Down by the River: Numbing Life (Dear Cookie Monster)

Down by the River: Numbing Life

Dear Ana & Everyone else,

After 4 sandwiches, 4 bags of chips, 2 gigantic bags of M&M’s, and some other stuff, it is now 3:30AM and I cannot breathe.

What fun, here we go again.

I can’t sleep, so let’s have at it.

When I get off work, I just want to crawl into a hole until the day leaves me alone. That means numbing out with comedy videos and food, although I hadn’t done the last bit for a few days.

This is sort of how the bingeing originally started when I was eleven. 

I was at home alone and didn’t want to do anything I was supposed to (homework). I just wanted to be bad and eat cookies. I was all alone and bored.

That’s what’s going on now. 

I get off work, I don’t want to do anything constructive – I want to do the opposite.

Wanting to “relax” might seem like a normal thing to do after a long day, especially coming home from a job I don’t want and am terrible at, but this is my life now.

Every moment of the day is my life. What I repeatedly do is what I become. 

Always in and out of treatment centers, I saw my classmates graduate, get jobs, settle down with long-term relationships, etc. Pretty soon, their idea of a good time was staying in to watch TV, learning to bake something new, and buying themself a fancy piece of jewelry or a handbag after they saved up enough pay checks.

I violently swore to myself I would never become like that.

I was going to go to graduate school, have a job I was passionate about, travel the world, do outdoorsy things, spend my money on experiences or invest it (I seriously do not understand jewelry or handbags), read tons of books, always be learning, etc, etc.

Now, I just want to come home and numb myself to everything that happened and that I have to get up and do it all tomorrow.

The thing is – this can very quickly become my life. People do that: they just go to work, come home, and then live their lives through people they watch on TV (or phones if they have no wifi).

They make plans, but never do any of them. And then they stop making plans.

I do not want to be like that.

So, what can I do?

I need to figure out something that gives me a breather. I hate my job, I hate public transportation, and I hate where I live except that I get to close the door. Unless the woman who owns the place decides to knock for some reason or another and I have to hide all my food.

I have a small idea. 

I normally take the subway home, but I could ride a bike part of the way. My commute is along a river, which has a bike rental thing. That would give me time to breathe, a chance to stretch my legs, a break from the city, and being in motion would mean that people have less time to stare at me and I at them. I could just be super busy riding a bike and not look at them at all.

I currently don’t have any pants that fit, but I could put on a pair of shorts. Maybe. Or maybe I should just walk? That would take hours.

This is fizzling without even taking off.

Well, I’ll think of something.

All I know is that I want to do stuff with my life besides hate it and try to escape it.

I don’t like who I am or what I do now, but I will figure it out

The pieces will fall into place eventually. 

I am just going to breathe. This is OK.

I’m still really angry that I am so limited on this platform. It takes me like 3x as long to do everything because of autocorrect and not being able to format anything unless I go into HTML. 

Boohoo, poor little me.

The end.



Whoever
. I can’t separate myself, I am just a big blob.

(Written yesterday morning, published now because my phone died)

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Thicker Skin: Keep it Together, Woman (Dear Cookie Monster)

Thicker Skin: Keep it Together, Woman

Dear Ana,

I (23) don’t care if you write or not.

Writing without a purpose is pointless.

Writing just to vent isn’t constructive.

Writing just to write is annoying.

But you’re right, this is a good tool. 

You can’t use it right now to its full potential, but maybe you should write anyway so you don’t stop entirely.

Just keep it brief.

And keep it together, woman.

No wifi and you fall to pieces. Talk about first world problems.

Yes, I’m “invalidating” you because you need to be invalidated.

Either grow a pair or keep your mouth shut. I’m so tired of listening to you.

You have the world at your fingertips, and yet all you do is complain and hide inside and snivel whenever someone gives you a second look.

People are going to stare because you are in their country and look really different compared to everyone else.

Get over it. 

It was your choice to come here. This is their home and you are a guest, so they can stare all they want.

Grow a thicker skin.

I am so tired of you falling apart all the time.

I just want to stay in bed.

I’m so tired of everything.


Twenty-Three (23)

Pity Party: Hiding from Life (Dear Cookie Monster)

Pity Party: Hiding from Life

Dear all of you,

Sorry for the wifi rant yesterday.

I don’t handle change very well, especially unexpected change.

This is a good thing.

I keep telling myself.

This is just such a good outlet. And not having it the way I used to have it is hard.

I can go somewhere with internet, but that means everyone being able to see me, stare at me, talk to me.

Being the only person who looks like this is hard when I just don’t want to be noticed. 

It’s exhausting. I don’t want to go sit in a public place after being on public transportation, walking around, and having people stare at me.

Especially if I am terrible at my job and just want to go home where I can just shut the door, take off these clothes that are too tight, and numb myself out by watching YouTube.

I don’t want to be someone who goes to a job they hate and then numb themselves when they get home.

Maybe this is just a thing that will pass.

But maybe it won’t.

I keep waiting for myself to get over things that happened in the past for me to finally live, but I need to stop doing that.

My life does not start X pounds from now, when my skin clears up, when these memories stop, and I stop hating life/myself/everyone so much.

I just need to get out there.

Yes, I am going to hurt people. 

Yes, they are going to make me feel terrible about it (like that one person is). And they are going to be right about what a terrible inconsiderate person I am. And I’m going to just want to hide from the world not only to protect myself, but to protect other people from me.

Because I am not the kind of person people want to be around. 

I make a good impression, but it’s downhill after that.

I don’t want to be around myself most days, and the only people who do are very strange. 

Like that person I need to just cut loose because not doing so is a really mean thing to do. I need to stop being afraid of conflict, people not liking me, etc.

If people think I’m a (trying not to swear here), then so what. 

That’s what I am, probably. Definitely

I just can’t please everyone. 

Being perfect and likeable and then suddenly transforming back into myself when I can’t take it anymore and hiding from everyone is really tiring and makes me feel like a horrible person.

I just need to be a horrible person for the getgo.

Not having a computer is turning me into a whiny little (same bad word). Apologies. Hopefully whoever you are (including future me) stopped reading a while ago.

What I just said was stupid and melodramatic, but deleteing stuff on here is hard and I’m not supposed to do that anyway. 

I just need to go be me, which is messy and vomiting myself (figuratively, just to clarify) all over other people when the pressure builds and explodes

People can leave. If they don’t, I’ll make them leave. Or just stop talking to them because making them leave makes me feel like a bad person and they should have gotten the hint a while ago.

I’m such a coward.

That pattern will probably continue until I learn how to be around people and outside a room that I sleep in. 

It is less than ideal, but I need to just do it.

Yes, it is going to be using people to get better. 

They are going to be like guinea pigs that I practice being a human around and then chase off or abandon because I don’t want people around who’ve seen my flaws.

I don’t want to be someone who people take pity on. I don’t want to be around people I disrespect. I want to be someone’s equal.

But I don’t respect myself and therefore people who like myself because I wouldn’t like me if I met me. 

I’ve thankfully stopped hanging around people who don’t like me (the only people I think are rational – like my brother) because that’s unhealthy, but unfortunately there now is no one left.

Besides, people are always using other people, so what difference will it make if I’m there? Knowing me and learning to run will teach them an important lesson.

I also need to stop pretending I’m powerful enough to hurt and use people.

Most people forget things and get over them in 2 seconds. They don’t brood like I do and make a big deal out of everything.

Woe ’tis me, what a wonderful pity party this is.

I really wish I had a keyboard.

And a sense of gratitude and perspective.

I’m going to hate myself tomorrow for writing this probably more than for what I wrote yesterday.

Fun times.


Is this even Ana? I can’t focus, I’m just everyone all wrapped up together being annoyed, sad, angry, numb, bitter, guilty, pathetic, etc.

No Wifi: Uncomfortable and Unexpected Change (Dear Cookie Monster)

No Wifi: Uncomfortable and Unexpected Change

This isn’t a letter, I’m just processing something.

There’s no wifi here, so I’m writing this on my phone.

I just can’t do this. 

I can’t type fast enough. I keep making typos.

I don’t have anything to write, anyway.

I’m just done being me. 

I’m tired of being me. I don’t want this body, this skin, this brain, this everything. I want it gone.

I feel so trapped in here.

I just want to go walk around. I just want to go outside. But I don’t want to go outside when I look like this

Please just make it all go away.

I just want to wake up and for it to all be gone

I am too big to be here.

I wish I didn’t have to step on a scale yesterday. I don’t like that number. It’s staggering.

Just let me not be here, please.

 I’m too tired.

I don’t know how I’ll be able to write. I work during the day and I really don’t like being in places where people can see me. Especially at night.

I’m just going to have to make this work somehow.

This feels so terrible to lose this, I NEED this.

I hate this.

I will just have to make it work somehow.

This is a good thing.

I can do this.

Time to put on my big girl panties.

Except it’s 12am and I’m in my pajamas.

Maybe tomorrow.

Or I can just figure out how to do this on my phone.

That would actually be more convenient if I could figure out how to write these during my commute on the subway. 

Again, this is a good thing.

Time to go look for a photo filter app because, yes, that is up there with reasons why this is making me anxious.

I like things being uniform. I also like making this blog look nice because it encourages me to write and take this seriously.

I am also going to take a step back and be so happy that I am worrying about wifi and pretty pictures rather than a lot of other things I normally worry about.

I am just talking to myself now.

..which is what I’ve been doing this whole time.

Ok seriously done this time.


Ana

Acceptance: OK With “Not OK” (Dear Cookie Monster)

Acceptance: OK With “Not OK”

Dear Fifteen,

I (age 25?) know it’s not my turn to write today, but your letter concerned me.

Those types of racing thoughts caused a lot of problems the last time they started up.

You just need to breathe.

Everything is going to be OK.

Yes, we are smoothing out the edges.

Yes, this is such a wonderful feeling.

But we need to ease into it.

This is a process.

It cannot be rushed.

Or forced.

Like with our volume.

It’s starting to ease off.

If you rush it, it will backfire.

If you hate it, it will backfire.

If you think too much about it, it will backfire.

So just breathe.

Accept that we are here.

Be OK with the rough edges.

Be OK with the unequal rectangles.

Be OK with things “not being OK.”

Everything is OK.

You are OK.

We are all OK.

We’re going to be fine.

Just relax.

It’s not your job to figure everything out.

You spoke and we heard you.

Your contribution was incredibly valuable, and we thank you for it.

But now, it is time to step back.

Step back from the edge.

Come down from the dais.

Everything is going to be OK.

I’m here.

We’re here.

x

(Someone so much older and yet younger than all of us)

Integration: Becoming Whole (Dear Cookie Monster)

Integration: Becoming Whole

Dear Reader,

This rambles a lot. Just skip down to the pictures. Or just skip all of it. I really want to edit this (or delete the whole thing), but I am too tired. So, save yourselves!

Dear All of You and None of You,

I (15 years old, or not?) am starting this letter over and breathing.

I need to breathe.

Because:

1. Twenty’s letter had me up all night thinking.

2. And then stuff happened today that was upsetting and brought back a lot of memories.

So, number 1: Thinking too much

The more this writing project (blog) delves into the past, the more I realize that there are so many of us in here. So many different ages.

And we’re all entire “people,” not just these caricatures. 

I, at age fifteen, was not just a grumpy emo hiding in my room and studying all the time. I did other things, like play in the school orchestra. I had a guinea pig that I would take into the back yard so it could eat the grass. I went to math camp and really liked it. 

There is so much more to me.

The image of a girl hiding in the closet crying is just a sliver of who I am. And she isn’t me, Fifteen, I think she’s Thirteen (13 years old). And she also isn’t Thirteen, because she’s more complicated than that frozen moment in time.

And when it comes to “the Fall,” which was such a momentous event that we’ve split ourselves into “Twenty-Two Point Five” (22.5 years old) and “Twenty-Three,” (23 years old) because the year “Twenty-Two” (22 years old) was completely divided into two polar opposite halves. Twenty-Two’s whole life was turned upside down.

After that, there was no way she could go back to being the way she was before.

But earlier in Twenty-Two’s year, she also was in treatment, and then she went back to school. So there could be:

Twenty-Two and Zero-Thirds (22.0 onwards) in treatment,

Twenty-Two and One-Thirds (22.33 onwards) back at school, and

Twenty-Two and Two-Thirds (22.66 onwards) in the midst of falling, and then Twenty-Three (which is also Twenty-Two and Three-Thirds: 33.00) in deep depression after “the Fall.”

But then Twenty-Three also has drastic stages. I won’t do any more fractions, just stages:

1) Lying in bed unable to get up

2) Working two jobs, taking night classes, writing constantly 

3) In summer school, hanging out with new friends, going her first road trip ever, making up for lost time, etc.

There are just so many little nit-picky things and differences.

Who I/we were in each of those instances were so different, they could be their own people (as far as assigning names for this project is concerned).

But this is getting too complicated.

There are just so many of us. What are we going to do, go down in fractions? There could be maybe 80 of us if we do that. Would we even get anything done? Or does skipping over them not get anything done? Are we just not going to get anything done at all?

I’m thinking about this all in terms of integration (calculus).

I haven’t taken calculus in forever and maybe this is all wrong, so don’t take my word for how this works.

When you want to calculate the area under a curve, you break it up into rectangles. If you use big rectangles, it’s not as accurate and it’s just an estimate. But it is the most efficient: quick and dirty.

If you use little rectangles, it gets more and more precise.

As you approach infinity, that’s when you will finally know the true area under the curve.

It looks something like this:wyzant

Big rectangles = imprecise estimate. Small rectangles = more precise.

The goal is for the entire area under the curve to be pink, no white spaces.

I’m thinking about our assigned blocks of time in terms of those rectangles.

Right now, me “Fifteen” was originally just supposed to stand for me at 15 years old, but it’s becoming apparent the assigned title of “Fifteen” is supposed to stand for multiple ages, between maybe 13-17ish. “Twenty” covers maybe 18-21 instead of just 20. And so on.

Those are huge blocks of time. So many things happened in between.

Me, “Fifteen” who is representing all those years, cannot possibly represent it correctly. The way to most accurately capture our history is to break our age blocks up into smaller and smaller amounts.

So, “Fifteen” (my label) should only encompass the year when we were 15 years old, and the other years get their own names as well (Thirteen, Fourteen, etc).

Until we do that, we’re just getting a very choppy, chunky, inaccurate representation of what really happened in our past.

So many things happened during my assigned block of time, that I sometimes don’t know what to write or how to respond. As we’ve been delving into this, I feel like there are three or four or five different ways that I feel because there are that many “people/younger selves” within the ages I’m supposed to represent.

It’s a bit paradoxical, but only by breaking my parts into smaller and smaller pieces can a smooth, continuous whole be achieved. It’s like a softening of extremes. No more sharp edges.

Another way to put it: I can also think of myself/life as a circle.

A circle has an infinite number of sides. If I just break up my life up into five or so segments (or however many we have now), I’ll have a pentagon.

As I increase the number of sides, the representation becomes more and more circular. Only until I have an infinite number of sides that I will truly be able to represent myself/life.

caroline-biological-supply

All of this just has me on the verge of hyperventilating because that is just too much.

It’s too much work. This project and the number of younger selves is already hard to keep track of sometimes. How am I supposed to keep track of this? Who is even speaking or writing this right now? What age am I?

At the same time, creating more “selves” is also comforting.

Trying to figure out how to write from this age when there are so many conflicting ages within that block is frustrating sometimes because I feel like I’m making myself more extreme or something. Like if I’m being forced to play a certain role within a play.

It’s going to be a lot of housekeeping, though. Which is boring and tedious.

I’ll have to maybe make a timeline to take stock of what was going on at each year in my life so I can determine who I was then, as well as major events or changes that might have caused fragments within a single year.

I’ve already had some success using Pinterest.

I’ve created a board for each age and then pinned things that remind me of that age. That’s actually what kind of got these wheels turning, because conflicting pictures were going onto the same board when they should have been kept separate.

I’m so tired after all of that.

OK, so number 2: Stuff that was upsetting

I/we went to the hospital today for the health check needed for a work visa. So many memories came back. I was kind of shuddering a bit sometimes, but mostly just a bit zoning out. But then, when I had to go into the dressing room to put on a gown, I just started shaking and almost started crying.

It caught me off guard.

Everything happened so long ago. It’s been over 2.5 years since I was a patient in a hospital. I thought a lot of that baggage was gone.

This kind of made me feel a bit… I don’t know the word. Disappointed?

I thought I had moved on more than that. That this thing still has a hold on me makes me so angry and sad. It’s not fair that it took away so much from me at the time, it continuing to do so is so painful.

Maybe it’s because everything in the hospital was all in a foreign language and I was just sort of in a state of confusion for a lot of it not really knowing what I was supposed to be doing and sort of bouncing around from room to room and then people giving me instructions and me not knowing what was happening and then them unexpectedly touching me and it all being so fast and brisk that it happened and then I’m just like, wait what? What did you just do? And then being told it’s over, NEXT!

Having to put on a gown was another thing. It felt so degrading and all too familiar.

I had to do that in treatment every morning, put on a gown and step onto a scale backwards. Today, I had to take off my clothes and put them in a basket. There were men there. I don’t know why, but it made me uncomfortable that they were there. I don’t know why. I just didn’t like it.

Now I need to go out and be social.

Yes, social. As in be a person. Some people I met want me to go with them somewhere.

I’m just so tired, I just want to curl up into a ball with M&Ms and cry.

But I also don’t want to be alone. These people are foreigners like me. It’s weird to be around people like me after so long. I feel afraid because they can see who I am and know if I do something weird and not write it off as cultural differences.

I am just going. This is stupid. Enough with the dramatics.

Let’s do this.

1-copy

 

 

Nightmare: All Suffering is Relative (Dear Cookie Monster)

Nightmare: All Suffering is Relative

Dear Twenty-Three (23),

I (20) don’t know how to respond to your letter from yesterday.

As great as it was to hear from you (I genuinely mean that, even though it’s painful), reading your letter brought me so much shame.

I remember after you purged your Facebook page of all the manic and psychotic posts, you started reading over the older ones. The ones I wrote.

You were struck by what a conceited, attention-seeking, and clueless person I was.

You thought I was the most annoying and repulsive person ever.

One of the posts you came across was me sharing a “bad dream” I had just experienced. In my dream, my computer crashed and I had not made a backup, and so I had lost all my notes just before an important exam. I then wrote something along the lines of “Phew, scared me to death! I’m going to go back it up now.”

You read that and were utterly disgusted with me.

First, that I would be so annoying as to post something so stupid online. Who cares what I dream about? How narcissistic was I to to believe that people would be interested in my dreams?

Second, it was the nature of my “bad dream.” That the deletion of my chemistry notes felt like the end of the world to me made you resent me to such a deep level that it made your eyes go dark.

There were so many things to pull apart there.

That I had no idea how bad things could get and was living in my own little bubble unaware of what it meant to suffer. That I was not appreciative of being at an amazing school. That I wasn’t thankful enough or careful enough.

Third – I can’t even articulate it. Just the whole thing made you want to destroy me.

I am terrified to stand up to you. I feel so much shame and embarrassment.

It’s true, I didn’t appreciate what I had and I made a fool of myself running around partying and so on. I thought I was so cool both partying hard and studying hard. Like a secret spy, living a double life.

But I need to stand up to you all the same.

I always have to stand up for myself because the rest of you always scrape the blame off onto my plate and make me eat it. And I eat it, one miserable bite at a time, while you all watch feeling so superior and enjoying me choke on every bit of it, tears welling up in my eyes and streaming down my face.

There is just so much stuff to choke down and I’m already full up to my neck in it. There isn’t anymore room for it to go down.

So, I guess this is me vomiting it all up, something I’m good at as you have all been so kind to point out.

I’m sick and tired of taking this all in, bearing your criticism and scorn.

You all welcome me into this circle with sisterly love, but it’s in the sense that you’re “letting” me in, that you’re doing me a favor by forgiving me, that I need to atone for my ways.

Forget that. I did things I regret, but I’m not apologizing for them, not anymore.

You say I don’t know what suffering is. You’re forgetting that I went through everything Fifteen went through and quite a bit more. I also went through the downward spiral at the end of high school where I almost didn’t graduate because I was throwing up so much.

I also went through treatment when I was 18. I had been through stuff, too. Maybe not as bad as your stuff, but if you keep going down that route of telling me my hardships aren’t as big as yours and I have no right to complain, you’ll need to good look at yourself.

You also don’t know true suffering if you look at the things other people go through.

You threw in a quote by Viktor Frankl about “Tragic Optimism” while talking about your situation yesterday. He went through the Holocaust, are you saying you know even a tiny bit about what he went through?

You know nothing. Your suffering is nothing.

You have a family that loves you, insurance that paid for all that fancy treatment, an education that gives you access to so many opportunities (most of which you completely take for granted), you have your health, etc etc etc.

So, how did me telling you that make you feel? Invalidated, right?

Someone is always going to suffer more than you. It is good to take a look at these situations to put your own life in perspective, make you appreciate the things in your life you take for granted, and realize your problems result from a certain amount of privilege.

But at the same time, all suffering is relative.

Compared to you, my “suffering” is quite small. Compared to Victor Frankl, so is yours.

The point is, just stop it. Minimizing my emotions, telling me I shouldn’t have them, that they and I are wrong – all of that is useless, annoying, and destructive.

The other thing you brought up was my narcissism.

Yes, I was (still am) a bit self-centered. But putting myself out there and looking a bit ridiculous takes much more bravery, as we have talked about, than hiding in the shadows.

I had also been hurt and scorned by people. Like my brother, for instance, who drilled into my being what an annoying and unwanted person I was. I had already experienced people rejecting who I was.

But I put that aside and put myself out there, even though there was evidence all around that my behavior might result in me getting hurt again.

That takes major guts, which you lack in that department.

Yes, a lot of bad things happened to you. But you really only have two choices: either move forward into optimism, or lapse backwards into resentment.

If you take a better look at that Victor Frankl quote, you’ll know what to do:

You need to “[turn] suffering into a human achievement and accomplishment.” Don’t see what happened as a disaster, see your strength and resourcefulness and stubbornness to get through it all as a demonstration of your amazingness. You truly are incredible.

You need to “[derive] from guilt the opportunity to change oneself for the better.” If there are things about yourself that you don’t like, such as my narcism and frequent disregard for how I impact others, then make a change. Don’t turn that guilt into shame and hide yourself form the world to spare them the misfortune of knowing you. Just grow.

I’m too tired to keep writing.

I’m just lecturing you at this point, which is what the rest of you do to me. Super annoying.

If there’s one takeaway, it’s just to chill out a bit.

That may seem like something only “stupid” people like me do, but enjoying life in a world of so much suffering is actually one of the bravest, hardest, and most intelligent things you can do.

So, please. Just take it easy. Your hatred is toxic and exhausting.

Best,

2

Twenty

 

Tragic Optimism: Life after Misfortune (Dear Cookie Monster)

Tragic Optimism: Life after Misfortune

Dear Ana (25) and the rest of you,

Hello, at last.

I (23) don’t want to do this either, but for reasons different than you might think.

Do you remember our little writing project during “The Fall,” as you have coined it?

One of my delusions was that I was a super genius, that my brain was something magnificent and never-before-seen, that this psychotic break was my mind’s true potential finally bursting forth, and that I needed to document every little thing that happened.

And put it on the internet.

I took pictures of myself in my hospital clothes and uploaded them to Facebook. I wrote rambling posts about things I can’t even remember. I wrote long-winded emails to my professors and texts to everyone I knew.

And I started a blog very similar to this one.

It was everything in my head “splat out on the page,” as you’ve so eloquently put it. Except then I posted links to it on Facebook so everyone I knew could read it. That blog wasn’t anonymous like this one.

The high of marveling in my own spectacular mind soon came crashing down into utter despair for a reason I don’t even want to get into.

I’m still mortified when I think about it. It wasn’t yet the depression that slammed into me, knocking the wind out of me and putting me flat on my back. That wasn’t until later.

I was still delusional and manic and psychotic when I decided to do something to someone in a very public way (on Facebook, again – I HATE that website). I cannot say how that impacted the person because I did get to witness their reaction with a rational and sane mind.

All I know is that person was soon gone (and rightly so). At the time, I thought it was perfectly reasonable to harass that person with text messages after they left (I pray that they blocked me and didn’t read most of them) and write long melodramatic rants detailing my heartbreak and misery.

Which I posted online. For everyone to see.

That whole experience was like someone had hacked my life.

They had access to all my  contacts and social media accounts. They could take pictures of me and share them whenever they felt like it, no matter what state I was in. They controlled my hands and could type whatever they wanted, send it to anyone they wanted, post it anywhere they wanted. They controlled my mouth and what I said, my body and what it did. I was utterly helpless and at their mercy.

But that person wasn’t a hacker. It was me. I did that.

And there was no way to say that it wasn’t me, because it WAS me. The shell of my body and whatever possessed it did all of that.

Some people thought that was the big reveal of who I was, that I had been putting on a mask to trick them into being my friend, into liking me.

Maybe they’re right. Maybe that really was me and everything else, me (23) and the rest of you (15, 20, 25, and whoever else) are just masks. Maybe that psychotic break was like a crack in our stiff inflexible exterior through which our true essence, that gleeful, horrible, maniacal essence, exploded out onto every aspect of our life and those around us who weren’t quick enough to run away from that sticky slimy muck that you will keep smelling no matter how many times you try to wash it off.

I have so many fun stories I could tell you.

More ways that 22.5 mortified us, the horrible and stupid things she said and did, the people who left her one-by-one, the disgusting ways people took advantage of her in that state of insanity, the terrible things she said and did to her family and friends and people who were just trying to help, the delusions and visions and paranoia that plagued her.

But what would be the point in getting into all the grimy specifics?

No point, except to attract attention so others think that you’re special and to get them to feel sorry for you.

That was the purpose of the blog you wrote while manic and psychotic. First, to strike other people with awe at your brilliance. And second, after things started falling apart, to help you throw a pity party (huge understatement – more like a Gatsby rave) for yourself.

What you’re doing now isn’t really any different.

Yes, it’s anonymous, but it probably wouldn’t be too hard for someone who was curious to find out who you are. Yes, you’re more in control now, but there’s also a lack of control when you let younger parts of yourself take the reins and write. They, as have I, have already spilled more of your secrets than you would ever normally reveal.

You might not admit this, but there is still that little spark inside you that says you’re special, you’re brilliant, your mind is a medical marvel.

You want people to read this and think you are smart and innovative in your approach to understanding yourself and your struggles better. You also want people to hear about the things you’ve gone through and feel sorry for you, tell you how strong you are, and let you get away with anything (from dysfunctional behavior to failures to not trying at all) because you just being alive after all that is a miracle. “Don’t be so hard on yourself,” you want them to say.

There’s no way to stop this writing project.

You all are already off to the races. My contribution has thrilled you with its details that are intimate yet elusive. You can’t wait for me to hit the button to publish it online. You’re wondering what catchy title to use and the photo to go along with it, to which you’ll apply a filter so it looks faded and artistic.

I’m just tired.

I think we all have said that at least once, some of us almost every time we write. I’m not going to put my foot down. Do whatever you want.

When you asked me to step into the arena, it made me roll my eyes.

I hated how melodramatic you were being. And annoying.

But that quote you posted stirred something in me. Without realizing it, I have become one of those “cold and timid souls” watching from the dark shadows of the stands while those in the spotlight of the arena “[dare] greatly.”

I rarely go on Facebook anymore. I have largely avoided people who know anything about what happened. I don’t let people get close anymore. Anything I do post online is intended to show how not crazy I am now, how I’ve moved on to live a life full of excitement and exploration, that I don’t need or miss the people who left because they are replaceable– in other words, it’s only about the tiny slice of my life that occasionally resembles normality.

The long stretches of not posting anything aren’t because I’m living, but mostly because I am lying in bed depressed or don’t want to be around people after a wave of shame and cynicism makes me lose faith in humanity again.

You, Ana (25), and the rest of you who are contributing to this project, are stepping into the arena.

You are being vulnerable and as real as you can be (considering being fake is default mode since we basically have to hide everything about ourself from the general public).

Being in the arena is messy, embarrassing, annoying, and a million other negative adjectives I’m too tired to write. I’m just tired. You all have so much energy and are making such fools of yourself. Have you forgotten everything that’s happened?

Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor and psychiatrist,

wrote in his book “Man’s Search for the Meaning” about his experiences in Auschwitz and his approach to resiliency. One aspect he mentioned was “tragic optimism:”

“Tragic optimism, that is, an optimism in the face of tragedy

and in view of the human potential which at its best always allows for:

(1) turning suffering into a human achievement and accomplishment;

(2) deriving from guilt the opportunity to change oneself for the better; and

(3) deriving from life’s transitoriness an incentive to take responsible action.”

To me, lying here in this bed unable to even get up and take a shower, your optimism seems ridiculous and pointless.

Why go through all that trouble when life is nothing but pain and suffering?

I think of it as foolishness, but maybe it is also bravery. Maybe foolishness and bravery are the same thing.

I am terrified, as Fifteen (15) detailed, of people laughing at me, looking down on me, thinking I’m a failure, etc. Because of that fear, I don’t put myself out there. I don’t step into the arena. I don’t risk getting hurt again because I’ve already been hurt.

But lying here in this bed also hurts. It hurts so much.

I can’t get up. My body is filled with lead. Memories plague me, as do feelings of horror, mortification, disgust, and grief. Every morning I wake up and cry that I am still alive because all I prayed for last night was to die in my sleep and to not exist anymore.

It is excruciatingly painful.

No matter what I do, I will suffer and experience pain. Trying to hide from that maybe makes it worse in the end.

So, wheel me out.

I am still in this bed wearing clothes I haven’t changed in days, my oily unwashed hair and skin, my swollen face marred with dark splotches from the medications all on display for everyone to see under these blinding lights, eyes blinking and leaking tears in this uncustomary brightness.

Everyone can see everything now. Everything. Just like before.

Their voices would be better than me imagining their thoughts while they remain silent and cloaked by shadows.

But I don’t care anymore. I’m tired of caring, being afraid, being embarrassed. Think what you want, I’m too tired to worry about it anymore.

The worst part is, those stands full of people I’ve been imagining have probably been empty this entire time.

I’ve been terrified of people and judgements that aren’t even there.

I don’t know which is worse, people judging me, or people not caring at all. For me to no longer be worth even a thought in their minds.

I imagine someday that those people who left may read this and know what really happened, who I really am. Maybe even wish things had been different and that we still knew each other.

But they will never read this.

And what I’ve written here, what the rest of you have written in your letters, will only affirm what they think of me. That I am insane, unstable, and person they are so thankful is no longer in their lives.

I’m just so tired. I’ve cared too much for too long.

This letter should have ended a really long time ago.

I feel disgusting now. This is just like that blog before, me whining and wanting pity.

I want to delete this whole thing and start over, or not even write it at all, but I said I would stop hiding. I was planning to be reserved and rational, which I did pretty well for a while, but then the whole thing collapsed.

That is why having access to a platform like this is dangerous.

You can get sucked into it and never get out. You can create a soap opera in your head and never achieve that normalcy and sense of inner-peace that you say you want. I doubt sometimes that you want that, that maybe you like all the drama.

OK, I take that back.

That’s something your family says about you when they’re frustrated with how difficult you are. They tell you that you make yourself sick and seek treatment because you don’t want to grow up and be responsible for your life.

Those words have always been like a spike in your chest invalidating every aspect of your being and puncturing your lungs, making you deflate into a tiny little ball that could just shrivel up vanish from existence.

I won’t ever say that again. I’m sorry.

Alright, that’s the end of this letter.

Have fun you guys.

3

Twenty-Three (23)

The Arena: Courage to Dare Greatly (Dear Cookie Monster)

The Arena: Courage to Dare Greatly

Dear All of You,

I (25) didn’t write yesterday because I didn’t want to just be a filler.

I’m also terrified of talking to Twenty-Three (23).

I feel that she’s like Fifteen (15), but her depression is on steroids.

Her entire world has just been turned upside down. She is alone in that house unable to get out of bed or see a future that makes sense. Her parents come into her room to try to make her get up.  Their approaches vary: being a hard-ass (ripping off the sheets and demanding she gets up – mostly mom), acting sympathetic (helping her throw a pity party – also mostly mom, occasionally dad), or trying to reason with her (making her come to terms with reality using rational logic – mostly dad).

All she knows are those sour-smelling sheets she hides under, hating the sunlight, crying, and praying that this life could just be over already.

Yeah, I don’t want to go anywhere near that.

It’s not that I don’t like her (I love her to death), I’m just worried that she will overwhelm me with her sadness. I’ve managed to squash most of that, although it still comes up sometimes.

OK, a lot.

On most days, it’s like playing whack-a-mole. I shove down one memory or feeling and then another one pops up. I pretend none of it happened, use ambiguous wording when I have to talk about it, or laugh it off when there’s no way to avoid it because if I don’t laugh I’ll cry.

I don’t want her to remind me about everything and make me cry.

I’m afraid I won’t ever stop crying. I don’t want to remember what happened at school, at the hospital, on the bus, in that car, that apartment, with friends, with my family, with the creepy predators that preyed upon me in my state of weakness, with the sadistic health care workers who hated their jobs and took it out on me, with the people I hurt who were only trying to help.

It all just makes me feel unclean, horrified with myself and this world, mortified beyond being able to put into words, and completely and utterly grief-stricken all the way down to my core and then some.

It just makes me want to crawl into a hole and die.

I was on the bus today looking at all the strange apartment buildings, tons of them rising up eerily into the quickly darkening sky, seeing the words I can’t read, and seeing eyes flit to my face because people who look like me make up less than 1% of the population here.

And I just felt so far away. And sad.

I’ve banished myself from my own home, my own entire country, because I don’t want to be anywhere near where all of that happened.

I’m going to be sad no matter what I do. A terrible horrible thing happened that made me feel so violated and hopeless and alone. I might never stop being sad about that.

But I can choose whether or not I suffer.

How I choose to react and live my life after everything that happened is in my hands. I can’t shut down my feelings and pretend that it never happened. But I can be brave and face it. I may (will definitely) suffer for a (hopefully not too long) while if I choose to do this, but it’s better than suffering for the rest of my life. I’ve already suffered so much, what’s a bit more? Besides, living with unresolved grief is already a special kind of suffering.

I met women and men in treatment in their 40’s, 50’s, 60’s. Not getting over this, always being like this, is a definite possibility.

I can’t wait for the natural maturation that comes with age to bring me to my senses. That may work for some people, but not for me. Not for those men and women. I don’t want to be 30 (which is only 5 years away), 40, 50, or 60 and still being afraid of what happened and everything that reminds me of it. I don’t want to wait until I’m better to start living my life. I can’t wait until everything is perfect.

It’s never going to be perfect. I never had a shot at perfect.

Maybe no one does, although Instagram and Facebook beg to differ. I just have to get out there and be a mess. I can’t wait until I’m bulletproof.

Brené Brown read a quote by Theodore Roosevelt during one of her Ted Talks that sums up my aspirations quite nicely:

“It is not the critic who counts;

not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena,

whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst,

if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

I don’t want to be in the stands anymore watching people dare greatly while I am either critical or envious. I want to be in there rather than hiding out here.

So, I’m going to end this letter now. No more stalling.

Twenty-Three (23), I now enter the arena and call upon you to be brave and do the same. This is terrifying, but you and I are both so strong and courageous. We have been through so many things together, so I know that to be irrevocably true. Bravery is not about being fearless, but rather about facing your fears.

So, come out from the shadows and into the light. Let me see you and tell me what you can.

Sincerely,

4

Ana (25)

Super Man: Warning Signs of Mental Illness (Dear Cookie Monster)

Super Man: Warning Signs of Mental Illness

Dear Ana (25), Twenty (20), and Twenty-Three (23),

Hi.

I (15) can’t really comment on what you guys are all talking about.

Everything happened 8 years in the future and there was not even the tiniest hint that something like that was going to happen. That thing was really an eight-wheeler truck barreling out of no where and turning us into a streak of goo smeared all over the road.

Yes, I have a lot of trouble sleeping. Yes, my moods go up and down. But nothing like that.

Mine are like gently rolling hills, like a sine wave. That are anything but gentle. What happened to you guys was like the Super Man ride at Six Flags where they shoot you straight up and then plummet you down. And then up. And then down.

Except instead of the ride being 60 meters tall, this was more like going to the tip of Mount Everest and then down into the Mariana oceanic trench.

Super fun, right?

But again, I can’t really comment on it.

What’s going on with me could be taken as the first signs, but it could also mean nothing at all. Some people said we were bipolar, other said that was a one-time psychotic episode that will never occur again. The only way to figure out who was right is if a second episode happens, or we die from old age without ever having another episode. So basically, that terrible thing is either going to happen again, or we are going to spend the rest of our life living in terror that it will happen again.

Again, super fun, right?

Let’s just skip over to something that I can talk about.

I see this as a filler because we want a letter from Twenty-Three (23) and we are going in order. Ana (25) is going to write the next letter after this one. If I write this afternoon and Ana writes this evening, then maybe we can get a letter from Twenty-Three.

Twenty-Two (22) doesn’t know anything. Twenty-Two Point Five (22.5) is on another planet and completely inaccessible. Only Twenty-Three is down in the swamp, and the very bottom of it, and can tell us more. She was there when the debris settled, burying her underneath it all.

So, what can I talk about? Food and weight, which is the opposite of talking about something.

All of this was never about the food or the weight. But I guess my reaction to this could be useful since it could be the doorway into figuring what’s actually going on.

So, how is all of that going? Interesting. The bingeing for the most part has tailored off. Now we’re just eating what we feel like eating. It still feels like bingeing sometimes because what we eat sometimes are “bad” foods, and sometimes we get a bit carried away and eat more than what would satiate us.

As a tiny bit of this volume has gone, the mad urges to get rid of it all have started.

Mostly from me, I think. Before, I could blame our volume on bingeing – our stomach was really full and we were just bloated. Now, I can’t write it off. This volume is here to stay, at least for a long time. It might slowly trickle away while I keep on not bingeing, but it’s going to be a slow process. Especially if I’m eating “bad” foods in “wrong” amounts.

I just want it all gone ASAP.

I feel trapped by it, smothered by it. A stomach full of binge food and a bit of bloating will be gone in a day or so. A body padded with extra padding is going to take months. Even if I did what I normally would do in this situation (eat only “good” foods in significantly lower than “right” amounts), it would probably take at least 3-4 weeks for most of it to go away.

So I’m freaking out.

I’m screaming at you to get rid of it and in the process and telling you what a disgusting fat pig you are and crying hysterically and asking you how could you have let this happen?

I’m trying to hold my tongue, but it’s really hard. This is what I’ve always done.

And what has been the result? Sometimes it’s gone according to plan, but most times, the bingeing starts back up. When I was purging, that was not really a “problem” (it was a huge problem) because the food wouldn’t stick. But now, everything sticks. EVERYTHING. And it’s EVERYWHERE.

In my face, neck, arms, back, abdomen, hips, butt (I don’t mind so much anymore since that’s now fashionable), thighs, feet. Yes, feet. Or maybe that’s just swelling from having to heft around such a large load. My shoes don’t fit. I have to wear flip flops everywhere and wrap my toes in paper tape so the skin doesn’t rip off when I have to wear real shoes.

It. is. everywhere. EVERYWHERE.

So, yes, I’m screaming. But I’m also seeing how the volume is slowly leaking out and how pleasant this is to just eat. If I want a sandwich, I eat one. M&Ms, ditto. If someone at work offers me something, I take it and actually eat it rather than “saving it for later” and then throwing it out. It’s kind of nice.

I know at some point we’re going to reach a place where the leakage stops because the food we’re eating sustains the volume that we have.

At that point, no more volume will leave unless we eat less or exercise more. I hate exercising in the first place and I don’t like drawing attention to myself by exercising. So that leaves eating.

It’s happened before. Like when Twenty (20) “woke up” and realized how “large” she was. She started restricting her intake and when she broke down and binged, she would get rid of it.

If we cut down at that future point, the bingeing might return. No, it will return. I know it will.

But I don’t want to get ahead of myself and think about that.

For right now, we are just going to eat food that we want, when we want. Even if that means doing things that would normally horrify me.

Please put up with me and ignore me in the meantime.

Happy eating.

1-copy

Fifteen (15)

P.S.

Thank you for getting rid of the P.S.’s. They were super annoying. Yes, I just used one. Deal with it.