Substance Be Damned

[Throwback Thursday — Originally published November, 2013]

My brain is fuzzy and my child is sleeping and middle-aged celebrities are busting myths on TV. I’m supposed to be writing about something substantial; my past my future my present; something real.

I stare at the screen for an unknown amount of moments until my phone bing-chime-beeps out the alert that someone has texted me. I instinctively get angry assuming it’s going to be a past drug dealer or buyer or someone else with nothing substantial to say. And then my computer bing-chime-beeps and I fear checking whatever Facebook notification awaits me because I don’t think I can handle another person with nothing substantial to say.

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She Says

My dog’s been circling the same spot for ten minutes trying to get it just right to lie down.

I can hear the rain pitter-pattering on the windows and my computer singing its own melody of errrs and creeeepps and blips and gggghhhs.

My cigarette smoke billows up to my nose, giving me that all-too-familiar uncomfortable burn that accompanies that all-too-familiar comforting smell.

I can feel the warmth of the keyboard under my fingers and my glasses hanging low on my nose and my hair gently caressing my face, just shy from poking me in the eye or going up my nose.

It’s cold in here, and my legs are starting to cramp so I stretch them out.

I don’t know what else to write so I’ll just write this.

This is an exercise my therapist wants me to do when I’m feeling anxious. Bring yourself into the moment, she says. Breathe, she says. Relax, she says.

I don’t think it’s working.

I taste my pumpkin spice latte with a hint of leftover whipped cream and then that familiar taste of ash.

There is a giant rip in Jack’s blanket, which is sitting to the right of me. I want to pick at it but I don’t.

I push my glasses up on my nose and can feel my eyelashes pressing against them. My ring slides down my finger but gets caught by my knuckle and I play with it. The burn hole in my pants scratches at my arm, which is resting on it since I’m sitting cross-legged again.

I smell my dog’s gross breath, which brings me comfort.

Bring yourself into the moment, she says. Breathe, she says. Relax, she says.

Maybe it’s working a little bit. But what about when it’s over?

I pull into myself like a child who’s frightened. I hunch my shoulders and cling my arms together and lean over my computer. My belly hurts.

As I take another drag, I rest my thumb on my chin.

The air smells crisp, whatever that means. Crisp and damp.

Tick, tick, tick, says the rain. The dog snores.

I run my tongue along my teeth.

Bring yourself into the moment, she says. Breathe, she says. Relax, she says.

Now I’m just sleepy.

*  *  *  *  *

What are some exercises you do to control your anxiety?

Depression, or Something

There are clouds everywhere. Encircling my body. But not the soft, fluffy kind that bring comfort. The oozy kind that drip despair.

I just want to curl up with these clouds and let them take over, but Something inside tells me not to. I want to punch that damn Something in the face.

Shit. Is this really happening?

The Something throws some pills at me and I take them, must take them, to maybe make the clouds go away. Do I really want the clouds to go away? Their dampness provides some level of comfort — they know that no one will expect anything from me if they stay.

I try to wrap myself up in them, to accept what is happened, but the Something makes me fight back. The last bit of hope that maybe I won’t fall too hard this time. The Something is stronger this time than the last.

Why is it so hard to give in?

There are children playing and birds chirping and all that other stereotypical shit you’d expect on a nice, happy day. Outside. Inside there are storms brewing and monsters stirring and whatever stereotypical shit you’d expect on a rainy, dark day. There are two me’s.

The clouds tell me to squeeze the life out of the stereotypical happiness; the Something tells me to soak it up before the clouds win. I can’t decide.

Shit. This really is happening.

Maybe tomorrow I will wake up and the clouds will be gone and the Something will have no need to be here anymore. Maybe I will wake and the Something will have vanished and the clouds will be wrapping me in an ever-dimming cocoon. Sleep, they’ll snarl. Live, the Something will whisper.

Can’t I do both? Can’t I live in my cocoon? I know I can’t. I know it will be horrible and the clouds are not my friends and the Something is.

But I just want to give in.

*  *  *  *  *


I hated him once.

I thought I got over it. I thought.

Every time I see him I’m riddled with anxiety and despair.

Maybe he’s the cause of some of my problems. Maybe.

I hate him again.

For different reasons. Or maybe the same.

I can’t hunt or fish or sleep without his face appearing, without his underwear appearing, without his hand lingering too close.

I want to think of something remarkable to say — to explain the pain, to help others, to get it all out and make you understand. The words don’t come.

I think it’s out of my mind and then a night like this. A night like so many others, when I’m minding my own business and all of a sudden he’s there. Like he was so many other times. He’s running his hands down my arms and across my skin and I have goosebumps and I play it off like he’s just drunk, like I’m just drunk, like it will all go away.

It doesn’t go away.

I want to ask for an apology but I don’t want to upset you any more than he’s already done.

So I sit and I write and I wait for the words to come, the words that will explain what he’s done and what it’s done to me and what it will undoubtedly do to you.

Maybe he will stop. Maybe he will make you happy again and he will stop torturing me in my dreams and maybe everything will be okay. Maybe therapy will help and maybe I’ll get over it, like everyone has told me to do for so long. Maybe I’ll stop hating him again.

Maybe not.

*  *  *  *  *

Shake, Sway, Sip, Repeat

I shake and I sway and I rock. There are centipedes crawling off with my skin. The woman who just walked by walked much too close. The dishes will all break if I attempt to do them and they’ll probably cut me. Now I want to run the blade across my skin and do it myself. The tears come and I dig my teeth into my pen to stop them. They must be stopped or they’ll sting my centipede skin.

I shake and I sway and I rock. My mind is droopy but my eyes are wide and everything they take in terrifies me. My legs run off with themselves and the pills keep piling up but the centipedes continue their march and the woman continues to walk too close and the dishes continue to make my eyes produce wetness. So I take a sip.

I shake and I sway and I sip. Until the sips turn into swigs and the swigs turn into gulps and the gulps turn into the bottom of a bottle.

I stop shaking, I stop swaying, I stop rocking and I stop sipping. For once, I am still.

I sleep.

Tomorrow I will do it all again. I will try to refrain, but I will shake and sway and rock.

And sip.