Cats Worry, and Other Stories We Tell Ourselves

Early this morning, I had the thought that my cat doesn’t trust me, and it made me feel better.

I was crying, and normally when I cry, my cat ignores it. He doesn’t understand what crying means, that it means I’m upset, so he just continues on, acting like a cat. Usually being pretty damn annoying, as one tends to be at 3am. Well, he was in this particular instance. While I cried, he tried to climb the window, and finally I sobbed out at him to stop, and amazingly, he obliged and came up on the bed to cuddle.

He lay on my stomach, held my hand between his paws, and stared at me. Stared at me as I cried, thinking about whether people would be put out if I was gone, and whether it would affect anyone past being sad for a little bit. Like, I was really trying to be logical about it. Work would need to get a few things sorted, but once they did that, they’d be fine, and the only people I figured whose hearts would really break really wouldn’t have too much of a difference in their physical day-to-day, because they’re family and live far away, that sort of thing. The crying was more a separate thing that was happening alongside all the logic that was going on. And my cat, through all of this, stared at me as the tears subsided, as I lost the strength to keep crying, and I kept looking down at him and seeing his little kitten eyes, staring at me, and I thought to myself, a sign that your cat trusts you is if he closes his eyes around you. But he was ever vigilant, watching me, not daring to shut his eyes.

And I thought to myself, if I didn’t have any logic, and anthropomorphized this creature, I would believe that he is worried about me. That somehow he has figured out that I need to be watched, and that is why his eyes are open right now. But he’s a cat. I do have logic, and I know that’s not true.

But maybe that’s my problem. Maybe the key to survival is to stop being so logical. Maybe I need that anthropomorphism to keep me alive, to believe that someone is worried about me, that this little guy wants me around.

I guess in terms of physical survival, logic is important, but in terms of emotional survival, I think we’re better off without it. I think the more we try to be honest with ourselves about our place in the world, the more we’ll come to realize that no one is really needed, or important on more than a superficial level, and I think I’d rather cling to some semblance of worth reflected in the people around me. Even if it doesn’t make sense, I’d rather believe that that worth is there. Applying logic has only brought me to low places, so I would like to be illogical, and be content with a world that I create. Maybe that is how people find happiness.

I have always sworn by story as a way of navigating through life. Religions have done it for centuries; and as individuals, we do it all the time. Whether it’s to make sense of a situation, or to displace logic, story is what’s gotten us through it all, time and time again. We ascribe purpose to our lives through the stories we tell. And I’m very grateful that I’m a good storyteller.

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Power and Control

I think it’s starting to get better.

I feel I’ve become that person now, the person who flaunts her problems to get people to read her blog. Well, if you read it and feel that way, then click away. You’ve only wasted a few seconds of your day. And if you don’t feel that way, then revel in the fact that I think it’s starting to get better.

I say this while still feeling kind of shitty, but there are days when I feel completely normal. Usually those days are paired with a slamming, hangover-from-happy day, in which it feels like the previous day could not have possibly existed; but at least those happy days pop up every once in a while, right?

There’s absolutely no rhyme or reason to these days. I’ve tried to find a correlation, and a lot of the time, I’ve failed. But then, correlations tend to be evasive, especially for a solution that you’re still not entirely sure where the problem stemmed from initially. Some of you have mentioned that a lot has happened in the last several months, and sometimes it takes time for things to surface in our subconscious. This is true, and a consideration. Maybe all I had to do all along was to ride it out. It’d just be nice to know how long the ride is.

It’s also slightly frustrating to experience something and never really know for sure what it was. Is it grief? Emotional exhaustion? Which event triggered it? Why can’t my body just be like, “Hey, I’ve got a map that connects these dots for you”? I am admittedly a bit of a control freak, and like to know what the hell is going on with me.

Another frustrating thing is that I have worked really hard in the past several weeks to continue eating a decent amount of calories — I have not always been successful, because I was not blessed with the ability to binge eat when depressed, but I’ve been working hard, damn it — and I’m still losing more weight. The last time I went to my primary doctor, I asked for help gaining weight, because if I ever got sick I would be screwed, and she replied, just try to eat more, you’re fine. Fuck doctors, you know? So now that I’m sick (it’s a mental health issue, but that is still a health issue), and drinking two Ensure Plus’s a day in addition to trying to eat meals, I’m at a whopping 94.5 pounds. Which really helps with depression, seeing as how I think about that number and want to cry. And crying makes me not hungry, and not being hungry makes me eat less, and eating less means that DOCTORS ARE THE WORST. But I’ve always known that.

20170718_201318But it’s starting to get better. I’ve been working out a lot of things in my life, because it gives me something to think about. And I’ve been working on some new projects, one which is exciting and coming along quite nicely, and the other which will probably not work, and feels a little vain, but I’m working on it nonetheless.

And I’m taking things one day at a time — I’m still on this ride, whether it feels like the end or not. I feel like most of the time, depression feels like a thing to conquer, but at this point, it’s become more of a thing that I must learn to adapt to. Not because I’m expecting it to stick around forever… It could be here for another ten years, or it could be gone tomorrow. But if it is still here in the morning, it’s better for me to not treat it like the end of the world. It will become what you make it, and I have to accept the power that I have in that sense, and step up to the responsibility that I inherently have in not making it worse.

What It Feels Like

Depression is a weird thing.

It makes busyness a blessing. It is not that difficult to understand why I started feeling it as soon as I decided to take a step back and remove some of the obligations in my life. Right now, I’m struggling with the decision to maintain a balance — let myself have some free time, but not too much that it becomes unbearable. It’s incredibly tempting to pile things back on, just to distract myself. It’s really easy to do that, but it certainly isn’t healthy.

I don’t know exactly what to say to describe my current state of being. I want so badly to ascribe these feelings to things that are happening in my life, because some of them are really good scapegoats. And it actually does help to know that I can release some of these feelings via those happenings, and use them as an outlet. But my mind is too rational to place the entire weight of my depression on exterior events.

I was able to do that a couple of years ago. I’ve only felt a sort of extended depression twice in my life, and the first time it was a very different thing than what I’m feeling now. It was a panicked, my-life-has-changed-and-I-don’t-know-how-to-process-it depression, one in which I would fall asleep crying, because I couldn’t possibly do anything else — it was an overflow of pain and confusion. I’d had these emotions before, but in little cups that I sipped from… this was a burlap sack, from which the emotions seeped, spilling over the top and leaking through the sides and the bottom, yet somehow constantly replenished from the inside. I felt like I was out of control. I also knew that it was caused by life events — and I didn’t know how to fix it other than with time, and time was not being friendly.

But this time, it’s all in the sternum: a feeling that won’t go away, a constant nagging that just exhausts you. It’s not an overflow; it’s leeches. All energy and joy is sucked out at a constant pace, and all the happy things I can think of doing will only bring me that energy back for as long as I’m doing them, and then the slow drain continues. It makes me appreciate the welling up of emotions that external events bring, because at least those events give my pain purpose — it’s still hell, but at least I can slap a name on it. When you are being sucked dry, having a sudden overflow can feel rewarding.

I would like to say this before I get too far in this post: I’m not writing this to make people feel bad or sorry for me. I’m not writing it to evoke declarations of how “courageous” I am for writing this, for being honest — I’m not fishing for compliments, or looking for people to tell me that I really am a swell individual, thanks for writing that. I’m writing this because it helps to write it. And I can’t comprehend feeling this way and not trying to analyze it.

I’m frustrated that people can’t talk about depression like this. Sure, we talk about how depression sucks, and how we struggle with it, or how we pulled ourselves up out of it — we talk around it, but we won’t talk about it. Maybe I only talk about it on here because I can’t afford therapy, but still, talking about things helps. And if everyone has the capability of depression — I’m not talking about sadness, because that’s the result of depression, I’m talking about the chemical imbalance that is waiting to happen inside all of us — then maybe we should talk about it.

We should describe what it feels like, and we should try to dig deeper and understand where it’s coming from. Sometimes getting a better understanding of something really sucks, but in the long run, it’s extremely beneficial. We all feel it different ways, and we all deal with it in different ways, but wouldn’t it be great if we were able to find a commonality throughout it all? It is common for those suffering from depression to feel alone, but in reality, it’s almost the complete opposite. Perhaps we worry that talking about it will bring down the mood in the room — depression is depressing, right? But that’s the thing — we know how easy it is for everyone to relate, so we don’t want to tip the scale.

But let’s tip it. Explore it. If it enables you to have a better understanding of who you are, then you have nothing to lose.

Panic, Passion, and Honesty

The past few weeks have been a little bit low for me, mentally. Not because of anything going on (though there have been some doozies), but because the mind does what the mind does. Once I realized what was happening, I tried to make some adjustments to compensate, and one of them included a social media vacation. It probably should have happened about three weeks earlier than it did, but… retrospect, right?

See, socia media is great. It helps you keep in touch with friends, it helps you store memories of your life… but it also puts you in the mindset that nothing in your life is important unless shared. This is especially dangerous if you’re not feeling your best, because then you look to the reactions of others for a self esteem boost or a reason to get through the day.

I hate that feeling. And I hated that I could see myself posting more and more on social media, like I was fishing for a sense of worth. When something happened in my life, I would think, I should take a picture to post to Instagram. Or, that’s a funny quote, I should post it to Twitter (Twitter: the one social media that I literally just use to throw things out into the ether, and not actually keep up with friends. It’s like a weird, open, snippet-journal, while everyone else just talks shit about politics on it). I haven’t taken a photo of something because I liked the image (and didn’t just want to share it with someone else) in years. That sunset? Real pretty, I want others to see it. That weird sign? That made me laugh, I bet it would make other people laugh. It was always partially about saving the memory, but it was mostly about making that memory public. I was no longer making memories for myself.

So I wanted to distance myself from that, and spend a week trying to break apart from that idea. It clearly would take more than a week to actually retrain my mind, but it was a start. I removed all the apps from my phone so as to remove temptation, and I went about my business.

And then a million things happened this week, things that I wanted to share. But I didn’t.

So now I’ll share my week with you all, like the needy little storyteller that I am.

This week, I went to Philly for a conference for Art House Convergence. I’ve gone to the bigger-scale version of this conference for the past two years in January, but this was just regional. Still every bit as terrifying when it comes to networking, however — if not more so, because of the place that I am at right now. At the end of the first day, there was a cocktail hour in which all of the attendees stood in what I’m sure was considered to be a large room but felt, to me, more increasingly like a closet as the minutes ticked by. As Adam, the God of Networking, talked and laughed and shot the shit with person after person, I stood awkwardly at his shoulder and fought back tears. I tried to make small talk with a man who was waiting to talk to Adam (yes, a line formed at one point), but it’s hard to talk about normal things when there’s a lump in your throat and your chest is constricted, so I mostly smiled and nodded. The man was awkward too, so in retrospect I don’t feel quite so awful about that interaction.

I think I’ve made a reputation for myself at these conferences for not being able to talk properly. There are two other art house cinemas in neighboring towns to Harrisburg, and the core staff gets together every few months or so to hang out (and by core staff, I mean Adam hangs out with them). I have interacted with them a handful of times, but, because I only see them every once in a while, my interactions are usually just (again) standing next to Adam and smiling and listening to the conversation that is happening.

I have played Adam’s shadow many a time, and I think (no — I know) that it drives him nuts. A perfectly iconic moment presented itself this week to really symbolize that awkwardness: after one of the sessions, I walked out of the theater and found Adam and Nate, one of the staff from the neighboring cinemas, talking, and I joined them. After maybe about thirty seconds, Adam excused himself to go to the bathroom, and in the split second that I realized this was my time to shine and make small talk, Nate turned, said, “See you later,” and walked away. I have trained people to avoid being in a one-on-one conversation with me.

That’s my own fault, really. My shyness is the reason that everyone used to call me an introvert. It’s hard for my personality to come forth without feeling one hundred percent comfortable, something that has been to my discredit many a time when people have assumed I haven’t been having fun but I just haven’t adapted to the company yet. And especially if I don’t see the person that often, I may feel that I’m beginning to connect, but they may feel the complete opposite because my body doesn’t relay that connection properly. How should they know? They only ever see that one side of me.

I guess I envision myself to be this exuberant, social person, but I can definitely be quiet when even I don’t expect it. But I can also be loud (BOY, can I be loud). It really depends on my comfortability level.

Which leads me to another event, which happened today (I’m skipping over my experience at Del Close Marathon — but I’ll backtrack briefly at the end of this post).

Today began the five-day Young Filmmakers Camp at Messiah College, for which I am working as a faculty member. It’s the second year that the camp has existed, and this year the returning faculty needed an extra hand, so there I was. The first day consisted of getting 17 high school students through registration and teaching them about story and filmography principles.

Now, as some of you know, I am not great with kids. But high school was where I became obsessed with film production, and it excited me that I could be a part of someone’s journey into filmmaking, just as my high school teacher was for me. Also, what are high schoolers, if not really small adults?

What I didn’t realize was that these students were not just interested in film. These students could not shut up about film. Instead of asking questions about the subject we were covering, they raised their hands and offered examples: “I know what an extreme wide shot is called when it’s at the beginning of a scene!” “Kubrick used symmetry in the hallway shot in THE SHINING!” “You can see the characterization of stability Chiron finds in Juan’s character in the way they shot the cinematography in MOONLIGHT!”

I’m so excited to see these kids make short films, guys.

But I’m digressing. What I really wanted to point out was that I didn’t feel any sense of panic today (except for that brief moment when I was supposed to be reformatting a camera and couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong and why my camera’s screen looked different from the one on the other faculty member’s camera, and then realized I had actually been trying to reformat the wrong camera. Seriously, guys, no one ever trust me with technology).

I’ve been trying to figure out what the difference was between today and the conference, and I don’t think it was just the amount of passion I had for the subject — I honestly do have a lot of passion for the work I do at Midtown Cinema, and genuinely adore the mission of the art house cinemas that meet at those conferences. I don’t know what it is that makes me stress out so much, but I will blame part of it on the intimidating aura that networking has around it. There’s always this lingering fear that I will say something dumb and lose my credibility.

I’ve never been very good at showing vulnerability to strangers (at least apart from this blog — apparently sharing these posts to the world is not unnerving at all?). That’s in part why it takes me so long to come out of my shell — I don’t trust a person to not completely shut me down as a human being. I realize the absurdity in thinking that someone would actually reject you for being vulnerable, but there have been enough past experiences with enough gray area that my brain can take the data and skew it to match its greatest fears. Maybe that’s what makes posting on social media so appealing — it’s a way to be “open” without really sharing anything too personal. It gives the impression of divulging, so that I can say, “Yes! I can be an open, sharing individual. See all these examples? Twenty-eight people liked this post, so twenty-eight people have become more informed about my life. Vulnerability!”

When I really think about it, I don’t want to be vulnerable with every person I meet. Actually sharing my entire life story on Facebook would probably break me. But I do want to take the time to appreciate those who I can be open with, and who I am able to get to know well enough to be vulnerable with.

Let’s backtrack to the Del Close Marathon now.

816E4603-1862-403D-800F-382F307D8CD4-4766-000004C063B94381On Friday night, I sat in an audience of close to 100 people, and watched about 20 people on stage, sitting and discussing really deep subjects for 45 minutes. It was interlaced with comedic scenes, and the contrast between serious and comedic was so astoundingly beautiful. I was wiping my eyes at the end of the show. It made me want to just stay up all night, digging deep with my friends; it made me want to talk about really personal issues, things that people don’t normally talk about because it’s embarrassing, or hard, or uncomfortable.

I didn’t, of course. I went back to the hotel room, talked about improv with my team before going to bed, and then in the morning, I went to breakfast and stared at a ridiculously delicious eggs benedict before going to the bathroom to cry. And then I distracted myself with more improv for the rest of the day.

Maybe it’s not about the people I’m with. Maybe I’m just unable to open up and be myself because it’s me. And that’s something I’m working on.

Resurfacing

This is an internal dialogue post, just a fair warning. I tend to wax a little too hard on the mopey side when I do this.

It is Oscar season. It is Oscar season, and the United States is exploding, and I’m working on projects. Lots and lots of projects. I really should drag myself away from Facebook, away from things that consume my mind and make it go on autopilot: worrying is one of those things, and stress is one of those things. I become so consumed with worry and stress that I switch off.

I have been switched off for the majority of January.

There are little blips where I resurface, like when I see someone cry, or when I cry (usually leading to an internal investigation of why I’m crying, which then switches me back off again), or sometimes when I fall asleep, or when I’m working on a project with a friend and he says, “Before we continue, can I give you a hug?” Those moments are more like little shocks that jolt me back to the present day, the present room that I’m standing in; the caffeine of the soul is not ingested through the mouth, but through the absorption of surprises. And it’s really easy to ignore depression when there are so many other things to think about.

But there is a lot this month to be depressed about. Maybe not internally, but certainly externally. I wish that there were moments where I could say that I have been actually happy this month. Not that I haven’t had happy-moments, but they are always derived from a joke that was said, or a nice thing that happened. I do not recall a single moment in which I found myself bobbing at the surface, with a contentment in my heart. Clearly I need to resurface more.

Of course, I don’t think I have a normal perspective on contentment. I enjoy a good cry. It feels good. I watch sad movies because I like feeling those emotions. It seems obvious, but crying is such a visceral thing, just like actual happiness; something that your entire body feels, though it’s not a physical feeling. I’ve had this odd obsession with sadness for years, only now it’s different. Now there’s a fear behind it, like I’ve got something bottled up inside that needs to get out. Or else, I shall become a little girl who is switched off all the time.

Maybe I have a problem. Maybe I’ve gone dry, and my body is aching for tears. I think I could get them back if I had enough time; but who has time these days? If you have time, why aren’t you using it to protest, or do a little writing, or clean your house, or make a meal so that you don’t starve yourself? But still. God knows it would be beneficial to take five minutes every day and try to pinpoint where my head is at.

I’m debating not posting this. To click “publish”, or to click “private post”… I’ve always said my blog will be honest, and I think sometimes I fear that I’m too honest. I worry that someone may misconstrue things and think I’m not okay, or at least that I’m less okay than I am, than other people who are really suffering. I don’t need to steal the limelight with over-exaggerated suffering, and I don’t need anyone’s pity; that just makes me feel gross. What I do take comfort in is if people can connect and relate to the words, and know that their experiences are not isolated. The thing is, there are so many people talking about what is wrong with the country, and what they fear will happen, that no one is talking about how they feel. They’ll talk about how it affects them, but not about how they are affected. God forbid we feel those feelings.

Ah, screw it, I’ll post it.