Mental Health

My Mind, My Friend, My Enemy

I’ve always been an intelligent person.  Growing up I always noticed the patterns of things, in shapes and forms, and later in ideas and concepts.  Though homeschooled, I did well and ended up making a high of 1350 on the SAT, 31 on the ACT and then gained a final GPA of 3.69 earning my Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Texas at Arlington.  I’ve never not had an agile and competent mind.

my mind always been a source of pride for me

In fact, as might be readily apparent, my mind always been a source of pride for me.  I have always lived in my mind, and I, as do many intelligent introverts, prefer the company of my inner demons and angels than the company of similar beings around and external to me.

I’ve relied on my mind in my career and in my hobbies and in my relationships, utilizing it to make friends and succeed and enjoy the small nuances of life.

But then, about 5 years ago, agitated by a very painful experience leaving the church I grew up in, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder reared it’s tenacious head and what was my favorite gift became my special curse.  My mind – my friend – became my enemy.

Where once I could listen to the internal dialogue with pleasure, now that dialogue became a flood, a torrent of anxiety-inducing madness.  Where once the waters of my mind were fairly tranquil and fair, now I drowned in a shit storm, choked by anxieties and compulsions, depressions and inanities.

Such is the life of someone with OCD.  I do not expect to be healed of it.

Now, 5 years removed, two of which have been spent in therapy and on medication, my mind has become my frenemy: neither/both friend nor enemy, that weird uncle that you have to be related to, but which you really don’t want to be seen with.  It’s a humbling existence: having to rely on something that might very well decide to betray you at the drop of the proverbial hat.  You never know when your day will be roses or thorns (often its both).  Clarity-of-mind and the mind-fog have become close bosom-buddies, and both like to fuck with you and your fears.

Such is the life of someone with OCD.  I do not expect to be healed of it.  In some ways, these days, I don’t know that I want to.  I just want to learn how to live with it.  To exist with it.

Because maybe that weird uncle is me.

(featured image source)

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Mental Health

My Many Me’s

I am Four.  Within me swirl four selves, organized chronologically and thus seasonally.  They symbolize for me seasons, elements, and binaries.  I hate and I love them, as seems appropriate.  I am they and they are me – my Little Me, Middle Me, Aging Me and Elder Me.

Little me is me in the Spring of my life and therefore the most unknowable.  He is new and fresh, open to change and possibilities.  He’s also terrified.  I remember being a child, but I can’t really remember being a KID.  I don’t remember the joys of play, nor even the fears of the dark.  I don’t remember what he says, or why he says it.  I don’t know what he looks like or sounds like or what makes him tick.   Little Me seems to be locked in some secret garden, walled off from sight and sound.  Sometimes I think I hear him crying in the dark, but I can never be sure.

I walled him off, ostensibly for protection, but I can never remember what exactly precipitated the incarceration.  An event?  A series of abuses?  A mistake?  I am unable to trust him and his ability to handle an often-times shitty world and I don’t know why.  Where is he and why is he hidden?

I am currently my Middle Me.  He is (unfortunately) the most accessible and relate-able.  And he has lately been ruling my roost.  An angry little bastard, he rages at the world and all its many slights, real and imagined.  He is a boy-man of summer, with all of summer’s brightness and heat, intelligence and passion.  He always starts out brightly, but he inevitably burns out as surely as any Texas summer.  He leaves charred husks and dusted black clay in his wake.  I do not like this Me.  I hate his bitterness and anger and lust.  He disgusts me, but I am he.

When I become burnt out by my Middle Me I tend to assume the form of Aging Me, a sad  and pathetic little fucker.  He’s the Autumn of myself, but not the good, Northeast kind of Autumn.  Rather, he’s the charlatan southern Indian summer masquerading as a fountain of autumnal wisdom and peace.  He’s a piece of shit, is Aging Me.  He thinks he’s something, but he’s nothing.  He acts like he’s at the prime of my life, riding the crest of those mythical glory years, at the perceived pinnacle of masculine achievement and success, but its all just a noxious game of smoke and mirrors.  Deep down he chokes on the rank fumes of my pervasive insecurities, dying in life, wasting away on the dregs of quiet desperation.  I am Aging Me far too often, and I hate him (me?).

Finally, there sits Elder Me.  He is who I’ve always felt I should be, or perhaps wish to be, or perhaps have been all along.  He’s almost as elusive as Little Me, although I’ve more hope that he’s attainable and knowable.  And he seems to me to be intimately related to Little Me.  Almost as if he and Little Me have met up at each ends of the line of my life, the beginning and end of some eternal little circle.   He’s my winter self.  Silent, simple; dark and cold, yet oddly contented.  He retains the trust and faith of extreme youth, but without the simplicity of mind and experience.  He’s seen the hells of the world, and its heavens – it’s glories and its grotesqueries.   He is sane, on the other side of my insanity and I trust him, my Elder Me, as I wish I could trust my Little Me.  Sometimes I hear my Elder Me encouraging me to trust my Little Me.  Perhaps they are the same.  As is life and death, light and dark, male and female.  For, as with an infant, so with the aged, life is both stripped of mystery and infused with it.  Gender is blurred and Truth coalesces into the Great Beyond; for Little Me and Elder Me are both on the cusp of eternity.  Both are near the earth (Little Me rising from it, Elder Me crashing back down) and thus both are as high as the heavens, swimming amidst the stars.

Right now though?  Elder Me is as inaccessible as my imprisoned Little Me.  I am condemned to just fleeting glimpses of the glory of night, and must now dwell in the scorching heat of the light of day, a bloated corpse swelling in my glaring death.

(featured image source)

Rhythmic Poetry

Rains Descend

Rains descend upon my head
The sky grows dark and chill
The rush surround my mind and soul
To freeze my halting will

Clouds move o’er the dawning sun
And halt the marching light
My vision dims throughout the morn
And shrinks into the night

Fogs envelope mind and frame
The world becomes a haze
The hues of life are bled and dried
My eyes are dark and glazed

(featured image source)

Free Verse

She Calls to Me

She calls to me. The fair island.

 

Her fragrant scent,
so sweet,
so full of death and growth,
flows o’er the oceans vast
that stretch so tautly on
our mother’s swollen womb
with dark and melancholy
histories
distending in a body’s sullen soul
by resonating peals;
a paradox, a pox
of reeling brews
that ply a healing trade
on dour thoughts and funny feelings paining
through unholy nights;
through songs sung sadly
through the ages’ deaths;
her wars whirl gayly in merry, Faerie step;
her people weave
into the dirt and grass and trees,
tied ever to her lovely, bloody land
by langauge’s lilting
rugged lullabies –
bog-born brogues of soil’s
ferocious raw-bred tenacity,
bred on love and sorrow’s teats –
raised in seas and rolling mountains green with growth,
maturing in the mouths of saints
and scholared bards
(a full and heady brew,
drunk and read and writ
by literary sages
singing in their happy
rage)

 

Persistently she calls to me,
sweet Eire fair, until her bloody end.

Mental Health

The Emperors’ Nude Clothes

Many might remember Demi Levato’s Vanity Fair photo-shoot with Patrick Ecclesine. According to Ecclesine, as a subdued Lovato spoke regarding her recently deceased grea-grandfather, she came up with an idea:

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past day, it’s that life is too short.  I’m about to launch an album that finally represents who I truly am. How do I embrace this new chapter in my life? How do I really walk the walk? What does it mean to be confident? It means letting go, being authentic, saying I don’t give a fuck and this is who I am. I want to show the side of me that’s real, that’s liberated, that’s free. What if we do a photo shoot where it’s totally raw? Super-sexy, but no makeup, no fancy lighting, no retouching, and no clothing. Let’s do it here, let’s do it now.

What transpired was an impromptu au naturale photo-shoot in Lovato’s Manhatten hotel room.  For many, the photo-shoot was the victorious coming-of-age of a young, liberated woman. For others it was another sad example of a nihilistic young millennial showing off her shapely, youthful goods.  More cynical observers chalked it up to a successful artist’s shameless self-promotion for her upcoming album, “Confident“.  But, no matter how one parses it, it is no longer very startling.  After all, there can be only so many “shocking” nude photo-shoots before it becomes somewhat passe. It turns out that nudity isn’t all its cracked up to be.

Lovato is an outspoken advocate for mental health awareness, having spoken before the National Alliance on Mental Health at their Annual National Convention, as well in various new interviews and public awareness campaigns. demi-lovato-middle-finger-picHer history with Bipolar Disorder was one of battles with bulimia, cutting and drug addiction.  Since her diagnosis in 2011, she has found the right medications mix, treatment team, and therapy to ward-off the full effects of Bipolar and even succeed in the midst of them.

But, success notwithstanding, the wounds of mental illness never leave you, nor do the questions, doubts and insecurities that it brings. I myself struggle with the mind-fuck of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Depression, along with random bouts of generalized Anxiety and Complex-PTSD flashbacks. I think I understand something of where Lovato is coming from and what she means when she sings:

 

I used to hold my freak back
Now I’m letting go
I make my own choice
Bitch, I run this show
So leave the lights on
No, you can’t make me behave

 

So you say I’m complicated
That I must be outta my mind
But you’ve had me underrated

In a world that still doesn’t “get” mental illness – that jumps between the extremes of indifference and discrimination on the one hand to over-indulgence and pity on the other – a big “fuck-you all, I roll my own way” is, frankly, understandable and perhaps even justifiable (if not exactly laudable). In a world that seems (and with mental illness, perception’s a real bitch) to persist in ignorance, rawness and authenticity; honesty and frank candidness seems to be the order of the day. For Lovato, this means speaking-out about mental health, it means using her hard-earned platform to force the conversation, no matter how uncomfortable it might be. It also means engaging in a desultory photo-shoot, where there is nothing (literally – no clothes, no makeup, no special lighting) but cold, recycled air between her skin and the camera.

ss11-demi-lovato-patrick-ecclesine-vfAnd there is most assuredly a need for the mental ill, high-functioning or not, to be able to speak out about their struggles, as needed; in therapy, with family and friends, with bosses and coworkers.  The stigma that is still attached to mental illness is highly unfortunate, and if Demi Lovato can do a little bit to ease those discussions and help the well help the sick, then I applaud her.

Still.  Could it be that honesty, sincerity and raw, naked authenticity have become the mask that we hide behind? Could it be that nudity is our new armor, that we hide behind our skin (flawless or not) and our looks (muscular or curvy; flabby or shabby) for fear of what we might reveal inside? That something as un-shocking as a nude photo-shoot is really just a contrivance, an elaborately simple conceit for hiding from a shitty world and that rank probity is our shield against ourselves?

Is our desire for the Real, for the Authentic, an honest pursuit or could it be the lullaby lie we tell ourselves when things go bump in the dark night of our souls? After all, we’re simply little emperors, naked in the dark, alone and afraid.

 

 

Depression

The Weight of Feeling

It is a lonely thing, to feel.

To feel the weight of the world fall heavy on weak, slumped shoulders; the beautiful weight of mouths to feed and hearts to love.

How can a man keep his head up when life is so damn full of sorrows and pains?   How does a man keep moving when it hurts to live?  When every moment is a burden – another source of guilt and grief?

How can he escape the memories and the fears; of damnation and condemnation, of failures and fuckups – when he is haunted by the dogged pursuit of the Southern Hound, held captive within his over-active mind; how can he escape?  How can he fight an enemy who lives within?  How can he believe when faith has been stolen from him, when his capacity for belief has been acid-burned from his mind?

His soul is ash, his hope’s dissolved within the tonic his culture’s hubris; “pursuit of happiness” his Lilly-white ass.

He rages when all he wants to do is sleep.  He loathes when he longs with all his being to love and be loved.  He is a dead-man walking, eaten by his own sad zombie self.

What does it have to hurt so fucking much?