I know this one is long and big and tiresome. Even for me, but bear with me, cuz it's as much part of everything as anything...And it's where petit libro started.
When I started writing, at the age of 8 just about, I was an avid little thing. With my crayons and markers, illustrations and stories filled up books. One about a fat cat, the other about my Barbie family and their eternal dramas, one about 4th grade (ditto on the drama!) and then about my dog. At 12 I got serious about journaling and have never stopped. Somewhere behind it all I had a purpose but it always eluded me. There is a story that wants to get told, but I end up scoffing at my pretension and just give up on the idea and go eat chocolate or something. The 8-year-old insisted nonetheless, claiming her voice.
The idea behind this blog was the possibility of organizing so much information and avidness onto some sort of scheme, although I'm not sure how that plan is working out...As the good Gestalt-Therapists say, tudo tem a ver com tudo, tudo é um todo e todo todo é um tudo (yes, é isso mesmo que você ouviu), so really, patience with me if you care to see where this is heading. There's something of very raw and something of very universal which I hope can help anyone who might read this, however trite that sounds. Everything has to do with everything and somewhere there is a thread that runs through it all, cuz it's all me, ain't it?
I'll get back to this, we're not through...For now let's go back in time a bit.
Silent Revolutions -July 15th, 2009 – Ides of July, more than ides of the year.
Today I have quite a document to write. I’ve even separated a special, specific time for this. No TV, no computer logged into its inumerous outlets: just music, the balcony, the cats and I. What would deserve such ceremony, you might ask?
Well…I need to testify the miracles at work these last few days and better yet, since last night till this morning. Yesterday I realized, or better yet, the part of me that still had any self-respect and integrity left realized, that I am walking down a dangerous, painful path which only tends to get worse. The spider web of depression, which seems so innocent and fragile at first (oh look, a flimsy little thread of self-doubt…) turned into a real whirlpool of a web, strong, sticky and oh so resilient after years of spinning. What I had taken for a comfortable bed keeping me safe from my worst fears became my worst fear. Fear of fear, fear of myself – STUCK to the bed I consented be built around me.
I realized yesterday that I am somehow in the very place I was running away from in the first place, the famous paradox. I was so afraid of being discovered as a fraud, incompetent and non-deserving that I myself nailed together and painted the sign before anyone else could – GUILTY – and stuck it to my heart. I stuck it to my heart and, blind as it is, it had no idea that whoever put it there was supposed to be its keeper. That its keeper had gone mad for a few unforgiving moments.
And it started to believe. It doesn’t know of objective truth, the heart knows what it feels and what it’s told. So it believed accordingly. GUILTY. Whatever came naturally before as beautiful life force and magnanimity was set aside like suspect terrorists at immigration.You have a beard, why? What building are you plotting to destroy? Questioned not once, but thousands of times over, tortured until all beauty began to second-guess its nature. Creativity, love, faith – were they frauds after all?
The keeper of the heart, so worried about keeping it safe, keeping it hers, lost all which made life be life and her be her. The light disappeared from her eyes and so did all fundamental belief in goodness. She turned into a crawling, weeping, vomiting and cowardly being, having to take extra shifts in the graveyard to build yet another protection – a mask, a wall, for, god forbid anyone see the havoc she truly had wreaked now. Each wall built worsened the problem until she was breathing through a straw poking out of all that bubble wrap.
So yesterday, the keeper cried and cried and prayed like I haven’t in a long time. I begged for forgiveness.
Sorry, sorry, sorry.
I couldn’t stop pleading forgiveness, please, please, sorry, sorry. It turned into a chant and I started to wonder who I was pleading to.
And then it came: Myself. And then it came again: they’re the same thing.
I finally understood what people mean by “self-forgiveness”, what they meant when they told me that I had to forgive myself and let myself be happy, what they meant with all their hippy-love-yourself talk. I’d always yell back, completely indignant:
“What the hell are you talking about, forgive myself for WHAT?” and the answer would come back in the form of a silent echo and the question lost the indignation and turned into a whispered plea:
“Please explain, forgive what? Forgive who?”
The chant got stronger and stronger and I started talking to all the characters of my life:
“Please forgive me, forgive me for caring too much, forgive me for not knowing so many things
For telling you I love you
For having been so scared
For wanting perfection since so early
For not believing enough in you, God
For not believing in myself,
For stifling and killing the joy in my body
For killing my hope
For so many damn years of wasted time with depression
For denying myself the right to be what I am
For not being who you wanted me to be, Mom
For not being Brazilian enough, sunny enough, dating enough
For not being who you wanted me to be, Dad
For not being American enough, master degree program enough, jogger enough
For not having been able to balance the complexity like I thought I should even at an age where that should never be asked of anyone
For letting you go, little sister, for watching you dissolve into scars and self-mutilation, I am so sorry I couldn’t be enough for you
For not being a 23-year-old who gets drunk once in a while or even ever
For not allowing myself so much
For this vacuum of nothingness I’ve created around me, kicking away whoever tells me I deserve differently because, “what do they know!?”
Each sorry came like a hiccup from the deepest premises, from behind the walls and wraps and finally, from behind the GUILTY sign incrusted into my poor heart.
And at this point I fell down on my knees.
I’m so sorry, heart. Forgive me.
I looked at my baby pictures on the wall and held my heart in both hands, an offering.
Sorry, I’m so sorry for taking that girl away from you, for betraying you.
And then I looked up to God and begged for redemption.
Let me start over, let me clean up and throw away all this rubble, let me fix my heart; let me win it over again, win its trust again.
Please God, please.
I’ve never cried with such purpose before. It was a battle cry, an oath - the holiest of prayers.
Then I slept, sound, sound asleep and I awoke 10 hours later as from a spell, confused and heavy, I had gone somewhere very far.
Something’s different, I can smell it. I feel kinder, softer. I feel…dare I say it? Hopeful.
When I first sensed this change, the dangerous, yet so underestimated counterpart to depression hastily made her entrance – euphoria! I never recognized it before for what it is: a false ladder that I climb up way too fast following the voice that promises rainbows and cookies and everlasting possibility…without realizing it’s not leaning up against anything so obviously it falls with my own weight and I crash into the mud that seemed a thing of the past.
Euphoria, or it’s better known clinical name, mania, (as my psychologist and I both realized at the same time two weeks ago) has been my way out of depression through all these years of these come-and-go crisis. I realize this with all the weight that only the truth can afford. I’m aghast at how this has never been identified by the myriad of mental health professionals that took turns tending to me. I guess they would be so relieved that I was MOVING that they didn’t want, or couldn’t – see that if was too fast, too blind and too straight into a wall. I was always so logical about my getting-betters there wasn’t anyone who wasn’t convinced and happy for me. And since I never went back to the same person I had been seeing before the apparent remission when the tidal wave of blackness came back, nobody picked up on the cycle. Only now, perhaps, having returned to the first psychologist I ever went to, something is starting to make sense.
In no way am I stating or affirming that I have bipolar syndrome or something of the sort – all I’m saying is that I can finally see that my truces with depression in the past grew out of escaping rather than real healing. I mean, in some ways, it’s what’s gotten me this far and that can only be cause for gratefulness, but it’s not healing. Another reason I don’t condone it is that it got me through things I’d never even dared of doing if I hadn’t felt endowed with this goddess like power. When I look back, it all comes so clearly.
Going to Italy on my own weeks after recovering from one of my worst crisis was a total rainbow ride of mania, perhaps necessary so that I could prove to myself that something beyond the last 3 years of psychiatrists and treatments were possible. I grew damn wings and flew so high. When I remember the confidence, the sheer nerve and lack of fear, the risks I took, the talking to complete strangers in strange languages with such ease and in situations that could easily be dangerous, the jumping off planes onto buses onto trains, spending nights sleeping on the street practically and being so ABLE and worse of all, seductive at all of these feats, it jumps out at me how much of this false ladder was in the scene... Because, as I mentioned, what was it leaning against? I returned to Brasilia and I fell and for much time after that I pined after what I believed was the salvation – Italy.
This is just an example, but when it comes down to it, I could list examples and more examples of how mania or whatever gave me false solutions and led me down false alleyways with alluring promises. Under its influence the transformations are symptomatic:
Any relationship with any hope or crumb of love turns into salvation even when it was obvious I was at the losing and most horrid end of it; I can and MUST teach anything to every student to ever cross my path; I can enlighten and cure any patient by the sheer power of love; I can learn French in a day if I want to; I can and will write a book that will change the lives of millions; I can enrapture and spool in any unsuspecting person that comes my way and the ends will justify the means; every womb is a baby which is an angel and I the virgin Mary.
The need to give becomes so great that I tip the scales and become needy of so much need. The other person’s salvation is my own so I must, I must…but where are the outlets for so much love, so much intensity? There are none and I usually end the need by burning out the closest relationship available or turning on myself and fizzing out into myself, which also burns before it crashes. The rainbows go bad and twisted, speaking in riddles like Alice in Wonderland and I’m back from where I was escaping.
So this time I recognized this false ladder, felt tempted to climb and then returned to my senses many times before I was able to sit still. I looked at the mud down at my feet and at the ladder beckoning escape and chose neither. I’m not drowning in mud and I’m not running away blindly – I just AM, with my feet a little dirty and no spinning sensation of falling down through rainbow land. It’s amazing what you see when you’re face isn’t in the mud of flying through clouds of euphoria’s highs. It’s still pretty tempting but the clearer I make the memories of where it has taken me before, the less I feel like grasping for the first rung. I don’t have wings, but I have feet and they can walk. It’s breathtaking.
The whole day today I’ve been able to stay here, catching my breath and making sense of this new chance that I’ve been given; of the mercy that has befallen me, given from me to me. A truce.
I know, you might remark “but a day, what’s a day out of so many others to come? How does this prove a miracle? And I answer, I know, I’m also scared, it seems so precarious, a day. The first work out of a muscle I haven’t been able to use in such a long time, at least not consistently. But it’s something, it’s anything, it’s a real day of truce.
I’m aware of all this and yet I stand with my heart in my hands, praying to God that I won’t do something stupid to it, waiting for further instructions.
For now we’re just here and it’s ok. I don’t have answers but, miraculously, I don’t have questions. The old questions are together with the rubble because I realize they were the wrong questions. And which would the right questions be then?
Don’t know yet and don’t know if I ever will. I have choice now, not answers.
I never know how I will be read or understood by people who have never gone through anything that resembles depression or emotional crisis. I know it may sound trite, it might sound exaggerated, it might sound self-indulgent. But believe you me, I’ve been accused of all these by myself inexorably and, as I said before, I believed the lie that is such a judgment and it brought me nothing but more torture.
There is nothing truer and more meaningful to me than this. It may be for a day, for two, but it’s here and a day can be all the time you need, it can be an eternity.
I feel my skin again. There is something separating me from sound, from smell, from taste and the buzzing of the world. It doesn’t all have to be absorbed, I don’t have to feel everything. My house is not made of glass.
A song can be just that, music and lyrics, not a painful submersion and identification into what I believe to be all of the singer’s woes and misgivings.
A car that passes by can be just that – I don’t have to reach out to the driver (and passengers if there are any) and cry because I don’t know if he’s been loved enough, if his faith has abandoned him.
Italian is just that, a beautiful, perfect language and not a reason to feel like each word is a long lost child or lover.
Ed è per questo che la storia dà i brividi
siamo noi, bella ciao.
Minutes are just that – I don’t have to feel each second per passing my every organ and pulsation.
I am separate, I have skin, I have choice, I have sanctuary again.
The quarantine is over and Lord, I pray for the wisdom to let it stay.