Inconsistent Insecurities?

The same exact joke that made me feel like eating my body weight in pizza five days ago had the miraculous casual tone of sitcom banter today.

There is a joke among my lab mates that my adviser likes me the least. Very reasonably so and not reasonably so.

Reasonably- I completely butchered my first two papers that I wrote in an attempt to summarize literature review. Butchered is putting it nicely because I was factually incorrect, tonally deaf, and had the organization of a toddler who can’t identify colors yet. I failed one of my core courses and dropped out of the other one last semester. I nearly had a break down in her office and I was only a few scratches away from piercing the skin on my left arm (which she was well aware of but decided to ignore). I’m not the best at replying to messages. And most embarrassingly, I tell terrible pun jokes that make her cringe.

And I know COMPARISON IS THE THIEF OF JOY. Seriously there are fifty million quotes biblical to Buddhist that share that sentiment. I get it. But for the joke it makes sense.  My other lab mate went to Carnegie Mellon with a double major in material science and chemistry. When I wrote a seven page paper, she wrote a twenty page paper. She fixed a website I had spent a couple weeks trying to fix in a single afternoon. With all the deepest respect and admiration, she is probably the smartest person (and most mentally stable) person I have ever met. The other lab mate is a freshman undergraduate who is sweet, and fulfills all expectations set before her, and has absolutely no strikes against her.

So the running gag becomes that if our adviser has longer meetings with us she likes us more, if our adviser tells us something about herself she likes us more, or even something as dumb as putting emoticons in emails she likes us more.

What unreasonably (or maybe reasonably, the jury is still out on a lot of these) I tell myself is a lot less playful and a lot more subjective. I tell myself that I’m too neurotic, I try too hard, and I take up too much effort. If my adviser knew that I had overdosed within the past year or that I used to self harm that she would know that I was too much of a risk. Or my personal favorite my adviser thinks I’m an incompetent idiot and wants me to stop taking money and finally get kicked out of the program.

Last Friday when my lab partner took a picture of my desk with the caption “slacker”, I nearly lost it. I not only when through the usual thoroughfare, but I also threw in some nice new ones to really upset myself. What if my professor starts yelling at me or completely gives up on me? What if I get too upset and she calls the cops on me to have me put in a ward? Why do I always seek the approval of older women? Oh right I had a mildly abusive mother. Man I can’t believe I’m still dealing with that shit. Nothing says fun on a Friday like spiraling through all my insecurities.

But I took the the weekend off. First one in a couple months that I haven’t worked at least ten hours. Watched quiet indie movies that had been cluttering my netflix account. Got my hair cut. Bought girl scout cookies and Ben and Jerry’s half baked. What could have easily been an isolated nightmare was really enjoyable.

Today I tried asking my lab partner about how to confront our professor about her less than stellar poster design. She turned her office chair back away from me muttering, “I’m not going to deal with that now, if not ever…”

I laughed without any guilt, “Well I’m her least favorite anyways, what’s the worst that she could do?”

And I really meant that as a joke and not self deprecation for once. The confidence will probably not last long, but it’s nice that the insecurities are quieter for now.

Avoiding Real Life Word Vomit

These last couple weeks I’ve been a hypomanic mess. No catastrophes of screaming in parked cars or spiraling into some horrible disfigured version of a panic attack that is incapable of being photographed into sympathy. Luckily no one has made me the rabid poster monster of some gruesome zombie asylum first person shooter video game. Yet there have been moments in crowds where I can hear every swallow of spit and feel the coldness radiating from their palms while their existence buzzes like an electron clouds. Entire afternoons wishing I had any ability to chemically inebriate the boiling concrete solidifying and melting continuously right beneath my ears. Yet this has been the first time in a long time that I feel like I’ve had my brain back, where I can listen intently to a lecture and put connections together. Creativity is on a lovely honeymoon with intellect. Absurdly enough I’ve started trying to write a novel again.

Every hint of possible failure paralyzes me none the less. I can’t help but remember that it was only nearly a year ago that I attempted suicide. I don’t feel suicidal. I don’t even have depression’s hotel or room number. But remembering those times is like lightly touching the top of the water and feeling the velvet pressure undulate in saran wrap delicacy. The dangerous thoughts do not reverberate through me but there are quiet whispers that remind me.

You were not meant to live. You should have died with the last overdose. You aren’t doing enough with your life. You still can’t love other people. You aren’t smart enough for grad school. You are a burden to everyone around you. You deserve to eternally suffer in a mental ward. You can’t ever have a normal life. It’s only a matter of time before you try to kill yourself again or are hospitalized again.

And I want to talk about my fears but no one in this city is at the point of emotional trust that I can safely talk with. Sure people know I have bipolar but there’s a completely different dynamic required to casually discuss mental illness.

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Good interaction

Me: Yeah I’ve been freaking out lately thinking about how I tried to kill myself last year and how precarious life is in general. But like I know all of this stuff is unreasonable so it’s mainly just wanting to talk to some one about it.

Them: That’s super shitty. The guilt with that stuff can really wreck havoc. I know you’re not going to kill yourself and I’m glad you could talk to me about this stuff.

Me: Thanks I really appreciate it.

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Most probable interaction

Me: So I don’t want you to worry and I don’t want you to freak out. I know I haven’t shared a lot about my experience with bipolar but last year I tried to- attempted to take my life. And it was a really awful time and things aren’t like that at all now. So many things have changed since then. Which makes explaining this kind of hard but a part me remembers that experience very vividly and knowing that I’ve been there before makes me scared that I’ll go back there again. I know this is really oversharing and I’m sorry but it is something that has really been bothering me. I’m so sorry. Thank you for listening.

Them: Uhhhhhhhh yeah. No problem. Slow crawl into a subject change with at least one minimally invasive question…

And I don’t blame them. It’s like trying to get change for a hundred dollar bill at a pop up fruit stand on the side of the road. Neither party is well equipped for the exchange.

The problem that arises then is trying to compartmentalize all parts of my new life away from the old one. The neurotic tendencies don’t go away though, it just translates into me trying to turn everything into a joke, or heaps of irritability, and an almost obsessive longing to have anyone look me in the face and comfort you. These days it takes all my emotional energy to hide my present and past mental state.