We’re All a Little Crazy

My anxiety’s not as bad as it used to be, but I know that some of you have it that bad and worse. Hold on. You feel alone but you’re not.

maney smiles back

These are things I tell myself when I feel an anxiety attack coming on, which happens about once on good days.

  • You are invisible. People who look at you can’t really see you.
  • Humans can smell fear. As long as you don’t act afraid, they won’t hurt you.
  • Name off as many words as you can that begin with C but make the S sound. Cistern, circular, celestial…
  • Notice people’s shoes.
  • Count in Binary on your fingers. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5…
  • Don’t step on the cracks.
  • Sing happy songs. “You Are My Sunshine,” “Danny Boy,” “Into the West,” “If All the Raindrops…”
  • Make believe you’re someone else, someone who’s normal and happy.
  • Hide in the bathroom until your brain stops humming.
  • Crying in bathroom stalls is allowed. Just get quiet when other shoes shuffle inside.
  • Hugging yourself is allowed.
  • Don’t smile unless you want to. They can’t take that…

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A Short Story: Be Happy

 

Be Happy

I wrote a quick note and posted it by the kitchen light switch.

“Be happy.”

I rolled my eyes as I imagined friends and loved ones puzzling over that choice of last words for years after I was gone. Was I being sincere, like I was commanding them to be happy now that I had rid them of myself? Was it a sardonic tribute to the many times people had told me to just get over my hopelessness and “be happy”? Were my best intentions in mind?

I scoffed. It didn’t matter now. I was halfway down the block and headed for the bus stop.

Nothing mattered anymore.

I stood in the chill autumn air wearing multiple layers to hide me from the cold—and from any familiar faces. I didn’t want to deal with small talk on my way to my predetermined death.

The bus came screeching and rumbling to a halt in front of me and I paid for the ride in cash. No need to give away my whereabouts by using my bus pass.

As I shuffled to the back of the bus and seated myself across from a grizzled, smoky fellow, I shook my head at my unobservant girlfriend for not realizing what was so blatantly obvious to me. I had been pulling away for some time, not just from her, but from life; from this mess we stumble through and pretend we understand or care about.

I smiled despite myself. That had been what had attracted me to her in the first place: the wide-eyed belief that life is sacred and meaningful and joyous. And at first, I had believed her.

“Can’t do nothin’ right,” the old man coughed, distracting me.

But, like all my relationships, it began to fade in grandeur. We moved in together a few months ago in an unspoken attempt to ignite it once again. And I will admit that for a while, seeing her get dressed in the morning and falling asleep together after long work days was more than pleasant. The problem was never her; no. I know that. Not my sweet, vanilla girlfriend.

It was me.

After all, I’m the one with the shadows dancing against my eyelids. The one with dark memories and faithless approach to the future. The one who, despite deceiving my trusting lover into thinking I was going to buy us some ice cream to watch a movie in our apartment, still marveled at her gullibility.

She would be worried when I didn’t come home, true, but I couldn’t get too worked up about it because she’s the type of person that everyone loves. People want to be around her, unlike me. When we get invited to parties, I know deep down that it is for Vicky and guest. She would make it through losing me, easy.

I surprised myself with a sudden, lopsided smile. How did I ever end up with someone named Vicky?

The bus made a sharp turn and the tire connected loudly with a curb. I glanced out the window—the darkness was swallowed completely by advertisements, headlights, street lamps, and store fronts. I recognized the road. If I had borrowed her car, I’d be approaching the grocery store in a matter of blocks.

Something twisted inside me, a rare jolt of emotion after so many weeks and months of pain and anger, always masking it with a smile or a shrug because I had to placate Vicky—protect her from my reality of inexplicable rage and relentless sorrow.

I could rewrite history, take back this choice. Buy the stupid ice cream and go home to my waiting girlfriend. Watch Invasion of the Body Snatchers because, according to her, “It’s a classic.”

He started coughing again, wheezing out, “Nothin’! Nothin’!”

The other passengers and I pretended we couldn’t hear him, but his words pounded in my ears. Nothing. Nothing. I reached for the cord and the buzzer rang out. The bus decelerated violently and I was almost thrown to the floor until I grabbed a handle to steady myself.

In ten minutes I was out by the bus stop again, shivering, a carton of vanilla ice cream cradled in my arms. I cursed myself for moving through self-checkout so fast I forgot a bag.

Soon I found myself climbing into another bus—What’s going on in your head, Alex?—and heading back toward our apartment. My brain ached as I tried to rationalize this behavior. It doesn’t make sense.

Nothing. Nothing. Did I want nothing more than pain and sadness and Vicky?

I shook my head. No, it was never about wanting. It was an escape from an uglier reality—the greater of two evils. And even if everything came down to chemical reactions in my brain, and life and death were never mine to choose, I was headed home now.

I ran up the staircase and opened the door to a delicate squeal.

“You scared me!” she scolded me. “What took you so long?”

“I decided to take the bus and save some gas money,” I said, smiling sheepishly. I amazed myself with my ease at lying to her face.

She walked over and folded me in her arms.

“You’re freezing,” she announced, releasing me and taking the carton from my hand. “Vanilla? You know I like more flavor than that. Something nutty or fruity.”

“Or something a little of both?” I said, smiling.

She laughed at my joke. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. Okay, I’m going to go put on pajamas. Will you pop some popcorn?”

“Sure,” I said.

She left the room and I remembered my note by the door.

“Be happy,” it told me.

I pulled it down, crumpled it up.

“I’ll try,” I said.

“What?” Vicky called from the bedroom.

“Nothing.”

Poetry Friday: Taking Notes in English

Taking Notes in English

They said they liked high school fine, and
at least no one died while they were there.
My insides clenched and I thought of you,
Andrew.

Dead dead dead,
kick the stone all you want but he can’t feel a thing.

Cut me open, display my insides to the ceiling,
snip and saw and slice and
just figure out where the pain is coming from.
Eyes wide to the sky, fingers clenching,
I’ll watch your expression as you operate, perform the autopsy.

Throw books against the wall
scream
topple tables and chairs but no one will put you down,
wrap you up all snug in white silk
or even a snuggly jacket.

Crack open my skull, crush it crush it crush it kill me end it stupid stupid
never gets better, never heals, never fades from memory.

Hold them to the wall, scalpel to their throat
shake them but they have no answer.
It just wastes their time, it’s just embarrassing.
Words can’t fix it, time just numbs you for a while.
Blood running red
running down
running out
running out of time.

I cry, scream, alienate and destroy.
In my mind, I am a naked little girl in a corner
pointing a shattered mirror at the indifferent crowds,
hoping I can pass under their radar,
or at least cut them if they come too close,
or care.

* * *

Hey, sorry this is so dark. It surprises me when moments like this strike. It’s been about four years since he died. Mostly I’m good now. And I don’t want you to worry. No one is going to get hurt; nothing bad is going to happen. My mind is calm and safe. But this happened the other day out of nowhere, and I just wanted it out there again.

get real

Another post I wrote for YMF. Listen, believe, and love, y’all.

Young Mormon Feminists

trigger warning: sexual assault and suicide

Sometimes I can wrap up ugly pieces of the world in pretty bows. I find my needed peace in my Savior, my faith, and my family.

But sometimes, sometimes, peace is less important than reality.

Sometimes the voices crying from the darkness are more important than the voices comforting us with light.

We need someone to hear us.

Just listen to us.

Just believe that there is real horror out there.

Our nightmares are reality.

We are helpless.

We are hopeless.

We are alone.

All around is darkness.

The pain in unending.

The hurt knows no bounds.

THERE IS NO PEACE TO BE FOUND.

Just believe us, okay?

* * *

Humans who feel like this, my stomach is in knots over you. I love you all. Please seek support if you can. Below are two hotlines for you to call if you need…

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TBT: “Day 1”

Throwback to a piece of unpublished writing I did in November 2014. P.S. It’s super dark and it makes me sad that I used to be this human. So, trigger warning I guess?

I’m writing this because I want to prove to myself that what is happening to me right now matters. I want to believe that this moment of pain and loneliness is important, more important than all the great accomplishments I have ever made, more important than my future income or the accomplishments of my children. Because if this moment is not of value, then I have zero guarantee that any other moment will matter, or that anything leading up to this point matters either.

I’ve written two books before. One was a fairytale and it mostly turned out to be a checkmark on my bucket list: finish a whole book. The second one was kind of therapy for me, where I wrote about my experiences in high school in second person. I made it all about a different girl, and I ended up sobbing one day at the keyboard as the full weight of what I had lived through engulfed me. I like words like engulf and encompass. I use them a lot when I write poetry. I write poetry a lot. Because it makes sense and it makes the reader do some of the work. If you’re reading this, maybe you’re picturing me being a human and stuff, or perhaps you’ve been envisioning high school hallways, but I’ve been feeding you these images. With poetry you have to immerse (another good word) yourself in the words and flesh out the meaning on your own. And it can mean such different things to different people. And I don’t care what your English teacher says—there is always more than one way to interpret poetry. I think that’s the point.

Let me tell you a little about where I really am right now. It is November. I am at college in a computer lab. A girl with black hair just sat down near me and we shared uncomfortable eye contact. I am wearing a hat I made out of yarn. It is purple and blue I think, but I can’t really see it right now. I have short brown hair and large brown tortoiseshell glasses. My eyes are blue. I have acne, worse right now than usual I think perhaps from stress. I’m wearing a turquoise hoodie from Aeropostale. It is the only thing I own from this store. My aunt bought it for me for Christmas. My tennis shoes have holes where my pinkie toes are. I have a large, curved nose. I’m a girl. There’s an elastic band on my right wrist that I snap when I want to die.

Oh, yeah, I am suicidal.

Now I don’t know what to say. Saying the S word usually takes a lot out of me. People expect some kind of explanation usually but I just never have a good one. I’ll be honest: part of me wants you to understand this. I know this is wrong of me, and that I shouldn’t wish this feeling on anyone else, but I selfishly want to feel less alone. Less freakish.

I feel like this isn’t working. I still don’t feel like I matter. And trying so hard to feel that way isn’t helping. Let me tell you about a friend of mine. He is a boy. We became closer friends over this last summer, especially when I went to work in San Francisco for a month and we called each other a lot. He really helped me feel less homesick. He is going to a different school than this one, but we see each other on the weekends because I get homesick and take the train home every Friday. Except, last Friday I tried to end our relationship, because I felt too numb and I had a vague realization that it wasn’t fair to drag him along, especially if I have a timer ticking away on my life. That week was the hardest one I’ve had in a really long time. I tried to make up for his absence by talking to my family on the phone more, but it didn’t work. It just made the pain a whole lot more real. He respected my wishes and didn’t contact me, but later he said it was really hard, and when my friend says things are hard you know they’ve been hard beyond imagine, because this human feels emotion to a level beyond the norm. I think I like to be with him because of this—he understands how happy and how sad life can be. Mostly sad.

I will call him Dawson.

Isn’t there a show called Dawson’s Creek? I looked it up just now, because I’m on the computer. The answer is yes; I thought of it because one of the actors on that show is Joshua Jackson, and he plays one of the leads on my favorite TV show Fringe. This is my favorite show because the people in the story understand how it is to be broken. And also all the gore and scariness kind of numbs my brain to the horror I had in high school. You probably think that I got raped or something, or I lost a limb. Something life-shatteringly horrible. What really happened wasn’t that bad, actually. In fact, compared to what happens to other people, especially in countries that aren’t America, things are way worse. Or so I hear. I’ve never left the country. But I’ve traveled by plane twice: once to New York City and once to San Francisco.

When I went to those places I realized that they were real, not just pretend places on TV or the internet. I never should have watched The Truman Show—it has basically made me think the entire world is a conspiracy theory. I think maybe this is a self-defense mechanism. I used it once before when my best friend died. This is complicated because I wasn’t his best friend, but he was mine. I claim the title anyway so as not to negate the reality of the agony I went through when I got the phone call and in the years following. It’s been over two and a half years now. But I remember that when he died, since it was just before April Fool’s Day, I sincerely believed it was some kind of elaborate April Fool’s trick, and it wasn’t until I saw his body at the viewing did I accept he really had died.

Him I will call Joel.

I need to go now. I have group counseling at three, and I haven’t really eaten my home lunch. I usually don’t eat very much anyway. I only ever pack a drink, a granola bar, an apple, and a small extra something like almonds or fruit snacks. I have lost weight in the last month. Like, probably five or so pounds. I’ve always wondered if I could be anorexic. I’m not saying I am, but I think I have it in me.

I write a blog. You don’t need to know what it’s called. But I feel like you should know I already write at least a few times a week. Sometimes I worry that if I got better, I wouldn’t have anything left to write about. Sometimes I worry that if I got better, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself.

amidst ashes: surviving suicide

I wrote this piece for Young Mormon Feminists but it totally applies to y’all, my original readers. Much love!

Young Mormon Feminists

In recognition of September being National Suicide Prevention Month

Last year I got this close to killing myself, but I survived.

It hurts to talk, to think about the experience. I went to BYU for a semester and within a few months I was severely depressed—on the brink of suicide. My lifelong perfectionism had finally caught up with me, and it was tightening around my neck in an invisible noose. They were dark times, endless days of pain I can’t even put into words. It hurt to breathe. It hurt to wake up. There was no rest for my soul; not in prayer, in conversation, in closeness. An untouchable emptiness inside me itched constantly. I got headaches from clenching my teeth from anxiety. I moved through the days with a constant wish that a car would flatten me.

I made feeble attempts to live, one of which was joining a BYU therapy…

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Poetry Friday: Reason$ to Live

*trigger warning*

Reason$ to Live

The old feelings return and
my concentrated suffering
could kill every light in the city.

I can’t even trust
the emptiness to stay;
abandons me faster than hope
and leaves me numb.

I can’t even complain
because I’ve been worse.

Perspective.

It’s cheaper to hide than to act; blood flows in green bills,
sucking life from the ones who care.
So I die inside until it grows too strong,
and even then my blood comes out as ink.