Tag Archives: mind

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

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.

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.

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.

Nightmares

31 Dec

I have nightmares sometimes. And by “sometimes” I mean sometimes they really are true nightmares, the kind that leave you cold in your bed when you wake up, frozen with a sense of gruesome horror. Sometimes, though, I call my nightmares “stress dreams,” because they leave me not so much afraid as weary and worried and anxious.

No matter what, I wake up to wet clothes and a body dripping with sweat. It’s unpleasant.

And sometimes, I shake when I dream. I’ll awake to my boyfriend’s arms around me, his hands pressing my head to his cheek, his voice low and whispering my name, begging me to wake up, or stating – and it is an assertion, no such flimsy thing as a coo – that it’s all right, it’s all right, it’s all right.

But sometimes, I’m awake before the shaking starts. I’ve left my dream and its festering or frittering behind, fully conscious if eyes closed there on the sodden mattress. And before I’ve time to take a first waking breath, my body convulses. I jolt from the center, hinging around my stomach as the contractions come. My body, railing not at a nightmare but at its existence, the tortured mess of nerves my mind has forced upon it, crying in the only way that muscles and tendons can, as they release the stress in heave after heave of screams that could not be made aloud, letting out the tension of a night spent tangled up in the dank sheets of my worried mind, paralyzed.

There is no fight or flight for the unconscious. You cannot run from dreams. And so my body racks and rages at the brain it cannot eject, trying to shake the bones within me awake, to move themselves and kick and fight and scream in claw marks down whatever has caused the adrenaline to course through my veins while my consciousness flails under the dredges of a restless sleep to put the world back together once more.

But instead they only curl my legs closer and wrap my arms together so that at least while my body still lies there, subsiding into twitches, the waking mind, just as much a victim, won’t feel so alone, hiding its face and rasping softly – please, forgive me my sense of horror.

For Want of a Window Seat

6 Aug

story book come to life

I’ve been missing my window seat.

I haven’t sat on that glorified ledge in years. Not in earnest. Probably something to do with my being in California and its being back in Missouri…

Why am I so concerned about this window seat? I realized that I lack a proper writing environment. Have been lacking one, honestly, for the past four years, minus that brief stretch of San Diego that happened at the end of last year. While I was still in treatment, during my PHP and IOP phases, I had a beautiful glass table where I could sit with my steaming mug of coffee and stare out at the world while the sun rose at six in the morning  and the soft blue and yellow of the sky made the dark rooftop slats sharp against the horizon. Now that was a proper writing environment. And look what happened. Out popped a book.

What is a “proper writing environment” anyway? I mean somewhere I can sit and work, sit and dream and think and wonder and imagine characters and poetry and story lines. A place where life’s not so loud that the deep thoughts are scared away. They can startle at loud noises so easily, after all.

It’s difficult to find a writing home. Sure, there’s the desk in my room… surrounded by the clutter of classes and unopened mail and loose change and all the random crap I meant to put away a week or three ago. And that’s to say nothing of the laundry basket and annoyingly noticeable trash bin and those black garbage bags that I still haven’t finished unpacking from when I first moved in two months ago.

My room, I think we can agree, is not the best of writing environments. With so much life crammed and concentrated into the not-very-many-feet by even-fewer-feet space, my room basically breeds procrastination.

So what to do? The campus buildings are disgruntlingly short on window seats. Yes, I’m lucky enough to have a balcony – that overlooks the student-named “trash courtyard.” Dumpsters aren’t exactly the most pleasurable of writing companions.

Sure, there are coffee houses. But not all coffee houses are created equal. I’ve had great success in the past with Swork, what with their local art displays and cushioned bench by the windows and colorful clientele. But Swork is also a highway drive away… not exactly something available on regular basis for a full-time college student whose class schedule has decided that she’s going to have classes from morning until 10 pm at night. There are closer coffee shops… but none of them quite have the right vibe for me. There’s too much of a chaotic pulse in the bustle. Or for some reason I get all jittery and start surreptitiously peering at the other patrons over the top of my laptop screen because it just doesn’t feel private enough to really think my own thoughts, let alone write them down in a word processor. Irrational, I know, but it just comes down to too much distraction or discomfort.

My window seat was beautiful. It was nestled in the east-facing wall of my room and was brightly lit throughout most of the day. I could lock my bedroom door, plug in my CD player, and stare out at the world. That’s why my window seat was so beautiful, really. Through it, I could see more than my front yard and the neighbor’s houses and the lights of the suburban town beyond; I could see mountains in another world and seas that black magic almost froze over and gateways hidden among the urban grunge. That seat gave me a window into my own mind as much as it let me see outside. I could sit in that window seat for hours, breaking the flow of my pencil through innumerable pages only to give my dog, the only other one who shared my window seat, a scratch behind the ears. I eked out an entire manuscript in that window seat, lived a lifetime’s worth of dreams, met a world’s worth of places. I wrote my own story there more than I wrote any other.

Those kind of places are few and far between.

Yes, I need a new window seat. I need somewhere I can let my mind get lost.