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Again: ECT & Everything Else

I wrote this poem tonight while doing my daily journaling. I talk everyday about the pains of this year. I tell intense and surreal stories of the life threatening depressions, the catatonia, the dangerous choices, the friendships lost, the last-resort treatments, the beautiful person that kept me going towards healing and then the abuse that reopened so many wounds. I talk about the physical health concerns, the chronic pain, and the cancer scare. I screamed into a bullhorn about my pregnancy scare at a women's rights rally. I open up about my most pivotal and life-changing spiritual emergency that went down in July, and sometimes I include other less compelling emergencies too.


I simply have no tolerance left for faking it.


Yet, I still find it harder to talk about the enduring pain of explaining my pain. I wake up everyday to an ongoing ache. I spend hours a day weighing the hurt of loneliness with the sting of sugarcoating. I face an insatiable jealousy towards the freshmen walking around my old campus. I long to be the fun friend. I long for a fresh start. I mourn being a success story.


My back hurts from carrying the grief of what this year was supposed to be.


Tonight, as I sorted through the hundreds of home videos on my laptop, I felt compelled to pause and write this long and disorganized poem. To be honest, I don't think most people will read it, and I am pretty okay with that. I just needed to turn it over to the world. To find the strength to speak my unspoken again. For my fullest heart to exist somewhere in the depths of our seemingly heartless internet.

 

Content Warning: The following poem contains stories about suicide, psychiatric hospital/medical trauma, and interventions for eating disorder behaviors. Please prioritize yourself and your gut instinct first. Sometimes it takes more strength not to read it.

 

Again

a rambling poem about 2022


This poem is dedicated to everyone who currently feels too old to be so young, and far too young inside to be this old- all at the same moment in time. I am so sorry you know this feeling, but I feel honored that we can know it together.


I don’t know how to say it.

I don’t know what “it” even is.

I don’t know anything, really.

And that sentence


Doesn’t feel like an attack anymore

It kind of feels like a homecoming


I do know

That lately life is a flash flood

And everyone listened to the warnings that played on the radio

Before I did


I was blasting Christmas music.

My people evacuated to safety.

And I’m swimming upstream

to meet them there

Someday soon, we all will be together.

If the fates allow.

When these water recedes, I will rest in the grass


Every storm passes.

But I feel shame to say

That when each storm is over

I often miss the thunder

It was so easy to tell people that I was confused all the time because I was having scheduled bi-weekly seizures caused by electricity sent into my brain.

"Oh, the bags under my eyes are just from this anesthesia hangover"


So easy to say that ECT treatments are hard

And they were

Life then was so hard and so easy and just so, so much

all at once.


People were always curious when I tell them why I wasn't in class

or at the meeting “Holy crap, they still do that to people?”

They ask

They imagine chains and angry nurses and screams of terror


I tell them they use anesthesia and sensors now


They breathe a sigh of relief

But I suddenly can't catch my breath My gut tenses up upon each word

My heart skips a beat

The imagined monitor skips a beep


I really don’t know what to say, about ECT.


Advocates of all kinds

Want to know if it saved my life.

Or traumatized me.


“Both”

Is such a long answer

For such a short Tim Horton's line

I am alive to tell the story of my life.

But that story keeps me up at night

A few minutes longer

Than it used to

The anesthesia they used burned in my veins

When they pushed it down my IV

I panicked

Things went black mid-thought

And I laid there

Vulnerable

In the middle of a place

That houses so many of my worst memories

My most pivotal decisions

My biggest fears

A hospital building that has provided me comfort for years now

from myself

from my urges


A Hospital building where they filled my gut by tube to keep me alive

When my blood sugar was plummeting

but took away my gut instinct

in the process


A place where they saved people by isolating them

A place where often, nobody on the unit still flinches at the desperate screams for help creeping up from the stairwells


The screams still follow me down all my minds most winding stairs

Well


That hospital

Is also the place where I go before I give up


And on some visits

I gave up

my trust

To earn my freedom

The ECT doctor came out to the preparation room to ask why I've been getting so anxious before treatments


Told me she doesn't understand

I hardly heard her over my racing heartbeat


Before they could put me under,

I had to say my name and date of birth aloud

To confirm it was me

I am still me.


Who would have thought speaking outloud

about the day I was born into this weird world

would become a new trigger for wanting to leave it


I have to say my birthday at the pharmacy to get my anxiety meds.

In the ECT months,

I lost so much

But I felt so good

I had so much energy


People asked if I decided yet what I what to do after graduation

There was no easy way to say that I was still deciding

If memories of this experience would kill me faster than the depression we were treating

How do you say that out loud?

To anyone?

To yourself?

How do you come home to yourself

When you never recognize your own street now


They said temporary memory loss was the biggest side effect


But months later, my brain still kind of feels like a rental car

Where is the emergency brake?

I left therapy this summer.

It was becoming just another way to learn how to edit my words

Please stop telling me I’m not burden

This shit is too much for any of us to carry

I'm okay with being a burden

as long as I am a lot of other things too


To be honest,

I don’t even want to hear about my own days lately

That shit is too much

Yet, I can’t take a break

It's in the terms and conditions


I think


Social Worker Instagram Accounts say

“Boundaries are how we can love both of us at the same time”

I'm really, truly, not sure

I think I agree,

But so many people feel

That more boundaries can preserve what we have together

And yet I so often think about how hard I’ve worked

for a decade

to learn to preserve love for each coming winter

And how often I still end up canning my feelings with it too


My pantry of feelings is too full

And the air around me feels colder

Everyday


I think of all the times

I’ve said that the best activism

Is to live your story out loud

"Be Outspoken"

In good times and bad


When you call yourself an activist

People want a moral to every story you tell

But sometimes an action step

Is easier than stepping out your own front door


My extroversion

Means I am fueled by the human experience

Authenticity is the currency of love here

There is no recession here


I aspire to make home in me that is so safe

And so warm


That anyone who feels they don’t belong

Can make it rain authenticity

When we are together

I dream

Of present in the pains together

With no expectations or liabilities


We can enjoy the sound of the rain

on thin roof over our hears


Every storm passes.

And puddles

Are made for stomping in.


This summer

I am mostly just stomping on my former self


Wondering if self love has to mean loving her too

Wondering if I deserved it

Listing off all the “it’s” that fit in that cognitive distortion


Looking at photos of my little self

and thinking about about all the ways

That speaking out kept her alive

And all the ways that speaking out

almost killed her.


Almost.


Now, I fear words

Now, I fear people

Now, I fear sharing

Now, I fear the word “trauma dumping”


Almost as much as I fear myself


Now, I fear.


But


I am here.


ECT took a part of my brain I didn’t know I needed

I grieve it every day

Grief when I try to mentally calculate a tip on a receipt

Grief when I lose my train of thought after exclaiming “guess what!!”

Grief when I face the fact that I don’t recognize faces quite right

Grief when I go to a cool store and ask my roommate "why we never came here before"

Grief when I find three receipts from that same store in my desk the next day

Grief when I rewatch the same home videos from 9 years ago

Grief when I still feel that those years are so much more real than this one

Once a day

I get a gut feeling that I’m about to wake up

Once a day

I am overwhelmed with the sensation

that this exact moment has happened before

I miss before.

When I said hi to everyone I knew.

When I remembered their ongoing adventures.

When I asked about their date last week.

And how their biology test went.

Now I say hi to everyone I walk past when I pass through my old campus

Just in case I know them


That is a lot of awkward hello's

For someone who has always somewhat wanted to say goodbye


So now

September is coming

Suicide Prevention Month

is coming


And I am holding my own aching hand

For everyday left in August

To brace for the messaging

For the Facebook care reactions

For the quotes

For the one day of activism walks


For the guilt

over still feeling

that it is all just so empty

I really don’t know how I feel about

the catchphrases


About “a world without suicide”

But I do know that my little world

Will likely always involve suicide

In some way


And despite how many people have told me

That suicide is not an option


The urge to leave

Has been with me

For so long


So now, instead of wishing it away.


I use my wishes

to hope

And to pray

And to dream


That soon


My little world

Will feel like home

Again.


Every storm passes.


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