Friday, December 24, 2010

Tidings of (no) comfort and (lack of) joy...

It’s been a hard day. A hard week. And it’s not over yet.

2 more days of Christmas. One more week of holidays. One more year to kiss goodbye in which I didn’t “pull myself up by the bootstraps” and “get back on the horse” and “take the bull by the horns” and all those other bullsh*t anti-motivators that mysteriously haven’t rescued me from my chosen (right?) anguish.

Yeah, it’s one of those days. There’s no place to go, no book to read, no show to watch, no project to undertake ... that could sufficiently distract me from the pain that I’m feeling.

If I were a drug addict, I’d be high as a kite right now, but I’m too chickensh*t to go that hardcore.

So I sit with it.

Despair creeps in through the cracks, the same ones hope is seeping out of.

It might have something to do with the seventy-ninth (if I want to exaggerate I’ll f***ing exaggerate) job I couldn’t make it at, and the ensuing disgust with myself for adding to my quit-list this week.

It might have something to do with my refusal to participate in family events this holiday season, and my rejection of *things* in place of love.

You aren’t supposed to be weary at 30, are you? I mean, really. I’m not talking about exhaustion; that was 5 years ago when I was 25 going on 40, dead weight dragging through the days.

I’m weary of 1-being me and 2-hating me.

I’m weary of life, and the suffocating alienation of being unseen. And yet, in premise, invisibility sounds so liberating...

I’m weary of reaching out to people who don’t reach back, though I know it is my very nature to give the most to people who are incapable of giving another human being what they need.

I’m tired of people who don’t try, who don’t change, who don’t care. They drain my soul.

I’M tired of trying, of changing mySELF, of caring. It drains my soul even more.

I’m tired of the questions-
The demands-
The requirements of life-
Where will I go and what will I do and who will I be and what is the point?

Yeah. Weary.

“Tonight at the end of light
Tonight I feel lonely
I thought I heard my heart stop beating
I long for you to hold me.”

An Alli Rogers song creeps in (and I’m not even a Christian for cripes sake). 
I could go cry in the back pew of a raggedy church. 
I could thrown myself down in the aisle and scream, “Why?” to a god I don’t believe in.

I guess we all have the same questions, and the lucky ones are able to find solace in someone else’s answers.

But when there’s no comfort in faith, in friends, in family, in love ... is there any true comfort to be found at all?

Or just emptiness...

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Unemployment … and the downward spiral.

When I decided to be done with life, the job was the first thing to go.  Buh-freakin-bye.  And let me tell you, there’s a moment of pure, blissful emancipation inherent in the simplicity of the decision to not – ever – return to the place or the people that have led to your demise.  In my case, I think it was my first real act of rebellion in life.  A resounding “NOPE!” to life’s ceaseless demands and ‘musts’ and obligations. 

At the end of the day, you always have options.  Yes or no [or in Shakespearian terms: “To be, or not to be,” as Hamlet stated with slightly more eloquence than me].  If you spend enough of your life as a doormat, it’s possible to forget that, in fact, no one can *make* you do anything.  You have to decide for yourself if your life is going to be what YOU want it to be, because this isn’t a dress rehearsal.  And that’s the Sartre in me speaking…..

You actually don't have to white-knuckle it until you hate your life so much that you want to kill yourself to *finally* start saying ‘no’ to the psychic vampires who would be content to suck the very soul out of you.  There’ll be other victims around the corner for them to beat down to a pulp.  So decide it’s not gonna be you. 

Between a bullying boss, a degrading attack on my being, and a sudden personal abandonment, it was as if a switch had been flipped: I was just -done- with it all.  Tired of doing things I didn’t want to do.  If there was never going to be anything more to life than jumping through somebody else’s hoops, and going through the motions of an existence I can’t even stand, I didn’t want to be a part of it anymore.  Why stick around so other people can tear me down and rip me apart; how long are you supposed to bend over backwards doing for others, only to get crapped on in return? 

And so, on what was to be the last night of my life, I composed a bye-bye letter of resignation to my bitch of a boss.  You know, the sort of thing everybody secretly wishes they could do, but which you shouldn’t even *think* about doing if there’s even a smidgen of a chance you’re going to have to live with the consequences (HELL-O, take it from me).  The mature part of me is, of course, ashamed of such childish self-indulgence.  And then there’s the smug part of me that bubbles over in self-satisfied hysterics just thinking about that slore checking her inbox that next morning.  There are times in life when people get exactly what they deserve.  It just happened to be her time to be humiliated in front of HER colleagues in the same manner she liked to dish out.  Karma’s a bitch (and yes, I’ve certainly gotten *my* come-uppins, so don’t worry about that). 

So in my case, you could really say I brought on this whole “unemployment” situation mySELF, so boo-hoo WTF are you crying about, you moron?!?!  Yeah, yeah, I get it: there are bazillions of laid-off workers who – through no fault of their own – have found themselves unable to support their families.  Believe me, I have immense compassion for everyone in that situation.  I don’t want anyone’s pity, nor do I expect anyone to feel bad for this mess I have gotten myself into.  I screwed myself, and I know it.  It wasn’t the smart thing to do – but then, do you honestly think a suicidal person is in a rational frame of mind? 

But regardless of the circumstances that lead to unemployment, I’d wager the emotions are pretty much the same once you’re swimming (err, drowning?) in it. 

It’s humiliating.  You feel like the scum of the earth and start to believe that everyone is thinking what a lazy, worthless drain on society you’ve become, and how easy it is to just go out and get a job if you’re willing to work hard.  You’re desperate to prove your worthiness to civilization by jumping back into the swing of things … if only you COULD.  If only someone would give you the chance.  “If only _____ would happen, I could get it all back on track,” you think to yourself.  You feel ashamed of yourself (even if it’s not your fault in the slightest) because, after all, if you really wanted a job bad enough you would be working, right?  That’s the message from society.  

Well, if you’ve never been unemployed, you need to keep your damn mouth shut, because you have no idea what the hell you’re talking about.  You don’t have a clue what it’s like to suddenly feel powerless over your own life and feel sick with uncertainty in the pit of your stomach.  You couldn’t possibly know how disconcerting it is to find yourself at the mercy of factors beyond your control, blowing around in the wind with your future up in the air. And you sure as f*** don’t know the existential dread of waking up wondering, “Where in the HELL am I going in this life, and WTF am I going to do to survive?”   

Next, your disparaged soul sets about to the task of job-hunting, a process my (former) friend Singlutionary at Unabashedly Unemployed once described as: demoralizing and dehumanizing and just shitty in general. It would wear down even the strongest person into a blubbering pulp.”  She always did have a way with words. 

Alas, that friendship was another casualty of my erratic, suicidal behavior.  It really bites to glance in the rear-view mirror and catch a glimpse of all your ugliest self has left in its wake.  Especially when your destructive fight-or-flight antics cost you those precious few in life who ‘get’ the floundering groundlessness of life for the simultaneously unattached and unemployed.  Add it all to the list of things that can’t be undone…  

Back to my point: There is a peculiar desperation unique to long-term unemployment that can easily culminate in surrender.  Truly, you reach a point where it literally becomes absurd to fill out the three thousand and fourth employment application, and you are absolutely convinced that you will never be a productive member of society again … so why bother to keep trying??  Then you awaken wide-eyed for the next 3 weeks and frantically search the job boards until your eyeballs blur over and roll into the back of your head.  Until you ditch the pointless effort, crash, and take refuge in your bed for a week … only to revive the panic cycle once again in a few days.  I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone, yet I know there are millions in the same boat as me.     

Never in a million years would my younger self have believed that I would end up 27 years old (then 28, then 29, then 30….) and unable to get back into the workforce.  That a lifetime of striving and hard work and straight A’s would amount to nothing.  That 7 years of college and scholarships and 4.0’s and summa cum laude would bring me to: a dead end.  In one fell swoop, I rendered my entire life’s work null and void.  No one cares about the decade of solid employment with a strong work ethic; all that matters now are these “gaps in employment” I’ve got to account for.  Try conjuring up the confidence to make it through an interview after you’ve flushed your career down the toilet … good times.  References?  Don’t make me laugh. 

Thing is, I didn’t intend to be here dealing with all of this.

I’ve spent plenty of days wishing I would’ve just gotten it over with, because it feels like a trillion miles on this journey just to get back to the place where I was barely hanging on to begin with.  And that absolutely terrifies me. 

So, yeah.  Being a disgrace unto yourself certainly feeds into all the pre-existing suicidal impulses.  Unemployment is a fitting companion to the severely depressed, because your feelings of worthlessness can be reinforced on a daily basis!  

A few months ago, I purged the utter despair of my unemployment into a little ditty: 

Can you hear the "Rent" theme song? This is the economy tribute version...

Slight variation on this classic: hit play and sing along to the new lyrics!

Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Job app-li-ca-tions
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
rebuffs to bear
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
com-pan-y websites
How do you measure—a wasted degree? 

In networks - on LinkedIn
In resumes - or cover letters
On Monster  -or Twitter
In e-mails and tweets
In - five hundred twenty-five thousand
di-fer-rent job boards
How do you measure a year in this strife?

I’ve had e-nouuuggghhhh
No unemploy-mennnnnnnt
Or health insur-annnnnnnce

Measure in loss
I’ve lost my liiiiiiiiiiifeee
I’ve lost my liiiiiiiiiiifee

Five hundred twenty-five thousand
racked up achievements
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
interview preps
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
hoops that I jumped through
How do you measure the worth
Of a woman or a man?

Soloist #1:
In A’s that she earned
Or the days he just cried
In loans they deferred
Or in bankruptcies filed

It's time now—to scream out
Cuz the job search never ends
Let's commemorate
Remember the year that we wished we were dead
My sala-ry’s now wa-gessssssssss
I’m on antidepress-annnnnnnnnnts
Can’t take more re-jec-tiooonnnnnnnn
My savings is gone
Everything’s gooooooonnne

Soloist #1: Measure, the money in savings

I can’t pay my reeeeennnnnt
Now I am home-leeeessssssss

I don’t get – how I can
Be under- over- qual-i-fi-ied
On food stamps – we’re poor now
The educated un-em-ploy-ed

Five hundred twenty-five thousand
loans in foreclosure
How do you figure the interest on that?

Everything’s goooooooooonnnne!!!!!!!

©downfromtheledge 2010

How to kiss your career goodbye in one great big gratifying letter of resignation

Sent: Sunday, November 25, 2007 2:56:37 PM
Subject: RE: action plan- updated

Sure thing, "Boss"!!  Whatever you say:)  

wait, on second thought, why don't you do it yourSELF????  cuz frankly bitch, i don't think i care to ever do anything you tell me to do again.  correction,  take out "think."  i'm never going to do anything you tell me to do again. especially when you could have just as easily sent the plan to **** yourself as told me to do it. f**k that!

and no, dumbass, i told you all 7 thousand times that isn't what we needed to turn in for the grant.  but.  no one ever listened.  just complain, complain, bitch, complain - my god do you people ever  listen to yourselves?  can't figure out that - if instead of bitching 
about the way things are, you did something to change them - things might actually be different someday. I've finally realized, however late in the game, that people don't actually WANT things to be different. duh!  why was i always too stupid to figure that out??? 

Wow, I wish I had recorded your voice on tape for your superintendent to hear who you REALLY are and how you treat people "Mrs. M***** - a bully and a coward just like all the other little cowards on this committee who say all kinds of things about you behind your back they would never have the guts to say to your face.  It's curious to me, how no one can ever stand up to people like you.  No one ever stands up for anything, makes me sick really.  can't even stand up for these kids they like to pretend they all care so much about. oh well, it's a losing battle anyway.

oh, how you hated that i could see exactly who you are C****.  isn't that why you liked to come stand over my desk and puff up your big 7-foot self to try to be something you're not?  E***'s theory  was that you needed to get laid.  It's probably a little more complicated than THAT, right?


Happy (___) evaluation to you all!!!

Wish I could be there....

Friday, December 10, 2010

On Shame.

This evening I commented on a post from my kindred spirit Suzanne of The Invisible Prison on the topic of "Shame and Setbacks." As usual with Suzanne's posts, I felt like she had somehow gotten into my head and was writing down everything I think and feel on a daily basis while fighting not to succumb to the weight of wanting to just give up.

Depression assassinates your former self, and substitutes an imposter that might look a bit like the old you (though admittedly less well-groomed), yet bears little resemblance to the person you once were. What remains is a sham of an excuse for a human being. A fraud. And it's hard to feel proud of being THAT.

Nearly a year ago, I divided a paper into 2 columns entitled "Who I Used To Be" and "Who I am Now" (give it a rest you cognitive behaviorists ... I know those headings are misnomers & that who I AM has not fundamentally changed). It was hard to swallow. Self-loathing oozed from my pores. What I was looking at was the result of internalizing the hatred and cruelty of others. My new "characteristics" seemed to scream, "If everyone is going to treat me like a worthless piece of garbage not worthy of respect...I may as well become it!!"

It looked a WHOLE lot like surrender.

My full comment as posted under "Shame and Setbacks:"

"i - literally - can't even tell u how much i relate to everything u wrote, ESPECIALLY paragraph #4. i get SOOOO ashamed and disgusted with myself, i regret any commitment i make when i'm feeling a little better, because inevitably the time comes and i just don't want to go out and be a member of the human race.

what i hate most: this is the complete opposite of the person i used to be. the dependable, responsible one. the one you can count on. now, i don't want anybody to count on me for anything, or i will disappoint them AND myself.

grief/loss on top of depression is what put me over the top 3 years ago.

ur right, it all becomes one and the same; a big blur of pain.

i'm filled with fear at the moment, because i accepted a job the other day. just a part-time seasonal gig. it's the only interview i've made it to recently; the others have been no-shows and, like u, i just can't even deal with how bad i am making myself look so i usually don't cancel. i end relationships because i feel like all i do is let people down. i HATE this. i hate myself for being like this. anyway, i am afraid i can't even handle this dumb job or the possibility that - once again - i won't make it out of bed in the morning to get there and the self-loathing will overflow once again...

‎"There are four ways you can handle fear. You can go over it, under it or around it. But if you are ever to put fear behind you, you must walk straight through it. Once you put fear behind you, leave it there."

grief is misery; sometimes u gotta just lean into the pain instead of resisting it because "What we resist persists." eventually, if we're lucky, we come out the other side...

it is hard to try and show yourself the same compassion that you would extend any other person in your situation. i mean, really: ARE u a horrible person? do u deserve what ur going through? i can think of some pretty terrible people, and i doubt u fall into that category."

As I wrote before in this post about the revelation I had the night in Nashville when I came close to annihilating my existence on this planet ---

The question I have to answer every single minute of every single day: Who is going to win - the people who have treated me like sh*t in this life, who don't give a damn if I live or die - or the people who love me [ I one of them]?????

Hatred is a strong sentiment, after all. To wind up in the category of people so despicable as to deserve hatred is really quite reprehensible. I feel ashamed. Not just of things I have done, but of who I am. My very being.

"I will go down with this ship
And I won't put my hands up and surrender
There will be no white flag above my door
I'm in love and always will be"

Saturday, December 4, 2010

TEEN SUICIDE: What Will It Take For People To *GET* It?

[Recently I posted the following questions to my local craigslist; how else do you ask the community a question?]

Tonight I watched the movie "To Save a Life," about the aftermath of a young man shooting himself in the head at school.

I don't live in Mount Vernon, don't know Jacob or his family personally, and it's none of my business.

Except, really, it's everyone's business.

I know it happened in a small town, and it's a taboo subject, and it's uncomfortable to talk about. But that's too bad.

Because we failed him. Every one of us. We have to do better: as schools, as communities, as a nation. How many teenagers have killed themselves the past few months across our country?  Here are just a couple:
    I'm sure I'm not the only one with unanswered questions, and it's not because I don't respect the right to privacy; I have no desire to be a voyeur into this tragedy.

    I just don't want his life, and death, to have been in vain. Right now there is an outpouring of love and compassion for the survivors. My question is, where was everyone's love and support when HE needed it?

    I don't know any more than was reported on KCRG or in the newspaper. And that's the problem. There is a person behind that headline, a headline that will fade away before we as a community answer for the fact that we might not have enough access to counseling for kids in school, not enough bullying prevention, not enough WHAT??? How can we prevent other kids from dying if we, as a community, do not require answers to these questions? There are no simple answers for what might have led up to this tragedy, but the worst thing we can do is NOTHING.

    In the midst of my anger and sadness that this happened, I ponder the statement his death has made and wonder: who was he sending a message to? So many things had to go wrong for him to arrive at the conclusion that life is too painful to endure.

    Jacob did not talk to a friend - he didn't tell a trusted teacher - he didn't stop in the counseling office or call home. He died alone in a bathroom stall, in the middle of a crowded school full of people, and we will never know why he felt that he could not turn to a single one of them for help.

    I wonder if the headlines have already faded, if everything is already slipping back into the status quo....

    Are we going to get the message????

    What is it going to take for people to pay attention? To give a damn? To actually *DO* something about the kids who don't know what to do with the pain they're holding?

    Will YOU be a little less of a jerk today, or do you think your actions don't matter?

    "Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle."

    It's not about finding someone to blame, or pointing the finger (unless, of course, we need to do that...don't know enough). But we've got to wake up.

    We all need to look in the mirror and ask the hard questions.

    Jacob's not here to say "I'm sorry" to. So I hope we get the message.

    "Hero" by Superchick

    "No one sits with him, he doesn't fit in
    But we feel like we do when we make fun of him
    Cause you want to belong, do you go along?
    Cause his pain is the price paid for you to belong
    It's not like you hate him or want him to die
    But maybe he goes home and thinks suicide
    Or he comes back to school with a gun at his side
    And a kindness from you might have saved his life..."

    Friday, November 19, 2010

    On the eve of my 3rd anniversary.

    But not a happy one.

    3 years ago today a plan was unfolding.

    I stopped answering the phone.

    I stopped going to work.

    I penned a letter of resignation.

    And a will.

    And a suicide note to my family.

    I picked a place to die.

    I printed my mapquest directions.

    Then I packed some pills and some bags and started driving.

    I’d always wanted to go to Nashville, so I went there.

    I checked into the downtown Hilton.

    In between hysterics and crying, I walked.

    I peered into the Cumberland River over the E Street Bridge.

    I circled honkytonks and landmarks.

    The city was empty and dead.

    Everyone had left to be with their families for Thanksgiving.

    Homeless men talked to me.

    They were the only other ones walking the streets alone.

    I know they could see it in my face.

    I ate my “last meal” in a dark corner of the Wild Horse Saloon.

    I tipped the waitress extra well.

    Then I walked back out into the cold, misty night.

    So many other things happened before, during, and after all of this.  Telling this story takes more concentration than I possess at the moment.  I don’t know where to start or end, what to include or omit.  My brain ping pongs off a thousand details and emotions.  There is the story of how I got THERE, and how I got HERE.  Obviously only 99% of my plan got carried out that evening in Nashville, but the 1% that didn’t is really all that counts.

    I am in a far different place than I was even last year at this time.  In November of 2009 I was starting to carry out a third suicide plan.  I wish I could look back at how far I’ve come since Thanksgiving of 2007, but instead I continue my fight to avoid getting down to that last 1% again.  I don’t have my life back, or my career, or even a job.  I can’t sustain friendships or follow through on commitments.  Where I could be or should be or need to be threatens to overwhelm my panic buttons at any given moment.

    But I’m trying to focus on just one thing that matters, so I can feel like something I do is of benefit to another human being.  Halfway through my QPR training to certifty as an online suicide intervention specialist, I clicked on their link for the video Moments by Emerson Drive.  It’s one of those songs I’ve heard a hundred times, but never *listened* to.  Déjà vu prickled the little hairs on my arms as I watched a familiar story unfold on the rain-soaked E Street Bridge in Nashville.  The lyrics hit me straight in the gut:

    “I stood there tryin' to find my nerve

    Wondered if a single soul on Earth

    Would care at all

    Miss me when I'm gone

    That old man just kept hanging around

    Lookin' at me, lookin' down

    I think he recognized

    That look in my eyes

    Standing with him there I felt ashamed

    I said, You know, I haven't always been this way…”

    Three years ago I roamed the streets of Nashville preparing to die, and the only people who looked me in the eye or spoke to me were homeless men.   I recall that flash of recognition in each others’ eyes:  That night, we were all somebody’s throwaway.  I wondered what made them choose to go on living day to day in their circumstances, while my reasons for not wanting to suddenly seemed absurd in comparison.  I couldn’t comprehend why they would care about me in the slightest, when people who “loved” me wouldn’t pick up the phone.  I marveled at the irony of the situation, and how the wrong people almost won.  The people who didn’t give a damn.

    All of these moments, and the utter lonliness that gripped me on the Shelby Street Bridge, welled up as I cried my way through the video.

    Part of me wants to get in the car and drive to Nashville next Thursday to give back to the people who saved my life.  But I can’t exactly take off like I used to without sending off the “cuckoo for cocoa puffs” alarm bells.  I haven’t been hospitalized and I don’t care to be.  Maybe I will get up the courage to ask a friend to go with me so that I can have a full circle moment and finally begin to move on with my life.  We’ll see.  I don’t tend to stick to my plans these days, and sometimes that’s a very good thing.

    Sunday, September 12, 2010

    “You’re only as sick as your secrets” – Ashley Judd plays the role of Helen TOO well . . .

    I’d love to spill *all* million thoughts I have about the release of Helen, but I’ll settle for expressing my gratitude to Sandra Nettelbeck for having the courage to make this film, a 10-year process she describes in this Huffington Post interview. Despite the movie’s leap from Sundance straight to DVD, the very fact that this taboo subject matter is seeing the cinematic light of day gives me hope that the door to increased understanding has been opened. The movie will strike a chord deep in the souls of all who have suffered the torment of their inner demons as it explores “this extraordinary nightmare of the mind from inside.” Nettelbeck bravely assumed the task of telling the tale of suicidal depression from the point of view of the person afflicted. Yes, we glimpse the devastating impact on everyone around Helen, but it’s not often a movie portrays the depth of despair the sufferer is undergoing. Having lost her own childhood friend to suicide, Nettelbeck undoubtedly sought to do justice to the fragility of human life, and Helen’s poignantly disturbing denouement attains the intense realism she strove for.

    Just a few of the dynamics at play in Helen which resonated with me:

    Rage. NO ONE will control your decisions. If nothing else, you will live and die on your own terms.

    “I want you to GO!” Pushing away the very people we, in fact, wish would never let us go. Every relationship is tested to its limits in pushing ‘unconditional love’ to the brink.

    Ambivalence. You’re always teetering on the verge, wanting death as little as you want life.

    Destruction. As Judd portrays so well, self-indulgence in the compelling urge to destroy yourself and everything around you is sometimes overpowering.

    Impulsivity. Hair trigger. Any little thing or - more importantly – *nothing in particular* could send you over the edge . . . and that is terrifying to loved ones.

    Flight risk. At any given moment you might up and leave. Because you can. You are done staying in places you don’t want to be.

    There comes a point when there’s nowhere left to run or hide. Believe me, I have done both for as long as possible . . . nearly three years to be precise. The choice to “get busy living, or get busy dying” cannot be interminably dodged.

    Helen can’t give us the “why” or “how” or "cure" of depression – as those answers remain elusive to researchers, psychiatrists, counselors, and sufferers alike – but its authenticity hit home enough to make me want to own my life again (as if I ever had a choice). Judd reminded me that the only thing that can save us – if anything can – is honesty. She has spent time in the grips of severe depression herself (see her interview here), and I look forward to her upcoming autobiography with great anticipation. “Her no-holds-barred portrayal brought me closer than was comfortable to feeling what it must be like to be severely depressed.” --Read Joseph Smigelski’s full review here, along with a Q & A with Judd.

    Listen to "No Place to Fall" from the soundtrack:
    (featuring Norah Jones of The Little Willies)

    “If I had no place to fall 

    and I needed to

    could I count on you

    to lay me down…”