Friends suggested writing a journal. It doesn’t seem to be something that will help anything, but then again, nothing else does either. But anyway, agreeing to write one seemed to make them happy, and even if it feels as empty as everything else, they seem to mean well, and even if it is pointless, doing it for them still seems to be worth it. Even if it seems impossible to tell if they are real or not.
So, what is it? Imagine that you woke up one morning and it felt like you had a hangover. Except you hadn’t had a drop to drink, or any other drugs to cause it. But your head is stuffed up, pounding just a little bit, and looking around you everything just seems to be in a fog. Your room, instead of the comforting space that you spent hours picking out everything to make it perfect even though you knew that it was only for a couple of years and there were more useful ways to spend your money, it looked like an artist’s rendition of it, close to what it should be with just a touch of abstract art mixed in.
No clue what else to do, you get up and decide to take a shower. But once you get onto your feet, it all just feels so wrong. Your legs feel too long and your balance is off because of it. You walk to the bathroom holding at the walls to keep your balance. But then you look into the mirror and everything starts to feel worse. You recognize yourself, at least superficially, parts of it. But it feels so very wrong, the thought that this person in front of you is you. You raise your hand up to touch at your face. Your arm moves, but it feels just as disconnected as your legs did, and watching your hand raise up to your face in the mirror is so disorientating that you feel so absolutely dizzy that you can barely stay on your feet. And then you have no idea how long you stand there, trying to recognize yourself in your reflection, just staring into that mirror endlessly.
That is what it feels like. It is hard to put into words, when you know that it is you while at the very same time you’re absolutely sure that it is not. It is terrifying, and they want to help but they have no idea what to do to help. Nothing about being Rebecca feels real.
Daily life is just about impossible living like this. Just getting out of bed is a milestone in itself. It’s feels almost like caretaking for a complete stranger every morning. It’s weird and difficult just to get that far. Then, there is no ambition, no drive to succeed left to be had here. School is going terribly. There’s no guarantee of making it to class alone, and even if it happens, focusing enough to learn anything just doesn’t happen. Notes are no more than a few random words scribbled on a single piece of paper, and there’s absolutely nothing that is learned from the whole exercise. The one test so far was hopeless. Two hours to take it and nothing more to show for it than writing a name on it. It was True/False. Staring at the bedroom would have been a more productive day.
Friends mean well, but there is just nothing there to give for them. Without them, there would be no eating. It just doesn’t feel important. They are keeping some semblance from happening, but they also aren’t equipped to handle the stress from something like this. Most attempts at doing normal things are for them. It gives them some hope that things are getting better, even if everything still feels as detached as ever. Drinking made things better for a night, but the thought of doing it every day; well, the desperation isn’t serious enough to resort to that yet. Besides, friends realized that was a mistake, so they are not going to do bars for a while. They were talking about it in the main room. They got loud enough to hear through the fog. And going out alone for it. Not yet.
Is this life now? Feeling empty, looking at the world from far away, staring at that damn stranger in the mirror? Watching everything worked on so hard and stacked neatly together crumble apart and scatter to the winds. Being lost in the fog even standing in sunlight? Living in the cold emptiness of space?
This isn’t the way that anyone should have to live. I… I am something. I am someone!
I is such a foreign word right now. Such a simple little pronoun that doesn’t feel like it belongs here. Nobody even thinks twice about it. I went to the market. I went out with my friends to a concert over the weekend. I aced my chemistry exam on Friday. I spent the weekend staring at the ceiling in my bedroom constantly checking to see if my limbs were still attached to me and moving when I wanted to.
Such a simple word, and yet I have to force myself to say it because otherwise it doesn’t feel real. I feels wrong. I is what people use to talk about themselves. I is normal.
I am real.
Even if it doesn’t feel like it, I control this body, and it has always belonged to me.
I control my arms and legs, and they are attached to me.
I am more than some recluse who doesn’t leave her room unless forced to.
I am a whole person, even if it feels otherwise.
I may not be able to make the fog go away, but I don’t have to let it control me.
I can eat food without someone having to put it in my hands.
I have hopes and dreams. They may feel lost at the moment, but they are still there.
I am real.
I am real.
I am real because I am still breathing.
I am real because there are people who care about me.
I am real because I have a will of my own.
I am real because I have a past full of memories
I am real because I am living in the present.
I am real because I have a future worth fighting for.
My name is Rebecca and I am a real, whole person.
I think things have been getting a little better lately. It still feels a little weird to say I, but I am getting used to it. Again, I guess. It feels crazy to think that it this is so knew. All the memories before this don’t feel like they belong to me. Which, I guess isn’t really saying much, considering everything else. I feel like I’m living in a dream, but I guess that I’m learning to cope with it? I guess I figured out how to fake it until I can make it.
I’m not being real with my friends, but I can pretend that I’m okay. We had a night in movies and talking. I don’t know if they believed me that I was being real, or they were just humoring me. My laughing at their jokes was fake, but I could focus in on their conversations. Most of the time, at least. It is doable, but it is hard to focus. Things slipped by me from time to time, and I spent most of the second movie feeling like my arm was filling up most of the couch, so that kept me from paying attention to the movie.
School is. . . . It’s not going great right now. I have talked to my professors, told them that I was dealing with some family issues. They mostly were understanding. There’s no way that I’m going to get A’s in my classes, but for the first time since all of this started, it seems like I might actually be able to salvage all of these classes. If things keep getting better, at least. I’m still not sure if I can handle finals at point, but it seems like its possible. But hey – Cs get degrees after all.
One of my professors suggested going to a therapist. But I can’t even explain this to my friends, how could I tell it to a stranger? And if I do that then I would be admitting that I’m crazy. I know that I shouldn’t be thinking like that. But I do, and I just can’t deal with that extra level of stress, you know? Besides I AM getting better, I finally feel like I have some tiny bit of control in my own life, and really, I’m getting better. I think.
Okay, so I had a thought. This whole thing has been me struggling to tell the difference between real and fake. Am I real or not, and is this thing that I’m walking through the real world or another figment of my imagination? So, I started writing a journal to try to help me sort through all of the craziness. But then it hit me that I’m not really writing this to myself, myself. I mean, I am writing this to myself, but some version of myself that doesn’t really understand any of this. So, I’m writing this to a myself that may or may not be real, and I just couldn’t be sure of any of it, or what the hell I was talking about. It was such a ridiculous, confusing mindfuck that I couldn’t help myself. I started laughing like, well like a madwoman. I was on the floor laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe with a face full of tears, not really sure if I was going to pass from lack of air. My roommate came in panicking, ready to call 911 if I needed it. That was the first real laughing that I have done since all of this started. Not the fake laughter to reassure my friends, but real laughter. That probably worried my roommate more than the other stuff.
I do seem to feel, well real again. I mean, things aren’t exactly easy right now. I’m trying to get all the way back to normal and convince all of my friends that I’m really back to being myself. And school. Well, I need to get a B at least on two of my finals in order to pass. The me before would have scoffed at thinking that was a challenge. But now, well, I’m more than a little afraid of doing something so extreme as an all-night cram session. I don’t know why this happened to me, but I definitely know that I don’t want to put myself in a state where I may be at risk of losing it again.
Since this is for me that isn’t real, and likely doesn’t know this. But I have a crush! In my Global Nutrition class. The next row in front of me and two spots to my right. I think it was there a little bit before, but now if feels new all over again. The class is a little hard to focus in again. Not because I’m so preoccupied with myself, but because, well, I keep staring in that direction.
Okay, so I got busted staring. I couldn’t help myself. I think I spent the entire lecture just staring dreamily at my crush. The good kind of dreamily, not the unsure of reality itself kind of dream where nothing feels real. But I got caught! After class I was so embarrassed that I just sat there, just fiddling with my backpack for a good five minutes before I went into the hallway. But then when I finally went outside, she was there waiting for me! I was mortified. I just knew that she was going to tell me to knock it off, that I was being weird and rude and making her uncomfortable. And if I had been a guy, she would have already called the cops on me.
But that isn’t what happened! She – Helena, asked me if I wanted to study with her for the finals. I said yes, of course, but I stammered like a schoolgirl on her first date. Helena just smiled at me. And traded numbers. It hasn’t happened yet, but we’re going to meet for coffee and study this weekend. And I can’t wait. I’m excited, and that feels amazing after all this time just being numb. I wonder, Rebecca that I’m writing to; are the same things happening to you that are happening to me? Or are our experiences different? If you have a Helena of your own, do you want to date her, or just be friends with her?
I know that it probably sounds like I am still dealing with all the crazy stuff with this whole other Rebecca thing, but it’s not the same thing. It came up because of all the crazy, but it is separate from it. I know that you’re probably not real, not unless there is some sort of a parallel universe setup happening that we can’t see. But it is kind of comforting to write to you.
But that’s not what I meant to say. Symptoms are gone and I’m truly a whole person again. I feel confident in my abilities to finish my classes. And when I’m done with that, I’m going to take my friends out for putting up with all my crazy over the last month or so. They deserve that much. And maybe if things go as well as I could possibly hope, not long after maybe I’ll have a certain someone to introduce to them.
Okay, so it’s been a while since I’ve done this whole journal thing. It’s been long enough to admit this, but I lied in my last entry. I lied to you, the other Rebecca.
I guess a little bit of a recap, since it’s been so long. Helena isn’t my crush anymore. We just studied for the final exam. And well, I did manage to salvage all of my classes with passing grades. I’ve always been a bit of a perfectionist, so it does hurt a little to think of anyone thinking of those Cs that I got. Actually, Helena made a joke about that – well, this might not be a good place to repeat that. I don’t know how you would feel about that kind of a joke.
So, I did survive that semester, which was nice because that means that my education isn’t going to get delayed by having to retake anything. But, more interestingly, after my nutrition test, Helena was waiting for me outside of the classroom. She asked me if I wanted to go on a date. I asked if she meant a girl’s night out, thank god we survived class kind of a date. She said no. It was a you’re cute and I kind of like you, and I know that you probably like me too because I could see you reflected through the windows and you spent more of the classes staring lustily at me instead of taking notes kind of dates that will likely end with a kiss. And then I objected to her describing it as lustily staring at her. Dreamily sounds much classier.
Which means that she isn’t my crush anymore, because she’s my girlfriend now. We’ve actually been talking about moving in together once we can get out of our current living situations. I never really had time for dating before. I’ve always been school, school, school. Not to mention that my dating pool wasn’t all that large, coming from a tiny town. The thing is that I feel more alive now than I think I ever have before. It’s not just Helena, though she helps a lot. Everything just seems a little brighter now than it had been before.
But the lie. I’ve been procrastinating on that, but I still don’t really want to talk about it. I said that I was completely better last time. And I wanted so desperately to convince myself of that. And I promise you that I am much better now. But I still have moments when it is still there. If I run out of things to think about, sometimes I can feel it happening. Like feeling my arm stretch out and enlarge like no arm can do. Or looking at something and it seeming fake until I get closer look at it. Just momentary tastes of all those things that were making me crazy before.
The thought of being an adult scares the hell out of me. College is done, unless I ever decide to go back for grad school at some point, which seems unlikely, at least at this point in my life. I started my internship yesterday. In a year, I could be just another working adult out in the world. I always figured that at this point we were have to everything figured out, but I still don’t
know what the hell I am doing. And I don’t really think that anyone else does have it all figured out anyway. Except maybe Helena.
We’ve been dating for around almost two years now. Helena is one of the marvelous people I have ever met. She gives her full effort to everything that she does. She got a job from her internship and is already working and considering going back for another degree. And she volunteers all the time and she still has time for me and all of my insecurities. Sometimes I don’t really think that I belong with her. She’s gorgeous, self-assured, and just the best at everything. I, well if I start talking about myself here then I am going to just fixate on all of the bad stuff. I struggle with all of the things that she can just breeze through, and I’ve been the person who has spent her entire life so focused with school that she doesn’t really know how to do anything outside of it. Whenever we try anything outside of my comfort zone, I cling to her more than I should.
Okay, so in all likelihood, I’ve been stressed out for a while now. And that seems to make my, let’s say my particular condition get worse. I have to make myself focus on things, otherwise I just start listening to that nagging thought in the back in the back of my head, not knowing is real or not real. Helena definitely suspects that something is wrong with me, but I can’t let her know that, well I’m nuts. If she finds out, I’m afraid that she would leave me. Because she definitely deserves better than me. And I’m terrified of losing myself again if I lose her.
I, no, we have been having arguments. Helena and I have been fighting, that is. It’s just life stuff. It’s just the differences in a new and exciting relationships versus having a relationship for three years while we’re all growing and changing outside of school. We’ve changed since I was staring lustily at her in a classroom that I can’t even exactly remember where it was anymore. And we have to figure out if it is our relationship is worth keeping, or if our team of we needs to break up and become two I’s.
I don’t really want to lose her, but if I’m being completely honest with myself, I have been pulling away from her. I can’t let her in because I can’t let her in to my pain. And she knows something is wrong me and she is frustrated at me because I won’t tell her about it. And that is bleeding into the rest of our life together. We’ve had arguments and differences of opinions of course. All relationships do. But we have been bickering with each other for the first time, and I have only have myself to blame for all of this.
I have a job now. I think that is new in this journal. I’m working in a retirement home. And I kind of hate it. There’s lots of people living there with dementia who barely have any sense of reality, and the thought of that is overwhelming. It’s kind of like that time that I made the mistake of watching inception with Helena.
I… think that I’m losing myself again. I’ve been feeling like the water has been leaking in for a long time, and I tried bailing it out. But it just kept coming back again and again, still rising despite everything. I’ve tried to do. And so I gave up on fighting it. And it kept rising up on me ever so slowly. And I did my best to pretend it all away. But now it has risen up to the point where it is up to my neck now and it isn’t stopping. I don’t know what to do. I’ve been fighting as hard as I can to keep myself together, but it just isn’t enough. I’m not strong enough.
Are you real, other Rebecca? I’ve been thinking that maybe you’re the real one and I’m you when you’re dreaming. Helena is your sweet dreams, those pleasant thoughts that leave you waking up refreshed and happy, excited for the day. And this is your dark and turbulent nightmares, where you’re not really sure what is real and what isn’t. Where nightmares walk in the daylight and the sunlight feels like ice. And maybe you wake up feeling scared and unsettled on these mornings. Maybe you have your Helena there to comfort you, maybe it’s someone else there to hold you in your arms and comfort you, telling you that bad dreams are just bad dreams.
I don’t have anyone. Not anymore. She left me. Helena did. Well, I assume that she did. One day I got home and she was just gone with her things. She left a note on the kitchen counter, but I haven’t been able to read it yet. Once it sunk in that she was gone, I just gave up on fighting the currents. I lost myself into those waters that I have been struggling against for so long. The numbness felt like a relief at this point. Obsessing over what is real and not is preferable to thinking about her. I’m not even sure if that’s true or not. I might have instead gone under before that, and that was the final straw in her leaving me. Maybe the cause and effect matters, maybe it doesn’t.
You think that having gone through all of this before would have made it easier, but that just isn’t the case. Everything is just as hard as before. The world has closed up around me into the dreamlike fog. My body feels like it is all sorts of wrong, distorted and enlarged, and fluctuating between that and normal. I feel numb, and it’s almost impossible to tell between what is real and what’s not anymore.
I think that I’m in trouble, and I don’t think that I can help myself anymore.
I am writing this journal entry from the hospital. They tell me that it’s been three months since my last journal entry, but it doesn’t seem like more than a few weeks for me. I lost my job. Apparently, they expect you to do more than stare at the walls when you’re there. Who knew? I’m not connected to the memory of it, but apparently I passed out on the street. No clue where I was even trying to go. Well, I haven’t really been taking care of myself lately. I‘ve lost an “oh shit” level of weight.
When I got brought in, they told thought that I had anorexia. They put a feeding tube in me and everything. It took me some time to convince them that I wasn’t. Apparently, people with it really want to hide it. But I’ll eat food if people put it in front of me, and I don’t want to be stick thin. I don’t know if it works perfectly or not, but they seemed to accept that it has been a case of post breakup depression or something like that. It’s fortunate that they believed me. Being a dietician diagnosed with anorexia would probably not look good on a resume.
And the other thing is that Helena has been to see me in here. Quite often, actually. Her name was still my emergency contact, so they called her when they brought me in passed out. I’ve drifted away from most of my college friends. I could only focus on so many things you know. I just don’t really have a whole lot of friends right now. She brought some of my things from home to be more comfortable. And she brought me this journal today. I don’t know if it actually happened, but I’m mortified at the thought of her having read it, but I needed it. I think that she did, read it and I’m mortified at her reading it. I can’t even look her in the eyes right now. I can’t stand to see the pity in her eyes.
Nothing has really changed with my condition. If they sent me back home alone, the same thing would probably happen all over again. If nobody else is in the room, I usually just stare at the walls and test my reality.
Well, I’m out of the hospital. Once my weight had stabilized, they sent me home. Or kicked me out. I’m not entirely sure what home is anymore. Apparently if I don’t pay rent for a few months in a row, your landlord will start to evict you. Who knew? I got my things back at least, not like I really care about all of that stuff.
Helena took me in to give me time to recover. Not back to dating or anything like that. She still cares about my well-being, and she knew that I don’t exactly have many other people in my life right now. I don’t need to pay her or anything, which is nice because I don’t think that I can hold down a job right now. Her only rules, this isn’t about getting back together. That ship has sailed. And the other one – When they discharged me from the hospital, they referred me to see a therapist. I didn’t want to, of course. But the other condition of Helena taking me in was to actually make an appointment and talk to someone. I followed through and I made an appointment. It’s tomorrow morning, actually.
Before she offered to let me move in with her, Helena told me that she had read this journal. She told me what she thought about it, and I have never seen her look so scared as long as I have known her. I should’ve been said to, and crying to, but I’m still numb. I know her well enough, so I can see that she’s mad at me for keeping this a secret all of these years. But here I am, living in her guest bedroom.
I know that I need help. I can admit that now. I’m broken on my own and I just can’t manage to fix myself. Maybe a therapist will be able to help, I don’t know. And if nothing else, it will make her happy that I’m trying.
But I can’t let myself think of her like that. Our relationship is over, and I can’t deal with moving back into reality without accepting that as a fact.
My therapist is nice. I know that she is someone that gets paid to sit there and listen to other people’s problems, but she seemed sincere when she was talking with me. I suppose that it comes with practice. I thought that it would be hard to talk about, but it turned out to be easier than I expected. I was talking to a stranger after all. I told her about everything I had experienced, and she actually recognized it. She knew what it was. She called it Depersonalization and derealization. My brand of crazy actually has a name.
My therapist wouldn’t like it if I called it crazy though. We’ve had a few sessions, and I feel like there could be some semblance of hope of a normal life coming back for me. She says that therapy can help me to deal with it. And if that doesn’t help, there aren’t any pills directly for this, but if it comes to needing it, she can refer me to a psychiatrist to see if there can be anything to try on a more medical front.
She did spend some time in the beginning wanting to talk about my hospital visit and my weight issue there. She seemed to believe me that it was more about just not really even noticing that I needed to eat because I had lost track of everything. But she wanted to make sure that there wasn’t anorexia on top of everything else, because if it was there, it was just that dangerous if I really did have it. I’m out of the dangerous zone, but I still need to get my weight back up. I told her that my roommate was the type of person to make sure that I was eating properly
I told her about all the friends I had that helped me the first time, and we had drifted away. I told her about Helena. Everything about her. That the scariest part of coming back to reality was dealing with having lost her, and yet she was still in my life taking care of me. I told her about the other Rebecca, and how I’ve spent so much time wondering about what her life was like if she was the real one instead of me. Just talking about someone about this stuff with someone who wouldn’t judge me, could remain neutral about it all helped me.
I have a few interviews lined up over the next week. I told Helena that once I got a few paychecks, I would look into finding my own place. She seemed relieved at that. I couldn’t tell if she was relieved at the thought of getting rid of me, or of me getting myself put back together enough that I was looking for work and a place to live on my two feet. I’m a little afraid of the answer to that question, to be honest. I think that means that I am really getting better. Because I am more concerned about what Helena is thinking about me rather than what other Rebecca is doing right now, or anything else that relates to what I’ve been dealing with.
I did have a talk with Helena the other day. Not about me moving out, but I thought that she deserved to know everything that I’ve been dealing with. Not just reading my journal without permission asking, but me telling her in my own words. She didn’t think that I was crazy. She said that she understood that it was mental illness and that it wasn’t something that I could control. If I had told her, she would have still wanted to try to work through it with me. And that is also why I hurt her so much. More than three years together and I wouldn’t open up to her about everything that I was dealing with. She knew that there was something wrong, and wanted desperately to help me, but I just wouldn’t open up to her. I tried telling her that I did it because I was so desperate to keep her and I thought that she might leave me if I told her what was really wrong, but it sounded ridiculous even to me. I just apologized to her, because there was nothing else to be said. Neither of us brought it up, but I’m sure that we both had the same thought. I was so desperately to stay with her that I didn’t tell her about my problems, but in the end I lost her anyway because I didn’t communicate with her. And then, there wasn’t anything else to say. We were sitting as far away as possible in her living room, and we watched a movie together at a distance, then we went to bed. Separately. I won’t lie in this anymore, so I did want to open the door to her room and try to rekindle things, but I knew that would just be wishful thinking.
Therapy isn’t a cure, and I will likely be dealing with this disorder for most or all of my life. I’m not saying this because I have relapsed again, but rather because it’s important former remember this. But now I feel better equipped to hand it. Nobody pulled me out of it. Sure, people have helped me along the way. But I pulled myself back into reality this time with a little help from my friends.
I have a job again, which happened faster than I expected. It’s better than my last job, and of course I’m in far better a frame of mind than I was for my last one. My coworkers are nice enough, and the work feels meaningful. Really, it’s the first time that I feel like all of the school stuff was worth all of the effort that it took me. Actually, I’m writing this from my first night in my very own (non-college) apartment. And, well, I do have a roommate. Actually, one of my coworkers had just lost his roommate and was looking for a new one. We got along good enough, and neither of us was going to be attracted to the other, so it felt like a good fit. I moved in right away. Which is another thing that I owe Helena for, loaning me enough money to move in before I started getting my paychecks.
And that leaves us with her. Helena, of course. Part of me wants to do anything I can to get back into her arms, but I know that I can’t. Disorder or not, I’ve done a terrible job at living my life. Self-care, my therapist loves to go on about. I can recognize now that when we were together, I clung onto her like she was my life raft. I pulled away from all of my friends because I was entirely focused on her. She was everything that mattered in my life, and that’s an absolutely terrible way to live. I need to find a balance in my life that isn’t school or romance. It’s such a cliché, but I need to learn to love myself.
And my future… well, I don’t know what it is. We discussed it, and neither of us wanted to completely get out of each other’s lives. For now, we’re going to be casual friends. Maybe check up on each other once a month or so over coffee, that kind of thing. I can’t be perfectly sure, but I believe that we were both thinking the same thing: It won’t come anytime soon, and it may never actually happen, but there is at least one path that we could walk in the future that leads to us getting back together. Honestly, I don’t even know if that is what I will want once I get through all the hurt of this true separation.
My therapist wouldn’t like me saying this, but I’m not good enough for her anyway. Less in me feeling not pretty enough or good enough for her, but that she deserves someone who can be with her in every aspect of her life, and I don’t think that I ever managed to be a whole and complete person with her. And I need to be a better person. Not to try to get her back, but rather because I need to be better for me. Because I deserve to be the best that I can be.
And real or not, other Rebecca I hope that you’re resting well. I know that I will start to have bad times again, and you’re a part of that. But you deserve to be happy too. We both deserve to be happy.