Monday, June 25, 2018

The Time Machine

(Content warning: brief mention of eating disorder, suicidal ideation.)

It is compact, fits in my hand, and requires four AA batteries.

It has a single speaker so it’s not stereo. Still, it does the job.

This is a description of the tiny radio/cassette player that my mother gave me some time ago. She wanted me to have it in case of bad weather, so if the power went out I could hear the weather report on the radio.

I had no idea the journey it would take me on when I happened to find two old cassettes in a storage case along with other keepsakes.

One tape was labeled “Summer 17” and the other, “Rainy Day”. Just from the titles I knew what I was in for, but still there were songs on them that surprised me when I listened to the tinny playback through the almost non-existent speaker.

What surprised me even more was how many of the songs on those tapes I still listen to on a regular basis. Thirty years later.

I remember the summer I was seventeen pretty well, considering how bad my memory is becoming, and also the fact that I remember it through the haze of depression I live with now and also the lens of the depression I lived with then, which was definitely, looking back, mixed state bipolar disorder.

Hind sight, they say…

At the time I was writing poetry and endlessly journaling. I was also writing music that if my own child was playing/singing and I heard it coming from their room I would immediately know they needed help. 

My own mother turned away from my sisters’ pleading that I needed help for my depression before I hurt myself; saying “If she’s going to do that then there’s nothing I can do to stop her.”

Thanks, Mom.

If not for my frequent trips to stay with my oldest sister and her husband at the time, I don’t think I would have gotten through those days. I was so confused. 

I had been infatuated (deeply so) with boys in the past but I was in the process of really falling in love for the first time, and I would have my heart broken a year later (long story—short version, he chose another girl. And married her.)

I wish I could go back in time and tell that girl of seventeen that thought if she couldn’t be the prettiest girl in the room that she could damn well starve herself until she was the thinnest, that she was only harming herself. That no number on the scale would make him love her, but that it wasn’t her fault. There were external forces making sure that he didn’t love her (his mother, for one, for reasons she could barely fathom). He found her fun enough to amuse him, and build up his confidence so he could go after the girl of his dreams, which was not her.

Me at the age of seventeen. A big contrast compared to...

... me at age eighteen. The smile, though, is a lie. I was desperately sad.

I would tell her that knowing that feeling of real love would take a long time to find; but that she’d get there if she just held on. She’d know what it meant to be loved for who she really was, and that would make life somehow more livable.

I’d also warn her that love wouldn’t solve all her troubles, though. I’d warn her that, like love songs, some situations don’t end on a happy note. She’d know frustration and disappointment (and divorce) before the age of thirty. But she’d get through that, too.

Mostly I’d want her to know that she was enough.

Thirty years later, I am still trying to convince myself of that particular truth.

But with the help of music, which has always been there for me throughout my life, and art, and writing, and therapy, and a handful of other things and reasons, I am slowly beginning to do my best to accept it—to accept myself—for who I am. Glaring imperfections and all. Because at the age of forty-seven I have perspective that no seventeen year old can have, even if sometimes inside I still feel like that lost little girl.

I’ve seen too much, know too much now, to believe all the things about life I believed then.

But I’ve learned more than I imagined possible.

Maybe that’s worth the gray hairs on my head, after all.

Love yourself, whether you're seventeen or forty-seven. Because that's where peace of mind begins. It's a difficult thing to do, to learn. But the lessons alone are worth the fight to get there.



Sunday, April 29, 2018

I Live! News of Words and a New Twitter Chat

Hey there, those of you still reading this blog thingie of mine *lol* happy to see you! Sorry it's been so long.

If you don't keep up with me on Twitter, you probably have no idea what I've been up to since last time I blogged. I haven't fallen off the edge, yet anyway.

I have been trying to get my meds on track (a track...any track...hopefully the right track...) to get my depression under control. Winter as you know if you live in the US stretched on way past its welcome this year and we have only begun to finally see some of spring this past week or so. Spring and new med levels have given rise to another mixed state I am working through. It ain't fun.

Meantime, I've been writing.

I was writing in April! Woo hoo! I also went to an art show and wore my cool Steampunk hat!

That's right, I've been writing! Actual words! Short stories and flash fiction and poetry, actually (one short poem a day for National Poetry Month in April).

I signed up for CampNaNoWriMo, with the distinct plan that I would not allow myself to write high word count days (and I held to that, with the exception of the day I hit like 7700 words in one day before I could make myself stop). I was going to try an experiment: could I retrain my brain to write in installments instead of my usual manic (seriously, Bipolar mania) bursts of 10K minimum days which usually resulted in my hitting the 50K word goal in less than a week (5 days is about par for my course) and frying my brain, my eyes, my everything.

The answer was, for short stories, yes, I could do it. I still don't know if I could do it for novels, though. And I still think I write better when I'm manic but that's another blog post.

I set my goal for the month at a modest 10K and ended up with 50,289 words total by April 25th.

One of my short stories turned into a 19K word novella (novella is defined by Google as 15K words or more so it qualifies in my book...ha! In my book! That's funny) and it was one I got so wrapped up in that it doubled in word count from 7 to 14K words overnight.

It's a story I've wanted to tell for a long time and didn't think I ever would, and I hope I've done it well. After it sits for a while then goes through an edit, I might let a few friends read it if they're interested. But I've no plans to publish it. In fact I've no plans to publish any of the stories I wrote this month with the exception of maybe tweeting some flash. Why? Because I wrote them just for me, to see if I could do it, and I doubt they'd interest anyone else.

Something that IS interesting other people, however, is the new Twitter chat I've just started! It's called #writersRX and it is a chat for writers who struggle with chronic illness of any kind (or multiple kinds, all are welcome). This chat takes place Monday evenings at 7PM Eastern time (we are on Daylight Savings right now so don't forget to adjust for that).

Our first chat last week was a lovely success, I could barely keep up with all the tweets! I am hoping it will continue on this way. It was a warm, welcoming atmosphere thanks to friends who came and brought other friends with them along to chat. I truly enjoyed it.

Would you like to be able to discuss writing with folks who know what it is to struggle day in and day out to just do the things that healthy people can do? Then you should stop by #writersRX and see if it suits you.

I hope to keep it a bright, inspiring event that people look forward to and enjoy while they're there. And there's no pressure, no one is asked to disclose anything about their health to attend the chat, and the rules of the chat prevent anyone seeking/offering medical advice so no one will try to convince you to try the latest fad thing coming down the pike. Also, no spamming (though I do allow folks to tweet a personal link at the end of chat).

I really hope to see you there tomorrow night! Once more, that's on Twitter, Monday evenings at 7PM Eastern time #writersRX. I tweet the chat questions using my regular @februarygrace handle. Looking forward to chatting with you!