[NSPW17] stay.


i have this tattoo on my wrist, and, when people ask what it means, the simple answer is, it’s the logo of the band i love. the more complex answer comes with a story involved, or a scene, maybe, to be more specific, and the scene is the kitchen at my parents’, at the house in which i grew up, and it’s a sunday morning in december 2009, and it’s the first time i’m really going to try to carry out one of the ideations in my head.

in the end, i won’t. i’ll spend the morning crying on the kitchen floor because, see, i’m barely in my mid-twenties then and there’s this band i love, this band i want to see live one day, and this isn’t about the band, per se, it’s not even about music necessarily — it’s about here, here is this thing you love, this thing that comforts you and makes you feel less alone, and here, here it is as a reminder of all these things you want to do, all these things you won’t get to do if you die, here is this thread being thrown at you, this tiny little thread of hope — and here, hope is a lie you cling to to get through these bad moments, and hope is that thing you’ll come to hate through your twenties, but hope is that lifeline you will hold onto to get through the next time you try dying and the time after that.

i tell my therapist i hate hope, and i tell her i spend a lot of time trying to put a damper on hope because i don’t want to raise my expectations, to have to deal with the tumble of disappointment.

i’ve been spending a lot of time these days putting a damper on hope because i’m waiting, in that weird in-between space where nothing is concrete and everything is, well, something hoped for, a job, an agent, a book deal, a move back across the country.

at time of posting, i’ll be back home in new york for a glorious four-ish days of seeing some of my favorite people, eating great meals, and spending time fully immersed in the book community. i’m doing an instagram takeover for the brooklyn book festival. i’m saying hello to a prospective agent. i’m roaming around all my old stomping grounds, eating whatever the hell i damn well please because new york is home and it’s been eight months since i’ve been home.

at the time i’m writing this, though, i’m trying to put a rein on my expectations. new york is a city that changes, and a lot could have changed in eight months. the prospective agent could still turn down my manuscript. people will have gone through cycles in their lives, and, maybe, we’ll be different people now. i tell myself these things not because i necessarily believe them to be true but so that i’ll be less hurt, less disappointed, if home doesn’t end up being what i’ve been holding onto these eight months.

i tell myself these things to brace preemptively against the sadness and loneliness that will come slamming back into me when i get back on the plane on tuesday to come back to california.

much of life, to me, feels like this — a constant balance between what’s in my head and what’s not. my therapist reminds me to take time to pause and assess situations, especially when my anxiety and/or depression threaten to bubble to the surface and explode. she tells me to pause, think about what i’m feeling, what i’m thinking, to collect evidence that supports whether or not my thinking is substantiated or not, to think of evidence that shows that i’m just freaking out.

and maybe that goes to show that it isn’t total bullshit when people say not to believe the lies depression tells you because, yes, sometimes, rarely but, still, sometimes, it is possible to remind yourself that the things you feel are indeed distortions your brain is creating. sometimes, the reminder is nothing more than a footnote because you’re too mired, too much in the darkness, for the reminder to be more than something you barely shrug at before mentally curling up.

so maybe i dislike that statement so much because i don’t like that people say not to believe the lies when i think of them as distortions because anxieties and fears and insecurities are all rooted in something — we’re often just making them so much bigger, so much more monstrous, than they actually are.

so maybe that’s a better thing to remember — that whatever is going on in your brain is a distortion, that the power of depression is distortion, that the insidious nature of it is distortion. it’s that kind of distortion that leads us down the path to consider suicide, to create plans in our brains and hold onto them, to think of dying as a viable option when considering the options laid before us.

because i don’t have the ability to say that dying is never not an option. as much as i have let go of a lot of my suicidal ideation, i can’t say i’ve completely stopped tinkering with that plan in my head. i can’t say i’ve completely let go.

and that, too, is okay.

my word of the year, apparently, is “stay,” and i feel like i’ve been using it kind of excessively recently, but i mean it every time i say it: stay.

it’s a word i tell myself, too, stay — stay in the moment, stay in the present, stay in this life. stay in whatever is here before you right now; the future will arrive when it does. stay where you are in the here and now. stay.

now that our pre-approved sessions are coming to a close, my therapist asks how i’m doing, especially on the suicidal end of things. i’d told her before that my main consistent conviction through my twenties was that i wouldn’t live past thirty, and she asks me how i’m feeling about that, about my most recent fear that i will die in california. i tell her that that hasn’t fully faded but it has softened. i tell her, yes, i still have that plan in my head, but it’s fading. i tell her it’s all something i’ve carried so closely, so tightly, for so long that i would feel odd without it.

she says that’s okay, that we don’t need to try to excise all that from our lives, our brains. all we need to do is turn away and look in another direction, to turn our backs on that plan, that ideation, that desire to die, to let it fade and ghost away on its own.

and maybe that’s one reason i feel more compelled to talk more and more about all this — the fact that i live with this, will continue to live with it — because talking about it is one way of turning away. talking about it is bringing it into light. depression and suicidal thinking are things that flourish in darkness and silence, and it’s why i won’t stop talking about it, won’t stop pointing at it, won’t consider them as things to be ashamed or afraid of.

mental health is like any other paper tiger, frightening in the shadow it casts when the reality is not, does not have to be, nowhere near as frightening as we think it is based on its shadow. it’s a challenge, yes, and it’s difficult and painful, and all of us don’t “make it through.” we don’t all “survive,” but “surviving” isn’t the point.

the point is trying to live the fullest lives we can. the point is trying to do better by each other, for each other. the point is to learn to live our lives in light, not in the shadows, because, god damn it, we deserve it. we deserve to live our lives in the open, not hiding, and we deserve to be seen, to be understood, instead of shunned and cast aside.

we deserve to be loved.

so, yes, maybe i’ve said this word so many times that it seems to have lost all meaning, but i’ll say it again anyway — stay.

you are meant to be here, and your life is worth living, and you are a human being worth knowing. stay. and demand to be seen. stay, and fight together for a better world. stay, and make all those things you want, all those dreams you wish you could accomplish — make them into reality.

because you are stronger than you think you are and you have something to offer the world that others don’t and your life has value, even if you can’t see it right now. just put your head down, count the days, and let time pass.



[NSPW17] cuddle a monster, eat a monster, be a monster.


if i had a cat, i’d snuggle that, but i don’t have a cat, but i have this stitch that’s been with me for fifteen years.

something i hate to hear is, most people who live on don’t regret not having killed themselves. most people don’t regret surviving. here’s where i’d typically add an it’s not that i don’t appreciate the sentiment behind it, but …, except i’m not adding that because i don’t appreciate the sentiment behind it — it’s a statement that does me no good when i’m locked in that darkness.

i also hate when people talk about the lies depression tells you, the lies suicidal thinking tells you. it doesn’t matter how often or how forcefully people tell you you’re not alone when you feel so totally alone. when you’re in that dark, terrifying place, you’re not exactly sitting there debating what’s true and what’s a lie your brain is telling you.

sometimes, i think it’s just as crucial to change the ways we approach the suicidal as it is to take away the shame and guilt and stigma that cloak suicide. sometimes, when i hear the catchy phrases, the platitudes, i think, wow, here are great ways to skirt the issue, to let fear render people so freaking ineffective because they’re afraid of saying the “wrong” thing, they’re afraid of putting the idea of suicide in our heads, because of this, because of that, blah blah blah, here are some talking points instead.

because, when i hear that most people don’t regret “surviving,” i think, well, bully for them (screw survival narratives). when i hear that my depression and/or my suicidal mind is lying to me, i think, well, what do you know? are you in my head right now?

and i wonder, okay, then, how do we talk to the suicidal? how would i want someone to talk to me when i’m going through one of those episodes? what are the things that help me? — and i think that it’s not even about what people say, it’s what they do. it’s saying, hey, how’s it going? wanna get some pie or food or coffee? i’d love to see you. it’s saying, hey, it’s beautiful out; wanna go for a loop around the park?

it’s not saying anything at all, simply being there with hugs (and/or ice cream) and a solid, warm, physical, living, breathing presence that says i’m here. i’m here; you’re not alone; and you can cry or just sit there or whatever you’re feeling — i’m here, and i’m not letting go.

because, yes, i’m a writer, and i believe in words, but words never do much for me when i’m hurtling down the abyss — the people who show up, in whatever shape or form, do.

that’s not to put the burden of “saving” us on other people. i think that’s bullshit, too, even just the fundamental notion of “saving” someone. savior/messiah complexes piss me off because of the sheer ego involved.

it is not on anyone to “save” us. that is not anyone’s burden to bear. we are not someone’s responsibility. (that kind of thinking does more damage than good.)

however, i do believe that we should all be here for each other because life is a communal experience — humans are relational, social beings after all, and we all need people in our lives. we need interpersonal connections to thrive, to be our best selves, and we need to talk to people, to confide in them, to be soothed and comforted and reassured by them.

though, sometimes, there are limits to that.

this might sound crazy, but i admit i sometimes talk to my stitch. when i hurt too much, too deeply, i talk to him; i confide in him the things i can’t tell another human because that kind of confession frightens me too much, requires too much vulnerability or self-defense, and i don’t have the strength or ability to help someone understand the pain i’m trying to diffuse.

because, yes, there are things that are impossible to say to another human thing because it’s too personal or because we’ve been hurt when we’ve tried to reach out in the past or because to give some feelings the strength of words feels like too much. there are things that just need to said out loud into nothingness to get them out of our heads but things that don’t need to be heard or known by another human being.

there are things that other people shouldn’t have to bear.


[NSPW17] for every day we live.


last year, when i was in the worst of my suicidal depression, the only thing that often got me out of bed was my hunger.

i don’t mean anything deep or existential by that hunger; i mean a physical, stomach-growling-please-feed-me hunger because the truth is that we need to eat to survive, that we must physically sustain ourselves and nourish our bodies to live. that meant that, oftentimes, the only thing that would get me out of bed was my body rebelling, screaming, FEED ME! FEED ME! FEED ME!, so i’d force myself up and to the kitchen, pour myself a bowl of cereal, eat it, and try to get on with my day.

sometimes, i think this is the thing that maybe puts people off the most about depression and suicidal thinking — that they seem to put us out of commission, that we’re high-maintenance and/or overly sensitive and/or emotionally immature and fragile and pathetic, that we’re consequently not worth investing in whether as potential employees or potential partners or potential whatevers. we’re a drag on productivity, and we’re legal risks and liabilities. we’re lazy and failures and undisciplined. we’d bring bad energy into a space.

do i sound defensive? maybe it’s because i am, just a little.

because no one asks for this — i certainly didn’t — and we learn to live with it, managing better some days and worse on others but, still, managing and surviving and, sometimes, i dare say, thriving. my therapist asked me the other day how i felt, getting my diagnosis for the first time after years of avoiding it, and i know there are a range of personal responses to that.

some people feel like their suffering made them unique, that it’s somehow made them less special, having something that seems so commonplace and ordinary as depression. others feel comforted and hopeful because a diagnosis is somewhere to start, something somewhat more concrete than just being inside their head. others, too, are afraid, afraid of what a diagnosis means, how people might perceive them because of it, the ruin a diagnosis might bring, none of which is a dramatic reaction if you’re wont to view it that way.

i’ve been asked, too, if i somehow take comfort in my depression, and i told my therapist that, no, i didn’t feel like i lost something that made me special when i got that sheet of paper from kaiser with my diagnoses written on it. i didn’t feel that comforted or hopeful either, not then because it was too soon then — seeking professional help was still too new and alarming. i didn’t feel much fear, either, not really, maybe, again, because seeking help was too new at the time, and i’ve since moved on to a combination of indifference and defensiveness and mild irritation.

one of the things i have been learning over the last few years, though, is that i am not that unique. none of us is. we are individual people with differing personalities and characteristics and details, but, on the larger scale of things, we are not all that different, you and i. we worry about similar things — being able to take care of ourselves, of the people we love, loving someone and being loved back, living a life that means something — and, yes, maybe it all looks different to each of us, but, fundamentally, our wants and hopes and fears are not so alien from each other’s.

we don’t want to be alone. we don’t want to fail. we don’t want to fall behind.

we all need to eat to survive.

things i’d eat at the worst of times when i couldn't find the energy to cook "proper" food:

  1. rice topped with hot dogs and a fried egg and a lot of ketchup
  2. cereal
  3. eggs soft-scrambled in butter
  4. milk toast from paris baguette, straight out of the bag when fresh, toasted when a day or two old
  5. ramyeon from different brands, all spicy
  6. pepperidge farm chessmen
  7. eggs, a lot of eggs, just a lot of eggs

i confess that i can be pretty rotten at physical self-care. as a type 2 diabetic, i shouldn’t be eating a lot of things — namely, sugar or anything that turns to sugar quickly in my body. for a few months after my diagnosis this february, i did fairly well at following my restrictions, resentfully, yes, but following them for the most part, cheating a little here and there but generally being pretty good. my fasting glucose levels came down; my headaches went away; and trader joe’s started making a lot of money off me buying boxes and boxes of their nut bars.

i went to iceland in june, though, hiked a shit-ton and ate whatever the hell i wanted and suffered zero consequences for it because we were constantly on the move, scrambling up and down waterfalls, running across glaciers, hiking, hiking, hiking. i got back to california itching to leave again, to travel more, to get back out into the world, away from a city and state that unfortunately bore me and feel like a cage, and i couldn’t get myself to get back to those restrictions, not when food was the one comfort i had.

the thing with my body, though, is that it feels the crappy eating, and it hits back. it makes me suffer. i feel like shit all the time, and my head starts pounding, and i feel sluggish, lethargic, even less focused than i already am on my good days — and i have an attention disorder. my stomach goes haywire, and my blood sugar spikes and plummets haphazardly, and, as my body continues to rail at me, i rage at it in my head.

when i was first diagnosed, my first thought was, i hope this kills me, and, yes, it could eventually, though that will take years, but, also, it doesn’t have to. type 2 can be reversed, and, if not, it can be managed with the help of medication, a good diet, and exercise. type 2 isn’t a death sentence; one just has to be open and able to make changes.

it sounds stupid simple, doesn’t it?

and, yet, tell that to a suicidal depressive who’s barely made it through a year-and-a-half depending on her body’s need to eat, on the fact that food is the one thing that lights up parts of the self she thought had died long ago, and see the devastation a little diagnosis wreaks.

this is why nothing is simple and nothing is easy and why reductive thinking does no one any favors. we all come with baggage, and we all come with history, and, if we want to help each other, we have to learn to take all that into account and go from there, not disregard it and pretend it has no impact or should have less meaning than it actually does.


[NSPW17] feel the wonder.


heh, i suppose here, around the halfway point, is where i start to wonder why i decided to do this for seven days because i’m petering out, i’m running out of steam. i started drafting this whole series in early september, and i’d gotten down pretty significant chunks of drafts down for all the other posts except this.

(though most of them have gone through heavy revisions/rewrites, which is par for the course.)

i wanted to say something about beauty, though, the physical beauty of the world that constantly startles me and soothes me. i posted an instagram once, i think earlier this year, about how the fact that i can respond to earthly beauty is something of hope for me, an indication that there is something living in me that reacts viscerally to what i see and finds not only pleasure in it but some kind of profundity, something of which i can’t quite explain or put my finger on.

i’ve heard it told to the suicidal and depressed to look around at the world, at the beauty that surrounds us. i’ve found that to be pretty useless advice because one of the things depression and suicidal thinking do is that it cuts the connection between recognizing beauty and drawing meaning from that beauty.

to put it in other words, it’s not that we don’t recognize the beauty in the world around us. it’s that that beauty has no significance, doesn’t have that profoundness that non-depressed, non-suicidal brains can compute.

and, yet, when i think about wellness and what that means, how we can try to achieve it, i include go on long walks in those mental lists — and they are lists because wellness isn’t as simple and one-note as just going to therapy and thinking that’s enough, or taking meds and thinking that’s enough, or doing hatever bare minimum and thinking that’s enough.

wellness is the whole goddamn package.

it’s going to therapy and seeing your psychiatrist and taking your meds. it’s eating well and exercising, going for long walks and breathing in deep and exhaling hard. it’s seeing movies and going to concerts and spending time with friends over meals, on road trips, over drinks. it’s taking naps in the afternoon. it’s watching late night talk shows until you fall asleep. it’s talking to people, listening to people, letting people be there for you. it’s letting people love you.

it’s taking all that generosity and all that love and storing it up for when you are better and can put that generosity and love back out there in the world.

it’s getting out of your head, out of your room, out of your apartment when you can. it’s eating entire packages of pepperidge farm chessmen in one go. it’s reading and reading and reading because that’s escape, too.

it’s staying in bed all day, not showering, curling up and sleeping the hours away when you just can’t take it anymore. it’s listening to your brain, your body, and modifying your life to match the energy you can spend. it’s being present, exulting in your successes, big and small, and learning to talk down fear and anxiety and pain.

it’s the whole goddamn thing.

i will give this to california: the damn state knows its colors.


[NSPW17] one day you'll learn the contours of yourself.


someone told me once that it’s difficult for therapists to get clients to open up to them about suicidal thoughts, not only because clients might have reservations in sharing those but also because therapists themselves are uneasy at broaching the topic. there’s a fear of legal limits, of actions therapists and mental health professionals are legally obligated to take if they believe someone will kill her/him/theirself, and, sometimes, no one wants to get into that — no one wants to be saddled with that kind of obligation, that kind of responsibility over someone’s life.

no one wants to go to a therapist and open up only to be thrown into a hospital (or worse) against her/his/their will.

and maybe that’s where the problem starts — the lack of trust, the inability to trust for whatever reason. we can blame culture, and we can blame the system, and we can blame a lot of things, but where does that get us?

because it’s easy to look at the ills in the world and try to parcel out blame. it’s easy to point at social media, at technology, at growing wealth, and it’s easy to lump together entire generations and try to diagnose them, to pigeonhole them into “this generation” or “that generation,” like that really explains anything.

it’s easy to look at statistics and create charts that mark cause and effect, that say, oh, a trans kid is at highest risk for suicide or, oh, this person, that person, blah blah blah, just like it’s easy to say, oh, it’s depression? here’s a pill for that. oh, it’s this? here’s a pill for that, too — and it’s easy because it all makes it easy to bury the real human being at the center of it all. a statistic is a statistic is a statistic, and a diagnosis is a diagnosis is a diagnosis, but is a human being a human being a human being?

can we sit with the pain someone carries, a pain so deep and excruciating that that someone wants to end her/his/their life? can we be there through the darkness; can we hold on even though it hurts us?

one of the things i’ve been learning this year is to speak up, to scream if i need to. as someone who’s largely non-confrontational and hates conflict, i’ve usually been the kind of person who retreats when faced with an argument, who shuts up and just lets people say and think whatever they want and internalizes that rage. it goes without saying that that hasn’t served me well.

2017 has been one elongated lesson in communication, and that also applies to my medical care. i’ve been learning how to talk to a therapist, to a doctor, to a psychiatrist, to explain my needs and the shit in my head. i’ve been learning to voice my concerns about medication — i’ve been lucky that all the people i’ve come across in the medical field thus far have listened and have laid out my options with my concerns in mind.

because the thing with suicide and depression is that, yes, there are physical symptoms, but these are things that live in our brains, and, unless we learn to be our best advocates, no one else will be able to be there for us in the ways that we need.

and, yes, sometimes, we will try to be our best advocates, and we will speak, but people won’t understand or will refuse and try to assert their way, anyway, because that’s human, too — this impulse to fix, to override, to dominate.

in a perfect world, being our best advocates would be enough. unfortunately, this isn’t a perfect world, but i still stand by that because, unless we start with at least that, with at least speaking up for ourselves and saying, hey, this is going on; i need you to listen, we will never have a chance.

and the great thing for us today is the wealth of connections lying under our fingertips. if you can’t physically get to a therapist or talk to a professional in person, there are counsellors and therapists just a text away. if you’re feeling isolated because of a lack of community, because you live in a corner of the world that’s toxic to who you are, there are welcoming, affirming communities to be found all over the internet.

and this is why i will never dismiss social media or the internet or technology. i mean, yes, the internet has brought about a whole new set of social issues, and, yes, maybe in some ways, it is contributing to the rise of mental health issues amongst people today. however, at the same time, the internet, technology, social media — they all have created invaluable resources and spaces for people to find the help they need, to hear the voices they need to hear, to find the hope they need to live.

i guess i’ll leave you with this: as someone who takes meds and sees a therapist and meets with a psychiatrist regularly, i can tell you that there is no one solution. a pill alone is not going to fix you. a therapist alone is not going to fix you. a psychiatrist alone is not going to fix you. i believe that you have to start by letting go of this notion that you need to be fixed to begin with, this toxic idea that you're nothing but a problem, a tangled mess of brokenness and damage that doesn't deserve to be heard or seen or understood when all of that is bullshit and none of it is true because what you are is human, and to be human is to carry hurt and brokenness and damage, to learn to live with it, to learn to love with it, to learn to be loved with it.

you are no better and no worse than anyone else because you’re depressed, because you’re suicidal, because you feel like you’re walking around with a bomb in your brain and a break in your heart.

you are simply you, and you are simply human, and you’re trying, and that is more than okay.