Using Music

You all know that I listen to a lot of music; many days I listen to music almost all day. I take off my headphones for conversation only. I have about a dozen playlists that I cycle through plus lots of old and new albums. But I am not great at writing about music. I don’t play any instruments. (2 years of piano; I was terrible and hated it.) I sang in church choir, but I didn’t like singing solos. I was always self conscious about singing. I love to sing though. When I lived alone in college and grad school, I sang a lot. Loudly. At all hours. But my husband is a good singer, and it put me back in my shell. He’s the singer. So I dance foolishly. That’s my musical “talent.” 

But recently I have been singing more. And it is an emotional feeling to sing. Especially if you feel some—even insubstantial—connection with the song. It’s not easy to sing. It’s a deep feeling sometimes. But I listen to a lot of music. That is emotional, too, but not as deep as making music. I think it’s why, in my daydreams, I often fall for musicians. If I feel moved by listening to their works, how much feeling must they be capable to make such music? 

Music is powerful. All kinds of music. I tend to listen to pop music to feel happy, hip hop to feel powerful, R&B to feel sexy, alternative rock to feel moody, acoustic rock to feel sad, indie rock to feel “special” (ha!), and The Cure every moment in between. I don’t like all kinds of music, but I do like a variety of music. And I used it purposefully. If I don’t, then it uses me. Music directs my feelings. It is why I use it as a tool. When I need to feel elevated, I just put on headphones and let happy music carry me away while I dance like a fool. (Dance break; no, really, I just took a dance break.) 

And not all music makes everyone feel something. I recently asked my facebook friends what their current favorite songs were. And I got at least 20 different songs. A few I already loved, a few I had heard of but didn’t care for, but most I hadn’t ever heard. So I made a list and went to youtube. I didn’t listen to every song in it’s entirety, but I tried each one. And, honestly, most of them were not really my thing. But I was so fascinated at how so many cool people could love such a wide variety of songs. How so many people’s favorite songs did nothing for me, but were favorites for them. And it was cool. I didn’t feel like I needed to judge other people’s taste; I already like and respect all of them. I was interested, though in how many people were ready to share their favorite song and how different they all were. Music is funny that way.

One song suggested was from a musical theatre piece. And it was beautiful. And I couldn’t make it through. I loved it too much, and I loved the person who sent it too much. It was so moving. So emotional. So touching. Sometimes it’s lyrics; sometimes it’s music; sometimes it is a perfectly wonderfully woven combination of the two. But music makes us feel things. And we use it to enhance or change our feelings.

I have a few feel good playlists, and a few moody playlists, but no sad playlists. I can’t do that anymore. I can only get moody. Sadness mixed with anger and discontent. Sadness that does more than wallow. I used to wallow, but I can’t do that anymore. I usually use music to change my mood. If I feel sad then I decide if I want to feel happy, strong, or thoughtful. How do I want to use music to work with the sadness. If I want to feel happy then I go to pop and dance. If I want to feel strong I go to hip hop. If I want to feel thoughtful and moody, I go to alternative rock or, of course, The Cure. 

I don’t really like to tell people what to do or what to listen to, but I genuinely believe that what you put in will come out in some way. It is why I blast positivity into my head all day sometimes. I put in messages of love and strength and emotional intelligence to help me handle my depressed feelings with those messages. It is good to use music to help you process what you are feeling, but it is also possible sometimes to tip the scale with something to change your mood. Sometimes freaking Ke$ha makes me feel so happy because she sings stupid songs about feeling free and in love and young, and it makes me dance. Sometimes I am blown away at Frank Ocean’s ability to say such beautiful things about love and loss at such a young age. Sometimes I feel like Robert Smith is talking about my life and breaking my heart. Sometimes I feel like Adam Duritz is reading my mind. Sometimes I think that Kanye West is a creative genius. And what matters isn’t whether any of those artists are really great or not; what matters is that music has power, and we can use it. 

We can use music to enhance or change our moods. We do it already, but putting more purpose or intention into making music a tool can be useful. Have playlists or cds ready for whatever mood you might find yourself in. Make youtube playlists or subscribe to a streaming service (most have free trial periods). But make a project out of it—a mental health project—to use in times of crisis. Find good music that makes you feel calm. As a teenager I used James Taylor. Now I prefer Angelo Badalamenti. But make different playlists for different moods. And get headphones or earbuds. Then you can listen wherever you are. 

The most recent song to make it on one of my favorite playlists (titled Feel Good) is “Glorious” by Macklemore. It just came out last week. And I’ll leave you with some lyrics and a link. Happy listening!

“You know I’m back like I never left

Another sprint, another step

Another day, another breath

Been chasing dreams, but I never slept

I got a new attitude and a lease on life

And some peace of mind

Seek and I find I can sleep when I die

Wanna piece of the pie, grab the keys to the ride

And shit I’m straight

I’m on my wave, I’m on my wave

Get out my wake, I’m running late, what can I say?

I heard you die twice, once when they bury you in the grave

And the second time is the last time that somebody mentions your name

So when I leave here on this earth, did I take more than I gave?

Did I look out for the people or did I do it all for fame?

Legend it’s exodus searching for euphoria

Trudging through the mud to find the present, no ignoring us

Got 20,000 deep off in the street like we some warriors

My mama told me never bow your head, woo!

I feel glorious, glorious

Got a chance to start again

I was born for this, born for this

It’s who I am, how could I forget?

I made it through the darkest part of the night

And now I see the sunrise

Now I feel glorious, glorious

I feel glorious, glorious”

Glorious

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Falling


Everything I really want to say is below, but I imagine that it requires a bit of an explanation. I wrote a post in January called “The Depressed woman” where I talk about how I feel like 2 people. But lately I have been feeling in between my two separate characters, and I feel like I’m falling. Here I reimagine my journey from me to the depressed woman as a fall from white to black.

White:
In the white. Up high. In heaven. I feel so good. Playing fetch with my dog while my daughter sings on a beautiful summer night. I feel glorious. Every day is a new chance to make something beautiful. So make change. Every day the sun rises and I can start over. Smash up the day before and make something with the pieces. Make new pieces out of the old. Take something small and make it important. 

Gray:
But as I start to fall, the light changes. It’s so much prettier. Colorful. Not just pure. But watercolors that fade into a swirl of oil paints. And when I fall slowly I get a chance to see them. To look closely and see how beautiful everything is. And nothing is static. I’m falling ever so slowly so everything changes as I go. Fading from light to dark. From translucent to opaque. And I don’t have to do anything. I don’t have to create beauty. It spills out like blood. 

I can’t say I’m not scared. I’m scared of falling. But I’m scared of being up high, too. Up in the white. It’s so clean. And colorless. And I know that all I have to do is jump. To be enveloped. 

I never jump. I trip. I stumble. Into this purgatory. The gray. Not sick. Not well. Just right in the sliver of brightest color. It’s such a dangerous place to be. But I love it here in the gray.

I won’t stay though. I can’t stay. Gray is just between the white and black. It’s just what I see while I fall. The in between days. The possibility days. 

(Looking into the) Black:
One of the biggest lies she tells me is that it is warm in the black. That because I feel warm in the gray I will feel warmer in the black. But I never do. When I get there it is like a vacuum. No air. No heat. No light. Emptiness. All that seemed clear becomes smudged. Noting makes sense except darkness. 

And I have it in me to be the woman in the black. I have it in me to die as the woman in the black. And no matter how glorious I feel as I fall, there is no soft landing. Nothing will catch me. I’ll just fade into the black. If I stay, it will all fade to black.

Gray:
Maybe I can stay a little longer. Just for a moment. Or maybe I can leave just a part of myself here. Maybe I can visit more often. Maybe I can take a piece of this with me when I return to heaven. Bring some color to the light. Bring some dirt back to the clean. I don’t want to leave. I don’t want to go. I want to stay. I’m not good enough for heaven. I can never be all white. I can’t escape the black. I keep her locked away, but she keeps ripping open old wounds. And I trip. And I fall. And then I feel like I’m home. In the color. So why can’t I stay? Why can’t I stop falling and just stay?

Passing through Beauty


2 hours awake and I still haven’t shaken the fog. I didn’t fall asleep until after 1 last night. I got 6 hours of sleep, but I generally need 8. And I spent the last 2 hours of my day writing. Delving into a question that feels strange to the narrative that I have created. When I woke up, I reread yesterday’s post over my first cup of coffee. It’s fine. Definitely fine. But I doubt that it is satisfactory. I can’t answer something that I don’t want to think about. Or something that I am afraid to think about. What could have stopped what I tell myself was inevitable? Can I even handle the idea that something could have happened differently? That someone could have saved me? I can’t go there for more than a brief moment—only long enough for flashes of an alternate future, never long enough for words to capture it. Maybe someday.

I feel icky. Not quite right. I think it has something to do with my new haircut, but I don’t feel myself. I have a mirror in my bedroom where I see myself often, and the last two days have been hard. I don’t like what I see because it isn’t quite right. My hair is too short. I don’t look like I looked before. I look more severe, less soft. And it isn’t bad but it is not what I expected. It isn’t as easy to pull of and isn’t as natural for me. I feel like I look older, and at 35, I don’t really want to look older. I am old enough for now. And I look it. I feel gross because I do not feel like I look like I am.

And I can’t wash the feeling off like the make up I wear. I can’t push it back like my bangs. I can’t take it off like my glasses. I feel it on my skin. Or under my skin. And I just have to wait until it goes away. I can play with makeup, pose just right in good lighting, and throw a filter on a crappy iPhone picture, but I can’t shake the feeling. I can’t get rid of the bleh, the ugliness, the discontent. The wishing to be more. The wishing for things to be different. Wanting things to have happened differently and for things to be different now.

The self-loathing is difficult today. My brain tells me that this stupid haircut is proof that I’ve been hiding behind something false all along. I was always this ugly. I was always this frumpy. I was always this stupid and crazy. I was always every bad thing I have ever thought about myself. And I’m fighting. Telling myself how stupid that is. It isn’t true. It’s a damn thought cycle. I’m caught in a loop. It’s a trick. It isn’t real. But the mirror I am sitting near is making it difficult. 

I’m sure that I’ve mentioned before that one of my favorite if not my very favorite literary quote is from Saul Bellow’s novel Henderson the Rain King: “Somehow I am a sucker for beauty and can trust only it, but I keep passing through and out of it again.” I love it because I always kind of felt like that was me. Beauty kills me. If I find something beautiful, then I am in heaven—art, kindness, the human body, nature, poetry, love, friendship, possibility—I am just a sucker for it. But it feels like too often beauty passes away and we are only left with an imperfect memory. And I feel that way about myself today. I was beautiful at some point in time—I was good and kind and lovely—but now I’ve faded. Now I’m just a shell and it is finally starting to show on the outside.

But it is just nothing. Beauty is subjective. It is just a reflection, and my dissatisfaction with what I see will pass. I am still me even if I don’t look like it or feel like it. 

Maybe I’ll feel better when the sun comes out. Maybe I’ll feel better if I put on makeup. Maybe I’ll wear a pretty dress. Maybe I’ll put on headphones and dance. Maybe I’ll feel better when I adjust. Maybe I’ll feel better when my hair is longer. Maybe I’ll pull it up or change the style. Maybe I’ll figure something out. Something so that every time I look in the mirror I don’t see something jarring. Something that doesn’t feel like me. Maybe it will only take a moment. Maybe it will take a week. Maybe it is just the hair. Maybe it is the sleep. Maybe it is the rain. Maybe it is more. Maybe it was what I read in my journal last night. Maybe it was the heartbreaking pain I was feeling, and how well I remember. 

I just want to feel beauty. I want to look in the mirror and feel like I like the person looking back. Not just her hair and her face, but her posture, the look in her eyes. Her smile. I want to see the things that remind me that I am strong and happy. And now I see dissatisfaction and fragility. I see unhappiness. I see the depressed woman, not me. And to me, she is ugly because she feels so ugly. She feels like a stain. And I feel like I am just a cheap shell that she is about to break through.

But not today. I know that I am strong enough to hold her at bay. I know that this is just some little imbalance and a hair cut. It is just my depression using anything it can to bring me down. It uses my own reflection and skews it in my brain. It makes me believe that my real dissatisfaction with my appearance—something that is truly unimportant in the grand scheme of things—is proof that there is something even uglier under the surface. It makes me believe that the ugliness I see with my eyes is just a small taste of the real ugliness in my soul. That no one loves me. No one likes me. No one wants to see or hear me. That no one really cares. And if they do care then I have misled them. 

Depression works how it works and it can use anything. Anything. A bad hair cut. A late night writing session. A night of poor sleep. An unanswered message. A rainy day. Anything. Anything. And I just have to deal with it. Just stop looking in the mirror. Do things to make me feel pretty, smart, kind, wanted, cared for. I have to do the work to get through this because if I do nothing then it won’t stop. And maybe I can save today. Maybe someone else will save me from myself today. But one thing is certain—it won’t be like this forever. Oh, and one other thing is certain—my hair will grow. 

What I Needed

When compiling a list of post ideas from some friends, one suggestion was based on the question of what could have helped me before diagnosis? What could have helped me avoid getting as sick as I initially did in 2001? I find this one interesting, because as much as I think about my life and my depression, I try not to look at it with regret, and, thus, I don’t often think about alternatives to what actually happened. For me, I have to accept it all, and so I don’t think about how it could have played out any better. It played out well enough. I’m here and I’m doing something good with the bad stuff that has happened to me. But it is both an interesting and also perhaps useful question to ask.

I have talked about my main journal a few times. It is a brown leather journal that I bought and started on February 3, 2000. I have kept a lot of journals in my life, but I consider this “the journal.” It is the most important one. It is the proof that I was getting sick. It is the evidence that something was happening to me. It is a record of my intense emotional and mental suffering. To me it is like scar. It is the visible evidence of my wounded mind. There are maybe 50 pages of entries from February 3, 2000-January 31, 2001. I attempted suicide on February 14, 2001. It is almost a full year of pain and sorrow. But is also full of love and happiness and dreams and hope.

Inside the front cover, the first thing I have written is a Counting Crows lyric from the song “Speedway” off of the album This Desert Life. I can’t remember how long after I bought the journal that I decided to write it inside the front cover, but its placement (and my memory) proves how important it was to me and how representative I thought it was of my journal. The lyric is “I’ve got somethings I can’t tell anyone. I’ve got somethings I just can’t say. They’re the kind of things no one knows about. I just need somebody to talk to me.”

I thought about going through the journal and making a list of things that I thought I needed—things that I thought would fix me. Mostly I thought that I needed a guy to fix me. I thought love would fix me. Up until the end, I thought that love was the answer. Love is good. Love is great. Love fixes many things. And maybe I did need love. Maybe I wasn’t completely delusional. But that is not all I needed. And love alone couldn’t have saved me. I don’t think.

Because as much as I wanted a guy to love me, what I needed was exactly what I put in the front cover of my journal. I needed someone to talk to. I needed to tell someone all the dark stuff that was going on in my head. I needed to tell the truth to someone. I needed someone to know what was happening to me. I needed to write the journal, but I also needed to be saying those things to someone who could help me. I needed to talk to someone who knew something about mental health. I needed to talk to someone who had some understanding of depression.

And I didn’t talk to anyone like that. I tried to talk to some people, but I was generally met with pity or misunderstanding. I just seemed melodramatic probably. I don’t know how I seemed. I don’t know why no one helped me. I don’t know. I had friends online who I could talk to more openly about my suffering, and some of them really tried to make me happy. But it wasn’t enough. The only thing that could have helped me before diagnosis was an earlier diagnosis.

And now we’re back to my inability to be hypothetical. I don’t want to think about having actually avoided the suicide attempt. It changed the course of my life. I would have to reimagine everything if I imagined not attempting suicide. It was the turning point after which I began taking control of my own life. Once I reached rock bottom, I knew that I had to change. I couldn’t try to live up to other peoples’ expectations. I had to do things that made me happy. I had to live a life that made me happy. Because depression makes me unhappy. I have to get as much happiness as I can whenever and wherever I can because sometimes I can’t remember what it feels like.

On January 31, 2001, my last entry before my suicide attempt 2 weeks later, I wrote: “There aren’t any stars out tonight and I can’t stop shaking either—but now I am fine for a second—now not—how symbolic. I don’t want this.” I knew. In my own way, I knew that I was off balance. I knew that something important was wrong. And I knew that I couldn’t bear it much longer. It was almost laughable how hopeless it was. I was in so deep that I knew that I didn’t have much longer left. And I didn’t tell anyone how bad it was. I was so afraid of being ostracized or rejected. I knew that I was different. I liked being different, but I was afraid to admit it.

There are very few people who I showed my “true self” to at that time, and fewer who accepted me as broken as I was. And I fiercely clung to anyone who would accept me as I was. I felt so unloveable, and the kindness of a few kept me afloat longer than I could have made it alone. But kind words weren’t enough. No one knew how bad it really was. And no one who did have and idea about what I was going through ever thought that it might be an illness. At least no one talked to me seriously about that possibility. And I was terribly afraid of being crazy.

And that in itself is a big part of the problem I was facing. I was afraid of being “crazy.” I was afraid of being insane. I thought that it was all black or white. Sane or insane. Safe or unsafe. Normal or dangerous. I didn’t really even know anything about depression. I didn’t think about mental health. I never considered that what was happening to me was chemical. I didn’t understand how the brain works and the trouble it can cause when it isn’t working correctly.

But I know now. What I needed then was what I have now. What I needed then was what I give now. I needed someone else who was going through what I was going through to clue me in to the fact that it was depression. I needed someone who wasn’t afraid of being stigmatized or rejected to tell me the truth. I needed to read my own damn book. And it is the whole reason that I do what I do now. I think that the only thing that could have prevented my suicide attempt was medical intervention. Early diagnosis. Knowledge about mental health. I needed other people who suffer from mental illness to talk openly about it, and I needed those stories to be more widely known than they were.

But I have no regrets. I had to go through what I went through to become who I am now. I don’t think about what could have saved me. I don’t think about what could have gone differently. Because look at what I have done with it. When someone thanks me for saying the things that they cannot say, I know that it is all worth it. When I say the things that others think no one else feels, I know that I am doing something right. Because I don’t want to change what I have been through, but I want to prevent anyone else from going there. Because I barely survived. My writing is my way to talk to you. It is my way to tell you that you are not alone. You are not strange. You are not wrong. You are not worthless. You are sick. You are hurt. And you deserve healing. You deserve relief from your pain.

I remember once meeting a man who has depression at least as severe as mine. And we were discussing a certain therapy. He asked me if I still had “the thoughts” after the therapy. And I remember that I didn’t need any other information. I knew exactly what he meant. He meant suicidal thoughts. And he was embarrassed but tormented by them. I knew it. And he knew that I knew. That is why he felt comfortable asking me. It was the first time I knew that just being open could do a lot. It felt so good to say what we could not say. It felt so good. It was so painful, but good. And that is what we have here on the blog. A place to say the things we cannot say. I don’t mind saying them. I’m not afraid any more. No. I am afraid. I am so afraid, but not of rejection. I am afraid of depression. I know the real enemy, and it isn’t the petty or ignorant reactions of people who don’t understand. Words hurt but depression kills. And silence gives depression free reign. I won’t let someone else suffer in ignorance. I want to be everything I needed. Because I don’t want anyone else to do what I did. I can’t stop depression. But I can fight stigma. I can speak loudly and often about depression. I can say the things that others can’t say yet. And maybe someone will listen. Maybe someone will hear me. And maybe it will help them.

If you think you might be depressed or that someone you care about may be depressed, check out the Mayo Clinic page on depression. Don’t wait to contact your doctor about discussing your mental health. If you are in crisis, don’t wait to reach out for help. You can always call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. You are not alone. I am here, and I will keep talking, saying the things that I once thought I could not say.

4am, 17 Years Ago


I read this old poem of mine today, and I found it more thoughtful than I remembered. I wrote it the summer between high school and college. I was depressed already but neither I nor anyone else knew. I was secretive and moody but I mostly just seemed like an emotional teenager. But when I look at things I wrote, I know that my depression was already at work.

I wrote this poem, probably late in the summer, in 2000. I was already having trouble with insomnia and I wrote this at 4am, like the title says. I did not record the date–just the time. I thought my thoughts were being ruled by the night rather than by my age, but this poem is very much written by an 18 year old. 

So why is it worth revisiting? There are a few moments worth touching on, I think, as a way to see my depression clearly at work. Here’s the poem. I will share my thoughts after:

4am
I don’t want to be here

I don’t know where in the hell I want to be

I want to be in your grasp

Anywhere

As long as I can see my reflection in your eyes

But not here

And not anywhere alone

There is a different kind of blood running through my veins

It feels different

All it does is create dissatisfaction and desire

Desire for everything I’ve ever dreamed of

I need something to appease my heart

The beat is sad

I want out

I want to go far away from everything I know

I want to feel you on my skin

I want to see pink sunsets

I want something better

I want the courage to actually do something

I want talent

I want opportunity to knock on my door

And I want to be older

I want to be in your realm, not the audience

I want you

I want to rearrange the world and write my own fate

And I want to be in love

I want to close my eyes

I want to be someone else

I want to walk out my door and never come back

I want to know every song ever written

And I want to write the saddest song in the world

Then sing it

I want to peer into your soul

And I want you to peer into mine

I want to climb a mountain

And find all the answers at the top

I want to kiss you

I want to play the piano

And write a book with all the right words

I want to look into a mirror at your house and be satisfied

I want to lose my heart to you

I want you to take my hand in yours and hold it tight

I want to sit with Carlo Marx and contemplate everything all night long

I want to stand in the rain

I want life to be more than it is

I want to stop and start again

I want somebody to talk to

Just to talk

I want to be able to sleep at night and not wake up

I start with my discontent and the vague desire to be elsewhere. As I begin to romanticize my feelings, I actually touch on something noteworthy: “There is a different kind of blood running through my veins/ It feels different/ All it does is create dissatisfaction and desire.” I was being hyperbolic, metaphorical, but I was more correct than I could have imagined. My blood wasn’t different, but my chemicals were imbalanced. And I could feel it. I was different. My body and brain were working differently than my friends around me. And it made me discontent. It made me long for something to make me feel better–to make me feel happy again. I thought at 18 I needed romantic love. But that was just the lens through which I viewed my feelings. I thought it was because no one loved me. And I longed for the love that I thought would fix me. And I thought that I could not find it where I was because if I could have found it there then I would have already found it. I couldn’t understand that the problem was not external but internal. And yet I did understand. I felt the difference inside, as if it was in my own blood, but I couldn’t understand that a mental illness could change my ability to perceive reality and myself so dramatically. 

One of the weirdest things about my first depressive episode is that I really wanted to live fully–I just didn’t want to live the life I had or be the person I was. I wanted a different life. I wanted to do, be, and experience the world. It seemed so beautiful and yet I felt so sad. I thought that if I was different or if I went somewhere different that maybe I would be able to feel content and happy: “I want to climb a mountain/ And find all the answers at the top.” felt like everything I needed was out in the world somewhere. I thought that if I could journey across America like Sal Paradise or go to Africa like Eugene Henderson and become the rain king (“I want, I want, I want…”). I just wanted anything that would work. I was searching. I thought I needed experience in order to find what I was looking for. I was consumed by daydreams of the things that I thought would fix me. And I would ruminate over my inability to have the things I thought I needed to feel happiness. And because I wasn’t going to actually, physically go anywhere, I obsessed over my bad fortune. That fate had put me in a place and time where I could never be content. And I thought that if I could just escape and find the answers to all of my existential questions, then I would be fine again. I would be like everyone else again. But I need a journey or I would wither where I was.

But beyond wanting to take a physical journey or fall in love, I wanted everything to be different. I felt like even if I did all of these things, life would still be disappointing. I was already giving in to the hopelessness of depression: “I want life to be more than it is/ I want to stop and start again/ I want somebody to talk to/ Just to talk”. I go from not wanting to be where I was–time and place were the problem–to wanting all of life to be more–existence generally is the problem. At first I didn’t fit where I was, I wanted things to fix me, but by the end I want everything to be different– a do over. But what I really needed was someone to talk to about all of this. And that is not just something to throw away. That is not just what I wanted as a depressed 18 year old, it is truly what I needed. I needed to be honest and tell someone how horrible I felt rather than just writing about it. I knew that I needed that. But I believed that I was strange. I believed that I was selfish and bratty for feeling unhappy. I was afraid to show my true colors for fear of rejection. As much as I need to talk to someone who could help me, I didn’t. I just wrote it all down and kept it secret. 

And finally, “I want to be able to sleep at night and not wake up”. As I mentioned above, I was already experiencing insomnia as a result of my depression. I would stay up late in my room thinking, ruminating, writing, daydreaming. But sleep was elusive. It sounds like I meant that I wanted to be able to sleep solidly through the night, but I know better. I remember. I wanted to be able to sleep and never wake up. This is some of the earliest evidence of my experiences with suicidal ideation. Part of me was willing to admit that I was so discontent, so unhappy that I would not object to gently falling asleep and never waking up again. I felt that way because as I wrote down all of the things I wanted I became more and more sure that I could never have them, and that I was crazy just for wanting so much rather than accepting what I had. I didn’t have a bad life. I didn’t know why I couldn’t be happy, and why I wanted so much more than I had. And it was too much for me at 18. I felt like I had my entire life in my hands at 18, and I was signing up for an unfulfilling life, and that any other life was inaccessible to me. I felt like I was stuck before I ever began. I felt doomed. But I didn’t realize how doomed I was. I didn’t realize that I was just at the beginning of wanting to sleep and never wake up. I didn’t realize that within a few months I would do what I could to make that desire a reality. 

It surprises me sometimes that I could so clearly feel what was happening–I could write about it–but I didn’t understand it at all. I could feel the changes taking place in my body and my ability to function. I recognized that I was feeling more and more unhappy every day. And my depression made me think that it was all normal. That it was just the truth–the reality of the situation. I just accepted my own destruction as unavoidable. I was destined for a life of unhappiness a the young age of 18. 

But that is how depression works. It hides. It wears a mask and makes you believe that it is you. That you are the depression and the world is as skewed as depression makes it seem. And depression tells you to hide yourself. Depression makes you feel like an anomaly. And it will make you believe that nothing can every change to make you feel any better. And it starts small and romantic. And it is pretty and tragic. And it feels special. But it turns dark. It turns ugly. And it is nothing but a vicious illness. 

There is hope for healing. You can feel better, and the answers to your problems may be closer to home than you think. Don’t let depression steal your dreams. Don’t let it tell you that you will never feel happy again or that only the impossible can fulfill you. There is love, hope, and happiness available through medical help and therapy. Sending you love and clarity. May you see the truth and find the healing you deserve.

Curiosity Killed the Collage?


I spent much of Saturday cleaning my house. When I was working in the living room, I spent some time looking at the collage I made in 2005. I have discussed it on the blog before. I made it for a senior Brit Lit class at UTTyler. I chose to create a collage and give a presentation on it rather than write a final paper. It might seem like less work, but it wasn’t at all. I worked on it daily for 2-3 months, and still most of the material I used had been composed several years before. Most of the collage is made up of poetry and prose I wrote between 1999-2001. I wrote obsessively during that time, recording my thoughts, feelings, and interactions regularly. I also wrote around 30 poems during those years and a few short stories. Pieces of many of these writings are on the collage interspersed with literary quotes and images.

When I finished the collage, I got rid of everything. I deleted or threw away almost all of the originals. I kept a notebook with most of my poems hand written, one of my short stories, and one journal. Everything else–and there was quite a lot–I got rid of. I think it must have been an attempt at catharsis. Or a sacrifice to art. Whatever the reason, I regret it now. While I love my collage–I don’t think that I have made a better piece of visual art–I am not an artist. I am a writer. And I could do a lot more with the words than with the fragmented representation I have now.

I tried to read as much of it as I could–maybe 65-70%, but there is still so much that it obscured. I even ripped off a couple of old pieces today to see what was underneath. Then I was like, “Laura Grace! Don’t be crazy! You can’t rip this apart just to see what is hidden!” I stopped myself, but I am so curious and intrigued.

I finished the collage in the spring of 2005, and it has hung in my living room ever since. I took it from Texas to Oklahoma to Florida back to Oklahoma and now Washington. It has always been the piece of art I was most proud of. I often work quickly when I paint, but I was slow and deliberate with this collage, and I am still so pleased with how it turned out. But through all of these moves I didn’t read it. When I finished it and threw everything away, after I got my A+, I hung it up and never looked at its pieces. I only saw it as a whole.

And maybe that is best. It is a representation of me during those years. Things I loved, dreams I had, memories, secrets. But starting sometime last year I began to feel ready to revisit the details. The more I write, the more I try to remember. The more I want to remember. And it is right there. I’m sitting 2 feet away from it all right now, but I would have to destroy the collage to get to it. And I still wouldn’t have it all. Because there was so much more that never made it on to the collage. And I threw it all away.

Maybe I just wish that I could write now the way I did then. Not style or content, but commitment and quantity. Maybe I miss being so dreamy. Maybe it is that so much bad shit was happening to me during those years and this collage is a representation of the good. It is a representation of my dreams and desires–my true friends, my loves, my hopes. It is a memory of all of the things I loved during the darkest part of my youth. And I loved them deeply because depression made me feel everything deeply. Only the most special, dearest of things could get through to me in those days. But they did get through. I have this entire collage as proof.

So no matter how much I want to see and read what is obscured, as much more useful as the words might be than the collage is, I am not going to rip it up. It will have to stay as is and continue to hang on my living room wall for as long as I love it.

Love/Hate

I’m watching 13 Reasons Why on Netflix currently. It is a teen drama that centers around the suicide of a teenage girl. This may include spoilers, I’m not totally sure. 

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A few days ago I started watching 13 Reasons Why, and I am just now a few minutes in to episode three. I actually paused the episode to write this. I’m only watching one episode at a time, so far. It is because I love/hate this show already.

I love that it is engaging and intriguing. The frame narrative is a fun way to emphasize the notion of the unreliable narrator. And an unreliable narrator always makes things more fun. And it is fun without being light or flippant.

But I hate how fun it is. 

I hate that I am enjoying myself. I shouldn’t be so enthralled by the questions: Was Hannah crazy? Is she a liar? Was her suicide justified? Is she vindictive or insane? That’s the mystery for me at this point: Is Hannah mentally ill or going to become mentally ill? Or is this all teenage trauma porn? I hate all of these questions because I feel like I’m trying to figure out a game that ended before it began.

And I wonder–is this what my peers were doing after I tried to kill myself? Were their parents worried? Did my classes, school, or sorority address it or try to ignore it? 

I saw my friends from my dorm once after my suicide attempt–one week after–when I went to pack up my stuff. My high school friends who were there were mostly devastated, but my newer, college friends just seemed uncomfortable as I told them that I had severe depression and was leaving school. They were closed off. Scared. Uncomfortable around me. Quiet and distant. The first feeling I felt was that it would have been better if I had never come back to see them and explain. They would have preferred that. Then I felt sorry for them that they had to be around me. I was so awful. I never wanted to return, and I didn’t feel that I would ever be welcome among them again. 

And I wonder–did my peers think I was crazy or something else? Did they wonder about my sanity or did they judge me as selfish or weak? 

I had several friends who called afterwards to hear me tell my story, but they never called back. I had friends disappear forever. And I had friends too scared to do anything. But curiosity, judgement, coldness, or silence were the last things I needed. They cheapen my struggle. I take offense at the thought that my suicide would be a juicy piece of gossip to chew on. To mull over.

And I realize that I am taking this all too personally. I am trying to figure out where to identify; where do I fit in? I’m trying to stop feeling guilty for being so entertained–Hannah is just a fictional character. And she’s not really dead because she was never alive.

But what bothers me is that when I am ill the line between fiction and reality becomes blurred by abstract thinking. I could metaphorically say the same about myself at times: “she’s not really dead because she was never alive.” That’s great fodder for suicidal thinking. When I feel so dead that I figure I might as well be–when my actual life feels less significant than that of a fictional character–that is why I know that my guilt about the show is real. I’m not the only one feeling how I feel–seeing myself in Hannah simply because I know what it is like to give in. And it is traumatic and tragic. Suicidal thinking is a curse. An unbearable burden.

And I’m only a quarter of the way through the third episode. Whew! 

Tell me NOTHING. I am so serious. Don’t even say, “Just wait…” or “Keep watching.” Don’t tell me if I am right or wrong. I will take it in at my own pace and gain my own understanding as I do. But I thought that it could be insightful to give you some of my initial thoughts. I won’t recommend the show as I am still too early on, and I promise to report back once I finish, if not before. Back to episode three!