breathe, cry, hope

Breathe, because I see you.

The same air you breathe, I breathe,

The same air you breathe shapes the wind,

Connecting earth and sky, breathe,

Connecting earth and sky.

Cry, because I see you.

The same tears you cry, I cry,

The same tears you cry fill the streams,

Connecting land and see, cry,

Connecting land and sea.

Hope, because I’m with you.

The same fears yo hold, I hold,

The same hopes we share float to God,

Connecting us within, hope,

Connecting us within.

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vulnerability

To be vulnerable is to be strong. To open one’s soul to the realm of the human experience is to embrace the capacity of one’s interaction with the world. To embrace the experience is to experience; to close one self off to it is to reject it and remain powerless and choose weakness. To feel all that dares to be felt, and to express, within the confines of security, all that I am capable of expressing, is to surrender myself to full existence, however the action of it is contradictory to the way I have interacted with my world in the past. My world was my stage, and I remained separate from it. What they saw was not who I was. What they see now is who I am.

i heard a cricket

I heard a cricket in September.

The cold on my shoulders signaled winter,

But the dust of the sun revealed to me spring.

I’m not quite sure if I got a sliver

On my heel, or if ice came, or sticker burrs splintered,

But the leaves from the ground brushed it off with a sting.

As I witness this miraculous shifting of color,

And as high schoolers blush and scatter fast past each other,

I venture to sift through my sharpened dull pain.

I dig in my soles to reveal fresh embers.

I witness the burn of soul’s body dismembered.

Yet soon I remember the sun mixed with rain,

And the pull of impermanence freshens the frame.

reverse poem

I am not resilient.

Even though people say

I am strong,

The voice in my mind reminds me:

The problem is in your heart.

Assess the demons in your soul.

If you judge me,

I retract in fear, I say,

This is the last time,

My spirit speaks.

still standing

Be honest! Be strong; don’t bullshit. Be yourself; don’t be too girly. Be athletic; be studious. Be skinny; don’t obsess over your weight. Be a good Christian; don’t be a prude. Be honest! Why did you lie? 

Be happy! Follow the rules; don’t be so up tight. Be passionate; why did you say that?? Be giving; don’t be such a push-over. You’ll have to work harder than everyone else; you’re such a goddam perfectionist! Just be real; stop second guessing yourself. You’re such an inspiration; you couldn’t survive without us. Be happy; why are you crying?

Be ready; you can always say no. Be sexy; why didn’t you stop? Be experienced; really, you did that? Be kind; you have no boundaries. Say I do; why did you rush? Say I don’t; why are you dragging? Make a decision; why aren’t you ready?

I’m standing; why are you surprised? I’ll say my name like I mean it. I’ll cry like it’s my fight song. I’ll bathe in my peace like I drank your hate. I’ll laugh and I’ll writhe like it’s my fucking birthright. I’ll say I do and I’ll say I don’t. And as for my word, my sexy, my drive, it’s not for you, but I’ll rock it. Still standing.

may you

May you be at peace.

And when your weakness wars your soul,

May you ride the waves.

And when your mind’s ambition fades,

May you take a breath.

Before you give up, and lose step,

May your shame release,

And may you be at peace.

for the proud cave dwellers: my walk with mental illness

Back when we lived in caves and hunted for our food, people like me were star survivors. We were hyper alert, obsessive, high-strung, detail oriented, and efficient. We were emotionally equipped to handle near-death experiences with Neanderthals and cougars. I was the type of person to lead the pack and keep us from danger. Spoiler alert: I’m not in a cave anymore! You guessed correctly: I’m no longer the most efficient leader of the pack.

Here’s the part where I almost stop writing because your next question is one that I don’t quite know how to answer: “what do you mean by people like you?” I guess it depends who you ask, and on what version of the DSM you’re looking at. I’ve been told I have generalized anxiety disorder, major depressive disorder, anorexia, trichotillomania, and borderline personality disorder. I don’t have all of those things. I have something. That thing doesn’t really matter. All I know is I’d do great in a cave!

I’m writing to share how I’ve navigated the toddler in my head, because I know I’m one of many efficient cave dwellers. This toddler lives with me daily. I’ve learned a lot about discouragement and defeat. When people praise me for living with a disability, I have to laugh because I know they’re referring to my blindness but I want to tell them that my mental health disorder is a much bigger challenge. And while I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, I’ve learned a lot about survival. I know I am stronger than it is. Below are a few survival strategies I use daily:

  1. I have accepted the toddler as part of me. In any and all situations, I soothe my raging toddler and take her into account. I have found that when I soothe her rather than fight her, we do okay.
  2. I rely on my physical senses heavily. Breathing has become my best friend. Wherever I am, there the air is. Wherever I step, the ground is there. I have learned to never take grounding for granted.
  3. I have learned that my brain functions a little differently. This sounds simple, but it’s not. Half of my battles have occurred because I forgot that I have a chemical imbalance. I wouldn’t dream of walking out of my house without my cane or my guide dog. Why would I ever think I would be my best self without my meds and coping tools? Remembering that I am chemically altered gives me calm. It puts a face to the silence. It allows me to accept and be the best version of me.
  4. I drive the bus. I’m not a passenger. My brain may have natural inclinations but as an adult, I get the final say about what I do with these reactions.

Whether you choose to name your disorder, or, like me, find that it manifests itself differently at diverging life stages and need not be named, remember you are stronger than you think you are. Remember that while it can feel so isolating, it only has the silence you give it. Reach out, be a proud cave dweller, and remember who drives the bus!