Blog #2: Giving Up

(Trigger Warning/Spoiler Alert: suicidal ideology and depression.)

I started having panic attacks that have led to me missing work over the past month-and-a-half. I’ve never had this problem before — at least, not since I was agoraphobic. Even after my mom died, I used my PTO and went back to work on Day 7. After that, I didn’t miss a day of school or work. I never wanted to quit school, work, life more than then, but I still forced myself to continue on with all of those things.

I’ve always prided myself on my ability to seem okay when I was not. I couldn’t even count the number of times when I’d be contemplating suicide at work, and at that exact same moment, a customer I’d never seen before would remark, “you’re always so happy, every time I come in here”.

At the time, I felt a certain grim satisfaction at being able to trick the world into thinking that I had my shit together. I have never been great with showing vulnerability and I would have been damned before letting anyone see that my soul was actually a gaping pit of despair.

I know that the entertainment business is exploitative but I wonder if I left because of that or because I was terrified of being seen, of being important. When I left, I reveled in my renewed lack of relevance.

I started my new job almost 7 months ago, and for the first 5 months, I was great. It was the first time in my life that I wasn’t plagued with suicidal thoughts. I smiled for no reason, a lot. I felt like I was in control of my life, for the first time, ever. I was happy.

And then about a month-and-a-half ago, I had a panic attack at work. I left work early and came home just in time to pass out and fail to sleep off a migraine. I started doing therapy, and I started looking for a psychiatrist.

I had done everything right. I had found a stable job with stable hours, where I had one person’s job, a decent wage, and health benefits. But it wasn’t enough. All of the sudden, I was on the sidewalk, with God’s boot on my neck. Again.

I hadn’t missed that feeling, but I did wonder where it had gone and why it had come back. Since then, I’ve used up all of my sick and vacation days and now it’s actively costing me money to be mentally ill.

At my first therapy session, about a month ago, my therapist heard my issues, got some of my background, and said, “I’m going to fix you. Give me six months, and you’ll be all better.” She kept promising that she had The Answers for me, and during my third session, she gave me a bunch of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy tips.

I didn’t know that that’s what they were called, but I had already been doing all of those things, for years, and they just weren’t working anymore. When I let her know that, she threw up her hands and said, “Well then, you need medication!”

I broke my therapist after three visits. I’ve spent the last week feeling alternately proud and ashamed of that fact. But yesterday, I was getting ready for work when I started having a panic attack. I was like, “whatever, I’ll just muscle it out” but then I started to get a migraine and called out sick.

I went to two different Urgent Cares. At the second, they made an appointment with my GP — and it’s a testament to how long it’s been since I’ve been to a doctor that that didn’t occur to me until it was suggested. So, today, I went to my GP and asked for some help, and she prescribed me Paxil.

She also prescribed a new job and a psychiatrist, but those aren’t as easy to come by. So I took my first anti-depressant, ever, today. I cried before I did. It felt very much like a defeat, to admit that my brain chemicals had beaten me.

I think the worst part, though, is that this is my last hope, and I don’t know if it will work. I’ve been suicidal off and on, mostly on, for 32 years, and I have tried everything I can think of to try to empower myself and to counterbalance my darkest thoughts.

If medication doesn’t work, I have no more back-up plans. And if it does, I get to kick myself for not trying it sooner — although, maybe with a higher dose of serotonin firing through my synapses, I won’t be as hard on myself as I am now.

Blog #1: A Word About the World

When I was six, I had this neighbor. He showed me a dirty magazine and wanted me to kiss him. I was repulsed and horrified. I said that I heard my mother calling and made my escape. As I went to track down my mother, I knew that she would be furious, and I paused, worried that if I told her, she might murder the guy.

Then I had a worse thought. What if I told her, and she told me that I was wrong? That I was rude to have refused to kiss the guy? I pictured her sternly ordering me to go back and kiss him.

Was this the world I lived in? Until that moment, it hadn’t occurred to me that an adult would think that it was okay to kiss a child — like that. So what if my initial instinct was wrong? What if this was just the beginning of being asked to do something I didn’t want to do with someone I didn’t want to do it with?

The thing is, if I had told my mother, she probably would have murdered the guy. My first instinct was correct. But that was when I started living in duo worlds — a world in which justice is swift and merciless, and a world in which it never comes.

As I grew up and learned about slavery and rape and genocide, the world in which justice is real became smaller and less realistic. The other world became my whole world.

After I graduated from high school, I was agoraphobic for 10 years. I just couldn’t face going out into that twisted and corrupt world. I knew that I didn’t have a place in it — or maybe I was afraid that I did. One day, I woke up, and I was twenty-seven, and I realized that there weren’t two worlds.

We all live in a world in which people hurt and kill other people, for no reason. We all live in a world where children are put in cages, and that the majority of the population, myself included, just let that happen. We’re not happy about it, but we don’t know what to do about it, either.

How do you explain to someone who thinks that it’s okay to hurt children, that it’s not? If someone doesn’t inherently know that, is there even a conversation we can have with them?

We also live in a world in which people actively fight to save those children. We are surrounded by people who rescue children from fires and car wrecks and human trafficking. We live in a world in which young people become politicians just so that they can call out the corruption of the system that we operate within.

Every time I feel so weak that I’m not even sure I’ll even have the strength to draw in my next breath, in that same breath, someone else is using their words or their hands to help someone else.

It doesn’t seem like one world should be able to hold the depths of depravity and the heights of generosity that it does, but it does.

When I was young, I thought I’d be one of the Good Ones, I’d make the world a better place. In my heart, I was a revolutionary. Now, I’m a member of the Banal, a person who throws up her hands in the face of evil.

It looks like I’m a productive member of society, going out and working and cracking wise with my coworkers and friends. In reality, I’m hanging off of the edge of a cliff by my fingernails.

What can I do? is a question that can either have a million answers, or none. Right now, I’m ashamed to admit, I have none.

Blog: French Kiss

The movie French Kiss is a romantic comedy that came out in 1995 starring Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline. In the movie, Meg Ryan gets dumped by her fiance. She follows him to Paris to win him back and during her journey, she makes the acquaintance of Kevin Kline. Kevin Kline is a dirtbag who hides a grapevine seedling along with a stolen diamond necklace into Meg Ryan’s bag. He intends to start his own vineyard with this seedling, funded by the necklace, but we don’t know that, yet.

The movie has a plethora of quotable lines that I never hear anyone quote but that run through my own mind on any given day when faced with various situations. One line that often narrates my life is Meg Ryan mimicking Kevin Kline’s French accent as she mocks something he said to her earlier in the movie. “My ass is twitching. You people make my ass twitch.” Literally one of the best lines ever written, and Meg Ryan’s understated delivery is nothing short of elegant. Similarly, Kevin Kline’s subtle amusement at her mockery is delicious.

Throughout the movie, Kevin Kline is coaching Meg Ryan on how to seduce like a French woman so that she can win Whatshisface back. The thesis of the movie comes when Meg Ryan has had enough of this coaching and rants at Kevin Kline about her own particular approach to life.

“Happy — smile! Sad — frown! Use the corresponding face for the corresponding emotion!” She’s been told for the entire movie that her straightforward approach to life won’t get her the man that she loves, and she has been trying to behave (with some success) like the type of woman that her fiance left her for.

I think this is the quote that runs through my mind the most often. We’re all expected to walk around feeling hashtag blessed all the time, and when we express an honest negative emotion, we’re shamed for it. I was at my local Pizza Rev because pizzas are $6 on Tuesdays, and one of the girls on the assembly line asked me how I was doing. I usually answer “okay” because even though I’m on my lunch break from a job I hate, I’m also about to eat an entire pizza to myself. But I was having a particularly bad day, so I said, “tired and cranky.”

“Oh, you shouldn’t feel that way!” she chided. And here’s the thing. She knows she’s in the service industry. She knows that her job is to be agreeable as much as it is to make pizzas. And she almost immediately remembered that she’s not supposed to have opinions while she’s clocked in and immediately said something placating. I was irritated, but not at her.

Think about how ingrained a societal attitude about how we are allowed to feel, in order for that to override the training in obsequity. I broke the social covenant by answering honestly and was immediately put in my place. And it’s not the first time. I’ve heard “you shouldn’t feel that way” from friends, family, and strangers my entire life. I’ve heard it after answering “how are you” with “I miss my dead mom”.

Our emotions are constantly being policed, and if you think about it, you’ll remember times when you’ve policed other peoples’ negative emotions. I think the reason we do this is because we live in an individualistic society. I think about it like this. Everyone is carrying an armload of burdens, at all times. We’re expected to figure out how to deal with these burdens — throw them in a lake, hand them off to some dumb sucker who doesn’t know any better, keep them buried deep in side — whatever. As long as the person walking down the street toward you never sees them.

I was having a pretty intense panic attack at work a couple of weeks ago, to the point where I couldn’t hide it and had to tell my boss. I can’t even count how many times I apologized. She was very very nice about it but I couldn’t stop apologizing. I was more ashamed that I couldn’t hide how worked up I was than I was upset about whatever it was that was causing the panic attack. Later, I regretted owning up to the panic attack.

I could have hidden in the bathroom until I had it under control, like I usually do. But mental health experts are always saying that you shouldn’t isolate when you’re in pain, that that just increases the stress level. But I feel stressed, not relieved, that my boss saw me cry. Now I think she won’t take me seriously or can’t trust me with responsibility or thinks that I’m a flake. I hate that.

It’s not cruelty that makes it impossible to let each other feel the way that we feel.

Blogtion #1

I hadn’t spoken to my mother in forever, but this morning, I whispered, “I miss you”. Words formed a cool mist, drifting toward the ceiling.

Rather than dissipating, vapor permeated the pores in the paint and the wood above that, and then moved up, into the sky. They floated through the atmosphere and out into star-spangled space.

When they made it to Heaven, my mother reached out, gathering my words back together. She tilted her head and poured them into her ear. As they became a part of her, she looked down, down, down past my roof, my ceiling, into my soul.

She said something back. Whatever language she speaks now, or at whatever frequency she speaks it, is incomprehensible. But I felt it. It was like an another feather joining its friends in my down comforter.

I can’t wait to see her again, but if I don’t, I may not get to. What kind of messed up multi-verse is this, anyway?

I cried in the Lyft on my way to work. In my mind, I was in my future psychiatrist’s office, giving up.

At work, I trembled before answering my first call. And my second, and my third.

I walked to a new place for lunch and failed to leave before realizing it was too trendy (expensive).

I answered fifty-eight tickets today. I composed fifty-eight insincere apologies; half of them spoken, half written.

It’s 9:30. There were a hundred things I wanted to do after work, a hundred more I should have wanted to do. I didn’t do any of them. Good night.