Heft: Notes from the Grayspace

I’m struggling with self-worth right now.  I’m struggling with staying alive.  I’m an optimist sandbagged by depression, desperately clawing for hope.  Everything hurts right now: my body, my head, my spirit.  It all feels so heavy.  Is it always supposed to be this hard?

I feel like I have to force people to love me.  I chase until I am breathless, heaving.  Love was introduced to me as something I had to earn.  I never unlearned that.  When you’ve never really been wanted your whole life, when the only thing you’ve been to others is option rather than priority, it’s hard.  I wish I could gloss this with poetic language, make the pain sound pretty, but it’s not.  My emotions and mindset are coarse, brutal, unrelenting. My head is desolate, my throat tight, stomach heavy. I can’t even call it rejection, as it rejected implies that you fit somewhere at some point.  I am aimless, a nomad homesick for community.

People don’t want me as a person.  As a concept—something consumable, disposable, ready at their leisure—I am wanted.  But my vulnerabilities, my hopes and hurts and everything in between—nobody is interested in that.  I know this because when I ask for help, I am shamed. How dare the concept think she’s a real girl?!  How could you reach so close to others that you almost touch them?

I don’t want to be alive right now.  And I know this is so utterly hypocritical to my last entry, a stark contrast in message.  I meant every word I wrote last time.  I mean every word I’m writing now.  With every breath, I’m fighting to stay here.  The last thing I want to be is a tragic tale.  Part of this stems from believing that I am capable of multitudes, that I can offer others something good.  I still believe, as cloudy and everything is, that the best is yet to come.   I cannot house the responsibility I do as a sister and friend and mentor in this world and end things. Even if  I can’t be loved back, I am obligated to everything/one I’ve ever loved to continue.

But the other part is that I don’t want people to discuss me, and say “if only I knew, I would have done something”.  Let me be clear:  No you fucking wouldn’t have.  I’m fighting for my own life because I know nobody else will do it for me.  They will watch me drown, as I am screaming for help, and trust that some other person will throw me a lifejacket.  That other person doesn’t exist, and you don’t want to be inconvenienced.  My screams make you uncomfortable, and you will feel relief when they stop.

My mental health and self-care is my responsibility and no one else’s.  I am not pawning it off or expecting anything from anybody else.    But, then, if I fail at this.  If this is the monsoon season that drowns me, please don’t come to my wake wishing you knew and proclaiming your love for me.  You don’t love me.  You loved an idea that served you.  You didn’t know because you only saw and heard what sounded sweet and looked pretty. You were never interested in me, and it’s hard for me not to hurt over that.  It’s hard for me not to ache and cry and wonder, “why not me? Why never me?”  Why, after I learned to love myself, after I did set boundaries, after I have been my own knight in shining armor, after I have tried therapy and exercise, and got all the accolades was it never enough?  I could never ascend from the option category of anyone’s relationships.

“You are not a reflection of those who cannot love you, Marisa.  You are abundant.  They are smallness.  It’s profoundly unhealthy to emotionally flog yourself over matters you can’t control like this.  It’s out there.  What you’re starving for is out there.”  I tell myself these things a lot, repeating affirmations like prayer until they are spoken into reality.  I try to soothe myself.  But being regarded as inconsequential by so many for so long inevitably affects a person’s self-worth.  It happens over and over and over, reader.  It happens whether I want it to or not, regardless of strategy or lack there of.  Rejection finds me.  Scarcity finds me.  I attract all the things I ultimately repel.  They just linger long enough to remind me that I do not love being alone.

No answers are hidden in this post.  This is not a scavenger hunt for hope between sentences. Suicidal is familiar for me.  I’ve burrowed and barreled my way through agony and made transportation systems of my emptiness before.  It never feels easier, never lighter. I would more than willingly take a lifetime of this, if I knew I would be loved as something other than an afterthought.   But I don’t have that guarantee.  Depression, anxiety, and suicide are dragons I’ve slayed before, but I’ve never overcome my lack of belonging.  Loneliness is another beast entirely, savage and unrelenting. I can’t banish it through binge-ing, purging, sweating– I know this because I’ve tried.  You cannot be a village unto yourself.  I cannot make a community out of only me and be my only support system, and I don’t have a solution.  I put myself out there.  I am a good friend, sister, daughter, co-worker.  Hell, I’m even liked.  It is exhausting to put my whole self out there every time, all the time, and have nothing reciprocated.  I don’t think I can keep doing this, but I don’t know what else to do. I am an oxymoron– always brimming with life and fire, while always so close to the grayspace that is suicidal.  I don’t want to be that anymore.

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I didn’t always want this

My mind has always felt more haunted house than head.  I learned anxiety before the sound of my own name.  You can still hear it like an accent in all the unnecessary apologies I pepper in my sentences.  By 8, depression moved in. My head made islands out of crowded rooms. I never felt like I belonged, always isolated the the thunderous, looping fictions I told myself.

It became so loud that I attempted suicide 3 times–all before my sixteenth birthday. I played twister with medications–taking them in a variety of different fashions. I believed I was a burden.
I was eight when my perspective became more shadow than substance, when I defined myself as burden rather than being.

As I got older, I looked for people who were adrift like me.  I looked for wrists with scars that matched mine, like self abuse was a language written in hieroglyphics on the skin.  I wondered how many people saw food as the enemy instead of just… food.   I was homesick for community.  My pre-college self was a nomad desperate for a hometown, some coordinates to stake herself into.

College offered some relief.  Still, in college, I wondered how many people posted galleries of the lives they hoped to live, a contrast to loneliness.  Even when I was happy, surrounded by people, I’d feel my spirit drift in the gray space where you aren’t dead, but apathetic toward continuing to live.

Ten years ago, I couldn’t fathom my early twenties. It sounds so silly now, and I hope if I read this at 40, I’ll roll my eyes, howling. Conceptualizing a complex and fulfilling existence on the pillars of my own creation seemed more fantasy than future in my teens.

There’s nothing “after” about this.  Most days, my breath feels more concrete than air.  My head makes islands of crowded rooms. There are nights anxiety holds me hostage from sleep and mornings when everything outside me is barbed wire.  I don’t feel like I belong a lot.  I am what high functioning anxiety and depression looks like.  I’ve known depression longer than most of my favorite people. Anxiety is the native tongue I’d give anything  On the worst days, I choose my life over the alternative. Every day I live is a monument to survival, a love letter to all the women I’ve been before–thanking them for not letting go.  I can’t regard my past selves with anything but reverence, knowing that every painful day she/they endured brought me to this messy and beautiful and rich and unconventional marvel I call my life.

Temple

My thunder thighs don’t say temple.

My stretchmarks are not stones where monks kneel.

My bruises and scars are not made of stained glass.

My body isn’t a temple.

My body.

This body,

is capable of recovery and growth.

It meditates in the miracle of healing.

It’s not stagnant, not easily broken.

 

I don’t think he knows what my body isn’t– only what it is.

on his knees

Worshiping me

The focus and reverence on my skin,

wordless prayers on my lips–

I can tell I am church to him.

That this is a pilgrimage he’s made.

I don’t know all the lovers and deserts he’s fasted through,

What seas of strangers he’s parted to be here,

Right here,

Testifying at the center of me.

I don’t know what sermons he’s saying,

but I feel what they mean,

what he means in this monotheistic moment.

He makes me feel like this is the only god he could ever fathom praising.

 

I am not my own temple.

Any temple that’s suffered the wreckage I have would never survive.

But this can be a temple for him,

his sanctuary for his visiting touch.

We become shelters for those who honor us enough to let them stay.

 

Warning label to anyone who wants to date me

I wasn’t built to be small

Or quiet

Or demure.

I was made with a blowtorch rather than a paintbrush,

And my tongue is more stiletto than taffy.

I am Fortissimo on a Tuesday,

and utterly deafening come Friday.

To love me is to dance with me as I am,

rather than trying so desperately to sweep me off my feet.

To love me is to understand that cutting me down to size is like taking a nail file to the Himalayas,

Arrogant that you can reduce something that only knows how to be vast.

There’s a lot of dull sandpaper in my wake.

So you,

potential suitor,

you with lantern eyes lit by my fire,

I can’t shrink for you.

I won’t try

because I know what I was made for.

Love works like this

No one is ever yours.

You are not the keeper of a spirit,

nor the jailer of a soul.

You get to love them,

in doing that, you love everyone who has ever loved that person.

Even when you don’t like their loved ones, you love everyone

who guided this person to you,

who lit the way and led them into your arms.