Wednesday, December 16, 2015

I wish I had thicker skin

One difficult thing about suffering from depression is how easily little things can get under your skin. This problem is compounded by the fact that people are pretty insensitive to your situation, so they make a lot of ignorant comments and assumptions and think you're ridiculous for over-reacting to things.

When I was suffering from my really awful depression this spring, I was absolutely overwhelmed with how insane my mood swings were. I would spiral into a dark mood because of small slights and comments and let downs. Rejection - even small rejections such as people not being able to come to a party I organized for a perfectly good reason - now hits me really hard. It sends me back into those particularly dark places. It's hard to insulate yourself from that pain though because it means that you can't really do much of anything.

I just tried to organize a Christmas party with friends only to find that half of them couldn't come. Now I feel like a complete idiot and I have this well of anger and hurt inside's so strong, it's almost a physical feeling. And I feel stupid for being mad over something so small. But it's frustrating to feel like every time I muster the courage to put myself out there again, I'm rejected.

This summer, after I came home from school and new I wouldn't be returning, I decided to take a chance and audition for a local community theater production of my favorite musical since I would finally have the time to be in a play and it was something I'd always wanted to do. Of course, it ended up being terribly nerve-racking to audition and everyone else at the audition had acting resumes, headshots, obnoxious musical theater voices and personalities, accompanying music, etc. I was soft spoken and didn't have any of the above, so I didn't get the part. The rejection re-opened that old wound of feeling useless and angry and not good enough. I have confidence in my talent, but my frustration comes in trying to get others to see past my unimpressive facade to the worth underneath.

I think of the night that my choir group, which I had invested a lot of time and emotion into, voted on officers in the spring. I was really hoping to get a position because I really enjoy community leadership and I had been looking all three years at school for a way to be involved and serve others. I had sent hand-written notes to all the members of the group on multiple occasions and care packages to individuals, helped  with organizing events and appreciation gifts for officers and our spring tour. I felt like I had contributed a lot to the group even though I wasn't even part of the leadership. But I didn't get a position. and what really breaks my heart is that I can distinctly remember standing in a circle at the end of the meeting with everyone, waiting for the chance to break away, and thinking, "It's okay. I can just go cut myself after this."

People have not hesitated to share with me on numerous occasions that they don't understand why people cut. I think it disturbs them because it's an expression of pain that can't be ignored the way so many expressions of emotion can be. People are uncomfortable with other people being in pain, so we try to brush it off with platitudes of "You'll be okay" "It'll get better" "All things happen for a reason" "God will open other doors" etc. I remember being really upset when I realized my cutting scars were fading because I wanted to be able to have tangible proof of the pain I had endured. No one seemed to believe or be able to understand what I felt. There wasn't any justifiable cause for my pain, so people doubted its validity.

Being rejected by a man and betrayed by a friend wasn't enough either for people to affirm my struggle. So I tried to affirm to myself that I really was enduring a struggle. I hid my scars because they made people so uncomfortable but I also had this weird hope that if I shared them someday, people would realize that I really had been hurting. That they had let me down. That they had screwed me over. That they can hurt me even more with their rejection and judgment and lameness.

I have trouble telling even my therapists about my period of self-injuring because of the shame. Yet I also had trouble stopping because I felt like I hadn't done enough to prove my pain; I didn't have permanent or deep enough scars like other people. Maybe my pain still wasn't valid. It's hard because pain is such an intangible, immeasurable thing. I tried to push out memories of and downplay a lot of the pain I experienced because I wanted to convince myself and others that it wasn't that bad. I wish I had been capable at the time of recording more of what I felt.

But even though I don't have much of a record - the scars have disappeared and the memories have faded - I do know that I did suffer a great deal from this mysterious set of ailments that is mental illness and the human experience.

I remember my happy, energetic, dancing self being snapped like a dry twig by the aloof answers of a too-cool-for-you olive-eyed man and having the backbone of my soul snapped by overhearing said man casually share of his plans to date that jealous, bland waif of a girl. I remember I felt too sick to go on dancing, so I went to the coat check and grabbed my things and jogged back to the dorm as best as I could in my black pumps. And I remember sobbing on the bathroom floor..."You're an idiot, babe" ran through my heart and head. Those awful lyrics from that awful man who inspired that other awful boy's aloof coldness. And I broke my resolve to have thick skin once again.

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