I felt like this today.
You don’t need to hear about the numbness, excruciating pain, overwhelming anxiety, residual anxiety, paranoia, dizziness or that I prayed to whomever was listening to just end it. Fucking end the ridiculous, relentless, ad nauseam, non-sensical hours that consume my days. Frankly it’s wearing me down, ripping me to shreds and fucking exhausting fighting invisible monsters.
Yes, I know I’m sick. Yes, I understand tapering off benzos is worse than hell it’s maggot filled shit. Yes, my empathetic, cool therapist talks it out. Reassuring me I am indeed strong enough.
Resilient enough. Tough enough. However. Makes me wonder.
Where in the hell am I going to replenish precious missing elements when the planet is currently fluctuating between earthquakes, tornadoes and drought? In a constant state of chaos, flux. How to replenish when I can’t remember pieces of yesterday. Blurred and hazed memories clog and pollute the brain.
Where? How? Why? Great questions. With zero answers.
I said NO anyway. For shits and giggles, ya’ know.
I don’t feel like shit, I feel eradicated, violated and obliterated.
I go to the hairdresser’s armed with my peppermint and lavender doused washcloth unsure I can make it through the hour-long dye process without flipping the fuck out.
Home. I want, need, have a deep desire to be home.
Grey roots and I have a larger more burning desire to feel pretty, alive, and validated.
Breathe, just breathe. You are safe. You are fine. You’ve been through this before. You are safe, breathe.
Your stylist is your dear friend who knows and loves you well she will take you home if necessary.
FUCK YOU anxiety, fuck off, go fuck up someone else’s day/ existence.
It’s sitting there threatening strangling my neck, throat, cramped shoulders, tingling extremities and limbs. Sitting patient, greedily waiting to pounce.
I apply eyeliner (Armani #02 pencil my fav.) and concealer to brighten my shiteous, difficult existence and in spite.
Tomorrow will come with or without me, isn’t that the cliché? What they say? Whoever the hell they are, Martians maybe. Fuck if I know, can’t be sure.
This first Friday in June, all I know is I am doing my best.
My very damnedest.
And it looks like this… on the outside
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” – Harper Lee
I never cared much about looking back when I was young.
I could not wait to leave this house, this town get out and experience stuff. You know the obstinate dreamer looking for bold adventure. It worked. I ran. I ran fast and far, and kept running. That’s the funny thing about developing a serious illness, you are forced to re-prioritize. Becoming insane in the middle of Manhattan did not bode well for me or the strangers that crossed my path. The fancy friends eventually grew tired and gave up on listening to the paranoia, illusions of grandeur or understanding the enticement of pretty pink and shiny purple horses or the flickering lights of the carousel. Ones you can’t dismount or runaway from or dismiss, like the mania and depression you can’t out run. Round and round you go, in perpetuity. There are worse things than glaring evil stares when dancing alone in a Radio Shack in Harlem. There are even worse things than sitting on the floor in the middle of Rite Aid, Gatorade in hand, sobbing because you don’t know where you are, why the room is spinning or if you’re going to hurl from the strobe light storm happening inside your brain. There are even worse, more horrific things than why you’re all alone sitting on the cold, dirty floor. You are sure there are. You watch the news, bad shit happens. This bad to you, you’re not so sure.
Mortifying, that’s what mental illness is. Ruthless, ugly, hide your face in shame from the judgmental, fearful stares. The noise level in NYC is just too high. You can’t stand when passerbys brush against you, the subway screeches to a halt, or the taxis whizzing past. The bright yellow hurts your eyes. You can’t see. You can’t hear. You cannot process the incessant, relentless buzz, hums and whirring noise.
I am somebody’s child, you know.
I am somebody’s child, same as you.
I used to love the Carousel screaming and running towards it, arms flailing like the happy carefree girl I once was.
What I can’t figure out is what the hell I’m supposed to do? Now. With this.
Some people are addicted to the mania jonesing for the next high, the visions, euphoria.
No, no, no.
Not me. I’ll take the black hole depression and blasé every single time. It’s quieter and peaceful alone in the dark. Except for being skinny, that part of the mania I’ll keep.
There’s only one thought to trust, one way to save yourself.
Maybe, maybe if you go back you might find your way.
Safe passage awaits.
Maybe I’ll breathe easier there.
Maybe the familiar, childhood home might save me.
Probably not. It’s my best shot.
You see, I don’t care if I live or if I die. I know that sounds harsh, exaggerated, self-indulgent but it’s not.
I only care how I live and where I’ll die.
I’ve been asking my mom about her mother as far back as I can remember, cataloging the information in a deep, pooling reservoir of serenity where I could reach in calling on the stories to be soothed.
I have tidal waves of memories, and ripple effects of love stored in my brain.
My grandmother, May, died in her sleep before we could meet. Fifty-three is too young to leave, she was barely getting started I bet.
I know some things about her. She liked to fish and the solitude of being on the water. We have that in common.
She drank a Manhattan every night after work. She was a baker’s daughter, my mom still makes her molasses cookie recipe at Christmastime. She loved her husband who’d get sick, (like me) and then better but never quite the same.
“Don’t bother your father,” the phrase handed down to her own daughter.
May worked in a plumbing shop with him, raising her children to be responsible, gentile and hardworking.
It was a simple, honest life.
She liked to dance, but didn’t go out often.
She loved gardening, planting roses and peony bushes.
Did you know it takes peonies a full year to bloom?
Maybe May knew while planting the seed, her heart full of family.
An invisible string from the heavens touching mine, her orb a sweet- scented blushing pink.
Maybe she knew, probably not.
She’d adored diamonds like me, wore an outrageous sparkling solitaire with facets that shimmer and catch the light on my finger. I only wear the precious heirloom on special occasions or when I’m morosely blue. It makes me feel pretty inside, close to her.
“You never told me I looked like her,” drilling my mother with yet another ten-thousandth question.
She nodded, “it makes me sad and happy at the same time.”
Home, a place one doesn’t fully outgrow and never truly leaves behind.
But home, this home however much I am the failure for needing to return is where I would like to live and how I would hope to die.
Not necessarily the physical dwelling, but the contentment feeling and serenity of a happy place inside.
Surrounded by love. Less alone.
Unencumbered by the weight of heavy living.
My life is a barrage of pills, moods, malaise, emptiness, haze, mania, depression that stagnates my spirit, anxiety ping-ponging against my brain fighting an illness I cannot see. The willful fighter, deep-thinking me and misfiring neurons I cannot comprehend. There is no recovery from a serious mental illness, there is only finding ways to cope, reasons to get-up to battle and exist one more day.
I can’t just ‘pull it together,’ no matter how deep the desire or the will.
It’s generational. The genetic jackpot I won, but did not enter.
I. was. born. this. way.
I. was. born. this. way.
I won’t win, there is no winning, no contests, no rules. There is only luck and time before I am gone away.
I am not misguided, I understand exactly what I am up against. Well, sorta. I understand each day gets a little harder, the thoughts a little louder, the light a little dimmer and the physical discomforts heavier.
My words, while I can still see them and get them out are not to be misunderstood or misconstrued. This life, my life has been beautiful in more ways than I can write.
The memories help me stay.
The spirit animal kissing away my tears, snuggling so close I feel her beating heart against my skin is never too far away. She keeps me present and accountable.
Smiling from the heart is the rarity, and this dog makes me smile. Multiple times a day. She understands my crazy, the sorrow and spectacular. She loves me anyway.
No matter the color or mood.
“As an artist do I need constant flux to create? How will I find words in the woods surrounded by trees and rotten cornfields? How will I find anything besides dying, wet leaves?
I cannot escape the volume in my head, the constant churning. The Jesus fucking Christ, turn it down chatter. I have been told to be patient. Wait for the drugs, the quieting veil, and the lavender calm to smooth out the ringing. My mind is full of death and black spots I’m sure, much like a stroke patient after a spell.
“The chaos comes with you,” simply stated my friend. He was right. I am here, here am I. Sick and tired, tired and bullshit sick.
The blank paper waits and my hands navigate the keys and the thoughts go where they may.”
Lupe and I must have walked the loop at Hoopes Park a thousand times, or more.
In ten-degree freezing black ice, navigating lethal dangerous walkways (and fallen more than once), on grey-cloud, weepy wet gloomy days.
You name it. We’ve dredged through it.
It helps, ya’ know. The walk.
To free the brain from the pressure, dark and dangerous thinking.
Easing up, releasing the unrelenting anxiety.
When we walk past the white pristine house with the red door, I have to fight the urge not to run up and knock.
Or barge in.
She’s not there.
I know this to be true in my head, but my heart searches for her.
Missing every puzzle piece and all her silly ways. Her sage advice, too.
The water fountain, Buddha and Zen room she created, so proud to show me the space.
Her home with the red door is just a dwelling now, somebody else’s house we pass on the walk.
Suicide was never her choice, she just couldn’t stay.
I don’t believe there are coincidences, I choose to believe there are signs along the way.
L.B.H., I believe you threw me one today.
It’s the perfect sixty-degree, pretty blue sky day with sunshine peek-a-booing through the clouds.
Like a child playing hide and seek, giggly and covering their mouth to contain the excitement.
Just like a happy child, exactly like you.
Thanks for the Buddha, water fountain, precious memories and luminescent magic that was your life.
The Zen room has a new home, with me.
I’ll do my best to keep them safe.
I’ll do my best to keep you safe, using my voice.
I stand against suicide, because your life matters.
Because you, more than anyone I have ever known loved being alive.
You, and your gypsy-free spirit, brilliant, bold, courageous, compassionate, goofy, non-judgmental, all-encompassing, curious, big beautiful love would be walking right beside me.
I can’t see you, but I feel your presence in mine.
I did not forget.
2 days and eight years gone is too long.
You were, and continue to be forever loved.
One of the many things that I admire about Jacqueline is that she embodies real compassion and humanitarianism. As a Stigma Fighter and advocate, Jackie shares her own personal stories, spreads awareness, and shines light where ignorance would prefer it remain dark.
Jackie has experienced so many different and fascinating adventures in her life, some haven’t been all that great, but they haven’t tainted her or driven her to become bitter in any way. Jackie believes in celebrating people for their accomplishments, and lifting them up when they fall. She expresses gratitude whole-heartedly, and this is rare to find today. Jackie is a gem, and it has been such a pleasure to get to know her. I love everything that she stands for, and I believe that she is changing the world. Thank you, Jackie. You are inspiring.
The Fault Line
By Jacqueline Cioffa
I keep coming back to one thought. Let…
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