Tag Archives: sad

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

The Golden Rule

12 Sep

I wish I had not learned the Golden Rule so well. Then I would not let fuckers like you be so blatantly rude to me while I turn the other cheek, look the other way so that you might laugh in the other side of my face too.

I would not let you get away so easily with your attack on my sense of contentment with my value as a person. I would make you atone for your attrition – or else do it for you. I would pull a gun on you, as you sit there in your drop-ass car with your backwards hat, jeering at me through your rear view mirror like the fucking scum you are. Who fucking raised you that way? Who fucking let you become what you are? People like you, people who go out of their goddamn way to make somebody else’s day worse, to flaunt their privilege just to get in other’s way, to fucking get off on causing another’s misfortune – people like you, they don’t deserve to pollute the population on this earth. I would shoot you, if I had not learned the Golden Rule so well. I would be someone who carried a gun in the first place.

Sure, I might not have been there for you to inconvenience in the first place. But at least I would not have been the only one to carry that risk.

If I had not learned the Golden Rule so well, I would not have walked through my front door minutes ago crying, because once again, I let another person, another man do what he wanted to me while I sat there, silent. I would not be sitting here on my bed typing this in my bra and underwear, because I must be naked to allow myself this much raw and quivering rage. This is my rant. This is my anger. This is me.

But you, man with the backwards hat in that car on the road, you will never know this.

Keep calm, carry on. Seek justice, but only for those others, and never for yourself. This is the way that peacetime works.

Let the man push you. Let him threaten you. Let him prevent you from leaving. Don’t kick his car door in. Don’t fling the car door out, sucker punch him to the gut. Don’t pick up your bike and walk in front of the goddamn prick. Don’t show him any resistance.

Keep calm. Stay quiet. It’ll pass. Then you can leave.

But there’s no justice in that.

I wish I had not learned the Golden Rule so goddamn well.

A Lover’s Lament

19 Jun

A Lover’s Lament, or “I Am Confused.”

I am confused, dear lover. I am confused how you could choose to throw me away like trash, while I am only just now beginning to slough off the skin of our life together like so many dead cells become love litter. The detritus of memories rots there on the floor, as every day I am forced to trample it underfoot as if it were nothing, and I were not worried in every moment that something will snag and I will trip. Too often, so often, I fall anyway. I am confused, dear lover.

I am confused, dear lover. I am confused how you could not be at every moment distracted, wondering where the new rush of air through one more hole you hadn’t noticed in yourself is coming from. Does not your body ache from the pock marks of so many barbed associations? Are you not left with new emptiness and crevices as the once fertile ground of your soul dries and cracks with a terrible opening groan? Do not you feel as if there are parts of you missing? Are you not spending every waking and sleeping moment searching for where they have gone and how you could possibly, desperately, ever in your life or your death get them back again? Are you not dying from the nothing of where you used to be filled? I tremble every second, wondering if this will be the time when my increasingly paltry skeleton crumbles. Did I not make up just as much of you? I am confused, dear lover.

I am confused, dear lover. I am confused how you could have escaped the shroud of insanity that is slowly settling over me as I see your ghost at every turn. My mind breaks just a little more every time I must exorcise your demons, finding again a phantom that must be released from a particular way of flicking my hand, or tilting my voice, or arranging my face. I do not know whether it is better to slowly tease away where you have interwoven with every fiber of my being in an attempt to salvage what is left of the original cloth, or if I should just cry to hell and remove the stuff of both you and me with a slaughter of tearing, unforgiving attrition. It’s not like I would be left any more frayed than I am becoming now. I am surprised, from the way that your fingers used to interlock with mine, that you are not finding yourself similarly ragged. I am confused, dear lover.

Oh dear lover, I am confused.

Unfinished

15 May

Unfinished

I am grown weary of these boys who break us,
of burnt fingers from hot coffee
and not quite enough substance to the cup.

I am grown tired of these days that crack us,
of bones knocked brittle
by the wear and tear of an all-too-ordinary misery.

I am grown numb from this buzzing in the background
of all the past little onslaughts
that have left us printed with the ink of yesterday’s news.

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.

Waiting

2 Nov

Image

He threw his hands in the air and looked at her with angry bewilderment. “Well what was I supposed to do?” he shouted. “Change what happened? Fix everything? You know I can’t do that!”

But she only closed her eyes and gave one small, sad shake of her head. “That night, I just wanted you to come and find me,” she whispered. “You didn’t.”

Brains are weird.

19 Sep

brain art

Good morning lovely readers! I’m back from my sojourn to the US’s southern regions and have returned to the land of no humidity where I don’t wake up every morning with a dozen new mosquito bites. It’s the little things in life.

But, lovely readers, I have a bone to pick. Well, not so much a bone as a fairly squishy organ. Yup. The brain.

Brains are weird. And by “weird” what I really mean is “confusing asshole.” A lot of you may know that I am a depression recoveree. (Yes, I know the word is technically “recoverer,” but I like “recoveree” better and this is my blog, so there.) Most of the time I am some level of “fine.” No, this summer wasn’t the nastiest my depression has ever been, but it was fairly unfun. Whatever.

For the past three weeks – the period of time I spent traipsing around Florida and Georgia with my boyfriend and my best friend – I’d found a sort of respite. For three blessed damn weeks, it wasn’t a struggle to push myself out of bed in the morning (beyond my normal pre-coffee grogginess, that is). For three weeks, I didn’t have to walk around feeling like my heart was twisted into a coil and my soul was stuck crushed beneath an anchor. For three weeks, the shackles of anxiety and worry and loneliness I’ve grown so used to trudging around in that I don’t even think of them as “not normal” anymore – they just weren’t there. Sure, there was a maybe a moment or two of freak-out, but they were only that – a moment. I wasn’t left with an unrescinding haze hanging over me for days. I felt… free. Light. Even happy.

Then I come back to Los Angeles. Normally touching down at LAX fills me with relief (usually ’cause I’ve just returned from an obligatory trip to that emotional war zone known as my house in Missouri) – but this time, not so. I felt… lonely. But whatever. I shook it off as jet lag or something.

Then I entered my dorm room.

This is why I say brains are weird. (Ahem, confusing assholes.) Brains make connections between physical locations and emotional/physiological responses, right? Seriously – that’s why some drug addicts can overdose on what had been a usual amount of whatever substance for them if they do it somewhere out of the ordinary; their brain wasn’t given the environmental stimulus that told it “I’m going to do x amount of y here” and so it didn’t ramp up the necessary physiological response to cope with that x amount of y.

Anyhoo. Back to my dorm room. About that environmental stimulus… sure, I had just spent an incredible three weeks being happy, but guess what connection my brain had made between my being alone in my dorm room and what emotion I would be feeling?

Yup. Hey there, depression. How not nice to see you.

I keep trying to tell myself that the amount of sadness and loneliness that came crashing over me is understandable. Yeah, I had just spent the past three weeks surrounded almost 24/7 by the people I’m closest to – it’s understandable that there would be some kind of backlash, some kind of withdrawal to their suddenly not being there. I hope.

Yes, I had spent the entire summer forging a connection between the “dorm room” and “depressed” neurons in my brain, so of course there would be a noticeable shock when they fired together again after having laid dormant for three weeks. I think.

It’s just… odd, feeling these feelings again after having been happy for what feels like so long. It’s like I’m walking through a familiar landscape, but suddenly all the angles are odd and the walls jut out in weird places. While yes, this loneliness and the sadness born from it are familiar dressings, suddenly the skin just doesn’t fit right. I have found another shape, and the part of my consciousness that knows that is disgruntled at being forced back into old containers.

With diseases like depression, they say you can’t run away from it, because wherever you go, there you are. But what if it isn’t me? What if it is where I am? The place where so many events and tears have stained the carpet and the walls with memories and expectations? What if I can go somewhere else where there aren’t those constant visual triggers? What if it is not that I can’t run away from it – but that I can at least not walk right in?