Tag Archives: brain

The Fear-Killer

4 Jan

The Fear-Killer

I fear.

But fear is the mind-killer

(so Dune says)

so I accept boredom instead,

the mind-number

that will let me flit from thought to thought

without falling in so many of these dredges,

high as a kite from not paying attention

’cause if I can’t see you

then you can’t see me

(so says the rules of childhood)

so it must be the same with pain too, right?

I do not accept melancholy

but it comes anyway,

the mind-trapper.

The slow sludge death of neurons cannabilizing themselves

in an attempt not to feel at all,

something so much more empty than numbness.

I am told not to accept nothingness

but I make it come anyway,

the mind-ender.

I do not face it with fear but with relief.

Fear is dead.

I am the fear-killer.

Depression Is

1 Oct

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

or visit www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org

Today, October 1st, is the start of Depression Awareness Month. Well, for those of the social media sphere who’ve had no contact with depression, it is. The rest of us, the ones with depression, and the ones next to those who do, we’re already pretty damn aware.

You see, depression, when it’s there, is a hard thing not to be aware of. The harder part, really, is not misconstruing what’s being seen. Because depression, you see, has a whole lot of flavors. And no, none of them are pumpkin spice.

I’ve been fighting depression since… well, it’s hard to pinpoint it, really. Because I came from an environment where people weren’t aware of mental health, let alone depression. I didn’t know anything could be wrong, let alone that it was. I just thought that my constant misgiving, the vague and perpetual sensation that something was wrong for years on end, my bent to remember the less-than-stellar in my life than the few moments of real sparkle – well, I just thought that was normal. I was aware of my sensations; I just wasn’t aware of their diagnosis.

Until my senior year of high school, that is. After years of walking the line between “kinda sad but functional” and “ragingly falling into a dark hole inside,” I finally teetered over the edge. Call it hormones. Call it stress. Call it whatever.

I’m calling it depression.

You see, while I was aware of my accelerating and nauseating hurtle into clinical depression, the others around me didn’t see all those sensations inside, or didn’t want to see them even when I tried to throw them in their face. I used isolation. I used words. I used self-harm and the knife I hid under my bed. I used suicide. The increasingly screaming kettle of pressuring self-hate inside me was something too loud for me not to be aware of, as day after day I just felt wrong, and, left to my own devices to deal with it, eventually came to the conclusion that must have been the thing that was wrong. Guilt guilt guilt guilt. Never mind those other circumstances – a broken home, an ailing sister, a fracturing best friend, flat-out broken brain chemistry – no no, clearly it was all my fault. I just wasn’t trying hard enough. If I were just better, trying harder, I would have been able to fix it all. And then I would have been okay. So clearly, I was the problem. Hey, if I were the problem, then the solution seemed pretty damn apparent, right? In this equation, if X is wrong and unfixable, just remove X…

I wasn’t aware that wasn’t actually the equation.

Let’s fast-forward about six years. So you know, about nowish. I’ve still got depression. But I’m older, wiser, yada yada.

Yeah, it doesn’t suck any less.

If anything, dealing with depression, even though it’s not the blinding, numbing, mind-haze of my high school years, has become harder. Why?

Well, I am more aware.

Let’s fast-track through the past six years. I found words for what I was experiencing. Slowly learned that it’s not my fault. Went to therapy, through treatment, started meds. I’ve seen psychiatrists, psychologists, MFW’s, LCSW’s, PsyD’s, MD’s, RD’s, and fuck knows however many lettered people. After four years of concentrated obliteration, I’ve finally essentially quashed my comorbidity, the ugly Eating Disorder.

But.

There is always a “but,” isn’t there?

I’m not sure I consider myself “better.”

I have learned a great deal, yes. Become more aware of what’s going on with me. I’ve learned how to recognize patterns, spot symptoms, reroute maladaptive coping mechanisms, derail negative thought patterns, notice when my current round of meds are starting to fail again.

Yes, in the mindwork of my depression, self-awareness has helped a shit ton. At least I know what’s going on now.

Yeah, knowing what’s going on doesn’t mean I feel any better.

It’s like… so, imagine if you were shot in the leg with a bullet. Painful, right? You’re bleeding all over the place, leg is throbbing, bullet’s probably still lodged somewhere around your tibia and fibula. If only you could pull the bullet out and adequately wrap up the wound, over time, it would heal, and you would feel better.

Yeah, bullet’s still in your leg and your bleeding out, sweetheart. This mental analysis, even knowing how physiologically your leg needs to heal, that all doesn’t actually make you feel any better when you’ve still just been FUCKING SHOT IN THE LEG.

My depression, now, is kind of like I’m walking around having just been shot in the leg all the time. Yeah, I know what happened to cause me to be in pain. I know what’s going on. I know that hey, maybe one week my psychiatrist and I will finally find a way to pull that goddamn bullet out of my leg and the writhing muscles and nerves and blood vessels will finally stop having to make due with a shitty, bloody situation and heal up once and for all and start working properly again.

Yeah, all that “maybe” kind of hope doesn’t mean I’m not walking around with a fucking bite of a limp.

“But you’re working on figuring out how to get the bullet out!” People will say, as if this is supposed to mean it’s not still painful while it’s in there.

“Aw, come on, you were shot like five weeks ago, can’t you just let it go now?” NO, THE BULLET’S STILL FUCKING THERE AND I’M BLEEDING OUT AND IT’S FUCKING PAINFUL, THANK YOU.

And then, should I manage to find a position to stand where the weight’s not on my leg, and it doesn’t hurt so much, and someone makes a funny joke and I manage to pull up a half-sort of smile – “Oh look! A smile! That bullet in your leg can’t hurt that badly then, can it?”

Excuse me, clinic doctor that I visit a couple weeks ago for a sinus infection, while I punch you in the face.

So, I walk around, bullet-in-leg, never knowing if it’ll ever come out, leaving the situation to fester and fall into feeling hopelessness. I wonder if maybe, instead of walking around in life with this limp that I can remember what it was like to run and skip and dance without, instead of always being reminded that if I’m not cautious my heel will slip and my leg will jolt with pain, which it wouldn’t have had I still had that life unencumbered with a bullet in my calf – well, I start wonder if maybe, it would be better if I just cut the leg off. If I can’t pull the bullet out and let the leg heal, then I just need to get rid of the leg altogether.

Problem is, the issue’s not in my leg. It’s in my brain.

Suicidality is no longer an impassioned, pained sort of self-destructive urge. The thought becomes not “I am a problem” but just “I am not working out.” It’s a weary sort of defeat. The wish is not to be dead, but to no longer live in pain. Death, this time, is just a side-effect.

That is the kind of awareness depression has for me.

I am still here, writing this blog, obviously. I have friends that pull me back, friends whose selfish wish to keep me here for themselves is something I am grateful I can keep my life tethered to. They, thankfully, are aware of what it’s like for me to carry that bullet in my leg, and they help carry me, so that the bullet doesn’t finally make its way to my brain.

They see me, and I am grateful for it.

What do you need to be aware of, around you? In you?

As despondent as I may get about my own prospects, I wish hope eternal for everyone else with those goddamn depression bullets. It’s not fair, guys. It’s just not. And I’m sorry about that. I hope that one day, we have better, more effective options than chasing after “maybe’s” or translocating where that bullet is.

It’s a fight, guys. I know we’re all way too painfully aware of that. But hey, if we’re still here and trying, at least we’ve given the world something to notice, too.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

or visit www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org

Brain Drain

17 Sep

That point in the night

when you want to say something

right but you’re too tired.

A haiku’s too hard

when your brain’s got no more cards

to play but madness.

A frigid, simple

rhyme will take no more time than

deadened syllables.

Headaches

5 Aug

It’s too late a morning for what I’d planned,

hours of dream-thrashing that left me sweaty

what I wake up to, instead of the cool and metal sheen of dawn.

The shrunk-down woken-up figures of odd dreams and bad memories

wrestle round my neuron junctions, pulling at threads

and threatening connections that would sooner be left alone.

I re-heat the coffee and guzzle it down like magic,

hoping to thrust my mind through enough caffeination

to rid me of this rough-delivered headache

and release me, forgetting and free.

Silence

1 Aug

dwindling fade

Life is a hard thing when you go numb. When soul dies, hopes dissipate into nothing leaving not even a shadow of an imprint.

Silence is a terrible thing. I hate it. I fear it. I fear it, because I fear me. Silence means I’m left alone with myself. And that’s terrifying.

Silence means I only have the chatter of my brain to keep me company. And when that chatter comes in the form of verbal knives and memory punctures, those internal conversations can hurt a lot.

It wasn’t always this way.

I used to be able to sit alone with myself and dream. I’d spend hours thinking about problems I wanted to solve, things like biology research and magnetism projects. I’d turn the information I’d learned earlier over and over in my mind, looking for new angles or remaining questions to tackle a need with. I’d process things for hours, while I was swimming, or walking through a grocery store, or driving, or scribbling in a notebook. It was fun. I was content.

Or I’d think about stories. I’ve written entire novels in my head, always meaning to transfer them to paper later. I’d flesh out scenes and plot, playing them out in my head like a movie while I was showering, or sitting in an airplane, or bored in class. I have had worlds spun into being inside my head. I loved the feeling. That’s who I was.

It’s part of the reason I love art museums. Wandering through galleries, staring at canvas after canvas, the paint on the picture starts speaking stories in my brain. I love art that I look at and immediately think, “there’s a story in that.”

I love doing art too, in and of itself. It’s almost like I’m creating some kind of secret. “Here, let me draw you this picture” – it’s got a fairy tale behind it. Or at least, it does in my head. Who knows the stories it may speak in yours.

The better I’m doing internally, the better I do at art. If I fall into eating disorder patterns, I stop being able to create proper scale in my drawings, especially when it comes to people. The more stable I am in terms of ED, the more accurately I’m able to draw humans. The more there I feel inside, overall, even if it’s a hurting sort of “there,” the more I’m able to do some sort of creation. Even if it’s just sketching out eyes. Simple, closed eyes.

That’s what I did, when depression and suicidality first hit me in the clinical sense my senior year of high school. My school planner is full of eyes, blue pen sketches of what’s really no more than a glorified eyelid, covering almost every page. Eyes, everywhere. Closed.

There’s probably some symbolism in that.

But now… now I can’t even draw eyes. Even short poems, little bursts of anger or hurting or hopelessness, the ones that I used to be able to throw onto a page in a blink, they’ve become harder to write. There’s no voice left in me.

There’s only the silence, with its terrible chattering.

And I hate it.

There’s another spot, another corner of content curation that I decided to take a stab at, here on the internet. I hear there’s a thing called Tumblr. I still don’t entirely understand it. How it works. What the fuck it’s even there for. But I’ve got one – decided to call it “Mad Woman Blinking.” (Oh hey, more eye symbolism!) And I decided that it’s there for my art. More so the visual kind, though I’ve got a fair amount of word spew on there too. You can check it out or not, that’s really not the point. I bring it up because yesterday, I also wrote a post called “Silence” there. It’s a shorter version of what I’ve written here. But it’s differently phrased, and I feel like the language has more art to the wording. It’s the more compact, drip-coffee version of what I could squeeze out of my soul. Looking back, I’m glad that there was some poetry to it.

“Silence usually means I’m not okay. In life, when I fail to stop by a friend’s dorm room, or stop contacting my people in all their little chat boxes. In art, when I just stop doing it.

My art habit fluctuates wildly. I’ll go a couple of months where I do art every day, or at least every week. Then I’ll have a year of not even scribbling on a napkin.

I’m not okay when I’m not doing art.

Because if I’m doing art, it means I’m stable. I’ve got the time to sit down with pencils or acrylics or whatever. I’ve got soul enough inside me to pin dreams down on papers in their many colors of imagination. I’ve got sense of self enough to still make my fingers etch out a story, whatever their medium.

When I stop drawing, it’s because I’ve gone silent inside. And that means I’m not okay.”

I’d really like to be okay.

Strange Sleep

8 Apr

My brain is a very weird place. Like, very, very, very weird. Possibly also still a bit scrambled right now, seeing how I haven’t downed any coffee yet this morning. But hey. We’ll deal with it.

So, how weird is my brain? Well, when not deciding that I was going to be awake at weird hours and then sleep in a very nonsensical pattern last night, my brain was off in who-knows-what-land spinning incredibly odd dreams. Usually, I’m able to figure out what the stimulus was when I have particularly strange sleephaunts. An advertisement I saw on the Metro, something a friend said, a line from a book…

Yeah. Not so much this time.

I mean, my roommate and I did watch the lump of slap-happy confusion that is Zoolander last night, so maybe that was the impetus for my brain’s thinking that ooh! ooh! it could come up with absolute ridiculousness too!

What was last night’s brand of weirdness? Well, all within less than eight hours of shut-eye, I lived through a Star Trek-themed nightmare (neither Spock nor Captain Picard graced my dream with his presence, though) that was also slightly Monster’s Inc.-esque; I was Disney’s Pocahontas in an alternative history where I got to just hang out with John Smith and tell him he was boring; I was told via phone that the head of the tribe had died and so I (still Pocahontas) had to lead a group of other Native American aristocracy through a mine field where we were being attacked by flying frisbee-ish weapon technology; still as Pocahontas, I fought Malfoy from the Harry Potter books; and then in a completely different dream sequence, I was nanny to the Obama family’s young daughter (who in my dream was like 3 and a very unruly child); that dream somehow involved reality that was hybridized with video game graphics and clicking; and then finally that dream somehow connected back to the Pocahonatas one and the Chinese were going to try to attack through plants or something and I had $25 million that came from a fraud transaction and thus couldn’t gamble but it wasn’t my fault…

You all as lost as I am by now? Geez. There’s a reason I wake up exhausted…

Any of you lovely readers have a comparatively weird night? Hope you all managed a more restful pre-work Tuesday morning.

Brains are weeeeeird, man.

Ahem. I’m going to go drink some coffee now…

Quiet

23 Feb

quiet finger

Quiet and I have such a strange relationship. I came across an article recently – well, actually I came across Time Kreider’s NYT opinion piece on the original article’s topic – about how Amtrak will (eventually) be offering residencies to writers in their Quiet Car. For me, a lover of train riding because of the unique ability of railroad tracks to send creative thoughts through my brain, the prospective chance of a residency within the Amtrak Quiet Car was simultaneously incredibly appealing and absolutely terrifying.

There is a magic to quiet. You can finally feel your mind settle into the lump of flesh that carries around the rest of you. There’s an integration of your consciousness, as it sits there together, all in one place, no longer drawn in dozens of little fragments to the noise in front of you and behind you and to the side of you, to the flashing lights and motion blurs all about the full range of your peripheral, the beating and banging and humming and whirring and shouting that divides our thinking capacity into a million different focal points.

No, in the quiet, suddenly your soul can hear itself again. And it’s a beautiful thing, as the voices that have been bourn within you by the stories and novels and letters and daydreams of your past mingle and birth new ideas for your mind to mill over.

It’s also a terrifying thing, if your brain also happens to host certain voices like mine.

They’re a bit louder, a bit harsher than the rest. They may not always all-out scream at you, but the small persistent whispers are just as distracting.

They are the voices of a mind used to abusing itself. They are the voices of mental lashing developed over the course of a young life in order to keep a yet-developing brain one step ahead from every other one around it – because if you can anticipate doom, anticipate fault, anticipate anger and criticism – then you can prevent it. It’s an entirely useful set of voices, when you are stuck in an environment that will kill you if you do not either learn to dodge or strike back.

But if you are one of the so-called lucky ones who manages to escape that environment, the brain that kept you going now becomes the enemy itself.

It’s much more difficult to dodge something that makes all the same movements that you do. It’s incredibly difficult for a hand to strike itself. It becomes a bit of a paradox, you see. The answer is to get away from yourself.

But, in that all too horrid cliche, wherever you go, there you are.

And so noise becomes your new coping mechanism. You surround yourself with stimuli – if you can feel the pressure of the world on your skin then perhaps you will not notice the perpetual lump in your throat. If you can blind your eyes with a TV show on a screen, maybe your brain won’t have enough sight left to envision all the terrible future scenarios that used to actually be legitimate threats but are now only figments of an anxious anticipation. If you can occupy your ears with the blaring electronica or chatter of a Youtube reel or the friendlier-toned (usually, at least) sounds of conversations about you, perhaps the wailing in your mind will not start. Or at the very least, perhaps, in a relative position, it will no longer seem so loud.

But to put yourself in quiet – that is to invite your mind to hear itself. And while you know that dreams and worlds and heroes have been born from the quiet that happens just as you slip from consciousness right before you fall asleep, you also know that when you are instead in the full-frontal awareness of agitated midday, and silence falls…

Well, sometimes the mind doesn’t have very nice things to say when you’ve shut it up from the world for a while.

Quiet is where the best thinking happens, in the still of a place where you can hear again the merest exhale of the soul’s breath. But unfortunately, it’s also where you can hear every last gasp of a soul that’s been crying.