Tuesday, February 23, 2016

A Geiger Counter for the Soul

Over the past few months, my ongoing depression hit a particularly low place. Depression is a symptom of ignoring my problems: running away and successfully avoiding what's in my heart. I can't feel anymore, and in that numbness depression settles like a cloudy friend.

It makes me ache and makes me angry. It makes me anxious for no reason. And it keeps me from writing.

That's why I've hardly been on the blog: there are no words inside me. The words come from my heart, and I've left that so many miles away I don't even know what it's trying to communicate. There is no passionate authenticity from me. If I try to write, all that comes out is anger or insincerity.

I'm going to have to find myself again if I want to survive this. But that involves tracing a trail that grows colder by the day and finding the place where I first ran away from myself. Then I have to reconnect with my heart and feel whatever awful things made me run away in the first place. I ran away because something(s) wounded me: I do know that.

I know all this in some parts because I have a very smart doctor, but also because of books. Like the titular Geiger counter, books shed light on each ion of my heart and count them even when I don't want to be counted, showing me two things.

The first thing happened when a friend gave me Amy Bai's SWORD for Christmas. Three siblings/cousins become magically connected: the Queen, the Lady Captain, and the Bard. As they fight for their country, this soul-bond is surprisingly useful, uncomfortably intimate, and the most excruciating thing they experience. One of the three tries to cut themselves off from the others, and the ensuing mayhem affects everyone around them.

This book gave me tingles. It made my chest ache, as if it was hard to breathe, as I experienced alongside them the pain of loving.

It left me feeling alive.

Alive in a painful way. Feeling their suffering made me feel my own. It made me feel what I'm trying not to feel. While it didn't bring me any closer to understanding the source of my pain, it reminded me what it's like to feel things, and that was amazing.

I had a difficult, emotional week afterward, like detox. I slipped back into numbness because I still haven't rooted out the problem. But it gave me the sense that I can get there, to a healthier place.

The second thing I learned when my creative writing ground to a halt. Stories are piling up in my head, but I can't seem to write them down on paper. When I work up the courage to force words out, they are well-crafted in literary terms, but they're missing the heart that makes them come alive.

My characters fight and talk and sing and walk, but they don't feel quite right. My numbness and emotional disconnection shows up in them. There's some emotion(s) that I'm afraid of, and that fear keeps me from writing any emotions well.

That's what made me realize I'm running away from something.

Some of what's holding back my writing is fear of being known. I'm afraid of people seeing this part of me, whatever this is. There's something I'm trying to hide from myself and everyone else.

I should've recognized that feeling right away. It's the same shame that sent me tumbling into depression my second year of college, when I fell for a certain girl, fell so hard. She was so amazing. I was so ashamed people would discover I wanted to spend all my time with her--wanted to spend the rest of my life with her.

So I should know what shame-fear tastes like. Fear of knowing, fear of risking. Perhaps if I write my next story for myself, with no audience in my head, I can create a space to write freely and start figuring things out. Not sure I know how to do that, but it's worth a try.

Because I still don't know: what are the feelings I'm running away from?

I know coming out was part of it. Coming out, being honest, was freeing and enabled me to have more authentic relationships. But it also brought with it sharp wounds from people close to me. I thought I was ready for the rejection. You can never be ready for that feeling of betrayal from family or friends.

But there are other things from before coming out. I've been depressed for some years. Sometimes it appears to recede. I'm able to find joy in experiences and people, and seemingly climb out of the depression for a week, a month, maybe two or three. But it keeps coming back.

The world is a dark place as much as it is a beautiful place. There are things to be angry about, sad about, and hurt over. There are probably multiple reasons why I feel this way. The one I can identify thus far is shame, and so stripping shame away is my first objective.

I know that life is better than this. I've been happy and un-depressed. I'm a thoughtful person and tend to mull over big, deep questions about life and the universe without pulling myself away from the dark precipices out there. But despite this wily mind, I know what peace feels like. I still get glimpses of it in my prayers, and I'm running towards it with everything I've got.

Which, granted, isn't much. But it's better than running away.

I apologize for the poor writing and scattered stream of thought. I'm so tired of caring what people think. I wanted to write this post, but I didn't want to spend all the effort to make it pretty. My life is messy and these feeling are raw and in process. If my messy life has to spill out on the page, I'm okay with that.

Word count: 938.