Saturday, December 20, 2014

Depression Hurts - Revisited and Revamped

I think the year I acknowledged something was wrong was the year I turned 18. I was working at my local chicken shack (happy as can be, mind you, because every night at ten we could take the chicken home with us), going to school, participating in chorus. I was fine, better than fine, I was happy. Until  one day I just wasn't anymore. Suddenly, I was going to school, going to work, coming home, and laying motionless in bed for hours. My participation in extra curricular activities dropped drastically. I stopped bringing home excess chicken. And I stayed in that state for maybe 8 months. (Until, like a light switch being turned on, I was "back," faster, brighter and more engaging than ever.)

My parents blamed puberty, or teen angst and rebellion for my sudden disinterest and brazen disregard for rules and during a tough time, my mom sent me to live with my dad in North Carolina. The depression resumed, but in a new setting. My room was always dark, shades drawn and lights out. My only companions were some guy on the internet who was weird but always there and a pug-nosed dog with oily smelling gas I named Nuu-Nuu (even though her name was Peachez...Yes, with a "Z."). I spent months in that dark room, putting forth lack-luster effort to learn guitar, learn chess, exercise...putting forth minimal effort to be "normal."

Then I started school. Met my best friend W. Had the best year of my life, even with all the ups and downs of new friendships, new responsibilities and doing much of the household upkeep on my own as my dad and his wife were military and not home much at all. Again, I was "back" it seemed. I was having fun. I felt alive. I felt real. And then my parents moved me again.

And the cycle started over.

And it took years from that point for me to enter therapy (after a particularly ugly nervous breakdown) and get a diagnosis.

Hey. My name's Testorshia. And I have Bipolar II disorder.

For awhile, I denied it. For all my studying of random points of interest, I had very little idea what bipolar disorder was. I had heard it used as a punchline, an excuse for a sudden change of mind or outburst, but never would have equated the symptoms to myself. Not only that, I found that my anxieties, which I thought were abnormal but expected, signaled an anxiety disorder that coincided with the bipolar. Something was wrong with me. Something was wrong with me. That's all I could think for so long; I had to be fixed. There had to be something I could do. I wanted desperately to fit in, to be "normal" and not feel like some sort of sideshow of emotions and nerves, some sort of carnival of depression and mania.

I fought it. I didn't take the medications. I didn't write the journals. I didn't do the homework my therapist gave me. I was normal, damnit. I was gonna keep on being normal. This thing wouldn't change me. I wouldn't let it.

And then, tired of fighting, I accepted it. Therapy, after I stopped being so stubborn, was a break-through. All the things I'd been telling myself for years were neither right nor wrong. I was normal. I was fine. I was also ill. And so not fine. There's a grayness in life, I learned, where you can be both and neither, some, few and all, all at the same time. Life's ambiguity, life's malleability had eluded me for so long. I had always had such strict ideas about what I should be doing, who I should be impressing, who I should love, failing to realize that those points can and most times do change except in this way: I should do what I want to do, I should impress me, I should love me.

There are some days I hate my diagnosis. Days where I feel the medication clouds my creativity, blocks off the parts of myself that are so vibrant and full of wonder, I am almost mad at myself for being ill in this way. Yet other days, I am proud of how far I've come: from that girl laying in bed thinking of lying down on a busy highway at night, to the girl sitting on her balcony in a blanket blowing bubbles at the moon. My diagnosis, my illness, for all the hell it's given me, has also given me peace and clarity. It's given me a voice, a perspective, I couldn't have dreamed would be my own, but here I am, living in it, or at least trying to, with some semblance of grace and self-sufficiency.

Here I am. All broken, and whole, all sadness and joy. Here I am, all of me.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

I'm Mad at the Internet

It came to me in the tub actually. I was soaking and mellowing out to a "Night" playlist, candles lit and lights out with my favorite bubble bath crackling around me. I do my best thinking in water, and without my glasses, so all the shapes and colors and shadows blend and my mind can focus inward.

I'm mad at the internet. That's why I don't write. It's why I don't tweet as often (except Thursdays because Shonda Rhimes, obviously). It's why it's like I've disappeared from the communities that I used to draw inspiration and strength from. It's not that I have nothing to say, it's just the opposite. I've got so much to say, but I don't feel like this space is my own anymore. I feel like I'm shouting into a void of darkness with no echo, no sound returning.

It'd be easy enough to blame Tarzan. I sort of relinquished Twitter to him; we follow a lot of the same people and talk about some of the same things and it was easier for me to forget the loneliness left in his wake when I'm not constantly seeing him on my time line. The real real is that I'm mad at me.

I am still so open. I am still so tender. And I'm still so hurt. I tell myself all the time, it was just a break up, shouldn't you be done with this by now? The tender side of me responds that it was the first, it meant the most, to be told I was great, but not great enough to keep. The tender side of me knows what the logical side doesn't; it's all internalized. Mostly, I miss being in love, and sort of blame myself that I'm not anymore.

I don't miss being in love with the guy. Looking back it was...something that I'm glad happened but we're not simpatico. Even back then, I don't think we really were. I miss the clarity that being in love gave me, the fullness of heart and the cure to the loneliness that was running rampant in my spirit at the time. I miss being able to be open sexually and sensually with someone who wanted me. I miss sex (like, OH my God...) and meaningful touch... But because of the internet, I don't trust my judgement much anymore; I mean, I put it out there, got an answer I am, alone again.

But back to being mad at the internet. I rationalize not writing because no one is listening, but I know that's not necessarily true. People are listening; maybe that's what I'm afraid of. The internet gave me something I felt I was missing for a long time, and then...well, I don't have that thing anymore. I am myself, in everything I do, in everything I write. I'm afraid it'll happen again; I'll be the girl in love, the girl saying all the things, and working her ass off just to end up alone.

It's irrational. I know it is. And yet...I don't allow myself the freedom of expressing myself outside of the journals I keep for myself. I don't talk about myself much at all anymore. I don't create worlds anymore. I don't shout my dreams into the void and wait for an answer. Because sometimes, you get an answer back. And sometimes the answer just leads to more confusion and more questions.

So, because of the internet, I'm back to being the girl sheltering her heart. Back to being the girl afraid to be heard. But I miss it. I miss the feeling of keys under my fingers. I miss writing it all out and looking at it; it's like an acknowledgement of myself, because this blog is attached to my name - this blog is me. Facing your truth is one of the tenets of enlightenment, isn't it? If not, it sorta should be.


Friday, July 4, 2014

New Phases

Where have I been? What have I been doing? Do I even write anymore?

Physically, here, mentally, everywhere. Everything, and nothing. And yes, just not like I used to in style or frequency which upsets me. But, here I am.

I'm writing today because, after spending time alone in the quiet before a beautiful Texas thunderstorm I asked myself two questions I'd never asked myself before. Are you happy? Do you like who you've become this past year?

Happiness, for me at least, is so complicated. Anyone who meets me for extended periods of time always tell me that there's an underlying sadness in me. Even when I smile, even when I laugh, even if I'm just staring off into space, sadness is there, like an aura or an unidentified ingredient in the mystery that is me. I've come to accept that. I've realized that about myself for a long time, and instead of attempting to change it, I've grown to embrace it. I don't embrace it in that hipster "we're all sad and damaged here" kind of way, but more in the "this is who you've always been, don't fight who you are" sort of way. It makes things beautiful, y'know? (If not, I'll explain another blog because...whooo)

So, how do I answer that question? As someone who's default setting is just a shade past "okay" into the "melancholy" palate, can I ever be happy? The truth is, I don't know. Do I feel better? Hell yes. Between my vast hiatuses with writing this blog, posting on Twitter or doing anything really, I'd been going to therapy to try and heal the fissures in my spirit. I was broken, and what was worse, I was pretending that I wasn't, trying my damnest to keep all the pieces from falling apart by taping and gluing what pieces of me I could scramble together back to the core of me. It didn't work. I fell apart.

For a long time I was ashamed. I'm 23! What the hell do I have to be so sad about? What gives me the right to fall apart? People need me! I've got bills! I've got shit to do! After months with a really great therapist, I've been able to put everything in perspective, manage my stress, and accept the sadness. Accept not only the sadness, but that I can never be perfect. I can never be all together. I can never be everything to everybody. And that's okay; I can be there for me, make sure that I'm good and then help others. I can be happy with me, and content with my life.

So, if happiness is contentment, if happiness is peace of spirit and a connected soul, then yeah, I'm happy.

Liking myself is so weird. Not because I've never done it before (which, I'll admit, is kind of true) but because it seems like a no-brainer now. I'm likable as hell. I've been saying the words, and reading off the personality traits for so long -sweet, kind, smart, funny- that they don't mean anything anymore; they are still true, but they don't resonate. I'm restless and hopeless and full of fear, and I'm still and hopeful and brave. I'm a contradiction; I didn't believe that I could be a grey thing - it could only be black or white. But I, just like everything else, am all grey. And grey can be beautiful and fun and lovable. And so, I've found, am I.

I plan to write more. It's hard for me, because I feel like, with meds (I'll explain later) and job applications (I'll explain that too) and trying to make new friends that I'm just not the same writer. Do I sound the same? In any case...

Signing off.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

A Letter: Dear Tarzan

Well, shit... This is gonna be a little awkward.

But let me start off by saying that I still love you. It's different, though. No longer am I at that "in love with you" love you part of love with you. And I really shouldn't be, we've been broken up...about five months now. It's more of a "Namaste" type of love; a love that says, I recognize the good in you and the good in you recognizes the good in me. But sometimes I do still catch myself, listening to music we used to love, driving by places we used to visit, reading old blog posts and diary entries and thinking "what if?" What if you were different? What if I were different? What if time worked in reverse and what we knew now we knew then? What ifs do me no good, and I don't indulge them often, but when I do, my brain always circles back to you. Why?

Because you were the first. You were the guy to get through the ice of me and melt my heart. You showed me so many things about myself I couldn't have fathomed were real, and were plausible. For instance, I worked like a dog trying to get to you. Literally, fainted on the job one day, because I was there all the time, working 12 and 14 hour shifts, 6 days a week, saving money to be where you were. I never knew I could be that determined, especially that day, because usually, if I get a little nauseated, I say "Fuck this job," but that day? I got up, took a 15 minute break and got right back to it. That's crazy, isn't it?

Loving you, or trying to get you to love me, drove me a little crazy. Looking back, I can totally tell that now. I was very, very insecure and you were very, very patient. I never told you how much I appreciated that, but I did. I could hear that desperate "love me, love me" vibe sink into my words and tone, and you'd just shrug or sigh, reaffirm me, and keep it moving. Thanks for that. Not a lot of guys have patience to deal with a another person's insecurities on top of their own, but you did.

Now, we're not finished, you and I. We're partaking on the truly scary, winding path of friendship after a relationship. If we're being honest, in the beginning, I was doing it to prove to myself I could, that I was a good enough person to, in the face of a personal disaster, look the other way and smile. I was still broken up about everything and I wanted so much to believe that I could be strong enough to face you, strong enough to face the rubble of the dreams we built together and say "I'm fine." And...well, I wasn't fine. But I am now.

Seeing you grow, and do better and build your ideals about life make me so proud of you. Just think, before we met, were just these two aimless kids, not knowing how to relate to people and now...well, we're still these two aimless kids, not knowing how to relate to people. But, we have lived a little. We've traveled. We've fought. We've loved. We've had so much stuff I was waiting for happen, happen that it seems like, even now, this was the trajectory of our relationship. This is where we were meant to be.

We were always meant to be friends. I think we may have skipped that part, due to loneliness and lust and wanting to feel close to another person. But this, this new thing, this scary thing of friendship seems more right to me. There's no pressure to be perfect. There's no expectations of sexiness. I can be my full, true self with you now, and when we were together, that seemed impossible. That's been the only thing to really change, I think. Well, that and the whole "no sex between friends" thing. We still speak musically. We still bug each other occasionally. It's kind of really great, right?

So here's to us. Not the "us" that we were, but the "us" that we are now. Here's to a friendship, hopefully one for a lifetime. And here's to letting go, and starting fresh.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

About Me: "Somersault"

There's this song by this group Zero 7 called Somersault. It starts "You're the prince to my ballerina," and from that very line, a smile just can't help but carve into my usually stoic features. The song is about a love who's benevolence and strength allow the lover to become who they have always been, and who they've always wanted to be. I first heard it, as a snippet in that movie, "Guess Who" with Ashton Kutcher and Zoe Saldana and was never able to forget it.

Fast forward a few years and I'd finally found the song again, and, the first time I play it, I'm in a friend's truck bed, being driven around a twilight drenched, quiet road in Fayetteville, North Carolina. I'd never felt so struck by a feeling of peace, watching the beautiful darkness wipe clean the smeared pastels of the day. I felt all of the pieces of me had come together in that one moment, and that I finally understood who and what it was I was.

The middle of this past December, I had lost all of me. I didn't know who I was. I couldn't breathe in my own skin anymore. I couldn't think clearly. I was crying and couldn't stop. I wasn't sleeping. I felt like my life was in jeopardy, and that I was the one putting it there. I had frequent thoughts of letting go of the wheel, as I sped down busy highways. Wondered what would happen, if I died young. I scared myself so much that I begged my mother to put me under a 72 hour hold, because I couldn't see myself anymore.

What I mean is, I'd look in the mirror and it was like looking into a wall instead. There was nobody there. Nothing to relate to, nothing to remind me of the person that I was, or wanted to be. It was empty. I was empty. I'd always prided myself on being so in touch with who I was and here it was, some random fucking Tuesday, and I had the most tenuous of grasps on my sanity after weeks, months of saying "You're okay." I was not okay.

I started therapy the following week, pretty much going to the first place that popped up to look for answers and found someone to help me through it. It's been almost a month, and I'm proud to say that, I'm so much better.

Now, I bet you're wondering, "Tes, what does that song have to do with you and your depression?"

Following my break down, just like with the mirror in which I couldn't see myself, I cut myself off from immersing myself in the things I love, and instead tried to bury myself in them. I read so many books, just to not think about myself. Listened to kick ass, independent women songs and pumped my fist, but I was never in the music. I didn't feel it anymore. I was afraid to feel anything and tried to stay at a 5 on the emotional scale as to not cry at the drop of a hat for being too happy or too sad.

"Somersault" was the first song after starting therapy that I actually immersed myself in. Sitting on my balcony, as twilight turned to night, I blew bubbles at a full moon. I was back to being that little girl who believed in princes and true love. I was back to being that kid who believed in being nice just for niceness' sake. I was that teenager, in the back of a pick up truck, marveling at the everyday miracles of the world and at the breathlessness of freedom, of flying.

It brought all those fragmented and tarnished pieces of my inner mirror back together. And through the cracks and the smudges, I could see myself again. And whether I was sad, happy, angry or any emotion in between I was me. I was beautiful. I was whole. I was everything I was meant to be in that moment. And even now, I'm wiping away tears of just...relief at that recognition.

With pieces of yourself being chipped away everyday, be it by outside forces, or the more insidious internal ones, never forget the whole picture. Be relieved and grateful that you are who you are. It was a hard learned lesson, but one I know I'll never forget.

Let Me Stop Lurking

I've been taking care of me for a while now. Stopped writing for the longest, because the honesty and fear of said honesty was looking me in the face every time I picked up a pen or stared at a blinking cursor. It's true, that my fingers betray who I am all the time; they tell what I'm thinking, by either fidgeting, writing or giving the finger. :)

I'm back.

How have you been? Been good? You look good.

Me? Oh, I've been going to therapy after having an emotional breakdown and feeling like life just wasn't worth going through anymore. Stopped listening to music. Stopped singing. Stopped writing. Stopped...everything at that time. I was afraid. I was spiraling and turning into this person I couldn't recognize or reason with and this person I was turning into was scary. Dark, and just...not who I am. So, I got help. Meds (which I'm now easing off of) and an amazing therapist have brought me back around to who I am.

I've missed this. Even though I'm not sure if any of you are there, if any of you are reading me and learning who I am. Even though I'm not sure if what I write hits deaf ears (or, in this case, blind eyes), I missed speaking my truth into the void. Letting some of it go is the sweetest freedom for me.



Give me a chance to reintroduce myself. I feel like I've changed, and maybe, if you've been seeing me around, or if you just go back after this very post and read everything I've ever written, and note the difference from this point forward, you'll see it too.