Withdrawal, Dating Myself, and Mental Illness

On getting better. Like, for real this time.

 

Aside from the past few weeks, I have been the happiest I’ve ever been.

I’ve been going to counselling regularly and then began reading a book called Joy on Demand (I know, super hokey title, but the content is all about making Buddhist practices accessible for the average person as well as scientific studies around happiness) by Chade-Meng Tan, and I’ve started dating myself. Yes, you heard me. I’m in a relationship with me.

It’s not as crazy as it sounds.

After being hurt again by the same friend who’d hurt me recently, I realized that I can’t control other people. Even if I give them as much love as I am capable of, I can’t stop them from doing what they do. *drones in waily country voice* I can’t makeeee you love meeeeeee. But I can go on hikes and walks, to music festivals, Shakespeare in the Park, dinner dates, and have more fun than if I asked someone else to go with me.

In fact, loving the time I spend with myself has made me more carefully consider who I do spend my time with now because I now know that I can do anything on my own and feel joy; if I don’t get joy out of your company or if you’re someone who knows that you’re hurting me but do it anyway, I’m not going to waste my time on you anymore. I’ve removed so many toxic people from my life with this realization, and I have been so happy ever since.

It’s really been a beautiful, beautiful time in my life.

 

The reason these most recent weeks haven’t been the happiest is simple: I’ve been going through withdrawal. My coverage for the most expensive anti-depressant in the world (probably not even close) ends in November. Considering that I’ve been the happiest I’ve ever been in my life, I figured that this would be a good time to get off of them.

I’ve made it through the thick of it.

The worst symptoms of withdrawal were the brain shivers (also called brain zaps). In case you’ve had the pleasure of never hearing of or experiencing these, they are a withdrawal symptom of desvenlafaxine which feel like imaginary metal panels have been placed on your head while a series of electric bolts are fired through them into your brain. They’re like having mini seizures that are triggered by looking at screens, moving your head, blinking, breathing, laying perfectly still with your eyes closed or you know, existing. They’re awful.

There were days when I was confined to bed because the brain shivers didn’t stop for hours. Now, aside from a little zap here and there, what’s left of the withdrawal symptoms is the instability of my emotional state.

Crying for no reason is a withdrawal symptom. The first time I went off this drug two years ago, I distinctly remembering sitting in my car in the parking lot of Walmart, sobbing for no reason, and laughing because I thought sobbing for no reason was hilarious, and then sobbing again, then thinking of how crazy I probably looked and laughing, and then sobbing again.

I was crying for no reason this morning, but this time I didn’t find it so entertaining. Instead I began to mentally pull apart my whole new perspective on life like the frayed ends of a rope. I thought that going off of the drugs was a mistake and that I was destined to be anxious and depressed forever, that my career choice was a mistake, that I am hopelessly trapped, drowning in debt, and that I should just go to bed and sleep for the next ten years. Sleeping in excess is my biggest symptom of depression.

Instead, I tried to meditate.

It didn’t work.

I almost let myself go to bed, but I remembered my doctor asking about my exercise habits when I went to see her about getting off the drug.

So I worked out instead, and then meditated. And boom. Here I am writing and feeling like a star. Apparently doctors really do know what they’re talking about with that whole exercising thing!

One thing that I’ve been realizing through counseling is that I am an adaptive person. Prior to counseling I’d been bitterly looking at my survival as a kind of side effect to my specific kinds of tragedies.

I have survived a lot of strife, strife that would be too much for some people. But I adapted to the pain and made it through. Just knowing that about myself makes the process of going through this withdrawal a little bit better because, well, I’m not hopeless anymore. That’s huge.

I’m going to make it.

Don’t Call Me Shirley

On beautiful nights, romanticism, and the magic of silence.

I just had the most lovely night at my pond.

After a friend cancelled our plans this evening, I went for a walk to avoid sitting at home and allowing myself to get grouchy, and I am so grateful to have had this night.

The weather here is humid–which is strange. Our heat is always sweltering, but dry. The sky is often that cloudless blue that goes on uninterrupted forever aside from a far away sun hanging in a corner of the blue. My fair skin often feels like it’s in a toaster oven set on broil in our usual heat. But not tonight.

This heat was the kind that makes you feel like you’re swimming in the air, the kind that has low hanging clouds that seem to threaten to shower you with thick warm drops. This kind of heat breathed life into nostalgia for playing hide-and-go-seek on a summer night years ago with my old neighborhood kids. I switched my music to my oldies playlist, early 60’s and late 50’s Duwop music–my favourite when I was a kid.

As I approached my pond, I kept my eyes on the sky. The clouds were going a sort of yellow colour, and I expected lightening or thunder to crack at any moment. A depressed thought slipped into my mind, still bitter about my friend cancelling on me, with my luck lightning will strike me even when it’s not raining.

I shushed the thought away, but the bitterness lingered. As I came around a bend on the path and my pond came into view, my depression died a quick death.

There was a complete rainbow tucked behind the trees bordering my pond. Beneath the arc like shower curtains hung the yellowing clouds, and above like an artist had begun but left the brush-stroke unfinished were the broken remnants of another rainbow.

I can’t remember the last time I allowed myself to stop and look at a rainbow and actually appreciate it. Not since I was a child, surely. But here was a rainbow, on this gorgeous humid night, over my pond, light of my life, fire of my loins.

What was more, on the opposite side of the pond, the sun was setting, like melted copper painting the spaces between the leaves.

The heat of the day broke and it was as if someone above threw little rain drops like scattering glitter. They touched my skin, cooling me before dissolving into the air. Just as quickly as the rain started, it stopped.

I sat on the bank of the water and just looked, and listened, and breathed.

Further down, I watched as a family moved to sit on the rocks of the water to watch the sunset, and my heart swelled. I was alone, but I wasn’t–not really. This beauty was shared.

On a different night not quite so magnificent as this, I snapchatted a photo of the sunset to my former beau, teasing him that it would be a perfect night for a date if we were still dating (there has been a never ending flirtation and sexual tension between him and I, so the snap was not out of the ordinary). He responded that we could still watch the sunset together, not touching on our new estranged status.

I thought of this as I looked out at the sunset with the rainbow and sheet of clouds behind me and realized that I didn’t want him there with me.

He would likely have been chatting, making jokes and making me blush, and somehow the breaking of the silence would have broken the magic of the night.

I’ve been realizing more and more that what I want in a partner is someone who reflects the parts of me that I like most (Narcissism? You tell me. I mean…we are talking about a pond, here). In that moment I wanted someone artistic and contemplative.

I’m one of those kinds of people who always have at least one person in love with them. At least, they think they’re in love. On paper, I look like perfection. I’m educated, a bit of a nerd (but not too nerdy), I’m okay on the eyes, I work out (but not too much), and I’m the kind of awkward that’s charms people into woosy fools. I can also reference Lolita, Narcissus, and Airplane in one conversation, and don’t you get me started on quoting Anchorman and how Brick killed a guy. I seem to be so easy to love. It’s not until I let people get close that they realize that, Oh, I guess depression and anxiety can’t be fixed with compliments. Who knew? And I either make them walk the plank or they jump ship. I can’t blame them.

But right now I’m learning how to be happy with myself. I felt good that I didn’t want my ex there with me. It was a victory, and my reward was the beauty I got to see and breathe in. With this new optimism, I let myself dream.

I dreamed of someone who could sit next to me on that bank, and look out at a night like that and know that we don’t need to speak. It was someone that I wouldn’t need to worry about making uncomfortable with my own silence because the silence is beautiful, and they’d know that. I wanted someone who understands that it’s not their job to fix me, but who is kind, and empathetic, and able to put me in my place when I need it. I wanted someone with the eyes of an artist who, on our walk back after the sun had set and the rainbow had faded into grey, would see not just trees, but the way the lamp light made the arc of leaves above us glow like magic.

Call me a romantic, but don’t call me Shirley.

 

The pictures below were taken at the same time like two sides of a polished penny.

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Depression & Secret Writing Prompts

On depression, Postsecret, and writing prompts.

Well hey there, WordPress. It’s been a while.

Do you ever have a day where you’re just really digging you? A day where you look at yourself and don’t rip yourself to shreds? I had one of those days today. Naturally I took some selfies like a typical millennial.

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See? What a babe. No makeup, and even no filters or editing! I just like my face how it is today. What a strange concept.

I haven’t blogged in what feels like ages because I’ve been depressed. Like super mega awful depressed. But I’m doing better. The fact that I can appreciate how I look unaltered is a huge testament to that.

In my absence, I often thought of blogging, of continuing my quest to write about my life, writing, or mental health, but I was always stopped by the question, “What’s the point?” That question followed me around, bobbing behind me like a helium filled balloon tied to my neck with a dark ribbon. “What’s the point? What’s the point?” I didn’t have an answer. Without an answer, I thought, well, why do anything at all? So I stopped doing the things I enjoyed. And I became more and more depressed until a friend practically dragged me to counseling. I am grateful for that. This counselor is actually helping, unlike all of the previous ones I’ve tried.

Sometimes I still don’t know the answer, “What’s the point?” about a lot of things. But I’ve going to the gym at least once a week for the past seven weeks which is the most I’ve been since me depression became a real struggle two years ago. This is a big deal. I’m not “better,” per say, and maybe I never will be whole. But I managed to write a story, which is why I’m here today. Small victories make a difference. I’m writing today to tell you about the best writing prompts you could ever find; I used them to write my most recent short story.

Postsecret is an “ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a postcard.” These secrets are then posted on the website every Sunday. Here’s an example of a few from this week:

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Each secret could serve as a writing prompt because it provides you with something so entirely human, but so little information at the same time. It’s a fragment of a snapshot. You can shade in the rest of the image with whatever words you find and that human element of the secret will make your image go from picture to a moving film. As writers, we always want our work to breathe, and I think taking inspiration from something so real and raw as these secrets instantly provides that extra depth we all strive for.

In fact, the story that I got published recently was inspired by a Postsecret. I won’t tell you what the secret was, but if you read the story, I’m sure you’ll be able to figure it out. It has to do with what the character does at the end.

The story I wrote recently while in the thralls of depression was inspired by  secret that read: I can still feel it when you think of me. My story was about two soulmates who didn’t end up together. And you know what? It’s fucking awesome. That Postsecre got me to write even when I was too numb to feel.

Go to the website, pick a secret that speaks to you, and write about it. I dare you to come up with something that isn’t compelling.

I’m getting published!

That’s right! You heard me, I’m getting mo fuggin published again!

My short story, “What Counts,” is being published by a magazine called Mistake House.

This has come at the best time.

I love to write; I have always loved to write.

I was just beginning to lose my faith in my ability to be a success at it.

And now here we are again. Yay!

Travel Writing: A Certain kind of Kiss

On joyous kissing and travel writing.

 

I haven’t talked about travel writing on here at all because it’s not something I’ve really done before. When I took my creative non-fiction writing class, I hadn’t traveled anywhere yet, and I sure as hell didn’t want to write about my hometown, Bumbleton. So I didn’t pay too close attention (sorry Karen!). Maybe there are guidelines and rules or tips and tricks to travel writing, but I can’t say that I know them. I do know that the happiest week of my life happened when I was traveling, and that I wanted to write about it. So I did.

Mad Decent Boat Party 2014 was a rave cruise that went from Miami to Nassau that I somehow ended up on. I’d never even been to a rave let alone listened to EDM, but a girl I worked with (who I’d never even hung out with outside of work) happened to have a ticket. I had money saved up to travel, but I didn’t have any plans. So I bought her extra ticket. We had the time of our lives. We turned out to be the perfect travel buddies, and have been close friends ever since.

The passage below is from a day when we went to a private island:

A Certain kind of Kiss

There’s a balloon of ebullience swelling in my chest. The sun is baring down on my barely covered form, my pale skin almost stinging as it cooks the granules of salt from the water onto my skin. The inflated raft I’ve commandeered sways beneath me on the waves. Across the water on the beach electronic music thumps from the stage and a throng of bodies, wet and caked in golden sand, thrive to the beat. A red inflatable t-rex crowd surfs, bouncing above waving hands and exposed breasts.

I hadn’t thought to pack any sunglasses and without my glasses, the edges of bodies and sand blurred like a Monet painting.

I close my eyes, feeling the movement of the waves with my whole body, and I float on, that Modest Mouse song flitting into my head. Yes, we all float on, float on.

A wet finger taps my shoulder, the water cold on my sun dried skin.

I shade my face from the sun with my hands and open my eyes, wondering if the owner of the raft has come to reclaim what I’ve stolen.

I meet the gaze of a grinning couple. The one who’s tapped me is a girl. “I just had to tell you,” she shouts over the voices and music skittering on the surface of the water, “we love your smile!”

I laugh because I hadn’t realized I’d been smiling. I had probably looked like a fool, floating amidst the crowd of people on my stolen raft with my eyes closed, grinning. “Thank you!” I shout back.

They wave before turning away. I watch as they try their best to rave in waist deep water.

I still can’t keep the smile from touching my face.

Out beyond the ocean dwellers, a speed boat races around, one of our group tethered to it by a rope lifts into the air behind.

On the beach, people are still arriving from the ferry that delivered me to the island from the cruise ship. They’re just seeing the heaven they’ve arrived in. I watch as two pairs of friends shriek in joy and promptly grab one another in a violent kiss.

I giggle at the display.

That excited kiss has been happening all day between couples, friends, and strangers; my friend Genveive and I were not exempt. We had arrived on the beach after a round of battle shots (a game of battleship where the boats are shots), and seeing the stage, the sprawling sand and blue water that kiss had claimed us too. I would have another kiss like that later on the boat again during a set on the pool deck with Aaron, a guy I’d just met from Seattle, who I would mentally deem my “boat boyfriend.”

There’s something to be said for joy like that, that seizes the whole body and is so overwhelming that it needs to burst outward into an act of affection that a hand grab or a hug could never express. No, it can only be a kiss, sloppily shoved into the mouth of a person who’s experiencing that same moment, that same joy, with you. It’s not a kiss given because you’re not in love with the recipient, but because you’re both so in love with the moment. All of us, everyone in the water and dancing on the beach, shared in that joy, that certain kind of kiss.

 

A Lesson in Semantics

On depression and semantics.

I was near tears when I opened up my laptop with the intent to write this post, but the lock screen was set to a picture of a smiling sloth. It cheered me up, so if you’re having a rough day, here’s a sloth for you too:

sloth

I don’t know if I should publish this.

I often claim that I’m very open about my depression and anxiety, but the truth is that I’m really not.

As a writer, I know the difference between showing and telling.

To show, I would say, “The numbness had seeped out from the girl’s mind and into her body, paralyzing her in the dark in her bed with self loathing for eternity.”

To tell I would say, “The girl was depressed.”

I tell.

I tell people, “Why yes, I struggle with depression and anxiety,” like it’s a fun fact. I’ll bring it up to maybe explain a certain quirk I have, or to make a joke about it. I don’t show anyone why I’m too distraught to move for days. I tell them I drink so much because I love to party and don’t describe how booze fends off the panic that comes with being in a room filled with men who are bigger than me and could overpower me if they wanted. I don’t let anyone see how I rip myself into pieces until all that’s left is a handful of bloody confetti. Only my closest friends get snapshots, and even then, they’re few and far between because I am afraid. I’m afraid that if I show my darkness, what I really am beneath all the meaningless chatter, people will run. It will be too much. A burden.

In my ed psych class we’re discussing learning disabilities. My professor keeps emphasizing that if you ever hear a student say, “I’m ADHD,” or “I’m autistic,” you tell them that they aren’t ADHD or autistic, rather that they have ADHD or autism. They are not their disorders. Meaningful semantics.

I am not depressed.

I have depression.

But I don’t really believe that, not about myself or about him.

In fact, one of the stories I’m trying to get published currently is about  him, my first boyfriend who was an obsessive compulsive, cripplingly anxious, alcoholic with dissociative disorder and was an abusive mother fucker. In the story, I refer to him only as “Illness.” He functioned in social situations only by mimicking television shows; he was composed of learned wit and good timing. The only thing beneath the visage was the illness he was hiding, and I question to this day if there was even a person left amidst all of his sickness. But I loved him, whatever he was, despite the abuse.

But lately I’ve been trying to move away from relationships like that, to be smarter about who I get close to.

There’s a blogger named Jennifer Lawson who unabashedly shows and tells about her mental illness. What baffles me most about her life, is that she has a husband who isn’t mentally ill and never has been. I wondered if an unafflicted man could really understand her, really empathize, without growing weary of dealing with someone who is sick.

Her marriage gave me hope.

I thought that maybe if this woman who is so ill could be with someone who’s well, then maybe I could. Maybe the idea of a normal healthy relationship wasn’t too out of left field. Maybe a well companion could help me get well too.

I’ve been trying really hard to get better, to open up, to show. I tried in my most recent relationship, and to avoid the coldness I’ve so often been accused of. I showed, just a glimpse. And it was too much. He told me so. And I’m single again. It’s not his fault. I wanted to know, and now I do. I was right to be afraid to show my darkness.

I’ve learned that if I am depressed, then I am a burden to whomever I am with. Showing was a mistake. I need to tell, or maybe even not do that either. Maybe I should just deal with things on my own, as I always have. Hide my illness and stay on my own until I’m truly well again, if I ever will be.

I’ve been doing Cognitive Behavior Therapy, and I know that logically, I shouldn’t believe what I just wrote. Just because my illness was too much for one person doesn’t mean it will repeat every time. But logic smogic. I’m sad.

Here’s another sloth.

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Free Write– “Typical”

The result of a free write exercise. There are bad words, sexual references, and drugs in this post. Sounds like a good time, right?

It needs, he thought, it needs…to be held. Gently in soft lubricated hands with long fingers tipped by carefully manicured nails. It needs to be pleasured, made love to. Fucked. Hard. It needs…it needs cocaine. That was it. You can’t go wrong with cocaine. Well, maybe you could. But what did he care? His heart hurt, after all. It needed to be held, or it needed cocaine, and the former wasn’t going to happen. Not since she’d gone.

He thought of the energy infused in his muscles after snorting a line, mouth chattering almost faster than the words spouting out his throat, eyelids peeled back, taking everything in faster than possible, his energy lashing out in all directions, feeling larger than his body. And his heart. Oh, his heart would race with joy. It would thunder and leap in his chest. It would palpitate with life, with the rush. Energy. Rage. Love. He needed cocaine.

Getting up from the disheveled bed, he rubbed his hands across his unkempt beard, brushing out the stale granules of last night’s pizza from his face. He stumbled over to the coffee table, sticky with pop spilled a month ago. A month. A whole month gone by without her, his heart cold and untouched.

He’d devoured a large pepperoni pizza and two pounds of salt and pepper wings the previous night in an attempt to feed his heart, thinking that maybe after all this time that it might just be hungry, and that it was just crying for food. But his heart didn’t want pizza and wings. The food hadn’t made it happy. Instead, it had only made his skin oily and his stomach protrude with an unsightly food baby beneath the fuzz of his body hair. His bed sheets were filled with crumbs and his heart was indifferent, untouched.

He had touched other things in attempt to heal the shuttering gasping thing in his chest. In fact, his genitals were well loved—not by anyone else, but at least they responded to his efforts, like his stomach did to food. They allowed themselves to be indulged unlike his sad heavy heart.

But somewhere in the city, there was cocaine.

The thought spread in him like warm honey oozing down an aching throat. He didn’t have any coke in the house, hadn’t for years. He didn’t even remember his dealer’s name, let alone his contact information. Why was life so hard?

With a sigh that wreaked his whole body, the man fumbled with a slip of cigarette rolling paper and dumped in some green from the absurd amount in the jar on the sticky table. He ran his tongue along the paper, the moisture picking up little flecks of weed, green on pink. Bitter. Like everything in his world.

He pinched the paper together, lit the end and took in a breath matching the ferocity of his sighs. The cloud of grey smoke rushed into his lungs. It filled his whole chest, but it didn’t reach his heart. Typical.