Today I went to the coffee shop, determined that I was going to write. It’s been hard going recently. Since graduating, I feel as if my brain has been squeezed. But really its my heart that’s been drained dry. I poured everything into writing at residency, and had the community to support that there. Now at home, it crumbles. I still have my friends sending support from far away, but it’s definitely not the same. I need to be around someone physically!
The past few weeks, I don’t think I’ve really realized how much I’ve slipped. I have always referred to my self-harm as an addiction (10 years clean!), but I think depression can be in a way, too. Not exactly in the same way. I don’t actively try to be depressed, but it is something that I don’t realize is that bad until I’m so far in it I’m almost drowning. You would think that by this time I would know that, as much as I love fall, it’s a hard season for me. While reveling in the cool weather and cozy sweaters, I can smell winter on that crisp breeze, and know the darkness that accompanies it. With everything that has happened this year, I know this will be an especially hard winter.
I say that I know this, but I knew it in an abstract way. Something future-me would have to deal with. Well, now I’m future me, just now realizing how far deep in I already am.
Today I sat down at the coffee shop with my mocha and my sweater, and I actually manged to put pen to paper (or ipen to ipaper, anyway). Nothing for my novel came out, however. I was not happy to realize it was all nonfiction. My piece about Octavia that I read for open mic at residency got a lot of positive feedback, so of course I quickly turned away from it. (Seriously, why do I always immediately drop anything I get praised for? A question for my therapist, perhaps!) I’ve been putting off going back to it, giving it some halfhearted attempts before saying it was too hard and putting it away. There was no escaping it today, though!
Thoughts and memories flowed out, things I didn’t realize I have frantically been trying to repress. I wrote about my last few moments with Octavia, and my guilt that I didn’t want more time. That I wanted to get away as fast as possible; I couldn’t handle how much it hurt. I wrote about all the questions I play on repeat in my head. What did I do? Was it because I struggled to put her onesie on in the hospital while her birth mother watched? Did I send too many pictures? Did I seem like I didn’t know what I was doing when we met for the visit? I didn’t want to sound rude, I didn’t want to make a misstep, I didn’t want to be insensitive, but did all that come across as stand-offish? Everyone assures me that’s not it, and I keep telling myself that I know that. Logically. But do I? Or am I just saying that? Because I honestly believe that if I had loved Octavia harder, she’d still be with us. The social worker told us that visits usually make the birth mother feel more sure about her choice because she can see how the adoptive parents are taking care of the baby. But after our visit, Octavia’s birth mother changed her mind and I don’t know how I’m not supposed to analyze that over and over again. I got nervous when we were around her, you know, like how you do when someone is watching you with their baby. I didn’t want to do something wrong, and so I looked like I didn’t know what I was doing. I doubt that reassured her that her baby was being well taken care of. I didn’t want to rub my joy in her face when she was hurting so much, and part of me is convinced that that meant she didn’t see how much I loved Octavia.
Again, logically, I say I know it has nothing to do with me. She was in enormous pain and needed her child back. Nothing could have changed that. It’s what was right for them both. But goddamn it hurts so much and I need to put the blame somewhere and I won’t put it on her. I just turn inwards, so it can join all the other feelings of self-hatred.
That’s the gist of what I wrote today, anyway. As I was finishing writing it, a friend texted to ask how I was doing. I told her I was trying not to cry in the coffee shop, and she told me to tell her everything I was feeling. And there came all the tears and words. (So fun in a public place, especially one I go to often.)
In that state, vulnerable and hurting, she helped me see things for the way they were. I told her I didn’t know if it was good to be writing about it all, or if I was just re-traumatizing myself. Then she asked if I feel these things all the time or just when I’m writing.
And that’s when I had to stop and think critically. See, I have a secret. Well, it’s not a secret exactly. I make jokes about it, and no one really thinks twice.
The truth is, I don’t sleep. I haven’t slept in weeks. Most nights, I’m still awake when Atto gets up for work at 6am. Almost a month ago, I mentioned to my therapist that I had started staying up late, and that’s a big sign of depression for me. 1-4am are my dark hours, when I’m at my lowest and most raw, when I’m most likely to tailspin out of control. She told me to keep track of when I go to bed. I did for a while, and then I stopped, because I was talking to a friend in California at night, and I didn’t feel sad. I was just staying up for my friend! Totally innocent! –insert eye roll–
Yeah, a lot of times I did talk to a friend, but I stayed up even when she wasn’t around. Yet my alarm bells weren’t going off, because somehow I am always surprised by my depression.
Lying there at night in bed, my thoughts go to the same place they go when I’m writing. They play that loop of asking why, that loop of guilt and blaming myself and wondering about Octavia, imagining what she looks like, what she’s doing… my heart breaking over and over.
So my solution is to eliminate that completely. No lying in bed, no thinking about her. Not a perfect system, especially around 1-4, but I watch something or play a mindless game so I don’t have to think. Eventually, when I close my eyes, I just pass out. If I managed to stumble up to bed, I collapse, but a lot of times I just crash on the couch.
Telling that to my friend made me realize that it’s become an actual problem. It’s not a funny little quirk I have, or something I do just to talk to a friend. It’s a form of repression. This also makes me have less daytime hours. Short days of exhaustion, then long, mindless nights. I ignore how bad my teeth grinding has gotten and the constant jaw ache. I make excuses for why I don’t talk about this with people I love. Why I’m not asking for help. “They’ve heard it all before,” I think to myself. “What’s left to say?”
It’s 1:30am as I write this. A song that makes me weep came on Spotify. When it ended, I went back to listen to it again. Because it’s the witching hour, and there’s nothing quite like the sweet ache of poking at a sore heart.