#6: On brighter days and better friends

#6: On brighter days and better friends

Wednesday 3:40 PM: My eyes felt hot as I read the text message from my psychiatrist: “use Xanax liberally today and text me tomorrow morning with how you’re doing.”

It had been twenty hours since my complete decomposition on the sidewalk outside my apartment. In the midst of a disagreement with one of my roommates about a bill payment, the thought of stepping inside my home was the final trigger to a build-up of anxiety. I had immediately called Rebecca — my lifeline in the overcrowded city that somehow makes me feel wildly lonesome — and she had showed up in what might as well had been a winged chariot: swooping me into a hug and then ushering me onto my bed while she cleaned the rubble of my room and bathroom that had fallen into detritus over the preceding weeks. While I had ignored the problem of cleanliness, it became wildly apparent that my lack of housekeeping was a major indicator that this breakdown was an inevitability rather than a freakish whim of my biological nature.

Rebecca sat with me while we chowed down on half-decent microwave meals from a local deli and tried to pin down exactly what had started the downward spiral that had begun this morning. As it turned out, I was still battling demons from years prior that I had thought were long vanquished: friends lost, guilt repented, shame accepted. Instead of letting me sit in that pit of despair, she assured me that I was not solely responsible for those pains that sat with me nearly four years later. In fact, she sat before me as living proof — the epitome of a friend who had seen me in my darkest and most destructive — that true friends stand by you through the thickest black and love you for the person that evolves from those trials. They encourage you to pick yourself back up and to grow, and when you can’t do it alone, they bring down that very winged chariot and scoop you onboard until you can command the reins yourself.


It’s now been about forty-eight hours. My Xanax supply is still within reach but it is not in white-knuckle grip. Instead, it’s the people around me who make me feel like me. It’s the way Rebecca — a social worker by profession — exceeded the bounds of normal friendship to make sure that I was secure before exiting my apartment on Tuesday night. It’s the way Jasmine stayed on the phone last night laughing with me about how tragic our lives are, in sync nearly four thousand miles apart, and how we will support each other as we seek out local clinical and therapeutic help (my trusted psychiatrist — as helpful as he is and regardless of the fact he has legitimately saved my life on two accounts — can only do so much from two states away). It’s the way Justine understands when I request an extra half hour for lunch in order to commute to attend that very therapeutic appointment.

When I was hospitalized, I had the incredibly fortunate encounter of meeting a seventy-eight year old patient committed for suicidal tendencies. And, in our discussion, she told me that what she had learned in her several hospitalizations consistently was that life is always worth fighting for. Feeling more like myself today, I can say that I know she’s right. There is always a light.

Thursday 9:39 AM: “I feel great today.”

On attaining integrity

Admitting one’s own faults is the first step to changing them, and it is a demonstration of true bravery and integrity.

– Phillip Johnson

When I was seventeen years old, I attended a religious retreat held by my Catholic high school titled Kairos. The premise was secretive to those who had never been before (aka all underclassmen) but it was a great privilege to be asked to attend during your junior year. Usually it was something restricted to the senior class.

Anyway, it was our last day and we were broken into small groups, as we had been all weekend. The core group we had been spending to had been a family of sorts as we went through what can only be described as an emotional roller coaster. The first time I implied to peers that I had an anxiety disorder was in that retired monastery office. And so, on that last day, as we sat around in a circle and gave each other affirmation based on what we had learned about each other during the week, I was told by one of the B.M.O.C.s (Big Men On Campus for those Non-Americans) that he respected my “integrity.”

Instantly I felt guilty.

I felt guilty because I felt fake. I felt undeserving. I felt phony. I felt unseen. I felt misheard.

I felt guilty because I did not see myself as in possession of integrity.

This happened a year after I lied to my theater director to hide my biggest panic attack to date in order to get out of rehearsal by saying I had an orthodontist appointment. When I was caught in the lie, I said I just wanted to sleep, something that haunted me until graduation as being lazy. And so when Sean called me a person of integrity, I felt a flush of embarrassment at these contradicting versions of Rose.

And, if I’m being really honest with myself, I think seventeen year old me had it right. I didn’t have integrity then. Because I was still in my very mutable development. I had the right idea certainly, in trying to have integrity. I knew certainly that I was aiming for it, and that I was on the track to possessing it, but I didn’t have it yet.

Today, however, if you asked me, I’d say yes, I have it. But almost entirely because I own my faults. I’m no longer afraid to say, I fucked up — something I most certainly would not have admitted at seventeen, regardless of the profanity. I’m willing to own up to my flaws, and I even celebrate them, maybe a little too stridently.

It’s a new me, this Integrity Rose. She came to the forefront when she stopped hiding her mental health and trying to lie her way around what had been a very big part of her life for fourteen years. Thank you, blogging! But making that first post on We Are Alive on January 1, 2018 was a huge change for me. It led me through the big declaration and that has made the smaller ones even easier. The smaller ones like remembering that compliment from Sean in 11th grade and the guilt it brought on me. And the incentive it gave me for every day forward to be an even better me.

 

On anxiety

And this, [talking about it]. I’m starting to do this, which is very scary for me but very healing. To try to just talk about it and own it, and realize that this is something that it is part of me but it is not who I am, and if that can help anybody that knows this is part of them but not who they are…

– Emma Stone at Advertising Week New York

Today I woke up at 2 p.m.

I woke up at 2 p.m. and I could not manage to roll myself out of my bed and into a standing position. I had missed my spin class — I had missed the majority of the day actually. My mouth felt dry and my chest felt tight. I could tell I was on the edge without evening opening my eyes yet to face the day. When my eyes did creep open, I used them in the dimness to gauge just how far it was to my bottle of Xanax. Maybe four feet from the bottom of my bed, if that? I closed my eyes again and counted to ten before determining I didn’t want to give up going to drinks with some classmates just because I wanted to stem the potential and onsetting anxiety.

Anxiety.

My first memorable panic attack was November 2, 2005. I remember this because it’s the day The Incredibles was released into theaters. I woke up that day much like I did today but with heightened symptoms. In minutes, I was hysterical. I couldn’t imagine facing school. My mother, herself diagnosed with the condition, took me and my younger brother to to the movie instead.

Thirteen years on, I’m a pro. I can feel the tension build inside of me at the slightest point. I started psychiatric treatment for it in 2012 and was given my very own bottle of courage-inducing Xanax in 2016. I’ve been stable ever since. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t bad days — there are plenty. But it means that I’ve been given the tools to handle them at their very worst.

It’s only been throughout the last year that I’ve come to terms with my demons, though. I’ve claimed them in their darkest truths with the public — posting about it just like I am right now — and I’ve gained a kind of peace with it.

Which I think is what a lot of celebrities are doing now. Something has changed in the normalization of anxiety disorder in the past few years. It’s become a more present force, a rallying cry among those who struggle with it. The use of a higher platform to make it more understandable and empathetic is something I hope to one day be able to do myself.

But today? Today it is hard. Today it hurts. Today I just want to sit and be left alone. But I’m writing today to point out that the hard days don’t negate the good ones.

And that is just about all I can muster.