Once I had surmounted the hurdle of admitting that I had clinical depression, received the medical attention I needed, and consequently started feeling better, the first step to my real recovery was "confession." In other words, I had to come out of the boo-hoo, self-pitying, retard closet and make amends with the people who had undoubtedly been affected by my... odd behavior over the years.
For example: parties. Parties are situations of much conviviality and libation, for everyone except fruit-loop Meredith, of course. I could put on a good show from time to time, mind you. My current, solid group of friends came into my life at a period when I was at one of my low points, (why do people fall in love anyway? It's stupid). Meeting my surprising new gang and being initiated into their group actually did a lot to repair my broken feelings. In fact, I became so happy in their presence that they probably thought I was normal at first. (Ha, fools)! On a good day, I would be excited to connect with them. I would forget my troubles and unwind in the pleasant company of their wit and candor. On other days, when the blues started creeping up again, I really wouldn't feel like being social. Yet, I would make myself go out with pals, if only because I know how it feels when people don't show up for you. (I once threw a pool party in the 7th grade, and a meager two people showed up. It was a very pathetic Little Man Tate rejection situation. I think it scared me off throwing social events forever).
The more time went on, it became likely that I would indulge in the "punk out." I just couldn't get it up, I guess you could say. The idea of having to deal with a large group of people was too unnerving. I rarely feel comfortable in crowds. I'm best in groups of two or three, where it's not as overwhelming, and I don't feel obsolete. However, even the 'punk out' was not the worst case scenario. Worst case scenario was me showing up only to find myself overly intimidated by all of the faces-- familiar, unfamiliar, didn't matter. I would slowly withdraw into myself. It was like my personality had been sucked behind my eyeballs and was now watching everything from the inside through a pane of protective glass. I was a visitor to an aquarium of colorful human beings, the neutral colors of my own being sitting silently on a bench watching the beautiful, fluid people come and go. If I had a nickel for every time someone asked me, "Are you okay? You're being so quiet," well... I would have a "sh*tload of nickels"-- or so a great man once said. (Ten Awesome Sanity Points if you know what I'm referencing).
Every time I entered a group of people, it felt like an introduction, even if I had known most of them for years. I had to investigate who these people were, their motivations, and how I would fit in. With the slots of funniest, loudest, smartest, most sarcastic, prettiest, etc, always taken, I often found it hard to find my place among them. The solution was to remain quite and not to speak unless spoken to. Yet, many times, I would feel so unnecessary or ignorant that a torrent of negative thoughts would start firing in my brain. I would decide that no one really wanted me around, so I would mentally bow out. As psychosis often overcomes reason, I would ignore the fact that I had been "invited" to these get-togethers, so my presence was indeed wanted.
In any case, I would quite often shoot myself in the foot by weirding out and putting myself in a corner, all the while telling myself that I had been put there by some preternatural force that was out to get me. I don't want to implicate Satan or anything... but let's just say, I wouldn't have been surprised if he had appeared in a puff of smoke and flame laughing hysterically. (It is perhaps unfortunate that my vivid imagination was misdirected for such a large portion of my life). Arriving home after these soirees, I would beat myself up, because I knew that I had looked like a moron. Or a mime. Both bad prospects. I was always so curious of what my friends were saying or thinking of me when I wasn't around. Being intelligent people, clearly they picked up on the fact that something wasn't quite right, and I feared their judgment and questions. I hid behind a vacant, smiling face: "Everything's fine guys. Look! I'm grinning." A lip-locked, emotionally dyslexic spinster, I forever failed to communicate the way I truly felt. Firstly, I didn't think anyone wanted to be burdened with my problems. Secondly, I was convinced that I didn't really have any, and I didn't feel like apologizing to people for not living up to their extremely high standards of, you know, talking to them. The nerve...
After my recent diagnosis and continuing mental progress, I was hit with conflicting emotions. While I felt liberated and better than ever, I also realized that I have wasted nearly thirty years that I'll never get back. (And people think Jesus doesn't have a sense of humor). I am slowly able to recognize the signs of my disease. Depression ain't no joke, people. I used to watch those commercials for Zoloft and think, "Just get off the couch, dude!" Strangely, I was unable to connect the dots and notice that I was figuratively sitting on the same damn sofa. (A very comfy one, mind you. My roommate and I named him "Beluga"). Suddenly, my past anti-social behavior, protective silence, and tongue-twisted attempts at conversation made me look quite silly and not like the resilient, omniscient she-Goddess whom I had always imagined myself to be. The romanticized, egocentric me-- the "Edith" to my "Mer" let's say-- convinced herself that she was smarter than everyone else. Thus, words were futile. Strange how an insecurity complex can disguise itself as a superiority complex. Pain was my Kingdom, and I just loved ruling there. Alone. I had the dexterous mental abilities of self-delusion i.e. membership in the sociopath club. The only prize for that was being ostracized. It was a win-win situation for crazy Edith. What a history to look back on...
Present day, having absorbed all of these facts and monitored the excitingly positive changes in myself, I knew that the moment had arrived: I had to come clean with the people I cared about most. Obviously, my folks were already in on the latest gag in my tragicomedy, as was my best friend-- who coincidentally is my little sister and the only "safe" call I had in my cell phone for many years. The truth is, the therapy had been my parents' unified suggestion, and had they not made it, I may have started a blog called "Pft!" instead of this topical delight. (Sarcasm is a hard thing to indicate in black and white, btw). Thank God my mother was and is as pushy as my insanity period had been long. However, my tight circle of friends, who had borne my stupidity for years, were still totally in the dark. I only knew that I was losing them, whether I had chosen to admit it or not. I did choose to admit it, and I also chose to admit that it was all my own doing. My paranoid perceptions of them, my secretive and ambivalent attitude in defense, and my denial that I needed them, had effectively distanced me from everyone in my life. Bad Edith had taken the wheel, and Good Ol' Mer was left sobbing into her pillow at night, because she thought no one loved her. Isn't that what you wanted, former self? Ach, I shudder to even remember.
Confession is a hard thing, particularly when you don't have a protective and anonymous screen between you and the listener, like that priest's box in church-- forgive me, religious verbiage is not my expertise. Being one-hundred percent honest with someone, particularly someone you love, is not easy. It takes practice, particularly when you haven't done it before. My need to bury things, so as not to inflict my self-punishment on others-- a damaging talent that I had been honing from a very young age-- made the prospect of opening up terrifying to me. In my heart, I knew that I had surrounded myself with only the best of people, as my BS detector has been the only one-hundred percent effective tool in my belt, so I was certain that "my people" would be tolerant of my admissions and apologies. Still, for a person who rarely starts conversations, it is difficult to start the hardest one she's ever had. There never seems to be a good time, does there? "Do you guys want to split an appetizer? And, oh yeah, I'm crazy. Ooh, the chili fries look good!"
Step one was confronting three of the closest people in my life. I chose to have the discussion in public, probably not a wise move, but I felt that in a public space, I would be less likely to cry-- something I am still not comfortable doing in front of people. The moment came only because I had hinted at some "news" and was prodded to follow up on it later-- much later as I was chickening out-- by one of my chums. We'll call him Tyrone. Tyrone made me open my mouth, damn him, and then... away I went. I remember consciously having to remind myself to make eye contact, as I had a tendency to look down at the table or stare at the very intricate napkin in front of me-- "white as the breast of new-fallen snow." I was about halfway through my saga when my throat began to close-up, and I could feel the Trevi Fountain of crying jags making it's way up to my eyeballs. I kept it in, held onto it, and managed to continue. The sudden appearance of our waitress made things even more awkward, but by then I had regained my composure somehow. There is no real way to talk in code about your mental health, so I just let her listen as she filled our glasses. Hell, she might as well know too.
Finally, I finished. There was a short beat, which felt like a millennium. I felt my entire being drop to the pit of my stomach and putter out like an opened balloon finding it's spastic way to the ground, where it lies dead and withered. I hoped for some reassuring winks, maybe some shoulder pats, etc. "We're here for you, thanks for sharing. Now, who wants another drink!?" I was shocked by the response I received, which was resounding with love and support. My pals-- Tyrone, Errol, and Dorothy-- not only listened compassionately to my monologue from beginning to end, as stuttering and shaky as it was-- but when it was over, they didn't focus on my illness but on how amazing they thought I was. (Their word, not mine). They were proud of me for opening up and bolstered my self-esteem by commending the person I had always been on the inside and was now becoming in toto. The great distinction between the way I saw myself and the way others perceived me was astonishing. I could tell that the information I had shared was surprising but not totally unexpected, due to the knowing look in their eyes, but I also knew they didn't consider me the same mutant I had always considered myself to be. It is the first time in the history of my life that I have uttered sound and been validated in the making of it. Thus, the first stone in my path to redemption had been placed. I had moved one step forward.
I continued this process with those others closest to me. Every time, it became easier. Some people were totally shocked at the revelation of my mental malady, so well had I hid my issues; others were like, "Hell, I coulda told you that!" It was an interesting dichotomy. The thing that remained the same was the way people enveloped me with their own strength and, in a way, lent it to me. It has made rebuilding myself easier. I feel as if I am of the same species now. I am no longer "Other," the girl at the aquarium observing a strange existence she can not understand but only admire from afar. Most importantly, I have been nurtured with this positive review of myself. Before I had been so focused on the negative that no kind word was to be believed. Case in point: my father once told me that I was "pretty" as a little girl, and I told him, "No, I'm not." He got mad at me! I didn't understand why at the time, but now I know that my inability to recognize my own goodness frustrated him. I was dishonoring him and his contribution to my very being by not honoring myself. A little self-love, as it turns out, is not a bad thing.
Some advice I can offer to the other silent sufferers out there, who are still looking for their voices and finding only the cascading sound of their own grinding fears, is an alteration on the old adage, "If you want to know the measure of a man, count his friends." I would say instead, "If you want to know a person's worth, look at the people who love her." It's not the quantity; it's the quality. I am surrounded by people of such incredible intelligence, sympathy, perception, courage, and humor. As I don't know how to make friends, never have, I have to rationally deduce that these people chose me. These 'amazing' creatures think that I am 'amazing.' They have been waiting, so patiently, for me to realize this and meet them in the safe space of our mutual, instinctual attraction. All these years, I thought I had been excluded, but I had benched myself. I could have been in the game this entire time. The old me would have resented herself now for being such a total moron. The new me, the real me, instead laughs off and pities her former, fool self when she pops up in my memory. I shrug, shake my head, turn up the Pandora tunes, and go back to enjoying life.