Drowning...

It's 4am again
Father, forgive me this sin
Uncomfortable in this life, yeah
I can't put down this knife

Well, actually, it's almost 5. But I've been awake since around 4. And I don't remember going to sleep. I certainly don't remember undressing myself and slipping underneath the covers. Even in his sleep, Frankie was able to tell me that it was he who got me settled for bed. Seems to be he takes the most care of me when I'm unable to even notice it.

In the history of my own mental health, this week has been one of my hardest. More suicidal ideations. More desires for self-injury (read: cutting). More retreating from the real world. Sleeping in. Eating less. Drinking more. Skipping class. Avoiding homework. Avoiding people. Avoiding myself.

Last weekend, I literally sat in my chair for a solid hour refusing to move out of fear that, if I did, it would be to cause myself harm. I know what most of my friends and colleagues would say to that: time to get some professional help. And while part of me agrees with them (and has given serious thought to a short hospital stay), when you've been a professional in the field (in my case, both social work and ministry), the kind of help offered to the general population often doesn't seem as effective.

I'm carving words in my arms, baby
These scars are part of my charm, maybe
I need the touch of a hand
This isn't what I had planned

No, I'm really not hurting myself. As I told a friend tonight, while the thoughts of and compulsion to self-injure might feel intense for me, and while it might scare my friends to hear me talk about it (sometimes in such vivid detail), for me, talking about it is cathartic. I've only ever cut myself once, and it was enough for me to know that, in reality, it's not my thing. I am not saying that I'm some sort of mental health superman able to resist temptation. I simply don't like physical pain, and it doesn't bring me enough comfort to justify causing it.

I spoke with a professor/friend earlier this week after stepping out from class for a few minutes to regain composure. I shared with him my reality of having to ask my partner to hide the sharp objects from time to time. Not because I feared actually using them, but because it's a way of sharing my reality and my burden with someone else. It's something tangible he can do to acknowledge where I am at and remind me that he loves me. My professor told me later how ironic he found the whole situation—how someone like me who advocates so vehemently for the well-being of others, ensuring that no harm comes to them, could struggle so deeply with a desire to experience harm. My response: sometimes, in our field, the most loving, compassionate people are also the most broken.

I need relief from this life
I wanna slip away into the night
Don’t wanna see the sun again
But can’t get swallowed up by this tragic whirlwind
I wish the ocean was warm
I feel like drowning

There was a woman who used to live in my old apartment building. I still run into her every now and again. From a distance, I noticed how beautiful her tattoos were. Mostly in black and white, they were stunning images of rustic scenes. But up close, I noticed that her body art served a purpose. It covered her scars. Scars that ran deep, up and down the full length of her arms. One day, I asked her about the decision to cover them with tattoos. "Might as well make something beautiful out of them," she told me. And that she did. Some people might have looked her and felt pity, confusion, or sadness. But in her, I saw a resilience to keep living. The urge to self-injure doesn't make sense to a lot of people, but it does to some of us, even if we opt not to engage in it.

Emotions are different for each of us. Depression hits people with different degrees of intensity. And we all have our coping mechanisms—some healthy, some not. For some of us, our scars are visible. For others, they are buried deep within. Visceral. Unseen.

I’m losing my faith in me
I can’t remember the last time I felt free
From voices inside my head
When I taste liberation, they just feed me fear instead

You say I’m out of control. At least I still have a soul No, I don’t need your advice Some compassion would be nice

In case you're wondering, the words in bold are the lyrics to Jay Brannan's song "Drowning." It's another one I listen to (having only discovered it in the last couple of months).

I don't know where you're at in life right now. Maybe all this is foreign to you, and if it is, I'm glad. But if all this hits a little too close to home, please know you aren't alone. You won't get any judgment from me. Just love. There are people who get it, who understand that all any of us really wants it to feel like—to be—whole people. Whoever you are, I love you. And to the people I love and who love me, thank you.