Last night I murdered a man, cut him up in quadrants, left him in the middle of my bedroom floor and cleaned my house. When I finished, I put his severed body, which was shockingly weighty, and several bags of trash into an alley dumpster. I waited for the police. When none arrived, I rolled a few items of clothing into my purple and grey Osprey backpack, walked to the airport and took the first flight to anywhere but fucking COVID-19.
We landed in a Mexico that looked like an Italy wrapped in grape leaf, we being a crew of disorganized seekers that I met on a cruise ship.
“We’re taking you to a spinal doctor,” the leader said.
“Do I have cancer in my spine?”
“No. It’s a test for depression.”
I cackled my nervous breakdown right in his face and said, “I don’t need a spinal tap. Of course I’m fucking depressed.”
Then I woke up and explained to my partner—convincingly—that my current inability to gain traction in this post COVID-19 world, is a mild case of writer’s block,* not depression.
When my mom stopped by around mid-morning, I told her about my inability to catch tred. “I don’t know what’s going on with me, but I can’t produce like I usually do. I’m just tired. I just need a break.”
“I can’t imagine why,” she said and then we moved onto other pressing matters such as how our friends and loved ones are suffering from (sometimes) crippling symptoms of stress and mental illness.
Around noon, I verbally assaulted the appalling Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield voice bot after she queried my member ID for the seven millionth time. After she hung up on me, I wrote Anthem a note about its Moron Soup. Moron Soup, for those who have yet to fully absorb the mental health effects of a massive social disrupt, are all the bits and parts that make the customer service experience in the United States excruciating.
In conclusion, I stared at a blank Word doc and thought, “Why can’t I finish this collection of shorts? What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I focus? Why am I not okay?”
How Do You Want to Live?
Those who know me understand that I would certainly murder in defense of my family. However, the killing in my dream world is splicing the here and now because the awake me is fucking pissed.
I’m pissed because the structure of our society is not okay.
It is not okay that when facing a food shortage we maneuver to clear as many linen closets as possible to horde toilet paper. It is not okay that our first thought isn’t, “How can I share my excess with many?”
It’s not okay that we are more concerned with reactivating our anesthesia—sporting events, happy hours, etc.—than we are with how we’re going to vote.
It’s not okay that we are killing our environment.
It’s not okay that we have lost touch with community.
It’s not okay that time is measured in production.
It is not okay to kill people who are different than you.
It is not okay to pretend that the status quo is fine.
It is not okay to cling to this country’s infrastructure when it’s clearly crumbling.
It’s not okay that we continue protesting for our right to basic human rights. It’s inexcusable, it’s unbelievable and it cannot continue. It’s also why thousands of us are sitting at home wondering about this abstract “need for a break” or why we can’t get traction or why we don’t feel right. You are not okay because the United States as we live and exist within it today is not okay. You are not okay because COVID and the isolation and social change that it’s creating has forced you to look at how you live. Why do you live the way that you do? How often do you actively participate in your life? What’s working? What’s not? Which pieces of it work? Which values aren’t yours, but rather an inherited bill of bullshit? Those are the questions. The answers are how we are going to atone for capitalism’s sins.
What Is Your Before? Who Is Your After?
These questions are uncomfortable because they leave us in a state of certainty. Uncertainty is an unyielding, often-forgotten-pressure that can shatter anything. I know because I spent years living an uncertain life. During this period of time, one of my therapists suggested (based on a researched argument presented by my sister) that I might have borderline personality disorder. I was so horrified that I could hardly breathe. “That’s it,” I thought. “I really am insane. The feelings that I’ve always been ashamed to feel really are wrong. I have been wrong my whole life.”
This therapist encouraged me to ignore the label and instead look at the criteria. Namely she asked me to examine my “pervasive pattern of instability of interpersonal relationships, self-image and affects, and marked impulsivity” in relation to symptoms that included:
- Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment
- A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation
- Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self
- Impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging
- Affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (inability to control emotions)
- Chronic feelings of emptiness
- Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger
Yeah. And also, fuck.
“It can be temporary, you know,” this therapist told my unstable self.
No, I didn’t know that temporary insanity could be temporary. I thought that in the United States of America, the thoughts, memories and beliefs of anyone who has a whiff of mental illness are inconsequential. I thought that in the United States of America, second to being a minority, a woman, or one with a non-Christian view on gender and sex, being mentally ill was the worst thing to be.
With my feet back on the ground, I’m not ashamed that when life kicked my ass I freaked out a little bit. With my feet back on the ground, I know that when people dream about killing others, experience incessant rage, or can’t seem to gain traction, they’re probably depressed, not untrustworthy.
If you’re having a hard time gaining momentum or traction, consider that you might be temporarily borderline—you are between two places. You are between before and after. Consider this so that you can recognize the anger, the rage, the depression and the anxiety and then let it filter through as it is. Consider it so that you can ask for help, so that you can ask for a break. Consider it to keep faith that what you’re moving toward is better. Consider it so you don’t spend weekends murdering people in your sleep.
*It’s never a block. It’s always a resistance.