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.


Twenty-Three (23)


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