“Just get through August.”
I tell myself this over and over until the thought is stronger than the thoughts telling me it would be easier if I just drove my car into a wall. Then I wouldn’t have to deal with figuring out how I’m going to eat this week, never mind how I’m going to pay the multitude of bills that are piling up.
I wouldn’t have to deal with the fact that I can’t stop hysterically crying as yet another stressor is thrown on to the seemingly never-ending heap.
I wouldn’t have to deal with going back to my psychiatrist for yet *another* medication switch.
I wouldn’t have to deal with how I’m going to pay my rent this month.
I wouldn’t have to worry about having to ask my parents for help and the psychological toll that’s going to take (there’s a complicated history there, especially when it comes to money).
I sink down into the driver’s seat of my car and close my eyes for a second. When I open them again, my gaze floats to the window and I look out at the rain pouring down, thinking about how fitting it is, even though it’s hurricane season in Florida and it rains more than there’s actual sun anyway. Then I think how ironic it is that we’re named the Sunshine State when there are probably more rainy days than sunny ones.
It’s then, as I’m feeling like I’m becoming one with the fabric of the car seat, that I wonder how I came to be here. I’m an employed college student with a good credit score/payment history, great work experience and a bachelor's degree, who can’t even afford to eat, never mind raise my credit limit enough so I can use my only credit card, which is currently maxed out. I think to myself “maybe moving to Orlando was a mistake. What I was I thinking? Maybe I should move back to Miami. I feel stupid for chasing my dreams and almost like I’m being punished for doing so.” A fresh wave of tears comes over me at these thoughts.
The darker thoughts manage to push their way through again and I know I need to get back to my apartment now. I’ve been struggling with suicidal thoughts for most of my life and I’ve never been worried about myself before. This night is the first time I’ve felt like I might do something stupid.
I tell myself my apartment is only two miles from the gas station my car is parked in and I think, “I just need to get back there because I have a card from [suicide prevention/mental health education non-profit organization] Hope For The Day tacked onto my wall.” The card has, among others, the National Suicide Hotline phone number. Actually talking to someone on the phone has always helped defuse these situations for me and I’m desperate.
There is no amusement in the laugh that comes out of my mouth as I think “and I’m what they call ‘high functioning.’" This feels anything but.
All “high functioning” means is that I can force myself out of bed in the morning, hold down a job, do well in school, and manage to keep friendships alive. High functioning people are a confusing puzzle for many psychologists and other medical professionals because they can’t immediately put us in a box. In fact, it took me years before I finally found a psychologist who was actually helpful (and who then referred me to the clinic I go to now).
The most ironic thing about all of this is that it’s the high functioning ones that psychologists should be most alarmed by. High functioning people can have weeks, even months, where they feel okay. They can also manage to keep good grades, as some throw themselves into their studies as a way to focus on something other than what they’re feeling. But then, if something stressful enters the picture, like a breakup or a layoff or a big test, it’s like a match hitting the fuse of a stick of dynamite. When the fuse runs out, there’s either an explosion or an implosion.
Whichever one presents itself is entirely dependent on the person’s personality. If the person tends to keep emotions and other issues locked up, they’re more likely to be on the implosion side. Implosion could take the form of negative self-talk, self-destructive behaviors, perfectionist behavior, or self-imposed isolation. Both the isolation and self-destructive behaviors are the most concerning because they encourage suicidal thoughts to burrow into the brain. This sets off a whole other chain reaction that encourages unhealthy behaviors such as not eating, driving recklessly, putting little to no effort into life, or getting into dangerous situations on purpose.
The scariest thing about people who implode, though, is that they become masters of hiding just how sad they are behind a smiling façade. These are the ones that outwardly look happy, carefree, have the 4.0 GPA or are consistently on the honor roll. There’s also a weird conundrum where they want someone to recognize how they’re feeling but are also terrified of that same thing. If they sense a person is getting too close to “unmasking” them so to speak, they deflect with humor or sarcasm, so the other person won’t make a big deal out of whatever incited the incident.
These people are the also the ones who have the hardest time dropping their guard when they actually decide to sit down and think how they’ll explain this to not only themselves, but also a professional. That brings another set of entanglements in itself: will the professional believe me? Will they think I’m making it up? Am I even sick if I don’t feel this way all the time? Am I making this a bigger deal than it needs to be?
Unfortunately, there are the “professionals” who will listen to someone like I just described above and think they are making it up or otherwise just don’t take them seriously. It’s like these professionals are so set in seeing symptoms or diagnoses in one way that anything that doesn’t fit in them can’t possibly be valid. It can make even trying to explain what’s on your mind so frustrating that a lot of people just throw up their hands and feel like no one can help them or understand them. You have to be very stubborn and persistent to find help if you’re the imploding kind and not everyone is built that way.
People who explode don’t have this problem as they are usually the “stereotypical” view of, say, depression or anxiety. They’re the ones who burst into tears over something as small as dropping a fork on the floor, the ones who self-harm, or are failing their classes. There’s usually a “cry for help” that is obvious to the naked eye. Their behavior follows a more consistent pattern than those who implode.
For those who implode, it often comes in waves, so it can be hard to pinpoint when it happens and why. The fact is, though, that once that switch is flipped, trying to pull yourself out of it on willpower alone is like trying to clean up glitter. You’ll be able to clean up a good portion of it but you’ll never get all of it out.
More effort and funding needs to not only be put into mental health clinics but also into educating mental health professionals on the varying ways mental illnesses can affect people. After all, no one experiences anxiety and depression the same way; yet, a lot of professionals seem to think there’s only one strict set of criteria for these illnesses and that’s just dangerous and incorrect thinking.
If you're going through a struggle like this at the moment, reach out to a close friend or other trusted individual. You'll be pleasantly surprised at the number of people who care and want you to be OK. Sometimes they might even do above-and-beyond things like send a care package or buy you your favorite food because they just want to see a smile on your face again, temporary or not. I
If it gets to a breaking point, call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255, use their online chat, or text the Crisis Text Line at 741741. Remember, this is a bump in the road, not the end of road. You'll get through this.