Carl Sagan is my spirit animal

So, this one time, my friends and I decide to take some powdered “mescaline.” In retrospect, this probably wasn’t mescaline. We ended up calling it the “research chemical,” and man oh man, I lost my mind! I am not sure why I reacted so powerfully to it while my friends didn’t. I mean, they were definitely high, but I was in deep space in comparison. Honestly, most of it is a blur. (I can only assume chemically-induced insanity does that to a person.) So, I only remember bits and pieces, but some of those pieces were really profound. 

 Heh, right. A few highlights:
 I start looking at my friends and realizing that they are really an amalgam of all the important people in my life. Rather than thinking this is super weird, I realize that that there is a perfectly logical explanation for this- we are immortal beings that created the universe to give us something to do! We get bored, so periodically, we create worlds in which to live. The problem is, sometimes we forget that we are actually immortal beings! This can be fun for the others, because that means they can start mucking about with our world, making it so miserable that finally we call uncle. This is why I end up laughing about horrible things like cancer and war- I couldn’t believe what assholes my friends were for putting those horrible things in my universe.
 I keep complaining about being in the desert and being soooooooo thirsty, so my friends keep trying to give me glasses of water, which I keep not drinking. No, I take these glasses of water and empty them over my shoulder onto the floor.
 Apparently, I keep chirping the word “skillet.” My friends are confounded. (And, the next morning, so was I. Why “skillet”??)
  Finally, the story of the subject line. (My favorite part, of course.) There comes a point where I am just completely and utterly lost in my head. I don’t know where I am, who I am, and I don’t remember that I ever knew anything different. (I am pretty sure this is referred to as “ego death.”) My friends at this point are kind of freaking out because I have been acting so strange all night, and their anxiety is rubbing off on me. (More like leaking into my pores at this point, but, y’know.) I start having this flashes of horrible things, like the world ending and bombs going off outside. Things get really dark. But then I hear a voice. A soothing voice. A wise voice. It is like a cool rag on my fevered brow, as these things go. Finally, it occurs to me that this is the one and only Carl Sagan, and he is here to talk me down. He keeps talking about how everything is connected, that life is a web, and everything is so, so chill. Heh. I don’t know how long I listen to Carl, but I assume that I drift to sleep on the sound of his voice, because the next thing I know it is morning and it is time for me to go home.
  My friends didn’t tell me until a week or so later, but they thought that I was lost forever. They didn’t know if I would ever come back from deep space. But they didn’t know what I knew.
  They didn’t know that Carl Sagan is my spirit animal.

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I must be vigilant. Always mindful. Because it is addictive. Addictive and sly. It creeps up on me, all familiar melancholy. Friendly. Like an old friend softly whispering “remember me?” and the draft warm on my skin. A caress. But it is dangerous. It’s soporific and narcotic, nearly sexy. An injection of sorrow strait to the blood steam, which doesn’t take long to seep into the brain. From there it trickles down to the chest, lodging there heavy and immutable. But this takes  time. To begin, it innocently masquerades as the blues. As nothing serious- just a fault of the light. It is sneaky that way. Drip-dripping little drops of gloom into my bright world. Like little hits of acid, bringing out the poignancy of the mundane. Ironically, making pretty things shine. For a time. Soon enough, though, it is no longer gentle. The sweet sadness turns sour, bitter, bleak. The draft becomes still. The air grows stale. My soft flesh becomes so much meat, my body incapable of holding any heat. It becomes insufferable, but impossible to ignore. I shiver, my heart heavy. I stare at my feet, my brain become so much dead weight. And for this, no reason. No decent reason at all. Just the result of a somber seduction, a lugubrious affair. A temptation by the darkness, and the inevitable surrender, by and by. So this is why I must be wary. Always mindful and ever alert. Because it is always only a matter of time.

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.

Nostalgic about Nostalgia, an inner monologue

My brain: “Hey, remember when you used to remember when?”

Me: “Uh, you mean when I was miserable and I couldn’t stop thinking about the time when I was just melancholy?”

My brain: “Yup!”

Me: “Yeah, I remember those feels. It has certainly been a while since I felt those feels. . .”

(Interlude of reminiscence.)

Me: “Wait. Are you fucking kidding me? Do you have me being nostalgic about NOSTALGIA??”

My brain: “Tee hee.”

Me: “Asshole.”

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.

I need new words saved

My old phrases of melancholy,

Withered vines and

Grey skies

No longer apply.

The taste of dust,

The waste of time,

Ruts and rust and dirtied skies

All of these I’ve left behind.

The ubiquitous blossom

Has finally thrived.