On 2018

I just realized that I’m “twenty-eight” and the year is “twenty-eighteen.” Words are funny.

I didn’t intend to write an “end of the year wrap-up” post and lord knows if that’s what this will be, but here we are either way. When coming here to write this I got a notification from WordPress that I registered this blog nine years ago today, which is funny because I always thought my first post was in December of 2009 but apparently it was mid-way through January of 2009. I think that’s actually because I had a very short-lived blog somewhere else around the same time that enjoyed a total of three posts before I gave up and started over. I tend to do things like that a lot.

So I was actually about to begin THIS particular paragraph by saying that this year was a total shit show that sucked from beginning to end, when I remembered that wasn’t true. Actually some VERY good things happened this year, it’s just that they all happened during the early parts of the year so I’ve kind of forgotten that they happened this year at all.

Let’s start the beginning. In January I was about three months in to a job at Walgreens which I actually enjoyed pretty well and was moderately successful at, things which do not often happen to me when jobs are involved. In February I discovered I had an incredibly painful protrusion inside my mouth which turned out to be a bone spur literally coming through my gums. The worst thing is, this has actually happened to me once before, and I had to have surgery to fix it. So after going back and forth between a dentist and an oral surgeon, I was basically told to take some pain medication and wait for the bone spur to fall out all on it’s own. For about a month I was hopped up on pain meds and just waiting for this incredibly painful piece of bone in my mouth to fall out, a process which included missing practically weeks of work, trying to pull the thing out myself with my fingers resulting in a lot of bleeding and a midnight call to an ambulance because my entire family was out of town, and then finally a trip to a completely seperate oral surgeon who just took a pair of pliers and ripped the remaining bone spur right out of my mouth without any buildup or numbing injection or anything. It was, um, fucking painful. I got so used to being in constant pain over the course of weeks and weeks of just taking meds and constantly reapplying mouth-numbing ointment and gel.

Also in February, my stepfather was unexpectedly admitted to the hospital, and within two weeks they learned he had terminal cancer and then he died. The death was more surreal than anything, I’ve never had any kind of relationship, positive or negative, with my stepfather. My mom married him about six years ago and he’s usually worked and lived several hours away, so I’ve honestly just not had much interaction with him. An incredibly strange after-effect of his death was that my mom inherited a lot of money from him and suddenly we were, as far as we could tell, very financially well-off, at least for the time being, something no one in my family had experienced before. Suddenly money just wasn’t an issue for my mom anymore and there would be stretches of time when I would have her debit card in my wallet for weeks and just use it here and there for whatever was needed. I kind of understood what it must feel like to really be middle class and have a family that isn’t struggling to survive. I won’t lie, it was a really good feeling. All of the sudden our life felt like an adventure. My mom moved out of the house into her own apartment with my sister, leaving me all alone in the house for a limited time before my brother and his wife moved into the house with me.

I know it seems wrong to have been excited about this sudden wealth when it happened because my stepfather died, but I’m not really in control of how I felt. At the time I felt guilty, and I still acknowledge that it’s odd, but the truth is, for me personally, my stepfather’s death resulted in an improvement in my life, not because he was no longer in it, but because I was no longer at the mercy of my mother needing money from me or threatening me with not being able to eat or stay with her because she didn’t have the money to keep helping me. It’s just a weird situation.

Around this time, an incredibly positive thing happened. I asked my mom if my best friend of several years, Jacob, could move in with me. I’ve written about this before so I won’t go into all the details, but she said yes, and after a couple of weeks of trying to convince him, so did Jacob, and he moved in with me for two months. I drove up to get him, dealt with his obnoxious, religious and homophobic family several times, and then he and I got to have something like a life together for a couple of months. Neither of us were working but money wasn’t really a huge issue because my mom could help me and he had money saved up from a very lucrative paid internship. We were taking trips to the mountains, listening to music in the car, and spending every night cuddled up naked together.

I think maybe I got to know what it feels like, for just a little while, to be part of a functioning, healthy, loving relationship. We had a cozy little life, for a couple of months.

Then came May, and he went back to his family for the summer to do his summer internship, and a couple of months later, after we’d visited once, we both agreed it would be best for him to move in with his dad, something which still hasn’t really happened but hopefully will at some point soon. We hoped that he would have more freedom and it would be easier for us to see one another. I’ve not seen Jacob in about six months now. I miss him still, but it’s not like it was in the beginning, where I was endlessly yearning for him.

After Jacob left, everything really went downhill. My doctor switched me to a new antidepressant, the first one in my life to cause any kind of serious side-effects, almost all of which were sexual. I also tried to fill the void I was feeling emotionally by having a lot of promiscuous unprotected sex with strangers I met through hook-up apps, including one HIV scare. I haven’t gotten tested since then and I ought to, but I think I’m afraid that maybe by irresponsibility earlier in the year will end up causing me to pay some kind of consequences, and maybe I’m scared to know what those consequences might be. But I think I’m healthy. Sexually, at least. Except for the fact that the antidepressants make it hard to cum, hard to keep an erection, and hard to feel much of anything sometimes.

I quit my job at Walgreens and lied to my family that I’d been fired for being absent so much. The way I quit was even worse: I just walked out the door without saying a word, got in my car and drove away. I sent my manager a text and never said anything afterward. My friend at work was very sad to see me go but was understanding, and I still visit him periodically while he’s working. I’ve not seen my old manager again but I’m told she isn’t angry at me for leaving. Through the summer I had no job, until I was finally hired full time at CVS in their pharmacy. I went to work to do training modules and then had one full day of on-site training, something like a nine or ten hour work day, and then I got scared and I quit that job because of the anxiety I was feeling at work. I again lied to my family, I said that I never registered with the board of pharmacy (which actually was true) and so I was fired (which was not true). After a lot of pressuring and threats from my mother, I found another job, this time at Starbucks.

Then I got very sick. I had food poisoning from eating bad eggs that came from Starbucks and were past their expiration date. I spent ten hours in an emergency room that refused to just outright diagnose me with food poisoning and had to sign a paper saying that the ER would not be held responsible if I died when I went home. I went back to my doctor to ask about changing my antidepressants and help with my food poisoning, neither of which happened. After this I tried to quit my antidepressants altogether. It wasn’t originally my intent, because I was taking two different kinds and was only supposed to quit one of them. The thing is, the second one had no effect on me in the first place, so what I ended up doing was quitting psychiatric drugs altogether.

I fell into an intense… I don’t know what to call it. Depression isn’t the right word, because I wasn’t depressed, I was anxious. Constantly, incurably anxious. And my doctor would only give me limited prescriptions of weak Xanax which I had to ration out in order to survive. I became obsessed with some events that happened a year or two ago, and couldn’t get them out of my head. I had some intensely bad experiences that still haunt me, and at least one person who knows about them has tried to share them online and publicly humiliate me, which they in fact, did. I wanted to kill myself. I was afraid I was going to either end up dead or living a life that wasn’t worth living. I was afraid of very real danger, not just the kind that I make up in my head. Looking back on it now I don’t really understand how I got through it. I started developing these mental techniques to release the stress by constantly reminding myself of the few bits of positive encouragement I’d had from trusted friends who I knew weren’t just trying to comfort me because they loved me, but because they truly believed I am a good person who has not caused harm to other people.

I’m still not truly over it. I don’t think I ever will be. I guess that’s okay, but even though it ISN’T okay, it kind of has to be because I have to keep living.

I started taking the antidepressant again, the one that caused me all the sexual side effects. I take it less often than I’m directed to so that the sexual side effects aren’t as intense. In general, it’s been helping. Ever since I started back on it I’ve felt more positive and more productive.

A month or so ago, I got a call for a job interview, and after the first one I was given a second interview, then a job offer, and then finally I went to Virginia for a week of training, and started my new job a few weeks ago. I really, really like it. I’m having a good time there, and most importantly it’s a job where I feel I can excel and my talents and personality are put to good use, and I am cautiously optimistic that I’m actually going to be making enough money here to take care of myself, maybe even afford a small apartment.

It’s been hard. I’ve had more casual sex with more strangers this year than any other time of my life, and it’s probably not unrelated that I’ve been more lonesome and sad than ever before in the past year. I’ve spent many, many nights curled up in my bed, listening to quiet, somber music, with tears either rolling down my cheeks or always on the verge of coming forth, and I’ve sighed again and again and again.

It’s so hard to be alive.

My goals in 2019 are similar to the ones I always hope for in a new year. It’s a weird thing that we choose the beginning of a new year to choose goals for ourselves, but honestly, maybe it’s not that weird either. I want to become more healthy and do more creative things like writing and making music. I recorded a somewhat low-quality improvisation earlier this year in a piano store that’s probably my favorite recording of anything I’ve ever played on piano. I actually listen to it on repeat to help myself sleep at night. I’ve got some ideas for running features I want to do here on the blog: one is going through the tracks on an album I love or have listened to a lot and discuss each song individually, possibly while ranking them and discussing some B-Sides as well. I also want to share more my self-made greatest hits and playlists/mixes that I make as a hobby, and maybe learn how to record good-quality and pay to have my piano tuned so I can study more with it and record with it as well. I also have wanted for a long time to do a series themed around something like “confessions of a liberal” where I talk about things that annoy my about culture, both on the opposite side of me socially and politically and the things that annoy me about fellow liberals, and believe me, both groups behave like a bunch of entitled whiny brats, probably because that’s just what people do. I think I might call the series I No Longer Give A Fuck.

And honestly, maybe that should be my new years goal: to stop giving a fuck about unimportant things, to speak my mind and my truth unapologetically, to be even MORE loud and unapologetic, and to take care of myself first and foremost. Maybe it should be what we all do.

 

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Dangerously Alive

As you get older, years start going by faster. Time begins to slip through your fingers and you wonder how so much could have happened so fast. Or in my case, how you could have wasted so much time.

I’m twenty-eight now. This blog has existed for eight years. I look back on who I was when I started it and see how sad he was, but still how bright his hopes and dreams for the future were. I don’t think I’m the same person I was then. It makes me sad.

Sadness is basically my default state now. I spend so much time in a state of melancholy that it’s honestly where I feel most comfortable. It’s better to accept the sadness and become friends with it than to dread it, and really why dread it? Being sad is kind of a nice feeling. People say you shouldn’t wallow in self-pity, but sometimes wallowing in self-pity is the most intense emotional experience I’m capable of having.

So much of my time this year has been spent in a state of deep, painful self-reflection. I try to be honest with myself, I try not to lie to myself, because I’ve done that in the past and it’s a terrible feeling. I try not to keep secrets, and especially not to keep secrets from myself. When you try to lie to yourself you do a weird thing where you split yourself into two versions: the version of you that believes the lie, and the version of you that is lying to the other one. And you have to constantly navigate life with these two dissonant voices clashing in your head. I’ve spent a lot of this year absolutely hating myself.

It’s something I can’t truly talk about in specific terms. There were some things that happened to me a year or two ago, things that left me feeling profoundly dirty, and guilt-ridden, and ashamed. And I was transformed by those experiences in a fundamentally negative way, no longer able to see myself as the naive, innocent person I’d been before. At a certain point in everyone’s life, there comes a time when you do something that you’re really ashamed of. You hurt someone you love, or you do something petty and spiteful, or you physically strike someone, or you disregard someone else’s feelings, or you take pleasure in someone else’s suffering, or you do something really perverted or fantasize about violence, or you openly admit something shameful to someone who won’t be sympathetic because you kind of want them to expose you and make you suffer. It’s a weird mix of emotions. I’ve done some of those things, at different times, for different reasons. I believe that deep down I’m a good person, but I’ve spent so much time hating myself for mistakes that I’ve made, for things that I’ve done that I have no power to change, and for people that I’ve hurt, knowingly and unknowingly, and for pain that I’ve played a role in.

The thing is, how do you go on living with yourself when you’ve done something wrong? You can’t exactly turn yourself over to the police, cause either you haven’t committed a crime or what you’ve done is just morally questionable but not legally questionable, or it’s entirely something in your head and it wouldn’t make any sense to do that. You can’t always tell a therapist because maybe you’re poor and can’t afford therapy. Telling friends doesn’t always help because sometimes your friends can’t handle it or they don’t understand.

So you spend your time sitting alone in your room, playing video games and drinking soda, going from day to day, meal to meal, trying just to focus on what’s happening right now, because you don’t know how you’re ever going to make it into the future living with the person you’ve become.

Of course I’m talking about myself. I always am. I don’t know if I have any particular skill apart from painful self-reflection.

There have been so many moments where I’ve thought “I’m setting this pain down now and walking away. I forgive myself. I love myself.”

But you know, sometimes even when you say it and you mean it, it still doesn’t change anything.

Sometimes it just takes a lot of time and a lot of pain for you to feel any different. A couple of months ago, I got very sick and lost my job because of it. After that, I stopped taking my antidepressants and fell into a state of perpetual anxiety and self-hatred, where I kept telling myself that the mistakes I’ve made in my life are unforgivable, that I’m not worth loving or keeping around, and that it would GENUINELY be better for the world if I were dead or behind bars somewhere. That my mind is unclean and sick, that I am a bad influence on other people, that I am twisted and warped and I don’t deserve a second chance.

And the worst part is, those weren’t fleeting angry thoughts. I really meant them. I really felt them. I still do. They live inside of me, questioning me, these fears. I’ve had nightmares and been unable to sleep. I’ve been afraid that people I’ve talked to about the things that haunt me will go around telling others what I’ve told them to try and hurt me as a person. It’s happened already, more than once. There are people who’ve made me want to die. I’ve thought over and over again about what I would say in a suicide note.

And you know, this kind of stuff, it’s really easy to look at and say “There’s someone who needs help. This person needs therapy, this person is a danger to themselves.” But when you’re really there, inside your own head, and you can’t control these thoughts and this awful, awful hopelessness, it’s a crisis. You’re in the middle of a hurricane and just thinking “How do I survive?” The wind is whipping all around you and you become acutely aware that you really might actually die. And you grab onto something and think just survive, just for ten more seconds, just for twenty more seconds, just for thirty more seconds.

Some days are unbearable. Sometimes you lie to yourself to survive. Sometimes you tell the truth and it feels good, but then the truth is unbearable and it hurts even more. I think you have to try every road to understand what it is to be alive. You have to experience the breadth of being human. You have to feel love and compassion, and also anger and rage and lust and the capacity for evil within yourself. You have to see that part of yourself and understand it, and approach it with compassion and say “I see you. I understand you. I love you.”

You can’t chain your demons up in the attic. Because then they’re just up there wailing and struggling against their chains. You have to go up there and sit down in front of the demons and hold out your arms and say “It’s okay, sweetie. I still love you.”

Being alive is a terrible, difficult business. When you really get down to the core of everything, you have to face uncomfortable truths about yourself and about the world, and you don’t get to see things the same way you did before.

I don’t know if I’ll ever truly get over the things that I’m afraid of, the things I’m ashamed of, the things that I carry with me. But I believe that I have the capacity to do good in the world, and to help people see things in a more fulfilling way, and that I can make good music or write in a way that makes people feel something profound for a moment, and that all of the people throughout my life who have told me that I’m special are right in some way, and that I actually am special.

I don’t know the meaning to any of it. I don’t know why life happens the way it does. I don’t think anything happens after we die. But I also know that I’ve got to make this life work somehow, for me.

So as I approach the end of this year, I’m trying, like always, to shed my skin, and to love the past and it’s miseries and accept them as a part of myself, without being chained to them and sinking into hopelessness.

And I keep searching for a place where I’m loved, where I feel complete, and where I can do good, for myself and for others.

It’s a scary, dangerous, dirty thing, being alive. But it’s what we are. We didn’t have any choice in the matter. And we can’t decide how long we’re going to live. I’ve been sick for about five days. I’ve got a ton of cold/flu medicines and vitamin C and antibiotics coursing through me. I’m swimming around in my head. My fingers are moving so fast they don’t feel like they’re attached to me.

I’m alive. This is who I am. I’m gonna try to love me for who and what I am, to accept the sick parts and the well parts, to be better than I was yesterday.

Yesterday is over. No matter if it was a triumph or a failure, today is another chance, and tomorrow is another. If you don’t believe it, wait until tomorrow. Eventually you will.

Halfway Through The Wood

 

I used to take a lot of walks.

I didn’t realize I was getting exercise, although I know now that it was actually doing wonders for me, because when I look back at pictures of myself I can see how in shape I was, despite thinking I was fat. The neighborhood where my family lived was built on this huge hill that was probably once part of a mountain or something, all of the houses lining the hill seemed simultaneously to be level and yet sliding down the hill. Our neighborhood was at the top of the hill and a little ways further around some turns. I would take my iPod out for a stroll so I could listen to whatever music I was exploring at the time. I remember walking during a cool, wet day and listening to Telepopmusik’s beautiful ambient electronic album Angel Milk, and feeling so… well, I wanted to say “at peace,” but that wouldn’t be right. I felt a lot of pain, and a lot of aching and longing, a lot of sadness, and mostly that I had so much I wanted to SAY. I wanted to write and play piano and scream and be heard, and I also desperately wanted sexual attention because I was in a stale relationship that had already lasted nearly two years longer than it should have.

When I think about me then and me now, the biggest difference is the depth of feeling. I felt so much then. Life was such a full experience, with rich textures and sounds. Most of the experience was sad, and in fact I was suffering deeply with my own mental illness, having panic attacks that were gradually driving me further and further indoors until eventually I was entirely agoraphobic and couldn’t leave my house, except to go to my boyfriend’s house, and the drive there was sometimes nightmarish. Once we got stopped by a slow-moving train and I was so visibly shaken and trying hard to breathe while I had a panic attack that my normally unattendant boyfriend rolled his eyes at me and told me the calm the hell down. He responded in this way to the majority of my suffering: a combination of annoyance and contempt. He would sometimes threaten to turn around and take me back home “if I was going to act like this.” I would look forward to seeing him all week and the first two minutes in the car with him would be wonderful, but we wouldn’t usually make it completely out of the neighborhood before he’d say something that crushed me, and all my hopes would be dashed, and I’d be deflated, and I’d settle in for a weekend of knowing I was miserable but refusing to admit it to myself because it just didn’t hurt enough yet.

But I digress.

I did a lot of walking aimlessly as an excuse to be doing something physical while listening to music. I loved experiencing the music and walking is a good way to do so, and I’d make a lot of music videos in my head, some of which I’d replayed so many times in my head that I’d added small details to until they were like their own little plays, with all the actors coming out to try out new things and add to the material. There were all these characters in my music videos, because I was always imagining myself as a musician, a real artist with real music videos and real fans who watched and discussed what I did. My music videos often featured various versions of myself interacting with each other.

I spent so much time back then fantasizing, creating, constantly creating in my mind.

When I look at who I am now versus who I was then, I guess the biggest difference is that now I feel so… drained. I mean, I was so naive and starry eyed when I was twenty-one, even though I was goddamn miserable at the time. I still had hope for this bright elaborate life that would take me to the places I dreamed of, for a future where I was far away from my family and on a tour bus playing shows or flying around the world and putting on elaborate stage shows. I don’t know where the desire to be a musician came from, because it wasn’t something I’d dreamed of as a kid, but now here it was. And it was mostly Tori Amos I was listening to at the time, because she was my newest musical interest and I was trying really hard to get into her catalog.

Eight years divide me from that time and that person, who he was. He spent so much time hoping and dreaming, there was so much still ahead of him. I guess the feelings that I’m having now, feeling a loss of that hope and even that innocence and wonder, is what you might call a quarter-life crisis, if such a thing really exists. But truly, that’s not really it.

It isn’t hard for me to pinpoint the real difference between me of the past and me of the present.

It’s the drugs, of course.

Not street drugs, not drugs like my cousins do and sell and go to prison for. Not illicit, scary drugs from a back alley. Good, safe, clean drugs that a nice respectable doctor prescribed me when I woke up one morning and found that the anxiety had gotten so bad that now the whole left side of my body, from the tingling on my scalp to the tenderness in my nipple to the weakness in the veins of my arm and on down into my feet, was numb. It’s weird because “numb” is the word I used at the time but now I think it was more “sensitive,” the whole left side of my body was really sensitive, it was easier to hurt me there, and there was this constant tingling running all up and down.

I was afraid I would have an early-in-life stroke or heart attack or seizure, afraid I might have some kind of brain tumor, and these symptoms were so strange and seemingly random. That’s when they finally gave me the medicine, and frankly I didn’t want to take it because I’d heard the word Klonopin before and never in a good context. I didn’t want to become addicted to a narcotic. But I took it, because my best friend told me the doctors know what they’re doing and I needed to take the medicine I was prescribed.

I remember where I was when I took it the first time, I was sitting at a barstool at the kitchen counter. I don’t know if I was on my computer or what, and I don’t know how long it took for it to affect me but it was very quick, and my dog was laying on the floor next to me, and I sat down next to her and petted her, and then laid down with her, and I felt so free, and I wasn’t sleepy but I knew I could fall into sleep perfectly at any moment.

In the early days they had that effect on me: my sheets were so cool, the air was so fresh, my eyes were heavy and sleeping and waking were so easy. I took them at the same time every day and I started to wake up with the sun and go to sleep with it too, and I felt so much more productive and healthy and mostly the biggest change was that I no longer had the panic attacks.

I could spend a very long time talking about my journey with antidepressants. I am not one of those people who thinks they’re evil and bad for you and that you should try something else. I tried everything else. I did the fucking breathing exercises and all they did was make me more scared. I tried meditating and doing yoga and doing reiki and projecting a fucking energy shield around myself with my mind during guided meditations and listening to Enya, I tried to be positive and to write positive and think positive, I tried not to focus on the fear, but that did not stop my body from going numb, it did not stop the panic attacks from coming, wave after wave, until living was impossible.

So I’m glad I took them, I truly am.

But.

The thing about antidepressants is that they start to sap color and sound and feeling from the world around you. The world is a bright and vibrant and terrifying place, and if you want the good stuff you have to take the bad stuff too, and the antidepressants will make the bad stuff go away but it also makes the good stuff go away too. It’s not so blatant that you realize that you don’t have depth of feeling anymore, but after a very long time, you look at who you used to be and you realize that even when you try to go for a walk and listen to music now…

…it just isn’t the same.

I am not the same.

I’m so very, very tired.

Drained, lethargic, weary. Weary is probably the best word. I’m just so over it all. I feel like I’ve seen it all and felt it all, which will probably seem silly to me if I read this back to myself in years to come. But mostly I feel like the old washed up could-have-been sitting at the table and smoking a cigarette and staring off into the distance, eyes filled with visions of what might have been.

It’s not just that none of my dreams have come true. It’s that there’s no hope of them coming true, nothing on the horizon, no real changes happening. I look at where I am and even though I still love people and have dreams and hopes and I try and I create, I don’t have that same fascination with life anymore.

I’m too weary.

It’s been a long day and I don’t want to go to sleep but it would be nice not to feel so fucking tired.

And I just can’t stop taking the medication because life would kill me. The colors and sounds and feelings would overhwlem me and I’d be unable to handle it. I live with my family, and that is not a safe place to be, and I have to have a shield projected around me at all times just to make it through the day when I’m near them. I want to leave them but then I’ll need to be reliant on myself and that’s even worse, because then I REALLY can’t afford to stop taking the medicine because I can’t afford to miss work because of a panic attack.

You see? There is no optimal solution short of hitting the lottery and having the ability to live in a comfortable house with someone I love who respects and supports me, and write and play piano all day and wonder at the fascinating minutia of life as I stare out into the rainstorm. Because right here, in real life, I’m on the ground, and I have to find a way to make it through a life that has and may still continue to consist of going to work in a job I hate and putting on a smile and pretending that I’m not miserable for hours and hours a day, coming home and eating and staring at a screen for fun, then going to sleep and either doing it again the next day or spending a day resting from how exhausting it is to do it.

I feel both envy and anger toward normal people. People who think it’s fun to go to a bar. People who make weekend plans. People who can just go anywhere and do anything without being in constant fear their own brain and body will kill them. How dare they walk around complaining about ANY problem when I can’t bare to step foot outside without enough drugs in me numbing my experience of life to the point that I can feel love but not much else. Sadness I feel, loneliness I feel, sometimes intensely. Maybe that’s why I love the feeling of loneliness, because it’s the only truly intense feeling I have left.

I got sick two weeks ago, and my sex drive disappeared. Which is ironic because I STOPPED taking the antidepressant that was lowering my sex drive. And yes, I know a lot of what I’m experiencing right now is probably due to stopping it. I’m taking a different one but still, the transition is always difficult.

I miss life before the drugs, though. I know that they’ve become so entwined with my system, like roots growing into a house that’s being built until the house is part of the tree. So I don’t know that I’ll ever have a chance to be whole. I’ve been walking on crutches so long that my legs have atrophied, and my emotions might have done the same thing and just given up. Sometimes life feels like a pale and grey facsimile of itself, and I am just a reflection, a shadow cast from the boy who walked around the block and listened to music and made music videos in his head.

I wish I could talk to him and give him a hug, tell him I love him, and that I admire him, and that I aspire to be who I remember I was when I was him.

I mostly drive now, instead of walking. I didn’t have a license then. I don’t know what driving would have been like for me. I wish I could take him for a drive.

I wish I could feel the way I did, I wish I could try it all again and do things differently, I wish I’d been born to a loving family where I’m welcome and encouraged and appreciated, I wish the cow was full of milk, I wish the house was full of gold, I wish a lot of things.

I wish I could end this with something happy. I wish I wasn’t such a miserable sod who probably depresses anyone who reads my writing. I wish that someone would love my writing and my music and help me grow and take me away into a happier world where I just know I can see all the things I’ve been waiting for.

I made it through the sickness, the black despair of lying in the hospital bed for ten hours, and the scar on my arm from the IV needle still hasn’t faded entirely. I reorganized my room today. I’m sitting in front of a television in my room in a chair that wasn’t here before. There’s a new book sitting on my bed. There are things to do tomorrow.

There’s a friend I love who I want to ask to be my boyfriend, because I’m saddened by the thought of meeting someone else. I don’t know if it’s a functional kind of love or just more dysfunction from me, because really, when have I ever understood how to treat anyone with decency, much less myself?

I feel so much shame for the person I have been and the things I’ve said and done to people and the thoughts I’ve thought at night alone and the wishes I’ve had. I feel so weary at how heavy everything is and wish I could just try again, start again from the boy who felt so much so fully. I wish I could be a good enough, sound enough, stable enough person to know what a relationship is and how to enjoy one or experience one or be a good boyfriend to someone else or a good friend or a good lover.

I believe I have so much potential, and I also believe that right now there is a foggy cloud of confusion and pain and numbness around my head that makes it hard to see anyone through the blur.

I believe I’m still worthy of love, and that I should still try anyway.

My ex-boyfriend, not the mean one I talked about at the beginning of this post, but another one from later, one who I really loved and respected but who just didn’t work out, we’ve stayed friends through the internet since we broke up three years ago. Three years together, three years apart. I made a new Facebook account and he didn’t accept my friend request. I checked Instagram and he removed me from his friends there. I sent him a message from my old account and he read but didn’t reply.

I don’t blame him and I’m not mad at him. But it hurts. It’s sad.

I’ve always wished I could just kiss him one more time, to say I’m sorry and try to fix it all, even if it can’t be fixed, but just to do it for the sake of doing it, and for the fun of it. I always hoped I would kiss him again someday.

Now I have to accept that that might not ever happen. What if I never hear his voice again for the rest of my life? When I was laying in the hospital bed, I thought only of two people: the person I love the most, and him. I made voice messages to them telling them how important they’ve been to me and how much I love them.

Does he know how much I still love him and how much I treasure every memory that touches anything related to him? That there’s never a time when I see something related to the Legend of Zelda and he doesn’t cross my mind? That I still think of him when I hear the line in Into the Woods, “Sometimes people leave you halfway through the wood.”

I love you, Nate.

I’m glad we gave it a try.

Ten Hours

A few days ago I woke up, early in the morning, drenched in sweat. The sheets beneath and above me were soaked through with it, and my blanket too; everything smelled of sweat. My head was spinning, and I managed to push myself upright and take a drink of water. I got up and very slowly shambled into the living room, where my mom lay on the couch with the news on. It was still early enough that there was no light outside. I collapsed into the recliner, and wrapped a blanket around myself, taking staggered breaths.

There was a hurricane coming through, Hurricane Michael, but honestly I wasn’t concerned about it. I don’t really mind storms anymore, as an adult I’m not really afraid of dying in them like I was as a kid, and I often find the pounding rain comforting. I sat in the chair, my head lolling back and forth because it was so hard to hold it up, and every time I exhaled, a soft moan would accompany it. This was the second day that I’d been sick, and I still didn’t know what with. But it was terrible, and it was wreaking havoc not just on my body but on my mind and heart as well. I suffered from a constant dread, a feeling that this would never end, never get better.

I don’t handle being sick well, and I never have. At least not when it comes to anything stomach related. Throwing up is an incredibly rare occurrence for me, to the point that I’ve always found it incredibly odd to hear people talk so casually about throwing up from drinking, or making themselves throw up to feel better. For me, vomiting is a life-or-death experience, at least emotionally. My entire body goes limp and then seizes up, it’s more like a seizure than throwing up. I never throw up quickly, it churns in my stomach for hours and sometimes even days before it leaves me, like a disease festering inside my body. Usually I can feel a disgusting taste coming up into my throat for days beforehand and when I do throw up, it exhausts me so much physically and emotionally that I almost always cry, and then emotionally collapse and go to sleep, praying that it will be over soon.

So, it was with some unease then, that I went to work several days ago with my stomach feeling uneasy. Now, I’m actually used to my stomach giving me problems pretty often: I’m lactose intolerant, I have type 2 diabetes and issues with blood sugar, but usually it never gets bad enough that I throw up, and thankfully at no point in this story do I ever end up throwing up. Thank God for small mercies, I guess. I work at a coffee shop, and had taken home a couple of the “protein boxes” that were past their sell by date, which I’ve even before and which are usually just fine. I happened to take home a couple that have two hard-boiled eggs in them, and though I still don’t know for sure, I think the eggs are the source of all of this. I ate one of the protein boxes the night before, and another the morning of before I went to work that day. I was in and out of the bathroom all afternoon, but I was determined that I wouldn’t leave work early because of it.

The truth is, I have a bad problem with calling out of work, or avoiding work in general. I’ve never been good at working a job for the same reason that I was never good at going to school regularly: I don’t like feeling trapped. I can actually still remember the moment in Kindergarten, walking into the school on a dark and rainy morning, so early that the sun had not yet come up, and I remember looking up at the ceiling, which to a five year old seemed so incredibly high, like the domed ceiling of a cathedral, and I remember a teacher ushering us all toward our classrooms. As I walked, staring up at the ceiling and thinking of how I missed being at home and being with my mom, I was thinking about how I’d recently learned that school lasts for twelve years. Twelve years was an incomprehensibly long time, and it seemed to stretch out forever before me. And I decided then and there that I hated school, that I didn’t want to be there, and that I just couldn’t wait until it was over so I could stay at home where I was happy. After all why did I need to come to this stupid school for seven hours a day, five days out of the week?

And honestly, that feeling never left me. I was a very smart child so I had good grades up until middle school, when things began to actually challenge me, and my response was to simply give up and slide by on terrible grades until I ultimately graduated high school. I could have applied myself and been an outstanding student, but the truth is I didn’t want to be an outstanding student: I just wanted to go home. I always just wanted to go home. And when school was over and the time for me to start working jobs, it was exactly the same feeling: why am I spending eight hours of the day here, every day, wasting precious moments of my life in a place where I’m unhappy? Why does ANYONE do this? There are so many better things I could be doing with my time. If this is what work is, then I don’t care about work at all, and I don’t want to do it.

And, like school, it’s never really left me, that feeling of the utter uselessness of going to work. I can understand on some level why it’s important to go out and be a member of society, but the fact that in addition to that simple childlike desire to go home, I now as an adult have to contend with debilitating social anxiety and panic attacks, makes it even harder to go to work on a regular basis. And so, it’s always been difficult for me, and probably always will be. I started this new job incredibly excited about working for this company, but within a few weeks I’ve already called out about four or five times and left work early twice, and that doesn’t look good on me.

So here I was, at work, with an upset stomach, just trying to make it through the day. My vision started to get blurry and I began to feel more and more disoriented. I had made a decision the night before that I was going to start eating healthier, so this morning had NOT included a run through the McDonald’s drive through for a sausage, egg and cheese biscuit, and instead I’d eaten my protein box with two eggs and some fruit, and later the turkey sandwich from another protein box, and even writing about either of those things right now is making me want to throw up, so you can see where this is going. I felt shaky and weak, which are symptoms that, along with the disorientation, I’m very used to, because they’re common signs of anxiety attacks, and also signs of low blood sugar. I didn’t feel particularly anxious, and when I checked my sugar it was lower than it should be, so I decided I would take lunch soon and have something sweet. On lunch I got a frappucinno (yes, I’m diabetic, and yes, I got a frappucinno, I didn’t say it was a GOOD decision) and a pre-made panini and went to sit in my car and eat and try to recover. After about ten or fifteen minutes I could feel my sugar rising and started to feel a bit better, when I suddenly realized that the air condition in my car was bothering me, so I turned it off. But when I turned it off I realized that actually, I was freezing, so I turned the heat on. All the way. And blasted it.

I was suddenly freezing, cold chills running up and down my whole body, and the heat felt like a warm blanket; my skin was covered in goosebumps, and I was reminded of the time I got bronchitis, which began with a terrible fever, when I’d sat in my truck with the heat blasting for a good fifteen minutes before I got out, and then discovered the next day I had a high fever. This was so unexpected and sudden that I wasn’t sure what to make of it, but my break was nearly over. The 30-minute mark of my break came and went, and I stayed in the car, shivering, and trying to breathe. Eventually about 45 minutes had past. I knew I wasn’t going back inside. I gathered up the courage to call the store and let my manager know what was happening, and that I was going to go to the Emergency Room. When I got to the Emergency Room, I brought in a small blanket my sister had made by cutting and tying together two pieces of fabric. I was surprised to find that I was NOT running a fever, despite having every symptom of a fever.

This led to the longest night in the Emergency Room I’ve ever experienced. I got there at 8PM. I was taken back, had blood taken from me, and hooked up to an IV pole with saline dripping. I kept going back and forth to the bathroom with dhiarrea like I had all day. I was taken to a room and given a gown, and the nurse even brought me a heated blanket. I did NOT like having an IV in my arm, as I don’t do well with needles, and an IV isn’t a needle, but a gauged tube that holds your vein open so that fluids can be injected directly into it, which somehow made my skin crawl even more. The tests were coming back not showing anything serious, my white blood cells were normal, my symptoms seemed to be an elevated heart rate, severe dehydration, and slightly heightened liver function. An ultrasound was taken of my liver and I was eventually given an X-Ray for one of my ribs which had recently been bruised, just in case it had something to do with what was going on. I was continually amazed that I was NOT running a fever, despite laying their shivering under what was now a pile of FOUR blankets: my sister’s quilted one and three from the ER. The fluids were making me even colder. Hours were passing. I was so exhausted, and just laying there and breathing was becoming more difficult. The heart monitor kept making annoying beeping sounds because my heart rate kept hitting 120, which is not dangerously high but is too high to be considered normal.

I was so afraid that at one point I took my phone out and turned on the voice recorder and set it on my chest and made a spoken Last Will and Testament, just in case it turned out to be needed. I told my lover and my best friend Jake how important he is to me, and that I leave everything to him, and said some words about people in my life who’ve been important: my ex-boyfriend Nathan, my friends Zack and Robert who I used to live with, and a handful of others. I said that I didn’t want a Christian funeral, and I didn’t want any preacher to use my death or the grief of my friends and family to prey on them with a funeral service inciting them to come to Jesus. I chose a few songs that I wanted played at my funeral.

I know this all sounds dramatic, and I was aware at the time that it was a silly thing to do, but at the same time… I just DIDN’T KNOW what was happening. All of the tests they’d run seemed to indicate that I was alright aside from dehydration, and despite having fever symptoms, I wasn’t running a fever. Did that mean that I was suffering from something really rare and unusual? Was I having a reaction to something that they hadn’t figured out yet? I certainly felt like I was dying, so was I actually going to? Sadly I didn’t get to finish what I was saying to Jake in my recording because someone came into my room.

Eventually I fell asleep. I woke up covered in sweat, no longer freezing. I felt a lot better already. My vitals were all the same as before: still a high heart rate, my temperature was elevated but not technically a fever. By now it was 1AM. I was lonesome, I was afraid, I was sad. I called every member of my family and none of them answered. My phone was at about 10% and had another hour or so before it died, and I didn’t have a charger for it. One of my friends, Tori, gave me a call, I’d never heard her voice before, but it was nice to hear someone friendly. She assured me over and over again that I was safe, that I was probably fine. It helped a lot, she was the first person to offer me any kind of comfort.

Blood cultures were taken and it was incredibly painful. My veins wouldn’t show up because I was dehydrated and it took three attempts, rooting around inside my veins with the needle, each time my heart pounded as I squinted my eyes shut and tried to breathe. I was told once again that they couldn’t find anything wrong, I learned I have a gall stone but it’s really not a big deal and probably had nothing to do with me being sick now. The doctor finally let me take the damn temperature myself, rectally, and yes I did in fact have fever. Strange though considering I wasn’t freezing cold anymore.

Around 4AM I started to get antsy, I was ready to leave soon, but then I was told I was going to be transferred to a hospital for observation because my heart rate was too high. I was honestly just not interested in doing that, but they suggested I take in another bag of IV fluids since the last one had helped so much and see how I was doing after. That sounded reasonable enough, except after an hour and a half, the fluids were still not any more than halfway through the bag, and I didn’t feel much different than I had before. And what’s more, I did NOT want to go to the hospital and suffer through any more of this. Finally I told my nurse I was thinking of leaving soon, and she said I’d have to sign papers saying that I was leaving against the doctor’s recommendation, and indeed that’s the only paperwork I was given: a pink copy of a sheet saying that I acknowledged that the results of my refusing treatment could be (and then a blank space in which was written very simply) “sepsis, death.” I still don’t know what sepsis is and don’t want to. I waited and waited for my nurse to come back and take my IV out, but now she was helping other people and cleaning another room, and I was nearly ready to march up to the counter and offer them an ultimatum that either someone take this IV out of me or I’m doing it myself and it’s going to be a mess, before finally at 6AM, I was released from the machines I’d been hooked up to and my vein was finally, after ten hours, closed.

The moment I walked outside and smelled the damp morning air from the rain that had fallen overnight, it was like I’d just been reborn. It felt incredible. I was reminded of a moment in Dragon Age Inquisition where Cassandra describes her vigil to become a seeker, where she’d kept in dark and solitude, fasting and praying for days on end, drained of all emotion, until finally being touched by a spirit of faith and let out into the world again, and that the feeling is indescribable. I honestly wondered if maybe I HAD died in the hospital, and this was me in another universe where I’d survived, living out the dead Jesse’s wish to see the outside again. Driving home in my car was a wonderful feeling, and as I got inside and crawled into bed, I hoped that the worst of it was over.

I was wrong, of course, but I’d made it through the experience at the ER. The next day was difficult, filled with just as much emotional trauma as the last. I felt like I was dying, like I’d never be back to normal, never have my life back. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t eat, I could sometimes barely even speak, and I was so tired at all times. When I slept, I sweated profusely. The only things that made me feel any spark of joy were watching the animals in our house: several cats and two dogs, as they went about begging for food or following people around. My dog Butterscotch stood watch nearby wherever I was resting. I felt better as I got into bed that night, and the next morning awoke more tired and afraid than I’d been yet, and a hurricane was preparing to come through our area.

Later that day I felt better, and it continued to go in waves: a little better, then terrible, then a little better, then terrible. No one at the Emergency Room had offered me a concrete answer as to what was wrong with me, but my symptoms perfectly matched that of food poisoning. Tori called me again and reassured me that I was doing great, that I would recover soon, and that it took her husband three days to get better from food poisoning. Everyone kept saying three days, actually, that was apparently the magic number.

And it was.

On the third day, I was out of the woods. I was not recovered or even nearly back to normal. It is the fifth day now and I’m still not back to normal, but I knew that the worst was now over. And I was greeted by another surprise when I woke up: autumn. Every year I look forward to autumn, because the choking heat of summer makes me feel like I can’t breathe, and the fresh breath of autumn is like water when I’ve been choking and thirsty for months on end. I stepped onto the front porch and smelled fall air for the first time in a year, and it was as though nature was congratulating me on making it through, and I had the feeling that my life before the sickness and my life after were probably not going to be the same. I don’t really know, honestly.

I have a lot more to talk about, but it’s getting late and I’ve written all I can. Tomorrow I’ll talk about what’s been happening in my mind this whole time, and where my thoughts are, and what my plans are. Going back to work… it’s something I still haven’t done yet. I don’t know if I’ll lose my job over this. I don’t know what’s going to happen next. I am scared. But I’m going to just keep going and doing what I have to. Right now, I can’t afford to do anything other than exactly what will help me recover.

Yesterday there was a fire in the front yard, and they burned limbs and wood all day. At night I took this picture of the smoking embers as I stood by the remaining warmth. It felt like it was really fall. And as I found myself standing up, outside, and walking around, I felt like a different person than the one who’d been suffering these past fews days, like I was his representative, strong and determined, sent out here to speak on his behalf. And I couldn’t help wondering, again, if maybe I HAD died of the sickness, and this was some universe where I’d escaped that fate, or history had been changed to allow me to live somehow. I didn’t feel entirely the same. And with the seasons changing, I knew that one of my biggest sources of fear and anxiety, namely the heat and the environment, was going to be far away for a while. I felt hopeful, and yet still terrified at the same time. And I still do.

But I’m alive, I’m alive.

Hee-ee-ee-ee-ee, I said
Don’t even let this go
And it’s hey to that old man
I’m coming in the graveyard
With my little tune, it’s June
I said she’s gone but I’m alive, I’m alive
I’m coming in the graveyard
To sing you to sleep now.”

– Graveyard, Tori Amos