adventures in zombieland

Adventures in Zombieland: The Trouble with my Ears

This is going to sound odd, but it's truly the only way I know how to put it: I have bionic ears. It started around three months ago: everything suddenly seemed to be amplified. There was no trigger - one day my hearing was perfectly normal, and the next I could be sitting in the front of a room and hear people whispering in the back of it, as clearly as if they were sitting right behind me. People looked at me oddly, asked why I was being so quiet, when I thought I was speaking in a normal tone. I couldn't concentrate when there was a mosquito buzzing in the next room.

Things were, quite simply, very, very loud.

(I just read through that and realised that it sounds like a passage from a superhero novel. TOPAZ WINTERS can hear your deepest secrets and everything you hold near to your heart. Nothing escapes her super-hearing. Her ears are a force to bring the quietest whisperers to their knees.)

Unfortunately, that is not actually as fun as it sounds. (Which is a shame, because it does sound quite awesome.)

Because although I could hear the quieter noises, I could also hear everything else much, much louder than it really was. It happened 24/7 - there was no way of turning it off, which meant that I was constantly overwhelmed by the sheer number of noises that we encounter while doing this thing called living. There was no muffler and no way to make it go away. It was exhausting.

And so, because I am not particularly interested in walking around wearing noise-cancelling headphones for the rest of my life, something had to change.

Over the weekend, we visited an audiologist and had it confirmed: this is not actually in my head, and for some reason we haven't yet figured out, I do have extremely sensitive ears. (This is rather ironic, because most of the older members of my extended family are actually hard-of-hearing. Something like this was... unprecedented.)

This is how it works: most people with "perfect" hearing can hear about 10-25 decibels naturally, without straining their ears. In contrast: I can hear to the 0-10 decibel range.

There are several explanations for this, and we are still not quite sure which is the correct one. A few of the specialists we've spoken to have used the terms "auditory processing disorder" and "hyperacusis" - we can't determine whether it's either of those or something completely different without doing further testing.

However, one thing we do know: this is almost certainly connected to the mental health issues.

The fact that it came on without warning means that it was likely caused by something to do with my anxiety. (This is especially interesting because a few of the anxiety triggers actually do have to do with loud noises.) Which likely means that if we can get this fixed, the anxiety issues might decrease slightly as well.

Of course, this is quite a lot of "if"s and "might"s and "possibly"s and "maybe"s - but still, it feels good to have some kind of physical link to the anxiety (and possibly depression, though we haven't yet confirmed that one). I'll keep you lovelies updated on what happens - so far we're still deciding what the next step is, but you will know as soon as I do.

One thing I do know for certain, though: I am not at all going to regret leaving this particular superpower behind. ;)

Adventures in Zombieland: On Fault Lines

Today I have been thinking about cracks and the things that slip through them. Little things: window raindrops, Hachii yawns, New York pizza grease, favourite songs long since forgotten. Memory is such a fickle mistress - I don't think one needs a mental illness to appreciate the fragility of things. The way we can't hope to keep all of our memories locked up, or even most of them. I think perhaps our brains might explode if we tried.

Mental illness is something of a fault line, though. On days like these, I feel as if all of the lovely things have slipped away without a trace - into that yawning gap. And out comes insecurities I'd wished could stay locked up.

(You know the ones, I'm sure. What if all my friends secretly hate me? What if I was never all that good of a writer? What if everything I do and everything I'm proud of is truly laughable? What if - what if - what if - I never imagined two words could have the power to exhaust me so deeply.)

Here's the thing: my brain tells me it's unreasonable; my heart begs to differ.

Are we allowed to choose which memories to keep? At the moment, I feel like all the bad ones are coming to the surface and the good ones are lost somewhere far beyond the horizon. Or worse: they are there, but just out of reach. Just past my line of sight.

Today, my life feels like a patchwork quilt of blues and greys. All those warm sunshiny colours have been cut out meticulously, laid in a pile of scraps off to the side somewhere. (Thrown into the fault line, perhaps? Mixing metaphors rarely works out, but I hope you see what I'm trying to get at.)

Sometimes I think panic attacks would be preferable to this slow bleakness. Earthquakes are the natural consequence of fault lines, are they not? (Of course, whenever panic attacks occur, I could swear the sadness is much preferable. What a horrible, vicious cycle this is.)

So there are the good memories and there are the bad memories. And today my grasping fingertips are a bit useless to catch the former. The warm, dark cracks are a more welcome home than my thorny brain, I think.

And so it goes: I watch them escape, soft and sudden, like an inevitable goodbye.

Adventures in Zombieland: The Guilt of Not Creating

Hi everyone!

So I think I've figured it out - something that's been irking me for quite some time now, but that I couldn't really place my finger on until today.

All this time, as the whole anxiety/depression situation escalated, I've been so focused on mustering up the energy to get out of bed and go to school and stop worrying so much and avoid triggers for panic attacks and try not to be so self-conscious - and, and, and, the list goes on.

Which, on one hand: it's understandable, of course. Rationally, I know that the fact that I'm actually able to get through the day and function properly (or at least, most of the time) is quite a big deal. A victory, even. And I've tried to remind myself that I shouldn't be feeling guilty for focusing on me for a little while.

But still, when I look back and realise how much less I'm writing songs, practising guitar, fooling around with Photoshop, editing Frozen Hearts, writing poetry, drawing - just creating something - it does make me feel guilty. I feel like I should be able to do ALL THE THINGS. ALL THE TIME. (Which, granted, I probably wouldn't be able to do even without mental illnesses, but at least I could do more things than I'm able to now.)

Yesterday I opened Frozen Hearts, for the first time in a month. I can't even remember the last time I went a week without editing - but here we are, and it kind of hurts to think that my productivity levels have decreased so much. I've talked about feeling inadequate before, but I think this is something even worse - because art has always been such a big part of me, but now I feel like I've put that on hold indefinitely so I can deal with all this stuff.

I'm trying to be okay with not being as productive, but whenever I miss Friday Poetry because I'm too busy trying to not fall apart over a car door slamming, it's a stark reminder of the fact that I'm letting you guys down, too - and over something that is not insignificant, but sure feels like that sometimes. Frozen Hearts was supposed to be out in December - it's now April, and it's looking like still more months will go by before it'll see the light of day.

And of course, I know that you are all lovely, kind, understanding people who will most certainly not hold these things against me - but I think this is really more a matter of my own brain battling with itself (as these things so often turn out to be). It's two-fold, I suppose: not only do I feel guilty for myself, but also for you - because I want to share all of the things that I used to, but I just can't do that anymore.

I do know this won't last forever, though, and that is one of the few good things about this situation - as horrible as they are, at least I know that mental illnesses can be treated. I need to focus on figuring out how to be okay - but I do think it's only a matter of time before I'll be able to get back to creating things. Right now this feels a bit endless, but you know, I'm still looking forward to publishing Frozen Hearts and, eventually, releasing the album. (Remember that? It's still a thing, in case you weren't sure. ;))

It's just a matter of getting through all this other stuff first - however long it takes.

love, Topaz