Alone On A Cliff

CW: mental health content

About three weeks ago I was doing really bad with my mental health. Down to the point that I was perpetually emotionally numb. I did have bouts of irrational anger over stupid little things, but those were always brief, and then I was back to numb. At some point I asked myself how could I measure what I was going through. I had heard of both Spoon Theory and Fork Theory, and love the explanations they offer. Yet, they did not work for describing a lack of emotion, a sense of no attachment to those around me. I needed another type of litmus test. Oddly it came from the Avengers. (spoilers for Infinity War and Endgame if you continue)

In the most recent Avengers movies there are similar scenes of someone trying to retrieve the Soul Stone and the unique requirements to do so. In the movie, you have to sacrifice someone that you love, by throwing them over a particular cliff. If the Soul Stone judges that you truly love that person, you get the Soul Stone, at the cost of your loved one. For some reason I found that I was placing myself at the top of the cliff and wondering if I could potentially retrieve the Soul Stone. When I first thought of this, I could see no way that I could get the Stone. I did not love anyone, not even myself. Zero potential to get the Stone. I say potential because, I cannot see myself ever pushing someone off the cliff. Not even in a thought experiment. The idea here is to see if the Soul Stone would judge another as a worthy sacrifice, judge if I love someone enough.

So for the next several days I would ask myself if I could get the Stone. It would be my litmus test to see when my depression was beginning to lift. After a week, I saw another on the cliff beside me. Someone the Soul Stone would accept as a sacrifice, but I also saw myself desperately trying to protect them. Hold them away from the edge, away from the Stone. I was able to feel again. Just a little, it was a list of one, but I could see progress. In a few days there were more on the list. I was coming up, out of the depression. At least somewhat. And I had a means of measuring it, if a bit odd.

The cliff of the Soul Stone is not about whether or not I would sacrifice someone, it is about if I am alone on that cliff. The more people the Soul Stone would deem worthy for me to sacrifice is a sign of how well I am able to function emotionally. A sad truth of depression, a deep depression, is a numbness so deep you cannot love, because you cannot feel anything. It is what leads some to cut themselves, because they’d rather feel pain than nothing at all. Some drink or use drugs to cover the lack of feeling. Sadly, some look to escape the numbness via death and take their own life. Been close to that a few times myself.

In the end, this line of thought also brought about a whole new line of questions for me. That first person next to me on the cliff was a surprise, not who I would have expected. As more people joined me on the imaginary cliff they too surprised me. Even if you don’t suffer from deep depressions, I challenge you to ask yourself who might be on that cliff with you. Who do you love enough that the Soul Stone would take them from you? For me, it helped to know that I care about others so much, and that I never once thought if they felt the same for me.

I’ve also resolved to never share my list of people for the simple reason that it changes as my mental health changes. Telling another they are on, or not on, the list can be taken the wrong way for many different reasons. The point is to help me know I am not alone, and if the list gets empty again, to seek help.

Luck and Zealots

The damned Zealots of the All-Seeing-Eye had been chasing me for three days when things finally came to an end. That last day had been all mad dash through jungle too. I’d played one little game of chance, in one of their temples, and they wanted me dead. Stupid of me to think I could be sneaky about it. In a Temple of the All-Seeing-Eye. It’s right there in the name. A little harsh on the reaction though. As I ran that last day I fully gave myself to Luck. To my Goddess of Chance. I rattled the dice in my hand as I ran, and I prayed. She was always my protector in my mind. I always prayed to her, only her, since I knew there were Gods and we could pray to them. So as I suddenly burst out of jungle cover onto a cliff edge, I kept running, kept praying. As my feet no longer touched ground beneath, them I threw the dice one more time. Left my fate to Fate. Seems Zealots of the All-Seeing-Eye don’t get to see their own demise in order to prevent it. While Luck, she works in mysterious ways, so can I live to tell her story.

A Near Failure

Earl the Delivery Sheep was normally very laid back regarding his work, so long as he got his package to its destination both intact and on time. He was informal with his boss, lax with his uniform, and near forgetful with safety practices. That day was different. That day he needed his uniform to clearly announce who he was and why he was knocking. That day he would carry the garlic, and the screeching lemmings. In fact, as he left, he made sure to grab extra screeching lemmings before he logged out the package for delivery. He was mostly calm passing through the Vale of Shroudedness, along the Path of Awkward Dreams trying make the delivery. He hesitated before crossing the drawbridge over the moat of popcorning guinea pigs. With reluctance he knocked upon the door of Count Gary Von Pronghorn the 3rd, and tried not to run away. However, as the door began to open, Earl panicked. He threw down the package along with several screeching lemmings, before fleeing in terror. He never forgave himself for wetting his wool that day.

Just a Mental Health share…

I never know what to say when I want to say something regarding mental health stuff. Especially my own issues. I’ve already written a few paragraphs and deleted them prior to writing this. What I do know is that having 1 day a year on social media to share our stories is not enough. Is nowhere near what is needed to have a conversation. Not going to begin to end the stigma around mental health. Too many of us live it 365 days a year, without a break. It is invisible. I know I look fine to people, regardless of whether or not I am. I often hate being asked how I am, or what’s new in my life. What is a big step for me, new for me, is usually nothing to the average person. When getting up and having 3 meals in a day, plus running some errands, is a big deal for you; most people don’t get that.

“What’s new with you Zander?”

“I managed to pay my rent and go grocery shopping. In the same day!”

“…”

Yeah, that can actually be a struggle. Anxiety that is bad enough that you keep the curtains closed all the time is a sign going out is hard. Peopling is hard. At the grocery store, the easy part is walking around grabbing the groceries. The hard part is standing in line at the checkout with people in my personal space. Also, I worry about my debit card not working, or my cash having disappeared since I left home. Will there be a glitch with the till and a manager need to be called, and the people behind me blame me for the delay? Will something not get scanned properly and security tackle me as I try to leave the store? All that and more goes through my mind every single time I am in the checkout. I don’t want it to be in my mind. It just is. When was the last time you wanted Rebecca Black’s Friday or Gangnam Style going through your mind on repeat?

When I have stressors in my life pile up, my anxiety ramps up. The stupid crap that goes on repeat gets more numerous. Things that I could sometimes manage are no longer manageable. Little quirks become big quirks. My ability to control impulse decisions drops. And sadly, my ability to find pleasure in activities I normally enjoy vanishes. Playing a video game becomes a chore, not a game. Reading is a task, not a relaxation. Watching a movie or TV show is suddenly about finding mistakes or bloopers, not the story. My mind processes things differently.

I have over the years found some ways to cope, to overcome some problems as they arise. If I am aware of them occurring. I cannot prevent the problem, just slow or stop the progress of some, when I notice in the moment. The key is the being aware. I am getting better. Yet, my safety net recently has shrunk considerably, and so coping is more difficult. The biggest step for me has been to speak up and tell my friends that I am having trouble, even if I am not giving them details. To simply let them know that I need some extra space, some understanding as to why I am not accepting an invite, or am cancelling last minute. I have at times asked for them to check up on me.

Mental health stuff is in our heads. Not made up, but related to that organ called the brain. We cannot just smile away a broken leg, suck up and carry on with heart failure, nor can we exercise away colon cancer. Some things can be fixed easily, some with difficulty, others not at all. We can learn to cope, to deal with what we have by learning our limitations. For some of us, that is an ongoing struggle. Struggling alone, in a society rife with stigma, is not okay.

A Broken Clock

The clock was broken again. That was what held my attention during most of the fuss. There was another damned unicorn in the rose garden, eating Agatha’s prized orchids. Hank had run off for his blunderbuss, screaming something about finally getting to test his new ammunition. Beatrice stood at the window making shooing motions with her hands and loudly saying “tsk, tsk” at the thing. None of us thought to let out Nicodemus, my pet puma, until after Hank’s blunderbuss misfired and destroyed the silly clock for good.

Cold Coffee

The coffee was cold. Jerry hated cold coffee. She guessed it was finally time to replace that broken thermos. These stupid paper cups from the staff room were crap, and barely held enough of the java to keep her awake half a shift. Suddenly she was swearing loudly and at length as her jeep crested the hill. The gate to the paddock was off its hinges. Another thief in the night, or something worse, only time would tell. She pulled to a stop partially blocking the gaping hole and grabbed the radio.

“Central, this is Jerry over in Sector 3. The raptor is likely gone again.”

Rudderless

With the will of an overly tired turtle, Zander pushed himself to write the next passage of his story. He did not get far. His mind was on, but not on task. He wanted sleep, yet whenever he lay down, his thoughts raced. There was nothing else he wanted to do because there was nothing that he want to do. Not even write, really. He just pushed himself to do so. Was it his depression, his anxiety, his hypo-mania, or all of them combined. He did not know. He just knew he wanted to want to do something. Wanted desire, wanted a craving. In the end, he wrote no story, he only wrote. Words that splattered out, that held little meaning. No entertainment value, but maybe provided a little catharsis.

Angel Wings?

It was late as I walked up my street from the bus stop. I noticed an odd glow lighting up the sidewalk in front of Ms. Matisse’s house. Her garbage bin was at the curb for pickup in the morning, but it was on fire. The flames were undulating in colours both bright and dark at the same time. There seemed to be a faint crying of balls emanating directly off the flames themselves. I began to wonder if those tacos I ate at work were a bit off. As I got closer I noticed the plastic of the bin was not melting from the fire. Instead it was covered in a thick frost. A frost that was spreading across the ground near the bin. Freezing the asphalt, the sidewalk, and the lawn. The fact that Seattle was in the middle of a heat wave had zero effect. I was pleasantly cool too once I was within 20 feet of it. That’s when I saw the overly large, pristine blue, feathers littered around the garbage bin.

*slight edit for a friend

Gutter Soup

It was an average, typical Saturday night at first. A group of friends out and about in the big city. Bar hoping and drinking till they began to fall over each other. Finally, Hank was in the gutter and we all stopped to play nursemaid as best as our drunken selves could. I think it was Olivia who pointed out that there was alphabet soup streaming down the gutter Hank had fallen into. It was coming on like a small river too. Someone, somewhere, up the road was dumping a lot of soup. All the sudden we all noticed a foul smell emanating from the soup. It smelled like rancid death, an abattoir gone bad. It was about then that we all added to the bad smell of the gutter. I threw out everything I’d been wearing that night once I got home.

Shopping Alone

He never understood why everyone else left. The mall still had power from its solar panels, the air conditioning worked, and the shops were all stocked. People left so fast that no one had looted it. The back storage of many a shop, many a restaurant, had lots of useful things. Once he figured out how to reset the music in the public announcement system, the loneliness was almost bareable. Staying away from the windows was the important thing during the day, but the night was different. At night it got cool enough he could venture out into the sunbaked death. He just didn’t want too anymore.