To The Troubled Souls:

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It wrenches my heart to hear it said
That the mentally ill are sick in the head
When it goes unknown what it is they feel
And whether or not their pain is real

Who can say, with certainty, that
Anything’s real? We’re just a ‘brain in a vat’
Experiencing the world subjectively
Allowing things to pass unexpectedly

There is a notion onto which I cling
That allows for anything you wish to bring
Into existence to finally be seen
By you and whoever else believes.

The world is cold and harsh out there
Bravery is the only mask you can wear
Your scars convey more than they conceal
But their stories are still only yours to reveal

Don’t let them know you without your consent
They will never know truthfully what you meant
When you dragged that blade across your skin
But, please, don’t believe when they say ‘its a sin.’

These actions, you see, are not from your heart
They were not part of you from the start
The pain you inflict is but an expression;
An outward display of your auto-aggression

Know that when you feel displeased
There are other ways to get release
From the clenching hold of condemning words
Trust me, I know how much it hurts.

Then again, don’t trust a single soul
You’ll see that you can’t as you grow old
Everyone hides their true intentions
That’s why I strive for prevention

I See Your Struggle, I Feel Your Pain

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One of the worst things is recognizing a suffering in someone who you care about and knowing there is nothing you can do to sooth the pain. You may be able to open a door and shine some light on the situation, but nothing will ever make it better.

Its even worse to have learned this first hand, through experience. I suffer in a similar way, but it was far worse when I was younger. I see my pain in his eyes and I wonder if he will survive. I wonder if he has someone so important and so close to him that he would promise his life for their sake.

My person, my cousin, my best friend, was the one who was so important to me that I made my promise. I held on to that promise until she died. Through the grieving process, you sometimes stumble into resentment towards your loved one for leaving you, and this caused me to disregard my promise. After she was gone, I no longer felt a need to hold up my end of the bargain.

I regret breaking that promise more than anything, but at the same time it saved me. I needed to have a brush with death to remind me of the value of life. To be perfectly honest, the only value I was reminded of was that of family and friends.

To this day, I crave the relief of un-existing. I lust after the satisfaction of self-punishment and the release of auto-brutality. These are things all of us (with depression and the like) face on a daily basis. The presence of the thoughts does not condemn us, but rather our actions regarding those thoughts.

I may feel an urge to rip my skin open, but I don’t do it. The feeling passes and I recognize the fact that those kinds of feelings, just like their positive counterparts, are fleeting. Nothing lasts forever, it only lingers as long as you let it. It took me a long time to figure any of this out. I have felt so alone for most of that time and I don’t want to watch another person, who I care about, go through that kind of life.

I want him to know that the feeling that stings deep in his chest is, too, present in mine. I want him to understand that NO, I do NOT know what you’ve been through, but I promise I’ve been through something that allows me to relate. If I  haven’t, I promise I can be a judgement-free, listening ear. Don’t you ever, not even for a second, feel alone in this world when you know you have a friend, a cousin, a person who cares more than you are able to fathom.

Don’t you dare break my heart the way I’m sure you’ve wanted to before; the way I’ve wanted to break others’ hearts before. Promise me you will take the life you have and cling to it as if it were just as fleeting as the emotions that ebb and flow like a constant stream of rushing water.

They come on strong and hard; a force I’ve never seen before. There is passion present in almost every word uttered from your mouth and THAT is a true sign of life. That is a sign of resilience and strength; to find yourself filled with energy and emotion charged in any direction is better than finding yourself empty.

Empty is something I have felt for a large portion of my lifetime. Empty is something I do not wish upon anyone. Empty is the absence of life, of substance, of people, of love. Empty is a waste of precious time.

As Jamie put it, “There are some people on this planet, who know they only have so long… and there are others who think they have forever… I would give anything to take my death sentence and trade it for the possibility of forever. That’s what you have, Jillian, you have the possibilities of a lifetime.”

And that’s when it clicked for me, though I needed reminding later on, that life is precious and it is insanely selfish of me to throw it away. I need to cherish it for the sake of the people I love who don’t have a choice about their fate. Its not right to take control of your life like that; after all, you aren’t the only one who is hurt by your bad feelings. The people who care about you hurt by seeing you in pain, and if you were to end your life you would only leave behind more suffering. You won’t be there to feel any sense of relief you anticipate.

My point here is that, there is nothing wrong with suffering and feeling pain inside. The only wrongness that emerges comes from the action taken to express that pain and suffering. The wrongness of those actions is not “wrong” in the sense that I don’t think its right. It is “wrong” in the sense that you are doing yourself a disservice. You are diminishing your own worth and failing to recognize that you deserve to feel pain and to express those feelings. You deserve to know that your feelings are justified and that you are not alone in feeling that way. You need to understand that the bad stuff is normal. The bad stuff is important. The bad stuff is necessary to offset the good.

 

If you don’t struggle, you will never appreciate the happiness that comes from conquering your personal demons. If you don’t fight then you will never know that victory, and if you need help but don’t ask for it, you will go down in flames.

Do you want to see the most beautiful part?

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I tell my stories because, unlike my sulking face and my slim frame, they are truly beautiful. My stories are not made better or worse by passing trends and they are not played up with accessories or pops of color.

I have been told all my life how very beautiful I was. I was assured that I should feel no hatred towards myself, that I shouldn’t harm myself, because of this beauty. As far as the outside world has always been concerned, sadness and beauty are mutually exclusive.

I wish I could tell you how many times it was revealed to me that my sadness simply could not be: I was far too pretty. I wish I could tell you that it made me feel better, but it never has. I have always been one to look upon my reflection, finding comfort in knowing I was stronger than they knew. It didn’t comfort me to know that I was nice to look at, if anything it made my skin crawl. I didn’t want to be beautiful to the world. I wanted to be tragic…

The abrasions on my skin were never enough to turn me ugly. No one even noticed them, really. If they did notice, no one said anything. I was fooling the whole world with my award winning smile.

The part of me that has been so vastly overlooked, the part I find most beautiful, is the part inside that you can not see.

I am most infatuated with the words that flutter from my lips like liquid courage falling from the lip of a bottle. It comes in bits and pieces so small you can’t separate them from the whole. The “whole” is a massive contortion of the English language that bends around the drums so as to avoid being detected by undeserving ears. The true beauty is in the meaning of the linguistic nonsense spewing from the semantic centers of my brain.

You want to see the most beautiful part?

Well, then, close your eyes.
Listen to the stories that have shaped me in the most abstract sense of the word. If you could imagine shaping a mound of clay without ever physically touching your skin to the re-hydrated ball of sand particles and other microscopic minerals, then you can imagine being formed from the indirect touching of people and places and events going on around you. None of it physically grasps you, but it tosses you about.

Feel with your fingers, the fleeing formation of the clay, as you hold it beneath the water. Feel the particles disintegrate as they reintegrate with the di-hydrogen monoxide. Strain the water to find the dissociated particles that are once again forming a solid mass. Feel as the malleable mass mutates as you mold the molecules to fit your form.

Now open, watch with your eyes as your own hands take this product of the earth, and with it, create something useful; something beautiful; something worth keeping.
Interpret the infinite possibilities of these peculiar particles. You have the capability to create; to understand; to transform anything into being. You have the ability to think and to think about thinking. You have these powers inside of you that you must learn to harness.

I find the most beautiful part of myself to be the deep, burning passion that I feel in my heart. The tingling of excitement when I know I am approaching home. The comfort I feel in seeing my mother’s smile. The release of the clenching in my throat to see my sister breathe fresh air; with a smile on her face, no less. The smile on my nephew’s face when he sees me for the first time in months, my father’s embrace: these are the things that make me beautiful.

That Moment, You Know, When Everything Changes

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To say there is one single most traumatic experience in a person’s life is a very bold statement to make. To say that you can pin point exactly when you went mad, well, that would be bliss for some. For me? I wish I could say that I wasn’t always mad but I can’t say with any certainty, had this event had not occurred, that I would be any more sane than I am now. Perhaps it was not the moment I lost my marbles. Perhaps that happened long before, but either way, this moment took something from me that I will never get back. It took away whatever I had left of my innocence.

I remember so little else about the time surrounding this particular event, likely because its prominence is so vast in comparison to anything else that happened that day (week, month, year). I wish I could say it was something I hadn’t seen coming, but in some sick way, I knew I was in for a show. I had been dating a boy who was older than me and sicker than me. He was mentally ill in ways I could not imagine at the time. I was damaged; suicidal and self loathing. I was full of resentment towards those who had hurt me over the years. This was something we had in common, the boy and I. We often cursed the world while we rejoiced in each other’s company. This evening was meant to be no exception. I was on my way from school; I took the bus and walked from the bus stop to his house almost everyday.

I could feel something strange in the air. This trip was unusual while remaining familiar. I had done it over a hundred times the past few months. Why did it seem like I was walking in as an unexpected guest? He wasn’t answering the phone and I usually called before I got there so I wouldn’t have to ring the bell. I wanted to avoid chatting with his mother if I could. I waited outside for a few minutes and called another time. When I got his voicemail again, I got a strange feeling in my gut. Something was wrong.

I opened the front door and ran up the stairs. His room was in the attick. When I turned from the stairs to face him in his room, I was met with a sight from a nightmare. Not my own nightmare, of course, I could never think up something this horrible. My boyfriend, the boy I cared so much about that I had forgotten my own needs so I could better serve his, was standing on a chair with a noose around his neck, almost as if he was threatening me. His expression as he carelessly and instantaneously kicked the chair out from under his legs, showed me the extent to which he didn’t acknowledge my feelings.

In an instinctual jerk of my right arm I plunged forward towards a bookshelf containing a “collection” of unusual weapons. Among them: brass knuckles, nun chucks, batons and various switchblades. I reached for the first blade I saw and I hacked through the rope that was tied off only a couple feet in front of my face. When he hit the ground in a loud thump, I ran over to assure he was alright.

He looked up at me with eyes full of resentment and regret. He was displeased by my heroics. He wanted to die and he wanted me to watch him die. I couldn’t imagine what I had done to deserve a fate so awful. To lose a friend, especially someone I cared for so much, would be torture in and of itself. I don’t need to watch it happen to make it hurt even worse. I don’t have to know there was something I could have done to help but didn’t. That is how he wanted me to feel, though. He wanted me to feel responsible. It was somehow my fault that his life was not worth living. It was up to me to make it better.

I was horrified by these revelations. He really thought of me as his only reason for living. This was a grave amount of pressure for someone so suicidal on their own. I never wanted to be that burden for anyone. I never wanted to make life worse, or even less worth living for anyone else. I felt like I was just so defective and horrible and rotten that, not only did I hate myself, but I wasn’t even enough to keep my boyfriend satisfied. He was so unhappy with me, he’d rather be dead.

I instantly withdrew inside of myself. I was unreachable by the outside world. I was probably the most unreachable by him. I could not let him know what I was truly feeling. I couldn’t risk setting him off. I would have felt responsible if he tried to kill himself again and now it was my job to keep him alive. I started seeing him every single day. I had to, there was no other way to make sure he wouldn’t hurt himself. I was also struggling with urges to self-harm and thoughts of suicide, but I had to keep it to myself.

I would put anything aside. I made excuses for his anger over and over again. He always talked about taking me away and getting out of town and making a life together. I didn’t understand why he would ever want to leave Boston. I had a home and that’s where I wanted my life to be. I was only 16 years old at this point, mind you! I wasn’t sure what I wanted out of life, but I assure you I didn’t think I would live much longer, so it didn’t matter all that much to me. I wanted to die in a place where there would be people to mourn me. I was sick and scared. I needed help.

I wasn’t asking for help from anyone. I couldn’t let the world know I was in trouble. I had been in trouble many times before and any advances at getting help only made it worse. Telling the truth, telling an adult, always made it worse. I learned to keep things to myself and suffer in silence; it was the least painful way.

This story doesn’t have much of an ending. The fight to keep my boyfriend happy was very much a lost cause. He was never happy and he would never be happy, at least not with me. He continued to express his frustrations that I was not the saving grace that he intended for me to be. His anger escalated until one day… he snapped.

Pain for Pleasure

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You…

As a child, hurting yourself is possibly the worst thing that will happen to you all day. Mommy dresses the ugly scabs with skin-toned band-aids that give the illusion that nothing ever happened; like the skin below is not broken, bleeding, and sore.

As you age, you do it yourself. The cleaning of the scrape, the dressing of the wound. The healing process is in your very own hands.

One day, you’re late for school. You forgot to do your homework, and well, you’re the only one. The girls talk about TV shows that you never watch and boys talk about video games you never play. You listen to your CD and you wait.

You wait for the minute hand to reach the 2. You leave 20 minutes early to take the flag off the pole, fold it properly in a triangle fold and place it in the vice principal’s office. If you finish early, you leave early.

So you walk, as you always do, past the church, past the park, around the corner, up the stairs.

No one is home.

I…

I sit in silence; in darkness. I externalize that which is going on inside my mind.

I feel wrong. I feel broken.

I feel angry. I’m angry at myself for being wrong and broken.

I’m angry at the world for being right and perfect.

I am angry at my parents for not being home, waiting for me.

I am angry at the world for ignoring my pain.

I am hurt.

I feel like someone has reached down my throat and taken hold of my heart.

I speak no words.

I cry no tears.

I let out no screams.

In silence, I bite down in the back of my arm and I clench my jaw with all of my might.

Blood draws and I release my grip.

In a panic I wrap my arm in toilet paper.

A blissful feeling lingers.

I lay motionless in bed until the sun rises again.

 

Today I am not late, I have not forgotten to do anything.

My incomplete homework assignments are no longer accidents.

Now, they are choices.

My isolation is no longer forced upon me.

Now, it is welcome.

My wounds are no longer dressed.

Now, they are exposed.

 

 

Note: The very first time I intentionally hurt myself I did not know what I was doing. It was a natural reaction to an overall feeling of defeat. I instinctively felt as though I should harm my own body in order to alleviate some of the emotional anguish I was feeling. My inclination to escape my suffering state is/was natural and to be expected. The ways in which I suffered were not clear to someone outside of my mind; thus I made it so.