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.
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 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.
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
Things went black mid-thought
And I laid there
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 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
Is also the place where I go before I give up
And on some visits
I gave up
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?
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
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
I think of all the times
I’ve said that the best activism
Is to live your story out loud
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
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
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.
Are made for stomping in.
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.
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.
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
September is coming
Suicide Prevention Month
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
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
And to pray
And to dream
My little world
Will feel like home
Every storm passes.