s/i

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the letter s, forward slash, the letter i, it signifies suicidal ideations.

We are going to dive into these three simple characters to a depth that may completely horrify, devastate, or sicken you. On the other hand, you may leave this pitch black building feeling enlightened, grateful, or astonished. Either way, you will certainly feel something (regret?). Which brings me to the introduction:

Being numb sucks. Sometimes, my body parts go numb. I also have sharp pains that bounce through my body at various times. Totally random. Couldn’t pinpoint (unintentional pun) the body positions that trigger these, or the outside elements that may or may not play a significant role, or the digestive phase of my burger or pizza. All I know is, these zaps of electricity occur in my left arm and both hands, my left leg, my spine, my feet, and my toes.

If you know me personally or have been reading this blog (thanks, btw), you know I have suffered numerous physical traumas. Namely, car accidents. Some resulting in head and spine injuries which I thankfully recovered from. Mostly. So, these electric jolts and sharp stabbing pains have been taking place as long as I can recall bits of middle school. This likely explains why I tripped a lot. I fell on occasion. I’ve sprained my ankles and wrists and stubbed toes and D’OH paper cuts (least favorite) countless times. People think I am accident prone. I’d say they are probably correct.

Anywho, fast forward to the here and now and I have learned so much about neuroscience, psychology, mental wellbeing, various topics relating to healing various ailments, while simultaneously staying away from traditional methods of correcting these issues. (i.e.-Doctor appointments, prescriptions pills, various therapies). Instead, I was exploring what I was more interested in- how these things affected my behavior, why I did this or felt that, etc. I rebelled against the traditional therapies for a very, very deep, dark, personal reason. Now we are inching closer to the s/i part.

When I was fifteen years young, I experienced my very first panic attack. It happened while in class, and I remember that I could not get a full breath in and I started to panic. My heart was racing and I panicked until I really, really couldn’t get a half breath in. And then I hyperventilated and every single person in the room was freaking out. My teacher, who I adore to this day, was so upset. She screamed for someone to get me a candy bar and a Coke and a paper bag. I may be giving incorrect details but this is what I seem to recall the most. Just recently, a couple of school friends and I reunited and one had mentioned this to me and many memories started flooding back to me. I had almost forgotten about the incident altogether, but since it became fresh to me, I began thinking about the time period and the s/i I experienced shortly thereafter (I’ll get to eventually) became this- a blog post I should have written a long damn time ago.

S/I is something I have found to be quite common- among those seeking help, and those who unfortunately never did. Suicide is something you see or hear about in the news, or something you have dealt with among your peers, or something you have experienced among extended family. Less frequent are those who have dealt with this level of pain among their inner circles and immediate families. It is a subject nobody wants to ever talk about. So, yeah. Let’s talk about it. Right now.

When I had my panic attack out in the population of kids I’d grown up with, I felt like I’d become a kind of spectacle. I didn’t really understand what it was that had happened to me. I saw a male Psychiatrist at the hospital one time, and I had a Primary Care Physician. I’m not sure who prescribed this to me, but I was just starting puberty (late bloomer), and was taking Zoloft.

S/I is not really commonplace when taking Zoloft. I doubt this drug had a profound effect at all, really. I was still experiencing periods of overwhelming devastation and hyperactive excitement and extreme fatigue. Totally all over the place, depending on my environment and the circle of people around me- or totally isolated. I still wanted to sleep and drool all over my desk in some classes and was 106% engaged in others (Biology, Psychology- certainly not Coach Baptist Minister Pierce’s history class- God love him).

But I vividly remember the first time I felt so desperate to stop living. To just simply stop going on anymore. I so badly just wanted the pain to go away. For the memories to go away. For the numbness to stop creeping in. For the lightning bolts to stop striking me in any given place at any given moment. I just wanted peace.

Every time I have these thoughts, I replace them with others. The thing about reading, doing your own independent research, working in mental healthcare, and engaging with other people like you is that you learn about yourself, what causes what, what you can do to fix it, and identifying that you share a common thread with others like you (you’re never alone) and sometimes that thread is basically all you need to use as your literal lifeline. This is why it can be so difficult to leave someone you really love, especially when you have been there for each other in very difficult times. But there was one time I wanted to leave so badly, I took a handful of pills, and I swallowed them down one by one- gag.

I can’t recall how old I was. I may have been fifteen still. For some reason, seventeen pops up but I don’t think this is accurate. It may not be relevant anymore. Measuring distance and time has always been challenging to me. I never measure ingredients, either- I just do what feels right. But I remember taking a lot of pills. And I remember my younger sister walking in on me doing it. This poor child walked in to see the eldest popping white beads into her mouth, knowing the intent was to stop living. To stop being her sister. To stop being her best friend. Her bunkbed mate. Bad influencer. Ride or die.

When you know you’re a handful, sometimes you think about how you negatively impact people around you. People you love. You don’t want them to suffer anymore. You don’t want them to feel sorry for you. You don’t want to be a spectacle that leads to embarrassment or shame. You just want peace. And maybe quiet. You want the thoughts in your mind to stop. You want your brain to just… fucking… stop.

S/I happens without warning. It happens on a rainy day. Or a sunny day. It happens in the woods. Or on the bed. Or in the tub. It happens in the car. Or at church. Or at work. It happens randomly. It is an electric jolt of feeling. It is a numb. It is a sharp, stabbing pain. Hits you before you even recognize what it is. Let me tell you what S/I is:

Suicidal

/

I D E A t i o n

An IDEA is something you may or may not be able to control. They happen constantly. Depending on how well your life is going, your ideas may at times feel darker and more burdensome than not. Regardless, thoughts are bound to happen and S/I is something that can impact the highest and mightiest to the lowest and weakest. It doesn’t fucking matter if you’re poor or rich. If you grew up in the city or the suburbs. Or the woods. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never had trauma or if your life has been filled to the brim with it. Doesn’t matter if you experience behaviors relating to any other known “mental disorder”. Doesn’t matter how many times you’ve been married, divorced, or how long you’ve been single, whether or not you’ve had children, whether you graduated high school or Damn I Wish I Could Have Been a Doctor school. Religious, atheist, farmer, engineer.

None. of that Matters.

So what does matter?

Well, let’s define matter! Matter is the shit all around you. And you are also matter. Everything is made up of matter. So I have found a great coping skill any time the ole S/I suddenly appears and I’m all like- hey, what the fuck? I matter, dumbass. And the thoughts begin to become more controlled, because they become something of real substance. I imagine sweeping the pile of dust off the porch and thinking about my radio friend, Tom, who shared this sage advice: You don’t have to be rich to clean off your porch. Likewise, you don’t have to commit the act of suicide should the thought ever pop into your head. Sweep it away, just as you would anything else that’s annoying.

I’m going on over twenty years of random, unpredictable, deeply disturbing and uncomfortable bullshit- both mentally and physically exhausting- but, I matter. And you’re matter, too.

conversations with myself

Working and living in an area of non-stop small talk, often times the most intimate conversations I have are with myself. I think constantly. My brain is thinking about multiple things, beginning around the hour I become conscious, to the moments leading up to me quickly shutting down my brain to FUCKING RELAX.

Anyway, conversations with myself- self talk as the Providers nickel and dime it- can do two things:

  1. Cause total chaos, leaving you exhausted and disheveled
  2. Cause total bliss, leaving you weightless and satisfied

Oh, you aren’t bipolar just like me?

I guess I forgot.

There are days when I feel euphoric- something I would compare to an acid trip. Maybe it’s the season, the weather, or nerve damage? I couldn’t say. What I can say is that some days feel like the polar opposite, and these are the days I would like to focus on right now. Because we always start with bad news. And when I say we, I actually refer to my two vastly polar opposite personalities. One is happy and excited. One is tired and cranky. Tired and cranky now has the floor:

Hi, my name is tired and cranky. Actually, you know what? No. Fuck off. I don’t care what anyone thinks about the things I open up about. Judge me all you want. I’ll wear what I want and present myself in my own way and if you don’t like it you can fuck off. Yes, I cuss. You know why I think that is? Because when I was little, I was sent to my room for saying the word “shit”, and that was the first moment I recall being in trouble. The first moment I remember rocking back and forth. I subsequently removed all cuss words from my vocabulary. John Michael Montgomery’s classic hit “I Swear” was sung in our home as “I square”

by the moon and the stars in your eyes…

I’ll be there. I square.

So years passed and a little, somewhat popular album was released when I was fifteen years old. It recently turned twenty years of age and I thought, you know what? I really would like to discuss how this particular piece of timeless art shaped me in my most vulnerable and bitterly angry years, when I was attempting to break the rules and figure out who the hell I really am.

Why am I so angry? Please explain this to me in song, Maynard James Keenan.

Lateralus was released May 15, 2001 and it was the spring, then summer of Tool, which then became the following twenty years of more Tool which involved digging into and appreciating and supporting more side projects. Hell, a winery was birthed out of Tool. And a farm. Life.

Come to think of it, even… my child, Echo.

Hooked on everything that these people involved with these projects produced, I felt like I had found this secret garden of information that a handful of other local, angry teenagers and I clung to for emotional support and strength on the days when we had ZILCH internally. The local music scene thrived- not because of Tool, but thanks to this similar angst that Tool had seamlessly tapped into, harnessed with leather straps, and made their bitch. It was an inspiring time for angry artists, and holy shit- was I angry.

I met my child’s father the summer a drunk man decided to get behind the wheel of a heavy automobile, which he half ass managed to operate until he ran my friends and I off the highway around a curve just in front of my friend’s house. We hit the embankment, flew in the air, and nose dived into the ditch, while the dumb, intoxicated redneck motherfucker sped away, leaving three good looking teenage girls in a smoking vehicle to die a horrible, untimely death. My friend’s mom heard the crash and sprinted down her driveway, spraining her ankle. I was stuck in the backseat, unable to get my seatbelt unclicked, while a motorist who had stopped was screaming to get out because the car was on fire.

Oh cool, this is it. I’m gonna die in front of Britney’s house.

Self talk.

I didn’t actually want to die. I enjoy living and being happy. But those are the words I said to myself, in such a sarcastic “gee, this is such a surprise” kind of way. After brushing my hilarious sarcasm aside, I got serious and worked harder to unbuckle, and with a fractured L4, got out of the car that was definitely not on fire, and ran however many yards, crunching glass and gravel, collapsing upon meeting my friend Britney and her mother- who were sobbing and gasping upon realizing it was me. “Yeah, another accident.” (I believe this would have been the sixth.)

My dad and sister pulled up. Just one week prior to this, my sister had major scoliosis surgery. She was recovering with stitches still holding her fragile halves together. I saw her crying and I felt so terrible that she was upset because I knew she was in so much pain herself. The ambulance arrived. I was strapped tightly to a hard board to stabilize my spine (gravel and glass cutting into my back), where I would remain for the next six to eight hours. I drifted in and out of consciousness but remember drinking the absolutely horrid MRI juice, VoLumen (short for Liquid Voldemort), and hurling barf upon meeting my Doctor, who replied with “Oh dear”.

Oh dear, indeed.

I recovered that summer in a back brace, with orders not to drive. The summer all of my friends were graduating without me and I couldn’t even celebrate. So, I spent my time writing. A lot. Whether in notebooks or LiveJournal, I was getting my thoughts out of my head. I was sharing. A lot. I was visiting chat rooms and sharing there, too. And this is how I connected to my child’s father, Ricky. Another Tool fan.

-Something cool I said about my favorite band

-Something he said in agreement

-More words exchanged

He then looks at my profile and sees that I am female.

-Holy shit, I thought you were a dude.

-Ha, no.

Then we continued talking about our favorite band Tool for four hours.

Then we continued talking about the reasons we admire the band Tool.

Then we continued talking about the various things that we have been through that led to the mindset which allowed for appreciation of the band Tool.

Then we moved in together.

Then we made a baby who I called Echo.

Self talk is important. Sometimes self talk can seem like something that produces filth and you suffer for it. Often, those around you suffer as a result, too. But every so often, when you’re lucky, you get a diamond in the rough.

Twenty years later, and he and I still maintain. He is the person who gave me one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received. “When you talk shit to yourself, add something nice.” We can communicate. I know the pieces fit. He appreciates that I have been on top of all the responsibilities in raising our child, and I appreciate that he hasn’t laid one finger on her. Be patient.

I talk to myself daily. Maybe you do, too. Whatever you tell yourself, never forget- add something nice.

Writing and Distraction

When you are an adult and read more and more about the disorders which have somehow plagued (/blessed) your life for decades, it becomes really apparent that resources about disorders, while often are helpful, are not nearly as helpful, uplifting, or inspiring as engaging with others who experience the same feelings, emotions, habits, etc. that you do. Some of the best reading I have done, especially in relation to autism and bipolar disorder, were written by those who have been diagnosed as autistic or having bipolar disorder. In a previous post I mentioned that some therapists still to this day regard autism as a disorder, when in fact, it is not. It is a neurotype, and should be treated as such. Likewise, we treat being bipolar as having a disorder, and while it is most certainly still classified as such, I feel that being bipolar is a lot like being autistic- it isn’t something you have, rather- it is just how your mind works. Genetics, conditioning, environment, experience all plays its own individual role in the manner or extent the disorder affects your day to day life.

General mental health studies refer to alternative thought patterns that would not be considered “healthy” or “normal” as disorders or illnesses. Therefore, they are treated as such. Whether your mind produces lack of happiness, motivation, attention span, stability, or an over abundance of various moods or personality traits, we tend to treat anyone who thinks or reacts “differently” as having a “problem”. I see this in of itself as problematic. We would not experience the incredibly vast ocean of art, music, film, comedy, sports, literature, scientific, medical, and technological advances, so on and so forth, had it not been for people who “think outside the box.”

One of the best videos I have seen in discussing the drive, humility, and overall nature of an outcast would be Rodney Mullen’s short twenty minute video relating to his skating career and the resilience skaters have in finding their own unique styles and abilities, and their challenges in shaping their communities and honing their skills. Even the manner in which he speaks and moves and makes eye contact and how excited and emotional he gets rocked me to the core, as I witnessed someone who I thought just fucking gets it. How refreshing is that? For someone like me? EXTREMELY.

We see a lot of media about mental health and well-being and how to achieve better by blah blah blah. There is a lot of exposure relating to depression, anxiety, and adhd. Bipolar, schizophrenia, and borderline? Not so much. Years ago, I wrote a blog post (wish I could remember the link!) about borderline personality disorder. As I’ve said before, I was diagnosed as being bipolar when I was 15, and borderline is a bit like bipolar. Additionally, being autistic can introduce you to these “disorders” and you may feel overwhelmed in learning that you are just different. Guess what- it’s okay.

I know it’s okay because I am thirty five years old now and I’m still here. I made it. I work multiple jobs and have multiple hobbies and have raised a child since I was nineteen years old. Is my life a rollercoaster? Yep. But whose isn’t these days? Distractions are everywhere. There are noises everywhere. There are bright screens and colors and shiny objects in your face everywhere. Stimulation is constant. And hey, that reminds me- I forget shit constantly.

You know how I know distractions exist? I initially had the idea of writing about adhd and when I began to actually write, I wrote all those things above instead. Anyway, let’s talk about adhd now, shall we?

This is a paper I wrote in 2015 and I wanted to share this with you to shine some light on the research that continues to shape the way mental health providers diagnose and treat a person who is hyperactive and gets easily distracted:

  • The purpose of this post is to provide information related to the treatment of children and adolescents diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).  Thorough knowledge related to this topic is imperative in pediatric primary care settings.  The diagnosis of the ADHD condition is prevalent, and the prescription of stimulant medication is a common treatment choice.  The advanced practice nurse practitioner (APRN) must serve as the patient advocate and recommend treatment modalities that maximize patient outcomes. 

ADHD is defined by the “DSM IV criteria as hyperactive, impulsive, or inattentive behavior that causes impairment prior to seven years” (Vierhile, Robb, & Ryan-Krause, 2009, p 1).  ADHD is a chronic condition that affects millions of children, and its effects may continue into adulthood.  The current statistics are staggering for ADHD incidence: “up to eleven percent of four to seventeen year olds have had the diagnosis, eight percent currently have the diagnosis, and six percent of those are receiving medication for ADHD” (Felt, Biermann, Christner, Kochhar, & Van Harrison, 2014, p 456).  Levy et al. (2014) found that a positive link exists between the impulsivity associated with the ADHD personality and the risk for future risk taking behavior, such as substance abuse.

The prognosis PICOT question that is pertinent to this topic is as follows: in children and adolescents diagnosed with ADHD, how does the utilization of education and behavior therapy compared to not receiving behavior therapy influence the risk of subsequent substance abuse over a ten year period of time? Behavioral therapy has been confirmed as an effective treatment modality in ADHD patients (Antshel, 2015). The ten year time frame should cover from adolescence to early adulthood, the period that is most associated with substance abuse behavior. 

The goals of ADHD treatment are to improve symptoms and to maintain an appropriate level of function. In order to provide a proficient level of care, the APRN must be aware of current interventions. Research is necessary to determine if education and behavior therapy are an effective treatment for the risk of substance abuse in children and adolescents diagnosed with ADHD. The challenge for healthcare providers in dealing with ADHD conditions is to intervene early and to provide the best treatment plan that optimizes the patient’s long-term condition. 

References:

Antshell, K. M. (2015).  Psychosocial interventions in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.  Child & Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 24(1), 79-97.

Felt, B., Biermann, B., Christner, J.G., Kochhar, P., & Van Harrison, R.  (2014). Diagnosis and management of ADHD in children.  American Family Physician, 90(7), 456-464.

Levy, S., Katusic, S.K., Colligan, R.C., Weaver, A.L., Killian, J.M., Voight, R.G., & Barbaresi, W.J. (2014).  Childhood ADHD and risk for substance dependence in adulthood: A longitudinal, population-based study.  PLoS ONE, 9(8):e105640. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0105640 

Vierhile, A., Robb, A., Ryan-Krause, P. (2009).  Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in children and adolescents: Closing diagnostic, communication, and treatment gaps.  Journal of Pediatric Health Care, 23(1), S1-S21.

Discussion Response

I have a close member of my family who was recently diagnosed with ADHD at nineteen years of age. He was not diagnosed in childhood, but as he got older, he found that he was often bored and craved for some sort of stimulation. He made impulsive decisions that only later he would think about and feel shame and embarrassment over the poor choices he had made. In college and newly diagnosed with ADHD, he had found that he was starting to drink before he would study. Just a beer or two, but it seemed like he needed it to slow his mind down enough to concentrate on the material he needed to concentrate on. He was also suffering from very low self-esteem, because he felt he was dumb and couldn’t learn very well. His well-wishers could see him opt for bad choices and see where this could quickly cause someone to lose ambition and follow a self-destructive path. The fact is that stimulant type drugs can slow the racing thoughts of a person with ADHD and make them feel more “normal”. He was actually shocked when he was first put on stimulant medications because he noticed the insomnia he experienced since childhood was finally cured.

As you can see, someone diagnosed with adhd later in life can absolutely occur. The same applies to any other disorder. Additionally, it is my personal belief that any person could schedule an appointment with a counselor or Psychiatrist and sixty minutes later, walk out with some type of diagnosis/es. The extent which the diagnosis/es affects your life is ultimately up to you. Can you embrace who you are and how your mind functions? Can you cope with the habits, ticks, moods, traits, stimuli, fears, etc. in life, in school or on the job, or while you’re alone or in a huge crowd at a concert?

Why don’t we ask these questions instead:

Can society accept you for who you truly are? and more importantly,

How can society function in such a way that is more accepting and accommodating to those who are considered or classified abnormal?

What do you think about mental disorders?
What do you think about the conversation about mental disorders?
What do you think about current available treatments?
What do you think about the way you think?

The Horrible Bitch that is Dementia

This entry was originally published on my website, Live Onawa, January 12, 2021.

I’ll begin by sharing a paper I wrote back in 2015 exploring the use of non-pharmacological therapies to engage a person with dementia. Beginning here:
The purpose of this statement is to substantiate my view that simulated social stimulus in the form of a life-like baby doll or stuffed animal helps in engaging a patient with dementia in a nursing home setting to generate warm feelings and reduce agitation. Through this research, I wanted to examine non-pharmacological interventions to deal with dementia patients during aggressive behavioral outburst. Is it really useful in creating a distraction from harmful or threatening situation? It seems to me that the dolls keep the dementia patients distracted more than those who do not have one. Some authors consider doll therapy as controversial due to its ethical nature and consider doll therapy as “infantilizing for patients who end up being treated like children” (Hughes et al., 2006). Perhaps dignity is the issue for some, however, certain things are done for the safety of the patient, and I personally see no reason not to use this method if it is effective. Although, in order to achieve the greatest likelihood of success, it is important for the caregivers to understand the patient’s attachment/relationship with the stimuli, cognitive status, and past history. Meaningful stimuli needs to be considered and explored to maximize the desired benefit for persons with dementia. It is pertinent to conduct more trials with less bias and with larger samples to see the efficacy of such non-pharmacological interventions amidst our dementia population. In my experience, there have been instances in which the doll caused more distress. For example, one patient became distraught because she didn’t know the dolls’ names and felt they had been abandoned. Otherwise, I have seen mostly positive results. Interpretations of doll/stuffed animal therapy enable health care providers to maximize the positive outcome of providing stimulus with greatest likelihood of success (Cohen-Mansfield et al., 2010).I interviewed a Nurse Practitioner (NP) who works in the dementia unit of a Nursing Home (NH) my employer services. She has witnessed positive results in the NH when a doll/stuffed animal has been introduced to geriatric clients. According to her, this sort of stimulus seems to fulfill a sense of purpose, and provided a calming effect while keeping the patient engaged. She emphasized the doll/animal should appear as realistic as possible (S. Hasgrove, personal communication, January 20, 2015). This NP’s experience corroborated with the results of Ellingford et al. (2007) post study analysis that “These authors found an increase in doll users’ positive behavior following the introduction of the dolls and a reduction in negative behaviors and aggression”. Amongst geriatric patients suffering from dementia in nursing home settings, how does simulated social stimulus like doll/stuffed animal compared to no stimulus reduced behavioral disturbance and wandering within three months of exposure to stimulus? In conclusion, this finding is consistent with studies showing that increasing resident engagement through individualized activities is associated with decreased agitation. However, we cannot disregard the severity of dementia that is a significant factor, as severely demented became increasingly disengaged from the stimulus overtime. Future research should focus on the development of targeted individualized interventions based on the cognitive and affective profile of dementia patients with behavior disturbance. Reference List:Cohen-Mansfield, J., Marx, M., Dakheel-Ali, M., Regier, N., Thein, K., & Freedman, L. (2010). Can agitated behavior of nursing home residents with dementia be prevented with the use of standardized stimuli? Journal Of The American Geriatrics Society, 58(8), 1459-1464. doi:10.1111/j.1532-5415.2010.02951.xEllingford L., Mackenzie L., Marsland L. (2007). Using dolls to alter behavior in people with dementia. Retrieved from http://www.nursingtimes.net/nursing-practice/specialisms/mental-health/using-dolls-to-alter-behaviour-in-patients-with-dementia/201683.articleHughes J. C., Louw S. J., Sabat S. R. (2006). Dementia: Mind, Meaning, and the Person. New York: Oxford University Press


Now, I have worked in mental healthcare facilities from Cullman to Decatur to Madison to Huntsville, and have scribed for geriatric providers who see nursing facility residents who suffer from this God awful disease that affects the brain in the literal sense. Because it physically affects the brain by shrinking some areas, depending on which areas are most impacted, the loss of brain tissue negatively impacts the person’s processes of speech, thought, motor abilities, etc. Whether ripping the person from their fond memories, or the sense of who and where they are, their social or communication skills, or their physical capabilities, there are a number of ways that this disease affects the person. If you have never cared for someone with dementia and have no experience witnessing its effects, you would be amazed at the every day tasks we perform effortlessly without realizing how impossible it might be for anyone else. Most of the notes I scribed were vague and consistent, using very average and uninspiring treatments that basically allowed the provider to be on her way. Week after week, I would see either stability or decline, no real progress- nothing to leave me with a satisfactory feeling. This troubled me, especially years later, after having experienced working with dementia patients first hand.
To elaborate, I have also worked as an activities director in a nursing facility that maintains a hall specifically treating men and women who have been diagnosed with various forms of dementia, including a majority who suffered with Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, and forms of dementia likely brought on by severe trauma and even heartbreak. For example, a prominent community doctor began showing signs of dementia shortly after his daughter was murdered in cold blood by a stalking ex-boyfriend. This incredibly educated, hardworking and caring man just shut down, and I was able to communicate with him during our time together because I could look him in the eyes and give him encouragement to do a task as simple as removing his shoes, whereas other facility workers often had difficulties and would require an additional worker to assist, using (gentle) force. But I somehow tapped into his emotional distress, found him, and was able to communicate in such a way he would willingly follow my soothing tone, in giving him simple step by step instruction. I was also able to communicate with a woman who was once a successful and independent business owner and prominent community leader (especially in her church family) in a way that was so efficient, other colleagues (including nurses and her therapists) often called me the “Betty-Whisperer”. (Her name is changed for privacy issues.) This woman would fight and scream and act like a completely different person unless I was present. I would use a calm, light tone and was incredibly patient and would use distractions sometimes in order for her to follow instructions in order to get her dressed, fed, or participate, etc.
Both of these superb people whom I love have since passed on, which in a way, I look at as a blessing to their own benefit because there is not one shred of doubt where their souls now reside. But that’s another thought for days that have already passed, too. And I moved on to other things now- although I’ll carry those lessons with me always.
I write this ahead of the real message I want to share to give you an idea of how challenging it is for us- people who do not have this disease- to understand and communicate with people who do. If we just take time and effort to listen, you will be astonished at what you might learn. Now, on to my story about my experience in listening to a particular person who would have lengthy and repetitive conversations, someone who helped me understand an issue that it still prevalent today.
Changing her name to protect her identity, I will use Rose.
Rose was a lively, organized, and educated woman. She kept up with the date, marking her calendar daily, took notes (a bit sloppy and unorganized), could mobilize easily with her walker, and was very well groomed and socially active. She loved participating in all group activities, especially activities outside. She is now 89 years old, and has lived with dementia for a number of years. She holds a Masters Degree in English, was a world traveler, a nationally acclaimed competitive dancer, and worked and retired from the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama. In her time working for the US Government, she wrote pocket manuals, assisted big wigs, watched countless rocket launches, and even laughingly expressed to me that she and other government employees would “take a bus to Nashville to see the Grand Ole Opry every weekend on taxpayer money.” Amazed, but not surprised in the least, would be my reaction (the first, second, and twenty-third times in hearing her story). What was surprising to me, however, is the fact that she is (and often spoke about being) half Cherokee. It isn’t everyday you encounter a half-Cherokee world travelling woman in Alabama at her age who holds a Masters and is retired from a still prominent government facility. But she would, very precisely, detail these concreted stories about her life because it solidified her identity- one of the few things she was able to hold on to. (Imagine losing a husband of forty years, your career, your opportunities to travel, your home, your independence… imagine how sane you would be.)
In almost every verbal encounter we exchanged, she would never fail to mention that her mother was a full blooded Cherokee. She told me this because she sensed I was of a similar heritage and she asked me if I had any Cherokee blood in my family, to which I said yes. She would then talk about her mother, who was an expert seamstress and taught her how to sew. Her mother had two children- Rose and another son, who had “white cotton hair, fair skin, and blue eyes”. I couldn’t help but think- “I wonder what that must have been like, considering she was physically polar opposite and had been uprooted from her way of life to be acclimated to the white society she was forced into.” Nevertheless, Rose always claimed her mother loved life and was just happy to be a part of the society so that her children could get an education and all the benefits that come along with the acclimation.
Still, my heart continues to break- especially now, after all the recent events involving native peoples and their rights, land and culture, etc. It really is a shame that one has to acclimate to another society just to thrive in this life. It is, without a doubt, very unfair. This is what prompted me to share this particular story. I have heard numerous times from Rose that she “just had the best life- there’s not a day I don’t regret”. That makes me happy to hear, especially considering the unfathomable sacrifices her mother- and no doubt her mother’s own family- had to make in order to gain benefits only offered to those who followed suit. It must have been deeply painful for her, which is likely why she was such a dedicated mother and fervently took part in one thing from her heritage that could be carried over into the American pattern- needlework, a pastime that she taught her own flesh and blood.
Rose was subsequently moved to another facility to be closer to family, and I have not seen her in over a year’s time, but I imagine she is still sharing her very important narrative with any one person who is willing to listen. I hope they can take similar lessons away from her just as I have.

If you know or love anyone with dementia, especially if they are still under facility quarantine, please understand their best treatment is your presence of mind in speaking with and listening to them, and that’s if they even have the ability to speak. Otherwise, look into a lifelike baby doll. You’ll be amazed what a little music can do, too.
For more information on the challenges of being indigenous and to learn how you can better support these suffering communities and the independently owned businesses launched by these hardworking people, I encourage you to visit these websites:
littlecheiis.com

onefastbuffalo.com

linktr.ee/nativewomenswilderness

uihi.org

indianlaw.org

culturalsurvival.org

indigenouspeoplesresources.com

Ashley is Autistic

It took years- nearly thirty-two- for me to reach the conclusion that I am autistic. Even now, at thirty-five, I started to type that I “have” autism, when in reality, this doesn’t make much sense to me. And, in developing relationships with people in the community, I have found that they agree. Autism isn’t a disease. It isn’t a mental disorder. It is just the way our brains function. It is simply who we are.

Everyone is different, no doubt. Everyone has a unique way of thinking. Autistic people tend to think in such a way that someone with a “normal” sense of the world around them may look at them as though they are from an alternate universe. Autistic people are commonly outcast, or tend to fade into the background in social situations. Social cues are difficult to catch, and many times a crowd of people can be overwhelming. Autistic people usually take everything at face value, and it is sometimes difficult to understand why a person feels or thinks the way they do. So, like someone with a “normal” thought process, autistic people are equally baffled at the way other people generally feel. Small talk is annoying, for example. I honestly could care less how your day is. What I want to know is if you had any challenges that arose and how you dealt with them, and how I could potentially assist you through your struggles. This isn’t to say that I won’t listen to or engage in small talk, it simply means that I enjoy deeper, more meaningful conversation. The kind of conversation most people don’t feel comfortable with. It sucks, but I believe engaging with the autistic community over the last few years has allowed me to really connect to people who make sense to me, and people who have helped me make sense of myself. It has been special and empowering!

Autistic people have various characteristics, but share a lot of similarities in the way we think. The sensations we feel. The ticks and habits. The mood swings. The intensity. The drain. The STIM. It is exhausting coping with the every day life tasks for an autistic person. And a little secret for those who might sense you are also autistic- the society we have built is not very accommodating to those who think and feel the way we do. In fact, I had to do my own independent research for years to even get a grip of what, why, and how I feel and think. Psychology has always been an interesting subject to me, and after working in mental healthcare and completing two semesters of psychology, along with my own reading, I believe that my being autistic plays a big role in this general curiosity about the human brain. The shitty part about all of this is that all of my former research, prior to reading a book written by an autistic savant, doesn’t give autism any amount of justice. Autistic people are badass, and the more we engage in sharing our stories, the more we are lifted up in the community, and the more we can see that there is still a lot of work to be done in the general field of mental healthcare.

There are very limited resources, especially here in the American south, that paints the full scope of what autism truly is. So, please allow me to give you some more insight and resources. First, I will explain the reasons I felt strongly that I am autistic. If you are unfamiliar with psychology or autism, none of this will make sense to you, but these are some things that, I strongly feel, played a role in my being autistic:

Genetics (although it’s yet to be proven, I do believe other family members are autistic, my mom and daughter being among them)

I was born addicted to Phenobarbital, a seizure medicine (Born mad as fuck)

Took early interest in music and film (Listening and rocking back and forth to music for hours, crying at movie scenes as early as age 3)

Fractured spine and concussion age 8

Wrote a lot, won essay contests and participated in Writers Conference throughout school- very vivid imagination

Family trauma, developed bipolar disorder entering puberty

Fractured spine again, age 18

Family trauma, ten car accidents, PTSD

Hyper sensitive to loud, high pitch noises

Special interests in photography, art, nature conservation, human rights, etc.

So, there are multiple factors that can play a role in a person being autistic. The cool thing- and I can not yet explain why- is that autistic people generally gravitate to each other. In other words, it is rather easy to navigate social situations when you lock on to other autistic people. And you typically stick like glue. My mother was non-verbal until she was five years old. Her first words were “Good gracious alive! Look at that big pink gorilla!”

I was her shadow. And funny enough, my sister was mine. The same can be said about the relationship of my daughter and me. It is as though a light bulb flickers on and we find our way, helping each other navigate through life.

I attribute my ability to cope so well to the support I received throughout my life. I was never forbidden to spend hours at a time in my room, wearing headphones, blasting music in my ears while “dancing”. I was never forbidden to wear my hat backwards. I was never forbidden to cling to my security blanket (until I passed it down to my own daughter). I was never made to feel like what I was saying or doing was weird, unless I was outside of my typical social circle. And even then, sometimes I would be completely aware of my weirdness.

On the flip side, I have experienced negative social consequences among my peers. I’ve been called a lesbian- as though that were some sort of insult- countless times. Whether it was my lack of fashion sense, or the fact I could care less to fit in, or because I didn’t flirt back, sometimes I would be made to feel as though I did not belong or that I was somehow a threat, or less than. I’m not a lesbian, but given that homosexuality is somewhat related to autism, it makes sense to me now. And I still could care less. It is just yet another obstacle that our communities which aren’t quite cookie cutter enough have to navigate in order to somehow make our living. That, I feel, is the exhausting part. The good news is, more and more people are becoming aware of this. And the better news is, more and more people are becoming accepting of this.

Born on a Blue Day is a book written by an autistic savant, Daniel Tammet. This fella is intelligent beyond words, and breaks autism down so well, that once I began reading, I couldn’t put it down. I felt like I was connecting to my long lost brother. It was so enlightening to me that, even after more than a decade of digging into psychology, everything began to make perfect sense. This, along with connecting to other people in the community, has been a blessing. I have completely not only accepted who I am, but fully embraced myself. In the past, I struggled immensely with questions. Why this? Why that? Now? Not so much. I love myself, and this helps me cope with bipolar disorder. It is a win win- for everyone.

So instead of society trying to sweep the stigma surrounding autism, bipolar disorder, mental health under the rug and pretending like everything is just totally cool… look at it differently. I believe the stigma might be rooted in the negative events which have happened that were blamed on a person’s disorder. “This guy killed someone and pleads insanity”. When I make a mistake, I don’t blame it on anything other than my own stupidity. I’m not saying that mental disorders don’t play a role in producing thoughts that lead to making terrible choices, but the fact that they are blamed after the action makes me angry. This is something that should be said: mental disorders play a role in good things happening, too. The very same can be said about drugs. That is a subject for another day, but this is the truth. Bill Hicks said it first. And now that I think about it, I think he may have been autistic, too.

For more information on autism, visit these links:

Born of a Blue Day – DanielTammet.NET

#ActuallyAutistic and rejected by the autistic community | The Autism Cafe

Home | Autism Speaks

What is autism? – NHS (www.nhs.uk)

Good Friday

Well, it’s that day again. That day that I hated for years. A day that I had a bad feeling, when it was the year 2004.

I pulled up the driveway. Dad was standing on the porch, waiting. The door was open. The living room light was on, but the porch light was off. All I could see was his silhouette and a cigarette. I pulled off the driveway and into the front yard. I parked in front of the porch. My headlights creeped up, igniting his feet, rolling up to his face. I saw him crying then. And I knew.

My grandmother was a fucking hero. She raised five children almost single handedly. She cooked a big meal every Sunday and the leftovers lasted ’til the next one. She opened her home to my parents and me when I was a baby, and it remained open until after my sister was born, up until we moved five hours north. And it didn’t take her very long at all to give it all up for a tiny apartment across town so she could see her sweet grandbabies.

“ya little booger”

“Punkin”

She also worked like a Hebrew slave for the local dry cleaner in Saraland before she retired and relocated. You bet your sorry ass that woman could press any uniform worn by any damn, dirty man. And she knew some damn, dirty men.

That woman was married to a damn, dirty man. He was an alcoholic. He abused their children. He cheated on her constantly. He left her for another woman and never gave her a red cent of child support while he went grave chasing in his RV.

I remember a Hooters keychain. I remember the owl. I remember I liked it and he just laughed.

But he built the fire department. He owned a business. He gave out turkeys to the black community on Thanksgiving. Hero? On a good day, I guess.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around it, honestly. He did some horrible, inexcusable, highly damnable things. And his victims suffered greatly, the ones that are left are truly the strongest, most loving and selflessly giving people I know. Two of whom are openly gay. I grew up loving these people. I grew up looking up to these people. I grew up because of these people.

I grew up defending these people.

So we are here now, in the year 2021. It is Good Friday. Again. And I am on my bed, writing. Had a great day so far. The sun is shining. Got to see an old friend. Got to spend time with my sister and daughter. Got to leave this really itchy and super non-diverse town and look at tall buildings for a change.

I need color. Give me color.

Give me Heaven.

Grandma, what’s Heaven?

When you know a very real Hell, only then will you allow yourself to truly believe in Heaven.

My grandmother developed Alzheimer’s Disease around 2002. She would forget that my younger siblings were living in south Florida with my mom. Or that my dad had left the Water Department after fifteen years of manual labor thanks to a local politician to go to nursing school. He was working at the nursing home at night, so I sometimes would visit my Grandma. She would tell me stories but get lost, and repeat herself from the beginning. In those days, my idiocy would trigger a response like “Grandma, you told me this already.” She would reply with, “Sorry, my memory is getting bad.” And she would just continue, no big deal. She would tell me about a Sailor in California. She would tell me about the movie theaters. She would talk about Elvis.

Her cognitive ability declined so rapidly that I was unable to fully comprehend what was actually happening. I was a dumbass teenager, unable to process thought in a healthy way at that point. I had just experienced my parents’ divorce, my mom had just relocated fifteen hours away, my entire family, school, and church had been shaken to their cores, and I was in the middle of it all, watching everything and everyone I love change.

It was so sudden. It was so drastic. I developed bi-polar disorder. I was given the diagnosis by a doctor who had spent a whopping fifteen entire human minutes talking with me. And I accepted the diagnosis, but did not let it stop me from not giving a flying fuck half of the time, or sobbing uncontrollably because I care so goddamn much the other half of the time.

I moved to south Florida to live with my mom and attempt photography at a really terribly reviewed Art Institute. My math class overlooked the Atlantic. And my friends were in metal and emo bands. I skipped class. I kissed a girl on a dare. I cruised the Miami strip to Phil Collins. I dyed my hair pink. I scream sang Taking Back Sunday and Further Seems Forever and Thursday songs.

I ran away from my problems and made a whole new list of them elsewhere, while my grandmother’s brain, with all those memories, decayed as she sat helplessly alone in a shitty nursing home. Brb.

Okay, I’m back.

My full circle moment came about twenty years later as I served as an Activities Director for an assisted living facility, which had a memory care hall. I cared for people with Alzheimer’s on a daily basis. I developed individual relationships with them. Every single morning I tapped my badge onto the magnetic lock, I would open the heavy door to a hallway of very happy to see Ashley faces. I was able to successfully communicate with them. It was that experience that opened my eyes to how I had neglected one of the most nurturing, light hearted souls that has ever cared for me.

I learned. I changed. I grew.

I lost my Grandmother on Good Friday, 2004. She was buried on Easter. I remember being very angry that I was wearing black on the one day out of the year everyone else didn’t. Looking back, maybe it makes sense. I never fit in anyway. And you know what? I’m so glad.

The older I get, the more I think about control. I can’t control the past. I can’t control the future. I can’t control you. I can’t control them. I can control me, now. Right, Ashley?

Having bi-polar disorder makes self control and discipline difficult. Thus, stability nearly impossible. Stability is something I had to basically let go of. I know all about routine. I know it benefits everybody. But I’m not everybody. I’m different. Routine wears me out, and I’m sorry, you don’t pay me enough.

So what if maybe you look at me differently? What if she thrives amid the chaos? Perhaps she enjoys the storm. Maybe that’s what she’s used to.

For years, I hated these days. Good Friday and Easter.

One of my aunts reminded me of the significance behind these days and why they are observed in the first place. And that is the beauty of not driving your car off the Duncan Bridge. You keep living, and you keep learning when you keep listening to people who are wiser than you.

Good Friday is definitely a good day. Easter is definitely a good day. If we could just remember.

20/20 Vision

Damn, ya’ll. Been a while since I took time to write in this blog. One reason is because I’ve been working three jobs while also single-handedly raising my rockstar. I recently began working a great job that allowed me to narrow it down to two jobs- one full time and one part time job- so I’ve had a weight lifted from my shoulders that I would compare to Nine Inch Nails performance on 06/06/06– heavy as fuck. What a show…

And like that experience, I’ll never forget the lessons I’ve learned that come about when you do nothing but work, sleep a little, repeat- and the sacrifices you make (an example would be missing out on almost everything fun). But each experience brought me to the places I needed to be when I needed to be there, and I met people I needed, in turn. And now, here I am, enjoying a really nice career in the making- Blue Cross insurance and 401k and paid holidays. I feel 21 again.

But this is not the subject for this post, or the reason for my writing- just a prerequisite for making the time to do so. I am slowly but surely enjoying the things I used to. I’ve even heard from several friends and have been invited to bike ride again- something that hasn’t actually taken place since 2016. The tires are low… and so was my soul. Luckily, things are happening to me now.

When headlines, coupled with no free time to do things you love, take hold of your psyche, life becomes a huge bitch. And in turn, so do you. I was always a joy to be around, especially at work, and have had so many co-workers reach out to me to tell me how much they miss working with me. But I feel like the past four years, for one extremely valid reason or another, I’ve grown more bitter to the taste. One headline or another infuriates me, and I feel like I have to a) get to the bottom of it and b) make my voice heard. This is a huge turn off to people who are so used to you being the funny chick. People talk. Actually, people get quiet when you walk into the room. It is very common to feel like an outsider when this happens. But I am no stranger to feeling like a stranger. I think this is why I wanted to start writing again. I know people expect me to smile that ridiculous wide smile, and they truly can’t understand why I refuse. Well, I have my reasons.

One reason is that I was born with empathy. I can sense when someone is in pain, being bullied, rejected, confused, etc. I understand emotions. I have seen heroes of mine fall into dark holes and eventually take their own lives. I have had friends come to me in confidence, detailing accounts that I really can’t fathom any natural human being could endure at the hands of people who are obviously not natural human beings. I have seen these behaviors and the effects they have on a person and the people who love them- rise in number, so much so that eventually it has impacted entire neighborhoods, communities, a whole nation, and an entire planet. So, here we are- the entire world is suffering. And you’re well aware what year it is I am referring to. History books will tell a similar story, and these events we see every day will hopefully be the last lessons we learn in these arenas. Time to evolve, idiots. For the love of humanity.

All of this going on, and meanwhile, I am doing my best. Am I funny? Not really. I’m still very serious, and concerned. I’m still vocal. I’m still posting and deleting, out of fear I’ve offended when in reality I don’t fucking care if you’re offended. If you aren’t why aren’t you, anyway? To quote Charlie Chaplin- You are not machines, you are men. You have the love of humanity in your hearts.

I come from a family of great men. Great men who wore the uniform and thought they were fighting an enemy who brings terror to the innocent. It is time to look around- to see the world with 20/20 vision. I am tired of the red and blue filters- they don’t allow you to see the full spectrum of possibilities. See without filters through a clean lens, and work on a clean slate. Before it is too late.

I leave you now with a poem I wrote dated June 29, 2020.

What do I gotta do to play a song that you
will actually stop what you do so that you might listen to
something I’ve desperately been trying to say to you
to convey my blues?

And how long has it been since you paid attention
to the same revolving sin you refuse calling that name for what it is
that’s making me ill?

Well, my insides feel pain and my brain now contains
the chemicals we spill, they stain! Help me wash away
all the blame.

Pointing fingers at
them others, meanwhile all the mothers
retreat to live undercover, waiting for motivation to be discovered,
closing that door and opening another.

You preachin’ hope, they believin’, while we just cope by the season,
but if we just lived within reason, we’d all rejoice daily into the evenin’-
it’s the best feelin’.

So we learn to grow and grow to eat and eat to sustain who? Ourselves

So we sustain to live and live to give and give to love- Eternal.

Forgotten

The older I get, the more I notice the nastiness around. It could be that my awareness has been heightened in several areas- mental health being one of them. I can typically read people very easily, but as of late, I have been able to foresee truth behind falsehood, giving people my insight. Usually, my intuition proves right and I hear “I should have listened to my gut. You were right.” Well, I don’t know why this happens, and it doesn’t happen all that often- nobody should feel alarmed at this information. I simply feel a lot. Bad things have happened to me and others and, for me, it’s hard to ignore. I want to fix things. Clean things. Create things. I’d rather learn from the mistake and be wiser than choose to ignore the warning signs and stick around to see what happens. I notice when someone isn’t making eye contact or when they are using a hostile tone. It’s easy for me to tell if someone is full of shit. I guess because I’ve been able to harness my addiction to distraction, so I just generally sense things a little easier. Unfortunately, it’s exhausting to feel this way this much.

My whole life has been fun and exciting to me. Even though there have been dark areas in my past, I always try to focus on what is actually around me in the present. There have been moments full of danger, romance, grief, and rage. The older I become, the more I challenge people. The wiser I become, the more I question things. My insights have reminded me regularly that, yes, bullshit is everywhere. Nothing and no one is perfect. Some albums are incredible and inspiring- but again, nothing is perfect. We will all disagree with opinions some time. And as time passes, the more I notice division, rather than unity… which discourages me. My point is, the more I experience, the more I want to help others- in whatever individual way I think they need help. Some people receive my advice, some receive music recommendations, some receive my art, some people receive scripture, some receive my dirt and humility, some receive my physical presence, some receive my humor. Rarely do I extend every bit of that to a lot of people. I do things to my best ability and it wears me out, which makes me want to be alone.

After working in mental healthcare, studying and writing about autism at a Master’s degree level, reading articles and books written by autistic savants (Born on a Blue Day being my favorite), I felt stronger and stronger that I could be on the spectrum myself. I could relate to certain thought patterns, habits, compulsive behaviors, and sensations. All of a sudden, it made sense why I clung to my mother, my security blanket, and music early on. I was my mother’s shadow and just wanted to observe or help constantly. Anything I tried, I obsessed over, but would quickly move on to the next thing once I’d become bored. I would actively listen to music through headphones- for hours. I was alone (and liked it), a lot of the time I was living under my parents’ roof. Jim Carrey describes his childhood as “a lot of alone time in his room- but he loved it- it felt like Heaven”. I felt like I could relate to that on the most spiritual level. I can also vividly remember being deeply moved to tears to certain songs or movie scenes as young as age three. When I was a child, I watched Atreyu painfully watch his friend Artez drown. I wrote a story about my horse drowning but I saved him “and we never went to the woods again”. When my best friend moved to another school, I wrote a story about her move and the story ended with a new friend moving in.

I always wanted happy, especially when I saw and felt pain. I have always had the mental capacity to comprehend pretty much everything, and excel at most things I try. The problem for me is completing a task or goal, or sticking with something (or someone) who has made me uncomfortable. People who know me will tell you I’m very opinionated and vocal, but I am actually timid around certain people. I never had issues with speaking or singing in front of crowds, or putting myself out there- but I was cautious in certain settings. I was the girl at the party who wasn’t worried about being social- I was just dancing (by myself or with someone, it didn’t make a damn to me.) But in church, I was pretty shy and would cling to my mom mostly, helping her with whatever she was doing.  It has taken me 32 years to try to figure out how to convey all of this to the outside world.

While it seems regretable to admit these things publicly, I do in part to help others who may be able to relate (to help you), and in part because I know that it feels amazing to be liberated (to help me). And despite all that negativity that indeed is all around… I grow wiser in the fact that life requires us to be free in order to maintain happy. And I still want happy.

I do not work in mental healthcare anymore. I moved on to something else- something I enjoy. For now…

Several years ago, my sister and I were in a vehicle spinning out of control at eighty miles per hour, with large metal obstacles all around. Death was there. But so was an angel. Before we were even on the road, we both had felt her there. I hope my sister remembers this. This is what I cling to more and more.

My grandfather was buried and as they were lowering his casket, the sun peaked itself out from behind the dark gray cloud, and a sundog appeared. I hope my uncle heard me when I asked him if he saw it.

All that time I felt that I had to be alone, forgive me. But please don’t forget me.

Truth

I have no internet, nor the desire to have it installed in my home. I live in a trailer, and what little television I do watch is available via antenna. I own very little, and most of what I do possess was either handed down to me or gifted in other ways, or I acquired by accident plundering through thrift shops or yard sales. I have my mother’s record player and still use it. I have clothes from my teenage years and still wear them. I enjoy creating art from a variety of things, and most especially from nature. I enjoy exploring and learning, and sharing what I have learned- good and bad. I spend what free time I do have basking in the glorious woods or exploring rivers or just cruising the country sides. In short, one could very easily say I have no life. I am a poor person with no real assets or goals to aspire to. No room for opinion or no knowledge to speak of. I am a commoner. Well, sure. Maybe some of that is true. Maybe some of that matters to you and not to me. Maybe my priorities lie elsewhere. I just want to grow in truth.

So this is where I am… Forever seeking out the truth. The truth tends to be a lot less complicated than most people believe it to be. I suppose, apart from my upbringing, this could be why I have rebelled against the lavish things- or lifestyle. I am not saying I would refuse a ’78 Corvette Stingray in cobalt blue if it were offered to me by some miracle… however, I like being grounded and I am convinced my current conscious experience requires deep roots so that I may always be aware of what should be high priority, and what shouldn’t make a damn. To me, money doesn’t make one single damn. Yes, I understand that it is required to attain certain things, or to pay bills, or to get that sense of security. I could go into great detail about why having more money made me feel more insecure… But that is complicated. And I have learned to simplify. In all the books I have read or texts I have studied, I have learned that one’s level of awareness-especially self awareness, may play a role in the development of anxiety or depression. When we analyze something, we break it down to bits and take it apart to see how each piece works. If something doesn’t make sense to us, we may feel confused or annoyed that we do not grasp this detail, and rather than simply asking for help or going about our business, we dwell on this quantum thing until it turns the whole thing into a puzzle we don’t want to play with. The truth of the matter is, is that there will always be details that do not make perfect sense to us. We all come from different places and circumstances, and were born into different families with different genetic makeups and lived throughout different trials and studied different religions and absorbed different ideas and behaviors. What I do or say may not make any sense to Lucy but may make perfect sense to Lisa. Why? Lisa and I grew up together and she knows my family, my upbringing, my circumstances, and my opinions and personality well. So the truth is, life is only as complicated as you make it out to be. You can get stuck on one puzzle piece and make choices about whether you should ask for help, or discard the piece and fancy the puzzle without it, or move on to the next piece to examine it. The truth is simple. And it is there… We just need to stop attempting to complicate it so much.

Bitter Butterfly

So many things have happened in the past week. You took me to a drive through zoo. I really enjoyed that. I enjoyed every place you took me to. I soaked up every moment in my bones and flesh, and they seeped deeply inside of my heart and made their ways into my soul. I found security inside of you, I peeked around your mind and saw so many wonderful things. They were things I could relate to on molecular levels. Chemicals and protons and wires, I felt like they all connected so well. And then I discovered it was all a web of lies. You were reaching for something else. You took energy from me and formed a barrier between us. You used my strength to benefit your weakness and my weakness to gain your strength. You tore me from limb to limb and opened every pore and smeared charcoal and salt into my interior. I became bitter and black because of your wickedness, and somehow, allowed you to remove my heart to keep as your pet. I spoke to my mother and she said, it’s like we willingly give them all of what we are- our whole heart and our guts and insides. They put them on the counter to rot. Flies pick away at the fleshy mess until they corrode into something unrecognizable. And that is how I felt for the longest time when you were around me. I was just waiting for you to see what damage you have done and the damage you were still causing in and around me.

Around us.

But there is no us. And there never was. I was not your smart, funny, pretty girl. I was your play thing. I was your muse, some of the time. I was your paid bills and free meals and free shelter. I was your access to peace, freedom from judgement, escape from your painful past. I was your support through hard times, the shoulder of your burdens, the crutch for your insecurities. I was your something when you had nothing. And now that I discovered the truth behind my screaming gut, the gut that you mangled, I will be used no more. You will not make me your victim. You will continue to suffer and until you change for the good, you’ll find another crutch to con. Shame on you. I still pray, though… for you… every day. Just as I have. And there in my prayers you will remain, but only there. You are no longer welcome in my heart.

But there are things I’ll cherish. There are lessons I’ll hold on to forever. I will always miss the little things… from our dogs down to our sunflower seeds. But there are other things I’ll remember without wanting to try. Your lack of care and attention. I bet you didn’t even finish that movie. Your selfishness. Your deceitfulness. Your anger. Your way.

Whoever you really are in there, I hope love is something you discover one day, once you have finally discovered yourself. And when you find it, don’t waste her.