She laughed and smiled, and went home planning to die.
She drank or drugged to feel different, and for several beautiful minutes she felt whole and worthy, but it was so brief, and it didn’t fill the gaping hole of worthlessness.
Justifying her existence became her job. Hiding became her daily pursuit. Hiding in plain sight.
She couldn’t afford to let you know her even though she was desperate to be known, to be loved, to be accepted – to matter.
Every failure confirmed her lack of value, and she told herself that everyone knew she was shit – it was a pheromone radiating off of her.
Shame was her cloak – its vile fabric wrapping its folds so tightly around her.
She didn’t even know she had fallen back into the pit. She had reopened all the old escape hatches, but they didn’t hide her anymore.
Until she remembered, and really understood, that she had to change her self-beliefs – to love her unloveable self, and learn to act differently, nothing could change.
Laughter had become coarse in her ear, it no longer held back the darkness enough, and any praise felt insincere, unearned.
Living was becoming unendurable, but she was still too afraid to kill herself.
In a fog of self-loathing, she was gifted the memory of once having worked hard to like herself – even reaching a sense of love and self-worth.
“No one provides worth or value,” came the small voice. “It is always self-derived. It was never fostered as a child – that shame belonged to others who failed their duties. But it’s still possible,” said the voice.
“Let the flicker become a brilliant blaze, and know that all fires go out if they are not fed. And a fire will burn whatever fuel its given – so feed it worthy fuel.”
Addendum: It’s also okay to borrow fuel from others if all you have is shit to burn.
Maybe so much of my depression has been because of all the false starts, or half-hearted attempts at completing creative projects. I hear my therapy sessions whispering that my procrastination was and is not laziness. (It’s the PTSD, stupid. It’s the trauma.)
I know the best way out is through, but how long is through? An entire lifetime? I feel like I’m missing out on life’s best moments while hitting all of life’s pitfalls. I guess I need to carry a ladder – but ladders are cumbersome aren’t they?
I know some would just say to avoid the pitfalls, but, for me, that’s like saying “just stop breathing.” So, until I figure out how to no longer need a ladder up and out of these setbacks, I will continue working on a lightweight, fold-able, unobtrusive ladder that works for me.
“Works for me” is the key phrase – for all of us. Maybe what I do is the absolute opposite of what you should do. Maybe the ladder you built, or found, or have always had and used with ease is not attainable for me. Maybe all the guru spewing, consciousness-raising, ego-deflating advice isn’t helpful.
The best I can say is that I hope I find what is important to a more creative life and way less struggle – but I’ll keep championing myself, and us, in the collective struggle, and challenges, and also revel in our victories.
On my doctor’s wall is a framed statement by Brené Brown:
What we don’t need in the midst of struggle is shame for being human.
She also has a sticker on her laptop that says “I love drug users,” so she’s a pretty cool doc. She’s working to address the opioid crisis, while acknowledging that the war on drugs has been a big fail.
The opposite of addiction is connection. Sometimes it’s connection to ourselves most of all.
The ability to choose something different, to hope – to persevere in spite of circumstances – takes self-love, and compassion. And it is creative, even if it’s the smallest speck of belief that I will rise, and that I will complete what’s important to me before my time comes.
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote “The years teach much which the days never know,” and as time goes on I feel that much deeper.
I carry a weighty sadness for not being able to get out of my own way through the years, and I don’t know whether I was just lazy, or didn’t really want what I said I wanted, or what I said mattered, or if it truly was that most of the time getting through my day was a laudable accomplishment.
I have so many questions if this is not a random universe and my being is not an astounding stroke of luck in such a universe.
I don’t know what the difference is between someone who attains their goals and lives a fulfilled life and someone who doesn’t – even when they sincerely try – or believe they sincerely try.
It’s not like nothing happened. A whole life was lived and managed – for better or worse.
I grew up, procreated, and am coming into my declining years – kicking and screaming.
I am a writer. I am writing. I have been an actor, and I have been a singer – in a band even!
Those were the goals I had. The famous part eluded me. Maybe that’s a good thing.
I was a hurt, vulnerable person in a sick and suffering world, and likely would have been prey as I had been anyway – but maybe not. There is no control me to know for sure.
Maybe I would have had protection from the predators – or lots of dumb luck.
Or I could have died in a back alley somewhere, or become what was done to me.
I did none of that.
I did want to end me – sometimes still do – but it’s far less than it was (most of the time.)
Worries about facing consequences in a spiritual realm kept me from offing myself – that and my son.
I rose as much as I fell though. I battled my way back after every down turn. The problem is the cycle never ended. It was exhausting. It is exhausting.
I couldn’t find a medication that worked, or that I could tolerate. I know several people who have said that they would likely not be alive if they had not found the right medication. Why am I such an anomaly?
That’s rhetorical. I just am, is the answer. It’s not personal. It just sucks.
If I did choose this, why can’t I un-choose it? If karma is real, what the hell did I do (or what hell did I do)? Why don’t we remember how we screwed up before so we can avoid repeating it?
I look around at the world and it seems to be on a perpetual rinse and repeat doom cycle everywhere.
If there is a harmonious, functioning, peaceful society who won’t tolerate predators, they have hidden themselves well away from the rest of us. If there’s a secret handshake, or phrase, or code – I want to find it out and join them.
“November would be unbearable were it not for knowledge of spring.”
I wish I could remember the author of that quote. An internet search turned up nothing, and I am probably misremembering it, but that is the gist of it at any rate.
I heard it back in my college days, studying literature, and the edge of my brain is saying it was a woman writer in the 19th or early-to-mid 20th century.
I’m thinking of this quote in terms of my mother, beyond this physical world now. I suppose spring represents the mystical realm, where I believe I will see those who mattered to me again. At least the thought sustains me in these darkening days.
The large maple tree in our yard, so recently flush with green leaves – with life – stands bare again as the year cycles. The birth and death of its foliage every year reminds me that I will cycle too, but unlike those leaves, I will not regenerate in the spring – at least not here.
My mother told me once that she heard in her mind: “we’re waiting,” when she stood outside on a frigid winter day, wondering what happens to the leafless trees through the long winter months.
Are you waiting now, Mom?
I glance at that tree through my window, and think about my mother having cycled into the underworld. She is literally under the ground now – no word on what happened to her spirit or soul.
Wouldn’t it be nice if there were spirit journalists – envoys from wherever they are now – sending their observations on the work-a-day spirit world back into this physical realm where we could pick up their papers and journals, or read their blogs?
I’d particularly like to read Mark Twain’s (Samuel Clemens’) observations. I’m sure my mother would too.
She had a good sense of humor, and appreciated irony and satire.
I took a trip to my mother’s old trailer, and was depressed about the state of it.
All the wood and the walls and the ceiling and floor are rotting away. All I could think was “as above, so below.” I try not to think about my mother decomposing in her grave – but she always spoke almost reverently about becoming “worm food.”
A grave robber broke into Mozart’s tomb and was shocked to see him sitting there, furiously erasing what looked like one of his symphonies.
“What are you doing?” blurted out the startled robber.
“I’m decomposing!” replied Mozart. (one of my mother’s favorite silly jokes)
Besides missing laughing, joking, and talking with her, it strikes me that I probably never knew my mother as she saw herself, and I didn’t particularly like aspects of my mother that can bring up terribleness even now.
I see my mother through my lens of need, often forgetting that her neglect and dysfunction helped cause much of my disturbed emotional being.
But, I still love her for what she was able to do – for her trying to do better. I remember how she was there for me when my son was born, and throughout his growing up – even though I curse the hell that was wired into my brain, which hurt my ability be the mother I had wanted to be. Even so, I did far better with my son than was done for me.
People like to quibble on the nature vs nurture question, but time and again we see those who mostly had what they needed as children doing far better than those who didn’t. All you need is one appropriate, concerned and loving caregiver to get you through awful circumstances, and perhaps even thrive, but not everyone gets that. Humans are resilient, and I know that we continue on regardless – I and my siblings are proof of that – but we still paid, and in some ways, continue to pay for what we endured.
We are all on a heroes journey. We all suffer, face challenges large and small, and we all have the potential for victory. But those who don’t slay their dragons are not less worthy, they’re just less celebrated, or honored for having done their best. They “failed” to vanquish the darkness, but they still tried.
Sometimes there’s more to love in a loser than in a winner. We can all relate to loss.
I once heard how a goldfish swimming around its bowl is perpetually surprised to find someone looking at it on each go around. I feel like that’s me.
Once again, I’m trying to hold myself away from the darkness.
Every year – every year!, I think this year will be different. This is where the therapists, psychologists, psychotherapists, etc., have it wrong. They just do. This just has to be endured. I don’t encourage this, or ask for this, or want this. I do my best to change the circumstances, the feelings, my attitude, my situation, my – being.
It’s like something descends upon me, or pulls me, or – I don’t know, but I have spent the last 30 years of my life trying to fend this off and I have yet to change it.
Maybe I have allowed it without being aware? I reject that. This is not my doing. I work toward a stable, content, capable life – all the time. Maybe something is attached to me that has the most power this time of year, or whenever I’m most vulnerable?
Trying to think my way out of this does not work. I know that something lets go – eventually – but I get closer to stepping off the world too.
All I can do now is be as kind as I can. Don’t judge, don’t demean or belittle myself – and don’t accept defeat.
If you do not have depression I would like you to offer gratitude to your well-built brain right now – or your lack of childhood trauma events – or be especially grateful if you do not have depression even though you survived immense trauma.
You are a fucking miracle.
You may well be a miracle anyway – I suppose the fact we exist at all is miraculous.
How I wake up:
The weekend interaction with my next oldest sister and a ‘mutual’ friend swims into my consciousness with all its terribleness (and I say mutual loosely because when my mother died, said friend rushed to my sister’s side to comfort her in a haze of pungent smoke, but did not even give me a call. – Never fear, they all heard from me in the weeks after my mother’s death, and I yelled at him for not even thinking to call me when it was my world falling apart too).
Then remembering how my grown son has so thoroughly detached from me that it feels like a mortal wound every time I think of it. In my waking world I reason it all out, and comfort myself, and move on – but in my barely conscious, vulnerable waking moments, the hurt is as raw as a jagged broken bone.
I am genuinely happy for my son’s happiness. He got out of the poverty cycle. He did what every parent wants for their child – to do better than they did. He has a beautiful girlfriend that he just got engaged to, and I have every hope for a content life for them. They are well on their way.
And then she ‘girlfriend-splains’ my own son to me – as though I am just meeting him. And maybe I am.
And then the darkness moves in for its quarry.
All the joy has left my life. Death is a welcome friend. So how to do it? A bridge? A rope? Something quick. I make my plans, and get ready to go.
Now, I know her story is not like the battle I have to do, but the entity in me is just as vile as that nearly-was rapist.
I would like a working relationship with my son, but I do not know how to do that in a mutually satisfying way. I only know how to do extremes, unfortunately, so I am letting go.
I need to protect my heart that has been so battered the last few years. Maybe someday we can have a nice emotionally-distant relationship. I wish him the best life, and I love him with all that I have.
Letting go of the family I want is the next task. The past is gone, and I was probably always deluding myself that I had good relationships with my sisters.
Ahead of me is the hard work of leaving abusive relationships. I will not be my family’s pain receptacle any longer. It is literally killing me, and I want to die for something better than that.
Nothing looks the same anymore. Maybe it’s still grief over my mother, and over several friends who have died in the last few years – one of them over twenty years ago who I have recently reconnected with.
It’s funny to phrase it that way, but it feels true. I had been stopping by the grave of one of my dear friends – filling her in on our crazy world now – and doing my best to let her know she’s loved and not forgotten.
I’m supposed to be writing an article for work, and I’ll get to it. It’s been such an orderly thing in my disorderly life.
I feel like a weirdo still grieving my mother’s passing. It was her time, after all. She got to live a long life, but it still came as a shock.
This has more to do with me now, I know that. I know it always had to do with me, really. I’m still here and she’s gone – on.
I’ve still not felt her around me. Maybe she’s left for parts unknown – or is just gone, if atheism is right.
Over the past year, it has taken a lifelong soul-sister friend to help me sort out what’s mine and what isn’t.
I had so much grief and rage.
I’m kind of surprised I’m still talking to any of my family members, but I think that’s guilt. I think it’s hope too, but at some point, it’s wiser to move on.
We were each others’ survival growing up as we were tossed about treacherous seas while those who were supposed to be in charge jumped ship. That forges a bond, even if it’s not ultimately healthy.
I love and loved my sisters dearly, but that affection was only really returned by one sister, who still told me her god is better than mine – and even though we got along the best – I know we can only share some of our heart now.
My friend told me I taught them how to treat me, and my acting differently will not cause them to respond well. In fact, I can expect them to act worse, or just continue as they’ve often been toward me.
Sometimes you get surprised for the better, and sometimes you find your true family outside of those you were born with.
Maybe it is my mother’s nudge from beyond this world that’s pushing me toward compatible love and friendship. At least it makes me feel better to think so.
You know how you ‘know’ how you probably should feel, or be, or do, but you feel otherwise?
Yeah, that’s where I am.
It’s not defiance. I don’t feel ‘choice’, it’s just how it is in this moment.
I understand feelings will shift, my attitude will likely change and I won’t have need of where I am – but when I’m here, I’m here.
And I’m angry that I have to manage the multitude in my head telling me why I shouldn’t be where I am emotionally, and then the litany of all I’ve ever screwed up, and opportunities I’ve missed – how, of course my life is not where I want it to be – look who I am.
What a shithead, right?!
I mean, if I could fire that jerk, and demand restitution for all it’s cost me – I’d bottle that and sell it – because I know I am not alone.
Not being alone in this miasma doesn’t have a ‘camaraderie’ feeling to it though. It’s not bested through others’ compassion, but only through self-compassion, and that is not currently in my skill set.
The best pharmacological offerings have not helped – and therapy does take the edge off – but this is a solo path, even though I desperately want company.
“The best way out is through,” as I have heard (and my inner rampaging self says to go screw yourself with your hollow platitudes).
And, yes, I know I’m arguing with myself, but it’s also all the therapists and self-help books that have not been the miracle cure I had hoped for.
Other wisdom reminds me that this is an ‘inside job’, and all I can think is that it would have been better to hire an expert.
“But you are an expert! You are the only expert on you!,” offers my cheery ‘friend’, who now has a black eye…
So, what am I going to do?
I’m going to go out and till the soil in the garden, because if I don’t do it, it won’t get done.
Also, speaking directly to my inner three-nager: I love you. I accept you. You matter to me, and it’s important to me that you get what you need.
She’s been calling me for days. I thought I was making it up, but she is persistent.
Go see Mom.
“She’s not there,” I think. “You’re just chasing a memory. You’ll go and the stinky, moldy trailer will be empty, and cold, and you will leave empty and cold.”
“Because I’m lonely.”
Wait, she’s lonely? I thought she could come see me anytime. I thought that when you’re in spirit, you’re free? Maybe there are things that need to be righted though. Maybe there is unfinished business.
Maybe those final days there were not days she would have wished for. It was not how she wanted to leave it. And my presence will bring love and companionship, even if for a minute.
It will suffice.
And I will keep going back, Mom, even if I’m making it up. I’ll keep going back to say hi until there are no more reasons to go, or no more tears to shed – I guess? I honestly feel like this isn’t just me.
That was your heaven on earth, you said. So I will visit your temple.
I will enter in prayer, and I will leave in prayer.
I wish you peace. I wish you abundant love. I wish you goodness, and light, and laughter all of your existence.
Joni Mitchell has been singing to me too, Mom:
“It’s coming on Christmas They’re cutting down trees They’re putting up reindeer And singing songs of joy and peace Oh I wish I had a river I could skate away on.”