Showing posts with label depression. Show all posts
Showing posts with label depression. Show all posts

Therapy For People Who Won't Go to Therapy

Since I posted the other day about maybe setting the blog to private, I've gotten several emails from readers requesting access, none of which I've replied to yet. I'm so sorry for taking so long. Seeing my inbox count tick up with cheering subject lines like "SO IN" and "longtime lurker saying hi" was about the greatest boost ever. Thank you.

Some of you also took the time to give me a little extra in the way of encouragement and support, complimenting my writing, or even telling me your favorite post. That was pretty spectacular, too, especially in cases where the post was an old one. It never fails to amaze me how long some of you have stuck with me. I should have certificates printed.

Also incredibly gratifying are the messages I've received thanking me for my openness in writing about depression and anxiety. To that end...

The past few months have been a psychological crucible, and continue to be so. Leaving my job and completely reassessing the direction of my life has brought back to the surface the full monty of my emotional issues. I basically spent every day from June 15th until about a week and a half ago in a tail spin; 3+ months halfheartedly pursuing a line of work I'm completely unsuited for was a massive waste of time, money, and emotion. I procrastinated, self-sabotaged, and lied to myself every day. Then at night I'd feel like shit for not having accomplished anything.

I told you about bailing on The Big Interview, a decision which left me feeling simultaneously shattered and relieved. I said I went back to the drawing board, but I didn't explain. Well, this is the drawing board: I'm going to try and do the thing I've never done, largely because I never needed to do it. And that is write for money. What kind of writing, you ask? The short answer is fucking any, though I do have ideas about what I'd most enjoy and, you know, actually succeed at.

When I made this decision, the reactions of people whose reactions I care most about were mixed. One said, "Right the fuck on." One said, "Hm, okay. How exactly?" One said, "LOL, good luck with that." I'm trying not to be unrealistically encouraged or unduly shaken by these reactions. I'm trying to focus on concrete actions. I wrote a new, truthful resume. I created an online portfolio. I used a mind-mapping app to brainstorm every option I can think of. I'm figuring it out.

Writing for money, however -- writing full time, for a sustainable income -- is the long-term goal. Right now work period is the goal. And I'm not sure what that will look like. It might involve an espresso machine. And I am so totally okay with that, for reasons I'll detail in another post.

But to circle back to where I started: this summer tested me pretty badly. I was absolutely paralyzed with anxiety, but I wanted to keep moving forward. Unlike my deep depressions of years ago, I didn't want to curl up in the fetal position and quit. I could feel the fight still inside of me, but I definitely needed some help to get it going. That's when I started collecting new resources. New coping mechanisms.

I want to stop briefly and say something regarding the title of this post: There is no substitute for professional therapy. If you can afford it, and if you can bring yourself to do it, get it. Please. Just fucking do it, for yourself and everyone you will ever care about. All of us can benefit from therapy, even those who didn't suffer any major trauma. We all have our shit, and we all owe it to ourselves to unpack it and move past it.

I know, though, that not everyone will, for whatever reason. I know that for some, even those that need it most, professional therapy seems out of reach. They just won't go, because they don't think they can. And I get that. I so, so get that.

This summer I was in that place. I didn't feel like I had the time or energy to start delving into anything serious, in any structured way. I just needed some encouraging voices. Strategies. Perspective. Positivity. Black humor, even. Anything that would recast my problems as manageable, surmountable, even funny. I'm grateful to say that I found those things, and have been taking advantage of them for a few months now.

In hopes that some or all might help someone else, I hereby offer up this list of incredible, free resources for those who could do with a bit of guidance, structure, support, and humor - as found outside the doctor's office:

The Mental Illness Happy Hour

Far and away the thing that has helped me the most is The Mental Illness Happy Hour podcast. Host Paul Gilmartin is self-deprecating, compassionate, relatable, and just plain soothing to listen to. He's like a smart, funny, wonderfully supportive friend who listens, asks great questions, and ultimately helps you laugh your blues away.

I've been listening to the podcast almost nonstop since I discovered it. It is just that awesome. Hearing others open up about their own struggles - and victories - has been an invaluable source of comfort and inspiration. In between interviewing guests, Paul reads short submissions from readers, and wow. Hearing these "Struggle in a Sentence" and "Awfulsome Moments" entries is the perfect antidote to self-pity, and a reminder that so many others have it so much worse.

The greatest takeaway from The Mental Illness Happy Hour is its overall message: "You're not crazy. What happened to you sucks. It's understandable to be angry or sad about it. Now let's talk about ways to let go and move past it."

My favorite episodes so far are his interviews with Luke Burbank, Danny Hatch, Cassie Sneider, Maria Branford, Matty McVarish and Judy Gold.

Unstuck

From the website: "Unstuck is an in-the-moment digital coach that's ready every time we're feeling stuck. The app helps us see and solve situations with fresh perspective through provocative questions, targeted tips, and action-oriented tools. It's an approach that works for all kinds of issues, large and small, so we can live better every day."

The first time I used Unstuck, I was floored by how accurately it nailed me. The questions and prompts helped me winnow down exactly what my issue was; why I wasn't moving forward. And once you know what's in your way, you can start building a bridge to get over it. The interface is clean and simple; it almost makes your issue feel like a fun puzzle to work through.

You can save your "stuck moments" to revisit as needed; they're represented on the website as balled up wads of paper. About a week after the interview I skipped, after I'd written a new resume and finished my portfolio, I went back to Unstuck and realized I could get rid of that earlier "stuck moment" ball of paper. I wasn't stuck anymore. And I'd only been stuck because I'd been on the completely wrong path. So yeah. Trashing that wad felt pretty damn great.

The School of Life

There are now two things that, once I get going on, I can evangelize about until I'm blue in the face. LSD (though naturally I do so with a great many qualifiers) and The School of Life YouTube channel.

I don't even know where to start. I'm basically in love with Alain de Botton (who created the series) and I'm not really sure how I survived without him until now. I have intellectual idols, writing idols, and now, thanks to him, I have an emotional idol.

Think of anything you struggle with. Self-esteem? Shitty childhood or parental stuff you're hanging on to? Career anxieties? Relationship worries? There is a School of Life video dissecting it with clarity, insight, warmth, and good humor - and I promise you will feel better after watching it.

Grid Diary

Grid Diary is a lovely little app for writing short, quick daily journal entries. It has an aesthetically pleasing grid-style template that you can use as is, or make over with your own prompts. This summer when my inner (and one or two outer) voices were psyching me out and pushing me down, I customized my grid with questions that have helped me stay positive, pause to reflect on the progress I'm making, and focus on gratitude. I actually consider my prompts extremely personal, because I know some people would scoff at them as, I don't know, pathetic. Self-congratulatory.

But what the fuck ever. My self-esteem hit an all-time low this summer (and my anxiety an all-time high), and Grid Diary was one of the things that helped me get my head on straight. Filling it out every night has become my new favorite bedtime ritual; it's an incredible tool for self-reflection, perspective, and that most powerful of attitude-changers: gratitude. My prompts:

What positive things did I do today? What traits should I be proud of? What would I tell myself if I wasn't me? What am I more worried about than I should be, and why will it be okay? What am I grateful for today? How was Chaucer awesome today? What am I looking forward to right now? What issue am I working on right now, and how?

Productivity

Productivity is a simple, visually appealing habit-tracking app. It's incredibly easy to use, and, I don't know, not intimidating? It doesn't make the idea of setting and achieving goals seem overwhelming. You can set habits to be accomplished daily, weekly, monthly, or just a certain number of times per day/week/month. For instance, you can establish a habit of drinking eight glasses of water a day, or blogging three times a week (TRYING TO GET THERE, GUYS, I PROMISE). And there's a pleasing little ping! and congratulations message when you meet goals.

It's a great app for those who need to work on the whole "don't let perfect be the enemy of good" thing, because even logging in one habit a day feels better than none.

Calm

Another app I relied heavily on this summer. Guided meditations that you can play over a background of soothing music and serene visuals. Subjects range from gratitude and happiness to self-esteem, stress management, and sleep. A few times this summer when I was absolutely crippled by anxiety, just listening to the calming background music with headphones helped me crawl through whatever terrifying task I was struggling with.

Kiwake

Kiwake is an alarm clock app that you'll love to hate. First it forces you out of bed by making you match a picture from another room, then it wakes up your brain with puzzles and motivational reminders.

It's these reminders that constituted my resource/coping mechanism. They're customizable, so first thing in the morning you can read whatever inspirational words will help you start the day on a positive note. The very first one I made was something my friend Bill said to me several months ago: "You don't have to be married to your next job." The next one I made was "Get your shit done early in the day so you can hang out with your amazing new boyfriend at night." Another one was "The best way to improve self-esteem is to perform esteemable acts."

Yep x3.

getting better

Well, hey there old friends. I've missed you. So much has happened since last we talked. Some of it wonderful, some of it terrible. I'm just going to dive in, get you caught up as quickly as possible. The sooner we dispense with the past, the sooner we can spread a picnic blanket out in the sun and enjoy the present.

I moved out of downtown into a new loft in Koreatown, in the middle of a heatwave, with no AC. Now, you're probably thinking, How the hell did you manage to do something so stupid, Ellie? And I'll tell you: I do not know. Maybe because of everything else that had been going on, it slipped my mind. Maybe because when I'd visited the apartment previously, it hadn't been so hot as to make me notice there was a problem--or would be. Or maybe I am just an absolute imbecile. Either way: no AC.

I quit my job. I could write volumes about why and how, but in the end it doesn't matter. It wasn't a good fit for me, for many reasons, but strangely the straw that broke the camel's back was the hours. I hated the late hours. I hated coming home at ten o'clock at night, or later. I hated missing every sunset. I hated not being able to go to dinner, to happy hour with friends. And, frankly, I wasn't being paid enough. So I bailed.

I was the victim of a crime. It's nothing I'm going to talk about though, because I'm fine now and I just want to move on.

I came into some financial difficulty, thanks in part to my own bad decisions and thanks in part to some major mistakes made by my accountant, in the filing of my dad's estate taxes.

Those are the broad strokes. But there was a lot more to it all. A lot more ugliness and a lot more struggle. And I've thought and thought about how much I want to go into it, how much I want to share. And I've come to the conclusion that I just want to press ahead. There are two main takeaways, though, from my past two months: 1) that my friends are among some of the most loving, patient, devoted, and generally incredible people in the world, and 2) wow did I have some growing to do.

The one good reason I could name, to open up about everything that's happened recently, would be so I could explicitly describe all the ways in which my friends were there for me. Because we're talking boots-on-the-ground there for me. Picking me up, dusting me off, and putting me back on my feet several times a day there for me.

When I found myself walking dazedly out of the police station, my face stained with shocked tears and unsure where to even go, my phone blew up with a group text. Three of my best friends had already conferenced privately before teaming up to reach out to me, ready to walk me through every difficult thing I needed to do next. They were, collectively, furious about what had happened to me, and their anger and indignation was the one thing that made me feel not alone. They helped me locate the resources I needed. They checked in with me every step of the way. They cracked jokes when humor was the best medicine, and they reassured me in those moments when I lost faith.

When I froze up at having to look for a new job, they came through again. One of them started my resume for me. Another made a timeline for me to follow, with due dates for submitting applications and securing interviews, and for creating a new personal budget. One of them called me almost every day on his way home from work, to coach and cheerlead me back into action. And they all sent me money, or offered to.

When I couldn't find an AC unit anywhere in the great metropolis of Los Angeles, one of my friends MacGyver'd me a fucking rolling cooler AC using copper tubing, an aquarium pump, and a fan. He brought me loads of groceries and bottled water which, not having a car, is a perpetual challenge for me to keep stocked.

Another of my friends connected me to an attorney who ended up being the real unsung hero in this story. Lots of unsung heroes in this story, unfortunately.

---

And then there is how all of what I went through has affected me, emotionally. And how I've changed because of it. How I've grown. And that is much more difficult to write about. But here is some of it:

I almost broke, but I didn't. I mean, I did break. I broke down. So many times. So, so, many breakdowns. Oh god, you can't imagine how many tears. How much fury at the world, at myself, at others. How much hopelessness and despair, despite the love and support that was given to me. How many times I gave up, for days and days at a time. Hid from scary responsibility. Delayed the inevitable. Procrastinated difficult choices.

I broke a little, but I didn't break to the point of not being able to put myself together again. That I did not do. Slowly, eventually, the crying spells turned into quiet spells. Thinking spells. I decided I needed some new tools. New coping resources. New ideas about old bad habits. And those are the changes I'm in the middle of now.

I've started meditating. Honest-to-goodness meditating. Oh boy would that piss Terence off, but there it is. I've started journaling privately, focusing on gratitude and self-esteem. I'm learning the simple but astounding power of deep breathing. Of taking five minutes - the length of one carefully chosen song, to listen to through headphones in the bedroom, out of Chaucer's view - to cry when I need to....but no longer than that.

No longer than that.

I'm reading Unstuck, and I'm addicted to The School of Life YouTube channel. In both cases, I'm amazed at how long it's taken someone to say such important, helpful things so beautifully.

But most notably, I'm in the throes of an epiphany and its concomitant conclusions, and it is this: I've always self-deprecatingly referred to myself as a self-saboteur, but I never realized just how serious a condition it is. And I get it now. And I get why I am: I am used to success in many realms of my life. Friends, health, fitness, romance, creative endeavors. But career? Nope. That is an area in which I have always stumbled. And because of that, I actually shun success. I run from it it. And that has been the biggest hurdle for me to clear, in getting past this difficult time in my life.

Example: I had a day where I got three leads in a single day, as a result of having applied to four jobs the day before. And rather than excitedly pursue all of those leads, I froze. I didn't return calls. I found reasons not to want the jobs anymore. (Eventually I returned the calls, and even got two interviews out of them.) What the hell, right? But it's because I'm unused to professional success, so it feels weird and foreign and scary to me, like the bottom will drop out any second. Like disaster is lurking right around the corner, waiting for me to fuck up.

Anyway, that is a very abridged picture of what my past couple of months have looked like. I didn't feel like blogging. I didn't know what to say. It would have been an endless stream of complaining, of bad news. I couldn't have faked it. So I didn't even try. But I'm back now. I'm almost totally on my feet again. Things are moving along, and though I don't have a job yet, the reins are firmly in hand and I expect to very soon. Hooray.

Oh. There is one more thing.

I met someone.

And because I know he'll see this, and because I can already picture the nervous smile spreading across his face, I'm going to be very clear in saying: his privacy shall be of my utmost priority, no matter what, no matter how badly I want to share. Because...he's kind of amazing. He's kind and smart and considerate and incredibly affectionate. He's the best communicator with whom I have ever had the delight to engage, in every sense of the word. He's expressive and caring and sexy as all fuck, and I am so enjoying his company, which, to brag about one tiny thing, I shared this past weekend at a bungalow deep in the hills of Malibu.

So, yeah. It hasn't been all bad. And it's getting better all the time.

winning strategy

You brought wrath to me today, a cloud of fire that rained acid hatred on my skin. I'm still smoking. (The dog is confused, thinks someone barbecued, can't find the meat.)

And the thing I gave you in return was even more enraging than had I shot back flaming arrows of my own. The thing I gave you in return--calm--infuriated you further. I don't know what to say about that. I'm sorry? I'm not.

You said, .....
You said, .....
You said, .....

And I am tired, so tired, of helping you protect the picture that you hold of yourself.

But enough about you. Today in spite of your spite, I felt unafraid to be alive for the first time in a long time. For the first time in a long time, if someone had offered to shut off the lights, I would have said--

Maybe wait? Maybe leave them on for now? I'm okay with them on. Thank you.

That is the spark I need to nurture. A tiny flame I will shelter with my whole being. I will curl myself around it and give it all the breath in my lungs. Which is why I have none to spare for spitting acid.

ups and downs

Hello.

When I was in college, perhaps the most impactful thing I learned in my composition classes is that every piece of writing should be a gift. Whether a story, an essay, a poem, an article, a blog post - whatever the subject or form. A gift. Put enough into it that the reader feels like she's been given more than a string of nouns and verbs. Innovate. Be vulnerable. Entertain, enlighten, inspire. Try, anyway.

I haven't posted much lately because I haven't had any gifts to give. It's a weird time, and I don't know how to write about it without sounding flat and dull and whiny. But the longer I stay away the unhappier I get. So at the risk of sounding flat and dull and whiny, I'll catch you up on the past few weeks in the hope that it will be like shedding a skin, dry and dead and colorless. Maybe there's something more vibrant underneath that just needs a little air.

Terence and I are still living together. It looks like we're going to ride out the lease. So that's June. Rent downtown has skyrocketed with the opening of a Whole Foods which is literally a three minute walk from our building. My old apartment? This tiny little space? It rents for over $2k now. I doubt I'll stay downtown when we move out. I'm thinking about Koreatown, or maybe Hollywood? Not sure. But right now, our loft is perfectly suited to our needs. Chaucer's, too.

We're getting along fine, for the most part. In some ways our relationship is better than it ever was before the breakup. We're more patient with one another. I think neither of us sees much use in arguing, or holding on to anger when we do argue (because we still do, occasionally.) What's the point? There's nothing to be won anymore. Whatever there was to be won has been lost, for good. And that sounds awfully nihilistic I know, but in practice it's actually rather liberating. Why resent him for being him, when soon enough he'll be gone from my life? I've let go of my expectations and am turning inward more or more, for the things I wanted from him but never got. Maybe that's what I should have done in the first place. I don't know.

Before he and Kerry moved to SF a few weeks ago, I tried to explain to Ross exactly what doesn't work about Terence and I. It's a wavelength thing, I said.

Yeah but what does that mean, he asked. He was arguing that every relationship eventually reaches a sort of staleness (though he didn't use that word). Doesn't everyone get sick of their partner eventually?

I used him and Kerry as an example. I don't know. Maybe a little? But underneath it, as long as the two people are on the same page, that gives them a sense of emotional intimacy. You guys are on the same page. I can see it every time I'm around you. The way you respond to things the same way. 

That's how I think of wavelength. When you're at a party, or in a bar or restaurant - anywhere public, with a mixed group of people. Someone says or does something, and you look up and catch your partner's eye because you know he's thinking the exact same thing. That's wavelength. It's gratifying and satisfying and, in a way, incredibly sexy. Terence and I? No wavelength. Tons of inside jokes, which I treasure. But not that organic emotional and intellectual chemistry.

Incidentally, Terence told me that on one of our last nights out with them, when he asked Ross how he and Kerry do it, Ross had said, We think of ourselves like it's us vs. the world. 

I think that's pretty amazing. It's on the the list of reasons I will miss them.

---

We had a final night out together, the four of us. Kerry had come back down only long enough to pack, and after an exhausting day of getting ready for the move the next morning, they joined us for dinner and drinks. It was supposed to be a wild last hurrah, but it never really got off the ground. The weirdness of Terence and I having broken up, the stress they were under about closing on a new house in SF - all of us were distracted and a little down. We tried, but we were bickery and short with one another. I could tell Kerry was already gone in her mind, and it was like looking at her across several zip codes, not a dinner table. But we have had so, so many fun times over the years that I was content, anyway.

They were so sweet and inclusive of Terence to the very end. Still referring to us as an "us", still inviting us up to SF to visit.

---

Part of the reason I haven't blogged is that I still spend time with Terence. We still go to shows, to dinner, watch movies, go shopping. He's still a huge part of my life, which doesn't seem to make sense if we're broken up. So writing about it feels strange, disingenuous, confusing to me, to him, to anyone reading. Are they together or not? What the hell?

We've had a hundred frank discussions about our relationship. You'd think that would help us find closure but sometimes it's more confusing than anything. One minute we'll agree that we're wrong for one another, the next we'll wonder whether anyone will ever be perfect for anyone. At what point are the good aspects of a relationship enough? At what point do you stop running - away from what's not enough, and toward what may never actually exist? Will I ever be completely happy, with anyone? The self-doubt is crippling.

I've been listening to Mother Mother a lot - kind of obsessed with them, in fact - and they have a song that pretty much captures exactly how all of this makes me feel:



---

We spent Thanksgiving together. Chaucer's nickname is Winks, so we called it Winksgiving. I brined and cooked my first turkey. It went well, except for getting confused about when to tent the breast. We did it backwards; instead of covering the bird with foil for the first half hour, we put the foil on after 30 minutes. I went for a run and while I was gone it suddenly dawned on me that we'd screwed up. I texted and called Terence frantically, but he was playing guitar and didn't hear his phone. When I got home fifteen minutes later, breathless and sweaty, I ran to the oven and yanked the door open. "We had it backwards!" I cried. "It's supposed to be covered for the first part of cooking!" We ripped the foil tent off the turkey and oh my god. It was like yanking a toupee off a bald man. The sides and back were a gorgeous golden brown, but the breast on top was pale and white. Fucking hilarious, but me being the oversensitive idiot I am, I started crying. I'd so wanted it to be perfect. Thanksgiving to me has strong associations with my mother; I'd felt close to her all day, thinking she'd be so proud of my cooking. Then here I go messing it up so badly. But it was fine. We were laughing about it within five minutes. And Chaucer was spoiled so rotten - giblets, dark meat, yams...

---

Some of my AZ friends came to town, and it was like breathing pure oxygen for four days straight. I was dizzy with joy. Such an unbelievable good time. We didn't even do much; dinner, drinks, screwing around in bars and hotel rooms. But it was a mixed group, some newer friends who don't know all the old mythology of our friendship - stories which go back twenty years, in some cases. So we spent the weekend telling those tales to them, to one another. Reliving, reconnecting, laughing endlessly. At one point we all were piled on a heap on the bed, drunk and high and still in our going-out clothes. I told the story of how I'd come to be friends with Mason - it is a doozy of a story - and everyone was just captivated, quiet and listening. Just sharing the genesis of that friendship made me feel more whole than I've felt in a long time. It's good to remember where you came from, especially when you're not sure where you are.

I spent most of the weekend with my friends alone, though Terence joined us for the last night. I can't deny what a blast that was, too. The place we'd intended to hit was closed for a private party, so we found ourselves marooned in Hollywood, out of our minds and not quite sure where to go. We ended up in a biker bar, randomly singing The Cure and joking around with tatted up strangers before finding a nearly-empty nightclub that we shut down, the dance floor happily to ourselves.

---

The business idea I have - I am still working at it. It's become a bit of a logistical nightmare. Lots more challenges than I foresaw, but I still believe in it. Trying to overcome one hurdle at a time and not get discouraged. Everyone I tell thinks there's huge potential in it so I'm not giving up yet.

I hate to be a tease about it but that's all I can say right now. Argh.

---

And here is what some of the past few weeks has looked like:























---

Riveting stuff, right? Woman Lives Life, Is Reminded it Features Ups and Downs.

See above, re: gifts.

lovin' it

her: Are you going to watch a movie?

him: I think so. What are you gonna do?

her: Lay on the bed and think suicidal thoughts.

him: What if we watch a movie about suicide? Then you wouldn't have to do that.

her: Okay but what if it's like how watching Super Size Me just made me want to eat McDonald's?

him: Eating McDonald's is a form of suicide.

her: You got me there.

choose your own

I'm falling into a depression, she said. I'm this close. She held up her fingers. And I feel like I should tell you. That I might go away for a little bit. Yanno?

And maybe he said, Fuck that. Fuck depression. Show it to me. Drag it out here in the light where I can see it and I'll stomp its face. Tell me what it looks like and I'll help you kill it.

Or maybe he didn't. Maybe he just referred her to a competent health care provider.

So maybe she drifted away on a wave of resentment. Maybe anger kept her afloat for a few days, despite how heavy it is. But in the end the loneliness got to her and she ditched the raft. Swam for shore. Collapsed exhausted, unsure. But at least not alone anymore.

Or maybe she accepted his limitations, knowing everyone has them. Being all too familiar with her own.

And maybe the threat passed. Moving over them, darkening the sky like an eclipse. Maybe afterwards they found themselves blinking in the sunlight, momentarily dazzled by the relief of being back at the start.

stowaway

We should get a candle, I said, when you told me it was the first day of fall. Maybe you figured I didn't realize, because I lose track of things like that. Maybe you know fall floods me with an optimism that dips but doesn't really crash until the holidays hit, and you wanted to give me a boost. Or maybe it just made you happy to announce it, in the same way you love to say "Rabbit Rabbit" the first morning of every month.

We should get a candle, I said, and you smiled.

Yeah?

Yeah. To commemorate. Something scented and yummy, like pumpkin. It could be our new tradition, I went on. Picking out a fall candle. Then we could get duck fat fries. 

Yes, you said. I love it. Let's do it. And the next day I met you after work, at the shop. Candy sweet smells pouring out into the plaza. Bottles and jars with silly, sentimental flavors like "Sweater Weather" and "Tailgate". I showed you my favorite, almost sold out, and you mmmm'd appreciatively.

Or should we try to find something nicer looking? I wondered, frowning at the ugly orange wax and tacky label.

No, let's get it. You love it.

So we did. And we walked back home slowly, luxuriating in the coolish air. But we didn't get duck fat fries, because I wasn't up to it. And later that night it got worse, my thoughts twisted into black knots, as they do, until bedtime came and I couldn't sleep. So I crept out to the living room with my blanket and my pillow, and I shut the door carefully on the both of you, snoring almost imperceptibly in unison, a sound that keeps me alive more nights than you know.

And I watched a movie about broken people accepting themselves and finding love, a beautiful movie that should have lifted me up. But my thoughts were still twisted and black so it didn't. It made me feel worse, and more broken by comparison. Less lovable, less capable of accepting those parts of me that made me relate to them.

I tried to read, but the story hadn't pulled me in yet, so it couldn't compete with the blackness. I put the book aside and just sat, reminding myself that feelings are temporary visitors. But the visitors did a number on me in those small hours, and I let them. Idiot, they said, and I didn't correct them. Failure, they scoffed, and I didn't object. Loser, they sneered, and I only sighed.

Slivers of dawn framed the drawn blinds, but I didn't move until I heard the crows. (They make me think of fairy tales, I explained a few days ago, telling you about the early morning calls which you sleep through.) Only then did I return to the bedroom, climbing back in to your warmth and peace. I waited a little longer, listening to you, to Chaucer, to the birds outside. I pictured the eastern sky as it looked from our roof Saturday at six am when, again, I couldn't sleep. A streak of peachy pink watercolor behind the still-dark city.

Finally, I moved close up against you. Just enough pressure to let my presence sink into your sleepy subconscious, because I hate waking you unnecessarily. Slowly, you became aware of me. You stirred and took a deep breath, and I wondered what your first thought would be. Or if you were still dreaming and whether I was now in your dream. I rolled toward you then, because I knew you were coming to, and because I needed more. And you turned, and put your forehead against mine, and we didn't speak, and instead just enjoyed the wordless space of gentle coexistence that I know fills you up.

And here's what I did that you don't know: there in the stillness, in the semi-dark, my eyes shut tight - I passed it over to you. I reached in and pulled it from my chest, bruised and dirty from so much kicking, and I passed it over to you for a day of safe-keeping. Just one day. Because I knew I could, because I knew that when I was ready to be gentler with it, I could take it back from you none the worse for wear.

Afterward, I turned away, finally giving in to exhaustion. You wrapped yourself around me and your hand found mine, and I marveled at the way your fist stayed clasped around my thumb even as you drifted back into sleep. Was it unconscious? A reflex? Did some part of you know to keep vigil, to keep holding some piece of me tight and safe? I can't sleep tangled up like that but I couldn't bring myself to disturb you again. So instead I just lay unmoving and pictured the street below, readying itself for the day. Bread trucks and laundry service vans filling up the loading zones. The serious-faced husband carting supplies from his car to the tiny lunch counter his quiet wife runs alone, cooking up batches of curry and beef bulgogi that sell out every day. The freight elevator descending with a mechanical groan into the sidewalk, stacked high with crates of whiskey for the pub below. Bustle. Faces tired or friendly. All of it familiar in the best way.

And then the alarm, and you have to get ready.

I'm fading, quickly, mercifully, so you let me be except for a soft kiss on my cheek once you're showered and shod. Messenger bag. Light fall coat. And a stowaway you don't know about, taking a break from me, hitching a ride with you for the day.


spark of madness

Depression is a stairwell that gets progressively steeper and darker, the lower you go. If you go down far enough, you can't even see the steps anymore. Even if you could, they each feel so terribly tall that getting back up seems impossible.

I've been on that stairwell for much of my adult life. Usually I'm at the top, and I can forget - or at least ignore - how deep it runs beneath me. Every so often I wake up closer to the middle, and it's a fight not to slip further down. On the worst days, I'm clinging for dear life to what feels like it has to be the bottom step.

But I know it's not. I know I've never really been on the bottom step, because it's the one you don't get back off of.

On Monday, lots and lots of people found themselves stuck on the bottom step. One of them was famous enough that his inability to escape made international news.

Throughout the afternoon I kept checking Twitter, reading the reactions of other comedians, of writers and actors and creatives who'd been inspired by Robin Williams. I'm just another yappy, nobody blogger loaded with feels, but I felt like I wanted to say something, too.

The only useful thing I can think to say, however, is what others have said already: If you find yourself so low that the light is gone, reach out and ask for help. Even if it feels scary or embarrassing to do so. I cringe to think of how and where I've passed some of my lowest moments, but I'm glad to be around to cringe at them.

And if you do suffer from depression, ignore anyone who tries to discount or discredit your experience of the stairwell, or make you feel less than because of it. Each step is exponentially lower than the one before it, each an individualized version of hell that only you can understand.

That's it. Nothing new or different. Just another sad person reacting to sad news.

---

We watched The Fisher King on Monday night. Neither of us had ever seen it, and it turned out to be the perfect choice. Terence loves director Terry Gilliam and I couldn't get enough of young Jeff Bridges. One part madcap, one part melancholy, two parts goofy-happy-romance. Not a bad way to say an unexpected goodbye.

deadbolt

The ocean tried to follow me home tonight. Did you notice? I didn't want to say anything, didn't want to distract you while you drove. But I wondered if you saw it in the rear view mirror, black and surging and foamy with hate. I guess I know what it wanted. I guess sometimes I want the same thing.

It kept up with us a good while. I could hear it, even though I didn't turn around. Flooding the highway, waves crashing and tumbling over one another in desperation to catch me once and for all. It must be tired of getting so close each time. It must wish I'd be more realistic.

But then you said something, I don't know what it was, but it was like that moment when a sail unfurls, snap! and the wind slams into it, and we picked up speed like a boat on the water, except this water we left behind, because all of a sudden we were flying. And that's how we got home.

I don't think it knows exactly where I live. I think I'm safe. But I'll deadbolt the door and check over my shoulder for the next few days, just to be sure. Chaucer will keep an eye out, too. He already knows to.

Anyway, that's why I was quiet tonight, in the car. The ocean tried to follow me home.

the silver lining of apathy

What I've come to realize is that apathy is strangely empowering, if I look at it the right way.

Apathy is what exists at the very bottom of the hill. It's the thing I bump into when I go rolling down, down, and down some more. Hitting it doesn't provide any bounce to send me back up - but it doesn't give way, either. There's nothing past it. I can sit there with my back against it and know, if nothing else, that I'm not going down any further.

Apathy is the big, fat cipher I find in the bucket, when I make a last, feeble attempt to pull something up from the well. Even something useless, like anger or fear. But the well is dry and the bucket is glaringly empty. There isn't even any surprise in that moment. The well, the bucket, and I all knew this was coming.

But that's the point at which apathy becomes potentially empowering. Because from that point on, any tiny drop I find in the bucket, should optimism or curiosity or just plain boredom send me back to the well - just to see, just for the hell of it - is a bonus. Oh, ok. Well then. Wasn't expecting this. Guess I'll go ahead and drink it. Yeah. Just a drop, but I wasn't expecting that. Sort of really nice, that was. Kind of incredibly grateful for it. Oops, I'm smiling. And now I'm laughing. 

I'm so very glad no one is witnessing this. I look like a maniac.

Maybe there'll be another drop tomorrow.

necessity had a baby

There was a birth in my home last night. I'm proud to announce the arrival of Uber Ellie. 115lbs, 66 inches. Apgar score of 10.

Uber Ellie was conceived in a moment of deep desperation. It wasn't a pretty scene, though as far as conception goes, it was immaculate, which made the cleanup easy. Not that that matters. What does matter is that she's here now, and she's ready to kick some ass.

I'll back up.

The past couple of days haven't been among my finest. I thought I was out of the woods, and coming into a place of, if not well-being, at least relative stability. I saw some friends over the weekend, which provided a very welcome respite from the wretchedness I'd felt since getting home from Tennessee. They asked me to come to Palm Springs with them next month, an invite that shot promptly to the top of my Reasons To Stay Alive list.

Indeed, there exists such a list at the moment. It's been that bad.

So yeah, I've been struggling. I've had a hard time taking care of myself on even the most basic level. Like, eating. Or, you know, procuring things to eat. Tending to responsibilities. Returning calls, paying bills, applying water and or some kind of cleaning solvents to the growing mounds of dishes and dirty clothes overtaking my apartment. Never mind having the inclination to engage in the activities that keep me sane, like exercising, or blogging, or taking photos. Even opening Instagram to double tap the screen and let my 'net friends know I give a shit about them has been beyond me. Sorry, you guys.

I know it's bad when I reach the nadir of apathy, where the lighthearted, fun things that I normally enjoy don't even appeal to me anymore. And it's been apathy central around here.

Last night saw me curled around Chaucer, sobbing. Just wracked with sadness and fear. Just a big mess of a girl, clinging to a poor, confused, and surely helpless feeling dog. I wish dogs really did go to heaven, because this guy? This guy would have a very special spot waiting for him.



Anyway, it was bad. The dark, really low place I've been going to lately is one where I feel so utterly alone. Which, ok, sure, I am arguably kind of alone, as far as things go. No family. No husband or boyfriend. I have friends, yes. Massively blessed in that department. But I don't really have anyone that has to be there for me, no matter what. I have no designated, official source of support.

I have no emergency contact. I lie on forms that ask for one. In case of emergency, please call: Norman Baker. Relationship to patient: father. Phone number: (813) 333-5444.*

*Might be a while before he picks up, though. 

I also recently realized that I am the only person I know that lives alone. That's sort of amazing to me. I mean, every single one of my friends is either married, lives with his/her partner or family members, or has a roommate. Even the guys I've dated over the past year or so - every last one of them has a roommate. Someone to at least be there, should they, you know, have the overwhelming urge to throw themselves off the roof of their building.

Not I. Forget having someone to help take over the daily crap of life while I get back on my feet emotionally. Someone to pick me up a sandwich when I realize at midnight that I've yet to eat anything all day. And forget having someone to keep me company when I slip into a black hole of loneliness. I don't even have someone to block my path should I decide to walk to the elevator, hit PH, and climb, dead as a zombie, the two flights of stairs between me and The End.

Like I say, it's been bad.

So there I was last night, feeling myself break into a million little pieces, wishing for the hundredth time that I had someone to look out for me for a little while, until I can look after myself again. And yes, I know the obvious answer to all of this is, Hey dipshit, look after yourself. Be your own caretaker. That's what adulthood is.

Well, I'm working on it. My friends and advocates would step in here and say something like, Yo girl, chillax. You are taking care of yourself. You're alive, aren't you? You're doing ok. Only they don't really know how remarkable it is that I am alive. Well, some of them do. And those that do are being pretty fucking amazing, in terms of support. But they're not in my building. They're not in my city. They're not even in my state. My innermost circle has a pretty vast diameter, unfortunately. I still feel all the love, but it's at a geographical remove. And that isn't always easy. And while I know it's my job and mine alone to take care of me, a near-lifetime of dependency in one form or another is a tough fucking habit to break, no matter what wrenches life throws at you.

Anyway, last night it just got to be too much. I couldn't bear it anymore, the not having anyone to just, like, stroke my hair while I cried. (It probably didn't help that I've been playing Family Friend by The Vaccines nonstop. "If you need a bit of love, put your head on my shoulder, it's cool." Yeah.) So I said Fuck this shit. And I decided that since there wasn't anyone, I'd make someone up.

And that's when Uber Ellie was born.

Uber Ellie looks exactly like Ellie. They're indistinguishable, in fact, except for the expression on Uber Ellie's face. The determined set of her jaw. You can tell just from looking her that she's a fucking badass.

Uber Ellie's job, first and foremost, is to keep Ellie safe. To keep her alive. She's a bodyguard and a guardian angel combined. She doesn't let anyone or any thing harmful anywhere near Ellie, and that includes impulses towards self-harm. Uber Ellie checks that shit hard when she sees it coming. But more than being a source of protection, she's a source of comfort. She steps in when Ellie's shittastic self-soothing skills fail to do the job. She lays with Ellie and holds her tight when she cries. She strokes her hair. She shushes her and whispers the special, loving things in Ellie's ear that her mother used to. Even better things, in fact.

I realize this all sounds really fucking weird and very, very sad. What can I say? Necessity is the mother of invention. And in this case, a bit of mild schizophrenia is what was necessary. Because I want to go to Palm Springs next month.

Uber Ellie lets Ellie be sad and scared for as long as she needs to. Uber Ellie doesn't tell Ellie to "buck up", or that her horrible feelings are a choice. She doesn't brightside Ellie. She just lets Ellie climb under the covers and hide from the world. And in the meantime, she takes care of Ellie's shit.

Uber Ellie floats up and away from Ellie like a shade, like a facsimile. But she's real as fuck and she gets things done. She makes the calls Ellie doesn't want to make, because she isn't afraid of what she's going to hear on the other end of the line. Uber Ellie is absolutely fearless. Ellie is a thinker, but Uber Ellie is a doer. While Ellie lays in bed wondering, being anxious and unsure about her future, Uber Ellie is busy smashing the obstacles to Ellie's happiness and well-being.

There is nothing Uber Ellie can't do.

(I sort of went all out, when I made her. Shoot for the moon, etc.)

Uber Ellie doesn't give a fuck about men. While Ellie moons about, second-guessing herself, engaging in texting Tomfuckery and other ridiculous shit, guys are the absolute last thing on Uber Ellie's list of priorities. Way down past, like, keeping Chaucer's nails trimmed and, say, alphabetizing the spice rack. She's just got too much other stuff going on.

Uber Ellie is stoic. She takes things one at a time, and doesn't waste time worrying about just how many things there are. She is a girl of action, not words.

Ellie, in the meantime, gets a break. She gets taken care of for a while, until she can take care of herself again. When you talk to her, it's really her - not Uber Ellie. Uber Ellie doesn't socialize. She doesn't have time to. Ellie is still in charge of her friendships. She still handles all the fun stuff. She's still the creator, the writer, the friend, the dog mom.

But if Ellie needs her to, if things get too hot in her relationships and she needs back up, Uber Ellie will step in and handle that shit, too. Uber Ellie will not let anyone hurt Ellie.

And here's the best part: Uber Ellie will never leave Ellie. She'll never die. She'll never divorce her. She'll never move away. She'll be there in one form or another for the rest of Ellie's life, providing as much or as little presence as she needs. She's going to teach Ellie all of her tricks, too, and slowly impart to her the fearlessness and no-bullshit competency that she so sorely lacks. But she knows it's going to take time, and she has patience. Eventually, though, yes, Ellie will be the one in charge. Uber Ellie will fade into the background and wait to be summoned, as needed.

She hopes it's sooner than later that Ellie can take over. But for right now, Uber Ellie is here, and she's in charge, motherfuckers.

Hell, she doesn't even have time for umlauts.

I sink

It feels like a sunset. It comes on the same way, too. Slow leaking colors, spilling and pooling, shifting and expanding. They are my emotions: joy, fear, anxiety, shame, hope. All my collected feelings that blend and bleed into one another at any given moment, on any given day.

The night pushes them down, flattens them out, steals their space and their oxygen. It crowds them out of the picture as I watch, feeling my oxygen disappear, too. Intensity builds, flaring and fingering out in a last fiery gasp.

Then nothing.

Then dark.

Then emptiness. Or rather, hollowness. What's the difference? Emptiness is the property of a thing that's been void forever, or for a very long time. Or a thing that belongs that way. Or is natural that way. An empty room. An empty glass. Once full, but not needing to be.

Hollowness is a quality of unnatural lack. Things that are hollow shouldn't be that way. Hollow eyes. Hollow soul. Hollow grave. A space asking to be filled.

So, hollowness. Hollow but for wisps of the emotions that blazed bright just moments before. They swirl like smoke inside of me, barely there, and certainly unable to be grasped. And after another few minutes, when dark becomes darker, they're gone, too.

And then it's just black. With very little air to breathe. Everything has been flattened out, the good and the bad. Not even sadness or despair remain. Not enough emotion to generate even a tear.

So I slink home in the twilight, my feet leaden with dread of nothing worth dreading. And I slump against the wall of the elevator, artificial light ugly on my ugliest moment. And I drop onto my bed, dead inside, mechanically lifting my hand to stroke the thing that is so alive, and so needing me to stay that way, too.

And I know it's temporary, and I want to forgive myself, but I can't. Because I don't deserve the indulgence of it, and I haven't earned the right to swim in these waters right now. Have I ever? Probably not.

Probably not.

I'm a joy junkie.

I'm unable to tread water for very long, without something to grab onto, a raft or a float that will accommodate my need to ride one current, then the next. Because if I don't, if I'm forced to tread, I sink.

And it's very hard to catch a sinking stone, especially when you're the stone.

on a windy day

On a windy day, on a late afternoon in February, here's what you can do: You can walk the three blocks from your apartment to the store, because you need things. You need a new mop head, because you've been ever so slightly fastidious about your floor lately. You need index cards, because you've started collecting vocabulary words again - because you've started reading again. Words like marmoreal, canebrake, gracile, loblolly. You need toothpaste.

You can walk that three block stretch briskly, without a coat or a purse to weigh you down. You can navigate the rush hour sidewalk with ease, twisting to squeeze past a crush of disembarking bus riders, weaving lightly through exhausted businessmen in suits, briefcases linked with invisible chains to their wrists. You can feel the late winter chill on your face, and thrust your fists deep into the pockets of your sweatshirt, which is zipped tight against your neck. The wind will lift your hair and your spirits, as it always does, and without looking down, you'll reach into your back pocket, feel for a tiny button on the side your phone, and press it once, twice. Yes. Louder. 

You can reach the far side of the main street, where the sidewalk opens widely, and finally get clear of the crowd. You can then be seized by a feeling of such unexpected, unadulterated, and embarrassingly unjustified happiness that it feels as though someone has shoved you from one spot to the next, across several degrees of uncharted latitude, through some unseen continuum of emotion and consciousness, indifferent to where you'll land. You'll marvel at how different this instant feels from the one just before it. You'll swear you could turn around, there on the city street, and see a fast-fading ghost of yourself stepping forward, ready to assume the moment you're in possession of right now.

You'll want to laugh, but instead you'll just take a deep breath, drinking it in with concentration, and with greed.

You can become acutely aware of your senses, your comportment, your gait. Objects will suddenly shed the cloudy scrim behind which you viewed them just a minute ago and come to life, extra-dimensional. Colors will be obscenely vibrant. You'll stare at the people you pass, fascinated, mystified, vaguely aware that what you're feeling is unreal, a trick, a dream, but wishing everyone else would wake up, too. How can they be so calm in the face of it?

It. What is it? What is it?

It's the undeniable certainty that life is devastating - in its beauty, and in its misery. It's the belief that not only will everything be ok - it already is. It's the knowledge that we are so interconnected in our experience of that beauty and that pain, despite the billion-odd individual paths we're on, that we may as well just stop dead in our tracks, look at one another, and laugh. Or sigh. Or cry.

Everything in your sight will charm and delight you. Every last everyday detail: the way a pretty blonde has carefully tied the belt of her trenchcoat into an off-side bow; the self-conscious jerk with which a teenaged skateboarder shakes his hair from his face, poised and ready for the stoplight to release him; the oddly comforting familiarity of the taxi drivers' faces, queued as they are in their regular spot: Eastern European, and African, and African American. I don't know a single one of them. I feel as though I've known each of them for years.

You can have the thought come dancing into your brain, boastful and irrational as it always is, that you feel things more intensely than other people. You can feel your mind schism at the thought, half of it prickling with shame - What makes you think you're so special?, half of it quietly agreeing - Yes. Yes, you do. 

You'll wonder for the hundredth time if something inside of you is broken, causing you to feel such exquisite, heart-stopping joy at the most mundane of triggers - or if instead something in you is enhanced. Amplified. And, as always when this happens, the wind will stir the leaves in your mind, exposing their opposite, darker sides: yes, but.

Yes, but, even if it's true, even if the wellspring of joy runs deeper in you, so too does the sorrow.

And you can think, for the hundredth time, about diluting both the joy and the sorrow. About saying, Yes, well, the thing is, doctor, the depression really is unbearable at times. Yes, I know this pill will dull the brighter side of things too. On balance, though, I think it would be best.

And you can say, Fuck balance. You can say, Fuck balance, I'll take them both. Because you can, because you've been doing it your whole adult life.

That's what you can do, on a windy day, on a late afternoon in February.

slivers

Moving through the world becomes like walking through a glass tunnel. Glass above, glass below, glass all around. There's only me in it, and as I pass along, I can see everything just on the other side. I can put my hands to the glass, and my face, but I can't touch or feel or smell or taste anything out there. Scary things press themselves against it, showing their dark, ugly, twisted bodies to me. They shift and morph, sometimes seeming wet and soluble, sometimes wispy as smoke. And I can't hide from them. I shrink to the floor, bury my face in my knees, and wrap my arms tight around my legs. But they just stare at me, waiting until I lift my head to acknowledge their existence, and their power.

They crowd out the beautiful things, which I know are back there, if temporarily hidden from my sight. But they're shoved so far back I can't even make out their shapes in the chaos.

I don't know what it was. I don't know if it was taking Vicodin for a week straight, then plunging off a cliff back into an icy ocean of pure, unaltered physiology. I don't know if it was the nasty surprise I unearthed early Sunday morning, poking around as I sometimes do in places I know better than to go.

But whatever it was, I dropped down, down, down, a globe of the thinnest, most brittle glass, until I crashed inevitably to the floor. And now I'm in a hundred tiny pieces, exhausted by even the thought of trying to gather back into myself the slivers scattered far and wide across the room.

I owe emails, and I owe phone calls, and I have voicemails I haven't even listened to. I'm sorry if you're among those expecting something from me.

I hope to be back soon.

snow globe

So, last night - Wednesday night - utterly fucking sucked. Sucked, sucked, sucked.

I'll get into the good (awful) stuff into minute, but first, let me paint you a picture of what anxiety disorder looks like for me. (Oh, did I never mention I have generalized anxiety disorder? Well, I do. I've never been clinically diagnosed with it, but I'm of the mind that it's one of those things that you just know you have, when you do. It's not like you can mistake anxiety for, say, a toothache. Or anemia. It's pretty obvious when you're panicky and worried to a debilitating degree.)

There's some paperwork that needs to be done for my lawyer, regarding my dad's estate. I've known it needs to be done, but I've been avoiding doing it, because absolutely everything associated with the estate gives me massive anxiety. Like, terrifying anxiety.

I have no idea why. It's just fucking paperwork, for the most part. But it does. Freaks me out like you wouldn't believe. It took me months to get things filed away and in order, to the point that they are now, because whenever I thought about doing any of it, I would have a complete melt down.

Anyway, the latest thing that needs to be done - well, it doesn't matter what it is. It's paperwork. And about a day after my attorney said Hey, you gotta do this, my printer went all wonky. Started printing things all blurry and wavy.

And I was all, of course. And I laughed bitterly to myself, as I am wont to do. And then I printed up a page of some blurry text and took it to my boy Percy to get his expert opinion. And mind you, Percy doesn't sell printers, just ink, so it isn't as if he has some vested interest in me getting a new printer, because god knows, my last one sucked up ink like it was going out of style.

Percy told me I needed a new printer, that the problem mine was exhibiting was basically the ink jet death rattle. He recommended a brand and model that he likes, and that he knew was on sale at Office Max. And I was grateful for his advice, his help, and of course, his humor (because you know I went in there raging, and you know he diffused the situation by being his ridiculous self).

Fast forward to me swinging by Office Max to get the new printer. And by "swinging by" I mean calling ahead to make sure they had one in stock, having some snotty-sounding associate inform me that I'd "better hurry up" because she could only hold it for half an hour, jumping on the train to Union Station, changing trains to get to Little Tokyo, running in to the store frantically because by this time, half an hour had gone by, then schlepping the damn thing home again. And it wasn't huge, but it wasn't light, or easy to carry. My arms were like jelly by the time I got back.

Then I pretty much let the printer sit in my cabinet for two weeks, because I was terrified of it.

Why the fuck would I be terrified of a printer, you ask?

That's an excellent question.

I was terrified of the printer because, in my warped and worried little mind, I had formed a link between it and the unpleasant paperwork I needed to do. The poor thing, which had never done wrong in its short printer life, was guilty by association.

Also, I had convinced myself that once I got around to setting it up, I wouldn't be able to configure it correctly, because I am lousy at those sorts of things. So me being the defeatist that I am, I had already doomed myself to failure.

Are you shocked, yet, that I'm not a Pulitzer Prize winning novelist, with this sort of can-do attitude? Just wait.

Anyway, I closed the door on my scary printer, and more or less tried to ignore its existence, only getting spooked by it when I needed to open the cabinet to get an envelope or a rubber band or something. And when I did, you know that printer gave me some dirty looks, suffocating as it was in its shrink wrap and tape. Bitch, let me out. I can't breath in here. And I'm bored. Why don't you write something interesting for me to print up? Why don't you write something, period?

Well, tonight I decided I was ready to face my fear and deal with the damn thing. Only, anxiety isn't something I can just snuff out at will, like a candle. It's more like a snow globe. When my thoughts turn to the panic-inducing trigger - whatever it is - all of a sudden it's like a snow globe being violently shaken, where all those little snowflakes are bits of worry and fear. And I have to wait, calmly, trying not to shake it again, while they slowly fall and settle back to stillness. Then I can very carefully tiptoe in and try to do what I need to do.

So, the printer and I squared off for a couple of hours. This is what that looked like: I'd do something, anything, to try to procrastinate dealing with it. I cleaned. I did some laundry. I wrote some emails. All the while completely preoccupied with the knowledge of what I really needed to be doing instead. Meanwhile, the printer just sat there, wordlessly waiting, indifferent to my tumultuous state of mind.

(Incidentally, if you don't suffer from anxiety, now would be a good time to turn to your nearest loved one and say, I'm so glad I don't suffer from anxiety. I'm reading this blog, and man, this chick has problems.)

Let's fast forward, because holy god has this anecdote gotten long and boring. And this is where you get to be momentarily impressed because, get this shit: I actually unpacked and configured the printer correctly. Like a real grown up. It was amazing. I installed the paper, the cartridges, ran the ink test, and most incredibly, configured the wireless network. I entered in the correct network name and password and it synched up exactly like it was supposed to.

I probably should have stopped there and had a glass of wine to celebrate. But I got cocky and decided I could install the software on my laptop, too.

And that's when my little choo-choo train, which had heretofore been hauling ass down the Ellie Expressway, ran into a tunnel packed with TNT. Boom.

The details are boring - suffice to say, I couldn't get it to work, despite my troubleshooting. Something about drivers and incompatible operating systems.

And that's when I lost it. I just fucking lost it. I felt so useless, so dumb and incompetent, so defeated and frustrated. I dropped to the floor, held my dog, and cried.

For context, maybe, or at least background: I haven't been having the greatest couple of weeks, emotionally. Getting sick derailed my productivity and schedule, which in turn knocked my state of mind down a notch or three. And I've been struggling to get it back up.

What it is, and I know this is 100% pure whining, is that I just get so tired, sometimes, of doing everything on my own. It can be so discouraging when half my day gets sucked up by errands and chores the time of which spent accomplishing could be halved by a partner. I don't miss having a husband. But I miss having someone to share the responsibility of all the time-consuming, exhausting things required of Adult Life. Even just the physical exertion of doing all the shopping, all the housework, all the errands (read: walking, walking, and more walking), all the Chaucer care...it's hard for me sometimes, it really is.

Ugh. So whiny, I know. But there it is.

And sometimes I just don't fucking feel like being a strong, independent, competent person who takes care of herself completely on her own. Sometimes I just want to curl up in ball on the bed while someone strokes my hair and just babies me. Honestly, I don't even want someone to do my shit for me. I like the feeling of developing that, I don't know, grit, as I'm forced to do it all, on my own, all the time. But Christ, sometimes it would be so nice to have someone just sort of care for me a little bit, you know?

So tonight when I broke down, all of that came bubbling up from my stomach to my throat, and then to and through my eyes, in a hot, helpless rush.

And I found myself saying Why? over and over and over. Why, why, why? And Chaucer just looked at me with his eyes as big as saucers, worried and scared and not knowing how to help. He pawed me and he licked my face, and I swear I felt him shift his weight to move a little bit closer to me.

Why, why, why? At first I didn't even know what I was asking. Why what? I thought. So I started asking my ceiling more specific questions. Why is this so hard? Why is this happening? Why can't I do this?

And then came this one: Why am I alone?

And it was as if I'd snapped the last piece into the ugliest, most wretched puzzle ever designed. I said it again: Why am I alone? 

That was it. That was the question that had torn its way up from my belly the minute I got an error window on my computer. Why am I alone?

Why am I alone, if I am so great?

Why am I alone, if I'm as smart and loving and funny and talented and worthy as I believe I am?

And, wouldn't you know it, the other half of my brain had an answer at the ready: Maybe you're really not those things, after all.

---

And that's where I'm stopping for now, because this post is monster-sized as it is, and I'm exhausted by the writing of it, and by the experience of going through all those emotions again, in describing them.

Ugh.

It's a bad day, not a bad life.
It's a bad day, not a bad life.
It's a bad day, not a bad life.

And with that, I'm going to wash my face, kiss my sweet pup on his smart bump, and go to sleep so I can take another crack at dominating the bogeyman in my credenza my Brother MFC-J425W tomorrow.

thankful

My heart is so full right now. A few things shifted into place in my head, and I'm feeling just stupidly happy in this moment.

I'm in a cozy, clean (well, mostly clean) apartment, looking across my desk at a sleeping dog, worn out from a long walk and a rousing round of fetch. I'm listening to music and hanging Christmas ornaments in my kitchen, since there's no room for a tree:



But I don't mind that. I'm just grateful to have a cute little home of my own where I can hang ornaments.

Tomorrow night my friend M. comes into town, and on Thursday we're driving up to Visalia to spend the holiday with his family. M.'s dad died a month before mine, and we've been friends since 1998. He was my best man at my wedding (well, unofficially - we didn't have a wedding party), and I've considered him my best friend for years. He's seen me through more heartache than I'd care to remember, and there's no one in this world who knows me better, and to whom I can more relate. I'm so, so, thankful for his friendship, and for the invitation he extended to join him this year. I'm extremely thankful for the fact that several of my other friends reached out, too, to make sure I wouldn't be alone on Thanksgiving. I'm stupidly blessed in my friendships.

I'm thankful for my beautiful, sweet dog, who makes me laugh every day, and whose awesomeness I often get to experience twice - once myself, and then again vicariously, through the joy he brings others. We've started taking nightly walks up to the fountains beside the John Ferraro building. I throw a ball for him, brush him, and then he just hangs out, enjoying the view while I mess around on Instagram, or catch up on email.





I'm thankful for the people who've helped me get through this year. I'm thankful for everyone who's been rooting for me, watching my successes and failures, and supporting me through both.

I'm thankful for the friends I have, near and far. I'm thankful for those I can walk to, right now, and hug, and those who'd have to wait for me to get off a train, a plane, or a bus. I'm thankful for those of you who read my blog, who give a shit, and who still like me in spite of the fact that I'm the most ridiculous, frivolous, self-absorbed, judgmental asshole on the planet. I'm thankful to those of you who've reached out to say hello, or to tell me you liked something I wrote, or to cheer me on, or to just be an Instagram buddy.

I'm thankful for every single person who's said something kind to me, or been friendly to me in even the smallest way this year. This has been, without question, the hardest year of my life. There have been many moments where I didn't think I was going to make it. Where I didn't know if I could keep choosing to make it. But every single kindness that has come to me is like a little, glowing ball of heat and light that I can put deep inside of me and use to keep the fire going, even when it's unbearably cold.

I'm really, really glad to be here, and thankful for everyone who's glad I am, too.

cowboy boots

Every once in a while, the subway car will start to move, but I won't feel a thing. There's a disorienting and slightly nauseating few seconds where it feels like the entire world is moving around us, while the train stays still. While I stay still. Then I realize it's just an optical illusion - the train on the opposite platform has started to leave the station, giving me the brief, false impression of personal momentum.

This is what depression sometimes feels like: an inability to distinguish my own inertia from the progress of the world around me. I can't tell if everything is moving past and beyond me just because I'm still for the moment, or if I actually am moving forward, and just can't tell yet.

--- 

Recalibration is such an emotive, empowering concept to me right now. To shift the standard, to reset the bar according to my own scale. Zero goes there. Ten goes there. Negative ten goes there. I can take control of my experience of some input, therefore getting a clear idea of what output I can expect. 

---

The other day I bought a plain white, crew neck t-shirt. Unbelievably, it was the first time in over fifteen years that I've done that. I've had a couple of otherwise white graphic tees, an off-white, v-neck tee, a sheer, white long sleeve v-neck layering tee, even a few plain white men's v-necks for working out. But this was the first completely plain white, short-sleeve women's crew neck tee I've purchased in nearly two decades. WTF.

I'm obsessed with it. I want to wear it every day. I love how bright and clean it looks against the grime of downtown - against the all-dark uniform of so many of its inhabitants. It's so quiet that it practically screams. It's ironic without being so, because how the hell can a white t-shirt have anything ironic to say? And because I'm relaxed and happy in it, I know it probably looks better on me than shirts I paid three times as much for. 

I love wearing something so absurdly simple, in a city that's anything but. It's like turning in a blank sheet of paper, five minutes into the essay exam. Everyone in the class glances up, nervous and embarrassed for me. She knows she has to write something, doesn't she? She's going to fail if she doesn't at least try...

Anyway, I realized how apt a metaphor this is for the way I live my life. I refuse to let anything be simple and easy. I refuse to do what's best for me. I embellish, needlessly. I complicate. I choose poorly. I choose too much. 

I need more plain white tees in my closet life. 

---

Being rejected is like jumping into a cold swimming pool. At first it's unbearable, and all you want to do is get out, to escape the sting. But if you just keep moving and breathing, after few minutes it becomes tolerable. Pretty soon you don't notice the cold as much. And after a while, if you continue to swim, you forget how miserable you were just a little while prior. 

---

I dreamt the other night that I was standing on a street corner with two middle-aged men, both cowboys. They wore dusty jeans, stetsons, and shiny new boots. Their faces were well-lined and tanned, but handsome. I felt very young and fresh next to them. 

One of the men wanted me to dirty up his boots for him. He was afraid he wouldn't be taken seriously as a cowboy unless his boots showed signs of wear. 

For some reason, this invitation felt like the most erotically charged proposition I'd ever received. But I welcomed it.

I decided that the only way to properly break in this man's boots was to stand on them, and grind the soles of my own street-filthy sneakers against them. I stepped carefully onto the tops of the man's feet, gripping his shoulders for balance. He put his hands around my waist and held me while I twisted my dirty shoes onto his clean ones, pivoting back and forth, left and right. I felt tremendous joy, not just because it was such a silly, childishly fun thing to do, but because it was working so well. I could see the smears of dirt dulling his boots. All this time, the other man just watched us in silence.

I looked up at the man holding me, and I laughed, delighted by our bizarre dance. The expression on his face was one of utter charm and beguilement, and it made me feel alluring and beautiful. I looked at the other man; he was smiling at me, too. The way they looked at me made me feel like I was some exotic creature from another time and place. An angel - no, a nymph. Something magical they'd lucked upon, that was going to give them exactly what they wanted.

It was then that I woke up, feeling intensely aroused. And thirsty. 

Weirdest dream I've had in recent memory. 

frivolous

Suffering from depression is like being handed a closed carton of eggs every morning when I wake up. I have no idea whether, when I open it, there'll be a dozen perfect eggs, or if they'll be broken, all jagged flakes of shell and yellow goo.

I never know if I'm going to have anything to cook with, or just a fresh mess to clean up.



A small dose of cynicism is a good antidote to naivete, but a large dose is fatal to rare and beautiful things like faith, wonder, and magic.



I feel like every time the ATM asks me if I want a receipt, what it's really saying is, Do you want a tangible reminder of this financial indiscretion? No? Didn't think so. Please take your cash and enjoy it, you frivolous woman.



Dating someone is like trying to guess how they like their coffee, and then bringing them a cup of it. You have no idea if they take cream and sugar, or how much, or if they prefer it black. You're going into it completely blind, just hoping and gambling that they like it as sweet and creamy - or not - as you do, because that would make it so much easier to share.



Scratchers tickets depress me. All that hope, hanging on a gaudy, flimsy little card covered with promises and dollar signs. The mindlessness of the challenges - tic tac toe, three of a kind, match the symbols. The grimy little pile of dust that collects when you rub it with a coin's edge. The way that people just go ahead and play at the register, not even bothering to bring them home. It's such a non-event.



One person's principled is another person's sanctimonious, and that's a really good thing to keep in mind when talking to someone you don't know very well, because there's a world of difference between the two.



There's nothing noble or honorable about loyalty for loyalty's sake. If you're loyal to someone, it should be because they exhibit qualities you respect and aim for yourself. Loyalty should be earned by demonstrating character and integrity. It shouldn't be given away lightly, and certainly not by virtue of association.

all I've got

Well, I fell into a hole for a few days. And I sat down there for a while, trying to hatch an escape plan. I got a little lazy about it, and decided it was actually easier to just stay down there.

So I did that for another few days.

Finally, I got out, thanks in part to the rope ladder some lovely people threw down to me. But then I felt overwhelmed by all the clutter that had accumulated in my absence. So I pushed it all into the closet and left it there for another week, rather than deal with it.

I've been a little saturated with stimuli. Good, bad, new, exciting, stressful, welcome, unwelcome, confusing stimuli. Annoyingly esoteric, I know, but I've backed myself into a bit of a corner as far as privacy. Mine I don't care so much about - but I try not to mess with that of others.

Got into a bit of nastiness with a couple friends over a really dumb misunderstanding. That was embarrassing. Resolved now. 

Have been stupidly, ridiculously tired all the time. Like, falling down dead after only being awake for a few hours. Thinking it must have something to do with my thyroid, and the quest my doctor and I are on to find the right synthroid dosage. Looking forward to addressing my various WTFs to him at my upcoming appointment. 

Decided to amend my father's trust and remove myself completely from the responsibility of dispensing my brother's share. That way I can finally, absolutely sever ties and walk away.

Halloween happened. I only went out the weekend before, which was plenty, really. Halloween night everything sort of fizzled; people were exhausted from the weekend and not up to another late night out.  On the Friday before, I accepted a last-minute invitation to a party at The Forge, where I met some Instagrammers I've been friendly with. Well, one Instagrammer, who introduced me to a few others. I had such a great time. The Forge is the perfect party venue, and they did an amazing job of putting it all together. And the people I met were incredibly friendly and cool.

Saturday I went with K. and his new boyfriend - whom I hadn't yet met, and whom I now LOVE - to Tatou, which is a super silly place just across the freeway. But our friend V. was DJing so, no cover. Plus, hundreds of people in costume, and the music was admittedly great - the sound there is fantastic. It's a massive club, two floors, different rooms for different music. I stayed laaaate, almost til four. Pretty much all of my Halloween pics have other people in them as well as me, and it gives me the squickles to post them sans permission.

In other words, I'm wrapping up this devastatingly boring post without even adding any pics to spice it up.

Forgive me. I've been really, really low, and have missed blogging, but this is all I've got tonight, kids.