Last week I set up a challenge where I tried to write about my pretty uninteresting life in a way that was amusing, and if not amusing then at least readable. I was hoping to get my creative juices flowing, but I only made it to Thursday (day 5 of 7) when I found myself in the Blue Prison, that unforgiving place where I’m both the inmate and the guard, stuck in my negative, compulsive thought processes with seemingly no way out. I don’t know when I started calling it the Blue Prison as opposed to my mental illness or something like that, but honestly “mentally ill” feels vague and impersonal and scary. Coining a phrase for the place I descend to gives me a sense of ownership and therefore power.
For me the Blue Prison can be a combination of all sorts of things– anxiety, depression, a bad hangover, what-the-fuck-am-I-doing-oh!-having-a-quarter-life-crisis, etc. It always feels like a permanent sentence even though I do eventually break out. I’m coming out of it now, slowly, but it takes a toll on me mentally, physically, emotionally, and creatively. I don’t want to see friends, I can’t keep any commitments, writing becomes incredibly draining, and I spend all day trying to get out of my current situation, no matter what it is. I try to escape the figurative Blue Prison by literally escaping in my life– I run out of coffee shops, flee to my parents’ house then flee back to the city, eat whole boxes of cookies, drink whole bottles of wine. Of course the issue isn’t my physical location, but my mental one, and at 24 I’m only just realizing how to release myself in a healthier way. These are some things I’m doing:
Socializing with people creatively. Yesterday a friend and I got a group of people together to write. We each came up with a prompt, then put them all into a hat (it was actually a helmet) and chose one randomly to do together. We set a timer and wrote stream-of-conscious style, then shared what we wrote. It was cathartic AF, but also nice to socialize in a way that was creative, since usually writing is a thing I do alone. There was none of the silly small talk that usually comes in group settings and I left feeling like I had genuinely connected with people I didn’t know that well. We’ve made plans to meet once a week and I’m looking forward to a hang out that isn’t centered around alcohol. Speaking of alcohol!
Cutting back on alcohol. Hangovers reduce me to something about as lovely as a booger and the lack of sleep makes the world seem full of doom. Feeling like shit physically translates to feeling like shit mentally. I’m not 21 anymore people! I can’t have more than two drinks without seriously regretting it, so I’m working on not putting myself in situations where heavy drinking is hard to avoid (which includes not drinking when I’m in a mood where I know I’m trying to escape).
Finding a therapist that doesn’t suck, which finally happened on Saturday after months of searching. Obviously it’s hard to tell after only one visit, but I just have a good feeling about her and it’s nice to feel like I’m no longer patrolling the Blue Prison alone.
Meditating. This isn’t a quick fix (do those exist?) but the more I sit on my cushion the more I learn to stay with myself without believing all of my thoughts. So much of the Blue Prison is a voice in my head shouting “Get out! You can’t do this! It won’t get better!” The voice is very persuasive, but in learning to disengage from my thoughts when I meditate, I’m learning to also disengage when a tough mood strikes.
Swimming. Or anything else that makes you feel ten years old and great about it. As a Pisces, the water is that thing for me so I’m making an effort to get out of the city and into the ocean at least once a week.
I liked this post about loving your dark side. Also if you have your own Blue Prison I’d love to hear what gets you out…
Day 4 of a 7 day self-imposed writing challenge to write about my day in less than a thousand words
at the coffee shop choose green tea, wonder about the girl with the non-fat milk sticker on her laptop, was she once an almond? does it kill her to see her fellow nuts milked and poured over vegan granola macadamia clusters?
make bacon brussel sprouts. I think my oven is a terrorist. the pilot light is itching to blow up more than this appliance.
write an eleven page synopsis detailing the details of my next book. it’s very poorly written but it’s written
break a glass with my own absentmindedness, cut my pinky finger open (good. the pinky is my least favorite finger)
reserve a place for myself in Hell, i.e., CrossFit
make a yogurt, kefir, flax meal concoction in the blender because I heard probiotics make you happy. you know what else makes you happy? chardonnay.
wonder if legally blonde will be on again tonight. try to decide if that prospect thrills or depresses me
at another coffee shop choose another green tea. remind myself anxiety is not worth milky espresso heaven
see a girl with Bermuda shorts walk by. wonder if Bermuda shorts are back in or if she’s cool enough not to care about in
use the bathroom at the coffee shop and considering stealing their toilet paper, but since I did that last week figure I should just go to target later
attend CrossFit, die at CrossFit, come back to life as a girl with a tomato for a face
crawl into bed at 9 and try to predict my dreams, they end up being about tempeh which I would never have predicted even if I were clairvoyant, wake up wondering if this is a vegan sign, but alas, it’s no longer today
Day 3 of a 7 day self-imposed writing challenge to write about my day in less than a thousand words
When I was drunk at Urban Outfitters last summer I bought a maroon romper. I was going to steal it but every so often reason penetrates the stratosphere of intoxication and I manage to keep myself out of jail. I haven’t worn it since then, when I was working in publishing and going to parties with too many Jello shots—you know, thoroughly hating myself. (The hate I harbor for myself now is reserved for things about the size of my pinky finger, which is chubbier than the others). The reason I wore the romper today is I’m trying to show up more in my own life. Meditation is on the horizon, but getting dressed in something besides yesterday’s leggings is a good enough start. I put eyeliner on too, even though ever since I saw Margot Tananbaum I knew I could never do justice to eyeliner.
I can’t be depressed if I keep trying, right?
The kindest thing I did all day was give a car a ticket. I didn’t initiate the ticket – I have not become a meter maid in the last 8-12 hours – so I guess it’d be more accurate to say I gave a car back it’s ticket. I was headed to my apartment when I saw the orange slip of doom blowing across the sidewalk. I wanted to keep walking – bending over is a great effort since I started CrossFit – but then I remembered nothing interesting had happened to me yet today and I was going to have to write about something. I put the ticket on the car it was closest to, confirming the license plate and my status as best good Samaritan. Even though the Lexis owner with the ACK sticker is going to be pissed off, he/she is not going to be as pissed off as he/she would have been had they acquired a late fee in addition to a ticket they didn’t know they had. It’s always the cruelest twist of fate when you’re punished on top of being punished, which is how I feel every time I quit coffee: The punishment for drinking too much caffeine is jitters, poor sleep and anxiety, but the solution – a morning without coffee – is certainly its own hell. Sigh, green tea, sigh. If there’s a way to win in this world I am not playing right, or so I think until I enter the online heaven that is Urban Outfitters. I am not drunk but I do buy another romper because I can’t resist making a day come full circle. This one is bright yellow, on sale from $98 to $24 and comes with the promise of turning me into a banana. They’ll probably never call me Chicky Chiquita but that’s because they’ll probably never call me at all.
Day 2 of a 7 day self-imposed writing challenge to write about my day in less than a thousand words
It is stupid to be crying on a public bus and not surprising because I am stupid. Reincarnate me as a houseplant. Turn me over to God. Give me a haircut. When I visited my grandmother earlier she had a certain joie de vivre about her, sitting in her Lay-Z-Boy with the Globe at her feet. “The first thing I do in the morning is read the obituaries and if I don’t see my name it’s a good day.” Then she lit a cigarette with all the ease that comes with being so close to death you can relax about killing yourself. I was sweaty and jealous and depressed. Why can’t I ever seize the day, just grab it by the throat until it chokes up a breath mint? There’s no reason for me to be crying on a bus. Sure it’s Monday, but being a writer I can’t tell the face of the weekend from the ass of the week. Two hours before I’d done some work on my second book while sitting outside at my parent’s house. It was hot and windy and I felt excited about the book—the pilot of inspiration was ignited and burning well. Now I’m sitting next to this woman with too many backpacks moaning internally about how I’m not emotionally resilient enough to be this young. I wipe tears from under my sunglasses and imagine I’m returning from a harrowing divorce that was just finalized on Martha’s Vineyard. He was a kind man, but he thought I was dramatic. Luckily kindness doesn’t have much to do with love. (If nothing else, I chose the right industry; making shit up suits me).
Sometimes I wonder if sadness is a cruel act of remembering everything we’ve ever lost: grocery lists, the family dog, the family’s other dog, a childhood knickknack. But instead of recalling the things themselves we recall the feeling, and it gathers force inside of us until it forces us to tears. Dams be damned. I hate buses. Probably I’m just withdrawing from caffeine and what I need is not a different life, but a good night’s sleep.
When I get off I walk from the station to my apartment through the Boston public gardens. A baby chases a duck, a man with no shirt preaches to glass windows. There’s nothing particular about the day. I would’ve forgotten it and still might if I hadn’t promised myself I’d write about it. In doing so I’m forced to pay attention, to muck around a little less in my own emotional shit pit and experience the world around me. Walnut trees. Gardenias. By the time I get in bed I’m exhausted but not sad. I write on a Target receipt Take your moods less seriously, then put it someplace I’ll remember. It’s the thing I seem most likely to forget.