when i was young i was frequently described as "moody." or dismissed as "angry." according to the social worker who routinely pulled me out of class i was intellectually bright but "quietly hostile." nevermind that i was basically living in squalor with a half-dead corpse, subsisting on the kind of cereal that comes in a five pound bag and whatever nutrient-rich meals were being served for free hot lunch; i was diagnosed as having "an attitude problem." so i rocked with that. when you're a kid it's sometimes just easier to go along with other people's definitions of who you are. they're adults, right? so they're smarter? i would listen to this faith no more tape on my walkman (DO YOUNG PEOPLE UNDERSTAND WHAT THOSE WORDS EVEN MEAN) over and over while sulking and looking morose or whatever it is poor kids get to do when we have no access to semiautomatic firearms or prescription drugs. it was the only thing i could do to make it to the next goddamned day.
no one in my house was talking about depression. that's something that happened to white people on television, not a thing that could take down a Strong Black Woman. which also fucked with me on the "why are you listening to smashing pumpkins instead of [insert name of popular early 90s r+b artist]? are you even black!?" level. siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh. so i was 1 super fucking depressed 2 super fucking depressed with no one to talk to about it who wasn't going to immediately suggest child services remove me from my home and 3 super fucking depressed while clocking in on the low end of my skinfolk's negrometers because i identified hard with courtney love and read sassy magazine because essence wasn't really speaking to me yet so wasn't this whole thing yet another way i was desperately trying to be white?
i tried to take my own life in 1993 and the general response when it failed was basically LOL TOUGHEN UP.
first semester freshman report card:
algebra A (because kate lewis helped me do my homework i love you kate)
i just slept straight through the rest of the weekend and went back to school the next monday and kept doing the same shit i'd always been doing and figured that if i wanted to try again i needed to wait until i was old enough to get a car and drive it off one of suburban chicago's many cliffs. i think my mom started watching me a little more closely? but what was she really going to do. she was severely disabled and my being hopeless all the time was trumped by "you know i can't walk, right?" and i get that. i was a kid, it was my job to go to school, so i did my job. i would deal with it when i was off medicare and making enough money to pay for therapy myself. BAHAHAHAHAHA *choke sob* AHAHAHAHAHA!
even when my fucking parents died five years later when i was eighteen, and i had an actual thing i could point to as a source of my unrelenting depression, a cause to substantiate the effect of my simmering hatred, i played it off. i don't know if it feels like this for anyone else, but i definitely come from the kind of people whose response to "hey man, i'm pretty bummed out" is "shut up, there's nothing wrong with you." or how about "you just sleep all of the time because you're lazy." like, if it isn't broken or hemorrhaging you need to bury it under these dollar store snack foods and work it out by your fucking self. OH OKAY COOL. so then i developed very glamorous coping mechanisms like covering myself with grisly death tattoos and eating food out of the trash. and then, because i wasn't actively trying to kill myself and could keep a job and make friends and pay my rent and not do heroin, i made peace with it. this is just how i am. I'M FINE. for as long as i can remember i've had this undercurrent of sadness that, if i'm being honest, i don't totally mind. it was easy to ignore because it doesn't bother me that much. and i don't want to be some shiny, happy idiot. this is gritty, this is real.
i am just an old garbage bag full of blood patiently waiting for death to rescue me, but sometimes when i tell people that their immediate response is HOW CAN YOU BE SAD YOU'RE HILARIOUS!!!!! and then for five seconds i'm like "this asshole who has never met me before is correct i'm so funny i should stop thinking life is a trash can." until five seconds after that some human roadkill yells at the grocery store bagger or pulls his scrotum out on the train and i get the insatiable urge to peel my skin off like the layers of an onion and jam my thumbs into my eye sockets while hoping that i'll just disappear down the garbage disposal of human existence straight into hell. then it's easy to just write the depression off as an irritation at the dummies i have to share the planet with. "i'm not depressed, dudes who ride unicycles in rush hour traffic are fucking idiots" or "nothing is wrong with me, the real problem is all these people mindlessly texting while their dogs shit in the middle of the gd sidewalk."
two things happened that forced me to finally have the "sometimes i have a disproportionately rage-filled response to otherwise harmless shit" talk with my doctor. 1 i was at work and the worst person in the world came in to buy dog food, the kind of person who asks an unending stream of questions that i as an unfamiliar customer service representative couldn't possibly answer as she emptied the entire contents of her handbag onto the counter in front of me. i hate that, the "please don't write a negative yelp review of this business" trap that requires i stand there trying to look engaged while this woman uses me as a sounding board for questions like, "is [redacted] going to eat three cans or maybe should i just get one?" she's not asking me, but she's not not asking me? i mean, we're making eye contact but how in the fuck could i know!? and i have to wait there held hostage because one of these questions pouring like vomit from her toothless maw might be one i can actually answer. "can i really carry a seventeen pound bag up my stairs?" (well, not that one.) "i wonder if the dog really wants me to switch back to his old food." (yeah, not that one either.) i could feel the familiar rageheat start in my shoulders and claw its way slowly up my neck and into my jaw before finally scratching at the backs of my eyeballs. and as she kept rambling nonsensically to herself while pretending she needed my help for five minutes in real time i calmly raised my hands to my ears and used my forefingers to hold them closed and said, "you have to get the fuck out of here or i will destroy you." SO MUCH FOR THAT STELLAR YELP REVIEW.
then 2 i had the kind of anxiety attack that makes you feel like you’re going to die on the spot as i was standing next to stephanie’s car in the parking lot of a combination gas station and subway. i tossed my sandwich (tuna, plain, whole wheat because duh i’m a health nut) onto the passenger seat and pawed at my chest while trying to catch my breath. WHAT A DEPRESSING PLACE TO DIE, i thought. i assumed i was having a heart attack because i had been in line at subway behind three black people, each of whom had a long list of explicit, complicated instructions for the sandwich artist tasked with preparing six inches of squishy yoga mat bread to your uncle tony's exact specifications. “i want provolone cheese and cucumbers and spinach and lettuce and red onions and tomatoes, olives and banana peppers and giardiniera, i need the chipotle southwest sauce and the ranch, extra meat but i don’t want you to charge me for it, also let me get the green bell peppers and the herbs and spices, oil and vinegar too on the italian herbs and cheese bread, then i want you to toast that shit but don’t, like, toast it toast it. don't let my fucking lettuce wilt, man.” and yes his sandwich should be exactly as he fucking wants it but as an innocent bystander who never gets more than two toppings that shit is fucking nerve-wracking, please just let me get my plain scoops of tuna on wheat bread before i sweat through my clothes with anxiety over this transaction not turning out the way homeboy intended because most of those things don’t even go with meatballs but what the fuck do i know please god just let me leave. i went straight to the hospital, smelling like old-ass subway tuna fish.
when i have a panic attack my throat closes up like someone is wrapping their fingers around it and my chest hurts and i can't breathe and i am 100% certain i am going to die. i know when you feel it coming on you're supposed to relax and do your breathing exercises but it feels like if in that moment i lie down and close my eyes for even a second i will never open them again. and most of the time i'm down with that but this shit always happens when my sheets need changing or my garbage can is full of freezer-burned hot pockets i tried to salvage and i get even more stressed out at the thought of whomever finds my corpse discovering the last thing i googled was "shark tank bonus clips." not being able to deal with your life is humiliating. it makes you feel weak. and if you're african-american and female not only are you expected to be resilient enough to just take the hits and keep going, if you can't you're a black bitch with an attitude. *rolls eyes for sarcastic effect* you're not mentally ill, you're ghetto. sitting in that hospital bed with a 23-year-old dude who looked like he was playing doctor with his father's stethoscope looped around his neck i was so fucking embarrassed, ashamed to be talking to him about being so mad and so sad as he dumped a syringe full of ativan into my arm. letting rosa parks and harriet tubman down by talking about my silly little feelings.
all this might be easier if i could punch shit, but i'm not a punch shit person. i'm a sit in the dark in the bathroom with a package of sharp cheddar cheese slices person. except i don't even really eat cheese anymore. plus i can't fucking fight. if a bitch wanted to whoop my ass right now my only hope would be to challenge her to a sudoku battle or some shit. I'M SOFT, MAN. and i don't have any answers. the world is scary and terrible and motherfuckers out here don't want obamacare to fix a paper cut let alone offer some discounted mental health care, so what can we do. talk about it? stop being afraid of it? shut down dudes who want to dismiss us as fragile or crazy!? i went on lexapro but after three weeks stopped sleeping and fuck that. maybe it doesn't work that way for everyone but i'd rather be angry and well-rested than tired and happy. or "happy," i guess. i have generic klonopin and ativan and i learned how to do this 478 breathing technique that's supposed to switch your body from fight-or-flight to a passive response but come on, bro. seriously the only time it even occurs to me to do it is when i'm sweating and trying to dry swallow some of these benzos. if i ever have more than $37 in my pocket i'm going to open a school for girls with bad attitudes where we basically talk to therapists all day while wearing soft pants and occasionally taking a field trip to the nearest elote cart. and if that doesn't work i'll just tell some jokes. good thing i'm hilarious.