AUGUST 22, 2022: “The UNPOPULAR Invisible Monster!” …

~ the Bug ~
{by Gia “Khaos” Embach}

In keeping with the metamorphosis of my journey, this day memorializes two profound occasions in my life. You see, not only is this my 500TH DIARY ENTRY, but it’s the three year anniversary of my husband’s suicide at “just before midnight” on August 22, 2019.

With that, it seems only fitting that I pay tribute to one of my very few muses, Franz Kafka, the surrealistic writer from Prague whose inspired work left a tail on the fire of his words that it still burns bright in me a century later.

Much like my husband, Kafka left this world tragically unaware of how powerful his legacy would be, much less that he would eventually be regarded as one of the most prolific literary figures of the 20th-century. He only ever published a hand full of his work while he was alive because he didn’t believe it worthy. It was his dear friend, Max Brod, who as the executor of his estate blatantly disregarded the directive that his unfinished works be destroyed and published them. Be it not for the fact that Brod betrayed a dying man’s final wishes, the trajectory and longevity of Kafka’s legacy may not have been fully realized.

To say something is “Kafkaesque” is to infer that something is absurd and surreal, if not nightmarish and disorienting, all of which words in so many ways define my own seemingly absurd and surreal existence. Meanwhile, I could wax on poetically about everything “Kafka”, but perhaps the words that I believe sum him up the best are these:

Franz Kafka is regarded as one of the greatest literary figures in recent history. He is known for his uniquely dark, disorienting, and surreal writing style, a style and quality so particular to him, that anything that resembles it has come to be known and referred to as “Kafkaesque”.

{“What Is Kafkaesque?” ~ The Philosophy Of Franz Kafka” … The Pursuit Of Wonder”}

Most people will never know what really happened in our home in the months before Zack’s suicide. To say that unfathomable insanity, if not purely demonic evil besieged us would not give credence to the monster that took up residency in his mind and all but devoured my daughter as well during its reign of unholy terror. She ended up hitting a major wall in the wake of everything that happened two weeks before her sophomore year end, so much so that the school decided to release her earlier and excuse her from final exams so that we could tend to her fragile mental health.

In lieu of finals, her literature teacher had asked her to write a personal memoir without fully knowing why the school had negated her exams. Upon becoming aware that writing a memoir might be the worst possible thing for her under the circumstances, she opted to have her write an essay about her favorite book by her favorite author instead.

~ Zack’s Last Audible Read ~

Unbeknownst to me, Gia had read “The Metamorphosis” several times since Zack’s suicide, having done so because not only was she aware that Kafka was my favorite writer, she knew that it was the last book Zack had listened to nineteen days before he left. She was trying desperately to make sense out of her parents. Again unbeknownst to me, she wrote her essay about “the invisible monster”:

How Do You Fight an Invisible Enemy?

YOU GIVE IT A FACE!

(Written By Gia Embach)

Since the beginning of time or existence itself, for living things big or small, life is marked with a common anguish: To live is to suffer. Over time, however, as humanity has specifically thrust itself into problems of its own device, it’s tried desperately to put incomprehensible ideas or situations into a box so as to minimize the pain and anxiety that fester in the face of the unknown or difficult.

Anguish was arguably never more prevalent than throughout the duration of World War I. The largest, bloodiest, most destructive war the world had yet seen, with such horrors as to reduce the social order and beliefs to rubble in a similar manner to the physical world around people all over the world. During the uneasy postwar years, this society of confused and angry people confided in Czech-born writer Franz Kafka.

His stories almost always depict characters who are in eerie situations they can neither comprehend nor escape from. While this idea of using the imagination to comprehend the uncomfortable and incomprehensible world of emotions and psychology was precious to those living during the postwar years, his message still rings true today, as people still find the comprehension of the human mind to be incredibly difficult and laborious. Through allegorical works of literature and art, artists and writers allow others, and themselves, to understand feelings and situations that would otherwise be terrifying or unfathomable to bring comfort that stems from a shared discomfort.

The Metamorphosis begins with Gregor Samsa awaking in his bed only to find himself transformed into a large cockroach or other bug-like vermin. Gregor becomes increasingly dreary after looking out the window to all the rain and darkness and decides to give in to the pull of sleep calling to him. His new body, however, won’t let him lay comfortably, so he tries desperately to fling himself on his side to rest, only to fall on his armored back, forced to look at his grotesque abdomen and thin, scrambling legs. His mind then drifts to the dread he feels for his stressful job, the importance of sleep, so he begins focusing on the mundane issues in his life that still take precedence over his terrifying condition. His family worriedly knock on his door attempting to converse with him and wondering what the matter is, as Gregor has always been a dutiful worker and had never missed a day of work in his life. Gregor comes to find that he is unable to communicate with human speech and struggles to converse with his worried family on the other side of the wooden door which he soon finds he is unable to open, only doing so after great difficulty.

Emerging from his room, his family and the Chief Clerc are shocked by his appearance and he is soundly scolded by the Chief Clerk. Gregor retreats to his room, injuring himself in the process, and remains isolated inside. He comes to find that his little sister, Grete, attentively looks after him, bringing him fresh food that is unappealing to Gregor despite his hunger. The next morning, he is brought rotting food which he devours ravenously. From his room, Gregor overhears his family’s troubles. His guilt and shame only grow as he listens to his family try to figure out how they will make enough money to support each other, as Gregor is unable to provide for them now. Overwhelmed with sadness and guilt, he returns to his isolation for a few weeks, and Grete slowly but surely becomes less caring for Gregor, and increasingly upset and impatient at her brother’s need for care. When he finally gets enough courage to leave his room, his sister finds him in the kitchen, disturbed. A month later, his mother offers to take the furniture out of his room, so he can crawl more comfortably in his room, however Gregor wishes to hold on to the furniture, keeping himself connected to his humanity, to the familiarity of the Gregor before he woke up that fateful morning as a giant bug. Gregor eventually puts himself upside down on his ceiling, above a painting in his room, the sight of which causes his mother to faint, and his father returns home to find Gregor outside his room once again, only to pelt him with apples, seriously injuring him as he flees back to his room. Gregor takes another month to heal. His family has become exhausted from working and decide to house some loggers for extra income. Later, as Gregor is drawn out by the beautiful sound of a violin, the sight of him disgusts the loggers, causing them to leave without paying rent, so his once gentle and compassionate sister now states that the bug is not really Gregor and has ruined their lives. Returning to his room, he thinks fondly of his family before he dies. His body is found, and his family carries on happily without him as they discuss their plans for the future.

Although there are many interpretations of this eerie tale, I believe it is an allegory for depression and the damage it causes to not only the one who suffers from it, but also those around them. The first time I read it, I was immediately fond of Gregor. In him, I found that sense of comfort that I had mentioned before. Comparing his experience with depression to mine allowed me to feel less alone. Like me, even simple tasks for him such as getting out of bed or talking became excruciatingly difficult and it exhausted him to venture from the safety of the safe, cold comfort and isolation of his room Thinking that someone who was alive over 100 years ago had the same exact feelings that I’ve had made me feel less ashamed of my illness.

In another mirror of my mind, Gregor’s mind drifts to his worries and anxieties about the future and all the little things that could go wrong. Been there! Done that! No matter how long you have depression or how “well” you handle it, there are always things on your mind. They’re like an invisible bag of rocks dragging behind your feet that make your legs tire quickly and your entire body feel incredibly heavy. Each time Gregor tried to reach out and become himself again, he was treated with disgust, disdain, and impatience, reminding him time and again why he had hidden himself away in the first place. To those living in a world outside of a disease festering inside one’s brain, there are no rocks and no issues, there’s just laziness and distraction. “They’re not trying enough” or “They’re being dramatic”.

Grete, who at first gave Gregor aid with love, soon drifted away. When you suffer from depression, it can be hard for others to love and care for you, so when you are living as a creature you yourself can hardly look at without disgust, how COULD you accept any help? Depression tells you that you aren’t worth it and you don’t deserve it. If your symptoms themselves don’t push people away, you will. Giving yourself excuses to be alone, hoping that if you sabotage the good things enough, you might begin to feel like your feelings are valid, but that is a rare thing to come to believe. Then, just like Gregor, you soon find that reaching out only gets you hurt again, and you fully realize all that you no longer have. At this point, a person with depression will respond in a variety of ways. Some seethe with a burning anger, others protect themselves with an icy numbness, and others drown themselves in tears. In other cases, like Gregor, he simply allows himself to fade away. He felt ashamed, guilty, impossible to deal with. The harsh words of others twisting the steel blade he had dug into his chest deeper. He thinks of those who shunned him with love, understanding that nobody could love a monster. He thinks of them and dies, utterly and completely alone.

The Metamorphosis was the last thing my father read before he lost his battle with his own invisible enemy … his “bug”. While literature like Kafka’s does indeed offer comfort, nothing can cover the harsh and bitter reality of mental illness. Only the luckiest ones, and these warriors are far and few between, survive the battle against the hidden enemy. Many, like Gregor and my father, slowly fade away, isolating themselves until death to keep those they love from the harm they know they cause.

The truth of the matter is this: human beings are far from being able to comprehend the human mind in its best form and are further still from understanding a mind that is damaged. However, through people like Kafka, who cut these incredible issues into tiny, more manageable pieces, we can all come to understand it a little better. Those who suffer, can come to understand their suffering. Those who don’t share that same, complex kind of pain, come to understand it. When people understand something so horrible and terrifying, it slowly falls apart as it’s being chipped away like a block of marble until something beautiful and heroic remains.

In closing, I feel it is imperative to appreciate the gift that art can give to humanity: the ability to comprehend the incomprehensible, the ability to look at ourselves as works in progress rather than vermin, and the ability to unite people of all walks of life together in an often-forgotten fact. Once we strip away our flesh and everything of this Earth, each of us has a soul that is broken, and each of our souls, whether we acknowledge it or not, has a burning desire to be loved. That fact can only be nurtured and accepted through people like Kafka who aren’t afraid to brave the nightmares of existing, people who shine lights in darkness so others can see light.

Of all the things she could have written about, and this despite the fact that she had been excused from writing a personal memoir, in many ways she did write a personal memoir. Can you FEEL the ABSURDITY? Can you FATHOM the SURREALNESS? Can you appreciate this cosmic kick in the face of that elusive demon bug that has infested the minds of too many Gregors to count?

FUCK YOU “popular monster”! You may have obliterated, disintegrated, and annihilated my husband, but you will NOT feast upon another carcass in my divinely punctuated halo if takes my very last breath to keep you under foot. I’ve FOUND my way out of your web you fucking LIAR and miserable CHEATER.

I’ve fallen IN LOVE

with NOT falling apart!

HAPPY 500TH DIARY ENTRY TO ME! May you rest eternally Zachariah and Franz, two of the few mortal men who were able to reach the depths of my soul. You may be gone, but you’ll never be forgotten, nor the countless ways you both inspired my metamorphosis.

Last, but not least, THANK YOU from my bursting heart to my Mona Lisa daughter for helping me finally find the words I’d long been searching for to honor my favorite beetle.

If you or someone you love is battling an “invisible monster”, PLEASE reach out for help! The “SAMHSA National Helpline” is a FREEE, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.

Always … Keep … FIGHTING!

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