Month: October 2013

A Brief Note on World Mental Health Day

Today is World Mental  Health Day. In case you didn’t read and pick up on this from my last VICE column about death and thinking I had no friends, I had been acting rather depressed, whiney and was feeling quite jaded about humans. OK, I was acting a bit like a spoiled brat. I had hurt people, I had been hurt. Cue Johnny Cash, in the one cover I prefer to the original: “I will let you down, I will make you hurt.” 

A while back I wrote of the time my kitty, Mama Cat, who was once upon a time a homeless teenage mom, had bit me and sent me to the hospital. She didn’t want to intentionally hurt me, she bit me because I had left her alone for Christmas, felt abandoned and was going through her own issues. Her biting response was instinctual. While our bodies, brains, and experiences vary vastly from a house cat, we are still animals. It is a cliché, but there is truth to “It’s not you, it’s me.” Often when we hurt others it is because we are reacting from a place of pain, and when someone else lets you down, you must remember they are dealing with their own struggles. Sometimes the best way to be there for someone you care about is to give them their space and let them heal. Just as I would like to be forgiven for the times I acted like an asshole to others, I forgive those who have hurt me, understanding that their actions may be coming from a place of their own pain, and not to take everything so personal. 

Depression, anxiety, or other forms of mental issues are something that most of us, more people than you think, will likely struggle with to some degree from the rest of our lives. This weekend I’ll have a new column go up, one intentionally more about living than dying. I’ve learned you can’t depend on anyone else to fix you, and you can’t truly be there for anyone else until you have healed yourself. For therapy, some people run, others play guitar, some paint, I write. To write I must experience, because as great as Netflix is, reruns of shows I’ve already seen don’t provide the same creative inspiration of the oddities I encounter when I leave my apartment.

Whatever your therapy is, tonight, and as many nights as you can, get out there and do it. And may we forgive — forgive ourselves for inflecting pain, and forgive those who have hurt us, as we never truly know what someone is going through, and kindness and forgiveness provide more healing and emotional freedom than resentment.

Happy World Mental Health Day.

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INTO THE WEIRD – MY NEW ROOMMATE IS A GHOST

Originally published on Vice.

When I tried to set up wifi in my new apartment, an internet service provider’s customer service representative said I couldn’t, because there was already an existing account in my apartment. Considering my apartment was vacant, I found this odd. I called my super, and he said the previous tenant had died without ever getting around to canceling her internet service. Did she die in the apartment? I wondered. Does this mean I will have a ghost roommate?

I spent the next several hours facebook stalking the dead woman—I was excited about possibly having a ghost for a roommate. I know that sounds weird, but I’ve always been drawn to death. I remember when I discovered what “death” meant, as a very young girl. One day running under the Caribbean sun at day care, I stopped in my tracks and realized: One day, I will be no more. Sophie will cease to exist. I then went into the bathroom and stared at myself in the mirror, knowing in that moment that this was me, but my vessel had an expiration date. What does this mean? I wondered. Who is this “Sophie,” and what will happen when her time on Earth ends?

Over 20 years later, I still have no idea what will happen when I die. I likely never will, but I still want to know. Perhaps that’s why I hoped my ghost roommate existed and she would become my new best friend.

Last night, as I slept on a sleeping bag because I didn’t have furniture yet, I imagined the ghost would be my aunt, and I would help complete the unfinished business she left behind that was preventing her from moving on. Eventually, I would perform a nice ceremony with candles. Despite being sad to let her go, I would send her on her way to the other side, knowing we had both grown from our relationship, like Bruce Willis and Hayley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense.

This week I went to a witchcraft store mostly for kicks but also somewhat seriously to see if I could conjure the ghost. (The Craft is my favorite movie. I’ve been waiting my whole life to do this.) As I walked into the store, an employee lit a candle to cleanse the space of negative energy and lingering spirits. I was amazed by the jars full of herbs, the black cats, and the bookcases stuffed with books on spells, zodiac signs, and tarot cards. I told the employee about my new ghost roommate, and then selected a blue candle and handed it to her to prepare for me. She asked me my name (Sophie) and zodiac sign (Scorpio) and told me to wait 20 minutes. I imagined her whispering some chants and adding some oils, but when she returned, the candle looked like a third grader’s art project. She had etched a drawing of a house, my name, the Scorpio sign, and a pentagram into the candle, which wouldn’t be weird except for the fact that the candle was also now covered in glue and copious amounts of silver glitter. If I was a ghost and someone tried to conjure me with that thing, I would just laugh hysterically and haunt their ass off for being such a dumb ass.

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While unpacking I realized I had left my ghost candle at a friend’s place. I couldn’t perform a cleansing ceremony, but that’s fine—obviously all the ghosts that haunt me only exist within my head. I don’t know when I will die. I asked a Ouija board once when I was little, and the board said 2083. I suspect I may have been moving it myself because that is an awfully long life.

After realizing I left my candle behind, I slept alone with my cat in my sleeping bag. I have always been odd and a bit of a loner. As a young child I thought I could see ghosts, and loved dressing up as an angel. My parents grew quite concerned, because I would speak about my ability to jump off buildings or cliffs without anything happening—I would just fly away, I said. One time, before I could even walk, I jumped off my parents’ very high bed, breaking my collar bone. Looking back, I wonder if my obsession with ghosts and immortality stemmed from the fact that I don’t want to die.

At the same time, I could really use a ghost in my life. I sometimes find myself feeling lonely, but despite my inclination toward solitude, I crave friends, sex, love, and companionship. Although I experimented with cliques in college, I’ve never had a large group of friends. It doesn’t suit me. I am distrustful of humans and a bit paranoid, so I must find someone exceptionally special to let him or her in. The cocky way to define my limited close relationships would be to say that I am extremely picky; the truth is I am kind of fucked up. I fear that if someone gets close enough to me and learns all my quirks and fears, they will change their mind about wanting to become close to me. That’s the appeal of a ghost friend: She’s dead, so any odd behavior I display would be trumped by the fact that she’s a fucking ghost.

But there is no ghost, and I must find contentment and strength in my solitude. If I don’t, I could end up like the woman who lived in my apartment before me, dying alone and annoying the next tenant who has to spend extra time on the phone because some dead chick died before canceling her internet account.