Archive for the ‘Journal’ Category

Weeds

The sunlight on the weeds is surprising. They are weeds, bane of my new domestic life. I spend weekends bent over the lawn, spraying them with gusto, one by one. I savor their imminent demise, the browning of their leaves and the shriveling of their blooms. The fact that they are not inherently distasteful plants, in fact are quite nutritious, gives me some pause. They are not noxious, are not poisonous, do not damage the skin. They simply have a reputation. It is this reputation that dooms them. So seeing them in this light, both literally and figuratively, is disconcerting. They are beautiful. I want to run through them, freeing their potential. Watching the seeds fly, domestication be damned.

Risk Pitch, long version

I spent a good portion of my early twenties in a haze of undiagnosed depression and severe anxiety. It wasn’t new to me. I’d felt the same way throughout middle school and high school. (And I guess elementary school, too, because I recall my 5th grade teacher calling me a “worry wart.”) Nevertheless, the fact remained that I was not at all well, but I had lived with anxiety and a bone-deep sense of melancholy for so long that it felt normal. It seemed normal to me to regularly spend 5 hours on my couch, in my crummy apartment where I lived alone, compulsively reading while the light failed. It felt normal to me to be so acutely uncomfortable around other people that I never had close friends. And while I knew it wasn’t normal, it didn’t surprise me to wake up every morning disappointed that I wasn’t dead.

Still, there were some perks to being a severely depressed young woman. For one, sensitive male-types found it endearingly romantic. So, I got a lot of ass. Which didn’t really fix things, of course. But fuck it. Orgasms are nice! Secondly, I wrote a lot back then. Not stories or poems, I’d tried the poem thing in high school and the results were, well, painfully bad. They were just, I dunno, little vignettes? Little metaphors for how sad I was. (So fucking profound, am I right? Heh.) Anyway, some of them weren’t bad. Even now I’m not embarrassed by them. But I can’t tap into that ability any more. Writing used to be a pressure valve, a way to siphon off some of the pain. . . and I’m not in pain anymore.

The final perk of my incessant depression was the fact that good moments felt sooo fucking good. It is as if my subconscious knew that I wasn’t going to feel anything nice again for a long, long time and so blew all my happy juice on the simplest of things. Like, “Oooooh, a pretty flower! Life is so amazing!” Or, “Oh, you talked to someone about the weather? Connecting with people is great!” Or, “Hey! Your bedroom ceiling is leaking.  It’s soooo beautiful!!” Yeah, that’s right folks. I thought it was beautiful that my bedroom ceiling was leaking. The reason? The rainwater was pouring down the wall so heavily that it looked like a river meandering across the surface of the old, peeling paint. I pressed my fingers against the wall, and the water was cool to the touch, and the light was glinting off of the trickles making it sparkle, and the appearance of a river in my apartment was such a surprise, such a distraction from the day to day effort of not killing myself that it felt like a present. And I was, if briefly, full of joy. And there are times when I miss that sense of profundity.

Now that I am medicated, and I am doing great by the way (never been better, actually), I don’t wake up disappointed that I woke up. I don’t suffer debilitating existential crises about the inevitable heat death of the universe every other evening. Basically, my unhappiness, when I am unhappy, is directly proportional to the unhappy things in my life. But, even though I don’t wish for death anymore, I can’t help but feel that the part of me that wanted to die. . . did. Because the part of me that reveled in my leaking roof, instead of just being pissed that I lived in such a shitty fucking apartment (which I did), is gone now.

And sometimes I miss her.

Dabbler

I’ve never been much of a writer. More of a dabbler, really. I know how to use words, how to put them together in a pleasing enough way, but the point always seems to be lacking. My best works are a handful of vignettes, anything more complicated being beyond my abilities. Even then, I haven’t written anything in months. The pathos is gone, the easy atmosphere of poetry has dissipated. Melancholy was the medium with which I worked best, but it has been drowned in a soup of reuptake inhibitors and oxytocin.

It is the sense of romanticism I miss, I suppose. The connection made, however illusionary. I relished the word choices, rolling syllables across my tongue experimentally. I was full of anticipation, busy weighing connotations and alliterations, trying to match the rhythm of my mental monologue. Now though, I am placid. I move in a cloud of peace and pleasure. There seems little enough reason to chase a cursor.

I fear, though, there is a part of me that misses the act of contrivance, no matter how paltry. I worry that my tranquility makes me boring, that it makes me shallow. And no matter how fervently I assure myself that I don’t care if I am boring, that being boring is a small price to pay for calm, I can still feel a little part of myself cringe. I can’t quiet the part of me that wants to show the world that I am shiny inside. I don’t want to live on the work of others like a parasite, no matter how brilliant their stories are. But, coming full circle, I’m not much of a writer. I don’t write stories. I only dabble in vignettes. But dabbles will have to do.

Sustained by the Sertraline

It’s an uncomfortable fact, but I need the medication. It serves as a reminder that things are okay. The pills fill my synapses the same way they bridge the gaps between the bright spots of my day. They make me buoyant enough to float above the muck and mire that is my natural disposition. Without them, I’d struggle to remain positive, if I weren’t usually so apathetic. Without the chemicals to tide me over, the tide would take me out. But nonetheless, sometimes I forget that the peaceful bliss isn’t natural. I forget to take a pill one night, then another, until the missed pills bleed together under the growing pall of my days. Vaguely agitated, subtly blue, it takes some time for things to register. It takes some time for me to realize that, no, there is no reason for the misty eyes or the weight on my chest. I don’t know why it comes so slowly- the realization that there is no reason to feel so damn miserable that the sky is grey or that there are idiots in the world. Maybe it is because it feels so natural to me to be depressed. Settling into the blues feels like wrapping up in a threadbare, but familiar, blanket. And there are short lived benefits- self-pity feels pretty good, sad music is goddamned brilliant again, hugs are lovely, and cigarettes are fucking delicious. All of this is so familiar, so natural, that I almost can’t help but forget that I don’t have to feel that way. So who can blame me if it takes until the bittersweet melancholy wears off before I remember to take my pills again? Can there be blame when I can’t seem to help myself until the lead has firmly settled around my heart and my brain has filled with bile? If so, at least I have the cure. No longer do I have to stay in the depths I descend to; I don’t have to suffer long amidst the detritus of my morbid fascination with gloom. It’s an uncomfortable fact, but I have the medication. It serves as a reminder that things are going to be okay.

Depression Stories

What was depression to me? It was so many things: apathy, melancholy, nihilism, lethargy, hopelessness, and escapism.

I suffered from social anxiety issues since I was in elementary school, but it wasn’t until high school that my depression really set in. And let me tell you, when it got comfortable, it settled in bone deep. I didn’t suffer from depression, I was depression. I existed within a miasma of unhappiness. It seeped from my pores, and I expelled it on my breath. Often times I was sure that my heart would simply stop beating, the physical sense of oppression was so heavy. It got to the point that I forgot what happiness even was. Instead, I became a connoisseur of negative emotions. I learned the difference between the apathetic, dry sort of depression and the poignant, almost narcotic, misery. I wallowed in anything that made me feel even the least bit alive, and elevated these activities to romantic proportions. I developed a taste for melancholy music, clove cigarettes, and metaphor, desperately imagining myself as the tragic protagonist of my own movie. (Basically, I was emo before it was “cool” to be emo.)

During this first period of depression, I ended up meeting my first boyfriend, who ended up being an abusive asshole. I wasted four years with that prick, from age sixteen to age nineteen. Speaking now, from a medicated place of happiness, I can’t understand why I stayed for so long. But, depression eats you alive. Things can only get so much worse before it all feels the same. I think a part of me may have actually relished the occasional jolts of fear and outrage he made me experience. It reminded me that I still had feelings.

When I was finally able to leave him (my brother found out and beat the ever-loving shit out of him), I was in a fog for months. By this point, I had no friends and no hobbies. I was also broke, because I had moved out of my mother’s place and into the shitty attic of my brother’s house. I would spend hours after work, just lying on my mattress and either shivering or sweating (there was no a/c or heat up there). I wouldn’t eat, and really couldn’t sleep. The only thing that gave me any sort of pleasure was writing journals- it helped me externalize my feelings and made me feel productive.

Eventually, I reconnected with some people I knew from high school, and things got better. Much better. I started doing things! I hung out! I did things that I wanted to do! I made stupid mistakes and had a great time doing it! Basically, I stared having feelings again. Then, I started feeling happy for the first time since I was a little kid. It was amazing. Those were great days. It was like waking up for the first time. Like feeling the warmth of the sun on your skin after an impossibly long winter. I felt reborn.

But it didn’t last.

A year or two after that, I had a falling out with these friends and started to spend a lot of time alone. I worked full time and didn’t go to college. I had my own place at this point, so I basically lived in silence on my futon. I’d spend the hours after work sitting there with my nose stuck in some book, not noticing that my happiness was leaching away with the fading light. At some point, I noticed I was no longer happy. But it wasn’t the depression I was used to. It wasn’t the poignant suffering I remembered from being a teenager, or the fog I experienced after my first break-up. No, it was. . . nothing. It was boredom. Just extreme, soul-crushing boredom. And it was slowly leaching away my will to live.

Never before had I considered suicide, but now I started waking up disappointed. Not disappointed that I woke up alone (because I did have a series of short, ill-advised relationships), but because I woke up at all. I had no goals. No ambition. No friends or pets or even plants. It was just me and my books.

Then, I was laid-off at my new job.

I managed to get on unemployment, and actually ended up making more on it than I had been at my previous job. Had I been in a better frame of mind, I would have had a great time! But now I had nothing to do, and no desire to do anything anyway. My new past time became fantasizing about suicide. About how I could do it so it looked like an accident. Or, how I could do it so I wouldn’t make a mess. Or how I could do it so it would cause the least distress for my family.

I just wanted out. Nothing mattered to me anymore. There was no meaning to me, to life, to the universe. It was all an endless pit that would result in the heat death of the universe anyway so why the fuck not?

So, I wrote the letters. One to each person I cared about, telling them how this wasn’t their fault and trying to explain myself. I sealed and signed the envelopes. I wrote my own eulogy. I put together my own playlist. I left all this on my coffee table, went into my kitchen and grabbed the sharpest knife I had, and took it with me into the bathroom. I took my phone out of my pocket, flipped it open at looked at it. And I kept looking at it. You see, my plan was to slit my throat over the bathtub, then call 911. I didn’t want to be saved, but I didn’t want my family to find me like that. I figured it would be easier for them that way.

But, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t, because I knew it would never be easy for them. No matter what I did. And while I didn’t want to hurt anymore, I didn’t want to hurt anyone else.

I couldn’t live that way anymore, but I couldn’t stop living.

So, I made a decision. And it was the best decision I ever made.

I started taking care of myself again. I started working out and eating better. I started taking massage therapy classes to give myself something to do. I got a job and got off unemployment. I started going to college. I started seeing the therapists at the student center. Then I started taking medication. I started feeling better, and I started making friends. Then I started liking life again. Then I started liking myself again.

Then I met my fiancé, which just made my life even better.

___________

I was lucky.

I still take medication, and I still sometimes feel melancholy for no reason. I am also incredibly afraid of feeling bad, because I know how easily bad can go to worse. But I am so thankful to be alive.

Had I taken my own life, I wouldn’t have known how good life can get.

So, to anyone reading this, if you are thinking about suicide, please get help. Talk to someone, get on medication, start doing things that make you feel better, start being kinder to yourself.

And if you can’t do these things for you, do them for your friends and family. If you take your own life, you make not be around to feel pain anymore, but everyone else will suffer because of you.

So please, get help, because it gets better.

Hypothermia of the Heart

I can barely remember the last time I wrote something simply because I wanted to. I simply haven’t had any ideas or thoughts I’ve wanted to express, which, I suppose, is a good thing. The only time I ever feel like writing is when I feel a particular way. Writing, for me, is a way of intellectualizing emotions that I don’t want to feel. Through abstraction I am able to distance myself from my discomfort. It becomes something to manipulate, rather than something that is manipulating me. But when I am happy, no words will come because I do not call for them. It is only when I start feeling that dreadfully familiar weight on my chest that I feel the need to chase the cursor. Words and sentences become handholds, something for me to grasp as I attempt to extricate myself from my own negativity. It is as if, by pinning those feelings to a page, I can remove them from myself. And here I am, writing again, even if it is only a paragraph. A part of me is ashamed of this. What did I do wrong that I must feel melancholy again? But it rarely is a matter of doing, and simply a matter of feeling. This winter is finally getting to me. Consider this paragraph a plea to the seasons for change. Bring me warmth and sunshine, flowers and breeze. I can’t take any more of these icy streets.

Not just a long hiatus

As time goes on, I find myself missing my father more and more. Rarely a day goes by when he doesn’t cross my mind. We never spent much time with one another. Sometimes, months would go by before we would get together, which was fine with me because he mostly drove me nuts. So, maybe that is why I now find myself missing him so regularly. I’ve finally realized that this isn’t one of our long hiatuses. No, unfortunately, it is something far more permanent. The pain I feel when I realize he will never again make fun of me for listening to The Weepies is just as acute as when I realize he will never see me married. I guess this is the perspective that finality brings- that the little things are only “little” for their commonality, not their worth. In hindsight, all my memories of him are precious, even the ones I once thought I’d rather forget.
I’d never lost anyone close to me before my father. At least, not once I could fully grasp what death really meant. This isn’t to say that my father’s death took me entirely by surprise, despite the fact that it was unexpected. I’d written his eulogy in my head dozens of times before, back when I thought his most likely cause of death would be suicide. Honestly, I should think my late Aunt Carol for saving me from that particular tragedy. If she hadn’t taken that step first, I’m sure my father would have done more than just consider it. That said, while his death was heartbreaking, the circumstances could have been much worse. The fact that he died happy, rather than hopeless, is a source of bittersweet relief for me. It is both a balm for my grief and an irritant. I’m glad he died happy, but I would have much preferred him to live happy.
I like to think I’ve handled his death as well as a death can be handled. I finished out the semester, helped clean out his house, I didn’t break down at the funeral, and the strange neurosis I developed (where I thought every message or phone call was a notification that someone had died) didn’t last long. This might have partly been in thanks to the incredibly vivid dreams I had about my father shortly after he died. (When I could finally get to sleep, of course.) There were only three of them, but all of them involved me explaining to my father that he was dead. By the third, he finally seemed to understand, but his unhappiness was palpable. While I realize that these dreams were my method of coming to terms with what happened, and once I had, that they weren’t needed anymore, I still miss them. They felt so real. Interacting with a figment is better than nothing, I suppose.
Still, despite my perspective of dealing with his death well, I can’t with honesty say that I’ve so much dealt with it so much as I’ve done a damn good job of avoiding it. I plastered up the space he used to hold with rationality and distraction. Intellectually, I allowed myself to accept that he was gone, and gone for good. I likened his passing to a corrupt hard drive, and imagined he would find it fitting. I took superficial comfort in the law of conservation of energy, while ignoring the fact that there is no relief for grief in protons and electrons. I acknowledged that his passing was a shame, but I rarely allowed myself to actually feel how goddamn shitty it was that he was gone. I tricked myself into skipping all the steps before acceptance, saying I’d gone through it all in my head many times before. And yes, I do accept his death. I can’t not. But I did both of us a disservice when I didn’t allow myself to experience the anger, frustration and grief of his passing, simply because I grasped the immutability of his passing.
Now, though, I find myself missing my father more and more. Rarely a day goes by when he doesn’t cross my mind. Very slowly I am allowing myself to remember him, and miss him. I’m letting myself feel angry, and I’m letting myself feel sad. Because that is what he deserved, and it is what I deserve as someone who loved him.

I wish you were here pops. I miss your face.