Last night one of my friends asked me if I’d ever thought of publishing an anthology of my blog entries, because he thought I’d really grown as a writer. The short answer is “yes.” However, I don’t want to be self-aggrandizing. I’d like for someone who’s capable of publishing to ask for one… mostly because I don’t know which of my entries really resonate with people, and which don’t.
The marriage article I wrote years ago (published on Facebook as a Note in 2012 and on this web site in 2013) got a lot of traction all over the world due to an amazing amount of social media shares, ending up on both Margaret Cho’s and Martina Navratilova’s Twitter feeds. But that one article does not a book make, and though Dana was my world at the time, I’m so embarrassed by all the mistakes I made that reading it on my own is extraordinarily painful. If I really knew what I was talking about, why didn’t my own marriage succeed?
I suppose the short answer is that it did for a very long time, and not to mistake the part for the whole.
Dear God… make me a bird, so I can fly far…. far, far away.
It’s haunting, really. A few nights ago, for the first time in years, I rolled over in bed half asleep and said, Dana, can I have a drink of your water? She always liked to have a Mason Jar on her nightstand, and didn’t mind sharing. The dream startled me, and I woke up in a sweat, because obviously my subconscious mind had forgotten she wasn’t there. I am trying to figure out what the dream represented, because I have a history of “body memory,” things coming to me in the night over events that happened on the same day in years past. I feel the same tension over again, long held in scar tissue so that it surfaces when I least expect it, because I don’t remember what the original event might have been.
I am not good with times, places, and orders of events. I am good at remembering the tiniest details of how I felt. I won’t remember the date, but I’ll remember what it felt like to be near you, whether that interaction was positive or negative. I’ll remember what you were wearing down to the accessories and the look on your face. I’ll remember what the air smelled like if we were outside. I’ll remember paragraphs of things you said, but when you said them is lost to history.
In that way, my blog (or as The Divine Mrs. B named it, The Pensieve) is invaluable because when I sit down and write about my experiences, the date and timestamp comes with it. Left to my own devices, sometimes it feels like light years since I was married to Dana and at others, we just broke up yesterday. It is the dance of intimacy in my own head, and very few people are able to cut in.
One of the universal things that happens to me is that in my waking hours, I lose truamatic events and focus on the good things that happen in all my relationships. It is only when I have hours upon hours to dream that the trauma rises up from its grave. In some instances, those dreams torture me. In others, I am just replaying the scene for discernment and clarity.
When I am awake, I just want to walk in the joy that people bring into my life, because I am trying so hard to let peace win. I am not the same person I was before I realized the toll emotional abuse as a child had taken on me… how my actions and reactions had been rewired by all of it until it bubbled up into a world of crazy, or so I thought.
When you’ve been through the cyclone of crazymaking and gaslighting, the things that have been modeled for you show up in your own moods and behaviors. When I truly thought I was descending into madness, it was actually the process of transitioning away from unhealthy patterns, because what was normal for me wasn’t normal for everyone else.
It is an isolated place to feel as if no one understands, and no one ever will. I stuffed down that feeling for far too long- over two decades, in fact. The “insanity” was finally vomiting up all my trauma as I could see down into my core. It was a nightmare I thought would never end, because my life got a lot worse until I emotionally broke in half. Finally, finally, I got some light back in my eyes. The thing I never thought would end is now just a whisper of my past… motivation to keep reaching for my ideal self instead of wandering through my mental graveyard wondering how I came up short.
Emotional illness and a chemical imbalance has always complicated things. Was I a more vulnerable target because I was so depressed, or did the depression begin when I was told things I was too young to handle?
The answer I’ve come up with is twofold. The first is that you can’t talk away a chemical imbalance, just like you can’t go to talk therapy to heal a heart attack. Because I didn’t know I had a chemical imbalance, I wasn’t medicated until I was 19… and even then, it wasn’t the right diagnosis. I was taking unipolar depression medication when I was actually bipolar, and didn’t discover what it was like to live without depression until I got the mood stabilizer I needed and no doctor caught until five years later.
I’m always a little gunshy about saying I’m bipolar, because the images you see in media are not the symptoms I experience. Bipolar disorder is a spectrum, just like autism, and I am at the weakest end. My “ups” are not true mania, but what is called hypomania. This means that I experience horrendous downs with very view ups, and the ups aren’t very high. I get insomnia and flurries of activity, such as actually wanting to go outside… I feel more at ease interacting with people, because I cease to feel as if the pod people have come to get me.
But these symptoms are when I am off meds. Taking medication every day manages them so that I have a normal range of emotions and I don’t cycle unpredictably. However, I do get situational depression that medication just can’t help, and that’s where the chicken and egg conundrum roll over and over in my head.
It is the second aspect of my depression that answers my own question of “which came first?” Again, you can’t talk about a chemical imbalance and hope it heals itself… but you can use talk therapy for the life experiences that have made you who and what you are. I see them as disparate, one medical, one psychological. This is because my trauma reflexes can be eased into wholness, but I’ll still have to take medication for the rest of my life. This is because I’ve gone off-meds a couple of times; once, I thought my depression was situational and after talk therapy, I could wean myself off of it. The second time, I didn’t have insurance or enough cash to pay out of pocket.
Both times, I’ve crashed and burned like a 747 slamming into the mountains.
The thing is, though, some of my depression is situational, events that used to run across my mind as hurricanes which, in recent years, have tone themselves down to mere pouring rain.
Though this web site has really only been for me, I have been flabbergasted at the way I’ve become a Nouwen “wounded healer.” By opening up and showing others all my flaws and failures, I’ve found so many people that identify with them.
If there’s any merit to an anthology, it would only be an invitation to a wider audience that might get something out of it, because most of my entries over the past three years have been a manual on What Not to Do.™
There’s a flip side to bringing in a wider audience. I already get freaked at the number of people that quote me to me… and while it is nice to know that there are lines people remember, it is also stomach-clenching to feel caught like a deer in headlights, held accountable by others to my own words when I feel I am doing my dead-level best to slash through sin… a loaded word, but I can’t think of a better one.
Just because you had a rough childhood doesn’t mean that you’re not responsible for your actions and reactions once you “age out.” Children cannot be held responsible for not knowing they need help, but adults certainly can.
When I back to the things I’ve written, I also think about my friends, and what it would do to our lives to open them up in a distributed book. Some people I disguise. Some, I don’t. It depends on whether we’re close or not. If people are a part of my daily life, I want them to be as real to you as they are to me.
If they aren’t, or if they’ve specifically asked for confidentiality, they get nicknames that hopefully disguise them well enough for my entire audience to be kept in the dark. Over time, I have realized that I am not nearly as good at this as I think I am.
There are accidental breadcrumbs all over the place, plot holes that would have to be patched because living in DC requires it.
But in a lot of ways, I don’t feel that I need to write a book, because I write the equivalent of a chapter a week.
My “book” is already being written, one post at a time… and I would much rather be respected by a small audience than launched onto an international stage… I mean, I’m already on one. I’ve been read in every single country in the world, and I can prove it. But to go on a press junket promoting my own pain for profit isn’t necessarily my idea of a good time.
I’m not exactly a private person, especially one-on-one. It’s getting paid for it that’s problematic. Having a “pay what you want” button to cover server cost isn’t the same thing. It’s not that I don’t think my work isn’t worth something. It’s that my writing is about my life, and facing the possibility of my friends and my former loves feeling exploited is unacceptable.
An anthology would be a long conversation, particularly with the friends I have who are very private people. It’s one thing to show up on a modestly popular blog. It’s quite another to show up on Amazon. Of course, that’s assuming that it sells, and for me, that’s assuming a lot. But I don’t think so much of myself that I know it would. I am just thinking aloud about the possibility that it would, and how that would affect not only my own life, but others’ lives as well.
As I am learning more and more, it’s not all about me.
It never has been, and it never will be.