The Funny Thing About Mental Illness

The Funny Thing About Mental Illness

03/27/18/The Funny Thing About Mental Illness

 

The funny thing about mental illness

Is that a diagnosis works by

Spilling your lie over someone

Who tries to find a match

But the picture puzzle is just

Shades of color and missing pieces

 

The funny thing about mental illness

Is that the treatment is just throwing things at the problem

And deciding which thing

Is the least bad

But the problem is camouflaged

And deftly dodges the slow projectiles

 

The funny thing about mental illness

Is that it’s a flowing river ride

Sometimes softly flowing

Sometimes lower or higher than normal

But there are also rapids

And terrifying waterfalls

 

The funny thing about mental illness

Is that it’s all in your head

So those around you have a hard time

Believing that you are fighting for your lie

But sometimes they just don’t care

Enough to stop pushing buttons

Until something breaks

 

The funny thing about mental illness

Is that you never really “get better”

You just learn to cope better

But coping better means fewer people

Believe that you are struggling

And more people are pushing buttons

 

The funny thing about mental illness

Is that it is exhausting to just exist

Everything takes more energy to get done

And if you get derailed, it takes even longer

To calm down and get back to it

But people just think you’re lazy

And they derail you anytime

Because it’s not like you do anything anyway

 

The funny thing about mental illness

Is that you can’t just let things go

And the more that people harp on you over it,

The more distressful and disruptive it is going to be

But they don’t care about sparking an anxiety attack

Because you don’t actually matter

As much as the thing they want

 

The funny thing about mental illness

Is that it’s not funny at all

But everyone treats it like a joke

Until you start laughing too

 

I inadvertently took a break from this blog because of mental illness. Last Memorial Day, I had a PTSD inspired anxiety attack and ended up shoving my way out of a literal corner and walking for around a mile with no shoes. I found myself in a park with bleeding and burnt feet and no phone. Luckily a stranger came by and called an ambulance or me, in retrospect, I should have asked him to call my spouse instead. I ended up with basic wound care, a diagnosis of “anxiety” and an ambulance bill my insurance decided wasn’t necessary for them to pay. I also ended up getting anti0depressants and a good dose of fat shaming from my, now former, family physician.

That medication amped up my executive dysfunction and I gained over 50lbs without changing my eating habits one way or another.

I went off that medication a month ago with no ill effects and have been playing catch-up ever since. Over the last 9 months, I have developed some bad habits and so have my kids. My home is no longer clean, I haven’t written fiction or poetry and I almost lost my job.

Apparently, I need my anxiety to function. I am doing a lot better and working with a good medical team and support system to get back where I want to be, so don’t worry. But, I wanted to share this to let y’all know that I don’t sugar-coat my lie to look perfect online. I don’t want or need pity. I want to end the stigma around mental illness, because the funny thing about mental illness is that it is more common than you think and the support systems are not there to help. Because it is so stigmatized.

Next time someone is struggling, instead of telling them to suck it up (my favorite is “moms don’t get days off” because it is just bursting with shit) maybe ask how you can help.

And never stand between someone and their exit, especially after they have answered your question and asked to be left alone.

My Journey: As I Sit Here 1999

My Journey: As I Sit Here 1999

Conformity was the thing that I blamed the most for my angst throughout high school. “As I Sit Here” is based on the fact that I felt different and outcast. I was trying too hard to go the other way for those four years, to try and be as different and unique as possible. I guess it worked as my senior class voted me as “Most Unique,” but at the time it was a mask that I wore trying to be so uncool that I would be cool.

1999/As I Sit Here
As I sit here all alone
I can only think of what life has shown.
If you’re unique—you’re rejected
If you’re redundant—you’re cool.
If you dress how you like—you’re ugly
If you hardly dress—the guys all drool.
And in this world of individuality—the individual is rejected,
While the clone is readily accepted.
How can we be so the same and yet,
Say that individuality is the best bet?
As I sit here and think
About those who are pushed to the brink,
Not the brink of Death-
But of ‘No Resistance’.
The brink of giving in to the Drone’s persistence.
We should be more accepting,
And not so man would be attempting-
To make themselves exactly the same
As someone who has vast ‘fame’.
Don’t care what the world thinks about you-
Only how you think about you.
As I sit here and ponder,
About this world’s most terrible wonder.
I am grateful that I haven’t been changed by
Someone who would make my uniqueness die.
I am grateful that I can be me.
Even if I am the only one who can see-
That individuality doesn’t mean exactly like
The person next to you or at the mike.
Life is meant to be lived by the individual
Not cheap imitations of those who are ‘cool’.
As I sit here and make conclusions
I pledge to myself that my image—my life—won’t be an illusion.
I will live my life how I want to-
Instead of letting it be decided by you.

The ultimate irony of “As I Sit Here” is that I did form my whole life into an illusion that was decided by my peers. I wasn’t until after I had my second child that I realized how little of my life actually reflected the person I really was inside. I’m still trying to find him, I think that he’s going to be pretty awesome once I dig through this debris.

The Cutting

The Cutting

10/28/14/The Cutting
I missed this
The cutting
Holding the blade in one hand
And my skin taut with the other
Like watching the fat sliced from the side of beef
Slice and pull
Until the weight of the fat pulls it away
To splat on the floor
How deep do I cut before the weight of this world
Overcomes the bonds
And I fall away to the floor
A gift for the dogs

Not the wrists or arms though
That’s the first place they look
The insides of my ankles and calves
The tableau that lays flight
As I sit with legs crossed
Little blood with the bright red scoring
Just the exquisite pain
Of the repeated scratch
Invisible even to those who look
Just like me

Beautiful words fail me
As the pen and page have
So I carve one phrase
Into the deficient body
Not Good Enough
Because
In the end
That is all there is
And all that I am

This poem seems apt today. I’m constantly reminded that my stuff doesn’t matter to anyone else. My possessions, my writings, my hobbies and even my preferences get shoved aside for everyone else’s stuff. When it hits me that I am spending all my energy doing things for them that they won’t do for themselves, not getting any thanks for it, and ending up with my possessions or plans ruined, it really hits me hard. I’m not cutting tonight, but I want to. I will always want to.

The Expectations of Family

The Expectations of Family

This past weekend I was able to spend a day with family and I generally had a good time. It reminded me of other family times, such as a five-day trip to my childhood home in 2013. There were good times then too, but also some not so good times. Trying to wrestle a cranky toddler during an Eagle Scout Ceremony, for instance, but we all lived through them. One thing that I noticed is that each person that I talked to during that weekend had an expectation of who I am. This is not necessarily a bad thing and I must say that I do the same thing, I don’t really know anyone who doesn’t. As I talked and visited with family, extended family, and practically family I realized that some of them were going off of incredibly old information about me and didn’t seem interested in learning anything new and different. At thirty I was just starting to figure myself out for me, but I found myself fitting back into the expected roles that others see in me. To this cousin, I am the wild child with purple hair and a contrary attitude; to that uncle, I’m still an ignorant teen who talks too much, etc. Much of the time I was talked over, which is one of my biggest pet peeves, and I found myself just shutting up and wondering how things would be if those I was talking to were actually listening.

05/24/13/Expectations
How do you break the masks
Born of the expectations and opinions of others
When you say one thing
And they repeatedly hear another
Is it worth the effort
To take the hammer
And break those masks
Or is it better to just
Walk away
From the expectations and opinions
And from the family
Perpetuating them
To never look back
At the masks

I am trying very hard to break all of the masks that I have made over the years and to not fall back into that trap. The features picture is titled “Pale in Comparison” and I drew it to represent who I am with versus without the masks. I tried to be too perfect in too many situations and it led me to a breakdown. Super-mom couldn’t stand the sight of her kids. Super-wife wanted to strangle the husband. Super-homemaker couldn’t even find the vacuum. So, I locked myself in my room for almost two weeks and growled at anyone who dared to disturb me. The conclusion was that if I was true to myself, broke all the masks, and ignored the expectations of others, then I could be happier. The trick is to figure out who I am under all of the masks. Breaking the masks for myself is fairly easy, breaking them in the eyes of others is another matter and I am sure that the expectations of family, friends, and others will be my biggest hurdle. It’s almost 4 years later, and I still haven’t managed to make any headway.

My Journey: The Odd Side of 1999

My Journey: The Odd Side of 1999

I am odd, I’ll never claim that I am not. One of the things that people, particularly my husband, think is the most odd about me is that I love cheesy disaster movies. I blame my dad for this one. If he didn’t like watching them, then I wouldn’t have started watching them with him. I also blame my dad for my love of Science Fiction movies and both of my parents for my love of reading. I’m fairly certain that they do not mind being blamed for those things. One of the earliest memories that I have of Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles came not from reading the book or seeing it referenced in a movie. It is of an anthology of Science Fiction stories that my dad had on audio tape. These stories were narrated by two of my favorite Star Trek actors. The Ray Bradbury works on that anthology included “There Will Come Soft Rains” and it has stuck with me more than any other single work. These two poems were in part inspired by that story and in part by other works of Science Fiction on page and screen.

1999/The Blast
Tires screeching, fear binding.
Heat searing, light blinding.
Everyone now scared, now dead.
Burning light flashed first orange, then red.
Last one died seconds after the first.
All of the consequences, this one is worst.
Sadness gropes the rest of the nation,
The government cowers in humiliation.

To me I always thought that “There Will Come Soft Rains” was about an accidental bombing. It wasn’t until much later, when I was able to read the whole anthology that Bradbury wrote about Mars, that I realized it was about war. But, when I was 15, I didn’t understand that human nature is more about war than about accidents. Of course, the odd side of a writer is that we imagine scenarios for almost every circumstance. This means that I put myself in stories to see how it would feel to be there and how it would feel to live that live. This also means that sometimes the habit backfires on me and I end up with nightmares.

1999/Nuclear Blast
Light, the beginning
Flooding over all
Into each and every soul
Into the cracks in every wall
Then comes the realization
That all you knew is gone
You are left alone
But you must continue on
Out into the light you step
To see the destruction of your world
Not caring now what comes to pass
Human pride eternally muraled
You are now the last
The only one to continue
The only one to remember the past
The only one to see the final death of the human race

I would watch random, rerun, episodes of The Twilight Zone growing up and was told a lot about episodes I’d never seen. The one that terrified me the most was about the survivor of the end of the world who finally had time to read, only to have his glasses break. I don’t know why, but that has been more my version of Purgatory than anything else I have seen, heard, or read over the years. As odd as it may seem, that episode convinced me that I would rather die in an apocalypse than be one of only a handful to survive it.

Different styles of writing embrace different traits. For example, the fact that I am odd translates very well into my Fiction writing and the fact that I am edgy translates well into my poetry. In 1999 I was still experimenting with what worked well and where. The Journey towards that goal is far from over, but I am getting there and learning about myself along the way.

Trigger Project: Gas Pumps

Trigger Project: Gas Pumps

11/29/16/Gas Pumps

16 and white-knuckled
Behind the wheel
Trying to will my hands to not jerk
To follow the argument in my head
How big a Boom, do you think?
There are people gassing up
Fuck ‘em, I want to explode
Forget about it, there’s got to be a shut-off like in that movie
The Stand, I love that movie, we should watch it.
Bet we’re faster, it’s coming up on the right.
That movie is old, probably better shut-off technology now
We’d miss school and out friends would be sad
You Fucking MISSED It! What the Hell, it was our Chance!
Are we sure B even exists? Or A or K? What if all our friends are just illusions? Seriously, do we know?

30+ and white-knuckled
Behind the wheel
Trying to will my hands to not jerk
To follow the argument in my head
Sometimes the argument in my backseat is louder
Sometimes the Boy distracts the voices with questions
Sometimes the Girl distracts them with songs
But they are still there
The Anarchist
The Molly Mormon
The Nihilist
All of Us
Just waiting
For the momentary lapse

My Journey: 1998 Holiday Poems

My Journey: 1998 Holiday Poems

Going through some books and paperwork in storage and I found a whole page of poetry about holidays that had stowed away in a yearbook. There were three 1998 holiday poems on the page, including one of my favorites. I’m glad that I was able to find more from this year that were happy and fun.

1998/Halloween Night
It’s Halloween night
And the moon is bright
The skeletons dance
By the eerie light
The witches’ brew
Is a wicked stew
One drip, one drop
One sip, one slop
POOF…no you
Stay in bed
Cover your head
Don’t go out on this scary night
And watch the ghosts and goblins take flight
It’s Halloween night
And the moon is bright
The skeletons dance
By the eerie light

This was one of my favorite poems, it won me an award in a small church contest, and I love the cadence. Halloween has long been my favorite holiday because of the ability to dress up and have fun.

1998/Spring
Spring is the time
For rhythm and rhyme
In the art of love

Not all of my happier themed poems are cliché, but this one is a bit trite. I didn’t dive too deep for my 1998 holiday poems, but they do show that I wasn’t all doom and gloom.

1998/Thanksgiving Day
Thanksgiving Day, in every way
Is a perfect holiday
With cream pies, family ties
And food that is a feast for my eyes.
I hardly remember
That in one warm November,
The Pilgrims knelt to pray.
Thanksgiving Day, in every way,
Is a perfect holiday!

I think that I was trying too hard to copy the success of the Halloween poem with this one, and it really shows. I copied the cadence and even the rhyming scheme; but, I tried to bring poignancy into a short poem with a fun feel.

In all, I’d say that my 1998 Holiday poems, like most of my poetry from that year, could use a good revision to bring it closer to the person who I am today. It’s been nineteen years and I have grown and changed quite a bit in that time. Not all of the changes are for the better, I am much more jaded than I would like, but the changes in my writing style were hard won and I think I’ll keep them.

Bad Day

Bad Day

With depression some days are better than others. Some days I can get out of bed and function like I am supposed to. I do my chores, go to work, smile, laugh, play with the kids. Some days are worse than others though. Some days it takes everything I have just to roll over enough to check the time, let alone get up and let the demands start. It’s the days in between that I try to focus on. When I can actually write on those bad days it makes me feel better, and it can sometimes be my best work.

06/23/14/Bad Day
Depression, pulling at me
A weight around my neck
As I struggle to tread water

Life, thick and viscous
Not flowing so much as oozing
As time flies by

Hours, dragging and pulling smoke
Into my lazy haze
Before the days drift away in a cloud

Lists, piling ever higher
The refuse of my days
Left over and rotting

Sleep, heavy but fleeting
Dream of better things
All the what-ifs

Joy, orange and conical
Held on a stick
For this stubborn ass

Work, slipping away
The backwards conveyor
Somehow speeding up

Hope, hidden and quiet
I got lost on the count
Too long a lead and it’s gone

Playing With Extended Metaphors and Bouncy Balls

Playing With Extended Metaphors and Bouncy Balls

It has been quite the struggle to find a way of structuring my days so that I can get things done and not feel too guilty about what got left behind. I constantly feel like I’m being told what my priorities should be and it drives me nuts. I started by gathering up all of the papers representing things that I need to do in a day. The instruction sheet for my work articles, the list of cleaning that I need to do, a list of organizational ideas, and more. I even wrote down my exercise plan so I wouldn’t forget to do that in a day. I then paper clipped all of these pages together and started working on the top one. When that one got frustrating or I lost focus, I would move on to the next piece of paper. That’s where the bouncy balls come in. The first couple of days I felt like I couldn’t do a task for more than about five minutes before bouncing to the next one. I was a bouncy ball, because I am not as awesome as Tigger, or a bubble getting ready to pop.

05/19/14/Ball
I am a ball
Small and hard,
Bouncing, rebounding, and crashing
Through the house
And my daily lists
Not enough force to
Knock stuff off
But enough to push them
Closer to the edge

Big and orange,
I dribble my way through
Work, paperwork, chores
Launching toward the basket
Of crafts and writing
Just to bounce off the rim
And land in the hands of the opposition

Oblong and brown,
Tucked under one arm I make
My way down the field of
Organization and cleaning
Shouldering through the tasks that
Try to drag me down
Tripping over kids
And landing a yard short

White and stitched,
Held then pitched,
Flying fast into the cleaning mitt
Met with a crafting bat
And sent over the line
Foul ball, no bases and no outs
Yet

Black and white
I graze the grass as I fly
From foot to foot down the field
Stopped long enough to aim for the next task
Working to cleaning
Cleaning to kids
Kids to paperwork
Then bounced off of the pole
And sent back across the field

Why can’t I be a golf ball
Small and dimpled,
Struck with long drives towards my goals
And then gently prodded towards the finish
Getting 18 holes in
Before lunch
Despite sand traps and water hazards
To finish my day under par?

The paperclip started annoying me so I eventually wrote a list of categories and things that I need to do in each one so I can keep bouncing. I don’t think that I can stop bouncing at this point. Doing my rotation ensures that at everything that I need to do gets looked at each day. Even if it didn’t get done, it got looked at and maybe worked on. Then when people ask what I did in a day I can list off each category instead of saying “I worked and took care of kids” and hearing that I should have cleaned.
One of my favorite literary devices is the extended metaphor and you can see them a lot in my poetry. Knowing me, this is because someone once told me that I was a genius for using one in a poem. Most of my poetry can be called extended metaphor poems without stretching the definition too much. For me the difficult part is knowing when to stop. In this poem I used bouncy balls, basketballs, footballs, baseballs, soccer balls, and golf balls. I could have kept going with other sports balls or with balls of yarn, rubber bands, balled up clothing, or many more. But I decided to stop before it got too annoying and, I really do hope that you’ve had a ball reading this.

My Journey: 1998 The Angst Continues

My Journey: 1998 The Angst Continues

I’m not going to lie here, this entry was very difficult for me to write and I really thought about giving this project up because of it. I went through thousands of pieces of paper containing hundreds of poems, stories, and ideas in trying to find more of my poetry from this year. I was really trying to find something happy in this sea of sad. I could not find anything. The closest that I found was the poem “Smiley” which starts out almost silly and then seems as though I’m starting to lose touch with reality. I finally told myself that I was fifteen, it was the end of my Freshman year and the beginning of my Sophomore year of high school, and I was so full of teenage angst that it was coming out of my ears.

1998/Smiley
A smiley is a special thing
My smiley is the only one
Waiting for me to come back
Begging me to have fun
And come away from the Eternal Black
If you knew the real reason
I always wear my smiley
You’d cry too for a season
As I wonder “Why Me?”
Sometimes I know my smiley
Is the only one who truly cares
The only one to stand by me
When I want to slip away unawares
My smiley’s never critical
Never teasing or making fun
Never calling me a radical
Or saying I’m the crazy one
Smiley is my only true friend
Convincing me to endure to the end
Who thought two dots and a line
Could turn away the gun

Dramatic and crazy, just like me. I’ve moved away from the angst and as the years went on I focused those feelings on more existential questions. You can see that in this next poem. I was still focused on the fact that those around me are oblivious to my plight, and still thinking that if they knew how awesome I was that things would be different. I’ll eventually learn that all the popularity in the world won’t cure depression, but not for a decade.

1998/How I Feel
They can’t know how I feel,
When they crush me under heel,
They don’t know how I cry,
Every time that they lie.
I can’t be me,
Because they can’t see,
“Different is good,”
As everyone should.
Sometimes I give into distress,
Needing a friend to break the depress.
Many come bearing a smile,
But few will go the extra mile.
I wish everyone could see,
The strange uniqueness that is me.
How can they do that they do?
Constantly teasing me and you?

Eventually I started having days where even just jotting down a couple of lines about the sinking feeling in my soul was enough to get through the day. Some of the shorter poetry throughout the years that I have been writing are my most poignant, and yet they are almost flukes as I tend to run at the mouth a bit.

1998/Cried
Today I have cried
Bitter tears of a sad life
I hurt more and more

There didn’t seem to be an end in sight to the things that I was feeling and it really seemed like no one could possibly understand what I was going through. I kept thinking that if I could just find the right combination of words that people would listen and everything would be fixed. These poems are all I can find from the year 1998, the other years are much more prolific and have a better variety of different moods of poems. I still struggled with teenage angst, and sometimes I think I still do even though I haven’t been a teenager for a very long time.