Updated: Jun 27, 2019
I write at the outset of 2019 with three goals: to express gratitude, to share a story, and to show defiance. While the third is admittedly the most superficial, I would not have courage to do the others without it. I write with a slight vengeance against a person who insisted that I would never see the year 2019. I didn’t understand how terrible this assertion was at the time, but since then, I’ve found myself returning to what I consider to be a pivotal conversation with someone I respected just a little bit too much to ignore.
They were almost correct. About two months ago, I was admitted to the hospital feeling at least a 9.81 out of 10 on the pain scale (only the Physics students found this funny).
A doctor asked me, “Did you do this to yourself?”
I was confused by the question. Did I try to kill myself? Absolutely not. But to me, that wasn’t the question. Is the pain my fault? Are the delusions my fault? Was there anything I could’ve done to prevent this? One simple question felt like an interrogation of my soul.
To everyone without a diagnosis, know that human beings like boxes. It’s convenient to put people in them to reinforce the fiction of reality. We know better than anyone that reality is merely a set conditions that enough people agree upon to be objectively existent. That’s why we see more. It is not my goal to glorify mental illness–that field is complete without my contribution. I simply ask those not needing a diagnosis to challenge what they consider real, and the rest of us to challenge what we don’t.
Sitting in the hospital bed hearing screams from everywhere but the real world, crumbling beneath the urges of broken memories, and filling with the emptiness of pain, the concept of reality felt rather silly. The countless hours sitting in front of doctors trying their best to find my box had convinced me I just needed to hang in there, get that last appointment, and they would find it. They would find my box.
But I am my box. I needed to take an active role in finding myself. So that even if we couldn’t find the problem, I could help my doctors find a solution. I sat like a curled fist protesting death. I had someone to defy and countless more to love. With my friends at my bedside at 2 AM, I realized that there is no reality; there is only love.
To everyone without a diagnosis, love is hard. It is hard to feel secure in love when you don’t know for certain the people in front of you are real.
I’ve spent too many hours with loved ones with no clue who they were. I’ve sat across from them with voices me urging me to deny their very existence. At moments that would be difficult for any people, I’ve lost the battle against my own consciousness and entered the world of pure unreality. Sometimes people will be patient. Sometimes they can’t. It is not their fault. They are only human. And believe it or not, you are, too.
To everyone without a diagnosis, you will be judged. I don’t aim to explain my actions under the lens of mental illness. I can’t blame my actions on faulty brain chemistry, though it may be tempting. Just as tempting as it is for others to put you in the box. What a “normal” person may consider a bad decision might be the very best your mind can do, and the good decision may be completely out of the question. A strained relationship with reality lends itself poorly to operating on their plane of rationality. Most people will never understand that. Don’t make them, even if it makes you feel slightly less alone in the world. The ones who want to hear will ask. They will listen before they assume that everyone follows the same rules of humanity. They will put themselves out there and ask the difficult questions to be sure they can understand and love you. They are worth it.
No one knows every side of a story, not even you, and while you might fight with every muscle in your body to remember, the parted may do everything they can to forget. They are not evil. They are just like you; they want an escape. We all remember it the way we need to so we can sleep at night. Remember there is no reality; don’t resent them for choosing theirs. We’re not all so lucky as to choose which reality we want to believe.
To everyone without a diagnosis, you won’t always want to get better. There is no one place to start, not a finish either. There are some who won’t want you to get better. You’re allowed to be spiteful, you’re allowed to be angry. There’s no need to douse a flame that keeps you alive, so long it doesn’t burn you or others. Just know that like anything in the world, it must pass, and must be replaced eventually with love.
In fact, that is why I write. Love. There are too many people that have been there for me for me to not be here. Each one of them deeply flawed, forcing me a step back for every step they support forward. To the 2019 I was told I’d never see, I can’t wait to share you with the people who told me I would see many more years. Even more to those who helped and will help make it happen.
To everyone without a diagnosis, this is for you. Any personal story risks being gratuitous and mine is no different. I can’t convince you that my story is shared from a place of altruism as opposed to attention-seeking, because that’s subject to the skepticism that keeps most of us in boxes. This final statement will be ignored by most for its convenience. It’s much easier to paint my reality as a cry for recognition before it is a candid call for sobriety and hope for those who need it. Here's hoping you take the latter.