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Professional heart emoji

Over the years, I’ve been blessed with the best coworkers anyone could every wish for. Some turned into lasting friendships. Some were limited to really solid interactions at work, and a general feeling of goodwill and fondness when their name pop-up on my social media feeds. I’ve been to the weddings of several former coworkers. 10 years into my career, the number of people that I’ve worked with that have completely changed my life for the better is somewhere in the thirties or forties, whereas the number of really terrible clashes (the kind that toxify the work environment) is limited to 3. I only hope that I can positively impact half as many people in my life. #payitforward #gottagetcracking Highlights include:

Its been two years since I started working at my dream job. And sure enough, the trend continues. It is my dream job because this company hires the most incredible collection of hard-working, fun, dedicated, smart people.

But most importantly? My coworkers are kind.


There was that time this past summer when my situationship with Hickster was coming to an end, and he called me while at work. I took the call in the parking lot, hidden from my coworkers. It was a short and brutal call. I felt something break in me – no matter what I did, or how much I showed I cared, it would never be enough. Good Hickster had skipped town, and Broken Hickster enjoyed bullying me.

For 45 minutes, I hid in that parking lot, unable to stop the tears of shame and grief, worried that my absence would be noticed, yet too distraught to sneak back into the office. I noticed I had a missed call from CSD (update: he is back at the office, periodically runs 10k, and is kicking ass. What a dude!) I called CSD back, still sobbing, and asked if could he pretend he wasn’t talking to Emotional Vanilla, but talk to Kickass-Accountant Vanilla about wtv work issue he wanted to talk about, to distract me until I’d calmed down? Without skipping a beat or asking me to explain, he did. We discussed operational vs financial issues, strategy and approach, and after 20 minutes, I was all fired up and ready to fix all the problems of my company, my face still red, but more Bad-case-of-Allergies red, not OMG-my-entire-family-and-my-dog-got-hit-by-a-bus red. I thanked CSD for not thinking any less of me professionally when clearly my personal life was a trainwreck. “Don’t mention it. Everyone has shit going on. I would never judge you. Sides, I know you’ll fix this, your way, some day.”


I came down with the flu on NYE. On Jan 1, I managed to leave my bed for a total of 1 hour, to go hang out at the kitchen table for 40 mins around lunchtime, and 20 mins around supper time – that so exhausted me I required a 2 hour nap after each adventure. On Jan 2, I fainted in the shower, yet still managed to make it to work: nobody and nothing stops an accountant from closing her year end! By Jan 3, I’d lost 10lbs from never eating.  Today was the first day that I didn’t cough my lungs out in the morning. Progress!

Last Friday I started feeling under the weather again. Like I had a hangover, without having drunk anything. Exhausted, apathetic. I had a quiet weekend, bailing on plans with friends, too tired to work. Monday, I woke up feeling completely wrecked. My kidneys hurt, specifically the left side. Like the immediate after-effects of getting a solid body hook. A dull ache. Bad enough that I chose to stay home – the last time I took an actual sick day for being too unwell to go into the office? Can’t remember. I napped, worked a bit, and drank 6L of water.

By Tuesday, my fever had subsided and my kidney pain had decreased from dull achy pain to discomfort. I went to work: I had some overdue deliverables that were causing serious bottlenecks for too many people.  Year-end, yo. No joke. The one time an accountant cannot be sick. My team was scandalized when they heard my kidneys hurt + fever + no doctor. Go see a doctor, they urged. CSD told me I was probably at risk of irreversible renal scaring which could lead to renal failure. GO SEE A DOCTOR.

Wednesday morning, I dragged myself to my clinic for the drop-in hours. As per my recent experiences, there was no space for me, because I had showed up at 9am. I should show up 15 minutes before doors open… at 7:30 if I was serious about seeing a doctor, obvi. Y’all. I am not even awake by 7:30 on a good day, never mind when I am sick and weak and tired. So I went to work. CSD shook his head and bemoaned my impending death. My little GAB team-member was so upset, she took my Medicare card and spent her lunch hour trying to find me a doctor’s appointment using the online health care system. She failed. She signed me up for automatic text messages for any last minute openings at nearby clinics. When I missed one because I was in a meeting, she became so upset, she gave me the silent treatment for the rest of the day. As she left work at the end of the day, she threatened me, “Vanilla if you end up in the hospital, I might not visit you and I definitely won’t bring you any homemade cookies. GO SEE A DOCTOR.”


Kindness, yo. When my brain seeks to tell me I am unlovable, I am incredibly touched that the people with whom I spend so many hours in a given week would care so much about my well-being. These people know me, like I let very few people ever know me. And they think I’m alright.

My kidneys might be failing, but my shadow can suck it. I matter. My coworkers prove it.

#dreamjob

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Blond depression

I attended a fundraising event yesterday in honor of a foundation that is dear to my heart, founded, managed and run by a quartet of fearless women, friends I’ve known since uni. There, I ran into a friend that I’ve known since 2009. She has seen me go through ups and downs and my various reincarnations, from kickboxer to boxer to dancer. She commented on my blond hair, and asked me if I’d been having more fun.“Oh definitely. I mean I am depressed, but even so, I’m having way more fun than when I was a brunette. Blond depression over non-blond depression, any day. There is no going back. I can smile even though inside I feel like death.” She laughed, telling me that there would no doubt be a new entry into the next edition of the DSM – blond depression, the cuter, flirtier version of normal depression. The version of depression guys still wanna fuck.

Am I depressed? Yup. Without doubt. I wrote Rough Patch on November 19th, almost 3 weeks ago. Since then, I’ve displayed all the symptoms associated with a Major Depressive Episode, except for suicidal thoughts. Although, I might not have suicidal thoughts, but I do most fervently wish I could fall asleep and never wake up. I consider with a twisted mix of admiration, pity and marvel those people that are capable of ending their misery. It’s not any form of virtue or morality that stops me from doing so myself. It is just that my apathy and fatigue are so deep I cannot summon the wherewithal to come up with plan that doesn’t seem like too much effort. #silverlining

I’m failing at keeping my shit together. My performance at work is alarmingly bad. My bosses wonder, irritated at my inability to deliver anything, be it so minor as to show up before 10am, or answer 1/3 of the emails I receive in a 72 hour window. I think we are all hoping that if I can just somehow make it to the holidays, a 4 day break with no computer might do me good, and I’ll return, miraculously cured of wtv it is I am going through. I wake up every day at 7am, and it takes me almost 2 hours to talk myself into getting out of bed. So really, 10am is a remarkable achievement, but not exactly something imma boast about.

I withdraw from everyone. I cannot keep up any sort of social front. I collapse into tears at the smallest comment, and frequently have headaches from trying to not cry in public. I am deeply worried about work, but somehow that worry never translates into anything, because I am so exhausted by trying to appear normal in public – which I am abjectly failing at – that I cannot concentrate on anything.

I cannot blog – I have no words. Nothing worth saying

I cannot read.

I cannot watch a TV show.

I try coloring, and I panic at the choice of coloring pencils – what if I get it wrong?

The number of horrifying social meltdowns at work and at dance are multiplying. I sense people withdrawing from my negative cloud. She’s such a drama queen. Crying, again?! What are you, a child? You do realize that if you keep acting up, people around you will reach their “fuck it” stage, and fade from your life? Why do you think you are so special – everybody’s got shit to deal with. These are not my paranoid thoughts. These are comments coworkers and my dance team have said. I remember now why depression is such a taboo. While all of these comments fail to demonstrate any compassion or kindness whatsoever, they are not wrong. People do tire of vortexes of despair. Public meltdowns are drama. Employers do expect a certain level of productivity. Everybody does have shit to deal with. I’m trying my best, I swear. Nobody wins a participation medal for life. Life is like the Olympics or boxing. There are winners and there are losers, and there are better winners, and there are bottom of the barrel losers. Who and what you are matters.

And right now, I am nothing but an exhausted miserable mess.


I know my close friends and family will panic when they read this. Please don’t. The panic just adds to the guilt and feelings of inadequacy. I am not suicidal; I am depressed. I can be depressed and still know that I am loved. Unlike the previous depressions, I am no longer ashamed of that love. This is my 4th depression since 2010. If they can sustain this rate of mental health bullshit, I believe that they won’t recoil in horror, be disappointed or bounce.

I can be depressed and still recognize moments of kindness. A guy at the gym last week told me, “Hey. I read the last few posts. I won’t ask if you are ok, because you know you’re not. It worried me, but I know you’ll work through this. I’ve been there before, it sucks, so I want you to know I care, and I’ll be cheering you on as you fight that shadow.

I can be depressed and want to be alone, yet know that Allie & William, Dynamo, Coach, DD, my squad, my darling cousins, my uncles & aunts, my father, my godmothers, love me dearly.

Why blog at all if it is just going to cause alarm? See? There she goes again being an attention whore. SO much drama! I blog because depression feeds off shame. When my brain tries to steal my words, replacing them by tears, silencing my voice, writing, no matter how uninspired or non value-added this post might be, is a way to tell my brain to politely fuck off.

This isn’t my first rodeo with depression. I know the ropes. I will get through it, not unscathed, but I will get through it nonetheless.

Getting steamrolled by a musical train

My mother loved her classical music (exhibit A and B). For years, she tried to convince me to attend Montreal’s prestigious international music competition with her. It’s a pretty phenomenal concept: an annual competition, cycling through piano, violin and voice. There are several rounds, but the finals are 2 nights of full concertos for ridiculously cheap prices – with musicians that have the potential to be the next great soloists. I attended the piano competition with her in 2008, and the violin one in 2007. After that I grew too busy with work (exhibit C and D), and couldn’t make the time to maintain this activity with my mother. As with many things I shared with my mom, I’ve yet to face my shame and grief by attending this competition. Maybe next year.

I have trouble, usually, appreciating a new piece of music on the first listen. I need to listen to it over and over again, in order to be able to relax into it. Then one day, out of nowhere, usually when I am half listening while doing the dishes or folding laundry, it will suddenly slice through my brain and my heart and I will get it. I grew up listening to Brahm’s 2nd piano concerto in the car, all the time. I’ll never forget the day when I suddenly heard it for real, for the first time. We were patiently waiting to turn left at the red light intersection near our home. I remember the warmth of the sun through the car window on my arm, my mother driving in the front seat, how her sunglasses rested on her cheeks, the wind blowing through her rolled down window, the feel of car seat material against my thighs. A moment of wonderment, as I listened, truly listened, to that music for the first time. I was 9-10 years old, and it remains one of my most vivid memories, almost 25 years on.

At the 2007 violin competition, I discovered Prokofiev’s first violin concerto, which remains one of my favorite pieces ever: technically astounding, frothy and light, with an undercurrent of emotion to give you some feels. I was happily surprised at my ability to relax into the unknown and appreciate this new discovery. I patted myself on the back, chit-chatted with my Ma during intermission, listened an underwhelming Beethoven violin concerto, felt a little tired during the 2nd intermission and wondered how I’d survive a 3rd concerto, especially since it was another new discovery for me: Shostakovich’s 1st violin concerto.

From the very first sequence of notes, I sat, stunned. I listened as my life and my reality, in musical form, were played to me by strangers, written by a man long deceased from a land I’ve never visited, living in circumstances I’ll never know (Stalin’s reign of terror). I felt completely understood, emotions I’d never been capable of naming, perfectly expressed. I was exposed, vulnerable and raw, my persona and defenses stripped away by the truth of the music. It felt like I got hit by a train. That hangover lasted for days.

I didn’t know, in 2007, that my shadow wasn’t an occasional visitor, but my lifelong companion and nemesis. So I was confused why I could relate so strongly to Shostakovich’s 1st violin concerto, which is written from a place of pain, torment and anguish. I didn’t know, then.

10 years have lapsed, and I’ve yet to discover another musical piece that more completely gets all of me. It is me.


I wrote Rough Patch because writing is how I try work through things. Each post is true but cannot capture the whole truth: 750-1000 static words, a snap shot of a given moment in time. Family and friends reached out to me in a state of considerable alarm, which made me feel guilty – I voice my problems because voicing them helps me nullify my shadow’s attempt to foster corrosive shame, but in doing so I dim others’ happiness. Reassuring them about something that I cannot reassure myself about adds to the exhaustion of life.

I lost 4lbs from last week’s 6 hour cry fest. It took me 2.5 days to rehydrate adequately, and rebalance my electrolytes. No, I have not been spending every day crying, since. I even had a few moments of laughter this week. Am I still exhausted, and in that danger zone btn a funk and something much worse? Yes. Am I trying to take care of myself? Yes. I religiously go to the gym every Saturday, because seeing my #squaD is as good for the soul as the endorphins are for my brain. This week I treated myself to a bonus workout on Thursday, totally worth it, except now I have to catch up some stuff this weekend. I try eat fruits and veggies most days. My roommate took care of the fridge. I sleep a lot. I try answer most texts within 48hours so that I don’t feel a pit of guilt for being a bad friend.

This is depression. Some days it is really bad and messy. Some days I look mostly normal. All days feel like Shostakovich’s 1st violin concerto.

Rough patch

I was supposed to spend the day working, but instead I had a full-blown meltdown. I have a dehydration headache: I’m on hour 5 of crying. I hope I’m wrong, but I think I might have just crossed the line from funk into a real depressive episode. It feels mighty similar to the last episode in summer of 2014: over a period of 3-4 weeks, a sharp increase in frequency of rage blow ups, tears, hearing a few too many phrases that hit close to home (Robin Williams’ death), and then on the drive home from a vacation weekend in Qc city, I started crying, and cried non stop the whole way home. My poor father. 3 hours of driving next to a silent watering pot. Not fun.

What set me off this time? An innocent remark from a friend who witnessed my interaction with an Apple store salesperson. “Vanilla, you are so intense. You talk too much, often about shit that you don’t even know much about. You set up people’s backs, because you give the impression of talking just to hear yourself talk, you think you are so smart. And when you DO know what you’re talking about? You make suggestions that sound like orders. You might mean well, but you are too aggressive. Chill out, girl. You don’t need to have the answer, always. Especially if people didn’t ask you the question.”

Sometimes, the truth fucking hurts.

I do set up people’s backs. Often, especially at work. I’ve a long history of it, and no matter how hard I try, I haven’t demonstrated any noticeable improvement over the years. I don’t know how to avoid it. I listen to people based on their demonstrated intelligence (which I feel I am smart enough to evaluate for myself) and their capacity for problem solving. I mean, that is what we are all paid to do. Deliver. So if I feel I have relevant comments about delivery, yes, I will say them. I AM BEING PAID TO DO SO. Yes, my comments cover a broad range of topics, beyond accounting. Yes, I am fucking smart. No, I don’t start every sentence that way. Yes, I ruffle feathers. That is my job. I come across as some sort of machine, stripping people of their humanity, judging them for not being able to keep up with my brain.

But here is the thing. Fundamentally, I don’t believe in my own humanity. I am nothing more than an excellent accountant. I have nothing else. Literally.

  • I am 34, I have a roommate, I live in an un-decorated apartment, my fridge broke down 7 days ago, and I haven’t even started to look into buying a new one, because I have no time, and I never cook for myself. Hate cooking, in general, cooking for 1 is the most depressing thing ever, and I am never home, either working, working out or dancing.
  • Almost 8 years single. I’ve totally given up on dating, especially online. The guys that I have met in the past 3 years have been rather adept of stripping me of any self-respect, using me for my pussy, my brain, my useful problem-solving skills, my low-key easy company, never expressing any desire for any commitment whatsoever. If I did meet a guy who wanted commitment, I’d assume he was a liar. I wouldn’t know what to do with him, bc I’ve stopped believing anyone would find me worth investing in. My track record proves it.
  • I have no savings, because – and this is not an exaggeration – I spend thousands of dollars a year on Ubers, because that is the only way I can get my ass to work before 10am, because I am so exhausted by work and from keeping up the appearance of being normal. No, I don’t want a car, I don’t want another thing that I won’t have the time or energy to take care of, or the stress of rushhour. Yes, I might have to get one, just from an economics perspective.
  • I spend my free time working out. 5-15 hours a week. Kickboxing, boxing, dancing… the specific activity might change, but the habit is the same, the talent rather unexistent. As my cousin once wondered, someone who avoids being home that much is probably running away from their life. It’s not quite that. It is that I need the endorphins to keep my poisonous shadow at bay. And also, what else can I do with my time? Work more, sure, but even I get fed up of being a work horse. All my friends, my real friends, are busy with their lives, married with babies. I see them 3-6 times a year.

That’s it. That is all. I have nothing else, other than this tiny blog, which reminds me that I have a voice. The only thing I have going for me is my brain. So yes, I make suggestions, good ones, pertinent and on point. I speak up. I hold on tightly to the belief that in some capacity, I must be of use or valuable to somebody, be it only the corporation paying my salary. #howsthatforhumanity

But here is the even bigger paralyzing fear, the same one as in 2014. Every time work hits a certain level of pressure (60 hours, week after week), I can’t sustain it for very long. My brain short-fuses, and I spiral down a road of complete misery. The shadow takes over, the meltdowns increase, the number of bust-ups with people multiply. I slide into depression, a miserable existence that robs months and years of life from me.

My identity, the only purpose I serve in this life, is to be an accountant: it is contingent on my brain. And my brain betrays me when it matters most. I had hoped, so much, that going on medication for my ADD would help. But it doesn’t. I can’t handle the pressure levels required of any top-level professional… even by giving all of myself. Literally. My place is a disaster, my finances are a disaster, I have no personal life, no kids, no husband, no friends. All I have is work, and I can’t keep up.

I quit my job in 2014 because of my depression. It broke my heart. I loved my job. But I couldn’t bear the misery of my life and hoped that by opting for something less stressful, I could still fulfill my need of being a valuable, smart accountant, without putting myself in an environment that would eventually push my shadow to kill me. I changed the entire course of my career to accommodate my sick brain.

Here I am 3 years later, and despite making lifestyle changes to keep my brain happy (regular exercise and medication), despite a job that I love so much… I can’t keep up.

So where does that leave me? By every humane metric, my life is a complete failure. My sick brain, yet again, seems keen on sabotaging my career.

Hour 6 of crying.

 

My current soul twin is a 22yr old

Because I’m mature like that.

Local talent deserves to be celebrated. Introducing Charlotte Cardin, a 22yr-old bilingual Montrealer, that must take the music world by storm. That voice – just listen to her live audition here.

 

Not gonna lie, I’ve been listening to this particular song on loop recently. The lyrics are on point. Doing a bit better, especially after getting one of Coach’s amazing talking-tos last week – I’m behind in my blogging, hope to get that one done by the weekend. Meanwhile, work is keeping me busy, getting me reacquainted with Career Vanilla, who has been MIA since returning from France this summer, too exhausted and sad to make an appearance.

I’m gonna be ok.

Coloring when colorblind

My current funk is a pretty bad one. Crying at work in the bathroom, feeling fragile. Obvi, my concentration is shit, trying to focus through this fog. A lot of effort is being spent appearing normal, and I am not quite sure I am succeeding. Given the gravity of the situation, I have been resorting to some pretty extreme measures:

  • Forced social time with ppl I feel safe with –> bc my shadow’s #1 goal is to isolate me and drown my emotional brain with narratives that imply I am unlovable. As my grasp on reality weakens, there remains certain ppl I know love me unconditionally, with whom I can be my unwell self without judgment. Dynamo. My cousins. Allie.
  • Lots and lots of downtime, to recover from the strain of socializing with those people –> It feels embarrassing to require 1 hour of alone time for every hour spent in public, but so it is right now. I NEED the time-out, without it I am filled with despair. I need to recharge from the effort of appearing normal, a Herculean task.
  • Exercising with Coach 3 times a week until my mental health stabilizes –> No bailing, under any circumstances. That means skipping dancing on Tuesdays, getting my shit together at work to leave “early” at 6pm on Thursdays, and setting my alarm on Saturday mornings.

This weekend, I went to the gym and as expected, almost died during Coach’s workout. That gym really is my happy place.

Everyone who walks into the gym is looking for an escape from the outside world. Yes, the same can be true of a yoga studio. But here, people are looking for a reprieve from the tangle of thoughts, emotions, and frustrations that is a necessary by-product of being alive through the action of hitting an inanimate punching bag over and over again. It’s a safe haven that allows a person to work through whatever they need to work through, surrounded by people doing the exact same thing. The particulars of each individual’s tangled mess is irrelevant; everyone has preoccupations, and the gym is our way to work through our shit. People who walk through the door are looking for the freedom of a few hours when socially acceptable constraints are no longer required. The punching bags become the recipient for every harsh word that was bitten back through the day, every slight that was received, every injustice, every worry. For a few hours, the world stops pushing, and we can push back as hard as we want, without any consequences. Bliss.

I hadn’t realized how corrosive the dance environment can be for my body-image: my team-mates describing me factually, never meanly, as “too heavy for so-and-so, well of course you are tired, you partnered with Vanilla, you are used to dancing with Blonde, she’s light as a feather, watch your back, don’t get injured. I hadn’t noticed how often now I scrutinize my appearance wondering if I really DO look that much bigger than all the other girls, maybe I am in denial, maybe I am wrong for thinking I am healthy. Dance IS an aesthetics based art. There are norms, the audience must find the dancers appealing etc. At social events, guys ask the girls they find most attractive to dance, until a girl earns herself a reputation for being a fantastic follower – and even then, looks factor heavily in the balance. That is all understandable. It just fucks with my mind. I need the counter-narrative provided by my gym, where skinny is NOT good, and muscles are celebrated: when I, or any of the girls, lift as much as some of the guys, it is praised, by Coach AND the other guys. One of the best boxers at the gym is an Olympian and two-time Worlds medalist: the male boxers boast if they survive a round of sparring with her, “Yo man, her hooks to the body! Siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiick, I need to find a way to generate as much power as her. Wow, she’s amazing!” A strong body is a sexy body. Strong body, strong woman, fuck aesthetics, own your power, be an Amazon. That’s the vision celebrated by Coach & the guys at the gym.

On the way home from the gym, I stopped at my favorite place in Montreal, Park Lafontaine. Just to feel the sun on my face, enjoy my feet in the cool water of the lake and sit. Doing nothing. Taking a breather. A time out.

Saturday, I wanted to go dancing. Bc of the team, and all the practices and shows, I no longer go dancing often for dancing’s sake. I felt dread at the prospect of strangers, proximity, connection, uuuuuugh. So I applied one of my new rules: spend time with someone I feel safe with. Blonde on my team makes me feel safe.  I do not feel judged when I am with her. She encouraged me to attend the dance event, so I did. I felt bloated and gross, and multiple partners told me I was too stiff, to relax. I was not having fun, always irritated with my partners, and frustrated with myself. Blonde pumped me with shots of alcohol and encouraged me to keep trying, and by the last hour of the night, I found myself smiling while dancing. It took me 4 hours to get to that space of openness & vulnerability required for dancing, but I made it! #smallvictories

Sunday, I spent the morning with Dynamo and his wife. I love them so. But 3 hours of love and brunch wiped me out. I sought refuge chez moi, and spent the afternoon coloring.

Overall, this weekend did me good. It was hard, at times, so hard. EXHAUSTING. But I did what needed to be done to manage my shadow, and found moments of contentment. Contentment is not the same thing as joy, my IG Crema filter is still firmly in place, but this weekend, and all it’s small victories, gave me enough ammunition to stop my shadow from changing the filter to Moon (black & white).

Right now, that’s worth celebrating.


Recap of the current funk:

A different kind of colour blind

I have lovely friends. Several reached out to me after my last post, just to remind me they are there. One girl in particular – she doesn’t get depression. We’ve had so many talks about it before; she sees how miserable I am, she worries, but she doesn’t get it. Can’t I just trick myself into feeling better? Fake it till I make it? Practice optimism?

That’s cute.

No, I can’t.

As in, I actually can’t. I fully acknowledge the benefits of optimism. I try avoid negativity whenever possible – it is such a drag at work, or in group dynamics. I look to assume positive intent, to see the good in people and the situation. Fucking hard, oftentimes sometimes, but I work very hard at it. I aim to extend to others the same compassion I hope to receive when I am struggling. I can do all that and still be depressive.

Depression is the inability to feel joy. It’s like waking up one day and being color blind.  My current funk is nowhere as drastic as my 2014 depression where I woke up one day in a world of claustrophobic grey. It didn’t matter that I knew that just the day before the sun was bright and the sky was blue; it didn’t matter that I could remember those colors. I was living in a world of grey. For the past two years, I’ve been mostly symptom-free, experiencing the full rainbow of emotions, discovering for the first time what it meant to be alive. I’d say that my current funk is more like living in a world where the Instagram Crema filter has been applied: everything is dimmed, and occasionally the saturation drops to almost nil. My capacity to feel deeply, especially deep happiness, is gone. I can optimistically believe that I will overcome this funk by diligently applying my toolbox: but I am still living in a bland world, and cannot see the bright variety of colours for what they are.

On Monday, I didn’t wanna go to kuduro. But the cornerstone of my tool box is exercise and kuduro = #sweatlife, so I made myself go. I vaguely remembered that once upon a time I loved kuduro, but that love was completely absent on Monday. I wanted a nap. In dance class, we learned a new choreography. It was fast, tricky footwork. I struggled to keep up. I came close to walking out of class several times: this is stupid, I’m a shit dancer, I can’t even count to 8, I look like a newborn giraffe, why the fuck am I here, I hate this, there’s no point. But vanity stopped me: that would be diva behavior, worthy of censure, and a poor reflection on the school & team. I’m no diva. Towards the end of class, I stopped trying to drown out those negative voices – impossible anyhow – and channeled my remaining energy on merely executing the steps (instead of dancing aka expressing myself).

 

Now, I KNOW I love dancing. I KNOW that kuduro makes me feel alive – I’ve documented it extensively in this blog. I can reread those posts all I want, I am the same physical person… but my depressive state makes that joy inaccessible. It has stolen my pleasure.

My rational brain knows my emotional brain is fucking around. But that’s the thing with emotions – they override reason. It doesn’t matter that my brain knows that my emotions are false, untrue, incorrect. These feelings dictate my reality. And to the extent my rational brain understands that this perceived emotional reality is false and unreliable… that adds a layer of confusion, doubt and exhaustion to every moment of the day.

It feels like a war. A constant battle between my two brains. The rational brain fighting to have its balanced, reliable, reality acknowledged and the emotional brain seeking to cover everything in this dark shadow that shuts out love, joy, happiness and sunshine. It is exhausting. “I know that I exist in a world of color and that even though I am only seeing shades of grey right now, the bleakest of views, I am probably ACTUALLY surrounded by vivid colors. But I can’t tell. I can’t feel.” And just like a color blind person can’t fake it by wearing colored lenses, I can’t fake it by plastering a smile on my face and hoping that will result in me feeling better eventually. A depressive person is incredibly skilled at smiling and appearing normal.

It almost seems like a cliché to say comedy comes from pain, but real comedy is connected to the deep pain and anguish we all feel. I worked with Robin Williams in an obscure film called Club Paradise. (…) Robin is one of the most deeply melancholy people you’ll ever meet. You can just see it all over him. It’s what makes him so human, and I love and respect him. Deep down, Bill (Murray) is as serious as a person can be. He’s raging, angry, and full of grief and unresolved emotions. He’s volcanic. Comedy gives them a place to work out ideas and entertain – and these guys love to entertain – but they want you to know they feel. (…) You go see Robin Williams do standup, and you can’t get more laughs than that. I’ve been onstage. I know what it feels like to have those waves of laughter. It’s like being bathed in love. Once you’ve had it, it’s like a drug. It wears off, and then you need something more. I want the audience to feel something more than that. I want them to feel my pain. – Harold Ramis (Sick in the Head, Judd Apatow, p.126)

If the battle is long enough, and the emotions vicious and destructive enough… that’s why the Robin Williams and the Chester Benningtons of this world seek the bliss of permanent silence.


I got this message today from a friend from my extended social circle:

I’m so proud of you! You’re opening up and addressing important mental health issues. My friend was talking about her struggle with depression and I gave her my phone so she could read the article you posted the other day. She was trying to find words to explain to me how she feels and I just said – read this. And then, when she was done reading, she said “Yup! That’s me”. It allowed us to have a really great conversation once it was out in the open. So thank you.

I’m clearly doing not that badly, because I did feel something reading that. Possibly that was my rational brain jumping up and down excitedly, sticking out its middle finger at my emotional brain, and shouting, “SEE, motherfucker?! Vanilla DOES have a voice, she DOES have painful stories, and she WILL continue writing.”