The Echoes

Battling an invisible illness day in and day out can make work a struggle. Especially if you find some days it’s harder to be around people than others. Sometimes the type of interaction with these people matters most. Others it’s the degree to which I’m familiar that dictates what I can handle. The worst days are the days that don’t seem to have a pattern. The days where I can’t figure out the magic combination to make it through comfortably. Those are also the days I find hardest to explain to people who don’t fully understand what’s going on with me. That’s because on those days, like today, I can’t answer their questions. “What caused it?” “What if you did x, y, and z?” “Gee, I wonder why that trick didn’t work this time. Do you think it won’t work anymore?” Days like today, I hate to say it, but “I have no fcking idea…” is the best I can do in terms of an answer. And really, I don’t know. That doesn’t mean I’m not analyzing the situation, it doesn’t mean I’m not trying, it doesn’t mean I’m not absolutely fighting for every moment of peace.

I work as a computer installation technician in a local hospital system. Tkout works in the same department of the same system as well, though at another hospital. My days range. Some days I stay totally behind the curtain, a high-tech Wizard of Oz. Other days I’m working with staff, and some days I’m even in front of patients while setting up or supporting the equipment. It’s always a rewarding job, and I leave feeling accomplished. The amount of contact I have with people varies, which is also good.

Today has been one of the days where I feel adrift. But it didn’t start out this way. I woke up feeling rested and happy. I wasn’t anxious that I had somehow lost anyone in my circle to the symptoms of my depression. The weekend was exhausting, but fulfilling. I achieved things I didn’t think were possible, given how I struggled the past few days. The thought of going to work made me feel strong and competent. I was ready to meet the challenge with both feet on the floor.

I got to work early, settled in, and when I clocked in I immediately began working on a user’s problem that was a carryover from Friday. I had to head to the children’s dental clinic in a neighboring building. One of the dental patients was afraid, and kept crying and screaming. Generally speaking, I get anxious and sad when the patients are so scared. It’s impossible not to feel for them.

While I waited for the computer I was working on to re-image, I took a brief call from Dipper. All was well. The conversation went well. We talked and nothing was wrong. I mentioned that if he heard wailing in the background, it was the patient. I wasn’t sure if the sound would carry to the phone or not.

Shortly after that call, I think the mix of the amount of people in the clinic, the issue I was working on, and exhaustion from the previous weekend got to me. I started sliding. Worrying that I had annoyed Dipper by asking what time he was planning on sleeping (he works the night shift). I knew it wasn’t a valid worry since I KNEW everything was fine. I tried to stop the slide. I reached out to Dipper and Tkout, both of whom were more than willing to help me get vertical. It worked, for the most part.

Which leads me to the topic of this post. After an anxiety attack or a depressive swing, often there are Echoes. That’s my collective term for the shame and embarrassment that follows. I don’t struggle long term so much with the attacks or the swings as I do with the echoes. More than not, they hurt worse than the attack or swing. I had my attack around 11 am. In a minute it will be 1 pm. I’ve been dealing with the echoes for literally 2 hours. I’ve been biting back tears because there is no safe, quiet, and secluded place where I can go to fully break down and cry. I don’t want my coworkers to think I’m a flake, so I don’t want them to see it either.

I know in my mind that there shouldn’t be shame or embarrassment. But there is. The shame is that I fell apart on a good day, when I’ve been doing so well up until. When I got out of bed with no problems going to work. The embarrassment is part of what I call the domino slide. The domino slide is where I start thinking I’ve done something wrong, reach out to apologize, get reinforcement that everything is ok, and then start worrying that I’ve done something wrong by reaching out (even when I KNOW that it is what my circle wants me to do), and more worries pile on. They become stifling. Until I start to believe them just for the sheer fact that there’s so many. Hence the name domino slide.

Once the domino slide starts, my self-image plunges. I start to wonder how people can deal with my shit, when I can barely deal with it myself. My thoughts turn dark. I start imagining that my circle is getting tired of this, just as I am. I hear my husband and brother in my head, telling me that it’s alright. That they still love me and there’s nothing to be ashamed or sorry about. That everyone slides. That they’d rather me reach out over and over than suffer quietly. That they want the chance to reassure me. To make everything right.

Then I start thinking that I don’t deserve this love and devotion. That I haven’t done enough to balance out the shit they put up with when I flounder. Both of them have told me countless times that it’s not a matter of balancing out. The good always outweighs the bad. That I need to stop thinking about it like that. I believe them. I really do. I know I’m loved and needed. Not just by my humans, but by my fuzzies too. Even the snakes and bearded dragon.

But the anxiety and the depression lie. And because it’s my own mind, they know just what to tell me to make me feel worthless. To make me feel afraid. To make me want to keep asking if everything is alright, and then fearing that just by asking, I’ve shattered everything. They make me feel like everything is fragile. Even though I know it’s not.

I’m writing this post while biting back the tears. I know I’m loved. I know that there’s nothing to ask forgiveness for. I know that I don’t need to ask them to hang in there, because they will. I’m Wife. Seester. Aunt. Friend. Family. Confidante. Ride or Die. That doesn’t change, no matter how hard the anxiety and depression are whaling at me.

Tkout, Dipper, and Phoebe always tell me that they think I’m a superhero because I still fight. Even when I don’t feel like it. I still fight to go to work. To stay the whole shift. And even if I’m not feeling well, I still come and see Phoebe and Dipper. Still hang with Tkout. I try to make sure they don’t suffer when I’m struggling. And if they need me, I’ll come running. Even if it’s a day where I struggle to get out of bed.

I’ve had trouble reconciling the way they see me, because most of the time I certainly don’t see this myself. When I’m struggling, I tend to only see the bad. But I have always appreciated that they see me in this way. A little while ago, Dipper sent me a YouTube video about the newest Green Lanter, Jessica Cruz. In her, I’ve found my superhero. Take a look at this series of panels, where she fights anxiety. I almost fell over when I first read them. They’re so true to life in terms of showing the anxiety. But they also show her in the moment where she pushes through it. Not surprisingly, it’s because she knows people are counting on her. I almost cried when Dipper sent this to me. For the first time ever, I saw myself as Tkout, Dipper, and Phoebe have seen me the whole time. All those times I was too busy hitting myself over the head to see what they saw. The whole time they saw my will to persevere. The fact that just reaching out and asking for the love and reinforcement was an act of defiance against the mental illness.

For the first time in the last year, since all hell broke loose, I finally saw in myself what they’ve seen the whole time. I understand why they say the good outweighs the bad. Why they say they love me, no matter what. Why they’ve chosen me to be Wife. Seester. Aunt. Friend. Family. Confidante. Ride or Die. Why they have faith in me, and say that it’s never misplaced. Why they’re always willing to catch me when I fall. What they mean when they say they won’t leave me, because it’s not an option.

For the first time, I see myself as the fighter and superhero that they see. I may get knocked down. But it’s not for always. And every time I come back up, I’m stronger than I was before.

 

NEVER let Liam Neeson be your undertaker.

Liam Neeson at the closing of the Lyric Theatr...

Image via Wikipedia - actor Liam Neeson

Tonight I watched a really odd movie (surprise, surprise) starring Christina Ricci, Justin Long, and Liam Neeson.  The movie, called “After.Life“, was released in 2009.  The premise is pretty straight forward: Ricci is a young woman who is killed in a car accident and taken to the mortuary where her body is prepared by Liam Neeson, who has a penchant for talking with the dead.  Ricci is convinced she’s not dead, but Neeson says otherwise.  Her funeral is in three days and the race is on to figure out exactly what’s happening.  Will her almost fiance Long be able to save her?

This movie was billed as a thriller, but to be honest it didn’t get really unsettling until the very ending, as things started to come together.  Up until then, I spent the movie trying to figure out what was happening – was she dead or alive? Was Neeson a good person or bad?

I enjoyed “After.Life” despite it seeming too long in the beginning.  When the movie began to pick up, it did so in a way that caused me to slowly get more tense.  At first I didn’t even realize I was nervous!  The conclusion is pretty good, and answered all the questions I had about the movie (which is always a good thing.  I hate having unanswered questions that movies – sometimes the lack of answers ruins the movie).

Liam Neeson is always a joy to watch onscreen.  He can play a variety of characters without being the same person twice.  I hate watching movies where the actor is always the same, or always plays the same character.  (That’s what I loved about “Road to Perdition” with Tom Hanks – for once he was the sinister element, not the comedic or romantic element.)  Its good to have Christina Ricci back in the spotlight, although my one complaint is the gratuitous nudity.  They kept showing her topless after the first half of the movie.  I suppose it could be argued that she was being born into a new existence, and therefore needed to lose the trappings of her previous life, but it still felt a little forced to me.  She’s a good enough actress that she doesn’t have to disrobe to be noticed.  Justin Long was a good choice as the fiance.  He plays panicked characters very well.  His development as an actor is visible in this movie.  He carries himself with much more ease and confidence than he did in movies such as “Die Hard: Live Free or Die Hard“.

If you’re looking for an interesting movie that will keep you guessing, then I highly recommend “After.Life”.  The build-up and pacing were good, with a supremely creepy ending that you most likely won’t see coming.

A super strange and exciting anthology…

I bought “The Best of All Flesh” at a local bookstore because I wasn’t ready to start another book series, but I was running out of zombie material on my bookshelf.  I like to alternate book series with anthologies so that I don’t get bored with either book style.  Anyways, this book sounded interesting because it was selected material from all three of the Books of Flesh Anthology Series.  I still want to get the other three books, but I figured it would be a nice way of finding out if the books were worth getting immediately, or worth holding off on buying.  After reading the composite anthology, I really do want to track the other books down !

The book was astounding !  I loved almost every single story in this book, and I found that the ideas were all fresh and new.  The zombie types ranged from voodoo to modern and everything in between.

One of the stories by Myke Cole, “Shouting Down the Moon”, was really sad.  It’s about two lovers who are separated by their enemies and attempt to reunite after death.  This story is also about two warring tribes, and features voodoo-infused zombism.

Barry Holander’s story “Familiar Eyes” deals with a husband who cannot accept the fact that the mud-covered corpse that keeps coming after him is just a shell, and not his wife.  He repeatedly defies government orders and does not burn her body.  An interesting twist on the zombie myth – the longer the bodies are exposed to the air and not cremated, the more indestructible they become.  Another twist is that the zombies come back for the person they loved the most when they were alive, once that person is dead, they go back to their graves.

“Sitting with the Dead” by Shane Stewart explores the idea of speaking with the dead.  In the story, a man sits with his grandmother in the funeral home and talks with her and waits for her to turn into a ravenous cannibal corpse.  Meanwhile they say all the things that should have been said when she was alive.

I don’t like tight spaces and crowds make me nervous, so the story “Charlie’s Hole” by Jesse Bullington was really terrifying for me.  During the Vietnam War, a small group of soldiers are forced to go down into a tunnel presumably made by the enemy.  While down in the tunnel they are pursued by creatures, and cross paths with a terrifying old sage.  While every story in this book was amazing, this is probably the scariest (for me personally).  The ending is a real surprise too !

Immediately following Stewart’s story is Jeremy Zoss’ offering, “Electric Jesus and the Living Dead”, which I was apprehensive about at first.  I’m not overly religious to the point of being preachy, but I do get nervous about how some authors portray God during the zombie apocalypse.  Despite the fact that Jesus is a talking electrical statue in Las Vegas, this story wasn’t offensive.  Actually, it was pretty funny.  During the zombie apocalypse this stereotypical fat, spoiled, video gaming teenager is stranded in his house.  After a little while with no food he begins to hallucinate that his mother’s cherished Jesus statue is answering his prayers and discussing a means of escape.  Instead of finding a patient, loving savior, the teen finds that the statue is cheeky. In one of my favorite scenes, the statue tells the kid to stop carrying on because he never prayed before and that if the kid doesn’t like it, Jesus will move on and tend to the members of his flock that prayed to Him before everything went down the drain.

I don’t want to give you a synopsis of all the stories in the book, but I am deadnut serious when I say that you absolutely MUST have this book.  The stories are very interesting and well thought-out.  This is also a rare book in that all of the stories are worth reading.  There wasn’t a single story that I disliked or thought was less interesting than the rest.  No, the authors aren’t very well known but they still have talent.  I would not hesitate to read another story written by any of them.  Seriously – go out and buy this book.  You won’t regret it !  “The Best of All Flesh” will not be a disappointment !