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.

Single-minded to the Point of Recklessness: A Brief Character Study On Bridget Vreeland

Okay, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants has always been one of my favorite series. I’m not ashamed to admit it. Sappy as it is, the books (and movies) have a good message. One of the four teenage girls, a “fairy tale” blonde-haired beauty named Bridget, has a mother who committed suicide sometime prior to the beginning of the first book. She never allows herself to properly mourn her mother’s death, choosing instead to run away from her funeral (as shown in the first three minutes of the movie) and act as if there’s nothing wrong (when asked if she’s okay, she replies, “Yeah, I will be as soon as I get out of these stupid heels. Hold ’em for me, will ya? Think I’ll run home!”). So when Bee arrives at soccer camp in New Mexico four years later, she falls head over heels in deep attraction/lust to one of the older soccer coaches. Though I’m not sure how old he actually is (in the book he’s nineteen, and in the movie he goes to Columbia and is old enough to drink at the bar), I thought their back-and-forth relationship was entertaining and sweet.

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Bee is an incredible soccer player. Like, good enough to make the other girls on the team fall to their knees in a breathless chant: “We’re not worthy, we’re not worthy!” (I’m not kidding.) So hot soccer coach watches her from a side-eye view, trying and failing to ignore her. Later that day on the beach, she approaches him and begins to flirt once again. He tells her that she scares the hell out of him with her intensity. Bee replies, “Single-minded to the point of recklessness. It’s what the school shrink said about me after my mom died.”
Well, this isn’t hard to see. Bee lies about her age, flips her long blonde hair around Eric to grab his attention, and dresses in a provocative manner, even showing up at a bar party after overhearing that he would be there. She tells her friend Lena in a letter that she’s “obsessed,” and that she cannot be held responsible for her actions. Though soccer coach guy tries repeatedly to resist her charm, he eventually falls for it, and they end up hooking up on the beach.

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Then comes the crash. After she loses her virginity, Bridget falls apart. She goes into somewhat of an existential crisis missing her mother and gives up on playing soccer for the rest of summer. It’s obvious to everyone, coach included, that something is seriously wrong with her. An alternate theory suggests the Bee has bipolar disorder, which would explain her manic intensity and shameless self-confidence – and the later crash into crippling depression. The second book highlights this point further, as Bee gains weight, quits soccer, and dyes her beloved miles-long sunshine blonde hair an ashy brown color. In the movie, after her encounter with Eric she sends a letter to Lena, who contacts Tibby and Carmen to help her. When they arrive, she finally breaks down over her mother after recalling a memory of making pizza with her.

The second book in this series is one of my favorites. After Bridget disguises her hair under brown dye and her body under lack of care, she travels to Alabama to see her grandmother under a faux-name and offers to clean up her house. Her grandmother pretends that she doesn’t realize who it is and accepts the offer. Bee uses this facade to find out more about her mother, who is said to have been a popular, beautiful debutante from southern Alabama in her twenties. However, her mother at a point had been sent to a psychiatric facility and “diagnosed with a mental disease and prescribed a medication called lithium” (alluding entirely to bipolar disorder, even more so when Bee’s grandmother describes her as “real moody–high as a kite one day, couldn’t get out of bed the next”). It makes sense that Bee would have inherited this disorder from her mother.
It is implied that she spends most of her time in a manic state, and in Mexico with no one who understood how serious her condition was to stop her, she went a little crazy.

Bee is my favorite character in this series (partly because I love Blake Lively in the movies), and one that I relate to a lot. I fit single-minded to the point of recklessness as well as chasing a guy just because you’re in the middle of a manic episode, and the consequent crash that comes after. I recommend this movie/book series to everyone–it’s more than a chick flick, I promise.

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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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 waken 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 spiral 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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