Fiction: Light in My Eyes

I lay down for bed and turn out the lamp, but I still can’t sleep. It’s the light behind my eyes that keeps me awake. The room may be pitch black, I may cover my eyes, squeeze them shut as tight as I can. It doesn’t matter. There’s still that light behind my eyes.

I haven’t had a solid night’s rest in weeks. The doctors all tell me it must be some kind of neurological condition. Neuronal misfires in my brain. Unknown stimulation of the optic nerve, possibly from an as-yet undiscovered tumor. The fact remains: they don’t know, and I can’t sleep.

I have my own theories about the source of that light, but no one would ever believe me. They’d tell me that the things I see coming out of that light aren’t real, that I’m losing my mind. But I know the truth. I know they’re real.

I have the scratches on the insides of my eyelids to prove it.

Fiction: Mob

Damion stands at the edge of the woods, just inside the treeline. His attention is focused on the house 35 yards away, the house that is surrounded by a teeming mass of the living dead. He hears screams from inside, cries for help from the poor souls trapped within. The home has not been breached — yet. But it’s only a matter of time.

He glances down at the two bodies still smoldering at his feet. Their presence troubles him. Sentries? he wonders. That implies intelligence, caution. Organization. It is a new development and not at all what he had been led to expect.

A new scream from the house tears his attention away from his worries. He whips his head back up to see that the undead have begun to pull several boards away from the windows.

“Time to work,” he says, stepping out of the trees. He raises his hands, palms up, fingers curled up to the sky as the first of the living corpses notices him and begins to charge.

“Come get some,” he challenges, and lightning begins to dance between his fingers.

 If I Can Do This

There are days when you wake up with your brain already lying to you, when the regret and the pain and the hurt pile up on you so badly that you find it hard to draw breath, when every bit of your energy and attention is devoted exclusively to counteracting the power of those lies, when you want to just give up — on everything — and go back to bed, when the mantra running constantly through your head is “I can’t do this,” followed closely by “Yes, you can. And you will. Because you have to.”

Today is one of those days.

I still have some fight left in me, but I won’t lie and say I’m not stretched a little thin at the moment, because I am. And I have to go work in just about an hour, and I don’t feel like I can do this. But I will. Because I have to, and because I’m stronger than this.

Here I Sit, Me In My Little Hidey-Hole

It’s 9:30AM, and the day has started without me. I’m ok with this. I woke this morning feeling lonely and alone, as I often do, after another long night of dreams that refuse to allow me to get any kind of proper rest. I grudgingly ate breakfast, not because I was hungry or because the cereal tasted particularly good but because my body still requires calories to function. And I really am trying to function. Or at least to not give in to the urge to give up. Because this is one of those days where that little voice in my head is nagging at me that I can’t do this, that it’s all pointless anyway. It’s not, and I keep shooting back at that voice to this effect. But the argument persists. That voice is an asshole, and it doesn’t know when to shut the fuck up.

I haven’t opened the front blinds yet. I’m not ready to let the rest of the world in. So I sit here on the couch, listening to the sounds of the neighborhood around me — the traffic going by on the street, the workmen in the yard installing the new gas lines, the occasional loud voice of the morning drunk on his way from wherever he was to wherever he’s going. I listen and wish I was well enough to be ready to be out there with everyone else.

But I’m not. Not yet. I don’t know when I will be, and I’m impatient for that moment to arrive. I’m tired of the fight, the struggle, the relentless anchor of my mind holding me back. I know I can be better, do better. I know my own potential, and I’m anxious to live up to it. I was reminded at support group last night that it’s ok to give myself permission to not be ok yet. Recovery takes times, especially when you’ve been living in the kind of personal hell I have been for the last several years. I know life can be better. I just want it to be better right now, damn it! Like I said, I’m impatient.

It’s funny. We who struggle with mental illness have to remind those who don’t that, just because you can’t see our disease doesn’t mean we don’t have one. What we sometimes forget is that we frequently have to remind ourselves, too.

So here I sit, me in my little hidey-hole, listening to the world move about around me. I promise I’ll come out and join you here in a bit, but for the moment I need a little space to gather myself up and assemble the fractured pieces of me into something presentable. It’s just going to take a few minutes.

On Healing, Dreams, and Emotions

I am struggling today. I woke this morning from a dream I can’t remember still somehow feeling sad and melancholy about it. This has been happening to me a lot lately. One of the side effects of the sleep medication I take (a must, if I hope to actually get a restful night’s sleep) is that I very rarely ever remember the dreams I have — which is a pity, because as a creative type I’ve been known to have some truly remarkable dreams. Unfortunately, said medication does not prevent me from experiencing the emotions that remain once the last tatters of the dream are blown away.

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve dreamed. A lot. And vividly. Dreams that inspire rich, soul-quaking emotion. But always, almost without exception, the memories of those dreams flee the moment I open my eyes, leaving only the ghosts of their emotions to linger in my heart and mind a while longer. I’m nearly certain that most of these dreams are attempts of my sleeping mind to process the pain of my daily, waking life. Sometimes I’m able to conjure an image here, an impression there that give context to the emotions I’m experiencing. But as often as not, all I’m left with is pain without cause, loss without substance.

I hope as time passes, as my new medication becomes suffused throughout my system, as my therapy and support group sessions become more regular, that my wistful dreaming will become less frequent. I’m working hard at developing a new mental image of myself and who I am — and I feel like I’ve made some small amount of progress in that regard already this past week. I hope new understanding will begin to supplant the uncertainty and fear and despair I have felt for so long.

I have more hope now than I’ve had in quite some time and an awareness of a much broader and more diverse support network than I ever knew was available. Thank you, so much, to all of you who have lit candles and come alongside to help me through the dark. It means so much more to me than I can ever say with words.

Four Days in a Psych Ward

Just a few days ago, I was released from the hospital after a four-day treatment program for severe depression and suicidal ideation. This was my first inpatient hospital stay of any kind, and while I wouldn’t exactly describe it as being fun, it was extremely helpful and beneficial. Without it I’m not sure I’d even be alive right now to write about it.

Depression

I’ve battled depression for years. I’ve chronicled some of my experiences here and on Facebook and Twitter. It’s not a condition I’ve ever been particularly shy or embarrassed about. I’m a firm believer that we need a more open and honest discourse about mental health because so many people wrestle with it on a daily basis.

Over the past few years, my mental health has experienced a steady decline. My depression has become more persistent and acute, and anxiety has joined with it to make my life a daily living hell. These conditions have challenged my life, which I nearly took, and my faith, which I gave up. It has put significant pressure on my family and my work life, as well. This is not uncommon for people who have dealt with prolonged mental illness.

Had it not been for the intervention of a friend who grew concerned about me, who called me at the end of a weekend where I’d been trapped in my own bed and urged me to get help, who made all the arrangements for me to get into a hospital to get the treatment I needed, I probably wouldn’t be here right now. She literally saved my life, so close was I to making a terrible and irreversible decision.

And I didn’t want to go. All I wanted was to die, to relieve myself and my family of the burden that was my psychosis. At least then I could have peace, knowing that my family could actually move on and have a better life without me dragging them down. In my mind freeing them from the cancer of myself would greatly outweigh the horror of losing me to suicide.

But that was depression’s voice talking in my head, lying to me, convincing me of my worthlessness, reminding me of all the poor coping methods I’d chosen and bad decisions I’d made. Depression is a disease of the brain that alters the way you think, the way you see the world, the way you see yourself. It twists and distorts things so that you can’t determine fact from fiction. Reality loses purchase, and what seeps in instead is a view of life that holds no hope because it is full of unending pain and misery and despair.

I’m thankful for the voice of my friend, who was able to cut through the din long enough to get me out of bed and into a hospital, where I could get the help I really needed. It took four days, including several hours of talking with therapists, and a fairly significant change in medications to help me get to a better place mentally and emotionally. I still have a long road ahead, and pieces of my life that need to be picked up and reassembled as best as possible. But I actually feel stronger now and up to the challenge before me.

I know this won’t be the last time I face depression head-on like this and look down into its great, black belly. But I hope that when that happens, I’ll remember that I’m really not alone in this, that there are others out there willing and able to come alongside and help me.

Fiction: Beautiful Insanity

He is a tiny man. Under four feet tiny. Balding pate. Small eyes. Round, tortoiseshell glasses. Tattered brown suit. Nothing to look at, certainly, not that anyone is looking.

He glides through the crowd, clearing a path without word or gesture. People move aside for him, unaware. A corner of his mouth is quirked up in a bemused, crooked smile. His eyes are distant, focused on an image only he can see.

“Close, close. So very close,” he titters, his voice a sing-song. His fingers creep under his coat, and from his breast pocket he pulls a key, blue and cold as the winter sky. He holds it up between thumb and forefinger, and now his eyes finally seem to focus on something tangible. He giggles.

There you are!” he moans. “So lovely.” He leaps, somersaulting in mid-air, landing lightly on a young woman’s shoulders. She doesn’t notice. He jams the key into the top of her head and twists sharply, then leaps off and bounds away, laughing madly. The visions he just unlocked in her mind will haunt her the rest of her life.

Fiction: Gods of Dirt

There were things we worshiped before the new gods. Things of the dirt. Things of the dark. Things that moved and swarmed and crawled in the spaces beneath our feet. We feared them, even as they ignored us. To them, we were the worms. And less than worms. We were the creatures that merited none of their attention. And if one of them did happen to notice one of us, it was as a god taking notice of a flake of its own skin as it fell away into the void. 

It mattered not at all. For they were gods in their own right, beings far older than we, far more ancient, far more unknowable and strange. They were the true rulers of our world, the true power. And for that we feared them.

So we overthrew them. They had done us no harm, cast no evil over us. But so great was our fear of them, of what they could do, of what they might do, that we deposed them, cast down these benign gods and disrupted the circle of life.

We replaced them, of course, but gods made by human hands are no true gods at all, are they?

Happiness, That Strangest of Strangers

I felt happy today. So of course it took me a while to recognize it for what it was. I noticed the extra energy first, the increased sense of motivation, the additional drive. My pain levels were the lowest they’ve been in months. The first half of my morning just melted away effortlessly. I was as productive as I’ve ever been and more focused than usual.

It didn’t occur to me until I was working on a couple of Grid Diary entries a few minutes before my counseling appointment that I recognized my positive mental state was something more than ordinary, that it was more than just the bump in my Wellbutrin prescription from a couple of weeks ago finally coming to bear on my brain chemistry. It was here, when I tapped the tile to log my mood as ‘Happy,’ that I realized the feeling as genuine.

This is what happens when true joy and contentment are experienced only rarely. When the sun burns away the clouds, it’s almost blinding. It took my weary eyes a while to see true.

The difference between happiness and depression, that gap, it’s so wide that the happiness itself almost feels like a mental disorder, like mania. On the inside I was bouncing off walls. My mind, my heart, they were ping pong balls, launched at high velocity to bounce wildly off the walls of my soul. It was its own kind of madness, but it was also euphoria.

And almost — almost — that understanding doomed my joy to die. You see, depression has been such a lifelong companion that it has become entrenched. It has dug into my heart and soul and mind, and it is incredibly adept at sabotage. Here, in this moment, I wanted nothing more than to ride this wave of exaltation, and my enemy wanted to tear the wave out from under me. The lies it whispered in my ear were the same insidious lies it has whispered to me for years.

“You may as well stop enjoying this. You know it can’t last.”
“This is frivolity. Happiness is an illusion. Life is not joy. It is pain and suffering.”

But for a wonder, depression held little power over me today. Its lies were weak and ineffective.

So, today has been one of the most pleasant days I’ve had in a good, long while. I certainly hope it won’t be the last.

Happiness, don’t be a stranger. You are welcome here anytime.

Fiction: Shade

Night clings to the forest like a shroud. The darkness is nearly absolute, the silhouettes of the trees only just a hair’s-breadth deeper black.

The sounds of life are everywhere, however. The chirps of insects and the calls of nocturnal predators. The sounds of movement originating from creatures perfectly adapted to life in the black.

Distantly, a light blooms, but grows slowly larger, nearer. It floats above the ground, weaving among the trees, despite its obvious ethereal form. It is a shade, the spectral afterimage of a sentient lifeform not-so-recently departed. The shade is oblivious to its surroundings, of course. Its meanderings are more reflex than the result of any conscious action.

As the shade drifts by one particularly large oak, its glow momentarily illuminates a small, bulbous husk. There’s just time to see a seam in the husk pucker before the shade glides by, returning the husk to darkness.

But then, a low, sustained intake of breath arrests the shade’s forward movement for just a second — and then it begins to drift backward. The husk comes into the light once more as the shade is pulled closer. The husk’s steady inhalation intensifies, halting the shade’s movement altogether. Streamers of ethereal matter pull away from the shade, spiraling downward to the husk, where the seam has parted just enough to engulf the streamers, trapping them inside.

The shade’s form begins to stretch and distend as the husk draws it in. Bit by bit the shade is pulled into the husk, until finally, nothing remains. The forest is plunged into full night once more.

Then, the sounds of the forest grow quiet and still. They are replaced by the sound of the husk, slowly chewing.