AMBER LOVE 05-MAR-2014 For years, I was fortunate enough to have a close companion – a soulmate and I do believe people get more than one – who would try to give me advice on writing and living. He was one of “those people” who could work through anything including difficult emotions; in fact he always told me that being happy with me was ruining his writing. He understood depression and mental illnesses rather well having seen it up close. His advice was often the same: channel it into your work (writing, art, whatever). That famous line comes up time and again, “Bleed on the page.” Some people say Red Smith was the originator of that but others believe it was Paul Gallico, Ernest Hemingway or even someone else. I guess it doesn’t matter as far as the message goes.
I told this person plenty of times, I can’t do it. I can’t write. I’m frozen. I’m usually found in bed with the blankets pulled up no matter how warm it might be. I’d have my devices connecting me to the world and the television playing something that could give me what I could pass as joy but was honestly only an absence of panic. For a couple years it was a rotation of MONK, PSYCH, HOUSE, and the BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES because those were the DVD collections I had. Once I got a full time job and left temping/freelancing behind, I got Netflix. Bought a new television so I could see my classics better. I joined a gym. Got all new tires on the used car my parents had to buy me in order to get to the new job. I cringed at the price of new phone while seeing even with the subsidy of a contract, it was still an entire week’s salary and even now I’m not in a place where I can contribute to the actual family plan bill. Basically, it sounds weird but I was trying to take things one step at a time and those steps were not easy for me.
Most people know my psych history since it’s far easier for me to be honest about it then to try and cover it up. I do that masking technique of trying to be normal only when I really have to like when I’m interviewing for a job or at a convention trying to sell books. It’s one of the reasons I liked calling this site AmberUnmasked when it was suggested to me. For some reason, I can look right at someone, shake their hand, smile big as a beauty pageant contestant and then go into the bathroom and tweet about how I’m crying and shaking. That’s how my life is.
It’s no secret that artists and writers have a reputation for being “difficult” or a variety of other colorful adjectives before people were diagnosed with mental illnesses. These creative types are known for chemical addictions too. Now we are in the age of enlightened labels for everything that makes you different from the next guy. Your cheeks aren’t rosy; you have rosacea. Your child isn’t the product of shitty parenting; he has ADHD and what a coincidence, his prescription meds for it do wonders for you too. You’re not tired; you have a vitamin deficiency. You’re not an asshole; you have Asperger’s Syndrome.
If scientists can balk at the people who have “magical thinking” sharing beliefs of things that cannot be disproved nor proven, then I think it’s fair to say there’s some harm in “medicinal thinking.” Labeling everything that makes us different as a disorder, syndrome or disease doesn’t feel right to me. It doesn’t feel like we have a healthy populous on the planet. Being different is not an illness on its own. Blue eyes are a mutation that come with absolutely no special considerations but we don’t think of blue eyes as an illness, do we? That would be the first thing wrong with me since I’ve had them since I was born. Now the atrocious eyesight I had was a real diagnosis and was corrected with lenses and finally surgery.
For many years all I wanted was a diagnosis for my mental health state. I was seeing a psychiatrist and taking these useless pills of different colors. Even though I was a routine patient, in that office all the time on schedule, I was never really talked to. It was 15 minutes of me giving shorthand recaps of my week. Things were either good, the same, or worse. The doctor would scribble on his blue pad, tear off a sheet and say, “Ok, see you in a few weeks.” And off I’d go.
I used to believe in the power of positive thinking. I was lead to believe that somehow my emotional state must have been my own fault for not choosing to be happy at that moment. This guilt on top of other guilt for feeling like I had failed my family, was really not something else I needed in my life. I would take my pills and actually tell people that those little compounds were saving my life and WASN’T IT A GLORIOUS MIRACLE? The whole time, lying. I thought that if I kept saying it, it would be real. That if I kept allowing myself to see where the positive thought was, that I’d be able to capture that path and walk on it like a “normal” person who has treatments that do what they’re supposed to. It never once worked.
If I visualized myself someplace happy, I still never felt joy. What I felt was even more guilt followed by anger and more self hatred and on and on the cycle would go. This has not changed even though I detoxed off those “miracle pills” many years ago. By the way, detox lasted two years and was one of the worst fucking times of my life where I was more suicidal than I had ever been at that point. In fact, it’s when attempt number one occurred. Trying to clean my body from that garbage was impossible to do while trying to have a family and a job. I was not sound enough to be around other humans in large doses like going to a job. I was so out of my own body most of the time that I don’t even have memories which is probably for the best because I most likely was an awful human being to everyone. It wasn’t different from not being on any protocol only I was getting a lot fatter from the pills and depression.
I would continue to try and write once in a while. I had actually drafted a mystery novel over the years but it never saw further drafts. I switched from journaling in books to LiveJournal which was mindblowing to me because you could do things like choose little emoticons and include images with your post.
After detoxing and spending some time in a facility against my will, my husband at the time was willing to let me just stay home and get my shit together. I dedicated my life to learning about macrobiotics, open colonics and going to a gym for 90 minutes a day. It took a couple years but I looked much better after a lifetime of putting weight on, more and more each year. Happy Fucking New Year, here’s another ten pounds! I gave up meat which was when I dropped 40 pounds; eventually I gave up most dairy too. I still suffered from severe pain so I was told I needed my gall bladder out. That surgery was the greatest unnecessary thing ever because I got down to my “healthy” goal weight that I hadn’t seen in about 25 years. I don’t think I actually needed that surgery but after years of misdiagnoses about pain, I was willing to believe anything that fell into the “medicinal thinking” faith system. I had seen doctors. They wrote things down. I had tests. There were pictures of my guts. Obviously this was a real thing! Obviously there’s no way science could be questioned. This was only addressing one type of the pain I experience. There are others from PMS to migraines. Pain is pain. This particular shoulder and back pain my mother diagnosed as my gall bladder two years before any doctor would and that was only after vomiting on him in the emergency room on my birthday.
By this point my hatred of doctors was no longer only bits of nervousness. I hated them. And now, as I previously blogged, I break down into panic attacks anytime I’m in a medical office. The only “good” thing that came out of the surgery as I said was my new found hotness which I only achieved because I was then afraid of food that might make another organ shutdown (see, I had all the guilt of hearing doctors tell me it’s a fatty diet that destroys gall bladders) and I was given Vicodin, my favorite thing in the world next to lolcatz on the internet. To me, I had my miracle at last. I was “happy” and it felt foreign. I was legally floating on a substance from doctors. I looked the best I had my entire life. People all over the world would notice me and my pictures on the internet (and this was years before nude modeling). I wasn’t seeing comments calling me fat anymore. Suddenly I was fuckable (by everyone except my own husband, that is). The icing on my macrobiotic vegan cake was that I didn’t have pain in my physical body for the first time since I was 11.
The unfortunate thing is that the lifestyle of Dr. Gregory House (played by Hugh Laurie) is one hundred percent fiction. I was only allowed that glorious miracle drug for two months. I immediately began putting weight back on and resumed eating which made me hate myself some more because I lived without much food for months. I had changed so much that my husband and I had virtually no relationship other than sharing living quarters so I left. I had put myself at the next level of depression by moving away from the only family I have, gave up stability, moved to an economically depressed city where there was zero work to be found other than a few spotty minimum wage temp assignments. I burned through what had been a very small retirement fund and lived off my credit card which I’m still paying off. In a year, I moved back home with my parents because I was far too poor and extremely suicidal and recognized that I should not be alone. It was either move home or prostitute myself in Pittsburgh. Maybe if I was covered in Steelers tattoos I could earn some bank but not as a misplaced Jersey girl scared of how bad she failed at life.
My parents came and took me home to our country house which is the Jersey version of the Winchester Mansion, always under construction and never ever done. I don’t remember when I started writing again.
That should give you an idea of how bad it gets at any given day. I don’t need life changing moments to feel that despair. It’s just despair. Just my life. So when I want to write or sew a new costume or carve a pumpkin, I can’t. I don’t understand this “bleeding on pages” other people seem to do. I can do this blogging thing because I had always been a journal writer. That’s not creative though. It’s not fiction. It’s not a world with characters and achievements to unlock. This autobiographical stuff has no real purpose. There’s no ending. There’s no plot. The only achievement to unlock is to wake up the next day not dead from giving in to the daily urge to make it all stop.