Month: April 2016

Shrubface and Computer Eyes

My early twenties are a maze, and every step is a wrong turn leading me face-first into shrubbery.  I feel like there’s no way out.  I intentionally use “feel” and not “there’s no way out” because I know this isn’t forever.  Some tiny, piece of me is screaming to hold on.   She has hooks that she’s using to climb up my stomach and into my brain.  The other 90% of me isn’t so tenacious. Walking by on coming traffic, I think about hurling myself onto the metal and rubber.

That 10 lovely percent of myself responds to these fantasies.  My head churns with stories of people who survived jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge.  How (at least in the articles I’ve read) they realized mid-fall that almost everything that weighed them down was temporary.    Of course, my fear of most attempts is potential failure.  What if I become crippled from attempting to take my life and now (in addition to my student loans) am drowning in medical bills?  What if I become brain dead from a pill overdose?

Then I recoil to blame myself.  My self-esteem is all but gone, so flattened by rejections and moves and my job that my confidence is concave.  I’ve been an extrovert my whole life.  Now, I am anxious, hesitant, my identity swallowed by the past year.  Perhaps this is a rebirth.  Perhaps this is intended to keep me humble, but its side effects exacerbate an already poor situation.   Mondays-Fridays devalue me.  This city, this job, there is no task, place, or person that feeds me, that values me.  Reciprocity doesn’t exist here.  I’m so alone and exhausted from feeling like an excess part.   Here, I am awkward, nervous to share humor.  I’m in a perpetual state of discomfort.  There’s nowhere to unlock the barriers and let it come tumbling down.   I want to let go and be myself.  I would do anything to feel like myself again.  Now, I navigate some stranger’s body cursed with gloomy emotions, and I wonder where the hell I went.

Face full of shrubs and eyes on the cold light of a computer screen, I’m trying to write my way back to myself. I hope you return, former self.  I hope I keep these doors open for you, and I hope one day I’ll shrug this off as a gray period in a colorful life.

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I am not a Problem

Given that I’ve begun baring my soul to cyberspace, I want to contextualize how I got here.  I want to map the glaring feels and events that have boomeranged me back to depression and the urge to take my life.   We (people affected by mental illness) wander around.  We become tragedies, and no one ever bothers to trace the miles of footprints and clues narrating the climax when nobody bothered to listen.

I know it’s scary to hear someone say, “I’m considering taking my life”.  Your mouth begins moving before you can process the words.  In a flurry of verbal band-aids, you’re trying to seal fault lines far deeper than you can fathom.   This is a loving, desperate, well-intended act, but it’s rarely helpful.  I watched a TED talk about addiction where the speaker said, “the opposite of addition isn’t sobriety– it’s connection.”  Likewise,  the opposite of depression isn’t happiness.  The opposite of depressed is whole-hearted, authentic, connected.  What I’m asking you to do is counter-intuitive: Reach out, hold my hand, listen as I unpack every suitcase I gathered on this downward spiral.  Squeeze my hand when you’re scared, and try to remember that this feeling of terror and despair you’re feeling right now, it never leaves my body.  Imagine going through every day of your life with such pain coursing through you.  Trying takes on a newer, deeper meaning when you live with opaque blood.

I hate the city where I live. I’ve lived in the rustbelt before.  It’s always a brutal return.  Rust remains where progress can’t enter.  As a non-traditional spirit, I don’t fit here.  My life is in cities I no longer call home.  My things are in this cold and unforgiving city.  My job is here, but me– the best parts of me– aren’t here.  I know this is someone’s hometown, and how cruel of me to scorch someone else’s scared earth.   I don’t mean to disrespect others, but I am also done apologizing for my displeasure with this place.

As a teen, I experienced this.  I was seeing a counselor at the time who kept repeating, “Bloom where you are planted”.  Fuck you.  I do not owe it to the concrete to bloom there.  My roots don’t need to waste growth where they aren’t welcomed.  Every day, I try.  I’ve attempted to put my self “out there”.  Whatever out is, it wants me to go back in.  Between the rejection, the 45 minutes it takes to find a parking spot every day, the poor planning of this place geographically, and the distance from what I love, I no longer want to put effort into this black hole.   The cringe worthy, “Don’t you have a neighbor who can help? A friend or family member who can pick up a package or help you?” No, no I am doing this by myself.  I’m always doing things by myself without instructions.  Concerned people hear this and tell me how I need to “get out there”, locals lecture me on the greatness of this place, but my experience doesn’t require critiques from those who’ve never lived it.  My life is not a democracy.

I’m tired of people talking to me like I’m the problem.  Let me be clear: I am not a problem. I am a person. A person with a sometimes problemed mind, but my complications co-exist with everything about me that has overcome.  When I say that location contributes to my depression, do not deny it.  I’ve lived in places that haven’t loved me back before.  I become a mirror to my geography, and this is a fatal reflection.

Why not just quit your job and move?  Suffocating in student debt, my job pays well.   So well that even if I were to take a lesser paying job in a city I love and a second job, my income would still be significantly less.   I need it to feed myself and make my payments.  Frankly,  I worked 3 jobs throughout my college career, and I’m still exhausted.  The subject is so overwhelming, and I feel like I can’t carve my way out.  More and more, the choice becomes my finances or my life– it feels like one will surely claim me.

Trying these days looks like applying for jobs that will pay roughly the same as my current position in another city.  Trying looks like planning for the future– so I have a commitment to hang on.  I’m not a religious woman, but I pray all the time.  But with closed as and grasped hands, I beg God for a miracle.  One spectacular miracle.

In Two Pieces

I type this in two pieces– half of me wants to delete yesterday’s entry.  Admitting my suicidal thoughts and throwing that admission into cyberspace is terrifying.  To allow these words to exist validates them as a reality I steer through every day. But sometimes, all pain wants is for us to acknowledge that it exists and it’s allowed to take up space.  It’s allowed to breathe too.  I feel naked.  I worry about if my employer or a future employer reads this.  I worry about friends or family seeing this.

Before going further: please read this without alarms sounding off, without binding me in yellow caution tape. Suicide is serious.  It should be taken seriously, but I think that we can do that without jumping immediately to “GO SEE A THERAPIST”.  The jump signifies how uncomfortable we are hearing about depression and suicide– a societal cringe at the face of genuine discomfort.  We don’t want to hear it, and maybe this is why we lack the words to discuss depression and suicide.  What I can say is that the discomfort of hearing that your loved one is suicidal pales in comparison to the agony of living with a death wish.  It’s not so much about saying the right thing but daring to listen.

Like I said, I wasn’t sure if I should keep yesterday’s post up, let alone add to it.  But this is worth talking about.  Today is not a bad day.  Today is manageable, but depression is a hypersensitive condition, volatile and subject to change.  There’s not much to report, no updates.  Maybe that’s a good thing.  One of these days I’ll introduce myself further.  Today is not that day.  Today is Tuesday, and I’m here.

 

Camp

I am always summer camp for people–

A secondary world,

An escape wrapped in an expiration date.

How lucky I am to have a thousand pretty pictures as the only evidence of my existence.

 

Then fall brushes by, and I leave no trace.

They return to homes and lives,

Worlds without room for one more.

 

I know my life in solstices,

Where I belong by the season.

Nobody wants summer camp in winter.

They have families for that.

 

And me? I am an unasked question.

It doesn’t occur to the campers that I don’t want to be some seasonal aside anymore.

It’s exhausting to evaporate every autumn,

Shifting my matter to accommodate all the permanence I’m not.

Disappearing is an art I’m trying to unlearn.

Summer camp is self I’m trying to close.

We Don’t Know How to Talk About Them

The words are tethered to my tongue, and somehow, unraveling them feels like a Herculean task.   Then, I came across a Buzzfeed article written in memory of Aletha Pinnow, who took her life at the age of 31.  Her sister, Eleni, authored a poignant and heartbreaking letter about her sister.  In the text, Pinnow admits, “It seems like the only reason depression and suicide are such pervasive problems is because we don’t know how to talk about them,”. I, with that, want to talk about it.  I’m done beating around the bush in moody poetry and euphemisms.  I want to call this exactly what it is, to name the shadows inside myself: I am suicidal.   With the limited vocabulary and hesitancy of what repercussions there will be for posting something like this, I don’t know how to beat these thoughts. They’ve plagued me for more than half of my young life.  But I do know how to write, and while society hasn’t dug deep enough to find term to frame depression and suicide, I’m going to try to find them.  I’m self-conscious about having my picture attached to this, about allowing my name to be tied to this. I’m worried about what people will think about this.  But part of the problem with depression and suicide is how nameless it is.  We share our stories in past-tense, never acknowledging that silence becomes self-mutilation.  For as much as it terrifies me that this letter’s digital footprints will follow my future, I want to live more than I am afraid.

Like I said earlier, I’ve been suicidal before. I’ve crawled out of this before.  But every time depression claws its way back to me, it feels unfathomable to outrun it.  Depression makes a grain of sand into a ton of concrete—with me beneath it.  Sunday nights are the worst.  Almost every Sunday, my brain fades to gray, and the only pulse I feel surges, “End it. Just end it”.  I make myself a promise, “Just make it until Friday, and then you can end it”.  I think about the clean up—about an after that doesn’t include me and all the rubble you can’t see but someone else would have to move.  Were I to end my life, I want the transition for everyone to be as smooth as possible.  Life will go on whether I am alive or not.  It goes on.  It always does.

I am inconsequential. This is a fact in numbers: there are 7 billion people on the planet.  The loss of one nameless girl who apologizes for things that aren’t her fault will go largely unnoticed.  I live in a city where I have no support network and know few people.  For instance, I’ve been writing this at my desk at work and no one has noticed. My life is in cities I no longer call home.   I’m not the first name on anyone’s tongue.  The only way I know love is through a secondary language, the second part of a compound sentence.  I feign gratitude for table scraps of affection. I want to be grateful for being loved at all, but the shrinking fighter in my head reminds me that I deserve to be loved without a parenthesis, that I do not have to settle for scraps that will leave me little more than starving.

My head plays musical chairs between my depression and coaching myself through it. Frankly, I’ve had some pretty scarring experiences in counseling, and sometimes, that withering warrior in my head is better than all the “professionals” who I’ve seen.  I tell myself that mattering cannot be quantified.  I remind myself that when I was in high school, a classmate took her own life.  I’ve never forgotten her name, and we never met.  I’m addicted to inspirational quotes, to writing sincere cards and letters and text to those in my life who I love.  I put out into the world all the things I hope to get myself, in the hope that (at the very least) maybe someone else won’t hurt like I am. To a small community of people, I am an example.  What does it say to them if this is how I chose to leave?  How can I express such love and affection to them and abandon them? This is the main reason I say alive.  I do not want to be a cautionary tale told in someone else’s words.  I don’t want to be an excuse or colored by all the things I couldn’t mend together.

My reflexes urge me to end this entry on a hopeful note, on something that will make another’s eyes comfortable. I tend to do that—wrap agony in a bow so its delivery is soft and comfortable to other people.  Hope is scarce.  I feel like a have a golf ball lodged in my throat all the time and a dagger in my chest every day.  What I wouldn’t give to not feel broken. What I wouldn’t give to feel belonging—to actually belong.  I’m homesick for all the women I’ve been before.  Homesick for all the selves who survived.  I know they are still with me, but it’s hard.   “Marisa, see a counselor”  “Marisa, please go get help”.  I know therapy is about fit.  I know it is a process.  That process has been a painful one for me, one with condescending and violating people under the title of “professional”.  “Marisa, please try anyway”.  I’m trying.  I am.  The fact that I am breathing, here, performing to every expectation like nothing is wrong is evidence of my efforts.  So good at smiling that (if I never mention it) you won’t notice the tsunamis inside me.