Written by: Akwaeke Z Emezi
My apartment’s a mess, there are magazine cutouts scattered over the futon and floor, smears of paint on my fingers and hoodie, I’ve counter-productively stripped my house of chocolate. I’ve been back in the country for a week, 23 hours of my sleep were Nyquil-induced, and my head hurts. I tried describing how I feel over text message earlier. Weird. Lonely. Anti-social. Tired. Anxious. Unsettled. Later, I figured it out.
I’m depressed. That, in itself, is nothing new, I’ve been diagnosed with major depression for a while now, I’m registered with my school because it’s apparently a psychological disability, but it still took me a while to decipher this shitty feeling. I’d be scoring pretty high on that form they make me fill out every time I went to the therapist’s office- the one that asks you how you’re eating and sleeping and how much of a damn you give.
Speaking of therapists, I had to go meet with my new one yesterday. I didn’t want to be there. I have a bad track record with therapists, usually bailing after the fourth visit. My last therapist was my favorite, I saw her for an entire semester and we threw expletives around the office, laughed and used sarcasm like it was going out of style. She read my blog and threatened me with stalking if I ever missed a session right on my first visit (“I have friends in queer places!”). I felt like she gave a damn, you know. I spoke to her over the phone, she met my brother...then my school insurance kicked me out of the short term therapy option and I was hurtled into this new therapist’s office. My former therapist put time and effort into making this match, pointing out that she knows I don’t like people (neither does she), so she found a doctor that she likes. Ergo, I will like her, too. Except the new one’s not the old one and I was anxious, with a Nyquil hangover, soothing myself in my head and imagining my alter egos holding my hand, crouching on my shoulder, anything to not feel alone and insane. We fell into awkward silences as I avoided her eye and answered in monosyllables. I did not want to be there. But at the end of the session, I explained that it was very hard for me to open up to a new therapist, that I was exhausted, and I apologized. She said “Yes, I can tell you don’t like talking to therapists (other than your last one), you don’t like talking about yourself and you don’t like answering vague questions”.
That’s about right. The thing is, I could come up with a thousand reasons to ditch this therapist and not go back- we don’t click, I don’t need therapy anymore, she’s not my old therapist, her office is out of the way, I don’t like her. Then I hear my old therapist’s voice in my head, and she says- that’s bullshit. You’re just making excuses. I see through you. I forgot, I’ve made a commitment to treating my depression, and sometimes that means distinguishing between the good voice in my head and the bad voice. The latter is the one that hates therapy and being out of control or out of our comfort zone, that tells me no one cares and not to bother texting anybody because it’s not a big deal and they’ve got their own problems to deal with, you know? It’s the same voice that whispered thoughts of how easy it would be to drop by the liquor store and pick up a small bottle of tequila, add it to my prescription of muscle relaxants and subtract it down my throat, because then we would sleep, you know? That kind of sleep where the cats playing and the loud upstairs neighbours don’t wake you up, where you just drift away into darkness. My idea of heaven has always been an eternal sleep and deep black, please, no celebrations, I’m so tired.
I realized a few months ago that that bad little voice wants me dead. I think the good voice is going to sound a lot like my old therapist.
Anyway, now, when I talk about having been suicidal or talk to others who have been, I repeat the warning- you cannot trust yourself. Because, really, part of you wants you dead and will slowly erode your resistances and your arguments until that happens. If you don’t hold on to the good voice that mentions, in passing, maybe you should reach out and let someone know what’s going on, you could lose. You bet your life on it.
Maybe that’s just me. But I did commit to getting better, which means I take St. John’s Wort at least twice a day, I’m really careful about how much I put into my schedule and I take lots of precautions to make sure I’m happy. It may even come across as selfish, but I put my happiness first because before I committed to getting better, I committed myself into a psych ward so that I wouldn’t kill myself. Being happy is literally a matter of life and death for me, and actually, I end up feeling not unhappy, which means alive, which is good enough for now. It was either try harder, die, or just be miserable ad infinitum.
I’ve blogged and written and talked about my mental health, and I believe in breaking the silence that forms around mental health in our community. I refused anti-depressants because I’m terrified of side effects and I wasn’t afraid enough of dying to try them. I think people who risk the side effects anyway are unspeakably brave.Which reminds me, there’s an article by Bassey Ikpi in the Huffington Post, which I recommend everyone check out promptly. You know, I enjoy the days when I feel okay, when I don’t feel like cutting or dying or scarily, like nothing. It feels good to just feel, even if it’s nothing spectacular. I stay and I wait and I work because I hope that one day I will feel spectacular for most of my days. Until then, I have to accept that there will be bad days.
On those days, I just focus on getting through to the next day. Then the one after that. Rinse, lather, repeat. Ad infinitum.
About the author: Born and bred in the south of Nigeria, Akwaeke Z Emezi is an Igbo and Tamil free love advocate, genderqueer Nutri-C addict, and natural hair aficionado. In the space where parathas and palm oil meet, she dances reverence to dope beats and follows the Christ. As a queer bard, blogger and performer, Z infects a message of self-awareness laced thoroughly with love and bravery, believing that only in knowing and accepting oneself utterly can we truly be free. A current Brooklynite, they adore traveling and beautiful people, and are constantly pushing for a life free of fear and full of marvelous.
My preferred pronouns are she/he/they. Mix it up. Surprise me.