Fear Not
Recently I got an email from Blogmonkey, AKA my sockmonkey, complimenting me on my audioblog, but voicing concern about, well, let's use the technical words for it shall we? Suicidal Ideation. Actually that post doesn't make the threshold for suicidal ideation because I didn't actually say I was seriously considering suicide. Most physicians make the distinction between someone actually at risk for suicide and "dramatic comments" by asking the patient if he/she has considered how to commit suicide. If the patient, a la Dorothy Parker comes out with very specific thoughts ie Well, I have my father's gun and I figure I'll go into the bathtub so as to minimize the mess, then the patient will most likely be put on suicide watch as a real risk. On the other hand, if the patient talks about a general desire not to live anymore, but doesn't have any specific ideas about how to kill him/herself, although psychiatric intervention should follow, the patient is not considered to be at risk for an actual suicide attempt and voicing suicidal thoughts is considered in this case to be more of an attention seeking ploy than a genuine expression of intent.

For the record, I generally suffer from chronic depression known as dysthymia. Dysthymics must meet the general criteria for a major depressive episode more days that not for a minimum of two years. In addition, I have suffered from four major depressive episodes. In the span of a normal life, two to three major depressive episodes is considered normal. Some psychologists believe that dysthmia is actually a way of protecting the patient from major depressive episodes or in other words the patient maintains a low level of depression in order to avoid a serious crash that might come after real happiness. To make it simpler, to eliminate the real low and you eliminate the real high, but at the expense of having a much narrow emotional range. When you consider how low the "real low" can get, dysthmia can be a real deal, protecting the sufferer from suicidal depths even at the expense of happiness.

Now, I want to make this absolutely clear. I am in the midst of my fifth major depressive episode. I don't know how long it will last, but the severity is clear. (The last time I began to have symptoms this severe I went on medication for half a year. I am considering that again.) But in all the depressions I've had, even the very worst when Eric left and every day was running the gauntlet of the 200 ways to kill yourself on the way to work and all I wanted to do was die and put an end to the pain, I have never EVER acted on that impulse. I have seriously considered it, but the truth is, and I know this, I can not ever act out that impulse. As I recently told someone concerned about my health, I didn't get to be this age by being an idiot-when I am really at risk, I have always taken appropriate action.

So if you want to be concerned about my self destructive tendencies, ie that I might get myself fired from my job, then you have justification-if you want to be worried about my emotional wellbeing, which is crap, you have justification-but if you think that I am going to attempt to throw myself off the Staten Island Ferry a la Spalding Grey, well, you are wasting your energy, which if you're bored is fine, but just be aware that I am not at risk for that particular behavior. Unless, of course, there is a way to commit suicide using only blue margaritas and coldstone ice cream. Then, I am in big trouble.

Sing, O Muse, of the Rage of Achilles
Or maybe not. Here is a lovely little poem written for me courtesy of the Big O show.
that girl bunni
she's like an underwire
her whites i dream of whitening.
but she attracts so damn much lightning

this is an audio post - click to play

"I began to wonder why I'd been praying and to whom"
-Sister mary ignatius Explains It All For You by Christopher Durang

When I was younger, the decision was clear-no matter what you do not give up and you do not quit. The first ballroom competition I had, my feet started bleeding. All of the teachers were horrified-if I was in pain why hadn't I stopped? The response I gave them was simple"It's just pain, why let that stop me?" They were all very impressed which struck me as odd since dancers are notorious for punishing their own bodies to achieve greatness.

Pain, in theory, is a good thing. The inability to experience physical pain, a condition lepers suffer from, prevents the individual from realizing that the body is being damaged. For example, a leper might not notice that his hand is on the stove, and the hand might literally burn off while a normal person will react to the pain immediately and therefore only suffer first or second degree burns. Emotionally we are meant to experience pain as well. One of the arguments against anti-depressants is that they allow the user to persist in negative behaviors by removing the appropriately negative consequence, emotional pain. Furthermore, pain is integral to the learning process. Going back to the stove metaphor, a child might be told not to touch the stove. The child might not listen and go ahead, but once the child is burned, he/she will not venture near the stove again. Emotional learning often works the same way. You decide to get involved with a married man, the whole situation ends up a mess with you feeling awful, and you think "Well, I won't do that again."

What the fuck does this have to do with anything?

I hear your cry.

For those of us who have come see a certain level of emotional or physical pain as a regular part of life, it is often more difficult for us to determine when it would be legitimately in our best interest to take the hint and cease and desist. In fact, we may come to the point, like I have, where pain is not a legitimate reason for ceasing any activity. There is, as Mercuryfern commented, a perverse pleasure that some of us take in the fact that we are able to transcend pain. Unfortunately, we don't often consider whether that transcendence is worth the effort or not.

However, recently I have been questioning that "never give up never surrender" attitude I am so famous for. This is partially through involvement with someone who has strategically given up on a great many things, myself included. I began to wonder why exactly it was such a bad thing to give up. The answer I always had in my mind was my fear of being labelled a quitter, but exactly whom am I afraid of labelling me that and why should I fear their label? Much like the character from the play I quoted above essentially I began to wonder who exactly am I trying to prove myself to?

The reason I ask is because is the last week or so my life, such as it is, has unraveled even farther than I ever came to expect. My work environment has become little better than the ninth concentric circle of Dante's Inferno, my feet, which I thought were getting better, have begun to relapse, the fellow freakazoid I was dating has decided that I am not the freak for him, ( where do you go when you get evicted from the island of the colorblind?)and this is just the big stuff. Not to mention that ever since 2001 my life has been in steady decline. I can't handle simple things anymore. Washing dishes, vaccuuming, putting away clothes. My apartment has never been so bad, yet I can't find the strength in myself to do anything abou it or get help. This morning it was all I could do to get to work barely on time and not prepared at all only to find a nasty email from the summer administrator. I was on the verge of walking out of my job. I do hours of extra work and now I get slapped in the face for something ridiculous like starting class five minutes late one morning? The Buddhist, of all people, had to talk me out of it and even now I am not entirely convinced about his rhetoric. As I said in a recent conversation, I've been fighting uphill all the way, to stay in NYC to get this job etc etc and it seems as if I am finally being beaten back down the hill. So why not just admit it? Why not just take the hit and say fuck this and leave for upstate? Why not admit that I am not Danny Champion of the World and I never was? Why not take the year off work on grad apps and do it that way and so what that normal people don't do that? I think I can very safely say that this whole pretending to be a normal person thing just isn't working for me anymore.

In the old days, when I ended up with bad health or depression, I would get angry. I had this "I didn't fight all this way to quit now attitude." But in the last five years that attitude has gone and I've begun to think why the hell am I fighting at all? What exactly is the freaking point? So other people won't feel guilty? So that healthy people don't have to feel sorry for me? Is that why I'm twisting myself into a double helix every morning dragging fifteen pounds of books up and down the subway stairs? Because what am I getting out of it? I'm teaching people? Please, I would have more luck getting information into their heads if I took a fucking cranial saw and an ice cream scoop and surgically implanted their textbooks into their skulls. (I would love to see orientation next year. "Uh, yeah so I'm taking a kind of new approach to teaching this year. Nurse, if you would prep the patient... I mean student.") Sure, I can't work in a conventionall office environment, I know this about myself. Well, I could, but not without risking serious bodily injury to myself and other employees so it's better if I don't try. But really with amount of money my father left, I could live in upstate and dedicate myself to writing. So why not just give up on all this?

Vampire Hunter D once called me Pandora's Box. I never asked if he meant before or after she opened it. The last item left was Hope. I don't even have that anymore. Hope of finding another person. Hope of fitting in. Hope of finally achieving something vaguely ressembling artistic greatness. About the only thing that can be said of me is that I have a cat whose affection I don't deserve.

this is an audio post - click to play

The Topless Towers of Ilium*
In book one of the Aeneid, Aeneus, the hero, finds himself wandering on a strange shore. He is searching for supplies for his crew and in his search finds a temple. The temple has paintings depicting his own adventures. The last of these paintings depicts the burning of Troy, his home.

You remember seeing him across the room at the party, and thinking he was attractive, but you were so over men, you couldn't take another disappointment so there was no point in even looking, but then you find him sitting next to you telling you that you look like a woman from out of another century and even though it is cliche, you find it charming, although it could just be the second glass of wine. And the third. And you remember that he was a afraid to touch you and how glad you were, because he should be afraid.

You remember the first time you meet him at the arch at Washington Square, and he says "Hello beautiful" and how childishly pleased you are by that simple salutation.

You remember how after three beers ,he announces in the bar abruptly, "I want to fuck you" and how embarassed you were, but also how impressed you were by how unashamed he was.

You remember the first time he sees you naked. How he makes you undress for him and how this scares you too. How afraid you are to be a disappointment and how much pleasure he takes in your body.

You remember walking with him, hand in hand, under the cherry blossoms as he curses the six year old children harmlessly playing and thinking, "No matter how this ends, it will not end well for me."

You remember that he never looked behind him after he said good night to you.

You remember the first time he disappoints you by not sending you a postcard.

You remember the deals that you start to make with yourself, the things you can sacrifice (flowers, postcards, jewelry) the things you don't need, because this is the price of being close to genius.

You remember that he took you to the beach, the only man to ever take you to the beach, and how tan and happy you were when you returned.

You remember that he opened up so many new things for you it was like going to sleep in your bed and waking up on a different planet and this frightened you too because he didn't strike you as the most reliable tour guide-the type of guide who would distractedly lead you into nostil high leech and crocodile infested waters and suddenly leave you there.

You remember feeling so close to him that at times it wasn't like looking at another person, but into a mirror.

You remember the first time you change yourself for him, and he doesn't even appreciate it.

You remember the first time you see his bathroom and knowing that you will never ever live this man.

You remember watching him as he lay sleeping and realizing that for the first time you have become use to sleeping with someone and thinking "This is a very bad thing."

You remember the list of reasons for being with him getting shorter and shorter, until it's just one little voice in the back of your head no louder than a mouse's whisper and it just says one word "Maybe" and on the strength of that word, you stay.

You remember the first time you hold him up to your friends for ridicule.

You remember thinking that maybe you are going to be one of those great artistic couples who have a terrible relationship, but its ok because you push each other to make better and better art.

You remember being proud that even though all of your friends tell you to go, you are crazy enough to stay.

You remember every time you wanted to tell him you loved him and you didn't.

You remember that he was the master of the unconventional compliment.

You remember that when you finally did tell him you loved him, the first man in years to hear the phrase, he said "Thank you for telling me that."

You remember that even then you weren't going to leave if for no other reason than you weren't going to be the one who quit.

You remember that he argued with you about if you were really happy because he is the only person to have the balls to argue with you about your own emotional state.

In the end, you remember that now you are just another ex-girlfriend story or maybe you aren't even important enough for that maybe you're just a commercial break or a footnote.

In the end, you remember that you are going to miss the man you thought he was not the one he really is.

In the end, you remember that he wasn't different or special that he's just like every other man you weren't good enough for.

In the end, you remember that he called you a bitch, even though he was the one leaving you.

After he's gone, you remember that the good thing about an all tylenol pm and alcohol diet is that you will finally lose those ten pounds you gained when the last idiot left you.The bad news is this isn't the type of pain that you dream or drink or sleep away.

After he's gone, you remember deciding to eliminate all trace of him from your apartment and realizing all that comes down to is changing the sheets and throwing out six beer bottles.

And after everything, you remember Aeneus dirty, tired, starving, standing on the shorteof an unknown country searching for food for his crew and coming across a painting of everything that he lost. His wife, his father, his friends, his home. The topless towers of Ilium burned to the ground leaving only ashes and human remains and their glory only exists in this man, this painting, and a couple of epic poems which will be used to torture high school students for the next 2,500 years. And the Gods take mercy on Aeneus and remind him that he was born to found the city which will become the seat of the greatest civilization the world has ever seen. And Aeneus turns away from one invisible city and towards another, while you, who are not a hero, remain transfixed by the image of your loss.
*Originally this was intended to be a monologue that I was going to perform last night at Collective Unconscious for their open mic night. I have had one of the worst weeks in recorded history and instead of being a whining mulling piss ant about it I decided to gird up my loins (as directed by the Lord in Exodus) and imitate one of my favorite author's Philip Roth. I was going to use great pain to make hopefully great art, and in the process redeem at least a small part of my existence. But in the getting fucked by life department I reign supreme as the Lord's favorite rape victim, and after working on this monologue for three days I found out the open mic was cancelled. I am working on recording this as an MP3 and uploading it because I think since it was originally intended as a spoken piece, it works much better that way. For now, this version will have to suffice.

"I just took my head out of the toilet long enough to say '"hello'"
-voicemail form Starfucker

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