Hindsight: 4th of July |Decentering|

It was a holiday. Everyone was happy and spending time with their family.  I was at home, alone, in my exercise clothes battling against my mental disorder. I had passed a rough patch that week.

Family life was acting up. The negativity of the forthcoming issue in my life was bubbling to the surface. The issue? Moving in with my partner. I knew it would be coming up and even though I was excited about it, my parents were having none of it. They’re Christians so moving in with someone before marriage is just sin city (and still as bad as the movie). To me it meant support and a sense of home. Regardless of what I felt, my parents were going at it the worst way possible.

My work life was also acting up. I had been working during the summer in a great company but it was becoming a hassle. I felt like I did so much for the company but not enough for me. Not just that, I felt so alone in that maze of friendly faces. All my coworkers were helpful, were present and great. The problem was that they were of different worlds; they belonged in their lives and not in mine. They were in their culture, in their language, with their people. And here I was in my emotion-filled island, with my aboriginal language, writing SOS on the sand.

I don’t know how much information ya’ll have about mental disorders but here’s some important things to remember. Some short psychoeducation about mental disorders:

  • Anxiety exacerbates symptoms of mental disorders
  • The lack of family support can make a person with a mental disorder feel abandoned and attacked.
  • Mental disorders, even when medicated, can come back.
  • Mental disorders are not a thought or a feeling; they’re a chemical imbalance in the brain and genetic wiring.
  • People with mental disorders fear stigma due to their illness.
  • People with mental disorders are people.

In this point in time, on this day of family, love and joy, I had none of those things. My world seemed like it was burning down and fast. I was gasping for help but not wanting to scream it out. ‘But, have you considered telling someone?’ Yes, but let me tell you why I didn’t do it. When people hear that you’re not feeling well they tend to brush you off unless you let them know that your life is in peril. Having a mental illness is being in peril. However, I have not disclosed to anyone of my problem. I was fearful of being judged but I feared the most, being pitied. There is nothing worse than pitying someone. And I was not to be pitied or be accompanied by people who pitied me. Hence, I set myself straight. I kept my mouth shut and I silently suffered.

Suffering, however, does not like being quiet. Suffering likes spreading out, poisoning all that’s good, and bringing me down. This time, I fell down hard and I felt that I could not get up.

After finishing my 5th fight of the day (it was till morning) with my mother I quit my life. I gave into the vortex and let the pain flow through my pores. I cried, thrashed and then I took out a tiny knife. I had not cut myself for over 6 years, until today. I made mean streaks of pain and relief over my temple (my body). I had no regret but I did feel defeated. I sat there, less anguished, less whole, more monster, more broken. I internalized my relapse and thought of my next step. In this vicious cycle, the next step is thoughts of suicide but I refused to go there.

Something in me snapped. I was running out of air and I needed to go outside. That was safety and these four walls were caving on me. Once dressed and well equipped (book in hand, watercolor pencils and notebook) I was off to an adventure of strength and self-compassion.

I found myself sitting under a tree near a duck pond. I sat there watching those duckies swim. The way they softly glided on the water, and the whisper of their feathers ruffling. I wondered what the sea looked like back home.

I then turned my attention to a tree. The tree looked like it wanted to be in my notebook. I worked my way through watercolor and inspiration. I found myself enthralled by the branches, leaves and sway. My process was interrupted by my friend. She invited me to help her walk dogs (she has the coolest job). Afraid that I was going to be consumed in my loneliness I let her know that I would love to help her.

Walking dogs down by a lake. Soft breeze playing with the trees. It was a good decentering process. My friend’s warm personality, her genuine smile and her witty comments seemed to sooth the raw wounds that I had, a couple of hours before, inflicted on myself.

Passing by...

Passing by…

The day was coming to an end and my fear was becoming more tangible. Being alone, back in my home, was not where I wanted to be. However, everyone needs to be alone at some point and I needed to face this monster. As I walked towards my door I heard in the distance ‘Hey! We got burgers and free beer! Come and celebrate freedom!’ I did not know these neighbors but they didn’t care. They had family and they wanted to share it with me. I struggled and wondered if I was comfortable enough to go out and mingle. I heard a voice say I shouldn’t but a voiceless statement said I should; and it was the best thing I’ve ever done.

Even though I did not know these people, they showed me how much one can get with the small intentions, such as free beer and burgers. I met so many personalities, so many faces that I’ll probably never see again; yet, I’ll always carry with me. I joked with friends how I always wanted a ‘Real American’4th of July, where there would be barbecue food, beer, fireworks, freedom, and an eagle; and I got something like that. Free food, good company, the chance to meet new people, illegal fireworks and some drunk guy yelling ‘FREEDOM!’ as he ran across the parking lot with those firefly stick things. Even I was offered a ‘freedom stick.’

I walked home at 2 am, still a little fearful of the echo of my silence. Yet, when I walked into my home I heard vibrations of joy. Soft soothing giggles of having had such a great day. As I jumped into my pajamas I replayed all the event from my day, including my self-harm incident and was surprised at the turn out of everything.

In that day I was reminded that yes, I will always have those days. I will have my fall from grace; but if I have the courage to re-direct myself and to cut myself some slack (no pun intended), I can gain great things from it. I may not have my family here. My family may drive me crazy sometimes. And things will always be a little jagged. But if I can be calm during the storm, I can learn how to navigate it. I mean, it’s got to stop raining sometime. No pain, no matter how raw or deep, will last forever.

Having a mental illness is a life struggle but it doesn’t mean that it has to be a constant battle. Knowing myself, my weaknesses and strengths have helped me through many dark times. Sometimes my help was simply having a good-natured soul to guide me through my path. And as long as I have my wits about me, and there’s good people in the world willing to share free beer and burgers,  I think I’ll be okay.

Signing off, TWS

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Hindsight: February 27 -|I Was Not Ready for This|-

Today, as the snow melts here in NC, and the sun decides to visit us again, one of my worst fears is brought to life. I’d like to believe that when I decided to live in the Appalachian Mountains that I had prepared myself for what that entailed. I thought I was prepared to let my family behind. I thought I was prepared to be independent and move one. And I thought I was prepared to weather the deaths of old relatives from a distance.

Today, one of the most caring and strongest women in my family has passed away. It comes to no surprise since she had been fighting for dear life these past years. Nevertheless, you never expect it to happen. You always think that since the sun is shining for you that so it is for others far from you.

I admit that I was not prepared. I knew she would leave soon; we all knew. I just always expected to be there. To send her off on her journey as the casket was lowered. To cry on the shoulders of my cousins as we retold funny stories of when we last saw her. I just never expected that I would be here, crying in front of a computer trying to cram for next week’s class, while my family suffered through their loss.

I have never been a fan of funerals. My first funeral was when my paternal grandmother died and that was the moment, at 8 years old, when I realized that I could not have it all. After that, I found myself in every funeral sitting in silence, offering words of solace that I did not understand, and will never understand; while having this raw wound pump blood into my existence while tears ran down my cheeks. After that, I would find myself in this constant search, while walking down the streets, hoping to see the face of the person I just lost.

Now there is one more face to search within a crowd. A bright, pudgy, mahogany face of a woman who had a quick wit, powerful laugh and a knack for making the most delicious food in the world. I admit, I was not prepared for this. I was for everything else, but because you ease into it. You take your time doing the toe-heel dance until you know where to stand. But this… there is no dance. There is the awkward stance in front of the door where people you’ve never met say how sorry they are for your loss. This is the stance near the hot chocolate machine with your family trying to laugh through the tears. And even know, for me, there is not even that. For me there is sitting on the floor in front of a book full with theory of how to help others in crisis. Words after words of how to get into people’s psyche, but I can barely stand stepping into my own.

I can only imagine how my family is doing. I would rather they not call me. I can only imagine how they will do after this. I hope that they call me then, when they are rebuilding because a pillar may have come down but there are still bricks and we can rebuild.

I was not ready for this but then again nobody is. I will blow a kiss, have it travel the cold winds of NC through the sea and find its home in the Caribbean as the sun sets and hope she will receive it warm and full of love.

Signing off, TWS

Hello, It’s Me

Greeting strangers! It seems like FOREVER since I wrote something here (January 1st to be exact). As usual, adulting has gotten in the way of writing, thinking, bathing… However, just because I haven’t posted anything, it doesn’t mean you haven’t been on my mind.

I did work on some unpublished posts and wondered if they were ever going to see the light of day. So, I got to thinking and decided that I was going to post it in a new series called ‘Hindsight.’ The purpose of this series is to catch you up on things that have happened in my life as well as bring some flavor back into our relationship (I love you)… This series will also have some insight to my current thoughts about my past experiences and how they have shaped me in the present day (Get it? Cause its Hind –sight? Get it? You got it. I’m funny.)

As part of my comeback (Move over Adele!), I will also work on another series called ‘The Harvest.’ This one is different from my other works because it involves art. This series was inspired by stories I have heard or been gifted through my most recent life experiences. You’d be surprised how much people are willing to share when you give them the time and space to do so. I have taken these stories and offered an artistic response to them as a way of honoring their strength and beauty. The art you will see in this series is comprised of drawing, painting, poems and even clay work. The stories will not be told so as to protect the people who shared them. Nevertheless, some essence of what they are going through or went through will be within the artistic response.

I will also work on posting some random stuff of my life as they pop up. I really hope ya’ll (country!) are as excited about my comeback as I am. I have so much to share that I feel like I’m going to overload on all these thoughts. Also, I know most of you are silent readers and rarely, if ever, comment on my posts. Just know that you are welcomed to comment and share your thoughts and experiences. Nevertheless, I will not tolerate sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, or any denigration of any person. You can share your thoughts in a respectful way and, as always, if you got nothing nice to say, then don’t say it.

Finally, I would like to keep doing artistic responses to people’s lives. If you have something you would like to share and have it transformed into an artistic response, please feel free to send me a private message or email.

As always, you guys rock. May you know happiness on this day. May you know peace. And may you be at ease.

Signing off, TWS

 P.S. Have Adele’s new song ‘Hello.’ Why? Çause it’s awesome!

Bus Stop: Cherry Coke

This is a special post. It features Gringa Bestie (GB) experience on the bus but in poem. She has asked me to give a disclaimer about her abilities. She is not a poet and that she wrote this as a request from me. All in all, she is a good writer and maybe in the future, if she agrees, I’ll feature some more of her work.

 

On the bus today, this little old lady talked my ear off about cherry coke.

It was on sale, or she wouldn’t have bought as much as she did but she did buy it.

I tried to tell her that I should go check out the same sale, but she kept going.

She said that she doesn’t like regular colas but likes cherry coke.

Not pepsi cherry, but cherry coke.

I tried to mention that I like cherry coke too, but she kept going.

She said that she’ll sometimes drink cream soda or root beer while preferring ice water or milk.

Not warm milk or with ice in it, but ice cold milk.

I tried to mention that I hate milk, but she kept going.

 Not skim milk because that shit’s colored water.

Two percent is best.

I tried to ask her which milk she bakes with, but she kept going.

And she almost didn’t even leave the house today, but she’s been sick so she said to herself that she had to get out.

I tried to mention that I was just sick too, but she kept going.

She said that she left the house if for no other reason than to be around other people and to buy cherry coke.

I tried to tell her that I thought that was a perfectly valid reason, but she kept going.

She was only on the bus for five minutes.

And when she got off, the driver said “Woo! She was a talker.”

I agreed, noting to myself that she was me in forty years.

Signing off, TWS & GB

Bus Stop: Feminist Ln

Where I come from public transportation is not very prominent. There are taxis and an off-shoot of it called ‘public cars’ but there are not many buses. It was not until recently that my small town acquired a trolley and those are really used by old people. In my old university there were buses but they were used for the students and the trolley system was sometimes used for the general public. In general, I have never used public transportation to get around. If I needed to go to a place I’d walk, even if it took me 30 minutes to walk there and 30 more minutes to walk back. Nevertheless, here it’s different and buses are not only extremely useful but a real necessity. In my stubbornness, I had to cave in and start using the buses to get around, especially for grocery shopping.

This new collection of works will detail my observations and participation in the usage of public transportation and in meeting with other people.

The first time I used the bus I was very paranoid about the schedule and the time it would arrive to the bus stop. Back home buses are never on time and there is no real schedule. You just stand there waiting and waiting until some bus passes by. The worst part was that if you were late for a class and you were waiting for the bus you would never make it.

The bus arrived one minute late; my surprise was monumental and my joy unexpected. Once I got on, like a cub being born into the world, I didn’t know anything. I knew where I wanted to stop but I didn’t know where to signal for the stop. Do I tell the bus driver? Do I pull a lever? So, like I was taught in anthropology, I watched my surroundings and the people on the bus. I quickly learned that there was a small rope-like-lever which I pulled and it signaled the bus driver I wanted to be dropped off.

My destination was Walmart, yet when we passed by I noticed that the bus did not stop nor did it announce that Walmart stop. I freaked out and pulled the lever and was dropped off close to the Applebees. It was not far from Walmart but I felt foolish for freaking out. I felt even more foolish when I remembered that the route made a turn and would leave me directly in front of the Walmart.

No time for regrets. I made my shopping; oh hail the Dollar tree! When I had finished I remembered to go to the Walmart stop. The problem was that I didn’t know where it was. I knew the Applebees stop. After 15 minutes of searching for the Walmart stop I caved and walked all the way to Applebees. There my adventure really started.

At that stop, under the hot sun, I was accompanied by two suspiciously drunk men. Some will call them white trash, but I don’t like that term. Anywho, they were talking in their heavy country drawl that I could not understand. I being a woman in a patriarchal society, I was afraid. Afraid of what they might say. Afraid of what they might do. I held my ground and did not make eye contact. Just the usual for a woman anywhere where you’re objectified.

The bus made its stop. We all got on. Unfortunately, the drunken men sat across from me. I kept myself sitting tight, my legs crossed, my mouth shut and my eyes averted. Yes, this is how society has made us women believe we’re safe. Nevertheless, I kept my ears open for any sign of danger; like a frightened woodland animal.

The men went about with their drunken slurs. They’re ‘I love you man’ and ‘we are brothers’. This went on for most of the trip but at some point they began to whisper. It was there that I knew I was in trouble. At some point one of them turns to me and I knew I had been sighted like the prey they believe me I am. I hold back, act blasé.

Purdy girl like ya’ shouldn’ be frownin’. Ya’ll should smile.

I smile but turn my head. He keeps trying to hit me up. Asks my name. I don’t look at him. He asks if I speak English. I don’t talk. He then proceeds to talk in Spanish. I don’t say anything. He keeps rambling. At some point I’ve had enough. I turn and say:

I know English.

And I give him my best bitch smile. He gets the hint. He frowns.

‘k, I won’ bother youse no mo’.

I sigh in relief. I am safe for a couple more minutes before he tries to talk to me again. I’m not out of the woods yet. I know I need to get to my stop. It’s close. He turns to me again and at that moment the bus stops and a couple of recently out of jail junkies (I know because they practically announced it to the whole bus) get in. They all know each other. The drunken man focuses his attention at the other fellow junkies.

I still don’t feel safe. The bus signals for my stop but I notice that it’s not in front of the building but across. I can’t chance another encounter with these people. I pull the lever, I get off. I believe I am safe. I have trouble crossing but I manage. Afraid they might follow me I decide to go around the building I usually get picked up by the bus. I go through the back of the building where there’s five more buildings. It takes longer to get home but I make it.

I don’t want to get political but there is clearly a problem with the society we live in where a woman can’t feel safe at a bus stop or within a bus even though there are at least 10 more people in there. There is nothing wrong with a man talking to a woman but there is something eerily disturbing when a man tells a woman to smile. My smile is not there for your amusement. I am not a doll nor a piece of meat that has to look pleasing to your eyes every time you feel like it. I am a human being like you. I do not exist for the amusement of any man and I do not need men degrading me into a sexual object by telling me to smile. I do not need your attention. I do not need any man pointing out I am beautiful, pretty or sexy. I know what I am and these comments are unnecessary, disgusting and sexist.

Signing off, TWS

Standing

Hello again! As my disclaimer said, the last post was written before my trip. However, since I have missed so many post days I have already taken my magical trip and I am officially at the Appalachian Mountains (Go Mountaineers!). Nevertheless, this means that I have to put you guys up to date with everything. So let’s start with the post-engagement and the advice people have given me.

Getting engaged was a big decision from my part and from Mr. Grumpy’s as well. We are not planning on getting married right away. This is due to the lack of money and the lack of preparation. We have decided to first work on our main goal which is to obtain our Master degree’s. So we have postponed it to a total of 3 years, give or take. Our decision to get engaged right as I was about to leave stems from our desire to take our relation to a higher level. I mean, what we feel for each other we haven’t felt for anyone else. And when we are together life just clicks. There is no hassle, no pressure and absolutely no judgment. It is based on these feeling and positive atmosphere which we share with each other that we decided to make our relationship something more serious.

Getting engaged is just another step which brings me closer to adulthood and to anxiety. Some people, though not up front, have expressed their concern for our ‘hasty’ decision. Others just refrain from commenting or from giving it its due value. Mr. G and I were concerned about this but after a lengthy conversation we noticed that we did this for us, for our happiness, and not for anyone else’s. This decision to care for our well-being and that of our relationship was confirmed to me by a fellow church woman and friend of the family which had a daughter who also left for the states to be able to study.

As soon as she saw me she sat me down and told me how she felt as a mother about her daughter leaving and how my experience has revived those feelings. She told me that it is difficult for parents to let their children go. It’s strange to see them go off their own way and make their life in a different way and place from that of the parents. However, as the parents starts’ shifting their view about the trip they start to realize that what matters is the happiness of their children. Even when their children do different things from what they believe, or they think, if the child is happy and thriving that they will also be happy. This idea of me being able to stretch out my wings in my own space, time and strength and fly away while my parents supported my flight was what I needed to continue.

I don’t know if this makes sense to you reader. But I will try to clarify it this way: I come from a highly religious family and the idea of me getting engaged is a big thing. However, the idea of me living with my boyfriend before marriage is a bigger thing. All these things shook the foundation of my family and it has caused a riff. However, it was at the words of the church woman that I noticed that it was necessary for me to take all these decisions for my well-being. One can please their parents so much until you notice that you have not pleased yourself. I love my parents and all but my happiness comes above their own. They have taken their decision and paths as human beings and adults, and I have taken mine. They may not be to their liking but they are what holds me and makes me grow. Just as I have no right to tell them how to live their lives, they have no right to tell me how to live mine.

Reader, what I am trying to convey is that your life is your own. Only you can decide, only you can act and only you can be you. It is important to care for others but when their values, beliefs and actions serve to hurt you, to cripple you and to stray you from your path, you must take a stand and go your way. Where their rights end, yours begin and no one in any way has the right to control your life. Your decisions in life will probably hurt people, but you must keep in mind that you must first work on who you are before you can provide for others. You must first learn to be happy before you can make others happy. Just remember, that you may go and do as you please as long as you don’t hurt others emotionally, physically or psychologically. Never let others control you. You were born free, you were born strong. Make your life as you dreamed it; you’ll be happier when you make a stand for your dreams, for yourself and for your future.

Signing off, TWS

The Rain and The Ring

Disclaimer: This was written before my trip.

 

Hello reader, I’d like to apologize for my small hiatus. It’s been a hectic week. First on my birthday I was greeted with a horrible toothache (which has not lessened); second I got engaged and finally I’m preparing my luggage has been a real hassle. Nevertheless, do not fret; I will make it up to you all.

Let us go back, you and I, and let me tell you about my engagement, how it happened and what it brought. It was on the day after my birthday, July 17. We (my aunt, my two female cousins my Mr. Grumpy and me) went to El Yunque;  Puerto Rico’s national rain forest. Believe you me, it’s a beautiful place and I highly recommend a family vacation there. The only warning I have, be prepared to walk. And I mean like a 5K walk. There are various places you can go to, such as the main tower, the replica tower or go down to the Mina Falls; which are all beautiful.

I won’t feed you any Indiana Jones-like story but our walk up to the tower was brutal. Walking through a rain forest ain’t no joke. All the fauna and flora is out to get you and if you stray from the path (which was very slippery), you might get lost. Any who, it was a trying experience considering the risks and how my day had started out. Reader, I have no shame in saying that that day i spent  most of my day on a toilet. You see, I have a crippling anxiety of travelling to far away places (oh the irony), especially in the early morning. So, needless to say it was not my day. Nevertheless, I knew something was going down that day. Mr. G and I had talked about getting engaged and I was in a state of peril because i didn’t know when he was going to spring the question on me.

This trip meant more to me than anything. First off, I have been planning it for days, second it was the first time I would be going to El Yunque and third, I had to find out if Mr.G would propose. Needles to say there was a lot at stake. So I held myself down and made my way up the mountain. Nonetheless, it was a difficult trip for me because it challenged me physically, emotionally and psychologically. This trip helped to reinforce my belief and strife in what I will be doing in the next couple of years. Also, as the date for my trip nears I fear more for myself and if I want to do this or not. However, when I find myself wavering or doubting myself I remember that one hour hike to the mountains and how much I got from it when arrived.

Reader, it is unnecessary for me to tell you that I made it and that I did got engaged. However, I believe I owe you a description of that moment. Between that huffing, puffing and the complaining when we got there we looked up at that tower amazed at its grandeur. More than that we stood awestruck at the nature around us. Never has a more beautiful treasure stood in front of me. When we made it up to the top of the tower, the mountains, the sky and God himself smiled at us. Yet, the greatest moment came when the rain, as I said yes, came down us. It washed our strain and pain and gave us the gift of happiness and family. Like Rip Van Winkle, we went into nature; we were struck with the sublime of it and we came down anew. We were now one and a great future is awaiting us.

Reader, my gift from life I will share with you: you may plan great things and you may have great hope for yourself. However, your efforts are only measured by how much strength you have to make it possible. The climb may be steep and there will be moments you’ll want to quit; and it is at this moment that you have to remember how much you put into making this happen. It is then that you must keep true to your path and make it through no matter what. And I promise you that when you do make it, that victory will be so much greater.

 Signing off, TWS