[i am the work, in progress]

by: Jenuine Poetess

I wasn’t going to write this blog, post this blog, admit this truth. Not now. Maybe not ever. And if I did, I imagined writing about this in ten years. When I could look back on this moment with all of the wisdom and togetherness of the future me I imagine. When I could say, “I have struggled with this.” Instead of, “I am struggling in this.”

I tell myself there is less shame in being on the other side of something, than being in the midst of it. Because on the other side I will have survived it. Will have overcome it. Will have gotten my shit together to pull myself up and out of this pit.

I’d never tell a client, a friend, a kindred that. Because I don’t believe that. Not for anyone. I save my harshest notions for myself. It is a peculiar gift.

This morning I have cried myself into vomiting. I have done some laundry. Washed some dishes. And made sixteen compelling arguments to myself for why I should never write or say to another living soul, not even my therapist, any of the things I am about to write.

I thought I could get away with never talking about this and certainly not writing about it right now. But last week there was a gas leak found in the 100 year old house in which my apartment exists. This initiated a chain reaction of needing to let repair people into my home space, which triggered an anxiety about that very thing, because of all of the shame I have been holding about the physical state of my home, which resulted in vomiting and crying and a small asthma attack, which turned into a temporarily emotionally paralyzing dread/despondence. Now there are repair people replacing all the gas pipes in the whole house which means I need to let them into my space. I don’t care that much about the judgments or opinions of repair people I likely will never see again. But eventually, when I have to go to work and they need to get into my apartment, my landlord will see my ugly truth. My landlord is a friend, whom I respect and admire. I’m horrified to have to let anyone I know into my mess. My literal, shameful, ugly, mess.

I’m not being modest. I’m not talking about a basically ordered home with one stray sock on the floor and two books out of place. I’m not talking about haven’t dusted in a month. I’m not talking about an unmade bed.

I just renewed a 12 month lease and I have a whole room of boxes I never unpacked. I have piles of the clothes I wash but can’t find the motivation to put away. I have dishes that have piled, used and unwashed, for probably months.

I look at my surroundings. I look at myself in the mirror. I wonder, “how did I let it get this bad?”

I don’t exactly know.

I just know that somewhere along the way of excruciating loss; of grieving; of a profound plunge into unspeakable darkness; of deciding to continue breathing again and again every day I wake up; of not wanting to continue breathing every day I wake up; of the grueling work of therapy and healing; of showing up in community; of fighting for every pulse, every act of resilience, every choice to hope instead of despair; somewhere, in all of that, keeping house got lost in the midst of surviving.

I’m having trouble being kind with myself.

Chores. Dishes. Cleaning my space. It is so basic. I learned it from the beginning. I was raised to keep an immaculate space. I always loved making a peaceful, orderly, inviting home where I could welcome friends and neighbors to eat, to rest, to gather. I used to be a professional organizer. I got paid to create and maintain order. I helped others through their messes into a place of self-love and organization.

I’m struggling to offer myself the same compassion.

I’m a grown woman, around the corner from 40. I hold a master’s degree. I’m a therapist. I should have all of the tools and knowledge and experience to deal with this. I should be able to implement positive coping skills. I should know how to handle this grief healthily.

I should…

I forget: my education and clinical practice were never an inoculation against struggle; they are not some impermeable armor that protect me from ever having to practice the thrashing bones of this kind of knowing.

In the last year and a half, while accumulating chaos in my home I have also maintained regular sessions with my therapist; I have continued to direct and grow community arts programming I developed three and a half years ago; I have shown up for friends in laughter and in sorrow; I have studied for and passed two intense professional licensing exams; I have began working in private practice with a kindred friend and colleague whom I cherish, respect, and admire immensely; I traveled internationally by myself to a global conference of artists and poets; I have published my first collection of poems; I have laughed with joy; I have found myself dancing; I am learning how to trust again; I am creating art; I am being alive.

This is not a list to brag. I document these things to remind myself I am not a failure. To remind myself that even in the midst of debilitating grief, I am yet thriving.

I am trying to talk myself into compassion and out of shame.

The mess in my home can be amended. There are clean dishes drying in the rack. There is laundry that can be washed and hung up. There is trash that can be taken out.

I’m trying to talk myself back into loving kindness.

I neglected the parts of my life and my environment that would suffer the least in order to show up for the things too valuable to lose. I just realized that. And I’m deciding that that is OK.

I don’t want to stay here. In the chaos and the dis-order. It is not me. Not authentic me. I miss the parts of myself I have not been able to be for all this time. I miss dancing. I miss cooking for friends and breaking bread together. I miss cultivating a peaceful, healing, space for myself.

I feel so very far from ever being whole again. But today I washed dishes. And that feels like resilience.

An examination of a month after an attempt (part 7 of 7)

This article is written by Zero Forbidden Goals and National Poetry Slam poet, AndYes.  To hear his work, and support his art and his message of love, go to AndYesPoetry.com.

Author’s note: I wrote these in 2014, during Depression episodes. They were written with the purpose of people being able to see directly what is in my head and what is going on.

During that year, I lost my job and my apartment because I became too Depressed to show up to work on time. And I attempted suicide shortly after.

The 7th entry is a month later, to-the-day.

These writings are intended for people who haven’t had Depression, and want to learn. And for those who have Depression but don’t understand it.

 * * * * *

(UPDATE: This piece was written exactly one month after a suicide attempt in 2014, to capture what was in my head)

These are the days, after a suicide attempt, when I’m most volatile, and likely to be thrown between extremes of low Depression and odd bursts of manic thoughts and impulse. I’ve tried to tame it, before – I haven’t figured it out, yet.

This is a time where I’ve lost friends, because I tend to emotionally swing the most between mania and depression. At times (certainly not always), I don’t act like the laid-back person that people are used to (we’ll get to that in a bit), and it can be off-putting.

The period lasts from about a month after an attempt, and has gone as long as two or three months, in the past.

I – just this morning – caught myself going through it. It’d been so long, I’d forgotten this even happens. So, appropriately, it’s time to write and analyze (because I don’t plan on going through this again, any time soon – and hopefully, I won’t).

I should point out: I have no idea if this is part of the normal experience. But I did want to examine it, because it could be something that happens and we just don’t talk about.

In the rare years when I had repeated-attempts, they’ve always fallen within this time-frame. By recognizing that, I’m hoping to be able to hold that off by intellectualization and changing this from being something that “happens to me” into “something I can recognize, rationalize, and deal with”.

Maybe it’ll work. Maybe not.

Important to note: I do not experience manic swings with my normal experience in Depression. I level out, and I can certainly feel happy, but it’s never manic like this. These swings have solely come after suicide attempts.

Defining “Manic”

I’d done this study a disservice by not defining this term, in the first published draft of this.

Mania, just as its opposite in Depression, is misunderstood. Just as Depression has nothing to do with sadness, being manic does not have anything to do with happiness, joy, mirth, or any sort of emotional state.

Just as Depression is the same as Dispassion, Mania is its exact opposite.

Activity.

It isn’t uplifting, it doesn’t help you be productive, you don’t feel “normal”. You feel overly-active. For example: I’m missing keys, on the keyboard, right now, because my hands are shaking just enough to throw me off.

To put it in another way: my head’s racing like a Robin Williams standup act.

I’ve had a few people tell me, over the years, that they wish they were manic-depressive, because at least they would have a reprieve from Depression.

You won’t.

You don’t get a reprieve – you get a whole different, unique set of problems to deal with on top of your Depression.

The mindset (during the manic-swing)

I withdraw. I feel like I have more “important” things I could be doing than “wasting” time socializing (I should note: this is not how I think, normally) – there’s a strong desire to make something out of my life, and give myself meaning.

The withdraw makes sense, in the context of how I’ve always dealt with suicide on my own. There’s an association of “sharing myself” with “abandonment” and so I do everything I can to avoid that.

During this time, I pull back from the people in my life, and – in the past – have blamed them for not pursuing, as if it’s their fault I decided to turn away. As I’ve started to look into my Depression, and examine it, I can catch behaviors like this and recognize them for what they are. It’s the benefit of being able to listen to myself.

Social anxiety. It’s sometimes extreme, but usually just an undercurrent of tension that shines through.

Twitchiness. I tend to fidget the most, during this period.

Feeling extremely energetic, mentally-speaking. It’s always been here where I feel the urge to do everything. There’s something about after an attempt that sets it off – perhaps it’s a natural reaction to near-death experiences, or perhaps it’s a influx of Dopamine (and other neurochemicals) finally being processed correctly (or, perhaps, more than they should be).

Decreased blinking. This probably sounds like a weird thing to notice – but I’ve noticed I tend to blink less, during these times. The feeling is actually similar to my one experience with LSD, where – when you close your eyes – your eyelids seem to, on their own, flutter back open. Tension. Like I’m straining to close my eyes.

Impulsive. In the past, when I’ve felt something or thought something, I do it. I don’t question it like I normally would. I don’t analyze it. This has its good and bad. While I don’t go feral, or do anything severely extreme, this is where I tend to say things to friends that I don’t mean. The impulse comes to me, and it hits hard. Less like a desire, more like an imperative – I have to tell this friend they hurt me, or (it’s been awhile since I’ve done this one) start a fight with that guy for laughing at me.

Also, I tend to under-think things (example: this post, which – unlike normal – I didn’t even think to go through and edit before posting, and therefore missed a key point in identifying Mania).

Over-attachment. The people who I do keep around in my life, I tend to get over-attached to. I’ve lost friends over this, as well. I remember, once, when I was feeling the manic episode slipping away, I wrote a girl a note and told her I loved her. I didn’t mean it – I just very desperately wanted some kind of anchor to keep me from falling back.

And that, of course, was the end of our friendship. I remember being so angry, internally, over it. As if it were her fault.

In retrospect, I was absolutely selfish (but, I’ll get to this more, in the conclusion, so it doesn’t derail the post).

The mindset (for Depression the swing)

I went through this yesterday, and I had the good sense to write everything that was streaming through my head.

Instead of listing symptoms, just take the polar-opposite of most of what I’ve written above.

I blame myself for everything, I sleep more than I should, and I sit at home blaming myself.

When the Depression swing hits, my head’s flooded with thoughts – as if, in juxtaposition of all the outward activity of my mania, my depression-swing focuses all that energy internally.

For a couple minutes, I wrote and caught a picture of what the inside of my head is like. I should note, here, that this is not how I normally view myself, or my life. This is a chemical imbalance that is throwing me through mood swings until it adjusts and settles.

I captured this all by using an old method used to do, for creative writing, where I’d meditate, and write everything that was going through my head – images, thoughts, quotes, etc. There weren’t any images, as far as I could recall, which is rare since I tend to be a very visual-thinker. Does this relate to the depression-swing? I don’t know – I hadn’t noticed it before now.

Direct thoughts:

“I’m tired of fighting Depression, I’m unloved (romantically), and friends all find a way to work their way out of my life. I should just get shitfaced and sleep all day, like I used to. I will never let myself fall in love, because I could never do this to someone. I could never inflict myself on someone. But all I want is to feel loved.”

This writing didn’t have anything about body-image, but it does tend to be a typical topic-of-thought, when the depression-swing hits.

The benefits of sleep

In the down-time, sleep can make all the difference. I’ve noticed over-sleeping can be just as harmful as under-sleeping, since I tend to be unproductive.

My dreams during this time – when I remember them – tend to be the most hopeful (even during depression-episodes).

Conclusion

Let me say something that I, four years ago, would have hated me for saying.

If you’re judging the woman I wrote about, earlier in this post, consider this: if you’re friends with someone who has Depression, making yourself co-dependent to their happiness is a waste of time. You’ll only be justifying their descent. You’re making yourself into a crutch for them. And, yes, crutches are helpful at points, but we have to learn to stand on our own.

In short: It’s our job to live – it’s not your job to make us live.

And, odds are, you aren’t a licensed mental health provider. And nor should you try to fill those shoes, because you can very easily – and with the best of intentions – do more damage than help (by being the aforementioned “crutch” for too long).

So, yes, it’s perfectly fine to walk away from someone with Depression (I should write something about this, later), if you can’t take it. Or if it’s becoming too much.

I don’t hate her for doing it. I completely understand, sympathize, and agree with it.

It’s fine to push us to grow, and not be stagnate, but don’t let yourself become co-dependent. It’s our condition to live with. And, yes, we need help from the people around us, but it’s also our job to help ourselves.

We need help. But it is our job to learn to grow, and grow ourselves.

Know your signs :: my personal seven stages of Depression (part 6 of 7)

This article is written by Zero Forbidden Goals and National Poetry Slam poet, AndYes.  To hear his work, and support his art and his message of love, go to AndYesPoetry.com.

Author’s note: I wrote these in 2014, during Depression episodes. They were written with the purpose of people being able to see directly what is in my head and what is going on.

During that year, I lost my job and my apartment because I became too Depressed to show up to work on time. And I attempted suicide shortly after.

The 7th entry is a month later, to-the-day.

These writings are intended for people who haven’t had Depression, and want to learn. And for those who have Depression but don’t understand it.

 * * * * *

These are my signs of Depression – I watch out for them every day. I’ve learned that I have to watch out for them every day, because they will creep into my life if I don’t.

This list starts with the early signs and works up to the most severe. These signs can start anywhere from a week to six months before I go through this entire motion.

Please do NOT try to “diagnose” me, or anyone else, by using this list.
It’s irresponsible (and obnoxious).

I know my signs. More importantly: I know the context of my signs. Most of the things on the earlier part of this list can happen if I’m just having a bad day, and not necessarily a Depression episode.

I’ve never actually written these down, before, and I’ve definitely never put them in order.

These are for my own private signs, and are not meant to apply to all people with Depression.

And this is by no means a comprehensive list.

Know The Signs

Stage 1:
Extreme social anxiety
A subconscious urge to never share myself with anyone
Noticing the faults I have, in how I look, while looking in the mirror, by instinct. (this increases in each stage)

Stage 2:
Consistent, heavy sighs (more than 5 in a half hour is what I’ve learned to look for)
Overindulgence in food
Clothes covering the floor
Unshaved/ungroomed appearance
Emotional exhaustion after socializing.

Stage 3:
Spending everything I have on other people without wanting anything back
Ignoring my medication
Being late to almost everything
Bouts of unexplained severe aggravation.

Stage 4:
Social withdrawal
Undeserved suspicion of my friends
Emotionless objectivity
Rare thoughts of suicide.

Stage 5:
Fear of death with no particular reason, and panic attacks about dying in my sleep
Reckless driving (not intentionally swerving into other lanes – just not caring what happens while I drive)
Almost-crying, stopped by the feeling of a pressure cooker’s steam being released, followed by a horrifying feeling that my brain is dysfunctional.
Increasing thoughts of suicide.

Stage 6:
Constant flat-affect
Staring at a wall, from my bed, for hours
Go days without speaking to anyone, intentionally
Preoccupation with death
Consistent nightmares
Consistent suicidal thoughts and ideation.

Stage 7:
General hygene stops.
Suicidal attempt.

Re-Learning Emotions (part 5 of 7)

This article is written by Zero Forbidden Goals and National Poetry Slam poet, AndYes.  To hear his work, and support his art and his message of love, go to AndYesPoetry.com.

Author’s note: I wrote these in 2014, during Depression episodes. They were written with the purpose of people being able to see directly what is in my head and what is going on.

During that year, I lost my job and my apartment because I became too Depressed to show up to work on time. And I attempted suicide shortly after.

The 7th entry is a month later, to-the-day.

These writings are intended for people who haven’t had Depression, and want to learn. And for those who have Depression but don’t understand it.

 * * * * *

It’s hard feeling strong emotions, again. Sometimes I get lost, losing track of my life while I’m just sitting there smiling. People ask me why I’m laughing, or why I’m happy, and I really don’t know how to answer that question.

Why did you ask the question? It just occurred to you to ask, right? It just occurred to me to laugh, or grin.

A nerdy-parallel (that none-the-less applies): Star Trek: The Next Generation fans will likely remember the episodes where Data had his emotion chip put in.

It’s the same exact thing. I’ve gone from destitute Dispassion (with comparatively brief reaches into feeling), to having this torrent of things I haven’t had to deal with since I was much younger, like: joy, frustration, jealousy, amorous feelings – my head’s been dusting off old programs and hitting the play button of every song until I can’t hear the notes anymore. It’s just sound.

I keep trying to re-center myself. But it’s been hard.

It’s been hard to keep centered because, the more I think about it, my ability to keep centered was rooted deep in my Depression. I was centered without trying. There were no emotions to contend with, at the almost-lowest points. I was cold. Able to drop into a deep meditative state in minutes. And yet that feeling of Centered still calls out to me as being “normal”, so now that the Depression is receding, all of these feelings seem out-of-place. Foreign. Overwhelming.

There’s this idea that runs like a bassline to a song: “I need to suppress them.”

I’ve had glimpses into this, before. Inevitably, I get overwhelmed to the point of collapsing back into Depression. It almost happened yesterday. I felt my routine creeping back in.

To deal with Depression means you have to recognize these signals. I’ve written about this, before. And I’m thankful for the checklist of symptoms I made. It’s given me power over something that, my entire life, has been overbearing in its ability to overwrite everything that I am and break me down to the point of staring at a wall for hours-on-end. Almost catatonic.

I’m not perfect. I still fall back into old problems. I also know how to forgive myself when I do it. It’s another part of dealing with Depression: own your mistakes, but they don’t have to dominate your every waking moment.

Life, right now, is hard. As I mentioned, this is usually the point where everything I’ve built falls apart. But I can see it coming, this time.

It’s how I improve. It’s how I learn.

I make mistakes without recognizing it, learn how to recognize them while I’m making them, and then get to a point where I can see them coming. And then I learn how to avoid them.

I rarely directly talk to the reader. I hate doing it. But I do want to say this to you, as a sort of conclusion:

You can always improve. Life can always be better. Just push for it. Surround yourself with people who push you.

You’ll get it. It might take awhile, but you’ll get it.

The Hardest Parts of Dealing with Depression (part 4 of 7)

This article is written by Zero Forbidden Goals and National Poetry Slam poet, AndYes.  To hear his work, and support his art and his message of love, go to AndYesPoetry.com.

Author’s note: I wrote these in 2014, during Depression episodes. They were written with the purpose of people being able to see directly what is in my head and what is going on.

During that year, I lost my job and my apartment because I became too Depressed to show up to work on time. And I attempted suicide shortly after.

The 7th entry is a month later, to-the-day.

These writings are intended for people who haven’t had Depression, and want to learn. And for those who have Depression but don’t understand it.

 * * * * *

What I’ve written here is based on my personal experience with the mental illness, and may or may not apply to others who have it.

 If you have it, don’t follow the example I’ve set for years, of trying to exist without any assistance or community. Get help.

The Hardest Parts

The hardest part of Depression is the onset.

Specifically, that moment where you know what’s coming next – when you’re still feeling normal – for the most part – and you can almost trace every thought that’s about to come up.

I can feel myself getting paranoid with friends, right at this moment, for no logical reason.

I’ve gone through these exact same ideas, for years with other people, over and over again, and no amount of logic can overcome the idea that all my friendships are falling apart. Or they’re fake – and I’m friends with liars who just want to use me for all the good I can give them – and then they’ll leave after I’m drained of everything.

And, somehow, for some reason, it’s all my fault.

It’s the same thing. Over and over again. Just fill in different names, every year, and the rest writes itself.

The truth is, I’ve had these thoughts so many times that I’m an odd mix of Depressed and bored, right now, as I’m looking at what’s about to happen.

The closest parallel I can offer, to everyone who doesn’t know the feeling: it’s how I imagine morticians must feel after years of dealing with death in an 9-to-5 environment. Just imagine.

Which leads into the second hardest part: the repetition. The knowledge that you’re going to be taken from being this happy, perfectly normal human being to being insecure, unstable, and (in the extreme case) just barely clinging to logical reasoning behind any of your feelings.

For someone who tries so hard to be pragmatic and wise, and simple, Depression is just frustrating. There is no mental work-around for it. There’s no rationale that can make you say

“Yeah, maybe life isn’t so bad, afterall.”

Seriously. If I had a real reason for feeling half the things I feel, right now, I’d be fine. I’d be able to take charge and change my life. But that’s the tricky part of the Depression: there is no set solution for it.

Yes, you can take pills. I’ve yet to find a prescription that makes me feel anything but clouded and strange, but I have heard of plenty of people who find a med that doesn’t mess with them too much.

It’s almost feels like a placebo effect, from the perspective of someone with Depression who hasn’t found a pill that doesn’t leave him suicidal. Like, if I collect enough prescriptions, I’ll believe the thousands of dollars I’m spending could fix all of my problems (while stacking up side effects that take their toll).

It’s a Capitalist solution for a Capitalist world.

The third hardest part is: when you look at my life, it’s almost perfect. I have amazing friends, improv with the funniest people I know, the best job I’ve every had, and a family that loves me.

And, over the next month (two weeks, if I’m lucky), I will grow to resent most of it. (UPDATE: In retrospect, this sentence was more true than I realized. This article was written in 2014. I soon after had an episode, and lost my job and the apartment, and attempted suicide. I still have the amazing friends, though, and my poetry has taken me overseas and back again, and helped me reach out into the community and help others with my condition).

So I’ll either suffer in silence, like I’ve learned to do, or I risk losing friends.

If you get frustrated with how quiet I get, just remember: I love you enough to hurt myself instead.

The fourth hardest part is: realizing this doesn’t represent who I am. This is a momentary chemically-induced break-in-character.

But it feels like everyone will look and say “Oh, there he is. There’s the real David.” And they’ll think every laugh I have to offer is fake; every laugh is just painted to look that way.

And, normally, I’d have deleted those last few paragraphs, because they seem a bit over-dramatic.

But they represent the fifth hardest part of Depression:

The lasting impression left, after it’s gone away, and I feel alright, and everyone assumes this means I’m “better”, and not fighting every moment to stay positive and hopeful.

What Depression Feels Like :: Physically and Mentally (part 3 of 7)

This article is written by Zero Forbidden Goals and National Poetry Slam poet, AndYes.  To hear his work, and support his art and his message of love, go to AndYesPoetry.com.

Author’s note: I wrote these in 2014, during Depression episodes. They were written with the purpose of people being able to see directly what is in my head and what is going on.

During that year, I lost my job and my apartment because I became too Depressed to show up to work on time. And I attempted suicide shortly after.

The 7th entry is a month later, to-the-day.

These writings are intended for people who haven’t had Depression, and want to learn. And for those who have Depression but don’t understand it.

* * * * *

If you know the symptoms, you can deal with your problems. If you know the root causes of what’s hurting you, you can shift them as they come up. I’m not lying to myself – I can’t “fix” this.

But I am going to try, because – if I can get this to work – I can help other people like me.

Also, I’m writing this because I hate that awful Depression med commercial that ran, a few years back, with the over-dramatic descriptions and the drawn-out sad voice-over.

What I describe here is legitimate to my own experience – with no exaggeration. This does not apply to all people living with Depression, but my experience may reflect with others.

This is my attempt to document the feeling in its entirety. Physical and mental. I’ll probably miss some things. I will likely misattribute some things. But this is what I’m feeling, right now, in my Depression.

If you don’t know your symptoms, find them.

Physical Symptoms –

All cliche poems about heartache aside, the emotional pain I feel right now is tangible, on the left side of my chest, as tension. I can’t tell if it’s my heart. It feels like my heart. Or maybe my lung. When I try to relax, I can feel the muscles deep down still straining. The right side of my chest feels normal.

My shoulders have the same issue, as does my forehead (around my eyebrows).

I can feel spinning sensation in the back of my mind.

I’m very, very vaguely dizzy. I almost couldn’t recognize the spin until I took a moment to meditate.

My natural breathing is shallow, short, with a moment of pause in-between each one – they’re occasionally offset by a heaving sigh.

My hands have a very light shake to them – this is likely due to the coffee I drank earlier, and not Depression, but it still needs to be noted here.

The brain does not have touch or pain senses, but it feels squeezed – like a nerf ball between your hands. It’s the same feeling I get whenever I am stressed out.

I was not hungry. But, when I ate (because I know I should eat something), it triggered what felt like starvation. I see food, I eat it. It’s compulsion. Even after I ate a bowl of chili beans, two seaweed packets from Trader Joe’s, two pieces of garlic bread, a piece of lasagna, two glasses of water and a handful of edamame, my stomach feels hollow. I feel like I’m starving, despite my stomach feeling full.

My jaw tends to hang limp, when I stop paying attention to it.

My posture is slumped shoulders. One hand props up my forehead when I’m not writing.

My neck hurts because of the poor sitting position.

My eyes just look sad (this could belong in the Mental Sensations section, because I’m perceiving it to be this way, or it could be an actual physical trait – I’m not sure).

I stare, and for moments have no thoughts – as if I’m shutting out everything just so I can maintain.

Mental Sensations (this is a tricky section, since it’s a bit more subjective)

We’ll start with the obvious points, then work into the specifics:

Yes, I can smile. Yes, I can laugh. The joy from both of those is legitimate. It is real. I am not faking those responses.

But the joy does fade very soon after.

I’m asked “What’s wrong?” and I said “Nothing” out of reflex.

I have been constantly, since I woke up, on the verge of crying. Almost crying, but not.

The emotional release that comes with crying hasn’t happened, yet. As I’ve experienced before, it likely won’t happen until the depression has “lifted” (which is a really poor word to describe what I mean, but I can’t find a better one).

My patience, which is normally extremely lengthy, is shot. As is my sense of self-worth and self-confidence.

I feel useless. I feel like people think I’m useless.

Pride, oddly enough, is doing just fine. I have an even greater urge to talk to nobody about my problems. I believe I can solve my own issues, and nobody else will understand what I’m going through. This entire post has been a struggle, so far, because of that.

I’m almost certain that the wording for this is awful, and nobody is going to read what I’m writing, and I’m just wasting my time.

But pride, is doing just fine. That’s what’s dragging me through this. It’s actually an aid to surviving, I’ve found, because so much of my life is filled with self-doubt and self-hate.

I’m easily distracted by the television. It’s a compulsion. I’m worried I’m missing something, even though it’s a television show I hate.

Anyone who walks within a few feet of me makes me want to stop writing and stare at them until they leave. Even if they can’t see my laptop screen.

I have all of the symptoms I predicted in my last post: paranoid of my relationships, afraid that I did something to ruin my friendship with my best friend (without being able to really define what), and having these irrationalities running through my head about needing to leave my job (the one I love) before I get fired (which is ridiculous – my record has been fine) and thinking my friends are all talking behind my back about me (This is the hardest sensation to fight, since, as I’ve experience before, it might be absolutely true)

As I write down that last worry, memories of losing old friends pop up. Friends who – understandably – couldn’t deal with these moments. It’s a lot to deal with. I used to break down and write pages upon pages of notes – essentially blaming them for all my problems, and saying I understand why they hate me.

I don’t blame them for leaving. No one should have to put up with that.

The first version of that last sentence was “No one should have to put up with me.”

I’m worrying about how tomorrow at work is going to play out. I don’t know if I’m even going to want to get out of bed. I can’t afford to miss it, or I’ll lose my job. Also, seeming upbeat is going to be a major issue.

Down-tempo songs (IE: Radiohead’s “OK Computer” album) are the only songs that I can stand to listen to. Everything else, aside from extremely aggressive hardcore punk, feels annoying. Hardcore Punk has the effect of drowning out my thoughts – in the same way that Metal used to do, when I was a teenager.

Other peoples’ laughter causes a stress response. I can’t tell if it’s angry or annoyed.

Right now, there’s a thought that I can’t stop repeating – very similarly to a child tugging at its mother’s skirt to get her attention:

“I am alone. No one wants to be around me.”

It’s not the exact same wording every time, but it’s a close enough approximation of that statement, or that feeling.

The main cause for the thought comes from my physical appearance. I look (according to my own thoughts), “gross,” “ugly,” “grotesque,” and “horrifying,” to everyone in my life.

CONCLUSION

As of right now, I’m almost at the lowest point of my Depression (I’ve been through this enough times to know what my lowest point just about feels like). With luck, I’ll wake up tomorrow feeling slightly better, and it’ll slowly fade away over the next couple weeks. Without luck, it’ll keep ramping up all week, hit a crescendo, then start dissipating slowly over the next month.

For the sake of my birthday, I’m hoping it’ll be the first option.

Why would I write this?

Because, if you know the symptoms, you can deal with your problems. Because, if you know the root causes, you can prevent them from coming up.

Am I sure it’s possible 100% of the time, with Depression? No.

But, after meds not working the way I want them to, and counseling being ineffective for me personally, this is my best solution. (UPDATE: finding a sense of community, in my poetry and hiphop scene, has lowered my Beck’s Depression Inventory score lower than it has ever been since I started taking the test six years ago)

And I write this because, by writing this, I can help other people like me.

The Feeling of Sudden Onset (part 2 of 7)

This article is written by Zero Forbidden Goals and National Poetry Slam poet, AndYes.  To hear his work, and support his art and his message of love, go to AndYesPoetry.com.

Author’s note: I wrote these in 2014, during Depression episodes. They were written with the purpose of people being able to see directly what is in my head and what is going on.

During that year, I lost my job and my apartment because I became too Depressed to show up to work on time. And I attempted suicide shortly after.

The 7th entry is a month later, to-the-day.

These writings are intended for people who haven’t had Depression, and want to learn. And for those who have Depression but don’t understand it.

* * * * *

There are days where you just fall apart. There’s no reason behind it – it just happens.

Despite all efforts (exercise, a diet that’s been improving, a lot of progress in my personal life that should be sparking a lot of pride, and getting plenty of sleep), today was the day where everything dropped out.

Emotionally, I’m exhausted at the idea of speaking or listening. The “Share” button on Facebook is just about the only mode of discussion I have. Every poem has been judged before I even touched the keys, and the grant I’ve been working on, to get funding for my idea, has been torn apart and left listless on the computer screen.

There is an easy judgment you could make here, without any information to suggest otherwise. And I wouldn’t blame anyone for making it – I’m used to hearing it:

“He’s lazy.”

There’s a part of me that just wants to hate these people, who don’t bother to get to know me and who throw those comments my way.

But, part of me also realized that, often, my Depression says the exact same thing.

There is so much inside of me telling me I’m worthless, and that life is pointless, and there’s no measure of logic that can argue it. I am worn out physically, mentally, and spiritually.

(Note: this is not an excuse for the things I haven’t done, or a means of me saying I’m not accountable for the things that I’ve not done. It’s just a fact – my hair is brown, this table is brown, some days everything just falls apart. )

Clear? I hope so.

My parents try to comfort me. The feeling of my dad’s hand on my shoulder is physically present (meaning the nerves in the shoulder still function) but there’s no emotional trigger that typically occurs when a loved one makes physical contact with you. I want there to be something. It sparks this weird feeling of wanting to be angry that I can’t be angry about not being able to feel.

A similar thing occurs, with crying. I well up, I feel the pressure of almost getting to the point of crying, and suddenly the bottom drops out of my emotions – everything becomes a flat affect.

A coworker, at a job I’ve long since lost after a suicidal episode,  found out about my condition from a Facebook post I made.

He said, “You? You have bad days?”

My co-worker’s tone was a stark mix of incredulous accusation. As if the concept – that someone he’d always seen smile could ever let his eyes sag in sadness – would damage his very essence if he ever let himself believe it.

I do improv, give advice, and make people laugh, after all. I write poetry and spoken word, and sing. How could I have Depression?

It’s moments like this that have been repeated throughout my life. Moments where people can’t believe what I go through on a daily basis. We talk, they learn, I continue on.

I don’t regret my admission of my condition because of his reaction. At the same time I felt proud for knowing someone had this much faith in me, just seeing the surprise on his face made me disappointed – like I’d ruined his perception of me.

Like, now he sees Dave – the Depressed guy.

This is life, and this is the reality I have to live with. From time to time, I am going to hate who I am with no reason.

This is why, when I’m feeling “normal”, I try and live as much as I can. I listen to conversations intently, I enjoy the silent moments between two people – I love being able to experience the world even more, than some, because even the most banal DMV waiting line is so much better than this.

(Side-note: you can extrapolate, then, how much better it feels when there’s a whole group of people listening to my poetry or laughing with my improv, and loving what I have to say. I’d put it into words, but I just don’t have the words, yet. The feeling is beyond anything I could put into comparative terms).

Tomorrow is a new day. I don’t know if it’s going to be a continuation of today, or if a night’s sleep will end it, but no matter what – this life continues.

The more I learn to live within this process, and find my ebbs and flows, the better off I will be.

Defining Depression (part 1 of 7)

This article is written by Zero Forbidden Goals and National Poetry Slam poet, AndYes.  To hear his work, and support his art and his message of love, go to AndYesPoetry.com.

Author’s note: I wrote these in 2014, during Depression episodes. They were written with the purpose of people being able to see directly what is in my head and what is going on.

During that year, I lost my job and my apartment because I became too Depressed to show up to work on time. And I attempted suicide shortly after.

The 7th entry is a month later, to-the-day.

These writings are intended for people who haven’t had Depression, and want to learn. And for those who have Depression but don’t understand it.

 * * * * *

Escalating Dispassion

As I’ve been looking over what Depression is like for me, I find the term doesn’t really describe what I’ve been going through.

A better way to describe it is “escalating dispassion.” Yes, it involves a certain level of sadness and despair, but those feelings tend to come from the knowledge that I care about (and can muster the strength to care about) nothing in my life for more than a day or so (to put it another way: feeling “nothing” is my emotional baseline. I experience other emotions, but everything eventually drops back to nothing).

Of course you could argue that the sadness I feel comes from a source of caring about myself (a sort-of metaphysical statement: “you care about the fact that you don’t care, which proves you care about yourself”), and from an outside perspective you’d seem to be right. But in reality, I never dwell on my dispassion for long (IE: I’m equally dispassionate about being dispassionate as I am dispassionate about my life…and yes, I do realize this is the most convoluted paragraph I’ve ever written).

Depression (at least, the way it affects me) doesn’t cause me to write sad poetry, cry into my pillow, and wish my life would be better than what it is. Depression (for me) is the constant, automatic return to feeling nothing (like I said before, it’s a baseline for my emotions – not a definition of who I am or how I always feel).

So far I’ve focused on the second word in that phrase (“dispassion”); let me clarify what I mean by the first word (“escalating”).

About 10 months ago, a friend of mine died. Whereas, when I’ve lost friends before I had cried all over the place and was generally useless, the total amount of time I cried for her was about 10 minutes (and, honestly, I’m probably overestimating that).

I definitely felt sad, don’t get me wrong, but it was almost like I couldn’t express it. I’d get to the point of almost crying, sitting in my room alone, and then – right before the tears came – it’d feel like someone opened the valve on a pressure cooker. The sadness would leak out of me and I’d be back to feeling nothing; it was all the pressure without the catharsis.

I describe my depression as “escalating dispassion”, as opposed to just “dispassion” because I can look back on my life and see that, as a kid, it was never like this. And, as my teenage years came and went, I can trace a clear line of events showing that I’ve become more and more dispassionate (I’ll spare giving a ton of examples, and just leave it at that).

When people ask me “What’s wrong?”

I’ve never known how to answer this question honestly, so I just say “nothing.”

I’m not hiding anything, when I say that. It’s a completely honest response: absolutely nothing is wrong and absolutely nothing is right…which, I suppose, means everything is wrong, but giving that answer will always sound over-dramatic to other people (as I were in a constant state of woe and my whole life were falling apart…which it’s definitely not).

But it’s not all downsides; a side-effect of being dispassionate is that you tend to be very objective, which makes me useful to people who need advice since I’m inserting very little of my personal bias into what I say. It’s not a huge “win,” but it’s something.

And I think I should point this out: my condition doesn’t make me a sociopath (everything preceding this statement could make it seem otherwise). I love my friends and I definitely am concerned with the people around me; the dispassion I feel is focused almost solely on anything involving myself (For example: in middle school, I would never do homework but always perform amazingly on group projects – which confused the hell out of more than a few teachers who had assumed I was just some slacker kid. It’s okay for me to fail by my own accord, but I refuse to be the reason why other people to fail).

So, I guess the big question is: Where does this self-centered dispassion come from?

And I’m finding, more and more, that it’s not something I can answer on my own. Just feels like it’s always been this way. Much like when science looks into the creation of the universe, at some point the only answer I can give is “that’s just the way it is.” And that’s the most asinine response a person can give.

Never stop looking for the answer

Anyone who settles for “that’s just the way it is” hasn’t honestly asked why something happens. If you can live with not having the answer, then great, but for something like Depression (that you want to change), “that’s just the way it is” should never be your conclusion (because, by not being able to ask “Why?” and honestly search for an answer, you’ll never be able to deal with the problem).

So the search continues.

 

Rainbow Bloodstains

by: Q. 

I never knew
That the way I felt
Had a name

I just knew that
I had loved
Hers
&
Hims
And even a few
Theys

I just knew that
If the one I
Loved
Didn’t look like
A
Him
Then it needed to be
Quiet
Love

Lingering
Subtle
Touch
Love

Best friend
Sleepovers
Braid each other’s hair
And kiss napes of necks
Quickly
Love

The
Fear
Has always been
Palpable
For me

Coming out is
Terrifying
Even when you can
Love
“Normally”

“You’re just confused”

And I thought I might
Just
Stay
Quiet

But then after a day of
“Ally” activities of
Pride

I hear about
49
Heartbeats
Gone

49 lives
Taken

During
Their
Quiet
Pride

And I am wrecked.
And in such grief

I am outed.

The
Fear
Has always been
Palpable
For me

This
Fear
Will always be
Palpable
For me

Where is the resolution?
Where is the revelation?
Where is the revolution?

I’ve never been raped.

By: Anonymous

I’ve never been raped.

Not in your technical dry as dust definition: Penetration no matter how slight of the vagina or anus with any body part or object or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person without the consent of the victim.

I’ve never been raped.
But I hurt in my heart for those who have.

No I’ve never been raped.

But I remember at age 4, being grabbed by you, a grown man, held down and tickled, begging you to stop until I couldn’t breathe.

Just as I thought I would die from lack of air, I summoned up enough breath to say, “I will pee on you.”

Still, you did not stop until I gathered enough strength to pee on you, even though I didn’t have to. I remember the sly smirk on your wife’s face as she said, “Well she warned you.”

But I was never raped.

No I’ve never been raped.

But I remember the two boys who grabbed me at age 7 as I walked home for lunch from school (yes we could do that in those days). One of them lived in his family’s business, a funeral parlor, and they threatened to tie me up and hide me downstairs with the dead people. I fought and I screamed and sat down on the sidewalk, but they dragged me along. Until one of them saw my tears of fear and said, “We have to let her go.” And the one whose family owned the funeral parlor didn’t want to but he couldn’t pull it off without the other boy.

But I was never raped.

As later I refused to go back to school. My mom received a phone call and afterwards said it was the funeral parlor boy’s mother and the other boy, the one who let me go, told her what they did. She said she had talk to them and they would never do it again. My mother telling me I would have to go back to school and how I begged her not to make me. She said I had to. I had to go back and face my abductors and I remember the look on her face like I was the one to blame.

But I was never raped.

One day at age 10, I walked that same street home from school. The street was under repair and workmen were in the street. Two boys came out of the house as I passed. They were younger than me and asked for my help with getting a broken wagon to the garage. Suddenly , as I entered the yard, an older boy showed up. The three of them began dragging me to the back of the house, threatening to throw me in the cellar and lock the door. I screamed for help as they carried me by arms and legs. I thrashed and fought while the men working in the street just laughed.

I began to cry and the older boy, I will never know why, decided to let me go.

Walking home another boy saw me crying and came up to me. I told him to go away, but he just offered me a piece of gum and asked me to sit down. We split a piece of juicy fruit and he just sat next to me in silence until the tears passed. I wonder all these years later if it was him showing up and witnessing my shame that scared the other boys into letting me go.

But I was not raped.

No, I was never raped, but came close one night at 17. A party in the woods, a kegger. I had to go to the bathroom and was told to go to the woods on the other side of the parking area. Walking past a car, the door opened and a large man pulled me in and began attacking me, trying to get my clothes off. He was older, in his 20s, big and strong. I fought, but could not get away. So I told him he would be accused of statutory rape because I was only 17. “I don’t believe it,” he said. “Look at my drivers license,” I said, defiance in my voice. He saw I was serious and let me go.

But I was not raped.

No, I was not raped when you invited me to your Pentecostal church, you on my left your wife on my right as she began speaking in tongues.  Later you told me how jealous you were of your wife because she got the spirit and you didn’t. But the spirit had told you we were meant to be together and you used your religion and adulthood to seduce me on the front seat of your family car.

But I was not raped.

No, I was not raped, when again at age 17, you, a friendly acquaintance called me over to your car and asked me to look in and see what you had on the seat. You pulled me in through the window and sped down the highway and told me you would throw me out at 70 mph unless I gave you oral sex. And afterwards you drove to pick up your girlfriend, whom you called “No No Nanette.” And she knew and I knew that I was the young bait to make her stop saying no.

No, I was not raped when my husband and I walked into a mutual friend’s wedding dressed in our finest and his best friend undressed me with his eyes and said, “Oh girl you look fine tonight.” Said it in a way that let me know I could not trust to be alone with him. It was then I decided to be fat.

I was not raped. But all of you have shown me by your actions you consider my body just a tool for your own satisfaction, that there is not a soul in this human package that can be frightened, scared, or shamed, only taken. No, I was not raped. Assaulted, bullied, used, crimes of sexual violence, but not raped.

Why doesn’t it feel that way?