Words of wisdom
I can honestly relate to this. Great work by Tim Miller!
A few people have asked for the full story excerpted inthis post. Not sure if this is anyone else’s experience of high school anxiety, but here’s one attempt to replicate it:
Freshman year, this kid I played baseball with in the summers, he bets me who’ll win a football game on Sunday, says he bets me a dollar, and on Sunday his team wins—
And that whole Monday, I don’t have any money in my pockets, I’m scared and waiting for him to show up, wanting his fucking dollar—
Of course he never does, I’m just an idiot—
People talk and don’t know what they say, I listen and I want them to listen to me and know what I say as much as I notice them, nobody does—
Or same year, a kid a year older than me, but we look alike, people say we’re…
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How was I going to explain this to the people I love? How do you tell others that physical harm is more tolerable than the pain you feel inside? My heart was pounding hysterically, my insides pulsating. Even so, I explained to Ekim what was happening and that I was going to be gone for a while, that it was for the best. It was extremely devastating how much pain the whole debacle had caused him. I could see exhaustion in his grimace; he appeared much older than he was. An old soul trapped in a nineteen year old body. That’s what we both felt like; constantly having to battle every single aspect of life, fighting for love, to make it out on our own, fighting our own demons and the obstacles that were thrown in our path. Even so we persevered.
One day at that mental hospital was hell to me but I knew that if I went against their rules and mission, my stay there would be prolonged; therefore, I cooperated. They made me get undressed as soon I arrived to the inpatient mental hospital and they made sure I didn’t have any weapons or drugs. I cooperated with the uncomfortable process of it all. It’s ironic because the lady who was in charge of my admission, Carol, was very rude. She kept asking why I harmed myself and without knowing anything about me made such unnecessary comments as if I already didn’t acknowledge the amoral works of art on my arms.
“Curse her out! Cause havoc!” Ana said
I cooperated with Carol instead.
The day ahead consisted of paperwork, room assignment and meeting the staff members. Now I am not saying all professionals in the psychology field are what I am about to describe, but the majority of the staff at this facility seemed to be part of an episode of the walking dead. My psychiatrist seemed dull as if the burden of all his patients was beginning to become agonizingly overwhelming to him. I remember feeling bad for him. I still confessed to him that I harmed myself because it helped me feel better and I answered yes to most of his questions, including the uncomfortable “Do you want to die?” ones. He prescribed some horrid medications to me, so terrible that I forgot the name of them. He also diagnosed me with major depression. Till this day I don’t think he even knew what was wrong with me. After a long day of settling in, I finally lied down in the inpatient hospital bed. Once night set in, it began thundering quite loudly outside which I always found soothing, yet I could not sleep for the life of me. My roommate however, was sound asleep. Must be some good meds I remember thinking.
As I lied down on that uncomfortable bed I wondered about Ekim, my mother and my three siblings. The thought of them being disappointment made my stomach ache. It was the longest night ever.
The next day was pretty much the same as the previous one. I tried my best to cooperate in every aspect of recovery but not for my own good, my goal was to be released out as soon as possible. I began to feel confined which then turned into anxiety. Once the staff allowed me to use the phone, I called Ekim and my mother, I spoke to them for a few minutes and explained to them that the length of my stay there was unknown to me. My mother, my three siblings and Ekim decided to come visit me at the Home for the Shattered. The entire time they sat across the table, I felt ashamed. I had kept my troubles in the shadows for a very long time to prevent them from seeing me in this state. They all seemed confused as if they could not comprehend how things got this far. When they heard me elaborate on my diagnosis, major depression, it was as if I spoke a foreign language. Who can blame them? They never had a reason to research such a complex term. Depression did run in the family, I speak of relatives we were not close with. I had a cousin who committed suicide whom I did not know very well, an aunt who went insane and a father who is bipolar. Once visiting hours was over, we gave one another a warm embrace and then they departed. A sense of relief overcame me. Solitude was all I longed for during that moment. Oh but not at the Home for the Shattered, you must socialize and become involved if you want to recover. Therefore…I cooperated.
During my stay at this magnificent resort, I met some interesting people. There was this one beautiful curly haired female who was always smiling and I could not comprehend why she was in there with the rest of us. She glowed to me. Then another individual appeared and he was quite handsome. He had melancholic blue eyes, yet like the female, had a bright smile. They were both mesmerizing to me and I still could not fathom why the heck they were here, until they told me they were bipolar. It made more sense. A room filled with fallen souls, nevertheless, I belonged there with the rest of them. In there I was not the outcast and that was enough for me. Eventually though, I knew I had to find a recovery method.
I sat on the sofa on the TV area one afternoon contemplating on everything I had witnessed and everyone I had met until one older lady with a multi-colored flower patterned nightgown approached me.
“Do you talk to God?” She asked wide eyed and crooked smile.
“Uh…no” I said then watched her walk away slowly.
Honestly, I was spooked. It was an environment I had never encountered before. It was all new to me and not in a positive way. The atmosphere felt heavy, as if the goal for everyone was no longer to recover, but to be comfortable instead. In that moment I decided that I would leave immediately. Home for the Shattered was a place of acceptance which I enjoyed but I did not see a healthy future in prolonging my stay at this facility.
It was day three at the Home for the shattered and I was miraculously released by noon. I said my farewells and expressed my gratitude to the staff before exiting the building. Once I was released, I rushed through the stairs and at last made it through the door before they changed their minds about releasing me into the world. My significant other, Ekim was already outside in the parking lot waiting for me. When he wrapped his arms around me, it was as we touched for the first time. I think I heard bells, a choir and saw doves flying over us. Except in reality it was cold, we both cried and my wound was still throbbing, reminding me of the reason we were standing there in the first place. Ekim, seemed happy to have me by his side and so was I. Ecstatic actually. We spent the remainder of the day together, wrapped in each other’s arms tightly without letting go of one another.
I wish I could say that’s the end but it wasn’t. Not too long after my release from Home for the Shattered, I began my intake of prescription antidepressants accompanied by visits to a local therapist. Regardless of my efforts to recover from major depression, it all spiraled downwards. My anxiety became extremely severe; no longer could I be in public without having a manic episode. My psychiatrist Jose, of Puerto Rican descent like myself, decided to increase my dosage thinking it would help calm me down. I cannot remember the name of the medication, it was not a common antidepressant, all I remember is that it stimulated some intense emotions within me. I tried communicating with my therapist as well as Jose my psychiatrist about the medication not working, they advised me that I could not be without medication. Prescriptions after more prescriptions yet I was not feeling better, only fed up with it all, therefore, I decided to abandon my therapy, medication and life itself.
This time, it was much worse. It all happened extremely fast. Ekim and I had argued for what seemed like the hundredth time, I could tell that my irritation was rubbing off on him also. As I walked from my bedroom where we had been arguing to the bathroom, he followed behind but not fast enough to stop me from grabbing the blade and slashing a horizontal wound on my left arm. Blood, much more blood this time gushed out of my wound. Ekim attempted to help stop the bleeding, he fainted instead. While this occurred, my mother walked in on us, once she noticed the splattered blood in the white bathroom sink, she immediately drove me to the hospital. Once we arrived, it felt like déjà vu being there all over again. Months had passed since I was institutionalized at Home for the Shattered and I could not believe that I was back where it all began.
This time it was a different doctor who stitched up my wound and additional stitches were required. After the doctor cleaned up the wound, I predicted the entire scenario which consisted of questions regarding self-harm, the medication I was prescribed and the names of my mental health providers. I provided any information they required as I pleaded to them not to send me to Home for the Shattered but to no prevail the doctor could not get in touch with my psychiatrist which meant I would be sent away to the mental clinic. As soon as the doctor left the room leaving my mother and I alone to go and make the preparations to send me away, I took a chance and walked away. My mother was petrified, yet she still followed me to the exit of the building. I finally made it to the car but my mother was still near the exit of the hospital, I yelled at her to hurry but I was still not as loud as my heart beat. The whole scenario was unbelievable and humorous to us, which is why once we entered the car we burst out laughing still in shock that we just escaped from the Emergency room.
Returning home meant facing the consequences of my actions and that also meant confronting Ekim, my mother and my three siblings. My actions caused each one of them a great amount of pain, I could see it in their facial expressions when they were around. It was then, after a sudden epiphany that I decided I would find an unorthodox method of recovery since the previous plan was not working. Day and night I sat in front of the computer, researching topics on depression, suicide, and cutting. Anything I could relate to I would read for hours until I felt prepared to apply it to my life. The first step I took was to rid my body of antidepressants.
It was Sunday morning when I grabbed the pills from the kitchen cabinet and walked outside with them. It was a nippy summer morning with the bluest skies which made the world seem jolly, as if the entire debacle at the hospital never occurred. I continued walking for about a mile until I stumbled upon an empty water well. I stared down the dark abyss then back at my prescription bottle. As I extended my arm towards the hollowness, I dropped the drugs in the water well, promising to myself that I will not rely on chemical substances to feel better about being alive. It was such a relief to be off them. I also stopped seeing the therapist and the psychiatrist who constantly enforced medication on me, I ended it all and chose to find therapeutic activities that intrigued me instead. Walking became my therapy, nature became my muse and my savior. Being surrounded by the silence in the forest soothed me, it calmed my mind. Other activities I became involved with were hiking in long trails, it gave me a purpose to hike a trail that led to a beautiful destination such as a magnificent waterfall. Nature was not my only method of recovery though, I also became involved in the creative arts, I began drawing often and even painting. It truly distracted my mind in a healthy way.
I am now twenty nine years old and I continue to battle with depression; however, I have not harmed myself since that last catastrophe I caused. Some days are better than others, I won’t lie about that but I have not been on any medication since that day I dropped the bottle of antidepressants down that well and I do not plan on being on them in the future. I chose this path and despite of how difficult it may be, I prefer to feel alive and conscious than to be reliant on a chemical. It’s a decision many would dispute since medication does help certain people, which it’s quite understandable. This is a personal preference, to train myself each passing day to discipline my mind to be strong and optimistic despite of what obstacles may come. Most importantly I had to learn how to love the villain who resides within me, the dark voice in my head telling me I am worthless, the negativity that exists in every ounce of my being. I am choosing to be kind and patient with myself and so can you. For those of you going through similar situations, I believe in you. We humans are stronger than we imagine so please keep fighting and do not give up. I’ll end this with a kiss to each one of your scars, may you allow them to heal along with your soul.
How morbid am I?
To enjoy your fragile forest on a winter night
Dancing amongst your frozen limbs
Whilst thirty inches of snow engulf your icy roots
You seek redemption through me
I, amusement in your snow-covered ground
Thus, you become my playground
And I, your noose
Only snow angels deprived of halos remain
Abandoned in your forest like undiscovered carcasses
Laughter echoes through my veins
As I witness your pain
A sip from your woes I steal
Darling, I drink to thee
A toast to your agony
Which has ignited a fire within me
I am not a professional writer nor have I received training and classes on being a writer. I merely do it for fun, it’s a form of therapy for me but I also like when people critique my writing and help me improve my writing skills. Anyways, I wrote this story recently and despite of how personal it is, I decided to share it. There are many people out there struggling with mental illnesses or simply just going through a rough time who need to be reminded that they are not alone.
I can’t recall the first time I cut myself. I believe I was about sixteen years old, soon to be seventeen. The whole fiasco seems like so long ago, as if it all occurred to a whole different person. Psychologists would say that it’s a defense mechanism; to push such memories so far behind that it’s as if they never existed. Truth is…they eventually rise to the surface.
It’s comical how we barely use our real names, the majority of us tend to be given a nickname which sticks with us for a lifetime whether you like it or not. I was named Sineda for example, yet as a child I was always called Ana and till this day I am still called that by my dearests. There were times I would joke around and pretend Ana was my alter ego which turned out to make a tremendous amount of sense to me after I became older.
Being twenty-nine now has made me realize so much about myself and others. Similar to the world itself, our minds have daylight and night time. We are all born with a dark side as well as a benevolent side. You see it everywhere, even in movies and books. There is always a hero and a villain in every story, even if that villain is just a concept and not a person. It still exists. We humans are constantly battling something or someone and that someone may be ourselves. Others attempt to balance both sides; some embrace one side more than the other. It still does not refute the fact that such forces reside within us. To me, Ana was the antagonist, the obstacle in my path, the destructive side of me.
Compared to many others in the world, my childhood was not horrible. It was not the greatest but it could have been worse. However, this is not a story about my childhood. This is about the villain within me whom till this day I battle with. My story may not be original, for many of us have been through similar ordeals but that’s not the point. It’s important to share our stories despite how humiliating or painful it may be to relive such moments. Let’s share not only for our own sake but for others whom are struggling with depression as well.
My experience with depression began during my teenage years or at least that’s when I remember feeling it the most. Many of us are aware of the hormonal changes we go through as an adolescent. However, these thoughts that were haunting me could not be blamed solely on hormones. They were tremendously intense and persistent. During my adolescent years I lived in the state of Georgia, which is located in the southeast for those of you who are not familiar with the location. I resided in a two-bedroom apartment with my mother and three siblings. My mother was not working at the time which meant we had to rely only on our father’s child support money and even that was not enough, leading us to live a very simple lifestyle. This way of life humbled my family and I completely, we accepted it despite of how difficult it was.
My desperation to help improve our situation was only contributing to my depression since no one would hire me due to my age, I was quite young to work in Georgia. The rules were different to the other states I had lived. My failure to acquire employment began to affect me excessively, even to the point of shutting down emotionally. Not only was this illness burdening me at home, but also at school.
Did I mention that social anxiety was part of my mental illness cocktail? Well it was, and to make things more complicated it did not help that I was unfathomably taciturn and reserved causing me to lock away my individuality in the mental prison I had created. I cared deeply of how others perceived me and I worried precariously of hurting others’ feelings. I remembered being categorized in High school as “mysterious,” or a “lone wolf” by a few students. They were not wrong and throughout my educational years, that’s the most they would know about me. It was not a part of me I was proud of, therefore, I began perceiving myself as an awkward and bizarre individual. Having social anxiety did not make things easier either. I would freak out silently in the mornings before I walked to high school. My stomach would begin to ache and I would become devastated with the mere thought of what the day would bring ahead. Especially lunch time, oh how I dreaded sitting alone at times and the few times I sat with a few people I did not know how to be comfortable and fit in. It’s as if I could read their unsaid opinions of me. Unbeknownst to me, I was slowly destroying myself. I began to skip school yet despite of how troubled I felt I did not succumb to drugs or alcohol. I tried to seek guidance in God but I did not feel his presence which eventually lead me to give up on spirituality. I gave up on seeking for redemption and carried on with the bit of hope I had left within me.
Have you ever felt like you didn’t belong anywhere, misunderstood and extraterrestrial?
I felt that way every day for the majority of my youth and till this day I have moments I still feel that way. My inquisition however, introduced me to my sanctuary which became the library. I always felt safe there surrounded by words and the scent of old and new books. I would ask to be dropped off at the local library at times, it was the one place I could let my imagination unfold and marinade in that silence. It was there where I found a plain black book titled “SUICIDE” in bright red letters. I decided I would take it home with me that day, it was the only book I checked out that evening and strangely enough I became so captivated by it, I finished reading it that same night. It alarmed me how much I could relate to the content in the book. I became so intrigued by what I read that from that moment on, I began to research why did some people had these thoughts and urges of ending their own life while others didn’t and why I related to those who longed for death.
Psychologist would say that having an obsession with dying is a sign of depression. I did not know at that time that I had depression or that what I was experiencing was so common nor did I know that it ran in the family. What I did know was that my thinking was not healthy.
My mind would repeat to me that I was worthless, that I did not deserve to be alive. I couldn’t stand to be in photos, social events, or even look at myself in the mirror and despite of how much my family and I had to struggle to make it through the day I still tried my best to be strong. It’s as if I wore a mask prone to crack sooner or later, exposing who I truly was to the whole world. I didn’t know how to manage these horrid thoughts and impulses, nor reach out to my relatives to open up. The few times that I did try to open up to someone, I would freeze, instead I would succumb to silent agony. In my mind, I kept thinking that if I told anyone how I felt, I would be judged, made fun of, or perhaps hurt their feelings for being selfish and wishing for eternal slumber. That’s when the cutting began.
There were times I would do it in the bathroom at home or at school. Other times in my room, anywhere I felt the urge to harm myself. I carried a blade with me at all times. I continued this pattern for quite some time without anyone noticing, for a few prolonged years I hid my marked arms. I would cut my skin deeper on the unbearable days and sit on the bathroom floor, watching the blood rush down like an avalanche. After my rituals, I would wear a long sleeve shirt or a sweater and go about my day as if nothing happened. Honestly and disturbingly so, it did help me feel better. It was a temporary fix, like heroine to a drug addict. During those dark moments, you don’t see it that way though. To me, it felt like I had something to look forward to, as if this obscure secret fulfilled a void I’ve been so desperately trying to fill. Then the unexpected happened. I fell in love soon after and I thought everything would change.
Nothing changed. I continued harming myself. My arms were decorated with old scars and fresh wounds; they began to even frighten me, yet not my partner. It all happened so fast, him and I falling in love at nineteen. Ekim was also my age, he lived on his own and was quite a rebel. He was light skinned and tall with light brown eyes. I loved him immediately. Ekim did help me after he discovered my dark secret which lead me to discontinue my cutting rituals and encouraged me to feel more optimistic while we were a unit. Those blissful days did not last long though. There were moments when the manic episodes would hit me so hard I couldn’t even get up from bed, other times I would cry unstoppably. It’s as if your mind is the television and someone else is handling the controller, changing the channels constantly. My significant other fought to keep me by his side despite of the many attempts I made to push him away. I would tell myself that my good side also known as Sineda must be a beautiful person for Ekim to remain by me. He was the first person to see me at my worst. The time when I cut too deep, he was there to witness it all and rushed me to the hospital where my darkest secrets would be unleashed.
It was always strange to me that another person would fall in love with someone as broken as me. That’s before I realized that he was also, the only difference was that he was much stronger than I was. It wasn’t surprising though since I tended to gravitate to anything that was sullen. He was everything I needed but was I what he needed? Negative thoughts would eventually begin to consume me.
“He can do better,” Ana said
“You’ll only ruin him” Ana also said
That’s only a small percentage of the chaos in my mind and if you can’t discipline your mind it can truly devour any small positivity left within you. So I broke up with Ekim, not only once but many, countless of times. I have never met such a persistent man before, for he did not let me go as easily as I expectd and suddenly I began to believe that he was in my path for a reason. He was meant for me and I acknowledged all that while I lied down in the hospital bed getting stitches on my self-inflicted wound. I remember telling him not to take me to a hospital because they would lock me up in a crazy house. How ignorant I was to call it a crazy house.
Ekim came in my room after the doctor was done stitching my wound up. He appeared very preoccupied and would not let go of my hand. The guilt I felt for the trouble I caused was eating me up inside, then guilt turned to self-loathing.
“Are you okay baby?” Ekim asked as he held my hand.
“Yeah, I’m really sorry. I just want to go home” I said fighting away the tears
A knock on the door interrupted us. A lady dressed casually came in the room and asked Ekim if she and I could speak alone after she introduced herself as Amanda. I gave him the nod for approval and he left us alone. As soon as he shut the door, she began asking questions about my wound. It was late that night, probably past midnight and I deliberately accepted the fact that I needed help and that it was time to be honest despite of the outcome so instead of resisting, I answered her questions diligently.
“Did you do this to yourself?” She asked as she stared at my freshly stitched up wound.
“Yes” I answered.
“Did you intent to kill yourself?” She asked.
“I don’t know. Maybe” I answered honestly.
Amanda made the process smooth, she was very kind and compassionate. After the questionnaire, she advised me to sign some documents which I obediently did. She later informed me that a police officer would escort me to his vehicle and drive me to the mental institute assigned to me, Home for the Shattered. It was my first time being in a mental hospital, the whole experience was new to me of course. It was terrifying not knowing what to expect out of the whole situation. However, the most difficult part was about to unfold.
To be continued…
Last year I went to Austin, TX for a few months. Honestly I was attempting to relocate there, since I fell in love with the place on my first visit in 2014. It didn’t quite work out due to lack of funds. However, I remained in this unique city for about 2 months and during that time I explored some of the areas that define Austin. If you haven’t heard yet, Austin is known for the countless bats residing under the congress bridge. Many foreigners travel to Austin, just to witness this. I was also one of them. I stood at the Congress Avenue Bridge, anticipating to see how these bats show off. Unfortunately, I was not well equipped for such a show. It is too dark to capture the bats with a Samsung android during fall, but I am determined to visit in the summer and actually capture the bats flying from under the bridge. I was told by my friend who lives there that in the summertime, it was the best time to enjoy such an experience. For now, here are some visuals of the places I visited whilst being in this awesome city. I shall be back Austin.
Austin even inspired me to write poetry.
Austin, you display the best sunsets
In any angle, your horizons never seizes to amaze
During my visit, not once was I upset
For your skies never fail to ablaze
After dark, creatures of the night consume your skies
Attracting hundreds of foreign eyes
Awaiting the bats to depart their abode and find their prey in the dark
While we lie here on the grass; awaiting daylight’s demise
As the wind caresses Lake Travis
The creatures underneath dance into a dark abyss
On the surface, oars create repeated patterns
Reflecting dancing flaming lanterns
In those very moments, splendor resides
we then surrender to prolonged nights
Of munching off of food trucks on road sides
Their scent teasing the nostrils of every traveler
“Keep Austin weird”
A motto that I do not fear
Words that sound like home
At last, my restless soul has found a permanent place to roam
I’m not very great at writing poetry but it’s fun.Thank you guys for taking the time to read. I truly appreciate it. I hope you enjoyed it and decide to visit Austin one day. It is truly a unique city and the motto there really is “Keep Austin Weird.” Also, I forgot to mention 6th street. You must go there! Live music, affordable drinks, exquisite food, attractive people. Just promise me you’ll go.
These raindrops become my lullaby
Each one playing a tune as they fall from the sky
As gravity thrusts them toward me, I watch them on my skin arrive
On the damp, green pasture I recline
Now exposed to them where I can no longer hide
Each raindrop touching parts of me I can no longer disguise
As I witness melancholic skies with earthly sorrows intertwine
In the middle of it all, is where to my agony, I said goodbye
Strange, how this refreshing rain
Cured such fleeting pain
Emerging stories from within and sharing my sins
Perhaps this is my swan song
An amalgamation of soothing raindrops and physical frequencies
Composing a musical master piece
Derived from a moment of epiphany
Resulting in infinite peace
At last, I can finally sleep.