Please read my cover page, About Me #1.
This is a follow-up piece to Winsome, Losesome, as well as a response to this week’s Weekly Photo Challenge, Growth.
Depression and I have a sordid history together. In my view, it’s the other side of the coin, whose counter-face is grandiosity. This post, I hope is the nail in the coffin for my posts about depression, because all coins have a third side, and here that side is: mindfulness.
Be mindful please that while my struggle with depression over the years has defined my like a chisel defined David, it doesn’t define my life, and I certainly would hate for it to define my blog. I created this to further express and realize the world as I see it. These eyes have been mindful of much, pain, pleasure, and a part of everything, and now I wish to make these eyes useful, putting input to words and words to fingers to keyboard to screen, for mindfulness’s sake.
When It Started, Can’t Say How
No different than my first inklings regarding my gender — another topic I would like to cover; elsewhere, more broadly — depression has been a learning experience. Mindfulness early on in life, I’m sure most children under ten would agree, is not something, even in description, that is recognizable. Or perhaps there is something to say about that in terms of how one is raised, either way, I was not one of those prodigal trans children, nor was I able to identify my depression as a child.
This is very much a story of Growth in regards to my depression. Mitigating its sway over me, to what seems, now, to be its complete disempowerment over me. I was not always able to simply sleep it off, walk it off, and relievingly, seemingly shrug it off.
Perhaps now it may be the Runaways — another show that I’d love to discuss in another article — that gets at the doubtful struggle, but when I was in elementary school we read and watched the film version of The Outsiders. The 50s greaser gang of kids, in which gang violence, drugs, and staying strong, were all themes. Perhaps, not my first choice for kids, seeing as one of the Outsiders is killed, suicide-by-cop.
There were books like these, and others that I started reading, that helped me start to understand that part of me. That monster that hid beneath my bed, waiting for me to attempt to sleep before making my eyes water, heart pound, and mind race. We would go on like this in bed for many more years to come, and currently, I can say, it’s down to merely a dance between the two of us, more than only a fling such as seasonal depression.
In order to get an idea of what I’ve come out of, grown passed, consider this: walking didn’t help when I was younger, while now it does a great deal. There were numerous sleepless nights, I would stay up all night, write, watch Adult Swim, and inevitably go for a walk, all to keep this monster at bay. This Babadook.
Mindfulness, in fledgling stages, only made it agony to consider my depression, like there was something wrong with me. Later, I would find that I certainly wasn’t alone, as I had felt, but in fact in great company. To that latter point, RIP Robin Williams.
It was either early middle school, junior high or immediately preceding, I can’t remember… I hadn’t met anyone like me yet — I still felt terribly alone. There was one person that I was almost ready to talk to about it, to bounce my feelings off of. We were more than close, at the time we would have considered the term “lovers.” We talked every night, we’ll call this person Gem, and Gem and I were very intimate in a way that was new, exciting, and in its complex way, strange.
We had a mildly sexual relationship for tweens, and we took —or at least I took — a great seriousness in our relationship, speaking every night on the phone, going on dates, and talking about every aspect of our lives. Almost every aspect of our lives. It was as if the Babadook also rode an Elephant and both could maintain invisibility while they took up all of the standing room and followed every car ride.
That Babadook was the only character here that Gem and I were able to take shots at. They, Gem, had also been familiar with the Babadook. It would appear that he wasn’t invisible at all, but had scared silence into the both of us. Gem too was visited by the Babadook most nights, even at their Catholic school, he would show up, riding a very different mount for their personal struggle. It was something we had finally begun to discuss, both in person and at length in our nightly phone calls. A length that grew upon my mother, who had a growing phone bill and a tenant that she couldn’t charge.
This length became the wedge that distance couldn’t be. We could manage the distance, but my mother couldn’t manage the length. The Babadook had me all to himself. In a fit of rage, despair, and a bit of confusion tween me stormed out, worried and wondering woman following close behind.
There’s a bridge that connects New York and Pennsylvania over the Delaware River. I marched myself right up to the edge, standing on the railings in the summertime, I had thought of myself in finality. Tightly around my elbow, my mother’s claws sunk in, clinging to me by her nails, gripping tightly to a life that she wouldn’t understand for nearly a decade, and perhaps still not. Tears and fierce discussion about the Babadook ensued while canoe-goers floating down river shouted: “JUMP!”
I take a photo of the same spot, constantly. A reminder of the life I have, and a time when I was most fragile, and chose life. Every time I cross that bridge, I still hear the voices yelling: “Jump!”
That was only the beginning of suicidal ideation. Later there would be moments of self-harm too, but never more than a small slice. I didn’t like the attention of “crying for help,” I had only wanted to end it and make it snappy.
The following time was in my freshman year of high school. At this point, I had already met someone more like me, and now I had a name for that Elephant: Tranny. Why the name? We’ll discuss that somewhere else in time and space, but Babadook rode that Elephant, and that’s why it’s important to note here.
Here’s where the photo of the week comes in. Since I came to realize for myself where my feelings were guiding me, ever lonely, I felt more out-of-place than ever. Perhaps like a tropical fruit in a snowy tundra.
There was a girl, who looked very similar to me, and being an intelligent and creative girl, inspired me. Being a nasty thing, intrigued me. As a friend, a sister, maybe even more, fulfilled in me for that first sisterhood.
Until I transgressed her, S (we’ll call her here) was more than a confidant and good friend that I’ve known since the third grade. She was my mirror in more ways than how she kept me in check. After I knew who the Elephant was, there was no one else that I wanted to be.
Jay was the person I was seeing at the time. A friend of S, we were all close in a way that may have been uncomfortable. We truly enjoy each other’s company though, Jay and I, and we liked to push boundaries together. That’s when we made a mistake that cost our relationship, our dignities, and possibly both of our friendships with S as they once were.
S called me that evening. We were no longer going to be friends because what I had done. It had hurt her more than I would have ever anticipated. So with compunction and shame, I lost myself. Hours later I would be in my room, blasting everything from Coheed & Cambria, Hawthorne Heights, Evanescence, and System of a Down, I take a Cookies & Cream Hershey’s bar and with every piece I broke off, with every tear that fell, I took a handful of medication. When the bar had finished and the bottle had not I killed what remained. I remember laying down and making a last request, final words that I expected only God and myself to hear, in addition to the Babadook and Elephant, both looking on in surprising horror, and I went to sleep.
To my dismay, I awoke in terrific pain. My insides were wrenching. I could feel what must have been my liver failing. It wasn’t the death I expected and certainly wasn’t the one that my mother would accept. When she saw me writhing in pain, on the floor near a toilet where I was upheaving blood, water, and what little was in addition to the chocolate bar, she took me to the hospital.
Screaming in pain and placed on a gurney, most of the initial memories are blocked by my own agonized cries. The hospital brought the truth out in the end, while not all of it. I had attempted suicide and was almost successful by murdering my liver, causing many other issues in my body. The Babadook and I, with a mysterious and concerning family history, had to be placed in a facility where I would stay for at least a week for diagnosis and the start of treatment which within the year would be terminated.
Rye Treatment Center was the institution where I found that my pain could really turn into something real. Pushing it out in studies. In art. In writing. In chess and beating people in games. Being an introspective depressed and hormonal teen, I found that there were insights there that could be rendered outwards, and appreciated by others once in a while. Also, support from the most surprising of places — I still have that letter from my English teacher, Ms. May, somewhere. Self-harm ended and suicidal ideation while ever-present was controlled, and the Babadook was weakened only slightly, I carried on strong for a few years, losing control over my emotions in self-defense and lashing out at friends, family, and loved ones every so often, tormented by this fear, but living and subsisting.
“’Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” — Alfred Lord Tennyson
Over the years, many nights went the same: Write it out. Draw it out. Escape into a show. A film. Go for a walk. A bike ride. A swim.
I was funneling all of the Babadook into other things, for the most part, successfully. As the sun falls behind me this will also have to be my daily post for today’s “Funnel.” However, maybe at the time, it was less like a funnel, and more like a pipe dream.
Letting someone in is always the hardest. Even though asking for help induces its own seemingly insurmountable anxiety, love too has this quality and is far more insidious. Once someone’s in, inside your heart, they have a lot of pull, right at your heartstrings.
When my greatest relationship began to fall apart, from the inside, due to my own doing, it hurt almost as much as liver failure. I became outwardly suicidal again, and self-harm came back with a vengeance. The Babadook in his own way was looking out for me, for my fear of being alone again, but in the end, the actions that took place only pushed our partnership’s culmination closer.
I found myself spending another week in an institution. This time I was in Poughkeepsie. There I made no real headway in overcoming the Babadook, but instead, I found a resolution to never be placed in such a place again, and to never put myself there.
Through all of my struggles, I’ve grown. I’ve learned more about myself, my triggers, my unhealthy responses, my desires, and other fun facts. Now the Babadook is a friend, in my basement, whom I feed, and hear when I need to take care of myself most or when something else is arousing him. He’s still riding that Elephant, but now I’m more mindful of his arrival. It only took three battles…
So you know, if you’re a high school student barely surviving right now, keep moving forward. I don’t want to say that “It Gets Better,” but it does, you just have to try to see how. Never stop looking.
The next part of this short series will cover more about depression’s opposite: grandiose ideation. There I will discuss my dreams because they are quite grand. I believe any grand plan worth carrying to conclusion cannot be accomplished alone, so there I hope to make it possible to get involved in the grandiosity.