This doesn’t have anything to do with AWP, sadly. Instead, I thought I’d depress everyone with a creative nonfiction piece about my mental issues. For anyone who doesn’t know (I don’t think I’ve written about it on here yet, but I could be wrong), I suffer from anxiety and depression. It’s been this way since I was a kid, so I’m pretty up-front about it and I write about it quite often. Besides, I feel like if anyone can understand what it’s like to feel too much, it would be a bunch of writers. To capture how it felt in a moment of mental anguish, to put into words a unique type of panic or thought or emotion that may not be considered “universal,” is something that is cathartic for me. I have a couple pieces that touch on this subject, but this one in particular seems both promising and in need of work, so feel free to comment and offer constructive criticism (or just tell me to stop whining, if you want).
I’ve never hit anyone, or wrecked a car, or gotten in a fight that went beyond word-slinging. Instead, I hit walls. Walls can’t feel pain, they’re solid, they contain, they keep secrets. If they do suffer from the blows my fists land on them, they suffer in silence. As for my temper, it comes from my dad. Our house constantly had gaping holes in the walls, doors ripped off their hinges. I thought that’s what people did when they got angry. It was okay, because Dad was a painter who could repair any hole our fists pounded into the skin of our house.
Sometimes I swing and punch and collide out of desperation and not anger. When I was about 13, I put my head through a wall. I had been crying, begging my mom to let me stay home from school. She refused, said I had to go. I cried until I heaved, until I couldn’t see, until my face was burgundy. I began to bang my head against that wall, slowly, just barely brushing my hair against it, then with more force, wanting to feel something, just wanting some physical manifestation of my sadness, of the shrieks of terror ringing through my mind when I thought about junior high. “It’s just school,” I thought. “Calm down.” But I couldn’t. It wasn’t just school. It was a seven-hour-long reminder of my failures, of my wretched, puberty-ravaged appearance, an always-spinning hamster wheel of social anxieties. I felt the wall cave in around my head, leaving behind a dent the size of a golf ball. I stepped away, horrified at what I’d done. It didn’t even feel as if I’d done it. There was no pain, and I had no memory of what it felt like for the wall to give way beneath my forehead. My mom said I was being ridiculous. I got in the shower and tried to reclaim my body, forcing out the anguish and saying, “This is mine, this is me, I am the one who controls my body. I am not just an emotional lightning rod, attracting bad feelings and letting them rip and sizzle through me.”
Dad came home and patched up the hole in the wall without a word.
This past summer, I began treatment for anxiety. The doctor prescribed me Zoloft, and warned me that it could have adverse effects on my emotions. I swallowed half of one Zoloft, once a day, hoping the shard of a pill would work its way into my body and force out whatever it was that kept my mind whirring, all lit-up, blurry, fast and terrifying like an acid trip carousel. Let the water that washed the pill down wash out the things that kept me up all night, the thoughts and fears that zipped around my mind, yelling things as they passed through. Yelling, “No one likes you, they just tolerate you.” “You’re fat and horrible and your eyes are too squinty when you smile.” “You’ll never have friends, you’ll always be alone, you probably won’t make it to the age of 30 before you take yourself off this planet because you’re screwed up and weak.”
My third day taking just half a pill and I was lost. I remember those three days in flashes of emotion. Squirming on my bed with a tear-soaked shirt because I was convinced my mom hated me. Holding my breath until my forehead became a reddened road map of veins, thinking that maybe if I held it in long enough then something would happen. Something. I just needed to know that I could control my body. I remember bruised knuckles from jabbing at my bedroom door and trying so hard to feel a wall cave beneath my fist. I had to know control. I had to know I could still affect something, even if it was only the plaster that held our house together. I grabbed fistfuls of my own hair and yanked. I paced our hallway all night. I cooked and cleaned at three in the morning.
With a stinging scalp and weary dry eyes, I put my fist to the wall again and again.