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:

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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

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.

Shelter

My first post in the new year is going to talk about a short that I discovered last year that impacted me in such a way that I am just now coming to terms with how much this piece of art is important to me.

This short tells the story of Rin,  a 17-year-old girl who lives her life inside of a futuristic simulation completely by herself in infinite, beautiful loneliness. Each day, Rin awakens in virtual reality and uses a tablet which controls the simulation to create a new, different, beautiful world for herself. Until one day, everything changes, and Rin comes to learn the true origins behind her life inside a simulation.

Now why would something like this impact me so? Why should you care? It’s quite simple really: It all goes back to my mental health.

If you haven’t watched the short, do so now. I will be venturing into spoiler territory beyond this point.

Rin’s journey, is my journey. I lived in a world where I thought everything was fine, repressing everything that I was feeling and running from my past. I was trying to create a world where I didn’t hurt, where I was safe. It was like a trying to paint over a black wall with white paint and expect it to not bleed through. Eventually no matter how much paint you add, your wall will always be black.

When Rin finally learns the truth, that her father sacrificed himself to save her, she is devastated. The memories are painful, they wash over her like the ocean waves.

That’s how it is with me.

See I have my own share of painful memories, from my mom’s death to being sexually abused by a teacher at my high school. Those memories haunt me, and even though I can’t fully comprehend my sexual assault yet–it’s still there, like a dormant volcano. The memories become overwhelming, they hit me like a truck and knock me in the mud, then they drag me through said mud and leave me there to rot. That’s when the depression hits, that’s when my demons come out and tell me I should just end it all and escape from this ocean of pain and misery.

The thing about the ocean though, is that it waves to and fro, the waves always recede back to the ocean. That’s what I have to remember, is that those memories are a part of me, they formed who I am, but they are not me. Those memories of my mom give me strength, they’re what keeps me here–they are responsible for that tiny dollop of hope that I have in my darkest times.

Even if those memories make me sad, I’ve got to go forward believing in the future. Even when I realize my loneliness, and am about to loose all hope, those memories make me stronger. I’m not alone…because of you.

As I type through my tears, I want you all, all who are struggling with something, to remember that it is worth it. I know it sucks, it hurts, and it doesn’t seem like it. But, to quote Samwise Gamgee, there is something good in this world and it’s worth fighting for.

Whatever that good is, fight for it. Find shelter in it.

Farewell my Princess…

I don’t think I’ve been this upset about an actresses death since Liz Taylor and Lauren Bacall.

NPR broke the story for me, it popped up as a notification on my phone. I had to pull over and cry. Luckily I was on my way to my therapists appointment so she understood why I was a little late. See Carrie Fisher meant more to me than just Princess Leia, just like Lauren Bacall and Liz Taylor I related to her. I adored her. I grew up with her.

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I can’t really remember how old I was when I first saw A New Hope, maybe 6 or 7, but I remember vividly my reaction to first seeing Princess Leia. I was enamored by her! At first it was “Wow she’s so pretty!” then I saw her kicking ass and taking names with the Stormtroopers and I was done. It impacted me in such a way that I only now realize, Princess Leia taught me that gender didn’t matter when fighting for what was right. She taught me that I could be that little girl who saved the galaxy. Let’s face it, Han and Luke would’ve been lost without Leia. Han probably still frozen in carbonite and Luke falling towards the Dark Side. You know it’s true, don’t deny it.

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Not only was Carrie Fisher a bad ass in movies, but also in life. She was unapologetically outspoken and in many ways, mirrored Leia’s personality on and off screen. She didn’t care who she offended, if you couldn’t take it leave. I loved her for that.sub-buzz-350-1482868843-3

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But as I grew older, I began to realize that I loved her for a much deeper and more meaningful reason: Her strong, outspoken stance against the stigma surrounding mental health.

See Carrie Fisher struggled with her own mental illness for most of her life. She was an alcoholic, and suffered from bipolar disorder…which probably lead to the alcoholism in the first place.

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Now I have depression, anxiety, and PTSD, I’m not bipolar but I have met people in my journey who have suffered from it and from what they tell me, it’s basically like a roller coaster ride from hell. That’s simplifying it of course, but I can’t in good conscience talk about something that I have no idea what it’s like. I know what it’s like to feel like you have this demon on your back constantly telling you how worthless you are, how stupid you are, how you are not enough no matter how hard you try. I know the crippling fear one faces while they’re in the midst of an anxiety attack–the feeling of gasping for air right as you’re about to hit the floor but you never do, it’s that feeling of falling without any resolution. I can imagine that both of those fall into play with bipolar disorder, and dealing with it takes immense strength and courage.

To speak up as a woman, and take no shit for it means you’re always under scrutiny of some kind. Carrie Fisher didn’t give a flying fuck about it, she was as real as they came. That is why I’ll miss her, that is why I love her. My life was impacted in a positive way by Carrie Fisher.

I’ll close with the first line of her obituary–as she would have wanted it:

Carrie Fisher found dead in moonlight, strangled by own bra…

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May the Force be With You, General Organa.

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Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus

I can remember believing in Santa right up until my double-digit years. My Mom was responsible for instilling within me a deep love for the Holiday season, I’ll never know the strength and endurance it took for her to keep up that faith.

My mom died in 2001, and that first Christmas without her was hell. It was just awful, everyone was walking on eggshells because they were trying so hard to make it special when it just couldn’t be special anymore. It hurt more than anything I could imagine, my heart was broken and there’s still a few cracks in it.

But as I got older, and the years kinder, I began to realize that my mother instilled within me all the tools I needed to make Christmas special. She made sure that we always spent it with family and friends, and, while presents were exciting, it was the time spent wrapping those for others that was more important. I still ache for her, I still long to hear her voice and have her wrap her arms around me, it still hurts. It will always hurt, but the pain becomes more bearable I suppose.

But back to Santa.

See it wasn’t really Santa that I believed in, it was magic. I believe in magic. I believe that there is something in this sometimes shitty world worth fighting for. What that something is, well that varies person to person. There is a lot of really awful things happening in our world right now, but I beg of you please don’t become jaded or cynical. I know it’s awfully hard, but here me out.

Francis Pharcellus Church was a newsman, in 1897 he received a letter from an 8-year old girl, Virginia O’Hanlon, asking if there was such a thing as Santa Claus. Now Church was a newsman, he was probably weathered and maybe a little jaded himself; after all adulthood wears on us all. He could have just as easy tossed this letter aside, forgetting about it and disregarding it as a silly childish whim.

But he didn’t.

Something moved Church, maybe he was a father, maybe the childish scribbles on the page before him moved him to think that this was the most important piece he would ever write. For if children can’t believe in Santa, what hope do we have for the future?

On Sept. 21, 1897 The New York Sun printed the letter and Church’s response to it, it has become the most famous piece of newspaper editorial ever. Allow me to quote it:

DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
Papa says, ‘If you see it in THE SUN it’s so.’
Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?

VIRGINIA O’HANLON.
115 WEST NINETY-FIFTH STREET.

VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart

I’m far from a person of religious belief, such as a Christian or what have you, but I am someone who believes that there are things in this world that we just aren’t meant to understand. There is an inherent good in this world, there is beauty, and there is love.

This Christmas do what makes you feel love, peace, and remember: Yes, there is a Santa Claus.

Graduation: One Year Later

I must warn you all that I’ve had at least three beers (and working on my fourth) before writing this so it may be a bit more expletive than usual.

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It has been a year since I’ve graduated college and as I sit here unemployed, in crippling debt, and broke I tend to let my mind wander. I allow it to wander across the plains of my fucked up brain and explore, explore the good, the bad, and the really ugly of what led up to that piece of paper that now collects dust in a frame–why I went through all of the blood, sweat, and tears to get the damn thing.

Let me start off by saying that I’ve never been the ideal student, I’m the daydreamer. I’m intelligent…when it comes to things I really like, things like literature or history, or the arts. Math? Fuck that shit. Letters and numbers are separate entities and should remain so. My mom was the one who showed me that all subjects mattered, whether I thought so or not. After my mom died, I became a volatile force, I was excelling at my literature classes but failing everything else. To this day I’m pretty sure my shitty Christian school gave me a diploma so they wouldn’t be held responsible for my farce of an education because there’s no way I could have graduated with the grades I had. But that’s neither here nor there, the point is that I was a terrible student after my mom died because I didn’t have a reason to live and get good grades anymore. I only went to college because I was terrified that she would haunt me the rest of my days if I didn’t.

I spent four years in a community college where most people spent two and six years at a university where most people only spent four. I had no fucking clue what I wanted to do with my life, and if I’m really honest about it, I really didn’t even want to live it because of all the shit I was going through. During my time at the university I was hospitalized twice for my mental health, and suffered several suicidal ideations (of which I never acted upon). I had to re-take several classes and spent many a minute in the bathroom suffering from panic attacks. I suffered in silence because I was afraid of ridicule. I didn’t reach out because I was a loner and trusted few.

It wasn’t until I had a creative writing class that I felt it necessary to share my story, I don’t know why and to this day I can’t give you a reason why I did it. Maybe because I felt safe there, maybe it was the amazing professor, maybe it was the students in the class, hell it was probably all of that. I think I was also just so tired, tired of hiding, tired of carrying this burden on my own. With ink and paper, the encouragement of my professor and peers, I was able to release. I was able to share my burden, even if it was just on the page.

Throughout the rest of my college career, I kept that class in the back of my mind. And on December 19, 2015, I was able to walk across the stage and get my degree that I had worked my loving ass off for.

So why did I go through all of that? Why did I even bother?

See when you have a mental illness you’re constantly reminding yourself of the things you can’t do, things that seem impossible. It’s not you saying those things, it’s your illness lying to you–daring you to even try to defy it. It tells you that you’re worthless, you’re weak, you’re not enough. I believed it some days, and others it was silenced by the little spark of defiant hope that I had.

My point is this: Defy the voice that tells you that you can’t. Defy the voice that tells you that it won’t get better. I got my degree to show myself that I am capable of doing great things, that even if I never get my dream job (novelist preferably), or I never get out of debt–I can still put my feet on the floor in the morning and say I’ve lived. I woke up. I breathed. That’s a huge victory for someone who didn’t think life was worth it.

So live my friend, breathe the air of life and suck it all in. For it is beautiful.

 

Thanksgiving

When I think about this past year, it’s hard to not get discouraged. I’m talking about my own personal struggle–not the political turmoil and rampant depressing events that occurred this year (though some of that played a part). My mental health has been the forefront of this year, especially towards the latter half of it. I struggled with suicide and deep, dark bouts of depression and crippling anxiety. I questioned whether or not it was worth even continuing this life that I was living, and a small part of me still challenged that thought but it was exhausting and I was beginning to lose hope.

I enrolled in the Partial Hospitalization Program to avoid a full term hospitalization where they would keep me for god knows how long. The PHP is a program that helps people who have been hospitalized for mental health issues get back on their feet, and it serves as another way for those who are on the precipice of a hospitalization. I was there for two and half weeks, I won’t go into detail of the therapy or the medication changes–but it helped me immensely.

I say all of that to give a background as to how important my friends and family are to me. When you’re going through a depressive episode, you can be very reclusive and isolate–because you don’t want to be a burden to others, or you feel scared that they won’t love you anymore for whatever reason. I pushed people away, people that I shouldn’t have, people that I love dearly, and would rather die than hurt them.

But my family and friends persevered, they knew that it was not me but the illness that was doing this. They loved me, they called me, they kept pushing against this wall that I had built until it came crashing down. I wanted so much to just fall off this precipice, to make the pain stop but they kept pulling me back. They never gave up on me, nor did they allow me to give up on myself.

This Thanksgiving, I wanted to share with you how lucky I am to have such amazing people in my life. It is hard sometimes to remember them, especially when I’m falling back into depression. I remember them, I remember the coping skills that I learned, but most of all I feel that love searing through my veins. It keeps me grounded when I want to fly off the handle, and it keeps me sane when I want to curl up in a ball and give up.

I want to let you all know that you matter to someone, more than you ever know. You are their entire world and you are important. Someone is thankful for you.

Happy Thanksgiving dear friends.