(Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Blog)
(Or, Heartbreak and Isolation)
I’m not big on this sort of writing. I’m too self-conscious for it to come naturally. Like many, I suppose, I tend to read anything I ever write and recoil; writing about myself makes me cringe more than writing about any other topic.
The point of this blog then? To challenge myself, for sure. To write more, as I always wish to. But I’m in a situation where I need to pull my brain from my skull and shake it out every so often (frequently, in fact). Sure, that’s not necessarily unique as our society panics its way blindly through the Virus – but I should have started this practice long before.
I started the year with a basic journal, which I used primarily for a utilitarian logging of daily activities and recording of ideas for the film projects I’m working on. With each entry I kept a record of my stress level as a value out of ten, with the intent that after a few months I’d be able to create a neat looking graph, a visual representation of how I was coping with everything (the excitement of nerdiness, I know). I did well with this journal, for the most part writing something daily or filling in for a missed day afterwards. The days tallied up and I was proud of what I knew was a fairly weak attempt at the above goals.
During this time I was off my meds. In a good way. I had run out of my antidepressants and with each day I forgot to get another prescription I felt less like I needed it at all – a side effect being that the non-PBS medication was costing me over $130 per refill! This was the first time in a few years that I was able to cope without medication.
I wasn’t necessarily happy, but content, and proud of my progress. With the help of therapy and friends, I was in recovery from the pain of chronic isolation and the aching of that all-too-damaged organ beating in my chest.
Cut to six weeks ago. I was in New Farm, attending a screening for the Brisbane Queer Film Festival. A few hours before, I had enjoyed a session of D&D. Both events formed a well-needed break from the weeks spent undertaking a lot of work for my uni projects! My mother tried to contact me a few times and I called back —
All hearts break in time, and on that Saturday the hourglass had run dry once again for my family.
A sudden cardiac arrest had taken my dad from me.
I’ll spare the details of my emotional outpour in the lobby of the cinema, the kind assistance of the employee there, or the disorientated state I was in as I drove myself home alone. I’ve never been one for violent actions of catharsis and maybe it would have been better if I was – to strike something or scream at the sky; to do my utmost to pay back the Universe for its crime. Instead, I collapsed, physically and emotionally.
Over the coming days I picked myself up and coped surprisingly well – not that the reality of it all hadn’t set in, I just, somehow, was doing OK. I had the distraction of classes and the ability to see and receive some much-needed hugs from people. Then, the funeral came, and I sobbed my way through the whole affair. If I had intended to eulogise him that day I would not have been capable.
In the fortnight after, the quarantine measures came about and like everyone else I was and have been sheltering-in-place. Another time, perhaps, I wouldn’t have minded so much. Compared to many others, I am very capable of sitting inside all day every day, communicating online and keeping myself entertained in solitude.
However, the chronic isolation I was recovering from returned with devastating loneliness in an instant. People I spoke to regularly before have become rare, short chains of messages. I don’t blame them.
The hurt piles on.
I see my therapist and don’t know how to verbalise anything. My grieving process has been rational, in my opinion, I have no misplaced blame or aggression. I wish it wasn’t: maybe it would be easier to attempt to fix irrationality than deal with the confusion of what I’m struggling with. Yet even that wish is probably ‘normal’ thinking too.
“I’m coping okay,” I say every appointment, but on the days between I often fall into deep pits of depression. I went back on my meds, but I can’t tell if they help or not.
Quarantine has been a surprising opportunity for so many creatives, with people all over the world creating art and collaborating. There’s an expectation that everyone should be coming out of quarantine in some way better off than they were coming in. With our film projects at uni, we underwent a massive pivot and now we’re having to do something interesting and exciting from our own homes.
I can’t help myself. I signed up for more work and responsibility with uni; I want to be a successful quarantine creative. But more importantly, I don’t want to be stagnant, stuck at home with nothing to do but be sad.
People tell me, “I don’t know how you’re coping with everything.”
I wish I had an answer. I don’t feel like I am coping. Maybe my medication is keeping the chemicals in my brain from reaching a critical chaotic mass. Life has become a metronome, ticking between feelings of ability, empowerment and creativity, and a crippling near-suicidal depression, with disturbing frequency.
Hunching over this laptop isn’t an answer, of course. But writing is construction, and it’s a slow, weaving process. Maybe it’ll put stitches in my wounds. Maybe I want to write because it’s something he enjoyed doing and this way I’ll feel closer to him, as time pulls us further and further apart. Either way, it’s a road I’ve put myself on.
I don’t think a heart put through so much can ever truly recover – I’m just waiting to feel like I’m capable of coping with the next time it breaks.