I am Sisyphus

Here’s the thing: I’m having a hard time.

Yes, I’ve beaten things: I’ve beaten anorexia. I said goodbye to self-harm. I survived a suicide attempt. I’ve been told that I’ve impacted so many people’s lives, but this winter’s been long and hard. It’s been cold and snowy since before Thanksgiving, and I should be used to this crazy western NY weather by now, but I’m not.

I’ve been living with Depression for 7 years, and I should be used to it by now, but I’m not. And I don’t know how to make this feeling go away: I feel like I’m drowning. I’m being suffocated by the weight of the world’s worries, and like Sisyphus, I’ve been rolling this stone up this hill for what feels like an eternity; and everytime I get to the top, I fall down again.

My knees are permanently scarred.

Somedays I’m ok, but somedays I don’t think I’ll ever be ok again. I’ve learned that these feelings come in waves. And right now, the sun has thawed the ice-caps, the ocean levels are rising, my levees have broken, and I’m drowning in all these feelings I’m feeling all at once.

People tell me, “Carpe Diem.” But sometimes the onlything I can carpe is getting out of bed, and even that sometimes stabs me in the back, like Brutus to Caesar.

Et tu, Brute?

Trebuchet.

I feel like a trebuchet is lobbing 25 tons of burning coals at my skin, and I’m catching on fire. Because I was taught ‘stop, drop, and roll’ over and over again, I thought catching on fire would be more of a problem. Maybe the concept applies to metaphorical fires, too.

Stop everything you’re doing.

Drop into bed.

Roll away into your happy place.

My happy place is in a far off land that begins, “Once upon a time.” I get lost in words, and every so often, I find myself wandering among the sign posts that point from the beginning to the end, and I’m not sure which way is up.

I believe in the magic of words, and I believe the best time to read poetry is 1:30 in the morning, when the world is silent, and I’m feeling everything at once.

My soul has no clock, which is why I’m writing a poem, instead of doing homework, because it’s 1:30 in the morning there, and I’m feeling everything at once.

I’ve uttered the phrase ‘help me, Jesus,’ so many times, I’m sure the phrase is tattoed on my lips 7×70 times, which is how many times I’m supposed to forgive. And I’ve forgiven more than can be expected, but this pain in my chest won’t go away.

Sometimes this pain in my chest is the only way I know I’m still alive.

A professor tokd me yesterday, “I know you’re having a hard time, but I appreciate your smile. I appreciate the way you put 100% into everything, even on days when your 100% is less than half of normal. I appreciate the way you get out of bed everyday.”

I get out of bed everyday; I show up to life, but sometimes life fails to show up for me. And sometimes the only way I know how to survive is to grab the bull by the horns, and throw myself onto its back, which makes no sense. But, I’d rather be the bull than be the flag the bull’s charging towards.

Sometimes I get tired of throwing myself out of the way of the charging bull, of the oncoming flood. Sometimes I just have to ride the waves for a while.

This is a ride I’m willing to waive, because it doesn’t have a claim on me anymore.

I’ve been living with Depression for 7 years.

Somedays it’s hard to be normal. Somedays the pain in my chest makes it hard to breathe.

Sometimes this pain in my chest is the only way I know I’m still alive.

Advertisements

Goodbye, Ana

December 23, 2011:

“Hello, yes. It’s Dr. — from the Pediatric ER. I have a 17 year old female with mild anorexia. She also has appendicitis.”

Wait, what? How did he know? I thought I hid it so well. I mean, he is a doctor. I hope he’s not judging me.

Anorexia.

For me, it started when I became so depressed I wanted to die. It started in 9th grade, and it didn’t end until college. It started when the cutting wasn’t enough to make my pain go away. And even when I decided to live, when I put down the razor for the last time, I didn’t start eating again.

It got worse.

August 2012:

I walked into the Dining Hall on the first day of my College Experience. I saw so many beautiful faces. I wasn’t one of them, so I walked out.

….

When I tell people I was anorexic, they find it hard to believe. Sometimes I find it hard to believe. I find it hard to believe that a year ago I was skipping meals like an atheist skips church. I didn’t need God. My God was my rumbling stomach, and I found comfort in the rumbly in my tummy (as Pooh Bear would say).

I stopped eating because I didn’t think I was beautiful enough. I would get up everyday, and I would look in the mirror, hate what I saw, and would compensate by being someone I’m not. And it was physically and mentally exhausting. Between the not eating and the not being, I was having a really hard time.

I was fighting a Battle of Comparisons, and I couldn’t win. I was always not good enough, not pretty enough, not ‘insert adjective here’ enough.

And people don’t understand when I explain to them I wasn’t trying to die. I was trying to live. But I didn’t know how to live in a body I hated so much. I felt like my life was spiraling out of control, and there was nothing I could do about it. So, I controlled the one thing I knew how: the amount of food I ate.

And everyday it was a battle. Everyday is a battle for people who struggle with anorexia. Your stomach is telling you to eat, but your mind is telling you, “Nah, bro. No good.” And how can you argue with that? You know what they say: Mind over matter. Or in this case: Mind over stomach growling. It’s finding the perfect balance between how much you want to eat and how much you’re willing to let yourself eat. It’s about taking one bite at a time until you hate yourself so much you can’t take another bite. And then it’s about repeating this action over and over.

It gets to the point where you have two options: either you die, or you get help.

I got help. I told my friends. They started holding me accountable, eating lunch with me, checking to make sure I ate, making sure I didn’t skip a meal.

And I don’t know when things began to change. I didn’t wake up one day and decide to start eating. And I don’t know why I had the sudden change of mind. I didn’t wake up one morning and decide I was worth enough to eat. I didn’t wake up one morning and decide I was beautiful. I didn’t wake up one morning and decide my life was back in control, because it’s not. I don’t have my life controlled. At all.

But I went to Guatemala, and suddenly my life began to change. I found God again, and for once in my life I knew what my purpose was and is.

I was so focused on trying to be beautiful, I missed what was right in front of me. I am beautiful because of who I am. I am beautiful because of who I was. I am beautiful because God made me in his image.

It’s March 24, 2014. I haven’t skipped a meal in 6 months.

I’m a recovering Anorexic.

And I am beautiful.

 

 

 

Sorry I Punched You in the Face, but Your Ignorance was Asking for it.

To the group of guys in my campus library who said that girls who are raped are asking for it:

Fuck you.

Normally, I don’t swear, because I believe that words are powerful, and I was raised by parents who got mad if I said ‘crap’ too often. But, I’m an English Major, and there are approximately 1,025,109 words in the English language, but I can’t think of a better way to sum up how I feel about what you said than this: Fuck you. I hope you get high-fived in the face with a chair.

That might wipe the condescending grins off your stupid faces.

It’s not your fault that you believe girls who are raped are asking for it. I blame society. I blame the way women have been seen as inferior for years. I blame the phrase “boys will be boys.” I blame the way we teach our daughters that if a boy is mean to her, if he pulls her hair, he likes her. I think that’s why women stay in abusive relationships; she feels obligated to stay. He says he loves her. He beats her up with his words and his fists, and she thinks she deserves it.

But let me tell you a story. It’s my story. Because you say I deserve what happened to me. That some how because of the clothes I wore, the things I did, I deserved to be assaulted. But I didn’t.

When I was sexually assaulted, I was wearing a hoodie and jeans. When I was sexually assaulted, I had the audacity to tell a guy, “No.” I had the audacity to refuse a date from a guy who was more of a jerk than a man. I had the audacity to not be a prize that’s won.

I wrote what’s below a while ago, but I think you need to hear it now. So, I’m sharing it again, because apparently, guys like you need to check your privilege.

When I was in first grade, I was told that if a guy was mean to me, he liked me. I would go tell the teacher that Billy stole the ball I was playing with, and he wouldn’t give it back.

“Kaleigh,” I was told, “He likes you.”

“Sam pulled my hair.”

“He likes you.”

7 years later, I’m lying on a school bathroom floor, and I’m wondering if these guys are showing me they love me. And now I’m walking on egg shells around every guy I meet, not wanting to be loved again, because if this is how a guy tells a girl he loves her, I’d much rather be single forever.

I was taught in school how to protect myself from rape. Don’t walk alone. Don’t walk alone at night. Don’t go out at night. Keep your body hidden. Don’t give them a reason.

If the reason was turning him down when he asked me out, because he was a jerk, then yes, I gave him a reason.  Maybe I gave him a reason because I was too quiet all the time, and too loud at the wrong times. And apparently, his friends decided I was the worst and decided to punish me too. And now I’m stuck keeping it a secret because I don’t want the blaming questions.

“Why were you alone?”

“What were you wearing?”

It’s been 5 years, and I’m still getting told by some people to praise God I don’t remember it all. Let me tell you, I remember it enough to know I don’t want to remember it all.

It’s been 5 years, and sometimes unexpected contact is still the worse, and sometimes it burns as if I’m holding the sun in my hands.

It’s been 5 years, and sometimes I still have to defend myself against judging glances. Because, apparently, has someone who has been blessed with two x chromosomes, instead of one, the only job I have in life is to not let myself get raped.

Hold up, let me tell you something.

My job as a female is to do whatever the heck I want to do. I am not part of the “weaker sex.” And I may not be able to bench press as much as you men, but I know how to be strong. I may have wider hips, but I have a fighter’s stance.

And I don’t want to hear these excuses about men having a voracious appetite for sex. The word appetite should only be used when talking about food. I am not food.

Sometimes my thoughts threaten to eat me alive.

But, I will not be silenced. I am a statistic, but that doesn’t define me.

Because one day in my first week of college, somebody said, “If someone hates himself so much they want to die, they’re better off dead.” And then,  ”If someone gets raped, they probably deserved it.” So I told my story, and then he had the audacity to defend the other guys’ actions.

I’m pretty sure the “Bros Before Hoes,” part of the Bro Code does not apply in this situation. Because he wasn’t justified, and I didn’t provoke. I was in the wrong place in the wrong time surrounded by the wrong people. And their touch is woven into the deepest part of my skin, and 5 years later, I still get shivers down my spine. I was told no one would love me, and I believed them, until I realized I have the most amazing friends.

I was told not to get raped. They were not told how not to rape.

Guys tell one another, “You throw like a girl!” Since when is being a girl an insult? Some of the strongest people I know are women. Being a girl is not an insult.

I am not an insult. You are not an insult. I will tell my daughter she is not an insult.

I may be a girl, but I know how to fight. And so will my daughters. My sons will learn the meaning of “no.”

“No” is not “maybe.” “No” is not “convince me.”

And I will teach them both the two best things I’ve ever learned: How to love myself, despite everything. And how to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start again.

Because repetition forms habits.

I’ve found my voice again. So yes, I may be ‘beautiful’ or whatever, but I am so much more.

I am woman.

I am a fighter.

I am a survivor.

And I will teach my children to be the same.

I will teach my Children what love is, and what it’s not. Because you shouldn’t be afraid of love.

I’m not afraid anymore.   -“Afraid in Love”

I’m not afraid anymore, but I still get mad at guys like you. Because guys like you are the ones who wink at girls on the bus. Guys like you are the ones who catcall girls on the street. Guys like you make girls uncomfortable in their own skin. Guys like you are the reasons for some of my sleepless nights and the scars on my skin. Guys like you fail to realize that work of art you’re canvassing is not yours to steal. Girls bodies are not your playground. We are not simply woodchips crunching under your feet.

We are people too.

I’m a person despite being a female who’s been raped.

And I know that the next time a guy lays a hand on me when it’s unwanted, he’ll be on the floor so fast, he won’t know what hit him.

Spoiler alert: My fist will have been the thing that hit him.

So, the next time I hear anybody say that girls who are raped deserve it, I will punch them in the face. And if they get offended, I’ll just say, “Sorry I punched you in the face, but your ignorance was asking for it.”

 

Just Keep Swimming

Disclaimer: this post is a post I’ve been mulling over for a few weeks now. I’ve been trying to figure out the way to treat this subject with the sensitivity it deserves, because yes, I can be open and candid about it, but for some people it’s just not easy. The wounds are too fresh. I’m showing you my cards here. I’m wiping off my poker face. I’m putting it all on the table. This post, like so many others, is about suicide. And I need, no, I want, you guys to know that before you keep reading. Because I understand that some of your wounds are fresh, but I also know that sometimes talking about can speed up the healing process. I also know that sometimes talking about it can make it worse. So, if the latter is the case, stop reading. I don’t want to make your burden heavier than it already is. Make yourself a cup of tea and go to your happy place. If the former is the case, make yourself a cup of tea and read this post. Either way, I want you all to know that you are loved, and there are people out there who understand your pain, who will be willing to help carry your burden.

 

It’s been 4 years, 1 month, and 1 day since I attempted suicide. I survived. Yet, so many others do not.

I’m not going to give you statistics, because if you want to know, you can look up the numbers on your own. I’m not going to give you statistics, because this isn’t speech class where I need numbers to convince my audience to agree with me. It’s not that I don’t have facts, because I do.

Fact: Suicide is a moment.

Fact: Depression is a race.

Fact: Suicide is a moment. A moment when someone decides they are tired of running.

Fact: Depression is a race, and if you stop running for even a second, it catches you.

Fact: Suicide is a moment. A moment when someone decides they are tired of running. In that moment, it doesn’t matter that there are people who love them.

Fact: Depression is a race, and if you stop running for even a second, it catches you. If you stop and rest, it begins to grow on you.

Fact: Suicide is a moment. A moment when someone decides they are tired of running. In that moment, it doesn’t matter that there are people who love them. Because all of sudden, life hits them in the chest, and they realize this sadness will never go away.

Fact: Depression is a race, and if you stop running for even a second, it catches you. If you stop and rest, it begins to grow on you. It’s like a vine that blocks out the sun, a python strangling the joy out of you, and rust that corrodes the bones.

Fact: Suicide is a moment. A moment when someone decides they are tired of running. In that moment, it doesn’t matter that there are people who love them. Because all of a sudden, life hits them in the chest, and they realize this sadness will never go away. And they dare themselves to do it.

Fact: Depression is a race, and if you stop running for even a second, it catches you. If you stop and rest, it begins to grow on you. It’s like a vine that blocks out the sun, a python strangling the joy out of you, and rust that corrodes the bones. And it’s so easy it sit there and let it consume you, because it whispers to you of an eternal sleep.

Fact: Life is made up of moments.

Fact: Life is a race.

When I am up high, I get scared. Because I’m telling myself, I could really do this. I could. But then, when I think these thoughts, I think of how great it would be to fall in love, how great it would be to travel the world. And I return back to normal. But I hold on to the moment and the thought of what it would be like to travel through the air. And I know I’ll probably never take myself up on the dare again, but the memory gives me a comfort that the day is mine to choose. Because the memory of how I felt in that moment when I swallowed those pills is tucked away in my brain like a sour candy stored in my cheek. I don’t like sour candy.

Some people do.

Some people take themselves up on the dare, because they don’t see how life can get any better. And I can understand why, because sometimes I’m tired of running, which is usually 2.5 minutes after I begin, because I have asthma.

Some people take themselves up on the dare, and they leave their families behind. And their families are left picking up the pieces and are trying to make them fit. But like a jigsaw puzzle with a missing piece, it will never be the same.

And we can’t save everybody, but we should certainly try.

Because I know first-hand how devastating a suicide can be. My mother lost a cousin to it, and my dad did too. And they almost lost a daughter.

And in the last year, my high school has lost two graduates to it, and now the families and friends are wondering why.

I don’t know the reason for other people, but I know mine.

And I think society is talking about it more, which is good, but I think people need to better understand that this is a disease. People like me can’t just snap out of it. Because we can recover for a while, but it will inevitably return, so we live our lives in the moment. The future is scary, and it’s not always guaranteed.

Because it’s all too easy to drown in an ocean of tears, and sometimes we forget we can float in salt water.

 

 

I’ve Missed the Son.

As I’m writing this, the sun is streaming through my window. And after a long week of late nights writing papers, there’s nothing better to do on a Friday afternoon than what I’m doing now: sitting in bed, reading poetry, and writing the same.

It’s been a long, brutally cold winter here in Upstate New York, and I’ve missed the sun  and the warmth. But, I’ve mostly missed the sun. The bitter cold and the walk across campus with the blowing snow would almost be bearable if the sun shone down.

Hold on. I think I need to start this poem again.

I saw the sun today. It looked like a cross. I was reminded of the Son and where I wouldn’t be right now if it wasn’t for him. The sun illuminates the earth, and the Son (capital S-O-N) illuminates peoples’ lives. And it is good.

It’s winter right now, but days like today remind me spring is on its way. Spring reminds me of fresh life and beauty. Summer reminds me of all the dreams I have. Fall reminds me that everything beautiful has an end. But ends bring new beginnings. Winter reminds me I’m still alive even on my worst days. Because some days it’s so cold, my lungs feel like they’re on fire, but in those moments, I remember I’m still breathing.

Speaking of breathing, I have asthma, and sometimes my lungs forget how to work, especially when I laugh. After 19 years of laughing, you’d think I wouldn’t have to practice. But I do, I practice everyday. Because life is ridiculous, and sometimes I have good comebacks and snarky responses, but often they arrive 5 minutes too late. but if you ask me for a pun, I’ll be so sharp, I’ll be banned from airplanes, which is a shame. 37,000 feet in the air is beautiful.

It’s my last winter as a teenager, and I’m trying to decide if that matters or not. I work as a Receptionist on Monday mornings, but I’m not very good at small talk. I do the “how do you do’s?” and I do care whether the weather is to your liking or not, but I feel much like the spelling of awkward, which is in fact, awkward.

I’m bad at making small talk, but I’m not bad at conversation. I could talk about the complexities of life, the importance of faith, what happens after death, or any other topic that’s as deep as the ocean, for hours on end. Those are the conversations I live for, that get my blood pumping, that remind me how much passion there can be.

Soon I’ll no longer be 19. Soon I’ll be 20. I saw a poster once about “20 things you should do before you’re 20.” I haven’t done many of them. I’ve made my own list.

I miss having a child’s sense of innocence. I asked a child coming into daycare once, “What’s your favorite color?” He responded confidently, “10.” And I’ve wondered to myself since then why my favorite color can’t be 10.

Society can tell me 10’s not a color. But I can see something in 10 different ways. And besides, if you’re a graphic designer, you know colors can have a blue value of 10, red value of 8, and green value of 4. So, the kid was right in saying 10 is his favorite color.

The best metaphor that ever exited my mouth was, “I’ve been down that road, and it ended in a cul-de-sac of regret.” The best phrase I’ve ever heard was, “Blood is thicker than water, but maple syrup is thicker than blood.” Because I don’t like pancakes that much, but one day, I’ll meet a guy who will make me want to eat pancakes with him.

If you can string words together to make a phrase that makes me stop dead in my tracks, I applaud you. Because everyday I tell people, “that’s the best phrase I’ve ever heard.” And every time it’s true. Because I speak in book quotes and song lyrics and metaphors, because language is beautiful.

I’ve been told that my writing is beautiful, but I don’t understand how my pain can be beautiful. There’s nothing beautiful about the way I feel, which is why I’m always confused.

Do you want to know what is beautiful? The sun.

I’ve missed the sun.

It’s starting to set now, which means it’s taken me two hours to think of the words to this poem. But it’s going to take you a lot less time to forget it. I guess that means Marx was wrong. He said that the value of something is equal to the amount of time a person spent working on it.

It took me two hours to put this poem on paper, but I’ve spent 19 years writing it.

Because life is a poem, composed of metaphors, and I’ve spent 19 years interpreting its meaning, analyzing the symbols of my scars and my pain, and contemplating what on earth the poet is trying to tell me.

It’s been a long winter. But days like this, where the sun is shining and it feels like spring, I am reminded that life is beautiful.

 

Why (My) College is Important

Today, my college broke ground for the new addition to the Science and Nursing building. This is exciting, not because I’m a science or nursing major, but because this new facility has the potential to impact many future students’ lives.

And I just want to say how thankful I am for College, especially for one that’s challenged me as much as mine has: physically (because as a commuting English major, my backpack weighs close to 500 tons), emotionally (because teenage girls experience all the emotions), and spiritually (because I once doubted God, but all the questions I have make my faith stronger). You see, when I came into college, I was broken. I barely passed one of the classes I needed to graduate High School. In fact, I barely made it through High School. About half way through my Sophomore year, I tried to kill myself. I started self-harming. I became anorexia. I was severely depressed.

And I was terrified of college. I was terrified of failing. I was terrified of being the nerdy girl who had no idea how to make friends. I was terrified of choosing the wrong major and not being able to find a job. I was terrified of the future. Basically, I was terrified about everything.

With one year left of College, I’m still terrified about what the future holds, but I know the college I chose has prepared me for everything that will come my way. It’s funny because the one college I vowed I would never attend became the only place I applied, and that’s the way God seems to work in my life.

I decide one thing, and God’s like, “Lol. Nope. Try again.”

I’m glad He does, because it makes me depend on Him more. He keeps my pride in check.

He called me to this campus for a reason, and I’m glad He did, because it’s changed my life.

The faculty here are some of the most caring and the most encouraging people in my life. You need some advice? No problem. You need to talk about some problems you’re having? Sit down. Have a seat. You want to get into some big theological debate? Bring it on.

I remember one time when I knew a certain book on a reading list for one of my Lit classes was going to be difficult to read and discuss. One day, when we were discusssing the rest of the Semester, I made an off-hand comment about it. When my Professor inquired, I told her my story. She immediately made accomodations, and it was wonderful and beautiful.

There are people on this campus who will challenge everything you once thought to be true. Being open-minded about what other people know is the best way to understand the world differently.

The more I talk to people on this campus, the more my faith grows. I don’t know of anyother school where having a mental breakdown in the library will lead to a bunch of students you don’t know to pray for you.

This campus is so full of love, which is why the squirrels here aren’t afraid if anything: perfect love casts out fear.

Because, yes, this campus is all about higher learning. But higher learning doesn’t just include education. It’s about being part of a community. It’s about forming relationships, personally and spiritually, that will continue to bless your life even after you leave. It’s about instilling confidence in each person, because everybody has value. It’s about learning how everybody is connected–everybody has the power to change the world.

This past summer, I went on a Missions Trip to Guatemala with some of the most amazing people I have ever met. (Shoutout to Roberts Enactus!) And this trip changed my life.

My college has changed my life, because it taught me that change starts with one person.

Sometimes I think I’m in the wrong major, because ‘English is just not practical.’ But if there’s one thing my study of literature has taught me, it’s that words are more powerful than you know.

I will change the world with my words one day. And Roberts has given me the confidence to do it.

 

 

See also: Unsolicited Advice to Incoming Freshman and Returning Students