Easier Said Than Done

It’s often difficult living with a disability that the world often fails to recognize or understand.

On Tuesday, I spoke with my psychologist, as I do every two weeks. I have no shame in having a regular psychologist. I need a regular psychologist, and that’s simply a fact of my day-to-day life. When discussing some issues I’ve been having lately in regards to my depression and my anxiety, I mentioned that it’s painful living my life every day when people don’t get why I’m acting or reacting the way I do. The words were on the tip of my tongue, but I was nervous to speak them. I didn’t want to seem like I was exaggerating, overreacting, or crying out for attention… but he reminded me of the fact I always shy away from.

“It’s a disability. You can’t help the way you are.”

I’ve been struggling with major clinical depression and generalized anxiety disorder since I was thirteen years old. I’ve been in and out of treatment for years, and some periods in my life have been better than others, but the skeletons in my closet are always there. Lately, things have been harder than usual to handle. Everyone’s first instinct is to try and help, but sometimes help is beyond their capabilities.

Last Monday, I tried to do a few menial tasks around my school in preparation for next semester. Some simple necessities, but nothing too difficult at their core. I remember feeling okay for most of the morning before starting to get some stuff done. I remember speaking to a woman for assistance completing a form, and when she spoke, there was venom in her voice. Maybe it wasn’t really there, or maybe her tone was just slightly ruder than I was expecting, but it overcame me before I could stop it.

She was belittling me, mocking me, and patronizing me. I couldn’t handle it, so I burst into tears.

Now, I am no stranger to crying in front of strangers. Yet still, here I was, a deer caught yet again in the headlights of this weight I’ve been carrying for years. I panicked and left the room, telling her I’m sorry and that I’d take care of it another time. She followed after me as I left the hall, I kept asking her to leave me alone. I told her I was sorry (notably again) and that I just “had anxiety”. She told me “I’m good with anxiety,” but I can never know that for sure, really, and it didn’t matter when I was already in the throes. In a flurry of shame and humiliation, I left the building. I didn’t know what else to do, I just had to get my heart rate down. Start breathing again. My head was spinning.

I then found myself crying in the grass outside the tech center, wondering how everything fell apart so quickly. Wondering why I even try. Why I even fucking exist. This sort of thing is so status quo that I walked away without even bothering to wipe the tears off my sunglasses.

Now, I should take a step back.

I rationally know that my life is okay. I have a kind family, wonderful friends, a boyfriend who loves me, two beautiful cats (Ember is doing okay, by the way) and a promising future. Nonetheless, I can’t help but fall into these depressive rabbit holes. At my best, I can smile and laugh and have fun with the people I love. At my worst, I can hardly even comprehend why I shouldn’t shuffle off this godforfuckingsaken mortal coil.

There is so much to live for, if I can only manage to see it.

I know well that my irrational actions and feelings affect those around me. I often get told to calm down, or get it together, or cheer up. I wish I could. When I hear these things, it only reminds me how “broken” I am, and how I hurt people just by being around. In my current sound state, I know that’s not true. Hell, in the end, deep down, I know I’ll be okay. But my brain has been fucking me since I was a teenager, and trust me, I want to get better as much as any physically ill person does. I’m taking steps, making progress, and hopefully each day I come closer to a healthy future.

But major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder are just that– disorders. If I were asthmatic, you wouldn’t tell me to just breathe. So I simply ask for patience in these trying times. Instead of wishing for me to feel happy, just understand that a lot of the time, I can’t be, and it’s not anyone’s fault.

Someday, I know I will be. But sometimes, it’s just not that day.

A Message from Ember – Jester of the Royal Court

Disclaimer: My friend Derek writes many an essay from the perspective of his cat, Hugo, as well as other animals (my baby Holly included). I recently got inspired to try and do something along a similar vein… but unfortunately, some recent events have expedited the process. So before you continue reading, just know that this message from my feline friend is not a happy one. But I couldn’t let her go unheard.

Hi Friend,

I understand that you have not heard from me often. I’m sorry. Sometimes I struggle to find… uh… the words? I think that is right. We cats do not have words. We speak in lots of sounds– I like to say “mrow”, and “ack”, and… I like to rumble!

I am sorry… Words are hard. I forgot I was wording.

My sister Holly (I love her!) has told me that I should call you something strange like “peasant” or “servant”. She says you are here to serve her… and I think you do good! But I don’t like those names. Those names are mean. I like “friend” better. I have heard you call me “friend”.

I am tired lately. I miss you, friend. I am currently staying at my favorite person’s house! I think he is your mom? Wait, Holly has told me the human is called a “dad”. Do I have a dad? I think I had a mom, but friend, your “dad” has always been more of a mom to me. Does that make sense? I am struggling.

I know sometimes I am….difficult. Difficult is a big word. Is it right? When I’m happy, my claws move sometimes, and you seem upset by this. Why? Do they hurt? I cannot say I’m sure. I have never been the, er, I think they say “brightest” of kitties. I like the word kitty. It is cute.

Am I cute? You have called me and Holly cute. I’m rumbling now! …I stopped. I miss you.

My tummy hurts lately. It’s hard to move, and I’m sad. I am not usually sad, as you and mom (dad?) and all the other big cats (people, Holly says… people) are very kind to me. Dad has been giving me lots of attention, but he keeps trying to give me some food. I’m not hungry. I have not been hungry in a while. I am tired. Very tired.

I hope you know how much I love you. Sometimes I make you mad… I get that. I am a cat and you are a bigger cat people. Your cat people ways are hard. You cry sometimes. I rumble because you like when I rumble. I keep seeing you cry lately… I’m sorry. You look at me and you cry. Is it something I did? I just want you to be okay.

I think I’m starting to understand. I’ve never been good at understanding anything, but I think I finally know what’s going on. I’m going somewhere else. Somewhere new. I don’t feel right in this world anymore. I feel weak, and I am sad, and you keep crying. I don’t want that for you. I want you to feel good. I felt good for a very, very, very long time.

Very, very. I like repeating the words. It means I very very love you.

Anyway… I wanted to try and write. I gotta say… it’s hard to move this pencil with my teeth. Holly has bigger teeth. Have you seen her teeth? My sister is cute. You love my sister and she loves you. She is worried about me. She will take care of you like you take care of her. I will miss you. But I love you. I hope I took care of you good like she did. I always try my best.

Words are hard, but I made some happen. I hope they make sense. I’m more tired now. I just want to sleep. Soon, I think I will go to sleep for a long time. You cry when I think about sleeping. But it’s okay. I’m just tired. I’ll feel better once I get some rest. Maybe someday, you can take a long nap too, and we will hang out. I’ll rumble for you again! I know you like the rumbles. (Holly rumbles too!)

I leave you in the hands of my sister, Holly. When I’m this sleepy, it’s hard to be the funny guy (that is what Holly says “jester” means). Maybe you need to be the funny guy now? But maybe Holly would be mad, because she calls you “peasant” not “jester”. Who invented words? I much prefer “reowr”.

So I wanted to say, “mew”. That means, I love you. I hope you start to feel better soon. You are wonderful. Wonderful is a big word. But big words mean big things, right? You are the biggest very, very wonderful.

My teeth hurt from holding this pencil, and I am very tired. I should rest more. Come visit me, okay? I will always be there for you.

Love always,
Ember (Resident Funny Guy, I think)

[ Edited in part by Holly, Minister of Aesthetics and Pulchritude ]

Page-by-Page

When I’m reading a book, particularly plays for my dramatic literature class, I have trouble immersing myself in the story. I’ve always had selective attention problems, and unless something is completely drawing in all my interest, I find my mind flickering to and from the task at hand too often. This semester, I’m in a dramatic literature class which I enjoy very much, but nonetheless, sometimes reading these plays can feel like a task. It’s a chore to churn through page after page of some play when I’d rather be doing something else. Even if the content interests me, I am flighty. I’m an airy soul. I lose my train of thought.

I constantly find myself counting pages.

“Acts 1 and 2 are due tomorrow,” I brief myself, settling into the comfiest chair available. I fan through the thin anthology pages, sticky fingers slipping over them anxiously. I remember how much I don’t want to do this. I count twenty pages and sigh sharply. Here we go.

On good days, the stories catch my attention and I manage to read through them like its nothing. In a flash, I’ve finished what I was required to do and am now free to read whatever I wish. On bad days, and boy are there bad days, it takes every last drop of my energy to read word after word, line after line, page after page after page.

Fourteen to go. Ten. Seven. One. Finally, I finish.

Even when it comes to things I enjoy, I have realized I always find myself wondering when they will be over. When will I finish this book I’m reading? When will I finish this T.V. series I’m watching? When will I finish writing these stories that I pour my heart and soul into every day? I have roughly the attention span of a crippled blind gnat, so as soon as one thing begins, I grow bored and start looking forward towards the next thing. Where will life take me now? It’s as though I’m a wide-eyed puppy wondering what its human will do next. Will he blink?! Will he stand up?! All of it is more exciting than my current dog state.

I found myself particularly perplexed recently by my constant forethought. It occurred to me while reading yesterday that I have no need to count pages. As I read, they will turn, and the number, however high, will dwindle slowly down to zero. I realized it doesn’t matter whether I’m a quarter, a half, a third of the way done with my book, movie, etc. What matters is that in this moment, I am reading, watching, breathing, being. I’m allowed to just sit and enjoy a moment. Sometimes that’s hard to forget.

We all have the tendency to look ahead of ourselves, and oftentimes there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s when that tendency overshadows our ability to feel our true feelings and be present in time that it becomes a problem. Books may have been my metaphor, but this entry comes from a deeper place than that.

For those who are new, I have struggled with depression and anxiety since early middle school. I’m currently on some medication, but no method is foolproof. When you have depression, your body doesn’t like to let you be happy or even content. There’s science to it: a lack of serotonin in the brain, which my medication works to counteract. Despite my best efforts, and despite the knowledge that all will be well, I sometimes cannot help but slip into a dark place. Without delving too deeply into my personal life and psychosis, I can at the very least tell you this: last night was hard.

Allow me to get somewhat personal for a moment. I’m at a crossroads in my life, a defining stage in my young adulthood. I am just beginning college, trying to figure out what I want to do. I’m currently unemployed, and as such, going relatively broke. I spent the last two or so years miserable, working my ass off for near-minimum wage, and to see those hard-earned savings begin to dwindle is exhausting in and of itself. Sometimes, I find myself in a frenzied mix of rational and irrational worry. What will my future hold? The question is too tempting for my untrained mind to resist, and so I chew on it for hours, holding my breath and sinking slowly until I settle on the sandy bottom of depression bay.

Today, I’ve let my breath go and floated back to the surface. I’m better. Remember that like good things, all bad things must come to an end. As I write this, I don’t feel too bad at all. I was reminded how many wonderful things I have to cherish, how even the dimmest of moments can hold the faintest of glows. A few months ago, I would have struggled to bounce back this quickly, even during the best of times. I’m alright, and I’ll be alright. We all will. It’s just a matter of realizing we don’t need to worry about it.

Counting pages will not change the course of my novel’s plot. There’s no point in anticipating what will happen when I can simply read the story. Like all changes, this development will take time, but I hope to live more and more in the moment each day. While I can still wonder or hope for things to come, I must live my life the way it’s meant to be lived. From now on, I hope to write my story the way we all should read them: one page at a time.