A Cage of One's Own

Some reflections on 2017, published by them.

Screen Shot 2017-12-28 at 5.46.05 PM.png

In January I met an Aquarius in Chinatown. She was sad about her acne and the new president. I told her I knew he was gonna win because part of me hates women too. She told me a room of one’s own is impossible now, only cages if we’re lucky. She gave me a wooden birdcage with a battery-powered bird that sings inside but the song sounds like an alarm. She told me I could use it to scare men and I told her that I loved her.

When I was a teenager I liked that bit when Anthony Kiedis sings, “my friends are so depressed” even though it wasn’t 2017 yet; even though my friends weren’t so depressed yet. I am always confused when people say, “It’s 2017, why is this bad thing still happening?” I want to ask them what they were hoping for from this arbitrary marker of time. It never ceases to amaze me how literally everything is easier when not depressed. Depression is like the less glamorous cousin of stress. Depression feels too close to absence to be stressful. Depression is the sea floor, but stress is like that little fish that’s still fucking trying.

When I think about stress I feel guilty because my life is easy. When I think about stress I picture my vibrator, the surface area of which is too big for my clitoris. When I think about stress I think about being punched in the chest by someone I love and telling myself it’s ok because they’re stressed. Stress is the phone call I get at 3 p.m. every day from Dina. I am stressed because she wants money for the collection agency and I am stressed because she always asks so nicely. Every time my phone rings I think it’s Dina and that is stressful. I try to think of a time my mum has said she is stressed and I can’t. My mum is too poor to be stressed. I am too quiet. Stress is the psychiatrist who can’t maintain eye contact. We don’t touch our scalps enough.

When I think about stress I think of Beloved. I think of Toni Morrison writing Beloved while raising a child; I think of trees. This year someone told me I don’t listen to my ancestors, but my back hurts when I am stressed and that’s how I know I’m still alive. Stress is wearing a binder outside for the first time and losing your wallet on the same day. Stress is choosing not to love white people or men and being punished anyway. Stress is pre-diabetes even though Ella told me that’s the best type of diabetes to have. Is it more or less stressful if we call it stress? I haven’t read the news since 2013 but I’m still stressed though.

I work in trauma response which is how I have chosen to engage with the rumbling tragedy of modern life. When I think about stress I think about hell, I think about health insurance. I think about my client describing the sound his body would make on the floor outside if he jumped right now. I think about having to do this job for the rest of my life — the one job robots can’t fucking do. When my clients tell me they want to die, I tell them that makes sense. I tell them it will pass. I recount times they have felt excited to be alive — I remember when they can’t. I’m surprised that it works. We keep trying to live.

Last night I had a dream that I had sex with four hot dogs wrapped together and I have been depressed since I woke up. On days like this it feels like an illness. My knees feel pain but it’s not physical, the weight just finds my knees. On days like this I type slow and everything is pretend rather than a regular movement in and out of pretending. White men look redder and I miss my mum but I don’t tell her because I don’t want to draw attention to disappointment. On days like this I feel guilty about the prospect of falling in love and wonder how we will ever get past days like this. I don’t take selfies or dance or check my bank account, but I never check my bank account (sorry, Dina). On days like this, I want to comment “why?” underneath people’s ultrasound photos. On days like this, I feel relieved that there is a name for it, even though on other days I think the name is an insult and a lie, because on other days I refuse to believe that sadness just comes to life in a vacuum. But on days like this when I am locked inside that vacuum, I need that to be enough.

Is mental illness a lie or am I just scared of being ill? Who the fuck wants to be ill? Maybe on days like this I do. Maybe I want a word and a pardon and an assurance to others — it’s not you, it’s me. Maybe I would be more comfortable claiming illness if everyone didn’t already think it’s me. Days like this feel like a resignation, but I appreciate the permission to flatline. We know too much to be present all the time. The day after a depressive episode I feel reborn, but it is not enough.

It’s the end of 2017 and I live in an apartment with a train outside my window and feel uncomfortable about my tits in approximately 40 percent of my shirts, but I don’t think those things are connected. Sometimes the train sounds romantic and sometimes it just sounds like a train. Sometimes I feel like I’m aging out of my body, like on the street I can’t breathe and I have to look at the sky. I text my friends: R U OK? How do u feel in ur body? What do u fantasize about? I’m sorry that happened. How is ur mum? Do u remember that time in Chipotle when u told me white women shouldn’t be allowed to have children? Did u go to therapy? Go to therapy plz. Is the Great Barrier Reef dead yet? I’m bored. I just want to b held. What can I do 4 u? Come here. I want to put my phone down.

It’s the end of 2017 and I have cancelled both memes and horoscopes because I don’t know how to have fun; because I’m trying to remember who I am and how to feel something without feeling it all. I’m stressed because I don’t know what bitcoin is. I’m stressed because I retweet every tweet I’m mentioned in and I don’t know if that’s cool. I’m stressed because I’m not smart enough to write sci-fi.

It’s the end of 2017 and men are scared and I’m glad about that. My therapist told me life isn’t as precarious as I think it is, but I took two Advil an hour ago and I still have a headache.