I was going through old writings, and I found something very relevant to several of the posts you may have seen me making in the past week or so. Two years ago I struggled to describe this nasty thing that is or isn’t “anxiety” or “depression.”
These are still probably the only words I really have for it.
Fuck. I can’t explain this. It doesn’t have a word. But I keep using too many to try, and none of those adjectives, nouns, or verbs actually touches what this is.
I keep thinking that if I vomit enough language out of the pit in me, maybe, if nothing else, the ways they are not what I am trying to say will form around it the shape of what it is.
I’m trying to use words as negative space, and it strikes me that what it leaves is hollow. That lack-of-word that is this feeling is so empty (but “empty” is not its name).
I want to frame this thing with scraps and broken-off chunks of experiences I have had, to relate to it in some way with things that are quantifiable and within my (despairingly limited) understanding.
I don’t want to hang it up in pretty phrases and flowery prose. Because that isn’t raw enough. Doesn’t feel as honest as these jagged edges. Delicate paragraphs have nothing to do with something that is so ragged and rough that it feels like I’m reaching my hands searchingly into a shadowed hole and scraping off the skin of my knuckles around its borders.
It’s something like melancholy. Tinged a little with anxiety, the weakest scent of despair (but nothing so pallid, so watered and thin).
This thing is a rat in my guts, and it is gnawing the insides of me into a blasted wound, just the space where things used to be (you can almost extrapolate, from the damaged bits that remain, what “whole” used to look like, but you’re pretty sure something vital is completely, graphically gone, and there’s no guessing what it is, or how it fit into what you think used to be there before).
But this feeling, this not-a-word that the scavenger language that is American English completely fails to wrap around, it’s not just despair, or anxiety, or fear, or anguish. There’s something angrier, sharper edged to it than that. But also something desperately confused.
It reminds me of the time I woke up crying for the loss of a thing I couldn’t remember anymore.
That frustration. That startled sadness.
I’m missing a piece, and I don’t know if it’s something I used to have, or haven’t had yet, and am mourning it in anticipation.
Some days it’s always there, like a ghost haunting the background of my shadow. Other times, it lurches out of the comfortable blind spot that has shifted over my awareness of it, like some shambling, snarling monster.
Anything might trigger it. Anything might remind me that it’s hanging just over my shoulder, waiting for me to turn my head and catch it in my periphery, quietly casting a shadow ahead of me.
(Then the smile drops off my face, or freezes up just slightly, and the crinkling of my eyes becomes very much less an honest expression and more a deliberate continuation of muscle contraction to avoid raising suspicion.)
I don’t like it when people notice it. Because they ask. And how can I tell them what it is when I haven’t the faintest fucking clue how to go about describing it? And it’s so damn tiresomely bothersome to lie reassurances of being “fine”. Bad enough to have to do that when pain becomes too obvious to mask comfortably. This is even less tangible, less explainable, less relative.
Sure. I could do as I am now, throw handfuls and bucketfuls and pagefuls of words at the invisible to try and give it discernible size and meaning. But it takes so many sentences. Small lies are easier, quicker. And more palatable, anyways.
This makes me think of the belief in the “power” of names. Put a label on something, give it an identity you can call it by, you can control it. Summon it. Dispel it.
But all I have for this… is negative space.