Revisited: An Old Friend

I wrote this poem in September of 2017. It was the first poem I had written in about 15 years. I had gone through a long stretch of really good energy and positivity, but it was coming to an end. I had taken on the task of going back to school, working two jobs and volunteering 10 hours a week. I was sleeping maybe 2–3 hours a day and my body and mind had had enough. My depression was back.

This is not my best work, or even good I would argue. But it sparked something in me and started me on the path that I’m walking now. I’m revisiting it now because I’ve drifted back to that place again. I wanted to read my thoughts the last time this happened, to compare the feelings and work out the differences. Thank you for reading.

~

My depression snuck up on me today

An old friend I hadn’t seen in a while.

He asked how I had been, I said great.

You see, I had finally found a way out,

A way to not be around him anymore.

He used to be ok, I would tolerate him.

He was company, filling a void of conversation and companionship.

Slowly, I realized there was more,

Other conversations that needed to be had,

Other connections I was missing out on

Because I experienced only him every day.

Yet here he was, invading my space again.

I know how this ends.

I know that he’ll hang around for a few days

Maybe a couple weeks

Hopefully no longer than a month

And then I’ll kick him out

Tired of his bullshit.

But in the meantime, I’ll sit

I’ll try to push him out but fail.

Not because I don’t have the strength,

But because in some small way,

I don’t want him to leave.

~

Photo by Michael Shannon on Unsplash

Just One

It only takes one.
It always starts as just one.
That’s the lubricant,
the grease that smooths the transition
to number two.
Two was a good time.
Two won’t leave you feeling bad or acting out.
You can have just two.
But then there’s three.
Three wasn’t so much a choice.
It was a calling,
a conch shell begging to be heard.
And once you find the source,
there’s four, waiting for you.
Four leads to five and now you’re in trouble.
Six and seven come just as quick,
and now you’ve lost track.
It goes black.
 
~     ~     ~     ~     ~
The room is spinning as you lay your head down.
“How did I make it to my bed?
I hope no one got hurt.
I can’t keep doing this.
I can’t.”
Or maybe, just one.
~     ~     ~     ~     ~
Photo by Thư Anh on Unsplash

Emotional Vacancy

Link to picture.

A review of relationships post-addiction.

I’ve heard for most of my life that when you finally quit an addiction, you pick up another. People can drop cigarettes but pick up subconscious eating. It can even be positive. You may stop eating like shit and start working out more. And for a long time, I thought I wasn’t addicted to alcohol anymore. But I need to go back a bit.

I’ll give the cliff notes version of my early twenties. When I was 19, I met a girl while I was away at college. Hindsight would tell me later that it was my first love, and that when she broke up with me, it was my fault. And as that wave of realization crept from my heart to my head, I started to spiral. I started taking antidepressants and, as I turned 21, started to combine the medicine with alcohol. I stopped taking the antidepressants when my prescription ran dry, but the damage had been done. From then to about 24, my life was a sad mixture of drunken nights, confused understanding about what was wrong with me and relationships that I wasn’t ready to be in.

My addiction is insidious, designed particularly for me.

My addiction to alcohol isn’t the one portrayed in television and movies. Some might call me a high-functioning alcoholic. I wasn’t sitting at the bar every night, alone, drinking until I couldn’t see and then waking up to do it all again the next night (although that happened on occasion). My addiction is insidious, designed particularly for me. It is a sickness that crawled into a crevasse in my brain and molded itself to become undetectable, a part of me. I spent so many years wondering what was wrong with me because I couldn’t see it, no matter how long I stared at my reflection.

My addiction is drinking alone in my room when I was at home or in college. It’s drinking to blackout at parties because I’m not comfortable in those situations. And the most dangerous aspect, it’s drinking to blackout in public at crowded bars and clubs. Add in the challenge of getting home after you’re already gone, and it led to a situation where I should have been arrested.

Long story short, I got drunk at a bar. My friends decided to go to another bar that I didn’t want to go to, so I stayed, got more drunk, then tried to leave. I drove around the parking garage, lost on how to leave, until a cop stopped me and realized I was drunk. Somehow, he only took my keys and told me to call my friends to come pick me up.

My friends didn’t answer so I leaned myself against the wall and drifted between consciousness for what felt like hours, at some point throwing up on myself. It was closer to an hour and a half. When my friend finally called me back, he came and picked my keys and I up and I crashed at his place. I only called him because he had been out with me that night. I couldn’t call anyone else because of shame. I couldn’t imagine having that conversation with my parents, or someone who knew better. In that moment, I felt like a peer would be the only person not to judge me. And I’m still ashamed of it today.

I was allowing the darkness to consume me and the demons to run rampant in my mind.

My drinking problem bled into every relationship I tried to pursue. The women never knew, no one did. Or they did and never said anything. Even when I explained to my mom recently about how I struggled with alcohol in the past, she was surprised (I couldn’t go into details). I was leading two lives, one where I was pretending to have my shit together and the drunken mess I had become. And most of the time, I was pretending. At work, when I was with my significant other, any time I wasn’t drinking, I looked the part. I had a decent job despite not having a degree and all seemed to be going according to plan.

But when I drank (which wasn’t every day), I was myself. I’m not addicted to the alcohol, I’m addicted to the escape. The relief it brings to the misery I was experiencing when left to my own devices. I was allowing the darkness to consume me and the demons to run rampant in my mind. I wouldn’t realize it until later, but I was a shell of a person during this time. Or, I was an unaware shell. I would argue there’s still a part of me missing, but I’m more conscious of it.

I was (and may still be to a degree) emotionally vacant. That’s what alcohol took from me. It deadened my senses until I felt nothing. It fed that addiction that had burrowed its way into my brain, allowing it to sustain there, doing nothing but destroy hope. It ensured that no matter what front I put on, my relationships were dead on arrival. I wouldn’t understand why I was hurting people, I would just do things. And this isn’t to give myself an excuse, in fact its the opposite. I own that these were my issues alone. The women I dated in this stretch were phenomenal, and I do believe that, at a different stage, we would have made things work. But I also believe that everyone is in your life at the exact moment they are supposed to be.

I’m sure by now you’ve seen the theory that we all have three loves in our lives, each one for different reasons. For those unfamiliar, the first is said to be young love, the one that is idealistic and comes from fairytales. It looks right. The second love is our tough love. It’s narcissistic, unhealthy and unfair to one or both parties. It’s the love you look back on wishing it had gone right. And the third love is the one we get blindsided by. We never see it coming, and yet it feels right. My 19 year old self experienced the first, and my broken, disheveled 23 year old self experienced the second.

I fought through the surface level issues a few years ago when I started using running as a therapy, but it wasn’t until recently that I’ve started digging deeper. The election in 2016 and the aftermath has kind of forced my hand in dealing with my issues. If 2018 was happening while I was in the middle of my struggles, I don’t know that I would have made it to the other side.

Alcohol has exacerbated a lot of my issues in my life. And only recently have I completely stopped drinking. I’ve found that things like meditation, consistently running, and reading and writing have proven to be just as effective an escape. It’s a process, and we’re all on our own journeys. But becoming conscious of what’s going on within you and how you handle the things that happen to you is so crucial. Unawareness may have led to years of me not being present in the life I was leading. That change in awareness likely saved my life.

Ducks on a Pond

Andric Ljubodrag Conceptual Photography

Over the last year and some change, I started meditating every day. Some days were better than others, but I was getting better. My mental health has been a constant struggle in my adult life, and meditating, along with running, had been one of the things that helped.
 
About a week ago, I went hiking in the Appalachian Mountains. It was as close to a spiritual experience as I’ve ever had. And I rode that high for a couple days after coming back to reality, but the past few days have been some of my darkest. Still meditating, still running, but still broken.
 
~~~
 
The other day at work, when my impending reality was starting to settle in, I pulled a quote from a movie from my teenage years out of thin air. I haven’t watched The Replacements in a good ten years or longer. It was a movie I had watched a lot though, so I knew a lot of the high points. In the movie, Keanu Reeves’ character is a washed-up football player who joins up with a bunch of other washed up football players to play professional football when the active players go on strike. It’s a rom-com, and it’s not that great a cinematic achievement. But, I enjoy it, so whatever.
 
The night before the first game, the coach, played by Gene Hackman, talks to Reeves about his nerves. And the quote, which I had never thought about in depth, was this:
 
“Like a duck on a pond. On the surface, everything looks calm, but beneath the water, those little feet are churning a mile a minute.”
 
Now, I’ve heard the positive spin on being a duck on the pond. In work and in life, you’re almost expected to be working on a million things at once and all the while, maintaining a cool attitude about everything.
 
But in dealing with anxiety and depression, it’s the opposite. You’re putting on a front to everyone around you that everything is fine when nothing is fine. Your brain is a thunderstorm. Heavy winds won’t let you focus on anything and just when you’ve forgotten the last one, another lightning strike sends a sharp reminder of whatever will hurt you most. You may smile or laugh. I laughed and joked a lot yesterday with people I don’t agree with in a place I can’t stand. But I got through the day without having to expose myself.
 
Words have always been a much easier method of expression for me, and I don’t mind being vulnerable. I do mind having a deep discussion about what’s going on with me with people who I don’t want to have that connection with. And part of not having that connection with people is that I work in a place that specializes in eroding connectivity: a bar. But I digress…
 
The further along I get into meditation, the more I learn. I’ve learned that I was subconsciously resisting the world around me, and that was why I was unhappy for so many years. I’ve started steps to change that. I’ve learned that continuing to try to fit into the society around me is a moot point because I don’t. I’m unique in a way that few people that I’ve met can understand. I have to be okay with that. And I’ve learned that I have no idea what I’m doing, that none of us truly do. I have no idea what job I want, or what I can do to make a decent living for myself. And I’ve learned that I’m okay with that.
 
I’ve always been the person with a plan. Without a plan, I was wasting time or wasting my life. I was the teenager who dreamt of the “white picket fence” scenario. Marry my high school or college sweetheart, have a couple kids, live in the suburbs, etc. I was being influenced into that by the people around me, the people who had all done that or would later go on to do that. And there’s nothing wrong with that, at all. But it’s not for me.
 
My family is of varying stages of moderate to wealth when it comes to money. I would classify most of them as successful and content. I am the black sheep, for lack of a better term. I don’t fit into any mold that they have laid out, and as much as it alienates me, I don’t want to anymore.
 
~~~
 
I’ve spent the majority of my life feeling out of place. Feeling judged, feeling outcast, the same as most people feel. And I have found a home, a place of belonging and one where I can be around people like me. It’s the pond, with the other ducks.

 

 

 

Why I Quit Social Media and Why I Came Back

Image Credit: skcphotos.blogspot.com/2014/01/rainy-day.html
About two weeks ago, I had had enough. Social media takes its toll on everyone, and I was at my limit. I logged out of Twitter and Instagram (I had already deleted my Facebook account) and I stayed away for a week. And it was glorious.
 
Since, oh, I don’t know, November of 2016, a lot of the country has been in chaos and it has exacerbated a lot of people’s feelings. And since then, my experience online has become…strained.
 
Social media is a wonderful tool. It connects everyone and has allowed for greater understanding of cultural differences, even inside the same state. We all have a story to share, and the internet has allowed us to share and receive everyone’s story.
 
On the flip side, the easy access to everyone has opened a Pandora’s Box of negativity. For racists, sexists, homophobes and anyone who hates another for reasons you can generally find on a job application, you don’t have to wait for your opportunity to spew your hate on the streets. You are now one click away from every person you think is lesser than because they don’t look or act like you. And to make matters worse, Twitter, Facebook, and a dark horse, YouTube, are designed to protect these individuals.
 
So, when you’re not encountering these individuals on the app, you’re seeing other people go back and forth with them. Or you’re seeing coverage of this administration’s terrible actions. To be short, the negative is outweighing the positive. And it shouldn’t be a surprise. Our minds are wired to remember negative experiences more vividly than positive ones. Think back to your childhood. What are some of the big moments that you remember? For me, I remember being picked on in grade school. I remember being socially ambiguous, and thus not making any close friends, in high school. And a time where a kid decided it would be cool to pretend I had brought a bomb to school because I was quiet.
 
The larger point is that I don’t remember the good moments as well, because the emotions tied to them were less intense. Obviously, there are times everyone remembers that are joyous moments. I also remember the day we brought home our first dog. The first time I reached a runner’s high.
 
As someone who has also gone through depression, there’s a lot of times where I’m viewing everything through a rainy windshield as the sun is poking through the clouds. I see the light, it inspires me. But inevitably, the focus shifts and the rainy windshield becomes prominent again. And sometimes that inspires me also.
 
~
 
So, why did I come back? I acknowledged at the beginning that this was a glorious week of much less negativity. So, what’s in it for me? It seems like a self-hating action. But there is a purpose in the decision. I want to be an artist. I acknowledge that almost anything can be art, but I want to be an artist in the more traditional sense. Either through writing, drawing, painting, through music or in a physical sense, I want to create. And while not all art is told through pain, some is. And as someone who has lived with pain for most of my adult life, tapping into that is important. It’s not a well that I want to live in, but diving into the negativity can bring out a more powerful point of view or one that I wouldn’t consider in another state of mind.
 
We are all on our own path. I know artists who exist in pure, unfiltered joy at all times. And their art is a reflection of that. I also know artists that spend a lot of time in a negative headspace. So, while their art is different, it is all great. There are a million different roads to travel and choosing a painless or painful route is a personal choice. But always choose what works for you. Live for you, not someone else.