On accidents

I recently read a book called The Ontology of the Accident, by Catherine Malabou. I was intrigued when I first saw it – accident, to me, read as a more physical occurrence, a trauma caused by a car or a fall – but ultimately found it to be somewhat irrelevant to thoughts I’ve been having lately. After all, I don’t really know what ontology is. A few paragraphs did catch my eye, though:

What is denied, the state of what must not be made present, reveals the existence of the secret question, the question that cannot be asked and which, at the same time, cannot but be asked for any psyche: what if something else had happened, anything else, something unexpected, something absolutely different from everything that happened? That’s exactly what we cannot know. It’s also what cannot be taken as possible.

The question that cannot be asked yet cannot but be asked; what we cannot know. What if…

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I did not, of course, expect to become physically disabled at 25. Mentally I was a shambles – and I suppose bipolar disorder can be counted as a disability, at least on the “optional” part of a job application – but physically I’ve always been robust, rarely ever get sick, am allergic to nothing. Certainly I expected a decline in physical health as I aged (heart disease, most likely; it runs in my family and I smoke on and off), but then, well, you know the rest. From able-bodied to disabled in one movement, one happening.

The changes in my body I have adjusted to, and I’ve written about them at length, and am quite frankly getting a little sick of the subject. Mind-wise, though, sifting through the changes that have happened there, is like taking a fine-toothed comb to a three-inch-wide knot of hair. You tease a little bit of a tangle out then find even more to undo. Maybe it never stops. I’m not sure it does.

Lately I’ve been mulling over the mourning process, the five stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance – and trying to apply it to my “journey” of becoming disabled, with little success. There is a gap, a lack: life does not go back to “normal;” there is no baseline. It’s easy to counter this with “well, it’s just a new normal, of course,” but I’m not so sure. Disability is not stagnant: there is always something new to deal with, something breaking, something hurting; you might even uncover a new disability, or become disabled in another way. It requires a vigilance that is often exhausting. At the end of every day I examine the ends of my legs, checking for bruises and cuts and – please no – any blossoming infections, which, when they happen, are incredibly painful and dangerous, potentially leading to sepsis if I don’t take care of them and get rather unlucky.

Do I resent this? Potentially bad form to admit it, but – absolutely. I don’t want to have to sit in a plastic shower chair and take off my legs to get clean, or waddle off to urgent care in near-tears if I get a bout of cellulitis. And so I cycle back to the beginning of this essay: what if something else had happened, anything else, something unexpected, something absolutely different from everything that happened?

But like what? My “old” life simply carrying on? Anything else, anything else. Perhaps I would have become disabled later in life, in another way. Perhaps I could have died. Sometimes, back at the beginning, I thought that was the better route: how was I going to deal with this for the rest of my life?

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Ontology of the accident. Ontology of my accident. A single bang that ultimately ripples through the rest of my life. In this essay I wrote about how there was a physical cleaving, a before-and-after harshly delineated when I lost half my legs. But lately I have been thinking about the mental cleaving, too.

A line from Ontology of the Accident that I found myself mulling over:

Since the accident is in no way interiorized by the victim, it remains foreign to the fate of the psyche and is not integrated into the history of the individual.

My first thought after reading this was no, that’s not true, it’s definitely possible to integrate some sort of brutal happening into your psyche, how could anyone go on if it wasn’t? But now I’m not so sure. What I want to know, what I might really spend the rest of my life thinking about, is whether the psyche is left intact at all. Perhaps there are two, pre- and post-occurrence; perhaps the pre-accident psyche frays, spirals out into many smaller psyches. Maybe they braid together, a mingling of acceptance and lack thereof.

And is integration of the accident into the psyche really all that desirable in the first place? How does such an externality blend gracefully into what may have been a difficult life at the start? I am conscious of the fact that that happened to me; I am conscious of the fact that this is what was done to me, and here is how I live now, after the fact. But the accident itself – the actual physical occurrence – remains outside of me, a thing that was done to my body and nothing else. I am not it. My mind accepts the before and the after; I integrate my current life and physical form into myself, but see no use in becoming my accident entirely.

And so the psyche wavers between wanting and not wanting to know: what if? If I think too hard about it I get upset, and find myself ricocheting back to no, don’t think about it at all, you’ll just get sad. A depressing back-and-forth; brutalized by the external. Escapable, yes, but only subconsciously, only via distraction. By saying “don’t think about it” I’m still thinking about it, after all. I can’t just push it away.

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I have been thinking lately about the framing of disability – becoming-disabled – as a loss. Easy to draw a line between the two: you used to be able to do these things, and now you can’t. And just as easy to erase that line by saying “but you’ve gained knowledge, and experience, and tenacity!” I don’t find it that simple, although what I do think isn’t much more nuanced: I see it simply as a change, a launching into a new type of flux. To become disabled, especially in a violent way, is to be ricocheted into a new way of experiencing one’s body and how that body moves through the world. Externalities. Internally, I can only speak for myself, but I’ve felt myself expand in some directions and contract in others. All I know is that near-death does not take away the death drive. Still, essentially, my human parts are all there.

How is it possible for a subject to no longer coincide with their essence without going mad?, asks Malabou. I come back to the supposed cleaving of the psyche: do we ever recover when this happens? Malabou asks if it’s possible; I’m not sure it matters. Perhaps a certain modicum of madness is required for us to continue living, whether it be after a “tragic” accident or the death of a loved one, a divorce, a sickness. And I suppose we’ve all lost some of our essence during Covid, and are going mad: what is the mutation of the psyche through trauma if not a collective reckoning with the concept of near-death?

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If you Google my name the first auto-generated result is “Sophie Helf accident.” People are nosy; they want details. My accident is not private, it is not mine: it lives outside of me, is an existence out in the world in and of itself. I wonder sometimes if it ever actually ended.

What does this do to a psyche? My trauma is personal; the occurrence itself is not. Quite frankly, sometimes I just get scared – “the mortifying ordeal of being known” and all that. It worms its way into my brain, makes me conscious of not my body but my past, the death-drive that got me to where I am now, the incredible amount of involuntary work I had to do to get back to living a life I don’t totally hate. The prosthetics are secondary to what goes on in my head.

You can’t draw a psyche or a soul; “essence” is far too vague a concept for much of anything. Obviously. What an accident, a sudden trauma, does to any of these things is untraceable, not something one might ever entirely put into words. A body changes in a black-and-white sense, before and after, but our psyches meld and change over time. Perhaps there is no “cleave.” Come back in five years and I’ll tell you more.

3 years and a bit

December 1st was the three-year mark of my losing my legs in a freak accident. I won’t go too deep into that – you can read about my hospital stay et al here – but suffice to say it jolted me deeply into the realization that death is not always gentle or kind; that there might not be an afterlife after all; that life does, in fact, come at you fast. A year of my life was sliced out; I moved back to my California hometown to go through a major surgery and relearn to walk, but relocated back to New York as soon as I had enough money and a place to stay. I don’t regret it – I’m not sure I regret anything at all. But emotions around becoming disabled are disparate, flow into one another; I wonder how long it will be before I can give a straight answer to “how do you feel about it?”

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Today I had a work call, went to the store, got some tacos at a taco truck near Myrtle-Wyckoff station. Most days under covid are roughly the same – I don’t leave my neighborhood much (where is there to go?), am scared to take the train, wear my cloth mask and scoot six feet away from people at the grocery store while I’m reaching for my usual oat milk. Someone asked me once, “what’s it like to be disabled during a pandemic?” Well, for me, it’s the same as before: I huff and puff up the stairs to my apartment, take off my prosthetics to sleep, ask people for help getting things off of tall shelves. I recently got a new pair of Chelsea boots that are excruciatingly difficult to get off, but I like them, so I wear them. I dress nice each day because I like to look good. I’m trying to read.

Strange, sometimes, that I managed to develop a life to miss under the pandemic. When I first moved back to New York I was terrified that I wouldn’t make friends or that I would be seen as the “token disabled girl” – and perhaps the second is true, at least to some people, but I can still keep up the pace when walking around with friends and don’t bring up my prosthetic legs to people I’ve just met if it doesn’t feel relevant (and often it doesn’t). I chain-smoke like others do, I enjoy an occasional joint like others do, I have (or, well, had) a sex life like others do. I find myself missing parties, dancing in dark rooms, sitting on crowded fire escapes and talking to people while inhaling an American Spirit that makes me smell bad. My life. My old life.

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I have been opening myself up, lately, to the concept that perhaps the universe does have some wheels of its own turning, that there are tangible forces beyond my control that don’t necessarily decide everything for me but nudge things in certain directions. Raised by two Catholics-turned-atheists, I grew up thinking that the only thing I could count on was my own actions, that the universe was simply planets moving in circles and who-knows-what beyond that. As I moved into adulthood, my skepticism crystallized into a nihilistic view that there was nothing at all “out there” – horoscopes were bullshit, religion was bullshit, just people projecting a need for control onto what was essentially nothing more than chaos. I surrendered myself to the lack of structure, insisted that all we could do was our best, but that that didn’t really mean jack shit either: there was no one or nothing watching, no predefined way of the world moving and time flowing, so might as well just do whatever. (And for a while, I did.)

I feel a little sad for my younger self – this was around the time I was constantly doing drugs, drinking myself under tables and into dark places, hardly clinging onto sanity as I struggled my way through four years of university all the way across the world. My view that everything was simply a mess stemmed from my own actions: why look for external structure if I didn’t have any myself? And things certainly came to a head – my last three months in London were marked by an abusive relationship, a manic episode, and a suicide attempt. Nothing and no one was looking out for me. I was entirely alone, my thoughts electric and angry, panic attacks raging through me that were quelled only by little pink pills that knocked me right into sleep.

Strangely, my accident didn’t further drive in this attitude but rather turned it on its head: certainly life was chaotic, there was no way to predict what had happened, but for whatever reason, I survived – and barely: I nearly bled out in the ambulance, was in severe shock for hours. Had I not been around the corner from a hospital when it had happened, had the doctors not known how to save as much of my legs as possible, had my body not been healthy and strong, I would very much be dead.

I don’t necessarily think there’s a tangible, solid reason behind my being alive, but nevertheless I’m still here, sitting on my bed and writing this, the afternoon light filtering in through my window. Is there some sort of mission I’m supposed to complete, some message I’m supposed to bestow upon people? I’m not sure, and don’t really think so, but have begun to consider that someone or something was pulling a few strings to keep me from perishing.

My horoscope from the day of my accident: Venus—the planet of love, money, and beauty—enters Sagittarius this morning, encouraging you to focus on self-care. Watch out for confrontations today: Warrior planet Mars opposes the planet of shock, Uranus. The planet of shock: there it was, there it is. How was I to know back then? But something was watching. I believe it now.

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I find it funny that losing half my legs was what it took to knock a bit of sensibility into me. Before the accident I was still getting drunk constantly and getting in trouble, was unsure of my career path, held little faith in any of my skills, felt, still, the internal rot of self-hate. And certainly I didn’t immediately wake up in the hospital with all this sorted out – of course not – but over the past three years I’ve built a life for myself in New York, have friends I love, have a little writing career, have dated around and eaten well and travelled just enough. Therapy and medications have me less afraid of rocketing into mania or sinking into depression; I know myself better, know why I do things and how to cope when those things are bad.

I like my therapist: she has me nailed, still comes out with quips that leave me agape. How did you know that, I’ll think, how did you realize that about me? What the fuck? She works with Jungian analysis, something I was initially skeptical of but was recommended by my former CBT therapist, but I find it comforting now that my actions and thought patterns are reminiscent of old stories and myths from the past: we all act like that, we all do things that ripple out and leave marks on people’s psyches. I resent somewhat having to do telehealth sessions; I miss when she used to give me books.

I’m having my first ever horoscope chart reading tomorrow and she’s thrilled. I’m terrified: am I sure I can trust it? What am I going to learn about myself? Am I ready for the answers to the questions I have?

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Recently I’ve been going through several difficult things that I’d rather keep to myself but that have had me feeling badly over the past week or so. Even just a year ago I would have spiraled into resentment, blamed it all on some sort of personal flaw, cursed the universe and whatever else for making it all happen. I know now, though, how to keep myself afloat, know that perhaps the planets are funny or that a thread that runs through my way of moving through the world might be due for a snip. I understand why I do things, why I react in certain ways. I let myself be angry, something I wasn’t allowed much as a child.

I’ve been feeling tense over the past hour, my shoulders hunched and my neck sore, and I know now that the best way to deal with this is to get some fresh air, go on my roof or head out for a walk around my neighborhood. I haven’t been pissed off at anything I’ve done lately, and despite a recent confrontation with a friend feel no resentment, only the understanding that they have their reasons for doing things that clash with mine. I’m eating well, taking care of my skin and body in ways I never would have before. It’s okay. I’m okay. I can only hope I get okay-er, can open myself up to the flow of the universe as it relates to myself and those I love.

On city walking

Sometimes I think that the entire history of perceiving is encoded in a city. It’s encoded in noise, in shelter, in cloth, in the baths, in stray animals. Noise gives the listener duration as an artifact. – Lisa Robertson, Nilling

I’ve started smoking weed again. Not all the time, not so that it impedes things in my life, but every now and then I’ll have a little hit of a joint and sit and let my mind wander. My “sleepytime weed” is almost out, which is a shame; it’s wonderful to sink into a soft, delirious stoniness and think about myself as a shifting bundle of thoughts and concepts, the way my actions branch out into others’ lives, and sometimes it’s bad but most of the time I feel at peace, if not a little stupid.

Anyways, the other night I got a little too high and the light in my room felt far too yellow, I felt a little trapped, het up, anxious, and so I went out for a walk. I live in Queens now, and like it a lot, the bustling strip of Myrtle and the various streets branching off of it like spokes, bodegas with mangonadas in the freezers and Polish delis that sell plum butter for $1.50 a jar. There is always something; I always need something. Down my street I went, to the right, then left, darkness not encroaching but rather soaring up deep past the brick buildings I passed, squares of light built into their sides. Laundry hung up to dry, cars parked poorly in the street –  so much stimuli! –  and probably I was high but I could feel a warmth in my chest, here I was, I lived here, that little ever-present thought of ha, ha, I made it back to New York bubbling up again. I allowed it, though I don’t, usually. God, I thought as I turned up Cypress, I’m so glad I live in New York, I’m so glad I live in a city, period. It’s the only type of place I could ever fully be.

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I grew up twenty minutes outside of San Francisco and the proximity made me sick with envy. Even as a child I would think to myself, why am I not in the city, why do we have to live outside of it, there’s nothing here but a big old forest, it’s quiet and boring, where’s all the stuff to do! My teenage years were spent as an “honorary city kid,” as my city friends called me, but at the end of the day they took MUNI back to Ingleside or Forest Hill while I sat on the ferry across the bay back to my suburban hometown. Lucky, in retrospect, that my parents even let me do that, and I grew to understand San Francisco as the tiny tightly-wound rickety space that it was, only sort of still is, buses careening over hills and fog thundering in through the mountains that would make us cold and dripping with wet. Alphabetical street names crossing 19th Avenue – Taraval, Ulloa, Vicente. The volatility of every street corner, the possibility of turning and ending up in an entirely different neighborhood.

I don’t like to talk about San Francisco as it is now – it makes me mad, makes me spiral into a tangent – but will gladly talk about it as it used to be, those tail-end years of high school, we were stoned most of the time, and I’d walk down Clement Street or through the Mission District in the dewy gray mist listening to, oh, I don’t know, Rilo Kiley or maybe Fleet Foxes if I was in the mood. There was an eeriness to the city then, a sort of trembling monstrousness if you looked for it, sodium-vapor lights piercing orange through the fog, and if I got scared (of what? I’m still not sure) I would look up, not towards the sky but at the buildings towering above me, sometimes Victorians that looked like slices of cake, sometimes small square houses in pastel colors, rose and lavender and cucumber. There was a depth to things, space despite there really being no space, that drew me to it, kept me wandering. I was less set on pointedly exploring and more set on ambling in no direction in particular, a youthful psychogeographical pursuit of sorts.

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I continued to do so in London. Too big of a city, I think, and the suburbs hit too abruptly, and I lived in far too many places, Elephant & Castle and Camberwell and Deptford and Hackney Central and Dalston and New Cross and Nunhead. But I knew them all well: I drank a lot back then, and would put down a cider or two or five and, again, shove my headphones in, and walk and walk and walk. There are no blocks in London, or most of the UK, in fact; streets unspool like licorice rope and wind into each other, alleyways leading towards roundabouts and street names abruptly changing for not much of any reason. Like lines in a brain, I remember thinking one night while on too much ketamine. Before I got a smartphone I would look up my destination on Google Maps and make detailed drawings of where I had to go – Tube station here, post office here, and there’s the pub you’ll end up at, on the right.

San Francisco is gray but London is dark and deep: in the winter the sun goes down at 3:30, maybe 4, a stripe of weak gold sunlight barely lining the horizon. We had a sun lamp in the New Cross house. I was never warm enough, never quite got around to investing in a strong winter coat, and as I walked up the path to my university each morning I could feel my hands tremble in my pockets. An easy place to start smoking: a cigarette is much better in the cold, I think. Central Saint Martins was perched on a hill overlooking King’s Cross and the surrounding areas, and during my last year there I would sit on the top floor of the library and look out towards Central London, no stars due to all the lights, just a terrifying inky blackness above it all. It scared me to death. I loved it, and when I was done, would take the Victoria Line there and walk through it, sometimes for hours.

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Guy Debord, whose work I pored through for my dissertation, says of the psychogeographical dérive: “[it] includes both this letting go and its necessary contradiction: the domination of psychogeographical variations by the knowledge and calculation of their possibilities.” Picking apart Debord’s writings and chewing on them over the course of several months led me, of course, to think of my own ways of walking: why, where, how – for what reason – of course I was antsy, and bored, but I could always have joined a gym or watched some tv. I walked, though, constantly, and some nights I’d end up miles away and have to take a double-decker bus back home. But I knew London well, knew which neighborhoods bled into which and what streets led where, the shifting moods and darknesses of various routes. I liked streets with trees, and those specific types of tall whitewashed English houses with bright red doors you’d see in parts of East London, so I’d go there, and stare, and let myself be immersed in… what? A specific feeling, of I live here, I am here, physically, now, I’ve gotten myself to this place and the size of it all terrifies me in a thrilling way. Not a cognizant thought, then, but I can put it into words a little better now.

Funnily enough, I haven’t been doing many dérives in New York since moving here, not until very recently – only a couple of days ago, in fact. Strangely, perhaps as a testament to a much-resented need for routine, I’ve spent much of my time here heading up and around the same routes, past bodegas whose stock I know well (this one has Jarritos, this one has $10 cigarettes) and back home. Boredom quickly encroached, but in an abstract way that presented itself as frustration: why wasn’t I enjoying myself?

Well, enjoy yourself, I thought to myself this past Tuesday as I suddenly veered right instead of left on my morning walk. Psychogeography at its plainest: you go where your instincts take you, and mine were sick of going towards Fresh Pond Road for, what, the fortieth time?

I plan to stay in New York for a very long time, if not indefinitely, and I wonder whether I’ll stay in the same neighborhood for a while (I’ve never stayed in one for over two years before, in any city), and if so, how I will learn – relearn, I suppose – to dérive. What to do once I’ve gone up every street, turned every corner? Do I walk farther out, branch out to other neighborhoods? Do I make new routes, zigzag through in new ways? I can’t be sure until I get to that point, have to let my body and mind move where they want to move. Shifting moods, shifting shafts of light, different people and movements every night, perhaps, one day, actual places to go to, and stay. At any rate, as I finish writing this I can feel a burst of energy, a bubble ready to pop, and I kind of want a cigarette, and it seems like it’s nice and cool out. I know what I’m going to go do, and I know that I’ll enjoy it.

Bad times in quarantine

It’s strange to me, talking to people who think it’s done, who think that now I put down three pills every morning (one of which, to my delight, looks like a tab of ecstasy) I’m fine. Cured. That’s it – the bipolar is gone, I can manage on my own.

But of course the fuck not. It’s quashed rather than vanished completely, a low roiling danger that lurks in the back of my mind and emerges whenever possible – I miss a couple of doses of Abilify, or a friend and I argue, or, of course, a pandemic chokes and throttles everything, everyone’s way of life, the slow turn of the world as we used to know it.

I thought about it today, strolling down the street with my sweaty green cloth mask over my face: was that a mixed episode? Some fucked up form of mania? Depression but I wasn’t sleeping? To be sure, I reacted poorly at the beginning of things: I recall, blurry, a night spent up till 5 in the morning, birds chirping, Tori Amos blasting so loudly you could hear the tinny buzz of my overworked laptop speakers, the subreddit for panicked covid-19 updates bright on my screen. Death, I knew, was imminent; I’d end up in the hospital again, IVs poking out of my arms, lonely, bored, waiting for things to end. And if not me, my parents, a beloved friend. The world would be scraped clean and there would be nothing left. Valid concerns, to be sure, but the gears clicked in my head then just right so that I began to spiral deeply, into a strange panicked fugue.

I ate little (a classic sign of mania, for me, at least); drank nothing but enormous bottles of ginger ale which made me feel sick to my stomach, occasionally went for walks in what then was a dismal, bone-cold mist, listening to music that scared me and made me think of an untimely death, usually mine. If I wasn’t trudging around Crown Heights on the verge of tears then I was sat at the little half-moon kitchen table, laptop out, obsessing over whatever struck me as interesting at the moment (Midwestern blogger-cum-influencers, various small European cities on the Mediterranean, a random Medieval studies academic based in Chicago); often I’d be up until the early hours of the morning, both emotionally and physically too exhausted to get up, put my dishes away, and get ready for bed.

That’s the physical side of it, at least, the actions I took, but how I felt – strange to trace it now, find words for it; sometimes there are none, at least in English. You need full sentences. But I can try: a sickening mixture of energy and exhaustion, my thoughts racing brutally and in ugly threads, you’re gonna die, and you deserve to die, and memories of bad things I did that made me deserve to die, and then I’d think about you’ll have to go to the hospital again, wasn’t it awful last time, remember how everyone acted, they were crying over you as if you were dead, fuck that, you can’t go back, and then but we’ll all die, and then but literally everyone dies eventually, and then the clincher, the one that made me want to go back to hacking little lines into my arm (but I assure you that at no point did I do it): you’re going to die alone.

I’m not one for favorites, or classifying “top 3 things” in my life; I like a lot of foods, colors, songs, can never pick a few of anything, but I do know that my deepest fear, primal to the point of manifesting in a physical sense, is dying by myself. Especially young, maybe not at twenty-eight but thirty-five, forty-seven, that’s still young, I think, and, god, what would I do if I were by myself when I got sucked into nonexistence? Last moments of loneliness, of pain. The anger I would feel, the fear, at night I try not to think about it, remind myself that I’m still breathing and have good friends and it’s fine.

But the fear set me off. A physical sensation in my chest, sucking and empty, and it would move up my throat and manifest itself in a loud sort of scream-sob of horror and sadness, loneliness, the kitchen was dark except for a dim light over the table and I was alone, outside was pitch-black and full of hate and danger, I was un-showered and sickly, and tomorrow would be more of the same. If I felt myself hurting but couldn’t cry I’d watch the wailing scene from Midsommar and then I would be able to weep and weep and weep, wanting so much for a group of people to hold me and cry with me as I mourned. One night I had an allergic reaction to a sleeping pill, vomiting onto the floor alongside my bed and swelling up with hives, and I wanted my mother so much but instead held and rocked myself until I wasn’t throwing up anymore. As I wiped up the vomit with some Clorox and paper towels I cried again, until I had to curl up on the floor with my face in my hands. I feel disgusting. I feel disgusting. Why be alive?

And really, why? I felt like something in me was rotting, a visual I truly hate, but there were spores of something repellant blooming in my brain and making me sick, making me want to force myself to vomit or chain-smoke 12 cigarettes or, you know, cut myself, anything that would be some sort of snap of pain and then a release. I did not do any of it, though, and I will admit that I’m surprised I didn’t. But without those things, there was nothing else to grasp at, “healthy coping mechanisms” so far out of reach that it felt like I’d need to retool my personality entirely to try any of them out. Incense? Baths? Meditation? Fuck right out of here I want six Xanax and a gin and tonic and a line of coke and to be held, ha ha fuck my life!!! So I would wake up and sit at that half-moon table and stare at my laptop and think, how do you get to Ithaca? No, don’t do that. But you can jump off of things there. A carrot just far enough out of reach.

Maybe I should be more embarrassed to admit that for a month and a half I melted into a strange brain-space that led me to want to stab myself or hop off of a cliff; that Tori Amos would hit so hard I’d go into a fugue-like state until the song ended; that getting out of bed at 3PM, sluggish and sick, and staying up until 5AM was regular for a while. “Regular.” That’s gone, though, we all know that now; things are gnarled and confusing and there will only be new things in the future, many of them bad. But as I texted a friend one day: brain broke. Don’t like it. Something did snap inside me, tears streaming down my cheeks day after day and fucked-up pent up energy that, I felt, could only be expelled with violence. (Often I slammed my pillow onto my mattress again and again, too vain for more pink scars on my arm.) There was nothing anchoring me to the physical world but the reality of having a body, which felt disgusting, useless. I did not take care of it for a while.

And the end of this story is so stupid, so stupid, but after a month and a half I had my next appointment with my psychiatrist, who looked at me and said “we need to get your Lamictal dose up,” so we did, and not even slowly but practically overnight there I was waking up at 8AM, energy more dispersed and gentle, the strange choking in my throat suddenly gone. I will freely admit that I hate it, resent it: certainly I’m lucky to be alive, but sometimes being alive is absolutely miserable, especially when my medications aren’t quite right and my emotions feel like flayed skin, raw and salted. I can’t handle it. I am jealous of people who can, at least in a relative sense.

My next and last dose of Lamictal – I am still working my way up – is the maximum dosage. “I don’t like it when you say that,” my psychiatrist responded when I did a big honk of a laugh and said “Ha! Ha! I’m really fucking crazy aren’t I!” But I don’t really mind using that word. Some things I have done, many things I have felt, are not normal or healthy or tenable and I think it’s perfectly fine – for me, at least – to call myself insane. For now, at least.

Things are objectively not good now – I am lonely, touch-starved, had a slow sad birthday recently – but it’s nothing at all compared to March and part of April. I force myself to listen to disco and house music instead of eerie quasi-songs that make me think about death; I eat three meals a day; my sleep cycle is somewhat normal. I feel less like some wet, ugly creature and more like a human.

Not all days are good. “It could be worse,” I tell myself sometimes if I’m feeling particularly bad (and something about this strikes me as bad form, as a little unhealthy, but I don’t care), and I feel a little more at peace. A little more. Whatever, that’s fine. As long as it works.

Quarantine thoughts

Just thoughts

Wake up. Get out of bed. Or no. No you’re tired. Just lie there. You don’t have to do your little walk yet. Your body is so fucking tired why can’t you just listen to your body for once in your life? Am I hungry? Do I have to pee? God, I hope someone’s texted me – no – ha! Ha! Of course not. Ok check – no, don’t check Twitter yet, not til you’re out of bed and have eaten, try to wean yourself off it for now, Instagram is okay, it’s so delightfully fakey how everyone is pretending to have fun on there, why not scroll through some pretty stuff? On Twitter you always just want to post about how you want to die – which, I mean – 

What book should I read? What show should I watch? What music should I listen to? What podcast should I get into? What Instagram live show should I stream? What am I doing? Am I using my time right? I’m obviously not using my time right. I don’t like the right things, I don’t follow the right things, I don’t have opinions on the right things, I don’t have opinions at all, brain atrophied, it’s not the drugs, it’s just that I’m that dumb – ok time for my skincare just do it just do it – will I ever not feel like this? Feel like, God, I hate the phrase, I hate the concept, but like I don’t “fit in” properly with anyone, anyone at all? And when will it stop? 

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In London we’d go out and dance and dance and dance and dance, til we were covered in sweat, til the sun came up, then we’d go back to someone’s house and keep dancing, daylight now, little dabs of MDMA to keep us going, moving about in the garden, one time I was high and drunk and happy as a clam and made myself a full English with some ingredients in that one guy’s kitchen and he got mad when I threw the bread away even though it was literally green and called me a cunt but hey it was a joke British people do that right? Call people cunts? Ha ha. Anyways I sat down to eat the breakfast and my chair tipped over backwards and I got eggs and bacon and beans and sausage and toast in my hair, all over my face, and we all laughed because there I was lying on my back, feet waving in the air helpless like a little flipped-over crab. Will anything like that ever, ever happen again? God, I just want to dance, but now – 

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Hi mama. Yeah, doing ok, a little bored but talking to friends :) keeps me sane! Been trying to use my time productively! 

Sophie don’t lie to your own fucking mother

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Remember when you did – no god don’t think about that – and remember when that one guy – no don’t think about that – and remember when you and you friend were – no don’t think about that – and remember when you did a bunch of – no don’t think about that – and remember when you fucked – no don’t think about that – and remember when you drank – no don’t think about that – and remember when you saw – no don’t think about that – and remember when a bunch of you all – no don’t think about that – don’t think about any of it – but, god, it’s all there, building up like a noxious earwax in your past, you can take your meds and go to therapy and stay sober and atone for your egregious, disgusting, nasty, evil, fucked-up, awful sins, but you still did it all! And now you can think about it all fucking day!

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Italy, in the literal Tuscan sun, rich and golden the same way it was in Paris and San Francisco, slowly meandering through a wide-open piazza, hey guys let’s have a drink, a bright-orange Aperol spritz, God, such sweet languid days –

Dolores Park, back before all the tech-y shit or maybe right around when it was starting to happen, back when there was the naked people part and the hula-hooping hippies part and the broski PBR-drinker part (or, well, us) and the dog part and the fixie-polo part on the tennis courts, and at night we’d dance on top of the green bunker, hey could you pass the joint haha, what’s in this, oh no – dry yellow heat, followed by ice-cold dewy fog that made you shiver, made your teeth clatter even though it was the middle of July –

“This is a Victoria Line train to Walthamstow Central.” Or, no – my favorite line was the Jubilee Line, “This is a Jubilee Line Train to Willesden Green,” but the way the announcer pronounced “Willesden” was so funny, “Wwwwwwillesden Green!”, like you’d just won it on a game show –

The apartment in Paris I rented by myself for my twenty-first birthday because I knew if I had a birthday party people would argue and I’d make a fool of myself and would people even come? God, absolute visually pornographic, the window with the little balcony, slanted ceiling, sunlight absolutely spilling in, wish I still had a picture, could dig one up – and I thought that I’d “Amélie” my way around the city but even then I was always wine-drunk, start drinking at 2, but whatever, I could go where I wanted, god, those croissants were so good, tiny cups of coffee, I ordered “un menthe à l’eau” without a hitch, and then when I came home I got dumped but it was worth it because I hadn’t liked him much anyways. 

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Will anyone ever love me? Have I ever been loved in a mutual, reciprocal way? Have I said “I love you” and meant it and they said it back and meant it? Will that ever happen? Does it matter if it does? Boo hoo! Go make some dinner!

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Okay check the left leg first. Hm. Seems… not almost rash-y, there’s a lot of red spots, doesn’t hurt though, keep an eye on that one little sore spot just in case it develops into something more painful although if it’s cellulitis like last time that tends to come on pretty fast. Ok other leg. Cellulitis gone but there’s still a little white dot there, keep an eye on that. And keep an eye on the weird folds in your scar, probably nothing will happen with that, not sure what could, but there’s some redness. Okay first liner on, pull, second liner on, pull pull pull, ouch, pinches a little, noted, sleeve on, sleeve on, right leg first always always always, left leg.

God, I’m going to have to do this every morning for the rest of my life. Can’t even say “aren’t I” – there’s no arguing with it, it’s the plain truth.

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I didn’t like the last book I read because it was depressing and visually disgusting, lots of shit and blood and that just doesn’t appeal, and the book before that was dry and a slog even though some parts were interesting, and the last one I absolutely loathed, a book about disability that made me feel guilty for not hyper-tokenizing myself, the one before that I felt too stupid for although it did make some quite good points but I only read it because all the cool theory kids have read it. The book before that was good. That was a couple of months ago, though, before things hit, and then hit again, and then hit again – 

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Every morning I wake up and it feels okay. Every night I go to sleep wondering what would happen if I died. I won’t do it, I’ve moved past that, but something happens in between and I can never quite pinpoint at what time of day things tend to pivot.

Is this it? Is this it?

When will I see my friends again? I want to see my friends. God, I could cry! I guess I will!

Goodnight! Goodnight! Goodnight!

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