Tag Archives: depression

Hard Conversations

2 Jul

I have had so many hard conversations in my life. Conversations where I confessed, conversations where I demanded, conversations where I chided and begged and pleaded and cajoled and cried.

I have had so many hard conversations.

There was the conversation where I was told I could die. There was the conversation where I told the exact same thing. To my mother. To my friends. To my lovers. To strangers. Again, and again.

There was the conversation where I told him I loved him. No matter as to whom “he” was. That quivering, shaking moment right before the slight intake of breath, then the desperately frightening murmur. “I love you.”

The silences in that conversation have always been the best and the most painful.

I have had so many hard conversations.

There was the conversation about her miscarriage, and hers, and hers. The conversation about his mistake. The conversation of confusion, of denial, of the world cracking about me and my soul bleeding out into the fractures.

I keep trying to have that conversation again.

I so desperately want it to go differently.

I have so many, many hard conversations.

There are the conversations I have not had yet. The conversation about the weariness I’ve newly heard in his voice. The conversation about that affair, and my lifelong anger with its inexplicable forgiveness. The conversation where I say that I am afraid, and put up one more wall. The conversation I will have more with myself, than with anyone else.

There are the conversations I have daily, the interminable cajoling of my tear ducts not to cry, of my heart not to break, of my legs to keep moving forward and of my hands not to rend me in the thousand ways they could have me end.

I chatter ceaselessly inside my brain, so much daily convincing must I do.

It’s not an easy conversation to have, after a while.

I get tired of having these hard conversations.

There have so many of them in my life.

I do not write happy stories.

9 Apr

People want happy stories. Good characters. Sweet endings. Family-friendly. At least, that’s what a lot of magazine submission guidelines seem to be saying.

But I do not write happy stories. I swear, I try. Took me five goddamn years to write a YA novel with a happy ending and after another five years I’m still not finished editing it yet. Happy stories are not the ones that come to me most naturally or most frequently. They are not what my brain generates. They are not what my brain understands. They are not what my brain has had to work with.

Happy stories, sure, they can be nice to read. Like a delightful little square of baklava. But too many of those delightful little squares, and odds are you’re going to be left with sticky, nut-grimy fingers and an urge to go puke up at least half of the sickly sweetness now residing in your stomach into the nearest toilet bowl. Or onto the nearest politician. Either would be acceptable, probably.

I mean, too many sad stories, or difficult stories or unsettling stories or generally unhappy narratives, and you’re also probably going to be left in a huddles mess o’ blankets on your living room couch crooning yourself into a tear-slopped sleep with that bottle of whiskey you’re clutching as your only friend. Not exactly a more preferable kind of overdose.

But at least… at least those tears your crying are real. The elation you feel from a happy story may be a vicarious kind of wish-fulfillment but the pain you’re left dealing with from a grungier tale is a memory, the recollected aching from some time before when your story veered a little too closely to something a character got herself into. Probably why the sadness lasts so much longer; it’s no mere slap-on-the-surface temporary veneer. No, it’s an upwelling of past shame or doubt or anger or disappointment. The kind of sadness that leaves you as said whiskey-breathed mess has roots.

Maybe it’s just because of my own negative-lens tendencies the depression fairy apparently decided to, uh, gift me with at birth, but I know that I, at least, remember pain more than I remember pleasure. In my life-flashes-before-your-eyes-’cause-you-done-fucked-up-and-somehow-now-you’re-drowning reel, the moments of hurt, of regret, of loss would be the first ones to play out again before me. They are, unfortunately, what my brain, my memory centers, my inner interpretation mechanisms snap to first. Over time (read: SO MUCH THERAPY OH MY GOD), I’ve been able to re-groove my brain a bit (hoorah neural plasticity!) and convince my brain that it really is okay to go the positive route every now and then, really, there’s probably not even that much of a traffic jam,  but still… inner GPS forgets about those routes a fair amount.

I’m tempted to write that to me, happiness just doesn’t feel natural. But I know, really, that’s not true. Happiness is totally a natural thing to experience. It’s more appropriate to write that for me, happiness hasn’t felt usual. I grew up in a household of parents who had been fighting since before I was even born. I wasn’t exactly the cool kid in my class for much of high school (but then come high school people realized I was smart and that they needed me and then I ruled the world! AHAHAHAHAHAHA!). I’ve been battling mental health shit since god knows when. Yes, there has been a lot of happiness in my life, but it’s not exactly been the baseline or background. Happiness has been an exception.

But honestly, I don’t think it’s just my own experience that’s made writing happy stories so difficult for me. Ever since, well, ever, I’ve been an emotional go-to for other people. I may not have been the cool kid, but I wasn’t ever that kid – but I did usually end up getting picked out as OMG BFF! by that kid. Then come middle school, when puberty hit and we were all just leveled to a singular playing field of awkwardness, the girls who became my closest friends were also the ones who, like me, had some inner demons that started clawing a bit more actively at our vulnerable brains. And our vulnerable hormones. The rest of pre-college schooling for me was a slew of late night phone calls, desperate pleas to hang on just a little while longer, letters sent every day to some treatment center other, constant scans of wrists and arms and rib cages and stomach circumferences and little pricks in the back of our minds any time one of us wore long sleeves or baggy clothing. Chat sessions into three and five am, glowing laptop screens hidden behind closed doors and under the covers.

Yes, there was a strain of hope. Maybe, just maybe, if I can get through this, you can too… We were all one giant mess of hands and arms clinging to each other and brace the entire structure of our lives. Support went in all directions. Hurt went in all directions. Despair abounded. Hope was a parched substance. It did not rain; it sludged through the ravaged sewers of our tenacity, tainted and unsafe even by the time it got there in the first place. But when you’re dying of thirst, you stop being so picky about these kind of things. Even dirty water will keep you going. For a little while. It might kill you a little while later. But I don’t think any of us would have minded that for ourselves.

We would have wailed over it, though, for each other.

The real-life stories that I have known have not been ones that work out. They have been ones of struggle. Constant struggle. You think you’ve gotten over one thing, and then something new crops up. Your once-savior becomes your new slave master. Relief only lasts so long. Every so often you may find yourself on your feet again, running, and you run as far and as hard and as long as you can, but then some invisible un-reason reaches its ugly snag and you don’t even see and suddenly you’re on the ground, scraped knees and bleeding elbows and your legs are so tired they don’t want to work anymore and your arms are wondering what the use even is anymore to try to pull yourself up one more time if you’re only going to end up down here covered in the dirt of a failed attempt again anyway…

And yet somehow we keep going. Knowing we have likely only doomed ourselves to repeat the process. But the way out is no more glorious than the struggle. So you might as well finish the race. Might as well find out if it was ever going to get you anywhere anyway.

You understand if your fellow runners decide they can take no more of the dizzying, soul-quenching exhaustion. You understand the decision to finally cease running, cease panting, feel only one more final sharp stab at the weary lungs you have forced to keep filling you with breath before saying that no, no more, I will stop here.

It’s a tragedy, yes. But it’s less of a tragedy than most people seem to realize. The loss of uncertain future happiness ways a little less to you than the end to present, undeniable pain.

So far, only one of us has dropped out of the race.

This impossible, endless race. There is some pride in my fellow runners, every time I look around and see them still there, straggling through this thing with me.

We will arrive at the finish line cut and scarred by thorns and brambles that held no roses. Our souls will be impossibly bruised. We might not have the strength to hold even our heads high. But we will have made it. We will have finished.

That is not a happy ending. That is not the kind of story I write.

But it is a story. With a horridly natural, un-fairy tale ending.

And that is something.

Trying To Manage Your Depression: Caution, May Cause Side Effects

23 Mar

Guys, depression is hard. Really really really hard. Obviously. That’s why it’s called depression. But you know what? I’ve been through five years of therapy, gone through intensive treatment three times, come to understand the underlying mindsets I needed to challenge, modified my thinking patterns, built up a support network, tried to prioritize what makes me happy, worked with psychiatrist after psychiatrist to find a medication regimen that works well for me and stuck to each of them in turn, held myself together long enough to graduate from college and actively work every day to keep myself from falling apart…

And depression is still really, really fucking hard.

I’m not even talking about the symptoms of depression, either. In terms of mood, I’m doing *relatively* well. I’m not entirely crippled by sadness. I don’t hate myself. I can understand ways in which the shittiness I do still occasionally feel might eventually get better… That’s all cool. But… just trying to be a normal, healthy, functioning person. That’s really fucking hard.

My impression is that being a normal, healthy, functioning person is already really fucking hard even when you don’t have an underlying mental illness trying to drag you back into a mental hell. But then, when you do have an underlying mental illness, all the extra things you have to do just make it that much harder. For example, I was on an antidepressant called Effexor for a little over a year. Before that, my list o’ pills that I’ve taken and since developed tolerance to (it’s like when an addict develops tolerance to a substance and needs more and more of it to feel the same effects, except now we’re talking actual legit healthy-making-medication that has a dosage you can’t exceed) has included Celexa, Zoloft, Prozac, and Abilify. Celexa was beautiful but wore off over the course of a year and a half to the point that it was basically like I wasn’t even on an antidepressant, Zoloft helped decrease my anxiety but obviously wasn’t working all that well, since I kinda attempted suicide on it, a short-term psychiatrist started me on Prozac improperly and I hated it and its somnolence side effect with a fiery passion (I hear it works well for some people, though), and Abilify I was taking as a sort of anti-anxiety med and antidepressant “booster” and had to stop cold when it started costing $700 a month because of insurance roll over. Yeah. The restless leg syndrome I had for months afterwards as a withdrawal symptom was lovely.

Ahem. So. Now that brings us to Effexor. Mind you, these are all drugs I’ve been taking to try to just be a normal fucking person with normal fucking problems instead of a depressed person with suicidal problems. I’m not searching for Nirvana here.

Now, unbeknownst to me when I started it, apparently Effexor has *super duper fun* withdrawal effects! And the shortest half life of like any antidepressant ever! Which means if you go 5 hours without taking it – heavens forbid an entire day – you’re fucked. We’re talking light-headedness, nausea, dizziness, disorientation, ALL THE DEPRESSION, brain shocks (it’s like your brain is being electrocuted and the whole world jolts) and oh yeah, SEIZURES. Seriously, it’s actually the worst. Like, ask the internet. Ask a fucking psychiatrist. Effexor withdrawal is universally recognized in the mental health world as one of the worst things to ever go through.

Good thing there were manufacturer recalls! And so now the medication is forever on backorder! Which means that even when I bring my prescription from the psych in a week ahead of time, it’s still not refilled by the time I’ve run out. Every. fucking. month.

Yeah. The first week I had to go without Effexor because of a refill issue and was subsequently bedridden with nausea and unable to even walk has been firmly and terrifyingly imprinted in my mind. And so when I’d take precautions and order a refill early (but not too early, because otherwise insurance would be like, uh, we just filled this, no, you can’t have more; that’s always fun timing to figure out) and I’d still be faced with a day or so of having to go without it, I eventually got a backup stock because I was sick of having a breakdown in front of the Target pharmacy every month. Like, normal people don’t have to go through hell like this! Yeah, sure, sometimes they have to go through hell, but it’s normal hell. It’s not the hell of having tried to goddamn take care of yourself and keep up on your meds, only to have other factors force you into bedridden brain malfunction.

Over time, my body did its thing and built up tolerance to Effexor, too, and once I realized I was spending the end of every day crying in a heap on my dorm room floor, I decided that hey, maaaaybe I should talk to my psychiatrist about finding another med that’d work better. Plus then, I could switch to something else and not worry about Effexor withdrawal hell every month.

Cue Cymbalta. Cymbalta’s an SNRI, just like Effexor, so it works on the same neural receptors and everything, which means that as long as you get the cross titration right, you don’t go through the Effexor withdrawal effects while you’re switching. And Cymbalta supposedly doesn’t have those withdrawal effects, so, that was a plus.

Yippee! Freedom! Now I can be a normal healthy person! Right?

Wrong.

So, I’m still in the process of switching from Effexor to Cymbalta. I went down in stages from 225 mgs of Effexor (yup, that’s a big fun dose, isn’t it?) to 75 mgs, and then stepped up through 30 mgs to 60 mgs of Cymbalta.

Aaaand still started going through Effexor withdrawal.

Cue 90 mgs of Cymbalta. Actually, cue 60 mg prescription + 30 mg prescription, because they don’t fucking make a 90 mg capsule of the generic, which means I have to pay twice as much for one month’s worth of pills. Wooo. So now I have to double my expenses every month just to keep myself healthy. Fun.

Except I’m not even fucking healthy. I’m trying to be, but I’m not. Turns out, insomnia is a side effect of Cymbalta. I’m already prone to insomnia, which means that Cymbalta hits me hard in that area. I haven’t slept for the past three days. Okay, that’s not entirely true. I got approximately six hours of nightmare-filled, panic-sweat-inducing “sleep” over the past 72 hours. So. Not exactly healthy. Here I am, trying to just get myself to a normal level of sanity, but then that ends up fucking with my sleep. I’M JUST TRYING TO BE HEALTHY. But it’s like whatever I do to help in one area ends up hurting in another area. And it’s really frustrating. Like, I just want to be able to sleep like a normal person and wake up not feeling like absolute shit and get through my day without feeling like I’m being bludgeoned every second. Is that a reasonable request? I think that’s a reasonable request…

Sigh. So here I am, typing the blog post at 7 am my time because I’ve been up all night, tossing and turning (which subsequently also leads to crampy muscles and unhappy joints) – but hey, I fixed my apartment’s wifi… And I’m stuck on this combo of 75 mgs of Effexor and 90 mgs of Cymbalta (which is higher than a normal dose already, apparently…) for at least another week, because I’m going out of the country and would at least like to be relatively stable during that, even it means I can’t really sleep… and then I’ve moved, so I’ve got to find a new psychiatrist, and schedule and appointment with them, and then finish going off of goddamn Effexor, which’ll probably mean going even higher on my Cymbalta dosage and heavens knows what that’s going to do to me and my unsleeping… and then I’ll probably have to “stabilize” on Cymbalta and then switch to yet another med in the never ending chase after my sanity…

Guys, I just wanted to be healthy. To manage my depression. I didn’t think trying to be normal was supposed to be this hard. There are so many damn side effects.

My Anxiety Is Not A Lie

12 Mar

Let’s talk about anxiety. (Oh, and for those of you back home who’ve been keeping track since that last post, yes I have actually started editing my thesis. I swear. I know this looks bad. I mean, another blog post… no way she’s working on that thing she needs to graduate! But… c’mon, guys, a girl needs a break! I’ve deleted and changed and fixed and added in three whole fucking pages of new content from three new primary sources so look, it’s getting done, okay?!)

Right. Um. Anxiety. So, there are all those websites out there that talk about what “anxiety” is, right? All those ads with comic character-style people in it spewing out some symptoms for you and telling you which drug they’re promoting you absolutely need to buy? Maybe even a couple of helpful informational pamphlet things you shoved in the bottom of your purse the last time you visited the doctor’s office?

Yeah, so all those things, they’re probably telling you about how anxiety (and its devil spawn, panic attacks) can make it feel like your heart is beating really fast, you may be hyperventilating, basically it feels like you’re being run over by the pounding feet of a herd of elephants while your heart and stomach and brain are getting convulsed and squeezed and honked like clown horns?

Yeah, no. My anxiety isn’t like that.

Obviously, I’m not saying that *nobody’s* anxiety is like that. I know people who have given that exact description before (okay, maybe not that exact description) for what they experience. Fast, frenetic, some other f words – that’s the dealio for them.
But not for me. My anxiety, it’s… slower? When I am “anxious,” I am not fidgety. I am frozen. Instead of feeling like a hot mess, I feel like a cold… nothing. My anxiety doesn’t make me want to dash out of the room – it hardens my insides like ice, paralyzing me right where I am. I can’t think. I can’t focus. It’s like my brain’s eyes rolled back in their sockets or something. Like I’ve suddenly hardened into a block of cold, black metal.
And fuck, is it uncomfortable. Rather than feeling like my lungs have suddenly become a pair of poor over-filled balloons being torturously squeezed by some manic two-year-old, my body, all of it, suddenly feels like it’s been… compacted. Like someone took all my muscle fibers and coiled them. I am tense. I am not bursting. I am strung. I get this kind of general ache everywhere, like the kind you get when you’re heading into a particularly bad cold. Or like somebody decided to wash my insides with lactic acid. Or like my entire body is suddenly a uterus and it’s that time when Mother-In-Law Nature decides to come for a particularly nasty week-long visit.
There is a nervousness, and sometimes I do shake and spasm (but hey, at least I get my core exercises in for the day, right?), but it’s not, like, heaving or hyperventilating or any of that. And the world doesn’t spin, it… fades. Like a movie shot does when you suddenly pull out from a freeze frame so that the llama protagonist can make snarky comments and draw red marks all over everything. (The search terms I had to use to find that image… dear NSA surveillance workers who are currently incapacitated on the floor from laughter, you’re welcome.)
Anyhoo. This anxiety thing. It’s different for me. But I’m still pretty sure what I experience is anxiety. I mean I’m nervous, right? I feel overwhelmed, I’m incapacitated to a degree, I hug my knees and stare through a fog of muted blind terror – that’s still anxiety, right?
If I go through the traditional symptom list, pretty sure the answer is no. The phrasing that list uses, it doesn’t *quite* fit with my set of descriptions. And it can feel really damn invalidating. There are multiple brands of depression that get talked about in all the different mediums, why can’t my type of anxiety get its share of internet space? Sure, thankfully the first psychiatrist I came into contact with way-back-when knew her shit, and “anxiety” was definitely a word she brought into our conversations. But my current psychiatrist? Mental health site “anxiety reduction” self-help articles? Cultural chatter at large? Nope.
But… I know what I know. I know what I feel. I feel what I feel. And I know it’s anxiety. I know that my anxiety is not “just in my head” (my core muscles can attest to that, thank you very much). I know that saying I have anxiety is not just some cop out to try to stick some label-excuse on some personal shortcoming. I know that my anxiety is a very real obstacle in my life that I have to deal with. (Btw, by “deal with,” I pretty much mean “sit on my boyfriend’s couch or on the floor of my dorm room being miserable through it until it eventually goes away because I managed to distract myself with the internet well enough. Sorry, I don’t have a magic – or even better – solution to anxiety to give you. I wish I did, really.)
So, whatever the chattering “experts” may say (or really, not say), whatever the eternal skeptic in my head that constantly looks to pick a fight may hurl at me, whatever doubt may well up from inside me and pump up the disconnection from reality I sometimes experience by telling me that that experience itself isn’t even real, in my more sane moments (and somehow even in most of my un-sane ones), I still know that my understanding of what’s going on inside of me is true. I know it isn’t made up. I know that even though it might be different, my anxiety is not a lie.

Justified

6 Mar

I have always felt the need to justify my existence. I’m not really sure when it started; I have no particular experience to point to, no exact moment in time when I can remember its instillment. There is neither any gradual buildup that I can trace; this need has just always been there, within me, existing.

Perhaps it’s from the early Catholic training I received, the anti-hedonistic education I received since birth. Perhaps it is the messages, subtle and otherwise, that pleasure should never  be a reason, only an unhoped for side effect of righteousness, to be found only after death in a heavenly afterlife. Perhaps it’s that I was raised in an environment of business and consequences; my father, a self-employed salesman, and my mother, a harried keeper who ran around cleaning up after him. There were costs to life, and if you did not put in the effort to stay ahead of them, debt was an inevitability. Therefore one must justify every expenditure, and behind that, every whim. Can you pay the price of what you want? Can you afford the cost of what you are asking for? Are you providing enough return for this air, this water, this space that you are soaking up and taking in? Because if not, then there will be someone to come collect your dues from you. And you may not like what they take.

Perhaps it is that – I can remember creating powerpoint presentation as a fourth grader whenever I wanted to ask my parents for something: a book, a dog, a birthday party. Here, mother and father, are the reasons I want this thing. Here are the reasons that I am sure this is truly something of value to me, something worth your funding, not just some passing fancy that you will not see the returns of. Let me explain the form of my liquidated joy. Let me explain why this matters. Let me explain how giving me this thing will pay off for you, too. Let me show you how this happiness of mine is a worthwhile venture for your capital. Let me use these graphs and these bullet points and these arguments and persuasions to prove to you that I – that is, this thing that I want – is not just a risk. Let me show you why it is worth it.

Let me show you why I am worth it.

Or perhaps, perhaps it’s really that the universe somehow screwed up royally when I was born, and I was brought into this world with a piece of antimatter snuck into my core. And it’s been sitting there ever since, slowly annihilating me from the inside, destroying my internal and leaving me empty and so I have always felt this need for external, objective justification of myself because it is the fodder I have fed this antimatter core, the material I have been using to build myself up and keep the destruction at bay. I have needed to constantly build myself up because there is something else within me constantly tearing myself down. I have needed to prove myself to create a positive existence within myself that is being constantly drawn toward the negative.

Alright, alright, it’s probably not that I’ve got a bit of antimatter in me. But you have to admit, that would be more exciting.

And so I don’t know. I don’t know why I feel this constant imperative to show to myself – because it is to myself, really – over and over and over again that it is all right for me to exist. That is okay for me to be happy. The idea of doing something, well and truly and solely for my own pleasure – that is still an idea I am learning to be comfortable with. I mean, I’m still learning to be comfortable at all. In my body, in my mind, in my relationships. There is always some latent dissatisfaction, some missing piece, some screw up enfolded in the obscurity of a past that I somehow didn’t quite catch, that holds me back from every being truly happy. I mean, most days, my goal is just to not go crazy. Recently, a day without breaking down crying on my dorm room floor has been what’s counted as success.

Maybe I’ve just distorted that line about “everyone is here for a reason,” the whole “your life has a purpose” spiel. There’s a reason for me?! My life has a purpose?! What if I’m screwing up and not following through on what that reason for me is?! What if I’m doing it wrong?! What if I fail, don’t ever fulfill what my purpose was supposed to be?! What if I just fall short?! Every breath for me is a beat of “am I doing it? am I doing it? did I do it now? is this okay? oh god oh god oh god oh god…”

Heh. And people wonder why I have anxiety…

No, I am not looking for you to tell me that I am justified. I am not looking for you to tell me the right answer, to insist that I am alright, that it’s all okay, that I am good. You see, that’s part of the tricky business of the internal ruckus of mine. I require outside feedback to let me know that I am okay (because I couldn’t ever just trust myself, could I? that’s not objective observation…), but if I feel that it was given because I asked for it – well then, that just voids it right there. It’s like leading a witness in court. You said that because I directed you to. You may really mean it, but my brain doesn’t care about that. Nope, the only praise I can accept is the kind that has been spontaneously and freely given, that I have earned but not fished for.

(By the way, Miss Kim, I’m going to tell you again that I love you forever for the random messages you send me at like two in the afternoon while you’re at work that just pop up on my facebook chat telling me I’m pretty. You are a glorious, wonderful human being and I cannot exist without you. Also, I’m probably going to buy a mattress soon, like, for realsies and probably just have it delivered straight to the apartment, because fuck transporting queen-sized mattresses in a compact.)

I hope you all have a best friend like Miss Kim. Like Miss Kim, mind you. Because Miss Kim is mine. All mine.

*Ahem.* But really, I do. And I hope even more that perhaps this best friend is in fact some part of you. That perhaps you do not need an external positivity feed like I do. That perhaps you already have your own sense of justification, built into the infrastructure of yourself.

That would be nice.

But if you don’t – well, I understand. I’m here with you, too. And here’s to hoping that one day, we will be able to tear out that pesky piece of antimatter (using proper protective gloves, of course, gotta be careful when handling antimatter…) and finally fill that whole with some brick of justification that will finally stay and stick.

And until then, here’s to searching.

One Thing, Ten Ways

28 Feb

Alrighty, folks. I follow this famous writerly person called Chuck Wending, which means that I get about half a billion blog posts from him filling up my inbox every day. It’s pretty good, actually. Wending has added half a dozen books to my oh-god-please-just-read-me-already list, and his, uh, spritely writing style constantly challenges me to make sure mine is adequately colorful.

Anyhoo, every week Wending hosts a challenge of his own – usually in the form of a flash fiction topic, but this week, as an assignment to take one thing and describe it ten ways. Abstract ways, concrete ways, literal and figurative ways. All that jazz.

So. I figured I’d describe something that I know pretty damn (read: way too fucking) well: depression.

I know, sounds like a depressing topic, right? Depression sounds like it’d be pretty depressing. I mean, I think that’s why they call it that. But… well, depression has been with me for a long while, and it’s a beast I well know the shape of. It’s a terrible beast – but I’ve learned from the best of books (the ones like Harry Potter and the Young Wizard Series) that if you can describe something, you have power over it. Why do you think the best of magic is always done with words?

And so if I must keep this bedraggled familiar in check, at least I can do it eloquently.

So. Here goes. Depression is…

  1. Hopelessness, helplessness, soulessness, joylessness – all those “lessnesses” that come in the form of deceptively paltry checkboxed lines on a psychiatrist’s diagnostic sheet.
  2. A searing pain felt in hot tears down cheeks and a throbbing throat and a chest that’s constricted and convulsed with crying.
  3. Nothing. Nothing at all. Numbness, listlessness, a-motivation. An inexorable annihilation of being that turns a person into glass eyes and an empty shell.
  4. The point of last resort – self-harm, eating disorders, suicide, all those co-morbidities of depression arise not as a wall of rock bottom but as a desperate attempt to tunnel back out. Sometimes you shut the door behind you.
  5. A paradoxical battle in which there are no sides. It’s not an I against the world, an I against a villain, an I against a situation. It is an I against an I. Not even two clear-cut sides tearing a someone down the middle; a confused and blurred raging that smashes everything together and leaves nothing whole.
  6. A murderer, plain and simple.
  7. Not a fault, not a choice, not a mistake of the patient. Ever.
  8. Incredibly mis- and mal-understood.
  9. A broken brain; a disconnection between know and feel; a mis-firing, bad wiring; a nontraditional way of processing neurochemicals and pharmaceuticals aimed to fix them; a bastard to consistently properly medicate.
  10. A demon that yet an angel can make, in more ways than one, and likely more ways than ten. But that, I suppose, is for another description.

 

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.

Write with Sarcasm #2

29 Jan

Another installment in that rudimentary webcomic of mine has been long since overdue. Hopefully this one explains some of the delay.

Woooo mental health.

Write with Sarcasm #2

...and after that, we can have a panic attack at all the shit you've not gotten done!

Late

17 Jan

time storm

I hate being late. And by “hate,” I mean honest-to-goodness hate. For most of my childhood, I had what was pretty damn near a phobia of being late. To school. To a friend’s house. To a movie. If my mother went to get concessions after we’ve picked our seats, I’d stare back at the auditorium doors in frozen, petrified, high-pitched-whine kind of fear until she got back. Because what if the line was really long and she didn’t get back till after the movie started? What if they didn’t let her in because they’d already closed the auditorium doors??? (I didn’t quite understand the way that movie theaters worked back at age seven…) Same thing happened if we were flying somewhere. What if we got the airport too late and didn’t make it through security on time??? I basically held my breath through the entire line. And then once we got to the gate, I practically refused to let anyone, especially my mother, leave to – oh, say, got to the bathroom, or get breakfast. Because what if she didn’t make it back on time and the plane left without her??? I always carried with me some sense of dread foreboding, that being late was either going to bring irrepudiation crashing down on me in a burning criticism of my evident laziness or would otherwise cause something to go horridly, painfully wrong. It’s like if I were late to something, than life turned into a scary, ravenous monster that was going to tear apart me and my hopes and dreams with its gnashing teeth and then gobble down all the fragments.

I was a very imaginative child.

Sure, I’ve gotten a *bit* less neurotically anxious about the whole “being a few minutes late” thing. But still, there is the preference in me to be absurdly early than even the tiniest bit tardy. And when life happens and I pass the “few minutes late” threshold, I still haven’t entirely figured out how to handle it.

Like… I still expect to be forevermore considered a terrible human being (or employee or volunteer or friend or whatever) for showing up late. Egregiously late. Like this morning, when I somehow managed to miss my 8:20 am alarm (did I sleep through it? did my phone lie to me last night about the alarm being set? did the alarm just never go off this morning? who knows…) and woke up to some random 9:20 am alarm that I’d set for several days ago.

“Oh, great!” you might be thinking. “So you did at least wake up to one alarm!”

Yeah, ONE ALARM THAT WENT OFF TWENTY MINUTES AFTER I WAS ALREADY SUPPOSED TO BE AT WORK!!!

There was a great deal of groaning and panicking and frustration and indecision in the few minutes more I remained in my bed, eyes tightly clasped shut and hands clenched into fists around my blankets as if I could will the world to go back an hour. I’d awoken from yet another stream of nightmares (dearest brain of mine, what the fuck is wrong???) and felt pretty pummeled. So, you know, my usual morning start. But hey, I’d slept through an alarm while presumable trapped in one of my sickening nightmares, and woken up with a bit of a raw feeling in my throat. Again, typical and after one downed cup of coffee I’d be functional, but not exactly the picture of health, at least mentally so.

So, I’m lying there in bed, seething with regret at the iniquity that was my having over slept, wondering what the fuck I should do about work. I only had a two hour shift that morning, 9 to 11, and it was already 9:30. By the time I’d get to work, it would be 9:40. Aaaaagh.

Should I call my supervisor and explained that I’d overslept and was feeling a bit under the weather (I’d done that before, when I’d awoken two hours late to find myself dripping with sinus infection, and hey, my mental state certainly wasn’t sporting the brightest of blue skies) and that sorry, I wouldn’t be coming in today? Should I try to obliterate myself back into unconsciousness and email my supervisor later with basically the same spiel? Should I whip my ass out of bed and hurtle it across campus and offer as penitent an apology as I could muster?

Some of you might be sitting there at your computers (or smartphones) with raised eyebrows wondering, “What’s the big deal? You were late. You’re human, it happens. Suck it up and just go to work.”

To which I respond, you all are entirely reasonable. Yes. That “what’s the big deal” statement is in fact the correct answer. Especially since my supervisor is one of the nicest, most understanding women I know. I am not in fact entirely certain whether she actually even has the capability of raising her voice at well-meaning employees who normally are on top of their shit but occasionally have issues with the whole “non-disordered sleeping” business.

So yeah, eventually I did get my ass out of bed and into jeans and across campus to my job by 9:40 am. And my punishment for such a tardy appearance? A good-natured laugh from my supervisor. The slim Asian woman did not in fact turn into an unappeasable time monster waiting to rip me into morsel-sized shreds. Go figure.

I think my remaining trepidation about being late is a continued vestige of my tendency towards the all-or-nothing kind of thinking. I either know how to figure out a homework problem or I’m afraid to even start trying. I’m either a brilliant employee who’s always on time or a mess of a wasted paycheck. I’m either gloriously happy in my relationship or cripplingly insecure.

Sure, a lot of this all-or-nothingness is constrained – might I say bottled? – within me, so it doesn’t actually get outwardly expressed in actions. It’s not like I’m always toggling between chanting “om” and flipping a shit about falling sky. Outwardly, there’s mediation.

But holy fuck is there a tempest inside.

And I know when I’m being all-or-nothing. Putting on those negative lenses. Responding irrationally in the feels department. I know the what’s going on with the weather forecast, but being able to psychologically categorize what’s going on doesn’t mean the rain’s pelting the windows to my soul any less hard. My frame still thunders and rattles and shakes. I still worry that I will be stormed off my hinges.

I think that I worry so about being late because I am afraid that one day, I really am going to miss something important. And then, I will be left out in the open with the storm and the waste-laying time monster.

And then, there will be no more seconds left to run.

My Depression’s Become a Splintered Beam

9 Jan

Depression is no longer an atmosphere now for me. It is not a fog, not the ether through which every day plods, not the pervasive perpetual drowning that it was for months of my life. No, now depression is an interruption. An undercut. A startling collapse of the stage I thought I had so solidly built for myself to stand on. I’ll be walking through my day, seeing clear and breathing free the sparkling clarity of the air around me, when suddenly, I will sit down and some beam, some ballast will splinter and snap within me.

It happens without warning. It happens when I am unawares. And most often, it happens when I am alone.

Lots of the time, I think, at least, it happens just when I have decided to work. I have sat down at the keyboard, or opened a textbook at my desk, picked up a pencil and notepad to work on, and suddenly, my inner fortitude will implode.

Perhaps it is because it is at these times that I am most silent, most still, waiting and vulnerable. The mists of uncertainty can rise up from my soul and condense within me, until they form a painful, solid lump of memory that whacks at the legs I have balanced my new platform upon.

It’s in the solitary quiet that I am most a victim of myself.

That time when depression was the daily weather forecast, unchanged from when some meteoric prediction was made ages ago and left frozen on the screen, I think I set myself up for this. Unwittingly and without choice, sure.

I would come home from school, where I’d spent eight hours that day battling just to stay at the surface of my brain, but more often descending into the suck of its derisive, murderous quicksand. But on the outside, at least, even as I sunk deeper and deeper into the much within, I managed an appearance at least of neutrality.

Oh look, there’s our future valedictorian. Isn’t she pretty. So attentive to the teacher, so ponderous in her work.

People think our eyes are windows but they are merely cracks in a wall, and you cannot see through skin.

So, I would arrive home, flee up the stairs and behind my bedroom door, leaving it locked behind me, of course. And there, where I shed the weight of my backpack and nothing else from my shoulders, I let those walls shatter around me.

And I would cry.

I would cry for hours. Sometimes, I’d try to stuff the pressure of undrowned sorrows back, get to work right away, but that always proved a futile move. It was short and decisive, the tap it took for my mind to break the glass of my eyes, the non-windows.

But I was to be the future valedictorian, attentive to the teacher, ponderous in her work. The idea of returning to school with anything unfinished was anathema. And so the struggle would begin, the tug of war between my tear ducts and my pencil lead, two halves of my mind jeering as they pushed and shoved for control. The brain is a tyrant, and I was under its most merciless control.

School work, whether it was a chemistry set or page of physics problems or couple of chapters of biology reading, became a sharply painful task to face. Because there, with my mind fresh and sweating from its mental acrobatics, I was most prone to cramps from its internal infection.

The voice that says you should die is not a kind one, and it doesn’t give much of a shit about whether you need it to be quiet so you can focus on your calculus homework.

I learned to anticipate a lot of frustration whenever I’d attempt to work, that year.

And while I have slain so much of that monster that grew within me and called its name myself, there are still corners of rebellion in the recesses of my body that never quite gave over harboring that dark hulk of gnawing, piercing tooth and fatally sharp eye. And sometimes, the progeny or memory or still-unrejected parts of that monster rear up in me.

It’s usually when I’m alone. It’s usually when I’m not expecting. It’s usually when I’m trying to do work.

And so I do that thing that so many refer to as “dicking around on the computer.” I flit from sight to sight, trying to find some input that will reset my emotions and allow me to awake once more, refreshed and able to get down to business without the ghosts of old nightmares swimming before my brain and crowding, clouding my vision. I shove down the tearful thunder storms that seemed to appear out of nowhere, knowing that I have stared at my skies for hours on end, hashed and rehashed all of my weather systems, done my duty and attended to the cloud formations that have swept across my soul.

I distract myself. Usually with the internet. Browsing may be a solo activity, but the pages and posts, they whisper of other existences and remind me that there are other humans, others out there. And then I don’t feel so alone.

Some call it procrastination. I call it survival.