“I know you have a heavy heart
I can feel it when we kiss
So many men stronger than me
Have thrown their backs out
Trying to lift it.” –Bright Eyes, ‘Lua’
I’m scared. Jesus Fucking Christ, I’m scared. Scared enough to capitalize the name of the prophet to a deity in which I do not believe.
Or rattled, maybe. “Rattled” is a more accurate word. I am shaken up.
Oh, man. You meet requirements I didn’t even realize I had. You’re lighting up all the right sections of my brain, you’re hitting all the right notes, and this–this–is uncompromisingly good. I can exist around you without letting my convictions atrophy; I can talk to you without smothering newborn sentences on their way out of my mouth. I can laugh unrestrained.
I am not worried about you getting too attached. My mind did not immediately, on finding myself in an arrangement, begin trying to find some way, any way, out.
On the contrary.
I’m scared because I can’t help but feel that you’ve got the upper hand. I’m not used to that, not after Heart & Crown. I do not have to explain what my words mean when I use them. All the ideas I can throw at you are within your reach. The only thing I find myself constantly doing is trying to explain myself.
You are a flurry of activity. Your to-do lists must be the stuff of dreams. You are all fulfillment and kept promises and action and honesty, and next to you I feel like a cardboard cutout advertising the premiere of a TV series that won’t happen because it’s already been cancelled. You are clean-cut and put-together, and I am third-day jeans and yesterday’s dishes and eighteen years’ worth of “I’ll do it later” incarnate.
How am I supposed to keep you convinced that I am a good idea?
Today should have been wonderful. We had a whole morning, a whole day stretching out before us, and two young people who kind of sort of really like each other shouldn’t have had any trouble finding something to do in a city like this on a morning like that. But I crashed.
I felt myself go cold, felt frigidity settle into my bone marrow, felt my body curl up and tense its long-suffering tendons into fortifications against some invisible enemy. A seemingly inexplicable wave of depression overtook me, and I had no idea how to explain, so I didn’t.
I don’t know what you thought. I don’t know how much you noticed. All I knew was that I couldn’t do happy; I couldn’t do cute and I couldn’t do sophisticated or intellectual or charming. What I needed to do was curl into a ball and cry, or keep staring at the ceiling, or take out all my feelings and spread them out on the covers in front of me and really look at them and see if I couldn’t poke them until they started to move again.
You are far too new to this–to me–to have participated.
The thing about Heart & Crown was that I learned to need him. After the giddiness of juvenile first love wore off and things turned sour like this–when I crashed–I learned to hold onto him for support, as naturally as any learned behaviour can ever be.
There’s nothing natural or instinctive about a city bus–just like there’s nothing particularly inspiring or noteworthy about them, most of the time–but when you ride, you learn to hold on. You develop an instinct for holding fast to the bars, to the plastic loops, to whatever you can reach. Heart & Crown was within reach, and I learned to depend on him.
He was endlessly forgiving of my shortcomings and had so much patience for every feeling that might surface in me. Looking back, I see that it was really simple–all I had to do was settle for him, and he would settle for me. If I amputated the parts of me that demanded better–that were better–I could be his pretty little broken doll, and he would take care of me.
I don’t want that. I don’t want to be your sad little girl to be taken care of, even if you’d let me be. I don’t want to be wound up and posed and admired. I want agency. I am not a broken doll.
I am not a broken doll.
I don’t want to be defined by my undiagnosed mental illness symptom collection, by all the patterns and bad habits lurking at the corners of my psyche. And it’s not you who controls this–it’s me. I’m the one who has to learn how to handle my shit. I have to learn how to cope with my own stresses without clinging to the nearest warm body for dear life. I need to stop tangling romance into my support system.
I realized this today. And so, when I was crashing rapidly and I was dreading seeing you–seeing daylight, seeing people, speaking aloud–but dreading the thought of pushing you away even more, I didn’t send the text I was going to send.
“I don’t feel right. I hate everything. I don’t feel worthy of your attention. Walking across the room feels like moving through an aquarium of unflavoured gelatin. Not a single thing feels worthwhile right now. I’m really not okay.”
Instead, I said this:
“Listen, I might not be up for going tomorrow… I’m not sick, I’m just kind of crashing. I got inexplicably sad last night and I’ve been feeling like I hate everything on and off all day, which isn’t super conducive to partying and whatnot, or being nice to people who deserve to be treated nicely, so it’ll depend on how I feel tomorrow. This is just a thing that happens to me occasionally, and hopefully it won’t last long.”
I am hoping with all the hope I can muster in my current state that this is the right way. I have other supports. I have other strategies. I can be a person with agency, not a beautiful tragic train wreck girl. I am not a morbid fashion spread. I am not a beautiful body lying facedown in a gas oven. I am not intriguing and enigmatic with my neck broken below the balcony. My struggles with depression and suicide are an illness, not a personality quirk. Depression as an illness can be just as manageable, or just as deadly, as diabetes or epilepsy or any other chronic condition–and it’s just as much not for my new boyfriend to handle or to judge. It’s just something he’s going to have to understand if he wants to stick around; nothing more, nothing less.