Everyone is not avoiding me.

I mean… right?

Because it kind of feels like everyone is avoiding me. But it kind of always feels like that.

I’m on a weekly sports league for a sport I don’t especially enjoy. I’ve been doing it for years and it isn’t because I like the sport or am particularly good at it. I like my team and enjoy spending time with them. But it seems like every week there’s at least a few moments where I notice all four of them in chatting animatedly without me. They all travel in similar social circles and to similar destinations so I feel excluded when that’s a topic of conversation, and I even catch social media posts, on occasion, documenting chance meetings at such destinations.

At the risk of sounding like I’ve read too much and understood too little, I wonder if this is related to rejection sensitive dysphoria. I can see objectively how I am not the center. I can also find examples of these friends supporting me and enjoying my company. But in the moment I feel so bad that I wish I didn’t exist because in that moment it feels like that’s what everyone else wants anyway. But it’s not reasonable or rational for me to want everyone’s focus to be on me all of the time just to prove not that they care about me, but just that they don’t hate me.

A part of me wonders if this stems from childhood trauma, (although what doesn’t?) In high school, all of my friends were dating each other and I would catch wind of them all going to a movie or to the mall and would just feel terrible. If I ever confronted them about not inviting me, they’d say “what do you mean? We always include you!” And when I’d respond with specific examples, it was always convenient enough to call it a “couple’s thing” so that I was omitted by default.

I’ve always had the feeling that I’m on the periphery. I’m friends with friends but those friends are friends without me. If I’m included by chance, it’s fun, (or tolerable… maybe?) but no one thinks of me or goes out of their way to include me, and this interpretation of my position hurts more than if everyone outright hated me, because at least then I would be considered. Apathy is so much more painful.

Now that we just finished for the night—I’ve been writing this off-and-on over the course of a few hours—I feel like they aren’t as receptive to my chitchat and, while we all walked out together, I couldn’t help feeling they were all relieved to be done with me, that I’m standoffish when I’m in a more withdrawn mood and annoying when I’m feeling more loquacious.

I keep telling myself that the more I get to know and become comfortable with who I am—the more I’m able to show up in my relationships with my authentic self—the more relationships will fall into place. Wasn’t I just reflecting to myself earlier how even over the past few days as I’ve seen my relationship with myself improve, I’ve noticed an ease in my relationships with others that I didn’t feel before? But when? Maybe as I learn who I am I’ll know who my people are and I’ll be able to build community and feel belonging with people who understand me. Or maybe that’s just a fantasy.

It is 3am.

The number three may very well be haunting me since this is the third night I have not been able to sleep. Coincidentally, it’s also my third day on a 30mg dose of Adderall for a recent ADHD diagnosis…

I have never felt very connected to the sensations in me body. The drinks can’t be cold, they have to be freezing. The sex can’t be just passionate, it has to be hard. The edibles don’t hit until I’ve had over 50mg, and it’s been that way since the very first time I tried. I’m forever finding mysterious scrapes and bruises with no idea how they got there. In 2013, I quit smoking after 11 years of daily dedication with no trouble at all because it was snowing and I didn’t feel like walking to the store to get cigarettes. Hell, it’s also my third day of not being in bed after isolation for 10 days with COVID and I didn’t even realize I was having caffeine withdrawals. I mean, you get it… but all this to say I have no idea what could be causing this sudden bout of insomnia. My psychiatrist assured me I would notice the moment the meds kicked in and I am still waiting to experience what she’s talking about so I have no idea if they’d be keeping me awake. I also had a lot of coffee, sort of a celebration of my return to health. And my return to work. But I ALSO had a lot of cannabis this evening and last, which has historically had me pleasantly fighting for consciousness in front of the TV by 9:30 some nights, even after drinking nothing BUT coffee for the ENTIRE DAY. But not tonight. And not last night.

Part of me is pretty sure the adderall is the primary culprit, now, with some help. I am not a scientist and don’t know if this is a realistic expectation but I am hoping after a few days of this, my body will acclimate and I’ll find some new normal which hopefully will involve getting more than three hours of sleep a night. And there she is again, that magic number.

Whatever the reason, my brain won’t shut up so here I am, reflecting on… you guessed it: myself.

A close friend of mine once suggested I try a hormone panel when I was going through a major depressive episode. Thinking about hormones now, I am reminded that I’ve had several tests indicate I have low testosterone. Maybe my body is switching it out for more estrogen and it’s making me calmer and more rational—stay with me—or maybe, just maybe, after all of the hours I’ve poured into scrolling through video after video on TikTok, some of the vicarious insights gleaned from second-hand experience have finally started to sink into place…

In any case, the thing that has me wanting to get some release in the way of a little anonymous public pontification is that I’ve also been having these intrusive thoughts. But they’re not your typical intrusive thoughts. I actually kind of like them, (though I’d like them more if they would slow down and/or take a little break.) They are intrusive but they’re ideas and epiphanies and new realizations about myself and my relationships, dots being connected, puzzle pieces snapping into place.

I admitted a lot of feelings to my boyfriend earlier that I’d been scared to say out loud and now I feel like that teary babbling has somehow allowed me to trust him in a way I don’t think I was able to let myself before. And I found myself interested in him in a way I don’t think I have been yet, or at least in a very long time. Maybe it’s that the recent diagnosis and the meds and even this practice of thinking of myself as autistic (and documenting the thinking in a place where I can come back to it and where other people can see) have helped to effect closure to a very long period of intense self-centeredness. Now that less of my brain power is being spent on considering and analyzing and diagnosing and re-diagnosing MYSELF, perhaps I at last have space to be curious about the people who love me. Maybe the support my boyfriend has shown me in enduring all of my conceited rambling and rumination (and also my sister and other select friends and family) has actually… I don’t know… helped me internalize feeling supported and secure enough to not need as much from others and maybe I don’t have to feel guilty about that because life is give-and-take and now I don’t need to take as much so I can start contributing my share of giving.

I have been making lists, too. Not the chaotic kind I often make when my brain feels like a hurricane of thoughts and feelings and the only thing I can do is sort them all and transfer them from my head to a piece of paper I may never look at again. These lists feel like they are based on reality, like I am actually getting organized and not just play-acting organization to self-soothe.

Also, not only have I had a lot more inspiration to post videos to TikTok, I feel like what I’ve been posting has been the authentic me, like the scripting I do in my head has switched from rehearsal to practice, and when I’m sharing these thoughts back, I’m not just performing a well thought-out reenactment of an idea I had before and still believe… it’s more like I am speaking from my soul in real-time and referring back to my memories as guideposts if I lose my way.

It’s not just my notes app that is feeling more organized. It’s my brain. I still have the chatter static of the nonstop internal monologue and it happens at light speed. But it feels more… I don’t know. Rational? Mature? Coherent? And I did smoke some weed earlier so I was talking A LOT but where I would typically struggle with losing my train of thought and finding my way back, this particular batch of word vomit felt—to me, at least—to have a direction, and when I lost my way it was simple enough to retrace my steps and quickly see where I went off course to pick up the thread again. I mean, even with specific words. I really like words and their ability through connotation and stuff to communicate with intention and specificity. The problem is I always have a precise word I want to say and can only think of every single other word I know. But today I found I was able to relax a little and just let it come to me, which it did. When I let it.

It’s like my head used to be filled with all these crumpled up papers and some were important and some were garbage and some weren’t even mine and I woke up this morning (or yesterday morning, technically) to find that all the papers had been ironed out and neatly sorted and stacked into different piles, freeing up a wealth of space where there used to be only clutter. My head feels clear for the first time… ever?

I just wish I could sleep.

Now that all of this is “on the page,” if you will, I am pretty sure it is the adderall. I had also taken a few days off in between the old and new doses so maybe it’s a bit of a shock to my system? In any case, I have decaf for tomorrow morning and some bananas and granola bars to keep the coffee company in my poor belly for a change, which will hopefully give the meds a little cushion for a softer landing going forward. (I have also felt VERY nauseated at the start of the last three days.)

I know it’s trial and error and, while I’m exhausted, I’m also immensely grateful to feel like I’m finally getting some traction. And now that this is all out, maybe I’ll be able to sleep before work in a few hours.

I have to match.

Maybe it’s leftover trauma from my mother’s overzealous attempts at appearing above our socioeconomic class with her myriad and sometimes arbitrary rules about our dress and overall physical appearance (reinforced, of course, with shame) but I have a lot of rules about clothes. And I’m going to tell you some.

I do not ordinarily wear black. I’m not really sure why this is but I just do not feel comfortable in it. It has sometimes been awkward with my boyfriend because his wardrobe is primarily black and, since that’s what he likes, he has been known to buy me black t-shirts that, to his credit, I really do like… but I never actually end up wearing them. I don’t think I can blame the avoidance of black apparel on my mom, but if I do wear any black, I absolutely cannot pair it with blue because it’s her voice in my head that I hear telling me I look like a bruise, (which, if you think about it, doesn’t technically make sense because while we tend to refer to bruises as “black and blue,” I think bruises are usually a lot of different colors and not sometimes not even any black or blue… but I digress.)

I also do not mix black and brown. So if I am wearing any black, I have to wear black shoes and a black belt. Sometimes khaki pants, although that feels iffy, but mainly black or gray pants. Or sometimes jeans because, while they are often blue, denim has a discrete category in my mind that transcends color for some reason. The more I actually articulate all these rules that have been swimming around in my head for as long as I can remember, the more I’m struck by how inconsistent they are. It’s like it’s more about the feelings and less about the actual rules… but the rules set the general parameters for what feels “right” which means they often aren’t as rigid as my inflexible thinking would prefer them to be.

When I get dressed, I think about what I can wear, head to toe, because everything has to match, including socks, underwear, and glasses. Then there are certain combinations that just go together for whatever reason, like a specific pair of glasses that I have to wear if I wear a certain shirt. Or a particular pair of socks I always wear with the same pair of underwear. And I know this last example is not rational because these are the least visible articles of clothing one can wear. Chances are, if these are ever out of sync, no one but me will even notice. And one might even be of the opinion that I, myself, would be likely to get distracted, forget, and eventually cease to notice, but I am almost 40 years old. That number of years is way too long for me to have consistently stuck to anyone’s rules without breaking them from time to time. And when I do break them, I always know. It’s persistently uncomfortable, even in moments when I’m not consciously thinking about it. It’s rattling around in my head, an underlying thrum, a constant challenge to just try and have a good day and accomplish anything even remotely productive at all, under the immense weight of feeling like something is wrong. It’s guilt and shame and self-consciousness and insecurity. Conversely, it feels really good when it is right, like when everything matches and I feel like I’m “in my power” and I am functioning like a complex machine with all these interdependent parts that fit snugly together and operate with perfect synchronicity. All becomes the same shade of glasses is in my shirt and undies and socks and my pants fit well and look cute and my shoes match my belt and my hair looks good and my beard looks good and my body feels like a comfortable place for me to exist. If a small investment like taking some time to make sure a few select sets of garments are always laundered together can give me all that, why not give myself that gift?

And I guess I can’t blame this one on mom either, but I match cups and straws, too. Do you want to hear about my cup collection? I bet you don’t, but now I’ve started, I have the compulsion to confess all these oddly specific balances I’m constantly straining to achieve but never acknowledging or speaking aloud, not even to my therapist, with whom I’ve specifically been trying to practice saying The Things I Don’t Want To Say. You know those thoughts and feelings that make you feel alienated and deficient and ashamed? The omg-if-anyone-found-out-about-this-everyone-would-think-I-was-so-strange-they’d-immediately-and-permanently-excise-me-from-their-lives-entirely thoughts? I’m trying to tell him those ones. (But I guess not this, though technically I sent him the link, so I guess kinda this… and now that I’m thinking about it these “anonymous” blogs have ALWAYS found me in real life somehow. Every time. So I do this know I’m potentially exposing this to everyone but that’s probably for the best.)

Before I came to terms with the fact that I only like drinking ice cold beverages, I used to make (and waste) a lot of hot coffee, which prompted me to start a collection of mugs, ranging from adorable, to witty, to fun shapes that are difficult to logistically drink out of. I’m a little disappointed if I think too much about the mugs that are shut up in my cabinets, not being drunk from or even seen and admired. But this isn’t about them. The tumblers I actually drink from have a lot of—you guessed it—rules.

For my coffee, which I absolutely overconsume, I have two Yeti tumblers I switch between because they keep my drinks coldest longest and they are big enough to fill completely with ice and still have enough room for an adequate dose of caffeine. I used to buy all these Starbucks tumblers because they came in a lot of cute colors and fun designs but over time the rules have evolved to prohibit drinking from plastic tumblers (or even metal ones with too-thin sides) except as a last resort. But I can’t get rid of them because I bought and collected them (and I think I like looking at them?) so, like their warm-beverage counterparts, even though I do not drink from them anymore, they continue to be moved from apartment to apartment taking up valuable kitchen storage space.

I also drink seltzer and water. For seltzer, I have a giant cup with a handle and a lid, and when I use it, I pair it with a straw selected to match my mood. And—oh my god—the straws! With each cup purchased, I’ve acquired at least one reusable straw, plus too many multi-packs bought and re-bought and re-bought again over the years because each iteration was slightly improved over the last and I can’t just get rid of the old ones because they are still functional, even though they don’t often get the opportunity, and so the collection grows. But the ones I do use are selected carefully based on a number of factors including my emotional state, the weather, the flavor of seltzer, the time of year, etc. And then there is the water, which I drink reluctantly and sporadically. Because most of my hydration happens at the gym, the vessel from which I drink is typically some sport design, usually CamelBak (because I have irrational brand loyalty,) though now I have a big fun metal one I got from Target that’s an off brand but I got it because it looked fun and I thought a fun cup would help me drink more water and so far I’m pretty pleased with it.

Then, on the rare occasion I opt for a beverage outside of the main three, I have a third Yeti Rambler I’ll use, which I don’t ever use for coffee because it was a gift and I don’t like the color. Or I have these heavy 20oz glass mugs from Ikea I was once committed to when my beverages consisted of more alcohol, back before Yeti hit the scene so hard and changed everything. Well. Everything cold tumbler-related, anyway.

Honestly, I could go on and on about this at length… like… longer than the length I’ve already gone on and on about it at this point… but I’ll stop. I don’t know why I have some of these rigid rules or why some are more rigid than others. Sometimes I think it’s autism. Sometimes I think it’s trauma. Sometimes I think it’s human. And on the rare occasion I’m capable of cognitive flexibility, I wonder if it’s a combination of all those and/or other theories I have yet to formulate. In any case, it feels good to have it all typed out and ready to be (relatively) public, like it holds less power now—less shame.

I think the more I can see these things as neutral, not good or bad or weird or off-putting, the more I can just accept the “rules” that make me feel good and figure out how to work around the ones that show up more as obstacles. And, special shout out to TikTok, (namely KC Davis,) for giving me the goal of function over moral judgment to work toward.

Just another meltdown.

I get stressed out about parking.

I start thinking about parking at least a half mile from my destination, depending on where that might be. If it’s somewhere I’ve never been before, I might start stressing about where I’m going to park as soon as I make plans to go there. Even if I’m going home, I am stressed about where I’m going to put my car because there is a place where I like to park but I live in a city and sometimes other people park there.

I don’t know why this is so stressful. It seems like other people are not that concerned. They just decide to go places. They drive there. And then they park. I imagine they don’t think about it much beyond that. That’s my assumption, anyway, based on the fact that I don’t really see anyone else melting down the way I do.

I like going to places with parking lots. That’s easy. I do not like driving deeper into the city where there is mainly street parking. I don’t like having to drive while also scanning the sides of the street for empty spaces while also trying not to annoy the people driving behind me by driving too slowly while also trying to stay in the immediate vicinity of where I’m going. I don’t like pulling over with no warning when I finally see an available spot. I don’t like parallel parking in public with people around who probably aren’t but could potentially be watching and mocking. I don’t know why their opinions of my parking would even matter. Where others would continue to persevere or maybe widen their search area or maybe… honestly I’m not sure what they do, but it stresses me out so much that I will just turn around and go home if it becomes too difficult, and I have done that.

And then when I go home, there’s always the stress over someone possibly being in my space. It’s not technically “my” space but it’s right in front of my house and that’s where I usually go. I start checking as soon as I turn onto my street to see if someone is in my spot. It’s toward the end of the street so, if there’s a long line of cars, it’s sometimes difficult to tell. But as soon as I see for sure, I am either relieved or, if someone is there, immediately filled with rage. It feels like the entirety of the universe is conspiring to convince me I am powerless, I have no agency, I am worthless, I don’t matter. It’s a lot of feelings over a parking space and I hate that I am affected this way but when I see a car in my spot, no amount of soothing self-talk can take away the sting of rage tears I feel burning behind my eyes. Rationally, I know that whoever is parked in my spot does not know me or my car or my feelings, and still it feels like a targeted attack to me, like someone went out of their way to inconvenience me as a personal affront. One particular car has been in my space a lot recently and I even went so far as to ram their car with mine. It wasn’t hard enough to leave a mark but it felt good. And then it felt bad.

Part of the stress at home is the feeling that, if someone takes my space, I then have to take someone else’s space, and, for whatever reason, thinking about how upset I am and them imagining someone else being that upset with me causes me more anxiety than how upset I am for just myself. Sometimes I drive around the block a couple of times and hope that they leave but if I have to park somewhere else, it’s on my mind well after I put the car in Park and exit the vehicle. Sometimes it’s like a low hum of anxiety that runs underneath everything else until I get back in the car and am able to park elsewhere. I look at my car out the window to see if I notice anyone noticing where I’ve parked or gesturing……..

This is exhausting. I am exhausted. I am wondering if I am on the autism spectrum and feeling like I am but also feeling like I am not allowed to say that of myself because it diminishes the experiences of people who are actually autistic. Part of why I am writing this is the fantasy that some authority somewhere will read this as evidence and validate my suspicions. It feels awful to say that, like I’m admitting to something shameful and disgusting. I should not need validation from anyone. In fact, if I got validation at this point, I would probably argue against it because I fear that all I’ve been doing is reenacting harmful stereotypes based on a limited population. But part of why I’m writing this (and also keeping it a secret from almost everyone I know) is that I don’t fit the stereotype of what many neurotypical people think of as autism. Most of the meltdowns I describe happen internally. I feel like I am so full of emotion that I am going to burst sometimes, but I am scared of what will happen or how I’ll be perceived if I let myself lean into those experiences. Even in my most intimate relationships where I can be a little more vulnerable, I am so insecure about every single flare up. Every time I’m upset about something and shout, or groan, or swear, or stomp my feet, or throw something, or slam something, I think that my boyfriend is about to break up with me. I think that only children behave this way. I think I should have more control over my body and my emotions.

This is getting rambly but I think the main point I’m trying to make is that I am never fully comfortable. I am never fully myself. My reactions aren’t always right-sized, and I get stressed out about parking.

I don’t like playing Legos in front of my boyfriend.

He stood over the dining room table surveying my various solid-colored stacks of Lego blocks for a moment and then asked, “what are you doing?”

“I’m organizing them,” I said, hoping that would be enough of an explanation, even though I knew from his tone that he thought how I was going about organizing them was strange.

My birthday was a month and a half ago and he’d gotten me a set and a half of Legos that I had, until today, not touched. I almost wrote “I haven’t given them a second thought,” but I know that’s not technically true. I’ve been thinking about them a lot. And I have been choosing not to introduce Legos into my life for the exact reason I didn’t want to talk to him any more about them. I knew what itch they were going to scratch.

“Okay…” he said, trailing off to imply he found my answer inadequate. I hate when people do this. It’s always because you answered the question they actually asked and not the question they assumed you’d know they also wanted the answer to. I don’t think it’s fair to just expect me know what you want from me, even if I have some educated guesses. So I didn’t say anything. “The question is…” he continued, “why…?”

I had been separating all of the blocks into little piles by color. Then I was going through each color and organizing them by type, stacking the ones that match onto each other so my piles became separate little towers of varying shapes and sizes. Then I started to organize them by shape and size again, taking just the towers of traditional blocks and plugging them into a base by color. His ‘why’ could have meant any number of things so I thought for a minute. He could have been asking about my ultimate plan, which is as-yet to be determine. He may have been asking about my immediate plan, which is detailed and spans the course of several days. I didn’t really want to go into all that. He might have been asking about the motivation to even come up with such a plan, which was also kind of a long explanation of how I’ve been feeling mentally exhausted from this new job and how I feel a need to do something with my body, with my hands, where the rules are inherent and I don’t have to really think too much. But the overlap between that specific need and this specific activity seemed also simple and straightforward so I just answered “because I like it.” I even thought for a minute about how, after all this thinking and analyzing, the short answer I came up with felt like the most honest I could be. What it all comes down to is this makes me happy. It does beg the question, this same question that’s always hanging around the periphery, of why this type of activity makes me happy, but honestly, all the thinking and analyzing and fucking explaining takes away from the actual doing so I just went back to organizing my Legos.

“Alright,” he continued, clearly still not satisfied. “So… Ok, what are you going to do after it’s all organized?”

He wanted my plan. He wanted to know that I’m going to organize each type of block by color and put them in rainbow order. He wanted to know that, tomorrow, I’m going to use a pdf of an inventory of all the types of Legos and a chart of all the colors to put together a database of all possible Lego parts and colors. He wanted to know that I’m going to go through all of the Legos after I’ve organized them and create an inventory of all my Legos. He wanted to know that I’m going to buy individual blocks until I have even numbers of all the colors in the different type of blocks. And probably that wouldn’t be enough because he’d then want to know why I was going to do all of that, some answer other than ‘I like it,’ and the answer is I don’t fucking know. It makes me happy. It flashes the lights in my brain. It checks the boxes. It scratches the itch I knew it was going to scratch when I’ve been thinking about whether or not I want to do this whole fucking thing for months and then he made the decision for me. They were in the house. I just had to dive in. But if he wanted to know why all that was…

“I don’t know,” I said. “I don’t know.” I looked at him for a minute and then said, “I feel like you’re making fun of me.”

“I’m not making fun of you!” he assured me. He thought for a minute and then said “I’m going to let you do your thing.”

I know he wouldn’t intentionally mock me but I figured if I told him that it felt that way, he’d stop asking. And I needed him to stop asking because he’s not going to understand, no matter what questions he asks or how he phrases them. This is not going to make sense to him. And it’s exhausting. There’s no question he can ask that will help him understand why I’m not playing with the Legos the way he would play with the Legos. So maybe I should just play with them in private next time.

If I could just clean up.

Everything always feels so familiar. Sometimes I wonder about this feeling and question its authenticity. Though maybe I do have memories here… I live within half a mile of the location I was born, a few streets down from where I lived through kindergarten. Maybe a part of me remembers these streets and sights from back then. Or maybe I am stoned and just feel stoned and this familiar triggered feeling that I associate with shame and trauma is all in my head.

But it happens a lot.

I did ECT for 12 weeks almost a year ago. Sometimes I wonder if maybe that knocked some things loose. I don’t know anything about the brain. Maybe I should have looked more deeply into what I was getting myself into before I committed to it but I won’t judge my past self for being desperate to feel better.

But everything feels so familiar. It feels like trauma.

Sometimes I think it’s from the decade I spent getting blackout drunk with my friends all over the city. As I mentioned, I don’t quite know how the brain works but I wonder if the memories are all still up there but just inaccessible. I actually think that the alcohol blocks the ability to even record the memory so I don’t know how valid my theory is that my memories are in some file cabinet that’s hiding in the back somewhere, like if I could just take a day off—or maybe a week or so—to clean up and go through everything, I know I could move things around and find a filing cabinet hiding in the back somewhere. Or like a pile of papers I just didn’t notice before. Maybe it is like that.

The mask is melting.

Trauma. I picture little baby me trying to get his needs met and retreating inside himself when those needs felt like too much. I picture little toddler me stumbling around the house in jewelry and high heels being told that these are girls things. I picture a cocoon made of wax that I slowly built up around me both to keep rejection out but to keep those parts of me that faced rejection in.

I was a quiet kid. I don’t think I wanted to be a quiet kid but I never felt like I could compete and so I’ve always felt more comfortable stepping back and letting others fight to be fed. But I watched.

I learned.

I learned how to not feel my feelings until I convinced myself I didn’t have any. I learned how to put myself in uncomfortable social situations until I convinced myself I was outgoing. I learned how to use language, and sarcasm, and satire, until I convinced myself I was charming and funny. I learned how to be mean.

Jesus, this is all over the place. The mask is melting. I am feeling like a raw nerve walking around in the world, feeling only pain from everything I touch. I was driving behind a big white SUV with a tinted back window and I couldn’t see the traffic in front of me. This has bothered me ever since I can remember but, today, it was intolerable. I was legitimately considering turning into oncoming traffic to get around the larger vehicle when we came to a yellow traffic signal and I could justify stopping to myself to give the vehicles in front of me some distance. We were driving home after looking for very specific sneakers for three hours. Because they have to be the exact brand and colors that I am picturing in my head, whether or not such a thing exists, and no other shoe will do. I don’t remember being like this before. Although, maybe part of it is the pandemic. I used to work downtown next to a bunch of stores and I remember spending entire weekends by myself strolling from store to store trying to find the perfect this or that, always asking myself if it was something I’d seen in an ad somewhere or just made up in my head and needed to have. Maybe it’s having a partner trailing behind me that increases the anxiety. Maybe it’s some hidden factor I can’t determine. Whatever the cause, I feel like I am becoming more and more sensitive by the day. The things that were always a little uncomfortable have become downright intolerable.

I know this sounds like depression. I have had a diagnosis of major depressive disorder since I can remember. When I was in middle school, I remember telling my parents while on the way to bed that I wanted to go to sleep and never wake up. (My mom said that made her sad and kissed me goodnight.) I have two suicide attempts under my belt and have taken time from work on three different occasions to go through Intensive Outpatient. I actually just took twelve weeks of disability leave in the fall to go through ECT but that’s a story for another post. The point is, I am well acquainted with my depression and I know it sometimes shows up as irritability or with anxiety… but I keep coming back to a suggestion that was made to me once that depression might be a symptom of trying to function in a world that wasn’t built for me.

But I have functioned in the past. I think. I guess it depends on the definition of function. To a degree, I am functioning now. I have a full-time job, though I work remotely and there’s some interpersonal conflicts at work that have resulted in me having a pretty small workload. I’ve had a full-time job since I moved away from home. I should be grateful. I want to be grateful. Despite all of the mistakes I’ve made, I’ve been consistently employed since 2006 and I actually have a relatively high income and I hate myself because I am drowning in debt and I can’t seem to figure out how to convert income into paid bills and savings and assets. I was thinking I had this great success in my past that I was drifting away from and in trying to build out the contrast, I am seeing right now as I’m typing it how I am just a repeating pattern, a spiral staircase, not sure if I’m going up or down. I started working late in life but have been employed since. Yet my performance reviews all read similar to my report cards from when I was a kid.

Smart but lazy. Has so much potential if he could just buckle down and do the work.

I picture myself in this wax cocoon I’ve built up through years of coping with trauma and many more years watching traumatic things happen to those around me. I built this thick hard shell to keep myself safe and protected. But I’ve been passed around and jostled and there are gouges and scratches and the shell is wearing thin. There’s a fire somewhere and it feels like the heat is coming from all directions and it’s starting to melt and pull away.

I can’t be calm right now. I can’t be caring and understanding and sage right now. I can’t be productive and innovative right now. I can’t be smart and witty and charming right now. I can’t be friends right now. I can’t be lovers right now. I can’t be family right now. I can’t be professional and courteous right now. I can’t understand your double entendre right now. I can’t figure out why your face is moving like that or why your voice sounds like that right now. I can’t figure out what to eat right now. I don’t even know if I’m hungry right now. I can’t be political right now. I can’t fight for social justice right now. I can’t create right now. I can’t plan ahead right now. I can’t stick to a schedule or enforce a routine right now. The mask is melting.