Of black dogs and dirty blondes

No matter how much therapy you’ve had or healing you’ve experienced, there’s a little piece of darkness always lurking around in your head. I happen to call mine Hailey. I haven’t heard from her in a while. Recently, she decided to pop in again. Sometimes it’s due to an actual stress and sometimes it’s just because it’s a day ending in “y”.

It started with the nightmares. Two full days of every time I closed my eyes, I had a nightmare. They ranged from mildly disturbing to waking up sweating making sure that I still had all my teeth and / or limbs. Then I started craving a margarita. Even in my previous life, margaritas weren’t my thing. If I happened to be at a Mexican restaurant or it was a Cinco de Mayo party, then sure. Left to my own devices, it was vodka or wine without a second thought. I could brush both of those off fairly easily. Then came the real kicker.

I wanted another tattoo.

I’ve been retired, as it were, for almost exactly 4 years. I started my final tattoo on September 11, 2010. That was my phoenix, a fitting end to that particular part of my life. I could picture the hypothetical new one in great and gory detail. It was a black and white line work tattoo of the famous Alice in Wonderland illustration with the Cheshire Cat. Mind you, I was never an Alice in Wonderland fan. It was on the back of my left calf, taking up almost the entire space. I saw it exactly how it would look completely finished and fully healed. That’s what jarred me back into reality. I wanted to hurt myself again. She was there, waiting patiently for me to see her.

Fighting her is like fighting a Chinese finger trap. The more I struggle to get loose, the tighter her grip becomes. Instead of pitching a fit and trying to beat her back into the dark recesses of my head, I talked to her. She presents herself very simply. She offers things that seem like simple choices, but are deeply destructive. It’s under the guise of helping me get through whatever it is that’s troubling me. She promises the darkness is a good place. After all, don’t gems grow in caves? It’s easier to blend in the dark. In the light, every harsh detail is visible.  Isolating myself from things and people I truly love is for the best. They can’t hurt me if they can’t see me. I listened to all she had to say before offering my response. She presents herself as a false goddess, offering the impossibility of a quick fix.

There is no such thing as a quick fix. She’s eloquent, to be sure. The darkness has done its part to shape me like a gem. I respect those solid crystals for what they are. It’s easy to hide in caves. It’s easy to shut down again. I won’t argue that point at all. I refuse to give up the light I’ve worked so hard to see. It’s not hers to take. It’s easy to take something from someone who doesn’t care. After all, they won’t fight you for something that doesn’t matter. It’s harder to take away something that matters. Of course, if that something is left outside after the walls have gone back up, she can take it and wander off without me being any the wiser. I don’t like that game. I’ve never liked to share my toys. Just read my kindergarten report card. I refuse to let her take away my light along with the people and things that I love. The wall has to stay down so I can protect what’s rightfully mine. It took a strong shake to see what she had already taken. In pieces, I can begin to take those things back. She and I will always coexist, for better or worse, ’til death do us part. All it takes is one little hole, one little rip, for me to walk away.

And then I cried.

I may have set myself up to be hauled off to the looney bin by giving my depression a corporeal form. At least I would be in good company. JK Rowling created the Dementors. Winston Churchill had his black dog. I have a green tinged, gaunt, greasy haired blonde named Hailey. For us, at least, it’s easier to discuss depression as a physical being. It’s also easier to communicate it to others who don’t suffer depression. Show, don’t tell. Perhaps the beasts of depression should have their own twisted support group as well.

[Disclaimer: Yes, I have spoken to my therapist and I will be seeing her next week. No need to fear that your faithful author will do something rash.  As always , this is a solely anecdotal story. I am not a mental health professional qualified to give advice regarding depression. I’m just here to offer the little bit I’ve learned.]


Of the lies we tell ourselves and not losing your way

Firstly, I know everyone realized Twilight Thursday didn’t appear this week. Life happens. It will resume next week. As I said, they can be very time consuming to write. It can take me up to a week to get the notes and quotes I want to include. I promise I haven’t abandoned it, but patience is a virtue. 😉

It would be disingenuous for me to avoid the topic of Robin Williams’ suicide. I’ve been there. I’ve been standing with a knife in my hand thinking how quickly it would all be over. There wouldn’t be a big show. I could die quietly in my apartment with no one the wiser. People I love very much have been there. I have lost one friend to suicide. While I could never prove it, I know that’s what happened. One of the last things she said to me was “the next time I use, I’ll die”. About a week later, I got the call. She was a heroin addict who had been self medicating her depression and bipolar disorder for a decade. While she was in jail, a friend of hers died from an overdose. When she found out, it wasn’t long after that she was gone. With him gone, in her mind, she had nothing else to live for. Robin Williams admittedly suffered in the same way, self medicating with cocaine. He got the hang of not using, but that clearly didn’t stop the depression.

The irony is once a person is on medication and starts to feel better, the more likely they are to kill themselves. They’ve actually worked up enough energy to follow through, but their brain hasn’t balanced out enough to know it’s still a very bad idea. Unlike most warning labels which go through a litany of petty side effects like dry mouth, it *is* important to watch someone more closely who has just started anti-depressants or anti-anxiety meds. This is doubly so in teenagers because their brains haven’t finished developing (does anyone’s?). When I was at my lowest, I didn’t have the energy to cry. I wanted to cry. I wanted to release everything stewing in my head. I couldn’t. Instead I would lie there accepting the numbness. There was a time I scoffed at the idea that feeling pain is better than feeling numb. Having been there, I now know better. Pain is a reminder that you’re still alive. I had someone watching me who was willing to help at a moment’s notice.

I am not a medical professional. I’m simply offering my thoughts and experiences. If you are suicidal, contact someone trained to help. The National Suicide Prevention hotline is the quickest and easiest way to get help. Most major areas will have a free or low cost clinic with medical services aimed at people with depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts. Call a friend or a family member to sit with you, come get you, and / or drive you to a hospital or clinic. There ARE people who care. There ARE people who love you. Don’t listen to the lies your brain is telling you. I know it’s easier said than done, but it’s worth it. Even if your accomplishment for the day is getting up, going to the bathroom, and getting back in bed, that’s something. You’re still here.

My thoughts and condolences are with the Willams family. There aren’t words to make it better. No amount of cards or flowers will ease the pain. Time will take the edge off, but it will be something they’ll carry with them forever.


Of shameless plugs and duct tape

For those who enjoy bloggers who are keeping it real, allow me to refer you to my friend Elizabeth’s blog. She’s an old friend, a fantastic writer, and all around Awesome Chick®. Head on over and show her some love. God knows she’s talked me off the ledge a time or two. Her most recent post got me thinking…

I’ve written plenty about blogs that are all about self love, improving yourself, life coaching, etc. There’s nothing wrong with that. There’s a market for it. I frequent several blogs with that overarching theme. I’ve written plenty of posts along those lines right here. What rubs me the wrong way is the tacit understanding that it’s all about “fixing” something. I’m not a flat tire or a broken hinge. I don’t need to be fixed, please and thank you. It’s all too easy to get sucked down the rabbit hole and before you realize it, you’re headed off to Home Depot for some WD-40 and duct tape.

Carrie and Elizabeth both make excellent points that the ugly, the dark, the smelly, the not so pretty parts of ourselves is where the real beauty (oddly enough) can find a place to grow. Sitting in the dirt mourning whatever you’ve lost, be it physical or emotional, is fertile ground. It doesn’t need to be fixed. We don’t need to be fixed. After all, shit makes excellent fertilizer. It takes a lot of balls to show off the scars, bruises, lumps, and broken pieces. To get anywhere worth getting, shit is inevitable. You may fall face first in it. You may just step in it. It’s a hell of a lot easier to get up when there’s someone there with you to offer a hand.

Take my hand, if we be friends, and put down the WD-40 and duct tape. You’re not broken. No need to be fixed.