have a place where I can just remember him and be. I want that, even if that might seem selfish, because memory is a fragile thing, and one day I will forget, and I want something to remind me, no matter how hard remembering might be. I would also love to know whether he knew: he died very quickly, and I just, it’s important for me to know that he at least knew he was dying. I don’t know why, but it just seems unfair that he might not have known that.
To a certain extent, my current mental health situation stems from this. I guess the question is, what is the point if we die in the end? Not in the grand, global way, but in the intimate, private way. Every time I go home, my mum gets older, and one day she will die, and I will be alone, and then I will die, I guess. The latter part doesn’t scare me so much, not because I particularly want to die, but because the former scares me much more. If it was a choice between me and her dying, I would choose to die in a heartbeat. I just can’t see the point in significance if it’s all going to end in heartbreak.
But more than this, it is the pressure: the internal pressure, the external pressure. The pressure in general. The pressure to be more than. For a long time, I’ve defined myself by the things I’ve done and measured myself, not by those accomplishments or by my just being, but by my continued ability to beat those accomplishments. I see no worth in myself just as a being. I’ve defined myself by my ability to impress and please. I do grand things, because I know people respond to them, and because I like being liked. I stay quiet and make myself smaller and smaller until there is nothing left, to please other, because I know they like it, and I like being liked. I make myself so small, that I don’t know who I am anymore, if I am even a person, or just a shape.
Just before I left after the holidays, my mum mentioned how important it was to her that I could do a Ph.D. the next academic year. This is not a thing she’s pressuring me into: I want to do a Ph.D. But it won’t happen this year; not because I don’t want to; just because. Just because it won’t. It’s very hard to take her slightly disappointed tone whenever I bring this up. I know she doesn’t mean it like that, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect me. Further, it makes me guilty for feeling negatively about it, because I just want to please her, I feel bad about feeling.
It feels like it’s kind of my own fault because I’ve never told her just how bad I’m feeling and have been feeling. It’s the common problem of me thinking she won’t understand. I might be wrong, but I don’t think she understands the feeling of that general dread and emptiness swallowing you up.
It adds to the feeling of worthlessness – the fact that I sometimes feel I can only get affection and applaud from people – especially loved ones – through accomplishment, not by just being. I know my family loves me, but sometimes knowing and feeling isn’t the same thing.
It’s hard to want to accomplish anything when everything is just shapes. It’s difficult to feel worth it when you feel you feel like you are just a shape to others and yourself. It’s difficult to feel worthy of just being, of breathing, of existing as more than just a shape in this general space whose things and people have gradually turned into shapes.
Currently, everything feels like just shapes.
I want to feel okay just being.