It’s past midnight, Monday creeping inward like a shadow. I’ve been on a break from working for a while, so there’s no reason to be worrying about the next day. And yet.
I’d developed a bad habit this year: I don’t, or can’t, sleep on Sunday nights. Some of my last colleagues know this. It’s this illogical rebellion against the dawn — if I don’t sleep on Sunday night, maybe I won’t wake up on Monday morning.
This is how I’m ending 2019: anxious, sleepless, irrational, a ghost of the girl who entered the decade. I’m embarrassed, obviously, but insufficiently ashamed or motivated to change. A lot of what happened this year was my doing, yet somehow none of it was my fault.
I stayed at a dorm near work for most of the year. It was a ten-minute walk away — fifteen, with my legs — and I took most of those walks in the dark. Leaving work late, yes; but in the case of many weekdays, coming home only to shower and then leave again. Save for those short visits to my dorm bathroom, I spent consecutive nights and days in the office, awake and willing the sun not to rise this time.
But here’s the irony of all those months living that way: I rarely needed to do it and I never truly did anything. My body was at the mercy of my anxious brain. I felt unprepared to do the day’s tasks, and I felt undeserving of doing anything else. I wasn’t rested enough to work, and I hadn’t worked enough to earn rest. And so I would enter the half-lit, empty office and sit at my desk, delaying the work as I delayed sunrise.
My boundaries blurred and my health suffered for nearly nothing, a cycle I couldn’t escape because I wasn’t in control. I repeat: a lot of it was my doing, yet somehow none of it was my fault.
I was simply broken.
The thing about my multiple symptoms is that most of them overlap. Anxiety, ADHD and bipolar are indistinguishable these days — they all feel like being too full of something. I once described my anxious days to my doctor, and they said, “I think that’s just the hypomania manifesting.” I later described my hypomanic days to another doctor, and they said, “I think that’s ADHD.”
I haven’t seen any doctor since July and I haven’t been on medication. It hasn’t mattered. I’ve lost sight of why I ever wanted different words to describe the same conclusion: you’re just too broken.
You’re too invisible. You need to step up and show us some fire — but not too much heat, because you need to think about other people. Yes, good, really internalize your spark! But wait, what do you mean you’re burning out already?
Why don’t you try some self-care? Why not be wholly accountable for your wrongness so we can ignore how the whole world needs fixing too? No, you aren’t irreparable. We just don’t prefer your way of healing. The world won’t change its rules for you, darling, you’ll have to twist, bend and break yourself some more to fit. Be the stronger person. Do what’s best for everybody
We know your brokenness is not your doing, yet somehow all of it is your fault.
Who needs to remember all the different words for that?
I spent the last quarter throwing in the towel. I gave myself permission to sort of not exist — consequences be damned until further notice.
But know that it has been equal parts punishment and peace. The insomnia has followed me like a guardian, and it has taken four months (and counting) to resurrect my immune system from all the damage it took. The burden and memory of all the ways I’ve failed — they have not left my mind once.
There has been rest but no repair. I think I didn’t send myself here to be fixed, after all; I did it to lick my wounds in poorer lighting. A tattered old toy, out of tricks, out of battery, out of time. You can’t throw me out, so at least hide me away. Maybe try again next year.
This is how I’m ending 2019: anxious, sleepless, irrational, a ghost of the girl who entered the decade.
I’m very likely to start 2020 the same way.
I’ve cried over this knowledge, but it’s going to take more than some mountain air, hermitism and self-care rituals to pump life back into me. The stroke of midnight on New Year will not fill me with some kind of long-lost hope and grace for life. Sunday nights are probably going to blow for a very long time.
The events of 2019 broke me and damned me, and a lot of the damage is irreversible. Whatever’s still fixable will probably not be fixed until after the next hard thing shows up. I don’t have that kind of privilege, like the kind of time it takes to pay all of yesterday’s debt before starting on tomorrow’s liabilities.
To tell you the odd truth, most days it isn’t sadness that I feel, and not even regret. Sometimes I’m angry or defeated while other days I’m just blue. I feel burdened by mistakes that weren’t mine to make or options I didn’t know I had. One time I realized I was finally moving on from feelings I didn’t know I had ever struggled with.
Mostly, I’m just confused why I have to be exclusively responsible for a condition I did not choose. And I’m probably angry enough to argue with anyone who suggests I count my blessings or whatever.
If I could erase this year and all its fresh trauma out of existence… I’d do it. Even if it’d do no good. I wouldn’t have made better choices, I’d have just bent and broken myself in some other way.
But at least it would have been all my doing and it would have been all my fault. At least that would have made more sense.