The series of entries that follows was written previously, shared wi’ family I trusted. I decided to publish them now.
Please read this post first for Content Warnings.
Part 5 of 5; No One Is An Island series
Forward, no matter the measure, is Forward
I knew I had to get out of the work environ I was in. Easier said than done. I felt trapped. As I looked at internal openings, I sunk- ‘I’m not qualified for that.’ On top of that, it wasn’t just me and Hels at the time. If I lose my income, I’m not the only one that’s homeless. We’d be able to deal, Hels and I. Life’s dealt us far more painful and trying experiences. But we weren’t alone in the house. I felt the weight of that too, when in reality, I couldn’t be faulted for telling the household, ‘Bad news. Adapt, improvise, and overcome’. I spent so much time trying to fix whatever it was that was wrong in those four years, I foolishly passed up learning opportunities to develop skill sets. I did so telling myself I didn’t have time for that if I wanted to get out from under. I know now that maybe if I tried a class, it may have helped my confidence. Naturally when I look at it as one class a semester, for FOUR YEARS, it smarts. I get a little angry at the thought. I foolishly believed I could be what was wanted for that assignment…whatever it was to be the team member working there. Adding salt to my raw person was my pretty much blindly accepting that since I went to school for my chosen career, that I was pigeon-holed. That as I gained experience working as one, I wasn’t allowed to reevaluate and readjust. I can’t for the life of me suss out why I didn’t ask my allegedly favorite question, ‘Why?’ and why in the Sam Hell did I have it in my head that if I didn’t succeed by some arbitrary scale in the ether, I was doing a disservice as well as being a failure. What utter horseshit.
It’s bewildering-it doesn’t seem odious on the surface and maybe that’s why it is what it is; it’s hard to see it come for you, even if it’s come for you before.
It’s been some years’ time since getting out of that work environ, marking a slow road at healing and repairing the damage. The reach and permeation of it didn’t even compute until, ‘This is going to be a hard conversation.’ That sentence showed me the depth and breadth of those scars. The impact to my career was far greater than I surmised. And I was angry. It still makes me angry. I was silent that day, but as the day drew on, I was roiling. Realizing that those particular four years were far more damaging than I had concluded? That they had such a reach, and that I had missed that? Pissed.me.the.fuck.off. That ‘This is going to be a hard conversation,’ was an advent though. It brought home that even when I was aware of what had gone so wrong, there was still more work to undo all the mental contortion. So I dug deep, then when I thought I had delved deep enough, I continued since that hard conversation put a spotlight on the fact that a very real need existed: I needed to reevaluate a metric ton of things. Turns out I still have this thing about failure and I suck at being okay with it (in case you hadn’t come to that conclusion on your own). I need to be okay with it; I need to not be so goddamned afraid of it and own the ‘I tried, it didn’t go like I hoped, but I do have new data.’ It’s a hard road to travel because I wrestle with the idea of I’m not allowed to fail along with wrestling with this idea that ‘I’m not good enough’ for well..anything. I’m not even entirely sure how much of that spawns from phantoms from those years I was doused with ‘not good enough.’ The bigger task is rearranging my head. That’s where I am. Somewhere my pieces got put in ill-fitting places and I convinced myself I function in that configuration. I don’t, I merely survive and it’s deeply hollow. Hels used to tease me about my workshop and after gaining some ground on Elsewhere, how I spent my weekends doing things- I found it therapeutic. I also learned how much I like making things with my hands and it all led to my feeling better. I told her it was cheaper than weekly sessions and when the weekends are over, they felt well-spent. I felt good and that was fucking progress.
I’m still kind of broken (its as annoying as the time outs required to beat the flu). I’ve had to pretty much take a proverbial sledgehammer to my everything, rebuild from the ground up. I’ve had to learn to be OK with a lot of things. To make my own peace about decisions I do in the best interest of me, when they appear to be completely selfish because chances are, they are selfish. Until my pieces are back in a configuration that works, that really works, I’ve had to learn how to be OK with the simple notion of taking care of me. It’s hard. It’s draining. It’s bewildering- it doesn’t seem odious on the surface and maybe that’s why it is what it is, it’s hard to see it come for you, even if it’s come for you before. In the time since, I’ve had to learn how to be OK with rejecting almost all of my default responses, a big one being, ‘I have better things to put my time and energy towards.’ I’ve had to learn to be OK perking my brow and say, ‘in what sliver of prior discourse gave you the impression that you could speak to me in such a manner?’ I’ve had to be OK with the idea of while I shouldn’t have to, the reality at this point of time is, ‘I’m going to have to.’
Whatever I’m doing…it’s working. I’ve gained more ground away from Elsewhere in the last few months than I had in nearly twenty-four. Despite the early hour, I felt my time was well-spent when I did my studies in the summer. Despite the resulting stress (a good kind for a change), I made good. I also saw the learning curve in my new assignment at work change positively too. I retained things, my memory was improving, I was also a little less fearful which is huge. I’ve made headway with the whole ‘I don’t think I can,’ morphing to, ‘I presently struggle with.’ The ‘I don’t know’ returning to the promise of an adventure of ‘LEARN ALL THE THINGS!’ Having enough confidence to own the ‘I don’t know,’ and not feel ashamed for not knowing. Which is silly and yet huge. Turning the ‘I thought you were smart,’ on its head with the response of, ‘I’m smart enough to know I don’t know, but that’s temporary.’ The hardest work I’ve done is establishing and fortifying boundaries. But it is so fucking worth it.
I’m still so livid when I think about this, when I analyze it, tend to the wounds, when I think about the inevitable dismissal of my experience (a sad commentary of the status of pushback against stigma), and right now that anger is still muted but on the occasions it perseveres, it’s expressed in tears. That is just weird to me, but I’d lay odds it’s down to the fact that I compartmentalized my feelings so much in order to function that I’ll take what I can get, because anything different is new data and just feeling something is progress. What’s even weirder is taking the time out and telling myself, ‘You’re OK.’ I’m completely thrown that in all the years of growing, my tendencies to be a raging perfectionist didn’t chuck me into clinical depression before. I wonder about what other factors play into my life now that didn’t in years prior. I don’t have answers. But I do have something that still astounds me: hope. And when I think about that, once again I feel the eerily familiar glittery sting behind my eyes and wonder what it is that’s being vented: anger, exhaustion, frustration, fury, or relief.
What do we tell Death?
For now, I function mainly due to trial and error with dry-fitting. It pains me to type that because I remember a different kind of broken and being determined to never go through that again- it fucking hurt. That time, I had no sense of self. This time, I had little to no radar to alert me when people were being assholes and how to shut that down. I’d somehow been lucky enough up to that point to not have been treated less than human or better put, if I was, it escaped my notice and didn’t get me down. I had no roadmap of what I was in that workplace, I was my own mentor and frankly, I sucked at it. On top of that, I get pissy when I realize I didn’t think to to make my own roadmap- that I believed I had to contort to how everyone else did things instead of having the confidence or even an ounce of fearlessness that I can bring a thing or two to the table. I understand that notion of it, because I have always had the expectation of somehow secretly arriving at a ‘should have known,’ when the fair reality of it was, without the new data (or burgeoning super powers), I couldn’t have known. It’s an ongoing exercise to push past the pause and into the consideration that it may not work, but I’d never know until I tried. This is that whole cultivating a healthier relationship with failure tidbit I unearthed this go around, but more importantly redefining what it is that ‘I have to do,’ which are the things that bring me joy.
“Remind myself I am truly not alone because I started talking about it, and if I could find a way to function, to keep at clawing my way out of that multi-year mind fuck while being hollowed out, if anything, trust the core of me to defy Elsewhere’s Gatekeeper and tell it ‘No today.'”
So I’m a tiny bit better but my mind teeters on treachery every now and again. I still feel like such a penultimate failure that I don’t want to be seen. Being broken the sophomore year of college resulted in self discovery; it gave me lenience and the knowledge to know when I go down a rabbit hole of trying to make something completely perfect. This go around I recognize when I start to panic, when I feel fear creeping in when things aren’t going well, when I’m essentially triggered and me and my head switch on autopilot because its something I’ve known for years. This time life gave me the interrupt so I could allow myself the seconds or minutes to talk myself down. To tell myself ‘I’m OK.’ To take those moments and frame the situation in another manner. ‘More data. Readjust your course.’ To throw myself a lifeline so I don’t get sucked back into Elsewhere because fool me once, shame on me, fool me twice, fuck you depression its my joy, not yours. It’s not a journey without its rough air, that’s for sure. Like my grief earlier in my life, I have to test the weight of my foot falls and understand that today they may feel heavy compared to yesterday, but remember the day that I felt like the indelible Grace Kelly. It isn’t linear and I have to find and hold onto what good happened that day. Even if it’s an honest statement that the day was pretty shitty. That’s mostly because I understand the problem now; I understand this is something that I can have add to the sum of me, instead of taking away. I understand as long as the feeling that I want to be better right now remains, then I know I am getting better.
That also means I understand the feeling of betrayal I have at the idea of hitting publish, the same one I had when I review the talk I had with my current supervisor, the one with actually saying the words I was clinically depressed. Where I spoke them honestly and out loud, and coupled them with ‘it is my truth that I’m a bad confluence of events away from going back there.’ That after all the progress I made in the last two years, it could be undone in that fell swoop. I understand feeling stunned a little after that conversation and that somewhere in there was pride at being brave enough to say it out loud. Feeling that way in spite of the lack certainty that being honest about my ordeal with my current supervisor won’t come back to bite me in the ass some how. In the end, it is the truth. And it will continue to be the truth a month from now. It will still be the truth twelve months from now. And when I’m ash, it will still be the truth.
Hitting publish and holding to that decision, opening myself up to what comes next is, well…it’s pretty fucking terrifying. I’ve compartmentalized myself so much and so well, that any well-intentioned anything, even just compassion, it’s going to be work for me to let it wash over me. I still feel the weight of judgment, and I know it’s silly. I know it. And yet, it’s still there. It is still so frustratingly present. So I have to tell myself, ‘You’re OK.’ Point out that the feeling of alarm is a step forward, that not defaulting to compartmentalize is fucking progress. Remind myself I am truly not alone because I started talking about it, and if I could find a way to function, to keep clawing my way out of that multi-year mind fuck while being hollowed out, if anything, trust the core of me to defy Elsewhere’s Gatekeeper and tell it ‘No today.‘
I have good days. I have trying days. I have shitty days. I have days where I’d like to escape somewhere where I can be alone and just cry, because that’s the only way my frustrations, my fatigue, my anger are vented. Maybe that will change, or maybe that’s the way it’s goan to be from now on. I should be able to do it freely and openly but those days are the ones where explaining just a snippet of what’s going on…I don’t trust my own patience on those days, but more importantly, they aren’t the time to neuter whatever I’m feeling for the sake of an appearance of propriety. I’m not in the clear. It may be another two years, it may be another two months. I just put one foot in front of the other, test to see if it’s less heavier, or if it’s a little surer. I look for my bravery and joy. I make the effort to complete my honesty, point out the progress no matter how small and highlight that it is a good thing. That Forward, no matter the measure, is Forward. All of that is still mind-bogglingly exhausting. And yet, still very necessary.
I remind myself that being firm in regards to my well being may feel selfish, but I need that kindness. I try to do something that requires a teeny bit of fearlessness as often as I am able. I try to cultivate that ownership so that firm boundaries are set and not let the fear of stigma quiet my protest if I foresee a trigger. I try. Then I try again. And I try some more but what I try the most at is being aware of the days I’m OK, the days I’m not OK, the days where I am so done with everything, and the days I’d like to never end. Because behind them I’m feeling something. And that’s fucking progress.