Growing up, I was the kid that raised my hand too much in class. The kid who specialized in giving nonsensical opinions filled with fluff. I didn’t know squat about Pascal’s Triangle or balancing potassium in a chemical equation, but many words that meant nothing convinced people otherwise.
Whether it was spouting irrelevant anecdotes about my mundane weekend or growing know-it-all tendencies throughout my elementary school years, each word that came out of my mouth was as empty as the next.
Looking back, I suppose my constant barrage of meaningless word vomit was a way to hold back what actually needed to be said. Words that contained depth were buried beneath the bluff of my seemingly extroverted personality.
These thoughts never breached the barrier between my brain and the outside world. They were trapped pieces of pain stemming from a source I failed to locate no matter how hard I tried.
Weeks would go by as self-deprecation festered like growing vines suffocating my mind. And finally, one last sprouting seed of doubt would send me over the edge.
Middle and high school followed this same bleak pattern. Every couple of months, I would enter a multi-week slump marked by depressive behaviors that froze me in time.
I can still recall binging all nine seasons of One Tree Hill in the shadows of my dark bedroom. Curling up in a ball on cold linoleum tiles in the bathroom across the hall. Sometimes making it downstairs to fetch a jar of peanut butter that would serve as my food source for the next couple of days.
It was at those times when I wondered if that exuberant tone calling from the classroom years ago ever belonged to me at all.
Some days I hated how I looked and tried to ask for reassurance without sounding like a narcissist. Other days I would intentionally spark arguments to see if people would even care to fight back.
All of these attempts were somehow easier than uttering the words, “You know, I’m really not doing well.”
These little blips were always blamed on others in order to justify the actions spurred by my sudden drop in serotonin. And after a week or so had gone by, I would weakly smile my way back into friendships that were crushed under the heaviness of my cyclical emotions.
I never thought to put a label on what exactly caused my mental health’s decline, but in hindsight, it was more likely because I was too scared to.
I didn’t want to sit in an office and rehash dark musings that would have added a complex word followed by “disorder” to my identity. But as time went on, it got increasingly hard to ignore Dr. Google’s symptoms that seemed to mimic my every move.
There came a point where this overlarge elephant in the room began to squeeze out any ounce of support tired friends and family members were willing to give me.
As I packed away my life in plastic boxes for my move to Berkeley, I decided it was time to pack away a childhood of dissociation.
I began to realize the feelings that coursed through my body at sporadic times served as dependent variables, while the independent variables were nuanced approaches I could have toward my episodes.
The first conversation I had with my roommate wasn’t about pastel wall decor or planned classes, it was about broken families and discarded friendships.
With this exchange came a different type of word vomit, the word vomit therapists painstakingly pull out of you session after session.
After I had nothing particularly ceremonious left to recount, I exhaled as I imagined watching my trauma gently drift out of the eighth floor dorm room I now resided in.
While some might view these orientation week revelations as being too forward, they nonetheless ushered in an era of accepting imperfection.
I listened to raw conversations about wanting relationships that will never happen and body image issues that started at age 8. I found a home within these unfortunate circumstances that my gangly group of college floormates all seemed to share.
Unlearning years of emotional repression was in no way easy, but it was healthier than the alternative path I had been wandering down the entire duration of my childhood.
My life was slowly starting to yank itself together and naivety gave way to the belief that I somehow figured out a miraculous cure to the incurable.
Contrary to my belief, a familiar sinking sensation returned in the late days of November.
One Tree Hill. Linoleum tile floor. Peanut butter jar.
While this time felt like so many times before, there was something different. There was a light at the end of a decades-long dark tunnel. I was no longer afraid to express the brutally authentic thoughts that lived in my head.
I walked into the laundry room before heading off to Thanksgiving break and uttered the words to my roommate that never escaped my mouth in years prior.
“You know, I’m really not doing well.”