We’re All a Little Crazy

My anxiety’s not as bad as it used to be, but I know that some of you have it that bad and worse. Hold on. You feel alone but you’re not.

maney smiles back

These are things I tell myself when I feel an anxiety attack coming on, which happens about once on good days.

  • You are invisible. People who look at you can’t really see you.
  • Humans can smell fear. As long as you don’t act afraid, they won’t hurt you.
  • Name off as many words as you can that begin with C but make the S sound. Cistern, circular, celestial…
  • Notice people’s shoes.
  • Count in Binary on your fingers. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5…
  • Don’t step on the cracks.
  • Sing happy songs. “You Are My Sunshine,” “Danny Boy,” “Into the West,” “If All the Raindrops…”
  • Make believe you’re someone else, someone who’s normal and happy.
  • Hide in the bathroom until your brain stops humming.
  • Crying in bathroom stalls is allowed. Just get quiet when other shoes shuffle inside.
  • Hugging yourself is allowed.
  • Don’t smile unless you want to. They can’t take that…

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Poetry Friday: It’s Not Supposed to Be Funny

It’s Not Supposed to Be Funny

It’s not supposed to be funny.

It’s cresting again,
the dark tide rising inside,
and the outlets are closed, rusty,
marred by disuse.

Black thoughts run free—
unwanted, scorned—
yet free in my mind.

I laugh but only for the fix.

The darkness feeds me,
grounds me,
and the mystery inside
finds voice to paint the
summer air with howling cries and sobs,
abandoned under
flower print covers,
latching to loneliness
like a starving babe.

It is late but technically still Friday where I live so I’m posting this Poetry Friday! I recently found this poem in a stack of my old papers from July. At first I thought it was really confusing and pretentious, but I had a good time trying to decode its meaning. Now I just think it’s pretentious. Enjoy!

A Short Story: Be Happy

 

Be Happy

I wrote a quick note and posted it by the kitchen light switch.

“Be happy.”

I rolled my eyes as I imagined friends and loved ones puzzling over that choice of last words for years after I was gone. Was I being sincere, like I was commanding them to be happy now that I had rid them of myself? Was it a sardonic tribute to the many times people had told me to just get over my hopelessness and “be happy”? Were my best intentions in mind?

I scoffed. It didn’t matter now. I was halfway down the block and headed for the bus stop.

Nothing mattered anymore.

I stood in the chill autumn air wearing multiple layers to hide me from the cold—and from any familiar faces. I didn’t want to deal with small talk on my way to my predetermined death.

The bus came screeching and rumbling to a halt in front of me and I paid for the ride in cash. No need to give away my whereabouts by using my bus pass.

As I shuffled to the back of the bus and seated myself across from a grizzled, smoky fellow, I shook my head at my unobservant girlfriend for not realizing what was so blatantly obvious to me. I had been pulling away for some time, not just from her, but from life; from this mess we stumble through and pretend we understand or care about.

I smiled despite myself. That had been what had attracted me to her in the first place: the wide-eyed belief that life is sacred and meaningful and joyous. And at first, I had believed her.

“Can’t do nothin’ right,” the old man coughed, distracting me.

But, like all my relationships, it began to fade in grandeur. We moved in together a few months ago in an unspoken attempt to ignite it once again. And I will admit that for a while, seeing her get dressed in the morning and falling asleep together after long work days was more than pleasant. The problem was never her; no. I know that. Not my sweet, vanilla girlfriend.

It was me.

After all, I’m the one with the shadows dancing against my eyelids. The one with dark memories and faithless approach to the future. The one who, despite deceiving my trusting lover into thinking I was going to buy us some ice cream to watch a movie in our apartment, still marveled at her gullibility.

She would be worried when I didn’t come home, true, but I couldn’t get too worked up about it because she’s the type of person that everyone loves. People want to be around her, unlike me. When we get invited to parties, I know deep down that it is for Vicky and guest. She would make it through losing me, easy.

I surprised myself with a sudden, lopsided smile. How did I ever end up with someone named Vicky?

The bus made a sharp turn and the tire connected loudly with a curb. I glanced out the window—the darkness was swallowed completely by advertisements, headlights, street lamps, and store fronts. I recognized the road. If I had borrowed her car, I’d be approaching the grocery store in a matter of blocks.

Something twisted inside me, a rare jolt of emotion after so many weeks and months of pain and anger, always masking it with a smile or a shrug because I had to placate Vicky—protect her from my reality of inexplicable rage and relentless sorrow.

I could rewrite history, take back this choice. Buy the stupid ice cream and go home to my waiting girlfriend. Watch Invasion of the Body Snatchers because, according to her, “It’s a classic.”

He started coughing again, wheezing out, “Nothin’! Nothin’!”

The other passengers and I pretended we couldn’t hear him, but his words pounded in my ears. Nothing. Nothing. I reached for the cord and the buzzer rang out. The bus decelerated violently and I was almost thrown to the floor until I grabbed a handle to steady myself.

In ten minutes I was out by the bus stop again, shivering, a carton of vanilla ice cream cradled in my arms. I cursed myself for moving through self-checkout so fast I forgot a bag.

Soon I found myself climbing into another bus—What’s going on in your head, Alex?—and heading back toward our apartment. My brain ached as I tried to rationalize this behavior. It doesn’t make sense.

Nothing. Nothing. Did I want nothing more than pain and sadness and Vicky?

I shook my head. No, it was never about wanting. It was an escape from an uglier reality—the greater of two evils. And even if everything came down to chemical reactions in my brain, and life and death were never mine to choose, I was headed home now.

I ran up the staircase and opened the door to a delicate squeal.

“You scared me!” she scolded me. “What took you so long?”

“I decided to take the bus and save some gas money,” I said, smiling sheepishly. I amazed myself with my ease at lying to her face.

She walked over and folded me in her arms.

“You’re freezing,” she announced, releasing me and taking the carton from my hand. “Vanilla? You know I like more flavor than that. Something nutty or fruity.”

“Or something a little of both?” I said, smiling.

She laughed at my joke. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. Okay, I’m going to go put on pajamas. Will you pop some popcorn?”

“Sure,” I said.

She left the room and I remembered my note by the door.

“Be happy,” it told me.

I pulled it down, crumpled it up.

“I’ll try,” I said.

“What?” Vicky called from the bedroom.

“Nothing.”

Current Employment: Failure

I haven’t heard back from the interviewer (two days later than she said she’d contact me), and now I’m looking at the possibility of freelance writing jobs. I have never felt so unmotivated to “put myself out there,” and yet I have never needed to be out there more.

Sigh.

Unemployment, Netflix, and the Postponement of my Childhood Dreams

I had an interview today that didn’t go as well as I hoped it would. To be fair, when I shook the interviewer’s hand and left her office, I was feeling pretty confident. But it’s been about twelve hours since we talked, and in that time I’ve thought of about a dozen things I wish I had said during the interview. The problem was that while we were talking, I got so excited about working there, and I started congratulating myself on the job well earned halfway through.

Now, as I sit in sheepish concession, I’m trying to convince myself that I didn’t really want the job anyway. The ol’ sour grapes routine, right? But it’s true. Perspective makes me acknowledge that this isn’t a big deal. I did my best in the moment, and whatever happens, happens. Interviewees get rejected all the time, right?

The thing I’m still clinging to, however, is how good it felt to be excited about something.

Social media gives me the impression that millennials dream of being paid to watch Netflix, their greatest hardship being the pantless trek from the couch to the kitchen. And I guess I got married and got a degree, but I still lump myself in with the Netflix binge crowd (though sadly I moved away from my roommate’s account. I guess I’ll have to read about the last few seasons of Lost). But this can’t be what we really want, right? Not deep down? When I was little I wanted to be an author and illustrator. Other little kids wanted to be scientists, rock stars, vets, firefighters. You know, jobs that they could recognize and relate to.

I can’t subsist on my childhood dreams right now any more than I could subsist on watching TV all day, but I’m watching, not writing. Maybe we’re empty and want to fill some pesky, bottomless void in our souls. Our consumption–my consumption–of stories played out in sounds and pictures must be some kind of vicarious living. I mean, if you’re like me, you’d rather tag along on your character friends’ adventures from the safety of the couch, as opposed to feeling and emoting like we see the actors do–for money, I might add.

Perspective: I might not get this job. I had dreams as a child–dreams I still hold–that are not being realized. But things are going to change, eventually. I’m trying to open myself to wherever fate or God or luck would have me go.

Anyway… thanks for coming along for the ride.

The Unglamorous Art of Surviving

Dear Reader,

You asked how I function; how I get through the day. You asked how long it took for me to accept that my loved one was gone. You asked for advice.

Well, here are words:

You have recently lost a loved one, and I am so deeply sorry for you. It has been four years since Andrew died, and I still occasionally find myself sobbing about it, having nightmares, or feeling intense rage at the injustice of it all. Reader, you need to let yourself grieve. Remember that everyone grieves differently. Feel what you feel, seek comfort, be patient, and take care of yourself. Sometimes I just need to gorge on ice cream, spend a whole day watching TV in bed, punch things, or whatever. Is this particularly flattering? No. But I let myself do it because I have to be my own friend. I have to tell myself that I cannot change the past. I can only work with this moment.

Sometimes I have to play make-believe with myself. Because of my anxiety and depression, I often feel that I am not worthy of happiness; that I am a burden to everyone around me. I have to pretend that I am not my wretched, pathetic self, but a friend who needs comfort. When I pretend I’m someone else, I am much kinder to myself.

Sometimes when I’m out driving at night and I have a strong urge to kill myself, I assign myself to “robot mode” (this is when I detach myself from emotion and mindlessly follow instructions) and tell myself I have one job: get home. I know that once I’m with loved ones, I will be safe.

Surviving isn’t glamorous. It isn’t pretty. It involves random cry sessions, plenty of self-hate, regret, fear, and other crap. My Facebook page may present a smiling, successful young woman, but that’s because I don’t post about my mental breakdowns, my uncontrollable sobbing, and my intense but manageable urges to bleed out in a bathtub.

Maybe this is more than you wanted to know. I don’t even know if I answered your questions. How I function: take it one moment at a time. Remember that you are loved. If you forget, find a friend who will remind you. Keep holding on. Sometimes life sucks but you just have to keep holding on anyway, and I promise you it will get better someday. No matter how bad things look, I’ve come to realize that happy moments eventually come. Peace will come. It may seem impossible, and sometimes I am too weak to have faith, but I find little reasons to live and breathe and move forward, and those carry me until the next time I feel true joy.

I am so sorry you lost your loved one. I understand a piece of your pain. You may feel weak, but you are strong. I know you can make it through this, even though it sucks beyond words. Darling Reader, it may not yet be time for you to “move on.” Love yourself like a friend, and please remember that you are not alone.

Poetry Friday: Late Night Poetry

Late Night Poetry

Late night poetry
up with the full moon

quite house, quiet girl
so self-absorbed
so lost in worries

lonely lover,
little girl with a lover
far away

one room lit in a dark house
wide eye stares in the night
window to a soul
heavy with life

little girl lies in darkness,
the eye closing for good