To avoid its name
There have been some dreary days making some dreary months, and the days felt like they’d never end even though I watched the sun set and rise and set again. All were the same, none of them new. Echo.
These days were thought. Lots of thought — too much — so much that I got sick of thinking, wanted to rip my brain out, started researching that method with the hook up the nose. None of it would’ve been that bad if these thoughts were constructive but I only focused on what I loathed on repeat like television. Unlike television, though, there’s no off button, no mute, no way to untune, and that irked.
Steeled by thought I waged war with mirrors — there’s no foe more sly, more brutal, than your own reflection — and if only smashing mirrors didn’t bring bad luck. Wait a minute, things couldn’t get much worse! And the temptation was real until I remembered that time I went ape on a Christmas Tree and then spent 2 hours sweeping up yule dust, and figured the hollow victory wouldn’t please cleaning calm me, like repeat. I learned to either avoid mirrors entirely or avert my gaze when near.
Smothering the thought and basting the self-hatred was this gloom that was gloomier than the gloomiest of nights — think murk but bitumen black, and just as viscous. It was a gloop that took, took, took away as it coated everything and clung; still clings today. 2 whole years hidden from view, every happiness turned to indifference, and nothing but shadows. Maybe the odd memory shines through but it’s vague and smeared, nothing crystal.
And things fell around me weighed down on this slick steep slope — confidence, temper, control. Things that could once be taken for granted could no longer be relied upon; me. I couldn’t catch up, out of breath — racing and chasing — unfit, weeping, pathetic. An empty sack made to look full but hollow, a phoney.
I know there’s no shame in having a mental breakdown or in suffering from depression, I just don’t like the words. I’ve called it George, Old me / New me, and everything else in between — nothing stuck because it wasn’t named right, because I refused to use the proper terms. The truth of the matter is this: I had a mental breakdown that brought on a bout of depression, a couple of relapses, and now I’m here. Just because I don’t like the words doesn’t mean I can argue with facts.
The unknown wrong
That emotional day last September offered me a choice between feeling right or feeling like this, shit. I didn’t like feeling it, dragging me down, so it wasn’t much of a choice. I gave myself an ultimatum: Get myself back on track or I was seeking professional help. To make sure I stuck to it I told who I needed to tell, like my mother and work, and I got to tall thinking and immediately started to wish it could be short.
The first thing I noticed was the pattern forming between each relapse — they were happening every 3 months, give or take — and I could easily explain the severity of each relapse compared to the months of neutrality between: me. By my very nature, I forget. Something happens and I process it out really quickly — I can be as quick as seconds to be like nothing every happened at all. It’s not a particularly awful trait but it wasn’t helping when forgetting was biting me on the arse in regular intervals. I still can’t explain the pattern, but with help of fingers I predicted that Christmas 2016 would see my next relapse, and so I set the clock.
The second thing I noticed, or it might have been the first (I wasn’t paying that close attention), was how little I knew about what was wrong. I knew something was wrong because something had to be wrong for me to cry all day, that was only logic, but I didn’t know what and couldn’t see it. The heaviness was giving me squat and I can’t work with squat, sorry.
I decided to list what I did know since then I might get someplace:
- I’m mute. I’m a writer that can’t write, that can’t write coherent.
- I’m angry. Very angry. So very fucking raging, tamping, fuming! And quick to it, too.
- I’m hurt and insulted, and embarrassed and ashamed, and to blame; I can’t do it, I’m useless and worthless and angry (I’ve said that), I hate stuff and loathe stuff like me.
- I find it all hard to believe.
Interweaved through all of that, these three thoughts reoccurred:
Time needs to slow, I need control, and I know nothing of worth
I figured, if I answer those three things, and solve them outright, I’ll solve my problem.
When I set a task I always aim small.
Reasoning the cause
Once upon a time I saw dead people, physically — I worked in a funeral home so it was something I grew to expect. I arranged funerals, struggled to dress them, and just generally tried to lead my life with respect. The years went by as so went so, and like in every beautiful story there was evil afoot.
When in her sleep Grandma Bishop died I thought ‘this is fine, this is life’ — she was in her 90s and had to go, and I was thankful because she’d suffered so.
When my cousin James in a car crash died I thought ‘this is not fine, this is not life’ — he was in his 30s and left behind friends and family without saying goodbye.
I worked in a funeral home so however tough it was is what I’d chosen, sort of. It was a test, and I found it tough arranging the funerals of a crash victim, a suicide a child, and many other people, whilst trying to come to terms with my own grief. I think I did well, though, because I arranged over 90 funerals in my last 11 months, and the only complaints I had came from my bullies.
So goes so, doesn’t it? Words and actions. When I was struggling Rosie, my colleague, didn’t ease the burden by arranging a funeral; and Janis, my manager, decided to finally try and discipline me for Rosie not arranging funerals.
I remember my anger — November 27th — and I remember how determined I was to not even entertain Janis’ disciplinary for a minute. The woman had sat there for 2 hours gathering all this evidence against Rosie and what, that was all pretend? Fuck me, her commitment. She’d sat there and assured me, promised me, said everything was going to be alright — bald-faced fucking lies the lot of it, again to my face with that fucking smirk, that fucking laugh — and it is here where my anger issues.
In lieu of care, and in their employ, I turned to The Southern Co-operative Funeralcare and raised a grievance that Janis acknowledged with more evidence to bolster her cause. I’d long stopped eating, was losing weight, and my doctor signed me unfit for work. My grief was questioned by the Co-op and over Christmas ’15 I searched for the words to defend it, to prove my grief was real. I found those words, I gave my grief a voice, and I stood up for myself in the process.
The Co-op asked me what sort of support I wanted, and why I hadn’t asked for it — the only support I wanted was not to be bullied. I wanted Rosie to do some work and I wanted Janis to be a manager, to be mindful and appropriate — I didn’t want the world, and what I wanted should not have needed to be voiced. We all worked in a funeral home. Death and grief was our bread and butter. Does compassion not extend to colleagues? Snide comments, whispered remarks — it was like being on a playground with little brat-bullies who think they’re something because they braid their hair. Congratulations. I can shit in the toilet but you don’t see me being an arsehole about it.
Whatever. If someone can take one look at someone else and decide that she isn’t going to help them because ‘they look mean’, or some other excuse like that, then exactly why she works in a funeral home is a matter she’ll take up with Death. He won’t be happy and I shouldn’t get involved. And if Janis can be so inconvenienced by Death, by James and his death, and in so being, feeling the need to bully, then I’m glad she took the time out to take that rest on a bench with a fresh mug of coffee and a nice choccy bickie, and I’m glad I was there. She went through it and for a brief moment she was put in her place.
The cause of my mental breakdown was stress, but when isn’t it stress? And that stress wasn’t death, it was people. People did things that pushed me and pushed me into those dreary days. If I take out the people then I’m left with only the repercussions of what they’d done and myself.
Me not helping
In response, this is what I did:
- I censored myself;
- I blamed myself;
- I took what they did and ran.
This what I should’ve done:
- Said my piece;
- Only taken my blame;
- And dumped what they did in the trash.
The drafts of In lieu of care named Janis and Rosie but the final cut only alludes to the former and doesn’t mention the latter, and then for months that is the running theme. I tell a tale of a lone nameless bully that resembles a witch; well that’s not exactly the truth, is it? Not far from the truth but it’s cutting out a whole person, a whole second dimension that as I writer I should’ve embraced. It wasn’t until November 27th, after I broke the pattern, did I start to feel better. Over night, like I didn’t have a care in the world.
I forgot myself. Threads already loosened unravelled and pulled out knots, the knit quickly lost its design and I was a total stranger to myself.
Time & control, the rest
Time needs control, and control needs time — they are the perfect catch 22.