3.23.2013

Confession: Part Two

It's hard to be a good person.

If you're reading this, I am just going to assume that you have read part one. If not, by all means.

Moving up to Seattle was a giant risk. After going through pages (paper and virtual) of resources, talking to many people, and attempting to build up my courage for such a drastic life change, I knew that there was a point where I had done all I could do to be ready. Of course, I was yet to see how prepared I really was....or wasn't.

I almost had cold feet about it. It was June 1st of last year - just 2 or 3 days before I was to leave - and all kinds of fears really started to bear down on me. Obviously these feelings are natural concerning big moves, but my fears weren't associated with any impending discomfort at not having friends or being a stranger in a new place. I didn't really care about that - those factors never registered in my mind as being fear-worthy.

I was afraid of myself.

Not many people could have done a better job at getting themselves into the amount of trouble I got myself into in the period of time that I did. I had become the victim of intense jealousy, which affected my thought patterns, sleeping and eating habits, and overall mental stability. It led to a suicide attempt and an unhealthy relationship in which I deceived myself into thinking my progress was a form of healing. After getting out of it and swearing girls off, I proceeded to break the heart of one of my very best friends, relapse into old feelings that never got me anywhere, and take advantage of people. I even managed to make a few goodbyes uncomfortable in the short amount of time I was in California before I left. And I knew those habits wouldn't just stop with a change in geography.

The question that tormented me - "what if I go up there and self-destruct again and tear down all my relationships like I used to?" - would not relent. It was a very rational fear to have; I literally barely survived college because of the damage I had caused to myself and others. I would not be able to outrun any of the things that made me me. 

But I did not have to be defined by those mistakes either. I wasn't my past, I wasn't the sum of my shortcomings. Whatever I was transcended those mistakes, and that's the mentality I glued to my mind when I stepped into my car on the morning of June 3rd, ready to drive 23 hours to a strange place. I didn't yet know if my beliefs were stable enough for the road ahead.

Seattle baffled and amazed me. I instantly realized that I was going to be uncomfortable for a very long time, not understanding the things that drove people of the PNW to do what they did. I didn't get Pabst Blue Ribbon and it's prevalence at every social outing. It seemed everyone ate rabbit food. There were protesters,  inappropriate bumper stickers, and opinionated hipsters clad in counter-cultural regalia at every bus stop...and there were a lot of bus stops.

At the same time, I did not shy away from it. Like a scientist who draws himself closer to a dangerous animal merely for the purpose of studying its habits and patterns, I drank in the atmosphere of the Jet City. I wandered around the downtown area on the second day of my arrival for seven hours. By myself. In flip flops.

God saw to my needs almost immediately. Friends were practically forced on me, church was ever so inviting, and beds  were made readily available. A job eluded me for a while and I even had to go through a few failed interviews and even one bad job before I ended up doing what I do now, which is the last thing I saw myself doing. I moved 4 times before I was finally able to settle down.

But these are all peripheral details to my point.

I was sick when I showed up to Seattle and I'm sick now. Depression never goes away. It can't be cured. Pills can mitigate its effects on the body and therapy can help along the process of healing, but it will be a burden you bear for your whole life. You just have to decide where you want to hold it. 

People ask me what depression is like. I sort of have a hard time explaining it to them. How do you enumerate to someone what it's like to be sick in the head? 

I've heard it put like this: Depression is like scuba diving with your friends. Only, your oxygen tank doesn't work. Your friends continue to explore the reef while you choke and gasp and wonder why your equipment doesn't work like everyone else's. You're not able to join your friends in their exploration, not able to see the things they see in the same way. When you surface, your friends wonder where you were. Why didn't you join them? Why doesn't your equipment work like theirs? Can't you fix it? What's wrong with you?

When I came over to my friend's house in near tears this past September, I was asked what was wrong. Not as in "What's the matter with you?" but more like "What is dragging your soul down?" I couldn't make eye contact with him, which is something that I am seemingly unable to do whenever I've made a potentially harmful decision and I'm on the edge of suffering the consequences.

I had relapsed. Jealousy and depression had driven me to buy a plane ticket to Texas in a manic moment. I sat there on the couch as my friend listened to me drudge through my terms of surrender and defeatist declarations. Muttering words about going back. Not being able to stay. And then I tried to kill myself the next day

Fortunately, my friends were willing to pick me up on the corner of a sketch street outside a mental health facility in another city without asking any questions after my failed attempt and subsequent hospitalization  Friends were always the common denominator. I remember standing there thinking, "The last time I was outside one of these buildings, I left triumphant, with my family and a renewed sense of commitment. Now nothing but resignation and questions stand in front of me." 

I'll never understand it, but people have always been willing to take up the massive endeavor of caring about me, even when I am a highly combustible person to be around. I'm not trying to overstate my problems - I know there are those out there who have to take care of loved ones who cannot walk or even feed themselves or worse, who are no longer around. But all I know is my sickness, and that sickness is apparently not enough to keep people from investing in me.

I understand my family. They don't have a choice. It's the rest of you I don't get. I've seen some looks of pure apprehension when I talk about my mental issues. I've scared away some. I can't imagine how many times I've had to dig into vaults so deep within my brain they only open once or twice a year - just to explain to someone why I cut them deeper than I should have. It's shameful. It keeps me up at night, and I blame myself for alienating people. It's like I purposefully put up bridges between myself and everyone I know, then force them to pay a toll every time they cross over into my domain. There's taking but no giving.

It's 2013. I tried to make sure I didn't make it this far the previous two years. Both times I failed. Of course, they ended up being successes in the end. I know God didn't make all those blind, mute, and crippled people in the bible for no reason. Some of them never even have their names mentioned, but they are seemingly only mentioned because they encountered someone who could heal them, someone who could give them an opportunity to live life as they never had before.

I thought I would get that with this move. My fears ended up being true, and deservedly so. I would go on to hurt and be hurt even 9 months into my relocation. Sometimes it's a struggle to even convince myself that I've made any progress at all. The mind can be terribly deceptive when it's mired in self deprecation. But here's the thing - I know I've made progress. I know that while I can sit here and confess to whoever is listening to me about all the terrible things I seem to have done, I wouldn't have been able to do so a year ago. I didn't possess the clarity or the wisdom to even be able to dive this far into my reasons for what I do. If I wasn't meant to make it this far, no one would have barged through the door when I tried to cut myself. Those pills would have worked a lot faster.

I'm sitting here in a bookstore listening to music surrounded by dozens of people who are actively not noticing me. I'm in their peripheral vision, distant from their conversations. But they are all going about their business, and I'm not hurting any one of them. I'm not standing up and making a scene or dragging any of them along into my sphere of suffering. They don't know me and I don't know them. We are sitting within feet of each other but are completely unaware of the wars and campaigns against the self the other is experiencing.

I think that's how it should be, with the exception of this - you are all aware of my fight. I may not be aware of yours, but I want to be. I want to stand in the trenches with you and help you throw everything you've got at your assailants, or be at your side while you survey the aftermath of your struggle with solemnity. I am not the sum of my mistakes, and neither are you. 

Tomorrow you or I may mess up. Maybe not, who knows? Then again we could live. And I don't mean survive, I mean live - getting up and going, creating, loving. Even if it's just sitting in a dimly lit room with your friends watching Netflix (what up Green Dragon), anything is better than the isolation of your existence. You are your best self when you are with those you love. So be around those you love, often. Take them in the way I took Seattle in when I first moved here. 

Just use less caution. Let your wounds be worth it.

And for heaven's sake, be friends with people who clean up after themselves.

Cheers,
JDS

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