I’m going to post this quickly before I change my mind. I haven’t written in a long time. I haven’t really done anything productive or creative in a long time. There’s an emptiness right now where the creative muse usually sits. There is an ennui that has settled on me that keeps me sitting in my chair playing games on the computer or channel surfing. There is a loneliness in my soul. I’m not me but then again, I’m afraid this is me.
I’m trying to do some work in my house replacing countertops and flooring, painting, changing up a few things. And I’ve found myself completely unsure and indecisive. I’ve always loved doing this kind of thing. I was really looking forward to it now that I’m able to do it financially and I’m paralyzed. I’m questioning every decision. I wish I had never started doing it. Even now that a flood forced the issue, I’m ready to just put it all back. It doesn’t help that everything is taking soooo long to get started much less finished right now that I have way too much time to second guess every choice.
I’m not reading either which is highly unusual for me. I’m avoiding any book, movie, or television show that tightens my stomach, makes me hold my breath in suspense, shows real people losing and being disappointed, or has too much conflict. I take it all in and it colors my mood and my thoughts. I can’t celebrate with the gold medal winner because I’m centered on the person who tripped or came in 4th by a nanosecond and have seen their lifetime of preparation and hope vanish in a split second. I avoid watching the news because I don’t want to know about all the hatred, bigotry, violence, and scheming going on in the world.
What’s going on? Partly it is just who I am. It’s a combination of depression, the inability to see and hear things without internalizing and taking them personally, and not being able to let go of things.
As I was thinking about why I’m reacting to the world this way right now, I almost got derailed and lost the focus of this post. I started in on a rant about people acting hateful, about the politicizing of everything, the incivility I see everywhere. And I am feeling all of that and getting completely overwhelmed by it. However, these things aren’t the bottom line. They aren’t the only factors that landed me in this unproductive state of indecision and emptiness right now. All of those things are things that I am fixated on right now so they are certainly part and parcel of it all. But they don’t explain the rest of my feeling. Even if the world came together in one giant Kumbaya moment I could be feeling the same way right now.
The things I talked about being who I am – the depression, the internalizing, the holding on – seep into every aspect of my life. It isn’t just the world at large that I mull over and fixate on. It is also the minute and the every day, the very personal and the imaginary.
If you have been a part of my life for a long time, chances are I think about the thing you said or did last week, last year, ten years ago, or when I was ten that really hurt and dug into my soul. It’s not always something you said intentionally being hurtful. It might be something that you don’t even know hurt me. It might have been the bad day you were having or the issue you were confronting at the time unbeknownst to me. It might be something you have no memory of every saying. It’s not your fault. It’s me. I lie in bed or sit here in my living room with my monkey mind taking over and spinning out of control. The dialogue starts with a slight that happened today or yesterday. Then it moves to “it’s just like when…” and goes on to “you don’t really _____ (like, respect, care about, etc – just fill in the blank).” Finally it settles into I’m odd, unlovable, never fit in, and just annoy everyone.
I feel every little word or action deeply. When you didn’t return the call, answer the email, or respond to the text, I’m sure it’s because it came from me. When you make plans for something really fun and don’t include me, I’m sure that you knew I’d ruin the event. When you started bashing something and hatefully ridiculing it – knowing it’s something that I believe in or like – I won’t speak up right then. I won’t cause a scene. But I also won’t let it go in my mind because it feels like you are bashing and ridiculing me. I am likely still churning it over and over and adding it to things that were said in the past. When you take someone’s word that I did something completely out of my character to have done, I know that you don’t know me and we aren’t the friends I thought we were. You might not notice the difference, but I can’t think of you in the same way as before. I know there’s a pretense there.
I don’t confront except in the pretend scenarios of what I should have said or done that play out internally. Even now I’m using these examples because I know that the incidents I’m thinking of were done by people who will never read this or are just generic examples done by everyone at some time or another. If there’s a chance you’ll read this, I won’t go there or mention it where you will notice because I don’t tell people when this happens. I don’t want to hurt you. I also want to protect myself. My insecurity tells me that if I spoke about these hurts I would find that my fears are true and that I really don’t matter.
When someone is filled with hate about a whole group of people, when you can’t understand the nuances of a situation or the hurt others have experienced, I feel that and take it on sure that you then cannot see me or understand my hurts. Is that a reasonable conclusion? It might not be. But in my heart and soul it feels like a foregone conclusion. If you can’t understand how a whole race of people feel after being judged and hated, how can you understand that one person sitting across the room from you lives with those feelings? If you can’t put yourself in the place of someone struggling with mental health issues and you are passing judgment, how can you understand mine and not judge me?
Even though I have my own mental health issues, I have been guilty of thinking I know more than I do about someone else’s. I spoke with a young man yesterday who is going through a terribly challenging time because his coworker claims to understand his ADHD, but in reality she doesn’t. She isn’t listening to him. She is throwing out all sorts of solutions and cures that are simple – ones that everyone suggests because they work for normal people, ones he has tried many times. Anyone who thinks getting over a mental health challenge can be as simple as taking an aspirin for a headache, sucking it up and just moving on, or who claims “you’re only as happy as you decide to be” and you should “snap out of it” hasn’t taken the time to hear, learn, and understand. I have learned so much lately about what it is like to live with ADHD thanks to a former student. I could have helped her so much more had I known what the challenge was like! I think of how many others I could have helped had I taken the time to go beyond the cursory in-service training someone came into school and threw out at us. (Follow Black Girl, Lost Keys blog to get a better insight!)
The irony here is that people tell me I am often perceived as an extremely strong, opinionated, and outgoing person. In many ways I am. You attack a loved one and I will have little trouble confronting you or getting in your face. I raised a child as a single mom and have lived alone a very long time. I take pride in being able to handle things on my own. One of the challenges I am having right now is that aging is slowly eroding my ability to physically do certain things, and I HATE asking for help. I should be able to do it myself. I am solidly able to express myself in writing about certain issues and causes – but attack a social media post and I’m likely to take it down or, as I did at one point, abandon the page and start a whole new one. I talk a lot and share lots of stories, but if you listen carefully, you will realize that you know very little about what is going on inside of me, with me personally. I do better with it here in writing because I’m pretty sure no one is reading this.
A very, very few close friends know some of how I struggle or how I really feel. I can put it all in writing here knowing that even this falls short of capturing it fully. I cannot sit next to you, have a cup of coffee with you, and look at you while expressing any of this. I am suddenly tongue-tied and have no words. I have never fully had a conversation where I expressed that full measure of what depression and insecurity do to me. I just can’t.
So why write this? To get it off my chest. To help me think about things – it is often when I write my thoughts out that I begin to understand them. To help anyone who stumbles onto this post with the same issues to feel less alone and know that someone out here understands. To give someone who stumbles onto this an insight into what others deal with. To be the voice in the wilderness. I’m not sure but I hope that it does some good to someone, somewhere even it’s only me.