A letter to the love of my life and to those who’ve ever deeply, authentically loved me.
To my loved ones,
I am aware I am a lot. I am heavy. I am a bowling ball, an anvil, a two-ton block. I am sometimes the shackles on your legs and sometimes the heavy frustrated sigh at 3 a.m. when you just want to get some sleep. I am sometimes the worry in your voice, the tears in your eyes, and the anger in your tone. Sometimes I am too much.
I am not naïve enough to believe the best people always stay. It’s true that sometimes I am too heavy. I am too restrictive for the airways. I don’t let you breathe because I cannot breathe and it’s not that I’m choking you intentionally, but I need your air, and you don’t have enough to share with me; in those cases, I understand.
Sometimes you come back.
Sometimes you don’t.
Sometimes you never leave.
Regardless, support like yours is and has been crucial to my survival. Without people like you, I would not be alive. I would have never experienced happiness or a semblance wellness; I say that with certainty. Human beings are social animals. We need love and tenderness. We need to be challenged in a way that helps us grow. We need to be nurtured and listened to and noticed. Each of us has our own identity that is truly fostered by the people around us. I have been greatly hurt. I have been traumatized to my core. But I’ve also been uplifted by people greater than I could imagine.
People are important to people.
But when I talk about illness, I talk about disease.
Negative thoughts, sadness, and social withdrawal are depressive symptoms, just like mood swings and irritability are not just depressive symptoms but also symptoms of brain cancer. You can treat these with support and love. You can reduce the intensity with coping skills and pain management and kindnesses. But that won’t eliminate the tumor. Biochemically speaking, mental illness is still illness. There are plenty of cases of depression and other mental illness that can be treated without medication, depending on a case-by-case basis and the severity of the illness. But at the root, the change still has to come within the body, in which the body itself has to change.
My mental health diagnoses are Schizoaffective Disorder Depressive Type and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. I have severe depressive symptoms, including recurrent suicidal urges and behaviors. I see things and hear things, and if I skip doses, these visions increase, I’m at risk for paranoia, and I can become inwardly violent. For these symptoms, I take medication. For PTSD, there is not much I can do, but work through things and ask for your support, which you give to me compassionately, through thick and thin, and that heals more than you realize.
But it can’t fix me.
My PTSD comes first from memories that happened before I met 99% of you and then from many memories since. It wired itself into my development as a child and stole my identity before it had a chance to develop. I am still learning what the hell the word “forgiveness” is supposed to mean and am trying to learn how to stand up for myself without becoming too aggressive or falling apart. It is only part of the problem. I have more diagnoses to contend with. But this is something that has been compounded in me for at least 20 years, trauma after trauma, and you can’t easily undo 20 years. In fact, no one can undo what has already happened — trust me. There is no undoing destruction. What you can do, however, is help me rebuild, and that is what you are doing. With your patience, with your time, with your love, you are helping me. You are helping me fix myself.
I will probably be on medication for the rest of my life, but that doesn’t mean your love is useless.
Science without compassion is cold and robotic. If all we had in the world was psychiatry and no therapy, this world would be a whole helluva lot worse than it is. Medication can only do so much. Science, and psychology at that, which is still fairly new and unexplored, (and kind of a crack science in some ways tbh since we know so little about it truly), is very limited when tackling the human spirit or “soul” for lack of a better word. Humans need love and support and closeness. This is how we thrive. This is how we grow and develop. While pills can sometimes treat the fatigue or agitation or intense anger, it’s other humans that help us remember why we’re bothering to try to treat the fatigue or agitation or intense anger. Going down the recovery path alone is a hard road, and I imagine people have done it before, but I don’t know how. I need my people. Without my people, I am a sniveling, helpless pile of concrete sinking to the bottom of the sea.