W is for Writing

letters-alphabet-cursive-wAs promised, a post on writing…

I don’t remember when I started wanting to become a writer (of fiction). I do remember when I learned to read. I was in first grade and my teacher was having each person read a bit from our textbooks. I remember finishing my section, looking up, and realizing that I had read it. With no help. All by myself. A rush of joy went through me and I thought, “I can read!” It was one of the few times of pure realization and happiness I can remember.

Somewhere between then and third grade I decided that becoming a writer was the coolest thing ever. In third grade my teacher set up these stations for independent work. My favorite station was story writing. All of my stories began with “once upon a time” and were about a “young girl” who overcame various challenges with courage and aplomb. Obviously all of my stories were fantasies about what I wanted my life to become, but I loved it nonetheless.??????????????

In fourth grade I entered our school system’s “Young Author” contest. I made it to the top three authors in my school and my story was submitted to the state contest. Another student in my school won, but I held the realization that I came close (I was in the top ten statewide) close to my heart.

Between fourth grade and high school, I played around with fiction, never really doing much but keeping my dream close. I never told anyone other than my best friend of my dream. Of course, at that time we alternating between being actresses, dancers, singers, and various other professions so I don’t think she ever took my ambition seriously. I was afraid to tell anyone else for fear that I would be mocked the same way I was when I said I wanted to be President of the United States (“you can’t do that! Only boys can be President”).

Then in high school, I did something quite stupid. I wrote a scene depicting me in the middle of a food binge then gave it to a friend for criticism. She tore it apart, pointing out everything from spelling mistakes to logic errors. Ultimately she said “it doesn’t seem real.” But it had been real, it had been me. My dream shriveled up and hid deep inside me, light deprived for years.

In my twenties and early thirties, I would occasionally drag out this dream of writing fiction, shake it out, and let it

It was just the pen, the paper, and me. Terrifying.

It was just the pen, the paper, and me. Terrifying.

soak up the sun for a bit. I’d take a workshop here, a class there. I read writing magazines and books. Open a word processing program or pull out a notebook and stare at the black screen/page. But I was always paralyzed by the fear that I’d not be able to do it right. That whatever I wrote wouldn’t “seem real.” So I’d back away, tuck my dream away, and try to content myself with my life.

Then, in my early thirties, I took a fiction writing class that gave me hope. It was taught by a man who had actually been published (not a best-seller or anything, but a book that a real publisher had bought). I had to take an upper level writing class to get my Associates degree, and this was the only class that appealed to me. So I tried, fighting my fear every step of the way. I forced myself to write at a higher level then I’d ever written before. And I succeeded. In one of my final evaluations my teacher said that I wrote better than he did. Better than a published author! I held that evaluation in my heart for years before I wrote another word.

Flash forward to 2010, many things had changed in my life. I’d survived years of suicidal depression, buried my mother and beloved grandmother, and finally decided that I could no longer put off my lifelong goal of getting my bachelor’s degree. My first semester back at a four-year university I decided to take a fiction writing class and be open to whatever came my way. The class was a revelation. I adored it. I loved the writing exercises, the students, even the deadlines. And, most importantly, I felt joy. Despite the hardships of my life at the time (financial difficulties, physical illnesses, etc), I was filled with hope. I was working toward one goal (bachelor’s degree) and doing something I loved (writing). I even got a short story published in my college literary magazine.

Since then I’ve taken another fiction class, where I also did well. I even considered attempting to get a Masters of Fine Arts in Fiction Writing, but then I got sick (hospitalized for suicidal ideation). My dream still lives within me, nurtured by the realization that my university teachers believed I could be published and/or get into a Masters program. My dream has lost most of its wrinkles and gets regular doses of sunlight.

But I don’t do as much to nurture it as I could. The fear of success and the fear of failure sometimes paralyze me. I try to remember that I’m allowed to write a “shitty first draft” (to quote Anne Lamott). I try to remember that I don’t have to be perfect, but I’m not always successful.

Regardless of my fears though, I plan to continue to work my way into being published. After all, I don’t want to write the “Great American Novel.” That novel has already been written, multiple times (see Twain, Melville, Hawthorne, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Salinger, Toni Morrison, etc). I just want to write a novel that a hardworking person can get lost in for a few hours. A novel that lets a reader forget for a time their own troubles. I want to give a reader the same experience I get when I read.

And I will do it. I must. Writing is my passion and I can no longer ignore it.

Is this your pic? If so, please contact me so I can give you credit.

Is this your pic? If so, please contact me so I can give you credit.

Blessings to you all.

Be well.

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M is for Mental Health

m recycledI promised myself that my next blog post wasn’t going to be another musing on the mental health merry-go-round, but I read this & discovered that there was a Blog for Mental Health 2014 project. If you’ve been following my posts, then you’re well aware that I’ve got a mental health condition, more than one in fact. So I thought I’d join in on the project. Here’s my pledge:

“I pledge my commitment to the Blog for Mental Health 2014 Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.” (Tallulah “Lulu” Stark, founder of Blog for Mental Health 2014)

Frankly this is a big step for me, as I never thought I’d be one of those bloggers who joined any kind of blogging projects &/or blog-link-along kinda thing. But mental health is a huge thing for me, so here I am. You can read more about the project here.blog for mental health 2014

To bring any new readers up to date, I have “Reoccurring Major Depressive Disorder with Suicidal Ideation”, “Anxiety Disorder Not Otherwise Specified” (otherwise known as “she’s got it but we can’t give it a category”), and “Binge Eating Disorder.” If you want to learn all the dirty details about my hospitalizations click here, here, here, and here. If you want to read a post specifically about suicide, click here, or bingeing, click here. A bit about my family can be found here, here, and here. And other bits about my mental health can be found here, here, and here.

So here’s what’s new about the state of my mental health:

1. My counselor is leaving me. Well, not just me, she’s leaving the facility I go to. Unfortunately, it’s the only place in the area an unemployed, uninsured person can go to and still get help, so I can’t follow her to wherever she ends up going. To make it worse, it’s just as we were starting to get somewhere. My last session with her is this week. I’ve no idea why she waited this long to tell me, but I hate that I don’t have much time to adjust to it. She says she has to go because she’s got to “model” what she tells us to do. I’m not exactly sure what that means, and she can’t really tell me anything else because of the whole client-counselor separation thing. I’m guessing there’s something major going on in her life and she’s gotta take care of herself in order to take care of something/someone else.

crying baby

Nope this isn’t me.

As a full grown adult, I’m happy for her that she’s taking care of herself. As a messed up person, I AM PISSED OFF!! This is gonna be the third counselor (not counting the intake and crisis counselors) I’ve been assigned at this facility. This is also following a pattern that started a couple of years ago where just when I think I’m getting somewhere with a counselor or major issue in my life, that counselor or person who is helping me leaves. And I have to start all over.

Why? Why do I have to have these problems? I don’t get it and I’m sick of it. I’m sick of having to explain myself and my life over and over again to yet another person. Frankly, I just want to throw things. This leads to:

2. My depression seems to be getting worse. I think it’s because I’ve been missing some of my meds, or it could be because my unemployment was cut off (at least until congress re-authorizes Emergency Unemployment again). Or it could be because the weather sucks. Or it could be because I suck.

Wait, I’m not supposed to say that. Okay, time to use my CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) skills: “sucks” is a negative word so I’ve gotta replace it with something positive. Um… Let’s say “it could be because I’m currently in a difficult situation that anyone would have a hard time with.”

sleeping baby

Still not me.

Not nearly as fulfilling as saying “sucks.” Sigh.

In any case, I’ve been sleeping a lot. 18 hours last night, 12 the night before. And I’ve been spending money that I shouldn’t be spending on stuff I don’t really need (this is one of my ways of distracting myself). I’m still bingeing, but not any more than before my mood started dipping. Oh, yeah, it started dipping right around the holidays. Coincidence? I think not.

3. My anxiety level has gone up. This one is easy to address. It happened because a drunk guy wandered into my building and was creeping up the stairs next to my apartment. He turned out to be harmless, but it triggered all my safety anxieties. And it doesn’t help that one of the abuse incidents in my past happened right after someone crept up a flight of stairs right next to the room I was in. I’m doing all the CBT stuff that I’ve practiced about this and I can see it working. I’m thinking at least this’ll get better soon.

Coming up next week: probably a post about writing (cause I’m sick of staring at my navel).

Kittens. Just cause they're cute.

Kittens. Just cause they’re cute. And I
LOVE cats.

Blessings to you all.

Be well.

L is for a Letter to God

l smoke blueDear God:

Over the past few days over a foot of snow has fallen and the wind won’t stop blowing. Right now, it is thirteen below zero with a wind chill of forty below. I am sitting inside, warm, comfortable, with electricity, and an internet connection. And I’m going stir crazy.

I cannot stop thinking of all the things you have given me. Things that many people don’t have or have not been given. When I was homeless, a home was opened to me. When I was unable to control my suicidal impulses, I was admitted to a hospital. When I needed a friend, one was given to me. So many times you have pulled me back from a brink: homelessness, suicidality, illness. I have a college diploma, live in America where I don’t have to worry about genital mutilation or being stoned if I get raped, have plenty of food, electricity, clean water, and a safe place to live. But I don’t know what to do with these gifts.

For the past few weeks I’ve been fighting the undertow of depression. Instead of using the tools my counselors have given me, I’ve done what I’ve always done: binge, sleep, spend money I don’t have, and yell at myself.

I feel so unworthy of all I’ve been given. God, you sent my soul onto this earth in as perfect of a state as possible and all I do is mess things up. I’ve misused my opportunities, ignored possibilities, lived in fear, and allowed my soul to become black and ugly.

Why? Why am I still here? What do you need me to do that I haven’t done already? How do I do whatever I’m supposed to do if I can’t identify it? How do I do it when I’m often too paralyzed to do even the simple things like brush my teeth, shower, cry?

I often think of an instance in my childhood where I felt your presence so completely. I woke up in the middle of the night for no reason that I can remember and opened my eyes to find that you had flooded my room with moonlight. Beautiful silvery moonlight poured through my window and hugged me. Somehow I just knew that it was you who was causing it to happen and you were telling me that you loved me.

So often God you have given me these little signs. A song played on the radio with lyrics that seem to speak directly to me. A flickering candle where there is no draft. Warmth when I should feel cold. Little signs that speak to me and tell me that you care.

I love those signs but I don’t know what to do with them. How can you care for me, love me, when I’ve misused my life? So often I think that the world would be better without me, that I’m worth less than the smallest insect.

When I was in high school, I was in the musical Godspell and had a small solo in a song called “You are the Light of the World.” In my mind, I’ve replaced those lyrics with “I am the scum of the earth.” I try not to sing these lyrics but sometimes I can’t help it. I believe that I am that green, gross, disgusting stuff that you pull out from sink traps and moldy insulation.

Logically, I know you would not bless me with all the things I have if I were so awful. I know it in my brain, but I cannot seem to feel it in my heart. And I know, God that I cannot move on in my life until I do. But I also think that I cannot move on, cannot feel worthy, cannot do what I’m supposed to do until you answer my questions:

Why am I always so scared?

Why can’t I motivate myself?

Why does food do more for me than interaction with people?

Why can’t I be content with what I do have?

Why can’t I open myself up?

Why can’t I accept love?

Why am I still alive?

Why does it hurt so much?

Why, please God, please tell me, why?

Sincerely,

Bonnie.

 

Blessings to all of you.

Be well.