This Week I Couldn’t Get Out of my Bed

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This week, I’ve felt like I’ve been walking in a dream. And not in a good way.

In my life, I try to be a champion for talking about mental health. It’s why I became an RA, why I am co-directing a new theatre piece next semester, and how I’ve made some of my most meaningful friendships.

It’s also why I spent an hour a week in the counseling office for most of last year, why I take a an anti-depressant every evening, and why I spent most of this week hiding under my covers with absolutely no motivation to even put on jeans.

Writing the above paragraph is almost physically hurting me. I know objectively that the best way to shatter the stigma around talking about mental health awareness is to talk about it, but revealing the most raw and sensitive parts of myself and my brain is terrifying. The same thoughts run through my head that I’m sure run through everyone else’s. What if people judge me? What if they see me as incapable? What if every fear and self-doubt I’ve ever had is actually true, and if I talk about it, everyone else will figure it out?

This past week, all of those fears have come to the surface in a much more visible and poignant way than I ever thought they would. The medication that I take every night has, over the last year, been a game-changer for me. A year ago, the only thing that I could ever think about was how absolutely and devastatingly sad I was. Every minute of every day that thought would tumble around my brain, bringing itself to the surface every time I sat down to do my homework, tried to find a place to sit in Lil’s, or had any social interaction.

While medication didn’t necessarily cure all of those things, it has made a world of a difference. Sometimes, I like to think of my mental health as a bar chart. Without my medication, I’m at 10% — to get to 100%, I have to jump 9/10 of the way. There is no way that I can jump a full 9. Maybe I can do 5 or 6, on a good day. A really, really good day. With my medication, I start out at a 60% — I only have to jump another 4. And when I feel a baseline of motivation to crawl out of my bed and put on a little mascara, that 4 seems a whole lot more manageable.

Medication is never perfect, though. Mine has some pretty wild side effects, including extreme drowsiness. For a while, I was fine with making that trade-off – bottled happiness in exchange for some more naps? Sounded like a dream. But after a while I was dozing off in classes, sleeping through others, and generally going through my days as a walking zombie. When it started to become unbearable, I decided to switch medications with an added dose of optimism. The new one was supposed to energize me, manage my depression and anxiety, and even be an off-label treatment for my unmedicated ADHD.

Like I said, I was super optimistic. I was tired of being tired, and over the past few months I’ve made huge strides in my mental health. Every thought in my head is no longer tainted with sadness. I have a loving support system, a set of great classes suited to my strengths and interests, and a fulfilling set of extracurricular activities. It seemed like the perfect time to make a switch.

Instead of being my miracle pill, the new medication turned me into a different kind of zombie – one which I much less preferred. What happened was a phenomenon called derealization. It’s often hard for me to explain exactly what derealization feels like, but I think Wikipedia does a pretty good job:

The detachment of derealization can be described as an immaterial substance that separates a person from the outside world, such as a sensory fog, pane of glass, or veil. Emotional response to visual recognition of loved ones may be significantly reduced. Feelings of déjà vu are common. Familiar places may look alien, bizarre, and surreal.

The words that I have felt best describe this feeling are: numb, cold, emotionless, empty, foggy, apathetic, and detached.

Since last Sunday, I have been convinced that I am in a dream and pretty soon I’m going to wake up and get to start all of this over. I know that sounds weird – even I think it sounds weird. But nothing is real: I’m not real, you’re not real, nothing that’s happening to me is real, and there will be no tomorrow.

When you can’t picture any kind of future and you have no feeling of consequence, it can be hard to find any kind of motivation or drive to do anything at all. I found myself slipping up on deadlines, forgetting meetings, oversleeping even more than usual, and staring at my computer screen for hours on end trying to convince myself that I was actually awake.

This is, unfortunately, not a foreign feeling to me. Almost exactly a year ago, in October of 2016, I had a very similar reaction to another medication.

A year ago I could not get out of my bed. A year ago, I could barely speak, let alone hold a conversation. A year ago, I’d look in the mirror and be convinced that the person I was staring at was a stranger.

A year ago, I did absolutely nothing to help myself. I don’t blame first-year Samah – she was lonely, scared, had never experienced anything like this in her life, and had no one to relate to. I wouldn’t blame anyone for this – if I didn’t have my sisters and friends pushing me, second-year Samah would have done exactly the same. But this time around, things were different.

I’ve spent the last week doing something that has been incredibly difficult for me – I’ve spoken up. I talked to my professors and tried to explain what was happening to me when I couldn’t even really understand it myself. I visited the psychiatrist and switched back to my old medication. I talked to my boss, the accessibility office, and my friends and fellow RAs to find a system of support to help guide me.

This has not been easy, and I acknowledge that I get to come at this problem from a place of privilege. I had the money to swap my medications at a second’s notice, had an incredibly strong support system, and had the relative health to find courage to ask for help from people I respect.

And, I have not been perfect. But what I have learned this week is that no one is perfect. Everyone struggles, and it is okay to struggle. It is also absolutely okay to ask for help, because those around you want to help you succeed. Your professors, your Deans, your bosses, and your friends first and foremost care about you, not your grades or your performance. Your mental health is an integral part of your health, and it’s important for us to normalize it as being that way. How you are feeling in your brain is just as important as how you are feeling in your bones.

If you are struggling with your mental health, I want you to know a few things:

You are not alone. Everyone struggles – your siblings, your friends, your peers, even your RA. It doesn’t make you incapable. It doesn’t mean that you’re a failure. It doesn’t mean that you will always be broken. It doesn’t even mean that you’re broken in the first place.

You have a system of understanding support around you. It could be in your friends, your RA or PAL or iMentor, your professors, your Residence Life Coordinators, your Deans, your mental health Counselor, your psychiatrist, the list goes on. They are here for you to listen to you, to give you loving words of encouragement, to give you time, and to give you grace.

Your self-doubt is a monster. Acknowledge your feelings, accept that they are there and that you cannot force yourself to stop feeling them. But also look into the face of that self-doubt monster and tell it that it’s wrong.

You did not ask for this. You did not want it. If you could be working more/trying harder/getting it together, you would be. But for now, you are doing your best, and that is all that anyone can ask of you. Give yourself grace.

You are worth it. You are worth it, you are worth it, you are worth it.

I had a hard week. Sometimes, you’ll have a hard week, or a hard month, or a hard year, or a hard decade. But you are not alone.


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1 Comment

One Response to “This Week I Couldn’t Get Out of my Bed”

  1. Harold A. Maio on October 21st, 2017 4:10 pm

    —the best way to shatter the stigma around talking about mental health ???

    You sadly missed the mark: You educate people who SAY there is one, you do not educate them to say there is one. It is my generation’s prejudice, do not carry it into your generation.

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