Confrontation

I want to tell you everything that happened.
I want to tell everyone.
I want to scream it, from the girls’ dorm down to the soccer field. From the high school in the midwest to my home church on the west coast.
I want to print it on the back of every bulletin. I want to carve it in the trunk of every tree on campus. I want to spray paint it on the roof of every one of your churches and schools.
I want the truth to be as unavoidable and inescapable for every perpetrator among you as it is for every victim.
And if you still won’t do anything about it, at least the rest of the world will know what you are, and what you’ve done.

“Mark and avoid those who cause division and offense.”
It was you who taught me that; don’t you remember?
That’s what I’m going to do. I’ve been doing it out of order, perhaps – I’ve already been avoiding you for years now – but division has been created, and offense caused, and it is long past time for the marking to begin.

Scratch

Content notice: morbid thoughts, indirect references to suicidal ideation.

The noise has returned.
It’s a scratching sound, like someone is dragging their fingernails across the inside of my skull. It’s as if my head is a coffin, and someone has been buried alive inside it, and they’re trying to claw their way out.
The noise sounds frantic. It feels more desperate this time. I’m trying to fight off the despair, to keep calm and save what oxygen we might have left, but it’s not working. The panic is creeping into my thoughts, and showing in my eyes, and seeping down into my fingertips. My hands are shaking and my breath keeps catching in my throat.
The one place it doesn’t show is on my face. The corners of my mouth stop working properly, the muscles in my cheeks fail to contract, my brow does not scrunch or wrinkle or rise. My face is blank and empty. It has become the perfect mask to hide this relentless noise behind. I know I’m supposed to recognize this a sign that some connection between my muscles and my feelings and my mind has ceased to function properly, but it’s hard to care when it’s such a relief. People don’t usually see your trembling fingers or how you keep swallowing or the way your feet drag; most of them only look at your face, and if your face is empty enough, you’re as good as invisible.
I prefer being invisible right now. When people try to talk to me I just end up feeling guilty because I can’t hear them over that damning sound. I’ll try to force a smile and nod and make affirming noises at the right times, but the smile never looks quite right and my voice is a little too loud. Everything about me seems strained, and I can tell, but I can’t seem to find a place between trying too hard and not trying it all; I can only slide from one pole to the over, and I either seem dishonest or inconsiderate. At least when I’m invisible I know others won’t be wounded by my bewildering existence, with all its rough surfaces and torn edges.
Every once in a while, when I manage to drag my feet past my doorstep, I see other invisible people with masks over their faces and shadows in their eyes. We never speak more than a word or two, if we speak at all, lest we alert others to our presences. Speaking isn’t really necessary when two invisible people meet, though; you already know by virtue of being seen by them that they must be invisible too, and that knowing doesn’t need to be put into words. It’s a relief just being near someone who can see you, someone who does not need you to explain. It’s a comfort to be able to just be for a moment, to just exist without defending yourself or hiding, without having to be completely alone.
“You can see me?”
I don’t answer. I try, but all that happens is a strange twitch in one corner of my mouth.
“Do you hear it too?”
I try to nod, but I’m moving a little too fast and my motion looks more like rocking than nodding. It’s okay though; I can tell you understand. You light your cigarette while I take the last drag of mine. The scratching gets louder, and louder still. I tell myself I’m too old for this, but the noise doesn’t care. It’s determined to find a way out. I have to walk away before it starts climbing down into my throat and tumbling out my mouth in sobs and jumbled strings of words. We share one more quiet moment, nodding silently to ourselves. We exchange a brief but understanding look before I step away. I try to wave but I only manage to move my hand up to the wrist; my arm stays hanging. You still see it though, because you know, and you nod again. I fade away down the street and you fade back into the concrete, and we both fade back out of sight.
We exist unseen except to each other, but we exist. Or at least, we existed for a moment.
We passed each other, and the moment passed us.
We pass by. We pass on.
We all do.

Words About Nothing

Content warning: Depression, references to self injury. If you are viewing this page on a desktop, you should be able to see a little worm on a hook to the left (with the current theme, at time of posting). If you continue reading and reach content which you find distressing, clicking the worm will take you back to the top of the page.

I used to write all the time.

I’ve never really been good at it, but sometimes it feels like the only thing keeping me alive.

I feel like writing the most when my depression is at its worst, but the more depressed I am the more I hate what I write. It feels impossible to write anything about being depressed and miserable without sounding completely cliche. What could I possibly have to say that hasn’t already been said a thousand times by the hundreds upon hundreds of depressed writers who have already tried to capture this dark beast and pin it to paper?

I have to remind myself that I’m writing for myself, not an audience. I’m writing because it keeps my mind moving from one line to the next. It keeps me breathing, keeps me from falling into the pit of misery in the back of my mind, keeps me from giving in to the urge to drink myself to sleep or start cutting again. I haven’t cut myself in years, but I think about it from time to time. I’m thinking about it now, and if I’m honest with myself, I never really stopped the behavior entirely. I just replaced with more subtle ways of injuring myself. The behavior that started before the cutting – this frantic scratching, like I’m trying to claw my way out of my own skin, which leaves red oozing patches that turn into scars that look more like birth marks than old wounds – decreased in frequency but never stopped. It was never a controlled behavior; I never quite managed to take control of it enough to make it stop.

I don’t really have anything to say. I don’t have anything to write about. I’m just typing. It’s just words. I’m just moving across the screen because I don’t have the energy to move myself across the room, let alone out of the house. There are things I could be doing to help myself, I know, but I just don’t have the energy. I don’t have the will. It’s better to be writing it out than doing nothing, though. At least it’s something, some kind of thought, some sort of motion. Maybe it will help me build some kind of momentum, get me close enough to the edge of the hole I’ve fallen into to start clawing my way back out.

Depression is a pit. It’s a pit filled with nothingness. I can fill a page with words, I can spell them correctly and arrange them properly and use words that have richness and texture to them but the more substantial my writing is the less true it becomes, because depression isn’t a novel full of heaviness and misery. Depression is a book made of blank page after blank page. It’s less the presence of something awful, and more the absence of every good and beautiful thing. It’s emptiness, and filling a page with words about it isn’t as true as that empty page. It’s nothingness, and all the words for nothingness are less descriptive than no words at all.

Just imagine this is a blank screen that would take you weeks, maybe months, of scrolling to reach its end. That’s all this really is, and that would be a much better depiction of this thing I’m trying to describe. Just imagine all that nothingness, because it would be truer than all these words about nothing.

That’s all this really is. Words about nothing.

Nothing.

I’m Still Here

So, I’ve been offline since some time in July. It’s been a bumpy couple of months. August was full of a variety of family-related events, and my anxiety about them was consuming me, so I decided to take some time alone to focus on self-care in the hopes that it would make things go more smoothly for me. I find when I’m “unplugged” it’s easier for me to acknowledge and process my emotions; I sometimes get the urge to share things in a public way when I’m upset, to a degree that I often regret (whether or not I should), so removing that possibility reduces the “risk” of really experiencing and recognizing what I’m feeling. The last few weeks I’ve been in recovery mode, processing how things went and how I feel about it. My depression has still been flaring up lately, but I’m at least back to the point where the benefits of interacting outweigh the anxiety I feel about doing it. I’m more afraid of giving in to the silence now than I am of what I might say.

When I speak up, I tend to be afraid that I’m going to go too far or say too much and end up in a position I can’t handle. It feels like I might just explode, leaving nothing of myself behind. But I’ve been speaking up, in bits and pieces, in different ways, in bursts over the last year or so – and I’m still here.

When I stay silent, I become afraid that I might just fade away and disappear. It feels like I’m not being myself, and sometimes I feel like if I stop “being” myself, I might stop existing altogether. But I’ve taken time to be silent, when I can and when I need to – and I’m still here.

I’m still here.

My “real” social media accounts have been narrowed down to the people I really don’t want to lose. My “friends” are down to family and people I would (and do) genuinely miss, people who I believe genuinely care about me and would (or do) miss me too, and I rarely check these accounts unless I have a specific reason for doing so. Even with this limited number of people and small amount of time, I end up seeing something upsetting almost every time I log in. I hold on to the hope that by continuing to gradually exposed them to new information, maybe I’ll make some kind of difference and maybe they’ll begin to understand, but I often wonder if I’m just wasting my time and energy. I know it’s hurting me, to a degree that is probably unhealthy. But I’m still here.

I see posts that are bigoted and hateful towards all kinds of LGBT people. I wonder: Do you know you’re talking about me? Would it make a difference if you did? How can you not tell? How have you never noticed? I feel invisible.  When I try to confront these comments, my identity is usually dismissed. I become the exception – “that’s not what I was talking about,” “you’re not like them.”  My gender variance is belittled and dismissed, my marriage becomes a weapon – a means of erasing the complexities of my orientation. Who I am is replaced with an image of who they believe I am or want me to be. But I’m still here.

People post jokes and make comments about mental illness that are untrue and say disparaging things about mentally ill people and use mental illnesses as insults and make flippant remarks and jokes about suicide. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times I call out specifics and point out falsehoods and mention my own mental health struggles and explain that I can’t afford to take suicide lightly and have to protect myself from people who casually say things like “go kill yourself.”
Sexism and anti-feminism is as pervasive in my own feeds as it is everywhere else on the internet. Disgust is expressed for anything that might be perceived as “liberal.” Religious bigotry and condemnation is a constant presence. I’ve posted enough feminist and “liberal” content that it must be completely obvious that I fall into those categories, and I can’t imagine there are many (if any) people left who are unaware that I’ve left the church. Apparently these things are either being deliberately ignored, or these people care even less about me than I thought. But I’m still here.

I’m still here.

I’m still occupying this uncomfortable, unhealthy space. I’m still knowingly permitting people who hurt me to enter my personal sphere where they can do more harm. I’m still looking for a way to balance my desire to try to speak up for the sake of people still in this circle who feel alone and don’t have a way out (such young LGBT members or people who are financially dependent on members of the group) with my desire to protect myself and my happiness. It’s draining, and it isn’t an easy process, but I do think I’m beginning to find that balance. As I get stronger and healthier and construct a new support system, it gets easier to cope with the awfulness and easier to speak up in spite of the responses I know I might get. Over time, the people who are just plain hateful and not merely ignorant will become easier to recognize and separate myself from – and the more I put myself out there, the faster it’ll probably happen. Eventually I’ll find supportive friends and leave the hateful people behind and eventually this period of time will just be a memory and not an ongoing struggle. And until I get there, I’ll just keep reminding myself that I know I can get through this because in spite of it all, I still exist. I am still alive. I’m still here.

Fear

I’m constantly afraid of hurting people.
I’m afraid of speaking because I’m afraid what I say is going to hurt someone.
When I do speak, I feel guilty and mull on it for hours (or days), thinking I must have said something wrong, wishing I could take it back.
When I don’t speak, I’m worried that my silence will be hurtful. I feel obligated to do whatever I can to help, and I know how much it hurts to feel alone.
I fear not saying enough words. I fear saying the wrong words.
I fear, all the time.

I tell myself that nobody’s perfect, that holding myself to a standard of perfectionism will always ultimately do more harm than good. I tell myself that we all have to take care of ourselves, and that I’m not forcing anyone to listen to me or spend time with me. I tell myself that I am doing the best I can, that I am in the process of healing, that I am having to learn things now that many people learned growing up and that this isn’t my fault. I tell myself that I am getting better and I just need to be patient with myself.
I tell myself all these things, but none of it works. None of it matters. I’m still afraid

I feel guilty for existing. I feel like a parasite, sucking up resources and giving back so little. I feel guilty for feeling badly when I am aware of how easy my life has been compared to so many. I am trying so hard to be better than the person I was taught to be, but I am overwhelmed. I have so much to learn, and I feel like I am doing so much damage day by day that I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to learn enough to stop it. I’m sorry for so much, and then I’m sorry for being sorry, because why am I telling anyone that I;m sorry? Why am I not just being better?

I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me. I just want to get better. I just want to talk.

I feel hurt by the stigma I constantly run into, but it hurts the most because I’ve internalized it. I know it isn’t true, but that doesn’t make me feel better. I know that it’s largely the depression talking, making it harder to cope with and address what I’m reacting to, but it doesn’t make me feel better. It doesn’t make me any less afraid.

I know to be loving to other people, you have to be loving to yourself.
I’m trying. I’m trying.
But I don’t.

I’ve been told how strong I am, how brave I am. I don’t feel strong. I don’t feel brave.
Just afraid.