This is my second year completing Inktober, as well as my second year using Star Trek as my theme. This time, instead of using the prompts I used a “30 Days of Trek” meme I found floating around the internet.
I fight because my mother was a fighter. Because she taught us strength, self-reliance, and that you should use those things to help those less fortunate.
Playground stories about standing up to bullies as a little girl left their mark on me and every day, when I see the bullies of the world try to hurt those who have less, I know that the sensible thing to do is to calmly explain why what they’re doing is wrong but my gut tells me to twist their arm behind their back until they cry or put a fist into their diaphragm so they can’t breathe.
I say all of this as someone who hasn’t thrown a punch since my own, personal bully hit me from behind while I was changing out of my gym shorts in the seventh grade locker room. I am not drawn to violence, but I will push back with every bit of my strength.
When I’m not careful, it can dip into a martyr complex or being a bit of a White Savior, but I do my best to surround myself with people who will tell me when I’m wrong and then I listen to them. At my best, it’s to stand up for those I love. At my worst, it’s to purge my rage at the injustices of the world.
In 2000, I finished making a superhero/pop culture alphabet for my then brother-in-law, who was about five years old. The list of characters does not represent who I would have chosen for myself and is certainly not who I would choose now, but considering my audience at the time, I did the best I could. I’m not sure if the art or the character choices are more embarrassing 16 years later, but it is what it is.
I hope you enjoy this trip down my artistic memory lane.
The best way I can think of to prevent suicide is to be open with myself and those around me how close I’ve come. To destigmatize the pressures and conditions that have pushed me up to that edge. To help others know they aren’t alone.
Five years ago, I was unemployed, in a crumbling, abusive marriage, and convinced that the only worth I had in this world was the value of my life insurance policy. I had a date. I had a plan. The therapist I was seeing and the medication I was taking chipped away at the despair enough to see some faint glimmer of hope. I started to talk about what I was going through. First with my therapist, then slowly with family and an increasing circle of friends.
I often think of the night I researched that life insurance policy to be sure that it would pay out even if they suspected suicide as my lowest point. Maybe it even was, but it was hardly the end of my troubles.
Through the divorce, through the nights learning to sleep alone, through the realization that the life I was living was one that I hadn’t chosen and that I needed a new one, that I had to get away and start over on my own terms, on my own feet … all through my personal destruction and rebuilding, that voice has come up again and again.
In the last five years I have seen and done things and met people I couldn’t have imagined back then. The man I was then would not recognize the one who is typing this right now. I have circled a mountain, I’ve made art that I’m proud of, I’ve touched the lives of strangers, I’ve comforted people I love, I’ve fell in love a time or three, I’ve lost so much more weight than the 100 pounds I shed … and still that voice says, “I can’t keep this up. I’ve run far enough. This is far enough. I’m done.”
Whenever I hear that voice, I remind myself of all the things I’ve experienced since I came so close. I see the people I love. I feel that love. I feel how much I have for you and I remind myself how good it feels to express that love.
This isn’t because of some fear of hurting you or feeling guilt at their disappointment. The despair that fueled that near-miss, that despair that I stave off and stay on guard against, was like being an animal in a trap. The feelings of those I love couldn’t be my salvation because I couldn’t be inside my own skin for a second longer. The consequences of being freed from that trap didn’t matter. I couldn’t take another breath without feeling freedom. And that’s what suicide feels like when you’re in that hole: Freedom.
I picture the people I love because I need something inside myself to keep me moving. No one can save me. I have to save myself. And I do it by loving you.
Perhaps that’s codependent of me, but it works. I pull myself up with my service to others. With my desire to help. With my need to leave this world just a touch better than I found it.
My method may not be yours, but if you’re in despair, you’re not alone. If you feel like you can’t take another step, I promise that you can. You might need help to make it, but you can make it. Don’t be afraid to ask for that help because the person that helps you might be like me. You might be saving them, too.
Today during my commute to work I saw a row of seedlings growing in the crack between the car in front of me’s back window and its trunk.
Over the next few seconds, I had several reactions:
1) Ew. You are gross. Clean your car.
(the irony of me saying this while piloting Nora is not lost on me)
3) Those seedlings are dumb. Don’t they know there’s no hope for them? Don’t they know that there’s not enough food in the dirt packed into that crack to keep them all alive? Don’t they know that the first time it rains hard or the owners of that car drive really fast or THEY OPEN THEIR [insert expletive of your choice] TRUNK the entire ecosystem is going to be ripped apart?
The anger I felt at those little plants caught me off guard. I knew that I had been feeling all the telltale signs that I was slipping into a Depressive episode, but the fact that I saw them not as inspiring or beautiful, but as doomed and stupid said more to me than when I decided to go to bed hours earlier than usual last night simply because I didn’t want to think about anything anymore. More than the ten minutes I spent standing in the shower this morning, willing myself to keep moving. More than the way I keep ignoring audition notices. More than deciding not to see one of my favorite movies in 70mm because the idea of it stresses me out. More than the way every action I take has been a decision lately. Nothing spontaneously happens. It’s all an effort.
So, here’s to those stupid little seedlings. Thank you for reminding me that even though this funk feels like it’s going to last forever; it isn’t. That in a week or maybe a month I’ll be staring agape at Oregon’s beautiful sunsets, planning trips to climb mountains, and reveling in the simple joy of pushing my body to go faster and farther than it has before.