Homework—mine

I have been taking writing classes for a while now, and where there once was a vague story line has turned into a memoir and two fiction proposals. I would like to say at least one is outlined, but writing is hard. It takes a lot of discipline and concentration. If you’ve tried it, you know.

The IMG_0704scary part is having someone else read it! Of course, I’m talking about stepping out there on the teeniest branch of the tree and handing a flash drive to a stranger. I’m not saying it can’t be done, but even a lot of my friends and contacts on Facebook (including students) do not know what I am doing. Hell, I’m not sure what I am doing. Some days I wake up with the Bad Critic standing over me, laughing.

“Seriously?” he says. “What makes you think you can do anything? A book?” and then he laughs so hard, he falls off the bed, and I put the pillow over my face and try to stay in bed.

I get up, though. Some mornings it takes everything I’ve got to put my feet on the floor. But my new part time job is helping. I’m teaching 4-5-year-olds English online. I have to get up at 5 or 6 because they live in China. I know, I said I wasn’t going to teach ESL anymore, but these little guys are funny, and I get to be funny, too. They call me Teacher Sonya, or just Teacher (which is a respectful title in Asia), and usually, by the time I get done with the first class, I’ve put the Bad Critic into a garment bag and zipped him up. Oh, he’ll figure out how to get out, but not for a while, and he doesn’t dare show his face while I’m teaching online.

Yes, I know it’s a circus act, but you remember my depression? It can’t hold on to me while I’m singing the ABC’s to a five-year-old online. So far I’ve taught 47 students. And now the circle of my ESL teaching is complete. Primary School through High School. Some days I wonder how I do it.

Photo by Andre Furtado on Pexels.com

Question of the Day

Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade ended their lives within a few days of each other. I am sad because I have walked around that rabbit hole and slipped in for a little while. The cause is often major depression, although there can be other illnesses or personal factors that cause the person to make the final push. The truth is, unless the person has left a detailed letter explaining why, it’s hard for close family and friends to understand.

You may hear comments such as “He seemed just fine!” “I talked to her just a few hours ago.”

But, people with depression learn to hide and wear a mask in their daily world. That way, we look fine! You cannot imagine what is going on in the mind, and I am hard-pressed to explain it. Depression stays in your body 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Sometimes it quiets itself; sometimes it is forward and pushing aside any logical thinking or action. I call my depression the “Bad Critic,” because I am a writer. For me, the critic edits everything I say, think, or do, unless I can stop it. I try to refocus on something else or count my breaths very consciously. Outside people and events can affect it, and it is often misdiagnosed.

I had panic attacks when I was a child. The doctors could find nothing wrong with me so they blamed it on “growing pains,” puberty. But it got worse, and people around me thought I was making it up, so I developed my own coping skills by learning when and where I would panic, and what I could do to ease it.

By the time I was a teen, the Bad Critic had showed up, and I was in indescribable pain. I hid at home. I attended as few outside activities as possible. I just wanted to sleep. As I grew older, I sensed something was wrong with me, but I thought it was a character fault–seriously!

My depression was not diagnosed until I was 35 years old. I have received many kinds of treatment, but I am worse now than when I was young. Suicide is not supposed to be an option in our society, but neither is mental illness. To all those who suffer, try to keep walking one step at a time. There are people who can help you, but in the end you are alone with your mind.

Here is a place to help you

 

person standing near lake
Photo by Lukas Rychvalsky on Pexels.com

No Journey, Just Trying to Get Through

The reason I’m not seeing pretty comes from a corner in the city in which an artistic installation is made up of metal poles with various sized “petals” attached so that as the wind blows-think small whooshes, the petals spin in at different directions. The poles and petals are small, medium, and large. They are lit by lights at night that show the movement and spin. They seems to spit rain on such days and even catch a few snowflakes in the winter. I thought they were a great idea. They line McGovern Avenue just before the turn to the train station. Get it? Movement? Yeah.

Then one day, I was driving my daughter to work and made the turn beside them. I had been trying to explain to her how awful I felt, and suddenly, without thinking, I said,

“It’s like those wing things. They’re art. They’re sculpture, but I’m not seeing pretty today because the Bad Critic has taken over my mind and senses and pretty much everything else.”

My daughter nodded. She understands. We both have depression and anxiety and godknowswhatother mental health tag we fall under. I had been trying to finish a long nonfiction piece about my majordepressiondisorderwithoutpsychoticfeatures, and the only title I had was a lame one: “Choose Your Own Adventure.” Not good. Not good at all. First, I didn’t choose to have a mental illness, and I am getting as much help as I can, and second, it’s not an adventure. It’s more like living in Dante’s Inferno.

So now you know the story of “I’m Not Seeing Pretty Today,” because that is what depression sees: Not Pretty. And for me not pretty is gray, gray, and gray.

Pencil artwork original by Willa Hutchison, Illustrator.