No Shame

I felt excitement. Genuine excitement. I didn’t need drugs or alcohol for a high. I wasn’t recovering from the titillating heart palpitations after a passionate entanglement under the sheets. It wasn’t my birthday or Christmas Eve.

For the past year, and perhaps even longer than that, I have been mostly quietly drowning in depression. I get the winter blues, but I felt it in the summer and spring, too. I had always been able to bounce back from the lows, but something shifted in the last year. I just… couldn’t anymore. For possibly the first time ever, I believed that my happiness wasn’t completely under my control. Sometimes it is hormones, sometimes it is chemicals.

I, honestly, realized this a little sooner. Maybe three years ago, or so, when after two years of hysterical fits, suicidal thoughts, and crying jags that lasted hours at a time, I learned that I have PMDD (a hormonal imbalance condition that can be treated with birth control). After attempting to hurt myself, I finally took steps to take care of it. My hormones could change how I behaved.

Once again, here I am, realizing I am in desperate need of help.

A few weeks ago, I started seeing a therapist. She’s not the kind who prescribes medicine, but we are starting to form a relationship as I unravel details about my past.

She has been encouraging me to take small steps to reach attainable goals. She suggested I get a physical. I haven’t had one in probably eight or ten years. I get terrible night sweats, which might be related to the hormonal imbalance, but it could also be something else. I have an appointment in a week.

Last week, she gave me homework to write a letter (I will never send) to my ex-boyfriend about everything that hurt me and made me angry about him and the relationship. I’ve been living the last several months in a pained sadness, missing all the wonderful things, like a wonder-starved child seeking pleasure in dreams. And although I know that won’t go away, because there truly were remarkable things about our relationship, I am still recovering from the arguments, mistrust, and just the broken-heartedness of someone who lost a man with whom she saw a future. I’m allowed to dispense my anger in a way that won’t hurt anyone and can only help me. She is helping me to see this so I can gain back some of my self-esteem. So I can enliven some of the courage that has been hibernating deep within me.

She also mentioned that tanning during the wintertime often helps people with Seasonal Affective Disorder. I have been stubborn against considering this an option, because of the obvious risks, and I don’t advise that it’s for everyone, but I was running out of hope and ready to try anything that could possibly help.

The past week has been pretty hellish, with the New Year starting with some intense anxiety attacks and insomnia. I dealt with most of it surreptitiously on my own, only telling a couple of people, because I was so ashamed at my inability to pull myself together as an adult. I felt terrified, swaddled in heaps of blankets, sweating and moaning for days in between the random moments of unconsciousness and the blank hours of feeling absolutely nothing inside except a tightness in my chest. I can liken it to the book I’m reading, “The Last Unicorn”, where once caged, the iron bars hissed at her mockingly because the unicorn had no power of her own to escape. It was a place I wish not to return to.

Last Saturday, I overheard a couple, who live beneath me (and whom I have never met), have a very intense fight that lasted hours. It occurred directly below me in their bedroom. I was already in bed. She screamed and sobbed for an unending amount of time, and his dampened murmurs indicated that either he was trying to rationalize with her or had already given up. She screamed with desperation that she was sorry over and over. Finally, it stopped, and I was able to sleep. I worried about the two of them for days. Prayed for them. Welled up with tears in my own eyes as I imagined her grief over something I didn’t know. But I could feel it. Deeply. And it has stuck with me.

I’m pretty sure that none of this has been very helpful with my mood.

So today, one of my closest friends and I went to a tanning salon she’s been to in the past. We decided to dedicate Sundays to “girl time”. I told the lady at the front desk I would start with 12 minutes since the full 15 made me nervous; even though I am olive complexioned, I haven’t been out in the sun for a while. I shed my clothing and climbed into the inviting glow of the tube.

I imaged ocean waves and the sounds of plucked ukulele strings, as a warm breeze swept over my face and the heat of the lights made my body feel as though for a short period of time I was lying on the beach in Maine at my parents’ condo, or in San Diego, visiting my sister. I felt summertime penetrate my skin.

When it was over, I put my clothes back on and we got in my friend’s car. I told her I still felt warm and toasty, and she agreed that she did, too. When we got back to my apartment, we laughed, listened to music, tinkered with the piano, and played childhood board and card games. I taught her the strategy to one of my favorite logic puzzle games, and even after she left around dinner time, I was still filled with happiness and energy that I haven’t felt in months.

I don’t know if it was the placebo effect of going tanning or it was the actual UV rays, but today has been different. I have not wanted to move off my couch for over six months, and today I ran around my apartment in excitement, needing to show her games I had, and I actually wanted to play them.

Before I sat to write this, I started reading a new book. I have not willingly participated in activities like that for most of the past years with a few rare days of clarity and energy that perforated through.

I hope this isn’t a fluke, and I know it takes more than one day of tanning to become the whole person I used to be. However, I am dually frustrated I waited so long and so relieved I’ve finally taken the steps.

Living your life as if you’re waiting to die is no way to live, but I had become comfortable with that. I miss the woman who enjoys her own thoughts and loves being creative. I am hoping that I find her again through all this searching and recovery. I am seeking happiness with a side-effect of a nice tan for the winter.

Discarded

The strange thing about heartbreak is that the loneliness never gets easier.

Yesterday at lunch, my coworkers talked about ravioli.  You and I will never make them with your grandmother’s pasta maker.

I haven’t watched the newest episode of “This Is Us” and often feel compelled to wait for an imaginary time when we’ll watch it together.

I think about making pizza in the flour-filled air of our kitchen. I miss the taste of the seasonings you melded into the crust.

I drive by the old apartment that we lived in for less than a year. Soon someone else’s bed will be where our bodies held each other every night.

I want to tell you how there’s no way to lose the “Zen” mode in my Bejeweled game. How that’s why I have millions of points.

Or how my car starter battery was only dead and now it works great from far away.

Or how Aum was being so cute the other day.

Or the fact that I had my parents pick me up from a party last Saturday because I was too sad to be there.

It’s been over three months, and it literally feels like yesterday that you were mine.

I have moments where my deluded mind tricks me into believing it’s not done.

And the crash to reality from those moments is always so indelicate and raw. Like poor stitching being pulled apart so it can be redone crooked and wrong.

I’m full of pockmarks and broken threads.

I live in this loneliness of forgetting that you are never coming back and that when I wake up in a panic, it’s because you are not mine and never will be.

That I was just another tragedy. Scrap swept aside to become trash.

Somewhere in the landfill of my toxic thoughts and brooding heart, I am lost. Unless reclaimed, garbage never becomes anything useful again.

That’s the kind of lonely this is.

Dysphoria

The heartbreaking ease of going to sleep with tear drops blanketing my face is like a familiar song. Although I feel so alone in those moments, I know every verse, every note.

I’ve hummed it my entire life.

This has been the longest breakup. He broke up with me July 8th, and it is only today, September 26th, that I wake up no longer having to worry about the old apartment, the storage unit, or any of that. Of course, there are still a couple loose ends to tie up, but it is so close to being final.

I have been telling myself for months that things will be better once it is all done and I am no longer breathing in the air of purgatory—stale, tepid, and apathetic. I also knew that once all the pieces were put away and our lives were once again separate and unknowing that I would feel the panic of isolation, erasure, impermanence.

Both are true.

So, I am left in a wind-swept tunnel, clear of the physical presence of him, but every molecule in the air is vibrating with the verse I sing myself to sleep with.

I will slowly forget the words, and new words will fill that space. The song will never be gone, but it’s nice to get it out of my head for just a while, if I can.

Four Reasons & One Realization

When someone who is a writer hasn’t written in a while, there are quite possibly a number of reasons why:

  1. They are busy with life
  2. They have lost inspiration
  3. They’ve written, but decided it’s crap and won’t share it
  4. The ideas are bubbling in their head, but there are too many and not enough ambition or motivation to follow through

I am sure there are more reasons than that, but I have experienced all four of those in the last several months.

It’s not that I haven’t written. I’ve written. I just don’t think any of it is good or complete enough to share it with the rest of the world.

Winter strips me of my humanity. I am a walking, eating, sleeping shell, who wanders through her days, seeking only the comforts of alcohol, a warm blanket, or the vicarious vacation of watching others on television.

Sometimes, there is far too much going on inside my head, or emotionally, for me to even begin to comprehend how to put those thoughts to paper.

Yesterday was Friday. I had no plans. I also had no desire to make them. I was feeling eerily down for no reason, except possibly the effects of my birth control, this weather, or the general existential angst I’ve been feeling for quite some time. I chose to lie on the couch and eat garlic bread and pizza I had ordered. I never order food when I am alone; this was an exception.

Quite drastically, something clicked over in my brain. Sort of like when a record player shifts over the grooves to the next song. I decided that I was tired of being tired. For weeks now, I have been mulling over how, lately, I am the opposite of everything my blog stands for. I have been extremely mediocre—hating it with a passivity—but mediocre, nonetheless.

Part of the problem is that I’ve lost my goal. Somewhere in the past few months I have literally misplaced the part of me that has hope. It’s been a weird sort of depression I’ve never felt before. Usually, I’ll feel ambivalence or deep pain, but never without hopefulness.

In that moment of stark realization, I had been looking at one of those online coaching programs—the ones that, through virtual means, motivate you to strive for your health and weight goals. You know, like having a personal trainer, except not.

It’s been too bare and bleak outside for me to consider being alive again. I’ve dealt with this deadness by eating. In doing so, I’ve gained back the weight I’ve lost in the past few months. I am angry at myself, which makes it worse. So, yesterday, I decided to accept that life has these natural waves and to do something about it.

I joined this online coaching program for a free two-week trial. In the set-up, it asks me:

What are your deepest reasons for why you want to reach your goal?

After giving a brief answer, it prompts me again:

Is this the real reason, or is there more?

I wrote more.

This short, virtual prompting by a non-human was strangely so thoughtful and perfect. In those few moments, I was able to succinctly put into words a large quantity of what has been bothering me for months.

It was always in my head, but placing it on paper had a real impact.

I want to have hopefulness and strive for goals. Why? It asked me.

Because I don’t want to be depressed or have existential angst.

Is this the crux of it…?

I don’t feel like me. I miss the old me.

I have known this for a long time, but verbalizing it gave it power again.

What is the old me?

Well, a lot of things, but when I wrote that I was thinking about the old, physical me, for starters. A girl who was comfortable in her own skin and looked in the mirror every day and thought (mostly) that she was beautiful and radiant.

The old me also had dreams, hobbies, energy, and spirit.

She didn’t look forward to drinking as an escape from reality. She didn’t sit on the couch, watching television for hours so the aching she felt inside could be tamped down. She looked forward to full stretches of days alone, where she could practice guitar, write, do arts and crafts, go for walks in the woods, and feel the cosmic love of the universe pour down upon her in gentle, reminding waves of compassion.

I don’t feel any of that anymore. Literally, none of it. Today, is the first day in a very long time I have felt anything.

Knowing that every day was one I was sleepily rolling through, like a person in a crowd on an escalator, was making me mediocre. Mediocrity led to helplessness and uselessness. I do not like being alive just so I can eat snacks, watch a movie, or go to work. I like being alive because I know I have some purpose. If I am not contributing to this existence in any way, I don’t want to be here.

This is the existential angst I’ve been feeling.

My dreams have been filled with nightmares and destruction for weeks. I wonder if this was my body’s way of trying to cause motion again?

My problems are far from being resolved, and this is only day one of the first step, but I have at least identified and verbalized what is causing me such stagnation.

I have finally chosen to listen to myself.

Snow Day

This morning has shifted from an eerie, fraught-filled one to mimosas, soul music, and lounging on the couch.

My company made the call to close the office right after Bryan had started up his car in preparation to bring me. See, the thing is, I do not drive in the snow. Not this kind of snow, at least. So, last night, before bed, the anxiety had slowly begun to pile up just like the wind-swept flakes are doing against my front door.

We’ve already shoveled our walkway twice and it’s not even 10 am.

I’ve often wondered why I’ve chosen to stay in New England, considering my deep-seeded hatred and fear of the snow. I was born in Connecticut and so, at least, for the first 18 years of life, I had no choice. Since then? My job is here. My friends and most of my family are, too. Is that enough to keep a sun-seeking person encapsulated in a several-month streak of snow and windchill?

So far it has.

In a little over a month, my sister and I are traveling to San Diego to visit our other sister. This was a smart move. As someone who is currently sitting under a full-spectrum light and becomes lethargic and depressed during the winter months, it’s about time I caught on to scheduling myself a little reprieve in the heat and sunshine.

Thank goodness for sisters who decided to join the Navy years ago, thus, ending up in a winter vacation mecca.

Right now it is calm, and I am snuggled under the fluffiest blanket that Bryan’s grammy got me last year for Christmas. Neither of us have to go anywhere today. We have a gas stove, so even if the power goes out, we’ll have warm food. My cat crawled out of her “kitten burrito” we wrapped her in a couple of hours ago and is meandering around the living room—I assume, happy that her two favorite humans are here.

We are Pittsburgh bound tomorrow afternoon, which means, I have to clear off my car this afternoon and get it ready for me to leave the house very early in the morning, so I can get out early enough to make the 8-hour drive. Before mimosas, we compiled an emergency kit to bring in the car in case we break down on the drive. They predict record freezing temperatures this weekend, which has us a little nervous. If anyone is overly prepared, however, it is me.

One of the positive traits of being a nervous wreck is that I over-think everything and make checklists of everything I’d need in any possible scenario.

The hard work for today is done.

My close-by friends are headed over to spend the day with us, and who knows, maybe I’ll pen a new “Snow Day” song to mark this day, where anxiety has been allayed, and I can just rest easy.

Boxes & Rain Drops

I am moving in a month, and the unwieldy mountain of stress is identical to the literal mass of things I own.

In an attempt to get a head start on the increasing agenda of tasks I have to do, I’ve begun to sort through miscellany. Boxes I had in storage, my medicine cabinet, old make-up… I reached into my walk-in closet last night and found a small shoebox of letters I have kept for years. Since 2006, to be precise.

It took me a few hours to sift through them all—opening each envelope, inspecting the contents, skimming the hand-crafted words that took commitment and dedication.

These letters all came from a friend who was incarcerated. He and I had dated, and right after we broke up, he did a bad thing and went to jail.

We wrote each other for the entire 6 years he was locked up.

Emotions pelted me throughout the reading like a gentle rainstorm that occasionally picked up or slowed. I was caught off guard by a sentence of deep regret, or my skin blushed by a few compliments of my beauty and effervescence about which he would sometimes reminisce.

I’ve read all of these before. Some of the sentences were so familiar even after all of these years, because, for a time, I had relied so much on the comfort and happiness those paper confessions provided me.

Yet, so many little things I had forgotten. He had written, telling me that I reminded him of a girl in the 2008 Ford Edge commercial, who was lost in thought looking up at the stars with her big, brown eyes.

Or the hand-made stamps his father would carve every year for Christmas cards, and how I had succeeded in putting every other person alive to shame (except his father) with my creative cards I sent him every year for his birthday and Christmas.

Or how he remembered that I used to eat soy bologna sandwiches and never smiled with my teeth in photographs.

It was such a strange and unusual bond we created during his time away, because we both avowed to continue the practice of hand-written letters.

We’d talk about our rituals of writing, where we sat, and what our surroundings looked like as we penned long notes to each other. He’d start letters off with a gregarious greeting, punctuated with far too much excitement for his caged-in existence, musing with eloquent language about my current antics. He shared an intimate look at the inside of a penitentary, while I wrote on and on about outings, my cats, my relationship woes, and, apparently, how great my ass was looking (that came up a few times—I know, because he made sure to comment in his letters sent back).

I held a six-year time capsule that was one-sided. I only had his letters, so I had to fill in the gaps of what was going on in my own world, while he talked about his. I could infer from his commentary easily, and it was like a nicely boxed-up version of my life from the moment he went to jail until the day Rocky and I first broke up. That was the last letter from him before he was released—commenting on how sorry he was to hear about my breakup. That was in 2013.

The letters began with talk of him missing his Myspace page and texting on his phone, and galloped forward into Facebook, various tv shows that had their popularity over that time period, and onward still to mention my employment at the company for which I still work.

I remember when he was released to a half-way house and I was finally able to talk to him on the phone. He had a crappy flip phone, and we talked for over two hours that first night. I chain-smoked cloves, and we delved into everything we didn’t say in our letters.

I went to visit him at his job in West Hartford. We talked a few more times.

That was a few years ago.

He’s free and we don’t talk. Convenience and real life has stripped us of our intimate bond.

But we are Facebook friends…

He often wrote to me, expressing his gratitude for my continued devotedness to writing him, but in the last letter, he stated that I had swayed his mind on womanhood, which went beyond his expectations and even broke down the rusted barrier of his misguided trust.

And now we don’t talk.

The gentle rain of emotions pelted me a little harder right then.

I always re-read everything personal before purging it. I set aside an entire evening to remember. It was only four years later that I decided to take the shoebox down from the shelf, because I need to simplify my personal belongings before moving.

The stress and commitment of moving has caused me to remember what a great friend I have had all these years. How I was once capable of staying true to a friendship with a steadfastness that is only now seen in the few hours left I have to vacate this apartment and start fresh.

Hand-written letters may never be in our future again, but I hope he knows when he reads this that, even in silence, the bonds of friendship still lie.

Pain Is Beauty

Yesterday, I was harassed by a female I can only describe as plebeian and insulting to the senses.

I met her about a year and a half or two years ago through a mutual friend, and from, literally, the first few minutes of hearing her speak, I couldn’t stand her. Having said that, I still was kind to her; she just rubbed me the wrong way. She is immature, half-witted, emotionally unstable, and manipulative, and I have never had any desire to be in her presence.

After a very exhausting argument between her and several of my friends (involving her wanting a friend who was intoxicated to drive her home), she had decided she didn’t like me. Fair enough. It also might have had something to do with the fact that not only do I outwit her in intelligence and rationality, she is fiercely jealous of the attention I receive from a guy who later became her boyfriend for a period of time.

To her, she sees a pretty girl who is confident, smart, and has the respect of a man she so desperately wants for herself. She sees me as a threat, when I am not. I am not interested in my friend, but we do have a strong bond and connection, which she cannot have with him, because she has never earned his respect.

I have witnessed the benefits of being kind to others, not inciting anger, staying away from drama, and going the extra mile to reach out, even when it’s the last thing I want to do. Notwithstanding, I have learned that no matter how pure our intentions, people will always feel what they want to feel.

Yesterday, that resulted in harassment. It came out of nowhere, but I am not surprised. What is so frustrating to me is that it is about nothing. I have not done a single act to upset her, but her perceived image of me as a threatening female is enough for her to flash her insecure talons and rip into me.

More than anything, it is really annoying. I don’t have time for useless drama about nothing from a person I feel nothing for and have no issue with so long as she doesn’t talk to me.

This has been happening to me since high school. Being nice doesn’t always get you nice things. Nor does having compassion. Do not read that the wrong way; I am not suggesting that kindness and compassion are futile—I am affirming that, sometimes, having those skills makes us so powerful we intimidate others and they are unkind to us.

Confident and mature humans feel exalted by the compassion and love of others, because they can clearly see its intent. However, humans who are weak and easily triggered only see the world as a battlefield, seeking out those who pose a threat.

The more beautiful and revered we are, well, the more dangerous we appear.

It is something that I am used to, but I will never be used to the unnecessary pain it causes. I don’t mean the ersatz, feigned pain of the antagonizer, I mean being bullied and harassed by other females who do not have the strength to recognize the beauty in others and, therefore, always see other females as enemies instead of compatriots.

This person was never my friend, but I have lost friendships over this very thing. We are all connected and can be support for one another if only people were vulnerable enough to listen. Instead, we use our fear to attempt to break into the psyches of others and grind them down until they are on our own level—a level of obscurity and misery.

Being beautiful (in any combination of ways) is always going to be a burden until we, as a human race, learn to appreciate and respect each other, instead of defaulting to fear. Fearfulness is not an admirable fight. It is pain-inducing cowardice.

We hurt others with our fears, but we also stifle ourselves from reaching a place of peace and truth. Her words yesterday held no truth, yet, sadly, they were her created truth, which speared up through her being and out into the world, due to her insecurity. So much unnecessary hurtfulness sewn into the world because we don’t seek actual truth.

I know I am not done being stabbed by others who aren’t strong enough to confront their own personal demons; it is the hand I have been seemingly dealt, at times.

I hope this chick climbs out of her useless wreckage of self-damage, but chances are, she won’t. I can eventually brush off her slanderous words, but she will never be able to cleanse herself of the hatred she feels as long as she sees beauty as a threat.

Chemical Cocktail, Please

His hand is outstretched with an ornament in his palm; he says, “Do you want to hang this one?”

A week ago, Bryan and I put up the Christmas tree in my living room.

With the new Gilmore Girls Series playing in the background, we spread all of the ornaments across the floor and began to hang.

It was a home-made ornament from my co-worker Heather with one of my favorite photos of Zen and me on it: I’m in my thread-bare bathrobe, snuggling him in a deep embrace while smiling.

me-and-zen

I immediately broke out into tears. Big alligator tears.

I don’t know if it was that I was completely taken by surprise or that it was the beginning of the week where my hormones get all wacky thanks to my silent passenger, PMDD. It probably was a combination of the two, but I was a tiny ball on my living room rug, crying hard while apologizing through snotty wails.

Losing Zen a month before Christmas last year was such a whirlwind that I had erased from my memory that I ever received that ornament. And unfortunately, it wasn’t the only one. After I recovered myself, we continued to hang ornaments, and minutes later, Bryan finds another customized Zen ornament that my sister had made. Another one I had forgotten about. He hands it to me, and once again, I am on the floor, tears streaming down my face.

I have always been “highly sensitive” and “overly emotional” since I was a child. In the past few years, it has intensified. Recently, I’ve discovered I have what is labeled as Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, where my hormones go hay-wire for approximately a week to a week and a half each month, usually during ovulation.

So, it makes me wonder, was I really that distraught over my deceased cat or was it just my crazy hormones acting up?

Knowing that I have a hormone imbalance and being able to regulate it with birth control and natural remedies, such as exercise, dietary changes, and herbal supplements, has basically saved me from losing my mind and firing off at people with no self-control. Yet, it has also enabled me to use it as a crutch or an excuse when I do act ‘roided up on emotions.

That bothers me, sometimes.

Some of the magic of life’s moments are blanched when I have the knowledge that a specific combination of neurochemicals and hormones are having a rager in my body and that’s the reason why something makes me wistful, depressed, nostalgic, deeply affected, or impassioned. Things like my libido and emotional acuity can be altered with the application of a pill each day.

However, I cannot deny that PMDD is a real thing and I can actually see the signs of it now that I know what it is. It’s not just a made-up crutch with which I scapegoat my behaviors. I’ll come home from work and have that “I just want to go to bed now” feeling that I used to attribute to laziness and always gave myself a hard time about, but I know now that it is the onset of PMDD. Knowing that helps me get through it and actually motivates me to go to yoga, start cleaning the apartment, or make dinner. These subtle signs always happen during a specific time of the month, providing some proof that the chemical cocktail is coursing through my body.

Crying over Zen was unexpected and real. It may have been heightened by my levels of hormones in that moment, but I love and miss him fiercely.

I refuse to let the knowledge that we’re all varying mixtures of chemicals ruin the incredible luster that is cherishing a lost one, smiling because a memory with an old partner feels painfully beautiful, or hurting because my heart is breaking. It might not always be a fun feeling, but it’s me.

It’s always been me.