TW: suicide; depression; anxiety; mental illness
I’ve never experienced suicidality. It’s always the running-away-ality that gets me. That feeling that I shouldn’t be here. That my existence in this particular place and time isn’t worthwhile. It’s never made me want to harm or kill myself, but it does make me want to run. To get away. To be unnoticed, unknown. To leave everything behind.
I saw The Mountain Goats play a gig at the Metro in Sydney earlier this year. My boyfriend was there, my friends were there, I was enjoying myself. Until I realised that I was standing behind everyone that I knew, and that I could run. I could slip away, unnoticed by anyone who knew me. Walk to Central and catch a train home, or even to somewhere else. The first button that my finger hit. The third station starting with L. I could get away, and no one would notice until the concert ended, and by that time I’d be long gone, out of reach.
Because, all of a sudden, it was just all too much. I saw myself surrounded by all these people, and I was convinced that I’d been doing everything wrong and that everybody had noticed. That’s where all my anxiety fixates, on the way that I think other people perceive me. I imagined all of this scrutiny, and believed that I was failing.
When I first started spending nights at John’s house, I ran away. 5am, I couldn’t sleep and I couldn’t be in his bed, his space, any more, because I didn’t know what I was supposed to be doing and I was petrified of doing something wrong.
I’ve left uncomfortable parties without telling anyone. I’ve hidden in bathrooms and in darkened bedrooms. I’ve chosen to cook, mix drinks, clean, or go on shopping runs because those things give me a purpose, something I can at least get right. I’ve delivered particularly difficult lectures and then gone straight home, because once I’ve performed my role, the me that’s left over doesn’t have any function.
Put me in a difficult emotional situation, and see how I run. Watch the little muscles tighten. In the worst moments, I’m convinced that social interaction is just a trap that I’m trying desperately not to spring. I’m all flight and no fight, in lots of different ways.
I am also, contradictorily, convinced that when I screw up, the people around me pretend like nothing’s wrong while secretly keeping a tally of all my mistakes. I feel as though they’ve each got a ledger of my fuck-ups, ready to use against me, like a combination of St. Peter, Santa, and your worst, most vindictive enemy. This anxiety feeds the running-away-ality: I’m light, but I’m heavier than I should be, I try to be invisible, but my flaws still stand out. In the rare moments when people’s backs are turned, I want to get away, to escape the scrutiny, to run.
I know that this is neurotic. I know that people, in general, don’t pay as much attention as I think they do, don’t notice as much, and don’t care as much about my mistakes when they do. I know this, and remind myself all the time. But I don’t always feel it. I’m still looking for a way to make myself believe these facts, some emotional knowing that can help me breathe when my chest is tight and talk without constantly keeping a check on myself.
Intellectually, I know a lot of things. Emotionally, though, I’m still getting stuck.