Tag Archives: i suck

Checking In

20 Feb

I know that I haven’t written here in a while (SIX WHOLE DAYS, LIKE, YOU PROBABLY THOUGHT I’D QUIT BLOGGING OR SOMETHING), and I just wanted to check in and let you guys know that I’m doing all right.

More than all right, actually. I feel better. Frighteningly, miraculously, tentatively better. It’s so new and so strange that I’m a bit hesitant to write about it yet or even say it out loud – like I could jinx it or something. But I also want you to not worry about me, so I thought I should tell you: I feel better.

I don’t know if I would say that I was happy exactly, but then I’m not sure that “happy” is the opposite of “suicidal”. I’m coming to distrust the idea of being happy anyway – I hear the word thrown around too much, hear too many people talking about how they deserve happiness. But I’m not sure that anyone deserves happiness, you know? There’s a quote from Zadie Smith’s White Teeth that the cynic in me has always loved, and I feel like it might apply here:

You hear girls in the toilets of clubs saying, ‘Yeah, he fucked off and left me. He just couldn’t deal with love. He was too fucked up to know how to love me.’ Now how did that happen? What was it about this unlovable century that convinced us we were, despite everything, eminently lovable as a people, as a species? What made us think that anyone who fails to love us is damaged, lacking, malfunctioning in some way? And particularly if they replace us with a god, or a weeping madonna, or the face of Christ in a ciabatta roll—then we call them crazy. Deluded. Regressive. We are so convinced of the goodness of ourselves, and the goodness of our love, we cannot bear to believe that there might be something more worthy of love than us, more worthy of worship. Greeting cards routinely tell us everybody deserves love. No. Everybody deserves clean water. Not everybody deserves love all the time.

I’m starting to think that maybe not everyone deserves happiness all the time. Actually, I think I’m just getting tired of hearing people talk about deserving anything – I’m tired of people’s sense of entitlement, their willingness to trample over others in order to acquire something they feel that they deserve.

But anyway, I digress.

I’ve been trying to follow the hospital psychiatrist’s orders and prioritize things that make me happy, and I think that by and large I’ve been succeeding. I’ve started keeping a proper, paper journal again, and it’s actually wonderful to be able to write without thinking about having an audience (except that I basically always think about having an audience, but I’m figuring that no one will read my journals until I’m dead and thus don’t care). I’ve been taking time out of my day to go to hip cafés where I sit and scribble happily in my notebook while sipping a latte, feeling like everyone looking on must know that I am a For Real Serious Writer Lady.

I’ve been doing other things too – things like spending an hour or two at the art gallery, or wandering around Roncesvalles and checking out the cute shops. Today I went to a friend’s place and lay on her couch for three hours, sipping gin and tonics, dissecting Salinger books and watching Star Trek. It was nice – more than nice, really. And I felt like myself, for the first time in a long time. But I also felt guilty.

Let me see if I can explain the guilt. It’s like this: I constantly feel like I’m running out of time. I don’t just mean that there aren’t enough hours in the day to get things done (although I do feel that way) – I also mean in general, in my life. I feel like I spent too much time fucking off (read: being depressed) in my early 20s and now I’m 30 and all of my peers are ahead of me and I’m struggling to catch up. And I know it’s not a race, but it still feels like one, and I feel like I now have to work extra super hard just to prove that I should even be allowed on the track.

Anyway, what all this amounts to is that I have a hard time doing anything that I don’t view as useful or productive. Even spending time with Theo fits into this category, as I see parenting as a way of creating and shaping an awesome future adult. And yeah, being Theo’s mom is pretty rad, but sometimes that seems more like a pleasant side effect of parenting rather than the main point.

I also feel guilty because it’s like, who am I to get to do all these nice fun things? Like, why do I get to go out and see my friends and hang out in coffee shops while Matt has to stay home and parent? How is that fair? What if he starts to resent me?

Do I actually believe that being depressed gives me special privileges or something?

And then I think, if I were sick with anything else and the doctor’s orders were to take it easy, would I feel guilty?

No, probably not. But if I were sick with anything else, there would be blood drawn, tests run, and hopefully some kind of irrefutable scientific proof that I was sick. But with depression there is no proof, not really. You all have to take me at my word that some days, I feel like dying.

And what happens if you ever stop taking me at my word?

After years and years of talking about suicide but not actually dying, won’t I start to seem like the boy who cried wolf?

I don’t want to lose you guys. Because I love you. Because I’d be lost without you. Because your support has mostly been what’s kept me going these past few weeks.

Anyway, all of this is to say that you don’t have to worry about me, because I’m feeling better.

And that means that, at least for now, I don’t have to worry about losing you.

xoxo

Annabelle

P.S. On a lighter note, just in case you were wondering what a Shrevolution looks like:

shrevolution!

Sometimes I’m Tired Of Being A Mom

4 Feb

“Sleep when the baby sleeps!”

I started hearing it the day Theo was born. Actually, I probably started hearing it way before then, but it’s likely that I didn’t pay much attention. I just filed it under “obvious advice is obvious,” and thought nothing more of it. Of course I was going to sleep when the baby slept. Just like of course I was going to have a natural birth, breastfeed like a champ and have a kid who slept through the night at six weeks. Because, unlike all the other moms in the world, I’d read all the right books, bought all the right products, and participated in a million online discussions about how not to fuck up your kid. I was so set.

I was sure that motherhood was going to be so fulfilling. I mean, yeah, I knew it would be hard, but hard in a being-super-brave-through-tough-times-like-Florence-Nightingale sort of way, not hard in a grinding, miserable, I-hate-my-life way. Surely I would come out of those long, desperate, sleepless nights glowing with motherly love, just happy to have been able to offer my screaming child even a modicum of comfort. Surely I would be happy to sacrifice any and everything for my kid.

Surely I would never, ever resent him.

After Theo was born, people kept reminding me to sleep when he slept. But I didn’t want to; I wanted to stay awake and just stare and stare at this amazingly tiny new human I’d just created. I’d just made an entire new person that had never existed before – how could I be expected to sleep after doing that? Besides, I remember thinking, I’ll sleep later. Because, up until that moment in my life, there had always been a later. Whenever I’d had a long week at work, I’d been able to plan to sleep in on the weekend. I’d been able to look forward to vacations when Matt and I could grab catnaps together between fun activities. I’d always, always been been able to think ahead to a time when I would be able to catch up on my sleep, maybe even take some kind of sleeping aid to ensure maximum restfulness.

When you become a parent, there never seems to be a later when it comes to sleep. You either grab it when you can, or you go without. Not long after Theo was born, I learned the hard way that I couldn’t do the former – when Theo slept, I was too anxious to rest, and when I did finally manage to fall asleep, I was awakened by every. single. tiny. noise he made. I don’t know if it was because I was so fucked up on hormones, or if it was the postpartum depression beginning to rear its ugly head, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t sleep when he slept.

And you know what’s the worst? Not being able to sleep when you are bone-fucking-tired and you know that your kid is going to wake up screaming soon and then you won’t get to sit down for the next five hours.

At some point towards the end of that hazy first week of motherhood, I remember thinking, “When is someone coming to take this baby away so that I can go back to my real life?”

And then I realized that this baby was mine, and no one was going to take him away, and this was my real life now.

With that thought came a bizarre mixture of guilt over wanting to go back to my non-baby life, and blind panic of the “holy shit I have a kid, what the fuck have I just done?” variety.

In all the months I’d spent preparing to have a kid, I’d never fully realized what it would be like to have a kid.

Sometimes having a kid sucks. A lot. I love him, and I love being his mom, but sometimes I’m so tired of being a mom, anyone’s mom. Sometimes I just want to be myself. I want to go back to my old life, the life where I slept in on weekends, watched TV whenever I wanted to, and sometimes spent all day having sex with my husband. It doesn’t help that my life now bears a striking surface resemblance to my old life; I live in the same apartment, wear many of the same clothes, eat the same foods. I even look pretty much the same, except that I’m a cup size bigger than I was (thanks, breastfeeding!). I’m surrounded by reminders of the way I used to live.

It also doesn’t help that most of my friends still, in some ways, live in my old life, staying out late, drinking too much, and going to the bathroom without having a toddler follow them to watch them pee. And I promise that I’m not trying to be all, having a kid is so hard and my non-mom friends don’t get it, but let’s be honest: most of them don’t, really, in the same way that I didn’t get it, either. And I’m jealous that they don’t get it, jealous that they don’t have to watch what they eat or drink or smoke because they’re afraid of contaminating their breast milk, jealous that they can go to bed and not have a whimpering toddler wake them up five times a night, jealous that when they go home at the end of the day, their work is done, while mine lasts forever and ever and ever.

Sometimes I’m so tired of being a mom.

Sometimes I’m so fucking tired. Period.

And you know what sucks the most? Knowing that all of this is my fault. I don’t mean so much in the sense that I chose to have a kid (although that is true), but more that I haven’t done any sleep-training, haven’t tried too hard to night-wean and, at 24 months old, still can’t really imagine being away from him overnight. Know why? Because I’m a wuss, that’s why. Every time I think about sleep-training Theo, I think of all the crying that will be involved, and I wince. I’m not the crying-it-out-will-ruin-your-kid-forever type, but you know what? I just can’t. I’m sorry, but I can’t. Hearing him cry makes me feel like every nerve in my body is on fire. And it’s one thing to hear my kid cry because I won’t let him splash his hands in the toilet; it’s another when he’s crying because he just wants to be held, or sung to, or breastfed.

And that’s why my 24-month-old still sleeps in my room and still breastfeeds pretty much whenever he wants at night. Because I am too tired and too wussy to do anything about it.

I’m tired and you guys?

Sometimes I still miss my old life. A lot.

And that makes me feel really awful.

anne_theo

Dispatches From The Dark Side

1 Feb

Trigger warning for talk of suicide

If I was writing about almost any other health issue, I wouldn’t hesitate to post this.

If I had diabetes, or cancer, or liver failure, you wouldn’t feel strange reading this.

If I started out by saying, “I went to the hospital last night because I had the flu,” no one would think twice about this. No one would call it oversharing. I wouldn’t feel ashamed or embarrassed.

But I didn’t go to the hospital because I had the flu.

I went to the hospital last night because I wanted to die.

I mean, I say that, and that’s how I felt, but the truth is that I didn’t really want to die, did I? If that had really been my intention, I would have just done it. I wouldn’t have talked about it, wouldn’t have told anyone, and certainly wouldn’t agreed to go to the hospital.

Intention is tricky, though, slippery, even, all tangled up with impulse, drive and desire; I don’t think I’ll ever understand what it is that I actually want. It’s like peeling an onion, folding back layers and layers of truths and semi truths, never able to really get to the core of how or why I feel these things.

I’m not writing this because I want your pity, or comfort, or advice (although you can offer them if you want to).

I’m writing this because I want to be honest. I want to be like someone who paints their self-portrait and doesn’t spare any details; I want to show you my pimples, the dark smudges under my eyes, the crease that bisects my forehead, evidence of a lifetime of squinting because I didn’t want to wear my glasses.

I’m writing this because I don’t want to be embarrassed or ashamed anymore, and for some reason saying these things publicly makes them easier to bear. It’s like racing to tell all of your darkest secrets before your ex-best friend can betray your trust; you get to keep some kind of control over the situation. Sort of.

I’m writing this because I want to talk about it, and this is the only way that I know how. I’ve developed this online voice, this sort of character that’s both me and at the same time an amplification of me, a louder, brasher, more combative version of myself. It’s easier for me to write about this in this character; I would never be able to look you in the eyes and say these things.

I promise that we don’t have talk about this in person. The next time we meet, we don’t have to refer to what’s written here.

But right now I do want to talk about wanting to die. If you’re not up for that, I totally give you permission to stop reading right now.

I wish I could tell you why I want to die, but I can’t. The truth is that I have a good life, maybe even the best. I’m married to someone that I love a whole lot, someone who loves me in return. My son is amazing; I’m not even sure that there are words to describe how great he is. I enjoy my work. I like where I live.

On paper, I should be very happy.

But still, I want to die.

I can’t tell you why, but I can tell you what it feels like.

It feels like all of the days ahead of me are grey and blank and empty. Not empty in the sense of possibility, but empty in the sense of being hopeless.

It feels like wearing a shirt that’s rough, scratchy, uncomfortable, and that shirt is my skin and I can’t take it off.

It feels like discovering that all of my favourite foods suddenly taste like cardboard, but I eat and eat and eat anyway because I need something to fill all that empty space.

It feels like standing in direct sunlight, feeling in on my back, my shoulders, my head, but never having my brain think sun. All it can think is heat. Like there’s this distinction, this appreciation that I can’t make anymore; everything is broken down to its most basic elements. Nothing is good or beautiful – everything is awful and dull in its own way.

It feels like the life-support system in my brain failed, and no one bothered to install a back-up. So now the ship is going down and the lights are flickering and we’re running out of oxygen and everyone is panicking.

It feels like being tired all of the time, like never being able to get enough sleep. I just want to sleep.

I do things. I go out, and I spend money on things that I used to enjoy, in my former life, the life that, on the surface at least, is nearly indistinguishable from the one I live now. I don’t enjoy anything anymore, though, and spending money that on things that don’t make me feel better only adds another layer of shame and guilt onto what I’m already feeling.

At home, at night, I feel trapped. The lights are too bright, the air too dry. I can’t sleep. I can’t read. I can’t watch TV. I can’t write. I can’t talk. I pace and pace and pace, trying to get rid of the prickly, irritable energy that’s building up in my veins, in my bones. I think that I could feel better if the apartment was clean, if the dishes were done and the bathroom sink scrubbed, but I don’t know where to begin, so I pace some more.

I just don’t want to feel anything anymore. I don’t even want to feel the good things. I just want to go to a place that’s beyond feeling.

And I know that suicide is selfish. But I also know that if I was dead, I wouldn’t care about anything anymore. I wouldn’t have to feel guilty about the people that I’ve left behind.

But I can’t help imagining Theo, what it would be like for him if I were to die. How he would cry and cry for me. How he would never be able to understand that I wasn’t coming, not ever. I think about how I would break his heart, think about the fault lines that I would trace along that tiny, powerful muscle, cracks that would break over and over for the rest of his life and never, ever heal.

I don’t really want to die.

I just want to sleep and sleep and sleep forever.

But it sort of amounts to the same thing, really, which is why I went to the hospital last night. Because I love Theo and don’t want to leave him. Because even if I couldn’t feel anything anymore, I would still find some way to miss him.

I live in a big city, so there’s a special hospital just for head cases like me. It even has two sites, one downtown and one in the west end. I went to the one downtown.

They lock you into the ER waiting room. There is a sign on the door that says AWOL Flight Risk. I wanted to take a picture, but I didn’t think they would like that.

There was a woman screaming in a room at the end of the hall.

There was a young man in a suit brought in by two police officers.

There was an unconscious woman brought in on a gurney. Her feet were bare.

There was a girl on the bench next to me, lying with her head on her mother’s lap. Her father was there, too. He said,

“You said that at the last minute something told you not to jump. What was it?”

But she didn’t answer.

While I was there, two code whites were called, which means that there’s a violent patient somewhere in the hospital. One of them, according to the man on the intercom, had a weapon. Both calls sent the ER staff into a flurry, running for doors and phones and elevators.

And I thought, I don’t belong here. I am not having an emergency. These people are having emergencies. I am someone who is fine, only a little sad sometimes. I am coping. I get up every day, go to work, take care of Theo. I am fine. I just have to be stronger, better, less self-indulgent.

And I wanted to leave, but I didn’t.

Finally it was my turn to see the doctor. She was young, kind. Her outfit wouldn’t have looked out of place in my closet, and I coveted her glasses.

She listened to me, took a few notes. Recommended a few things. She said that her main prescription was to try to prioritize things that make me happy.

I’m not sure how easy that will be to execute, but I like it anyway. I’m strangely pleased that instead of having me try another pill, a different pill, she handed me a piece of paper telling me to prioritize my own happiness. It seems like something that would happen in a book, or a movie, and I’ve always wanted to live in a book or a movie.

So how do I feel now?

Raw, I guess.

The same, I guess.

Maybe a little more hopeful, so that’s a start.

I still can’t stop reading Anne Sexton’s Wanting To Die.

I still can’t stop reading Ted Hughes’ book Birthday Letters, or poem his Last Letter.

But maybe I’ve read them a few times less today than I did yesterday.

I am trying to find some happy way to end this post, but I can’t think of any. I want to offer you some kind of hope. Then again, if I had cancer, or diabetes, would I feel that same urge to comfort you, to take care of you? Maybe. I don’t know.

I will leave you with this, one of my favourite quotes from the Bell Jar. It’s as true for me now as it was for Sylvia Plath when she wrote it more than 50 years ago.

“Don’t you want to get up today?”

“No.” I huddled down more deeply in the bed and pulled the sheet up over my head. Then I lifted a corner of the sheet and peered out. The nurse was shaking down the thermometer she had just removed from my mouth.

“You see, it’s normal.” I had looked at the thermometer before she came to collect it, the way I always did. “You see, it’s normal, what do you keep taking it for?”

I wanted to tell her that if only something were wrong with my body it would be fine, I would rather have anything wrong with my body than something wrong with my head, but the idea seemed so involved and wearisome that I didn’t say anything. I only burrowed down further in the bed.

I would rather have anything wrong with my body than something wrong with my head.

But since I do have something wrong with my head, I’m glad I’ve got all of you to listen.

For anyone who is in a state of mental health crisis, here is a link to the Mental Health Crisis line. You can also call Telehealth, if you’re in Ontario. If you are experiencing any kind of depression or are having suicidal thoughts, please, please call one of the numbers above, or else contact your doctor or local mental health crisis line.

art-bell-jar-butterfly-drawing-illustration-Favim.com-134637

What It’s Like To Live Here, Part II

25 Jan

You start to think about hitting rock bottom, what that means, what it would feel like.

You picture it like this:

You’re walking through the woods, along the same path you’ve taken a thousand times before, and suddenly the forest floor gives way beneath you. You fall, for what seems like ages, until you hit the ground. You look around and discover that you’re in some kind of underground cavern. The walls are smooth, the hole you fell through far out of reach. There’s no way you could ever get out on your own.

It’s awful at first, but soon, surprisingly soon, you get used to it. You sleep a lot. You tell yourself stories. You sing, or talk, or shout, just to hear the sound of your own voice. For a few hours each day the sun climbs high enough for you to see it, its rays filtering through the grasses and leafy undergrowth on the surface, throwing strange patterns on the floor.

Sometimes your friends come by. They call to you, but you can’t make out what they’re saying, because they’re too far away. They bring you things: food, books, a blanket. Useful things. Things that would have mattered to you in your old life, in the world above. They don’t seem so necessary anymore, though. You’re not cold anymore. You’re not hungry. You don’t read. That’s not your life anymore, you’re beyond wants, beyond needs. You just lie there, sleeping and singing.

Depression is easy in many ways, often easier than happiness. It doesn’t require much of you, doesn’t ask much of you. All that it wants is for you to suffer, but after a while that suffering feels familiar, comforting almost. Depression is the place you come always back to, and though its landscape is ugly, the colours muddied and muted, it feels strangely like home. Though its’ terrain is bare and uninviting, you know every inch of it, and you derive a sort of satisfaction from that fact. After a while, depression starts to feel normal.

Happiness, by contrast, begins to seem garish, the colours offensively bright, the people too loud, too smiling. While depression saps your energy gently, quietly, happiness is exhausting in a different way.

The other problem with happiness is that it never seems like a real place. You know from experience how quickly the landscape can change around you, melting and shifting like objects in a Dali painting, slowly but surely transforming itself back into that place you know best.

Happiness can’t be trusted; it’s tricky, elusive, and undependable. Depression, whatever else you might say about it, is as regular and predictable as a Swiss clock. Depression, whatever else you might say about it, is honest. It tells you how awful the world is; it doesn’t spare you any gory details.

People tell you not to listen to depression. People want you to think that depression lies.

“Who are you going to trust?” asks your depression, “Some stranger on the internet, or me, the thing you’ve known for almost your entire life? Come on now, be reasonable.”

You want so desperately to be reasonable.

You tell your therapist that you think you need to develop some coping skills. This is the kind of terminology they use, right? Coping skills? You hope that by saying this, you sound like someone who actively wants to get better, someone who’s trying her hardest.

Your therapist tells you that she thinks you already have them, those magical coping skills. You leave her office thinking, what the fuck does she know?

Then you remember what life was like before you felt any kind of ability to cope. You remember crying, publicly, humiliatingly, your sobs coming in huge, heaving gasps that left you unable to breathe. You remember being unable to get out of bed. You remember the world ending, over and over again, all day, every day.

You thank whatever god is out there that you’ve developed coping skills.

Then you get angry, because even though you’re coping, everything still really fucking sucks.

You call your mother and tell her that you’re having a tough time.

“Think of one thing that you’re grateful for everyday,” she tells you. “Write it down.”

After you thank her, politely, and say goodbye, and tell her that you love her, after you’ve hung up the phone, you think, fuck gratitude.

What has gratitude ever gotten you?

Probably lots of things, maybe everything, but you don’t care. You don’t feel like considering that right now.

You don’t feel like considering anything, or anyone. You just want to be left alone, forever. Seeing people makes you feel as if you have some kind of obligation to get well, but you don’t want to have any obligations anymore.

You imagine that at rock bottom there are no obligations.

You start to avoid people, your friends, your family, the strangers who smile at you on the street. You tell yourself that you don’t need human interaction. You tell yourself that you don’t want it.

Then one day you’re crossing the road, and there’s a policeman directing traffic. He motions to you to wait halfway while he lets a car go by, then puts his mittened hand on your back, in the space between your shoulder blades, and says kindly, “Go ahead now, honey, it’s your turn.”

For some reason that one small act is so nice that you think you might cry.

It’s winter, always winter, and you know that this year, spring is never going to come. Fuck logic. Fuck science. Where you live, those things don’t apply. You know that there won’t be a spring in the same way that birds know to fly south in the fall, the same way that spiders know how to build a web. You know it more surely than anything you’ve ever known. You know it in your very bones.

You haven’t hit rock bottom. Not yet. If you did, that would be the real emergency. People would be called. Help would come. You feel guilty about how badly you want help to come. You feel guilty about how appealing rock bottom seems, sometimes. You feel guilty about just about everything.

You fall. And you fall. And you fall. And sometimes you snag a passing tree branch or a rock jutting out into space, and sometimes you even start to pull yourself back up, just a little. But the branch always breaks, and the rock always crumbles. And then you go back to falling.

You wonder how long and far a person can fall.

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How I Told My Friends That I Was Getting Married

23 Jan

Last week, I wrote a post for the Good Men Project on why, from a feminist mother’s perspective, I think that fathers matter. The Marriage editor of the GMP then asked me to write something about feminism and marriage (which will probably end up being something like: “get married if you want to! don’t get married if you don’t want to!”), and so I went hunting for the email I sent my friends after Matt proposed to me. You know, as evidence that I thought I’d never get married and also used to hate marriage.

In my head I remembered this email being a few lines long and slightly awkward. But no. OH NO. It is so much more than that. It’s actually kind of horrifying. Naturally, since I’m pretty embarrassed about it, I’ve decided to make it public. Because that’s a thing that I do, apparently.

Check it out!

Hey dudes,

So, I have some news for you. Before he left for
Ontario, Matt asked me to marry him, and I thought
about it for a while, and then I said yes. I’ll give
you some time now to start pacing around the room and
yelling about how shitty marriage is and why the hell
do all your friends get married and then maybe you
need to call each other and yell some more. And then
maybe throw some things.

I’m actually really scared you guys will think I’m
incredibly stupid for doing this. And I know that
marriage is lame and old-fashioned, but the thing is,
I’m pretty lame and old-fashioned, too. And I’ve
realized that I don’t want to be with anyone else but
Matt, and I want to have a party with my friends and
family to celebrate that. I know I don’t get mushy or
talk about love much, but I really love him a lot, and
I want to spend the rest of my life with him. He’s one
of the few people that I know who can deal with my
awful moods and he puts up with all of my shit without
complaining, and he treats me really, really well, and
also (again) I love him a lot. It’s kind of hard to
put this down in writing and have it sound real and
not ridiculous, but there you have it.

Kat, maybe you remember this and maybe you don’t, but
you said once that that if you ever wanted to have an
abortion, you knew that I’d be right there beside you,
supporting you,  even though it’s not a choice I’d
make for myself. So, I guess it’s kind of shitty to
compare my wedding to an abortion, but I hope that you
can stand by me and not think less of me, even though
it’s not a choice you might make for myself.

I hope that both of you (once you’re done yelling and
smoking and stuff) will be happy for me, because for
once, I’m happy for myself (and that doesn’t happen
often).

Love,
Anne

….

YOU GUYS, I COMPARED MY WEDDING TO AN ABORTION. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?

No, but seriously.

At least I clean up well:

IMG_0957

An Open Letter To Wil Wheaton

21 Jan

Hi Wil Wheaton,

How’s it going? Good, I hope. We’re all fine here. I mean, we just had this gross stomach flu or whatever, and my kid kind of threw up all over everything. But everyone’s okay now. In case you were wondering.

Soooooo about this thing I am writing.

I know I promised you a post showcasing all my hilarious drunk tweets at you, and I swear, I’m getting to that, but you’re going to have to bear with me through a bit of backstory first.

I mean, or not. You can always scroll on through. This is the internet after all.

But if you want to read all the nitty gritty details, here they are:

Twelve was a tough age for me. Some kind of paradigm shift happened over the summer between sixth and seventh grades and I went from being a pretty normal, if obnoxiously know-it-all kid to being the biggest loser in dweeb town (have you ever been there? I don’t recommend it). Part of it was that all the other girls in my class had started wearing tight jeans and cute t-shirts, while my daily outfit usually consisted of a sweatshirt with kittens on it (I had several) and track pants. Part of it was that I’d spent July and August developing a really unfortunate case of acne. The main problem, though, seemed to be that everyone else had collectively decided that they were going to grow up, and meanwhile I was still reading Babysitters Club books and playing with dolls.

It probably won’t surprise you to hear that I had the shit teased out of me. All day, every day. I cried. A lot.

The fact that my father left a year later only compounded my misery.

Have you ever read David Sedaris’ essay A Plague of Tics? In it, he talks about obsessive-compulsive disorder, the symptoms of which he suffered from right up until he started college and took up smoking. He writes,

“It’s as if I had been born to smoke, and until I realized it, my limbs were left to search for some alternative.”

Sometimes I wonder if I was born to be a geek, but didn’t figure it out until seventh grade. I’d always had pet obsessions, things that I read, talked and thought about constantly for a few months before discarding them and taking up a new interest. For a while it was the Titanic, and, if you’d known me during that phase I could’ve given you all the specs of the ship, given you an accurate timeline of it sinking, and spit out a list of famous survivors. After that, I think, it was The Black Death. I also went through periods where I was deeply interested in The Russian Revolution, Anne Boleyn and the Halifax Explosion. It was always something, you know?

In retrospect, I think that I was a geek in search of something to geek out about. Then, when I was twelve, I discovered Star Trek.

Star Trek was like my own private It Gets Better Project. I mean, sure, waiting 400 years for things to get better wasn’t exactly the most optimistic view to take, but still, I enjoyed the fact that someone, somewhere had imagined a future that was vastly better than the present I was living in. A future where socio-economic status didn’t seem to exist anymore (as long as you were in Starfleet, I guess), and nobody had nicer possessions or better clothing than anyone else, because everyone just replicated whatever they wanted. Racism, sexism and gross teenage acne all seemed to be things of the past, and people could legit have sex with robots if they wanted to. And if someone’s dad disappeared*, it was probably because they had died on some kind of mission, sacrificing their lives for Exploration and Science – not because they just didn’t feel like living with their family anymore.

I know it’s popular to hate on Wesley, and make “Shut Up, Wesley” jokes and talk about what a loser he was, but you know what? I liked Wesley. I mean, I liked him because he was cute, and I was twelve, and I wished he was my boyfriend, but I also liked him because I identified with him. Like me, he didn’t seem to have any friends (I mean, yeah, the show tried to pretend that he had friends, but come on now. Let’s be serious grownups, please. You and I both know that Wes did not have any friends). Like me, most of his interactions were with adults who thought that he was pretty smart, but still didn’t exactly respect him. And, like me, he was prone to speaking out at the wrong times, saying the wrong thing, and was generally regarded by everyone as a nuisance.

I was, like, pretty sure that Wesley Crusher was my soul mate.

Naturally, being a trekkie didn’t exactly improve my image at school. I guess I could’ve just, you know, not told anyone about my Star Trek habit but, being me, I couldn’t keep my damn mouth shut. As with my other, former obsessions, I wanted to talk about it all the damn time, forcing my parents, classmates and few remaining friends to listen to me rattle off every tiny detail about the Enterprise and her crew. Pretty soon everyone in my class knew that I had a crush on Wil Wheaton, and the kids who actually knew who that was added that to their reasons to make fun of me. To say that I was miserable would be an understatement.

You know what, though? It helped to have Star Trek tapes to pop into the VCR when I got home. It helped to watch you being a nerd in space, and it helped even more to realize that you were happy being a nerd in space.  It even helped to know that all the other fans of the show hated you because I was like, damn, I am only being crapped on by a bunch of twelve year olds, but here is a dude who is seriously hated by every adult science fiction fan ever, and is he letting it get him down? No, he is hanging out in space, saving the motherfucking Enterprise like a fucking boss.

Eventually, I stopped watching Star Trek. Part of it was that I grew out of the show, but part of it was also self-preservation; if I didn’t want to be a nerdy loser for the rest of my life, I would have to start actually being interested in cool things. I began to cultivate the persona of someone who liked hip, independent films and read near-incomprehensible modern poetry. I shopped at second-hand stores for vintage clothing (mostly because I couldn’t afford anything new), listened to Tori Amos, and dyed my hair weird colours. I learned to be snarky, and started making fun of people before they could make fun of me.

And things did get better. And I met a dude (who thinks you’re aces, by the way), and we got married, and we have an awesome kid. I’m mostly happy now, and the reasons that I have for being unhappy have nothing to do with how popular or attractive I am. All of the things that I hated about being twelve have pretty much been fixed, which is pretty amazing. Even more amazing is the fact that after almost half a lifetime of pretending not to be a geek, I’m finally starting to re-embrace just how nerdy I actually am. And I have to say, it feels pretty good.

Look, Wil, you’ve probably got a lot of things in your life to be proud about. You’ve got an awesome wife, two great sons, and you continue to make some pretty amazing stuff. And Stand By Me is maybe one of the best movies ever made. But if you ever need one more thing to be proud of, you could think about the fact that you helped a sad, lonely twelve-year-old girl get through a really tough time in her life. Maybe you hear this type of thing all the time. Probably you do. Probably none of this really means much to you, but it trust me, it meant a fuck of a lot to me.

So thanks for that. Seriously, thanks a lot.

Anyway, on THAT note, let’s get to those drunken tweets!

Literally The Best Picture Ever

Literally The Best Picture Ever

p.s. The working title for this post was “Girl Tweets Obsessively/Drunkenly At Childhood Crush Until He Responds: A Story of Triumph”

p.p.s. I want all of Wesley’s season one sweaters. Not even kidding. I’m totally into it.

* My dad didn’t actually disappear, we knew where he was and all that jazz. I was just saying that for, you know, dramatic emphasis. He did leave really super suddenly though.

My Life As A Tree

14 Jan

Have you ever seen a kudzu vine? They’re all over the south, their bright green leaves waving gently in the hot, humid air. At first you’ll think that they’re kind of pretty, but once you realize that they’re capable of, you’ll never look at them the same way again.

They’re an invasive species, the kudzu vines; native to Japan and China, they were introduced to America to help prevent roadside erosion. They spread quickly – statistics show that they’re taking over the American South East at a rate of 150,000 acres annually. Kudzu will grow nearly anywhere, on anything, and its advance seems impossible to stop.

Once kudzu starts to take over a field or a forest, it slowly but surely replaces all existing vegetation. It starves the trees and undergrowth by cutting them off from sunlight; once the kudzu has done its work, all that remains is a swath of green, leafy vines, still in the shape of the things they have killed.

kudzu

Sometimes I think that kudzu is the most accurate metaphor for depression that I can come up with. Not just because, at times, it feels like I’m overwhelmed with depression, suffocated and blinded  by it, but also because sometimes I wonder how much of my actual self has been choked off, starved to death. I wonder how much of the me under there is already dead.

Like a tree that’s been covered by kudzu, I don’t look very different from the person I was. I maintain the same shape, the same colour. Outwardly, I’m indistinguishable from someone who isn’t living with depression. And if there are subtle signs that something is wrong – a funny look in my eyes, or a slump to my shoulders – well, those things are easily written off or ignored. With enough effort, I can pass as a person who doesn’t long to spend her days sprawled out on the couch watching re-runs of M*A*S*H, eating chocolate and sobbing.

I am a person who used to be happy. I am a person who used to look forward to things. I am a person who used to laugh, frequently.

It’s not hard to see how much being depressed has altered my life.

What I really wonder, though, is how much of the self I used to be is still intact. When depression first claimed me, I thought that it would be a matter of a few pills and then I would be back to my old self. Now, after years of fighting what Winston Churchill referred to as his “black dog”, years of thinking of it a disease, a medical condition, something that I could recover from, I wonder if it’s possible that the depression is me.

Certainly my life, my choices and my very self have been warped and shaped by depression. At this point, it seems impossible to separate who I really am from all the grinding misery, sadness and negative self-talk that my brain has put me through. When I think about the bad decisions that I’ve made, the not-so-great life choices and the hurtful things that I’ve said, I wonder who or what I’m supposed to blame for them. It seems ridiculous to say that depression didn’t play a part in the fact that I chose to lie in bed, crying and reading trashy novels, instead of doing any homework for basically all of 11th and 12th grade. But it seems just as ridiculous to say that I, myself, the non-depressed, rationally-thinking person who lives somewhere inside of me had absolutely no control over the situation. Surely, at some point, that part must have lacked the will-power or the desire to do what it knew was right.

On especially bad days I begin to believe that I let myself become depressed. I believe that I didn’t fight hard enough or long enough or well enough and, through laziness or lack of discipline, allowed depression to consume me.

Blaming yourself for feeling bad is a slippery slope that never leads anywhere good.

I often think about getting well. Most days it’s the only thing I think about. The truth is, though, that I don’t even know what well is, or what it looks like, let alone how to get there. If I’m being honest with myself, the way that I’m living now feels normal, because it’s the same way that I’ve been living for over half my life. I don’t remember who I was before all this started, and I don’t remember what it was like not to feel like this. I don’t remember what it’s like to get up in the morning and not dread every single thing that has to happen to me before I can finally make it back to bed again.

Someone said to me recently, accusingly, that my problem is that I don’t want to put the necessary work into getting better. The funny thing is, they’re right. I don’t. I’m too tired to do any kind of work. It’s bad enough that I have to get up every day and drag myself through yoga and parenting and writing; I don’t want to have to do any extra work on top of that. Thinking about having to work in order to get well makes me feel exhausted before I’ve even started. Of course I want to get better, but maybe the truth is that I don’t have the energy to do that right now.

It doesn’t help that I don’t really know what people mean by work. Do they mean endless doctor’s appointments? If so, check. Therapy? Check. Medication? Check. Buying self-help books that I’ll never read? Double-check. And, I mean, it’s not like these things are totally useless (except maybe the books), but they’re not really fixing anything, either; mostly they just keep me afloat until the real help arrives. Except that I’m not sure what the real help is, or if it even exists.

The other night, as I was reading through decade-old journal entries, I was struck by how little I’ve changed. I mean, my circumstances have changed, certainly, but the sadness and fear and naked self-loathing I found scrawled on those pages haven’t. Not really. I might be better at hiding those things, better at handling myself in social situations, but truth is that I’m still just as miserable now as I was when I was twenty.

Ten years is a long time to be that miserable.

I also found a quote that I’d copied from Margaret Atwood’s short story, The Sin Eater, which seems just as fitting now as it did then. It’s part of a conversation between the narrator and her therapist, discussing coping skills for her emotional problems:

‘Think of it as a desert island,’ he said. ‘You’re stuck on it, now you have to decide how best to cope.’

‘Until rescued?’ I said.

‘Forget about the rescue,’ he said.

‘I can’t,’ I said.

I can’t forget about the rescue, either.

Because it’s not a nice desert island that I’m stuck on, not one of those tropical ones where you befriend the wild animals and make bras out of coconuts. My desert island is some craggy mass in the North Atlantic, maybe off the coast of Nova Scotia. It’s grey and miserable and wet here, and everything edible tastes like cardboard. It’s always cold, even in the middle of summer. The wild animals are mean, ugly and prone to biting.

The worst part, though, is that the mainland is so close that I can see everyone I used to know going about their daily business. I can even hear them as they talk about all the things that I used to care about. And I’ve tried to get back there. I’ve built boats, dozens of them, to try to cross that narrow strip of water; you can see them there, lined up on the shore of my island, with names like Zoloft and Psychiatry and Therapy painted on their prows.

Nobody ever taught me how to build a boat, though. My crafts are hopeful, but never seaworthy.

Can somebody please send me instructions on how to build a boat?

Dispatches From My 20 Year Old Self

12 Jan

Sometimes when I am too lazy to write a proper entry, I start going through my old diaries and plagiarize myself.

Ever wonder what my world-weary 20 year old self thought about parties, theatre types and love? Well wonder no more! Now you can get the full scoop on what an adorable fledgling misanthrope I was. Oh, and I was pretentious. SO pretentious.

The following was all written during second half of 2002, with the exception of the last entry, which dates from early 2003. I was in my second year at Dalhousie and sharing an apartment with two friends.

On parties, pretentiousness and my dislike of people:

“There seem to be a million people in my apartment. Parties. The last refuge of our socially deprived population [don’t ask me what that means, because I don’t know either – probably I wanted people to have ice cream socials or something instead]. Mixing, flirting, drinking, smoking – a million inane comments, a thousand little gestures to draw attention to the breasts, the crotch.

I enjoy it for a while, the thrill of contact, the first glance of an unknown man. But it doesn’t take me long to become tired of the whole ordeal. I’m holed up in my room now. I think that I could stay right here for a while quite happily. I have my thoughts for company. I don’t need all those pressing bodies, the sweating palms, the desperate faces. Maybe I should be a man.

I told M that I wouldn’t date him. Why? Because I don’t feel that way about him. Because I can’t forget that time last year when he pointed out every ugly aspect of my flawed body. Because I know that I wouldn’t be happy. Not just with him. With anyone. Humanity gets on my nerves.

I can hear everyone outside my door laughing, mingling. They don’t notice my absence, which is just as well. Sometimes invisibility is a gift.”

On my Medieval Philosophy professor:

“Dr. Hankey apparently told Ron that I am ‘very intelligent and sincere’. Meanwhile, I thought that he had a very low opinion of me and possibly did not know my name.”

Randomly, in the middle of a page:

“Idealism is dead”

On being backstage at a one-act play festival:

“God, the entire room is full of bitchy, pretentious theatre types. One girl is holding forth about how she absolutely has to dance to get the ‘demons’ out of herself. Another is talking about a wonderful ‘dark comedy’ that she’s written, and how no one really understands it. A third is talking about African dance, using terms like ‘earthy’ and ‘sensual’. I can’t stand it.

Maybe this is why I can’t be in this profession; the lack of ego. But that isn’t true, I do have an ego. Somehow, underneath it all, I seem to think that I’ve above all of them, above all of this. I hold them all in contempt. Does that actually make me worse than them? It’s like I’m proud for being humble. 

I’m just stupid, that’s what I am.”

On falling in love:

“There we sat in my dimly-lit room, talking by the light of my little pink paper lantern, and I wanted to know everything, everything about him. He told me that he was afraid that he wasn’t even alive anymore because of the way he just ignored stress, it was like he didn’t even feel it. He said that he’d been through so much in the past few years that he barely even registered feeling anything anymore. 

‘What have you been through?’ I wanted to ask. I wanted him to confess it all to me. But it wasn’t right for me to ask. Not yet.

Then we talked about a million other things: post-apocalyptic visions of the world, the Tunguska event, volcanoes, mass extinctions, a room with walls made entirely of drawers, Atlantis, colonizing the moon, the perfect mattress. I can’t recall all of it now. 

What the world will be like when religion completely dies out and man worships himself, if you were a Greek god which one would you be (me=Artemis, him=Apollo), how America can justify bombing everyone, how we’re coming to the end of an era. D was telling me his theory that we’re due for something big soon: the fall of an empire, nuclear winter, a great natural disaster that would put everything into perspective. Because we’ve grown so complacent over the past 50 years that it feels like we’re not even living, like we’re automatons just going through the motions of living, but not really doing it. 

We’d never really talked properly before, and we had so much to say to each other. It was incredible. I finally let him fall asleep around 4:30, even though I could have talked all night. I knew he was tired, though, and had to get up early to drive home. But even though he slept, I still couldn’t seem to fall asleep. I filched the flashlight from the pantry and read Graham Greene under the covers, listening to D breathing softly and shifting in his sleep every once in a while. So here I was, with this boy that I might possibly be falling in love with asleep on my floor, unable to sleep myself but instead listening to him breathe. 

It was a nice night.”

diary

What It’s Like to Live Here

9 Jan

You feel like Miss Havisham, trailing around in your shredded, filthy wedding dress, pacing through the same rooms over and over, past the mouldering wedding cake and the long-dead flowers. And as much as you want to blame someone else, you know that you’ve only yourself to blame – not for the fact that he jilted you (although of course you wonder), but because you can’t seem to move past this one defining point in time. Your whole life will be the moment you realized that he was never coming.

When you cross the street, safely, at the crosswalk, you think about what it would be like if the cars didn’t stop. You wonder what would happen if you were hit, what that point of contact would feel like. You don’t take any risks, because you don’t want to get hurt, and you certainly don’t want to die, but still you wonder. And the wondering scares you.

You lie down to take a nap and spend an hour trying to find the cool spot on your pillow.

You start to think that reincarnation might exist, because you don’t understand how you could have done enough in just one lifetime – half a lifetime, really – to make your synapses misfire this badly. You decide that you must have been a terrible person in a past life.

You pick up the phone. You pick up the phone. You pick up the phone.

You don’t call anyone after all.

People ask how you’re feeling, and you try to explain it, but you can’t. Everything you say seems totally unrelated to you the moment it leaves your lips. You wrestle with words, trying to figure out how to describe this place to someone who’s never been there, but all the petty little nouns and adjectives you’ve collected over the course of a lifetime choose this exact moment to fail you. You feel so frustrated that you want to break something.

You pick up the phone and dial the doctor’s number but there’s no answer. It’s just as well, because you had no idea what you were going to say anyway.

You feel like you’re in limbo, somewhere between the ledge you just jumped off of and the place where you’ll hit rock bottom. You wonder if there’s anything you can do other than flail your arms helplessly, or if you should just try to enjoy the free-fall.

Friends offer help, but you feel too embarrassed to accept it. You realize how ironic it is that that embarrasses you, but vomiting your feelings all over the internet somehow doesn’t.

You finally get angry because none of this is fair, even though you know that fair has nothing to do with it. And somehow anger is easier than anything else you’ve been feeling lately.

Your anger quickly burns out, and then you’re right back to where you started.

You repeat all of the above, ad nauseam, for what seems like forever.

In case you were wondering, that’s what it’s like to live here.

butterfly 2

(I am getting help, I promise – it’s just taking some time)

That Time We All Had The Plague

7 Jan

On the days when I think that God might exist, I’m convinced that if he is out there, somewhere, he is some kind of divine troll who thinks that everything is an elaborate joke.

How else do you explain the fact that, five minutes after posting my last entry, Theo started throwing up all over my bedroom floor.

It’s like God reads my blog and he was like, “Girl, you think you are in crisis? Let me show you crisis.”

If you’ve ever read the Bible, you know that God is pretty big into plagues. Like, remember when he wanted the Egyptians to free the Isrealites? And he inflicted TEN PLAGUES on them? I mean, I get that his chosen people were enslaved or whatever, but ten just seems excessive. That is, like, a LOT of plagues. I am just saying.

Luckily for us, we haven’t been keeping any Israelite slaves, so we got off easy with just one plague. Still, though, I’m thinking of painting lamb’s blood on our lintels for the next few weeks, just in case. Better safe than sorry, right?

For the first day or so the plague was manageable. I mean, sure, Theo was throwing up every 15 minutes and none of us got more than two hours of sleep Thursday night, but it wasn’t too bad. We were sure that we could handle it. On Friday morning we called Theo’s daycare and they said that five other kids were out sick with the same thing, but all of them had stopped vomiting after about 6 hours. Great, we thought, the worst was behind us.

We started making plans for the weekend.

That was obviously our first mistake.

My friend Artem used to quote an old Russian proverb at me: “If you ever want to see God laugh, try making plans.”

And oh, how God laughed. He laughed and laughed and laughed.

Theo was still throwing up all day Friday. He kept crying for water, but every time we gave him some, it came right back up. If you ever want to see the most pathetic thing in the world, just imagine a toddler wandering around crying, “More water! More water!”. And then imagine me cleaning up his vomit over and over again.

By Saturday Theo seemed better on the puking front, but still wasn’t himself. He just wanted to spend the whole day lying on the couch. That was fine with us, because by that point none of us were feeling great. Matt was nauseous and worried that he was coming down with the same thing that Theo had; I was feeling off, but was also in a healthy state of denial. I forced myself to eat breakfast, telling myself that food would make me feel better, then called Telehealth to find out what to do about Theo. They told me to bring him to the ER, which is really the only thing Telehealth ever tells you, so I could probably have saved myself the ten minute phone call, but whatever.

I dragged myself through my clothing-and-makeup routine, packed Theo into his stroller and then headed out to catch the bus to Sick Kids. Matt was feeling too sick to come with us, but my friend Eden was going to meet us there. Thank God.

We got to the hospital and I had the delightful experience of having about five different people ask me, “Is there another adult with you?” which I guess is code for, “Are you a slutty single mom on welfare?” I fought down the urge to say, “YES, I AM A SINGLE MOM, IS THAT GOING TO BE A PROBLEM?” and instead said that there would be another adult joining me shortly. I was kind of hoping that Eden and I could pose as a couple, and wondered if lesbians would draw more or less attention than a single mother.

As the afternoon went by I felt worse and worse, but I told myself that it was just because I was tired. I texted Matt and he said that he was feeling better, so there was no way that I could be sick, right? I figured that if I just kept telling myself that I was fine, I would be fine. I mean, The Secret and laws of attraction and positive thinking and all that. I considered making a vision board of me not being sick, but realized that the ER waiting room lacked the necessary art supplies.

An hour or so after Eden showed up, I went to buy a bottle of water. While I was waiting in line, I started feeling kind of awful, but I used The Secret to tell myself that I was just dehydrated and water would fix me right up. By the time I made it to the head of the line, my vision had gone grey and I knew I was going to pass out. I sat down on a nearby chair and put my head between my knees, amid cries of “Miss! Your water!” from the confused Subway employee.

After a few minutes of sitting down, I realized that I wasn’t so much going to faint as I was going to throw up. Frantically, I tried to figure out what to do about this fact. You would think that if you were going to puke, the hospital would be the perfect place to accomplish this, right? That being said, the hospital food court probably wasn’t the best place in the world to get sick.

I ran to the bathroom, and made it into a stall just in time to throw up everywhere. I mean fucking everywhere. To make matters worse, the cleaning lady was right there to witness my shame.

“I’m sorry!” I kept saying to her, between heaves. “I’m really sorry! I’m so sorry!”

She just stood there, silent. Finally she said,

“You want some extra paper towel?”

“Yes, please,” I answered pathetically.

When I made it back to the waiting room, Eden took one look at me and said,

“You look green.”

Theo, of course, looked great. The Pedialyte the triage nurse had given us had worked miracles. Even the doctor, when we finally saw her, said that he seemed to be totally over whatever bug he’d had. Turning her gaze to me, she said,

“You look like you’re not feeling so great, though.”

Understatement of the year.

We’re all feeling better today – Matt and Theo are basically back at 100%, and I’m, well, not throwing up, so that’s a plus. I’ve spent most of the day in bed, reading trashy fantasy novels and tweeting at Wil Wheaton (we have a really special relationship where I tweet hilarious things at him and he ignores me). Between my last post and a few desperate Facebook posts from yesterday and Friday, I’ve been overwhelmed with kind words from friends and strangers. People have offered to help, either by looking after Theo, letting me crash at their place, or coming over to do laundry or dishes. I’m not normally the sentimental type (nostalgia is really my forté), but I would be lying if I said that all this love hasn’t made me tear up a bit. Maybe even a lot.

I love you guys, almost as much as I love my pukey, plague-bearing kid.

I’m pretty sure he’s worth all of this:

theo_shirt