I’m supposed to be sleeping. So I can be fully rested tomorrow for the only job interview I have been able to secure since quarantine started. But instead I am awake and restless. Concocting a mental to-do list that keeps growing even as my focus can’t be settled for one moment. I tried to work on two projects I’d forgotten for a while, tried to type pages in the journals I’ve been avoiding for two weeks, whose entries are fresh snow from this December but whose marks are hard to decipher. But I couldn’t stick with either task for long.
I can blame the caffeine earlier for all this mania. Indeed, that is even too hard a drug for my tenuous brainmeat. I drank half of a large chai tea latte- the sweet taste I’d not gotten since February- and my thoughts shot out faster than a meteor. Which is a cliche but also inaccurate. Meteors move a lot slower than you think but also faster. Both of these things are true. It’s hard to explain unless you’ve seen one. I saw a few that one night in the desert. Laying on the picnic table with my casita coven, creating inside jokes and cackling into the luminous sky above us. Everything seemed possible then. What feels possible now?
What seems possible now is barely a crumb of the open vast sky I gazed upon with wonder 5 years ago. Expanding our view of what is possible and what alreasdy exists is beautiful but it is also painful. Once expanded the mind cannot go back to its former dimensions. Once I knew there was joy, a life beyond the squalor I was born into, that there were people who loved you in a way that felt real, I could not go back for scraps.
But that is only half truth. Still I find myself going back to scraps. Surrounded by love I still go looking for those who don’t or can never love me in those deep ways. My mind always chasing the familiar. I have been lucky to be loved by so many and yet. And yet I squander it every time because I’m too focused on the people I am only background noise to.
Dee told me, drunk at Hobart 2019, that I had to stop acting like I wasn’t awesome. And it hurt their heart - I was great. We were sitting at a table with 12 women writers, getting drunk and laughing loud like children- so loud that a woman from a neighboring table asked us to be quiet but I so drunk I didn’t understand her request. Back at the farm we were staying at, Dee and I sat on concrete steps in the quiet, squeezed hip to hip next to each other. When I looked up into that sky then, everything felt possible there too.
Dee and I have known each other since we were 12. Sure we lost touch in our high school years while we struggled to be people, silently or not so silently self destructing in our own respective ways. But they are someone that can speak to so many iterations of who I have been. Not many know me in a tangible way though they might believe they do. Dee was there through pieces of my life I can scarcely remember now. They are here now supportive as I piece the different versions I have been into a quilt I can fully inhabit. We met in the school library in 6th grade. Or we met because of Heather and her orbit, how she pulled us all together before departing from AMY 5 never to be heard of again. Both of these things are true.
But anyway back to the scraps. Many of the people I am most grateful for these days are people I first relegated to acquaintances or plain low level friends. [ there are many friendship levels and mine tend to be very intense in the best ways once I can get to the place where I’ll allow it.] So uncomfortable with unconditional love that is freely given to me thus I have not “earned yet.” I am under the assumption most will grow tired of me once the shine wears off. I keep everyone at a distance and people fall in love with me pretty easily. Or rather they fall in love with the manic pixie dream girl parts of me that I will play while bored and once I am no longer bored, instead of just explaining this, for the most part I disappear.
People tell me I am good at things or I am good and my belief in them plummets. I lose trust in their judgement. I tell myself they don’t know me. They haven't seen the rank pit of me. And it’s true they haven’t; But that doesn’t mean I’m all garbage. Both of these things can be true.
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.
[CW sui, sad shit]
Is that I don’t want Autumn to hafta deal with my rotting body.
Is that RyRy told his friends I’m the only family he’s keeping in touch with after he escapes my parent’s house.
Is that Kayla starts to believe she is not worth that much, beautiful shiny girl with heart & dreams.
Is that Stephy needs someone to go with to Slurch for the first time after all this is over.
Is that Parris will text me next when Autumn is asleep and she needs to vent.
Is that Esther believed in me and called me Amazing from the first day in the desert.
Is that Veronica is an angel who deserves hours of cuddling.
Is that Yozed needs someone to send pictures of cheaper luxury houses to, as we dream of Victorians with porches for all our beloveds.
Is that I still haven't had sex with so many people yet and I really want to.
Is that Autumn needs to be held when it gets to be too much.
Is that my sister is isolated in the NJ suburbs with only her dog all day while her fiance works.
Is that 80 is the cutest joy I want to kiss.
Is that Elayna’s book doesn’t come out til October and I need to read that shit.
Is that Demetra didn’t get a real birthday party this year because of Covid so she needs to be celebrated properly the next birthday.
Is that I still have Seamus’ books and we’re planning another bookswap soon.
Is that Ryry’s friend DJ found my writing online and it spoke to her somehow.
Is that Autumn needs someone to tell her to breathe & wait before sending an angry text she’ll regret.
Is that the last blog post I wrote was the last time my youngest brother said he cried so he clearly needs to hear someone is proud of him more.
Is that I still gotta make it to Queeraoke with Vero sometime.
Is that I can’t die until I attend another one of Icon’s parties- I need that dance-all-night-feeling-alive-among-kin light in my chest once more .
Is that I document everything, even if I don’t yet know how to put it together .
Is that the bog witches never got their shared house & I want to taste the magic of that space.
Is that someone had to be the loudest Woo in the room for the show.
Is that I am a connector, a diy librarian in training, someone who knows a guy-girl-person-book-resource for that.
Is that Demetra keeps making funny tiktoks.
Is that Alyssa has not come down from Virginia to introduce her new beau.
Is that Dianca’s memoir hasn’t come out yet.
Is that Esther’s workshop hasn’t even started.
Is that someday Slayher will be back at Tattooed Mom and I can't let 80 go by herself to all that brilliance.
Is that I haven't seen Julie’s new digs at The Book Nook on Main St yet.
Is that Hobart writing festival is virtual this year so I have to wait 2 Septembers now so we can roadtrip back to the farm.
Is that there are so many books in piles around the I haven't read yet.
Is that Community still hasn’t gotten its movie yet
Is that I haven’t finished a longer piece since the 17 page story which enraged that old guy Steve so much he started an argument with everyone and stormed off leaving the writing group forever.
Is that an 800+ page novel written by one of my favorites sits on the table untouched.
Is that I have the urge to make out with every consenting person once Covid finally kicks the dust for good.
Is that Slutty Poems Night 2 never got to fruition & I wanna hear my best friend poem aloud again.
Is that Jenny Lawson told me Depression Lies.
Is that my therapist has only seen 4 new hairstyle changes as mental health milestones so far.
Is that I’ve never actually flirted with a girl for real yet.
Is that Demetra said we were the embodiment of everything our mothers repressed and there are still so many things I've never talked about.
Is that funerals are fucking expensive.
Is that I’ve never had a room of my own before.
Is that there’s still so much generational trauma that no one dares speak about; I have to make the perpetrators look their harm in the face.
Is that you still have submissions you haven't gotten rejections from yet.
Is that Li Yun’s website course is still pending in my inbox.
Is that I don’t own that queer bookstore cafe eventspace yet.
Is that me and Vero promised to actually make it to Chimney Rock this time.
Is that you are not as terrible and shitty as you tell yourself you are.
Is that you are a bridge and you need to keep building.
Is that you’re only starting becoming yourself;
you still have so much more self to become.
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.