Afraid in Love

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 8 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 8 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 8 years, and sometimes I still have to defend myself against judging glances. Because, apparently, as 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 8 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.

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How To TipToe Around Depression

 

  1. Pick out your clothes the night before because mornings take too much effort. Change your mind two or three times while lying in bed, waiting for sleep to come. The next morning, try on every outfit you own that fits the occasion. Be happy with none of them. Wear the last outfit you try on because you are now running late.
  2. Set more alarms than is necessary for the morning: one which is the ideal time to get up, and one which is the last possible minute needed to get ready and just make it out the door in time. Hit snooze on all of them. Because, once again, mornings take too much effort.
  3. Decide one morning you don’t need to wear make-up because you’re beautiful anyway. Take a selfie to document the occasion. Freak out because your nose looks bigger than you remember it being. Contemplate getting a nose job. Talk yourself out of it because it’s permanent, and the finality of using a sticker is enough to stress you out.
  4. Breathe in. Hold it. Count to five. Breathe out, trying to slow your racing heart, which is only outpaced by your racing thoughts.
  5. Get bangs that cover your eyebrows. There are more important things to be worried about (i.e., everything) than doing your eyebrows.
  6. Write down everything that happens on anything you can find: receipts in your wallet, iPhone notes, random scraps of paper found in the deepest recesses of your over-sized purse. Remember what it’s like to feel on your darkest days. Live to feel these things again.
  7. Take pictures of every beautiful thing you see: sunrises and sunsets; flowers and gardens; fields and clouds; coffee and food. Don’t let anybody take away your joy by reducing you to a stereotype—you are anything but.
  8. Wake up in the middle of the night needing to pee. Put it off until you can’t hold it any longer. You stumble half-asleep down the hall, past the stairs, avoiding looking down. You’re not scared of the dark. You’ve come to accept it; it’s the unknown human-like shadows that freak you out. When you wash your hands, avoid looking in the mirror above the sink. You don’t necessarily believe those ghost stories, but you’d rather not find out. At 3 am, when you’re not fully awake, you look like a ghost of yourself anyway.
  9. Walk through your local cemetery. Take note of the gravestones: the startings and the endings; the oldests and the youngests; the epitaphs and the ones that say nothing. Wonder what yours will say—not in a macabre way, but in a “will I have accomplished what I wanted to accomplish” way. Make up stories of those buried there (it’s a different form of people-watching, something you love to do). Your grandfather’s been dead for 10 and a half years. He’s been buried for a few months less than that. You haven’t yet visited his grave—you don’t handle death well.
  10. Eat freely. Love deeply. Remember what it was like when you deprived yourself of food and love.
  11. Dream big. Don’t be afraid to fail. Being a Bills’ fan has helped you learn how to deal with disappointment.
  12. Become an English major. Worry that you ruined your life because “it’s not a practical degree.” Tell people you’re not a practical person. You follow your heart and not your head. You see the world in shades of grey, not black and white.
  13. Lie in bed at night thinking about every possible outcome to every possible scenario so you’re not surprised when they happen. Write dialogue for possible conversations in your head. That way, when you do work up the courage to speak, you don’t make a fool of yourself.
  14. Remember words are your most powerful tool and weapon.
  15. Give names to your intrusive thoughts. Call them out when they fill your head with stupid ideas: “No, Fred. I will NOT drive headfirst into this tree.” “Shut up, Gertrude. I know there are about 20 Advil in my hand right now, but I only need two.” You are too busy trying to live to listen to those that drag you down.
  16. Remember you are not a walking billboard for depression. You are so much more than one word. You are smart, funny, kind, musical, and children and animals seem to like you. So, in the grand scheme of things, you can’t be that bad.
  17. Sleep with headphones playing nothing in. The crickets outside your window have been extra noisy lately. Depression needs silence to sleep. You’ve discovered that after so many years of co-habitation, you do too.
  18. Set your alarm for the quietest setting you can. You are a light sleeper. Maybe if you can get ready and leave the house quickly and quietly, depression will stay sleeping. If it wakes up, it will chase you. It’s like a dog, but unlike a dog, there’s nothing cute about any of this.
  19. When you are struggling, call it out. Give it a name. Say, “Yes. I have Depression. But I am not Depression. I am a human who is living with it. I am strong. I am a fighter. I will not give up.”
  20. If all this fails, try again tomorrow.

People Watching

I sit at my table in the library, the same spot everyday (give or take). I think I have OCD. No, wait. I know I have at least a mild case of OCD.

I tried studying in a study room, once. The library’s always so loud, which is ironic because libraries scream quiet, and sometimes silence is the loudest scream of all.

Anyway, where was I? Oh, right. The room in which I studied once. Just once. Because, apparently, my mind needs distractions in order to be productive, which seems contrary to function. I’ve never been normal; it’s boring, anway.

So I sit at my table in the library, and I’m not so maladjusted that I can’t be flexible. Just as long as it’s a table, and I can sit facing the door. I people watch to think. Sometimes too much I think. But people are fascinating creatures, and sometimes I wonder if people notice the same things I do.

For instance,

1. Everyone has their own unique walk.

2. The way the computers get filled up is an interesting study on human behavior. No one likes making eye contact with someone they don’t know, which is why of the 4 computers in the campus library that you can stand at to use, people use the two where their backs are to the door first. And at the computers where you sit down, four to a table, people never sit directly next to or across from someone. They always sit diagonal. Unless the other user is a friend, in which case, all rules go out the window.

3. You can tell a lot about a person from their eyes. Eyes are the windows to the soul, which is why nobody sits directly across from someone they don’t know. Nobody wants to admit the truth: we’re all hurting.

4. The way the same person acts around different people is fascinating. And terrifying. Which is real? Can the person be trusted?

5. Every person has their own unique walk.

My friend has a purposeful gait, not like a horse’s. She walks deliberately: long strides, with confidence, as if she owns the place. Head up. Shoulders tall.

I do not. My posture is meager at best, as if the weight of the world is on my shoulders, and sometimes I don’t know if I can do it all.

But then I see the people working around me: I realize we’re all the same.

There’s the girl over there who is clearly hungry trying to convince herself she is not.

There’s the guy over there trying to put on a macho face when he’s clearly falling apart inside.

I wonder if she knows she’s beautiful, if she’s heard it today?

I wonder if he knows he’ll be ok, if he believes that today?

The hardest thing about being a poet is that I see all these things about people. And I haven’t figured out how to say, “Hey. I don’t know if you know this, but there’s something about the way your eyes light up and meet your dimples when you solve a tough problem that reminds me there’s hope” without sounding like a creeper.

So, I people watch, and I wonder what people would say about me if it were socially acceptable to say such things.

So, I people watch.

Because sometimes I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders, and in order to distract myself from this feeling in my chest of impending doom, I make up stories about the people around me.

I’m not crazy. I have problems to solve and things to figure out, and I find the best of me in other people, and also the worst. And sometimes I need a little perspective.

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times, which is the best way to sum up life.

I’m really bad with small talk. The “How are you?”s and the “How about the weather?”s make me really uncomfortable. Is this a rhetorical question?

I’m better with intellectually stimulating conversations about what you think death is like, what is the meaning of all this? I think our answers to questions like these say more about us then “I’m good” ever could.

The mind is a funny place.

I think about death a lot and life. I’ve faced my own mortality by my own hand. The future terrifies me. I don’t even know what I’m doing this summer, let alone forever.

I need to take it one day at a time right now. That’s all I can handle. The world’s a big place, and I’m a small part of it.

And so I people watch. Because people fascinate me, but also terrify me, which is one of life’s great ironies.

Just like the Hulk’s secret is that he’s angry all the time, I’m afraid all the time. That’s how I survive.

I want to do big things, write a book, change the world, but I feel insignificant. The world’s a dangerous place: there’s war, violence, murder, hate, and sometimes we’re our own worst enemy.

But there’s always hope. Sunrises, sunsets, summer and winter. Life goes on.

And so will I.

And so I people watch, because everybody has a story. Stories fascinate me, and they should fascinate you, too.

Empathy goes a long way.

I write to figure things out, and I don’t know what this poem is trying to say, but I think it has to do with the confusion that’s inside me, because how do you know if you’re in love, because I think he’s kind of great.

He makes me want to eat pancakes with him, but I don’t even like pancakes. I don’t even know who ‘him’ is.

This is what goes on in my mind 24/7, and I promise I’m not crazy. I’ve just been hurt a lot, and I’m trying to heal and deal.

Because life is confusion and chaos and order and beauty and a paradox wrapped in a conundrum shrouded in mystery.

And I love every minute of 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.

 

Un-eligible Princess

If you could use your imagination for a second and imagine me standing in front of you, I’m terrified and shaking and trembling but I’m reading this with a smile on my face. Because I’m terrified of speaking in large groups, but when I’m reading my words from the page, I’m the only one in the room.

Right now, it’s one in the morning, or 7 at night, or pick a time any time. And I’ve written many things already tonight. And the number of words I’ve written in my life is probably greater than the number I’ve spoken. And that’s ok. Because with every beat of my heart, my blood carries my words throughout my body, reaching my brain and my fingers until I itch for a pen.

But there was a time when I would have reached for the razor instead. I would have watched as my blood trickled from my skin and the tears from my eye flood carried the words I didn’t know how to say from this body of mine. Because I don’t wear my heart on my sleeve, but a part of it leaves when I sit down to write. Because my heart cries tears of pain and joy and desperation, and all this accumulation turns into inspiration late at night.

And I’m well-versed in the art of poetry (and also math, but Calculus 101 and 102 demanded my wrath). But poetry is not a mathematical equation, unless you’re Shakespeare with his sonnets, and his perfect 14 lines of iambic pentameter.

Because

Any

Sentence

Is

Poetry

If

You

Write

Like

This.

And if that’s poetry, I’m not a poet—try my way though. Because my prosetry may include rhyme and meter, because I grew up counting meter for music, so I’ve met her (be)fore. And anything is a metaphor if you try hard enough. I draw poetry from life around me and the pain inside me. Because every so often, I think ‘why me?’

And I believe my words are beautiful. Because they have the power to open minds, change minds, encourage minds, and maybe one day convince someone to be mine. Even dressed to the nines, I don’t feel fine, by which I mean beautiful.  Because what’s beautiful about scars? I mean Scar was the bad guy in Lion King, and I’m the Daughter of the King, so don’t my scars make me the “Next Un-eligible Princess?” And I try to hide mine, because I drew the line and connected the scars on my skin, and one day I picked up the pen instead.

Because writing makes me feel beautiful. And my writing is beauty filled, and people tell me they’re proud of me. And if my writing can help thee, then it shall be. Because I don’t want to hide these red razor lines on my abs and my thighs, so I transfer them to my writing, which is fine by me. My scars say “I have survived,” but these demons won’t go away, which is why writing is here to stay. Because this pain is enough to drive me insane, but my words are enough to keep them at bay.

Because not too long ago, I believed that beauty was directly proportional to weight, which made me hate society. Because when did it become ok to say things to ourselves we are too afraid to say to anyone else? And when did skeletons become goddesses teaching us to not need? Because what does thin mean to you? Sophistication, adoration, adulation, a vaccination against segregation? And if that’s beauty, I’ll stay ugly.

Because I’ve always been too big, too loud, too quiet, too excitable. But that’s ok, because my heart is too big to be contained in jeans too small for a stick. And although some days I hate everything about who, what, and how I am, it’s ok anyway. Because I have enough pain to write novels like Bronte. And they will be beautiful, because slowly and surely, I am learning to love myself. There are parts of me that shine like the stars. Because my eyes are full of wonder, and when I make a blunder: I still walk into the light.

So I can no longer believe that my value is tied into how much I weigh, because whoever said “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” clearly never tried Red Velvet anything. Besides, I have better things to worry about. I mean, I have a book to write, and lives to change, and people to hug, and stories to tell. And the last thing I want people to remember me for is my weight. I want to be remembered for doing something great.

But right now, in this moment, I’m 19. I’m here, and I’m so afraid. But my courage is roaring like the sun, because I’ve made it this far, and I know I’ll be ok. So when I get up in the morning, and my legs feel like they might buckle, I’ll have to trust that they are strong enough to keep me from falling. I am strong enough. Besides, if they’re not strong enough in that moment, life goes on. And I can try again tomorrow.

 

Learning to Recover

It’s 11:00 at night, and I can’t sleep. And usually when this happens, I start counting down the hours until I have get up, which is pretty much the pessimistic version of ‘if I fall asleep now, I can get thismany hours of sleep.”

a)I have to be up in 5,4,3,2,1 hours.  b) If I fall asleep now, I can get 5,4,3,2,1 hours of sleep. 

Nights like this, where it’s 11:00 and then it’s Midnight and then it’s 1 am, and I’m still awake, are the nights when all my nerve endings are exposed. I’m lying in bed, and I feel nothing, and then I feel everything. My mind is racing a thousand miles a minutes, and I can’t keep up (mostly because I have asthma).

Nights like this used to make me feel like I was being hit square in the chest by a train going 4000 miles an hour, which then launched me into a brick wall. If I fall asleep now, I can get 5,4,3,2,1 hours of sleep. The more I counted down the hours, the more I tried to force myself to not think, which accomplished the exact opposite, that is, my mind created these ridiculous scenarios where I was left saying,

Sorry I fell asleep during your class, Professor. You see, nights have always been hard for me, because with out the busyness the day provides, I’m left to face all of my demons, which let me tell you, is exhausting. And unfortunately, my mind throws about a hundred thoughts my way a second, which means there’s no rest for this weary soul, because I’m left having an existential crisis at 3 am. So, unless you have a physics formula to solve that equation, I’m going to let gravity control my head and lay it down on this desk. Because force equals mass times acceleration, and I’m not Catholic, but I know the rate at which objects accelerate as they fall to earth, and I know the force at which I was propelled off this cliff. So unless you have a parachute or a giant trampoline, you’re not really of use to me at this current moment. But if history ever repeats itself, I’ll come find you since History was never my strong(est) subject.

At 3 am, I have the best comebacks.

I was told once that darkness is just the absence of light, which is true, but I’ve also learned that you can’t see the stars without darkness. So, I guess it’s a paradox. Life is a paradox, and it’s a mystery wrapped in an enigma, encased in a conundrum. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Because nights like this, nights where the weight of the world is compressing my chest, and I can’t breathe remind me I’m still alive. They remind me I’m healing. Because once upon a time, the urge to end my life was so strong. I could verge off the road here… I could slice my wrists with this tape gun… I could take just a few more pills…

I still have those thoughts. But, they’re less urgent. More quiet. More in the back ground. That’s how I know I’m recovering.

I used to feel nothing, but now I feel everything, and the only way to fix a third degree burn is to peel of the burned skin until the nerve endings are exposed. You have to feel worse before you can feel better. Struggling to breathe every once in a while makes your lungs stronger. Forgetting how to walk makes each step so much more beautiful.

Darkness makes the light so much more enjoyable.

I enjoy nights like this now. I always do my best writing between 10 pm and 2 am. If I fall asleep now, I can get 5,4,3,2,1 hours of sleep. My darkness has made me who I am.

Recovery is being born out of darkness. It is starting a flame inside your chest. Burning away all the darkness, and making yourself lighter.

I have found the light shining in the darkness.

War and (No) Peace for the Weary

It didn’t occur to me that there was anything wrong until I entered a room filled to the brim with people–faces I knew, faces I didn’t. It didn’t occur to me that there was anything wrong until I entered said room and felt like my heart was going to beat out of my chest, as though my lungs were filling with water, and as though my spinning head was going to rotate off my body and fly away.

And I blamed it on my asthma, but asthma can’t be blamed for everything. No, this is worse. Much worse. Because inhalers can fix asthma, or at least get it enough under control that I can breathe almost normally.

This is anxiety.

This is the feeling of complete and utter doom that springs from fears that have their roots firmly established in things I’ve experienced.

Because even though I go out of my way and actively avoid large groups of people, it’s not large groups of people I’m scared of. It’s the overcrowding, the not enough space, the I barely have enough room to squeeze by you, claustrophobia. And I didn’t used to be this way. I can remember the time and place I became claustrophobic: 8th grade, in a school bathroom. And that memory is probably why I can never go to the Bathroom by myself. It’s probably why when I’m in a large crowd, I make myself smaller to give myself more room.

I need room to breathe, and room to pace to sort out my jumbled up mess of thoughts. I thrive in wide open spaces.

But, not too wide. If you get too far away from people, it’s easy to imagine yourself as the only person left. And that terrifies me more. I like being alone, but I hate feeling alone. And yes, there’s a difference. At night when I sleep in my own room, I’m alone. But I can hear the snores of my family as the house settles in for the night, and I can hear God in the wind that makes my house moan and groan.

And even though darkness is wide, it can make you feel claustrophobic. Because sometimes, the weight of it all makes you feel like you are suffocating. What lies beyond my field of vision is mysterious and foreboding. The future terrifies me.

This is anxiety.

When my heart is racing so fast I count it in beats per second, not beats per minute. It’s paralyzing fear. Similar to the time I went to Niagara Falls in 8th grade and had to cross a glass bridge. I had to be pushed across by my friends, because I’ve always been scared of heights.

And eventually my fear of heights became synonymous with the urge to jump and end it all. But one time I climbed to the roof of a mall in Guatemala, and I wasn’t afraid. I didn’t want to jump. And that’s the biggest step toward healing I’ve ever taken. But when I went to the mall the other week, I found out that escalators still make me feel anxious.

Anxiety is not a trend. It’s not something you should use to make you feel cool, because believe me, it makes you feel totally uncool. When most girls wear over sized sweaters, they look cute. When I wear over sized sweaters, I look like how anxiety makes me feel.

Anxiety is not a trend. It’s not something you can shrug off when it’s too warm outside. It’s not something you can decide doesn’t fit with the look you want today. And anxiety looks different on everybody. I’m 5 years old, and there’s monsters in my closet (and by closet, I mean my head). Because one day, you realize the monsters hiding under your bed were really inside you the whole time. Right now, I’m 19 years old, and the monsters in the closet still scare me.

Anxiety is not Instragramming a pumpkin spice latte while watching Dr. Who on Netflix, all while sitting in your room alone. It’s running your fingers of your left hand over your right thumb and wrist, tracing the scars left behind, because you don’t know what else to do when your Lit Class is discussing a book about sexual assault. It’s tapping your foot in Health Class when they discuss eating disorders. It’s leaving the crowded dining hall of your college campus to pace up and down the book lined halls of the library.

Anxiety is sleepless nights and silence. I’ve been so open about my struggles, but I’ve remained silent on this. Nobody wants to seem weak. It’s the silence I wish my mind would impose upon this freight train of my mind, the racing thoughts that I don’t deserve to live a normal life. I don’t deserve to be happy. But I also don’t deserve to be unhappy, because, comparatively, my life isn’t so bad.

Anxiety is questioning. Why are they being nice to me? Why are they laughing? Is there something on my face? There are so many questions and not enough answers. Not that I deserve answers anyway,  because there are beautiful people out there, beautiful sweaters stitched together with greatness. I’m a lackluster wool turtleneck held together with mediocrity. Turtlenecks make me feel like I’m choking. And wool itches like anxiety makes my skin crawl.

And maybe one day, I’ll be a fantastic heroine in some award winning novel. I’ll be characterized by my beauty, charm, and confidence. But, right now, I feel like a bunch of equations haphazardly thrown up on a black board some where. Maybe one day my numbers will add up to greatness or something close to that, but right now my 5 and 8 and my 11 and 14 don’t add up. No matter how I do the math, add, subtract, multiply, or divide, my life still equals zero. I hope one day it equals one. Because in statistics, a correlation coefficient of 1 shows a strong relationship. Maybe one day my correlation coefficient of 1 will signify the relationship between my past struggles and how great I became.

Right now, I’m waiting for the day when I meet someone who says, “Here, let me take your oversized sweater for a while. I’ll give you a break from the itching.”

Time Line

Word association time: Time line. time passing. Growing. Healing. Rebirth.

May 19, 2013. 5 years later:

I remember you like it was yesterday. I remember the time and the place because for a few moments, the clock stopped, and everything was chaos, upside, backwards. They say wrong place, wrong time. But what they mean is: be watchful of your surroundings, don’t go alone. As if that makes a difference.

Because I had every right to be there. You didn’t. If my body were the most secure apartment building on the Upper East Side, you were the best con man who lied his way into getting the security key and set up temporary residence within my walls.

But for being temporary, you left a permanent mark. You stained the walls yellow with the smoke of lies you exhaled as you destroyed my once-white walls. Because, white is the color of purity, and you made me impure? I guess. And you rewired my brain into thinking yellow walls are permanent, because no one would sell white paint to someone like me.

Unfortunately for you, my body is not an apartment building on the Upper East Side. It is a temple. And I don’t need to repaint my walls white, because I know someone whose red blood painted me gold. And I know yellow + red does not equal gold, but this guy I know defies the laws of physics, because He died and rose again (not like a zombie rises, but for real, for real, He rose).

 

June 16, 2013 3 years later:

Time heals all wounds, yes. But, time fades all scars. Remember those lies you told me? Well, apparently, repeating lies is self-destructive. Lies turn into self-hate turns into release through a razor, which does more self-harm than good.

Did you know the constellations can be mapped out on your skin? I’ve tried. I think I got to Andromeda before I realized I was Andromedone (I’m sorry. I had to. I use humor to mask some of the pain).

My body is a Temple, but I tried to destroy it, because I thought you destroyed me.

I made myself bleed, because I wanted to be my own Savior.

 

Today:

Some nights I lie in bed, and I feel nothing. Some nights I lie in bed, and I feel everything. And I don’t know which is worse.

I used to get ready for bed with the lights off, because I was only beautiful in the dark. Now, I do everything with the lights on (except for sleeping). Because a rose needs light to grow.

I told you, one day I’ll be a rose. You laughed. But you were a thorn in my side. Rose have thorns.

My Gardner wore a crown of thorns on his head so I could grow and blossom.

Guess who’s laughing now? I am.

I’ve learned out of the ashes comes beauty. And while you said I was ugly and burned my soul to the grown, God said I was beautiful and rebuilt me whole.

Because with the passing of time, I’ve healed. Chaos has become order. And no matter how many times I test gravity, I will always find my wings and fly.

Things I Learned In School

While I was learning a^2 + b^2 = c^2,  binomial expansion, and Implicit Differentiation, I was not learning that life is not a math equation. You can’t plug in different variables, different circumstances, and get one definitive outcome, one definitive life. My life is different from your life is different from his life. My experiences define who I am as do yours. There are only two experiences every person has: birth and death; how we get there, and what we do in between is completely dependent on the individual. You can graph where a person’s been, but you can’t graph where they’re going. You can graph the past, but you can’t graph the future, because life isn’t a line or a parabola, or the sum of an infinite series, or etc, etc, and there are too many “what ifs” to get a clear picture anyway, even if it was or were (for being an English major, there are a lot of Grammar rules that continue to confuse me).

But, that was a tangent.

Hey, speaking of tangents, did you know tangents only touch a circle once? And circles don’t have points, and I guess neither did that fact, because school teaches you facts, but not how to apply them. It teaches you to think, but not how to reason. So, yes, I’m really good at spitting back whos, whats, wheres, whens, and whys, but not the “so what?”s. I’m still trying to figure out how the past has influenced my life and how I can influence the future. And as to where my story fits in the grand scheme of things, I’m still trying to figure that one out, too. But as I’m beginning to experience more things, that picture’s becoming clearer. That’s an equation I hope to solve one day.

Mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell. But, I bet you knew that already, didn’t you?

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, which I learned in Math, but I understand it the best when I’m trying to find the quickest route to avoid someone or the shortest walk to class in the cold of winter or the pouring rain.

Weight equals mass times gravity, and you learn this in physics, but you understand it when the bathroom floor pulls you against its cold, flat surface after you’ve emptied last night’s calories.

All matter has mass. But you don’t learn it school what it means to matter. You have to learn that on your own, and I’ve discovered that you matter because of what matters to you. Your level of mattering is directly equivalent to how much what you care about matters to you. Your value is not inversely proportional to your weight; it’s directly proportional to the amount you care.

You learn competition, because this whole system of class rank separates the “good at memorizing,” from “the not so good.” But how well you do in school has no bearing on how successful you will be when it comes to the ‘real world.’

You learn about Supply and Demand and Opportunity Cost, but you won’t really understand until you have to live paycheck to paycheck, or until your Dad has to work three jobs to make ends meet and he has to decide between earning money and spending time with the family.

You learn about interest rate and the idea of loans, but you’ll wish you paid attention when it comes time to pay back student loans.

You learn about Total Surface Area and Volume, which becomes helpful when you have to fit a week’s worth of dirty dishes into a dishwasher.

You learn how to compare yourself to others, but not how to love yourself despite others.

Life has taught me many things, and learning how to love myself is one of the hardest.

I’ve learned life is hard, some days you will hate yourself, but there’s always hope.

Why doesn’t school teach you that?