Get Out of Your Own Way

My case manager said, “I wish there was something  I could do to help you get out of your own way.” Or something to that effect. That stung because it implies that I am not doing enough to help myself; but I understand what she meant. I am my own worst enemy. She also commented on my intelligence. I am intelligent. Sometimes, I think I’m too smart for my own good, book-smart, not common sense smart. I’m fairly retarded in the area of common sense.

I have enough accumulated knowledge to accomplish a lot if only I could somehow stay motivated long enough to accomplish something, anythingIf only I knew what I wanted to actually do. It’s frustrating. I’m 42 years old. My life is half over; my guess is more than half over. I don’t expect to get too many more years on this earth, not that I want to be here any longer than I absolutely have to be.

I hate thinking about the future. I choose not to. That’s why I rarely if ever set goals for my life or make future plans. To me, the future does not exist. I create the future as I go, moment to moment; so even in that sense, the future still does not exist. I live each day as if it is my last because it very well may be. Some days, I don’t know if I will make it. Those are the days when I question whether or not I will meet a natural death or die by my own hand. It’s not a great way to live, but it’s all I know.

I’m perfectly content most days doing what I do — a variety of activities that distract me from all the pain of this world. I’m not sure how many people actually “get” what it’s like to be so overly sensitive that you literally feel the weight of the world — all of its crushing, smothering weight as the darkness creeps in to drown you in sorrow — not sadness, sorrow. Let me clarify, this is not just my own pain and suffering that I feel. I can’t be around other people without feeling theirs as well. If emotions are intense, I don’t even have to be in the same room with them. It’s like I’ve tapped directly into the collective consciousness and feel everything. So much so, that I often go numb, like a severed nerve that’s trying to repair itself. There is no turning this off. This has been my reality for as long as I can remember.

And to be in the same room with someone who is experiencing intense emotions, well, let’s just say it’s no wonder I learned dissociation as a coping mechanism. As a case in point, the other day while I was standing in line waiting to check out at Wal-Mart (Wal-Mart is never a good place for me to be to begin with) a little girl, no more than 3 or 4 years old, began crying the most mournful tears I have ever witnessed. My eyes immediately teared up in response as I felt her pain, having no idea why she was even crying to begin with. Her mother asked her why she was crying. At first, she couldn’t say; but after a few minutes she said she wanted a candy bar. I seriously doubt the child’s heartfelt tears were so simple as manipulating her mother into buying her a candy bar, which her mother did not (kudos to Mom for that). This wasn’t the usual BUY ME THIS temper tantrum that I so often witnessed when I worked at a Wal-Mart years ago. Honestly, what I felt was more exhaustion. What I saw in this child’s eyes was that same familiar over-stimulation that Wal-Mart so easily induces in people without them even realizing it. And from the looks of their shopping cart, they had been in there for quite a while. Me, I was in line after only 10 minutes of shopping. Go in, grab what I need, get out. That’s all I can stand. Any more than that and would be that little girl crying in the check-out line.

So how do I get out of my own way? I have to figure out exactly what I want and what I need. For years, I’ve tried to do just that to no avail. Why should now be any different? If the motivation isn’t there, how could I possibly succeed in figuring these things out?


 

I should have posted the preceding part of this post Friday night when I wrote it, but I didn’t. I second-guessed myself. I left it in the drafts folder until now. There’s really nothing going on right now that warrants the extreme intensity of emotion that I am currently feeling. Sometimes, I’m told, that’s just the way Depression presents itself. There are a few things bothering me, but no one thing singularly justifies this sense of urgency I feel. More than anything, I feel like I keep repeating myself over and over again; and no one’s listening. The worst part is that I’m not sure I would even recognize if someone was.

He’s Just Looking for a Home

I heard a light knock on my door. In that brief moment as I’m opening the door, I think maybe it’s our neighbor’s 5-year-old son who regularly knocks asking to come in. I’m not really sure why he does this, especially when 9 times out of 10 I tell him “No” because I’m usually busy doing something or just not up for company; but that was my first thought.

My next thought was “It’s after dark, though. He usually doesn’t knock after dark. Also, I’m pretty sure I heard my neighbors leave earlier; and I didn’t hear their vehicle return. I didn’t hear any car drive up.”

When I opened the door, I found a stranger standing there asking about the property, is there anything available for rent. He told me he grew up around here, close-by, and is familiar with this property. I felt slightly discombobulated and without thinking, my friendliness kicked in and invited him inside to get out of the cold outdoor temperatures. We talked for a few minutes about the trailer next door that is available. He asked for our landlord’s phone number. As I was writing it down for him, he thanked me for taking the time to speak with him and inviting him in, given that most people nowadays wouldn’t even consider doing such a thing with the way the world is.

As he said this, I felt a sudden surge of panic, thoughts flooding my mind in quick succession, “Why did I invite him in? I didn’t think twice about it. I just invited him in. He’s right. This world is nuts right now. I have a complete stranger standing in my living room. I’m at home alone. My neighbors aren’t even home.” I think I even paused as I was writing as I couldn’t speak (more like stutter), think, and write all at the same time.

I maintained the same stoic flatness of emotion that I often do when confronted with panic in order to not make a fool out of myself in front of a stranger who was just looking for a place to rent. I calmed my nerves with the mantra, “He’s just looking for a home.” After I wrote down the landlord’s phone number for him, I asked if he would like to see the inside of the available trailer. I took him over with a flashlight to show him around. I learned that he is a 39-year-old Marine vet. I pointed out some areas of the trailer that still need work, but he seemed genuinely interested in renting it. He thanked me again before he left.

The encounter was brief, no more than 10 or 15 minutes. He was perfectly polite, friendly, and well-mannered. I keep telling myself that there is no reason for me to be feeling so much panic and anxiety over this, but my brain keeps reliving so many past incidents that worry is attempting to take control. I think I’ve become too comfortable in my new surroundings. Rational and irrational are butting heads. One part of me complains that not seeing the good in people causes as much suffering as seeing only the bad. Another part screams, “You’re far too trusting, still to this day!” Others are accosting, attacking my sense of self.

All I can really do in moments like this is allow these conversations, often times shouting matches, to play out, challenging where I can, accepting where I cannot. Basically, this one is about fear — whether it’s a real threat or simply a perceived threat. I acknowledge this fear, that I’m scared of being hurt, of being robbed, of being whatever. The fact of the matter is, though: I have no justifiable reason to believe that this man meant me any harm whatsoever. He was just looking for a home. 

Explaining My Depression to My Mother: A Conversation by Sabrina Benaim

Transcript:

Explaining My Depression to My Mother: A Conversation
Mom, my depression is a shape shifter.
One day it is as small as a firefly in the palm of a bear,
The next, it’s the bear.
On those days I play dead until the bear leaves me alone.
I call the bad days: “the Dark Days.”
Mom says, “Try lighting candles.”
When I see a candle, I see the flesh of a church, the flicker of a flame,
Sparks of a memory younger than noon.
I am standing beside her open casket.
It is the moment I learn every person I ever come to know will someday die.
Besides Mom, I’m not afraid of the dark.
Perhaps, that’s part of the problem.
Mom says, “I thought the problem was that you can’t get out of bed.”
I can’t.
Anxiety holds me a hostage inside of my house, inside of my head.
Mom says, “Where did anxiety come from?”
Anxiety is the cousin visiting from out-of-town depression felt obligated to bring to the party.
Mom, I am the party.
Only I am a party I don’t want to be at.
Mom says, “Why don’t you try going to actual parties, see your friends?”
Sure, I make plans. I make plans but I don’t want to go.
I make plans because I know I should want to go. I know sometimes I would have wanted to go.
It’s just not that fun having fun when you don’t want to have fun, Mom.
You see, Mom, each night insomnia sweeps me up in his arms dips me in the kitchen in the small glow of the stove-light.
Insomnia has this romantic way of making the moon feel like perfect company.
Mom says, “Try counting sheep.”
But my mind can only count reasons to stay awake;
So I go for walks; but my stuttering kneecaps clank like silver spoons held in strong arms with loose wrists.
They ring in my ears like clumsy church bells reminding me I am sleepwalking on an ocean of happiness I cannot baptize myself in.
Mom says, “Happy is a decision.”
But my happy is as hollow as a pin pricked egg.
My happy is a high fever that will break.
Mom says I am so good at making something out of nothing and then flat-out asks me if I am afraid of dying.
No.
I am afraid of living.
Mom, I am lonely.
I think I learned that when Dad left how to turn the anger into lonely —
The lonely into busy;
So when I tell you, “I’ve been super busy lately,” I mean I’ve been falling asleep watching Sports Center on the couch
To avoid confronting the empty side of my bed.
But my depression always drags me back to my bed
Until my bones are the forgotten fossils of a skeleton sunken city,
My mouth a bone yard of teeth broken from biting down on themselves.
The hollow auditorium of my chest swoons with echoes of a heartbeat,
But I am a careless tourist here.
I will never truly know everywhere I have been.
Mom still doesn’t understand.
Mom! Can’t you see that neither can I?

Modern Spoken Word poetry, or performance poetry, is a more recent discovery for me. I’ve heard some pretty great speakers/performers. I first heard Sabrina Benaim’s poem on Button Poetry’s YouTube channel a few days ago. There’s a second version of this poem uploaded more recently from the Vancouver Poetry Slam. It’s a bit calmer and more laid back than the one I’m featuring here. I like this particular version better because the emotion she dramatizes in the reading reflects the words of the poem. The shrill nervousness (I’m not so sure that was intentional) she expresses actually enhances this performance. In fact, everything about this performance screams, “Yes. Yes, this is exactly the way I experience depression.”

It’s not often that I run across something that so accurately depicts an aspect of my life, but this does. Depression is a bear. I love the first part ending with: “On those days I play dead until the bear leaves me alone.” When I say I need to hibernate, essentially, this is the same thing. Right now, it just feels like the bear is playing with my lifeless body wondering should it curl up with me to hibernate in its den, waiting to devour me at spring’s first light after the winter thaw.

I’ll spend the winter taming the beast again, like I always do. I’m just really tired this year, exceptionally so.

I fight so hard to hide bits and pieces of “me” from others that I often wonder if I could be myself even if I really tried. Could I have an honest conversation like this? Could I ever show the emotion that makes me feel like a nervous bowl of Jell-O when I’m so accustomed to expressing the customary blanketed flatness? I’m not so sure I could.

It’s difficult to help others understand Depression, especially when those of us who suffer from it struggle to understand what is happening with our mind and bodies. Trying to gain some meaning or insight from the struggle may or may not be possible. Catching a glimmer of hope every once in a while may be as elusive, but wait out those “Dark Days” for that ray of sunshine that blinds the bear.