Acceptance

Note: By asking people to sit down and interview with me, they have to be willing to be a little vulnerable. Here, I’m taking a turn—if I ask people to open up to me, I have to be able to do it myself.

Anyone who knows me knows that I can be considered a comic-book nerd. It’s essentially public record, given my propensity for excited Facebook statuses regarding new Marvel films and my easily prompted rant about the reasons Batman is the greatest superhero.

When I settled in on Saturday to watch the newest product of Marvel’s partnership with Netflix, Jessica Jones, I was incredibly eager to see how the superhero-turned-private-investigator would be portrayed. The partnership’s first effort, Daredevil, was gritty and exciting to watch (though it felt a bit too heavy in the later episodes). I also am a huge fan of Krysten Ritter, stemming from her appearances in Gilmore Girls and her tragic role in Breaking Bad (and don’t get me started about the incredibly under-appreciated Don’t trust the B*tch in Apartment 23).

I watched all thirteen episodes over a period of 24 hours.

I hadn’t really intended to binge-watch the entire series. I tend to watch television more as something to have on while I perform other tasks—cooking, cleaning, even working on the rare (…maybe) occasions that I bring my work home.

Then the first episode grabbed me and took me somewhere I had not expected to go. I related to Jessica on a level beyond appreciating her strength and witty repartee with other characters. I understood what she was going through.

To explain this, I will have to give a little backstory into the show/the character of Jessica Jones.

Jessica Jones was introduced in a series of comics known as Alias. She’s a private investigator who just so happens to also have superpowers (the comics go a little further into this part of her history, explaining her brief venture into super-heroism under the name Jewel).

Jessica left her role as Jewel behind after falling under the thrall of Kilgrave (or Killgrave, in the comics). Kilgrave has the power of mind control, essentially—he can force anyone to do what he says, no matter the cost to themselves. He speaks, and his orders are performed.

Kilgrave forces Jessica to become both his partner in crime as well as his lover. When the series opens, Jessica has escaped this prolonged servitude and is experiencing what can only be described as PTSD.

As I watched Jessica in the first few episodes, I realized I was intimately familiar with her situation. I was familiar with her self-destructive spiral as she pushed everyone away, with her flashbacks that seemed to come out of nowhere, with her reaction to the places and things that triggered deeply upsetting memories.

This is where this essay gets personal.

I don’t remember a lot of college. This may sound like a silly assertion, or a bawdy proclamation of my party-hardy college days, but it is very different. In general, I remember everything. You can ask my parents—it drove them nuts for years. Forgetting what someone said at particular moment on a particular day was impossible, let alone entire chunks of time.

And then I met him. And my world went dark.

I could tell you the overarching story of our relationship. The first happy month. The turn in his behavior. The lies I caught him in, and the ones I suspected. The number of times I lied to friends. The ways he broke me into pieces and built me back up into what he wanted. How angry he got with me. My own desperation over my need for his approval, as well as my confusion over my inability to leave such a toxic relationship.

But the story of the relationship is not what I’m here to talk about.

It is incredibly difficult for me to write about my own emotions, especially my emotions about that time in my life. I can easily write about the value of all human life, but finding the words to describe when I didn’t value my own requires reaching much deeper.

I feel separated from that Lillie, the one who experienced the awfulness. I boxed up my college years in my mind and I set them on fire. All I have left are the little scraps I let trickle through, and the few friends I held onto after college.

And then I watched Jessica jump at a voice in her head and I felt it.

I watched her walk into a restaurant and have a memory forced upon her and I knew that moment.

I saw how she had pushed her old friends away and I remembered.

I hate to use the term “abusive relationship.” I often worry about invalidating worse relationships by using those words. He never hit me.

But he controlled me. I did only what I knew he wanted. I became a person I didn’t know. And in the end, it took me years to rebuild myself. Not just in terms of gaining back the weight that I lost, or building back the relationships I had broken, or working hard enough to prove my poor grades were not a reflection of my intelligence or drive in any way.

I had to re-construct my entire self. I had to look at the shattered Lillie and remove the pieces that weren’t me, glue back together the pieces that were, and search for new pieces where the originals were lost.

The fear that penetrated my being, the darkness that had consumed my soul—I’m still dealing with vestiges of that pain. I still hear klaxons and feel a pang of awful dread when I see the particular type of car he drove. I still feel nauseous and clench my jaw when a memory of him surfaces. I still feel my heart rate rise when his name is mentioned.

I had not realized how much that relationship had affected me. How much it still affects me, to this day. I knew it had ruined my college years for me, but I had thought they were in the past.

I am much stronger now. I laugh and say I learned a lot from college. And I did.

I assumed all it would take was time. That time would go on and the pain would be more distant. And it has. But I’ve realized that I won’t truly be able to bury the past. I have to accept it as a part of who I am, as a part of my story.

So here I am. Trying to accept myself completely. To accept my entire story, and not just pieces of it. To not just accept the growth that came from my experience, but the entire experience for itself.

I lived through it, and now I live on.

 

 

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Some Thoughts on Depression

There is a certain numbness that comes with depression. I find that when I am depressed, I feel nothing in the morning. I go about my routine in a complete emotional and spiritual void. And then sometime in the afternoon or evening, something changes and the darkness filters in.

In these times, I want to be alone, and yet being alone is the worst thing I can do for myself. Alone, it is easier to be overwhelmed by the depths of my depression—easy to let the tiredness sink into my bones and stop me from moving, easy to let the awful thoughts creep in and the overwhelming sadness to settle on my chest, a heavy weight, a prison I can’t escape.

I know my weariness is depression when I start wanting to hide. To get under my desk. To get in my closet and lay on the floor. To fold into nothingness and disappear until the sun comes up and I am temporarily relieved of the aching black hole in my chest.

I knew when I moved to a city where I had few friends that there would be a period of depression. And yes, it has come and gone and I deal with it when it pokes its head around a corner to mournfully stare me down.

I have many friends who know depression. I support them when they let me. And they support me, when I let them.

The reason I write today is because of a recent tragedy. A friend of mine from high school took his own life.

We weren’t that close in high school. We were friendly and had many classes together and occasionally hung out with mutual friends. But he had an easy-going spirit that drew people in, he was kind and funny and charming. We had inside jokes with one another and knowing that we had that made my life better, because to be friends with this boy felt like being accepted into a happy world where dreams could come true—he seemed endlessly optimistic and delighted with what the world had to offer.

I would never have guessed he suffered from depression. I knew some things about his personal life that might have indicated something, but my memories of him were too bright for me to even consider it.

When he went off to college, I checked in on Facebook occasionally to see how he was doing. I always imagined great things for him. He was creative and smart and I couldn’t imagine the world doing anything but raining accolades upon him.

At one point over the past year or so, I noticed he had disappeared. He had either unfriended everyone or deleted his old Facebook and gotten a new one—I could see he existed on the social network but he was no longer my “Friend”. I thought it was odd but not that odd—we hadn’t spoken in several years. I was slightly hurt but I forgot almost immediately.

This is when my heart breaks.

I think, “I should have known! I should have seen! He was cutting everyone out!”

But I must force myself to admit that I don’t really know. I don’t know anything about his life for the past several years. What I do know is pieced together from rumors and secondhand stories.

All I know for certain is that this sweet person with a twinkle in his eye felt enough overwhelming despair that he could no longer take it.

It’s no one’s fault. But it is so easy to feel like I could have done something. It’s ludicrous, I know. Grief manifests in ways that are easily dismissed logically but impossible to shake emotionally.

I’m rambling. It’s hard for me to organize my thoughts when I am so profoundly shaken. But I do have a few points that I want to get across:

  • Support each other. Never ask “why?” but always ask “what do you need?”
  • Understand that even the person who smiles the most can be hiding their own darkness.
  • Mourn the lost, but never place blame.
  • Love.
  • If you are depressed, let yourself be loved. It’s difficult and can seem impossible at times. But it helps.

To my dear friend,

It hurts me greatly to think of your last moments. My heart aches for your suffering, and for those you have left behind. I wish peace and love upon you and upon your family.

I will remember you forever for the joy you brought to my life.