you stink like a pig

anonymous asked:

my favourite quote from Nesta to Feyre "you stink like a pig covered in its own filth. Can't you at least try to pretend that you're not an ignorant peasant?" and its something that I will not forgive her for.... And others beside...

That’s fine, that’s your right. You don’t have to forgive her. You don’t have to like her. I never said you did. I just said that throwing the word abuse around to describe characters you don’t like is not okay. 

Some thoughts on running and depression

The year after I graduated from college, I decided to start jogging. I was living in Waltham, MA at the time, and still working at the school I’d just left; I had two degrees (English Lit, Theater), but not much in the way of job prospects, apart from the moderate library experience I’d built up while still a student. So I was stuck–not sure of where I was going, not sure what I wanted out of life, but taking a kind of idiot’s pride in my seat-of-the-pants approach to the future. Things would work out, I was sure. I was a brilliant writer, a terrific actor, a fantastic singer. Sooner or later, something would click.

But until that happened, I needed something to do. So: jogging. I’d put on weight in school, like nearly everyone does, and since I’d never been much for physical activity, that weight hadn’t gone away. Eating healthier would’ve been a smart move, but that required discipline, restraint, and patience, and I didn’t want to just be more sensible. I wanted to take action. I wanted to face things head on and deal with them in one fell decisive swoop. I wanted to get this shit done.

One afternoon, I left home and went for a walk up the street, and decided, on the spur of the moment, to start running. I knew I wouldn’t last long (asthma, and I was horribly out of shape), but it was a start. And if I started, didn’t that mean I’d eventually get somewhere? I was determined and smart and all those other genius things I already mentioned. Surely I could do this. Surely all it took was the will to succeed.

I don’t think I made it a full minute. Maybe half a minute. Maybe less. And when I finished, I was wheezing and panting and sweating, and I felt like someone had wrapped rubber bands around my chest, and every step I took was just pulling me back to where I didn’t want to be. 

I didn’t jog again for six years.

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Here’s the thing–I don’t know how long I’ve been bipolar. Or manic depressive, or crazy, or whatever the hell you want to call it. I don’t exactly know how this works. Is it genetic? Is it environmental? And if I’d known when I was in high school, would I have had an easier time of things? I don’t know. Probably not, but I don’t know.

Here’s what I do know: Junior year of college. One afternoon in late fall, I was sitting in my dorm room being sad, and trying not to think about how I was going to have to go find food soon, and do homework, and then get up tomorrow and do that again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again. Eventually I’d die. The possibility offered moderate relief.

I heard a toilet flush on a different floor, and a door closed somewhere, and I thought: “How long have I been sad?" 

It’s an odd thing, to recognize depression. It kind of always feels like bullshit. You start bleeding, you see a doctor; your car breaks down, you see a mechanic. But there are no easy external symptoms with depression. The experience is entirely internal, which means it relies on your ability to assess your own feelings as accurately as possible. That’s not an easy task, especially not when your internal calibration is already severely out of whack. And then there’s that nagging sense of falseness; of being weak and selfish for not just getting over whatever’s bothering you. When I was a kid, I used to feel guilty when my mom kept me home from school for being sick, because I wasn’t sure I was sick enough. This was like that, only worse.

But I had good friends, one in particular, and she said i should see someone, so I did. I went to a therapist at school. I don’t think my therapist was very good at his job, but he acknowledged I was depressed, and that was a relief. Having a nominal professional confirm that you aren’t just a lazy nitwit is a good thing. I talked, and he listened, which helped. I worked through some very basic personal stuff with him, talked about my history, and I thought I was cured. Then a week later, I decided I was in love with someone who didn’t love me, and spent the next six months convinced everything would be fine. Not just fine–spectacularly fine, in contradiction of all available evidence. There were times when I didn’t think it would be fine, and when that happened, I hurt so much I couldn’t move. I talked about nothing else. I wrote a four hundred page journal  that was just me endlessly circling around the same small handful of ideas. I was in love, I was a hero, it was would all be magnificent. I was in love, I was garbage, and everything was doomed. This wasn’t endless gray fields; it was the whole world on fire and I was running through the flames, and sometimes i was laughing, and sometimes i wasn’t. My depression hadn’t gone away. It had simply transmogrified.

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It’s very complicated, being human. There are always these pieces you miss, and whose absence only seems obvious in retrospect. When I tried to go jogging, I couldn’t run very far because I was out of shape, and willpower alone wasn’t enough to fix that. When I tried to deal with my depression with just a few free therapy sessions and some misplaced infatuation, I made things worse, because there was something out of balance in my brain, and saying things like, "I hate myself and that’s wrong” wasn’t enough.

The first few years after college, I settled into a routine. Fall: slow creeping blues. Winter: black pit of despair. Spring: despair edges away. Summer: so happy that I’m angry half the time and I just! Want! To do! Everything! I moved back home to Maine. Got a job, found an apartment, bought a car, and kept it together. Barely. A few months into my life as an adult, and I was jittering and snapping and close to losing my job.

I got a new therapist’s name from a co-worker, I made an appointment; I missed the first appointment because of traffic, and because I think I was sort of terrified. But I made the second, and I remember sitting there being about as desperate as a person can be, because I knew I was broken, and I knew it was my fault, and I knew I was worthless. I was wrong, in this fundamental, irrevocable way, and I was going to lose my job, and nobody would care because I deserved it. I deserved to lose everything because I was awful. I’ve never been able to describe exactly how that self-loathing feels, because it’s simultaneously the most intense and most undramatic sensation possible. It’s a core element of who I am, and I suspect it always will be. Somewhere in my mind, there lives a whiny, enraged 13 year-old boy with horrible acne, hideously large lips, great goggling eyes, a voice like a drunken toad, and a need to be loved that’s so desperate it comes off of him in visible waves, like the stink lines you see around Pig Pen in Peanuts comic strips.

My new therapist said he thought I might be bipolar, and that started a whole thing. Again with the relief, and the temporary excitement that I had a condition with a name that could be cured, and it was time to make new appointments, first with my doctor, then with a licensed psychiatrist. You keep telling the same story. You talk about the bad feelings, and you talk about the insanely good ones–the times when you feel so amazing, so perfect, so pristine that you can do no wrong. You realize that everything you have ever felt is a potential suspect in an on-going crime. You wonder if you’re shaping the narrative to fit expectations. Maybe you’re lying because bipolar is a noun, and you’ve always wanted to be a noun that wasn’t “shit.” Again: everything is suspect.

I got on meds. I even took an anti-psychotic for a while to help deal with my night-terrors. Everything become relatively stable again. Then my psychiatrist left my health-care plan, and I stayed on the same level of lithium for the next three years, and things got a bit weird.

Around this time, I also learned about interval training. Interval training is, for want of a better word, the best. Just the goddamn best. Instead of just trying to run as far as you can without stopping, there’s a system of short, manageable segments which slowly build into larger ones, until finally you’re just doing one big segment with no trouble at all. I found a jogging schedule online designed to get someone who was out-of-shape (ie, me) from not being able to run at all, to being able to run for 30 minutes straight, in about eight weeks. This seemed too good to be true. The idea of being actually able to jog for half an hour at a time sounded so improbable as to border on mythical; I might as well pull swords out of stones, or turn into a goat. But I did it. I followed the schedule, and some weeks it really sucked and some weeks it didn’t. I had to repeat at least one week for sure. In the end, though, I got up to the half hour, and it wasn’t really anything at all. It wasn’t heroic or remarkable. It was a practical, solid thing, and I was proud of myself.

Then, after a couple months of this, I stopped.

This is frustrating, because I’m trying to use all of this anecdotal evidence to make a point, but I honestly can’t remember why I stopped. I think it might have been the change in weather. It’s easy to jog in the summer, if you’re willing to put up with the heat, but the winter requires serious planning, and I suspect my system couldn’t withstand working around a snowstorm. I wanted to keep going, but when the days got shorter and the afternoons colder, wanting wasn’t enough. I had my meds, but I still get depressed, and I still let things go.

Which fits in with the depression, or the bipolar, or hell, any serious mental problem: you build structures in your life to keep you safe, to make you feel like more than just an organism that reacts–to make you feel human. And then one morning you wake up and the sobbing in your gut is back, and the structures collapse. The basic actions you’re supposed to do as a person fall apart, because everything you have is focused on just making through this minute, and this minute, and this minute. You aren’t even really sure you want to make it through all those minutes, but force of habit kicks in, and you survive, and the cost of the survival is the sacrifice of all the parts of your life that used to keep you sane. You burn them for warmth.

So maybe it was depression, maybe it was laziness, maybe it was whatever. I stopped jogging. And I kept putting off finding a new psychiatrist. I used my doctor to get refills on my lithium, making up lies about how the search was on-going, and I tried to just live my life, and I accomplished little else. My writing was shit. My social life was slightly better. I was alone, and I was numb and mildly irritated about everything, All my ambitions were drowning, and fuck it, that’s life, y'know. Stop hoping for more.

Finally, my doctor decided he wasn’t comfortable refilling a prescription he wasn’t qualified to prescribe, so I had no choice. I made some calls, and I found a new psychiatrist, and he was fine. We never entirely saw eye to eye, but he was smart and decent to me, and when we talked about my meds, he said, in effect, “Whoa, that’s a bit high.” So we backed off on my lithium and everything changed.

I’m not exaggerating. Maybe it was a coincidence, but in the space of three months (I was 28), I gave up on the collectible card game I’d been sinking my money into, I picked up jogging again, I finally got a second job (at a movie theater), and I started a novel that I finished in a little over a month. Part of this was because it was the summer, and I always find it easy to get things done in the summer. Part of it may have just been that the time was right for me to get shit done. But I’m convinced that part of it was that I’d been taking too much lithium. The chemicals weren’t properly balanced. That fucks up your sense of self, that a succession of small pills can fundamentally change your outlook on life. But at least you have options.

I’ve never been sure I should write a post about depression.There’s something so fundamentally uninteresting about the condition that any attempt I make to describe it falls short. I can throw words out all morning, and still not capture the idiot simplicity of the experience. It’s a nothing. In order to live life, there’s a glue you need to hold yourself together. The fundamental assumption of your own worthiness; the invisible faith that when you take a step, the ground will always be there. It doesn’t matter if these things are true: you need to believe in them regardless. As someone with bipolar, there are days when I think I shine so brightly that I could light the world, and there are days when I’m a black hole, and both extremes serve to erode what little trust I have in my impressions. I can’t know where I stand if I can’t see anything.

I got my meds right seven years ago, but I still do stupid shit more than I should, and I still have awful mood swings. Last winter was maybe the worst I’ve ever gone through, although it’s hard to trust the memory when it comes to “worst.” Sooner or later, you learn that mental illness isn’t a Get Out Of Bullshit Free card. Life is hard for everybody. You don’t get fixed. You don’t ever get fixed. We are not problems that can be solved. To be human and conscious is to exist as an on-going process, and that process is impossible to precisely calibrate or control. What makes it beautiful is what makes it awful, and there’s no getting past that. It’s just what happens now. And what happens now. And what happens now.

But: I said I started jogging again when I was 28, and I am still jogging. I run 12 miles a week, every week, rain or shine, snow or not snow. I go to a gym in the winter, and that always terrified me but I do it anyway, and it’s fine. Sometimes I begrudge the time it takes, and sometimes I’m frustrated that I’m still not in great shape. But I keep going. I don’t even really take pride in it anymore. It’s just something I do. I write, and I work, and I slowly, patiently make friends. I try to build a world, piece by piece, and I ignore the fear that if anything goes wrong, I could lose it all. I take comfort in knowing I’ve done this before, and, if I need to, I can do it again.

From time to time, I think about what it was like, standing on the sidewalk bent over, sweaty and stupid and nearly but not quite about to throw up. And I think about what it was like to sit in my dorm room and stare at the wall, with an emptiness in my chest no ocean could fill. Some things never leave you. But minute by minute, interval by interval, you learn to live with them.