Whatever constellation of fucked up it is, whatever concoction of ADHD/PTSD/depression/anxiety, I’ve got–I don’t wear it like a badge of honor. It’s a branding somebody burned into my neck long before I saw it coming. And when my screwed up sets my life on fire, the branding burns like it did the day it came in. The world tells me it is invisible. I tell myself it is invisible, that it is in my head. It doesn’t exist, right? It doesn’t exist. I’m lazy, I tell myself. Once upon a time a doctor gave me a diagnosis, a label, and I ran away with it because it was easier to face than the demands of normal life. I am playing up my situation. Everybody has bad things happen to them. Most people have had traumatic experiences. I’m the only one I know who lives like fatally wounded animal, perpetually unable to engage in life like a decent adult.
I feel as if every day of my life is another day in the court of public opinion, and a simultaneous court where my own opinion of myself is weighed. I have become a master of “well, but,” “yes, and” “I wanted to, but.” Nothing is ever simple. Nothing is ever cut and dry and it is exhausting, I’d imagine, for those around me. But here is the thing, it’s exhausting for me too. That’s why people have suicidal ideation. Because when your condition is unbearable for you, the pain is scathing when you’re a curse on somebody else.
And when everything that makes you a problem to yourself and others isn’t visible, it’s as likely to be there as it is to not be there. Anybody can fake a mental illness, I tell myself. I browbeat myself incessantly using the stereotypes and words and stigmas society has toward mental illness. I try to get myself to change by saying monstrously mean things to myself. It’s nothing. And I’ve no excuse. I have to get my shit together because everybody else does. I have to stop procrastinating. I need to be more self-disciplined. And I genuinely believe all of these things about myself. I don’t seek help or ask forgiveness because I don’t believe I deserve it in the least and it would be both ludicrous and shameful to try to explain my behavior. All of this is in my head and all of it is my fault and my choosing. My theatrics.
The thing that I can’t explain away though, is that today, when trying to unscramble words on an app I use (something to distract my inner relentless critic), I had all of the letters for “decide” in front of me and I just needed to draw a line between them in the correct order. There is no reason this shouldn’t be a shamefully simple task. I have a BA in English language and literature, an MA in children’s literature, and will soon have an MA in educational leadership. I had a ninth grade reading comprehension in the fifth grade. I won several spelling bees growing up. I have been writing “decide” since I was in the first grade when my spelling and reading were so advanced my teacher took me off her curriculum and created a separate one with separate assignments for me. I say these things not because I am proud of them; if anything, they’re my shame because all of this information suggests that I should be more than capable of the things with which I sometimes struggle senselessly. The things I convince myself are happening because of barriers I’ve manufactured in my mind. All of those qualifications would lead one to think I had no trouble connecting the letters in the word “decide.”
And it took me about six tries in the course of three minutes to figure out that my answer on the game kept getting rejected because I was misspelling “decide.” It took me another minute and a half I’d guess to figure out how to actually spell it.
I don’t know. I don’t know what to do or what help to ask for because it took me three degrees and over five minutes to figure out how to spell a word which has been in my vocabulary for twenty-two years. The only thing that seems an absolute given is that even when these phases go, they come back sooner than they did the last time. Whether it is in my head, whether mental illness is a lie I tell myself, or whether it’s real, I honestly can’t begin to decide because I couldn’t even fucking spell the word “decide” an hour ago. It doesn’t matter if it’s real or in my mind. At least I can take comfort in the idea that this bond is forever.