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.

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.


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.

The Wrong Place

I’m not lost. I know exactly how I got here. I’m just not suppose to be here. I thought I was, but I’m not. Where did it go wrong? Going back is not an option and I cannot go forward. This is an end point. Just not the right one for me. Can I side-step or dig down? Maybe I can fly. Fly out of here, out of this situation. Crap… focus…

“Sir? Cash or debit?”



“I’m sorry. I forgot, I’m allergic to olives.”


“Did that guy just run out of here without his sub?”

Coming Out

It is Pride week in the City where I live. This means so many different things to so many different people. I only came out as Bisexual in the past few years and thus do not have the history with Pride weeks many do. I’ll be 44 this week so have lived most of my life ignoring my own feelings about certain things. While I could search for excuses for why it took this long to come-out it really serves no purpose to do so. I know I always noticed people in certain ways yet followed hetronormativty. What’s done is done.
In June of 2013 I decided to join the Pride Parade here after moving back to the city after living away for several years. I’d been back only a week. Never done that before, never been to a Pride Parade even. Something was different in my life at that point and I had the courage to be me. The real me, true to myself. I knew no one there, I was not on a float or part of a group marching. I just joined in and walked along. It was raining and I did not care.
In the months that followed I sought out the local LGBT Centre. I knew I was not Gay but I was not Straight either. At the time I was very ignorant of most lingo and issues. I knew the term Bi but was still not sure of myself. I found someone there on the staff who I could talk too. I got help finding the words for the feelings I had. I also learned a lot about so much more. I began to volunteer at the centre and just hang out there at times. However, I made a promise to myself to not date for a time while I adjusted to my own internal acceptance of things that I used too repress. I already deal everyday with bipolar and anxiety so I knew that giving myself a bit of time to sort thoughts out would be fairer to me and any potential partner.
I took a journey of discovery of my inner self once I freed myself of the old imposed oppression. There was a time in my past I was very involved in a homophobic church. At first I embraced the term Polysexual and later BiRomantic. Still later other terms but in the end I have just settled on Bisexual. I like who I like regardless of gender, and most people understand Bi. I also seem to have become content being single, at the time of this writing. Not sure where that falls.
In all this though I feel like an outsider being so new to this. So many I know within the community seem to have been out most their lives and know all the LGBT history and issues. I feel judged at times but do realize that is likely my anxiety making me feel that. I’ve never experienced homophobia directed at me. I have experienced Biphobia though. Seems important to a lot of people that I’ve had sex with both men and women. They also want to know if I have a preference of gender. I am attracted to some (not all) people regardless of gender, my past or current sex life is not relevant. Bisexual in my opinion.
Society is really good at teaching people what should be the norm. Dictates what our default settings ought to be, even if that goes against our inner wishes and desires. If we were free to be ourselves we would not have coming out stories from people. We would not need Pride Parades reminding and asking the World to be accepting of people not on society’s default setting. We need to adjust those defaults.

The Stigma of Suicide.

When people talk of mental health issues there is often a glossing over of the topic of suicidal thoughts within depression. A lot of euphemisms are used if any mention at all. When I hear or read about someone going through a period of dark thoughts or despairing, do they really mean thoughts of suicide? Are they just too scared to use the word. I know I’ve been taught to not say it in the past. Yet I cannot help but think that by not talking about it we only make it more difficult for those suffering those thoughts to seek help in times of need. If you cannot say suicide when you are well and discuss what that struggle is, how can anyone be expected to feel brave enough to admit it when in crisis?

I’ll be forty-four in less than a month, at the time of writing this, my first suicide attempt was when I was sixteen. I’ve only had one other attempt since and that was in my early twenties. Since those attempts I have been able to get myself into the hospital or get other help before getting to the point of trying to end things. However, I have many times needed that help over the years. What I deal with living with bipolar and anxiety disorders is a chronic and incurable condition. I am able to manage it most of the time with therapy and medication. At this point in life, mostly therapy. This was not always the case for me though.

I see how mental health is stigmatized overall within society and that things are slowly changing for the better. Yet, I also see that the talk about suicide is still not occurring enough. That people still seem too afraid to speak of it. It has been my experience that suicidal thoughts are not a black and white thing. There are a lot of shades of grey. One does not go from simply depressed to jumping off of a bridge most of the time. There are many stages in between. The healthcare system itself needs to find a way for those with the in between stage thoughts to be able to express the need for help without worry of an overreaction. I’ve lost count of the number times I stopped talking to a healthcare provider because they overreacted to my using the words ‘suicidal thoughts’ when I was not at a point of crisis. I’ve had to lie to therapists and doctors both over the years when not in crisis to avoid them being uncomfortable with the word suicide.

The therapist I have now is awesome though. I can talk to them about the stages of suicidal thoughts that I go through and get the help I need before I hit a crisis point. So many others just assume crisis or worse will not help you unless you are in crisis. I actually spent nine hours in an emergency room once only to be turned away in the end because they felt I was not in enough of a crisis to warrant attention. That’s a long and bitter story not for here though.

A person with diabetes gets to know their own ups and downs with that chronic illness over time. Many chronic illnesses are like that. What most also share is a medical knowledge that can be shared with friends, loved ones, or care givers to help aid the sufferer. This came with openly talking about that illness and not making it taboo or stigmatized. The suicidal thoughts that can come with deep depression should be the same. The brain is an organ of the body like any other and we need to realize that it malfunctioning is a medical condition that can be discussed like all other medical conditions.

I know my own ups and downs, have learned many coping skills, when to get extra help, what the warning signs are for me. But, I only learned all this through trial and error and almost died along the way learning it. If there had been open conversation about this, if I had been able to talk about this sooner, I could have gotten to where I am today with a lot less hurt and pain. Most of all though, and please really think on this one, most of all I wonder about all those that did not make it like I did. How many people took their own life due to this lack of conversation, lack of information, this stigma?

The Frock

The frock was covered in paint. Finger paints to be specific. It sat on an easel in the corner of the entrance way. It had loops and swirls of colours. Splashes and splotches with more than a few simple smudges. It was a rule for that he had for anyone that visited him. You added to the frock, with finger paint, each and every visit. Some complained about the messiness of doing it, while others visited just so they could add more. Yet, those were the rules he had. Even the delivery people had too. What he never told anyone was that on the dark days, the depressed days, that was his lifeline. He could stare at that frock and know he was not alone. No matter how alone he felt or disconnected with life he seemed there was the frock. Every splash of paint was a reminder to him that people were in his life. He mattered to someone. He crossed paths with others and this was his proof. That frock saved his life more than he would admit even to himself.