Run Like the Wind: Failed Attempts to Sprint Past My Illness

Sometimes it happens when I’m sitting alone. Or sometimes it happens at a restaurant or inside a home with friends or family. I suddenly have this intense, aching desire to get up and start running. My chest aches, my forehead breaks into an unnoticeable sweat, and my legs begin to shake.

I imagine myself running fast and free, my heels almost touching the back of my thighs, my chest heaving, my throat burning, my sweat drying from a cool breeze. Unlike real life, while I have pain in my thighs, I don’t stop. Instead, the pain frees me from it all – I can keep running for as long as I need to.

Maybe I’ll run to the cemetery and slowly pass the plots with names, dates, and rotting flowers. Or maybe I’ll find a dead street and see the left out tricycles, garbage, and lawn chairs. Or maybe, I’ll run to my car, get in, and drive far away from wherever I currently sit.

Sometimes, there is even a soundtrack as I run, pushing me farther, faster. I have run so far, I have shattered the disorder from my heart, my lungs – it disintegrates, dissipating slowly from my blood stream, ripped off in one large piece from my dermal layer of skin – it now lays in a heap far, far behind me.

And this quest I have now begun, with only the clothes on my back, and the sweat lathered upon my head, neck, and back, has lead me to a new place of hope. A place where no one knows who I am or what I’ve done. There is no pressure to smile, to captivate, or to be proper or interesting. I can reinvent myself to be a loner in a small town. Maybe I’d go to the same restaurant every day and they would already know what I wanted because it’s what I order every time. Or maybe I’d be that quirky girl who doesn’t talk much but dresses in 50’s clothes, and buys vinyl records and wears distinctively eye-catching makeup.

I build a life there. One where my past does not haunt me. Where my future is open for business, for discussion, full of choice and random coincidences. Where there is no place for my disorder and therefore I choose what to be and that is now who I am. I am no longer defined within the limits of my disorder. No pills, no doctors, no concerned faces, no worries of failure. My skin is fresh, my heart is full – I am finally the real me – whoever that may be, for however long I choose.

And then I am snapped from my daydream – my feet firmly on the ground. The sound of others in the restaurant too loud, the conversation uninteresting. In my plain, non-descriptive clothes, I sit and attempt to listen, knowing those around me are worried I’m not speaking. Where have I gone in my thoughts? Will I come back? Will they have to deal yet again with a depressive episode? Should they try to make me laugh? Should they leave me alone? Do I just need a good cry before I come back to them?

It’s nighttime now and here I sit. My disorder masking my screams, my desires to run from the life I have inevitably created. I am not who I want to be; I am not where I want to be. And yet, this is the consequence of my disorder and therefore my decisions and choices.

It’s not until I’m in bed at night, feeling my belly heave up and down as I wait for my medications to knock me out into a world of dreams and nightmares, that my thoughts turn to running away. And slowly I fall into sleep and awake the next morning disappointed to find myself in the same place.

Life’s a Bitch and Then You Die: The Struggle for Hope

I have really enjoyed writing this blog. I’m not going to lie, it’s been a complicated experience. Over the past few months, I’ve had to take breaks from both writing and reading. As much as I learn about myself and others as I read and write, it can get pretty intense and pull me down.

What I wasn’t expecting is that I’d miss it. Not only reading all of the intelligent, thoughtful, and real posts from all of you, but writing my own posts. I’ve had a rough couple of weeks and haven’t had time to sit down and think, let alone write. My meds have not been cooperating  so I’ve had some issues with kinesthesia, then we had to put my dog to sleep, and we had a family emergency and I was pulled from my daily routine to come and help out.

But interestingly enough, I’ve learned a lot from all this chaotic shit.

  • My family is amazing and I am so fortunate to have their support. Without their love, I’d have had a complete meltdown weeks ago.
  • Helping others can overwhelm my empathetic emotions and wear me down.
  • Helping others gives me strength, energy, and purpose, and helps keep the blues away. (Yes, I see the irony of those two statements).
  • If you love someone, set them free. (Ugh, I fucking hate cheesy analogies.)
  • Schedule, sleep, stress, change, and chaos can really mess with your illness.

In the past few weeks, my dog had slowly been getting sick: unable to keep food down; walk very well or far; and I was giving her pills and subcutaneous liquid injections daily while she vomited and shook. You could tell she was miserable though there were moments where I saw her personality pop up. I wanted her to get better, but each week, her test results would come back and she was getting worse, and honestly, you could tell she felt shitty.

I struggled to make the decision of when her life should end, but the doctor and my family (I was alone at the time so it was mostly by phone) was kind and helped let me know it was the right decision. This dog was my personal anti-depressant who helped me leave the house to run errands or take a walk when I was terrified to leave my bed. This horrible process made me realize that sometimes true love means letting go. I recognized that I was being selfish because I didn’t want to lose her even if it was the right thing to do. I also will be forever grateful that a family member agreed to take her and others listened as I sobbed on the phone for about two days straight before she was put to sleep.

At the same time, a family member down state became ill and I flew down to help out. Being here this past week has got me thinking – when I help others I feel a purpose to my life, while sometimes at home, I feel so lost, like I’m just taking up space. At the same time, it’s been difficult being here. There is obviously a lot of stress as we don’t know how ill my family member has become. We do know that she is suffering from memory loss.

You would think as someone who has been through ECT and major depressive episodes that have led me to lose two years of memories would make me more sympathetic and patient, but it can be frustrating to have the same conversation three times in a row. It’s also hard to help someone whose pride holds them back from accepting real help. And then I think of the similarities: I’ve had a difficult time letting people help me; I’ve been a bitch to them in an attempt to push them away; I was defiant in my unhealthy lifestyle that was slowly killing me; and I’m sure I asked the same question more than once in a 15 minute period.

As an empathetic person, I find myself feeling such sadness for her and also frustration because she’s not willing to fight or push herself to get better. And yet, it hits me that this is part of the disease. While no one has diagnosed her with depression (like she would ever admit it anyway,) when you turn society and people who love you away, when you live alone and spend days at a time without human interaction, you lose hope and social skills.

I don’t know what’s going to happen. We are taking things day by day and I try to be as helpful as possible from cleaning and cooking to filing papers and cutting her hair. And I wish I could do more. And yet I know that every day it’s also weighing on my own personal health. And I go back and forth between feeling selfish and knowing I can’t be as helpful unless I’m taking care of myself.

She keeps telling me “life’s a bitch and then you die” as if that’s a philosophy of life. And it’s tempting to agree but I know that I’ve worked too hard to accept that. It may be true that “it is what it is” but I can’t believe I am working this hard to keep my head above water, struggling to survive, for naught. Having my dog die has made me realize that many I love will leave me, no matter how much I need them. And I get it: life is a bitch, and I will die. But I have to believe that the love of others and the fight to put that bitch in a corner from time to time, makes it all worth it.