Hello, my name is Stephanie and I suffer from clinical depression and anxiety disorders.

In March of this year, I had a nervous breakdown.  It is the third in my adult life.  A litany of stressors and my lack of effective coping mechanisms brought it on.

I began therapy when I was sixteen.  A doctor diagnosed me with clinical depression and anxiety at the same age.  Though I wanted to believe it was simply teenage angst causing all the emotional upheaval, the reality was my biology made the angst into a typhoon.  Add in the hormonal changes operating on teenage women, and you can only imagine the hell I lived in, and the hell I created for my sister, mother, and father.  But that brings me to the main point of this post.  I am not sure, to this day, that anyone truly understands what that – clinical depression and diagnosed anxiety – means.  It definitely became clear within my family, after this latest event, when both parents sat me down and asked what I was feeling and experiencing, and both seemed taken aback by my mental and emotional state.  My husband often asks questions to decipher my mood and behavior so he can be there for me in ways I need, as well as suggest new mechanisms for weathering the storm.  Truth is, despite mental illness being brought to the public consciousness by social media and other outlets, partly in reaction to high-profile deaths (read Robin Williams), I am not sure many people understand the breadth of mental illness, nor do they understand that their interactions with someone while in duress can impact them in an extremely negative way.  Now don’t get me wrong, I am not without my ability to cope or deal, as I am sure others who are life-long sufferers have their methods and ways, and I do not blame others for the origin of my depression, however, there are things that people do – family, friends, co-workers – that actually make these episodic moments worse.  But I cannot blame these people for living in ignorance, though I am frustrated by it.  Societal norms have created a wall dividing those who suffer from those who do not, and I am lucky enough that discussion of these subjects have created small windows so those divided by the wall can at least communicate.  It was not always so.

What does depression feel like?  Only three people, ever, have asked me this question.  I have told others what I am dealing with, and explained to them the nature of how I experience depression, what it may feel like, and the trouble it causes with relating to, and being able to interact with, a wide cross-section of individuals; but only three people, ever, have asked me what it actually feels like, how my depression manifests, the ways in which anxiety has stunted a lot of my experiences, and more.  The reason I bring attention to this is because depression and anxiety are a part of me.  They are inherent.  The same way my hair is brown, my eyes are bluish-green, and my skin is white.  Depression is not a choice.  Nor is clinical anxiety.  It is derived from a chemical imbalance in my brain due to physiological quirks.  It’s why sucking it up, or “turning that frown upside down,” or getting over it, are not options, and they are all things HIGHLY harmful to say to someone suffering with depression.  You are essentially telling that person that their true self is something that NEEDS change, that they are somehow defunct.  Most of my life I grew up with the belief that I was broken because I couldn’t opt for happiness, because I couldn’t erase the emotional and mental anguish of my depression, nor the physical symptoms.  In-fact, it took until many years later for me to realize depression has nothing to do with choice, at least as it relates to what is felt.  The only choice within depression and anxiety is in reaction.  And the most common and notorious of those reactions is suicide.

Robin Williams death devastated me.  Not only did I adore him as an actor, but I adored his willingness and ability to discuss his struggle with depression and substance abuse in the public eye.  Ironically, almost every interview he gave would somehow tie back to his emotional health, and yet the revelation that mental illness played an integral part in his death was a shock to a large portion of the population.  I remember one particular opinion piece from The Huffington Post that brought me to tears.  I don’t remember who wrote it, but it discussed depression and the debate of suicide as a brave choice.  The underlying message was that until you feel the heat of depression, there is no way, no possible way, you can judge the choice of suicide.  I astonished myself by nodding enthusiastically in agreement.  For as much as I would love to close the gulf of space between us sufferers, and those of you who live with us, the only thing that could reach that far is willing empathy, and unfortunately that commodity seems deplete in present society.  This opinion piece went on to use the metaphor of a burning building to describe the ever-present effect depression has on those who suffer; we are left with two choices: jump out of the window to avoid being burned alive by the fire, or hope that you can stay in the flames long enough that the fire itself dies and you walk away alive, but heavily scarred.  It is the most truthful metaphor for depression, and the depression I suffer in particular, that I have ever found.  Live in the flames, constantly in fear and in pain, or jump knowing full well that you will die upon impact, and if you don’t, you will live a half-life or choose to take the plunge again.  There is no true reprieve when you suffer depression and anxiety.  You only have blissful moments where your coping mechanisms make its existence bearable.

One thing I have never done, at least in writing, is discuss how I experience my depression.  My husband knows, and to some small degree, my parents know, but for the most part, even these interlopers who have experienced the flames up close have little to no true knowledge of the devastating effect my depression and anxiety leaves.

I have oftentimes called my depression a black hole.  A massive gravitational pull that sits in the dead center of my chest.  The enormous weight of this black hole prevents light from escaping, and light can mean anything from positive emotion to actual “lightness of character” (i.e. energy, smiles, a bubbly personality, laughter, etc.).  In it’s stead there is nothing but a void.  It feeds on all emotion, not just a spectra of happiness, but sadness and anger, as well.  When my depression has devoured everything it leaves me in a dichotomous existence; I simultaneously feel void and empty, and yet I feel overwhelmed by everything around me.  A great visual for this existence would be the skeletal frame of a barn or a house.  It’s standing, yet there is no interior, no guts, and if a large gust of wind came, the strength of that frame would be put to test.  Simple acts, like showering, can zap me of energy for the day.  I have to pull from a well of strength and hope that I can preform the desired feat before the black hole notices there is more to feast on.  In my worst moments, I’ve done nothing but sit in quiet contemplation staring at a wall (literally; during one episode of severe depression I spent almost all 24 hours of my day staring at a wall convincing myself to not cut my legs or arms, praying that I could withstand the flames, praying for reasons not to make the mad-dash to the window).

The black-hole is always present, much like the reality of true black holes.  And much like the reality of true black holes, or supermassive black holes, my world, or galaxy, has to operate around its existence.  In-fact, much like true supermassive black holes, it devours my existence little by little.  Depression can exhibit in many different ways.  Most people assume someone who suffers from depression will outwardly appear sad, but otherwise look, feel, and sound normal.  Or that somehow manifestations of depression will be observed solely through the guise of mental and emotional understanding, counseling, and discussion.  Reality, though, is much more difficult and convoluted, which is somewhat ironic and hilarious when discussing this in the metaphor of a black hole.  I’ve experienced constant sickness due to a weakened immune system; insomnia; bone-deep pain; I’ve torn my hair out; cut my legs, arms, and stomach; I’ve scratched the soft tissue of my inner arm until it bleeds and scabs over; I’ve banged my wrists, ankles, legs, and arms, against things in-order to feel something outside of the void; I’ve also stopped eating, showering, drinking, and essentially existing, because of the toll of depression.  And the worst part is, I’ve been called weak.  I’ve been told to snap out of it.  I’ve been told to leave the “emotional stuff” at home.  I’ve been told that my mood dictates the tenor of a room, and that I had to pep up because I was creating a negative experience for co-workers.  When I can barely carry the weight of my own emotional health, it is beyond detrimental to hear that I need to carry the weight of those around me.  And I have been told it is my responsibility.  More than once.  And that repetition has created an awkward phobia of my place of employment when in the midst of a depressive episode.  And when I say phobia, I mean phobia (a type of anxiety disorder, usually defined as a persistent fear of an object or situation in which the sufferer commits to great lengths in avoiding, disproportional to the actual danger posed, often being recognized as irrational).

This is my existence.  This is a reality, not necessarily the reality of depression, but it is my reality with depression.  I hope that in reading this some of you develop empathy for those that suffer, that you choose to educate yourselves about depression and the positive things you can do to help loved ones that suffer.  The biggest thing that’s helped is having a partner who is willing to listen free of judgement and free of unwanted and unneeded advice.  In discussing my depression with him, I have been able to work through some of the difficult thought processes that lead me towards anxiety, towards phobias, towards worry.  And I hope that by reading one persons experience you are motivated to learn about others, because despite have commonalities in the physiological and chemical spheres, depression is different for everyone.  It manifests in so many diverse ways that you cannot just assume someone is not suffering.  The best possible practice is to look at everyone through an empathetic lens.  You have no idea what is going on in their life, in their mind, in their emotions, just be genuinely kind and nice, because on days I’m at my worst, those moments of kindness are like being handed a life preserver when arms are too tired to keep swimming.

Early bird gets the worm. But worms are gross. And I’m a vegetarian.

I am tightly wound.  Like someone has taken a straw and began to turn it until it is a mangled mess of a knot.  Remember doing that as a kid?  Taking a normal straw, and then twisting and twisting.  Someone then takes a finger and flicks it until it snaps open extorting a “pop” as air evacuates from the pressure in the center.  I empathize with that straw.  I just hope no one flicks me.  It will not be a quick expulsion of air, but an agonizingly long deflation that leaves me a quivering, quaking mess of sobbing hormonal twenty-something girl.  You know my emotional state is higher when you receive long, convoluted explanations of emotional blathering rather than quick, Hemingwayesque prose.  Clean, concise, and hiding valuable information underneath the surface.  Along with mountains of empty liquor bottles.

I feel like my brain cannot stop working.  One trivial thing followed by something actually useful intertwined with yet another impossibly stupid, small, incoherent thought.  My lack of sleep is definitely adding a heavy weight of unreality to my every day.  I cannot shut my mind off to certain things.  Last night I finally managed to haul my ass upstairs to turn in for the night around 11:30 PM.  To some, that may seem ridiculously early for a twenty-five year old.  But for someone who has averaged four hours of unrestful sleep for approximately three weeks, I think it is safe to say that 11:30 is going to bed late.  But that’s the thing.  I didn’t go to bed.  I put on my perfunctory television show (I cannot go to sleep without the television on, which is horrible because it is such a waste of electricity) and stared blankly at the screen, uncomprehending of the episode of How I Met Your Mother.  Eventually I snapped out of the my zombie-like stare down and began paying attention.  A few wispy thoughts crossed my mind: Josh Radnor is adorable and the character of Ted is one of the few well written leading male characters; Barney and subsequently Neil Patrick Harris, is by far one of the funniest and most colorful characters to grace television; Marshall and Lily are disgustingly adorable heaping on the perfect amount of “cute” couple hypotheticals with reality driven banter.

After these fleeting thoughts, I removed my glasses and desperately tried to toss and turn my way into oblivion.  The clock read a time well past midnight and I was desperately fighting with the Sandman.  My muscles were aching, my mind an odd combination between being far too awake without comprehension, my eyes were literally burning, and I desired nothing more than to pass off into nothingness; a dreamless sleep.  Needless to say, my mind had different plans.  At last glance, my clock read 1:43 AM.  I turned one more time to my left side, desperately seeking sanctuary from waking life, and then the next thing I remember is jolting awake, breathing heavy.

After my startled return to consciousness, I tried a few more feeble attempts at sleep before giving up, grabbing my glasses and staring at the clock.  It read 5:16 AM.  I had a desperate desire to take my clock, open my window, and throw it through the screen while screaming in aggression as I watched it fly through the air.  Rather I sat in bed somewhere between tying the beast down and holding back frustrated tears.  You see, this is a relatively common occurrence, or has been for about three weeks since my mom went into the ER and landed on short-term disability.  The last two weeks have been especially rough because I was without my father. and therefore all by myself in caring for my mother.  Add into the recipe a week with two adorable, yet needy, puppies, and you have the perfect ingredients for a sleep deprived twenty-something who wants nothing more than curl up in the fetal position and hide under her favorite blanket, The Blue.  (Yes, capital T, capital B, he is that special.)

What is especially disgusting about this episode is that I do not even feel like I slept.  What jolted me awake was a dream I was having.  Typically I do not remember my dreams unless they are particularly weird (I once dreamed I was a guest voice on The Simpsons, but the dream was entirely Simpsonesque, meaning I was a yellow, four-fingered, spiky haired version of myself voicing a yellow, four-fingered, spiky haired character) or frighteningly real (like the disturbing dream I had of my grandparents, who survived World War II, burning alive, which I woke up smelling burnt flesh).  This dream guest starred a friend of mine who currently lives in Portland, another who lives in Milwaukee, and four other guys, one of which is my ex-fiance.  My friend in Portland, though, in the dream said she was living in California, that she had seen Jonathan.  She also mentioned that I “needed to get back out there.”  My friend from Milwaukee informed me in a rather timid voice, and with tears in her eyes that a group of guys assaulted her, but she managed to run and get away, surprising her attackers.  With this confession, she seemed lifeless and small compared to the concerned and bubbly personality that typically exudes from her.  Somehow we found ourselves at an indoor soccer game and Jonathan is there, all the way from California.  As are three more suitors, all of which are watching, not playing.  Each of them, Jonathan included, make overtures, though with some, I am hesitant to even listen because there is an anger that resides in me towards these men.

Eventually both of my friends begin to ask why I am so distant.  These guys are cute, they say, they appear gentlemen-like and exhibit a deep appreciation for me.  I respond that no one is perfect, that everyone has a secret, and I am not sure I can handle having secrets in my life.  I buried one so deep and for so long that I injured not only the man I loved, but scarred myself.  There is a shadow on these men, and I can do nothing but see those shadows.  Of course my girlfriends roll their eyes and call me too poetic for my own good.  My friend from Portland stands up, walks to the guy she was rooting for and begins a dialogue, to which I blush, giggle, and turn away, feeling far too much like an adolescent than an adult.  And what seems most odd is that rather than picking the guy most like her, someone who loves good food and outdoor activities, someone who appreciates art and music and lives in a community dedicated to these things, she decided to approach the guy who pours over video games, plays in a band, is completely unreliable and childish, but she saw made me smile.

My friend from Milwaukee then approaches a guy and begins a dialogue.  I assumed she would approach Jonathan, having stated she loved us together.  But rather she chooses another suitor, someone just as surprising.  She picked the guy who reads literature and hovers over writing, integrating the English language and the beauty of words into his every day life, the guy who lives with artistic ambition and dwells in a place that makes him feel real, stimulated, appreciative of the chance to live the way he is.  I blush red as a tomato as she talks to him.  And I try to concentrate on my friend from Portland as she describes the favorable qualities of her choice.  All the while I am staring at the other two men, wondering how complex and complicated things became.  I feel an overriding sense of joy and relief when I look at one and sadness when I look at the other.  However, the one that brings me joy brings a deadening blow of emotional and mental pain, while the sadness of the other is masked by positive memories, a certain hope and maybe hidden desire.

I stand up, look at each guy, drinking in their features, swimming in the feelings they evoke, and I make up my mind.  I begin walking towards the one.  And I jolt awake.  And what bothers me is not my decision.  It is the fact that as soon as I awoke, for the life of me I cannot remember where my subconscious settled.  With the reality of waking life, I know my feelings, I am slowly beginning to understand them and work with them.  They are malleable, while at the same time maintaining a rigidity making them impossible to swiftly change.

Yesterday in one of my photography posts, there was a picture of hearts hanging on a wall.  My mom made them when I was a freshman in college and sent them as a gift to decorate an otherwise unremarkable dorm room.  I still have them to this day, and refuse to rid myself of them.  I feel like my emotional canvas is much like those hearts: roughly hewn, a patchwork of color and lace, and dangling from long strings hoping never to fall abruptly.  I hold on to them not only because of the kinship I feel, but also because in their simplicity they are the single most beautiful thing in my room.

Since becoming single I have had a litany of commentary on my casing.  For years I questioned my beauty, always alternating between believing I was a plain Jane and maybe just pretty.  I once mentioned on here that to me the highest compliment is being called beautiful.  Though I take pride in being called “hot” (there is a certain confidence boost knowing that others find you attractive), I miss hearing and feeling confident in the knowledge that my mind and my beliefs and my thoughts are also as stimulating.  That was one thing that Jonathan, when we began dating, excelled at.  He made me feel his equal.  By the end, however, I felt like he thought I was dumb compared to his contemporaries, all of which were PhD candidates and fiercely more intelligent in his scientific plane.  I was an English major with no job who wanted nothing more than to write for a living; someone who can wax on about the enigmatic wit and subversive commentary of Jane Austen, but could not carry on a meaningful conversation about the giant garter snake of the Central Valley.  It already felt like a tear in the seam of our relationship had begun, and when we moved to California, thanks to my immaturity and inability to handle these thoughts and emotions, a gulf passed between us.

Despite settling into a comfortable recognition of these feelings, I have a deep curiosity about where my subconscious fell.  What choice could have jolted me awake?

Little Red Riding Hood.

Just a few random thoughts: there are moments in life where you feel like nothing but a fool.  You run so fast and so far from a certain behavior and then you find yourself feeling confident you left it behind only to realize that you are staring at it, dead in the eye, again.  How does that happen?  Has anyone had experiences like that?  You think that maybe, just maybe, this time is different, but then it, that thing you ran from whether it be a personality type or behavior, hits you; the same old shit, just a different day.

The other morning I woke up with a few thoughts simmering in my mind.  Somehow I was back in high school.  In the hazy dawn where you are somewhere between sleep and awake, I had this very specific scene replaying itself.  In high school, most of the guys I dated were not from my school.  I selectively excluded myself from activities at school not only because I was choosing the guy over the well-being and social prosperity of myself, but also because I instinctively felt disconnected from everything Carmel High School was.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved the school.  I think it prepared me well for future endeavors and it was well worth the money and “beginning anew” that was given up to the educational gods.  I just did not feel that “ra-ra-cis-boom-bah” and Corsair pride.  I loved the football season and that was about it.  Okay, and maybe my English and History classes.  I lucked out with my teachers on that account.

The moment I had circling my thoughts was at the beginning of my senior year.  I had broken up with an ex-boyfriend who was in every way, shape, and form, bad for me.  He was mentally and physically abusive and emotionally I felt torn, gutted if you will, from the demise of the relationship.  You see, I still desperately wanted him.  Not because he was the great love of my life (though I did lose my virginity to him), but because I honest-to-God thought that nothing better was ever going to come my way.  I had been emotionally cut down enough to believe that at sixteen I had peaked and would never find a man who would want to put up with me, let alone love me.  Throughout my junior year of high school I had fallen into some negative habits, the worst of which was self-harming.  I would scratch and occasionally cut.

Most people know what cutting is.  Using some implementation to slice the skin and watch as the blood would flow.  I have read that some cutters produced an emotional reaction from witnessing the blood.  My habit is not necessarily tied in with the sight of blood (although when I did cut, it was definitely a kind of release, euphoric almost), but more in the searing and burning sensation associated with the pain of skin fibers being torn away and apart.  I would grow out my nails and then I would sit there and scratch.  The effect was very similar to how your knee looks after you fall off your bike; ripped, shredded, torn apart; not clean lines but gashes that oozes pus.  My parents found out two ways.  My sister suspected and confronted me.  She said she wouldn’t tell if I stopped, but if she saw anymore scars or anymore evidence, mum was no longer the word.  She caught me again and said something to my mom and I denied, denied, denied.  That is until a gash on my ankle became infected to the point where I needed antibiotics.  The secret was out.

Except I had one more teeny, tiny secret.  I began taking over the counter sleeping pills, motion sickness pills, large quantities of Tylenol to feel a fleeting high.  Or to sleep at all.  I have always had this issue.  I still have this issue.  I have worked on it, but I am not going to deny desperately desiring a handful of Unisom just to take the edge off.  Edge off of what?  Everything and anything.  There is a desperate desire in me to control feelings.  When I do open the gates up it is like a swirling black hole comes alive in my chest.  It just sucks everything in.  There is a numbness that you feel with alcohol and drugs that does not make that black hole feel so large and destructive.  It’s almost as if you can control the amount it eats.  But without those “helpers” when the hole opens, everything, and I mean everything – happiness, sadness, anger, lust – gets sucked in, consumed, and it just disappears.

Well, all of this entered my thoughts the other day.  It had its desired effect in that it made me bummed.  But it also got me thinking about certain people and certain behaviors and I began to evaluate different relationships and friendships I have and had.  And I’m shocked, and definitely appalled, to discover that I have fallen into my high school trappings.  I am living at home and I feel like maybe I have turned back into the sixteen-year-old I once was.  Certain relationships are cancerous.  They spread like the disease, infecting different aspects of your life and psyche.  Looking in the mirror becomes no easy feat because there is a part of you that knows it is no good, it knows that in the end you will be nothing but hurt and sobbing on the floor.  You pray you are wrong, but as the time passes after the first realization and nothing comes to disprove your theory, your thought, your assumption, it just feels like a physical pain, a punch to the tit, that you were in the spider’s web yet again, waiting for the fangs to sink in.  But at least this time you came to and have allowed yourself a chance at freedom.

In the chaos of today I managed to begin reading my Harper’s Bazaar with Lady Gaga on the cover.  While flipping through the pages I came across the horoscope.  I have mixed feelings on horoscopes.  There is a part of me that feels they are relatively dead-on.  I find a certain kind of romance in astrology and other more “mystical” things like fate and destiny.  I also know that there isn’t a lot of stock, evidence, proof (whatever you will) in those practices.  My horoscope said (P.S. I am a Gemini): “Your social life buzzes, and your ability to enhance others’ lives is amazing.  If it’s love you seek, friends can be the key to meeting your mate, with the 11th holding promise.  A zealous, pioneering energy allows you to make your mark.  If your career direction is shifting, go with your gut.”  I usually never really “see” the horoscope.  There are these open-ended comments that you can pin to a part of your life and say, “Ahhh, yes, it was right!”  But this is the first time that I have looked at every word and felt it resonate with me.  And it is making me second guess my feelings as described above.  I am still not convinced.  This is not the big sign or overture I was looking for or hoping for.  It leaves more questions in my mind than answers.  While I think I should just walk away, there is a part of me that is stubborn and determined to stay and wait a bit longer.  It’s getting dark and the wolves are coming, but I tug my red cape and hood closer, sheltering me from the cool of the night.  I just hope I make up my mind before they devour me, once again.

The stars.

So I know you all think I am probably way too obsessed with Florence + the Machine.  I even colored my hair red because her color inspired me.  The song “Cosmic Love” has become almost an anthem to me lately.  I cannot get over how much I relate to her words.  The lyrics, the first time I heard the song, felt like an awakening.  They mirrored some of the emotions I had had and seemed to echo a sentiment that I had felt.  The most potent lyrics from this song are: “And in the dark I can hear your heart beat, I try to find the sound.  But then it stopped and I was in the darkness, so darkness I became.”  Later she says she makes a map from the stars in her eyes and she is going to leave, she is going to get out, she is going to find her way, but then she hears his heart beat again and she decides she will stay with him, in the dark.  There is so much in those lyrics.  So much meaning.  She is going to act for her own benefit because she needs to escape the darkness, the pain, the inability to see, but when it came to it, when she was ready to leave, she got pulled back in by the beating of his heart.  She was so entwined with him that she chose him over her own well-being and happiness.  She chose darkness and pain, she chose to stay in the shadow of his heart.  She chose the place of second to him always.

Every time she sings about making the map to leave from the stars in her eyes but then decides to stay once she hears his heartbeat, it kills me.  It fucking kills me.  This song, since first hearing it, has created this weight in my chest.  Any time I hear the lyrics, the music, the harp in the beginning, it resonates so powerfully in me.  Should I have stayed in the darkness?  Should I have followed my map out?  It’s amazing how so many small things connect.  Stars have been particularly important to me this past year.  Lyrics to two very important and meaningful songs to me use them.  They are described as being in a woman’s eyes and as a type of compass or map.  They are essentially this internal guidebook for not only the woman, but for the people who see them.  In one song the person who sees them does not want them to disappear, he will do anything to keep them in his sight, where in this song they are a guide to leave darkness and they are tossed aside for someone else’s well-being.  She stays in the darkness, even after his heart has hurt her, even after it has torn through her eyes leaving her blind to the world.  She is in darkness for him and when she resolves to get out he pulls her back in.  I believe that his heart beat has a lot of meaning and is profoundly important.  It means his emotional center, it means his mental awareness, because what it encompasses most is his life and his life force.  He brought her into darkness, left her, and then when she resolves to leave, to use a part of herself, a part that is still glowing and strong, she hears his heart beat, his life, his desire, his hope again.  And it comes at a time when she has decided to leave.  She stands there, between the light (the knowledge, the intellect, the awakening) and the darkness, the darkness that she became (the pain, the depression and sadness, the unaware) because of him.  She feels he has left her, she feels that she is always in his shadow because of this.  He is nowhere.  But when she gets the strength to leave, to create something out of herself, he pulls her back.

How does one forgive?  I know how loaded a question that is.  I am asking because there are things I want to be forgiven for, but there are also things I need to forgive.  It seems so impossible now.  But I want to forgive.  There have been times in my past where I have wanted nothing more than to hate people who have hurt me, because it is far easier to hate and blame other people than recognize how actions, thoughts, words, and behaviors hurt others.  But now, more than anything, I want to forgive.  There are actions, thoughts, feelings, emotions and behaviors that are damning and they are also very painful, but I think for the first time, I am realizing that there are always extenuating circumstances that help things to snowball.  And it shames me to know that when I saw it snowballing I did nothing to stop it.  These circumstances are not excuses, they are not justifications, but they are definitely things that I should have recognized and taken into account.  And they were not only in my actions.  I find it ironic that for months and months I allowed myself to be wrapped up in rather superficial things (in the scheme of it all) but I refused to dig deeper and recognize an underlying symptom.  And the reason I was so blind to it, or willing to be so blind, was because I was enfolding myself in the superficial hurts.  I do not deny their potency, but when you tear away all the cloth, all the packaging, the heart of the matter is there, and it is beating.

I want to use the stars in my eyes to make a map home.  I don’t want this darkness.  His heart is beating, he is in the darkness too, but I can no longer be there with him or for him.  I hope he knows how to get out of the darkness.  I know he has the strength in him.  And I believe he has the desire.  I just hope he can make a map of his own.