October update/why I stopped writing

I haven’t touched this blog in four months. Sometime around July, I put all my journals in storage, stopped updating this blog, and even stopped writing poetry altogether. It’s strange how something I used to be so in love with has become something that rarely crosses my mind anymore.
I don’t have an explanation for this. A major depressive episode, maybe. Loss of inspiration. Loss of creativity.
I wish I could spin worlds with my words the way I used to. I don’t want to be that girl who had a talent and lost it. I’ve been writing since I was five. This is all I know.
So here I am; it’s a little after one in the morning, and today I’ve had a sudden urge to write again. For months I felt so trapped in my head that to pour it all out felt like reopening a poorly bandaged wound. I don’t want this to be another cliched “my heart is broken” post, because I think I’m healing. I will start writing again. Even though my head is telling me that it’s pointless, that I’m useless and my words are burnt ashes, I’ll still try. I think that’s a step towards recovery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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New Life in Florida, Lack of Poetic Voice (part two), Confusion That Never Stops

I haven’t written anything in a long time. Not on this blog, not in my journal, nothing. Lately my mind has become indistinguishable from a tempest brewing over a desert. So, despite the fact that I’m wearing acrylic nails and typing at my normal 115-WPM speed is nearly impossible, not to mention that my brain has turned into actual mush, I’m going to do it anyway.

I moved to Florida two days ago. The packing process was brutal, the seeing-all-my-friends-for-the-last-time was worse. It was hurtful and disappointing realizing how many people really didn’t bother to see me before I left, nor speak to me at all. It’s a painful thing moving a thousand miles and a time zone away from your home, and feeling as if no one cares you’re gone compounds that feeling. I feel alone in this place. It’s surreal, as if any moment I should be waking up, almost resisting the urge to pinch my arm to force my body to snap back to reality, but it’s not happening. I’ve had nightmares these past two nights. Horrible, terrifying nightmares about memories I thought I’d forgotten long ago that leave a bad taste in my mouth. More than anything, living here I feel dizzyingly free. My first night here I went for a run at midnight in the pouring rain–we were receiving the bands of a double tropical storm and tornado as a lovely welcome gift–with my hair down and twisting with the wind, and I felt euphoric for the first time in weeks. The rain soaked through my shoes and trickled down my face like icy teardrops, but I’ve never felt more liberated.

It both hurts and calms me that I’m hundreds of miles away from everyone I care about. Hurts because with distance, there is really no way to know whether they will miss you or forget about you. Calms me because I can sleep soundly knowing that all my bad memories are dead and gone. I am no longer standing in the wreckage of a storm I never learned how to get control over. I am living a new life already. Homesickness might be the death of me, but I know that with time I’ll find people and places that will matter more to me than that friend I lost or that coffee shop I used to go to every Wednesday. Someday I’ll find myself. I’m only coming to accept that Virginia wasn’t the place for me.

 

Update on my medication: I am still on the same dose of Seroquel and Lexapro (100mg Ser and 10mg Lex), and I think so far it’s working. Certainly helps me sleep. I’m hoping it’ll quell these nightmares tonight so I can stop waking up all but screaming.

Maybe I’ll get a poem down tonight. More than anything, I’m afraid that going through the shock of moving to a new environment has killed my creativity. Though, logically, I know that’s impossible. I’m hurting. Confused. Lost. And I’m tired. I’m tired. I just want to get it out so it can stop pounding on the walls of my heart–it’s really wearing me out.

Operation Pied Piper, Mixed Feelings, & Lack of Poetic Voice

On a glum Saturday in summer of 1938, with the threat of rain tinting the clouds a ghostly gray and the people of England coating their windows in scarlet sheets in hopes of catching some of the flooding, word came in that the German air raids would be back. In 1939, London’s City Council began making requests for buses and trains. The plan was to evacuate all of the British children to open homes in the countryside to evacuate the blitzkrieg — massive warfare. September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland, marking the beginning of history’s second world war. While the German planes were opening fire on the dark, small homes of England, hundreds of thousands of British children were boarding trains, bidding farewell to their mothers, and curling up on the hard seats of the trains, leather-bound books in hand, praying that they would return to their families. The children were marked with little white cards, and around their necks, a tiny cardboard box containing a gas mask. It’s been written that the brothers and sisters clung to each other while in line, hand in hand, “like grim death, refusing to be parted.” Think Chronicles of Narnia; the Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe. That’s what was going on here. This massive evacuation of more than 3.5 million children–the largest in history to date– ultimately turned out to be somewhat a false alarm; the threat of German air raids had subsided in the few years after the children’s traumatic separation from their parents, and they were ordered to return.
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If you’re wondering why I’m giving a historical lecture on this blog, well, I’m not really sure either. This is one of the most fascinating pieces of history to me, and one that I like to reference in some of my poems. Something about the urgency of it all, the way those poor children had to pack their lives in a brown box and flee their home in an instant gives me chills. That, and Narnia is one of my favorite movies of all time.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about poetic voices — the unique tone a writer incorporates in his/her writing to give it an extra flair, a tint of familiarity. I don’t know what my writer’s tone is yet. Maybe I already have one. I know that I tend to overuse words like “melancholy” (it rings in my head. Beauty in a word) and “baby’s-breath” (not that pretty of a plant, but the most beautiful phrase I’ve ever heard, and I can also thank Nirvana for that), and oceans (don’t hate me for this, I know it’s riddled with cliches). I’ve been so overwhelmed with catching up on the tons (tons) of schoolwork I’ve missed and packing my things up for this Florida move in June, I haven’t had time to collect my thoughts enough to write a coherent poem. My journal lately has been a nearly-indecipherable ramble of out-of-place words and half-poems. I don’t know how to turn my feelings into something that will make sense on paper. I’ve never had this problem before, and it’s scary to me.
I’m constantly worrying that one day I will suddenly lose this innate ability I seem to have to dictate language in a way that sings. An old English teacher once told my dad that I seem to have complete control over the English language in a way that’s fascinating to her. That’s one of the best compliments I’ve received.

So I don’t know. I’m all caught up in regrets and hazy memories with no place to store it. I’ve been writing a short story lately, nearly ten thousand words in. I’m quite proud of it. That’s the only writing accomplishment I have to say for myself lately.
Tell me your thoughts.

Music of the Day: The Cure, Mac DeMarco; Musings on My Struggle With Bipolar Disorder

Early July of 2015, while sitting in a tiny restaurant in Atlanta, Georgia (after having dashed across the street, narrowly avoiding being hit by a Jeep), I first heard The Cure’s 1987 hit “Just Like Heaven.” I remember thinking it was the kind of song that’s laced with nostalgia in every note. It was bright, bubbly. I added it to my playlist that day. In a sense, the song became the soundtrack of my summer, along with Mac DeMarco’s Salad Days. During the day that I discovered The Cure and Mac D, I was on a sixteen-hour road trip back to the peninsula after spending a week in Pensacola. I was car-sick and had no way of knowing that when I got home, I would be thrown into the abyss of my first ever manic episode.

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There’s not a lot I remember. More often than not I felt the sensation that my head was spinning, that my movements were entirely automated, that every natural disaster was taking place in the fault lines of my skin. Manic episodes, associated with all types of bipolar disorder, are periods lasting from a few days to–albeit less commonly–months, in which a person’s self-confidence, energy levels, and motivation hit a fever pitch. It can feel like there is this raw, powerful energy flowing through your blood, twisting your thoughts around, clouding your vision. These episodes are associated with high impulsiveness, doing things one would never do under normal circumstances. I remember taking a family member’s Xanax on multiple occasions, swallowing around sixteen at a time (this happened during that summer of 2015).
In addition, if mania reaches an unchecked level, hallucinations and delusions are common. When I had my first ever manic episode, it went on for a week (I was eventually diagnosed with type II bipolar, and my episodes have never been that long or severe since then) and even little things like my depth perception were . . . off. I hadn’t slept for around three days, and on my little brother’s birthday July 28th, we had gone to a restaurant and then a mini-golfing course to celebrate. I was tired to the core. My bones were screaming at me for sleep, but I simply couldn’t. The energy was taking over me. It felt evil. My parents joked that I was on drugs, and it felt like I was, but I started crying — I remember that I was hypersensitive at that time. My brother had been walking in front of me, maybe ten feet away, but the distortions of vision in my head caused me to see him closer than he actually was. This led to me snapping at him, “Back up! You’re standing too close.” He looked at me, confusion etched onto his face. “What do you mean? I’m not walking anywhere near you.”
Oh. I looked again and realized he wasn’t as close as I’d thought he was. In another instance around an hour later, I had excused myself to the restroom during dinner at Cracker Barrel, and when I stepped outside, there was an elderly woman, maybe in her nineties, laughing at me. I said nothing to her, but she hummed a low whistle and said, “You’re not welcome here. Go home,” and bore her eyes into mine. I turned around, looking for my family, and when I turned back, she was gone.
It’s instances like these that are the reason why mania is considered a mental illness and not just a euphoric spike of positive energy. I am on medication now, thankfully.

Back to The Cure. My dad and I play The Cure every time we’re in the car together, it’s kind of a ritual. One of our favorites is the 1982 release “One Hundred Years.” The first listing on The Cure’s Pornography album (strangle title, I know), the song begins with an eerie, haunting guitar riff and the words “Doesn’t matter if we all die.” The song speaks of what I’m assuming is one hundred years of bloodshed and wartime, including a young black-haired girl who had lost her father in the war, a soldier on the front lines, a man in the office of a high building referencing perhaps a terrorist attack, and some of the most dark melodies I’ve heard yet in a song. We speculated for a while on what this song is about, so I did some research. Though the album was influenced heavily by psychedelic drugs, frontman Robert Smith stated that he was going for a “virtually unbearable” sound, implying that the lyrics were meant to sound ‘goth’ and depressive, lacking any real substance. Many of the songs on this album are, indeed, depressing. “One Hundred Years” stands as one of my favorite songs of all time, nonetheless.

Next up, Mac DeMarco. Salad Days will, I think, forever be one of my favorite albums of any artist. I first heard this on that dreadful sixteen-hour car trip back home, and I fell in love. Mac his a very distinct sound, mixing slow jam with psychedelic rock with “jangle pop.” The album kicks off with the song “Salad Days” itself — the lyrics “As I’m getting older, chip up on my shoulder, rolling through life to roll over and die.”
Perhaps the best song on this album, in my opinion, is “Brother.” The end instrumentals of this song are haunting with a trace of surrealism. It reminds me of that episode in summer, 2015. I’ve watched countless Mac interviews and vlogs, and I think he’s adorable, little tooth-gap/Viceroy cap and all.

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The Secret Language of Flowers, or The Enigma of Unrequited Love in Rose Talk

The last month of 1820

was a dying bouquet.

Women wore hyacinths

in ashy chignon buns,

blue laced with sunlight.

Men slashed gardenias

across their throats

like box blades, leaving

the slated white to

stain their collarbones.

They say every flower

is a secret language;

where yellow sees kin,

red sees limerence

and the blood of angels.

White is a purity ring

of hope, of sleepsongs

and his wrists on yours.

When I met you,

there were black petals

resting on your left foot–

dark magic, you said.

A columbine, a primrose,

pollen mixed with nightfall.

You took the flower from off

your body and tucked it

into my hair, told me it was

dying nightshade, louder

than red and twice as lucky.

When you left

it rained for

days, enough to wither the

tongues of the flowers,

kill their spoken word, wash

the black out with salt.

Your roses were a dark

cloud, and I’m finally learning

how to unlearn their language.

 

 

A Thousand Miles/Old Friends With New Faces/Losing Sight of Everything

I’m moving. In June. To Florida.

I’m moving.

To Florida. A thousand miles away.

I don’t understand why this is so hard for me to say. I can’t speak those six simple words out loud. They get stuck in my throat like crickets. Perhaps I’m hoping that if I don’t admit them to myself, they won’t be true.

I live in Virginia, as close to the oceans as one can get. The weather here is insane due to the fact that we are on a peninsula, surrounded on three sides by water. Our seasons aren’t so much seasons as they are sea-directed rapid shifts of snow one day and sunburn the next. I was born in Jacksonville, Florida, but I have lived here in Virginia since before kindergarten. I remember not knowing why we were packing up our things and leaving (Navy dad), just that we were. I remember running up the steps to the big white apartment complex we’d be moving into and stepping right on top of a sharp-end-up nail, lodging it deep into my foot. I remember limp-running into my new home, crying from the pain but giddy.

Years later, we moved to the house I live in now. I thought it was the most beautiful place. I loved my neighborhood and the friends I made down the street. This was the place where I fell in love with words, with shady groves and maple trees and forests that were magical only in my own head. I colored twigs and sticks Sharpie-black and pretended like they were Harry Potter wands (HP was the first and only love of my life), then stained my jeans with the ink and got reprimanded. I was gifted a tiny green parakeet for my birthday and quickly became afraid of it. I sat in my bed on Christmas Eve at ten years old crying because I was terrified of growing up and losing everything I had, afraid that I hadn’t lived a good enough childhood (I met our good old friend called ‘existential crisis’ at a very young age).

Virginia has a lot of my memories. Here I met the friends that I’ll remember for the rest of my life, the rag-tag group of seven writers I call my “dead poets society.” Our group isn’t exactly a group anymore… there’s been a lot of falling out, and I lost my best friend. If you’re reading this, and you might because I’ve posted the link to my blog everywhere, I love you. You’re always welcome back home.

Okay. I’ve become a crying mess typing this. I’ve more or less accepted the fact that I’m going to be moving and leaving my old life behind while starting a new one in Florida. I’ve accepted it, but I haven’t accepted the life I’ll be losing. It hurts.

 

Part II of this nonsensical rant: WHAAAAT is wrong with my heart?

That’s all I’m going to say about this.

Until next time, I hope you all enjoyed my emotional outpour.

Cherry Vanilla Soda, Haikus I Keep Under My Pillow and the Now/Then Conundrum

Cherry Vanilla Soda

They say that to preserve a memory,

you must tie a red ribbon around

its picture frame, red mixed with wood;

once the glue holding the ribbon flat

has come undone, you must bury the picture

in the place you made your memory.

I have taken all our photographs

off the walls, burying them underneath

my bed instead of underground,

and braiding the memories

into my hair. I have never been one

to follow traditions. In truth,

you and I were refracting magnets,

pushing back and forth until

the very end. My nostalgia

is irresponsible and if you ask me,

I think it has overstayed its welcome

because I can still feel the angel’s kiss

of August morning’s heat in my hair,

the tangy teal toothpaste lingering

on your lips, the starlight smiles

and sadness as black as my hair that

I can now watch only through pictures.

Perhaps I may start burying.

 

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Haikus I Keep Under My Pillow

Glass jar in the sky-

its stars inhibit moonshine,

charred cosmic escape.

A sailboat, clockwork

soaring through clouds of the sea,

minute hand ticking.

Wooden corn contains

whispered secrets on our lips

while we lie in rest.

Dark eyes, a landscape;

melodic melancholy,

celestial sleep.

 

The Now/Then Conundrum

Here’s what I used to do.

I used to look at you and see heavy billows of mist blown along by autumn winds through sprouting trees. I used to look at you and see wintergreen air kissing frosted windows, the dark wooden panes burned by your embers. I used to sit on mountaintops with you and watch sunshadows dance across the sky in kaleidoscopic bursts of wistful violets, dazzling empty teal, burnt orange charcoal. I used to collect the shaved damp bark of dying willow trees and keep it in my pocket because they it was your favorite tree. I used to wake up to your body folded into me, the flawless shape of a fragile dahlia — sunlit morning honey running its gingery finger down your collarbone. I used to pick you snapdragons and waxflowers, climbing nightshades and rosemary so you could tuck them in your pocket for good luck. I used to tell you outlandish superstitions about the way people used to love under those tempestuous December skies, watch your mouth curl up into the whisper of a smile.

Now, though. Now is now is not then is only today is now. I wake up at six am when the obsidian blankets of night fall away and leave blooming clouds of soft blue in their wake and reach for you, my brain stuck on the idea that you never left, grabbing empty air instead. I now watch you kiss rosy-cheeked girls like you used to kiss the rose on my arm. I now learn to braid moonshine and joy into my hair to absorb their radiance. I now become a teacher to my own heart, lessons and lessons of how to feel okay alone again. I now feel aware of my body’s every move, the pulse in my chest, the subtle tremble of my fingertips, the flush in my face. I now feel you everywhere and nowhere. I now breathe in April air through cupped hands and throw out handfuls of light. I now watch your life in pictures and remember how your heart used to beat like a slow, steady drum: you were, you were, you were. What was once is no longer breathing.

Hold My Hand and Walk Back Through Time: Growing Up with BPD

“Someday, the nostalgia will fade and we will learn that it is merely gravity making us frown.” ~d.s.h.

I have never been an aggressive person. Even as a child in class I was afraid to ask someone for a pencil or speak up in class when a peer made an offhand comment to me for fear of drawing attention to myself, of being called dramatic and “tattle-tale.” Regarding my elementary school, my peers and I were part of this international baccalaureate program in which we were rewarded for demonstrating skills such as empathy, or getting a top grade on our reading comprehension tests. We were considered the “gifted” kids. Fifth grade came around, and with my mousy black hair and wide, anxious eyes, I auditioned for the winter school musical. I’m not even sure I was all that good at singing, but I got the part for solo. I find this very strange looking back on it. Presently, I would never think about performing in front of a giant crowd like I once did — I admire child-me’s bravery.

I had always been a nervous, highly sensitive child. At age seven I started this compulsive habit of ripping out my hair and picking off skin from the area around my fingernails (I still have the finger-picking habit today). No one understood why I did this and I didn’t either. It felt like it was something I had to do, and while I was doing it, I’d go into this trance-like state where I wasn’t entirely aware of my surroundings. At that age I also found anger quite a difficult emotion for me to articulate. I could get intensely jealous over small things, and this led to a lot of fights with my friends back then. I wasn’t capable of introspection at ten years old. When my family upset me I released the growing tension inside of me, the electrical storm brewing in my chest, by bending my fingers back as far as they’d go. I did this because the pain relieved the anger. except my family didn’t know that — they thought it was funny and often mocked me. At the time I didn’t know what self-harm even was. It was just something I did. When I got older, this coping mechanism evolved from finger-bending to cutting my thighs, burning my arms, and punching things.

As I grew into adolescence, my emotions became increasingly volatile. I remember feeling like a dull, hollow shell of a child, entirely at the mercy of my environment. I could flip from one emotion and to another and then back again at the drop of a hat. It was frightening both to me and my family.

Shame, shame, shame. January of this year I was reevaluated by psychiatrists (the first time I received two diagnoses of MDD and social phobia) and diagnosed with type II bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and borderline personality disorder. I did not begin taking medicine until the end of March when I spent eight days in a psychiatric facility. I remember being woken up at six am in the soft blue light of dawn to have my blood taken; as I was sitting on the chair outside my nurse’s office, groggy and annoyed, a middle-aged blonde woman approached me and said, “Oh, sorry to interrupt, but I’ve been watching you just from over there. You’re very beautiful. You could be a model! What’s a pretty little girl like you doing in a place like this?” I didn’t know what to say. What was I doing in there? There’s a lot of answers. The most obvious one, I had overdosed on pills. The second answer, I had lost control of my emotions. Third, I wanted to start over. There’s a whole lot of excuses.

In the hospital I was prescribed 10mg Lexapro and 100mg Seroquel. I was advised to take it at night due to how sleepy the medication makes me. So far, my moods are still a tempest, only slightly more dampened down. Now I don’t have mania to sweep me off my feet and turn my thoughts into a cyclone, and I’m not particularly depressed, but I still spiral into a suicidal downfall when my borderline triggers act up. I’m in therapy twice a week. It’s a work in progress, but I know anything is possible.

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What’s in a Poem?

A few weeks ago I asked a friend of mine what her favorite season was. She told me summer, because in the lazy heat of the season she felt more secure stepping outside; to her, cold weather was like an invader chilling her to the bones. There was an apparent association between snow and fear. When asked, I’ve always said that winter is my favorite season (Christmas, snow, warm nostalgia by the fireplace, what’s not to love?), but just recently I’ve realized that I despise winter, much for the same reason my friend does. Rather, I am more in love with the concept of winter. I told my friend about this, and she said, “That’s why I don’t trust poetry. It unabashedly romanticizes everything. Though miraculously structured and made savory through choice diction… poetry is a lie.” I thought about this for a while. Do I agree? Not quite. I think that poets are experts at taking the mundane and turning it into the extraordinary. Though guilty of viewing the world through “rose-colored lenses,” I would not go as far as to say that writing is a lie.

Webster’s Dictionary defines poetry as “Writing that formulates a concentrated imaginative awareness of experience in language chosen and arranged to create a specific emotional response through meaning, sound and rhythm.” Simply put, poetry practices digging deeper into ordinary language, essentially “painting a picture with words.” From Keats-style romance to Japanese tankas whispered on the lips of lovers to Ars Poetica, a detailed twenty-four-line poem about poetry itself, this unique style of writing manifests in colorful variety. Poets carry within us this deep, instinctive urge to convey our thoughts through words rather than pictures, in metaphors rather than concrete terms. It isn’t about applying a simple rhyme scheme and some line breaks to words — that’s not what a poem is. Sure, rhyming is used in many types of poetry, but I have surveyed dozens of non-writers from around my school, and nearly everyone defined a poem in the Shakespearean sense, which does not encompass all poetry. My personal favorite is free-verse, for example. There are no rules, no syllable counts to follow. To me, writing a poem free-verse feels like picking out words and feeling them, tasting them on your tongue, allowing them to absorb your thoughts with gentle hands and then flow from your fingertips. Or perhaps stealing the sun from the sky just for a moment so that everything goes black except for the grandiose, blinding light illuminating only your words on the paper.

Poems are spontaneous and strong-willed, often taking on a mind of their own. I typically find it hard to stay on subject when I sit down to start writing, because my brain takes an idea and runs with it, and the end product is hardly recognizable. One of my favorite things to compare, though possibly banal, is seasons with moods. Living with Bipolar II, my moods are often correlated directly with seasonal changes, so this makes sense. When I think of winter, I think of steel and ice, headaches from the brisk, unforgiving wind, morning cigarettes leaving an acrid taste in your mouth, fitful sleep, dawn coming down through violet clouds. Summer, to me, is hazy white, fading in and out of lucidity, manic bursts of my soul on fire, fainting from the heat, blurred melancholy. Spring and autumn are sisters in hand, twin souls, two maple trees with their leaves kissed to ash by lightning. In spring, snapdragons, waxflowers, climbing nightshades and baby’s-breath come to life, peek out from underneath thawing leaves to make sure it is safe to bloom. In autumn, that same life is taken away by whistling winds from the north; burnt orange and charcoal clouds.

There is an endless list of things to be said about poetry. It is the deadly calm before the storm and the falling asleep in the wreckage after it has passed. It is scribbling down racing thoughts on a torn napkin because you forgot to bring your notebook that day but couldn’t bear to let the idea float away. It is telling the truth in raw imagery; tranquil yet rageful, standing ceasefire yet waging war. My only hope is that one day I find the words to give back to poetry what it has given me, this beautiful gift of expression.