I am packing up my entire life to head East. The mess of years’ worth of living is strewn around me, taunting me to pack it all into small, under-50-pound suitcases. I’m folding my clothes and saying goodbye to friends. But I’m not a freshman heading to Georgetown for the first time.
I’m a junior, heading back to DC after six months’ medical leave of absence at home in Arizona. At least, I used to be a junior.
Facts lie, and I don’t ever trust them – I’m a history major, which means that I don’t believe anything written until I know who wrote it and who was paying them to write it. But I suppose we should get them out of the way now. After years of genetically-inherited depression, expanded like a sick mushroom cloud by drinking, cutting, smoking, and a stint in a psychiatric hospital, I finally tried to end my own life, last November during Hurricane Sandy. The story would have ended there if only I’d taken a few more pills.
But that’s not how it went. My story continues. And now I have to figure out what to do.
There were several months when going back to Georgetown was the farthest thing from my mind. I went back to Arizona and did more of the same – drink, cut, smoke, curl up under bedcovers and cry, scream at God and my parents and my friends with no understanding of what I’d done wrong to still be stuck here. Eventually, with the help of a secretary job and a one-year-old baby that I got to play with for eight hours a week, I dragged myself out of my pity hole and am trying my best to get myself back to Georgetown and finish my degree without letting the suicide attempt bog me down.
It’s not that people have been ridiculing me. Everyone I’ve talked to has been incredibly supportive and loving, and seem willing to forget about the whole thing.
But that’s the problem. Forgetting that I tried to kill myself won’t help anyone. It certainly won’t help me – perhaps the next time I’m depressed I’ll try to do it again without remembering the bullshit, the pure bullshit, that I had to slog through afterwards.
I’m a history major, and it happens to be the cardinal rule: Those that do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
Trust me, I tried to forget it. I wouldn’t say the words ‘suicide attempt’ for months afterward. I called it the ‘incident’, or just ‘last November’. My friends and family, following my lead, never acknowledged it for what it was. But now that viper has come back to bite me in the ass. Because now that I’m trying to own what happened to me, everyone is still thinking that it’s best not to talk about it, to sweep it under the rug like my traditional Irish Catholic family has done about everything. I don’t want to be known as ‘the girl with the mental illness’, anymore than I want to be known as ‘the girl with no mental illness’. I just want to be ‘the girl.’
So I am petrified to go back to Georgetown, petrified out of my mind, so scared it sometimes sends me into panic attacks. It’s not for the normal reasons – though trust me, I am seriously doubting my ability to write a paper after six months in Arizona crying and watching 16 and Pregnant. I am terrified that when I tell people what happened – the people who I choose to tell – that they will look at me with scared eyes, pat my head like the nurses in the psych ward did, and say, “But you’re okay now, right? Right?” I’m terrified that we will go back to ignoring it, that I will be expected to sweep it under the rug and put on my happy face and never acknowledge what happened to make people feel comfortable with mental illness – that it only happens to people like Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook, that it could never happen to sweet, spunky girls like Allison Brice, that little brunette with the big tits who plays bass drum in the pep band. It can’t happen to people like that.
Yes, it is hard to acknowledge. I can’t tell you how many hearts I’ve broken when I had to tell people who were close to me that even though I loved them and they loved me, I still overdosed on a rainy night in order to make it all go away. It’s hard to understand. I get that. I’m having a hard time understanding it. But the way to understand it is not to sweep it under the rug, pretend it never happened. I thought for a while about asking Kat (a co-coordinator of this blog) to make this post anonymous. But what is that going to help anybody reading this? ‘This girl wants people to accept her mental illness, but she won’t even say her name?’
My name is Allison Brice. I am mentally ill, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with me. This was not the product of a bad childhood. This was not the product of my age, like the nurses in the psych ward thought (‘Oh you’re just young, you didn’t know what you were doing!). This was definitely not the product of my fucking gender, like so many people have implied (‘You have an illness that makes it difficult to control your emotions? Isn’t that just being a woman?’). This has happened to be because of random coincidence, the machinations of a God whose plan I still don’t fully understand. It’s not going away. I will have to take antidepressants and mood stabilizers and remain in therapy for the foreseeable future. There’s always going to be the fear of a relapse, the fear of that suffocating darkness creeping back into my brain and shutting down every happy thought and memory until pain is the only thing that keeps me linked to this world. My depression and borderline personality disorder may go into remission someday (please, God), but they will probably never go away – and neither will I.
I’m here to take back control of my fear. I’m owning it. I’m terrified. But that’s okay! Fear makes us human. I have a lot to fear. Georgetown was at once the best and worst thing that ever happened to me. I will probably never be able to go into the Nevils bathroom where I tried to take my own life. But that’s okay. I don’t know why my suicide failed – you can call it divine intervention or random coincidence, whatever you want, I’m still not sure – but it has given me a new perspective on this world that I am still a part of. I’m not going to ignore my illness, nor am I going to obtusely push it into every conversation I’m a part of. It’s a part of me, but it’s not all of me. I still love stuffed animals, drunkenly spewing historical dates for no reason, making funny faces with my roommates, and writing novels late into the night. For years, I saw myself as the only insane person in a school full of sanity, a dirty, ugly hag in a world of glittering princesses.
We all know that’s not true. And if you’re reading this and feel like any of this applies to you, let me just say how proud I am that you’ve decided to keep going. If you feel like you’re the dirty hag in a school full of glittering princesses, let me tell you that it’s not true. This blog, this movement, is all about accepting all of us for exactly who we are, regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, past history, socioeconomic status, whatever. I wouldn’t be posting this on this blog unless I knew, deep in my heart, that every Georgetown student reading this would, once they’ve heard my story, do their best to understand and help me. Sometimes the school feels full of pretty pretty princesses. But that’s the secret – every single fucking one of us is a glittering princess. Every single fucking one. Me, in all my illness and flaws. You, in all your shit I don’t know about. We are here, all of us, glittering in this world.
So I don’t have any big takeaway. If you’ve actually read this whole thing, then thank you. If you’re in DC this summer hit me up, cause I will be too, working for the summer and trying to figure it all out. If you feel like you have something you need to talk about but you can’t because of the culture of this school, I beg you to give it a try. I didn’t start this journey by immediately writing a tell-all blog post. I drunkenly told my friends I was cutting. Maybe they didn’t understand right away, but they loved me and helped me out more than I could ever want, and it’s partly due to them that I’m much better. I’ve been in CAPS pretty much since the moment I set foot on campus, and they are amazing. So it’s cool to be scared. That’s life. But at least for me, I’m gonna do my damnedest to finish what I started here. I am perfectly me, suicide attempt survivor and all. Georgetown isn’t going to take me down. I’m going to take Georgetown down.
I’ll see you guys in DC.
Need help? National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255