My Best Self Knows That My Value Is Intrinsic

Don’t hide from the world. It won’t let you, anyway.

Photo credit: sean hobson, CC BY 2.0.

Last New Year’s Eve I took NyQuil and fell asleep before midnight. I wasn’t sick. I mean, I guess I was but not like that. I didn’t have a cold but I did have clinical depression. I wished I had a cold. It would have been awesome to have a cold. It would have been awesome have a cold forever, then I wouldn’t have to do anything with my life and it wouldn’t be my fault.

What Other People Want Me to Be in 2016

Fun fact: if you are a depressed person but you’re not going to kill yourself, then chemically inducing sleep is the next best thing. Personally, the reason I took NyQuil on New Year’s Eve is because I believed that I was a failure. I also believed that sitting with that idea and investigating it would be too uncomfortable for me to bear. Depression comes for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes it comes to you the way storm clouds sometimes cover the sun. Sometimes you do it to yourself. Sometimes all it is is what arrives after you’ve wrung yourself like a wet hand towel until all the life-giving moisture inside you is gone.

Last New Year’s Eve was the first time I haven’t stayed awake to welcome the new year since I was in the ninth grade. That year I went to bed early because was angry at my father for being a DICK and taking us on a family vacation to the Gulf Coast instead of letting me stay in freezing Indiana and maybe get invited to hang out with Marvin Smith, who had told me like two weeks before on AOL Instant Messenger that he had a crush on me, and who therefore controlled my life. (Marvin and I never dated because he had a girlfriend by the time I’d come home. THANKS A LOT, DAD.)

Another thing that happened when I was in the ninth grade was that I made a promise with myself that I would be a cast member on the television show Saturday Night Life by the time I was 26. I am currently 30. That’s a Math equation and this is the answer: I FUCKED UP, OK, 15-YEAR-OLD SELF — ARE YOU HAPPY?

Last New Year’s Eve I was feeling like I was worthless because I didn’t accomplish my very reasonable goal of becoming a professional comedienne who everybody in America knew and who like, won Emmy awards — Wait is Emmy the daytime one? Maybe I mean Golden Globe — and went to parties at Justin Timberlake’s house and ate bottomless shrimp cocktails in a heated pool. And stuff.

Depression is a two-headed beast that slithers into your brain and convinces you simultaneously of two seemingly oppositional beliefs:

1. I am worse than everyone else.

2. I am better than everyone else.

What both of those beliefs share is the underlying qualifier: I am different than everyone else.

I almost drowned this year, is something that happened. In the Pacific Ocean. I got caught in a rip tide at Stinson Beach one day when I stupidly went up there by myself and went swimming. I had to scream and scream for people on the beach to save me. The last thing I wanted to do was be seen and heard, but it’s what I had to do in order to save my life. I had to wave my arms in the air and scream louder than I’ve ever screamed before in my life: HELP! HELP ME! HELP ME!

A man whose name I’ll never know and whose face I don’t remember stood on the beach and held his arm straight out to his left. He was directing me to swim parallel to the shore, which F.Y.I. IS WHAT YOU DO WHEN YOU’RE CAUGHT IN A RIPTIDE, READER. I’d swim a few strokes and get exhausted and then look back at the shore and every time I looked he was still standing there, hadn’t moved. Like a scarecrow. There were some other people there, too, also pointing for me to swim.

It took me a while to swim back but once I knew that other people were there I knew I would be OK. I swam back in short bursts through the choppy gray waters, with the gray sky above me, and I reasoned something out with myself. One part of me said to another part: You don’t have to be anything big. You can be small. I love you. It doesn’t matter. I love you. You’re never, ever gonna be big like this ocean, honey. Let it go. Leave it here. Let the ocean swallow it up.

When the ocean finally spat me out and I took shaky steps in the sand through knee-high water I just fixated on the scarecrow man wild-eyed and when I finally got to the shore I asked him if I could give him a hug. There was nothing to say so I said nothing.

There were three nurses there, too, who had also been pointing. They owned a beach house and invited me over for a shower and soup. They were angels. They drank white wine and chatted about their children in college like I was just some houseguest. They gave me clothes to wear. Standing there shaking in the warm, safe, man-made shower, tearing off my wetsuit after almost dying in the ocean was the strangest feeling. That’s something I really have a hard time grasping sometimes, something that’s both ridiculous and terrifying at the same time: This world we live in has both the most dangerous experiences and the safest experiences, and on certain very strange days you experience both within the course of, like, an hour. I mean, honestly. What?

ANYWAY, MY POINT IS: If you are reading this and you feel stuck and, like, you don’t wanna die but WHY THE FUCK isn’t there an option to just hit pause FOR A LITTLE WHILE, FOR FUCK’S SAKE? Don’t hide from the world. It won’t let you, anyway. Which is so obnoxious but whatever maybe it’s better that way. What you have to do is talk to somebody. Don’t be embarrassed. Embarrassment is like a brick tied to your feet when you’re drowning. It really is. Call a friend and if you do not have a friend call a suicide hotline. They are good people who work at those places. I know this from personal experience. You can just call them. You don’t have to be like, holding a knife or a bottle of pills to call them. You can just be sad and want to talk.

What I’m trying to say is: My best self asks for help when she needs it. ’Cause she knows her life is worth fighting for. She knows it is a very, very valuable thing. She knows her life is this beautiful little glistening sea shell and it on its own is more valuable than anything she could possibly do with it.

My best self screams if she needs to, too. Fuck it. She doesn’t care so much about looking foolish. She helps other people when she can, too, and she does everything she can to help them not feel foolish when they need help, because she knows what it’s like. She likes to make people laugh when she can and she’d rather laugh for the sake of laughing than for the sake of winning an Emmy or a Golden Globe or a shrimp cocktail or whatever. She’s a work in progress and she’s stumbling her way down the road because her shoes are untied more often than not but the important thing is she keeps moving. There are fewer and fewer days in which she gives up. She spends less and less time comparing herself to others. She isn’t much different than me. She isn’t much different than you.

Georgia Perry is a freelance writer based in Oakland, California. A former staff writer for the Santa Cruz Weekly, she has written for The Atlantic, Vice, and Reductress, among other outlets. Follow her on Twitter @georguhperry or see more of her work here.

This article is an update to The Billfold’s 2015 end-of-year series, “Our Best Selves in the Coming Year.”

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