Letters From The Eastside – Letter Twelve

Dear Mother Directional,

There are so many times when the world tries to teach us something. And dare I say it, there are even more times when the world tries to warn us about ourselves. There are signs we see which we ignore. There are times when people come along and tell us, “Hey, you better watch out” and of course, we ignore them. There are times when it seems like we are locked in this roller coaster called “life” and there’s nothing we can do until the ride stops or comes to some kind of brief intermission.
I tell you that if there is a devil, he does his best work, not by tempting us to do something- but instead, the devil (if there is one) pulls his trick by telling people to stay away. If he is real, I would say that he does this because he knows that curiosity kills us. He knows that the warning builds our interest and this is true. It works. So, if there is a devil, he certainly knows the angles on how to pull off a really good trick.

I can tell you that I have been working on changing my life. I can say that the reasons why I want to change most are because the way I’ve lived has honored me the least.
I was thinking about people who live their life and seem happy and how their life seems almost too perfect. I was thinking about the way I lost myself to comparison and wondering “Why can’t I be more like them?”
I’d compare myself to the rest of the world and to the best of me, I thought that I would never add up. My personal math has always been flawed; in which case, I never added myself properly. Instead, I was either subtracted or divided. I never knew or understood my math well enough to know how to add or multiply.

Mother, I lived so much of my years at an impasse. I’ve painted myself into corners (so-to-speak). I’ve deadlocked myself or positioned myself in places where there was not escape. All of this was due to the way I think or felt. I lived in my own mind – too deeply and too cautiously to love freely or to be completely vulnerable or open.
I was too afraid to be revealed. I was too afraid that somehow, someone was going to come along and pull the curtains on me – that I would be exposed and/or humiliated – that it would be seen and proved that I was flawed, imperfect and otherwise defective or invalid.

And Mother, I know this is not rational. I know that in all honesty; I am not so important that people are thinking about me constantly or at all times. And no, this is not paranoia. This is something called depressive thinking. However, when we find ourselves locked in the hysteria of anxiety, it seems like there’s always something in front of us too remind us of the danger we’ve left behind. The fear that this will creep up or come back to haunt us is real. Very real. I mean. let’s face it; you can’t get away from something you can’t outrun. Since no matter where you go, there you are – no one can outrun themselves or the consequences of their behavior. I wrote this down and call this out as a part of anxious thinking.

This is the idea that my flaws and my inaccurate (and irrational) version of myself is clear to everyone else – that everybody sees me and no matter how I dress, no matter how much money I have, no matter what job I get or the pretty statues and trophies that come with even a moderate display of success – the irrational fear is that one day, something is going to come along and take everything away from me – because in my unfair view of my life; there is something that leads me to believe that I am undeserving.
Or, that at best, my thinking does not believe in happiness or a life that goes happily ever after. Maybe this is only for fools. Maybe the idea of happily ever after belongs to dreamers and fools. Then again, if it is inaccurate to believe that no one can be happy all the time; then it must be equally untrue that life will be unhappy all the time.

I am writing to you now about the times when I thought the least of myself because I am trying to build a path where I can leave my past behind and think the most about myself.
I want to step away from my regrets or the regrettable yesterdays and the anxieties which are tied to the things that I cannot change.

I think about Cousin Courageous and his prison. Then I think about the subjects of mental illness and the prisons of the mind – as I see it, a prison is a prison. Whether this is physical and literal or figurative and emotional – I think that we are often locked up inside of our own head. Only, a physical prison is stocked with guards and wardens. Perhaps it would be best to understand that our emotional prison is stocked the same way; however, in this case, we are both the prisoners and the wardens. We can either release ourselves to be free or condemn ourselves and sentence us to life in solitary confinement with no hope, no parole or no time off for good behavior. In this case, we are the judge and we are the jury. At the same time, we stand here as the accused and guilty of all charges.

Cousin spoke to me about the fact that he was tired of life. He said that he was tired of living and that he had contemplated the idea of making the final jump.
He asked about me and about the story he had heard. Although the premise was accurate, his details were off. So, I explained myself to him and told him what had happened.

I spared the gruesome details to keep from glorifying the sadness or somehow commercializing the moment where I thought about pulling the switch. Cousin asked why I wanted to go so badly. He wanted to know in part, because to him, Cousin didn’t think there was anyone else who could understand.
Plus, he wanted to know because we are two different people from two different households and as much as we were different, there are parts of our stories that seem to be identical. 

I explained that depression is common. I told him about the commonalities of our thinking and that what we’ve gone through, whether different or the same and that what we think; whether this is different or the same is something that led us to a similar situation.

I told him that I never wanted to die as much as I wanted things to go away. But they never do. I never wanted to die as much as I wanted to take a break. I just needed to catch my breath but the world is always moving and the Earth is always turning. I told him that who I might seem to be or who I may appear to be does not always matching the person who I truly am.

I could never figure out why it is difficult or uncomfortable to be in crowds. I could never figure out why I thought the way I did or where these ideas came from. I never really understood why some people are popular and others are shunned or cast aside. None of this is fair by the way, but life has nothing to do with being fair, right?
I know there were messages from my youth and memories of rejection and bullying. I know there were times when I found myself in uncomfortable situations. I was hurt and, of course, the memories of certain injustices from my youth skewed the way I saw the world. This affected the way I formed healthy boundaries because the boundaries that I learned about were violated when I was young.
Then came the levels of inaccurate realizations. Then came the blame. Then came the resentment, the shame, and then came the frustration which led me to the belief that I am and will always be forever flawed. That somehow, something about me was beyond redemption, that if people truly knew me, they would hate me  – and, of course, I thought this way because since this is the way I saw myself, it would only be natural for me to believe that everyone else saw this too. 

So, yes. In short, I told Cousin where I was as a young man. I told him about the times when I dared the edge and offered myself to an untimely end – but for some reason, I survived. 

I was honest about this. In fact, I was brutally honest, which Cousin admitted that this was uncomfortable to hear – as if my vulnerability was too personal and too much for him or anyone else hear.
Why do you say this, he asked me. Why would you think this way about yourself?
I told him because I have this thing in me. I call it this because I choose to separate myself from it. I have this thing in me – like an emotional virus in which this alters my perception and causes me to catastrophize. I have this thing that can hijack my thinking.
Nobody wants to think this way. We certainly don’t want to know that someone we love or care for has these thoughts or feelings. But still, that does not stop this from being true. No one can cure this emotional virus. There might be ways to help the symptoms and methods to assist in improving our chemistry – but our science is our science and unless we learn to deal with our science to improve our thinking; people like me or people like “us” who live with depression or anxiety, we will always feel as if we are one step off the meter.

I told Cousin that I never wanted to die. I just wanted the thinking to stop. I wanted to vanish or disappear. I wanted the shame to go away. I wanted to feel better but I didn’t know how. Or better yet, I didn’t know if I deserved anything better. I believed in my flaws and my wrongs so deeply and so wholeheartedly that I shaded my perception with different shades of regret and guilt. 

He asked about the attempts and, Mother, I told him the truth. I told him what it was like to wake up afterwards and face the realization that A) I had just attempted this and that B) I failed at my approach.

He asked me what got me to get back up instead of going back at it again until I was successful. I explained that I was not a failure nor am I a suicidal failure. More accurately, I wanted to live but I just didn’t know how. I didn’t know how to stop the internal arguments or make the unwantable features go away.

I told him that we see warning signs. We see the red flags yet we ignore them. I told Cousin that this is all a symptom. I explained that these are the inaccuracies of our assumptions and we never challenge this. We simply follow along and believe that this must be true.
I’ve survived myself. I’ve achieved and succeeded in many ways. But yes, I still have this thing. I have a way of thinking which I have to address on a daily basis because life is filled with unfortunate surprises. Sometimes, it’s no surprise that we find ourselves in bad predicaments. There are times when this is not an accident. We turned off our intuition and shut our thinking down to a lower level. Therefore, we adjusted our belief system to go to the worst possible scenarios.

Mother, I am not ashamed of my emotional or mental challenges. No, I am not.
I have shame from my past. I have shame for things I’ve done. I am ashamed of my poor behaviors and I certainly have regret for the times when my behaviors defied who I truly am.
However, I told Cousin the same as I am telling you that this “thing” I have – call it anxiety disorder, call this medicated resistant, call this depression or call me crazy; I am working on making this better so I can live, and so this way, this thing in me and its whispers will no longer be louder than screams. 

Mother, I know that you once said this is uncomfortable for you to hear and that there were times when you blamed yourself. But blame does not help, nor does this solve the riddle of anxiety or depression. I think if we decide to skip the constant need for accountability or to know “why?” and if we forget about who’s to blame; maybe then we can discuss how we can recover.
How can we improve?
In part, I write this as a declaration to keep me safe and tell on myself by exposing the inaccuracy of my thinking. In part, I write this as an escape – or to release the tension and to keep the weight from building up.
In part, I write this to realize that we are all going through something. And, in part, I write this because I did survive. I’m still here and I want to keep it that way.

 I write this to whet my appetite and feed myself. At the same time, I write this to prove that I can overcome, to validate who I am is human, and to support myself by saying yes, that was me then . . . 

But this is me now. . .

Love always,

You son
B-

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