Once upon a time, in a land far far away (from any civilized blue states, at least), there lived a young girl named sricki.
She was a strange child, wanting often to be left alone by the other boys and girls – alone with her books, or alone to roam the filthy wet ditches and hot Southern streets of her town, climbing trees and plodding through puddles wherever she found them. When her friends would come calling, sricki would beg her mother to talk to them, to tell them that she could not come out and play, because sricki wanted to be by herself, alone with her thoughts (which seemed to her sometimes strange and other times magnificent, but always fascinating).
She was not entirely unlike other girls. Sricki liked pretty things, too, like unicorns and ponies, and she would spend hours drawing them and daydreaming about them and wishing she could live where they roamed. But she also liked dragons and real life reptiles and insects, for which she was made fun of often when she was found on the playground, crouched alone behind the tires, playing with bugs and drawing her daydreams in the sand.
What was strangest about sricki, though, was not her tomboyishness or her solitariness or her daydreaming, but her moods. They were mercurial from the very beginning, but she was especially prone toward periods of melancholy, so that even at a young age, people told sricki that she had sad eyes and often asked whether she was about to cry. But she didn’t cry much, so she laughed in answer to such inquiries and shook her head and thought no more of them. She laughed a lot, too.
And she played with other children because she was told to do so, and she learned that she was a bit different – but that that wasn’t so bad, because after all… everyone is a bit different. She found that, if socializing was necessary, she preferred the companionship of older friends or her family. Her family took very good care of her and in many ways treated her like a princess, though sricki’s mother was in some ways very much like a child herself – an angry child, who sometimes got jealous and petty on occasion and treated sricki more like a friend and confidante at times than a daughter.
One day sricki’s mother looked over to her, as they walked through the market, and said in a disgusted tone, “God… why do you have to look so depressed all the time?” And sricki knew then that her face betrayed something it ought not, and that she made her mother disappointed and ashamed, and she was sad. She did not want to let her mother down. That comment stuck with sricki, and she remembers the very moment in which it was said and the very store and the very part of it and the very color and size of the cart her mother pushed… And that would be the moment when sricki decided that, for the rest of her life, she must always look “normal.” So she learned to make her face a mask and push everything down and hide deep inside of herself.
She knew from an early age that she was different from her family, though, and she always felt somewhat separate from them. She believed in liberal values, but not in god, while her entire family was just the opposite and felt disappointed that her beliefs did not line up with theirs. Sricki’s mother instilled in her a love for learning, though, particularly for the written word. And so sricki fell head over heels for writers, and for poets in particular, and decided that it was the only career for her.
Friends and family and grades and extracurriculars and charities came and went over the years, but sricki did not really change. She learned to socialize better, though she was still quite naïve in many ways, but everything stayed pretty much the same until one day…
The best person sricki ever knew – has ever known – passed away somewhat unexpectedly when sricki was 17 years old, almost a fully grown young woman. Something changed in sricki then, and she found that she did not care about much anymore. But there were even stranger things… She did not need to sleep anymore. She had never slept a great deal, but suddenly it felt as if she needed it hardly at all. Her thoughts moved very quickly and were very odd. She skipped school and missed much of her senior year, and yet her grades were higher than ever. She spent all of her free time socializing, often doing “bad things” that her parents had always warned her against. But she did not care, now, what anyone else had to say, because her thoughts told her magnificent things. She had never been a religious person, but she knew that Fate had chosen her for truly great deeds. She was James Joyce – Stephen Dedalus – harbinger of truth for the entire world. She would bring truths to the masses that the rest of the world was too afraid to face – and she would do so through her writing. She had many experiences to collect in order to be able to impart these truths, so she did as much as she could as fast as she could and accumulated many experiences in a short space of time. No one else could do this thing, you see, and it was both her gift and her curse.
Sricki went off to the college she had chosen in high school, and no one knew that she had changed or that anything was wrong because she had become so good at hiding things. She made many friends quickly and neglected her classes, but her grades were never a problem because for some reason she still needed no sleep and no studying. Everything came naturally… was so easy… and she had nothing to fear. Yet she seemed angry at something or someone, and she became mean-spirited. She hurt people simply because she could. She used people, abused them emotionally, and always got her way because there was no other way she would have it. In the process, she forgot her humanity.
Then something bad happened, and sricki’s parents found out about all of her adventures because her friends betrayed her. Her parents did not know what to do, so they sent her away very briefly and then brought her back home, threatening to hurt her friends if she did not stay and do as she was told. Sricki was very resentful, and she made many plans to escape, all of which came to naught and turned out needless anyway, for her behavior was so poor that one night her parents cast her out from their home onto the street. So sricki stayed with people and then lived with a friend in a family member’s house and paid rent to her, and all this time she continued to do very bad things and hurt people as much as she could. She hated her parents for taking her out of her school and away from all of her friends and sending her to the streets.
When she was 19, in the fall of 2004, sricki agreed to see a psychiatrist just to shut her much-despised parents up. Sricki did not like the lady who saw her, and liked her less when she gave her a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder, which sricki had heard of before because her aunt had it. And the lady gave her medications that made her feel funny, so she did not take them, and went on doing bad things. For a year and a half this went on, with sricki sometimes taking her medication and sometimes not, and always doing things she oughtn’t. And her moods fluctuated wildly during this time. Sometimes the fiery heights of what her doctor called mania, and other times the icy depths of depression. She would come to say in later years that mania burns and blazes, while depression freezes and numbs.
When the fire came on her mind, everything was too bright and too fast and too frightful. Sounds were too loud, and sometimes sricki heard things that those around her did not. Her mind taunted and abused her in near every waking moment, and she was almost always waking. When the cold came upon her, though, all was blackness. Everything felt like rot and decay and death, inside and out, and there was no escape. And a poem sricki had read many years prior rung true in her mind when specified to her own personal world:
Some say the world w
ill end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
– Robert Frost
In this short time since her loved one died when she was 17, sricki came to feel very, very old. Her mind, once her best – and sometimes only – friend, had turned against her. It tortured her in ways she could never before have imagined. It finally tormented her into a bottle of pills and frightened her to the edge of a blade. And when help came when she didn’t want it, she was too terrified and forlorn to fight it, and her body too weak to resist in any case.
She went to the hospital after this – first for her body, then for her mind. When she was discharged, she went for a time to live with her parents again. She was almost 21. At first her friends and family thought she was lost to them, for she would sit and stare with a blank gaze and unfocused eyes for hours at a time, seldom acknowledging the presence of others. She was exhausted mind and body and heart and soul, with a weariness one can only experience from living too much life in too few years. But even though she seemed hopeless, sricki’s loved ones didn’t give up on her even after the hell she’d put them through, and they found her a new psychiatrist and new medications and provided her with everything she needed for another chance at life.
And as you all may know, it is hard to kill the human spirit.
Sricki began to recover – surprisingly quickly. Many of you would meet her less than 2 years later. She got better so quickly, in fact, that she soon became the caretaker of another human being, rather than being cared for by family. But then, some of you already know that story…
I guess you could call this the most abridged story of my life possible. And I tell it for two reasons.
First, I tell it because I want to say to all of you – anyone reading, not just our regulars – that you should never have regrets. Reflect, yes, but don’t regret. Know what you did wrong and how and why, but don’t “regret” it. What’s done is done. If it was wrong, don’t do it again. If wrong was done to you – by strangers, loved ones, or Life – cope with things as they are and try to make them better. No matter how sorry you feel about it – for others or for yourself – you can’t change the past. You remember touching a hot stove once when you were a kid – remember the lesson that you shouldn’t touch it again, of course – but do you sit around regretting and feeling bad for having done it? Likely not. And so the case should be for the really hard times in your life. My life was full of regrets for so long, and even now I have to fight to keep them at bay. I am a 25 year old who has more reasons to be regretful than a lot of people in their nineties. I also, however, probably have a lot more reasons to be thankful. I know that on this blog I’m mostly talking to people who are older than I am, and I’m really not trying to “school” anyone. I just think we all have regrets at times, and sometimes it helps to be reminded that we shouldn’t. One of my favorite lines from any song ever is from Don McLean’s Crossroads. It goes… well, hell, in fact, here’s the whole song:
I’ve got nothing on my mind: nothing to remember,
Nothing to forget. and I’ve got nothing to regret,
But I’m all tied up on the inside,
No one knows quite what I’ve got;
And I know that on the outside
What I used to be, I’m not anymore.
You know I’ve heard about people like me,
But I never made the connection.
They walk one road to set them free
And find they’ve gone the wrong direction.
But there’s no need for turning back
`cause all roads lead to where I stand.
And I believe I’ll walk them all
No matter what I may have planned.
Can you remember who I was? can you still feel it?
Can you find my pain? can you heal it?
Then lay your hands upon me now
And cast this darkness from my soul.
You alone can light my way.
You alone can make me whole once again.
We’ve walked both sides of every street
Through all kinds of windy weather.
But that was never our defeat
As long as we could walk together.
So there’s no need for turning back
`cause all roads lead to where we stand.
And I believe we’ll walk them all
No matter what we may have planned.
Nothing goes as planned – maybe that’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned in life. But… here we are anyway. Whatever and whomever we’ve lost – however we’ve lost it – be it lover, friend, family, places, money, things, or even ourselves at times… we are who we are. And we’re here. And that’s something to be grateful for.
The second reason I write this is because of something Brit said to me about friendships. We both remarked that we feel very close to some of the people we’ve met and befriended online, and it’s true: Some of you feel like very real friends to me. So I have chosen to share something of myself with you, simply because you are my friends. Take it or leave it, but this is a small piece of me. And even those of you who do not disclose much on the blogs, you still pour your minds out for all to see, even if not your hearts. We still see your intelligence, your wit, your interests.
But all that above…
Well, it’s part of what gives me faith in the human spirit… to have seen what my own could recover from. It’s also the reason I’ve chosen the mental health field. Because… even though my clients may not realize it… I get it.
I really do.