insecurities

Creatures of the underworld can’t afford to love

But Vanilla… why do you go for such LOSERS?

I gravitate towards ppl that I can relate to – the broken ones trying to overcome their struggles, whether external or self-inflicted. While my friends all have their shit together, successfully adulting and don’t ever make me feel judged, I don’t want to sleep with any of them. I’m attracted to the complex and the tricky. Unfortunately, complex, tricky and broken individuals, while fascinating, are rarely capable of kindness and empathy bc they are too busy trying to work through their own demons. And so I break even more, and my shadow celebrates.


June: During my annual bday workation in France, a senior VP invited me out for a business supper, networking with a client and our Eastern European sales team. That night, SVP met professional Vanilla, which is the best version of Vanilla: smart, sassy, charming, authentic, with integrity and drive. A good evening.

July: One week-day, in the middle of the afternoon, I got a phone call from Hickster. Hickster is Hickster – swept me off my feet, without warning. One is never sure what the outcome will be: like a hurricane, he sometimes strips away superfluous stuff, revealing underlying beauty that got muddled by life’s modifications and sometimes inflicts deep wounds and scars. On this July day, the conversation went sour, fast. I sought refuge in a nearby conference room, to spare my coworkers the distraction of overhearing a vicious, petty fight. Mid-fight, SVP walked in: unbeknownst to me, he was visiting our Mtl offices as he is wont to do every 6 weeks, and had set up the conference room as his temporary office. He paused in the doorway, shocked by my tear-stained face. I tried to end the convo with Hickster, who was too busy ranting to realize we’d been interrupted. SVP whisked himself out of the room, and I wrapped up the fight, mortified.

Later that day, SVP came by my desk, “Is everything alright? Don’t answer that. But if I may: in all my years experience, it is never warranted to let anything or anyone upset you that much. Nothing in any area of your life should dim your joy, fix it so it doesn’t. And if you need help fixing it, find the people that will help you and be sure to ask them for help.”

August: SVP was back in our offices, set himself up in the same conference room, near my desk. I was working late one night, when Hickster called me. A normal conversation until I blinked and Hickster displayed his mean side. I never could handle mean – I cave and cry. And cry I did, listening to Hickster’s diatribe of how I’d slighted him. SVP sauntered up to my desk, I believe to ask me to join him and some other managers for a night cap. Seeing my tears, he left me my privacy. We did not mention it when we saw each other the next day.

September: Another SVP visit. He looked rather apprehensive when he saw me, no doubt anticipating the moment I’d morph into an unstoppable fire hydrant of tears. With every day that I behaved with typical professional decorum, he relaxed. On the last day of his stay, in an avuncular manner, he asked me whether everything was good, at work and in life? Yes? Good.

Traumatizing senior management by hysterical and sudden meltdowns, due to an inability to keep my personal life under control: NOT a recommended approach to being noticed at work by the higher-uppers.


Tuesday afternoon. Phone call from Hickster. I could tell from the moment I answered that it would be a bad one. There’s no point avoiding them: he calls repeatedly, leaves upsetting voice notes and texts that echo in my head and make me feel dizzy from hurt. I naively believed that if I appealed to the Good Hickster, Broken Hickster would subside. Broken Hickster did not subside. 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. He celebrated his birthday this weekend, a poignant moment, given that doctors had told him in the spring that without a liver transplant, his odds of surviving till September were slim. 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.”  


But Vanilla, why do you go for such losers?

Because I am a creature of the underworld. This time last year, I was ending things with Beaut. I think back fondly on the quaint dysfunction of that relationship, now. #perspective

In all my years experience, it is never warranted to let anything, or anyone, upset you that much. Nothing should dim your joy, and if it is, fix it so it doesn’t. And if you need help fixing it, find the people that will help you and be sure to ask them for help.

It took me 3 months to apply SVP’s words of wisdom. Better late than never. Too shaken by the end of wtv-it-is you call the interactions with someone who mattered but never had an official title, I needed someone to kindly nudge me along.

If Oprah says so, it must be true.

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Depression and exit strategies …….. the holy grail of depression sufferers

I went for drinks with some friends and friends of friends last night. One dude, who I’ll call OG, recounted a story of how he broke up with his ex after her 2nd suicide attempt. How he’d felt trapped and tricked. She’d looked so normal for the first 2 years, emotionally volatile, sure, but normal. After the first suicide attempt he learned she’d tried other times, before him. This was a recurring mental issue, one that might kill her and would inevitably derail his own life. He felt he had no choice but to make the best decision for his own life and future, and leave her. Leaving her freed him up to focus on building up his own life, success and well-being. However, almost a decade on, she still refuses to talk to him. One of his friends hypothesized that his ex felt shame, “Sometimes, when you’ve acted in a way that was just too awful and unacceptable, you can’t face any reminders of that, the shame is too painful.”

I stayed quiet throughout that conversation, which I regret.

I didn’t say that I suffer from depression.

I didn’t say that OG’s comments confirms one of my deepest insecurities: anyone who gets to know the real me, and meets my shadow, will run, will deem me unworthy the effort of loving, I come with too much baggage.

I didn’t say that this is why I’ve chosen to remain single for 7 years now. I don’t think I can survive another instance of giving all of myself, working through the terror of vulnerability, attempting to build a life with someone, only for it to fall apart because the burden of my shadow is too heavy to bear. I chose a life of loneliness, limiting how much I inflict my depression on friends and family, rather than face the unbearable pain of being rejected. I also chose loneliness because I don’t ever want to be the reason someone holds back on living their life, choosing to stick with me & my sickness out of loyalty. My shadow stifles my dreams and happiness. I don’t think I could accept if it stifled anyone else’s too. I completely understand and respect OG’s decision to leave the girl.

I didn’t say that they’d gotten it all wrong. The shame is not derived from the “unacceptable” act of trying to take one’s life – only someone who has never suffered from depression would think that suicide is unacceptable or selfish. Without ever having met the girl, or been present in that decade-old saga, I would argue that the girl deems OG’s actions as concrete proof that she is unlovable, something to be abandoned once her true self is revealed. A depressive spends all day every day trying to survive, look normal, hide the mess from the world. On the rare occasions that a depressive reveals their true self to anyone – something incredibly traumatic and shameful – being rejected gives their sick brain all the ammunition necessary to convince them they are worthless. Having to face a reminder of that? Unbearably painful. I too would be incapable of facing such a reminder.

I didn’t say that I admired the girl – 10 years is a lot of years to put up with a sick brain, good for her for still being alive.

#weallhaveexitstrategies

black dog

I was speaking to another “depressive”(someone who suffers from depression – usually with Generalised Anxiety Disorder and possibly Stress thrown in for shits and giggles — I might have just made that word up, but it seems to work, so I am going to leave it there) a week or two ago and we were chatting about shit and things and really playing catch up.

We had not seen each other in quite some time, so it was a very nice catch up and we did spend a lot of the time laughing, and snorting.

The conversation took a turn and we started speaking about the fact that we both suffer from Depression — not the “here take one pill and call me in the morning kind” but the sort that takes you 13 years of therapy to really understand what it is you are working with.

Years of enduring…

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The show must go on

Moulin Rouge. Baz Luhrmann’s fantastical take on the novel La Dame aux Camélias & the opera La Traviata (my favorite opera). Nicole Kidman’s character is a blazée, beautiful cancan dancer who falls in love with a penniless but respectable writer (Ewan McGregor). Practical considerations (money) trap her in her lifestyle, subject to the patronage of a vain, occasionally violent, jealous, rich Duke. The decision to renounce her true love leads to heartache, and misery. She finally breaks free from the Duke only to die in Ewan’s arms from tuberculosis, contracted from a previous client.

Moulin Rouge is a movie about “truth, beauty, freedom and love“. It is also about the struggle to achieve each of those virtues, in the face of Life’s propensity to repeatedly sucker punch all of us. Those who dared to dream in this movie were rewarded by heartbreak or death. Watching it at 15 years old, I was swept away by the romantic pathos of it all. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that it is a very melancholy movie, albeit delightfully packaged with style, humor and dramatic flair. One particular scene that is not frequently cited (unlike Jim Broadbent singing Like a Virgin, or the brilliant/disturbing Roxanne scene) has always haunted me. It is the moment when Nicole Kidman gives up her fragile belief in her right to happiness.

Zigler: You’re dying, Satine. You’re dying. (…)

Satine: I was a fool to believe, a fool to believe. It all ends today. Yes, it all ends today.

Zigler: (…) You are a great actress Satine, make him believe you don’t love him. Use your talent to save him. Hurt him to save him. There is no other way. The show must go on, Satine. We’re creatures of the underworld. We can’t afford to love.

Satine & Zigler: Today’s a day when dreaming ends.

Zigler: Another hero. Another mindless crime, behind the curtain in the pantomime. On and on, does anybody know what we are living for? Whatever happened? We leave it all to chance. Another heartache, another failed romance. On and on, does anybody know what we are living for? The show must go on, the show must go on. Outside the dawn is breaking on the stage that holds our final destiny. The show must go on, the show must go on!

Satine: Inside my heart is breaking, my make-up may be flaking but my smile still stays on.

Zigler: The show must go on. The show must go on.

Satine: I’ll top the bill. I’ll earn the kill. I have to find the will to carry on with the show.

Zigler : The show must go on.

 

Watching it, 16 years ago, I felt an odd recognition – this scene captures how I see life.

“Inside my heart is breaking, my make-up may be flaking but my smile still stays on.” 

I didn’t know at 17 years old that my shadow would turn out to be my constant companion. But I did know how to appear normal, even though I felt anything but normal on the inside, like my heart was about to split open from the sadness it carried. As I’ve gotten older, this has become even more true: I’ve become an excellent actress so as to avoid vulnerability: nobody asks questions when it looks like you got your shit together.

“We’re creatures of the underworld. We can’t afford to love.”

A coworker asked me recently, after a few too many beers, “Vanilla, this is going to sound awful, I can’t find the words to phrase this properly, but you are a beautiful, sexy, smart, accomplished professional, with an amazing life ahead of you… why do you go for such losers in your dating life? Why don’t you find somebody with the same life situation as you?” My coworker was referring to Athletico, Beaut and Hickster. I pointed out that each one, although not as educated as me, nor pursuing a traditional corporate lifestyle, had risen to the top of his respective field, and was respected for his athletic track record; any athlete that can successfully monetize their skills has street smarts, dedication, perseverance, talent and work ethic. So however terrible their grammatical skills, they can not be fairly labeled losers when it comes to their careers. But my coworker didn’t mean that. He meant that they are living trainwrecks and haven’t mastered the concept of honesty.

It’s taken me months to figure out why I gravitate to these guys, and why I feel so alive in the boxing and dancing world. I belong. These guys all have good streaks, so much of their characters is worthy of admiration and respect. But they also have this dark side to them, and they are caught up in the struggle of their two sides. Often their dark side wins, causing them to act in ways that is harmful to themselves and those around them. I get that. Every day is an internal struggle -against my ADD, my shadow and the lazy, mean, irresponsible and cowardly Vanilla that constantly undermines the hard work of good, kind and sweet Vanilla. So many of my friends and coworkers appear to have mastered the whole adulting concept, lives cleanly scrubbed and responsible; while I kinda wish I could adult like them, I also know that I’d hate it. I love/hate the struggle, but it is my struggle. It proves to me I am alive. These men that struggle and periodically fail at realizing their best selves makes me feel less different. I relate. I too am a creature of the underworld.

“On and on, does anybody know what we are living for? Whatever happened? We leave it all to chance.”

I haven’t found my purpose. I drift through life, too exhausted by the fight against my shadow to dream, or pursue proactively my happiness.

“The show must go on.”


Disclaimer: I know my posts sometimes alarm my readers, especially friends and family. My funk is still firmly in place, but it is not spiraling out of control: I’ll take treading water over being swept willy-nilly by the current of depression. I’m doing my best to fight it, but it’s hard. I promise I am trying.

Recap of the current funk:

Play to your strengths 

Remember Ferrari boy? He whose smooth talk convinced me to eat too much pizza at work? When I told the Ferrari story to my #dreamteam, they scoffed at me – Charmer was over 30, for sure. I scoffed at them: I’ve developed a 6th sense at identifying all guys under 26 years old. The gym and the dance world is crammed with good looking almost-children charmers. I ain’t into the whole cradle-robbing thing. Auntie Vanilla, that’s me. Not Cougar Vanilla. Charmer was under 25, I could tell. I bet a week’s supply of chocolate on it.

He is 30. My team was thorough in their interrogation, even sharing with him the reason for their cross-examination – they don’t mess around when there is chocolate on the line.

I skipped the caf for almost 2 weeks. Auntie Vanilla was embarrassed. My team was delighted. They finished the chocolate in 2 days.


When I was 25, after 6 years with my ex, Dynamo and Brown Socks organized a road trip to TO. We were all single, why not behave irresponsibly in a city where nobody knew us? Our first night out, Brown Socks told me not to worry, he’s an excellent wingman, he’d help me find myself a dude. Bruh. Puh-lease. Watch me. Off I went to the best looking group of dudes at the bar, chatting them up, flirting up a storm with the best looking one of them, blond, built like a football linebacker – oh no way, you are a football player? Where? at UofT! Neat, wait how are old are you? 20?! Haha, noooooooooooo way, nice try, look at your muscle tone. You must be 23-24 at least. Footballer chose not to argue with me about his own age, #goodmanners. A few shots later, we were swapping saliva. In the bar, bc #classy. Footballer knew what he was doing (see?! proof he couldn’t actually be 20 years old!). Kissy kiss kiss, I was really enjoying myself when my brain interrupted: Yes, but are you sure he isn’t 20? The half-your-age+7 rule almost applies, you know. He has to be over 19.5 for you not to be crossing the line. Why would he lie about his age? And that is how I found myself putting the torrid make-out session on pause, and asking Footballer for a piece of ID. Bemused, he handed me his driver’s license. Born in 1990. 20 years old.

My legs gave way. I sat down, gave him back his driver’s license and apologized. No more kissy kiss kiss. Yes, I know we were having fun, but that was before I understood he was actually 20 and BORN THE DECADE AFTER ME. 1990 is a HARD LIMIT. Poor Footballer tried SO hard to convince me to resume our spit-tastic interactions. I waved him away.

Dynamo and Brown Socks almost fell off the balcony, laughing so hard. They giggled the entire drive home the next day, too.

Click on the gif to go to the YouTube video of that interview. It is soooooo funny.


7 years on, and my capacity to assess people’s age has clearly not improved. 

Friday, I went down to the caf for lunch. Charmer almost dropped a bowl of soup on his coworker as I walked up to the counter. He was so generous in his preparation of my order that he ran out of space in the normal sized takeout container, and gave me a 2nd container for my salad. As he handed me my food, very seriously, he told me, Vanilla you look good. Really good.

Look at all that food! The size of my head!


Lesson learned: Charmer responds rather well to mini-skirts. That was one of the most cost effective lunches ever. The fact that it was also an ego boost? Priceless.

Also? I’ve no idea how I ever thought he was 19-23 years old. #fail #atleastIdidntaskhimforID #agoodbossalwaysdelegatesthattoherteam

“Kizomba will change your life”

So says Teacher. Teacher is prone to grandiose and/or hyperbolic statements, and teaching kizomba is his life’s work, so this is a reasonable comment coming from him. But I’m an accountant, y’all. His world and my world have little in common.


I’ve never made friends easily. Social situations still trigger the same bewilderment, dismay and hurt as an adult as they did when I was a child. I mostly blame ADD: it is very difficult to assimilate all the inputs into my brain and organize coherent, timely responses. Cue apparent inattentiveness and impulsiveness, which is not helpful in social settings. I’ve developed 2 public personas: 1) aloof, reserved, polite but very standoffish professional who keeps convos brief and to the point 2) the social butterfly, stopping to say hello, but flitting off to welcome the next person before a full sentence has been uttered. Both personas have been extremely useful in masking my ADD and periodic breach of manners. But they are not helpful in making friends.

My close friends (Dynamo, Allie, Coach, DD, Blond’Fro) have been made through the persistent efforts of these individuals, at university, work and gym/boxing. Through frequent and repetitive interactions, they saw past my 2 personas and got used to my quirky self, while I grew to trust that they will treat me with kindness even when I mess up. I make friends despite myself, very very gradually, over years.


I started dancing kizomba about 9 months ago. What I thought was a rejection of the sexy (I walked out of my first kizomba class after 15 mins, so uncomfortable was I by the proximity of my dance partner, a guy I’d happily danced with for 2 months in salsa class) was in fact a rejection of the necessary state of vulnerability for two dance partners to connect and dance. It’s been an arduous journey to embrace the connection between me and each dance partner, and it’s something I still struggle with regularly, especially in the midst of this funk, much to my partners’ frustration.

Earlier this month, the presence of the Vermont franchise of Teacher’s dance school was requested in Montreal, rather unexpectedly. Chatting with one of the members, I learned the VT crew was having difficulty finding reasonably situated or priced accommodation on such short notice. On impulse, I offered them floor space in my apartment: if they brought their gear, they could camp chez moi for free. It would involve some planning, as I was not going to be home – it was Allie’s bachelorette – but as long as they came to find me and picked up my spare keys, I was totally cool with them setting themselves up in my absence.

Y’all. Hosting 4-5 ppl, whom I have met a handful of times over the past 9 months, chez moi, in my space, would have been outside the realm of possible realities a year ago. And yet, when I think back to all that’s happened in the year that I’ve been dancing under Teacher’s tutelage:

  • December 2016: Teacher convinced me (after 3 months of dancing) to attend a huge festival in Madrid, where I knew nobody other than him and his dance partner, and I crashed in their hotel room with 2 other ppl I’d never met before – incidentally, that’s the weekend I first met one of the VTers: all the other VTers I met in 2017.
  • March 2017: Dubai. Attending a festival alone. Forging deep friendships with several strangers over that 4 day period. Fast forward to June, my annual birthday workation in France, and why not stop by Toulouse, and meet up with Froman? 4 days in Dubai has translated into a legit, real friendship. The list of ppl I met in Dubai that I hope to cross paths with once again, and still keep in touch with, is long. Some are regular readers of this blog. Kinda blows my mind.
  • May 2017: I went camping (first time in my adult life!) with Blonde, a guy from our dance squad, and 2 other strangers. I slept in a tent (words I never expected to write during my lifetime) with Blonde who I’d known for less than 4 months at that point and a dude I’d known for less than 12 hours. And I enjoyed myself while camping with these ppl.
  • August 2017: Opening up my apartment to my VT colleagues. It was an absolutely lovely weekend. I had so much fun showing them around my neighborhood, eating coffee and breakfast sandwichs in the park next to my place, and getting to know them. We danced too much, laughed a lot, and when it came time to say our goodbyes, one of the VTers told me “that was nice. I liked you before, but I like you even more now.”

All of this would have been impossible 12 months ago. 2 years ago? Laughable.


Clearly my life has changed since taking up kizomba. And it all boils down to vulnerability.

So this is what I learned. We numb vulnerability — when we’re waiting for the call. It was funny, I sent something out on Twitter and on Facebook that says, “How would you define vulnerability? What makes you feel vulnerable?” And within an hour and a half, I had 150 responses. Because I wanted to know what’s out there. Having to ask my husband for help because I’m sick, and we’re newly married; initiating sex with my husband; initiating sex with my wife; being turned down; asking someone out; waiting for the doctor to call back; getting laid off; laying off people. This is the world we live in. We live in a vulnerable world. And one of the ways we deal with it is we numb vulnerability.

And I think there’s evidence — and it’s not the only reason this evidence exists, but I think it’s a huge cause — We are the most in-debt … obese … addicted and medicated adult cohort in U.S. history. The problem is — and I learned this from the research — that you cannot selectively numb emotion. You can’t say, here’s the bad stuff. Here’s vulnerability, here’s grief, here’s shame, here’s fear, here’s disappointment. I don’t want to feel these. I’m going to have a couple of beers and a banana nut muffin.

You can’t numb those hard feelings without numbing the other affects, our emotions. You cannot selectively numb. So when we numb those, we numb joy, we numb gratitude, we numb happiness. And then, we are miserable, and we are looking for purpose and meaning, and then we feel vulnerable, so then we have a couple of beers and a banana nut muffin. And it becomes this dangerous cycle. (…)

But there’s another way, and I’ll leave you with this. This is what I have found: To let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, vulnerably seen … to love with our whole hearts, even though there’s no guarantee — and that’s really hard, and I can tell you as a parent, that’s excruciatingly difficult — to practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror, when we’re wondering, “Can I love you this much? Can I believe in this this passionately? Can I be this fierce about this?” just to be able to stop and, instead of catastrophizing what might happen, to say, “I’m just so grateful, because to feel this vulnerable means I’m alive.” And the last, which I think is probably the most important, is to believe that we’re enough. Because when we work from a place, I believe, that says, “I’m enough” … then we stop screaming and start listening, we’re kinder and gentler to the people around us, and we’re kinder and gentler to ourselves.

Brené Brown, The Power of Vulnerability

To dance is to (attempt to) embrace vulnerability. And just like you can’t selectively numb emotion, I don’t think I can selectively embrace vulnerability.

I’ve become more vulnerable, and as a result, my capacity to connect to people off the dance-floor has completely changed for the better.

“Kizomba will change your life.”

Fact.

When a post about toolboxes turns into a post about constipation

Step 1 to fighting my shadow is always going back to Coach and his workouts at the gym. His nick-name is Dr. Booté (as explained here and here) because he is “good for the booty and good for the soul.” Which is 100% true. How many ppl do you know who have this much fun while suffering?

 

I went once last week. I felt immediately more stable. That gym tho. It truly is a remarkable place. A safe haven.

I went on Tuesday, where we lifted very heavy shit, and did a circuit to end all circuits.

I went yesterday. I had a knot in my left thigh. Coach massaged it, I did squats, and felt a 2nd knot forming. By the end of the workout (which included another circuit to end all circuits – Coach is extremely creative in his methods to make us suffer and sweat!), I was pretty sure my leg had transformed itself into one giant knot. No muscle, no fat, no bone, just knot. Today, I woke up and apparently I’ve put on 5lbs overnight: water retention, my body’s usual reaction to brutal workouts as it attempts to heal itself. Also? I’ve been constipated for the past 3 days, my body’s usual reaction to extreme stress. Am I stressed at work? Yeah kinda, but really? my body is stressed because IT THINKS I AM DYING FROM BRUTAL PHYSICAL ASSAULT.

Who said going to the gym was good for you? I am a bloated, constipated cripple.

Yet…

I really do feel better. While I’ve been abiding by my therapist’s orders to move almost every day for at least 30mins, bc of all my dancing, I now realize that isn’t enough. I need the next level release of endorphins which come from Coach’s brutal workouts. The fact that those workouts come with friends and a lot of laughter? Can’t hurt. Except for the extreme muscle soreness. That part hurts a lot.

So yeah. My body feels like it has the flu, but my mind feels better.

Also? I discovered adult coloring books.

 

My shadow is a worthy opponent, but it ain’t gonna beat me this time. Coach + coloring books. I’m all set, apparently.

Now about this constipation… How can I convince my body I am not dying, I put myself through those hellfire workouts on purpose?

#thestruggleisreal

 

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.”