I live caged gently in charts. Little black grids on white pieces of paper. Or black marker on a white board. I write in tally marks, numbers, skill descriptors. I write in red pen. These grids contain my feelings because my feelings are too big and threaten to overwhelm me, shut me down, reduce all forward action to zero, leave me in a valley of couch and comforter and unending ache. I am somewhat afraid of my feelings. So I give them numbers. Anxious, zero to five. Sad, zero to five. Happy, zero to five. Suicidal ideation, zero to five. Zero to two is for passive death wishes; three is when I start searching for my safety plan. Where did I put that again? Self-harm urges, zero to five. I have been in recovery for self-injury for seventeen years. I know this because i have a cat who is seventeen years and I got him as a kitten the year I went into recovery. Cats have finite lives though, and this one is doing less well than I would like, but he's okay. He's around right now.
Sometimes i have to live in the right-now because the bigger landscape of my life towers over me, distorted gothic thing that it is. The sky looms big and heavy like it will come down to suffocate me with cloud. Buildings are *so* tall, they sway in my vision like they want to fall down on me.
I like it in my apartment. It's safe here. I can hear my neighbors' muffled conversations. The woman down the hall has a dog, a big one by the sound of the bark. I'm glad my cats haven't taken umbrage in such a way that would involve fluids.
I have to push to go outside most days. The gaze of strangers is unsurprisingly yet somehow unexpectedly searing. I walk with my eyes cast down, looking up in little flicks, half-second increments. It is illogical how I reduce the field of my vision even further than it naturally is (natural about 5% of "normal" seeing). This is how disabilities collide. I blind myself further.
My father always told me to keep good eye contact with people; that's how they know you are trustworthy. But if good eye contact is a learned skill, then how can you tell people are not lying to your face?
I can't see faces very well. I have to stare and stare. My eyes point in different directions. My pointed stare makes people who don't know me uncomfortable. It makes me uncomfortable too, so much raw visibility on everyone's part, so I don't do it that often.
This is not "some days" for me. This is my every day.
I find a deep joy in writing, in running my journal, in being with my friends and my husband and reading books and petting my cats. But I am alone a lot. It takes self-discipline to do work, because I don't have the structure of an office, the white noise of other workers working. I go to coffee shops a lot to simulate this environment, but they are not without peril. The screaming toddler(s). The man who wants to talk to me despite the fact that I am clearly working. Internet that suddenly goes down.
Discipline and responsibility. I hear the voice of my father when I say those words in my head.
Yesterday I went outside to do work, but today I think I will stay in. It's not good in my head right now. I mean, even relatively speaking. I have a whirlpool of fear and self-doubt sucking at my heels. I have an enormous work task that seems possible or impossible depending on what moment I'm inhabiting when I look at it. I am pretty much motivated by fear right now. I can't reach joy today.
I'm scared of being a disappointment, always, eternally, not good enough, frantically working to keep up, keep my secrets, keep going.
I pretend I'm good. I pretend I'm well. I'm really good at pretending I'm well. Therapists even have a fancy phrase for what I do, something about performing better than I actually am...I call it "masking." It happens unwittingly. Haha. I was just having a moment there. No, I'm not that sad. No, I'm not that scared. Let me say something funny to make us comfortable.
[Apparently people-pleasing is a maladaptive coping mechanism. But my superiors in the workplace really like it when I am consistently pleasant and do what they want. People in positions of power do not express concern for my needs, my differences, or my emotions. Those things get in the way.
I would like to say that I believe I am smart and capable as others tell me. That I am up to the challenge. That I will continue to be up to the challenge. (Am I being unclear? The challenge of living in the world.) There is a steel thread in me that I was born with. It's thin but strong. It grew with me in early childhood, when I learned the pattern of being absolutely terrified, all the time, and having to act anyway. Act: do, move my limbs, move in the world, think, react, be capable, don't let them see how weak and afraid I really am, achieve, achieve, achieve. As I grew into a young adult, I built a core around the thread--a core of self, not just survival. Creative acts saved my life. Art and writing saved my life. As I grew into a woman, teaching helped me locate myself deeply as a giver and a guide.
I thought my childhood and teenage years would be the worst thing that would ever happen to me. By far. No close seconds. But then my mom suicided (three years ago Sept 21) and that perspective changed. I can't know what's ahead. I can't worry enough do enough rituals enough compulsions pile on enough covers to protect me from the future. << It's been three years and I'm still like this.
I heard somewhere it's National Suicide Prevention Month.
The reason I'm putting this on my blog instead of deleting it is to say fuck you to mental illness. To stigma and judgement and appearances and people-pleasing and the bottom line. I am alive. Sometimes completely; today barely. But I am alive.
I wish it genuinely felt like enough to celebrate being alive.
When someone with mental illness or a disability says fuck you stigma, there is a rallying cry from allies. Oh yes. Fuck you stigma. We should be more open about these things as a society. But only in the most abstract ways. When it comes to the practical details. Well. That's tricky. No one wants to really deal with that.
I don't know if I'm re-starting this blog or not, for real, or if this entry is just a one-time deal. But I do know that I began the blog with this theory of RADICAL OPENNESS (fuck you stigma). I began this blog not even imagining what was in the future for me. And somehow I'm still here. Straining my neck. Chin bobbing just above the surface.
Here's a video. I'm teaching a class pretty soon and I want to do a section on sublimating trauma through poetry. I found this amazing talk and poem by Rachel McKibbens. It allowed me raw access my emotions, for once. It gave me permission to write this. I churned out work like a demon yesterday. I don't know if I am capable of doing any work today, but...I listened to her talk and it gave me permission to write this, at least.