Jen: 1 Depression: 0

I had a great day today. I mean, a really great day. My sis and I were both off work so we went out for coffee and bagels and then did a little shopping. I wasn’t desperate to get back inside my house, and I didn’t spend my entire day off on the computer. I even had enough energy to do a giant load of dishes. I haven’t had a day this fantastic in ages.

It was like I got out of my own way long enough to resemble a functional human being. My sister has always been an incredibly supportive person, especially when I’m feeling down. Talking to her is easy — she never judges, she never takes any of my “no one cares about me” comments personally, and she listens and offers advice in a way that doesn’t annoy me. She just gets it. We’ve both been working insane hours lately so we haven’t been able to spend much time together so today was a real treat.

We even have plans to go visit the Casa Loma haunted house tour in Toronto next week while I’m on my vacation. And we’re having a Ginger Snaps movie marathon for Halloween. I always treasure it when I’m able to have a good day. I really haven’t had one of those in WAY too long. Most of the time, I can’t bear to be outside for more than five minutes unless I’m on my way to work. I’ve been doing the work-home-work-home routine for months now, with quick trips to the corner store as my only real trip outside. It was nice to actually be out and enjoy the sunshine for once.

So I’m taking a deep breath and reminding myself that I’m not always going to feel like shit. There are always going to be really great days, too. I know I’m not out of the woods yet, but I’ve enjoyed my time in this little mental clearing.

I hope you’re all having a great day, too.


Fall Has Fallen And So Have I.

Holy man. Been a rough ride, hasn’t it? This blog has shifted and changed so much from what I had first anticipated. What began as a place to tell stories about my life working in coffee shops turned into a chronicle of my ups and downs and major life changes.

I’m still barely hanging on right now. I fill my days with whatever distractions I can so I don’t have to face the reality that I’m down. Way down. And I know I need help (which yes, I also know I’ve said before). There’s been a major change at work, though, so that help is closer than ever before.

Before, my employer only offered $500/year for mental health services. I didn’t see the point in seeking help because there’s no way in hell $500 would be enough and I certainly can’t afford a therapist on my own. Beginning Oct. 1, that coverage is increasing to $5000/year. You read that right. $5000. They have quite literally saved my life, because if I have to continue the way I have been, I don’t know that I would make it to my 29th birthday. Janelle died over a year ago but the ripple effect of her choice to end her life is still affecting me in a big way.

I still withdraw from people when I’m like this. I can’t bear to see pity in people’s eyes when they look at me. I can’t stand knowing I’m no fun to be around because all I can do is sit there staring into space. Most of us put on a show when we’re at work or out in public because we have to, but when I’m at home it’s a totally different story.

I had my first major panic attack a couple weeks ago. I was at work, everything was fine, and suddenly my hands started shaking hard. I felt like there were millions of bubbles inside my body and if I stopped moving they would all pop and kill me. I have plenty of tiny panic attacks at work and usually I just keep my head down and clean like a maniac until that bubble feeling passes. This time was VERY different.

I went to the back to pull some pastries from the freezer and started sobbing. I mean full-on sobbing to the point I couldn’t catch my breath. A coworker sat with me and tried to calm me down but I couldn’t get my breathing back to normal and I couldn’t stop the tears. I ended up being sent home, where I continued to be anxious for the next couple hours until I finally fell asleep. And since that day, I haven’t felt quite right. I’m angry. The slightest thing irritates me. That’s not the person I normally am, so this is weird.

I also found out some news that really upset me recently. There’s no reason it should’ve upset me, but it did. And I fixated on it. For some reason I felt like I was being cut out and fucked over but I knew if I said anything while I was feeling like that it would’ve come out completely wrong. So I’m still sitting here consumed by those emotions, because I don’t know how to articulate them without sounding like an asshole. I feel like the largest portions of my days are spent trying desperately to regulate my spiraling emotions but it’s a battle I’m beginning to lose.

September is almost over though. And then I can finally reach out and get some help. I can’t keep doing this. I’m so tired from the last couple of years. I should’ve known last October that it was getting worse because when I was hit by that car, I didn’t give a shit. I was honestly a little disappointed that I wasn’t hit harder. Because I want to be dead, but I’m too afraid to do it myself. It’s the same reason I still smoke and drink way too much caffeine. I’m a coward. It’s not bravery in the face of depression, it’s me being too chickenshit to do what Janelle did. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I know I want to live. I just need help finding my way back to that path. I can’t wait to look back on this one day and barely be able to remember what it was like to feel so terrible. I want this to be a distant memory.

I was diagnosed when I was around 15-16. I stopped taking my meds shortly after I started them. I’m now nearly 29, which means I’ve been walking around in constant emotional pain for almost thirteen years, and I’m fucking tired of it. I have two solutions: death or therapy. Since the first option seems awfully permanent, I think I should go with the second option first.

So that’s my explanation as to why I abandoned this blog in July 2015. I just couldn’t do it anymore. The noise in my head got to be too much.

I’m back now. I don’t know what the future has in store for me, but I’m going to do my best to be around to see it.


Got Some ‘Splainin’ To Do.

Uh… hello. Hi, there. Ahem… allow me to reintroduce myself.

I’m Jen, abandoner of blogs. It’s been over a year since I bothered to write anything here, and the reason is probably pretty obvious if you read my last post.

My friend had just died, and I wasn’t even remotely prepared to deal with that. I don’t think anyone is EVER remotely prepared to deal with a friend’s suicide, but you get my drift. I totally lost my shit in a very spectacular way. I’ve had some time to heal, and I’m ready to take baby steps back into the world I used to know.

That world includes writing.

So here I am, asking your forgiveness for leaving you hanging. I have so much I’d like to share with you, but it’s already really late and I have to be a functioning coffee wench in the morning.

So hello again. I’ve missed you.


Relapse 2015

*TRIGGER WARNING: Suicide, depressive thoughts*

This post is difficult. So very difficult.

I’ve been scrolling through websites for the last two hours and can barely recall any of what I read.

I’m in the middle of a relapse right now. Everything got so noisy inside my head that my brain freaked out and shut off all my feelings. I don’t feel anything but emptiness, and I’m all too familiar with what that means for me.

I’m depressed. Again. And I have been for months. I haven’t told anyone yet, I just use my go-to “I’m old and having sleep issues” excuse for never wanting to do anything or being really quiet when my friends finally convince me to tag along. But that’s not it, not really. I’m not sleeping properly because I’m empty. What’s the point of sleeping? I’m only going to be disappointed to wake up again. Every morning when I wake up I have this moment when the thought of swinging my legs over the side of my bed and standing up seems like the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life. I think of closing my eyes and never having to open them again and I long for that. Not being a part of this world anymore is so alluring.

The chronic foot pain I’ve had for the last few years is getting increasingly worse. I know at this point I should really see a doctor but I let my health card expire and the steps I have to go through to make it valid again just seem like too much work. It makes me tired just thinking about it.

I can see what it would take to make me feel like a human being again but I can’t find the strength to do it. I just don’t give a shit. At the moment, there’s no light at the end of the tunnel, there’s just more tunnel. I’m exhausted. I don’t want to sleep, I want to stop existing. And that pull is so strong these days that it’s prompted me to write this down. If I write it out, I won’t do it. I can’t do it.

My friend Janelle killed herself last month. It hit everyone hard, naturally, because she was amazing and we all loved her so fucking much. I knew she was depressed. I knew she had struggled like I had struggled because we sat in the back room at work many times and traded “Life Is Shit” battle stories. She had some tales that brought a tear to my eye. And now she’s gone. Her pain is over. I was hit with the full force of my emotions over her death and the switch flipped and my brain shut it down and now I can’t feel anything at all.

Why her? Why not me? Why can’t I?

Jesus Christ, her funeral was hard. Seeing her family and close friends all gathered to say goodbye, watching the slideshow of photos from her life. Being at the spot where she was being laid to rest. It’s not fucking fair. She was 21. And like the self-absorbed asshole I am, all I could think was, “I wonder if they would say similar things at my funeral.” It was eerie, being there. It honestly felt like I was crashing my own funeral with the added pain of knowing I would never get to see my friend again. Not in this life, anyway. And it all feels so pointless. We’re all slowly rotting inside our bodies until the meat breaks down and we stop breathing. Why wait? Why prolong the inevitable? It feels like I’ve already seen where my life is going and with all due respect I’m ready to hit the stop button. I’ve seen enough.

But this is a mood. I know my own mind enough to know when it’s being crazy. I know I shouldn’t do anything when my thoughts are cluttered and scattered and broken like this. I know I could wake up tomorrow in a great mood and have a fantastic day. Life’s like a book and you’re supposed to keep reading until the very end.

Can I tell you a secret though?

I’ve been planning to kill myself since I was 12 years old. My dad died and the world got dark. Now Janelle is gone and the world is even darker. I don’t want to get old and watch as my body fails me. I don’t want to get out of bed every day for the next forty years and experience excruciating pain as it shoots up both my legs, as it has for the last two years. I don’t want to go to the doctor, or pay taxes, shower, brush my teeth, or anything. I just want everything to stop.

I don’t want to be here anymore. I just want to go to sleep and never wake up again.

But I also don’t want anyone to feel the way I felt standing at Janelle’s grave.

Reading, Writing

The Monster In Jack.

It’s been a cold winter for Toronto, with wind frigid enough to freeze your nostrils together. Perfect weather to bundle up under a warm blanket, sip on some canned hot chocolate (because let’s be real, I’ll probably NEVER make anything from scratch ever), and read a cheery tale of mayhem and murder at the behest of a sentient hotel of evil.

Published in 1977, The Shining was Stephen King’s first bestselling hardcover and helped put him on the horror genre map. Three years later it was made into a movie that, upon having just finished the book, deviated greatly from the central themes of King’s actual novel. (Let’s set aside the author’s own feelings about Kubrick’s version of his story, you can sift through the Google results at your own leisure.) I’ve read enough of his work to consider myself one of his Constant Readers, and this book has jumped up my list of favorite novels to sit somewhere near the top.

Spread out on the couch in my living room with the TV playing in the background, I’m having trouble even knowing where to start. I chose The Shining for the fifth book on my 20 In 2015 list. I finished it a couple days ago and knew instantly I’d need a few days to bounce back from it. King is the master of taking otherwise unsympathetic characters and finding a way to humanize them. I never expected to see so much of myself in Jack Torrance.

It’s a simple enough concept, and I’m sure by now most people are familiar with the story: down on his luck after having been fired from his teaching job (because he lost his temper and beat the everliving shit out of a student), Jack takes a job as the winter caretaker of The Overlook hotel. Like most hotels, the place has got a few skeletons in its closet. During the winter months, the hotel gets snowed in and the only road leading into town is closed, effectively cutting the family off from civilization until spring thaws the earth. A former caretaker once went insane and murdered his wife and daughters before killing himself, a fact that the hotel manager shares with Jack during his interview. Jack assures him he can handle the long cold winter. Turns out, he can’t.

Jack struggles with a dark past. He is a recovering alcoholic, determined not to repeat past mistakes like breaking his then-three year old son’s arm while disciplining him. He’s a wounded man trying to become a better person but anger burns constantly under his surface. When describing the attack on his former student or the abuse of his son, King writes that it’s like he goes into a trance, seeing red and only partially aware of his actions. I’ve never heard consuming rage described so well. I saw my own past issues with anger manifested in Jack, and that frightened me. Seeing the world through his eyes was a disturbing look into my own psyche.

It’s hard not to have mixed feelings about him. Ultimately he wants to be a good man and take care of his family but his own twisted upbringing has tainted his worldview and added to his anger problem. He tries to keep himself under control but the evil inside the hotel senses this weakness and exploits it.

I can relate to his situation. My mind is The Overlook and I’ve spent a long winter trapped inside it with only my echoing thoughts for company. I’m prone to depression, especially in the winter, and a lot of factors in my life have led me to feel trapped within my own life. Ultimately, I seek a redemption of sorts, much like Jack at the end of the novel, when he manages to regain control over himself and stop the entity controlling him long enough for his family to escape. In his final moments, I felt bad for him. No one is ever all bad or all good and Jack is a shining example of that (see what I did there?).

Wendy desperately wants to have a normal, happy life with her husband and child and she embodies what hope looks like in a dysfunctional family. Her only option when she begins to sense the darkness in the hotel is to go stay with her mother, with whom she has a strained relationship. Her self-confidence issues stem from a lifetime of being taught that she’s not good enough and is partially to blame for her sister’s early death. Her mother has spent her life grinding her daughter’s self-esteem down until there’s barely any left and her struggles with Jack’s alcoholism have only emphasized her perceived flaws. She loves her family but recognizes when things start to go downhill and tries to convince Jack to abandon his post and flee the hotel. Again, it’s easy to sympathize with her. I’ve been in similar situations where you just want to hold on and wait until things get better. Her unwillingness to give up on her husband and the strength it takes to defend herself and her son when Jack tries to attack them are something to be admired.

There’s a moment in the book where the hotel elevator begins to run on its own and Wendy begs Jack not to leave her and Danny alone to go investigate. Jack responds that it’s his job and Wendy wails, “DON’T YOU LEAVE US HERE ALONE”, to which Jack coldly replies, “That was an incredible imitation of your mother,” and I had a moment where I froze and reread the dialogue a second time, because it packed such a punch. King has an amazing ability to write dialogue I can actually hear inside my head, and this particular exchange made my blood run cold. Jack knows how Wendy feels about her mother and still takes that dig at her. Anyone who’s spent too much time with another human being knows how much a person can become annoyed at another person. Cabin fever is a real thing, and whatever crawls inside the walls of the hotel feeds off the negative energy between Jack and Wendy.

We, the Constant Readers, get to sit back and watch as Jack mentally unravels and falls prey to the hotel’s whims. It’s a devastating process, and all through it I found it incredibly difficult to blame Jack for his choices. He’s under tremendous pressure, as we all have been, and I drew so many parallels between his life and mine that reading this book shook me to the core.

Who among us hasn’t made mistakes or taken wrong turns in life? Who is blameless in the pain of others? I’ve been down some dark roads in my time and it can be hard to keep your head on straight and your tongue still. There’s something evil inside all of us, but most of us can keep it under control. Confronted with the forces inside the hotel, any one of us might fall victim, and that’s what makes this book so terrifying. When I finally put it down, I knew I’d have to take a few days to get over the emotional punch it delivered straight to my gut.

The Shining is easily one of my absolute favorite Stephen King novels, it’s a fucking masterpiece in emotional and mental destruction. Reading it in winter seems to have only amplified its effect.

The monster isn’t the thing lurking inside The Overlook, it’s the thing lurking inside Jack Torrance.

Life, Writing

Writing Through It.

I’m by no means an expert when it comes to writing. I’m an avid devourer of books and the written word has been my religion for as long as I can remember. When I was growing up, friendless and shy, there were always books. My family wasn’t exactly affluent but books opened up a whole world of adventure and I went through books in only a few days.

My sixth grade teacher once told my mother he’d be surprised if I didn’t grow up to be a writer. I appreciate the compliment, but writing is a hard game to get into, especially when you have no real contacts in the industry. I’ve gotten by just fine running this blog, even sticking to something resembling a schedule at one point and time. Although my posts have been sporadic for the last couple months, I find myself drawn back to scribbling down my thoughts and then barfing them onto the internet. The only way you can call yourself a writer is to write, so that’s what I’m doing.

It’s no secret that I’m currently dissatisfied with my life. I’m tired of being a barista, a job I’ve been doing for about eight years. Without any formal education, it’s impossible to get jobs writing. Not that I can’t rectify that, I’m just not currently in a financial position to be considering the pursuit of higher education. That’s OK, I’ve made my peace with that for the time being. I find I’m happiest when I’m sitting at my computer, trying to find a way to translate the abstract thoughts and feelings that ricochet in my head into plain English. It’s a challenge. It’s an even bigger challenge to try to write a novel.

I’ve failed at NaNoWriMo two years in a row. The first year I did so spectacularly. I don’t think I wrote even one word, even though I had an idea and a bare bones outline. My writing buddy and I even avoided each other because neither of us had written and each had assumed the other had ground out a novel in the time we’d wasted. We both failed and celebrated our mutual failure. The second year, I managed to crank out just over 7000 words of the 50 000 needed to win the challenge. That’s OK too, because at the very least I had written more than the year before. I always afford myself a little breathing room considering the fact I have to work a full time job. I let the beginning of my novel stew in its own literary juices for about three months before deciding it was time to get back at it.

I’ve been marinating this story in my mind for the past few years, always feeling like it was bigger than anything I could create. But it was born from my own insomnia and my love for adventurous, dystopian novels, so who better to write it? So last week I fired up my computer and picked up where I left off.

I left off in the perfect spot for writer’s block to get its hooks in me. I didn’t know where to go next with the story. Having my main character wander helplessly in the woods, aided only by a map her dead father had left behind, was boring. No one wants to read about someone building campfires, fending off cold, and making their way through the forest. So I took a break, checked my Facebook, and generally fucked around on the internet before deciding to look up some tips on working through writer’s block. This article by the fabulous Chuck Wendig ended up being the kick in the ass I needed to get my story moving again.

The only way to get through writer’s block is to just keep writing through it. Editing and revising are what will end up shaping what my novel becomes but without the words, there’s nothing to be shaped in the first place. So I wrote through it. 

I hit just over 10 000 words, the most I’ve ever written for one thing. The short story I published on this blog is only about 5000 words, so this is double that and then some. I was terrified I would run out of story before making it to novel length, but I still have so much to tell. So many roads to travel to get my protagonist to her destination. And it’s exciting. Truthfully, it’s what’s getting me through my shifts at work, thinking about my characters and their motivations and ways to move the story along. When doing something mundane to pay the bills, it always helps to have something to look forward to. The point isn’t to get it published, necessarily, although once it’s done and edited and if the few people I’ve managed to talk into reading it deem it good enough, maybe I’ll pursue that. The point is to DO SOMETHING. I’ve been in such a goddamn funk since November and there’s still a lot of winter time left, so I need to distract myself.

I’ve found the best way to keep myself somewhat sane and motivated is to write through whatever’s happening.

Maybe my sixth grade teacher wasn’t wrong.