What you see is definitely not always what you get.
I am one of the best examples of that, and I can tell you right now that it's almost unbelievable how different an image online can be from what's going on in someone's head.
Here, you have a picture of me, circa 2014, smiling and laughing with a friend of mine at a restaurant. There's a drink in my hand, and we're reminiscing and talking about the future, and a song comes on over the loudspeaker.
And that's where the truth sets in.
Your mind races to the drive home that you're too drunk to make. To the walk up the pavement and the swing of the glass door, the dog who wearily greets you, and the turn down the hallway where you'll probably bump into the wall as you reach for the bathroom door frame.
You walk to the bathroom, lift the toilet lid, flip on the tap, kick the door shut, flip your hair back, and shove your entire hand down your throat. You bring back up the liquor, the soda, the meal you spent so much time "eating like a normal person", or at least what's left of it, since you secretly purged in the bathroom at the restaurant.
Once you get it all out, you wipe your mouth, look in the mirror, and see a drunken, sloppy mess. You want to cry, but you're too tired.
It's been a long, hard day, and you're ready to go to sleep.
Your bed is empty. The person you're desperately in love with doesn't love you anymore, and you can remember days where you'd be anywhere but here in this moment, days and nights spent in other beds, happier... and just like that the memories crash down on you so hard you would swear it was raining thoughts on your head, and you can feel them, really, actually feel them washing over you in waves so heavy they pull you along the undertow and they ache.
Because you can remember how every single moment felt. You can pin down every single instance and put it to a timeline, pulling it all together like some sort of mix cd. We felt this way during the summer of '07, when this song was on the radio and my hair was down in the truck and we drove around and sang along, and I looked over and right then, I know that right then is a moment I could go back to and point at when someone asks what it looks like when I'm happy. Was that the last time I was happy? It doesn't end that quickly, does it? Maybe just go back to that point, rewind to there and hit play and do it over again and I'll do everything differently and I won't be here right now, at least not alone, and... I can't. You can't move time around like you're scrolling through your TIVO. This isn't a rewind and replay and skip/delete/STOP. You can't do that, but if you could...
And now that song from that summer is stuck in your head, and it's pounding in your ears, reminding you with the kickdrum of every beat exactly how you felt then and comparing it effortlessly to how you feel now, what happy was like and how this isn't it. That. Keeps. Playing. In. Each. Lyric...and you can't stop. And the heavy feeling of those memories is still heavy on your head and your heart, flooding in and out and weighing down every step you take.
You walk past a photo and see it. Childhood. My god, it was so much simpler back then. Maybe instead of rewinding to the poin in the truck, you could rewind to then, to you at that age and that silliness, the carefree manner you used to have, maybe that would come back and you could go from there to a time when things were better, because you'd know then what you know now, without the pain or having to go through it, and the cute little face in the photo is still innocent, but you're smarter because you have this knowledge and so you should go back to then and... you can't go back. Can't cut/copy/paste yourself across the universe. Now that image of yourself as a happy child is slowly fading in and out of view in your mind while the song plays and the waves rush over you and god, you are so tired.
Because this is how it is for you. It is like this all the time, you are always weighed down and empty and full at the same time. You cry sometimes over nothing, but not in front of people. And it's been building for years. And you're alone like that, because that person you love isn't with you anymore, and there is nothing you want more, but you can't let yourself go there, "there" being a world without them in it, because you don't know if you could handle it. And if you couldn't handle it? Then what?
You don't make enough money to pay off your debts and the bills, and you watch your friends in similar situations, and you joke and reminisce to when things weren't like this, and man wasn't it great when you didn't have to grind yourself down to the bone to scrape by. And man, did you hear how happy so-and-so is? And there's a baby on the way...
And it hits you. So-and-so got married right around when you think you should have with that person from your past, and so if you'd stayed on track, wouldn't you probably be a parent by now, or have a baby on the way, at least? God, you both wanted that, and it was going to be amazing and you'd make such fantastic parents, and now... but you can't go there. Because you can't handle it. But what does that mean -
It seems like all the people who are happy are unfairly so. They've never seemed to do anything but skate by, while you've known nothing but this kind of thing, and it's gotten worse as you've grown older. God knows if you did have a kid they wouldn't be skating by like happy people get to do, because there would never be enough money and everyone these days is so entitled and selfish. It's unbearable to watch. When you were growing up, it wasn't like this. Nobody did things like this. You were a respectful kid and you remember all of it so well, memories. Flooding. Back. You did so well and never asked for much and you know that you were like your friends, and occasionally those "bad eggs" got gifts they didn't deserve and they were always getting more than you, but back then you didn't care,
And now they're married.
And they're still spoiled and rich.
Better off than you, anyway.
And now you can't help it, you're THERE.
But you can't go there. You can't think all of these things and focus and dwell on them, because it hurts too much. And it hurts so much that you can't bear the pain, and you don't know how to make it stop and it's never ending and...
this is the part where I admit that every single word of that was true for me in the night of that photo. What is written up there in what seems like such a sloppy state is pretty much a word-for-word and moment-by-moment capture of my life, and of someone else's near and dear to me that many of you know who is also struggling. And that strangely written piece is written that way with that kind of jarring punctuation, because it's really that rushed and harried and fast-paced. It's difficult to navigate when I'm on medication, and without my meds it's damn near impossible. And it really hurts, and it's really heavy, and those memories and pictures and songs are constant. Sometimes I can shift the station a little and dwell on positive things, but usually it's based on where I am, what I'm around, etc. I struggle with my college-aged-self and problems from that area as well as some of my biggest triggers (breakups and formings of relationships) when I'm in Abilene. I get slapped in the face by my childhood when I traipse around Mesquite, the "better days" when I'm in Sunnyvale, and I remember the absolute worst moments of my life when I'm in Garland or anywhere near my old doctor's offices. Sometimes I can remember those things vividly as though someone has brought up a specific incident, when in reality someone two tables over at lunch casually mentioned a name that belongs to somebody I used to know. And just like that, I'm in the midst of the storm I wrote up there.
That was real for me, and much of it still is; songs and images and words trigger memories in my brain that are too loud and too sudden and too overwhelming.
That's why I take so much medication every day.
My brain doesn't function like normal, and I have to fuck with the serotonin levels and drop down the bass and the treble of my anxiety with little yellow pills. I do not have the luxury of waking up and being myself; I have to reboot my system each day with prescription personality programmers that snap me back into place like a rubber band.
This is why I don't drink anymore.
I don't throw up anymore, either.
I do still struggle, and my heart hurts, and I need you to understand something.
The pretty pictures on Facebook and Instagram are bullshit. Sure, sometimes people are genuinely happy, and not every smile is forced. But if you think for one second that the record of life you see online is anything more than someone's highlight reel, you're kidding yourself.
You can wish your life away, dreaming of being your friend with the pretty rock on her finger, but you cannot imagine the world inside her mind, and if you got a glimpse, you might beg for YOUR life back.
Pretty and perfect, two words I aspired to be.
Genuine and intentional, two things I'm becoming.