A History of Madness

When I was younger, my dad would tell me that I was sorta like him – I never got too sad, but also never experienced the highs of overwhelming happiness. My emotions, like his, were always somewhere in the middle. He would get happy, sure, but never elated. He might get upset (and anger was certainly in his emotional vocabulary) but he rarely got inconsolably distressed. Growing up, I thought this was a totally normal personality trait I inherited; I thought a lot of people were similar.

In high school I was diagnosed with a mild form of depression. It finally clicked; that’s what my dad was talking about when he talked about his lack of mood swings. It wasn’t necessarily common, which I started to pick up on as I met and even befriended people who were the exact opposite. One of my best friends experiences every conceivable emotion in a given day, and it continues to be a hard thing for me to grasp. So that’s a common misconception – depression isn’t always feeling “down” as the name would suggest, but rather a lack of feeling any emotion – the highs or the lows. I don’t think I ever would have known, had I not been diagnosed.

Even so, when I was first diagnosed I rejected the idea. I didn’t want to be on any medication, I didn’t want to have a name for what I probably always knew was there. Luckily the psychologist who diagnosed me never really mentioned medication – he was all about natural remedies and gave me the rundown on what depression means and how to deal with it, sans drugs. I have to make sure I exercise, get enough sleep (but not too much), eat well (but don’t overeat), be careful with alcohol. Basic human needs and maybe common sense, sure. Except that when you’re depressed, all you want to do is lay around the house and sleep as much as possible. For me, I know I’m in an episode when all I want to do is sleep and when I don’t laugh quite as loud.

I know I’m come out of the shadows, however, when I can laugh hysterically again. As a baby, my mom tells me I would giggle uncontrollably to the point where everyone else in the room couldn’t stop laughing. Infectious, she called it. I was a happy kid. Later on, I wouldn’t realize the lack of laughter until I became hysterical again, until I was in the sun and out of the shadow. I remember one time early in my teenage years, I was in the car and something weird happened or my dad said something funny and I could not stop laughing. I laughed so hard I cried; so hard my stomach hurt. When I finally caught my breathe, I realize I hadn’t laughed like that in months, maybe even a year. I now remember that as the first time I came out of an episode. It’s comforting, in a way, to know I dealt with this thing before I even knew it was there. What other enemy can you defeat before you know it’s there?

The really messed up part is that I don’t even consider it an enemy; more of a companion, though nothing like Dexter’s dark passenger. I’ve written about it before, but it’s a delicate balance. When I’m depressed, my writing is usually better. I don’t know why, really. Maybe all the time I’m not spending with people gives me time to write; maybe the lack of emotion gives me some kind of clarity. It could be a lot of things, but writing is the one thing that brings me to some kind of peace with it, with my shadow.

Which, at a glance, is pretty cool right? Ok so general apathy whatever, but then my writing is (on average) a little better! Yay! Except I can’t control this thing, this shadow. It also makes my writing a little darker than I would prefer to be, normally. When I’m not experiencing it, I do everything to avoid it. I exercise, I sleep, I eat. I don’t feel it coming until it’s too late. It’s not like the flu. But when it does take over, I just sort of ride it out. I catch up on sleep, I write as much as possible. Even so, I don’t always know it’s happening until it’s over, so I can’t really take advantage of it, I just…exist through it. I don’t even realize my writing is good when I’m dealing with it. There’s just nothing I can do about it. At least, that’s how it feels. It feels like it won’t ever end. Somewhere, in the farthest reaches of my memory, I know it’ll pass. But I can’t make myself believe it.


A few weekends ago, I learned my maternal great-grandmother was diagnosed with depression after her husband died. In her lifetime, she also lost a brother and her son, both much too soon. To me, she’s always seemed happy-go-lucky, and I never knew her any other way.

After I was diagnosed, I never really talked to my dad about whether or not he thinks he has the same thing. We’ve talked about my depression, but never his.

This thing is coming at me from both sides of the family tree. Even if sometimes it’s born out of trauma rather than inherited – it exists. It’s there. I’ve embraced it, in a sense. Maybe because mine is mild, usually, I have that luxury.

It’s still scary, though. How will this thing change as I get older? Is the worst of it over, post-puberty? Is the worst yet to come – in the postpartum or menopausal stages of life? Will it ever go away?

Do I want it to?

It’s been a year.

Even before Timehop reminded me, I knew today was the day. Even in it’s last days, March has never been kind to me.

A year ago today, I drove an hour to get dumped. Apparently around 10am it happened, and by noon I was already back in my college apartment planning a party for that evening. I drank tequila. I went to a bar I’d never been to. I danced. Some of my friends who live far away showed up for the occasion, proving they were still there for me, even if he wasn’t. Not that they had to prove anything, but it truly meant everything to me that they were there. I needed them that day, and they had my back. He never did shit like that for me.

I couldn’t even remember the last time I had been truly broken up with. He would occasionally break up with me for a week or so, but this was nothing like that. So the last time I was dumped would have been in high school, I guess. But I was usually the one to end relationships… so maybe eighth grade was the last time. Almost a decade ago.

I still don’t really know if I got my heart broken that day, though. Of course, I’m older now, but this didn’t feel like when my heart was broken the few times in high school. It hurt, of course, and I cried whenever I would try to talk about him, or think about him, or have to break the news to someone else… but after a few days of that, I just felt free. The anxiety I’d had for weeks or months that I thought was about graduation and job searching, was really about him. That relationship should have ended years ago.

It felt like I got divorced. It felt like I wasted the best four years of my life on someone who didn’t want to share anything with me, let alone give up anything for me. I missed legendary weekends with my  friends, because of him. It meant my dad was right, again. That this boy wasn’t willing to sacrifice anything for me, and yet I was always bending over backwards for him.

I judged the shit out of other people’s relationships. I thought I had the healthiest, most functional relationship, and thus the right to judge. We never fought, we had fun together, we liked the same shows. We had some hobbies in common, but also had our own interests. I thought those were all good things, that we didn’t need anything else, that he would eventually stop smoking. But it wasn’t that we didn’t fight because there was nothing to fight about – instead it was because we stopped communicating a long time ago. Those couples who always fought, at least they were telling each other how they felt. The ones who spent every waking moment together were obnoxious, but at least they knew each other.

I had plenty of things that were his, but none of them with any sentimental value. Always practical things – an old TV, some sweatpants I’d never seen him wear, a fucking wireless router. The normal things a girlfriend would have, things I always wanted, he barely let me touch. His college hoodie, mostly. I did have jewelry from him, I guess, but the chain to the necklace he gave me broke, and he never bothered to find me another one even though he promised he would.

I told him I didn’t want any of my stuff back. I still don’t know what he did with it. Maybe he threw everything away. Maybe, since he never cleans, those few possessions of mine are still there. I wonder what he thinks when he stumbles upon them while he’s looking for something else. I wonder how he told his parents. I wonder if they still ask about me the way my aunt or my grandparents will occasionally ask about him.

Months later, I was still breaking the news to people. Half a year later, I will have a bad day and be insanely mad at him, and myself, for putting me where I am now. About 10 months later, I was headed back home, driving the same roads I’d driven with him so many times. The weather had finally broken, I was driving with my windows down, and “Breakin’” by the All-American Rejects came on my iPod and it about killed me. I put the song on repeat and belted it all the way home.

All your tears
Couldnt match the bitter taste of all these wasted years

You take take
Everything that wasnt even yours
Wait wait
You dont got a hold of me anymore

And that’s the truth. He doesn’t get to me anymore, I’ve lost all romantic feelings for him months (maybe even years) ago. But it’s all those wasted years that still have the tightest hold on me. It’s the feelings I have about myself that still get to me. It’s the anger; the hot, burning kind of anger I thought I left behind with teenage angst, that gets to me.

So, it’s been a year. One hell of a year. I learned a lot. And I could have spent this weekend feeling bad about it, but I decided to be fearless instead. (More on that tomorrow…)

September and March

Trying to get back to the creative aspect of my writing. It’s still not quite right, but here goes…

 

 

the last day of September-

I had all but given up

 

It’s like the last few days of summer;

The heat hangs on,

but the smell is all wrong.

The scent of something new

Pushes its way through.

 

Those days when you still drive with the windows down –

Even when the nights get cold,

It never gets old

Wind in your hair, infinite and alive.

And you have to stay awake,

Ignoring the regrets and mistakes

Eventually, you give in and you let go

You embrace the fall;

and can’t wait to see the colors of it all

 

After a long painful winter,

Here you are –

bringing new life to what I thought was lost in the snow

 

It’s like the first few days of spring;

The new air makes you forget.

The harsh winter aches,

Every single fallen snowflake.

 

It feels so good, it must be true!

But spring can be cruel

with all her tricks

as spring and winter mix

Winter still has a story he hasn’t told

So there you are, alone in the cold

 

Alone again.

I think it’s only been 3 weeks but it feels like forever.

I stopped counting the days and I guess I’ve given up.

 

But eventually,

the flowers bloom

and you learn to trust the sun –

second to none.

(Dirty) Blonde Ambition

Date: How would you describe your hair color?

Me: Dark blonde… dirty blonde?

[…]

D: What would your dream job be?

M: Something more creative than what I’m doing now. I’m not really sure. Something where I could write more, I guess. I honestly don’t know if my dream job actually exists… even if I was getting paid to write, and writing stuff I enjoyed, I’d always want to find something else, something I haven’t been able to accomplish yet.

D: Must be that blonde ambition… so you like to write? What kinds of stuff do you write?

Sunday Morning

In school, Sunday was spent reliving the weekend while dreading Monday and the rest of the week. More bitter than sweet, Sunday was a day of finishing assignments or studying for the coming week and other tasks I had neglected the previous week.

Now, Sundays aren’t so bad. Between working (and working late) during the week, and traveling all over the state on weekends, Sunday is my one day. Even if I’m not busy Monday-Thursday, after work I barely make it to the gym let alone feel like doing things I actually enjoy. Somehow after sitting in my cubicle for 8+ hours all I want to do after work is sit some more and watch Netflix. I don’t even feel like reading, and I like reading! Fridays after work I’m usually scrambling to pack my bag for the weekend to see my parents, or to go see friends the next state over. Sometimes I’m scrambling to clean my apartment for the rare occurrence someone is coming to see me that weekend. Or I’m scrambling to get ready for a date, on occasion. Either way – Friday is full of scrambling. Saturdays are always fun, at least. Whether it’s a chill day with my family or a day-long birthday extravaganza full of alcohol from noon until midnight, it’s good. But Sundays. That’s my day.

I don’t go to church, but Sundays are my religion. I’m truly free on Sundays. There are no obligations; no one makes social plans on Sundays and being out of the homework cycle leaves me to do whatever I want. I sleep in, I drink coffee all day, I write. I get to be my introverted self without judgement. It’s my reset day: I can clean, I can spend half the day making a meal that may (or may not) turn out to be incredible, or I can stay in bed with a book all day. I can be quiet, barely turning on the TV. Or I can be loud, music blasting. I can sit in a coffee shop and watch people without saying a word all day, I can talk to myself as I drive around, or I can call everyone I know. Or I can stay in bed all day.

Daily meditation might be recommended, but who has time for that? A good Sunday is enough to get me through the week.

Your pity doesn’t help anyone

When I was still going out on dates, I realized there were a lot of different types of people. Generally when I talk about dating, it’s insights I’ve gained about boys specifically but this particular thing struck me as something a lot of people do regardless of gender.

Family, in some capacity, usually comes up on a first date. I couldn’t say why, I guess it’s usually a safe question or topic, maybe. “Do you have any siblings?” seems to be a question I get a lot. I could answer this question a couple different ways. I  could simply say, “Yes, I have two brothers” or I could add to that and say, “Technically, I have four brothers, because I also have two stepbrothers” but between you and I, I don’t usually consider my stepbrothers to be my brothers. I didn’t grow up with them, and I rarely see or talk to them. When I was younger I used to say, “I have one and a half brothers,” but that just confused the shit out of people. So my usual response to the question ‘Do you have siblings’ is “Yes, two younger brothers, ‘E.’ is 20 and ‘B.’ is 8 years old”. That tends to confuse people, or shock them in some way so they say ‘Wow that’s a big age difference!’ I usually follow this up with, “Well, B. is technically my half brother.”

Now here is where you see the different types of people come out. Some people would have assumed B. is my half brother when I told them the ages of my brothers, because they have much younger half-siblings or they are the younger half-sibling to a much older child of their mother or father. (This being said, don’t ever assume. I know a lot of people with more than a decade between them and their closest sibling, and they aren’t half siblings. Their parents just decided to take a break before creating another human). So they understand this, but they ask about the age difference anyway to make sure they aren’t assuming. And then I tell them he’s my half brother, and they understand my parents are divorced. They don’t have to ask. They might say nothing, or they might nod and say “My parents are divorced too” and the rest of the date goes on.

The opposite end of the spectrum is people who may not know what I mean when I say ‘half-brother’ and so they need to ask “So your parents are divorced?” Or even worse I get the “So you guys have different dads?” which to me has always sounded so rude, and the fact that most people will automatically assume it’s different dads instead of different moms throws me off. I don’t know if that’s from a perception they have that kids tend to stay with the mother in a divorce, or some other assumption they have about ‘messy’ or ‘complicated’ families and divorcées. Why they even have to make the distinction at all, when I just met them, doesn’t make much sense. Most of this isn’t what bothers me. A lot of people will ask which parent my brothers and I share, especially if I show off pictures of them and a lot of people are trying to decide if we all look alike or not. Or they’ll notice my brothers look alike and I don’t necessarily look like them, even though I do share a full set of genetics with one of them.

No, what bothers me is when people ask “Your parents are divorced?” and when I say yes, they apologize. I’m sure they’re trying to be nice – but their entire face will change when they do it. It’s like I told them one of my parents died, or that they locked me in a closet under the stairs for the first ten years of my life. Most of the people who do this, are people who’s parents are still married. However, I’ve met plenty of people who’s parents are married and they can still handle this information with social grace and without that awful look of pity. But for the people who give that look when I tell them – just don’t. I don’t want it.

I still remember the first time someone apologized to me for my parents getting a divorce. It was maybe a year or two after my parents got divorced; I think I was ten. I was on the bus going home from school with the girl I rode the bus with every single day. I mentioned something about my mom’s house vs. my dad’s house, and she didn’t understand this at first. Why would my parents live in different houses? Then she got it. And she honestly reacted like someone had died, she felt so bad for me. “It must be awful, I don’t know what I would do if my parents split up,” she said. I didn’t really understand why she was so sad, why she had that look on her face. It was just a thing that happened. Life went on.

When my parents first got divorced, I wasn’t really old enough to get it, I think. Then I got a little older and it hit me pretty hard. Now that I’m an adult myself, I can’t imagine my life and my parents being any other way. Both of them have gone through phases where they were so unhappy, both pre- and post-divorce. Now both of them are happy, and successful, and flourishing in ways they might not have had they still been married. They got married in their 20s, even younger than I am now, and I don’t think either of them knew what they wanted from life. Now they’re in their 40s and they probably have more interesting lives than I do.

To be honest, when I think about my parents and who they are now, I have no idea why they got married or even started dating in the first place. They are entirely different people with different interests, hobbies, and ideal living situations. But that’s okay. They tried being married, and when it didn’t work, they decided not to be married. That’s all divorce is. Just a slightly more complicated and way more expensive break-up. I’m glad they decided to get divorced instead of resent each other my entire life and skew my perception of what a marriage should be.

So, please, don’t look at me like that. Just because my family is a little different than yours, doesn’t mean I’m broken. That kind of shit is character-building, right? So really, you could learn a lot from my and my built character.

23 Is The Worst

23 Reasons Why 23 Is The Worst

I picked this one because it’s the most recent one I’ve seen. On my 23rd birthday, I received a bunch of Facebook posts/messages with links to similar articles…all essentially ‘Why Everyone Hates You When You’re 23’ but there were a few ‘Why 23 Is Awesome’.

This one, however, also pointed out something I was told a long time ago, and have since forgotten:

15. Your brain is nearly done changing

The “use it or lose it” theory is at major play here. Your prefrontal cortex and cerebellum, the regions involved in emotional control and higher-order cognitive function, is fully maturing while other regions have reached their mental peak.

I even remember who told me this. I was 16 or 17, and my high school physics teacher told the class something to this effect. It absolutely blew my mind at the time, that I only had a few more years of my brain getting better before it started getting worse.

As someone who’s strong suit has usually been intellect, this is really terrifying and frustrating. I’m at my mental peak? What kind of sick joke is that? In theory/On average/Most likely I still have a solid 70+ years I have to stick around… and all while mentally declining? Who the fuck’s idea was this?!

Even worse, I spend my time doing nothing that takes advantage of this. If I’m at my mental peak, I should be doing some cool shit with that. Instead I make spreadsheets or fix other people’s mistakes or whatever the hell else I do at work. Then I come home from work to further rot my brain by watching stupid shows or buying shit I don’t need. Then there’s my drinking habits.

I already have this sinking feeling, from time to time, that I’m already losing what I thought was my most valuable asset. I think to myself, when playing Trivia Crack or reading something that’s probably over my head: I used to know this. What the fuck happened? And it’s probably one of the most frustrating things, because it’s out of my control and yet completely my fault. When other people do stupid or annoying things that frustrate me, I can at least blame them. But this is all me, and I don’t know how to stop unlearning all of the shit I’ve already learned. Clearly if I haven’t retained something it probably wasn’t that important to me on a regular basis, but it’s just the principle of the thing.

I should be doing something with this gift while I still have it. But what? As an occasional perfectionist, I can’t do just anything, it has to be the best possible thing to use my peak years for. I should learn a language, or go to law school, or solve some big fucking problem – but what problem? By the time I figure it out, I’ll have grown out of my peak years.

I don’t even know where to begin. Shit, I don’t even know where I want to end up, in order to try and work my way backwards. Geographically, career-ically, none of it; I just don’t know where I want to be.

“Mental peak” my ass.