Depression for Introverts: A How Not To Guide

There are lots of things to love about being introverted. You gain an appreciation for silence. You know the comforts of being on your own, and the independence that brings. Time spent snuggled up with fuzzy socks, a cup of tea, and a good book is treasured. A cozy night in with your cat will always win out over a night of drinks and dancing in the city.

But when you have depression, being an introvert causes a lot of issues. In my experience, the best way to cope with depression is to spend time around other people and to be active. It’s a lot harder to drown in feelings of worthlessness and abandonment when you are surrounded by loved ones. And in theory,it should give you something to look forward to. My problem is that being social often feels like more stress than it’s worth. When you’re depressed, all you want to do is recharge your permanently drained batteries in the comfort of your room. Going out is work. It feels like putting on a show because it’s far, far easier to pretend everything is fine and not ruin everyone else’s night out rather than talk about how hard it was to take a shower that day. And besides, why would they give two shits about how you’re feeling? You don’t really matter, and nothing makes you feel that more intensely than seeing your friends laugh and smile with each other while you sit there, absently stirring your poorly mixed cocktail. They don’t need you.

It’s incredible that being around other people can leave you feeling even more alone than if you’d just stayed in to begin with. But when you cancel on friends, you feel like a failure for not being able to shake the anxiety and depression off long enough to get out of the house and do something. It’s a precarious tightrope walk that I wish I never had to take. I thought medication would make it better; for awhile, it did make a real difference. But now I’ve settled into a new normal which is still not happiness. I feel the same listlessness I first felt when I was in seventh grade and first started experiencing the beginnings of anxiety and depression.

I don’t remember what it was like to not have depression anymore.Naturally, I’m still happy sometimes, and I’m able to have fun with my friends and family, but it never lasts. I’m told that’s just part of being human, but I can’t accept that I’m supposed to spend 90% of my life deeply unsatisfied, unmotivated, and exhausted. What the hell is the point of living if that’s all life is? People tell me how strong I am, and that I have so much to give. I’ve had people tell me the way I deal with my depression is inspirational. I don’t feel like an inspiration. I just feel tired.

I always said I wanted to inspire people, and help people, and change lives. I never considered that in helping other people I was avoiding helping myself. I haven’t done my laundry in a month. I do the bare minimum to keep myself presentable for work. I cut and dye my hair when I feel emotionally vulnerable so I can pretend I’m in control. I just want to feel like I have a reason to get up in the morning.

All my love,

Katherine Wheel

A Collection Of Poems On Love, Abuse, And Recovery

The following is a trio of poems I have written in response to the 2 years of abuse I experienced. They are a small part of my journey to recovery. I hope you enjoy- KW

Concentrated Pressure

I am not shattered,
nor broken, nor cracked.

The choke hold
you held over me has
turned me into
a diamond.

Now I am far too strong,
too radiant,
too valuable,
for you to ever,
ever
deserve me.


Illegitimi non carborundum
It is okay to have a kind heart.
The world doesn’t have

to grind your compassion to bitter dust.

Acceptance of others is not
an invitation to be torn apart.
You deserve to be
respected and protected.

Darling,
you owe nothing to them.
Don’t let them snuff out your light.


Taking Residence

My love is not
a no-tell-motel
with windows smashed in
by careless boys pretending to be men.

It is not  guest house,
a place to sleep but not to remain in.
You can’t just come and go
without warning or regret
and expect things to be as clean
as they were on the first visit.

My love is a home
with shoes strewn by the door,
coats hanging off of chairs,
forgotten mugs of tea leaving rings on
my coffee table heart.
My love is messy, but it is real.

I offer up the keys perhaps
too soon, too passionately,
but I do not take that offer lightly.
When you take residence in my heart,
pull up a comfortable chair.
Enjoy your stay.

The Beginner’s Guide to Tattoos: Dos, Don’ts, and Everything In Between

Let me preface this by saying I, myself, am a relative beginner to the world of tattoos. Up until November of this year, the only body modifications I had were piercings (single lobe piercings, an industrial, and a nose stud). I have always wanted tattoos, and after some research, planning, and a heaping dose of impulse, I began my tattoo journey in November. Now, I will be entering 2018 with one complete and healed tattoo, and one that is still in progress. Again, I AM NOT A TATTOO EXPERT. PLEASE TAKE ALL OF MY ADVICE WITH A GRAIN OF SALT. 

Q: Does it hurt?
They say there are no dumb questions, but this happens to be one. You are allowing someone to stab you rapidly with a needle for a minimum of an hour. A tattoo is a glorified wound when you’re getting it done. Yes, it hurts. How much will it hurt? That depends on your pain tolerance and the placement you’ve chosen.

The general consensus online is that getting tattooed in areas where this is less skin above the bone such as the ribs, your foot, or ankle are the least pleasant. Truth is, there some fatty areas that can be quite painful as well. For instance, I almost fainted when I was getting tattooed on my inner thigh. Other parts of my thigh felt similar to a sustained cat scratch.

My best advice is to not psych yourself out too much. Being nervous isn’t going to make it hurt any less.

Q: Okay, so where/what should I get tattooed?
 There are (almost) no rules about what and where your tattoo should be! I would advise against any gang or hate-group related imagery, but most shops will refuse that sort of work entirely. I’d like to think none of my readers would want that sort of tattoo anyways. So outside of that, it’s really up to you!

There’s two schools of thought on tattoos.  Some folks will only get tattoos that they deem meaningful. That’s a pretty wide umbrella of possibilities, in my opinion. Meaningful could be anything from a memorial tattoo for a lost loved one or friend, to imagery or lyrics that remind you of an important life event.  Other folks just love getting tattoos and don’t feel like it needs to be something particularly deep or significant. For example, a  friend of mine from high school has a slice of pizza tattooed on his ass. I say that either end of the spectrum is a good way to go.

Now when it comes to placement, this goes right back to my previous point. Some spots are more painful and others, so it’s a good thing to consider when choosing where you want to get tattooed. My preference would be to not get a large, detailed piece on my ribcage based on my pain tolerance, but if pain isn’t a part of the equation for you, go for it!

Another thing to consider when talking about placement is visibility. I love the look of tattoos, and am lucky to work in an office where you can openly show off the work you’ve had done, but other employers are not so accepting. Upper arms and thighs are great if you’re looking for something that’s easier to hide.  This is also something to keep in mind if you have family members who aren’t supportive of your choices. I know I put a lot of thought into where my first piece would go, and it ended up being more visible than planned. There was a lot of yelling. Avoid this if at all possible.

Q: How much does it cost?
The short answer? Call up the shop or artist you want to work with and ask for their rates. There is no one-size-fits-all tattoo cost.

Depending on the volume of clients an artist is taking on and their level of experience, they may charge  $200+ per hour. If you want something elaborate with color and shading, it’s going to take bare minimum 6 hours to get done, and likely multiple sessions. Get ready to drop some serious money on this.

Other times, you’ll go in for a walk-in or a 1 hour session for something small and only need to pay the shop minimum (from what I’ve seen $100-$150 is average, but don’t quote me on it).

I’ve been on both ends of the spectrum in terms of cost. Point blank, tattoos are an investment. You will get what you pay for. Don’t haggle on cost, and tip your artist.

Q: Wait, I should tip my artist?
You are certainly not obligated to tip your artist, but it is always appreciated. A good rule of thumb is 15-20% of the cost of your tattoo. Yes, tattoos can be a bit pricey, but show your respect for both the time and artistry you are being provided!

This is particularly good form if you plan to work with this artist on multiple pieces or sit for multiple sessions.

Q: What about aftercare?
Many studios provide you aftercare sheets instructing you on how to best care for your fresh ink. These guidelines are thoughtfully delivered to you by the artist, who has tried and true experience in tattooing.  Don’t go searching online for aftercare tips. One of the best things about the internet is the anonymity it can provide. Ergo, you have no clue who is posting these “tattoo aftercare tips” and if they’re valid.

IF YOU ARE UNSURE IF SOMETHING IS HEALING PROPERLY, CALL YOUR ARTIST.

That being said, there are some tried and true tattoo healing tips:

  • Don’t touch it with dirty hands. It is an open, fresh wound. Use antibacterial soap before touching your tattoo to prevent infection!
  • MOISTURIZE. You want to make sure you’re keeping your fresh tattoo slathered in the moisturizing ointment your tattoo artist suggests. I use Aquaphor, and spread it in a thin layer.
  • Don’t scratch. After the first couple of days, your tattoo will begin to scab over, and it is going to be itchy as hell. Do not scratch it or pick at it. When you do this, you’re scraping off scabs prematurely and those scabs can take some of the ink with them. Then you’ll wind up needing a touch up, which will scab and itch all over again.  Save yourself the trouble and the extra expense.
  • Avoid tight fitting clothes and abrasive fabrics. This one may seem like a given, but I will throw it out there anyways. I wouldn’t recommend wearing tight tube socks over a fresh ankle tattoo. Tight clothes and abrasive fabrics are going to cause friction, which will only delay healing.

And that’s all I have for you so far as tips to a beginner from a relative beginner. If you have any additional questions, leave them in the comments section below!

All my love,

Katherine Wheel

Dear The Next One

This post is inspired by a Youtube video put out by Ayalla Karina. If you have not yet seen her video, I highly suggest you check it out here.  There are references to domestic violence in my work, so read onward at your discretion-KW

Swirly Heart Image Courtesy of ClipartPanda.com

Dear The Next One,
I am not broken, but I am grateful that you are gentle with me. I don’t like admitting how intensely I was abused by a previous partner, nor how deep the hurt goes. You never bat an eyelash when I make passing jokes about being smacked around. I know it can’t be easy to hear the way I cope with my past.

You’ve seen the way my whole body shakes when you get mad, the terror thumping through my veins, ice cold. And I’ve seen the realization in your eyes as I try to stay composed. The anger melts away, and you hold me. You mean it when you apologize. You listen when I tell you what I cannot bear, and you remember it.

You have still hurt me,  my next one. And that’s okay. Conflict is part of being alive. But when I say hurt, I mean by  losing your temper, or telling me something I need to hear, whether I like it or not. You would never lay a hand on me. I told you, over drinks, that I would never let another man hit me again; I said this for my own reassurance, not because I fear you. You have always gone out of your way to make me feel safe.

It’s not easy for me to put my own comfort above everyone else’s. For such a long time I have been unable to see that I am valuable, and worthy of being happy. I let depression wrap itself around me like a climbing vine, leaving me unwilling to care for myself more than necessary. I stopped washing my hair, doing my makeup, doing my laundry. None of it mattered because I didn’t matter.

I know it won’t always be easy. You are not a perfect person, and I would never ask you to be. I’m nowhere close to perfect either. But with you, I see a future where happiness is not fleeting. I don’t know if you will be my last one. You don’t need to be. I am happy for you to be you, unabashedly, my next one.

All My Love,
Katherine Wheel

Suomi Dreams

Even now, at age 24, I dream of happily ever after. I dream of a 3-bedroom house with a modest yard. I dream of little blue-eyed children gazing back at me, still convinced that Mommy has all the answers.

I don’t have the answers. As it turns out, neither does my mother, or her mother. Frankly, I’d like to know who has all the answers. Why do I come from a family with a longstanding background of mental illness and substance abuse? Why do I fall for men cut from that same cloth?

I think that’s why I hold so tightly to my fairytale life, and the fantasy world in my head. It lets me escape from the painful reality of my past and the difficult decisions I must make every day. Fantasy gives me hope for the future. Understandably, I feel mentally stunted. The ways in which I love have changed so little since I was 14. I love furiously, passionately, completely. Love consumes me so much that I often wonder if all women feel this way.

I’m finally going to experience a long-held fantasy of mine next week: I’m going to see HIM for their farewell tour. HIM is and was a band I’ve romanticized for years. A band that created Love Metal. A band fronted by a man who has turned all of his sorrows into something beautiful and healing. Ville Valo is the kind of creator I️ aspire to be. Because of him, his bandmates, and the legacy they’ve built I want to live in their native country of Finland, if only for a little while. There is nothing that brings me the same mental peace as envisioning breathing in the brisk Helsinki air and being free to write and create.

It sounds outlandish, I imagine. It probably is. But I’m holding on to Finland.

All my love,

Katherine Wheel

Boston Pride 2017

It is no exaggeration to say last Saturday was the best day I’ve had in months. As my regular followers and readers know, my depression has not been particularly well managed as of late. Fortunately, no depressive episode lasts forever, and I’m feeling much more like myself. In the spirit of feeling happy, I went to Boston Pride with one my close friends and spent the long, exciting, exhausting day with a smile on my face the whole time.

IMG_3563.JPG
For those of you who have forgotten what my face looks like.

I have been openly bisexual for about 10 years now (I can’t believe it’s been that long, honestly) and for much of that time, I’ve felt like my identity was invalid. Bisexuality is unique in that it’s a sexuality  that doesn’t always get respected in either the queer or straight community. It certainly doesn’t help my case that I’ve never been in a committed relationship with a woman, although not for lack of trying; it seems any time I have had feelings for one either I’ve been afraid to tell them or they’ve had a girlfriend.

Because I’m bi, I am apparently straight and faking, gay and faking, or just “greedy”.  Not to mention any time I list my sexuality on a dating website it’s like a homing beacon for couples to ask me if I would like to be their “third”. I don’t think I should need to state “I DO NOT WANT TO HAVE A THREESOME” on my dating profile, but it’s begun to feel necessary.

At Pride, those feelings melted away. I saw dozens of women running around with bisexual pride flags draped over their shoulders as capes. There were two separate booths just dedicated to bisexual folks. And all along the way, I didn’t feel like I needed to explain myself. I could just be Katherine, a girl who likes girls and guys who wanted to celebrate how beautiful love is.

It’s amazing how much the community has grown and changed. I remember when I first attended the festival it felt like a lot more of a gay and lesbian celebration than LGBTQIA. For each bisexual pride flag I saw, there were 10 transgender pride flags flying alongside it. I cannot speak to the experience of transgender folks, but I am certainly glad to see the growing love and support in our community. I can only hope that this shift within the queer community is a sign of greater things to come in America as a whole.

Happy Pride month, everyone.

All my love,

Katherine Wheel

 

 

Exhaustion

The following blog post includes discussion of my lived experience with mental illness. Continue reading at your discretion- KW

Writing is really difficult right now. Honestly, doing anything that brings me joy is really difficult right now.  I haven’t put on a full face of makeup since Valentine’s Day, even though every night I tell myself I will set aside the time to do it before work. I used to love taking the time to make myself look beautiful. It could always brighten my mood, even when I felt completely out of control. The thought of it is exhausting.  Right now, I consider washing my hair in the evening, laying out an outfit for the next day, and maybe making myself a sandwich or something to bring to work an achievement.

I had a brief, amazing window of time where I was full of energy, and motivation, and hope and excitement. I did everything I could to take advantage. I did the 3 months worth of dirty laundry piled up in my room. I started exercising again, and tried to be more conscious of what I ate. But quickly, all those good feelings were just…gone. This isn’t a completely new phenomenon (I’m quite familiar with bursts of energy followed by depressive stretches) but it has rarely been this drastic.

I’m worried I’m becoming too tolerant of my medication. I don’t want to raise the dosage, because it’s like saying I will never be able to live normally without it. I’ll have to keep raising it and raising it until there’s no higher dosage and I’m royally fucked. Alternatively, I’ll have to try a new medication, and suffer the withdrawals of my current antidepressant. I was temporarily out of my medication recently, and I had textbook  symptoms: dizziness, dissociation, blurred vision, sensory disturbances, and anxiety. I would not wish this upon anyone.

People who glamorize mental illness don’t understand what it’s like to live like this. Fuck, I don’t even really understand what it’s like to live like this since it seems like my familiar symptoms are melting away and making room for new, unpleasant ones. I don’t want to self-diagnose (I have a therapist whom I love and whose opinion I trust), but I find myself checking symptoms online during stolen moments at work. I feel like there’s something else going on with me that isn’t being treated, or hasn’t come to light yet. It’s certainly something to talk to my doctor about.

At any rate, thank you all for reading this. I hope you are doing well, and if you aren’t right now, that you’re doing better soon.

All my love,

Katherine Wheel.