This is part one of a two part follow up to my series Finding #Fearless.
Names and locations have been changed to protect identities.
This article does discuss topics that may be triggering to those struggling with depression, suicidal thoughts or self harm. If you ever feel like you need hope in a time of darkness, please call 1-800-273-8255.
Usually epilogues find themselves nestled safely at the tail end of any published story that warrants one. They don’t typically surface many months or years down the road, but in the case of my story, the epilogue is a bit fashionably late.
When I sat down to begin this site, I opened up the inner workings of my mind, and shared six unique, but intricately intertwined, stories of how #Fearless came to be more than just a webpage, but my way of life. I explored my childhood, my teenage years, my anxiety, my self harm, my sexuality, my fears and my hopes. This carefully crafted journey through my life was meant to show my vulnerability, and to meet all who ventured into my story at a level ground that showed I was human too.
My final post, Finding #Fearless: But Still I Rise, was open ended. It didn’t really have resolution, and while I’m not promising a full resolution here either, I can promise a better look at how my life has evolved since I first wrote Finding #Fearless almost 8 months ago.
Last October, I had entered an era of my mental health I had never seen the likes of, and I never would have predicted to be in such a dark place. It’s hard, even now, to admit that I could have been dealing with some minor depression. Not clinical depression, but situational depression that stemmed from the loss of something that I thought I had a firm grasp on: my sanity.
Due to one poorly timed thought in the midst of what was my lowest moment, I had developed this fear of depression, suicide and death that had me second guessing every moment I wasn’t beaming with an ungodly amount of optimism and happiness.
Like the world’s worst record player, I felt my mind stuck on this idea that I was depressed, that I was suicidal, and I was ultimately going to die. It would hop, skip and repeat the same intrusive phrases, the same intrusive images, over and over and over again.
Looking back, it’s easy to see I was not truly depressed and I was not suicidal. No, I was just obsessed with the idea of becoming those things, but that’s how anxiety gets you. I was checking every emotion, every thought, every smile for any indication of falsity. I was second guessing my intentions in life: did I really want to be here? Was I truly happy? Did this life even mean anything if I couldn’t be truly happy forever? I was viewing this life in very stark, black and white terms, and completely ignoring the existence of grey area… and that’s a dangerous place to be.
I don’t want to say I was in existential crisis, but I was basically in existential crisis. Everything I thought I knew about life, myself and the people who inhabited this earth had been completely shattered. The carefully crafted illusion that I had led myself to believe for almost as long as I had been alive was gone, and I was, for the very first time, facing the world with a new set of eyes.
I felt the crushing weight of the vague and completely vast reality of life smothering me, and that in itself still kind of makes me feel the rise of panic in my chest. I honestly would not recommend existential realization and crisis for healthy, functioning adults.
It was, in all honesty, the first time I was truly feeling the emotion of sadness. Terrible, terrible things happen when you purposefully suppress certain negative emotions (remember my Shit Baton article?). It doesn’t seem like it’s hurting you in the moment, because it allows you to power through and be a better support for those who need you; but in the long term, it starts to fester and eat at you from the inside out.
I had opened the metaphorical flood gates to almost 15 years of suppressed sadness, and I spent many months just trying to get through what I call “sadness attacks”. I would go from absolutely fine, to feeling absolutely paralyzed by sadness. I would zone out, and I felt my insides screaming because I was absolutely terrified that this time, I wouldn’t snap out of it.
I felt like a prisoner in my own body.
I was scared that these moments would cause me to black out, and in that time I’d do something I didn’t want to do. That I would be unable to control myself because I wouldn’t be able to think clearly. Instead, I just found myself frozen in fear and having horribly intrusive thoughts that if I got up and walked downstairs, or to another room, I wouldn’t come back.
When it would pass, I would be exhausted, emotionally run down and ready to cry (and many times I did cry). It was strange because I probably cried more in those three months than I cried for my entire life leading up to that point and I cried a lot as a baby. I had become completely consumed by sadness and it was the one and only time I ever felt like I could maybe relate to those who had depression.
And, the fact I felt I could relate to those with depression made me feel twice as panicked.
I typically don’t condone panic googling, but in my worst moment I did look up: “Can you have suicidal thoughts and not be depressed?”, which then turned up results on suicidal obsessions.
Suicidal obsessions are different than suicidal thoughts and ideations, because typically the person is experiencing a serious amount of panic and distress about the thoughts happening. They typically take the form of what if questions (what if I get in my car and get the urge to drive off a cliff? what if I see a knife and can’t control myself? what if I die before Christmas, how will my loved ones cope?), but they can also take the form of intrusive images and phrases that mimic suicidal thoughts and this causes serious distress.
The biggest difference between suicidal obsessions and true, suicidal thoughts, is that typically the person experiencing suicidal obsessions does not want to act on the thoughts, or has become unsure whether or not they want to based on the thoughts they are having (for example: if I’m having these thoughts, does that mean I want to die?).
My therapist and I discussed this, and he never confirmed if what was happening to me was true suicidal obsession, but what I can tell you is that I was clearly obsessed with this idea that I had become depressed and suicidal, and it was running me into the ground.
During this time, though, it was my one and only issue, which was a blessing and a curse. I almost wished I could have emetophobia back, because being afraid of my own mind seemed far worse than anything a fear of throwing up had ever thrown at me.
Emetophobia seemed trivial at this point, because this idea I was depressed and my fight for survival (which was all created by my irrational, obsessive brain, mind you) seemed far more important.
Depression and suicide, in a way, had become something I almost felt was inevitable. In fact, my mind had almost personified them as if they were living beings that were stalking me. I had this idea that I would come home from work, and Depression and Suicide would be standing shoulder to shoulder, arms crossed, mob boss style. I imagined that I would come home, put my purse down, turn around and there they’d be, as if to say, “The Lannister’s send their regards”. This idea always ended with them murdering me and leaving my family to find me.
Not so great at the time but I can laugh at this now because I recognize, much like emetophobia, these intrusive thoughts were just that: intrusive, untrue and worst case scenarios that likely would never happen. Of course, in that time, I felt so hopeless, powerless, and out of control, it was easy to be tricked into thinking that I had some how, unknowingly, opened Pandora’s box and I was finally realizing my true self. I truly felt like if I were to be depressed, death was the only ending for me. It felt like depression was an incurable disease that was going to kill me, one way or another, whether I liked it or not, and I couldn’t stop it.
But I was wrong.
Not only was I not depressed, but even if I had been, it’s not a death sentence. You always have a choice, and you always have a way around this. Never forget that.
It took some time, but I finally started making progress. I was learning how to finally allow myself to feel negative emotions, and was no longer fearing them. I had to learn how to be okay with feeling anger, sadness, boredom, and most importantly: neutrality. I had to learn how to be in a state of calm, and how to not create chaos just to feel less uncomfortable.
I wasn’t cured or recovered by any means, but I was finally having more good days than bad. I was having small episodes that weren’t sending me into a spiral for weeks at a time, and I was controlling myself and my thoughts again. I could rationalize and be exposed to triggers without crying and hyperventilating. It was kind of nice.
Then, in August, a break through happened. I woke up one day and I was fine. I can’t even really explain this feeling to you, but I was at peace. I was relaxed, I had no anxiety, I was just living and existing, and letting my life flow in the natural ways it was meant to flow.
I finally felt human after 25 years of feeling like an outsider by my own thoughts, emotions and realities.
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Lastly, we run an Emetophobia Support Group on Facebook. Emetophobia is the intense and irrational fear of throwing up, and it is one struggle we are passionately engaged in. It is a closed, by request only group to help facilitate sharing and support by all members. It is also private, meaning that the posts you and others make will not show up publicly in your newsfeed.