Always Wanting More

“My life is great, but I’m so bored with this life. If only I could move on to another.”

I began keeping a journal in earnest at the age of 13. And I wrote the phrase above at that age. It really stands out to me as a feeling that I still feel at times. It stands out to me as the spark of my vulnerability. This feeling–this discontent–seems to be a place where depression sunk its claws into me at a young age. I remember always being a daydreamer. I rarely created stories for others; I always imagined myself in other places or situations. I was always wondering where I would eventually fit in and feel content. I was happy. I was talkative. I was engaged. I wasn’t popular but I was mostly known. I wasn’t isolated specifically, but I was never satisfied. I wanted more. I wanted to feel full. And I didn’t. I felt lonely or I distracted myself from my loneliness.

As I got older I spent less time distracted from my angst. I had terrible luck with boys. Maybe it was the pastor’s daughter thing. That’s the easiest explanation to give and the hardest to accept. Because, to me, it means I wasn’t enough. I didn’t fit. A minor detail derailed me from getting to just be me. I was always something else–a daughter–first. And I was bored. I was tired. I was over it.

So why didn’t I leave? Why didn’t I go far off to college? I was scared. And I felt like I shouldn’t. And that I wasn’t allowed to. I would be alone. I would be more isolated. What if I never found anything better? I was young. I was naive. I was already crumbling under the strain of my illness. I was already beyond saving it seems.

When I met someone when I was in college who neither knew or cared whose daughter I was, it was enlightening. For the first time in 5 years I didn’t doubt the motivations of a friend. I trusted my closest girlfriends, but even they only knew me in the context where I had grown up. And as I longed to distance myself from that context, I pulled away even from them. I had plenty of “friends” who I spent time with but performed for.

And I had this one friend who didn’t know or care about my context. He seemed to like me and what I chose to share about myself rather than what ran down the gossip pipeline. I could be weird. I could be sad. I could be dramatic. I could be dumb. It was all okay.

But with my college and sorority friends things were different. I began performing all the time. I could no longer distract myself from my feelings of isolation. I was always pretending to be more palatable than I was. As I lost full control though, I began to see rejection everywhere. I became paranoid. My college friends were disgusted by me. My roommate hated me. My parents didn’t understand me. My sorority wanted to humiliate me. My one friend didn’t really care. No one cared. Not enough. And I couldn’t escape.

There was nowhere to go. I would always be a daughter first and a person second. I would never find love because I wasn’t lovable. I would never be accepted because people were cruel. I would always be bored to madness with the life I had been born into. I would never feel full and I would always be left wanting more.

In truth, there was no escape at that point. But there was rescue. For me, there was rescue.

I still have a wandering heart. I’m still a daydreamer. I’m a romantic. I’m a sap. I still get bored. And it is surprising to see those things in myself 22 years ago. It is strange to see how young I was when my vulnerability—although not my depression—showed up on paper. Depression is like a vine. It begins in one spot and grows and entangles itself, latching onto any vulnerability that it can use to strengthen itself.

I haven’t changed dramatically from my 13 year old or 19 year old selves, I have just adjusted my life to accommodate my personality and how it makes me vulnerable to my illness. I try to call depression out for what it is. I’m not unloveable. Sometimes depression just makes it hard for me to see or feel love. I’m not unacceptable, I’m just stubbornly myself. I’m not only something in relation to some other person, I am singular. I’m just smarter and better equipped. I know the difference between me and my depression, or at least I try my best to tell the difference. It’s a constant game to parse through my thoughts and feelings and label them as real or imagined. But the work is worth it. I get to walk the fine line of being myself—a person who lives with and is influenced by depression—and being the depressed woman. Depression is always there, it’s just a constant battle for control.

Don’t keep your struggles secret like I did. Don’t keep your feelings of isolation hidden. Depression will use those feelings but they are easier to twist and distort if they are secret. If you don’t tell anyone then depression will manipulate you into something else. Much love and strength to you as you parse though your own feelings to discover truth.

Origin Stories


In October 2015, I was slipping. I was feeling the pressure of my depression getting stronger. It was driving me mad getting stuck in my head. I had regularly turned to writing in earlier depressive episodes, but I found that journaling only made my depression worse. When I had the freedom to say anything I just wallowed in my darkest, ugliest thoughts. It was good to purge a bit, but it did nothing to slow down the increasing pressure. I had written creatively in 2000 and again in 2012, but that was it. Mostly poetry with some short stories and letters.

In October 2015, when I started the blog, I wrote myself out of the hole again, but I kept writing this time. I didn’t fall into a deep episode and I discovered that I could write beyond the time I spent in mental purgatory. It wasn’t as easy to write when well, but I could still do it. And the more I wrote the more confident I felt about it. I didn’t mind so much that my best content sometimes came when I wasn’t quite in my right mind because I was still creating fine content generally.

As I got well, though, I realized that I still had to emotionally pull from my darker times in order to generate content. I couldn’t just write about my day to day when nothing was going on. I tried to do that a bit but I felt like I was reaching to make a relevant point. It wasn’t until the spring of 2016 that I really started pulling more and more from my past—specifically from my first depressive episode. I started reading journals and other writings that were from that time and I was shocked at how much of my present self I saw in them. I had the same feelings and emotions as a 35 year old that I did at 19, the details surrounding them were just different sometimes.

Out of that I think I began creating what has become the blog persona. I spend so much time in the past because the blog persona is on a journey to find the source of my depression. I want to find all the warning signs. I want to find all the clues that lead to now. And it’s a record of how I process my current life with all of that knowledge and experience. The blog is directly tied to an excavation of my life.

How is that any different than me though? I don’t spend my time in the past. I live in the now. I have a husband and child and pets and a house to take care of. I pay bills and cook. I spend time with friends and I listen to far too much music or watch too much tv. When I write for the blog, though, I am a writer. On the blog my main purpose is to save lives. My life goal is to spread awareness.

But after almost a year of writing strictly for the blog, I began in January of this year to write a bit more just for myself. I wrote letters and confessional prose and some poetry about things going on in my life at that point, but I felt foolish for writing and got rid of it all. However, within a week or two I started thinking more about it. I had liked writing and I had really felt good writing about things that were unrelated to the blog. I didn’t immediately start writing more, but I wondered if I could.

I kept writing for the blog, but I was losing my balance. I was thinking more about wanting to write for other purposes. I felt like I was trying to squeeze outside ideas into the blog and I was unpleased with the product. I wasn’t feeling as content after writing. I often felt tired and empty. I put so much into creating content that is intended to make a difference in peoples’ lives that I was left feeling creatively unfulfilled.

So about a month ago I started writing for myself and only myself. Not just journaling, but confessional prose to share elsewhere with the purpose of expressing myself without being an activist. I wanted to write not as someone who survived but someone who was still trying to survive.

And I didn’t want to help anyone or create anything that was necessary. I wanted to create for the sake of creating something that made me feel beauty. And I started an anonymous project that took off fast. It began as prose but quickly I tried my hand at free verse poetry as a way to more creatively say what I wanted to say. Since then I have written 150 poems sometimes as many as a dozen a day. They were often short and simple, but I have been quite forgiving of myself in terms of just accepting what I create and moving on to the next one.

However, I kept my poetry to the anonymous project until just a couple of weeks ago. Then I had to figure out how to speak aloud as my poetic self. I had to figure out how to talk in this voice and speak from this point of view.

In 2000 I somehow came across the phrase “under a desk in the desert.” I have trouble remembering whether it was my idea or someone else’s image, but I latched onto it for myself. And when I was trying to figure out what my voice sounded like, I remembered that phrase and all the writing I had done around the time that I latched on to it. I was young, in love, lonely, sad, but full of desires to be happy and fully alive. And I realized that I still felt almost the same. So I decided to write from that point of view. From the girl in the beautiful desert curled up under a desk writing frantically.

But rather than trying to describe it more, I thought that I would let her introduce herself:

 

I was born of necessity.

I was birthed from a restless heart.

And I’ve been asleep for 17 years

Dreaming of the desert.

But when I awoke,

I was there again

Back under a desk

With ink all over my fingers.

 

I was raised on unfulfilled promises.

I was taught lessons of unrequited love.

And it nearly killed me

Causing me to fall asleep.

But when I awoke

I was the same

Pining for something more

Than dissatisfaction.

 

I was nurtured by rain.

I was fed existential wanderlust.

And it brought me to the isolation of

Dreaming in free verse.

But when I tried to sign my name

I was too timid to come out

From under my desk

With my heart on my sleeve.

 

I was imprisoned by fear.

I was forbidden to speak by my own command.

And I lay quiet for 17 years

Starving and sleeping.

But when I woke up

I was more ravenous

For love and words

Than acceptance.

 

I was awake again.

I was alive and free to start creating.

And I began writing with a fervor

Missing for almost 2 decades.

But when I let my creations go

They were gone

Into the oblivion of time

Without any word of their whereabouts.

 

I was creating beauty.

I was producing love and heartache.

And I kept writing in a voice that was

Hiding my face from view.

But when I took off the veil

I felt that my own voice

Might be even prettier

Than I believed.

 

I was hiding in the desert.

I was keeping myself away from the world.

And I began to feel the isolation

Deepening the distance between us.

But I decided to take the risk that

I would face utter rejection

Without any concern for my fragility.

 

I was motivated to unmask my location.

I was inspired to open the gates of my hideout.

And I began writing as myself

Pulling from myself rather than dreams.

But I knew that I was just a stranger

In the wild wanting more

Than this lonely desk in the desert.

 

And Poems under a Desk in the Desert came into being alongside Confessions of a Chronic Depressive. Both born of necessity, each one allows me to express myself in a way that is cathartic and fulfilling. I can creatively express myself as well as explore myself and bring awareness. I can help people and help myself. I can compartmentalize my emotional reactions from my logical conclusions. I can dwell in the feeling or I can fight it off. I can escape or I can find my way home.

So here we are almost 2 years after the blog began, and I continue to grow and change. My goal as Laura Grace is to keep both of these projects going without losing myself in the mix. Try to figure out how to stay balanced and keep creating. All I know is that I feel good. I feel happy writing and I see myself as a writer rather than just someone writing. I feel fulfilled again as a creative. And I’m glad that I have figured out a way to get to that place. Much love, health, healing, happiness, and creativity to you all.

(No) Mistakes


The other day I went through the first photo album I ever made—like an actual album with the glue and plastic covers. I made it sometime in the early 2000s and it is filled with pictures from my freshman year of high school through the first half of my senior year. They are fun and cute generally—lots of plays and dances. But that was high school for me. That and church choir. 

One picture stood out to me though. I was at my friend’s house sometime in the fall or winter of my senior year, so 1999. She took a picture of me sitting at her computer (a dinosaur). You can’t see what I am working on, but I remember very clearly. I was filling out an application to Baylor University. I hadn’t told anyone I was going to do it.

It had been in my mind that I might because the friend whose house I was at was planning to go there, although I’m not sure that she had made that public knowledge either, and my best friend was going to go there. Everyone thought that I was going to go to The University of Oklahoma. I had already been accepted, but I didn’t have any friends going to OU. I was afraid to go off on my own. I was already depressed. I didn’t think that I had it in me to strike out on my own. I felt too weak.

My parents were quite surprised when I said that I was going to attend Baylor, but they let me make my own decision. I thought that I would be happy because I was going to room with my best friend. At OU, where my sister had gone, I could never do and be all that she was, and I didn’t really want to anyway. But I felt that I would be expected to be like her. I would join her sorority and everyone would expect me to be her all over again. And if there is one thing I am not it is my wonderful sister. So I went to Baylor. 

If I thought of myself as having made mistakes in life, this would probably be at the top of the list. I felt like I was suffocating there. Everyone felt fake. I remember people from my hometown talking to me that had completely ignored me my entire life. It felt weird. It felt unreal. I was already losing touch with reality, so rushing to join a sorority was practically surreal. It was a bad trip. It felt fun at times, but it always had the worst come down. 

I remember being in physics class and a boy who had never talked to me turned to me the first day I had on my sorority shirt and started chatting me up. I wanted to punch him. I hadn’t existed without those greek letters. And it made my life seem so meaningless. I felt so alone. I would sneak out behind my dorm and smoke cigarettes, which I wasn’t supposed to do (sorority rules) along with chewing gum, walking on grass, forgetting to say hello to people I didn’t know. It was ridiculous. It was a game that made me want to kill myself. Literally. I chose death over that life. 

Some people love that stuff. I don’t. But I was born into it and too young and unsure to step away. I thought that that life was my only option. I hated all the rules. I hated being required to be friends with people because of a social organization. 

After my suicide attempt—which happened the week of our initiation, I received one message from my “sisters.” It was a small card with some generic flower or pleasant phrase mailed to my parents’ house. Inside were 2 sentences. 1. They hoped that I felt better soon. 2. Could I please return all of my sorority stuff so it could be given to someone else?

I doubt I need to analyze or explicate that for you. People are strange. Priorities get skewed and reputations become more important that people. But some people love that stuff. 

So when I look at the picture of me applying to Baylor, I wish so desperately that I could scream at myself, “Stop! Don’t do it! It’s the beginning of the end! Run away! Stop!” But I can’t. I can’t do anything about the past. 

But I have to remind myself that I might have missed some good things if I hadn’t been in that situation. I met a couple of people then who have made very happy at different times in my life, and I don’t know if I would have met them if I hadn’t been so miserable where I was. I also wrote quite a bit during that time as a way to escape how miserable I was. I read a lot, and I listened to a lot of music. I found ways to escape until I felt I wanted to escape forever.

I’m not quite sure what this post is about. It’s about me. And what should you take from it? Maybe that high pressure social constructs can drive a depressed person over the edge. Maybe that sometimes we get so caught up in the game that we miss an opportunity to see people who are in need. And maybe some people just don’t care. And that’s okay, I guess. I had enough who did care, and I certainly learned a lot about friendship and truth. 

I look at this picture of me willingly asking to walk into the darkness without knowing that it would be so dark. I didn’t know that this was a mistake. I didn’t know that things would get so terrible that I would lose my mind. And so I don’t think of it as a mistake. I think of it as a turning point. The moment where I took a steep path down into a shrouded valley. A valley that I came back out of. A valley I try my best to stay away from but I don’t always succeed. And this picture is when I took the quickest path there. 

No regrets. No mistakes. Just choices and consequences. Just life. Good and bad, keep moving forward. 

Just a passing thought…

 

There’s this Cure lyric that I laugh at, which goes “the way the rain comes down hard/that’s how I feel inside.” It’s from the song “Open.” I laugh because it is so dramatic, but at the same time I get it, too. Today has been beautiful outside, but I have felt rainy inside. And I’m working and doing the things I’m supposed to do, but I don’t want to do anything. Because I’m more concerned with the existential matters of love and purpose. Dishes and dinner seem unnecessary, but the joke is that they aren’t. I have to do them anyway or deal with the undone consequences. So I go and I do, but inside is not only a creative deluge but also an emotional downpour.

“Madame Bovary c’est moi”


I’m in the process of transcribing old (16+ years old) poetry I have handwritten in a journal to my computer so that I have digital copies of everything I have written. I started at the beginning; the first poem is about a heartbreaking encounter with my crush at 18. The second and third are about 2 other crushes (is one love ever enough?). Finally, though, something interesting comes out in the fourth poem titled “Roses and Shoelaces.” The poem is as terrible as the title mostly, and I remember writing it. I began by just writing about what I could see in my room, but it developed into something more introspective. In the fifth short stanza I write, “Oh, Emma—how adamant I was out of fear/ and truth made me silent with realization/and who is more miserable/the person who makes mistakes or/the person who never has the opportunity to?/…/sometimes I wonder if my/blood still pulses/only my unsatisfied and unacknowledged/passion proves my existence.” 

This was after my Madame Bovary epiphany (which you can read about in my post “Art at 18: Three Vignettes here). It was a big moment for me–my first adult epiphany. Maybe it was depression; my epiphanies often feel ephiphantic only because of depression. This one took place in my senior English classroom in highschool. And I can still see the room in my mind, but only set up in the specific Socratic circle we were working in that day. If my teacher was sitting at 12 o’clock, then I was at 4. And it hit me so hard. I wanted to cry. I was Emma Bovary, too. 

In the poem above I cover it all–I was adamantly, vocally opposed to everything that she represented until I felt like I was slapped in the face by the truth that I was everything I hated about her. And then I shut up. I was stunned into silence. 

But then I get to the real meat of the poem: “and who is more miserable/the person who makes mistakes or/the person who never has the opportunity to?”

I felt like I was Emma Bovary–I had so much that I felt that I could not express. I wanted to experience the world rather than stay stuck in the bubble of my hometown and upbringing. And I felt like I couldn’t. I couldn’t go out and live. There were already too many rules holding my back, and I would have to break them to live as myself. And I felt that I was more miserable than Emma Bovary. I should have known then that I was headed for dark times. I felt that I was as miserable as she was, despite all the “good” things that I had in my life. I was so unfulfilled. I felt so empty. I had friends, family, comfort, and yet I didn’t have happiness. 

Not long after I read Madame Bovary, I read another book that was very important to me: Henderson the Rain King by Saul Bellow. A quote from that book does a better job of describing how I was feeling than I can: “My soul is like a pawn shop. I mean it’s filled with unredeemed pleasures….” I felt like I had collected so many dreams that I could never fulfill. I knew that they “broke the rules,” but they were my dreams. And even if they were mistakes, I thought that I ought to be able to make them.

And I felt so stiffled–I felt like I was being smothered to death. I questioned if being alive was enough to feel alive. I wondered if I was living or just walking around dead. But my heart longed for more. My dreams of living my passions kept me going, just like my music and my online friends kept my going for the next 9 months. I felt like I could be my Emma Bovary self with them. I felt like I was accepted. And it felt so wonderful, but I was also secretive and guilt ridden. I felt like I was living a double life–the life that made me happy and the life that I was supposed to live. 

And when I felt like I could no longer keep up the charade–when I felt like I also couldn’t have what I truly wanted–I went full Emma Bovary.

I guess I write all this because it is like putting together a puzzle. There were so many clues about what was happening to me. There were so many opportunities to see the pieces and get help, but no one could see the finished puzzle. No one knew what all those pieces would be when they were all put together. And one different piece could have changed everything. One change and the outcome could have been different. Or maybe not. There is no way to know now. 

Now I can only work with what I have. Now I can piece together my story, but I can’t change it. I can only change the future by making change in the present. But I can also look to the past to determine how to act in the present in order to get to the future I want. I am still an Emma Bovary, I think, as awful as she is. I try to be less selfish, but my heart is still like a pawn shop. 

Live the life you want. Make the change you need to be happy, but also know that if depression is lurking in your life, then it will overcomplicate everything. It will lead you down dark paths. It will offer you what you want and then take away everything you ever had. Don’t let depression control you. Take control of your life and your dreams. And maybe you won’t be an Emma Bovary.

I also wrote a poem on this topic. You can read “Mistakes” here.

New Blog Project

I’ve started a poetry blog where I can share more creative work that does not necessary have an activist message. On the “About” page I describe it as “a place for me to express myself more creatively and abstractly. It is a place for expression above reason. A place for me to try and mold my suffering into something beautiful.”

I want to share it with you, although I caution you to leave your expectations at the door if you choose to visit. 

Poems under a Desk in the Desert