Tonight I’ll Keep It Simple

I have a lot to say, but tonight I’ll keep it simple. It’s time for me to accept myself as I am. This includes accepting that I will struggle at times to accept myself.

I’m well enough to refrain from viewing myself through the lens of anxiety and depression. There’s nothing pathological about my personality. There’s nothing wrong with being sensitive and creative, or feeling angry and pessimistic–because I’m also resilient and reserved, and I feel calm and hopeful.

I’m not ill, I’m human. I’m a poet-philosopher-teacher, and I have a lot more to say, but tonight I’ll keep it simple.

Protect This Inner Light

My singularity: the sole-ness of my soul. My singularity: the essence of my essence. No one can touch my singularity. My body may be harmed but not my singularity.

There is deep within me an indestructible source of light. There is deep within me a light I cannot see that nevertheless focuses its “I” on me.

I must protect this inner light that never fails to protect me. I must protect this inner light within the people I love and allow their light to shine through me.

The sole-ness of my soul. The essence of my essence. There is deep within me an indestructible source of light protecting my singularity.

Writing Saves My Life

I feel the need to explain myself to myself. I feel the need to analyze every aspect of my (inner) life. Why am I thinking the thoughts I’m thinking right now? What do my thoughts say about me? If I’m being hyper-critical, how am I responding to my hyper-critical thoughts? Am I challenging my hyper-critical thoughts, or am I using them to support irrational beliefs that I’m inherently weak and irrevocably damaged? Why am I writing—again—about my thoughts?

I have so much to live for, so much to look forward to. Still, when my overthinking goes into overdrive, I find myself returning to thoughts of suicide. I don’t have any plans, just a vague sense that death is easier than (my) life. When these thoughts arise, I hold on to my life. I think of at least one reason to stay alive.

For now, I must be patient. Healing takes time. I’ll keep writing because writing saves my life.

New Book Out Soon

My fourth book, Creative Type, will be out soon. I’m waiting for my third–and hopefully final–proof copy, which should arrive next week. I’m tired of making minor changes to the document, not liking the changes, changing them back, then changing them again. I have to release the book. I have to let it go. Stay tuned.

Working On My Fourth Book

I’m happy to announce I’m working on my fourth book. It’s called Creative Type. I’m also laying the groundwork for my fifth book, The Education of Chris Truman. I won’t be updating this blog much in the near future. After Creative Type, I’m looking to go beyond my usual academic essay format. I’ll still post poetry and personal essays, but you’ll find less long-winded quotes from obscure French philosophers. Stay tuned!

We Now Love Differently

People across the globe are suffering the collective trauma known as COVID-19. Life is far from normal. At some point, though, we’ll be free to leave our homes, greet our neighbors, and hug our friends and family members. We’ll all be trauma survivors.

I’m always in the mood for philosophical discussions, but today I’m especially interested in thinking about the meaning of life. I found a quote from Keith Ansell Pearson’s How to Read Nietzsche particularly helpful right now.

Describing Nietzsche’s approach to life after trauma, Pearson writes, “It is certain that our trust in life is gone, and gone forever, simply because life has become a problem for us. Nietzsche counsels us, however, that we should not jump to the conclusion that this necessarily makes us gloomy. Love of life is still possible, but we now love differently” (38). According to Nietzsche, rather than giving up or succumbing to despair, we must remember to appreciate the gift of being alive, no matter what life brings us.

Stuck inside, we already love each other and ourselves differently. As long as we’re here, let’s acknowledge our pain and cherish our joy.

The Joy Of Temporary Body Loss

There’s no distinction anymore between my thinking and my writing. I think as I write and write as I think. Sometimes I stay up all night and think-write so hard I lose touch with my body. By morning, which for me is often darker than night, I become an untethered mind with nothing but emptiness inside.

Emptiness is out of this world. Emptiness is divine. I can’t, however, remain an untethered mind. I need my body to survive. When I repeat nothing zero times, my mind and body reunite, and I leave the kingdom of emptiness behind.

If I ever publish a (meta)physical essay about the joy of temporary body loss, I’ll declare in the last line that think-writing, a gift from God, brings me comfort from time to time.

Embracing Resistance

In Reluctantly: Autobiographical Essays, Hayden Carruth states, “Everything I know as a writer and critic, everything I know about poetry and life, tells me that the effort to analyze a feeling makes that feeling stronger, not weaker” (60).

As a confessional writer, I analyze my feelings often, but compulsive self-analysis can turn into self-judgement when I label certain feelings “unacceptable.” Debilitating sadness is unacceptable. I need to toughen up and become a productive member of society. Chronic anxiety is unacceptable. I need to loosen up and take charge of my life.

I assume that Carruth, who battled depression and anxiety for decades, understood the power of shame to compound suffering. Living with mental illness is hard enough. Fighting the stigma of mental illness, the shame I’ve internalized, is equally daunting.

Shame stifles my creativity and restricts my being. I write best when I acknowledge, without judgment, how I really feel. When I’m depressed, my body feels heavier than a pile of anvils. When I’m anxious, my body feels like a desert trapped in a grain of sand. I worry that sharing details like these makes me look bad, but if my depression and anxiety won’t shut up, why should I stay silent? To write freely, Carruth might remind me, is to heal.

But where my body is concerned, I’ll never have the last word. In the throes of a depressive episode, my body won’t get out of bed. Nothing and no one, not even me, can force it to rise. There’s an anger immune to reason flowing through me, a defiant inner child reclaiming his power.

When it’s fed up with the world, my body says no. It accepts that it doesn’t work right. My body owns what it lacks. Rejecting the false memory of a unity it never had, my body challenges society’s bogus requirement to always be rational, driven, and self-sufficient. My body pushes back against the double trauma inflicted upon it: the trauma of having a mental illness and the trauma of feeling ashamed about having a mental illness.

I keep using the word shame, but defining it isn’t easy. On my worst days I feel like my soul is damaged. I blame myself for being depressed and hate myself for hating myself. Hearing people I care about tell me they love me doesn’t stop my internal critic from judging me. I feel unworthy of love and acceptance despite the fact that everyone, by virtue of being alive, deserves both.

Depression is hidden; it doesn’t look like a broken leg or third-degree burns. People fear what they can’t see and judge others for exhibiting odd behaviors they can’t explain. We’re aware of the stereotype of the madman or madwoman. I know how alone they feel.

No matter how society tries to define me, I live my depression in my own way. I’m free to write that I feel like my soul is damaged, but I can’t prove it. I can’t prove that I have a soul in the first place. But writing that my soul is damaged is my (hyperbolic) statement; it is unique to me. Everything I write is an expression of my singularity. My resistance, too, is an expression of my singularity. Everything and everyone I resist, I resist in my own way.

If I wake up one morning and my body feels like a pile of anvils, the first step I should take to get out of bed is to not get out of bed right away. Stay numb. Be one with my mourning. When I feel depressed, to feel better later, I must do depression well.

It’s important to challenge negative thoughts, to take my meds, and to go to therapy, but it also helps to recognize that parts of me haven’t healed, can’t be healed, or refuse to be healed. My body is stubborn. I need to embrace its resistance.

Either I

Stuck in the past, I go from happy to sad and back again in a flash. I feel too much, much too fast. I have poems to write but not enough rhyme.

Robert Frost is on my mind. There are two trains at my station but only one for me to ride. I can’t, for the life of me, decide between them side by side.

Beyond the blue horizon lies a sky within a sky. I can’t see myself on either train with either I.