There’s something about being away from New York that makes me miss Italy more fiercely.
It doesn’t seem like those two should be so intertwined, does it? How does leaving New York relate to missing Italy? They’re not the same!
And yet, somehow, being in the city, walking the streets of Brooklyn, glowering at the tourists in Manhattan, it has this ethereal quality to it, this thing I can only describe as a feel, that makes me feel at home and reminds me of Italy. And so I miss Italy a little less, because I’m distracted by New York City.
There’s so much to distract you in New York. There’s a fog of exhaustion that seems to float behind every step, compounded by the stress of public transportation as the only means to get anywhere. There’s a level of striving in everything, a tension that doesn’t leave your shoulders at all, because every month this niggling question hovers: will I make rent for next month? I breathe a sigh of relief at the end of every month when I pay my roommate the allotted amount to give me 30 more days in the city.
And there are people, new faces to observe, new oddballs to dodge, something different on every corner. There’s a job, 40+ hours a week on my feet in almost constant motion, serving other Brooklynites their coffee and panini, and yet, despite the countless time I spend working and charming people for tips, I’m barely scraping by and looking to pick up side gigs for a little extra cash flow.
There’s constantly something on my mind in New York, and that combined with the Europe-ness of the city means I don’t have time to think back on Trieste…
…To think about long and lazy morning walks seven miles down the waterfront, ending at the castle I love so much I tattooed it on my body…
…To think about the gelateria where the hot chocolate is so thick your spoon stands up on its own, leaning in close to your best friend from childhood and giggling, giggling, giggling…
…To think about standing on the edge of the pier, staring out at the Adriatic Sea as its waves ripple the streetlights, this feeling of peace and serenity flooding you and overtaking every synapse…
…To think about home, with its creaky floors and warm-pumpkin walls and the bed you’ve had since childhood that’s still your coziest retreat…
When I sit down to try and write about Italy, about Trieste, about all the things I love from my hometown and my adopted country, I find I don’t have the words. The English language falls flat at my fingertips, unable to convey the depth of emotions I have toward that place, unable to truly translate to you the beauty of it, the beauty of its movement, language, of the ethereal feel it has that just wraps itself around me and holds me close to its heart.
I think I’m lucky, so lucky, to have found two places that I love beyond words. And when I leave one, I find myself craving the other desperately.
I’m in South Carolina at the moment, sitting in a comfortable chair in my parents’ beautiful home, a home I’m simultaneously jealous and afraid of. Because it’s small by suburbia standards but large compared to my place in Brooklyn; because nearly every inch is coated in soft carpet I don’t recognize from New York (or Italy); because mornings are slow and the sun seems to blink its eyes open as lazily as I do, rather than darting awake like it does up North.
Things are different in the South, it’s true, and a big difference is that down here there’s less to distract me and less to satiate my craving for Italy.
So I miss it, with a passion. For the first time in months I’ve found my fingers itching to buy a plane ticket to Trieste, I’ve found my stomach collapse at this longing that just eats at me, I’ve found myself blinking back tears and a lump in my throat because I’m here and not there, here and not there…
I’ve been asked so many times this weekend why I refuse to move back to South Carolina. There are reasons, one of them being that New York is home now and I don’t want to leave it, but a big one that I’m just realizing is that I miss my Italy-home more fiercely when I’m away from my New York-home.
And so, I stay safely cocooned up North, where the people are plenty, the smells abound and the Italy-missing is less intense.
Today I see-sawed savagely between emotions, swinging from finger-shaking beginnings of panic to heart-sunk depression to soaring giddiness to just plain tired.
It’s been an emotional week for me, all told; I’ve hit some real lows but also had some great fun. There have been tears and this sense of total lostness, like I’m wandering and will never be found.
And I’ve been hit where I don’t want to hurt, where I feel most confident.
In a weird way, I’m super confident that I’m a great barista. It’s an odd thing to take pride in, but I do think I’m fairly good not just at preparing food and drink that will make people happy and content, but also at making them feel welcomed, at home, like Albero is a place they can chill and chat and sort of refresh.
I’m not gonna claim to be the reason Albero is that, because my coworkers are incredible, personable and really quite hilarious. They do just fine on their own at making people love the little cafe.
But I do believe I add something.
And of course, of course, freaking depression has hit that thing that I’m weirdly confident and supremely proud of. I’ve been anxious over my performance and place in the company, and I’ve been concerned that maybe, just maybe, I’m not actually great at my job.
You see, some people are better than I am at being a barista. I’ve been told that I’m not the best, that others do a better job. And of course I translate that to, you’re the worst, Karis, get out while you’re ahead. Go sit in an office and cry.
I tell people that one of my hidden talents is the ability to turn anything into a negative. You can compliment me, tell me something incredibly nice, and I (almost) guarantee I’ll be able to twist it into something horrible.
You’re getting so good at making those Cappuccinos, Karis! you say, thinking you’re paying me a compliment on my teachability and improvement.
Wow, I can’t believe I sucked so bad that people noticed! I translate, not accepting praise because how can it possibly be true? How can anything good be true of me?
That’s the root of this week’s problems. There’s nothing wrong with my job, no areas where I’ve been told I need to improve upon. It can be stressful, but so can any job. I enjoy my days off, of course, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love being in the building, pulling shots, baking croissants and talking up my favorite gelato pairing, the blackberry sorbet with chocolate (it’s oh-my-lanta delicious, y’all!).
And yet I panic, concerned that my bosses think I’m a failed investment and my coworkers giggle behind my back, mocking my incompetence. There are shining moments of goodness, when someone tastes my Latte and raves, someone else tells me the panino I assembled so carefully was delicious…that special moment when a customer howled with laughter at a joke I made and said it was the funniest thing she’d heard all day.
These are the reasons I get out of bed, the reasons I work at a cafe instead of trying to land a job in an office, in my field. Because I love the movement of it, the adrenaline, the humanity. The endless stories that come, the rush of inspiration at every new scrape of the door against the floor, every interesting angle by which the sun slants into the room.
There is so much life in my little cafe, and because I love it I fear losing it.
And so. So I’ve been shaking and sinking and losing myself in a mire of sadness and worry.
But here’s the other thing about today’s see-saws. Every time I swung back upwards, it was because of someone. Because a familiar face walked through the door and smiled at me, referenced a random running joke we have. Because a coworker patted me on the back and made a hilarious joke in accented yet beautiful English. Because we were training the new guy, making strangers laugh and feel at home in a place that is so not their home.
Because my photography-inclined coworker took a picture of me with the sun behind and said it was beautiful even though I felt as ugly as possible. Because they asked about recent updates in my life and genuinely, literally cared about my future, took time to ask probing questions and make sure I don’t make the wrong decision. Because I’m making friends and it feels good, and I was so scared to leave Farinella because of my family there, but it turns out you can have family in two, three, four places and it’s OK, it’s all OK.
Because there’s always an upswing.
The see-saw might take you down, slam you against the ground with such force your teeth clatter against each other and your butt stings, but it always goes back up. Even better — it eventually levels out. That’s the sweet spot: the moment when you’re hovering between the two, not on the ground and not in the air, just balanced, just stable.
But like, if you try to see-saw alone, you’re gonna end up stuck on the ground or suspended in air. You need another person to balance you out.
We — you, I, your cousin, the dude you saw on the subway — we need each other. Life kinda sorta really sucks when you live it on your own. It’s just no good. It’s the people that pull us up, the people that balance us out. We can’t do any of this alone. There’s a reason God created more than just one person; it’s because we’re helpless on our own.
So today, I’m thankful for the people who pulled me up and balance me out. Sure sometimes they aren’t enough to keep me from smashing into the ground, but so far, they’ve always been there to life me back up.
I won’t lie: I love a good romance.
As much as I’m currently writing a novel that isn’t exactly romance (on account of the no “happily ever after” aspect), and as much as I still believe we need more anti-romance books (books without romance, books were there isn’t a happily ever after but it’s OK, books where it isn’t OK…), the truth is I love nothing more than curling up with a romance novel and just…feeling ALL the feels.
During my lite initial research for my Work-in-Progress, I started looking up typical romance tropes. So I could subvert them, of course. But then that just made me think about all the ones I love the most, and how fluttery and gaspy they make me feel, and of course I got all excited about them again.
But there’s one I love more than others. The one romance trope that makes me swoon, that makes my head spin, my heart pound and my lips pull up into a grin, is…
That’s right. I love a good pretend-romance that takes the characters involved (and literally no one else) by surprise.
Think…Jenny Han’s TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE. I’m not going to give details because I don’t want to spoil the book (I’m assuming you’ll read it, because of course you’ll read it, because I just told you it’s swoon worthy and has my FAVORITE romance trope, so what are you even waiting for!! GO. BUY. IT.)
Are you back? Let’s continue.
For the uninitiated, a “trope” is something like a theme, in literature, that is used fairly often and in a wide variety of work, to carry the story. For example, “Instalove,” one that a lot of people love to hate, is basically “love at first sight” on steroids. It’s that moment when you’re at the party and you’re kinda pissed and feeling annoyed and you wish you were anywhere else and you look up and *OMG* there he is! You lock eyes and your heart pounds and your mouth goes dry and you know, you just know, he’s The One.
But done better than that (hopefully).
I am an absolute sucker for fake dating, in which the two characters come to an arrangement, for whatever reason, to pretend to date. This could be to make an ex jealous, to get someone’s attention, or even to protect yourself from unwanted advances. It could be out of boredom or as an experiment or because your father wants to hook you up with his business partner’s godson and you reallllly don’t like said godson.
You don’t like the person you’re fake dating. You don’t want to date him (or her!) for real. This is just a business arrangement, plain and simple! You’ll hold hands in public, maybe kiss on the cheek, perhaps even get fake-engaged so you can stay in the States instead of being deported back to Canada if you’re Sandra Bullock…but you don’t truly love the person.
Until, of course, holding their hand makes yours all tingly, and causes shivers to run up your spine and when they let you go you feel sad. For no reason, though, because you don’t like them!
But when you share your fake engagement story you find yourself smiling like a silly goose and thinking about how nice it would be…but no! You don’t like them.
And then the crowd cheers and asks for a kiss, and next thing you know your lips are just barely brushing and it’s fire and excitement (or it’s sweet and tender…or awkward and adorable…idk man, it’s your kiss with your fake boyfriend/girlfriend!
And suddenly…suddenly you wish the dates weren’t fake. You’ve fallen in love.
This is my very favorite romance trope. Partly because it’s a great way for the hero to be all BROODING (and obviously I’m here for @BroodingYaHero, so I love me a good brooding hero), and partly because I just really love watching people who don’t want to fall in love end up in love.
It’s so satisfying. Look at those lil’ suckers, all unintentionally happy and gushing and annoying. Ugh. I love it.
So there it is: my favorite romance trope! What’s yours? Leave a comment below and let’s chat 🙂 Also — this post is brought to you because I’m a #BroodyBFF, part of the street team to rave about this book coming out soon. If you wanna know more, check out this post about how I met everybody’s favorite-least-favorite satirical yet sassy Twitter account, and maybe give the book a good ole preorder 🙂
When Sandhya Menon moved to America at age 15, she imagined the transition would be easy. She had, after all, spent her childhood bouncing between her home country of India and various other Middle Eastern countries.
“Boy, was I wrong!” she said. “It was a huge culture shock…I had a hard time understanding American turns of phrase, especially while I was in high school. But once I acclimated, I really began to love being part of the diaspora here in the US.”
I’ve been a fan of Sandhya’s since her upcoming debut, WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI, first crossed my Twitter feed last fall. The book, which I’ve had the pleasure of reading, is an adorable story about first love, pursuing your passions, and what happens when generations get their signals crossed. It’s cute; it’s funny; and it showcases character growth through pretty much every single person in the pages. It’s a great work of young adult literature, and I highly encourage everyone to go, NOW, and pre-order it.
(In the meantime, look at the beautiful cover!)
Did you buy it? Good. Now let’s talk some more about Sandhya.
In true adorable-human fashion, she cited as her greatest accomplishment her family before her work (although both made the cut).
“My very happy fifteen-year marriage, the fact that I have two healthy, happy kids, and my books all come to mind!” she said.
As for the hardest thing about writing, “I never wish I could quit,” she answered. “That probably sounds so saccharine and idiotic, but it’s true! I love this gig and the freedom/honor/privilege of making stories for others to read.”
She did acquiesce that there is one technical aspect that’s difficult: the first revision she has to work on after a draft is completed, the one she has to do on her own before the book is ready to be seen by anyone else.
“It always feels slightly overwhelming,” she said. But she loves “losing myself in the universe of the characters.” She quoted Stephen King and added, “I love that feeling of having to remind myself that I belong in this world rather than the one I was just romping around in!”
During the childhood years she spent in India, Sandhya said she remembers “throwing rocks up at mangoes so we could eat them once they fell!” She lived in Mumbai, also known as Bombay, where her neighborhood was full of trees and parks.
And once she learned the art of writing as a kindergarten student, well, she was hooked.
“I began to write stories and poems,” she said. “It’s all I ever knew!”
Although she doesn’t remember a particular “first story” that spurred her writing, she does remember one incident of taking a real-life event and fictionalizing it.
“The possibility that life itself was full of stories totally fired me up,” she said, “and led to a lot more stories.”
One such story is that of Dimple and Rishi. It’s a young adult contemporary novel about two Indian-American teenagers whose parents want to arrange their marriage. Rishi, traditional and family-oriented, is all about it. He wants to please his parents. Dimple, passionate about coding and fiercely independent, is less enthused. When they meet at a summer coding camp, well…let’s just say things don’t go over as well as Rishi would have dreamed.
But WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI is a romance. That’s all I’ll say about what happens next, other than…guys, this book is so good. It’s one you want on your shelves, believe me. Not only is it physically beautiful, it’s full of heart, laughter, fun…and some uncomfortable scenes.
“Something that I struggled with was acknowledging casual racism in the story,” Sandhya said. There’s one scene where the two protagonists are at a restaurant and are faced with some really terrible, tone-deaf, racist comments. “Once I wrote [that] scene…I sent my editor an email asking if she thought some people would have a hard time buying it. All of those comments are things I have personally experienced, but to someone who isn’t a child of immigrant parents or living in the diaspora, they might seem completely overblown.”
Fortunately, Sandhya’s editor, also the child of immigrants, encouraged her to leave the scene as-is. “Since then,” she said, “I’ve gotten quite a few messages about that scene resonating with readers…so I’m glad she did!”
I asked Sandhya if she thinks her work is groundbreaking. If you tap, for just a few minutes, into the discussions online about the YA book community, you’ll find a ton of talk about diversity and representation in literature, and how hard it can be for people of color (or any other marginalization) to get their work published.
And here is Sandhya, Indian, immigrant, writing a book about two brown children of immigrants that’s getting a ton of buzz and is being published by Simon & Schuster, one of the “Big 5.” She’s doing huge things. So I wanted to know if she recognizes the huge things she’s doing.
First off, she clarified that this book isn’t just “hers.” It’s her story, yes, the one she wrote, but she credits the Simon & Schuster team as well as her agent and beta readers, as well.
“I think of “my work”…as groundbreaking in that it’s a book about two brown teens just living their best lives, falling in love, chasing their dreams, and having a happy ending,” she said. “The media is full of the “bad” or “brave” brown/black/gay/disabled/trans person narrative, and I feel like there are so many other stories we have to tell.
“We are not just villains or tragic characters,” she added. “We have just as much depth and breadth as anyone else.”
To me, that’s a powerful, important sentiment. Sandhya is such a sweet, fun person, and it was a pleasure to get to know her a little bit through this piece. If you’re not satisfied and want to hear more from her, follow her on Twitter or Instagram (which is full of cute pictures of her puppy!) and sign up for her newsletter.
One of the worst things about depression is how it clouds out my optimistic side.
Because if I had to guess, based on past experience and patterns of my brain, I’d say I’m inherently an optimist. There’s this stubborn streak of hope that courses through me, that keeps me fighting no matter how hard things get.
It’s why I keep applying for jobs out of my league, keep plugging away editing my book, keep hoping that someday things will get better, someday I’ll find love, someday I’ll be published.
Enter depression, stage left. Suddenly, all the hope is sucked out of me, and I’m just absolutely, certainly positive that nothing will ever get better.
No one will ever love me, because how could they? Look at me. I mean, just took a good, long look.
You see it, don’t you? The truth, that I’m unlovable.
No one will ever publish my book, because why would they? Read it, just read it, and you’ll see — it sucks as much as I do.
You can tell, can’t you? The truth is, I suck at writing.
Nothing will ever get better, because of course it won’t. Life sucks. Take a good long look at the world, at everything happening…there is no hope.
You know it too, don’t you? The truth, that hope is a lie.
Those are the words that depression whispers to me. When I’m awake, she clouds my thoughts, making it impossible to focus on getting anything done, on trying to overcome by dint of proof.
When I’m asleep, my dreams are willowy and whispy and in the dark there’s this soft voice that coos, gentle as a dove, that there is no hope.
I’ve said it before: depression steals hope. It just sucks it out of you.
In my brain, somewhere, in some deep recess, floats the knowledge that depression is a liar. That hope is the one who’s correct, depression the one who needs to vanish.
But I become so overcome, to the point where reason is false and falsehoods reasonable. To the point where the most ridiculous of statements make the most sense.
I feel myself slipping through the rabbit hole today. I feel like I can’t breathe, can’t think clearly. I feel like love is a lost cause for me, publication a pipe dream.
Those are the two things I long for the most, if I’m being perfectly honest: I deeply desire someone to love me in that fiery, romantic way that novels are written about; and I crave publication. I want to see my words in print, want to hold my book in my hands and see others read it and I want them to tell me I’m amazing, and I want to give them some sort of hope.
It’s weird, that the thing that eludes me the most is the thing I want to give others: hope.
Because I know that it will be OK in the end.
For you, that is.
I talk about this with my counselor all the time…how easy it is for me to believe all the right things for everybody else. How easy it is for me to believe that love will come, that dreams will unfold, that hope is true, when it comes to someone else’s life.
In my life, though, I anticipate and expect and acknowledge that nothing good can come.
Because I don’t deserve it, you see.
I don’t know why I don’t deserve it and you do; I just know that that’s the case. I don’t know why my lil sperm was the fish that swam the best, that fertilized the egg the fastest, but for some reason it was and so I’m alive and not someone else. And that feels like a big, giant, glaring mistake. My birth? A mistake. It should have been someone else.
So I’m living my life just trying to make up for the fact that I stole life from someone more deserving.
So of course you will find love; of course your dreams will come true; of course you’ll be able to keep hoping. Of course those things, because those things are true, those things are right, those things are reality.
This is how I am. And then there’s depression, which slithers in and whispers the above things, taking from me the two things I hope for the most, as well as the very hope which keeps me going.
Days like today, I just want to curl up in bed and eat popcorn and cry. I want someone to come sit with me and stroke my hair and say it’s OK. I want to lose myself in a story until I can’t remember reality.
Those are temporary fixes, though. They’re not gonna solve the root problem.
And so. So today I’m going to finish cleaning my room, because a clean room makes a marginally lighter heart. I’m going to write, edit and submit, because those are things that bring me joy. I’m going to go to Books of Wonder to see one of my favorite authors, and I’m going to come home and sleep and wake up and go to therapy and group therapy and talk to my counselor about what’s going on, and learn valuable coping skills.
Because the band-aids I listed above aren’t going to help for long. And I need something that will.
Today I’m gonna force myself to hope. As much as I don’t feel like it, I’m gonna do it.
As an immortal magical being, I spend all my time in high school… cause the real world is scary. How about I take you all to prom instead?
— Brooding YA Hero (@broodingYAhero) November 13, 2016
I mean, let’s start with how on point and sassy it is!
If you know me, you know there’s little I love more than a good dose of sassiness. Whether I’m doling it out or reeling from a well-placed barb, I have a well-developed appreciation for some fine sass.
And Brooding YA Hero is nothing if not sassy.
There’s something refreshing and necessary about seeing someone point out tropes, stereotypes and potential pitfalls in a genre you’re trying to write, and that’s why I first fell for Broody: because of the Twitter account.
So imagine my surprise and utter delight when I discovered there’s a book! Coming! Out! This! Year! based on the account! Check out the description here. No, seriously, go read it and add it to your Goodreads page. Don’t have one? That’s OK, it’s already on Amazon, so you can preorder! I’ll wait while you do so.
OK, moving on. So I discovered the Twitter…I discovered the book…imagine my utter delight when I discovered that a street team was being put together to promote it before its release! Comprised of a bunch of super cool, bookish and awesome people (I’m currently meeting them all via Facebook, so I’m being utterly honest when I say these people are SO COOL. I applied to be a Broody BFF, cause duh, and IMAGINE MY TOTAL DELIGHT WHEN I GOT IN!!!
So there you have it. The true story of a friendship for the ages (cause we all know I’m totes the best friend and not the love interest in the YA of my own life) between me and @BroodingYAHero. I’m honestly so excited for this book. It’s gonna be a total delight to read, and I’m gonna spend the months leading up to its release posting here, on Twitter or on Instagram about the book. So do yourselves a favor and follow not just me but also my main man, and let’s do this!
There’s this article that I can’t stop thinking about. It’s finagled its way into my mind and won’t go away, won’t let me stop thinking about it.
And not in a good way.
I can’t stop thinking about an article against the show 13 Reasons Why not because of the well-thought out reasons against the TV show, or because of the author’s self-promoted credentials as a mental health advocate…it’s because of this one line. [Not linking to the article b/c I don’t want to give it traction or send hate the author’s way.]
If you suffer from suicidal thoughts, I want to warn you here that what I’m about to quote might hurt you. Might make you sad. So feel free to stop reading.
In the fourth paragraph of the article, the author says—you know what, I’m not going to quote it verbatim because it’s dangerous. Basically, she says she used to pray her husband’s suicide attempts would succeed.
I read her words and just…I felt my heart cave in on itself. I felt my breathing shallow and my lungs collapse. I felt fear and shock and sorrow and my fingers started trembling and didn’t stop for hours.
Because I’ve been there; not in the author’s spot, but in her husband’s. I’ve been in a place of intense pain that has left me reeling, feeling out of options and as though the only good recourse is to die. To inflict my own death. I have wanted to kill myself, have even tried to kill myself.
One of the things that has saved me, saved my life, is the interference of friends. Friends who stepped up to say, “Karis, your death will not help us. Your death will hurt us.” I thank God daily for those friends who implored me to stay alive because they needed me.
You see, the reason I wanted to die is because I thought it would make the world a better place. I’ve always wanted to change the world, to improve it, to rock its foundations in a wild way, and my depression eats at me and twists that desire into something nefarious, convincing me that the way to accomplish that is simple, really: to kill myself.
But my friends, they’ve tried to show me that isn’t true. They’ve endeavoured to impress upon me that my death would do harm, not good.
If I had learned, now or ever, that they were praying for me to die — wow, the damage that would do.
The damage this article did to me, even though I don’t know the author and know she isn’t talking about me. Her confession opens the door to that sentiment being the truth.
I believe in the right to communicate and the importance of vulnerability. But there is a responsible way to share, and in this case, the responsible thing would be for the author of the piece to shut up about those thoughts. If she must share them, she should have explained just how misguided she was. She never really does. She says, briefly, that she was misguided, but she never shoulders the responsibility of her horrifying thought. She blames it on a misunderstanding of depression brought about by culture, in part.
But apart from dangerous, that prayer is disgusting. And you know what, I don’t care that she claims to have prayed it for her husband’s sake; I believe wholeheartedly that she also prayed it for her own sake. So she could finally be free.
Maybe that’s my own depression twisting her experience into something nefarious, but you know what, that’s what words do. They have so much power, more than you could ever imagine, and to fling words like that, words with such sharp edges, into the world willy nilly, is something I find irresponsible.
I find it hard to wrap my mind around the fact that the author considers herself a depression advocate, when she seems to have so little idea of the harm her words could do. Merely four days before reading this article, I was severely suicidal, and everything was a sign that I should kill myself.
Her confession opens the door to the possibility that her prayer is one my loved ones have prayed. I can’t get that thought unstuck from my mind: that if she prays that way, maybe the people who love me the most pray so as well.
That’s not merely misguided; that’s betrayal to the utmost degree.
This article, that paragraph in particular, was supremely unnecessary, misguided and virulently dangerous.
So if you’re reading this, know: your death is not going to help anybody, least of all you. No matter what anyone believes or did believe at any point. Know that you can reach out for help: there is a suicide prevention line, 1-800-273-8255, that you can call for help. There are options and there is hope. Don’t listen to this lie.
And if you’re someone who’s ever prayed that…acknowledge that’s a wrong prayer. Acknowledge it’s selfish. There is forgiveness for terrible thoughts and prayers, I’m not saying you’re condemned for them, but you need to recognize the selfishness of it. And move on.
And if you’ve had those thoughts, for the love of all things good, don’t share it with your depressed friend or family member! I mean, please.
Yesterday I published the first full episode of my new vlog series, entitled “Living ~ When You Just Wanna Sleep.” Of course, since I’m me, before sharing it with the world, I shared it with a few friends to get their opinions, and they were fans. Which meant the absolute world to me.
So, girded with their supportive fortitude, I sallied forth into the world of publishing vlogs! It’s a scary world out there, scarier than the world of being painfully open and honest in writing, because in the world of videos, people see your face; they see the way your eyes droop when you’re sad, the way that circle of fat around your (my) belly makes you (me) look like a Pillsbury dough boy, the way your hair floofs out of control and has to be tamed, repeatedly, during one 30-second filming…they see all your pores, the literal and metaphorical ones.
It’s terrifying, but for someone like me, who thrives on being known intimately, it’s also thrilling.
Ever since I was in high school, I had this need, bordering on compulsion, for people to know what was going on behind my eyes. It’s fascinating to me, how little we can truly know about someone. They can smile and laugh and inside they’re mentally throwing knives and screeching and pulling at their hair and sobbing but all we see is happiness. It’s fascinating and more than a little heart-breaking.
And back in high school, my depression was beginning to make me act different, act weird, and I had this intense desire that they should know why.
So in college I began writing about it, and well…the rest is history.
These videos are going to be a monthly installment, and hopefully each one will be better than the last. I’ll film bits and pieces and flashes of my life throughout the month — images of myself walking through NYC, myself with friends, myself at home being sad or ultra happy or what have you — and then a narration thread. It’s going to be an inside look at depression; at what it’s like, really and truly and as unfilteredly as possible, to live with depression.
To live, in short, when you’d rather be sleeping.
This video has a few holes, one of which being that I don’t really go into why quitting my job helps my depression, because I’ve talked so much about my love for pizza-slinging. It’s confusing, if you don’t know what all happened in the last few weeks.
Basically, it just…became too much. A combination of the management, angry customers and me being overworked conspired to create a fissure in me, one that needed to be soothed by taking a break. And when I went back to work…it wasn’t the same. I wasn’t in love anymore. I was stressed, having panic attacks in the hours leading up to my shift. I was scared of getting yelled at by any number of people, scared of messing up.
I also lived with a constant fear of losing my job. I can’t go too in-depth as to why, but let’s just say…the restaurant business is a tough one. For everyone involved, from upper management to lower management to employees to guests. It’s fast-paced and high-intensity and it breaks you quickly and easily.
So my mind was filled with a constant rattle of noise, a constant stream of fearful thoughts and confusion and stress and sorrow and BAM! depressive episode.
[Someday maybe I’ll tell you guys what triggered it. It’s a doozy. And yes — it’s work-related.]
So that’s some background on why the vlog in general, why the job-quitting, why all of it…
I know not everyone understands my compulsion to share. Let’s just say, that it helps me as much as it might help others. And if it does help you, my sharing: tell me! It gives me strength on the days when I fear I’m doing nothing but hurting this world. On the days when my brain is eaten alive by lying zombies which hiss that I’m a cancer on society, I remember messages, comments, emails saying the opposite…and I am comforted.
Thank you for that comfort, dear readers and friends and followers. I’m doing this for you. And also for me. 🙂
Today is Easter. In my faith, it’s a day created for celebration. Celebration of a death meant to save, and celebration of a resurrection. It’s an important day; without Easter, there’s really no Christianity. Because without Easter, without Christ’s resurrection, well…his movement dies, as does our belief.
So today, today is a day for celebrating. And the weather here in New York played nice: it’s glorious and warm and clear blue skies and simply ideal.
It’s a beautiful day on a hundred different levels. I should be rejoicing. I should be dancing, laughing, smiling until my cheeks are sore.
Instead I’m sitting on my couch in semi-darkness, wondering where my happiness got chased off to. Wondering where my celebrating spirit is hiding.
It’s not that I don’t believe, don’t have faith. I do, honestly and truly, as wild as it might seem, believe that 2,000 years ago a man died on a cross, and that man was God, and that man rose from the dead, and his sacrifice eradicates sin from me and confirms me to an eternity of heavenly celebration.
I believe that somehow, for some reason, God created me, fashioned me with his power, and smiled upon me, loving what He had made. In the core, secretest part of my heart, I do believe that I am loved by a powerful, eternal being who created all.
And yet. And yet that belief, the knowledge of that love, it doesn’t erase my suffering. It doesn’t cancel out my depression. My faith is incredible and sustaining on so many levels; yet it doesn’t cure my mind of this disease that ravages it.
And so on this day of celebration, I grieve. I grieve not because I have any reason to, not because there is anything lacking in my life or faith; I merely grieve because that is how my brain is wired.
I grieve because sorrow feels ever-present, choking hope from me. As much of a stubborn optimist as I naturally am, depression seeks to cancel that out, seeks to strangle me into a pessimistic person, and sometimes succeeds. So no matter what, I don’t have hope for this life.
If you’re getting down to the meat of it, it’s this: I don’t see a way into lasting happiness. I can’t imagine a future in which this weariness doesn’t claw at my throat, in which the certainty of failure doesn’t hold my hand and match me step for step. I struggle to believe there is a light at the end of the tunnel, mortally speaking.
In recent days, I’ve reminded myself, time and again, of the meaning of my tattoo: that He is here. That His presence is undeniable. It doesn’t mean He’s here to walk me out of the darkness, necessarily. It simply means He is with me in the waiting, in the torment, in the grieving.
At a Good Friday service at my church, Hillsong NYC, our pastor Carl Lentz spoke for just a few minutes about the six hours between Christ’s nailing to the cross and the moment He gave up His life. He reminded us that for those six hours, Jesus hung in an agony of physical pain and probably mental anguish and doubt. But he persevered. At any moment he could have given it up, shrugged and used His power to get off the cross.
But He didn’t.
He hung there for those six torturous hours.
I’m in my own six hours. They’ve lasted months if not years and I don’t see an end anytime soon. That doesn’t mean there is no end; relief could come tomorrow for all I know, and I could be released from this depressive episode’s clutches.
Or not. Or the six hours could be the rest of my life on Earth.
And that thought…it sucks. It really sucks. It’s a reason to grieve, and so I’m grieving, because I have little sense of hope of ever being released from this torture that is depression; from this craving to cut, this desire for death.
At the same time…He is here. He is with me. He hung on for six agonizing hours. And he is with me in this darkness.
I was taught growing up that Christ was tempted in all the ways we are, that He suffered all the ways we do. I take comfort in choosing to believe that maybe this means he also despaired. He lost hope. He lost the light.
But He didn’t lose his mission, his faith, his belief in His Father’s presence.
I’m gonna strive to live like that. Live like Christ did for those six hours, even if that’s the rest of my life.
Depression eats hope. And faith, faith takes your hand and walks you through the tunnel.
He is here. With me, in depression.