Are You in There?

Are you in there? In
side the echo of
sedgewater walls amplifying
rhetorical
sounds

I can’t stop the
SHOUTING! SHOUTING! SHOUTING!
queries of noise
infiltrating my
emptispace!

GO AWAY!
I came here to get away;
to not hear you
SHOUTING
What’s wrong?

Probably just
everything.
Else, I’d be outside
in the garden, in the sunlight
laughing
blissfully thinking nothing
happily feeling nothing

But a different nothing:
an actual not-a-thing
of
no concerns
of
stand. alone. happiness.

Outside of
empty echoing walls
dark spaces
a corner
out of the way

where
I
will
not
be
hurt
by
you

Answer

Go ahead, Dear, cry it out. Spend your tears to pay off sadness. Think through all your sorrows, and tell me every pain.

I’m here, and I’m not leaving. I want to stay with you. I love you more than anything, and I’ll not move till I convince you.

We’ll sit here, by the door. We’re safe; behind it, in the dark. I’ll hold you close as you hold me, till the world is ready for you again.

Only In

I want to leave, permanently.

When reality has nothing beyond piles of housework and fighting children, their susceptible health worsened by the toxic temperament you seep with-

When a positive attitude is a mask, crafted by sugared substance and numbed emotions-

When the events you look forward to must, inevitably, include your offspring or some expensive caregiver-

When your soulmate shutters his heart against the pain of association, and says you are only darkness-

Only in the Mind of Depression is it logical to stand at the top-post railing of Life and contemplate the sweet possibility of permanently leaving.

 

Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Entry

The Blue-Green Pill

Glasses

“You take the red pill, …and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”

Some small part inside me loves Morpheus’ challenge: Do you have what it takes to see and accept the truth? While others might settle back down on the couch, chewing another handful of Cheetos, I foolishly stand.

Truth is a deep motivator for me. I cannot be fully religious because of this, by the definitions of many sects. I squeeze under the radar of my current denomination, by telling myself I trust it will all be cosmically explained someday.

My rational voice, upset by a few years of Atheism, plays Devil’s Advocate (ironically). It warns that no explanation will come when I cease to exist.

Why bring up such things? This is where my mind goes; this is the side effect of swallowing the left-hand option.

Surely my mindset, worldview, and even depression are Truth. They are me, as much as my blood type or detached earlobes. I need to be true to myself, to accept myself, and -above all- to not smother my emotional expression.

And yet… my daily red dosage has somehow morphed to a less-swallowable shape.

I noticed a slightly misshapen quality when I began listening to a counselor. “Your core is never negative,” she told me. Furthermore, she said my depressive reactions and tendencies were all learned behaviors.

I read self-help books on the subjects of happiness and self-esteem. They made valid points as well; like, that people honestly can raise their baseline of happiness.

However, all the psychological affirmations and literary anecdotes in the world were not enough. With or without seeking Truth, it came anyway. It laughed at my hopes and optimisms as I repeatedly returned to the dark corner of my mind.

On Facebook, I wrote the following:

When I spoke fluttering lies and raised my smiling mask, I cried inside.
But you didn’t know.

I tried to write about sunshine, as my heart grew ever overcast.
You didn’t look between the lines.

I sat in my small, shadowed corner at home, as you visited each other and laughed.
And didn’t care.

Sometimes I curiously contemplate the world without me there. Surely my departure will cause a ripple somewhere.
Instead, you’ll stand with the friends you always do, and say, “I didn’t know.”
And forget what was never known.

I got a few internet hugs in response. I felt morosely validated that, yes, they did not care.

The problem is that there is no red pill. We cannot be freed from our minds, because we are delicately and intricately attached to them. And, Truth is always, always affected by our perceptions.

Had real-life Neo entered my counselor’s office with me, he may have been given a third option: a doctor’s referral.

I’ve been dreading medical intervention for years; assuming, as I said earlier, that I would lose myself. I also assumed I would only ever have the option of anti-depressant, horrible-side-effect, me-changing medication.

Instead, I have been offered the blue-green pill.

It’s a small dose of seratonin: popularly thought to be a contributor to feelings of well-being and happiness.

I’ve swallowed it once daily for the last three weeks. I thought there to be no difference, but my husband disagreed. Given that I’ve had only one depressive episode since first taking it, he may be right.

In fact, I have been able to think in a manner that is less depressive just this weekend -a first for me. I attended a few social events Friday and Saturday; and did not feel the lingering effects of my usual, self-critical social hangover.

I feel able to agree with and utilize the strategies outlined, previously, by my paid friend and the self-help book.

I see, now, the red pill was the placebo all along. To change my life for the better I needed a new perspective -not some supposed Truth. It could not come from only me, however, since I stand a few feet lower in the ground than others.

Are you, like me, sunk in the Swamps of Sadness? Affirmation will not work. Get someone to look at all your options. Even if the dry ground you need is found through heavier medications, I can now say it’s worth it.

The Gift of a Child with Behavioral Problems

Guess what? I have a present for you; aren’t you excited? Open your womb and pull it out!

It’s a boy!
(Or, a girl. For me, I can only make boys).
He looks just like both of you! You look at each other fondly. Tiredly, but happily; proudly.

The best part of this present, though, is yet to be opened for a few years. You may not notice for a while, because no child is perfect. Every time an issue arises, or you feel frustrated, commiserating people say, “That’s just normal.”

But, where are those comments when you sit across from a preschool director and hear about your son defiantly looking right at his teachers as he pushes a child off the play equipment?

What do they say when his first grade planner has notes from the teacher of escalating issues? Notes like, “He threw a chair,” “He was biting.”

Only Pavlov’s dog empathizes with the increased heart rate and anxiety your body undergoes when you see the school calling again.
You can’t go far; the school might be calling.

You know, secretly, that you’ve actually produced a monster. In fact, an applicable example in classical literature is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

A great side benefit? Teachers, administrators, and doctors keep hinting -and outright telling you- that the problem is you.

You already know you were the root problem, if you birthed the child. You already blame yourself whenever he misbehaves, since your grassroots efforts of parenting don’t produce robot responses from your children.

It’s all true, though: you made the monster. And, as his parents, you will always be the ones who will need to fight for him.

You’re going to be embarrassed, frustrated, deeply saddened, angry, ignorant, and human. You’re going to do the wrong thing, and smack yourself figuratively for “triggering” the behaviors.

You’ll wonder how this ungainly bird could ever be expected to leave the nest without leaving a path of destruction in its wake.

Cry. Get angry. Eat chocolate.
Then, find a good pediatrician. Find a good therapist. Find people to complain to. Find the free resources out there for others like you.

You’ll have to start using those over-used terms. You know -the ones you rolled your eyes about: ADD, ADHD, ODD, Autism, Sensory Disorder.
Embrace them. They’ll be your new excuse, now that you can’t use “normal” to describe childhood behavior.

This is one of those gifts like a free car: the car may be free, but the taxes, licensing, and insurance are not. You’re going to have to do more than unwrap.

You’re going to have to be an expert parent.

Dang it.

Normal?

I come from a proud heritage of screwed-upedness. Most of my close ancestors have been religious, so the party hasn’t been as raucous as it had potential to be.

Still, I’ve spent the younger years of my life in anticipation of a horrid emotional surprise. Each year brings ever closer the question of whether I may finally be classified as a mental condition.

Do I have Depression? Anxiety? Social anxiety? Ooh! Maybe I can be diagnosed with a cocktail of disorders I’ve not yet heard of!

A cocktail is what to expect when one applies to a psychiatrist -one of medications.

I learned, in school, that a person is defined as having a mental condition when said condition interferes with normal life. And so, each day that is a bit more difficult than others, I wonder if I’ve finally crested the abnormal wave.

“Everyone feels that way,” I’m reassured, by a spouse who does not spend the morning crying.

“Oh, I’ve had those days,” says my neighbor, from her newly-decorated sitting room. I haven’t gotten around to mine for …four years.

Eventually, one of my children brings a true threat of fratricide within earshot, and I have to leave my self-pity rut.

It’s still there, though. Even a medicinal mix wouldn’t erase it. I often feel that drugs create potholes in other locations: side effects fallout.

What is normal?

How do I get there?

Invaluable

Self-esteem is a tricky little bugger.

I’ve always had issues with mine; I mean, with the small amount that I even allow to exist.

Perhaps it’s my childhood? My sometimes non-religious views? A realistic attitude about what I actually provide to the world?

After reading a very good article written from the perspective of an artist this morning, I attended a local Mothers Of Preschoolers group my neighbor told me about. The article, about devaluing, opened my mind. The MOPs, whereat a fellow mother honestly detailed her life with anxiety and depression (and OCD and body image issues and …well, you get the idea), opened my heart.

“I’m sure men and boys experience it too, I know they do, but in my personal experience it’s women who consistently undervalue their work, their time and their talent and it’s women who desperately seek approval by making themselves small,” Johanna (the artist I mentioned) notes.

Caroline, the brave MOPs woman with constant struggles, spoke of a lifetime of hiding. She thought others would only want to see the perfect her, the one she wasn’t ashamed of. She was flawed.

Although I have not been diagnosed with a specific condition (yet), I felt like these women were speaking to me, or even about me.

Woman Alone

“…I had subconsciously believed that valuing myself meant devaluing others which would make them feel bad which would make them not like me.” Johanna continued, “I had kept myself in a nice little box that would be no obvious threat to anyone.”

I feel my own box. Like a bad mime, I keep people away from the invisible walls with my facial expressions, body language, and comments. I push away, instead of invite in. Sometimes the box is literally my car, my house, or my closet.

Sadly, Caroline felt similarly. She spoke of assuming her own family wouldn’t want to know this dark side. She described herself thinking how her husband and child would be better off without her in their lives.

This is an extreme position to take, a sure sign that you need to talk to a counselor.

It is also one I understand, and have felt. Blearily, tiredly, I’ve looked around and seen the only problem is me. No self-esteem. The only logical parts able to stop anything remind me that death would screw up my children psychologically, or that I might fail and be stuck as a vegetable.

If I was truly logical, however, I would see that my thinking is, as Caroline said, twisted.

I have spoken with a therapist, a counselor. When I mentioned how deeply I’d allowed myself to sink into self-loathing, she agreed the thinking was wrong. “You need to see a doctor,” she said. “You need to test your hormone levels,” she said.

We wonderful, emotional women are extremely down on ourselves, and it’s often because of hormones.

In fact, hormones can be blamed for everything. Of course, despite my pleas to my husband, we cannot simply be rid of them. They are essential to other feelings, and to basic body functions.

Woman Sun

Aside from functionality or regulation, I would also like to applaud an approach Johanna details partway through her crafting article.

She wrote the post to talk about an art submission to Craft Town, and how she had mentored applicants for this event in the past. “(A)bout six years ago, I banned my students from saying the word sorry, and we did a little experiment. They had to present their work without saying a single negative word about it, and throughout the exercise they would have absolutely no encouragement or feedback from me whatsoever. So no negativity from them and no approval from me.”

The results? “What happened shocked me. Some students weren’t even able to begin speaking. They looked at the floor, they took deep breaths, they took several minutes just to find words to begin with that wouldn’t include any sort of apology. Some were even brought to tears by the sheer frustration of not being able to criticise themselves.”

Can you make something, gift an item, talk about yourself -without devaluing? I cannot.

Well, I can. But, I don’t. I believe I should try.

Why? Fabulous results. From Johanna, one last time:

There would be a change in tone and volume that was so moving, so utterly inspiring that I can’t even describe it to you. They would speak without apology, explanation or expectation, about what they loved about their own talent. Then they would realise that no one was laughing at them, no one was horrified, no one had stopped liking them, and that they weren’t in trouble, then their voice would get stronger and clearer and calmer.  And when they shone, something would happen to the other students in the room, and to me;  we’d feel just a little bit closer to our own value because we could see someone else connecting with theirs.

And, what about Caroline from the mothers’ group? She admits to still struggling. However, as a plug for the group, her help came from joining MOPs but also from opening up. Instead of apologizing, hiding, pretending, she wore herself on her sleeve.

We are valuable women, valuable people.

Self-esteem has to come from within, my paid friend tells me. Johanna and Caroline have given me some tools to begin with. I hope we’ve helped you as well.

A Different Path

I find myself at a loss for words, today -at least, for creative ones. Often when writing, I get some sort of inspirational idea. I think it over in my head, turning it round mentally like a monkey examining a shiny bauble.

I can’t just write shiny bauble, though. I need to express how the lights play within its miniature depths; how the fragile, intricate primate fingers clasp and turn the ball. Its head cocks to the right, then left, then right. Golden-green eyes stay focused, mirroring the reflected lights from its hands.

But, today is different.

I began the day in an industrial mood. Excited at the prospect of gem-hunting, I picked up my monkey and headed into the jungle. He cuddled excitedly against my shirt, chittering.

“So sorry, Miss,” a guide intercepted us. “This is the path you must go today.” He directed me back to the city, to reality.

The jungle flora gave way to recently-planted elderberry and yew, swaying amidst fresh-turned earth and wood chip mulch. Indigenous village huts became a one-level, stucco and brick building. It had a courtyard, the sort built only to stare at.

Alzheimer’s Facility, the sign read.

They let me in, said my ape was cute. He, in turn, burrowed his head shyly into my shoulder. He doesn’t usually say much to strangers.

After signing in, I entered somewhere scarier than any dark-jungle adventure, lonelier than any abandoned temple, more depressing than imagination -for, here at the end of our redirected path, lay the truest reality of all:

Death.

Though, not merely death. Here in the halls of failing minds; the shells of people shuffle, so terribly slowly, eventually to Death.

The nurses have thoughtfully detailed the lives of residents on little plaques outside their doors. “Bob was the middle of nine children,” “Doris was an active community member, volunteering anytime a helping hand was needed,” “Marie used to love visiting every grandchild on his birthday, recording the day with an ancient video camera nearly half her weight…”

It doesn’t matter anymore. There’s no one there.

Slippered residents wander, lost, examining a world completely incomprehensible to them. Maybe they have family, like me and my monkey. I came, embraced a seated woman, said, “Hi, Grandma. How are you?”

Her familiar face turned my way, completely void of recognition. Her light blue eyes, the ones she passed onto my father, looked emptily beyond me. She said nothing. She’s forgotten how to speak.

“Heh-wo,” my small helper chirped, trying to peer cutely up at her. She looked down at him, and sweetly smiled.

Why Wake?

Sometimes I actually enter reality:

I step into the Total Perspective Vortex.

Emotions reeling, I make rash, irrational decisions

That are, of course, the rational thing to do.

I stumble around trying to mend the upheaval,

Trying to reason with unreasonable matters.

Ultimately, as always, I run out of time for closure.

I return to effective numbness, and dormant depression.

Too sad to be happy, too functional to drug.