The Door to the Rest of My Life

I found the door to the rest of my life, and it is open.

Now, I am expected to walk through it.

Now I have no choice but to walk through it. It doesn’t matter that I never thought I would get this far. It doesn’t matter that my life was supposed to end several years ago, in a bathtub, in a pool of my own blood. It doesn’t matter that I was born to be a sad story stuffed into the smallest corner of the newspaper: TEENAGE SUICIDE, it was supposed to read, and people were supposed to hear about me and shake their heads and say “what a shame” before moving on, forgetting me.

It doesn’t matter, because it didn’t happen. I’m here. I’m alive. And I will never be a teenage suicide, because I will never be a teenager again.

I’m an adult.

I’m a possibility.

I’m alive. And there’s so much that I can do so long as that remains true.

Because death is so final, and life is ever changing.

I can walk through that door. I can follow the plan that I didn’t have until recently, the plan that I never made when I was young because I was never supposed to get this far. The simple plan: job, move, school, career, maybe get married, maybe be happy, run into problems along the way but always push through them. I can do that now. I can live a life.

And what a strange party it is that I hold for myself, alone, in private. No invitations can be sent out because no one can know the reason why life overwhelms me and thrills me all at once. No one can know why I think it’s a miracle to be alive. If they knew they would worry, but they really shouldn’t because I survived. I made it through. I didn’t kill myself and I won’t kill myself. Instead of cutting into my skin, I fortified it with armour so that when the feeling comes back, I’ll know what to do. I’ll have prepared for this.

And for now, I found the door to the rest of my life, the door that was never supposed to exist in the first place. And I am walking through it.

I Am Bored

I am bored.

And I don’t mean that in a I-have-free-time-on-my-hands-all-of-a-sudden-and-I-don’t-know-what-to-do-with-it sort of way. I mean that I am bored on a deep, existential level. I mean that I am bored and there is nothing that I can think of that will cut through that, not fully. Not completely. Not for long. A video game or a writing session or a conversation might delay the boredom for a little bit, might hold it at bay, but it always comes back, always intense, all-encompassing, devouring.

I am bored and nothing that I can think to do will end that. I am bored and that boredom finds ways to creep into everything.

It nestles into the conversations that I hear people having, laying just between their words, just as subtext. “Don’t these tomatoes look delicious?” “My kid might have an ear infection and I need to take her to the doctor.” “Did you want to hang out and go to the mall and-” and god, is this all there is? Am I really forced to trudge through eighty fucking years of tomatoes and children and malls? When is something supposed to happen already? Will it happen? Is life really just eighty years of sitting around and waiting for something to happen and then you die and… and then what? What the fuck is the point of all this? Why am I fucking here?

So I stop listening, I retreat into my own head, and then I feel awful because if there is some fucking point (and I’m sure there is; I’m sure I’m just missing it) then I don’t know if I’m going to find it there. I don’t know where I’m going to find it. In my writing? My writing is a part of me, an extension of my personality, the physical, tangible embodiment of my soul and my soul is fucking dying here. How can my writing exist if I’m so bored? How can I find meaning there if I can’t find meaning anywhere? So somewhere else then… maybe the point is somewhere else, maybe the point is in success, in a career. So I’ll do that then. I’ll apply to jobs and I’ll submit to agents and I’ll- god, but it all just takes so fucking long, and I know I need to persevere and I need to keep trying, but persevering is not always an active verb, and what is supposed to fill the time in between? A person? Am I supposed to find meaning in someone else? That’s what all the songs say, I guess – love is the greatest thing in this whole goddamn world, but what if you’re not good at that? What if you don’t know how to talk to people or open up or even really care? What if you’ve never done it before and you’re not just rusty, you’re the fucking Tin Man from the beginning of Wizard of Oz – immobile, stuck, waiting for someone to come along and make things change, and what if you’re suspicious when someone does come along? What do you do then?

Nothing, I guess. I guess you just stand there and wait for eighty fucking years for things to change.

What I Want

I want to be okay. That’s all. I want to be healthy, happy, unconcerned. I want to wake up in the morning and be excited to get out of bed.

I want friends. I want people who like me and understand me. Not a lot of them, maybe – just one or two would be nice. One or two who stay. One or two who don’t move away or find other people or just stop talking to me all of a sudden. I want to sit in a group of people and not feel like the outsider for once. I want to be with them and not feel like I have to keep trying for them to like me.

I want to fall in love. I want to meet someone who is attracted to me and who I am attracted to as well. I want a relationship that goes beyond an exchange of phone numbers and maybe an awkward kiss or handshake. I want someone who understands me.

I want a job that I enjoy. I want to spend the majority of my day doing something that makes the time go by, and yet I still make money nonetheless, at least enough money to survive. I want a stress-free place to stay in and depend on. I want the opportunity to feel free, like I can grow and change and become who I was meant to be. I want to be in the light and the earth, growing tall and new and green like a vine, rather than stunted and ugly like a weed.

I want a mind that remains calm in the storm. I want to face difficulty with a carefree smile and a shrug, rather than the question of whether or not this is it, the thing that breaks me for good. I want confidence in my ability to weather the hurricane, rather than the fear that I will be drowned in it. I want arms that are clear and soft and free of cuts or claw marks. I want hope and thrill and contentedness.

I want little, I think. I just want to be the way people say I should be – a happy, beautiful, well-adjusted young woman with my whole life ahead of me. That’s what I want. That’s all.

The Beast’s Depression in Beauty and the Beast

So I pretty much think of Disney’s 1991 Beauty and the Beast as a pretty perfect movie. It’s got a remarkably strong and proactive heroine who I, as a lover of books and stories, always saw myself in very strongly. It’s got some of Disney’s best animation of all time. It’s got a loveable and diverse cast of characters. And it seems like every time I watch it, I can find something new to be in awe of in the film.

Like the last time that I watched it, when I was struck by just how much the Beast suffers from depression throughout the entire film.

I think I always knew this was true to some extent, but I didn’t realize how strongly it was until my most recent viewing, when some of the Beast’s behaviour began to tie together in ways that it hadn’t before. And, I know, I know, some of you are going to be rolling your eyes and telling me that “it’s just a kid’s movie, there’s no way that they put something like that in there intentionally” – but think about it. It’s too consistent for it not to be intentional.

Think about how willing the Beast is, in multiple scenes, to just let himself give up or die. From the moment that he meets Belle, he assumes that the situation is hopeless, that she’ll never love him enough to break the spell. It’s his servants who have to talk him into actually trying. And when Gaston shows up at his castle with the clear intention of killing the Beast, he doesn’t even raise a hand to defend himself until Belle shows up and gives him reason to. He doesn’t personally care if he lives, dies, or stays a Beast forever – he only cares if other people are involved, and then he cares for them.

Think about how low the Beast’s self-esteem is. I mean, yes, I assume that low self-esteem would be common side effect of being cursed by a sorceress with the express intention of making it difficult for people to like you, but the Beast constantly refers to himself as a monster throughout the film. He doesn’t even try to be likeable for Belle at first, because he just assumes she wouldn’t like him anyway.

And I know that we’re getting into metaphor territory here, but think about the way that the characters talk about their years spent cursed. They’re described as doing nothing, as just staying in this dark and secluded castle without any hope for years at a time. On my last viewing of the film, I couldn’t help but think, “wow, what a shame that is, to lose years of your life like that”, and it was then that I realized how much it reflected the way that I tend to think about the years I spent depressed. Those years that I lost doing nothing, feeling unmotivated and disconnected from people. Those years that I spent feeling like I was an unlikable monster.

The more that I thought about it, the more that I realized just how significant the Beast’s depression is for his character. And the interesting thing about it is, I don’t think that any real resolution is reached for it.

I mean, yes, Belle confesses her love for the Beast, and he transforms into a prince and everyone lives happily ever after, but at the same time, the last time that we get any substantial dialogue from the Beast, just a few seconds before his transformation, he implies that it might be better for everyone if he did just die. “Maybe it’s better this way,” he groans through the knife wound in his back, and that makes me think that, as much as the story promises a happily ever after shortly after those words are uttered, maybe the Beast’s depression didn’t just go away with his claws and fur. I’m sure that not being a beast anymore and falling in love certainly helped, and I like to think that the happy ending promises that he’s at least on the road to recovery, but years spent in such a low mental state doesn’t just go away. It’s not as easy as all that.

And maybe I’m over-thinking it. Maybe his depression was magically cured along with his curse and his knife wound, but I sort of like the idea that it wasn’t. I like to think that the movie ends with the Beast, not completely cured, but certainly improving. I like to think that the happily-ever-after wasn’t meant for right now, right this minute, but it’ll come, and he’ll be happy and everything will turn out the way that it’s supposed to. I like to think that there are still obstacles on his path toward that happiness, but he’ll get through them, because despite what he might think, he deserves to. And if he ever forgets that, he has people by his side to remind him.

I like to think of that as the ending, because it states that there is no easy or magical cure for depression, but all the same, happiness is still possible, even for those who cannot currently imagine it.

How Anxiety Has Made Me Stronger

Some days are better than others.

I can’t really say what distinguishes the bad days from the good. Sometimes, it’ll just seem like a thought strikes me when I’m in a bad mood or when I’m hungry, and then my mind will refuse to let it go, clinging tight to it.

You’re directionless, and you’ll never amount to anything unless you change that.

Oh my god, you’re right, I realize, and suddenly the next few weeks are spent in a mad rush to get things done – even if there really isn’t much to get done. Especially when there isn’t much to get done.

Then, sometimes, I can go for days, weeks, even months without even remembering that I have anxiety. I’ll be relaxed, happy, driven but not to the point that I’m causing myself stress over it. I’ll think hopefully to myself, I’m cured! but even at the time, I’ll know it won’t be true.

Because at the end of the day, I know what I am; I am a person with anxiety, whether I like it or not.

I first discovered that I had anxiety when I was about nineteen years old, though I know that I had it long before that. I simply hadn’t attached a name to it yet, because I was still frantically Googling “why am I stressed all the time” to figure out what was wrong with me. Putting a name to the problem was a huge relief, but even still, I elected not to use medication. I wasn’t entirely opposed to the idea, but I wanted to find out if I could learn to control it on my own first.

After reading about the problem and coming to understand it a bit better, my first attempt at controlling it was through diet and exercise. I tried to eat healthier, tried to keep myself active, and with time, I did find that it made a bit of a difference. I was less prone to stress when I ate a good, healthy meal every two to three hours. The only problem with it was whenever I couldn’t depend on that level of regularity, whenever the third hour drifted by and my stomach was left empty and yearning, I got just as bad as I had been before. I have been known to go into panic attacks simply because the person in line behind me at Shoppers Drug Mart was just a tiny bit rude. So, yes, eating healthy and keeping active most certainly helped, but in no way did it cure me.

My second attempt at controlling my anxiety was through a simple change in thought. I tried to be more mindful of my condition and take things slower, recognize when I was getting bad. If I felt myself going into a panic attack, I’d try to talk to myself, remind myself that I was alright and that it was only my anxiety. If I felt like I was going to fast, hurdling toward a brick wall that I knew would break me, I’d remind myself that I needed to slow down. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes I simply forgot about it.

My attempts at controlling anxiety have, as you can see here, been flawed – but effective nonetheless. Regardless of their moments of failure, they have, nonetheless, made me a much stronger person. When I discovered that I had anxiety, it was only because I was crippled by it – I had no other choice than to confront it. That most certainly is not the case anymore. I’m a functioning, self-aware person who is striving to meet my goals – not despite my anxiety, but regardless of it.

My anxiety will always be a part of me – I will never be cured of it entirely, but maybe I don’t have to be. Maybe my anxiety is less a disorder, something that stands in my way and mars me somehow, and more just a part of me – a character trait. Just like some people have to learn how to function in this world regardless of the fact that they’re abrupt or stubborn or self-absorbed, I have to learn how to function regardless of being frequently anxious. I’m a person with anxiety in the same way that I’m a person with red hair, and a person with an affinity for pop culture.

It is nothing for me to be ashamed of, and it is not something that holds me back. It is something that I have learned how to control and live with. It is something that makes me stronger, not weaker.