It has been a struggle lately to sit down in the morning and write something. I’ve been disenchanted with the whole process, unmotivated, fighting through self-doubt and depression, and returning to some old coping mechanisms that are like that comfortable old blanket with the ratty edges. I’ve been isolating myself again. I really don’t want to be a Debbie Downer, but I am a human being struggling with a mental health issue and to be always up, or at least always content and at peace (my personal baseline goal) is just not feasible. The word “positive” bothers me, I’ve said that before because I really don’t think it’s a worthwhile state to strive for. However (and I’ve said this before, too), not being negative is a different animal. It’s always easier to not do something, especially if you’re a lazy sod like I am.
So I recognise that in many of my posts here I’ve tried to steer towards a somewhat less negative vibe because of that, but in retrospect I think it was also because I didn’t want to turn people off and have them wander away to not come back, disappointed that they didn’t get some greater insight or sliver of zen-like wisdom. I’m nobody’s Buddha. I am a simple, flawed human, and part of the open sharing meant to nurture my own self-awareness that I started this thing to help with, is to look myself square in the mirror and admit that sometimes I have some really bad bed-head.
Last week I disappeared from Facebook for two days. Not seeing me post regularly is one thing, but, and I only discovered this recently, there is a place you can see when someone on your list has last been active on the network even if they only just logged on to lurk. I hadn’t even done that, and to my surprise people noticed. When I finally did log back in, the first thing I saw in my notifications was a public post from someone asking about my well-being. There were a couple of private messages as well, but this one, and another to a smaller peer support group I belong to there, were asking if anyone had heard from me or knew how to get in touch since I don’t generally have a working phone. For years, my agoraphobia stretched online as well, though I did participate in a much smaller group, and though I’d done the same thing back then a few times nobody had ever noticed. More than once I was gone for over a week without so much as an email. But that was my life, and mostly by design, so I mention it only to contrast the then and the now.
No lie, to see this last week was pretty cool. A totally unexpected, completely unsolicited, indication that I had touched people’s lives for whatever reason and in whatever way. Touched them enough that they cared about me, and noticed when I wasn’t there. That we often do this without meaning to, simply by reaching out as I’ve been doing the last few months instead of hiding behind my apartment door as I had for years, was not in and of itself unexpected, but the change of that from an abstract idea to a tangible solid fact initially gobsmacked me. I am not, you know, often the sharpest tool in the shed.
In explanation, I responded telling them that I’d been hit pretty hard by something on the just past Saturday, and in response had dug deep into my old pile of unhealthy coping tools for the most basic bit of kit there; I went completely to ground, focused on three things and nothing else: Eat, sleep, stare at mindless television so my mind could target something other than the bad thoughts drifting about on its periphery. Rinse and repeat.
I only explained what the hard knock had been to one person, but I’ll share it now after a week of pondering whether I should or not. I am calling it my own exposure therapy. Feel free to click away now if you like without judgment from me, because it will not be pleasant or uplifting.
There have been many kindnesses shown me lately, often from those who’ve only known me virtually. I’ve been eating well without having to go the food bank for a couple of months because groceries have magically appeared at my door, and some wonderful stranger actually bought me a new bamboo cutting board from my Amazon.ca wishlist after I bemoaned that my old one had broken into three pieces. I will not belittle this outpouring of generosity. In fact, I will celebrate it and pay it forward the moment I am able, or in ways I can now. The problem is, rent and food are often not the only bills I have. Car insurance, Internet access (as important to me as food), the electricity bill I’m overdue on (but not the rent on my water heater which I stopped paying months ago), and the other sundry things of daily life that you can cut back on but not entirely do away with. Cigarettes (please don’t judge me – even my GP doesn’t think it’s a good idea to try quitting right now), gas for my car (because even the thought of public transport sends me into spasms of anxiety), and the oil change it’s needed for six months. Shampoo and soap and toothpaste. Freaking lightbulbs.
So Saturday last I drove half-an-hour to a liquor store in another city with the intent to panhandle for the first time. I’d planned it, even. Those places get a lot of traffic on a Saturday afternoon, right? I had a cap, but whether I would wear it or hold it out I still hadn’t decided. I parked a block away because of course, I didn’t want anyone to see me in my big shiny Buick, shut off the engine, and promptly had one of the worst panic attacks I’ve had in a very long time.
And then I came home.
As I’ve been sitting here writing this piece, I’ve tried to determine what my point is going to be. Don’t judge a book by its cover? People suffer in ways you may not even think about? The slow but ever plodding loss of dignity that poverty has on those suffering it? I still don’t know, but I’m sharing, and maybe that’s all the point I need.