Just last month, I had the honored privilege of attending a mental health conference and a writing conference — in the same week. And while I know that, to some, that may sound boring or uninteresting, for me it was amazing. It was a whirlwind, and it truly was the “chance of a lifetime.”
However, as the week progressed and the days crept on, a familiar feeling began to take hold. An unnerving feeling. An exhausting feeling. An anxious feeling. And an overwhelming feeling. And before long I found myself hiding alone, at an Applebee’s in Baltimore, from my peers, from my friends, and from myself.
As a writer, I knew I needed to get my thoughts and feelings down on paper, but my laptop was dead and my hands were shaking. So I ordered a beer and some wings and ate until I settled down, and then I went across the street and bought a notepad and a pen. I went up to the bar, ordered another beer, and then wrote.
I jotted “the crowded place” in the big blank white space at the top of the page — you know, the margin just before the blue “college-lines” started.
I scribbled down random thoughts.
And I wrote exactly what I was feeling in my heart. In my body. And in my mind.
These are those thoughts.
This is what depression feels like, and this is what anxiety looks like.
There is a place I know so well — where the world comes alive and the social thrive. Where chatter falls and laughter rings. Where hugs are shared and love sings. But at this party, I am lost.
In this space, my smile comes at a cost.
Make no mistake, I put on a good show. I laugh and dance and hold my head high. I carry on conversations without batting an eye. But I am not OK, damn it. I am not OK. Because in this space, I am broken.
In this crowded place, my self-doubt remains unspoken.
My long painted lashes hide my tears. My bold personality hides my fears. I run to the bathroom. I hide at the bar, but beer cannot save me, and makeup cannot hide my scars. Because it is in this space terror takes hold.
In this crowded place, my anxiety is untethered and uncontrolled.
I am a mannequin on a display. I’m a puppet on a string. The walls are cracked, the floor is glass, and I can feel myself falling in. Because I cannot be heard amidst the chaos. My voice is buried beneath the beat, but dear Lord know that I am screaming.
Know that my entire being is teeming.
With despair and dread.
Because, yet again, I am being consumed by my depression.
Yet again, everything I know is being called into question.
Because in this space, I am empty. In this space, I am numb. In this space, I am dazed and detached, and in this place — this crowded fucking place — I am all alone.