If you could see me you probably wouldn’t be able to tell what surviving means.
Unless you had it.
A.k.a. depression. Read the rest of this entry »
If you could see me you probably wouldn’t be able to tell what surviving means.
Unless you had it.
A.k.a. depression. Read the rest of this entry »
Trigger Warning: This poem is about self harm. Please do not read it if this is a trigger. [UPDATED] Though I do not struggle with self harm, several of the close people in my life do, and so I wanted their words to be heard and felt here. These words put into poetic form, are from the discussions and talks I’ve had with those people.
Cut this line upon my skin
So I can feel what a pain I’ve been
Burn this flame upon my flesh
So I can control this life a mess
Drill this hole into my thigh
To take away the numb, make me feel alive
Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord nobody weeps
I came across the video below about artist Shawn Coss who decided to draw one mental health illness each day for the month of October. I contacted Shawn and asked him for permission to post some of his work on my blog and he was kind enough to agree.
Also, check out this excellent article about Shawn on The Mighty here – https://themighty.com/2016/10/shawn-coss-creates-creepy-drawings-of-mental-illnesses-for-inktober/
You can order prints of Shawn’s artwork at the link here – https://any-means-necessary-clothing.myshopify.com/collections/inktober-illness-2016/products/inktober-illnesses-11×17-print
Be sure to support him by liking his Facebook page and checking out his YouTube videos.
This morning, as I was drinking a cup of coffee, a day after my 43rd birthday, I felt a convulsive scattering across the roof of my mouth.
I choked. And spit.
I looked down and saw the bug lying upside down in the light brown liquid, its legs kicking profusely.
I stared at it.
I knew what it was. And I knew where it came from.
The bugs had been with me for as long as I could remember. They are part of my life. I don’t like it, they just are.
At first I was afraid of them. Disgusted. I could feel them crawling over the surface of my hippocampus and through the channels of my amygdala.
I used to scratch my forehead incessantly because I could feel something crawling under my skin, beneath my skull. Like something had burrowed into my nasal passages at night and worked its way into my prefrontal cortex. And laid its eggs. That’s what my brother always told me. We all heard those stories as kids, right?
I didn’t know what it was, or if it was even normal. I was a pre-teen going through a lot of weird changes. A lot of things didn’t make sense at the time.
I remember my first experience with the bugs. I was in middle school at a friend’s birthday party. Introverted, standing away from the crowd. I didn’t know why, and I know it sounds selfish, but I just didn’t feel like being there. The thought of being around groups of people was daunting to me. I forced myself to go, knowing I wasn’t going to have any fun. I just wanted to be at home, locked away in the safety of my bedroom where no one could bother…no, harm me.
So while I was at this party, I felt the itching again. More intense this time. I was worried someone would see me scratching and scrunching my nose, point it out to others, and people would ridicule me. I tried to hide it. I don’t know why I didn’t go to the bathroom before it happened, I just stood there. To my complete disgust, the bug fell from my nose onto my sleeve. I gasped and swatted at it but it just dropped and scurried away into the corner.
I don’t think anyone noticed because no one said anything and people were even coming up to me to talk.
That’s when I knew I was different than a lot of other kids at school.
That was when I knew I had something.
I couldn’t sleep at night. I could feel the bugs scurrying over the macaroni-like canals of my brain as I tossed and turned. I was exhausted during the day but couldn’t sleep for beans at night.
I later learned about something called cortisol, and that it made a part of my brain larger and more active. This is what caused my disturbances – what made it impossible to sleep.
I think the bugs make cortisol in their bodies and then inject it into my brain like venom. It’s what makes me feel and act the way I do.
“It’s just a phase”, my dad said. “Probably from you starting middle school this year.”
“You’ll get better, honey”, my mom comforted.
They just didn’t know.
I didn’t know.
Eventually I came to accept that the bugs were there to stay. I somehow got used to the itching. What choice did I have?
My parents sent me to therapy with my ludicrous and unexplainable rantings of “brain bugs”. The doctor was gentle and understanding while I explained through tears and hanging my head in shame .
“They’re always there”, I sobbed.
“I know”, he whispered. “We’re going to help you.”
I didn’t really understand what the medicine he gave me did, or what it was called. It had letters though-I think an “s” or two, an “r”, and an “i”, or something like that. I was desperate. I couldn’t live like this anymore. Especially when no one believed me.
I took the pills every day like he told me. After a few weeks, the itching began to subside. It was still there, just not as intense. Muted. I learned how to keep the bugs more-or-less contained, though they were always there . At least the medicine helped prevent them from falling out of my ears or nose. I could still feel them moving back and forth inside my skull but I was numb at the same time. I think the medicine made me feel that way – zombie-ish.
I remember that several months after I began therapy, I noticed a girl standing by herself in the cafeteria. She was pretty so I didn’t understand why she was by herself. Probably just waiting on some friends I guessed.
Her eyes darted around the room, almost like she was nervous or didn’t want to be there.
And then I saw her scratch her forehead and wrinkle her nose a few times.
When I walked over to her, she sheepishly looked at me with the one eye that wasn’t hidden behind her beautiful brown hair.
“I’ve got ’em, too”, I told her, casting my gaze down to the ground.
A tear glistened down her cheek.
“Come on”, I nodded.
She smiled. Her eyebrow lifted.
And we turned and got into line to buy our food
My soul has left and with it,
The Albums and the Tags.
The memories put in boxes,
And thrown out in the trash.
paint chips fall onto the ground.
A weathered waste, at the end of town.
I pack up and I leave.
So I took the plunge and published a Facebook page, “Surviving the Specter”. I want to reach more people so they know they are not alone in their struggles…that there are others out there going through the same things.
My WP blogs will be pushed out through this page as well as at my Twitter handle – #sts91414. I figured my handle would be easy to remember since it’s the first letter of each of the words in my blog’s title, as well as the date I attempted suicide.
I plan on publishing the story of the night I took my life next month, September, which is Suicide Awareness Month in the U.S. If you haven’t read it may you could stop by and give it a read and leave some thoughts.
Thank you friends, for your support through words, comments, calls, and email subscriptions, and Follows. I appreciate it more than you know.
For survivors of mental illness, they say journaling is a way to help you heal.
Here’s my effort at catharsis…
My girlfriend of nearly three years, and I, just parted ways. We’ve broken up several times before, and each time have gotten back together. This time is permanent though <<insert audience laughter here>> because of how things have progressed. Here are my thoughts through the process:
Unfortunately, I can empathize with you, my friend.
For my depression controls me, too.
It is not a passing state of mind, nor a feeling.
It is something we survive through every day.
Sometimes, on certain days, it’s not as intense.
But it is always there.
A lot of people may never guess because I try to hide it.
I hide it by staying to myself.
And by pretending like I am concentrating and hard at work.
I am introverted…
…because I don’t want to pull other people down with me.
If my friends didn’t invite me to do things with them…
…I would constantly isolate.
A lot of the times I say “no” anyways because I am “busy”.
I know I am not alone, but a lot of the time it feels that way.
It ruins my intimate relationships.
It makes me run away from those who love me.
This depression sucks the happy out of me.
Even on sunny, beautiful days, all I can see is gray.
I sleep – a lot. Because depression numbs me.
I get frustrated with myself all the time because of how things are.
I don’t want it to be this way, but it just is.
Contextual background: A brief history of Ür and its rise to greatness is given along with the story of how affliction came to be.
The walled city of Ür had not always been the great fortress in which Catharsis had dwelled. It was once a lonely oasis in the desert, won by nomadic herdsman who had battled for its possession in order to nourish their herds and provide sustenance for their families. A place of healing in the middle of a harsh, windswept, barren land. The grand-eldest male by the name of Ür, gave the fertile gem its name – earliest in the elder tongue.
Soon after, blood clans made pilgrimage to the lush gardens of the watering hole and joined their families of the original community. They brought with them their customs and beliefs, families, and herds. They added their lands to the original estate and struck its edges to mark their claim with altars to their deities.
Down through the time of unrecorded and recorded history, the oasis community of Ür matured in size and prestige, quickly mounting to power as an unrivaled city-state and controlling the land to its horizons. Through many generations did Ür prosper under a golden age. It basked in its splendor, taking in travelers far and wide. All who knew of Ür knew of its greatness, even far beyond the horizons of its realm. It prospered in its glory and was regarded as a bastion to the weary, lost, disheartened, and broken.
Its strength came in its acceptance of its citizenry’s diversity, welcoming all who wished entrance, save for those whose lives consisted of the worst of mannerisms – greed, pride, lying, thievery, conceit, ill will, bigotry, and murder. Nay, even those lost souls were granted sanctuary if they received the king’s oath of fealty, making their pledge of faithfulness and good will to both their master and fellow man. For only the pure and good willed were permitted stay within the city’s walls.
But it soon came to pass that an unnamable sickness came to the people of Ür.
It was an invisible sickness to most – only visible and comprehendible to those who endured it. It was so believed to steal freely throughout the walled city, creeping like some menacing fog yet without detection. It could not be fought because it could not be seen, and a sense of mistrust and paranoia soon descended on the land. From whence did this pestilence emanate? Why did it torment the people of the glorious citadel? How could it be routed out? What were its ailments? Was it escapable?
Soon whispers in taverns and alleyways gave rise to the belief it was a punishment from the gods of the soil, water, and heavens for man’s abuse of their resources. Man’s lack of respect for what the deities had preciously and graciously imparted unto them.
Whispers soon turned into a dark, unspoken secret realization that it was a torment conjured from the Wahrlog – the evil demon lord that lay beyond the Marshlands of Melancholia and deep in the Quagmire of Hopelessness. Sent to plague humankind. And so this belief held steadfast amongst the citizens within the city’s walls.
The people named it affliction.
Sacrifices were made to appease the demon who created affliction. Fruits, flowers, and grains were laid before the great gates and in the marketplace. The blood of animals was shed and smeared on the doorposts and windows of the earthen hovels of the city. Great warriors were sacrificed.
But to no avail.
Affliction still swept its invisible hand across the land like some gray blanket of hopelessness.
It did not exist completely unseen, however. For those afflicted showed similar signs of the invisible illness. They could identify each other for they were the only ones to see it. It was not invisible to them. They held another certainty in their common – they were all visited by the Wahrlog.
To not be afflicted, one had to know what was to be looked for so that it might be named and identified. “Those who do not see” were blessed amongst the masses, for they would never know the loneliness that gripped its prey. They would never feel the talons of melancholy nor the depths of the deep dark pain it spawned.
Catharsis could see clearly, the others whom had been afflicted with the same torment with which he himself lived. He could sense their numbness, almost smell it as they wallowed through their daily lives cocooned in their catatonic shells. He could see the lethargy and apathy in their eyes as clear as he could see the noonday sun, or the abundance of his crops. He could see that their solitude and isolation were manifestations of the affliction of the darkness – that constrictor which grips its victim and strangles him of life.
Catharsis had lived with these things for the grander part of his life and it greatly added to his confusion about who he was as a man. He oftentimes felt alone in his struggle. Wishing this affliction would leave him. Often times wishing for his own life to end to escape his life of grey.
* * *
Affliction soon found its way to the royal family and took the life of the regent’s heir – it had not preference nor prejudice against whom it took. Shock and panic drove through the city’s streets. How could this sickness have impressed royal blood?! How could it taint such pure bloodlines? What mockery was this?
And so, to combat affliction an edict went out from the royal family and the priesthood: those who were tormented with affliction would be scarred by the branding man’s iron for all to see. They would be labeled with the eternal mark upon their forehead to be ostracized, outcast, and stigmatized.
Identified by the seal, shunned, and avoided so their inexplainable poison would be naught able to disease others.
The whole issue with this depression thing – it has sucked all life out of me like some soul harvester.
This past year has been one of the most relentless struggles I’ve had to endure. It gets worse each day I aimlessly trudge through my daily dosage of hours like a walker. And I don’t see an end in sight.
I feel like I stare at an hourglass in front of me. Glossy-eyed and lost faced, watching each grain of sand tumble through the bottleneck , building up the mountain in the chamber below that represents time passed.
The sand falls in slow motion.
Maybe you can relate?
I don’t see the sunshine. I’ve had this gray film over my life. It is a sunny, bright, 82º outside my Norfolk, VA apartment. I can’t see it. I don’t feel the warmth in my soul. I keep all the blinds shut. It’s not the kind of depression where you can simply open the blinds and the gray is gone. That doesn’t work. Our friends will suggest it…to open the shades and let the sunshine in. But those who don’t live with it can’t ever understand that just doesn’t work. It’s a fog of war. It stays.It permeates the skin and sinks down to the core. It’s a wave that has to be ridden.
I’ve been riding the crashing part of the barrel for months.
I have no drive. It’s really hard to continue when you feel so hopelessly apathetic. I get so sick of looking at the hourglass and longing for sleep. If I feel inspired to do something I change to something else before I finish what I started. So many things left unfinished. I wander back and forth in my apartment sometimes feeling that I’m going crazy. Most people that don’t live with this affliction would quickly suggest to exercise. All the other articles and advice out there scream that, but how can you bring yourself to that if you can’t even walk across the street to the beach on such an ideal day?
I’m numb and I don’t feel happiness. I don’t feel the happiness that other people feel when it’s sunny out. I should. I want to feel it. I want to feel “normal”. I want the chemicals in my body to react like that. I don’t want to be numb anymore. Catatonic. Zombie-ish. I’m trying to blog it out because journaling is supposed to be the best form of therapy for depression. It hardly is for me. It’s not cathartic. I’ve had an impossible time dragging myself to type this post and hardly feel any form of relief or healing from doing so. Getting a buzz from drinking (exactly the opposite of what I need to be doing, I know) used to give me a tinge of happiness. Now, that doesn’t even work. I’ve lost all interest in all things: writing, drinking, walking on the beach, reading, drawing, sex, photography, being a dad, friendships. I’ve thought a lot about dying. Not being suicidal, but just as a quiet way to end the mind numbing hourglass watching.
I fail at relationship. I isolate. I drive people away. I drive myself away from people. I isolate myself from those who love and care about me. It makes me drive those away who love me.
I’ve lost a foothold in my faith. I used to find peace when I read the Word and prayed early in the morning. That has been sucked away too. I don’t have the same happiness that I see on other believers’ faces, like when I used to go to church. I want that simple happiness of just waking up and being happy. I know they have their own problems, and sometimes that smile is just plastered on, but I just want to feel the Spirit move me to happiness.
* * *
How does your depression make you feel?
I’ve been Tweeting with a friend whose site is based on raising suicide awareness, especially for those who need answers to “why?”. I wrote this some time ago and am hoping it helps a little in the way of explaining my personal experience.
NOTE: Dear reader, this post talks openly about suicide. If this is a trigger, please do not read it at this time. Thank you. May peace come to you in your valley.
I attempted suicide on 9/14/14.
I had been on the noose for about 45 minutes.
I am fortunate. I had friends that saved me.
I hope that my words may provide some closure for those that may still be seeking answers. A small bit of understanding to answer the question, “Why?” My family and friends are fortunate because I am able to answer those questions for. I am fortunate to be alive and explain it to them.
“It’s the easy way out.”Psh! Friend if you’re that deep, it’s the ONLY way out.
“He just wanted attention.” I wanted peace.
“He was so selfish.” I wasn’t thinking of anybody.
So when does it all become too much to…
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