Let’s say— for the hell of it— that you’ve just awarded me with $20,000. Suppose I won your writing competition, and acquired more money than anyone would know what to do with. Naturally, we’d have to ask ourselves a few questions:
Was this a good idea?
Did I deserve it?
And, most importantly— who am I, and what am I going to do with $20,000?
They say that when you’re writing, you should show, not tell.
But see, I could start up with metaphors trying to convey the fact that I’m messed up— that I was put together wrong— but that gets tiring after a while. I could beat around the bush and elude to the fact that I’ve got issues, but isn’t it better to just know?
Let’s break me down for a second, with no intentions of building me back up. Allow me to explain some key events leading up to winning this supposed $20,000– why I chose, and choose, to write.
To put it blatantly, I’m a twenty-one-year old fuck-up, medically not allowed to have a job and still living with my mother. I’m a writer, or I like to call myself one, capable of hammering out bullshit at the speed of light. I’ve got borderline personality disorder and bipolar disorder— a flawless combination of insanity. Most relationships in my life are rocky, and I’m a vegan— we might as well add that to the mix. I’m finally back in school, and I’m screwing around somewhere in the middle trying to find the right way to go.
Like a poorly timed joke in the middle of a funeral.
Like I squeezed out a tube of toothpaste and then desperately tried to shove it back in.
Something like that, at least.
My shortcomings could have been fueled by a number of different things. I grew up in a small-minded town where I was told every day that I was going to hell. My parents separated when I was 11, and divorced not long after. My childhood home went into foreclosure, therefore evicting my entire family and forcing us to relocate. Both of my grandparents passed within months of each other. And I should tell you this— knowing something was wrong with me since age 8 definitely threw a wrench in the works.
Through these events, I learned that everyone has a breaking point. Permit me to share a pivotal moment in my life— the grand unfurling that led me to inevitably write about it.
A few years ago, I decided to go to bat with a near-death experience.
I was immediately put into an outpatient program— a daily group therapy session for addicts and the mentally-ill. I was there for about two weeks before something started to go haywire.
One day, I was sure I was going to lose it. My train of thought went off the rails and pondered a kamikazee scheme, just to be rid of me once and for all. Because life gets difficult when your brain is loud and you’ve got a lot of mental issues and your hormones are skyrocketing and no one takes you seriously.
One of my therapists prevented my outburst by sending me to an inpatient program, at the actual mental hospital.
And boy, oh boy, was that a trip.
Upon arrival, two intake nurses in blue scrubs took me into a back room, away from the main part of the hospital, where I was asked to strip down to nothing so they could take account of all the marks I had on my body.
Let me tell you, nothing is more degrading than having each of your defacements pointed out and recorded on paper.
I stood there, freezing and naked, for about five minutes while my body was mapped out.
One nurse had the audacity to say, “I like your tattoos,” as though she wasn’t judging me and my mental issues on a physical level.
As soon as they were done, they revoked my shoes, but let me keep my crop top on as long as I pulled up my pants. I took this as a small victory.
The second I entered the hospital’s common room, I was bombarded by the other patients, who all wanted to know what a 19 year old was doing in a psych ward. I quickly came to realize that I was the youngest person by at least 20 years.
It was then brought to my attention that most of the other patients had been admitted due to drug or alcohol problems, so not only was I alone in terms of age, I was alone in terms of intake reasoning.
So I walked back to my room, and skipped dinner.
The next thing I knew, it was 4 o’clock in the morning, and two nurses were waking me up, demanding a urine and blood sample. And man, if I thought being naked was embarrassing, imagine carrying a cup of your own urine to a male nurse who gladly takes it. Horrible. And why is urine so yellow? Disgusting. Hate it. No thank you.
But little did I know, the hospital had many more treats in store.
Some of which were:
1.) Decaf coffee. Terrible.
2.) An art therapist who played nothing but Hart on his iPod Shuffle.
3.) A creepy patient called Craig requesting I call him “Papa”.
4.) A pack of cards with half of the diamonds missing.
5.) And oh! That’s right! The nurses forgetting to give me my meds.
Eventually, I was evaluated and allowed to leave on the contingency that I return to the outpatient program. I did this for another three weeks.
Afterward, I went to individual therapy, which was momentarily comforting. And then I remembered that life continues outside of a psychologist’s office. And life is usually not so stable. Or explanatory. Or comforting.
It was a hard transition. I started going to therapy once a week. My therapist and I figured out that my two biggest flaws are:
Thinking that everything is my fault, and trying to fix problems that aren’t my own.
But hey, I’m a giant empath. I can’t help but take on other people’s problems. Other people’s emotions get into my brain and make a mess of my proper sense of reasoning. I feel as though I am going to be blamed for the faults of others. Not because I’ve done anything wrong— but because I’ve done nothing to help the situation.
These traits only work in print, I’ve found. Writing about them is interesting. Living them is a disaster.
And I’m sure my journey with medication hasn’t helped me. In the long-run it did, sure, but at first, it was so touch-and-go that I couldn’t keep my head on straight.
You should know that every mental health problem will be heightened if you lack the proper medication.
I learned this the hard way.
Here’s something wild:
Some antidepressants— and here’s the kicker— make you more depressed.
Everyone is different, but I went through about ten different antidepressants before realizing that antidepressants alone wouldn’t help me. Way too late into the game, my psychiatrist diagnosed me with my bipolar and borderline. Sure, that required some antidepressants and some anti-anxiety medication, but the Wellbutrin XL and a crap-ton of Xanax wouldn’t balance me out the way they were supposed to. They needed a little help. So my psychiatrist also prescribed me Abilify, which is an antipsychotic and my favorite thing on the face of the planet.
It’s one of the few medications I’ve been on that actually works.
It kind of settles me so I don’t get so angry or irritated— which my psychiatrist described as "dysphoric" mania.
Because see, I don’t experience mania in a typical “euphoric” way. I don’t go off and do irrational things, or dangerous things, or things that will get me into trouble. Instead, I just get really fucking angry, and really fucking irritated. It lasts for a few weeks at a time, and then settles right back into depression and anxiety.
A great blend, right?
And although my mix of medications subdues me, I still feel these things to a certain extent. Enough for them to debilitate me in my day-to-day functioning.
It makes it really easy to write, however. Because I’ve got all this nonsense floating around my head, and getting it out feels so good. It feels like I can sit a little straighter, and breathe just that much better.
That’s the only thing that’s been able to relieve this everlasting insanity.
Poems, short stories, novels, essays for school. Since the hospital, I’ve self-published three poetry books, finished a four-part collection of novels, and written over ten short stories. Writing brings me this inexplicable joy— a unique sensation of belonging. Something that allows me to contribute to society, even if it’s in a miniscule way.
I once wrote:
I cannot find the words
And ended it there.
I so desperately wanted the last line to read, “I love you”. And whoever needed to hear it would read my poem and go, “Wow. That was powerful.” But I ended it without saying how I felt, which, you should know, is the most foolish thing a person can do.
But here, in the middle of this prompt, I was given a chance to write the ending.
I was given a chance to document how I felt— how I feel— to record something absolutely wild. To experience catharsis through the written word. I was given a chance, you see, in hopes of someone reading my account, and saying, “Wow. That was powerful.”
So let’s say I’ve won this $20,000. I’ve become absolutely flushed with cash, richer than I’ve ever been in my entire life. My mom would suggest I use it on real estate. My dad would say to put it in the bank and save it. But I wouldn’t do either one of these things.
When you find a passion, you stick with it.
With my $20,000, I’d put it right back into writing. I would be able to pay for a proper education— I’d be suddenly capable of entering competitions that require a submission fee. I’d be ready to buy all the little black moleskin notebooks I could possibly carry, and fill them with poetry that hits you so hard, you can’t help but inhale sharply and wipe away a tear.
Despite my flaws, despite my difficulties, let’s say I won your $20,000.
What would I do?