A comment and a response.

Last evening an individual attempted to leave a comment on my previous post.  As moderator of the blog, I opted to trash the comment rather than address it.  That decision did not sit well with me, and for many reasons.  I shared my story to help open up dialogue about mental health; my case is specific to clinical depression and anxiety.  Part of my impetus was to enlighten individuals about these subjects, because it’s been proven that secrecy regarding these issues reinforces the negative motivation behind them, and therefore the act of doing them.  When we opt to remain silent about the struggles we live with we give them power, we induce a level of anxiety and fear regarding otherwise rational understandings that lead to irrational phobias and deep-seeded fears.  Those who have diagnosed mental illness have an additional hurdle: our bodies’ inability, on a genetic and chemical level, to hasten response and begin operating positively in reaction to stressors.  Where one person’s brain can produce the needed serotonin and dopamine to respond to an otherwise psychically painful day, my brain is less capable.  It produces the chemicals, but not in amounts that reduce anxiety or siphon off overwhelming sadness.  To quote one of my favorite lyricists and artists: “our brains are sick, but that’s okay” (Tyler Joseph).

But, the reason I am opting to respond now is that at the first sign of antagonism I ran with my tail between my legs.  The comment not only reminded me there is still much misunderstanding regarding mental health, but it also highlighted the importance of willing empathy.  This comment was a prime example in misunderstanding.  Every person’s experience is different, and even if there are shared history or genetics, there is no way to completely predict how those genes express themselves.  And forcing an understanding catered specifically to one person’s experience is where misunderstanding insidiously blooms.  It creates harmful, not just hurtful, consequences.

Below I will re-post the comment and then respond with more in-depth detail.  I have chosen to leave the poster anonymous, aside from gender specific pronouns, since I am singling out his comment.

“Nice opening for a discussion of depression. A description… quite articulate… of what depression can be like. How it feels.

But the discussion cannot end with this. It should not end with expressions of how it feels or just empathy.

There are many options for battling this demon. And in our world of narrowly focused experts it is not a good idea to rely on any one expert. Or conclude that popping the right pill is the solution. Or risking becoming an enabler by limiting the response to creating a protective environment for the depressed person.

Psychotherapy and self-awareness can help. But is it helping when 10 years later the problem persists? The war is not over until the demon can be consistently kept at bay through improved life style habits. This takes more work than sitting through therapy sessions or popping pills.

Here is a list of holistic strategies to consider and act on.

Nutrition. Some people have unique or rare or unusual nutritional needs to keep their systems functioning in balance. Much nutritional information is based on statistical studies. Many people do not fit into statistical norms. If you are struggling with depression have you explored your individual nutritional needs? Perhaps you do need mega doses of a certain B vitamin or some other nutrient?

Exercise. We live in this sedentary world. It is not what the human body was “designed” for. Abused systems break down and get gummed up. Can at least one hour of aerobic exercise a day cure depression? Try it for 2 months and find out.

Mindset. Learn about it. Read the book. It’s not about snapping out of depression. It’s about deciding to keep exploring options and taking actions until something makes a difference.

Yoga. Exercises to control and balance inner forces. This one I know little about but it would be on my list of options to explore.

Self Help books and programs. Consume them all. It’s part of the war on depression. You will learn more than any one therapist can teach.

Acupuncture. Centuries of oriental experience must have come up with some great ideas.

Buddhism or other spiritual ideas. The quest is inner peace.

The list is far from exhausted. The point is that a mere explanation of what depression is like is only the introduction. And arguing for patience while going through years of therapy is not good enough. Life is passing by. Winning the war on depression takes an aggressive multi front effort.

I will save my thoughts on enablers of depression for another day.”

I appreciate your comment, and I agree that the discussion cannot end here.  It has to continue to spread outward, and part of that comes from those of us that have mental illness being willing to share our experience, despite knowing there will be open hostility and reprisal, even from people closest to us.  It has been an unfortunate reality of my experience, and I know others have dealt with it, as well.

I commend you for doing research on the subject, and finding a path that works for you.  I, too, have put in a significant amount of effort figuring out my disease (I apologize if you do not suffer from mental illness; I made the assumption based on the detailed list you supplied) and the way it interacts in my life, which is why I feel it is necessary to address your assumption that individuals who derive a treatment plan with their chosen medical profession only “rely on any one expert”.  It is a grave fallacy to believe that those who suffer mental illness do so passively.  There is a difference between accepting the physiological reality that I need help to produce the same levels of dopamine an otherwise “healthy” brain would be able to produce and accepting that I am fundamentally altered and therefore should let this chemical quirk derail my life.

To continue, I have not relied on the advice of any one expert.  I have relied on the advice of many experts, including medical professionals trained in these fields.  I mentioned that at the age of sixteen I was diagnosed with these illnesses.  Since that age I have seen upwards of four psychiatrists, two psychotherapists, a family counselor, a group counselor, my primary care from youth, and my current primary care.  They all come at this medical issue with varying degrees of understanding, as well as individual and unique perspectives.  Each of these professionals, along my path, have aided in developing coping mechanisms that operate on a physical level (my heart rate, breathing, etc.) and a psychic level (visualization and mediation).  Your “holistic” approaches are the exact things being discussed inside the walls of my therapist’s office.  And in-fact, these approaches have been a long-standard in short-term and long-term treatment with accredited medical professionals.  They do not eradicate depression, seeing as depression and anxiety cannot be eradicated, but they do help sufferer’s reach remission and remain in remission.  Again, it is a gross misunderstanding to believe that depression can be “cured”.  My depression is as inherent as my eye color and skin color.  It is derived from genetics and body chemistry, therefore unless I somehow alter my very DNA, there is no way I will not suffer the side effects brought on by these genetic hiccups.  The choice every sufferer has to face is how they handle those side effects.

In order to ease your mind (because I assume part of the reason behind your comment was to alert me to choices outside what you interpreted as me “giving up”) I began a treatment plan with my primary care and psychotherapist in March 2015.  I opted to resume antidepressants and therapy, with special attention towards building mechanisms that act on my physiological self, as they are the stagnate aspects to my depression and anxiety.  Regardless of what brings on an episode, or where my mind inevitably gravitates, the physical side effects of my depression remain constant, and as such meditation and diaphragm breathing have become integral tools in my recovery.  And this is something that has been advocated for by each doctor I have seen through my journey.  (This is the same with nutrition and exercise; it is part of the reason I am conscientious about the food I put into my body, and why I began a consorted effort to prepare all my own meals to avoid any unknowns.)

Though I appreciate the options you provide, please be aware that a majority of the items listed are already being used by the narrow-minded experts you railed against.  Additionally, I find it somewhat disconcerting that you opted to leave a comment that ends with “[w]inning the war on depression” on a post that not only advocates for patience and understanding, but also details the detriment and harm statements like the above can actually cause to persons struggling with mental illness.  To believe, and promote, the idea that depression can somehow be “beat” is hugely disadvantageous and oftentimes helps generate a sense of impending doom when the effects of depression present again, after a believed victory over a hard-fought war.  It’s why the metaphor of a burning building is so apt.  We do not get to choose whether or not we are in the fire, our genetics have already caused our surroundings to erupt in flame; what we can, do, though, is find ways that allow us to remain in that fire and not be burned alive by it.

To further this metaphor, let me add, we can put the fire out.  As a sufferer, as someone standing in the midst of it, I can make choices that help me remain in the flames as I fight them.  Those coping mechanisms – the exercise, nutrition, medication, meditation, diaphragm breathing, etc. _ are all choices that provide a better chance of putting the flames out without suffering too many burns and scars.  I am not sure there is an individual alive that would opt to choke on the ash-filled air over having the ability to gulp fresh-air.  If anything, we appreciate the fresh-air more.  Even those who commit suicide are chasing after that fresh-air.  They just feel they ran out of options.

My final message for you, though, addresses the idea of an “enabler” of depression.  This mythical individual does not exist.  Since depression is experienced via the conduit of our genetic expression – in laymen’s terms it is experienced due to our DNA and how those genes uniquely and non-duplicitously exhibit and interact – no one can provide more “material” or “promote” depression.  Someone can enable the actions of a depressed person, and therefore enable destructive habits, but it is impossible to enable depression.  The reason I delve into this distinction is because there is a fine line between enabling destructive behavior and supporting a person dealing with a depressive episode.  And unfortunately, there are dire consequence if the two are confused.

The reason I called people to empathy was because there is a very simple, yet extremely difficult, truth to depression: it is never the same.  Since this is an illness that is derived in genetics, there is no possible way two people can have the same experience in depression and anxiety.  And because of this simple truth the only way someone should interact with sufferers of depression and anxiety is with willing empathy.  It has to be the bridge that connects everyone else to the person in the depths of the disease.  And to support someone with depression is as simple as acknowledging the necessity of that bridge and helping to build it.

I open this up to further discussion.  By all means, the intent of the original post was to shed light on a very real and very painful issue.  Many people suffer in silence due to fear of reprisal from friends, family, and co-workers.  It was part of the reason I remained in the dark for so long about an issue that has truly consumed my life.  I am twenty-nine, and thankfully I’ve had the opportunity to explore the impacts this disease has on me, and I’ve been given time and space to reflect and garner new understanding (not everyone is so lucky).

It has not been an easy process, nor has it been pain-free, but it is mine and because of that I wouldn’t change it.  And I am not naïve enough to believe that I will wake up and be “fixed” one day.  I am not broken.  Nothing of my biology needs changed.  I do not want to eradicate this disease, I simply want to live with it.  My depression is inherent, so to desire a “me” without depression is to set myself up for inevitable and soul-crushing disappointment.  I have accepted that I will live with this disease – I do not, have not, nor will I ever, let this disease overtake me, even if I can understand, and empathize with, the motivation behind those life-ending decisions.  And that, my friend, is a distinction you failed to see.  Your condescending tone to a stranger (imagine if I was your daughter or wife or sister!) has done nothing to move your agenda or view forward, rather it has very clearly shown your inability to relate-to, support, and empathize, even if you suffer from this “demon” too.  Friend, depression is different for everyone.  I am here if you ever need to discuss the trials of your struggle, and I will not judge you or push unwanted (and I dare say unneeded) advice at you.  I will be here to listen.  And if and when you want me to respond with aid, I will be more than willing to do so.  Until that day comes, though, I will trust you are dealing with your disease in a way that works for you.

Thoughts and provocation: March 1, 2013.

Writing is a very personal thing.  And because of that, it is ironic that most writer’s attempt to publish.  To sit down and pour your heart and soul into a piece and then risk the utter pain associated with being cast off, cast aside, told you are not good enough, is devastating some times.  Unless you learn to take criticism as a tool for improvement.  There are some people I know who, after countless writing classes, and many short stories, cannot take any negative criticism, even if laced expertly with constructive comments (i.e. constructive criticism).

Writing classes teach us to not take everything said about our written work as a personal attack, because the writing itself is a life form.  It holds the energy we poured into it.  It can speak for itself, come alive on the page and in our imagination.  Words are coy and shy, subtle and secretive, or blatant and boisterous.  When we critique it is to improve on the craft, to improve the work, to improve the process, to improve the outcome, not to bash the author.  Or even the subject.  There is a fine line between critiquing the process, the way we get from point A to point B, and then completely disregarding what a person wants to write about.  You can have opinions about whether they will have any success in translating subject to story form or memoir form or poetry form, but one should not critique the heart of the piece.  I must say, it has been rather humorous to see how some of my younger counter-parts address this particular fine line in class.  Which is to say that they are not kind.  Nor particularly helpful.

It is amazing (and yes, I realize that is a very abstract word) what energy can create inspiration in you.  Coming to a conclusion and feeling the relief associated with it, keeping you buzzing for days on end.  The spark of new versus the monotony of old.  The hope for the future versus the daunting depression associated with the past.  Or simply the decision that you will be happy, no matter what, because to let yourself completely fall into unhappiness and sadness and worry is the quickest way to ending any possibility for something else, something other, something bigger, and above all, something better.

Life is our best teacher.  Experience can bring something fresh, new, innovative, and something wholly unique to any piece of writing.  We all possess similar stories, with similar themes, but like a snowflake, no two experiences are the same (despite what déjà vu tells us).  How conflict arises, how our protagonist handles the situation, what climax brings about resolution, or if there is any resolution.  Life is the same way.  It is ironic and wonderful that we use writing (and movies, music, and games) to escape from the perils of life, because these things echo what we experience.  Though sometimes in hyperbole.  Even science fiction or fantasy novels discuss very common, though very genuine and complex ideas, like love, liberty, happiness, and progress.  Though I am writer, and I would love my work read (which is to say, to have someone remain motionless or indoors), I cannot advocate fully enough the need to go out and live.  Some of the most memorable and best times in my mere 26 years involve going and doing, not sitting and waiting.  At times it was exhausting, and I would drag myself home and literally crawl on hands and knees to a bed, but what I received from those experiences far outweigh the physical stress.  To look at it metaphorically, the scales between physical and emotional rewards, the emotional outweighed, and therefore justified, the physical.  (Now, please understand this is not an advocacy to do something wholly stupid like get yourself addicted to heroin or methamphetamine, but to encourage those people sitting on their couch to get up, open the door, and step into the world.)

It is easy to preach about these things.  It is easy to stand on a soapbox and wax on about the need to live.  It is also somewhat awkward coming from someone as young as I am.  Even though financial burdens do weigh heavy on possibilities (unless you are well accustomed to the gypsy lifestyle) do not let them control every decision.  I know I did for years.  Until I found myself in a place where I literally did not have a single cent to my name and it provoked me to take any job I could find.  Even though that job was not enough for the bills (even as an adult living temporarily at home), it was worth the months of experience.  Not everyone will have that luxury, I understand.  But I do have one important argument: where there is a will, there is a way.  I, of all people, know the difficulty of the job search.  I was without work for over a year.  And when I finally found something, it was an unpaid internship, but it opened doors, pushed my boundaries, and taught me valuable lessons.  And then when I finally did get a job that paid, it was well below the minimum needed to survive without the generosity from my parents.  But the lessons I learned from this experience are invaluable.  They have propelled me to put myself in different situations and come out with something.  Maybe not the highly coveted or desired outcome, but one that acts as a stepping stone, or a starting off point.  And maybe that is a lesson in itself.  When we aim for a goal, it is rare to reach it immediately.

An avalanche.

Have you ever had moments in life that stick with you.  When you pull up the memory, you even have sensory recollection?  The smell, the taste, the temperature, even, how warm you felt, flushed and blushing versus the sun pouring down on you, even the beats per minute that your heart hammers out.  There are instances where you know something profound and life altering has happened, albeit small, but you aren’t sure how it will change you, why it is changing you, and when it will come to fruition, but you know, somewhere deep within, that moment was the moment, the tripwire, the beginning of an oftentimes difficult, but ultimately rewarding, journey.

The last couple months have left me contemplating such moments.  Discussions, glances, smiles; a vast array of fleeting images that I know stacked up to become the burgeoning life changes assaulting me now.  (Pardon my use of the term “assault,” as it implies some type of violent act, but it’s the best thing I can think of to say; life is bombarding me with choices and decisions and although they do not carry threat, the swiftness to which they come to my door is somewhat unnerving.)  I have goals, ones that I feel confident in for the first time in years.  They inspire me to keep going when the going gets tough (oh, sweet clichés).  I can picture my desired future and know that one more whispered insult is something I can take, because those end goals are more important than words bullies use.  And I feel, maybe for the first time since Jonathan and I broke up, the hope for a real future.  It makes me nervous to think about, genuine fear blossoming, but it’s that good kind of fear, like that good kind of burn after a work out, the ache that goes deep but you know it’s worth it.

I truly believe there are small blessings in difficult situations.  Recently my friend broke up from her fiancé, just as I had with Jonathan, but not for the same reasons.  In an effort to move forward and not become ensnared in the what if’s, the could be’s, and what were’s, she has taken to seeing the silver lining in situations,  great and small.  Whenever her situation challenges her, she picks the things that will make her happy and tries to focus on those and not sink in the tide of depression that ultimately comes with these situations.  I commend her for this, because I was definitely not as strong.  I tried to take my pain and deal with it one day at a time, but in the end found myself staring into the neck of a beer bottle or looking at my reflection in the pool of Grey Goose in a martini glass.  We all deal with defeat and hurt in different ways, but I can honestly say that had I not had these experiences, I wonder where, and who, I would be.  Is this an overarching silver lining?  Is this one of the plethora of lessons that come from these moments?

It hurts that we broke up, but at least we weren’t married yet, and there were no kids.  He seems so much happier in California than he ever was in Iowa, and that’s a blessing.  Just like I have opportunities in front of me that I would have otherwise lacked.  I can see friends again, be with family, enjoy those small moments of walking in Chicago with K, getting coffee with Mom, eating with my twin, and seeing my sister and joking about the most random things.  And then there are even more personal blessings.  Ones that I want to keep to myself.  That make me glow with happiness.  And those are the moments I have contemplated.  A small stone can create a large avalanche.  An image typically about impending doom, something crushing and destructive.  But I am spinning it positively.  A small thing that can change the tide, a small moment that can alter a life, a small instant that create something new and powerful.  And I can’t stop grinning thinking about it.  I am settling into something new, a life that is mine, with my own choices, my own moments, and most importantly, my happiness.

Moving toward home.

There are times you have to run on impulse.  You have to know it is the right time, the right moment, and go.  You have to say everything you need to say, and you have to act.  Though I love to give thought to things, and I have (probably more than I realize), I am taking a step, moving forward, and after five months trying to plant my feet, I decided I am meant to run, and run I shall.  I have goals, and I will be working towards those goals.  I know who and what I want, and I will be moving towards that image, that reality.  These actions now will make me a stronger individual, they will prepare me for the rough road I know is before me.  I am taking that step, moving toward that goal, and I am going to live every day without regret in this decision.  Are you ready?  Because I know I am.

“Welcome Home” by Radical Face:

Sleep, don’t visit; so I choke on sun and the days blur into one, and the backs of my eyes hum with things I’ve never done.  Sheets are swaying from an old clothesline, like a row of captured ghosts over old dead grass; was never much but we made the most… welcome home.  Ships are launching from my chest.  Some have names but most do not, if you find one, please let me know what piece I’ve lost.  Heal the scars from off my back, I don’t need them anymore, you can throw them out or keep them in your mason jars.  I’ve come home.  All my nightmares escaped my head.  Bar the door, please don’t let them in.  You were never supposed to leave, now my head’s splitting at the seams, and I don’t know if I can… Here, beneath my lungs, I feel your thumbs press into my skin again.

4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42. Execute.

For about two weeks I have watched Lost with a friend of mine.  He suggested it after I complained about wanting a television show to watch.  When I asked him to sell it to me and not just say it was awesome (like so many have done before him) he began listing off very favorable qualities, in my eyes.  Character development was his first high point, and to a girl who loves the Russians and any novel that delves into the human psyche, this was a rather important selling point.  The next was the religious allusions.  I was a religious studies major in college (though I am not sure he knew that) and any type of religious inference in novels or movies or music hook, line and sink me, so to speak.  The next was how highly symbolic it was.  Even having just watched the first season, it is easy to understand why so many people discuss the show.  With relatively few visuals (let’s face it, they are on an island and you can either see the ocean or the jungle) the show still manages to intrigue because of the characters and their interactions.  I am beginning to believe that who you choose to love on the show reflects a deeper sense of who you are and what is important to you.  Though there are plenty of secrets, the rounding out of the characters has a heartwarming effect.  I am sure that when the show went off the air people felt a great loss.  It’s similar to having a favorite member of the Friends clan, but on a more intellectual level.   And the last selling point: it’s a great mystery.  A suspense definitely builds throughout the episodes that carries over to entire seasons.  I have kept joking about how it is King Kong fighting a dinosaur or some other terribly elusive beast (I believe my latest theory is Predator due to its invisible black wisp appearance), but the truth is that no matter what it is, it has me hooked.  (I call this “The Village” effect; remember M. Night Shyamalan’s massive flop and how once you figured it out the movie just SUCKED?  Well, I liked the movie, even though I knew the ending.  It didn’t detract from my enjoyment.  I already know it doesn’t have the “Jeepers Creepers” syndrome, because I have seen it and it hasn’t detracted from its mystery and/or fear factor.)

One of the things that I absolutely love in Lost is the symbolism.  I already discussed the moment where John Locke is in the first rain and how it was this moment of rebirth.  Sawyer is another character who had a highly symbolic moment in terms of new self.  There is a moment where he is sitting in the hulk of the plane reading a letter.  The jungle is behind him, along with the setting sun, and he is leaning into the curve of the hulk.  It is a womb if I ever saw one.  The difference between Locke’s rebirth and Sawyer’s is the metaphorical implications, as well as time.  Locke has his pain, his anger, his old life washed away in the rain.  The island baptizes him, which is why he feels such a connection to the place.  He is the one character who does not want to leave.  Sawyer’s is a matter of gestation.  He is literally in the womb and growing into a new person.  He is still a self-centered, redneck ass, but he is slowly changing and developing.  This type of character mutation occurs with others on the island.  Another of my favorite moments comes when we begin to learn more about Charlie and his heroin addiction.  In the episode Locke tells Charlie about how a moth emerges from a cocoon and how the only way that the moth can survive is if he goes through the process of fighting his way through the hard shell.  The act strengthens the moth giving him a higher chance of survival.  I remember seeing that moment and just having it hit me full force in the chest.  It was simple and brilliant.  I identified with not only Charlie, but the moth (obviously, because it was clear that Charlie identified with the moth).

An emerging theme in the latest episodes (that I have seen, so please no spoilers!) is the idea of faith versus science.  Locke versus Jack.  Do we trust the unknown or do we look for answers no matter the cost?  It is remarkable that I see these episodes a few days after discussing my basis of religion and spirituality.  I believe science and faith have a symbiotic relationship.  Faith always produces questions which produce science and research which then produces more questions.  One of my favorite song lyrics comes from “For The Best” by Straylight Run and hits upon this concept: “And now faith is replaced with a logic so cold, I disregarded what I was now that I’m older.  And I know much more than I did back then, but the more I learn, the more I can’t understand.”  This song has always spoken so eloquently to me on the concept of understanding spirituality and self.  It’s a heartbreaking song, to be sure, but the words echo some of my deepest and darkest thoughts.

This brings me back to thoughts on destiny, fate, and the mystical.  Coincidence in its empirical form is non-existent.  The understanding of numbers and repetition teaches us that there is no such thing as coincidence.  However, without that information, without the research, coincidence becomes something of a mystery, a fascinating concept that sparks interest and thought on the nature of the things (the world, ourselves, others, etc.).  What is more important?  Knowing everything and taking away the excitement, the hope, or moving through life with faith that something good is always around the corner?  Optimism, in laymen’s terms, or pessimism?  I am not sure that these thoughts can ever be fully ironed out, though.  I am a pessimist through and through.  I honestly believe that the negative will happen long before the positive.  However, I do have hope that the positive will come, that the right will always win out, that Vader will not kill Luke.  It really begs to question how cynicism and pessimism differ.  These themes are ones that appear in many forms of art and entertainment.  However, I think Lost did a better job of depicting it.  Rather than burying them in overlong dialogue or action sequences, they put them out there in stark contrast.  Especially this idea of faith versus science and where it develops into relying on cold, hard facts or hope.  Imagine if you were a character on Lost, where would you fall?  And out of the characters on Lost who do you love?  Think about it.

Blood and nightmares.

I have thought a lot about the future.  What it holds for me and what it has the potential to hold.  There are endless possibilities that exist.  Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and every choice has a thousand different outcomes.  The question then becomes how we make the decisions.  What molds us?  What influences us?  Do we live constantly wishing to do as others want us to, or do we follow our own passions and pray to God that the path we chose ends in happiness and not complete sorrow.  There are times, though, that I find myself wishing I could know the outcome ahead of time.  I have been hurt so many times that it is a scary thought to take a blind step.  But at the same time, the opportunity to take those blind step is exhilarating.  Now it is my decision to focus on the glass being half full or half empty.

This forum is definitely a difficult thing to manage.  It is an online journal and available for the world to see (lest I change the settings, but then the question becomes why use a public forum to begin with, why not just write in a paper journal or type in a Word document, but I think the answer lies in the necessity to share these ever-present issues and try to find commonality and compassion, a connection in a sea of anonymity).  To discuss certain personal issues becomes a matter of choice at what you want the world to know versus what you think should stay secreted away.  One phrase I have come away with after reading countless memoirs on drug addiction (my addiction, as I read more about drugs than I have ever experienced using them) is that we are only as sick as our secrets.  And if that is the case, I cannot imagine a healthy person anywhere.  We all have things we feel ashamed of, we all have issues, whether superficial or bone deep, and we are all attempting to figure out how to navigate through the murky waters and find what is best for us.  Facing demons is scary, but they stay demons, growing larger and more frightening, unless confrontation occurs.  I feel the utmost respect for people who have looked themselves in the eye and admitted to their problems and began the first steps towards a type of recovery.  Emotionally, physically, mentally, those steps are what makes the person stronger.  I want that strength.

The last couple of months have been difficult for me.  I have had to experience some of the most emotionally demanding issues and even though I have come away walking, I feel wounded inside and out.  No physical bruises or cuts and scrapes exist, but I sure as hell feel the emotional toll and wonder if I have the strength to continue moving forward and not give up and take the easy way out.  Which is to just stop.  To freeze.  To fall into a routine just as detrimental, if not more so, than the life I had lived up until weeks ago.  I went back on antidepressants.  I began them when I was in high school and weaned myself off during my freshman year of college.  I developed various coping skills that allowed for me to funnel my negativity and emotional pain into different avenues and use it to move forward.  I feel like I have lost those skills and I definitely feel like I lost sight of what my life meant to me.  I lost sight of the myriad of options available to me and allowed for someone to dictate my life, my mood, and even converge on my goals, pushing them back until it felt like they no longer existed.  The crossroads are laying before me again and I want nothing more than to move forward and make a positive decision, but I feel frozen, terrified, like no matter the decision I make, it will be the wrong one.  But what do we ever learn if we do not make the mistakes?

I am not sure what people think when they hear “antidepressants.”  I know when I was younger I always feared telling anyone I was on them because of the backlash and social stigma often associated with them.  The truth, though, is that some phenomenal amount of people use them.  We are a highly medicated society.  And yet, there is still a stigma involved in having mental health issues.  A psychiatrist diagnosed me with major depressive disorder.  I am almost positive that I have bipolar II disorder, where the waves of mania and depression are not as fiercely swinging to and fro, but dominated by longer periods of depression with shorter moments of mania.  I have never really discussed it with anyone until recently when I went into my psychiatrist’s office after months of a painful break-up with my fiancé and expressed the wish to go back on a mood stabilizer.  There were moments in the past six to eight months where I could not function.  I was so paralyzed with negativity that I could not even make decisions.  I would not eat, starving myself and consuming ounces of vodka because it numbed the pain enough that I could actually think and not just feel the insane pain deep within my chest.  When the difficult decision to split finally surfaced and the actions that preceded it came more to light, it was a relief because it felt like I could begin taking the small steps towards a recovery.  Apparently my mind did not think the same thing.

When I got home from California I would alternate between these moments of intense highs and below the surface lows.  I would be ecstatic nearing on insanity, filled with energy and emotion and then find myself contemplating the joy in dying from a terminal illness, praying nightly that God would take it out of my hands and just curse me.  I still have those moments, where death seems like a close friend who I want to acquaint with, while also getting as giggly as a school girl.  With the antidepressants, the intense lows become manageable.  I am able to wake up, shower, get dressed and go about activities with relative normality.  But the lows are beginning to break through the drugs.  The weight in my chest is becoming stronger and the black hole is opening more regularly.  One of the new symptoms I developed, in moments of extreme stress and emotion, I have dissociative episodes.  It’s this odd sensation of being connected to your body but not comprehending what is happening.  Many people relate dissociation to multiple personality disorders and schizophrenia (which, frighteningly run in my family), but I have not had anything like that.  I am not hearing voices or talking to people who do not exist (hopefully), but I have the distinct impression at times that I am outside my self.  It’s like watching your life from the third person.  I know I am writing and I can feel my fingers move across the keyboard, but my mental capacity of the situation falls horribly short.  It’s like I cannot fuse my mind and my body.  It’s terrifying.

I am reading The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, which I love, but he discusses this concept within the text about the Heart of Stone (I believe that’s the name).  It is an ability needed to perform sympathy, or in laymen’s terms, magic.  What needs to happen is this inner calm in which separation of mind and body happens so that you become unflappable.  The purpose in the book is so that you can have multiple parts of your brain working simultaneously.  I imagine that kind of control exists, but that’s the thing, it’s a control.  It’s active.  My separation comes sporadically and unintentionally creating this odd dichotomy of acknowledgment and comprehension and having no comprehension.  It’s a sense of chaos personified because it is witnessing yourself as if you were outside of yourself.  Can you imagine that?

And here I sit, writing this all out and letting the emotions flow into me.  This day I started on a positive note and it has slowly beaten me down.  I am not sure what the poison was or how it seeped into me, but it did.  I can feel the blackness and I can feel it physically as it spreads through my chest and limbs.  It’s like when you are imbibing and you can begin to feel a buzz slowly radiate out in your limbs.  It’s like that, except it’s not a pleasant numbing sensation, but a painful weight and burning scratches.  It feels like there are nails under my skin and they are dragging, peeling the fragile layers apart.  My chest feels heavy and the backs of my eyes burn because there are tears sitting there wanting desperately to flow forth.  I don’t want it though.  I want to push forward, through it all, and I want the pendulum to swing back to happiness and smiles, but it’s not.  I am sinking, slowly, painfully conscious, into a darkness.  And the darkness scares me.  I have had dreams, nay, nightmares, lately.  They involve Jonathan, my ex.  The world begins shaking beneath my feet.  It’s like an earthquake, but it’s not, because it feels like it’s internal, too, like my body is giving out, failing.  I look up and Jonathan has blood everywhere.  There are gashes on his head and the blood is coming fiercely, streaking down his face and running into his eyes giving him the look of someone who is crying red.  His middle is also covered in blood, though I cannot see a wound.  His shirt is sticking to his abdomen and it is completely soaked and his arms have scrapes and the skin looks flayed from the muscle.  He just cries out in pain and then everything goes completely black.  There is a darkness so intense that I feel like I am blind.  Nothing is penetrating it; the world is in complete pitch black.  And then he begins crying.  It’s this echo that tears through me, and I feel his sobs in my chest.  I begin crying and panicking and I begin reaching my arms out hoping to grasp something, anything, so I can find my way to him and help him.  He has wounds and I need to help him, but I cannot see anything.  I have woken up for three nights in a row, and from one nap, sweating profusely (soaked my clothes), with tears in my eyes, hyperventilating, shouting his name.  After every nightmare I text him and ask after his safety, tell him to not go into the darkness.  He has witnessed these moments where I seem to speak poetically and somewhat prophetically, asking him for no clear reason to act safe or do something.  He helps to reestablish a sense of time and space, reminding me I am in the here and now and not some dream world.  The nightmares have been so real, though, that I wake up with the salty, sweet, coppery smell of blood in my nose.  It scares me.

I had a similar dream when I first moved to Davis.  I was in the dark, unable to see.  I would feel this searing pain and look down and my hands would be clutching my belly, like where a baby bump would be, and there would be all this blood.  The pain would not be there anymore, just all this blood.  And I would get the impression that someone was there watching, waiting in the shadows.  It was an oppressive feeling that would wake me up and I had the unsettling feeling that someone was in the room watching me.  I would look around, wild-eyed and scared, and obviously find no one there.  I would close my eyes to try to sleep and all I would see was my arm and someone taking a knife and piercing skin and tearing the layers off, revealing glistening muscle underneath.  It repulsed me and I oftentimes would not sleep because of this.  It got so bad that I began taking over the counter sleeping pills.  At first they did their job, dropping me off into sleep, but then they began to fail.  I would wake with the same nightmare, be unable to relax, and so I would take more.  At one point in December I was taking upwards of ten sleeping pills throughout the evening and still not sleeping.  By the time I left Davis in March I was abusing sleeping pills throughout the day and night just hoping to numb my mind and pain long enough to drift out of reality for some time.  My life for the last six to eight months has been one disastrous decision or action after another, and it has affected so many people and loved ones that I feel ashamed to even admit it.  We are only as sick as our secrets, though, right?  Now that it is no longer a secret, I want to move forward.

I still crave them.  Just like I crave alcohol more than I would like to admit.  It’s so easy to allow something else to fill the holes.  There is a quote, and I forget who says it, that states that someone should tell alcoholics that you should not drink to drown sorrows because sorrows know how to swim.  And no truer or finer words exist.  We all run away from our problems and we always fail to see they follow us.  What begins with us has to end with us, so we can no more escape our problems then deny breath.  Either way, it will kill us.  Turn around and face the problem, look in the mirror and recognize that there is strength beneath the surface and that with loved ones and help you can accomplish anything as long as you want to and as long as you are willing to put in the hard work.

Fear.

When I was younger I was always afraid of the dark.  On Sunday nights my sister and I would watch the X-Files and then when we had to go to bed we were too terrified to go up the stairs.  We had to turn on every light in the house, and of course that would annoy my dad to no end.  Through this action he began to pontificate on a very real, very true idea: darkness is my friend.  Things are scary only if you make them scary.  If you realize the who, what, when, and where’s, you can begin to understand the why.  I am standing in the darkness now, and fear is grabbing me.  I have no sight to see where my next step will be.  And I keep repeating Dad’s words of wisdom: “darkness is my friend, darkness is my friend, darkness is my friend…” and I can only hope that it’s true.