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.

Advertisements

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.

Depression through the year

Content warning: descriptions of depression symptoms, including references to suicidal ideation. 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.

Some things are constant, especially those symptoms which are more tangential to the depression itself: the nightmares, certain anxieties, and my susceptibility to stress triggers. Some things will always bring down my mood and make my depression flare up: drinking alcohol, altering my sleep habits, neglecting to eat regularly. There’s a certain rhythm to my depression overall, though; there’s a pattern to when different symptoms are most likely to occur. It doesn’t come and go seasonally (it’s MDD, not SAD) but it does change with the seasons.

I always expect summer to be easier. I tell myself every year that the sun and the warmth will make me feel better. It’ll be easier to get out, and I’ll be more active, and it’ll be fun, and I won’t feel so depressed if I’m out doing things, right? It’s a lie and I know it, but it’s a lie I feed myself every year, and the denial rises up around me like steam as the summer gets hotter and more humid. The season carries with it the anniversaries of traumas, and as I approach them I find myself increasingly dissociated, and with increasing frequency, making the denial possible. I stop attributing things I know are symptoms to the depression, and start ignoring them – and it’s hard to practice self care when you’ve convinced you don’t need it. I become determined to feel something – anything – and it usually comes at the cost of my health. I stay up late, because it’s summer, even though I know my mood crashes if I don’t regulate my sleep habits. I drink, because it’s summer and we’re at a party, even though I know alcohol makes my depression flare up. I do any number of things I’m likely to regret,  because I’m so desperate to feel, even though I know the regret will cost me more than I can possibly gain in feel.

By the end of summer, I’m a sleep-deprived mess made up of questionable substances, poor nutrition, bad decisions and raw recklessness. I tell myself that summer wasn’t as great as I was hoping, but it’s okay; I’ll get back on track and this year will be better and I won’t make the same mistakes next summer. I realize months have gone by without my noticing so I get to work grounding myself, and as I get there I become aware of just how low my mood has really been. My physical health improves but I don’t really feel any better. If anything I actually feel how badly I felt all along; there’s a relief that I can feel at all, but at same time I feel worse. As the temperatures drop and winter creeps closer, dread because to rise up from somewhere inside that pit of feelings that I’d been avoiding. I hate winter – I hate the cold, I hate snow, I hate icy roads and frosted-over windows and frozen ground and the sounds of snow plows and cracking trees – and knowing that it’s approaching weakens my determination to fight off the depression I’d just finally stopped denying.

Then winter comes, and I stop fighting all together. I stop caring at all. The denial and desperation freeze over like the lakes and rivers around me, and all that’s left is numbness. I know the terrible feelings are still there, a little ways below the surface, but I don’t care. I can’t feel them. I can’t feel anything. The depression is always there, but winter is when I’m most prone to giving in to it. I sleep constantly, eat rarely, and have more of a struggle doing basic things like showering and laundry and dishes. I’m always depressed, but in the winter I look depressed, and in the winter I don’t care that I’m depressed. I’m frozen in place – cold, but calm. The numbness gets me through the holiday season; I want to enjoy the holidays, but being presentable is exhausting and if I’m not presentable I’m constantly reminded that I’m surrounded by people who try to love me but don’t know how to do it unconditionally. At least I don’t really feel it, no matter how it plays out.

Winter is when I look the worst, but the beginning of spring is really when my depression is really the most dangerous. When spring comes and I start thawing, feelings start bubbling up to the surface and create chaos. I start having thoughts again – most of them dark and shame filled. I realize I’ve just spent the last several months doing nothing, and the thoughts creep in. “You’re a waste of resources, a burden on the people you love and the world around you,” my depression whispers. “Your house is disgusting and you can’t even shower regularly, how do you expect to do anything with your life?” it grumbles. “It is never going to get better” becomes my depression’s catch phrase of choice, echoing in my head until I believe it – and once I start believing it, the thoughts of suicide take over. They continue until the temperature is staying steadily above freezing and the birds are back, and then they give way to strange, vaguely paranoid ideas. I think I’m being spied on, controlled, lied to. I start believing that everyone I interact with must despise me as much as I despise myself. I imagine leaving my entire life behind and starting from scratch, as if abandoning my life would somehow erase my past. The franticness of my thoughts rises with the temperatures until summer hits, when I begin dissociating from my wild thoughts and become preoccupied chasing anything that might break up the numbness.

This time of year, where fall is beginning to fade and winter is getting close, is weird for me. I still experiencing my fall bout of low mood and emotional distress, but my rapidly vanishing energy and the way household tasks are piling up tells me the numbness will be coming on soon. I’m trying to pep talk myself into doing something – anything – in the hopes that I’ll be able to build up enough momentum to get a few more things done and taken care of before winter really gets here, but it’s not really working. I’m close enough to my winter phase to lack motivation, but still enough in my fall phase to hate myself for it. I’m dreading the cold and the increasing snowfall, but in a way I’m looking forward to the numbness. Right now I’m feeling hopeless, and in many ways being hopeless is a lot more painful and more dangerous than being numb.

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.