This is part of the Pagan Experience 2016 prompts. EAch month brings a new prompt with options for alphabetical weekly prompts tied to the monthly topic. For this blog, I’ll be doing a monthly post on the associated topic.
Warnings this month for weird self-exploration, weird gender stuff, talk of suicide and depression, weird metaphors for the self, and a lack of conclusion to any of it.
I meditate – visualize – journey – to the inside of myself. There lays part of me, curled in on herself and cloaked with wild curls. She sniffs that tearful sniff all children master. I kneel down to her level.
She insults me immediately.
This is me as spiritually conceptualized, spiritual manifest, between the ages of when-I-can-remember and twelve. The me that is me is from twelve onward. I’m clad in a baseball-style shirt and jeans that rub against my thighs in threat of ripping. I poke my not-really-real baseball cap up to get a better look at the girl below me. She is, fittingly, unclothed. I wouldn’t expect a representation of childhood, trauma, hope, and loss to be wrapped up all nicely.
When I pick her up – metaphorically – she kicks and shrieks. She wails. She tells me how much she hates me and goes on and on. I don’t even move. I just stand there with myself slung over my shoulder. I wait until she has exhausted herself completely and then toss her back down, and now she’s all grown up but her hair is comparably bigger. Like a damn shield. She even grabs fistfuls of it and hides her face from me.
“You literally look like me,” I point out.
“Well, you’re ugly!” she retorts. She kicks her legs up.
My patience for myself snaps, already thin.
“Get over it,” I mutter. “Get the fuck over it.”
She throws mud in my face.
It’s been a while since I’ve gone diving into myself like this.
I could say the whole problem starts when I try to kill myself at school. Certainly, that act has affected my life ever since. If I could go and scrub my record clean, it would be clean of that. Everything else, every mistake and fuck up and wound I’ve caused, would come second – even less than second – to getting rid of that. I’d take a time machine to stop that.
I learned things that day, of course. I avoid the afterlife like I’m avoiding some touchy man at a party. The afterlife is rather hard to conceive of once you’ve just stared into nothingness. Oh, the lights, the lights! – were hospital lights. They’re really bright, you know.
But it wasn’t like I one day decided, “Let’s die! It sounds great.” To this day I can’t give you a good reason for why I did it. But it wasn’t a one-off adventure toward death. I’d been depressed for years. Actual, not-shitting-you years.
I was never exuberant and extroverted as a child, but one day it went from being a bratty quiet child to whatever I was. Depressed. Just depressed. Really, really depressed. And who gets depressed as a kid? Something must have been wrong with me. Depression is something ‘wrong with’, of course, but. There must have been something wrong with me that I was depressed in the first place.
That’s what the girl-me yells when I visit her. She curses me. What could possibly have been wrong with me that I’d try to end everything. I ruined her life, she shrieks. I’m an incompetent worthless ass who isn’t even good at being quiet and small. She goes on and on.
I scuff my sneaker against the non-existent ground, stirring up non-existent dust.
Everything would have been fine if I had just toughed it out, she rants. She could have fixed her life if I hadn’t stepped in and fucked it all over. She talks about her dreams and her ideas and it all just blends into noise. I’ve heard this a thousand times. I’ve told myself this a thousand times. She complains about how much of a jerk I was in early adulthood. She complains I’ve given up all my goals and settled down with some man – and she hisses that word out like she’s a demon entering a church. Even though the me I’m looking at now is well-grown and just as chubby and curved as I am, I can’t help but remark on her childishness.
“You play at being a man!” she trills, winding herself up more and more and more and more.
“I am a man,” I respond. ‘Half the time,’ I think.
“I hate men!” she sobs, flopping down into the expanse of her hair.
I sigh and kneel down to her again. She’s wailing, great tears pouring from her eyes. “Hey,” I say.
She just wails.
“I kind of need to. You know.” I scratch the back of my neck. “We kind of need to integrate so I can stop being so fractured all the time.”
“I hate you!” she sobs, again.
“Yeah, yeah, you hate me, I hate me, it’s the same thing,” I say under my breath. I grab her arm and begin to haul her over my shoulder again – the urge to haul the both of us to some spot is overwhelming – and she smacks me in the face.
“What happened to me! Why did I turn into you!” she asks, voice hot.
I let myself feel the sting. I’m so impartial when I take on this makeshift form. I’m exactly the type of person my gods want me to be.
“Well,” I say, “you kind of died on me.”
The other-me stops talking, wailing, sobbing, shrieking. We just sit together with the knowledge that I kind-of sort-of died in the hospital just before I turned thirteen, and I’m never going to remember what drove me there, and I’m just going to have to live with what happened for the rest of my damn life.
I tell myself I ‘caught’ the depression when I was eight, but it was probably later. I don’t remember exact dates. I remember being small. But I’ve always been small. For all it matters, bodily, I could have caught it from ten to twenty – I haven’t grown much in all those years, except horizontally.
(I stretch my shoulders back one day and realize I’ve gotten chubby, chubby on my back, and it’s so odd I just stand in front of the mirror for a while, not registering my reflection. I’m used to my fat going right to my thighs.)
I was in therapy as a child. Therapy that didn’t really help. The most distinct memory I have of the time is going up the elevator, or maybe the stairs, and wondering aloud about the end of our civilization. I had been thinking of the end of ancient Greece and Rome and how our own end, here in the US, would be so difficult for us to see. We might live through the downfall as it occurred. I couldn’t explain exactly what I was thinking. I wasn’t thinking of wars or politics or famine or water crisis or, or, or. I was just thinking, “It happened before, it has to happen again, right? It happens again and again.”
I went to two different therapists as a child-teenager. I found little use from either of them. Now I’m older and better educated, I know what I needed was one of those cognitive-behavioral therapists, not one that just sits there and stares at you and expects you to talk out your problems and gives you pithy sayings. I craved ‘homework’, craved doing something to fix myself, and talking it out just spun me into worse shape.
If I could go back in time, I’d tell them, “Put me on medication, you fuckwits.” I’d warn them they needed to get to work sooner than later if they didn’t want me trying to untangle all the bull shit ruts my mind would work into itself. But, no time machine. Besides, if I could go back in time, I already would have, and the whole thing would be solved, and since it’s not, there’s no time machine waiting for me in the future.
I must have been older than eight.
But I remember being small and bringing it up with the doctor. I remember feeling fake. I couldn’t really be depressed or chronically sad or. No, I was perfectly normal. Just quiet. I just enjoyed my stories and toys and books. I got too involved in my stories. That’s why I was feeling sad. I was reading sad stories.
Surely, to this day, I meld into stories easier than I’d prefer, but I was kidding myself. Depression was clinging to me like seaweed around my legs as I swam in the Pacific. She was getting ready to drown me.
I’d always been shit at talking to people, so it wasn’t any wonder talk therapy did jack shit. I’d always been terrible at talking to people, and I was still a child, in a way, so it wasn’t any wonder I just decided ‘let’s not being around’ rather than talking to someone.
My parents divorce when I’m eighteen. I flunk out of college shortly before that. I barely make it out of high school. This story is being told in reverse. It’s being told with no gods’ damned chronological order. I can’t keep down jobs for long. I take my anger and sorrow and pain out on everything.
I am a violent person, but like my spirits tell me, “You keep it all inside.” At least until I break, and then I take it out on myself. Spiritually, I conceive of myself as perfectly normal, except when I’m in too much emotional pain. Then I’m just this humanoid form of fire and lava.
Reality, my thighs are pretty damaged from the whole self-hatred shit. My wrist is too, but so faded you won’t notice unless you really look. My thighs used to be something I could take pride in, even as big as they were, they are. They’re all scarred up. You know what it is when you see it.
I don’t get the fuck over myself until I hit my twenties, and I’m a right bitch through most of that anyway.
Did I really meet my partner when I was nineteen? How did he stick around with me? How did anyone stick around with me?
I’m debating with the other-me about all this shit when she shows up.
She’s draped in a simple dress, and her hair is mine – actually mine, not exaggerated as it tends to be in journeys – and she’s young. When she speaks, it is with a voice I’ve heard a dozen times before. Fleeting and brief and firm.
This isn’t some other me. It is just me, behind all the depression and anxiety and fear and scarring. In the Otherfaith very pure or very corrupt spirits tend to appear as children. They never act like children. I know it is my own bias and interpretation that she shows up like this. She doesn’t look like I did when I was a child. She looks like someone I have never seen on the outside, just inside my own heart.
“Enough,” she says, and when her feet touch the ground we are on her energy ripples out. “Stop fighting.”
I wobble and turn to goo. The other side of myself does too, until we meld into something new. I look down and just see myself, as I physically am.
This is me, the physical outer me, and when I look up there is what some people might call a soul. Or the God-Soul, or the God-Self, or the holy guardian angel, or whatever damn name fits in your tradition. In the Otherfaith we hold up mirrors to ourselves to see who we are and our many distortions. She is without distortion. She is what resides in my heart and wishes to be spoken to the world.
She asks why I keep running from her.
I tell her I’m not running from anything.
She asks where I am trying to go to.
I tell her I’m just trying to – I cut myself off. I can feel it. The edges of my own mind and soul blending with the spirits of the Otherfaith. I can feel the large body of the Clarene cracking this makeshift journey open like an egg.
“I’m a piece of shit,” I say, “and I don’t deserve to be here.”
I can feel Ava behind me, let in by the Clarene cracking everything open, and she digs her small foot into my back and I can feel her sneer.
“Get the fuck over it,” she says.
The me that ducks in and out of my life, giving the actual good advice I need, the me that actually is herself entirely, the me that I can hear when the fog of depression is torn away, stands before me. I bury her under the asshole side of me I want the word to see instead.
I conceive of her as a kid because of how damn vulnerable I feel.
I don’t reach out and take her hand. She doesn’t extend one anyway. I don’t embrace her.
I know her, which is the whole point. I can’t be her. She’s my heart. She’s the soul.
I can try to embody her. Ava’s heel, pressing sharply into me, tells me what I need to do. Of course I’m running away from this side of myself. She holds me to the highest standard. And she forgives me when I fuck up. That’s what soul is.
I need to get the fuck over it and get on with my life.
I can come out of this journey, but technically this whole life is a journey. It is the pursuit of that side of me, stripping away the bandages I don’t need until I can embody her. It is my own understanding of the body and the soul, odd and unstable as it may be.