High-Functioning

I keep seeing stories about high-functioning depression all over the soc-meedz (social media) and I think it’s super weird. People always say the weirdest things about high-functioning depressive types. They were so happy. You’d never guess. They were so successful. They had their life together. By all accounts, they were living the perfect life. I had no idea. I can’t believe they’d do this. They just seemed so normal.

Really, people?

Maybe it’s because I live with more mental illness than the normal person, but no suicide attempt ever comes out of nowhere. No one is perfectly fine while keeping a deep dark secret of extreme depression. No one is living a perfect life right before they chase a bottle of aspirin with a bottle of vodka. (Do people still try to kill themselves with aspirin? I don’t actually know.)

No one is fine.

Some of the most depressed people I know are also the most social, the most ambitious, the most outwardly happy… The ones that invite you to brunch every weekend. Know how to spot a depressed person? Look for someone whose life you envy. Look for someone that seems happy. Look for someone. Anyone.

What’s really bothering me about this article trend isn’t that people managed to slip under the radar. What’s really eating at me is that I AM NOT HIGH-FUNCTIONING, AND PEOPLE STILL DON’T GIVE A FUCK.
I’m not outwardly happy. I’m not social. I don’t have my life together. I’m not overachieving. I don’t have stable relationships. I don’t see people on a regular basis.
I’m reclusive, moody, very forward about my general dislike of people, and in general the only high-functioning aspect to me is that I get up and go to work consistently.
It’s not an achievement.

And yet… If I went home this evening and hung myself from my stairs, people would be just as surprised as ever.

High-functioning mental illness is scary, but not because no one ever sees it coming… it’s scary because no one cares. I’ve thrown up pretty much every red flag on the list short of actually drinking bleach. I’m drowning in myself over here. I’m choking on life and the reality of every day being the same.

Last night I went home and had a hysterical breakdown. It was a shitty day. I rode home in weird tense silence with my very depressed mother. We stopped at the grocery and all I could manage to think of to buy were Michellina’s dinners, because they were a dollar. Then I went home and one of my dogs tried to eat my computer mouse, my record collection, and generally wrecked the house. I freaked out and after yelling about how I don’t deserve to be treated this way, I left. Just left.
Fortunately, I had no where to go. Went home and dug out a giant dog kennel, which is where my darling Keagan is today… Spent an hour reinforcing the seams, because it’s pop-up and last time I used it, Kyrie busted herself out of it and destroyed her face fitting through the seams. Blood everywhere. Not doing that again… Then I literally sat in a chair and stared at nothing for 30 minutes.
Then I went to bed at 8pm.
I woke up this morning at 1am… and proceeded to just watch iZombie till it was time to leave for work. In that time, I also decided that I should just box up everything I own and either store it under the house or toss it. I don’t really use anything, so it’s not like I’d miss any of it, other than for sentimental reasons. I essentially just watch TV at this point in my life. Lost all creative juices, no motivation to fix up the house, and sometimes I just want to lay in the middle of the floor and stare at the ceiling…

But if I go home and kill myself, no one is going to see that coming.
They never see anything coming.

You don’t have to be high-functioning to hide. Just avoid the subject and people will gladly pretend not to see the scars. Smile and people will look past the tears. Apologize when you’ve thrown a fit and no one thinks twice about it even happening. You’re not depressed or bipolar. You’re just eclectic, or a little sad sometimes, maybe having a hard time. You’re the novelty friend. You’re really busy, so you don’t get out much.

High-functioning, my ass.

Holiday Hollowness

I know this guy. His thing is that every Christmas Eve, for like 40 years, he does the Salvation Army thing. He prides himself on raking in a lot of money for them. Today he was doing that and someone did a snatch-and-grab on his bucket, causing him to lose all the money people had donated.

I know the Salvation Army is flawed. (They hate homosexuals, apparently. Google it.) All charities tend to be flawed somehow. That’s not the point. The point is that this man in his late 60s (at least) gets a real sense of purpose from collecting money for them. He thinks it’s something he can do to help the world.

And today someone took that from him. On Christmas Eve.

People talk about Christmas like it’s the time of year you can forget how crap everything is. Christmas is supposed to be the time of year that the world can be a Hallmark Movie. Miracles happen and families realize how much they need each other. Everyone sits around a table and laughs; people gather together to share feelings of goodwill. This isn’t the Christmas I’ve ever known.

When I was a kid I loved Christmas. It still wasn’t a Hallmark Movie, but I loved it. In my mother’s crawlspace, right this moment, is enough Christmas stuff to open a seasonal retail store. We went all out for it. We put up a tree and decked it out in all these ornaments that we’ve collected over the years, and we put lights up outside, and it was a magical kind of day. I woke up to a living room full of boxes and bags, and stockings full of weird little awesome things that I didn’t even know I wanted. I got toys and clothes and electronics. Every year I got a storybook of Lifesavers.

As I got older, of course I received less things, but I still liked Christmas. It was a day that I got to spend with Mom, and even though we were both tired we tried to make it nice. We’d have good food for grazing, and we’d watch all the Christmas movies on TV.

For a few years I would go to my dad’s for Christmas Eve. I didn’t like that because they did Christmas at Midnight… and it was a pretty far drive for 16 year old me to traverse in ice and snow. It was never worth it, anyways. I never felt like I belonged there, and no one ever really knew what to get me that would indicate any kind of understanding of my personality. The closest they got was the book The Ruins by Scott Smith that my step sister bought me second hand from a library.
Now, of course, I don’t speak to them, so I don’t have to do that, but it also means I have nothing to do on a Christmas Eve. (I kept waiting to see if I gt some scathing text for sending my stepmom’s mother a Christmas card this year and no one else. Her husband died this year, and they were always very nice to me, so I thought it would be the nice thing to do. I didn’t receive any kind of response to it, so that’s good, I guess.)

So what are the holidays now?

Mom and I don’t really do anything. We don’t put up decorations anymore. We don’t go anywhere. We do buy food. Tomorrow we are eating shrimp and crab, because we like seafood. I made salsa to snack on chips with, because I thought… I dunno what I thought. I volunteered to do it in a particularly festive moment, but it doesn’t actually mean anything and we didn’t really need it. Before we left work this afternoon a manager gave me an apple pastry braid, so I’ll make that for breakfast. Then we’ll do our meager present exchange, both of us thinking that the other person is probably going to hate everything. We are going to a movie, as an excuse to leave her house, and then we’ll just watch TV and wait for the day to end. It’s about the most un-festive Christmas you could probably think of for a middle class, white, suburban family.

Christmas, at this point, means nothing to me other than feeling like a failure at shopping for my mother. It’s a day off of work before we fall into the horrors of year end. Just like Easter and Thanksgiving, it’s just a day I’m going to spend with my mom where we try to find something to watch and try not to focus on the fact it means nothing.

My friend says that my lack of Christmas spirit is sad. Granted, he’s also the guy that can be so pessimistic about life that I sometimes wonder how he even gets up in the morning… so I take his criticism with a grain of salt.

Still… Let’s review how everyone I know is spending Christmas.
Racist and/or homophobic relatives that like to talk about politics, and at least half of them want to vote for Trump.
Siblings being awful to each other, even though they’re all grown and don’t see each other but once or twice a year.
Adult children being awful to their elderly parents because somehow being 90+ doesn’t entitle you to miss ANY PART of Christmas.
Dodging questions about marriage and kids, especially if your significant other happens to be an ethnic same-sex-as-you person you’ve been dodging telling anyone about. (Or, if you’re me, dodging the “I never intend to get married or have kids” conversation with your deep south family that all had their oldest kids in high school.)
General discomfort with visiting relatives you either don’t really know or don’t like being in the same room with. (Especially if they’re staying in the house…)
Those distant relatives that don’t know about affection consent and insist you hug and kiss them, even though you feel really uncomfortable doing that to people you don’t know.

I have one friend whose’s handling his mom’s funeral and estate this holiday season. He’s an orphan now. My mom said that when her parents died, too. People don’t realize we all end up orphans in the end. Maybe that’s why they can be so awful to their parents.
Maybe it’s hypocritical to say, since I cut all ties with my dad. I can see how you’d think that.

No. That’s not my Christmas, so in comparison a quiet gift exchange with food at my mom’s place shouldn’t really be that bad. And yet, here we are. I’m sitting here at 11pm on Christmas Eve, listening to old Christmas albums I loved as a kid (A Very Special Christmas & A Very Special Christmas 2), and instead of feeling full of joy I’m close to crying. I go through a lot of the year trying to be okay. I can’t afford to lose it, because if I lose it then mom will too. Something about this Christmas, though… It’s hard and it hurts and I’m just so fucking depressed.

I can’t draw.
I can’t craft.
I can barely clean or do laundry.
I don’t want to see anyone.
I barely bought any gift this year, because there’s no point getting gifts for the meager number of people in my life at this point.
I don’t even want Christmas to happen.

And then there’s this little piece of me, that still hurts, but it wants to make cookies and sing carols and decorate a Christmas tree, and then shove an ungodly number of well thought out gifts for people I love under it. I want to wear Christmas sweaters and sit around a table with a family and laugh as we all enjoy some superfluous meal it took two people and three days to make.

I want Christmas to be a Hallmark Movie.

And it just won’t be.

Even if I tried to put some meaning back into Christmas… insisted that I make dinner, that we put up trees and lights, handmade all my gifts for people and wrapped them in brown paper with colorful handmade bows, invited people to a Christmas Eve party… I don’t think Mom would get on board, and my friends, historically, don’t show up to my parties anymore. (I’m still depressed about that picnic I planned that 1 person and my mother showed up to… I invited over 50 people… I have not tried to have a gathering since.)

I hope that someone out there is having a nice Holiday Season.
I hope that someone out there is having a Hallmark Movie kind of Holiday Season.

Mean Kids

I don’t want kids.
If anyone comments that I’ll feel different when I meet the right man and settle down, A, I’d like to remind you that I’m an aromantic asexual, 2, no one asked for your comments, and D, shut up, because saying shit like that to impressionable minds ruins generations of kids that think they’re fucked up for not feeling what people told them they would be feeling. JUST LET ME FEEL WHAT I FEEL.

Anyways, I read an article on some website about reasons Millennials aren’t having kids.
Apparently, I’m not the only one… Reasons for this include:

  • Student loans making financial stability impossible
  • Passing along crazy
  • World already feeling overpopulated
  • Fertility issues
  • Pregnancy being shitty, in general (if not potentially dangerous)
  • Fear of not parenting correctly
  • Lack of maternal instinct
  • The world being seriously fucked up
  • Careers being more important than starting a family
  • Wanting to have a lifestyle that a kid doesn’t fit into, like being a nomad
  • Just not wanting them

I fall into the “mental illness” camp, amongst others.

At this point, whatever is wrong with me, I sure don’t want to pass on to kids. Being a kid was shitty, and being a fucked up kid was hard. More importantly, though, I don’t want to be a mentally ill person raising a kid. I don’t think we mentally ill people really do kids justice when it comes to parenting. People are already just doing the best they can on that front, as it is. When you throw mental illness in there… Things get tricky, and very quickly it can get very unhealthy.

My dad is bipolar. I didn’t grow up with him, but all my shrinks have agreed that I prolly get most of my mental illness from him. My mom has clinical depression. I didn’t used think that her depression effected me much, but I’m beginning to think otherwise.

When I was in high school, I went through puberty, as ya do, but I also started being volatile, self destructive, having mood swings outside the scope of PMS and normal teen girl feelings, and it was the start of my love story with suicide. It was terrible. Long before that, though, I can remember things being wrong.

Growing up, I was adorable. We were broke, but my mom found the best dresses and shit, and made sure I looked great, and that I was happy. I never knew we were poor till way later… like maybe late middle school, early high school. I would say that means she did quite well with me. I was a well-balanced little nerd child with high grades and not a foul thought floating around in my head.

Middle school was hard on me. I’d swapped out of private school to public school when we moved the previous year, so I’d lost all my friends, the curriculum was literally so easy that I didn’t understand it for like a month, and I just wasn’t really fitting in that well. I liked my after-school care, because the adults were cool (the kids weren’t terribly fond of me), but middle school is the end of when you can put kids in after-school care… So, I felt quite alone.

I learned to be a latch-key kid, take the bus home to an empty house and lock all the doors… never answer the phone till it goes through to voicemail and mom says it’s her… But I still had problems. The overwhelming problem was that a lot of people wanted to pick on me. I WAS a little fat girl with no fashion sense and overdeveloped social skills that kids didn’t get…. so… I guess I was asking for it. It got really bad, though. I’d come home and cry a lot. One day a kid hurled a rock bigger than my fist at my head. It hit me on the back of the skull, knocked me down… there was blood. I went home and cried. I did not go home and tell my mother anything about it.

Here’s the thing. My mom was a great mom. She still is. The thing about my mother, though, is that she’s great at making me feel like my own problems don’t matter. When I was a kid I was hyper-aware that my mom was very busy and very depressed. She went back to work two weeks after I was born, and even when she ended up unemployed she found work to go out and do (selling our stuff on the side of the road in a shit town in Florida). She’s worked everyday of her life to try and give me a great life. Not once have I ever intentionally taken that for granted.

So when I had problems in middle school with shitty boys trying to break my skull open, I went home and cried it out before she got home. When I entered high school started thinking about how much I hate myself, I went home and cried it out before she got home. When I made bad choices and wanted to tell someone about it, I went home and cried it out before she got home. When I felt like I was going crazy and couldn’t control what I was thinking or feeling, I went home and cried it out before she got home. When I thought about killing myself, I went home and stared at my method of choice for hours, and then put it away before she got home.

I didn’t manage to hide everything. She was aware of my failing grades from not going to class. She was aware that I would binge eat. She was aware that I didn’t ask to go hang out with my friends much, which is apparently abnormal. She watched as I spend more and more time plugged into the computer. She was the one that bought me all my goth wear. She was often who took the brunt of my anger when I flew into a rage that I couldn’t explain.

I guess she was just too busy to put all those pieces together.

I told her about the rock incident recently, in passing, and she asked why I didn’t tell her, then. I couldn’t tell her that it was because I didn’t feel like I could tell her most things. My problems haven’t been something I wanted to bother her with for a long time. I like to say that made me independent. I think it’s really made me distant to people.

In high school, when I was slowly losing my mind, I remember us getting in a fight one day, and her telling me that I say terrible things to her. I still don’t think I did. I mean, I knew what my friends said to their parents and I wouldn’t dream of ever saying shit like that to my mother. In retrospect, I think it was the bad mix of a volatile bipolar (amongst other things) teenage girl and a clinically depressed woman. I would yell or be upset and she would take everything to heart. Every word engraved on her fragile psyche, forever.

I’m better now… in the sense that I’m trained to act relatively normal, and then go home and blow up or shut down or whatever in the privacy of my own home, where no one can hear me scream but the dogs. I still go home and cry a lot. I also sometimes go home and drink, or smoke, or take a percocet, or maybe all three if I’m feeling particularly like life is meaningless. I have gotten better about going home and eating, though… so… improvement.

Yesterday I caught myself self-harming. Back in the day I was cutter. Being so pale, as I am, you can’t see most of the scars, though. I’ve since learned that things like that make people aware… so I took a can of air duster, held it upside down, and sprayed it at my arm. I’ve done it before. It hurts, because the fluids inside are cold to keep the air compressed. It’s a biting kind of pain that it comparable to putting your hand on a hot stove. You lurch away from the immediate feeling, but it lingers… spiking now and then. So long as you don’t do it too long, there’s no lasting evidence you did anything. Your skin will get a little red… if you do it often you might get some blistering… Two weeks ago I did it WAY too long and I developed first stages of frostbite. Even now, the skin that took the most damage is just a little scaly. You can’t really see it anymore, but I can feel it when I run my fingers over the spot.

I guess until yesterday I didn’t think of this game as self harm, to be honest. I’ve always like the cold from canned air. I used to play with it all the time. It’s only in the past few years I’ve taken it farther than I used to… pushing my cold limits.

I think I’d be a mostly great mom, just like mine was… but with these habits of mine… with these mood swings and necessity to decompress once a day in a blaze of emotional turmoil… I can’t subject a kid to that. It’s bad enough I subject the dogs to that…

Related/Unrelated: Got the new Ghost Town album today! Here’s a song off of it that’s kinda related to this entry.

Getting Dragged Down

So I’m Bipolar. Amongst other things.
Let’s start there.

You may have heard the phrase “trigger” being thrown around the internet by people. Usually, and I don’t care who hates me for saying it, this term is used when someone says something that offends another person on the internet, or brings up something that reminds someone of something they’re trying to forget. It’s kind of a bullshit term for, “I can’t handle this, but I don’t have the common sense to get the fuck off the computer.”

As a person with mental illness, well out of my teen years, I’m not really into that scene. If you say trigger to me, I stop talking to you. I can’t even deal with your bullshit. I have my own, and I don’t run around trying to tell people not to say or do things just because they make me feel like I’m full of worms and decayed flesh. That’s not real life. Real life is a word stabbing pain into your gut like a knife, and you swallowing hard before plastering a smile across your face anyways as people laugh at something that brings you excruciating pain. Real life is getting up and dragging your ass out of bed even though your whole being is begging you to just lie there in bed until you die. Real life is feeling your world crashing down around you, and still just going about your life like any other person. Real life is going home and drowning your pain in some vice of your choice, and still getting up the next day like it never happened. That’s life.

When I say trigger. I mean a trigger. I mean that in the midst of all this fake living I do for the sake of appearance and normality, something has managed to work its way deep into the recesses of my inner being and poke at just the right spot to cause my chest to cave in. I mean that I’ve managed to crash through the floor of my depression, and that I now have to spend some time wallowing around in the black ink of despair for a while, all while maintaining the best outward expression of normality that I can. It’s quite exhaustive.

My trigger, more often than not, always comes from my mother. That’s not to say that my mother is abusive, or that she sets unrealistic expectations for me, or any of that. My mom’s great… But she is horrifically depressed. Most days I can more or less brush it off, but sometimes it just eats at me like a disease. I mean any conversation with her feels like she’s not even remotely listening to me, which bothers me immensely, and any time I ask her about things she puts such a grey cast on it that I can feel myself getting pulled down with her.

If you don’t know, there are levels of to mood… I arrange them by color.
The white zone is mania. I love the white zone. I can get so much done… I’m irrationally happy… I am just excitement and awesome and life is grand.
The red zone is manic anger… I like that one, too, but it’s because I come up with the cruelest revenge plots… I don’t usually get to act on them, though, because I burn through the adrenaline too fast.
The blue zone is contentment. That’s the moment when I wake up feeling refreshed, and I look around at my dogs and just smile to myself and spend all day reading and sipping tea, and everything is just kind of okay. I don’t get to spend a lot of time here.
The beige zone is what I imagine most people live in. I’m not up, or down. I’m just kinda here. It’s where usually am when I go out with friends, because I like going out, but I don’t usually like whatever my friends might have dragged me to.
The gray zone is where my mother lives. It’s sad, but it’s not bawling or anything. You just feel shit, and you enjoy nothing, and even if you think you might enjoy something, a piece of your brain kicks on that reminds you why you can’t enjoy this moment… I don’t spend much time here, myself… instead…I end up in the black. That’s usually a term for not being in debt, but I’m crazy in debt… For me in the black refers to the void. When I get dragged down, you can see nail tracks in the grey as I speed past it down into the black. It’s where my soul goes to die. I don’t like it there, as you might imagine. It’s like my brain is stuck in a tar pit. Everything I try to do to get out makes the experience worse. I get dragged farther and farther down until I can’t even see a glimmer of the white zone anymore. It’s usually when I curl up somewhere (the shower is a great curling spot) and just try not to feel anything.

Feeling nothing is better than the black. Or maybe it’s part of it. I’m never sure. I just know that if I can manage to feel nothing, I can resurface somewhere in the gray or beige zone and work from there. The important thing is to get out of the black… to find some way to rise up out of the darkness and not kill myself or something equally as irrational and stupid (because all that shit makes perfect sense in the black).

At work or anywhere that isn’t home, however, I can’t curl in a ball somewhere and wait it out. No, instead I have to figure out some way to claw my way out of the black without losing my composure… without anyone noticing. Some attempts are better than others. Sometimes I can sit at my desk, take a Xanax, and listen to music until I’m kind of okay. Sometimes I end up snapping at people. Sometimes I end up hiding in the bathroom until I’m sure I’m not going to lose it. None of these things are particularly effective. I’m going to be in the gray or the black all day. There’s no way to pull myself out, because I have nowhere to reset.

Today that overwhelming feeling of of black has decided that I’m not going to eat. Fortunately, I’m fat from all the binge eating I usually do when I’m upset, so I won’t actually suffer for it, but it does give me a queasy feeling that makes me irrationally sad. Also, I’m cancelling things I love… I might re-up later, but when I get like this I just want to get rid of everything I own or do, and just stay in my house forever…. never seeing anyone, never leaving, just me and the dogs… maybe order some books from the internet to occupy my mind… It’s a bad feeling. I don’t like it. I don’t like this side of me. I don’t like the monster I turn into when my moods change.

Werewolf

I’ve been told that his is what it’s like to watch my moods change.

Nothing’s going to make this right, right now. Maybe when I get home eight or so hours from now, then it will all be fine. Maybe I can crawl into bed and sleep it off, or cry it out, or throw something at a wall and watch the shattered pieces as a metaphor for my insides…