I Feel Behind All My Co-Workers

I am nine years old and requesting extra credit for a project the teacher has just assigned. I’m used to the groans from my peers. I don’t mind. Societal pressure has not yet affected me. I am not a popular girl, my bangs are never brushed and end up sticking together in sweaty clumps by the end of the day. I’m a little weird, I like homework and feel stressed out if I have too many playdates. I wax poetic about Emily Dickinson and am in elementary school, which is a rather bizarre combo. Emily was a shut-in, living out her life in isolation. I really like her sister, Lavinia, because of how much she loved cats.  I think I am like Emily, with elements of Lavinia. I visit their house in Amherst, Massachusetts on our family’s summer vacation. I do not understand what I’m sensing in Emily, the inherit closeness I feel to her, is her depression.

I am convinced depression comes in different forms, in shades of different colors. Same for anxiety. Mine does not look the way my friend’s does. She needs to be busy. When she’s feeling empty, she just works that much harder. I stress and search for a hibernation button. I go back to sleep when I’m not even tired.

I am always running behind. Is it because I walk when no one is looking?

Everyone seems to have something I don’t and I know that’s partly my own depression talking. I try to recognize irrational thoughts. If I talk about them, do I take away their power?

I sit down to write an essay and I delete every word. My brain has been a trash bag lately. I am spewing garbage and hoping no one notices. I don’t remember the last thing I was proud of. Probably my book. I am recycling my heartache and it feels inauthentic. I watch Netflix for six hours.

I interrogate myself in the shower with a barrage of millennial questions.

Am I still relatable? Have I lost my touch? Am I losing my passion? Do I need to up my antidepressant? Is my brain deteriorating? Can creativity diminish over time?

I get a part-time job on the weekends because I do not make enough to live comfortably on my own in California. I research places I could move to. There are pleasant houses in the middle of the country I could put a downpayment on. I wouldn’t need to pray for a raise. I’d do okay. Then I think of needing to hop a plane to see my mom and bawl into my tiny hands. I cannot have so much distance. How does the same person who gave me life continue to give it to me?

Money makes me sad, so I pretend it doesn’t exist. This is a privilege, I say. It’s a privilege to be concerned about finances but not so concerned that I ask for more. Negotiating gives me acid reflux.

I go through boxes in the garage with all my school stuff. My evaluations make me embarrassed. I was so smart. I was A+. I was potential, potential, potential! I was overachiever. I was dynamic.

I don’t like remembering who I was.

When did it change?

I am not enough. The people around me are brilliant and writing and reaching people by the millions. I am simultaneously in awe and swimming in shame.

When did I start thinking like this? TC mark

Ari Eastman

✨ real(ly not) chill. poet. writer. mental health activist. mama shark. ✨

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