2nd March 2018.
A little over a month ago I filmed a short video to mark this year’s “Time to Talk Day,” spearheaded by the mental health charity, Time to Change. In it I said that I am very much of the belief that “if we are able to talk a little more, we will listen a little more. If we feel we can teach, we will all learn.” I stand by this. I’ve always tried to be open and honest about my mental health even though I fail, of late more-often-that-not, to verbalise it when faced with that rather daunting, fear-inducing, question, “How are you?”
It dawned on me that, in recent weeks, I cannot recall waking up in the morning and not desperately yearning for it to already be evening and time to retreat back to bed. Every ritual task, tasks that should be thus, so ritually easy and well-practiced – making my way downstairs to make breakfast, brushing my teeth, walking the two minutes to the bus stop – is a challenge. Mentally ticking-off each job before summoning enough will to move on to the next renders me exhausted. Indeed, my default response to that “How are you?” is now regularly a simple, “Tired.” That’s all I’ve got. At twenty-seven, that’s far from all I should have to offer, and that’s far from all that I want to offer. I’m terrified that this is all I’m ever going to have. My days off from work are solely spent sleeping, of late I’ve been unable to do anything else; I have nothing more left to give. I’ve been living with depression for at least a decade now, so it is clear to me that there has yet again been a definite shift – a deterioration – in my mental health over the past few weeks, even after my most recent phase of self-harm. I’m unsure whether or not I’ve been able to mask it – no one has expressed any explicit concern so I suppose that mask had held. I, too, am unsure whether or not this is a positive or a negative. I’ve recently come across this painfully-resonant quote from Elizabeth Gilbert:
When you’re lost in those woods it sometimes takes you a while to realise that you are lost. For the longest time you can convince yourself that you’ve just wandered off the path, that you’ll find your way back to the trailhead any moment now. Then night falls again and again, and you still have no idea where you are, and it’s time to admit that you have bewildered yourself so far off the path that you don’t even know from which direction the sun rises anymore.
I can’t quite pinpoint the moment I became so “lost,” so misguided, more-than-likely it was before I had any cognitive awareness of those metaphorical woods! If I wasn’t born lost, then where did I fall? Nor can I pinpoint the moment when I first became stuck in that cyclical mundanity, that sense of riding out each day and edging ever-closer to a more tangible, a more inevitable end.
My school years were defined by two extremes – the pain of being ostracised, silenced and bullied versus the drive to succeed and the utter ecstasy and exhilaration experienced when I did so, when I excelled. So many teachers kept telling me, “Nathan…there’s just something about you. You’re going to go on to do some remarkable things.” I don’t know when I lost faith in myself. I don’t know when their assurances were proven incorrect – the utter shame I feel at being a disappointment, at being a failure, is rarely not at the forefront. I do know that thirteen days ago someone who should be one of my most fervent advocates, someone who should be there to pick me up when I fall, someone who should want nothing but good things for me called me an “embarrassment.” I’ve fought so hard to not be a disappointment, or a failure, or a burden. It was last year when I first wrote about giving up on happiness and admitting defeat.
At twenty-seven years of age I should not be thinking that I’m at the end, I should not be giving up, I should not be passively falling ever-deeper. But I am. I no longer feel that I’m meant to be happy. That. That is the hard truth. No one ever promised me happiness, no one ever told me I was meant to be fulfilled, so why do I feel so very short-changed?! I can’t even really think of a prolonged period of time when I have been happy, even content. I’m prepared to accept that I will never be “happy” (whatever “happy” is!) – happiness is what other people experience. I just want to be well, I just want to be able to function. Too, I don’t think that I’ll ever be loved – I just want to get well enough to ensure that I am liked! Dating, relationships, even going on holiday or for a picnic with someone – these are things that maybe I just wasn’t meant to experience.
At some point over the past six months on I foolishly let myself accept that happiness is not only what other people experience. I did learn a long time ago to never get excited about anything, to never expect anything positive, but happiness, contentment – I want that. I miss that. Yet, I’m tired of fighting for it. I shouldn’t have to fight to be happy. I shouldn’t have to fight to be loved. I shouldn’t have to offer to pay friends to convince them to spend time with me! Merely functioning is no longer enough. Somehow there is a mere recurrent ember of light somewhere deep inside telling me that I deserve (and am able) to succeed; there are only so many times this ember can be extinguished.
With every passing day I am increasingly convinced that I am ill-equipped for life – maybe ill-equipped for living; I am broken, no longer capable of successfully completing life’s essential milestones. I shouldn’t have to fight to not be alone. I shouldn’t have to fight to get through each day. I am reliant so very much on others in so many ways. “I don’t think you’ll ever move out, Nathan. I don’t think you’re capable of living alone.” Maybe I should accept that. Maybe I’ll never amount to anything. I’ve resorted to seeing the world through my friends and living vicariously through their experiences. I can’t even drive to see the seaside for goodness sake – if it’s not on my regular bus route, it’s out-of-the-question! I never wanted to feel this pathetic, this worthless. I never wanted to fail – for so long I excelled. I don’t know when it all wrong. I have no prospects any more, I don’t see a future…I don’t see a life. Maybe, unlike Whitney, I was born to break. Maybe it’s time to snuff that recurrent ember of light after all.
“Some people are just not meant to be in this world. It’s too much for them.”
The Boy on Cinnamon Street, Phoebe Stone.