Once Upon an Albatross

 

Red-faced

one way and 

another

I wait

and wait

and wait

The burn will blister 

and ooze

soon enough

Unexpected 

since I wasn’t the 

one in the fire

But the gods

do get a laugh

out of their 

distribution of

gifts

and 

grievances

So I wait

maiden 

to 

crone

mother

to 

dowager

virgin 

to

harpy

Face 

like acid

heart

like thunder

brain

a calvary

of untrained beasts

Who are they

charging against?

The battle field is 

empty

war declared

then abandoned

long ago

So I rage

against the

bare balustrades

and the

destitute dales

of my 

defeated mind

 A horse

A horse

my kingdom

for an escape

from this hell

And I’d kill the beast

with my expectations

without every

laying a hand

Maybe instead

turn and 

plan a path

alone

Sail

Remember when the bed

was a raft?

A lifeboat to carry you

through the volcano

lava of the bedroom floor

a magical mattress 

impervious to the heat of the world

Is it still?

What if I need it to be?

What if the carpets and 

halls of now-

when I fill the bed

with height and weight

and expectation and 

emotional bulk-

what if I need that bed

to sail away?

Still only me

solo passenger

sagging on my 

skin and

my side of the 

bed

Not to where the 

wild things are-

they’re here-

ranting and stomping

in my head and 

all around-

but somewhere else. 

A quiet place

away from 

rumpus and 

questions 

and 

things I wanted

but 

now wonder

I can’t leave

What if the ship

pushes off 

without me

Can’t leave

No

I can’t get out

Not today

In Check

 

A new writer I discovered, Alissa Ashley, @alissa_ashleyy, just blew my mind with her simplicity of defining the chaos and exhaustion of anxiety. 

“I require alone time to function and keep my mood in check.”

She is in my soul. 

I started acting like as asshole the second I woke up this morning. I wish I could excuse it, or reason it away. Nope. Just an asshole. 

For hours, I tried to reason out what my malfunction was and why I was leaking black brain bile on the person who was trying to love me and help. 

Twelve hours later and I’m still fumbling for a solution or at least five minutes of furlong. The person trying to love and help is probably two drinks deep at a bar, having long given up on me.

That compact but explosive sentence by Ms. Ashley illuminated my transgressions like a search light. 

Dealing with my anxiety brain is exhausting. So, so much mental work has to go on simply to process benign stimuli. 

Conversations go like this:

Someone: Hey! Look at this fun letter I drew!

Some Other People: Cool!

And then…

 

Me: Cool!*

*Anxiety Brain: Wow. They’re really good. Why are they even talking to you? You can’t do anything like that? Remember that time you tried to make something and it was awful? Yeah. That’s every time and will absolutely be every time you ever try to create anything for the rest of your life. You should probably stop what you’re doing and throw yourself out this window. 

*Reasonable Brain: Okay. Let’s take a breath here Let’s stop and count and review our therapy cues and coping. That’s an unreasonable response. That person has had hours and days and years of time to learn and practice and become skilled at art. You haven’t. You can do other things. It’s totally fine. You’re totally fine. Stop…no…stop digging your nails into your skin. That doesn’t address this emotion, that creates a cover sensation. How about we get the red pen? Do we need the red pen? We actually seem a little dizzy. Let’s sit down and take a break for a second. We’ll come back to this in a minute.

And on and on and on it goes. My brain is dealing and processing and navigating a misinterpreted conversation line from thirty minutes ago and whoever I am talking to has no doubt fled the conversation because I shrugged it off with a “fine” or “whatever, must be nice” or my absolute darling, “k.”

Ass. Hole. 

It’s truly back-grinding and reserve-demolishing work. I can in all honestly run a half-marathon on only a fraction of the energy it takes to maintain my mood and not explode into irrational anger or torrential tears. 

Maintaining composure and rational behavior in the midst of anxiety, it’s an ache to the cellular level. Like contracting every single muscle in your body to tiptoe across a drawbridge splintering with every step, but only you see it. Each progression of an inch takes the effort of traversing an entire city. Every other passerby seems to be able to trod across as though it was a path of solid steel. Meanwhile, your every fiber is aflame and disintegrating with the exertion. 

That’s why I have to step away. Or crawl away, depending on how bad the day is. I can only imagine how trying it is to be on the other side, when I know these pangs. 

So, tonight, away from humanity again.  Alone. Trying to keep it all in check. 

So Sensitive

So Sensitive

I will never be grateful enough for my anxiety and depression.

That’s what I remind myself.

My anxiety and depression function well. Top of the class—if there was a grading scale for such things, which there isn’t and there positively should never be. It’s mental illness, not a spelling bee or a discus event. Luckily, I do therapy and Celexa because I have zero skills for phonics or field competition.

I have high-functioning anxiety and depression. So I’ve been told and which probably appears in a medical note somewhere. Except in the notes of the therapist who told me I wasn’t depressed because I showered every day. Before he recommend that I work out more. After we’d talked about running. But he meant lifting. Bro. Then showed me his bicep and told me to feel it.

Didn’t go back to talk to that particular mental health professional. The ugly white patriarchy is snarlinglingly pervasive, friends.

The gratitude should come from the gift that I am able to shower every day. I can go to work and take care of my son. That could change tomorrow. That is not the life so many others with mental illness survive. They lose hair because it goes unwashed. Which might seem incidental when they lose jobs and partners and children and their lives.

I make it through. I’m not pretty doing it. But I’m lucky enough to manage. Do I cry at work? Sure. I’m somehow able to do it in bathrooms and storerooms and can bounce back quickly and no one is the wiser. Except when I get caught and then I have to explain. That’s a fun day.

Certainly, I won’t assume to define anyone else’s depression or anxiety. For me, the depression is feeling alone, unseen and worthless. Anxiety is feeling that everyone is watching and judging and that the worst of every second is imminent. And then feeling worthless. Yes. It is as fun as it sounds.

Work families are like home families. You spend enough time with people, even if you love them, personality quirks coalesce and then separate. Aggressively.

My anxiety and depression do not tolerate teasing. It’s silly. Of course it is. “Do not tolerate.” I sound like a boring behavioral guide posted in a low-end dog training course handout.

By “do not tolerate”, I mean I freak out. By the outdated and moderately offensive phrase “freak out”, I mean I cry and spiral into my dark place. Because someone teased me. Teasing that I know was meant in simple, silly, sisterly way.

Weakness revealed.

And the panic hits like a punch in the gut from a jealous, perceived-overlooked sibling.

I’m right, my mind screams. I TOLD YOU SO!!!! Every awful, negative, hurtful, self-deprecating, harmful, reductive, critical, crushing thought I carry in my head, every hour of every day, is real. That easy, breezy giggle meant to break up a tense and challenging work afternoon breaks me.

Ridiculous and unreasonable. What adult behaves like this? What about the grade school trope where we tell kids to laugh along with teasing? Laugh along and don’t take yourself so seriously. Laugh first, laugh loudest and they can’t hurt you.

Anxiety and depression don’t understand that. They don’t really adhere to dinner table or playground rules of “they tease you because they like you.” At least that’s how my brain bubbles react.

They freak the fuck out.

A joke about talking too fast or looking like a lost sheep and I’m in so much physical and emotional pain that I get light-headed.

Personality like that, and it’s a curiosity why I avoid all social gatherings and friendships, huh? You should see me on New Year’s Eve. Hint: you’d have to be under my cover to find me and also I’ll be sleeping.

That’s okay. I’ve come to accept that. I’m not the butterfly. I’m the moth. Flying alone, bumping perpetually into the light that I love but can’t quite access.

I’m okay. I continue to strive to be grateful for my particular strand of anxiety and depression that keep we upright and moving forward, when I’m not flat on my back or sliding down my wall on my way there.

But there’s carpet to catch me. Of course, I’ll end the day with a rash when the pile is too rough.

Because I’m so sensitive.

Afraid

I was afraid he’d stop breathing

During his impossible naps

I was afraid he’d fall and bleed

When he started walking too soon

I was afraid his own cells

Wouldn’t stop attacking his body

I look at him now

And see

This beautiful, peaceful, happy

White son

Barely beyond a decade

Full of joy

But sometimes,

I look at his crumpled face

And see

his anger

Will someone be afraid of him someday?

I’ve been hurt by white men

Death

Divorce

Desertion

Denial

Never with such devastation

Will my son

Who looks like killers

Be someone who hurts?

How do I stop?

What do I say?

How can I discipline?

When step away?

Will I be afraid of him?

The boy I loved the

Moment he formed

Before any of him

Formed

And then we formed him

Or tried

What if

I’m afraid

Create

Trying to create in chaos

Aching to break the pencil when

The words are sharper than any leaden tip

Staring at beauty and not able to reach

Out a finger because the

Air transference of my ugly

Will drain the color from the sea

Imagining myself a witch of the water

As if my powers of dark were so

Compelling

As if tides bowed to my

Anxiety

By absence I create

Watching massacres a wave away

Caught myself

Take away

Save myself

What’s left

Drug to shore

Lost creation

Desire

Sometimes I have to step away from those I love to follow what I love.

Shook off the attachments of cellular and developed family.

Crawled out of my own skin to fill another body, to speak other words, to feel another pain.

Seems absurd and unreasonable and false.

Sometimes I follow my heart even when I know I breaks others and I shouldn’t even bother to begin crafting the apology.

Because I’d make the choice again.

Sometimes my own words aren’t enough and I have to rely on the kindness of strangers.

It’s a kindness to be able to walk amongst other dreamers for a while and to build beautiful castles from wishes and poetry.

Among the things I left behind were my own words. I stranded my characters on a back road in Virginia, gasping for breath and driving hell for leather.

My son is next to me and I’m in love to be there.

But my book, my Jack and his cronies, they need me back and I’m anxious to talk to them again.