A Sister’s Love

Today, it has been eighteen years since I awoke to see my parents softly crying on the opposite end of the room.  When I asked what was wrong, the news emerged with wavering diffidence from my father’s lips: “Well, last night, Sara went…to see Kristin.” My mom broke into heaping sobs and ran into the bathroom of our little Ronald McDonald house apartment, locking herself away from the reality that cut her so deeply.  I don’t know if I began to cry immediately.  I think the power of the notion of my sister’s death had hit me like a ton of bricks, and I was just struggling to process it all in my ten-year-old brain.  I know my younger sister was upset.  But I can’t remember if she was crying.

I asked what it meant for me now.

“It’s okay to cry,” my father told me.

I said I felt angry.  Was it okay for me to swear?  I wanted to swear.

“Well, in this case, I think that’s okay,” he said.  I bet he wished my mother was there to help him through that oddball.  I remember the seething anger that started to rise up inside of me.  I felt like it was physically manifesting, coming out of my pores.  But I had lay awake in my fold-out bed for hours that week, in the clutch of fear, praying that my little sister wouldn’t die.  I wanted to bargain with God to save her, but I was a ten-year-old child who had nothing but her toys to offer.  With my hands wrenched tight and tears streaming down my cheeks, I promised I would make it up to God if somehow He could save her.  What a terrible God, to let a child die.  Was there even a God?  I doubted it.  I didn’t want to believe in that fable anymore.

***

My older sister Kristin was the first daughter born to my young parents on March 31st, 1983.  My parents were only 24 and 25 years old.  They were poor graduate students at the time of her birth.  Kristin was born healthy, but it became clear in the following months that something was very wrong with her.  She died October 16th, 1983, not even six months old.  Whatever was wrong with her was beyond medical technology and knowledge at the time.

I was born only 10 months after Kristin passed away.  I had been a huge gamble, because my parents didn’t know if I would be ill too.  I was colicky,  but nothing more.  My sister Megan followed in 1986.  My parents worried about her as well, but she turned out to be perfectly healthy, just like me.  When I we were very young, our parents told us of Kristin and her illness. I always just imagined her as being sick, like she had a cold.  This was the narrative I had in my head, because I was naive.  I don’t know what Megan thought of it.  But for me, it wasn’t until I was faced with the reality of Sara’s illness that I understood.

My youngest sister Sara was born healthy in 1990.  Like Megan and me, she went in to the doctor for regular tests to ensure she didn’t have Kristin’s illness.  But when she was about three months old, tests started coming back with strong indications that she was indeed ill.  She was diagnosed with Familial Hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis. I couldn’t spell that for years, let alone pronounce it.  But I knew, even from the age of six, what this meant.  It meant that she could die, because my older sister died from it. It meant that her immune system didn’t know when to stop attacking bad cells.  It would attack her good cells until it destroyed her body.  That meant even a cold could become life-threatening.  And that meant a lot of isolation for her.

I remember a lot of panicked decision-making in a short period of time.  Little Sara would be treated experimentally with chemotherapy — something that wasn’t guaranteed to work, but could perhaps keep her alive long enough to receive a bone marrow transplant.  I believe it was every other weekend, or maybe every two weeks, that we had to trek to the hospital and watch my tiny baby sister be hooked up to machines.  The small fluff of hair she had when she was born disappeared.  Her eyebrows and eyelashes fell out, too.  This wasn’t much of an issue early on, but it started to become a problem as she grew.

I remember shopping at Target with my mother, Megan and Sara.  A lady commented about how bald Sara was.  My mother owned her, so to speak: “She’s on chemotherapy and has lost all of her hair.”  My mother already had bonnets for her, but as Sara got bigger, she began putting a floppy bucket hat (remember Blossom?) on her to keep people from commenting.  I would overhear comments about her despite her protective helm.  Rage began to grow inside of me.  I mostly remained silent, but I wanted to choke people who made fun of her.  One time, on the bus while I was going to swimming classes, my mom, Megan, and Sara waved goodbye at me from the parking lot.  I waved back.

“Look at that kid,” said some brat behind me. “It’s got no hair.”  

It. Lack of hair erases your identity to such an extent that you aren’t even credited as human? I started to cry, despite my anger.  Sara still smiled and waved, having no idea what was being said of her.  I wondered how many other people made fun of her while I couldn’t hear.  I turned around to face the kid in the seat behind me.

She is my sister,” I said, trying to hide my tears with my anger.  “And she’s on chemotherapy. That’s why she has no hair. She’s sick.”

The kid sort of just shrugged at me.  I wanted to break his nose.  In retrospect, chemotherapy was probably the biggest word he’d ever heard, and he probably had no idea what it meant.

This picture says it all. Sara’s feelings about her lack of hair were heartbreaking.

Among my friends and peers at school, though, Sara became loved.  Most kids didn’t understand what was wrong with her.  But they knew she was special.  It was okay to bring Sara in briefly while my mom picked up Megan from preschool, and she obviously loved being the center of positive attention — who wouldn’t, when normally people fawning over you end up poking you with giant needles and IVs?

One time, as we picked Megan up from preschool, my mom panicked.  She saw spots on a kid’s skin.  Was it chickenpox?  My mother fled, I remember literally running to the van with her.  Megan and I were confused at first, but our mother explained that we now needed to watch her for spots.  Well, she came down with it, had to go into the hospital, and when she was stable, Sara had to be on an IV drip at home as she struggled through healing her chickenpox.  Most other kids got a shot and maybe some boo-boos that scarred.

Sara had a couple of times when her disease went into remission — these periods were bittersweet.  It was a hopeful time, but simultaneously we remained wary.  We knew that her improvement was good, but the possibility of her remaining stable wasn’t high.  Sometimes she’d go for a few months with no chemo.  Her hair would start to grow back, and she would be so excited and happy.  When she inevitably had to go back on chemo, all her hair would fall out again, and I would see the anger and fear on her face once more.  The poor kid was only three years old, and all she wanted was a life where she wasn’t feeling crappy and sick all the time.  She wanted to brush her hair and play with other kids.  But my parents taught her not to feel sorry for herself.  It was pretty remarkable that she didn’t complain very often.

The summer of 1994 Sara went in to get her bone marrow transplant.  The transplant itself was actually largely successful, from what I remember and understand.  Megan and I went back to school in the fall.  Every weekend we drove four hours to the Mayo Clinic to see her, becoming a bit scared around the October mark.  It had been three months since she was admitted to the hospital, but she wasn’t getting better.

I do not remember the exact date, but I remember I was in music class.  I was suddenly called to the office over the loudspeaker.  There, they informed me that my father was coming to pick me up, and I needed to be ready soon.  We left directly from school.  My dad drove about ninety miles an hour to get there as fast as he could.  He didn’t tell us something was wrong.  It was just there.  Looming.

Once we arrived, we went immediately into the clinic.  We went around a corner in the hospital, where I saw my mom at the end of the hallway.  My dad rushed to her and told us to wait there.  When he came back, they told us Sara had some “tests” that we needed to be there for.  This didn’t make a lot of sense to me.  I can remember my dad choking up while talking to the doctor.  My mom looked like a ghost.  We went to see Sara, who was in the ICU.

My little sister, cheeks swollen, yet body emaciated, lay still in her bed.  A breathing tube was taped to her mouth, creating a crude impression of a circle around her chapped, dry lips.  IVs were plugged into her arms, and a colostomy bag was on the side of her bed — I had never thought about how that worked before.  She had a bandage on her head, where I suppose they had taken a piece of her skull to reach her brain — there was a fungus attacking it.  These images will never leave me.  I tried to talk to her and she didn’t respond.  I asked my parents if she could hear me, and they told me she could.  I don’t know if she could.  I felt stupid and self-conscious. I wanted to talk to her alone, not with people listening to me.

We lived in the Ronald McDonald House apartments near the hospital.  There, I met my friend April, whose brother was there with leukemia.  She hung out with Megan and me all the time — we did art projects together (I remember having to go to a class where we tie-dyed T-shirts) and we played Super Nintendo all day.  Games became my escape while I was there.  Mario could defeat all his problems head-on: Jump on a Koopa or Goomba, defeat a boss, rescue the Princess, end up a hero.  I felt like my life was me helplessly flailing at problems, but they compounded rather than retreated, and I ended up ignored or alone.  I would read to my sister with other people in the room.  I would play games with April and Megan but feel out of touch.  Our homework started to be mailed to us at the apartments because we’d been out of school for weeks.  I remember getting a box filled with cards for my sister, handmade by my classmates.  I was so happy to receive them, that I immediately started to read them to my mother. But she told me she couldn’t listen to it — it was too hard.  So I read them by myself.  One that I still remember was made by one of my best friends at the time — she was very creative.  The card said, “Sara, open the doors to find a surprise!”  They didn’t know how bad it was.

I overheard my parents talking at night.  They sat in shifts at the hospital.  I knew the worst was about to hit when they talked about baptism.  Megan and I met with a pastor at the hospital the next day.  He baptized all of us.  It spoke volumes to me that my sister and I were never a part of this ritual, but suddenly, when my unconscious, terminally-ill sister is involved, we all received the rites.  I do not remember which day this was.  But I remember them telling me to tell her goodbye.  Again, they didn’t fucking leave the room.  The stood on the other side, as if that created some sort of barrier.  Some people teared up when I choked on my emotions and told her I loved her.  I’m not putting on a performance for you. I want to be alone with her.  I don’t know if she can hear me, but I want to be alone.  The pastors at home had told us we needed to pray for her.  This pastor also reminded us of the healing power of prayer.  I panicked, thinking that maybe I hadn’t prayed hard enough.

Dear God, please do not take my sister away.  I will be a good kid, I will go to church every Sunday!  I will never say a bad word.  I will try very hard to behave and get good grades.  I will give you anything you want, except her.  I think I need her more than you do.  I don’t mean to say that I’m more important than you, but what could you need with a sick little girl?  Her birthday is in three weeks.  She wanted to be Darkwing Duck for Halloween.  Well, she’s going to miss Halloween, and I’m sad about that, because she was really excited and she was walking this summer and she was getting better.  But please don’t make her miss her birthday. Am I doing this right?  Can you hear me?  Please give me a sign if you can hear me.

The little sister I will always love and miss.

The sound another human being makes when it is in so much pain, when its heart is breaking, when its child has passed on before it: I can’t describe it here.  The wracking sobs, the gasping for breath, and the pain in their eyes makes it so unbearable to witness.  I hurt too.  But my mother couldn’t even look at a picture of her baby without breaking down.  I found a drawing of Sara’s and there was a tiny tear in the corner.  She became enraged that someone had torn it and tried to tape it back together, to fix and preserve Sara had made with her own  hands.  (Understandably though, because it was a drawing of our family.)  We shopped for her funeral dress together at Target.  No one knows you’re buying a dress for a dead person.  At her funeral, I watched my mom’s hands shake as she tried to put lipstick on her daughter’s sunken features, complaining that they didn’t make her look good.  She wanted make her look as perfect as she could before she said goodbye forever.  It was one of the most painful things I have ever witnessed, and in that moment, I wanted to hug her and take away everything that had hurt her.  I had written a very personal letter to Sara that they read out loud at the funeral.  Why I was always denied the chance to say something to her in private, I don’t know.  Maybe because I was so angry but didn’t want to look selfish, so I never said anything.  And I guess it really wasn’t about me.  But after eighteen years, I say goodbye to her again, publicly, as I have every year since the day of her funeral.

I love you, I am your big sister.  I was, like my parents (and unlike Mario) unable to protect you.  My life has gone on.  I’ve had some good times and some bad times, but every year I examine whether or not I would make you proud.  I’ve been told that I wasn’t a good enough Christian and that’s why you died — I fixed that problem (I’m  no longer a Christian).  I’ve been told my whole life hinges on your death by ignorant people.  In some ways, it does.  But if they read what I wrote today and still don’t understand how profoundly this has affected me, then I honestly think they are incapable of experiencing the depth of feeling — of love — that I have towards you.  And that’s a damn shame.

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Autumn

In southern California, we don’t often get rain. When we do, either it doesn’t know when to quit (like the winter of 2010 when my mom came to visit – it rained for two weeks straight!) or it seems to only last a few hours.  Today it has been consistently overcast with intermittent showers. The air is chilly. I have my window open, and I can hear cars driving through the puddles.  This is autumn.

Something that my city lacks is that distinctive feeling of summer ending. Sure, we have these rainy days, and rain is definitely synonymous with autumn here. I also see the swimming pools get drained, and I see the seasonal trees change colors; the leaves eventually dry up and fall, to be swept away by the immaculate city workers during the night. But palms and coniferous firs line the streets alongside the bare trees, keeping the landscape beautiful and green through the “winter”, where snow never even concerns the residents. This is in stark contrast to what my body has cued as “autumn” in the past.

Growing up in the upper Midwest, autumn had a very concrete beginning to it. This almost invariably happened over Labor Day weekend, and the change was always drastic. One morning in late August, I would wake up with my oscillating fan on full blast. The air still distinctly felt like summer. I would laze around the house with the air on while my mom was at work, usually working on art with my sister. By the time my mom got home, I would have to be finished with my summer chores: sometimes I would have to mow the grass, but usually I would just water the vegetable garden, feed the animals we kept outdoors, and take care of my mom’s potted plants on the front porch. The trees in our yard may have had hints of fall colors, but it was still decidedly not autumn. The best part was, at the end of the day, we could still enjoy a meal outdoors — or at the very least, with the windows open, drinking lemonade like we were in an advertisement for Summertime ™.

The next morning, my bedroom seemed colder. Maybe it had something to do with me knowing that it was the last weekend before school started, and the sense of responsibility and the grueling schedule that came with it. Whatever it was, I felt like summer was officially over. Looking out the window, I noticed the grass seemed less green. The leaves had many colors: reds and oranges, golden yellows, and dull browns. The cottonwoods seemed like they had released more of their wispy seeds onto the lawn. My mood changed. We went to the typical Labor Day weekend BBQs, my sister and I enjoying the event, but very aware of what the following day meant. It meant trudging to the end of our country driveway at 8:05 to catch a bus to school. It meant the end of summer, of freedom and fun.

Another attribute of the autumn of my childhood was the leaves only holding their glorious vibrancy for a week. I heard stories about taking cruises in the New England area where the leaves and their colors were a spectacular show. Well, in my hometown, they would dry up to a crispy gray-brown and fall to the ground within an extremely short period of time. In other words, there was no grand sightseeing here. The trees, barren, would open up an incredible view of the plains, though –the land was so flat that one could see for miles if the trees had shed their summer skin. Even the crops had been harvested in the last week of August. Lawns turned to brown after the first frost, and Canadian geese migrated south in flocks shaped like giant Vs. Everything hibernated, migrated, or looked dead.

Yeah, something like this.

There was a certain sense of peace in those decadent environmental cues, however. I enjoyed taking walks after school and contemplating things while surrounded by the changing landscape. My sister and I always planned our creative endeavors while strolling down the old railroad tracks near our house. My little Boston Terrier loved rolling in the leaves when we took her outside with us. So even though the summer fun had ended and the autumn toil had begun, getting past Labor Day weekend was the hardest. After that, my body and mind settled in to experience a change of pace as well as a change of weather. In the end, it was just part of the year as much as it was inevitable.

Today I’m enjoying the rain as a signal of the changing seasons. Southern California may not get much in the way of distinctive seasonal weather patterns, but right now, I’m enjoying being transported to something similar to the autumn of my youth.

Memories Unburied

I walked across the street to the only tall building on campus. Every week I go the the fifth floor of the tall building to talk to my therapist. Most days there are groups of college students gathered at tables just outside the entrance, enjoying the sunny southern California weather. Today there was only one woman reading something on a Kindle. And then a man running toward me. He jogged by me so quickly that a gust of wind followed his body. Giorgio Armani’s Acqua di Gio filled my nostrils. Immediately my mood soured. He smelled exactly like my ex.

Recently, a lot of days that I go to therapy, I’m not struggling with depression.  So during those visits, my therapist and I discuss job prospects, my relationship with my boyfriend, or our cats — we both have Siamese mixes that we adopted and love dearly. If I feel like talking about my ex, I do. If I don’t, I steer the conversation to other things for that week. It ebbs and flows. Some people may see this as a waste of money. I see it as an opportunity to build my life around something other than the man represented by my clouded memories. They create a caricature of the person he was. They don’t tell me who he is now.  Because now, he isn’t in my life any more than meager interaction through surprisingly emotionally-draining texts.

“Any news on the divorce papers?” She asks me, cradling her arm. She broke it playing tennis, and this week, it’s just come out of the cast. It still looks extremely swollen and painful.

“No,” I reply. I sniffle. How the hell I managed to come down with a cold when it’s ninety degrees outside, I don’t know.

“Do you think he’s dodging you? Avoiding responsibility?”

“I’m not sure. I wouldn’t be surprised. But I have texts from the day he received the papers, and I let him know explicitly that he only had twenty-one days to sign and return copies to me.” My therapist smiled.

“Look at you,” she said. “You’re keeping track of everything. You’re organized. And best of all, you’re almost finished with this.”

Yes, she’s right. I’m almost finished with this. Should I feel more satisfied with my life now? Should I feel triumphant? I’m not sure how to respond.

“Yeah,” I say weakly. My head is still swimming with dredged-up memories from smelling that man’s cologne. Some of the memories are pleasant. I remember buying that cologne as a gift for him. I remember smelling it on him while I snuggled with him, or whenever he walked by my desk at work. Others are not pleasant. It reminds me of arguing with him while he told me he’d fuck my best friend in front of me if she walked through the door that very moment. Or when he sneered in my face as I told him he’d better help clean up the window he’d broken while wrestling with another one of our friends. He ended up doing nothing. I paid to replace the window, and told the rental office some lie about how my nephew was over and roughhoused too much. I don’t have a nephew. But I apparently had a child for a husband. Close enough?

My therapist continued to talk about how glad I’ll be when this is all over. And I agree, I will be glad when the papers are signed and I can begin to heal without worrying about legal paperwork. But there is a part of me knows that memories are unburied at the most unexpected times. Like when a man rushes by you and inadvertently forces you to smell the cologne your ex wore. Other times, you hear a laugh that sounds like his, or you see a picture of him on Facebook. Fragments of the person you used to know — these memories — will never combine to create an accurate picture of who the person was then, and most certainly not who the person is today.  I can’t base anything off those feelings.  But they do evoke powerful emotions while you’re healing.  This is the hardest part for me.  It is beyond my control and it is completely unavoidable. And to think that something as small as a smell can incite anger in me is frightening.

When my paperwork is done, it will be a symbolic moment for me. My marriage will be legally over, although emotionally it was over nearly a year ago. But the legal documents will not erase memories I have, good or bad. I don’t even think time will erase many of these memories. I just hope that someday, I can have these memories unburied and think to myself, “Oh yeah. That happened,” and move on with my day, rather than dwell on the emotions that accompany them.

“How’s Steven?” Asks my therapist.  I smile.  Much more pleasant memories fill my head as I think about the man who truly loves me.

Writing for the sake of writing

As I pull together my thoughts for the larger, more emotionally intense post regarding the shitstorm that ended my marriage, I thought I should write something else.  Because I like to write.  Sounds simple when I put it like that, but I’m always frightened that what I have to say won’t be good enough, deep enough, or poignant enough.  But something in me clicked yesterday. So let me tell you a little story.

I’ve been reading a lot lately.  Mostly blogs, as I’ve finished my Christie Golden novels (yes, yes, I know), and I’ve been bookmarking writers whose styles speak to me.  There are so many talented writers out there that I sometimes even feel a bit downtrodden after reading their words, because I find myself thinking if they’re struggling to gain an audience and make money from their writing, what chance do I have?  Sometimes I will read something an author has put together and wonder how I would try to say the same thing, but in my own words.  Invariably, I feel as if I do not measure up.  It is disheartening, to say the least.  And other times I read something and am so blown away by the author’s storytelling skills that I want to crumple up all my papers (figuratively, I guess, since everything I do is digital!) and start anew.

Then yesterday I read Victoriamixon.com and some pieces of the puzzle fell into place for me.  Victoria Mixon is an entirely approachable, down-to-earth, talented editor who has struggled with learning about the publishing industry and the difficulties that come with being an independent editor.  She writes useful anecdotes ranging from the pros and cons of writer’s conferences, to dealing with the inner demons that seem to plague all artists, to exercises you can do to overcome self-doubt and writer’s block.  Many of the people who write to her advice column seem to be very young authors, and she treats them with the same respect as an established, published author.  It really is a positive environment for learning, asking questions, and nurturing your love of the craft of writing.  Something she said to one of these young writers really stuck out to me.  I’ll quote it here (it’s long!):

“Keep writing whatever you feel like writing. Let it be terrible and don’t worry about judging it. Just write it if it feels like being written.
Avoid trying to ’say something.’ Focus on recording tangible details. Flannery O’Connor described writing as recording whatever stimulus you receive through your five senses. Go ahead and record that—in long, excruciating detail. Everything. Unedited. The more stuff you write that you know you’ll never use in a publishable piece, the greater your freedom will grow. You can write anything! Garbage! Tripe! Vomitous spew! You betcha! And all great writing grows out of that freedom.
You’ll never run out of material to describe in your immediate daily experience. You’ll never run out of dialog to record that you and your friends and family say all day long every day. Keep a detailed journal. It counts!
Read books you love. Don’t try to mimic them. Just read them, enjoy them, use as they are meant to be used—for the sheer pleasure of reading. When you don’t feel like writing, don’t. Go out in the world and have adventures. You’ll write about those whenever you’re in the mood.
You’re very young still—you’ll go through a lot of ups & downs as you work your way through life with this craft at your side. So don’t worry about it, just claim it in your own unique, individual, quirky-&-boring, tacky-&-refreshing, cliche-ridden-&-special way. Sometimes more quirky—sometimes more boring. It’s okay! Let it be that part of your life where you get to screw up as badly as you darn well please, and nobody can stop you.
Your skills will improve. By osmosis, if necessary. And then when you’re an old, crusty, opinionated professional like me. . .they will still be there for you.”

Does it sound a little cliche to tell someone to do something simply because they love it?  Yes, of course it does.  To keep trying, even when faced with difficulties or, god forbid, failures?  Yes.   But is she correct?

I think so.

Because when I wrote about overcoming fear and anxiety, about putting myself out there for the world to see and praise and criticize and potentially just ignore, this was a necessary realization to come to.  You keep putting yourself out there and trying again because you love what you do, be it writing, painting, drag racing, or playing football.   It all sounds so simple, but it’s one of the hardest things I’ve made myself do.  I’m terrified of people and interacting with them.  I’m terrified of opinions, or sneering, or judgement.  Even compliments are hard for me to take!  But I’ve come so far in opening myself up to be creative and active again.  And thanks to positive spaces like Victoria’s blog, I stay focused and on track, and I become more positive every week.

Here are some of the other sites I’ve been reading, so I offer my thanks for your inspiration as well:

Apple Cider Mage — A blog about World of Warcraft and feminism, it’s well written and always insightful.  Powerful critiquing and attention to details.

Joanne Wadsworth — Author of a Young Adult paranormal romance series, she offers sound advice and is always friendly and approachable.

Little Lonely Traveler — A travel writer, feminist, and storyteller. I like her stories because not only are they well written and entertaining, but I went to school with her — so the descriptions of places and feelings surrounding the towns in her tales are very recognizable to me.

My Own Worst Enemy.

I want to write about the next events of my journey from being married to being… well, not married.  But I want to talk a little bit about fear before that.

Fear is that dark, looming presence that goads anxiety into tightening its grip on you. You think you’ve conquered your fear?  Well, how about anxiety?  One always follows the other around.

Fear is that feeling in the pit of your stomach, the one that tells you that if you do this or that, you’ll end up regretting it.  You’ll be alone.  You’ll be scorned.  You’ll be blamed or tormented or laughed at.  For every earnest fan and glowing review, you’ll get shit on by some troll, or read a bad review about something you were very proud of, crushing you. How could you do better? You tried your best.

Speaking of, fear is also knowing that some bad things inevitably need to happen in order for you to be successful: If you never act in spite of your fears, you’ll never succeed.  But once you try to succeed, you open yourself up for people to tear at the things you’ve poured your heart into, shredding them into unrecognizable scraps of fabric from the quilt you lovingly stitched together.  And you open yourself up to the possibility of failure, which is a fear that holds far too many people back from chasing their dreams.

Fear is not knowing how to deal with these things.  And Anxiety is worrying yourself to the point of inactivity.  Bitterness seeps in, poisoning your creativity, your passion, your love.  That dark cloud settles, just as if you were a real-life Eeyore, and seems to follow you wherever you go.  You don’t know how to get away.  A new enemy has reared its head: Depression.

Depression locks Fear and Anxiety together in a marriage of destruction.  Gone are the days of doing things for fun, of enjoying yourself simply because you’re glowing in the fervor of happiness. Depression isn’t just the absence of that happiness.  It’s been forged over a long period of time, feeding off your fears, your anxiety, your shortcomings and perceived failures.  It isn’t built from nothing, or the lack of something better.  It’s an incredible force to overcome, because it’s a unique combination of your own personal worst nightmares.

I am conquering my fear of opening up. Of writing and creating, of criticism, and mostly of myself.  I defeat myself before I begin, so I don’t have to suffer at the hands (or mouths, or words) of others.  Depression is an enemy made from within.  I can’t expect anyone but myself to slay the beast.  And I’m certainly sick of enabling it, so it can continue to feed Fear and Anxiety.