#blacklivesmatter

The past week has had me completely torn up inside. My heart feels broken, defeated, shocked…  I’ve been seeing two sides of an argument throughout social media: #blacklivesmatter and #alllivesmatter. I believe all lives matter, I really do. I believe in loving everyone. I believe in giving everyone a chance. I believe in supporting your fellow man, no matter his race, background, religion, or political views. I believe in loving people. But the black lives in our country are being attacked, and it breaks my heart.

I have been reading a lot of articles and watching several videos this week. A lot of angry, inflammatory articles and video clips by people who are so quick to judge, so quick to bring up criminal backgrounds. These guys were shot before they were id’d. These men were shot before anything from their history was known. These men were shot because of their color. There’s a prejudice that I think has been so deeply ingrained in our country, and it’s not going to change overnight. I know it’s not going to change overnight, but something needs to change. Our country needs to transform. There needs to be some sort of effort to say that this is not okay. Senseless killings are not okay. It hurts me so much, and I don’t know what all I can do except for erase the stereotypes in my own life

Change always comes from singular people. It always comes from people being brave enough and disgusted enough by their surrounds to do something about it, to stand up and say what is going on is not okay and that they need to change what they are doing. That change starts a movement, and that movement needs to happen. But it has to start with singular people.

I read a comment on one of the articles. I try not to read comments because they just make my blood boil with the ignorance, but I read one comment in response to one person being so upset that the article said #blacklivesmatter instead of #alllivesmatter, and this person pointed out that the two are not exclusive. What if a person was at a cancer rally wanting to fight to end cancer, and a group showed up and shouted that all diseases matter. Yes, all diseases matter. Healing people matter. But in that scenario, people are there to want to change cancer. The #blacklivesmatter movement is to say that the black citizens of our country are being attacked. There is so much racism that is so prevalent, and we need to point that out. It’s not saying that every other life doesn’t matter, it’s saying that we realize there is an issue in the system, and that system needs to change.

In regards to the Dallas shooting (because my heart is aching for those police officers as well), I want to say again that the entire system needs to change. Our country needs to change their view of the police force because the majority of them are doing their job and doing it well. Jon Stewart said, “You can truly grieve for every officer who’s been lost in the line of duty in this country, and still be troubled by cases of police overreach. Those two ideas are not mutually exclusive. You can have great regard for law enforcement and still want them to be held to high standards.” This is what is so important to me. We need to stop answering to violence with more violence. We need to acknowledge that the actions of a few do not speak for the entire group. I hear one side saying “down with the police, they’re all corrupt” and I hear another side saying “the #blacklivesmatter movement is only inspiring violence”. I believe every single person who causes death and violence should be held at the same level of accountability. This should stop being a war between groups.

There was a video I was tagged in on Instagram that showed a woman speaking in a large college lecture hall. She asked the hundreds of students in the audience if they would be willing to change the color of their skin, if they would be willing to live in the world as a black man or woman. She asked for whoever would be willing to do that to stand up, yet nobody stood. My question to any readers who have made it this far: would you change the color of your skin? Would you be an African American citizen in our country right now? Do you think that your life would change?

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It’s Not Worthy of Glory

Writing about depression is a tricky task.

Writing about depression while knowing that you’re in the midst of a downward slump is even trickier.

I have this fear of glorifying depression and mental illness in my writing. I don’t want to make it seem like a romantic thing. It’s a rough, raw, soul-ripping experience. It’s fighting with the one person who knows all of your weakest spots, the most painful pressure points. It’s having fleeting moments of clarity and hope, but knowing that those moments can be snatched away at any time. It’s feeling completely alone and like a burden to anyone you might try to reach out to even though they insist you could never be a burden.

Logically, I know I’m loved, I know I’m not a burden, and I know that I’m not totally alone. But the sick and twisted part of full-blown major depression is that your mind is tricked into believing that all the negative things that pop into your mind are true at some deep level. When you’re no longer in control of all of those thoughts, it’s hard to see the glimmer of hope anywhere in the future.

I’m fighting to find that tiny speck of light again. My serious episodes have taken a turn from the apathetic paralysis I experienced years ago. While the paralysis is still very much part of the demon, I’ve become so familiar with my own mind that the bigger struggle for me is experiencing the loss of control that is fought before the apathy sets in. I’ve been quoting Sylvia Plath a lot lately in my personal writing because her character in The Bell Jar is so relatable to my current state, and I feel like this quote in particular really nails it:

I felt very still and very empty, the way the eye of a tornado must feel, moving dully along in the middle of the surrounding hullabaloo.

I publicly write about my depression because more than anything, I want the general population to start treating depression as something that is a pretty regularly recurring struggle for all sorts of people. Typically, I’m an upbeat hard-working person who tries to make sure everyone else is content and who loves to make the lives of others as easy as possible. But this is something that I constantly struggle with. Most times, it’s something I can handle with a regular schedule and writing through my thoughts and emotions. Sometimes, like the past few weeks, it gets so debilitating that I have no other way to cope than to remove myself from everyday life and do high-intensive therapy and recovery treatments.

The point is that mental illness is not a rarely occurring disability. So I write to bring awareness to that fact. I write because I want other people to know that if I have a mostly healthy life, they can have that as well. I write to remind myself that the really bad moments are fleeting, and I can watch how much my mental state changes when I recover and become healthier again.

I write because one of the biggest lies depression feeds me is that I’m completely alone.

I write this as a reminder to me as well as anyone else: you are never fully alone.

Millenium Park, Chicago, IL- June 2016
Millenium Park, Chicago, IL- June 2016

Learning to Believe

I’ve taken another short writing hiatus. Hiatus is probably too ostentatious of a word….I’ve been wrapped up in a cozy little life I’ve formed for myself, and I’ve not cared enough about being disciplined to keep writing on a regular basis.

For the past month or so, I’ve felt like I’ve been on another planet. The holidays had me all sorts of mixed up mentally, and I wanted nothing more than for them to just speed by. Christmas didn’t really feel like Christmas, at least not the kind of Christmas I used to look forward to every year. The good part about this Christmas, however, was finally making peace with my new life.

I went through my divorce toward the end of 2013 and the beginning of 2014. For all of 2014, I assumed the mask of “divorcee” because that’s all I knew to identify myself by. For the majority of 2015, I was the girl who was mostly interesting because she had lived abroad and traveled to interesting places across the world. Moving to Arkansas meant another new start, but it wasn’t an interesting one. Moving back to Arkansas was meant to serve one purpose: allow myself to finally finish what I started in the form of a college degree. I returned here knowing that it wasn’t going to be my final destination, just a stepping stone to greater things.

Being back here has been harder than expected. My only friends who I had up here were ones who knew my old married identity, who knew my ex and the rest of my ghosts. They knew me as that person, and weren’t around first-hand for my transformation that I’ve been going through for two years. That’s not to say my relationship with those friends is hurt or hindered, it’s just more difficult returning to friendships when you aren’t the same person you were. But for the past two years, I had been able to grow and cultivate friendships with people who hadn’t seen me at my worst, so the dynamic has been different.

I have branched out and made new friends. I’ve been lucky enough to have made some incredibly fast friends with the people I work with. We’re a small staff, so we spend five days a week together, and the sense of family is very strong. When meeting this group of people, I struggled with the question of “do I reveal my married past and everything that went with it, or do I act like I have a normal and easy past?” as I do with every new group of people I meet. I’m good with keeping the important stuff to myself and acting like my life is just fine, so that’s been my default approach to any new friends. It’s safer.

However, for the past several months, I’ve tried to not wear a mask around the new people in my life. I’ve been growing more and more confident when letting people see who I really am underneath the easy going, content outer shell I present. Using the conversation I had with a close friend about how I make it hard to allow people to love me as inspiration, I’ve been working hard on laying out most of who I really am from the beginning of a friendship as a way to separate the true friends from the casual acquaintances.

It’s been so difficult. There is such a sense of rawness and lack of control living a more vulnerable life. You’re much more susceptible to hurtful criticism when you show the bad parts with the good. Recently though, I’ve discovered how rewarding no longer hiding all the layers of my life can be. Sometimes, when you share yourself entirely, you stumble across people who are capable of truly understanding you.

So I’ve found a small community of people who care about me in spite of all my flaws, even though I’ve made no effort to hide that person I’m a little ashamed to be at times. I’ve been surrounded by people who embrace me even when I may feel difficult. Even more mind-blowing, I’m finally starting to feel appreciated and special, instead of having to mentally remind myself of this fact over and over again. It’s beginning to become a learned fact. For the first time in my memory, I feel treasured not only for the cool stories I might have or how “interesting” my experiences seem, but for what thoughts and emotions make up the core of who I am. There’s a sense of peacefulness that overwhelms every other thought when you are finally able to believe how much you matter to another person.

Louvre- Paris, July 2014
Louvre- Paris, July 2014

currently listening to: Spotify’s Discover Weekly

Another Year Down

If I had to sum up 2015 in one word, that word would probably be tenacity.

The past few years have been hard. Learning how to live with the darkest days and appreciate the good days seems to have been my life theme for months. 99% of my blog posts seems to follow that stream of thought, but mostly just because my mental health is such an important part of my everyday thinking.

Tenacity is defined as “persistent determination”, and while I don’t often feel that way in the moment, I’ve realized that many of the big things I’ve really wanted to happen this year have happened. For the most part, I’ve made peace with the crash and burn of 2013. I’ve learned more about my family history and formed relationships with some in my biological family. I’ve moved out of my parents’ house and returned to the place that first began to teach me independence. Most importantly, I’ve experienced the pure love of friendship and learned to actually accept it and let people in, instead of holding everyone at arm’s length.

2015 held so many difficult moments for me, but as cliche as it sounds, those moments have forced me to grow. Growing is an ugly, painful experience, but after I begin to make it to the other side, I’m always appreciative of the difficulties I had to fight through. Time after time, that has been my 2015. Luckily, I’ve encountered SO many beautiful souls who have not only shown me love and support, but who have gone out of their way to help me when they can.

This year, when I’m cheering and ringing in the new year, know that I’m cheering you. I’m cheering your love, your support, your lasting friendships that have been the only light on some of those darkest days. You people who transcend traditional friendship- you who are spread all the way from Tyler and Fayetteville to Alaska and Germany- I love you.

Tyler, TX- July 2008
Tyler, TX- July 2008

listening to: Glass Animals, Iron and Wine

Healing

Part of my plan for this first year of living in Fayetteville is to really learn to take time for myself, so I’ve been going through this meditation journal for just about two weeks. I found it through the world of instagram (the same way I’ve found many of my favorite current poets), and  the premise behind it is just so wonderful. There is one question per day that is different, but then there is a list of the same things to think about every day: daily intentions, what you’re thankful for, things to enjoy and accomplish for the day, and then a couple things to work on. I’ve been able to use it as a daily way to mentally check on myself- to see how my mood shifts from day to day, and to find common themes in my thinking.

One of the questions I really struggled with was how to know when you’ve really healed from something. I written about brain bruises before when tied into depression, which I think is still a great analogy for the reason why it’s so much easier to fall back into that place after thinking you’ve fully recovered.

Yesterday, I was watching one of my girly drama shows during some down time, and one of the characters compared the end of a relationship to a broken bone: it can take a long time to heal, and the pain does eventually go away, but there’s a certain ache that comes back when it rains. I love that because it’s so accurate. It’s so spot on, it’s almost scary.

I thought I was healed from my last heartbreak. I thought I had fully recovered. But that communication opened back up recently, and I allowed myself to become vulnerable again. However, that trust and vulnerability got shut down, and again, the pain was intense. It was a sharp stab that caused all the emotions from a year ago to come boiling to the surface again. Even writing about it now brings the hurt back again.

This is where I come back to the idea of healing. The pain was just as strong as last year. The tears fell just as hard. However, it didn’t last as long. I was able to gather my thoughts and emotions back together more quickly. I didn’t feel as obliterated. I think that’s where the evidence of healing can be found. It’s not the lack of feeling that pain or sadness anymore, it’s the ability to acknowledge the issue and still remain a fully-functioning being. It’s not placing blame anymore, just accepting that there was a major loss. It’s being able to realize that while you may or may not feel that strongly about someone again, the answer will never be found in turning off those emotions and refusing to care about the repercussions of your actions.

So yes, I’ve healed. But I’m still healing. Part of the beauty of the human experience is the constant healing from hurts that life hurls our way.

Bluebonnets at Black Rock Park, Texas - April 2015
Bluebonnets at Black Rock Park, Texas – April 2015

listening to: Animal Collective