Chasing mental health: The last entry

I long hesitated if I should publish this last journal entry or if it was too deep, too personal, too dark. I asked some to read it for me and they all agreed that it was worth sharing. Someone will find solace in not being alone, they told me. So here I am, laying bare my soul. The below was written on the sixth day of starting my mental health journey. Today, it's been two weeks, and I can tell you that I am failing. I might be coping, managing my day-to-day, getting some studying done, even publishing my videos and podcast episodes more or less on time, but I'm further from mental or bodily health than when I started this, and getting out of bed is only getting harder. I will continue to fight, but it is highly likely that I will take that spot at the day clinic whenever it opens up. I can't do this alone and every attempt at finding togetherness (from a support group to volunteering) has been fruitless due to either overwhelming demand or COVID. Can you believe that they closed down the food banks? My heart goes out to those who relied on their support and are now struggling even more to put food on the table, to feed their families.

All night, I tossed and turned, unable to find sleep. Each time, I turn to see if the lights are on yet. Each time, I'm thankful that it's not morning yet. There's still a chance to get some rest. When the lights turn on, I pretend not to see them. After a while, I manage to convince myself to read.

I wake up when the Kindle hits my chest, shake my head, continue reading. This happens a few more times. I feel dead inside. Empty. For a moment, I consider masturbating to fill the void. Surely, some endorphins would help. My knee joins hurt before I gain any pleasure, so I give up. I pick up my Kindle again, read some more, fall asleep a few more times.

When I finish a chapter, I put the Kindle aside, stare at the ceiling. Why am I so fucking broken? Can't I just be okay?

Forcing myself out of bed only makes me feel worse. The description of how Harry Potter's Dementors make you feel somehow resonates. Bad memories chase each other through my mind. Will I ever be happy again?

I walk into the bathroom, weigh myself. The positivity at the fact that I weigh more than yesterday only lasts until I turn and see myself in the mirror. I'm a shadow of who I used to be. Thin arms with absolutely no trace of muscles. I'm pretty sure I used to have breast—sure, there was never much there with an A-cup but right now it feels like I'm benjamin-buttoning my way back to my teenage years.

I brush my teeth, shave, put on deodorant (I'm on my last tin of the Dutch stuff I actually like. I'll have to find a new solution soon... The todo list is growing. But don't worry, I'll forget about it until it's too late.). I should take a shower. My hair looks like it was deep-fried. Dark circles lie puffy under my eyes. I don't want to shower. If I look like shit, maybe people will know I feel like shit inside. And who am I dressing up for anyway?

The three scars from my laparoscopy are fading, the only physical sign that something was ever wrong. Part of me hates them for how they look, part of me doesn't want them to fade. It's like they are my only external proof. Look, here, I have scars. You might not be able to see the scars inside, but look, here are three real ones.

It's ten to eight when I sit down at my desk. I haven't even put on pants. I still have a few minutes before my calendar says I should write, so I open my Photos app and look through the few selfies I have taken over the years. I'm looking for images with cleavage to prove to myself that I didn't look this girlish in them. Yep, cleavage. Another thing I notice is my face. I smile in most of the photos but they are very different smiles. My photos from California show a healthy woman's face. In New Zealand, I look round like a pancake. I had put on 15 pounds after moving there, after all. I never realized it showed. A few days ago, I took a photo of myself in the morning to show my doctor the dark circles under my eyes. Next to the photos from New Zealand and the Netherlands, I look like a Zombie. My cheeks are fallen in. How much more weight will I have to lose before someone else worries about this, too?

The SSRI sit next to my computer. I should take my pill. For a moment, I wonder if the side effect of weight gain will kick in at some point and mask the weight loss. I reach over, pop out the sixth pill even though I'm not sure I see the point. Day six. I fix the heading of my journal entry, realize there is no entry for day five. Did I really not write yesterday?

My legs are getting cold, so I force myself to put on some pants. The dog thinks that means he's getting a walk. No, not yet. Not yet, please. I can't make myself yet. Disappointed, he curls up in his bed again. I should walk him. It's not his fault that I feel the way I do. There's still a shimmer of pink in the sky outside. Maybe we'll get some sunshine today? I could do with a break from the gray-in-gray of the last weeks. I miss California.

My calendar says I have almost two more hours to write when I finish the first part of my journal and catch up the present. I open the fiction-part of my note-taking tool to continue my stories there. Maybe an escape into fictional worlds will give my brain a break. Maybe. Unable to collect my thoughts or focus, I decide to give the dog his morning walk. It's another minimal-distance one, but I tell myself that we went on a long hike yesterday, so he'll be okay. On the way back, a woman on a bicycle passes us. I smile and wish her a good morning. No reaction. I long for a tiny bit of connection, so I smile at the second woman who passes us. Again, no reaction. I'm alone. There are people around, but I am alone.

When I take off my boots, my eyes linger on the magnets on the freezer, mementos of places where I was happier—mementos of places I had to leave.

The feeling of being stuck creeps in again and I walk away from the freezer. Food for the dog. Tea for me. Small habits that keep me going.

It's 8.43 am now. A little more than two hours left to write. I don't feel like writing right now. I don't feel like anything. I consider crawling back into bed. I consider deleting my journal entry. What's the point to any of this? Can anyone get value from this?

I go back to my fictional worlds, make it through a few paragraphs of editing Spores.

At 9 the notifications with reminders about things I have forgotten start to pop up. Sign up for the tax software, so I can finish registering my business. ship the thing someone has bought. Get this done and that. I push them all to later today, fully aware that I will get bombarded with them again.

Fuck. I hate this. 1 hour 45 minutes until I need to start studying and I've barely made any progress on writing. I'm starting to hate my time blocks. I just want to go back to bed.

Despite my mood, I manage to get into a flow state, finish the last three chapters of Spores. The book is ready for publishing. I finished writing it almost two years ago but never managed to get it edited. Somehow, there were always more important things to do.

It's a minute past eleven, so I am supposed to start studying. I want to keep writing now. It felt good to make progress. Tomorrow, I tell myself, I'll get more time to write. I consider rearranging my time blocks but manage to stop myself from screwing over the plan before even trying it out. Studying it is. Reluctantly, I pull up the lecture and press play.

Kate Hildenbrand

Kate Hildenbrand

Kate Hildenbrand is the writer behind the essays here, author of fiction novels, the creator of the Kate Hildenbrand podcast, and a student of marine ecology. At least, that's her on the surface.