Please Stay

I know it’s hard and I know you want so badly for the pain to just go away, for the voices to stop, and for the sorrow to end. Please don’t go, please talk to me or someone. I want so badly for you to live, for you to realize your potential and for you to thrive in this life.

I know that it’s dark, I know that sometimes it seems like hardships and sorrow are your companions that you never wanted or asked for; I know because I’ve walked your path and my footprints are there. I’ve been hospitalized four times in the past six years, I’ve heard those voices that you’re hearing: “No one would care if you died” “You’re worthless” “You’re not enough.” It’s like a screaming for help at a death metal concert or in a room full of people and no one is listening.

Someone is listening. Someone wants you to stay, wants to see your face every day, wants to hear your beautiful voice, and feel your presence as it lights up a room with its warmth. You matter to someone, you are the center of their universe and the most important person in their life. You do matter to someone, and they would be devastated if you did not exist.

I know it’s so hard to believe this, to defy the voice that tells you it’s not going to get better. It’s your demon, your Goliath, and your chains. It’s the most powerful force in your life right now it seems. You’re stuck in a loop, a time warp that you cannot break out of. It seems like the sun will never shine on your face and you will never feel it’s glorious warmth.

I know. I hear you. I love you.

That is why I can say this: you are more powerful than the demonic Goliath. You can break those chains as if they were merely paperclips and free yourself from them. All it takes is one tiny piece of hope because you have that. I know you have it because you’ve held on this long, you want so badly to live, to fight, to wake up the next day, to make it to the next minute because you’re afraid of missing something. You are a Warrior. You are filled with a strength that is all your own, that you have garnered because you had no other choice.

It’s so hard to believe that you are strong when all you want to do is cry and give up. Real courage isn’t the absence of fear or tears, you are the man in the arena fighting this lion and he may have his jaws on your arm but you’re not ready to give up. I know you’re not because you’ve made it this far. That lion is weak compared to your will. Please keep going.

But know that you cannot do this alone, you may have a strength but it means nothing if you don’t know how to utilize it. To seek help in times of need takes guts because you are admitting that you need to further strengthen your resolve. Talk to someone, there’s no shame in it. Take your medicine, because you need it just as much as a diabetic needs insulin. Take care of yourself, because you cannot help others if you are not in good form; when there’s an emergency on an airplane they always tell you to put your air mask on first.

Please stay. You are enough. You are not worthless. You are beautiful and special and you matter very much. Your story is important, your contribution to this universe matters and nothing would be the same if you didn’t exist.

So please,

stay.

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You Killed Kate Spade

You killed Kate Spade.

You killed her every time you stepped back when someone said: “I have bipolar disorder.”

You killed her every time you said: “I don’t think it’s healthy to take that medication just to feel normal”

You killed her every time you said: “Happiness is a choice so choose to be happy!”

You killed her every time you implied that she wasn’t trying.

You killed her every time you judged her for not getting out of bed and making an effort.

You killed Kate Spade.

It’s hard to hear those things isn’t it? It’s almost unfair to accuse someone of a crime that they didn’t commit. However if you ever said or did any of those things, you are participating in a crime that has plagued us for decades: The stigma against mental illness.

I hate that we are still having this conversation. We are the most educated creatures; we have gone to the moon, we have made significant advances in medicine, we have invented technology that makes our lives easier, and yet we still cannot accept that someone whose illness doesn’t have a specific “cure” or cannot be easily articulated is just as valid as a cancer or a diabetes patient.

Someone can say “I have cancer and I’m undergoing treatment.” They are embraced and told how brave they are and how strong they are. That same person says “I have bipolar disorder and I’m undergoing treatment.” People step back as if that person has leprosy.

I’m so tired, I’m so very tired of having this conversation and writing these posts. I’m tired of facing the stigma myself and justifying that my illness is just as valid as someone whose illness has a set in stone treatment plan and can be explained easily. The brain is probably the most important and enigmatic organ in the human body, scientist still haven’t figured it out completely. Why is it so hard to accept something that we cannot understand, and believe that one day we might?

This stigma is literally killing people. Kate Spade did not seek help because of how people are viewed with bipolar disorder. Carrie Fisher, who had literally no fucks to give to anyone about what they thought about her, fought her entire life against it; telling people that it is okay to feel the way you do and even Princess Leia could not win against the battle of mental health stigma. Demi Lovato who fights every day with an eating disorder, addiction, and depression is open about her struggles and offers help to those when she is on tour.

And all of this still isn’t enough. People still stigmatize those of us whose illnesses they cannot see and it is killing those who are affected. Let me throw some numbers at you, this is for Maryland, my home state and is from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention:

Maryland-State-Facts

More people die by suicide annually in Maryland than by homicide.

Let that sink in for a second. I’ll say it again:

More people die by suicide annually in Maryland than by homicide.

That is astounding and unacceptable. Suicide is a completely preventable death and we are doing nothing to prevent it. We aren’t reaching out beyond our comfort zones and asking people “How can I help?” And when we do get an answer it should be “Okay I may not be able to help you but damn it I’m going to find someone who can, what is your doctor’s number? What is your therapists number?” or “We’re going to get you somewhere safe and we’re going to get you help okay?”

That’s all it takes. People just want someone to validate them, to know that someone cares, and that they matter. This is not someone that is selfish, it’s someone that’s hurting. It’s someone who can’t see the light beyond all of the darkness in their life, who can’t see the value in themselves. It’s someone who can’t hear beyond the voices in their head screaming at them “You are not enough, no one would care if you died.”

Imagine for a minute if you had three people screaming at you “You’re stupid, You’re worthless. You’re not enough” all the time and you could not get rid of them. They were there when you woke up and followed you all day and all night until you somehow managed to get to sleep and start it all over again the next day. That’s how it feels. That’s what it’s like. That is why people kill themselves. It’s not because they’re selfish or seeking attention, it’s because they are hurting and have believed those voices telling them that they are stupid, worthless, and that they are not enough.

The first time I was hospitalized for suicidal ideation I was 25, the second time I was 27, the third and fourth time I was placed in a life saving outpatient program to avoid hospitalization and get the intense therapy and medication adjustment I needed. I never wanted to die, I didn’t attempt to do so—but I was just so tired of fighting those voices in my head. I was so very tired. I’m not a selfish person, far from it, and I never was attention’s sweet center either—I am mostly someone who sits on the sidelines. I am a writer after all and we are a hermitish type anyway.

I want to close this by speaking to those who may be hurting, who may even be battling with this demon and very close to loosing.

I want you to know that you are validated in your pain. My feet are a different size than yours, but I have walked in your footsteps. You are a human being. You are not depression. You are not your diagnosis, you are a human being of this universe who has a purpose. Human beings were meant to feel friend, to not do so would take away an integral part of you. An extremely wise individual told me once that our emotions are not us. Yes we are responsible for our emotions, but they are not who we are. You are the greatest person in your world friend, you are important and you matter. You are enough.

I know it sucks, it hurts like hell and you are broken–but you can rise dear friend. You are not just an empty space, you have something beautiful to give to this world. It feels so agonizingly lonely–but you’re not alone. I want you to know that there is hope, for someone to feel so much you must know that. To have made it this far…that’s an accomplishment. You have made it to a new day each day, a new hour, a new minute–all the while having those demons following you. Do you know how much strength it takes to do what you have done? Do you know that you are one of the strongest people in this world? To challenge, even a little bit, those thoughts and feelings of worthlessness takes a tremendous amount of strength and hope.You are not a sinner, you are not evil, you are not a bad person, and you’re definitely not selfish. You ache, you long, and you’re suffering. You’re sick, not selfish.

Life isn’t easy. It will beat you down and break you. But don’t loose hope, there is something in this world worth living for. You matter very much. To have a mental illness–it means many things to different people but you are the author of your story no one else. That’s the beauty of it friend, no one can take your pen from you. You are the author! You can continue, there is hope.

I will close with a line from one of my favorite poems, Today Means Amen by Sierra DeMulder:

“Nothing would be the same if you did not exist.”

 

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: https://afsp.org/

If you are having these thoughts: https://afsp.org/find-support/im-having-thoughts-of-suicide/

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

Dear Mom,

I know it’s been a while since I’ve written to you, if I’m honest with myself I somewhat hate doing this because I know that you’ll never read it. However, this is cathartic and the benefits outweigh the pain.

I really fucking miss you. I can hardly fathom that it’s been almost eighteen years since I last saw you, heard your voice, or had one of your amazing hugs. The world still rotates, and life continues but sometimes I feel like I’m in a vacuum–a place where time is frozen and I am constantly living in the days following your death, feeling the immense ache and emptiness that you left. The pain is unbearable, the void insatiable.

Mom, there are days where I struggle just to function, there are days when I am so angry that you’re not here to share in my life, there are days when I long to hear your laugh, there are days when I need one of your talks, there are days when I just want to see you walk through the door and tell me that I’m going to be okay–these days are endless. The void that resides in my heart will forever be there, it is unfillable. Mom I want so much to hear you say “I’m proud of you” or “Keep going.”

I’m often caught in the tempest of what it would be like if you were still here. How different my life would have been or how my choices would be different. I can’t truly be happy on monumental occasions because you’re not there. Prom, High School Graduation, First day of College, College Graduation….all of these things, though happy in general, was tempered by sadness and the void of you not being there. I can’t deny the jealousy that I have over other women having their moms. I get so, so angry when they complain about stupid, insignificant things that they do. I want to scream “Do you know what it’s like to NOT have that?!”

Mom, you were the anchor of my family, and though I have found my bearings, there are still times when I feel adrift and lost because you’re not there to guide me. I don’t want the empty promises of “I’ll see you again,” “She’s always there,” or “She’s watching over you,” they don’t cure the ache that I feel. I want you here beside me, I want you giving me a hard time over a stupid mistake, I want you on my ass because I’m slacking in my work, I want you to tell me how you managed such an unholy mess of a child, I want your encouragement, your wisdom, your love, your understanding, I can’t get that from a picture. I can’t get that from a gravesite. I can’t get that from memories.

I was thirteen when you died, and now at thirty, I find myself still struggling with the trauma of your loss. I will never get over it, I will never have this void in my heart filled. I know that the pain lessens, and the void quiets, I’d be a fool to say that it hasn’t, but it’s hard to remember that on your birthday, and on today–the day you died. The pain comes back like a roaring tsunami, destroying the plains of my heart, and causing havoc in my mind. Every year, I try to ask off from work or skip school (though that’s not applicable anymore). I don’t want to be around people, not even those closest to me, I know that’s not right nor is it healthy–but sometimes the pain is just too much and I can’t handle other people’s attempts to comfort or console me. For whatever reason I go out to these destroyed plains of my heart alone, surveying the damage and screaming at the top of my lungs in agony. As I’ve gotten older, I have somewhat left those unhealthy habits behind but they still surface every now and then.

The memories of your time in the hospital still plague me, I sometimes still hear those damned beeping machines, and smell the antiseptic. I remember when I came to your bedside and you smiled, you smiled even though you were in so, so much pain…

I wished with every ounce of will in me that this was a nightmare and I was going to wake up. I sometimes still wish it was a nightmare, that I would wake up and you’d be in the kitchen making breakfast like you always have.

Mom, I hope that you’re proud of me. I hope that I haven’t screwed up too much and that maybe, just maybe I’ll get to the point where I’m not dancing from place to place or job to job. I know that if you were here things would be different, but you’re not and I have to somehow figure out how to make life work.

I want you to know that, while I still struggle with your absence, I am okay. I am slowly learning to manage my life without you, I’m sure it’ll be something that I will never master and will always struggle with until the day I die but at least I know that it is manageable. I love you. I am so sorry it took me so long to realize the depth of your love and sacrifices. I suppose I never truly will.

I suppose I should wrap this letter up. Mom, I miss you. I will always miss you, but I want you to know that I won’t let the past define or control me as I have. I want you to know that I am stronger, though sometimes I am weakened on days like this. You will always be in my heart, soul, and on my mind.

I love you, I love you so much. I hope that you’re proud.

 

The most important documentary I’ve ever watched.

Wonder Women: The Untold Story of American Superheroines.

I first saw this documentary about five or six years ago, it was a period in my life when I was starting to really figure out what feminism was, why it was important, and what it meant to me. It asked a very important question that still rings in my (along with every other feminist out there) ear:

What are the consequences for women when they are strong and when they are the central actors of their own lives?

I remember as a little girl idolizing figures such as Wonder Woman, Buffy Summers, and Xena. Sure I watched other TV shows where women weren’t the central figure, but when I look back…I found I didn’t enjoy them nearly as much. With the exception of my sister, I was pretty much surrounded by boys. My neighbors were boys, and all of my cousins were boys. Sure when I got to school I made friends who were girls but for the most part, the people who I played with and spent a lot of my time with were boys. I remember the occasional “oh you can’t do this because you’re a girl” quip, or not being allowed into the fort because I was a girl, but I never really thought about it too much and pretty much did it anyway because my parents never made me feel like my gender mattered. Not only that I had some pretty awesome women in my family who took no shit. So it was natural for me to watch female figures on TV that reminded me of the women in my life.

As I got older and life attempted to beat me, I began to have sort of an identity crisis of sorts. 2001 was, in my opinion, the shittiest year ever. My mother died in March, and it (obviously) caused a major upheaval in my life. I was so lost and so confused and angry and sad. I sought solace in the women on TV that I so adored. Unfortunately, the networks had other ideas.

In the spring of 2001 all of those women who were part of a resurgence of female power on TV died; within WEEKS of each other, it was just like this carnage on TV. Buffy sacrificed herself, Xena was brutally murdered, it was shocking. At the time I had this feeling that I couldn’t really identify, so I sort of just let it pass by the wayside after all I was still young and trying to figure myself out. This feeling would resurface several times during movies and other TV shows and I couldn’t figure out what was bothering me until I watched this documentary.

Sit back, and grab something to drink because I’m going to pick apart this documentary. I’m going to talk about some of its findings and how, even though the documentary was released in 2012, some it’s findings still ring true today.

Let’s start with the 70’s second wave feminist movement, this was responsible for some amazing female-centric TV shows. It only seemed natural that the Wonder Woman TV show would be the Herald, leading the charge and showing networks that female-led TV shows could bring in a profit. The Wonder Woman TV show was responsible for the birth of other shows like The Bionic Woman, and Charlies Angels. Now while I wasn’t alive during this revolution, I watched re-runs of those shows. Yes the writing wasn’t fantastic, and yes there were some flaws, but at their core, they were shows that showed women they could be something more than what their families or society told them.

Then…the 80’s happened…

So the 80s were pretty bad. I won’t go into the politics of the time or anything like that, I’m going to just discuss the media and pop culture. If you look at the majority of the movies from the 80s, they featured this hyper-masculine and muscular hero. I never really thought about it until the documentary pointed out that this was a response to the feminist movement of the 70s. When you really think about it, and not allow your emotions or whatever get in the way, it makes sense. Men (white) have been in charge since…forever. They have gotten used to and abused this power, they have silenced those who would challenge them, and they have laughed off any attempts at change. So when a significant opponent appears, they get scared. They would never admit it out loud of course but they really don’t have to: their actions show their fear.

Thankfully in the late 80s and early 90s we had characters like Ellen Ripley and Sarah Connor who sort of challenged that and answered the question: Can a woman take the role that a man traditionally takes? Then came Thelma and Louise. This film registered a change, these women were (quite literally) fighting back and taking the law into their own hands. Fast Forward back to the 90s, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to say that Thelma and Louise sort of spurred the movement of this resurgence of powerful female figures on TV.

Thelma and Louise also sort of introduced this idea of sending powerful women off of the cliff. Seriously.

The documentary took a look at women in action films over the years. While there are several women in action movies, there are very few action heroines. Before you throw examples at me, please hear me out.

Nearly 30% of the heroines studied were killed off. The disturbing part? The way they were killed off: in this self-sacrificing way. Some of these characters even begged to be killed off, they couldn’t handle their power and they asked the male hero to kill them. The woman gives up the most she can give up: her life, to this dominant male hero. Don’t believe me? Then you clearly never watched the steaming pile of garbage that is X-Men 3.

To quote the documentary:

The hero is the model for the ideal of a community. To die, whether it be by their own hand or someone else’s is to remove yourself from it, to say that the community is best served by your nonexistence.

Some of the most popular female heroes were created by men. This is not to say that women aren’t capable of doing this, it’s just that people with access to those resources have traditionally been men. In 2012, or around that period, 3% of the decision making positions in the media were held by women. That still hasn’t changed much, I found that in 2017 the statistics hadn’t really changed much over the years. Because of this, we have this:

You have this brief window where female heroines are strong, but that fades into something that is much more sexualized.

In comic books, you often see women who are big-breasted (seriously girl how do you walk?) and are these hyped-up versions of male fantasies. One guy in the film said this and promptly followed up with: “But so are the men.”

Allow me to enlighten you, sir:

Yes, men are also often drawn as muscular and handsome, but they’re also shown as being active and saving the day. Women are shown in very little clothing and often tortured, raped, etc. So to say that men are just as sexualized really isn’t true because they aren’t subjected to that sort of treatment of their bodies.

Yes, that sort of thing has (maybe) died down a bit in today’s comics. Image Comics, who is known for it’s edgier and genre-defying content, have several comics that feature women in an active role. And to their credit, DC and Marvel have somewhat improved their treatment of their female characters. It’s progress, but that doesn’t mean we can comfortably stop.

In reality, as quoted by Gloria Steinem, girls need superheroes much more than boys do. 90% of the violence in the world is against women. The World Health Organization lists an almost never-ending fact sheet about how damaging this is to not only women but the socio-economic infrastructure.

In order to become the real-life version of a superhero, you need to see it represented in media. Girls need this so that they can know that their gender or race isn’t a limitation, but rather a strength.

So back to that feeling I mentioned earlier.

It was a feeling of injustice, it was a feeling that I wasn’t being properly represented and that if I did show my power it would be silenced. For a long time, I witnessed helplessly as women were silenced and told they couldn’t do things because of their gender.

Thankfully, that time is nearing its end.

Though this documentary does show it’s age occasionally, I consider it’s mission and it’s beliefs timeless. It shows that we, while we have overcome many hurdles, still have a long road ahead of us. I think it’s a necessary watch for anyone who needs some history about women in media, or just some general facts about a part of feminism that some people sometimes don’t think about.

I hope that this has encouraged you to make your own media, to show that your gender is not a fault, and to lift up others who are struggling. Give this documentary a go, I promise you it will change your thinking.

If you would like to purchase this amazing documentary you can do so here:

Amazon

iTunes

Freedom from Shame

For years I have wondered if I even had the courage or strength to write this. It has been a heavy burden on me, filled with doubt and anxiety—should I dare? Would anyone listen? Would anyone care? What makes me so special? These, and many more, doubts and fears have plagued me. So I kept silent, not knowing that part of me was withering away and tending to a festering wound that was slowing killing me.

I say now with complete confidence: Time is up.

I now have the strength to say that Wayne Heflin, a science and Bible teacher at Holly Grove Christian School, sexually abused me over the course of a summer, five months after my mother died in 2001.

It disgusts me to say, see, and type his name, however, he must be revealed for the monster that he is. For seventeen years I kept silent, only telling those closest to me and various therapists and psychiatrists. I’m shaking as I type this now, but I physically and emotionally cannot stay silent anymore. I don’t care if it makes you uncomfortable, or angry, or if you think I’m lying—this is my story and you have no say in it.

I will first start off by addressing the abuser.

Wayne Heflin,

Do you have any idea what you have done to me? No, and likely you are denying it. You have made it almost impossible for me to have a normal relationship, you have caused me to look over my shoulder in bars or restaurants, I cannot stand in line at Starbucks or a grocery store when there is a man in front and a man behind me—I have to get out of line. I have flashbacks of all the times you touched me, whispered in my ear, and then had the audacity to pray for me. You have made it impossible for me to ever trust any member of a church.

How many others have you done this to? How many little girls have you violated?

You took advantage of my grief and confusion over losing my mother, you manipulated me into thinking that you were a force of comfort and grace. In reality, you were a predator sizing up your prey, waiting for the right opportunity to strike. I cannot go to that park in Pocomoke, your essence still resides there, your voice echoes in the trees and in the water. That was your plan, right? To take me to desolate areas so that nobody would know that you’re actually grooming me? Deny it all you want, lie to everyone, I know what happened and you will not silence me anymore. You have lost your power over me, your grasp on me has ended. I heard recently that little girls don’t stay little forever, that they turn into strong women who come back and destroy your world. Now I am a goddess, a world eater, and you are nothing—a small, insignificant man who’s only power was to manipulate and take advantage of little girls—no more.

I know I will not get the justice I deserve: to see you rot in prison and pay for your crimes. This is something I will have to endure, however, I will not endure it silently anymore. I will take away your power, and I will crush your reputation. You do not deserve to wear the banner of “Christian” or “man of God,” I will strangle you with that banner, and make sure that the world knows what kind of vile, repulsive man you are.

Now I will address the institution that enabled this predator.

Holly Grove “Christian” School,

It has been seventeen years since this incident, you have probably changed—last I heard you were accredited or something. If you are seeking congratulations from me, don’t hold your breath. To me, you will always be a cesspool of lies and deceit.

I was fourteen years old when this transpired, now I am thirty and I am much more capable of standing up for myself—and I intend to do just that. People are wondering “What did the school have anything to do with it?” My reply is quite a bit.

I came to you in hopes that you, a Christian institution, would stand up for me, and hand this predator over to the authorities. You did not. Instead, you warned him about what was happening and let him go. You did not cooperate with Social Services, nor did you offer any comfort to me or my family. In doing this, you showed me that you did not care what happened—all that mattered to you was your precious reputation, not the students inhabiting your walls. Mr. Bess, Mr. Johnson, you were in charge of this institution. You had the power to do something about this, you were supposed to be men of God, you were supposed to stand up for those who were too weak to do so themselves. Instead, you enabled a predator and simply brushed the entire situation under the rug. Do you realize that in doing this, it was basically like being abused all over again? That you silenced me, you made me feel ashamed—that it was my fault this happened to me. Mr. Johnson, a few years later, when you became principal after Mr. Bess left, I was visiting the school to see my sister—you called me into your office to talk to me about a post I made online about how unfair your treatment of my fellow classmate was. You had the nerve, the audacity to say to me: “How could you have said all this? We’ve done so much for you.” I would like you to tell me what exactly you have done for me. Because all I remember is this: you and your colleges shamed me and made me feel like my voice and story was meaningless. You caused me to doubt everything that happened. You enabled a predator to walk free, and you then pretended as if nothing had happened. That’s what you did for me, and I will never forget it.

I have no idea who is still at this institution, or how much it has changed. Quite frankly I don’t care. That does not erase or condone what happened to me and who knows how many others. I will never have any respect or admiration for Holly Grove Christian School.

I know that many of you are wondering “Why now? Why bring this up after seventeen years?” My answer is this: I will not be shamed into silence anymore. I will not allow that predator or that institution control my life anymore. I have kept silent about this for too long. It is time to open the curtain, to show what is behind it and show why I am the way I am.

If you are angry and think I am lying or over-reacting if this offends you or makes you uncomfortable—well I don’t really care. This didn’t happen to you, you were not the victim of it. It didn’t happen to Mr. Bess or Mr. Johnson, it didn’t happen to my classmates, as far as I know, this happened to me. This is my story, my voice and I deserve to be heard. I am not saying any of this to destroy anyone, this isn’t some mission of a vendetta—this is not for anyone but me.

I used to believe that I would never be anything more than a victim, I know now that is not the case. That is what that predator and that institution want me to think, to be silent and pretend as if it never happened, to “move on” with my life. I know that this is a part of me now, but it will not define me—nor will it have power over me anymore. That little girl inside me was dying to cry out, yearning for some sort of kindness and understanding—instead, she was silenced and met with cold indifference. Now I have given that little girl a voice and would like to sincerely apologize to her for how long it took. I would like to hold her and tell her that she is worthy, even when “men of God” tell her she is not.

To those of you who are suffering in silence, who have been shamed into it, I want you to know that this is not easy for me at all. I am still shaking now, even toward the end of this impact statement. However, even though I am scared, I have gained my power back. I want that for you as well, whatever form it may take—whether it be a statement such as this or some other way. You deserve to have a voice. Your story matters because it is yours, and how you choose to tell it is up to you. I have taken my destiny back, my past will not define me anymore. I have the courage to stand firm in my story, despite what naysayers do, despite what “Christians” may have me believe.

As I said before, I don’t really care what anyone says, does, or believes to be true. I know this happened, and while I am still struggling to believe that it has to be enough, I know in the future I will come out of this stronger. To those of you who have believed me, and have been there for me throughout this journey: To say thank you isn’t enough, to tell you that I appreciate everything you have done isn’t enough. I will never be able to express how much it means to me that you simply believed me, and stood beside me.

If you are still reading this, for whatever reason, thank you. You have enabled me.

1/21/18

Breaking up with Writer’s Block

Dear Writers Block,

It’s not you, it’s me. I have become lazy and undisciplined about my craft. I have allowed you to think it was okay to stay here when really, it’s not good for me. I should have told you sooner, I know but my sloth-like behavior got the better of me and I became comfortable with you being here. I have several projects that desperately need my attention and your presence here isn’t really helping at all, it’s hindering. My problem is my brain, it used to be set up perfectly for writing—now it’s a fog of racing thoughts and overwhelming doubt.

As I said before, it’s definitely me. I think I allowed you to become an easy excuse to avoid these projects (one of which I’ve been working on since I was fucking 16—talk about procrastination..) because I guess I’m scared to finish it. What’s next? What if it doesn’t amount to anything? Why did I spend all that time and all those years obsessing over every detail? I have never done well with the future, it gives me anxiety—I don’t know what’s going to happen and that scares me to the point of procrastination. I figure if I draw out the process it will give me a chance to predict what’s going to happen, which is dumb because the universe is, in it’s very nature, unpredictable. I know I have the talent, I know I’ve worked my entire life at this, I know that I can do it but the ringing voice in my ear is like trying to have a conversation at a death metal concert.

I want to write, I want to create, this is what I live for—but fuck it’s scary. I now know why so many artist struggled with depression and other mental illnesses—and why they drank so much. It’s because the very act of creating is a trial by fire, a battle within the soul, and you’re relying on nothing but your passion to guide you. I can’t do it while you’re here Writer’s Block. I need to do some soul searching by myself and I need to clear the fog within my mind. I don’t think I see us getting back together, I can’t say we won’t have a one night stand every now and then but I don’t wish to continue this relationship. I hope you understand, I need to create, I need it to survive. I need it because I want to write like I’m running out of time. I wrote my way out of you, now it’s time to write my way out of my fog.

To the little girl who always dreamt of this day.

I had always hoped in the deepest part of my heart that I would get a chance to see Wonder Woman brought to life on the big screen. I never had any idea who I wanted to play the role, but I did know that I wanted a woman to direct it. Hollywood being chauvinistic, I didn’t think it would be for a quite a while.

Then it happened. They announced it. Wonder Woman was coming to the big screen. My heart soared and I proceeded then on with cautious optimism. That is, until I heard that a woman was directing it–then I knew it was going to be everything I could want.

But why? Why does it matter who directs it? I’m glad you asked.

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When I first heard these words spoken to my 11 year old self something stirred in me, I was 11 so I had no idea what but for years it never left. Several years later when the TV series became available on iTunes, naturally I bought every one of them, I was able to revisit this feeling.

Men are tortured by this awful demon called masculinity, this causes them to look down on women because that is what their forefathers did, and their forefathers. They have to be strong, brave, and tough. So for a woman to take up the mantle of strong, brave, and tough–this throws off everything they have been taught. Superman saved Lois Lane, not the other way around, Gwen Stacy couldn’t save herself from the Green Goblin she needed Spider-man to do it for her.

When the 50’s came around female representation became that of the housewife, no more Rosie the Riveter because the men have returned and want their jobs back; the women didn’t need to be independent anymore they had their husbands. Wonder Woman was stripped of her powers, and became more interested in fashion rather than stopping Ares.

Enter Gloria Steinem.

A woman who basically saved Wonder Woman from being completely removed from comics. She fought for her to get her powers back, and with lots of wading through patriarchal bullshit she succeeded.

I could go on and on about how I worship at the alter of Gloria because of what she did for my girl Diana, but I digress.

Female representation is important because it benefits everyone. There’s a balance in this world, and instead of being divided because you’re a man and I’m a woman, lets try to even out the seesaw. Feminism isn’t about women ruling the world, enslaving men, or becoming the superior sex; it’s about equality and love and acceptance of everyone. That’s scary because it throws off this toxic masculinity that everyone has come to accept as normal. Change is scary, change means that everything you know is going to become something other than what you’re used to. I get it, I personally am terrified of change when it happens. But when you accept that it’s something that is out of your control, when you allow yourself to sort of bend with the wind instead of fighting against it–wow, it feels so much better than constantly trying to be a wall.

So to every little girl who is going to see Wonder Woman, know that I was there with you. I looked upon her with admiration and love (still do!). Every single person who has played her I respect and occasionally fangirl because damn did they get it right (I’m talking to you Lynda Carter and Susan Eisenberg!). Now we have Gal Gadot in the ranks, and I can honestly say that wow, did they hit the nail on the head with that casting. Wonder Woman is a warrior, but she’s also a humanitarian and a politician. She is the embodiment of love, peace, and strength. Gal Gadot just gets it.

Wonder Woman has always been a special part of my life. My mother was my real life Wonder Woman, when she died I only had Diana Prince and she filled a little bit of the aching void that was left behind. Wonder Woman showed me that I am more, I am enough, and my gender shouldn’t matter when it comes to doing what I want to do.

So thank you to the cast and crew of this exceptional movie.

But most of all, thank you Wonder Woman.

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“And she lived.”

A lot can happen in two months….

I sit here in a dear friends house in the outskirts of Pittsburgh. I have taken back my life and I’m in a place now where hope doesn’t seem so far away.

Around this time in January I began to feel myself spiraling back into depression. I wasn’t happy with my situation, and I felt so powerless…I thought that I would remain stuck, that I would never truly find contentment. I cried, a lot. I wasn’t sleeping, and I was starting to get scared. What if this time I ended up in the hospital instead of just in outpatient? I didn’t want to go back to 3 South, but I felt so hopeless and lost.

Then I called my sister. My sister has always given it to me straight, she has always comforted, but never coddled me.

She told me “You’re not happy here. You have a chance to change everything, to go somewhere else. You’ve been sitting on this opportunity for a long time, and it’s time that you’ve taken advantage of it.”

She was right, I had a gateway that I had been avoiding because of one thing: fear. Fear had kept me prisoner, even with all that I had learned, all that I had accomplished, I was still afraid. I was afraid to take a chance, I was afraid of doing something without my mom there. I wanted freedom, but I didn’t want the risk that came with it. Fear is a demon that came with my depression and anxiety, it had wrapped itself around my heart and was beginning to take root. I had to take a chance or I would wither away.

So I began my journey by taking baby steps, then eventually I began to gain the confidence I needed to fulfill my goal, which was to get the hell off the Shore. Now I don’t hate my hometown, but I found my heart there and it was broken there. I needed to find a place where I could begin again. So with the encouragement of my friends, and my family I packed my car and I drove to Pittsburgh with a feeling of hope and happiness that I hadn’t felt in a long time.

I’ll let my poem tell the rest:

Purple-pink sunsets dot the sky as I load the last suitcase in the trailer.

My whole life packed in the back of a U-Haul attached to a grey Ford Escape.

Escape…

Is that what I’m doing?

I turn,

And I see my entire past before me–

My entire world painted on a canvas

That is battered and torn as I slam the door on my past.

“There’s nothing for you here…”

She says.

“This place is like quicksand.”

This Shore, this is all I have ever known.

The pungent smell of marsh,

The taste of salt;

The soft cattails and marsh grass that tickled my feet.

My childhood was built upon the foundation

Of sandy beaches and marshy ditch banks.

Maryland is in my blood–

Yet I have cemetary dirt under my nails

And an unwanted voice in my soul.

No matter how hard I scrub

(Out, out damned spot!)

I cannot remove the grime of her passing.

No matter how much I will it

I cannot erase his stain

From my body.

Maryland is in my blood,

But the past hangs over me like

Vampire bats in their lair.

The Shore raised me,

And the Shore broke me.

Now,

I take my broken pieces

And try to make some sense of my life up to this point

Through gnashed fingers and hands.

For thirty springs,

Thirty summers

Thirty falls

And thirty winters

I have endured–

I have survived.

Surviving is overrated.

You’re not living.

I want to thrive!

I want to breathe the air of release.

I want a day without the barrage of

Reminders of the cemetery dirt

And the stain on my skin,

Of the forked tongue spilling lies

And the groping hands, unwanted, tracing my skin.

The bats,

They will follow me.

However instead of vampires they will be insectivores!

Cleaning my infected mind of moths and insects

That cloud my future.

For you see the past is a chapter,

And I am the book;

I am the author.

I will write my narrative from the road–

I will take in all of it’s glory.

This chapter is complete, it is time to close it.

By the time the ink dries on this page,

I will be gone and the line will read:

“And she lived.”

How to Say a Million

I recently collaborated with the amazing Molly Likovich in writing and performing a slam poem. Please check out the video! I’ll post the text version of the poem following the video. Check out Molly’s website, and support her on Patreon because she’s amazing and deadly with the pen.

 

Come the tan-faced, the brown, the black, the white, the cream, the coffee, the beans and the burn of it all. Come over the rainbow with a chunk of it in your pocket–you are the pioneers

now. Come the vulvas, the uteruses, the unwanted organs. Come with your registry papers and your languid convictions clutched in your
sinews–you are the pioneers now.

Come to the alabaster seas and let their honorable hands find
fruit, let the flaxen-haired mongrels find washed-up woman–
hood. Let them know you’re mouth is made of lilies and hemlock–now

you’re the pioneers. You are the daughters of un-burned witches. You are salt and gritty bones. Come you who can drown oceans. Washington
has no lifeboats–you are now the pioneers.

There will be no time to turn back. You inherited this wild
west. The souls need action–you are the pioneers.

January pavement, you ache to walk
in a room–talking to Maya Angelou.

Feasting on pomegranates, you know no one
will sing for him. Yellow-starred, and pink-triangled.
We get there together, or not
at all. We are the pioneers now.
Do you dare disturb everything?
Daydreamer, and lollygagger. No more hitting send.
Now, you walk, pioneer.

 

A Woman’s Place is in the Resistance

To the women who marched on Saturday, I would like to take a moment to offer my heartfelt thanks.

You see I was unable to march because of a cold, my doctor strongly advised that I stay inside if I wanted to get better. I was planning to attend my local Women’s March in Ocean City Maryland, but I chose to abide my doctors orders.

I want you to know that you marched for me, you marched for my rights. I love you for that. I love each and every one of you: Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, Arabic, and those who wish to not conform. I love all of you both gay and straight, transgender, and non-gender specific. You took up the banner for me, a complete stranger and carried it willingly.

Why does it matter so much to me?

Because I am a survivor of sexual assault.

Because I have been discriminated against because of my gender.

Because I have made less than a man does for doing the same job.

You marched for me, you marched to make my voice heard so the least I can do is thank you for doing so. You stood at the Alter of Gloria in triumph!

Now, I will do my part.

I will take up my pen in solidarity with you. I will used my power of the written word to strike down those who say this is nothing but a phase, those who would demean our movement. I will write my local representatives. This is what it takes, this is what our battle looks like. So I will take up my weapon and ready it for war with you my sisters.

To those who say they don’t “need” this march, I say this: You do not get to decide what is good for other woman. That’s why we march: to decide for ourselves what is right for our bodies.

Thank you my sisters, thank you from the deepest part of my heart. I truly respect and honor you. Let’s keep fighting.