To Stop


It’s like I have a grenade in my pocket.  Or I hold a fussy baby as we hide in a closet from the zombies.  My brain, it cannot be trusted.

So do I act calm?  Sure.  I have to.

I had this new thought, this round, maybe this is what I am really afraid of: there is nothing you can do to stop bad things from happening.

The revelation is not necessarily useful.

It undoes one of my most comforting activities, though, which is thinking about how things can work out.  What if I packed lunches for the whole week?  What if I swept the floors Saturday, so I wouldn’t have to do it on Sunday?

I have an idea I can cheat, hack, with enough conniving.

My idea of how to survive as an artist is to work faster and smarter than everyone else at the dumb shit I gotta do, to have time to make work.

It’s a strategy.

Finally I accept the meds are not working.  The antidepressants are supposed to stop this from happening.

Leading up to this is the hardest part, because  I know the changing of meds is not a happy time.  It’s never easy.  It will make you more crazy before it will make you sane, and you are not sane, you have just realized.  Shit.

I up my current med, this is the first idea.  The first week I’m as crazy as I have been, the next week I am both crazy and so tired I get home from work and fall asleep immediately.

Just as crazy as I had been means taking calm-down meds every four hours or so to avoid being drawn into an endless mental maze of, “Do I feel all right?  I don’t think I do.  I think the walls feel too far away.”  (That’s my special brand of crazy, the walls feeling too close or too far away.)

Being ill this way brings up the usual questions of an ill person, which are, what did I do to get myself sick?  Did I do something?  Did I not do something?  Why now?

My meds worked like a charm for six years.  Really, like a charm, like fight or flight was a snake, ready to pounce, and instead it gazed and nestled down in its basket, coiled cozy.

And with mental illness, the addition of, could I figure out my thoughts, work through my thoughts, therapy this out, or write it out, or feel it out, and the brain would function like normal?

Then, though anxiety is my primary thing, exhaustion from fighting the anxiety is depressing, really depressing, when all you do in a week is go to work and sleep.

I figured out this week that coffee in the morning, much sedative before lunch (lunch is very hard for me, who knows why), then coffee at dinnertime to push back the sleepiness side effects enough to have an evening.

Better.  Friday I got the caffeine right, and got myself to the reception I wanted to go to.  Had a little wine, a little chat, like a person.  I took a painting class, and I reunited with my classmates and we looked at our pictures.

Your feelings aren’t you, but they sure do color the situation.  Emotions are made by your life, I’m lonely from not being married, from living far from family, but they also make themselves, from chemicals in your brain, no one loves me, I am a monster, I have failed at everything.

They aren’t everything, being sad on a rainy day isn’t the worst.  They are something.  A full palate of sadness and happiness and daily sense of accomplishment makes a good life.

Today is Palm Sunday.  I love Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Vigil, Christianity’s darkest festivals, our times of despair.  Palm Sunday I don’t really get.  It was usually set up for us as, hey, look how they love him RIGHT BEFORE THEY STAB HIM IN THE BACK!

As a preparatory downer.

It also sucks because the church reads the whole sad story of Jesus getting stabbed in the back, the week before any of it happens, for the benefit of everyone who won’t show up for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Vigil.

There’s more to the story, guys.

Whatever.  Everyone loves Jesus.  Everyone hates Jesus.  You’re up, you’re down.  It was made an American story.  There are no second acts.

What it does do is open our season of sadness.  The week it is right to be sad.  Jesus was a good person, a funny person, a nice guy, and he was tortured and killed.  It’s sad.

It’s sad like having an unstable president, who scares you, sad like a civil war no one can see the way out of (who can ever see the way out of war?).  It’s sad like not having enough to pay the bills.  It’s sad like missing your sisters.  It’s sad like wishing someone loved you.  Like friends who die.  It’s a good week to be sad, and not let anyone make you feel guilty about it.

We wish you were happier.  We wish it had all worked out.  We wish you never knew sorrow.  We wish you were healthy and felt useful and proud and humble.

One day this week when I was feeling good, I started to get these “may” statements in my head, probably from Buddhist practice.  Theirs are usually “may you be happy,” but I was thinking more like, “May the person who put that suit on that mannequin have a good day. ”  “May the men who broke up the ice at this corner last week feel safe.”  “May the French bakery have enough business that the owner will not worry.”

I don’t know where that came from, but I don’t know where sickness comes from, either.

Image: “Sad Man,” LeRoy Walter Flint, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

One thought on “To Stop

  1. Sending love, to you and to all who face this. Yes, sometimes the chemicals render that intent meaningless and un-felt, but the fact remains, the beauty and the love are still there for you, all around. “What’s good is still good; what’s true is still true,” a friend who had been through an unbelievably horrible time in her life once told me when I was going through a particularly bad time in mine. Hang on.

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