How many days did I sit in silence and say nothing about my sadness until it turned to desperation? How many nights did I lay awake, worrying and running through emergency evacuation plans that I’d never need before I spoke out loud to someone, anyone, that I thought there might be something wrong? I couldn’t tell you, the number is too high.
When your thoughts are lying to you about who you are and how the people around you feel about you, find one true thing. When you don’t know who you are anymore and it feels like it’s been years since you felt like yourself, look for it – just that one true thing about you. Find it. Hold on to it. Write it down. Tell it to someone else. Mutter it over and over to yourself. Who cares? You already feel crazy.
I remember the inside of my body felt like a numb wasteland, an eternity of nothing, because I knew if I felt anything, or just the tiny hint of something, I’d truly and fully lose it. “It” being any hold on any bit of sanity I still laid claim to. Feeling one tiny bit of a feeling, or heaven forfend one whole feeling, meant ALL the feelings would come rushing in on me like a tidal wave and I would die. It was too much. Safety was in the numb part, even if it meant misery for eternity. Misery I knew. Misery I understood. Misery and I had BFF necklaces and did each others hair on a Saturday night.
Days, weeks, months, years. All in varying shades of numb and feelings of depression, anxiety, fear and sadness. And then I found a tiny bit of magic that would get me through the toughest times – just one true thing about myself. It didn’t matter what it was or what else it related to as long as it was my true thing.
In that moment when a person who cares about you, who is saying to you how much they love you, and maybe they’re saying the right things and maybe everything they say is exactly wrong but they mean well, and you can’t find your way over to connect with them or their words because you’re lost in a sea of numbness, and sadness is hanging over you like a thick darkness waiting to descend if you look directly at it – right then you pull out your one true thing and use it like a shield and a lifeline and a light to get to them. It works because truth is truth, even if it’s something unrelated or silly, and it’s perfect.
In that moment where you’re all alone, truly and utterly, and you can’t imagine a world without so much pain and you know for sure you’ll never feel anything resembling something close to joy ever again (in fact, you can’t remember the last time you felt anything like joy in the first place) and your feelings are crushing in on you and it seems like there’s got to be a way out – then. Right exactly then is when you bring out your one true thing and tell it to yourself over and over again because it’s true and even though the rest of the stuff in your brain FEELS like it’s true, it isn’t. Replace it with your one true thing.
And when the time comes that you feel absolutely nothing, Zip, Nada, Zilch, when you feel swallowed up in the vacuous hole and it’s preferable, this feeling nothing, because the pain has stopped and you know you could stay there forever and ever if your kids or your partner didn’t keep bugging you and how sad for them that they have to put up with you, wouldn’t it be better for everyone if they didn’t – grab it. Grab your one true thing and write it down on paper and tape it to the mirror and the tv and the fridge and then tattoo it on your wrist if you need to because it’s true and the lies aren’t.
Here are some of the True Things I’ve collected over the years.
#1 My left foot is slightly larger than my right foot. That’s true. I have the data (and feet) to support that statement. That statement is not subjective to my feelings, my feelings that can lie straight to my face without blinking. Yep. No getting around it, my left foot is slightly bigger than my right one.
#4 I can waggle my nostrils. Rain or shine, you get a kid in front of me and I can waggle my nostrils to beat the band until they crack a smile and it feels like I won the lottery.
#7 I make the best grilled cheese in the world. I used to enjoy a grilled cheese made by someone else, but really, I make the best ones. Come over sometime and I’ll make you one and wistfully watch you eat it because gluten.
#8 I like the color purple-blue that happens in the sky right where the clouds hit the edge of the horizon and go deeper. That color is slashed somewhere deep in my soul and I feel it on an overcast day the most.
#22 I will never like eggplant. It’s ok. I admit it. Let’s just get it over with and out there – eggplant grosses me out. I’d rather eat okra, and well, okra…not my favorite. (But, at least it isn’t eggplant.)
#25 Blowing bubbles through a tiny wand yanked out of a neon-pink plastic bottle with a cartoon of a unicorn badly plastered on it makes me incredibly happy. Blowing bubbles makes me take steadier breaths and calms me down. Watching bubbles float soothes my mind chatter. Seeing them pop is fun.
It’s been a long time since I had to use one of my One True Things to save my sanity, but it doesn’t stop me from using them every now and again anyway. And I keep collecting new ones, because the more I am myself, the more room I have for all the things about me. (If that sentence doesn’t make sense to you, you might not have a depression or anxiety problem.)
If you’re in a place right now where you’re being lied to by depression and crazy-thought-making and numbness, think of one true thing about yourself and remind yourself who you are. If you think you might hurt yourself, please call a hotline like the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline toll-free at 800-273-8255. (Here are some other hotline numbers.) You are not alone. People do care. That’s the truth, and that’s coming from someone who collects beer caps and wine corks for a project that may or may not ever happen. (#17 on my list of True Things.)
If you have some true things about yourself you’d be willing to share, I’d love to read them.