My Dark Place

Celebrating 24 years of life.

With every birthday, with the exception of Jehovah’s Witnesses, comes the celebration of your life. My birthday this past Thursday (June 20th!) was no different. I went to bed Wednesday night and woke up Thursday morning with equivalent excitement. From the moment I opened my eyes, I had an uncontainable air of downright glee. My boyfriend said that he had 3 surprises for me from the hours of 9 – 12, I had an appointment at the hair salon for noon and I was planning a road trip for my family reunion. Everything was going oh so right! Until…I made the decision to be unhappy.

Things started going wrong when:

  • My bf got called in to work, and we couldn’t celebrate all weekend together the way we’d envisioned we could.
  • I didn’t get to see my mom.
  • I calculated just how dead freaking broke I am with $12K in credit card debt and counting. Why was I going on vacation again?
  • I was feeling like a failure when I realized my Kickstarter campaign wasn’t going to achieve the goal.

The thing about depression is, even the most trivial of thoughts for some (what I like to call the “neutral minds”) are augmented to the 20th level for depressed people. Quite literally, one bad thought can escalate to 10 in a matter of miniscule moments. And then there you are in your dark place and feeling lost. Wondering how the hell a perfectly capable person like yourself could completely lose it to a series of unfortunate and evil thoughts?

But it happened. On this weekend, of all weekends! Then, in my celebration angst, I decided to engage in the spirits! Not the smartest move. Alcohol, in any amount, can only exacerbate the problem. I was growing more and more melancholy. When my bf finally arrived after 2 days of drinking and binge eating, I was a weeping willow of sadness and despair. During every minute of the first 10 hours we were reunited, I was constantly hovering between a face full of tears or those inconsolable post-tear wimpers.

I was fucked up.

It only got worse once my bf joined my family and myself. At this point I was in a really painful position. I wanted all the quality boo time in the world, but also wanted to spend time with my family. After only a few hours of trying to make everyone happy, my already ticked off brain went ape shit and I had one of my worst melt downs. Ever. It was not cute. I was snappy and just wanted to sleep and withdraw from the prying eyes of people that don’t understand depression. Instead, I compromised with everyone and kept drinking. And overeating. Not my finest moments.

Is this what every birthday is going to be like? In an effort to feel more like a grown up and more mature, I have a meltdown? I think I need to stop seeing my life as a race. With the threat of each additional year of life, I feel like I’m behind and like I need to catch up. This past weekend was sad for me because I realized that I was trying to please everyone else, but  while doing so, I let go of each intention to please myself.

To my family it probably seemed that either my bf was physically abusing me or that I was bat-shit-crazy. I assure you, neither is true. I’m just at that struggle point where we all find ourselves eventually:

If the goal is happiness, why am I not happy? If happiness is a choice, why do I allow myself to choose everything but happiness? And if I eventually do find the strength and courage to make the choice to be happy, will I truly be happy? Is it really that simple??

For about 30 minutes on Saturday, I had a really deep chat with my grandfather and boyfriend on the subject. Both men, very wise beyond their years — yes, my 72 year young g-pa was probably one of the wise men in a different life– were both very encouraging. But my depressed mind couldn’t see that. And even after our conversation, I just wanted to keep living in my despair.

Fast forward to tonight — 3ish days after my birthday, and wtf did I really do for myself in celebration of my 24th? Absolutely nothing.

And that’s just fucking sad.

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My Dark Place, Ranting and Ravings, Short Stories

The story of why I want to be perfect.

In the 1st grade, my teacher asked all the students to sit on the carpet in front of the class and ask her ANY question we’d ever wanted to ask a grown up but never got the chance to. Other kids were asking, How do trains run? or How do plants grow? Me – I didn’t need to know that s***. I raised my hand eagerly and asked my teacher, “Why were we put on this Earth?” Swear that’s what I asked her. She looked back at me with all seriousness and said, “I don’t know.” Then proceeded to answer everyone else’s question. No one gave me a second thought. My little mind really wanted to know the answer to this question, and THAT’S what you give me? No one’s mind looked blown, no one was even thinking on that level. But this is what I’ve lived with for life.

My quest to find the answer to that question continued to follow me. I mean duh, it was a very important question and I needed the answer! My answer came a few years later in the 3rd grade. I remember this as a monumental moment in my 8 year life. My teacher, Mrs. Akinkoye, who was my first black teacher, came to my mother during the Parent/Teacher Conference and said to her, Mrs. Patterson, I think Marrissa is a very gifted student. You should have her tested and get her into a Gifted and Talented Program. So my mom, who has only ever wanted the absolute best for me (it all started with her buying Hooked on Phonics for me at 3 years old) made the arrangements and got me tested.

I took the test the first time and I was on cruise control. I was in my own zone, not thinking anything about the results. I just wanted to show people who I really was. I just wanted to match up the freaking shapes the way I just knew they were supposed to be matched. So I did what they asked and drew some lines and filled in some bubbles and handed in my test. I can still remember the tiny little room with the tiny little table they placed me at to take the test.

I failed the test. No clue what “grade” I got on the test. But I did not pass it.

I don’t remember being particularly crushed. I was okay. But I remember everyone around me changing a little bit. Everyone started to make me feel like this “fail” was in fact a “failure” in life. Like this was my first life test, and I’d just failed it. Like huh? I’m 8! Can’t I just run on the playground?

I remember distinctly that this was a crossroads for me in my life. I’ve always been the type of person who wants to make other people around me happy. It’s why I love to throw house parties and why I believe in other people’s ideas way more than I believe in my own. At the tender age of 8 I looked to my right and saw a road where I could continue on with my failed grade and just live my life, just doing me and maintaining status quo. Then I looked to my left and saw myself achieving a passing grade on that Gifted test. Can you guess which direction I chose?

When I made the choice to re-take the test, I didn’t realize what kinda path I was on. I thought, okay, you can pass this test, then you can get on with your life. I didn’t realize I was opening the door to more and more tests, that I was going to go to a separate School for Gifted and Talented, that I was going to try to constantly achieve 100/100 for everything I did in the future. But I came to realize that this was a relief for me. After struggling to understand my purpose at age 8, I’d finally figured out what my purpose was – to maintain this idea that I needed to be perfect. It gave me something to live for, it gave me an understanding. It became my comfort zone and it’s where I’ve lived for decades. I live in the make believe world of perfection and believe that I belong in that world. And my dark passenger is there to certify that I continue to live for this idea — that perfection exists and I must strive for it.

Just needed a quick side note to describe that short story. Go back to The Catharsis.

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My Dark Place

A mini catharsis.

I believe in the philosophy of catharsis. Without a catharsis, we can only continue to be the same person and never evolve to our next level. According to Urban Dictionary:

Catharsis – a therapeutic technique used to release tension by bringing repressed feelings and fear to surface

As some of you know, I had another mini catharsis last year when I realized my true passion: I’m going to be a travel show host. Every day since I made that decision I’ve been trying to turn that dream into a reality. If you know anything about the realization of dreams, you know that it can be a pretty long path. A LONG DAMN path. This is no walk in the park, and there are ZERO shortcuts.

My path towards making my dream a reality has been thwarted by several of my lurking inner demons. To clarify for the reader, your inner demons are those things deep within you that you hold you back from being as great as you possibly can. For me, these demons include, but are not limited to:

Over the course of my 24 year life, all of these demons have manifested themselves into what my boyfriend calls “my dark passenger“. If you’ve ever watched the show Dexter, you know Dexter is just a regular Joe Shmoe but living with a grim past. At a young age, Dexter’s mom was brutally murdered by a cartel his mother snitched on. Dexter watches the whole thing happen and is officially scarred for life. He is rescued by an officer named Harry, who adopts and raises him. Those grisly images, however, eternally haunt Dexter and he develops a desire to kill, I assume as a consequence or revenge for his mother’s death. This desire to kill becomes Dexter’s dark passenger. Not saying I want to murder people, that definitely was NOT where I was taking that metaphor.

Anyway, the demons listed above manifested themselves into my dark passenger. So as we speak, I have this dark passenger residing within me, always wanting to ride shotgun in my life, and constantly shooting down all of my good ideas. Some may ask, but why does the dark passenger exist? I’m so glad you asked.

I believe in the Inception philosophy. It is possible for ideas to become implanted in your head. Your mind then takes the idea and believes that it was your own. For me, it was many moons ago in my youth, when someone implanted in my head an idea. And since the implantation, that idea has festered in my mind, becoming it’s own thing, becoming it’s own entity and evolving in it’s own way. The idea was this: “Marrissa – you need to be perfect.” This was a profound idea for my young mind, and it caused a great relief in me (for why it was a relief, read The story of why I want to be perfect and then come back here). Knowing that I needed to be perfect gave me something to live for, it gave me an understanding. It became my comfort zone and it’s where I’ve lived for 24 years. I live in the unreal world that perfection exists and that I belong in that world. And my dark passenger is there to certify that I continue to live for this idea — that perfection exists and I must strive for it.

But as I get closer and closer to making this big dream of Taste and See into a reality, I realize that my dark passenger is a WHOLE lot of baggage. Because of all this extra baggage, I have been dragging the hell out of my feet. It took me almost 6 months to get the trademark paperwork done just to own the words “Taste and See”. It took almost double that time to even write the script for Episode One of the first Season. And I totally half-assed it, let’s just be honest.

But here’s the thing! I’m not defending these ridiculous thoughts from my dark passenger that come into my head, but I need to confront them head on! Locked deeeep inside me is the idea that I need to be perfect. As a result, I believe that every episode of Taste and See must be perfect. And if each episode of Taste and See is not perfect, then I’ve failed. And if I fail, then I’m right back where I started. Confused about what the hell I should do with my life and at a loss for what my next step should be. What I’m failing to realize is that my dark passenger is steering me on this crazy collision course of queer thoughts and misconceptions of perfection.

So how do I correct my course? I’m so very relieved to tell you that I’ve figured it out. It’s all in the Leonardo DiCaprio method: you must confront your demons head on. By confronting them, you will control your dark passenger and thereby replace the original incepted idea in your mind. You create a new idea. You manipulate your dark passenger to work for you, and not against you.

It took me a little while to think of my new idea. Like a long little while. I actually didn’t come up with it, let me not lie to you. My boyfriend did because I was half-stepping on that too. It can be downright hard to control your dark passenger, let’s just be real. But it’s so worth it. And it’s the ONLY way to get over what the hell you’re going through. Your new idea, one that is all your own, one that replaces the wrong idea, is actually pretty simple. A lot more simple than I was making it. Your new idea needs to be the opposite of whatever your dark passenger wants you to believe.

For me, my new idea is simply this: “You are awesome.”

KA-BOOM!!

Mind = blown. So my next steps are these:

  1. Believe every single day in the new idea that I am awesome.
  2. Accept my dark passenger for who she/he/it is but I won’t let them run my life. I’m in control of my destiny – I am the master of my fate, and the captain of my soul. What I say goes, which is cool, cuz I’m a control freak anyway!
  3. Thank God that I figured out He made me perfectly in my imperfections.
  4. Lemme say that again – God made me PERFECT in my IMPERFECTIONS. When he made me, He said, This child was made in my image, and for that reason she is perfect. She got her own lil quirks about her, but those quirks were made by God, and are thus still GOOD quirks.
  5. Remember God’s promises and pray for wisdom.
  6. Take a deep freaking woo-sa and make this Taste and See thing happen, acknowledging that every second, minute, hour of the show won’t be perfect, but that it will still be a great freaking show, because it was made by a great freaking team of people and came from the inner recesses of the mind of a fantastic freaking person.

Thank God I’m coming out on the other side of this.

I really hope this lengthy passage helps someone.

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My Dark Place

My clincial depression story.

In March of 2007, at 17, I was diagnosed with clinical depression. I was prescribed an anti-depressant and I swallowed my pride and 10 mg per day of Lexapro for 5 months.

The month of April 2007 was miserable for me. I found myself laying in my bed for weeks on end, refusing to go to school, refusing to see sunlight and refusing to bathe for the most part. It was a wretched time in my life. I was burned out from the classes at my intensely competitive, overly challenging high school academy where I’d just completed a 4000 word essay over the course of 2 months (I was a procrastinator to the nth degree). As I laid there, the clock ticking away, I could see images of my high school classmates going on to graduate without me, because they hadn’t taken a month off of school to lay in the bed. I also saw the college I’d been accepted to, Clark Atlanta University, taking away my acceptance, because I couldn’t pull my shit together. I saw my ex from an abusive relationship I’d just ended still manipulating me with his words and his actions. All of these things were animated in my mind’s eye, no amount of sleep was ever enough, my appetite was insatiable and every negative thought or doubt about myself was so exponentially magnetized that I could think of nothing but my own despair.

I didn’t want to die, thankfully. My mother’s sister committed suicide at 17 and there was no way I could repeat that. My family is still reeling from it and I’m 100% sure that it was a large contributor to putting my maternal grandmother in an early grave. I didn’t want to die, but I did want to end the suffering. I laid there for 3 weeks straight because my depressed self just figured, if I lay here, I won’t have to deal, I won’t have to get better, I can find comfort in my misery and people who don’t understand me will leave me the hell alone. I stopped taking my medication as consistently as I should have. It didn’t feel like it was working, and I’m an instant gratification person. If I don’t see turnaround promptly, I’m promptly over it, and try to find another way.

After many days like this, my mother slapped the shit out of me. And not in the metaphorical sense. No, one morning, she quite literally smacked me in the mouth. That was the first time she’d ever done that, and I could tell instantly that we both regretted it: me for pushing her to her breaking point and her for doing something her mother did, but she swore she’d never do. Following the slap heard round the world, I locked myself in our bathroom for several hours, ignoring the pleas of my grandfather trying to coax me out and crying the most pitiful stream of tears.

That was the climax, though. God wouldn’t let things get uglier than that. I went back to school. Oh no, I had no intentions of going to class! My mother and I made a visit to my principal, Helen Cox. If you’ve ever known Helen, you’ll know that she is a saint among mere mortals. She sat me down and told me that I could recover. That I was better than this and that she would do everything in her power to get me on the right track and graduate that year. After private conversations with all of my teachers, I started going back to class. I lied to my friends, saying I was sick (it was true), and then I kept moving. I refused to stop moving and look down for fear that I would fall back in the hopeless abyss of abandonment and snotty tissues. The next month, I got a full scholarship to CAU. That August, when I started school, I threw away my meds. I was feeling better. And I didn’t relapse.

If Helen Cox hadn’t talked me off the ledge and if my mom hadn’t smacked me, I might not be the person you know (or are reading about) today. I wouldn’t have a degree in Business, or have been an intern at the White House during the Obama Administration, or studied in Paris on a free scholarship. Who knows what the hell would’ve happened to me.

The shitty part is that my depression comes back every other year, like clockwork. January rolls around, I’m sad because I ate so much over the holidays, and I gained so much weight. Then I withdraw and don’t get a lot of sunlight. Then I get the winter blues. Then I don’t treat it the way I should, because I’m always scared that I’ll become addicted to the pills. Then, finally, after many tearful phone calls to my mother and lots of manic moments at the mall and shouting matches with my boyfriend and overeating and withdrawal and too much sleep, my mother finally convinces me to go back on medication. Same thing happens every time.

This has been my life. This is the hand I was dealt. My great grandfather was schizophrenic, my great aunt bipolar, my grandmother and my mother considerably depressed, my aunt manic depressive. All of that weighs on me constantly. Biologically, I was created with faulty neurons and synapses and moods. Plus I’m a Gemini. I mean, seriously God? Like seriously.

But I’m grateful for what He’s brought me through. No one but God, that’s all I can say. I hope that my story is helpful to someone else, because my story isn’t over. Each day is a struggle and two halves, but a worthwhile struggle because I can see the light at the end of the long, dark tunnel. It’s bleak and small, but hopeful.

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