You know when you do a thing and then later you realize because you did the thing that you are mentally ill. Like you almost forgot and then as you process you're like wow I am really sick because you spend so much time masking how sick you are that you nearly convince yourself?
Today was a day like that.
For 2 days I was manic, sleeping like 3 hours a night and waking up at 2 am to type and be productive. I got a lot done. I finally put my nakey zine up like I been meaning to and felt super vulnerable. My mind was constantly circling and unable to stop. But then yesterday I plummeted HARD. The deep doom depression reared its head.
It’s been a really long time since I was self destructive and I guess that's why today unintentionally I went on a long journey where immediately upon waking, without eating or drinking water all day, I walked from my house to the mall traversing through the length of it , racking up credit card debt on crap I don’t need but that could possibly get me serotonin later from five below, before exposing myself to Walmart and its dizzying full chaos of people, finally dragging my now heavy granny cart full of stuff the 25 mins home.
And that's the outline version of it which gives you some idea. Just like trying to explain myself in therapy, I’m in the eternal state of wait- there’s more. I’m so hype to get to the “there’s more” and add a punchline that I don’t even realize that the stuff I said was a lot already.
I am a lot already.
Which is why instead of showing the bad “a lot” , I swallow it down . Everyone loves it when I'm the good kind of “too much.” When I’m laughing loud, hyping everyone up, confident and badass. But people get really uncomfortable with the truth of me: the messy parts of me.
The parts that one person away at the register’s conveyor belt felt the urges of a panic attack rising up in my lungs and my sole concern was not letting anyone see anything is wrong. I managed to only let 2 long hot tears leak out before I got it under control.
And by control I mean I wrote 3 paragraphs on my phone to try calming myself down before stopping mid thought, efficiently lining up my stuff on the metal stripping before she was halfway done so as not to inconvenience the family behind me. Because damn that’s my focus mid panic attack, not having a stranger wait a few seconds longer than they would have.
The words disappeared from the internet and into the ether by the time I remembered again. Its gone. It was fucking brilliant I tell you.
From the outside nothing looked off. As much as it feels differently inside my tornado mind, no one ever notices. I am very calculated that way. I was taught to make everyone comfortable. As long as no one sees you are rotting. you’re doing what you're supposed to. It only counts if it’s addressed. As long as your appearance follows the script of acceptable and contained you're free to self destruct away from public view..
I smile, the most helpful and joyful in the room if you're not looking too close. Congratulating and therapizing all the friends in doubt in my inbox while I don't believe the same things about myself. Sharing shit posts and posts with hopeful quotes.
Cut to halfway home, Tallhart’s “Holy Coast” comes on and my depressed ass belting along loudly “It was the fear of starting over. I was afraid to lose it all “ crying alone maneuvering the cart around the packed driveways and into the street as the christmas lights all around me make me feel even worse.
Cut to weeping listening to Jessie Reyes for days.
Cut to the sink full of dishes I can't bring myself to do.
Cut to the edible finally hitting and instead of relieving my cramps I am sitting on the toilet panicking because I swear I can see scars on my thigh, remembering all the times I cut those lines there bc no one could see them that high up. I am halfway between here and 15, halfway between this current bathroom and my childhood home where I used to lock the latch hypervigilant, quickly carve then guilt-filled, slap antibiotic cream and bandages over it ,pulling up my pants like nothing happened.
Cut to shoving a key in my arm, hidden with a hoodie during chemistry class to quiet the quickening symphony of my brain.
Cut to bent over , draped across the top of the granny cart wailing loudly, leaning my butt against the fridge to hold myself up.
Cut to that first time my girlfriend came over and instead of impressing her I had another high emotional breakdown, wailing on the couch beside her as she looked at me with so much love I felt like I didn’t deserve. I didn't speak to her for 2 days afterwards nearly. Too embarrassed to acknowledge how I'd let her see my broken so soon. A year into the relationship.
Cut to closed eyes repeating poems hitting each word and breath on point with the performer.
Cut to “Por tu Maldito Amor” coming on shuffle as I finally stop heaving tears at my desk- like an indie movie scene.
Cut to. Cut to. Cut to. Scene after Scene after Scene.
I’m good at taking the raw goopy material and cutting it down to make it more palatable for someone else. But I remain swallowing the poison all by myself.
“Do not invisible. Do not Disappear.”
-Angelique Palmer, “What to Wear To Your Standing Appointment With Your Shrink After The Two Most Horribly Challenging Weeks Of Your Life So As Not To Get Committed to The Nearest Mental Health Facility As A Danger To Yourself And others, A Love Poem”
This is typically the season I disappear. Getting my body out of bed feels too heavy. I argue with myself too long to get out of it. This is the season I retreat and ignore messages, don’t even comment on people’s posts because I dread the interaction, worry someone will ask how are you and I will be too sad to lie. That’s not the case most days- I can lie very easily still when I try to. I have actively been emotional therapy for dear friends in the middle of my own wailing ocean of grief. Most times they don’t know the difference.
I am good at hiding. I am good at disappearing.
Like a cat who goes off to the garage to die to keep the burden off, I too don’t want anyone to see me like this. I am a mess. Every year around this time I get progressively putrid with emotion. I burst out crying in cycles and lay in bed heaving hiccupping sobs from past times I didn’t let myself feel. I wear the same clothes for days. The energy it takes to wash a dish or feed myself is astronomical. On good days when I can take care of myself, I cannot take care of anything else yet I still am exhausted.
It used to be a game: Disappear until someone notices. When I felt hurt or ignored, I’d slip away onto the train while my friends were still on the platform. I’d disappear to save them the hassle of being around me. I’d flit away to remind myself that I was disposable.
One time when I was about 10, I walked out of a dugout while my father played baseball with his many cousins at his family reunion. I was all alone and feeling ignored- I didn’t want to just sit here and wait. I walked through the other parts of that large park, eventually wound up in a part of the park where his other family members were congregating over food. And no one ever came looking for me; no one ever said a word about my disappearance.
Disassociation is its own flavor of disappearing. It’s why I can barely remember. I disassociated my way out of my everyday hells for 2 decades. Now there are pieces of memory that come up from the buried dirt whenever it rains.
When Autumn and I were 17 sometimes we’d be laying in her bed talking and I’d go completely limp. First I’d give short responses as I felt myself slipping away. Then I’d stop responding entirely as my eyes concentrated ahead. My breathing quieted to almost nonexistence. I would stop breathing, my glassy eyes open and unmoving.
She would get alarmed and look me in my face and shake me gently. I would hear her calling “Baby? Baby?” like I was underwater. Her voice was far away. I was aware of her voice in some other world where I wasn’t. My body was empty skin. I was aware she was shaking my shoulders but they did not feel like my body. The thinking parts of me were outside my physical body. I could hear her but I was not where she was. I could not answer because my soul was not near my mouth.
I would come to after a few minutes, confused at my surroundings yet somewhat satisfied at her tears while I had been gone. She was the first person to notice when I disappeared and who actually talked to me about it.
Once the leaves start to change colors, I know I am in danger. Though physically removed from the surroundings I was escaping, my body still anticipates the upsets of yore. Though I no longer have to anticipate the perils of the Christmas Eve Clean – all its dead mice, their shit, the piles of stuff and body aching work it took to clear a space for a tree and the screaming matches that would ensue with one heinous adult who would sit unbothered the whole time- my body still prepares for the battles it remembers.
I thought moving in with my wife would magically make my disappearance acts unnecessary and thus they would end with a snap. She noticed, actively talked about issues and did not let me disappear. But healing doesn’t work like that. Now in physically safety, the last 3 years have been a flood of emotions I never allowed myself to feel when I just had to keep moving forward.
It’s taken a year of therapy to stop punishing myself for not being able to adapt as quickly as before. Sometimes I still cannot adjust to good things.
Clusterfuck that 2020 has already been for all of us only adds to my fears of the dark. Every year I know this will happen. I should have been scrounging up resources to save for this time like a squirrel planning for the winter. But instead I did what I do best- let the nihilism fester. The fighting part of me wants to beat my ass for daring to lay down to this dark yet again. But the sadness is a dead weight. There are parts of me that will always dream of rotting.
I’m trying really hard not to disappear this time. I’m trying not to fade into the background. Let this be the first Winter I don’t float away.
Autumn can't stop thinking about the blue jay- earlier in the yard she nearly hit 2 birds with the door when letting our dog outside. One flew right away but the other was injured. She petted it with one finger then tried to coax it into her hand to get it to safety but the bird eventually hopped off.
It’d been raining for over an hour and a half when she told me the story. As soon as it stopped she went to go check on it. She put on gloves in case she has to hold the fragile bird in her hands again.
She wants to hold the fragile thing between her hands.
She is so delicate and sweet. The way her face filled with concern hours later. This weakened bird, some of its feathers missing, looking like it had maybe been bitten.
She wants to hold a fragile things in her hands and mend it, take care of it. Meanwhile I avoid fragile things because I know I will ruin it, break it beyond repair. The way I broke Autumn years ago and even now she is just beginning to grow back into softness with me.
Even though I was raised as a girl, I still never learned to be domestic. Home was just a place I slept; I never felt comfortable calling our house a true home. I was a sensitive child. I was a fragile thing. I learned to harden myself, observing my family’s penchant for burying things under and going forward. I learned to chisel my performance into something acceptable. It was always easier for me to take a punishment that was not mine than a compliment that was.
Autumn only tried to take care of me like she would with any wounded bird. But I lashed out mean and indifferent. I resented her softness as a trait she would need to discard.
“How was the bird?” I ask when she reenters the living room.
“I didn’t get to pick it up. I was worried I would hurt it. It was hard to get an idea of how bad it was actually wounded.”
If there is one person I definitely do not deserve but also definitely did need, it is my wife Autumn Tallulah Wolfe. For years I pushed away her attempts to love me as nothing but possible entrapment. Before her, I did not know a love that came without strings, without an unspoken but implied owing.
Something about my family’s love always felt performative. Acting the part. Having to drown parts of myself and look good from the outside.
My mother talks of my youngest brother’s failing grades, though he is decidedly smart and capable. Frequently she calls him lazy or expresses exasperated confusion. Ry’s decaying besmirches them, besmirches the facade they put up that everything is ok.
While me and my younger sister Meg dealt with our putrid household dynamics by overachieving and becoming smaller, and my other brother Kev held the quiet middle C’s, Ry is drowning and refuses to pretend otherwise. He won’t cater to the narrative. He is struggling and can’t paint a helpful smile over it.
I look at this and see progress. See someone brave enough to admit that maybe overworking yourself on shit you’re not interested in does no one a service. I see his depression shading his actions or rather lack of actions. It mirrors the way I am currently experiencing my depression today. I feel like a piece of shit but cannot get my muscles to move into action either.
I have hope for him. To not hide as I did. As Meg does. As Kev perhaps does. Ry of all people gives me hope that one day we’ll all be okay. He too is a wounded bird but he won’t metaphorically hop around on a broken foot, pretending all is well like I did. He won’t make it easy for those who want to ignore all this detritus. He still needs to mend but I feel that he will find shelter in a delicate pair of hands- even if they have to be his own hands.