Mired in My Reality
TW: This is going to get morose. You’ve been warned.
I was a stan for Buffy The Vampire Slayer. There were no Black people in Sunnydale. That was kind of a good thing because it was literally the mouth to hell, and I think the right people were living on top of it. I enjoyed the show for a number of reasons, not the least of which was that they were really close to my age, so the show was somewhat relatable. Plus, I’ve always wished I had powers. My life has been responsibility that has only grown as I’ve gotten older so the idea of that being a surprise has never really resonated with me.
The show really hit me in season six. People hated that season of Buffy. They thought it was weird and slow and I don’t remember what else, but I do remember people thinking that was the weakest season. Frankly, I think season five was the worst, but season six ended up being my favorite because it accurately captured that weird floundering that I experienced in my mid 20s...when I had a job, a car, a place to live, and no idea what I was supposed to do next. I'd checked off all the boxes on my life to-do list, except for the marriage and children, which I wasn’t sure I wanted. I found myself constantly asking if this was it and what was next and nobody had any answers. Except marriage and children. That was a pretty consistent refrain.
In season six, there was no big bad. Instead, you had young adults floundering in the sea of life and that is some real shit. When you’ve spent all your life ticking accomplishments off a list, what does life look like when there is nothing else to check? We watched friends become toxic enemies. We saw how people became their own worst enemies. We saw relationships end due to personal choices and uncontrollable factors. We saw choices and consequences and people who chose to be there for each other despite it all.
And we saw long-term depression.
That was the part that got me the most about that season. Buffy was extremely depressed, clearly just doing enough for people to pretend everything was fine while secretly and quietly imploding. She was chasing danger to feel something…anything. And I knew exactly what that felt like.
It’s hard making up reasons to keep moving forward. It’s hard trying to find joy when everything feels numb. And there are no answers. There are no great coping mechanisms. All you find yourself doing is trying to slow down your self-destructive tendencies enough so that you can survive until you feel differently…you hope.
People don’t like talking about some of the aimlessness we feel at times. People don’t like thinking about the fact that we often don’t know what to do with ourselves if we are not rushing from activity to activity and filling our days with too much everything. Instead, we find ourselves socially pressured to always appear fine. To look like everything is okay when it isn’t. Because when we let people see that we aren’t okay, we become a threat and threats are always at risk for eradication. We see it all the time in the news, online…all it takes for me to be threatening is proximity to whiteness so imagine how much the threat of me increases if I’m perceived as mentally unwell.
I don’t need to imagine. I see it all the time. And it’s constantly excused and treated as normal. It’s some shit to live in this world and know that you don’t fucking matter and be reminded of it again, and again, and again and again.
It makes you wonder why you even try…
I have struggled with extreme depression for more than half my life. I can remember spending entire chunks of my 20s willing myself to drive off the overpass into oncoming traffic on the way to work. I use to strategize on the best ways to kill myself, but I knew not to say that shit out loud. I knew not to share it with anyone. And there are days, weeks, months now where I feel mostly indifferent about whether or not I want to be alive. I see and hear the ways that we are fucking horrible to each other, the ways we choose to be horrible to each other and I wonder if it’s worth swimming in this sea of sewage of humanity. I hate how we are. I hate who we are. I hate looking at media that co-signs on people’s selfishness and terribleness.
I hate how sometimes I am co-signing on that terribleness just by participating in society.
Last November, I had a major depressive episode. Every day I struggled to get up and care about everything and everyone. I just didn’t want to do this anymore. I still struggle with it. I literally fill my days up with to-do lists so that I don’t have time to think about how much I don’t want to do anything…how death sometimes feels comforting. It scares my spouse to see me this way and sometimes I feel the need to perform for his comfort but really, I’m fucking tired of performing for other people’s comfort, too. I’m not okay. I haven’t been okay for a while. But I don’t know how to get okay in my present circumstances, so I just keep planning and moving and getting shit done while telling myself that I’m doing good things and that eventually these feelings of wanting to stop and waste away will go away.
And they will go away. One day, I’ll stop waking up exhausted. One day I’ll stop having anxiety attacks about all the things I’m ruining with my shitty efforts. One day, I’ll believe in my abilities and trust that I can do the things I set out to do. One day it won’t all feel useless and hopeless and worthless and meaningless.
But today I wonder why I bother. I wonder if any of this matters. I wonder what’s the fucking point. I wonder whether it should matter. I wonder why anyone tries. I just wonder and wonder and wonder if this is worth anything and use that wondering to stall until I am no longer questioning the validity of my existence and just enjoy living.
But it’s hard. And it doesn’t always feel like it’s gonna work this time. I increased my therapy appointments and started physical therapy because I miss working out. I used to work out all the time but my knees were hurting so much that I realized that I needed to focus on figuring out what was going on with them. I went from easily walking 5+ miles a day to being in ridiculous pain just crossing the room after a 20-minute, painful walk. Something had to give. I had to find a job with health insurance so I could afford the therapy. Both the emotional and physical therapy. So my life is job, physical therapy twice a week, emotional therapy every other week, and figuring out how to create around all that. And I need the job to take care of myself yet the job is the biggest time suck. This is the hamster wheel of life and the grind we endure to be here and it wears you down.
It so wears you down.
But I’ve gotten used to enduring. It’s not always clean or easy, but I continue to endure. Even when it feels useless. Even when it looks hopeless. Even though I know that I can be taken out at any moment because of so many things out of my control. I endure.
And I hope. I hope for a better tomorrow. I hope that people will choose to stop stepping on one another to attain personal power. I hope that we will stop selling out those with less power than ourselves to gain more for ourselves. I keep hoping that we will remember that our survival depends on us learning to cooperate as peers instead of sacrificing those we deem expendable.
Because if one of us is expendable for the cause, that means we all are. And shit isn’t going to get better if we keep trading each other to appease whiteness or able-bodiedness, or thinness, or maleness or heteronormativity or gender identity. Those things exist to tell us who deserves to live and they are wrong.
I’m rambling, I know. I’m still finding the language to explain how all these things are interconnected and they are designed to cement power at the expense of each other. I’m still figuring out how to address the rotted core of humanity that actively defines and limits what it should be...what we should be. I just know that everything feels wrong and I still don’t know how to fix it. So I live in it and try to stem the poison before it consumes me.
I cried yesterday.
I needed to do it. I needed to remember and understand that the future I fight for ain't for me. The future I speak to create isn't one I'll experience because there is too much noise, too many lies, and too much toxicity in our current mode of survival for me to have any lasting effect on it. And I'm not fighting alone. I'm not even one of the great fighters...I'm just someone who hears the lies and refuses to accept them anymore. And I choose to publicly share why.
We, Black people, are the product of trauma and because trauma is all we know, we spread it. We nurture it. We protect it. We take trauma and embrace it until it seeps into us and becomes our DNA. As children, we cuddle our trauma close and call it our protector. When we have children, we nurse and swaddle and massage them with our trauma. When we choose not to have children, it is to spare them the pain of this world because while there is joy, it is often hard won and fleeting. And those who fight the status quo will find themselves fighting the very people they fight for...because capitalist, patriarchal white supremacy is the only norm too many of us can envision...and we will fight to preserve that norm because it is all that we know.
And yesterday I cried because I once again had to remember that I will never know the space I am fighting to make and that the tenderest, kindest parts of me will never know what it is like to safely feel the sun.
My truth is that none of you are safe for me and that every day I ask myself why I choose to live this way. And then I realize that I don't know how else to be. I can be everyone's enemy by speaking my truth or my own enemy by speaking your lies. I’ve been my own worst enemy and I almost didn’t survive it.
I don't want to be my own enemy anymore and I fight so that I don’t have to be.
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