Confessions

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.

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.

Life

A General Feeling Of Worthlessness.

TRIGGER WARNING FOR SEXUAL ASSAULT/DEPRESSIVE THOUGHTS.

It’s been a weird month. On the one hand, I’ve been playing open mics at this one bar often enough that I’ve started to get to know the people who frequent it. On the other, I’ve been having depressive episodes again and I was assaulted outside of work.

The thing I find most frustrating about having a depressive episode is that I’m self-aware enough to know exactly what it is but am completely unable to stop it. I can be sitting in my kitchen having tea and suddenly feel like there’s absolutely no reason for me to be alive and I should probably just go ahead and kill myself. Or I can be on the way to work and think about how easy it would be for me to get off at the next station and jump in front of a train. No note, no warning, no explanation.

I feel like I’m not a part of life. Like my existence affects no one and means nothing. There will always be someone else to fill whatever tiny void I might leave behind me. Even my family would eventually heal and move on. Sometimes I draft suicide notes to leave just in case one day the urge proves to be too much. I usually end up throwing them out because I wouldn’t want anyone to find the note and think I was actually planning something.

Everyone I know seems like they’re a part of something. I feel like it takes a lot of effort for me to even put clothes on and venture outside. The things I love seem to lose their flavor and it’s a massive chore for me to do anything except lay down on my couch and watch Netflix. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and I’ve narrowed it down to self-worth.

I don’t feel like I’m worthy of anything.

I was assaulted by a drunk dude outside my workplace. I was on a break around 8:30PM, standing outside smoking, when he came up to me and started talking. He was being aggressive, yelling at women on the street to keep their “head and tits up” and calling them cunts when they didn’t respond. He asked me why women were bitches. I was afraid of him, so I agreed with him even though it made me feel sick to my stomach not to stand up for my fellow ladies. When he got closer and put his arm around me, I shut down. Parts of my childhood came back and I remembered that in order to avoid angering the people who assaulted me when I was a kid, I would let my body go still and try to think about something, anything else to avoid facing what was really happening.

He seemed to think I was comfortable with him in my space, so he kissed me. He also buried his head into my neck and slid his arm down to my waist. Inside, there were alarm bells going off and I was frantic but I was so terrified of this stranger that I stood completely still. When he called his friend over and I was flanked by two strange men, I finally snapped into action and went back inside my cafe.

“You’re just going to leave me out here?” one of them cried.

“Sorry,” I explained. “I have to go back to work.”

That’s right, folks. I apologized to the man who touched me without permission.

I thought I would be fine when I reached the relative safety of my workplace. I wasn’t. I went into a full scale panic attack, complete with cold chills and shaking. I wanted to cry but I couldn’t bring myself to. I began to feel like these things happen to me because I deserve them. The little kid who was shoved into a basement and assaulted eighteen years ago deserved it. The laps I was forced to sit on, the hands that went places I was too young to have discovered yet — I deserved all of  it. Because I’m worth nothing.

But even as I write this, I know intellectually that it isn’t true. Bad things happen to people who don’t deserve it. Nobody deserves to have something like this happen to them, no matter who they are or what they’ve done. I don’t deserve to be assaulted, or beaten, or treated like shit and I didn’t ask for any of this. But emotionally, in the twisted labyrinth that passes for my mind, it feels very true.

I know it could have been much worse with the stranger outside my cafe. I’ve been in much worse situations before. But that doesn’t make it OK and it doesn’t make my reaction afterward any less valid.

So it’s been a weird month. In spite of my depressive thoughts and dark moments, I remain hopeful that things will get better. Maybe soon I’ll feel ready to seek help for this.

Writing

How To Burn A Bridge.

My first piece for Ben Gresik and Jason Woudsma’s brainchild writing collective The Prosers went live this morning. I’ve been half-shitting myself all week because I’ve never written something so personal and revealing and had it shared publicly before. But I’m proud of it, probably more proud of it than anything else I’ve put out into the world. So it would mean the world to me if you’d stop by the site and give it a read. While you’re there, you should check out the other stories that have been posted since the site went live. They’re incredible.

READ “HOW TO BURN A BRIDGE” HERE.

Confessions, Life

To Write Without Fear.

“Why can’t you be more positive?”
“Why don’t you write something happy?”
“How come you’re always so negative?”

Because I’m a dark princess, motherfucker. I don’t absorb all the things that happen in the world and vomit out a cloud of pretty technicolor rainbows. It’s just not in me. I take it in and it all congeals inside the hollows of my heart and when it comes out it’s twisted and disgusting. I sit down to write and every word lurches out of me like it’s the last thing I’ll ever do. I’m overwhelmed by memories and emotions and interpretations and sometimes it’s bad enough to render me completely paralyzed. I have to shut down just to exist and it makes me so angry I end up numb.

The problem is, I see things the way they are. I’m aware of peace and beauty and light as concepts but those things are so lacking in my world right now I don’t have the words to describe them. I’ve never been very good at spreading a positive outlook. I’m much better at going on a rant with comedy as a chaser, because if I have to choose between laughing or crying, I’ll take laughter any day. And I’m so fucking afraid. Afraid to breathe, afraid to move, afraid to do anything but lay on the couch in my apartment and stare at my computer screen for hours on end. I have no food in my house because nine times out of ten my anxiety gets the better of me and I can’t bear to leave my apartment. Every social interaction is painful and awkward for me because I fear every person I come in contact with will see right through to the core that rots inside me.

But this is depression talking. This is the voice of rage. I long to be the person who sees beauty in the madness and kindness floating like a lifeboat in a sea of evil. Sometimes I’m very good at pretending to be that person. There’s a line in the short-lived TV show Kings that goes, “Be the knife or be the lamb. Try to be both and you’ll end up slaughtering yourself.” A chill ran down my spine the moment I heard it, because for so long I’ve tried to be both. Light and dark, night and day. And they can’t co-exist in my head anymore because the duality of it is driving me insane. It’s putting my entire life in gridlock because I don’t know which direction to take.

Don’t get me wrong. There is always hope. This isn’t me pointing a gun at myself or punching my thighs until they bruise. I know that things do get better and all you have to do is wade through a ton of mud and shit to get to it. Sometimes it makes me tired, so I lay down and sleep for twelve hours to make up for all the nights I spend tossing and turning because I have no idea who I am or what I want or even how I can begin to get it. I want to be better. I want to be the person I see inside my head when I think about how things COULD be.

I want to write without fear. I don’t want to censor things or mask my truth because I’m afraid I’ll hurt somebody’s feelings. But the reality is, unless I’m writing fiction, someone’s always going to get hurt. It’s a constant guessing game when I’m writing about my past because I never know who’s going to read it. I could write it privately, but that’s too comfortable. The whole point of this exercise is to venture outside of what’s comfortable, take a risk and lay myself bare. I’m taking steps to get out of this horrible funk I’m in but it’s going to take time. And negativity. Because there’s truth in it. When bad shit happens, or has happened, putting a positive spin on it doesn’t always help. Positivity is not synonymous with denial and I refuse to deny the terrible side of life. If I am to get to the other side, where things are clear and lovely and every day (or most days, anyway) is beautiful, then I need to have the freedom to explore the dark paths that led me here. You’ve got to hit rock bottom before you make your way to the top.

If you decide to take this journey with me, then great! I’m happy to have you. If not, no hard feelings. This is something I have to do for myself. I’ll see you on the upside of life.

And for the record, I’d rather be the knife.

Confessions, Life

Welcome To Cannington.

Not too many people know Cannington, Ontario. Every person who asks where I came from seems baffled when I respond, “lots of places” and put Cannington on that list. I don’t know how to accurately describe the changes I went through in the few years I spent there. They were tremendous and had the biggest impact on the person I have become.

I was fifteen when my mother met Glenn. I didn’t like him at all, and not just because he was taking up my mother’s time. The first dinner we had together, I deemed him a demanding man-child. My mother placed a plate in front of him at the table and he didn’t say, “Thanks, honey” or “This looks great”. He said, “What, no gravy? No carrots?” I smirked at him from the opposite end of the table and said, “You have legs, get them yourself.” In hindsight, I can see how my sarcastic response could have been taken so badly, but at that moment it was like a bomb had gone off. Everyone stared at me in shocked silence before the words started flying.

The son of a bitch yelled at me like he thought he was my father and my mother stood by and let him reprimand me. I was so angry I couldn’t speak so I fled to the safety of my room and wept.

It was inevitable that my mother and Glenn would move in together. The house itself was beautiful, complete with a back patio and vegetable garden. Walking around, all I could think was how happy Mom, Ash and I would have been there without Glenn and his family. It wasn’t so much that I hated them, it’s that they treated me like an outsider. As the first few months went by, I felt abandoned by my sister and mother, completely alone in a way I had never been before. They fit into this new family in a way I knew I never could.

Ashley made an effort to include me, and even when she bonded with our new stepbrother and his friends, she always made time for me. So we would walk into town and go to the library together, visit the cute little boutiques and eat lunch at the diner. It took very little convincing to get my mother to buy us little mickeys of vodka and we’d drink and smoke weed in the basement. Ash did it to party, I did it to escape. 

My mom got really sick a few years after we moved. Meningitis. She was delirious and unresponsive so my sister and stepfather took her to hospital. I refused to go because ever since the death of my father I try to avoid hospitals unless I’m dragged there in an ambulance. They make me feel panicked and uncomfortable. Ashley called me while they waited for news and told me she overheard the doctors saying something about meningitis. I knew that was bad, but didn’t tell her too much about it.

The only time I really bonded with Glenn was when my mother was sick. We didn’t have anything in common except the long drives to school and a love of Creedence Clearwater Revival. “Bad Moon Rising” became our anthem. My sis convinced me to visit mom in the hospital, and it remains one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done.

As much as I loved my mother, I got to a point where I couldn’t live with Glenn any more. His constant referrals to me as “The Other One” were dehumanizing and he refused to try to understand my struggle with depression. He thought I was lazy and blatantly preferred my sister, so I did what I’m good at. I ran away.

Cannington bore witness to my darkest hours and greatest transformation. So when my mother moved back to live with my aunt, I knew I’d end up going back there. On a sunny weekend in April, Ashley and I made the trip there together for the first time in a decade. We walked the streets in town where we spent so much time when we were young and full of dreams. Our lives have changed beyond recognition in the time we’ve spent away, and although I spent so many years unhappy there, going back was its own brand of catharsis.

Sometimes you have to go back to see just how far you’ve come.

Confessions, Life

Blank Pages.

I don’t even know where to begin, it’s been so long since I’ve done this.

Several weeks ago, a friend of mine contacted me to ask if I would be interested in participating in a writing project he’s setting up. Of course I’m interested, it’s been so long since I had any kind of real deadline and I’ve missed the frantic spurts of writing those deadlines inspire. But I must admit, I am also terrified. Not because I don’t have any faith in my own writing, but because I’m afraid of what will be revealed when I sit down to write again.

Even writing this post is frightening.

I have a confession to make. I haven’t been here because I am depressed. Again. Like I have been a thousand times before. It’s not quite as bad as it has been in the past, I still show up to work on time, I still shower and do most of the things I’m required to do to be considered mentally sound, but I’m slipping. I suppose I should be grateful to be self-aware enough to notice.

I slept in a pile of clean laundry for a few weeks. Piling it around myself made me feel safe and warm. I haven’t been eating anything but cast-off food from work for at least three months. I have no energy to face a grocery store full of people and it’s a struggle just to walk to the corner store for something to drink. Worse than being upset, I’m completely empty.

I don’t care about anything at all. I’d honestly feel a bit better about it if I could have a good cry, but instead I just lay down and stare at the ceiling until sleep finally gives me a break. It’s a bit like being a zombie, and pretending to be OK is simply exhausting. I know all of the wonderful good habits I could form that would make a difference and make me feel better, but I can’t do them. I can’t bring myself to leave the house on days off when I’d rather stay in my pajamas, rooted to my couch, and zone out with TV and Sims 3. I don’t want to face what’s really going on. I don’t want to take the necessary steps to get on with my life. I don’t want to form connections with people or talk about what’s bothering me because it’s not safe. It’s not enough. My suffering does not match the suffering of people worse off than me, so not only do I feel shitty, I feel guilty about it.

I spent last night making a mental list of all the sentimental objects I lost when I ran away from my boyfriend’s house. I envisioned the jewelry box my father painstakingly crafted for me at the bottom of a pile of garbage in a Toronto landfill, unseen and unnoticed. I imagined all my childhood journals covered in grime, all my passionate words and thoughts and prayers reduced to pulp. And mostly, it doesn’t bother me. Mostly, I’m happy to still have the memories if not the objects themselves. But sometimes it creeps up on me and makes me too upset to react.

My coping mechanism is to shut down, and it always has been.

I had a dream last night. I dreamed there was a strange, beautiful bird inside my apartment that wouldn’t leave me alone. Any time I tried to pick up the bird to put it outside, it stuck painful barbs into the palm of my hand. Once I got it outside the door, it would not leave. It stayed on the steps to my apartment and stared at me, trying again and again to get back inside. When things are good for me, I do the same thing. I reject them. I don’t want to be better because to be better is to be different. Different is terrifying. Pain and emptiness are familiar companions to me and I don’t know how I would cope without them.

But this is the first step, right here. I can admit that I’m not feeling OK through writing, and for me writing always comes before talking. I managed to force myself to clean my apartment and actually felt good about it once it was finished. I haven’t slept in a laundry pile in several days. I appreciate the beauty of a good day and I also understand that winter has played a large part in my depression. Spring is coming, warmer and longer days and brilliant sunshine.

So I at least have something to look forward to.