“Mental Illness”

I have written about this “mental illness” phrase before, but when I saw the Daily Post prompt on “morphing” language, I couldn’t resist revisiting the problematic semantics of this popular concept related to human distress and/or anomaly in experience.

Cat With Shrew
Words are most useful when they accurately describe what they are referring to, when their meaning actually reflects something that is seemingly true about the world. The phrase “mental illness” is a tricky one, because at this point it is a concept that affects one in four Americans and has been accepted into our common collective rhetoric as being a real thing.
Yet, the phrase “mental illness” does not describe any sort of actual or scientific disease process. This is not to say that people don’t struggle with difficult experiences. However, the difficulties that people may have are not necessarily due to an “illness” that affects the “mental,” whatever that may be.
Recently, the National Institute of Mental Health made an announcement that the NIMH will move away from funding based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the DSM. The NIMH, instead, is hoping to focus research on biological and neurological testing that may identify specific imbalances or attributes that may be correlated with experiences that manifest as what we consider to be “mental illnesses.”
In July of 2012, the American Psychiatric Association released a report on biomarkers which clearly states that they have found no biomarkers indicating features that may contribute to anything remotely resembling an actual disease process. There are no lesions, no protuberances, no void grey areas of neurological scarring.
Our brains are, by and large, perfectly fine. Thus, the language of “brain diseases” that is currently used by organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness is inaccurate and misleading as to what the causes of our unique human trials and tribulations may be. It is unfounded, not real.
For some, there is appeal in the concept, in the thought that our troubles can be blamed on damned heredity, some tangled tragedy in the pathways between chemical, feeling, action and memory…dream, body, heart, mind, Self, World. Yet even for those who identify with the concept of having a “mental illness,” it only takes about a moment of reasonable thought to know that our lives and experiences are more complex than the outcomes of our neural circuitry.

Of course, there are some instances that neurological duress or wounding can be implicated in human struggle. The effects of lead, for example, can wreak havoc on the functions of our brains, as can diseases like syphillis and all sorts of drugs affect the functioning of our brains and our subjective experience. People do get “brain damage” if their brains are hurt. It’d probably be safe to assume that, at this point in our industrial history, we are all a little brain damaged. Similarly, we can all – to some extent – heal or adapt.


A disease affects living things. Metal does not get diseases. It can corrode, but that is not a disease, it is a natural chemical process, with variables that can speed it up or slow it down, prevent it or even stop it. Some artisans find corrosion to be lovely and interesting, the edges of rust so delicate like lace, where metal has somehow been erased, turned into air and element.
The word “illness” implies the existence of a “healthy” state. Yet, is it healthy to not feel sad in a sad situation. Is it healthy to not be who you are? When we have stress reactions to stressful circumstances and events, is that not healthy?
What exactly is the “illness” that afflicts over a quarter of the US population?
If our brains are not ill, what is? This brings us back to our “mental” – which is itself a murky term. Operationally, it could be considered some conglomerate concept comprised of thought, emotion, and significance. Which is not that much different than what we seem to be talking about when we talk about “consciousness.”


So, what exactly is being “treated” by drugs used to treat “mental illness”? Many of these drugs actually seem to cause neurological damage, in the form of tardive dyskinesia, akathisia, and wild imbalances/dysfunction in neural networks. So, how does that work, if there is no “illness” and the “treatments” often cause harm? (Note: Some people do choose to use pharmaceuticals in their approach to dealing with their unique human condition and find medication to be helpful.)
You cannot treat a broken heart with chemicals. For a moment, you might feel better, or feel nothing at all, but your heart will still be broken. You can change the way you think and see and feel by taking any number of chemical compounds, from adderall, to cocaine to klonopin to morphine. However, you will still be who you are.
Is who we are and what has happened to us a disease? What is the prognostic trajectory of a disease like this? Can we heal? Can we change? Can we grow? Can we, even wounded, perhaps thrive?
You bet your ass we can.
I mourn a little everyday for the hundreds of thousands of young vibrant people who were lost because they thought they had a mental illness, who were told they had a mental illness and who were forced, often brutally, into lives that left them drugged, destroyed, and isolated. I mourn for their families and for the sadness of it all.
…and then I get angry, that people do not get what they need, and that they are punished for the effects and the process of what they live through.

“Mental illness” is a phrase that is changing, becoming more clear, transparent in it errors.
Fortunately, it is a phrase that is, in the minds of real scientists, this phrase will slowly but surely and thoroughly die under the weight of the multiple incommensurabilities between ethics and evidence that will ultimately shape any true science of the human condition.

This ->

American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed., text rev.). Washington, DC: Author.

…is not so important anymore. It is already antiquated.

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This message has been brought to you by The Council for Post-Apocalyptic Psychiatry.

On Creativity and “Mental Illness,” Madness and Gratitude

I’m not sure when it occurred to me that I wasn’t drawing alone, that some strange grace was moving my hand, making the lines exceptionally fine.

“Oh, so this is what it means to be an artist.”


Everything becomes close to everything else, and somehow closer to itself.


My hand is not only my hand. It is a tool, a communicative device. I talk with myself and am spoken to, without a word or sound.

This dialogue, this transmission, began to happen very early in my process of drawing a picture every day for a year. I remembered the feeling from times I had drawn in the past. I knew it was the reason I had decided to draw again.

I studied the way figures bloomed on blank sheets and tried to lay down the landscapes that grew in my mind.

The past couple of months I’ve been drawing again, after a long hiatus that was cluttered with scheme and text. Sometimes the forms come more easily than others.

Last night, I felt the familiar comfort of drawing with the universe.

There is a certain calm; There is a certain confidence.

My hands buzz from within. My belly feels full, there is a holding in my chest…not as if I am holding something, but as if I am being held.

If one questions the source, or tries to take control, the lines falter.

Yesterday, however, was a good day and I rendered an elephant free and with ease.


There is something about drawing that teaches me about listening, about seeing,
about trust and interpretation.
There has been recent publication of a study on the link between creativity and “mental illness“, which indicates that those in creative professions and those who identify as artists and other makers were more likely to have a “mental illness” such as bipolar disorder or major depression. Writers, most notably, are far more likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia than are non-writerly sorts.

What gives anyone the right to parse communicative inspiration and faceted worldview into an element of pathology? Is it possible that what has been considered to be mental illness is really just the manifestation of brilliant, myriad minds and sensitive hearts struggling to make sense of the conflicted and wounding normative world?

I don’t like the idea that my creativity could be seen as a symptom or a by-product of some murky supposed brain disease. In fact, that’s insulting.

Yesterday, I was facilitating a class on the topic of gratitude. “Is gratitude an idea or a feeling?” We all agreed that it was a feeling, a feeling among the best feelings.

“You cannot have happiness if you do not have gratitude.”

I found myself thinking about how I had learned to recognize happiness, how I had learned to practice gratitude.

“There were times, you know, in the midst of a lot of really questioning despair, that everything was very clear and meaningful. I’d be inspired and at ease, amazed by how beautiful the world is and, you know…really engaged.”

I went on, “I always thought those times and those feelings were a symptom of mental illness.”

The realization stuck with me through the afternoon and I woke up with it this morning.

How was it that I had learned to not trust that which is most real? How was it that I had learned to second guess the source of my own joy, woefully attributing it to “imbalanced chemicals” and associating it with the fear of losing control. I’d feel happiness and I’d think, “Oh, no! It’s coming back.”

In my mind, that imposed second guess is one of the most grievous injustices put upon people in a pathologized view of self.

In class yesterday, a man said, “I’ve been thinking a lot about my schizo…affective disorder.” His voice stumbled through tardive dyskinesia. “I’ve been thinking about all the good things it has brought into my life. It’s almost like a…like a gift.”

I smiled, knowing exactly what he meant, “It wasn’t until I completely lost my mind that I learned just how truly amazing the world really is. I learned gratitude through madness. I’m happy to be alive.”

One of the things I am most grateful for is that the artist in me didn’t die, wouldn’t stay on the shelf I tried to put it on.  Apparently, I see and feel the world differently, and for that I am filled with a gratitude that knows no bounds. For me, grace lives in the space between my heart and my hand, my mind and the sky.

To ask me to turn from that is akin to asking me to deny God. It’s offensive to suggest  that my experience of grace and inspiration in the creative/expressive process is a symptom of an “illness.”

In fact, that’s sick.

Why I Don’t Use the Term ‘Mental Illness’ Anymore

It is no great revelation that the words we use to describe things have a lot to do with what those things become in our mind. Language shapes experience and defines the parameters of our understanding. Most people, even those with only minimal education in critical thought, can come to understand this very simple human truth. However, many people assume the meanings of our words to be fixed and accurate – especially if those words are issued by perceived authorities, such as popular culture and government, or any entity that may have an ample marketing budget.

The danger of this tendency to accept erroneous words as being apt is well-captured by the term “mental illness.”

This term was introduced in the age-old tradition of establishing formal pathologies for things which fall outside of the statistical norm or which appear to function in a way that is deemed useless or undesirable. There is little difference between early 20th century thinking about mental illness and the modern constructs of biopsychiatry. While the technologies of medical “study” and “intervention” may have become a bit more “sophisticated.” The basic premise is the same: human struggle is due to a flaw in the individual human structure.

By defining people who experience the world differently or who struggle within their experience “mentally ill,” medicine assumed the right to meddle with people’s brains, to tamper with the meaning and outcome of people’s lives. In many ways, in the context of the mechanized age of exploitation and production, raw humanity itself has been pathologized.

Mental illness doesn’t even exist in the way that it is purported to exist. This is not to say that people do not have difficult times, and this is not to say that some people experience the world in ways that can be very challenging and, at times, odd for them. This is not to say, even, that some people’s brains work differently than others. In fact, no two people experience the world in the same way.

However, the construct of “mental illness” tells us that some of these differences are more concerning than others. By and large, the dangers of mental illness are closely related to being treated as if one is mentally ill, from the self-destroying social and emotional abuses, to the hopelessness of believing that one has an intrinsic flaw in one’s brain that will never allow them to stray too far from being sick and caught in struggle. Further, the “treatment” of “mental illness” itself is damaging, as evidenced by the many deaths and disabilities caused by psychiatric treatment.

The idea of mental illness creates and sustains stigma, by informing us that people who struggle with their humanity in ways outside of the acceptable range of normality are inherently flawed, inherently sick, and that, worse, that “people with a mental illness” do not even know what is going on.  The mere idea of anogsonosia broad-handedly invalidates any efforts made by a person to define their own experience. If family members are informed that their loved one may not realize that they are mentally ill, the “person with a mental illness” is viewed as one who has little grasp on reality and any assertion otherwise is met with doubt and dismissal.

The effect of this is that those who are deemed to be mentally ill are stripped of the human right of self-determination. Their experiences are made to be symptoms of nothing more than a dysfunction of chemical landscape, an imbalance that must be “treated.”

Some individuals make use of the term “mental illness” because they feel that it adequately describes the difficulty of their experience.

What are the costs and benefits of  investing in a pathologized view of self?

We now know that even people who have been diagnosed with “severe, persistent mental illnesses” can and do recover. We know, also, that many people live in the world in ways that are outside the boundaries of normative function but which suit them just fine.

There is more and more evidence that trauma and abuse contribute mightily to people’s experiences of distress. However, the use of the term “mental illness” informs us that human difficulty is due to a brain disease and that those who have brain diseases must have these diseases “treated,” even if that treatment must be forced and even if it seems to do more harm than good.

People are beginning to realize that the “progressive” nature of many mental illnesses, the tendency for people to get worse rather than better, is very likely due to the damage caused by pharmaceutical therapies and profound psychosocial abuses. The voices of the people harmed by medical model interventions are largely disregarded by the biopsychiatric industry, as are the voices of the people who’ve recovered from difficulties that they were once told they could not recover from, that the best they could hope for was to “stabilize” and to “manage.”

Use of the term mental illness to describe human struggle is misleading in ways that distort people’s view of self and potential. Mental illness itself is a flawed construct, based on the assumption of dysfunctions that don’t actually exist in the way we are told that they do.

Is it mentally ill to believe in the strange magic of the world? To feel it deeply and to try to figure it out? To question what is assumed to be real and experiment with other ways of seeing things, to trust ways of knowing that have nothing to do with television or mass media, popular consensus? Is it ill to talk about these things?

Is it ill to become overwhelmed by these processes? Is it ill to feel confusion, to feel pain, to not be able to fake it? Is it ill to cry? To weep? Is it ill to go through terribly difficult times, in which ones mind and heart are muddled and staticky, despairing or alight, on fire?

What exactly makes us sick? A disease or the idea of a disease?

Does the treatment make us ill and if it helps us, are we really being helped…or are we being quieted?

What, precisely, is the illness?

Bye, bye Mental Illness.

Re:
“I just don’t think that very many modern science guys are going to read past the first paragraph.”

It is a problem that modern science guys aren’t going to read the last paragraph, or these next few.

Why is it that we can handle going from no cars a hundred years ago to a world absolutely choked with cars or that we can unquestioningly write these comments onto little screens invented within the last 30 years, and yet we scoff and sneer about how “naive and unrealistic” some people are to think that the world may need to change significantly…?

How is it that the (relatively recent in the broad scheme of things) biomedical model is so sanctified in spite of the fact that it clearly has no basis in any reality that is good for humans or the world?

(I think we could all probably answer that pretty easily.)

I appreciate your acknowledgment that human experience exists on a multifaceted spectrum, with various strengths and attributes, some of which are, apparently, more valued than others.

Most everyone can agree that the world is, in fact, “crazy.” (per the language of The Icarus Project) However, the craziness of the world and all its dysfunctions is usually only tangentially identified as being related to “disordered” experiences. Meaning that we seem to be doing well to identify the role of societal stressors and cultural/emotional/physical/etc. trauma as being contributing factors in our difficulty within experience, but I’ve not yet seen a lot of common dialogue that captures the distinct possibility that societal dysfunction may actually be causing experiences that are painful, alienating, and socially traumatic.

I agree, of course, that the term “mental illness” is, for all practical purposes, utterly useless and, further, is actually harmful. Still, people do have a hard time in this world and those difficulties are expressed in all sorts of ways, depending on a person and their unique human struggle.

It has been my observation that much of the cultural realities of the “modern world,” as it has arisen on the foundation of terribly(dangerously)flawed ideologies and economies, actually do really hurt people.

For so many, and increasingly so, there simply is no place to be ourselves and live within (or even develop awareness of) our strengths…because, as ordinary people, our strengths are not valued within exclusionary cultures and economies. For many, when the self is expressed in ways that conflict with normative rigidity of function and expectation the person is actually punished, through bullying, exclusion from the economy, violence and pathology.

Our access to a dynamic experience of humanity in learning and work and family and community has been severely limited by the structure of our ideas, roles, economies and cultures.

I suppose that some would say that this is a gratuitous point and a moot one at that because, well, what can ya do?

As much as I am committed (in my work and in my own life) to nurturing true recovery at the individual+community level, I am really invested in figuring out what will support an empowered macrolevel recovery from the unfortunate events and habits of the 20th century.

I know that seems lofty, but the alternative is some sort of hopeless complacency and an acceptance of things that really are, in my mind, pretty unacceptable.

What sort of world is it when people are systemically denied viable opportunities/ideas/language to express their unique experience of self and interest and to be respected and loved simply for who they are? That, to me, is bigger than “mental illness.”

Can you imagine a world in which people are wrought into narrow modes of existence, function, and meaning…diminished and confused in a tragic state of disconnection from themselves and unable to look one another in the eye for more than a moment or two, slowly destroying themselves with sweet and salty distractions and jokes they know they shouldn’t laugh at?

“Oh, man, that is so wrong!”

…and then when our minds/hearts/brains struggle to make sense of why it all seems so tragic and empty and frightening and difficult and pointless to the extent that we get all sorts of turned around and twisted up and stuck…well, somehow it is an “illness” that we have? It is our problem? That is a classic example of shifting blame. That sort of thing is seen at the microlevel in emotionally and psychologically abusive relationships.

It is so overwhelming to think about, how one deeply erroneous phrase (“mentally ill”) can indicate a problem that is much more far reaching and which, ultimately, affects us all.

The other night, at a baseball game, I was looking around the crowd and I was wondering what the people might be like if they weren’t 21st century Americans wearing jeans and t-shirts and eating chili fries, watching a field. A lot of people didn’t seem to be having much fun. They were just there. By my estimation, many of them were on psychiatric medication.

These shifts in language and practice are so important to the world.

Brief note: The world is a vibrant and beautiful place…so long as you don’t think too hard at baseball games. I choose to imagine/know that inside all those tshirts and under all those ballcaps there are – of course – vastly reeling worlds of wonder, story, and heart, the vital human core.

In spite of the truth of a strange postmodern (and what is truth in postmodernism?) sci-fi/archaic conflict narrative telling tales of a vast multilateral abusive net of social control and exploitation…well, I’d much rather know that even in the most bleak of settings, somewhere someone is dancing and who the heck knows what might happen yet? Thanks for letting me work that out.

I’m hopeful. I have a lot of confidence in the vital human spirit…of course, its assertion under duress often makes people appear “psychotic”…but that’s another useless word it seems that folks are in the process of deconstructing to null.

 July 26, 2012 at 11:54 pm said:I’ve noted and am consistently impressed with your ability to acknowledge the role of the human nervous system in its participation in our states of experience, without giving a slim ounce of credence to the biomedical model. I do not find mind-only explanations of human distress to be much more helpful than biomedical explanations, as I really do suspect that the human experience is affected by our physiological states in ways that we seem strangely reluctant to acknowledge. The aversion to biomedical explanations has put us in the position of avoiding a pretty big part of it all, which is not medical or ill in the slightest, but is simply the way that humans seem, in my mind, to work.(By the way, the vital and the spirit are a part of all this, too, but that’s another long comment on another thread.)I usually frame the struggling human experience (and also the non-struggling human experience, any human experience really) as a dance between mind/heart/brain and also the body that carries all of this around.

Stress is a powerful mechanism in shaping our experience. We probably need new words for stress, since people seem to think that it’s the idea of being late for work or a busy calendar. We’ve little collective awareness of the way that stress affects our experience. Stress hormones are no joke.

Because I tend to think associatively, I’ve made my own sort of sense out the idea that we feel certain things in response to certain staes/impressions/thoughts, and that certain thoughts/states/impressions arise in response to the way we feel…in cases of complex trauma, it seems that a strong, networked associations of image/sound/feeling/impression can be set in relation to specific stress reactions. Thus, whenever a certain characteristic landscape of stress hormones is activated, those networked associations become our dominant experience – due to the fact that stress strongly cues us to things that present threat (real or “imagined”/associated) the reaction becomes self-perpetuating, driving intense states of experienced disorder and manifesting all sorts of unpleasantness.

I have found that people are comforted with an understanding of the way that feelings/thoughts/images/sounds/smells/
states of being
…all exist in accordance with one another and  can act in a rapid-fire sequence of reactions upon reactions that can, it’s true, become quite a frightening jangle.

In my experience, emotionally stimulated PTSD seems to be helped by emotional “regulation” skills (not to diminish emotionality, but to learn to navigate it in perspective and safely) + meditation to learn the paths to calm safe spaces and an informal process that I sort of think about as experience mapping…basically sorting out where the bells and whistles and alarms are all caught up together and figuring out what sets off the multiball.

(Yes, I do use pinball analogies in my work as Peer.)

The Story of Mental Illness and NAMI

(Curing mental illness, one facebook comment at a time…and in the 3-D world, as well.  This was taken from https://www.facebook.com/groups/404638756227362/ Stop Psychiatric Drugging of Children.)

“They’ll never change…” is a myth of the systems that want us to believe they’ll never change. These structures didn’t even exist! These ideas didn’t even exist!* Now they’ll never change? They’re here to stay!? They just get to keep doing what they’re doing? We just have to accept that?

I beg to differ. 

*The basis for the ideas did exist…in every fascist and oppressive force in history that ever said a person can define the worth and potential of another person’s life. 

Hmmm, there’s quite nothing like reading about NAMI and kids on antipsychotics first thing in the morning. 

I wish that NAMI would use its resources to push for more community respite, so that families and individuals in crisis could have clear accessible options other than hospitalization. The organization does promote force in many states, and if they don’t do it de jure (by policy) they do it de facto (by practice) in their everyday support of things like involuntary commitments. This has a lot to do with psychiatric drugging of children, as it contributes to a medical model of care that reinforces the stigma, causes harm, and promotes psychiatric abuse within the biomedical model of mental health. 

If you’ve read my comments, you’ll see that I am in favor of the positive intentions set forth by NAMI and I am encouraging of change. However, the fact that the country’s largest “voice” for the “mentally ill” does things like support forced hospitalization is fairly contradictory to good intentions as such practice measurably harms people AND their families. Supporting families in “dealing with” their “mentally ill” family member by investing in ideas that tell them that it is okay to have their children handcuffed and taken to locked wards where they are given forced injections…well, it feeds into the core of the problem and it hurts everybody.

As for adolescents and bipolar disorder, is it concerning at all that millions of kids experiencing normal human struggle get pegged with a SPMI which puts them at risk for having to take drugs/get treatment that actually cause further disorder and harm?

There is increasing evidence that struggle and “symptoms” are caused by stress, trauma, and psychological distortions stemming directly from stigma. Further, it has been shown that dysfunction at the family level and psychosocial stress within families is a huge factor in people’s experience with disorder. 

“Mental Illness” itself is an ugly myth and NAMI in part responsible for the perpetuation of that myth. I acknowledge their good intention in thinking that if they made human struggle into a brain disease, a “chemical imbalance” people would look at it more kindly. 

It’s not like diabetes, because diabetes is real and it can be measured and they know precisely how the medicine works and the need for insulin is calculated on an individual basis in conjunction with support of general health practices. Mental Illness is an ugly, erroneous way of looking at struggle and pain. It is negligent of the actual causes of struggle, which are stress and trauma and bad ideas. The treatment of mental illness has been shown to be progressively damaging to people. I am not in support of diagnosis at any age. 

Here’s a scenario: some particularly sensitive and brilliant college student ~ perhaps in the wake of exam week, when the body was flooded with stress hormones that made him (our generic brilliant and sensitive college student) more sensitive to stimuli, which then began to overwhelm him ~ he became scared and his mind, scrambling to make sense of his increasingly scattered and agitated state (caused by stress hormones reinforced by the psychological effects of fear and social trauma, because if one reacts to stress in a way that causes them to be nervous, isolative, emotional, or “erratic” your friends and family start looking at you funny.) This drives additional fear, and things begin to look very strange…which drives disorder by establishing a self-perpetuating stress cycle that is increasingly destructive. Stress>sensitivity>overload>fear>stress…and it just goes on and on. 

Speaking of, after a huge family fight, the young man tears through his dorm and, of course, campus security is called and they are talking to him like he is “crazy.” Which is terrifying, to suddenly be “one of those people” ~ because the culture has told us some very bad things about “those people” ~ they are sick and dangerous people, they live small miserable and indignified lives and they die young. At the hospital, he is told he is a schizophrenic/bipolar (Pronomial shift here. It’s something I accidentally do.) 

You begin to take the medicine because you have to. Terrible things happen at the hospital. The medication makes it so that you don’t feel anything, and that is okay because now living hurts because you are now one of those people and your life is a sad and dangerous place. Your mother doesn’t look at you the same way. Your father is embarrassed. You have to drop out of school and you try to move away and start over but you don’t take your meds and the effects of coming off of them make you a trainwreck.  It’s true. You are a hopeless case. You decide to just take all the pills. After you get out of the hospital, you try to go home to your parents house, but you fight all the time and then you do something without thinking like break something because you’re just so damn sad and pissed off that this is your life and the next time you get out of the hospital, you get put in some horrible group home that is loud and cruel and smells bad. 
 
Over the years, medication and forced traumatic treatment slowly erode the core of your being and damage your once-fine brain. You simply sit and stare and shake…all because you stayed up too late to study or you tried some drug or you got upset and had a few misunderstandings with yourself and the world. 

There are reams and reams of evidence proving that people can and do recover from “schizophrenia” (and all the other SPMIs) and additional evidence that mental illness is, for all practical purposes, caused by bad ideas and toxic, paternalistic, stigma-driven practice that strips people of their humanity and actually damages them. Iatrogenic illness. 

NAMI invests in some terrible ideas – like “the hopeless schizophrenic” – and supports families in their belief that their child is doomed to be a danger to self or others if they don’t take the medication which kills the light in their eyes and makes them sleep all day. Because nobody likes to be seen as a loser by their family, because nobody likes to be hauled off to awful places after a stupid argument, because nobody likes to have take shots that make them bloated and impotent and dull…well, yeah…the relationships in families can get a little strained. Which further drives disorder…

So, while I support the best possible thing that NAMI could be, I fail to see how that best possible thing could arise in a climate of ideas that are based on poor science and which are reinforced by harm-for-profit entities like BigPharma and hospitals and E. FullerTorrey ~ who NAMI DC should probably comment on next Wednesday at his talk about re-institutionalization and “dangerous mentally ill people” (since NAMI directly or indirectly contributed to the myth, they need to clean it up). 

I fail to see how the idea of “mental illness” supports the “mentally ill” ~ it gives them an illness and it sustains the illness and then the illness does become real, it does become lasting. 

That hurts people. It does not help them. 

We become what we are made to be and what we are seen as being. 

NAMI thought it would diminish stigma to call human struggle a “mental illness” but there is research that shows that it actually increased stigma by making people believe that the mentally ill are afflicted with some mysterious brain disorder that they have to take medication for or they’ll “go crazy” ~ which is a very useful myth for drug companies and those who profit – economically or psychologically – from turning our human existence into sick and confused misery. 

Oh, the “chemical imbalance” ~ it’s called stress. 

Sorry this was long…I do that sometimes. 

Thanks for commenting, All. I love it when I get a chance to challenge bad ideas first thing in the morning.

May The Opinions of Mental Health Bureaucrats Be Damned and Other Thoughts From Recent Days

IMG_20140630_200615

This is less a poem and more a few notes on something I want to remember, a few minutes from earlier.I was driving and listening to the radio
windows down
pulled up to a stop light
with the Dow Jones scrolling across the street
red at midnight
on all countsI heard him before I saw him
recognized the bellows
the wail
just up the road
coming south on Biltmore
with a companion fellow
who walked a few steps ahead
looked back with annoyance,
like someone was watching
like he was embarrassed

I didn’t want to look up
I looked up,
and watched the soldier weave
toward the car
and wasn’t scared
even though his eyes were drunk
as hell
and his hair was in tufts
sticking out from his ballcap
at the longest red light
in the history of red lights
and he leaned toward the open window and said
“Hey, you got a cigarette?”

I held out my hand, gave him the one I was smoking
“Sure, take this one.”

It was almost brand new.

He mumbled something, held up his necklace,
some wadded up thing
a symbol like an opening
and said…
What did he say?

I only felt scared for a flash,
as he leaned into the car
and kissed the top of my head
a little string of numbers across the empty street,
the sudden quiet.

I said,
“I’m only letting you do this because I know who you are.”

He stood up, “I know you know.”

“Be careful in the road,” I said. “People get run down here.”

I remembered that other person, his parents asking around.

“What happened? What happened?”

He mumbled something about the Grateful Dead, and the light turned
and he walked on
and I drove away.

I thought about how I knew him,
the night that he had laid his drunken head on my lap and sobbed on the curb in front of City Hall, weeping and raging about the war he had fought in
and how the cops had been in Oakland
and I held his hand and he said
thank you a few years back.

I wonder what people would think, if they saw such an interaction, the stumbling loud man walking up to the car in the nighttime, leaning into the window.

Things aren’t always what they seem, I guess.

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2 MINUTES OF ME PLAYING BARITONE UKULELE IN MY DINING ROOM ON A SATURDAY NIGHT.

I started this as a post to maybe go up on Mad In America, because I haven’t posted there in a long time, or rather they haven’t posted the things I have submitted for posting in a long time. Oh, well…probably ’cause I go on and on.
I figured I’d just skip the step of submitting for posting and then dumping it here, and just go ahead and dump it:
In my last few posts on Mad In America, I was at the point on the patient-survivor-peer-recovery-advocate-artist-activist-what-the-hell-do-I-want-to-do trajectory where I was dabbling in naive collaborative multisectoral organizing and talking a lot about fine lines ‎in what we advocate for and to whom, with whom.
The work of changing systems from the inside out, presenting and implementing new ways, inspiring and compelling change by virtue of the work that one does within the structures of dominant public systems is important and it seems like a good enough idea to learn the ways of what one wants to defeat, to learn how what one wants to deconstruct is put together, what rules and laws and persuasions and norms and…ideas…hold these assemblages of  human services together.
I’ve spent months thinking about blog posts about the myriad motivators and barriers to advocacy and ‎activism among folks who identify as survivors of the systems they are seeking to change. I’ve had too many emails to really spend much time on writing.
I hope that I will start writing here again. I’ve sent in some essays, but they were long and inspecific ramblings on things like madness as a complex system and a partial personal history of mental health crises that occured in relation to clumsy, desperate, and ill-informed efforts to simply change my life.
Things being what they are in the world of email glut and preferred-length-of-blog-entries, they never went up.
I posted most of those writings, or versions thereof, on my personal site: http:/proofofgodandothertragedies.net – a blog I started about five years ago, right when I started to lose my mind in that way that I did.
The fact that I have this record floating out there in the ethers, well – I am beginning to understand that it’s a sort of glass ceiling in the sanist world of high-stakes mental health advocacy.
I can’t tell you how many times I have laughed at the thought that when being vetted for things like speaking at NAMI meetings, a google search of my name pulls up personal blog posts about being a spy.
I have known that, if I ever really wanted to be a mental health advocate that people took seriously, I would have to clean up my digital footprint, take down my blog, where I post whatever I want to, saying whatever I want to say, where I sometimes try to prove God with clouds and throw syntax to the wind.
May the opinions of mental health bureaucrats be damned.
I’ve had to think a lot about what my own motivations in wanting to be a “mental health advocate” were, and why it was so damn hard to go and be in those meetings sometimes, to figure out who was an ally and who thought I was crazy, to wade through the hundred different felt realities that come up in rooms where people are talking about things like mental health service delivery and people with mental illness.
I wrote pages upon pages of forced, stilted language, concisely outlining this strategy and that strategy in the hopes that people might be persuaded to help to do something that might actually change things. I stayed up late, trying to find the language to rally enthusiasm, exhausting my energy in efforts to inspire other people to gather up and make something happen. I agonized over emails, reading them over and over again, missing typos, hitting send and feeling the swift rush of not being good enough.
Every day, I was aware of the pernicious irony that – in my process of recovering from psychiatry – I had structured a life that still held mental health at its core, though the relationship had changed, this matter of “mental health and what to do about it” is still a central theme in my thinking about what defines my life and purpose.
When I was speaking to my supervisor at the state-funded mental health organization that I do part-time work for, about my recent clarity around the thought that, “Hey, maybe it isn’t such a great thing for me to be in positions where I have to appeal to mental health program managers and policy makers and where I am required to seek their approval?” I brought up the very real, and very deep-felt sense of what I called, in the moment, ‘moral obligation’‎ to do this work, to be a part of the change I want to see and to use my experience in ways that helps other people.
I told my supervisor that sometimes I have the problematic thought that I am fated somehow, bound and beholden to universal forces, to do this work. I think that might be true, but it may not be healthy for me – that’s what I said, healthy for me – to be thinking that there is some universal plan that involves me working tirelessly for this one specific organization, or that some godforce is requiring me to put on nice shoes and lip gloss to smile earnestly at mental health bureaucrats, speaking in pleasant, measured tones while my own voice screams in the back of my ‎head:
“How are you so calm, so slouching in your chair while people are getting held down and drugged in your program? Why are you smiling at me so smug like that? You don’t even know what I’ve lived through! You don’t even know how my story. You don’t even know how smart I am, how brave I am.”
I could tell when people were thinking about me as “a peer,” or as “a person with a mental illness.” I went into their meetings with my tattoos covered up as best they could be and my hair smoothed down. I sat up straight and listened politely. I felt odd about myself, ashamed at feeling proud that I could do those things, that I could be an ‘effective advocate.’
Here’s the rub:
I couldn’t help but to be aware that it was only because of sheer luck and privilege that I was able to pull off getting past a couple of gates. People who hold power, people who hold meetings, they will let you come, but they may not listen to you, not unless you play by their rules and talk in their talk and appeal to their interests, be they profit or ego. I was able to figure out how to use social entrepreneurialistic tactics and my social oddball survival skills of observation, analysis, and self-modulation for the sake of social safety to make myself reasonably socially acceptable within the context of mental health planning and strategy meetings with lots of white people.
The rub continues:
In trying to figure out how to socially and occupationally navigate participation in the mental health system as a survivor-advocate and peer support specialist, I had to learn how to modulate my absolute outrage at the absurd insult to humanity that modern human services represent. I was able to use some of the skills I learned through psychosis – holding multiple realities, compassion, the ability to take other perspectives, resilience in the face of daunting adversity – to keep myself in a mindset of learning, of inquiry, of cautious exploration.
I was able to go to college, and am comfortable with reading and have gotten to spend time with people who will talk with me about things like social theory and power. I understood the concepts of historical context and evolution. I also understood how to interact with white middle class Americans, because I have had cultural privileges that had afforded me the opportunities to learn how to appeal to some segments of the powerholder population.
In spite of the personal skills, attributes, and characteristics that eased the gates open, it was still tremendously hard to imagine what it would require for me to actually be “an effective advocate.” My personal glass ceiling in that world reflects sanism and patriarchy. I refuse to edit, amend, or censor myself in my personal life or to compromise my ‎art forms or the truth of my story.
I have tattoos on my palms that I cannot hide. I am an “impetuous woman” with a scar on her arm and scuffed shoes.
This is a thought that blows my mind:
If mental health advocacy is this hard for me, if it is this triggering, this futile-feeling, this conflicting and baffling, even with my years of experience in non-profit and community work, even with my developing grounding in organizing theory and practice, even with my “pretty” lip-glossed smile and “nice” Southern manners, my privileged knowledge of language and persuasion…if, with all my privilege, it is still this hard, how hard is it for other survivors to get involved in systems advocacy?
Furthermore, why would they?‎ Is it a matter of having no choice other than to try to change the systems that are controlling and harming one’s life, family and community? Does it matter to powerholders that people take buses across towns and swallow their outrage to sit in chairs and listen to tedious agendas detailing how thoroughly and completely fucked up the processes and practices of systems of entrenched power truly are? Does it matter to them that people are showing up with pictures of their dead children in their hands? Does it matter to them that people who don’t know how to write sit down and take the time to try to write, to tell them, please do something?
…and all for free, at cost even, with time and travel and paper and shoes…to be “allowed” to do work to support new program development or community building, to be “invited” to speak “for a few minutes,” to be “welcome” at meetings where hardly anyone deigns to ask you why you came or to care that you are there, to stay up late and read legislation and try to try to be excited about webinars on beautiful afternoons…and all for free?
‎For months, I’ve been living in multireality where I am simultaneously a mad artist mother and activist, working on mutual aid organizing with The Icarus Project and brainstorming collective liberation, and
‎also a pleasant and interesting peer advocate in the mental health system, who is trying to determine what it might take to actually be “an effective advocate.”
Last week, I was lucky enough to find myself floating in the ocean, and as I lay there in the water, thinking about mental health system transformation, I realized that I did not want to be thinking about mental health system transformation.
There are a hundred different ways to do most anything and I have begun to finally figure out that maybe I would be more effective dismantling the constructs and foundations of the mental health system through art, through community, through keeping it fucking real and not hedging my words or my wisdom to appeal to the current powerholders.
‎I understand that it may be true that I am destined, in the simple mechanics of the age old story of living and learning and growing and changing, to take what I learned as a teenage genius-turned-psychiatric patient, as a suicide-attempt survivor, and as a person who has lost custody of her children due to mental health concerns, and to do something with the knowledge gained in those gauntlets to somehow address the reasons that such realities arose in my life to begin, the forces that create scenarios in which people are harmed and desperate and terrified.
However, there are lots of ways to do this work. Realistically, I cannot – because of my personal issues with fluorescents, linear process and bureaucratic structures – do the work of “effective mental health advocate” without significantly compromising and/or modifying the integrity of my self and whatever might be considered my wellness.
I’m going to an art show in Vancouver for International Mad Pride day, and am working with a researcher from the Institute of Medical Humanities on ethnographic research on radical mental health mutual aid culture and practice. I am learning to play ghost music on the baritone ukulele and going to swordfighting battles with the Asheville Medieval Collective almost every Sunday. A few of the amazing folks I know who also identify as mad mothers are talking about ways we might collectively offer more resources of support and community to mothers and families who might be struggling. ‎I might try to start a letter writing service to answer mail sent to visionary indie rock musicians‎ by people who feel like it’s important to reach out to the people whose songs saved their lives and explained something really important about things like ghosts and beauty and wanting to die but staying alive anyway. I’m spending some time here with folks interested in mutual aid in more broad public spaces, like housing complexes and parks and markets.
In any event, it is my great hope that the mental health system will – indeed – transform, in such a way that every vestige of exploitative medical model abuse is remedied and removed, replaced with justice and healing.
In the meantime, I will be working on justice and healing in other ways.
IMG_20140628_172018 (1)
This morning I woke up and went through the motions of preparing to go to work at the state-funded REC like I do every Thursday. I washed my hair, got dressed. I put food into a bag and checked the time, walked the dogs. Then, about 10 minutes before I left, I found myself immersed in the strongest feeling of not wanting to go, a resolute wanting to stay home. I continued to make gestures toward preparing to go to work, went upstairs, brushed my teeth. Then, went back downstairs and opened a window to put a lightning bug outside. “Hmmm, if I were going to work, I wouldn’t have opened that window.”
I felt incredibly calm as I noticed that it was time for me to leave if I was going to get there on time. I considered the drive, listening to the radio going into the curve at Mills River. The certain spans of southeastern, and then southwestern sky that I am familiar with, the forest, the stoplight in town, the twinge of anxiety as I pull into the parking lot, knowing that I’ll have to be there all.day.long.
I didn’t want to go to work.
A few days ago, I sent a message suggesting that I may not be “in a place” where “it is healthy” for me to be working in the mental health system in the capacity that I am. I sent it to both my supervisors, as I have two jobs within the organization, and heard back from neither.
I sat on the porch, aware that time seemed to be passing very quickly and yet still feeling very at ease with the possibility that, fuck it, I might just not go to work.
“What would that be like?”
I wrote a message. Hit send and thought, “Wow. So, I did that. What should I do now?”
Given that this is a position that I have tried to leave on and off for a solid year, putting in notice multiple times and then staying, because it is not an easy job to leave, I felt as if I had – finally – done something decisive.
Historically, my crises have always had something to do with quitting something – school, a job.
A half hour after I sent to message, my co-workers replied:
So, as I do most every Thursday, at 9:30, I was starting Creative Writing class and then the day went on as days do there, with a hundred million beautiful and tragic things unfolding under fluorescent lights, in the air-conditioning. My supervisors wanted to talk with me and at one point, I found myself explaining that the sense of moral obligation/vocational calling that I feel to somehow contribute to mental health system transformation is powerful and, yet, I also don’t know ‎if this is the time in my life where I oughta be doing that sort of work in any sort of usual way, with the meetings and the emails and the strategy and planning meetings and the policy analysis and trainings, conferences, etc.
Gah, when I think about it – even now – I feel a distinct tightening in my chest.
This is how I practice discernment.
“I have a hard time quitting jobs, especially jobs I love.”
“You can always come back or do something different within the organization.”
What is it about being able to leave that makes the thought of staying easier?
I really think it’s time for me to go, at least for a while. I have, after all, other jobs – though not quite so many as I had last week. On the day that I wrote my supervisors an email about possibly stepping back from my positions, I had already ‎quit one job, a very interesting resource development project regarding self-disclosure practices in therapeutic roles that I absolutely did not have time to commit to.
While I was on vacation, floating in the water and strategizing mental health system transformation, I realized that my life might be very different if I did not have a significant portion of my mind enmeshed at all times with matters related to mental health culture, practice, and policy as these things pertain to broad trajectories of collective liberation.
I mean, what would that even be like?
Next week, I am going to Vancouver for an art show associated with International Mad Pride day, which is July 12th.
I have some art in a gallery show.
This evening, after an especially jubilant swordtraining, complete with perfect summer storm wind and laughter, I talked with a friend for an hour about mad parenting and various projects we are geeking out about. At one point‎, I mentioned how, over the past weeks, I have been really grateful for all the amazing people I have in my life. We mutually expressed appreciation for just how brilliant, raw, badass, and brave our friends are…and then I said,
“You know, it’s not so much that they are amazing people, doing totally rad work, it’s that…they’re my friends. I have sort of walked around with this thought that, ‘I meet people, we form a tentative friendship, then I fuck up and they aren’t my friend anymore or they don’t know how to be friends with me and then, blip, gone. At this point, I’ve known some of you for a few years, and we’ve flaked out and communicated poorly and had misunderstandings and bailed on projects, but these people are still in my life, because they’re my friends and…dang, I have some amazing fucking friends. That’s such a good feeling, like, unbelievable, unreal…how did this realness happen?”
‎When I got off the phone, I thought about this space, as I often do…just floating around out here…
I read parts of my last post in Creative Writing today, as an example of a form of creative writing in which one uses language as a vehicle for emptying one’s momentary head and heart, memorializing or noting important things that nobody else but you might care about, and playing with how we might tell the story of a day.
I wonder sometimes about the representation here. It’s awfully h-e-a-v-y sometimes, chaotic, dark in places.
In my walking talking life, the things that end up here are undercurrents, shadows, fleeting snarls that catch my mind. I have never had much use for therapists.
I just email myself.
What’s the point of posting one’s personal notes on observation, experience, and process on a public site as some sort of self-documentary art project and act of sheer defiance?
Well, I think we’ve answered that, at this point.
I have never been keen on the idea that what we show the public must be palatable to the public, that it must make sense and be of an accessible length. I do not exist to make sense to the public, at least not here I don’t.
This is my space.
There are not many spaces in my life where I can talk really openly and easily about the sort of things that end up here. People have neither time nor interest. Well, most people anyway.
I have a few friends who have, on occasion, been happy to talk about clouds, geometry, language, and ecosystemic forces of consciousness with me.
You know what’s super great about this record? It is a paper trail of a thousand plus pages, leading back to the days when I.had.nobody. except the radio and kind strangers and my own version of imagined angels, ghosts.
In any sort of “sane” world, I would put all of this away, tidy up and move on. I do not live in a “sane” world. I live in a world where lyrics and wind and birds and shadows and sense and clouds and insects and homeless people saved.my.life. and I will never.ever turn from the realness of that and the sanctity of the truths that time imparted to me.
So, any job I have must understand this, any true friend I have must understand this:
I still believe that something that loves me deeply plays me songs on the radio sometimes and some certain cloudforms will always take my breath away. I find kinship with strangers, and genuinely believe in the best, most simple sort of ghosts.
I like who I am, and I like the world I live in, these different worlds. IMG_20140626_131616 IMG_20140626_131625 IMG_20140626_131643
Note on Longform: A barrier to my participation in certain modes of media and social communication is that I like to write in Longform. I am not a 400-600 word type of person, not when I have something important to work out. I understand the value of being concise and to the point, linear and accessible, to write for the reader. I also understand that my word-mind leads me to go on and on sometimes. It’s a complicated world and my experience, as a mad person who actively occupies multiple realities, with each reality having multiple realities, well…sometimes it takes a while to work out. I have spent the vast majority of my life trying to make myself accessible to other people and I feel like, at this point, I am inclined to just be myself and I write in longform and mash up emails with essays and poetry. That’s just how it is right now.
Several years ago, I didn’t know if I could write ever again, my mind was so bludgeoned by trauma and psychiatric drugs. It felt like a washed-out landscape, a library flooded. I have been open about the fact that I have been working on regaining my language, and learning how to express things again in the way that I feel is most proficient and optimal. People say, “Oh, no, you seem to be writing quite well.” They do not know that I have my own criteria for being well in writing, the feeling of smooth transcription from thought to word, the joy of deftly stringing words and the glee in the sense of having an abundance of words for weaving.
Other people do not know when I write well.
I know when I write well and, right now, I feel I write well in longform, because I feel joy and clarity when writing in longform.
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Mental Health and Decolonization

faithrhyne@gmail.com
Oct 4 (13 days ago)

to me
Since writing down some thoughts on the topic of activism and radical mental health, I’ve thought a considerable amount about the words we use to discuss the liberation of the human heart and mind.
The word “decolonization” has come up in essays about what, specifically, is being attempted when we seek to redefine our selves and lives on the basis of our own inclination and our own meaning. Decolonization is an apt term, in that it speaks to the process of abandoning external impositions and dismantling the oppressive frameworks of idea, symbol, and action that place us in particular roles and strata as determined those who’ve assumed  (by force or coercion) the right to tell us who we are, what we are worth, what we need and where we might best belong.
Though colonization is often thought of as imperialistic actions, the usurping of habitat, resource, and humanity for the purpose of profit, power, and influence, it is accurate to say (as Fanon and others have) that colonization is a state of mind and heart, as well, extending beyond the building of ports, the mechanics of abusive exchange and the economies of active exploitation.
History tells us that in order for a people to be widely and effectively colonized they must be frightened and threatened into a submissive and compliant state. They must turn from their own best interests of life and liberty and devote their energies toward maintaining their own submissive role in the brutal world bestowed upon them. They must heed their oppressors, their rapists, the killers of their land and the takers of their past and futures.
Often, this compliance is achieved through sheer ultraviolence and the manipulation of fear and meaning.

I’m lucky to have not known violence as many people in the world have known it. I’ve never watched my village burn. I’ve never seen bombs fall or my loved ones in front of a firing squad.

Still, I have known violence in my life. I have seen it and I have been hurt by it. I have watched things get destroyed and seen people bleed. I’ve seen sacred land destroyed.
Nonetheless, it is, I must say, very easy for me – in my relatively safe and privileged life – to sit here and write about things such as colonization and liberation, never having been a part of a people that were…
…colonized…
…wait a second. That’s not exactly true. I am a woman. I survived the psychiatric system. I am an American.
The colonizers become colonized themselves. In fact, in many ways – depending on what we invest our belief and energies into – we colonize ourselves, turning our humanity into the hands of systems and cultures that deny humanity, so that those systems may thrive while we, in heart and mind, wither, loving the approval, trinkets and enticements of our colonizers more than we love one another and our shared home.
More even, than we love ourselves.
It is no wonder that so many people are experiencing mental disorders, particularly depression and anxiety, which are disorders of the heart as well as of the mind. Fear and grief, hopelessness and worry. These are side effects of colonization.
Thus, in my thinking about mental health and activism, I think that there must be some clarification of what exactly I’m speaking of. Am I discussing the “safe and effective” “management” of “mental disorders”…?
In my mind, “mental health” is rapidly, as so many words have, becoming a useless phrase. It means less and less. In the language of the people that seek to define what mental health is and isn’t, and who’ve assumed the authority to do so, it often means “the presence of a mental disorder.”
Mental health is only something that people who might have mental disorders have to think about.
Further, “mental health” indicates a “health” concern only pertaining to one’s “mental” – it says nothing of one’s heart, or one’s spirit, or one’s story.
I am more interested in words that capture what it is we are really talking about here. Words like humanity.
When I speak about recovery lately I say a lot about regaining and a great deal about healing. I use words like liberation and re-framing. I talk about reclamation.
I say quite a bit about ideas.
Such as, for example, the idea that a person who experiences the world in a way that is challenging for the status quo to understand, appreciate, or make use of is somehow “ill.” Or the idea that those who fail to achieve normalcy by a particular age must be “modified” or “treated” in order to diminish their appearance of difference. If the difference is severe and persistent, it must be monitored and intervened upon at regular intervals.
If the person fights back, or grieves their state of difference, if the person reacts to harm done to them, they are forced to comply. In fact, compliance becomes more important than life itself.
Which brings us back to colonization and decolonization. When systems of power use force, coercion, manipulation, intimidation and technology to control a person or population, when they tell you what you are and what you are not worth, when they punish you if you fail to meet their expectations or abide by their rules, those systems are engaging in colonialism of the heart, mind, and body.
Sadly, they profit from such endeavors and thus our pain becomes their gain. In fact, their gain relies upon our pain. The systems cannot survive without us and so they must lead us to believe that we cannot survive without them…that we will perish without them, that we might die. If we do not believe them, or if we resist, they ensure our compliance with restraints and if we continue to struggle, we are maimed. This goes on until we die or they kill us.
Keep in mind that death is figurative as well as actual. We can die inside. It happens everyday. We also can be made to become functionally dead, obsolete and excluded from culture, economy, relegated to the role of unfortunate extra in the scenes of collective public.
Outcasting is an old trick in social control. They’ve been doing it for years to those who might make the edges a little messy.
…:}{p<<>!~_________________________________~<?><<P{}:…

Dear President Obama,

I’d like to take a moment and let you know how disappointed I was that you chose to bring the phrase ‘mental illness’ into a discussion on gun control. The following statement is rampantly irresponsible and contributes mightily to the culture of intolerance that ultimately feeds all violence:

“So my belief is that, (A), we have to enforce the laws we’ve already got, make sure that we’re keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, those who are mentally ill. We’ve done a much better job in terms of background checks, but we’ve got more to do when it comes to enforcement.”

By making statements such as this you are perpetuating a very ugly myth, that those who have mental health difficulties are somehow dangerous, perhaps even prone to criminal or violent acts. It is unfortunate that legal loopholes such as the “insanity plea” have contributed to a distortion of what it means to struggle with one’s human experience. It does not mean that one is dangerous or out of control. In fact, statistically, as I’m sure has been made abundantly clear to you, people with mental health diagnoses are far more likely to be the victims of violent crime than they are to be the perpetrators of such crimes.

By making statements such as the ones you made in last night’s debate, which will be unfortunately recorded in this country’s history, you have contributed mightily to the stigma and misunderstanding that afflicts the lives of millions of Americans.

In addition to educating yourself on the reality of mental health disorder in this country, it is imperative that you not only apologize, but that you speak with leaders in the conscientious mental health movement about other ways that struggle with one’s human condition may be considered and healed.

Sincerely,

Faith R. Rhyne

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/41002034/ns/slatecom/#.UArXaLRfHvg ‘Mental illness’ not an explanation for violence

http://www.madinamerica.com/2012/05/accused-trayvon-martin-killer-was-prescribed-adderall-and-temazepam-prior-to-shooting/ Accused Trayvon Martin Killer was Previously Prescribed Adderall

http://breggin.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=191 Prozac-like drug Luvox was being taken by teenager responsible for Littleton Columbine High School. Dr. P. Breggin

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-17182626 ‘Mentally ill’ at high risk of being victims of violence

STILL, THE CLOUDS ARE LOVELY AND AMAZING!

…and I still think about what they mean.

 

Voice —> Text

[This is an assortment of writings from the first 1/2 of this strange year. Portions of this were composed using voice-to-text and are distorted in their syntax and precision, words misinterpreted by my phone. Eleven years ago today I started this project. It’s changed over time, like most things.]

Faith got the cryptic text message from her mother after she left the meeting, crossing the parking lot of the grocery store on her way to get the bread and avocados for the sandwich her mother wanted to try to re-create. “It was at the Kona Coffee Shack and it was this good whole grain bread and avocados and tomatoes, with just a little bit of onion.” Her parents had lived on the Big Island for a few years a quarter century earlier, when her mother was just a few years older than Faith is now, and when Faith was still smoking cigarettes between Smith and Kramer before working her student job in serials department on the third floor of a building whose name she no longer remembers, entering the new editions of Egyptian newspapers and Arabic magazines that nobody read but that the university kept receiving in carefully packed boxes with thick soft paper the color of moss laid between the issues of newspapers already a few weeks out of date by the time they made their way to her small work area in the back corner of the 3rd floor by the fire escape, with a narrow window looking over Broadway, pigeon spikes on the ledge. 

Since her mother’s diagnosis she has been wanting comfort foods, familiar foods. Faith’s instinct is to create buffets of all the rare favorites – coconut cake, kibbeh, black bean soup from The Columbia restaurant in the historic district of St. Augustine some 10 hours southeast of the mountains where here mother has lived the last 13 years of her life, which – as it turns out – really are the last 13 years of her life. Faith wishes she could get her mother a fried grouper sandwich from the shitty hotel they stayed at on the island of Eleuthera in 1986, where there were ominous schools of remora in the already-bleached corals in the snorkeling coves and mucosal snakes of sea cucumber slime rolling and writhing along the white sands under the shallow water that was warm like a bath. “Those grouper sandwiches were the best,” her father will still declare every several years, usually prompted by a less spectacular fish sandwich. No fish sandwich would ever compare to the grouper sandwiches ordered at the bar in the hotel at Pineapple Bay, or whatever it was called. Faith has no doubt that the place no longer exists. It was destroyed by a hurricane and if it wasn’t, it probably just quietly died as a failed tourist destination owing to the Caribbean trap house cinderblock architecture of the hotel itself and the fact that the waves at the destination surfing beach down the coast was full of chicken feet and feathers from a poultry processing plant just a little further (but, not far enough) down the coast. Her father’s surfboard – the one with the big dolphin on it that he had has since as long as she could remember – was stolen at the airport.

Faith likes to wake up early to go places like hikes or walks. She prefers to wake up early for long trips, but hasn’t been going anywhere lately and so she likes to wake up early to go for walks, to leave the house just as the day is slipping towards pale light. When she was very little, her mother and father would take her and her brother to the beach at daybreak, leaving in the still-dark to drive the 30 miles to the ocean so that her father could surf at dawn. It must’ve been exhausting for her mother, to go the beach with two small children so early in the morning. 

Faith is laying on the upstairs deck of her parents house in Fairview, with the sun blaring down on her face and legs. She is wearing a grey spaghetti strap tank top that she got at American Apparel on King Street in Charleston 15 years ago and cotton bike shorts she ordered from the Internet a few months back. The thin sweater she found on the racks of the resale store last week is laying on the patio table with one arm hanging off and barely blowing in the breeze. The sweater is the color of saffron or butternut. It is golden. She has worn it every day since she got it, even though it is summer time. She is writing down her thoughts about her mother being at the funeral home to make arrangements and about how the day is bright and warm and full summer, just a week before her birthday in late July. Her mother’s birthday is on the 30th, and today when she was on a Zoom meeting with the team lead at the respite house and the meeting they had scheduled with the state for the afternoon of the 30th was brought up, she didn’t say anything about it being her mother’s birthday, probably her mother’s last birthday. She will probably make plans not to be at that meeting, but it is still several weeks out, and so she hasn’t said anything. 

On Saturday night, she heard a brief burst of a drum line cut through the dull haze of ambient noise in the center of town, the traffic and the drone of lawnmowers in the evening. She was on the porch eating dinner and she set her plate down and stood abruptly, walked down the steps and toward the center of town where she had heard the sound of drums. She never did find the drums that night, but learned where they’d come from a few days later. 

People do oral history because the oral historian decides that somebody’s story is worthy of whatever might be called history, which is the written or otherwise documented record of events occurrences and other noteworthy happening in the unfolding of what we understand to be reality. Some very important histories mean absolutely nothing to me. My own history, on the other hand, is of interest to me. I’m driving west on 74A having just been out to visit with my mother and father. I make this drive almost every day ever since my mothers stage four cancer diagnosis. I drive out and visit for a few minutes and drive back into town. The mountains look different every trip. Today they’re lit by clear and hazy sunlight it seems to somehow be shining down through and under heavy hi cumulus clouds. The edges of the trees, specially, or illuminated in the texture of the wooded slopes and ridge lines is very pronounced today all bright sun and dark shadow. I tried to record my mother and I talking for a few minutes, with the idea that I would do an oral history of my father and my process of going through the family papers. So, I ask, when did you first become aware that the person you had married Was a part of a family that had been toting around boxes of old papers and documents for over 100 years? Very early on my mother explained, and then more so when we moved to Saint Mary’s. St. Mary’s is the town where my own history normally began. However as with all families the history of who came before us right histories of who we are within our own lives. I recorded a few minutes of conversation with my mother and what she departed from speaking to me about The papers saved by my father side of the family and begin talking about her own childhood in Miami telling me how idyllic it was how they were these on. My mother would use this word several times in the course of our conversation enclaves. She told me a little bit about her father’s family immigrated from Lebanon and the 1890s intending to move to Albany New York, but instead ending up in Albany Georgia. Her father was born here in the United States which makes her third generation immigrant. I recorded a few minutes of conversation with my father in which he talked about a box to eat found going through the numerous boxes of old papers in photographs found some wonderful photos of markers and more letters. I told him I have tried to contact the Georgia Historical Society, and he was very pleased. I’m looking for a transcription, I explained on the voice message, of the speech that my great great grandfather Marcus Beck gave when he accepted the Stone Mountain monument on behalf of the state of Georgia. Please call me back. I could easily do a history of my father.

It would make a lot of sense to do an oral history of my mother, given that she will likely die in the next five years if not within the next year. She has advanced stage for ovarian cancer spread throughout her entire abdomen. She is going to “try some chemotherapy”, she’s now decided after having previously decided to go ahead and sign up for hospice. She says that she realized the 3 to 6 months she was given to live didn’t just continually renew – stretching on and on as time passed –  that as she stayed alive the amount of time that she could be expected to continue living decreased. So 3 to 6 months became two to five months, one to four months and so on. I suppose after three months passed she would just begin counting down from three. Two, one, and then into the borrowed time, the defiant extra time. 

I’m not ready for hospice care, she decided After doing the math of how her expected amount of time to continue living would decrease through the summer and into the early fall, until the winter – the last season she is predicted to see if she does not pursue treatment, and she would likely die. So, she’s going to “try some chemo…”

This is the language she uses like she’s trying a new restaurant or going to see a movie that had gotten mixed reviews. 

Today she’s sitting in the chair watching the weather channel after feeling sick following a lunch of grilled cheese. She has not started chemo yet, has not even gone to the orientation. She would have been to the orientation two weeks ago, had she not canceled the appointment after deciding to just go the hospice route. Now, she has to wait until Friday to even begin the process of receiving chemo a month and a half after her diagnosis. Everybody is accepting and patient of the process. Today she is sitting and watching the weather channel with the sound off, and she hasn’t been on chemo, so she still has all of her hair – bright white, still thick. My mother has beautiful hair.  The other day she was talking about going to get it cut. My daughter may go with her. “Do you want to come?” She asked like a lunch invitation, something fun. I think that for me it’s a waste of money, a salon haircut, and the ritual of going with my mother to get her hair cut feels too heavy, too poignant. I am sure that I will regret everything that I choose not to do with her. 

My own hair is long and fine, my braid making a small rope all the way down my back to brush the top of my hips.

I have my father’s hair. 

07/08

Is it possible to do an oral history on yourself, by yourself? Would you ask yourself questions? If so, what questions? What stories. What stories are worth telling? Or worth telling other people? What stories are important for yourself? I am doing an oral history on myself because although there are many people who I would like to speak to at length, who I would like to interview, whose stories – I would like to hear none of them are as accessible to me as myself. So, because I have a busy life I will start here, and perhaps learn something about how we gather stories and what stories matter. Oral histories can be done with any sort of person, plain or famous. I like the history of the common. The every day. Small moments that are big events and singular lives.

I am doing an oral history of myself as I experience the season that my mother begins to die of stage for ovarian cancer while my father and I begin the project of going through family papers carried around in boxes for over 100 years. There are some letters that were written in 1820, which make them this year 200 years old. That is very old.

I’ve been aware of the boxes since I was a child. 

The way that I am doing this oral history of myself is I am taking voice to text notes on my phone while I am walking, or while I am driving. So there is no sound recording. I may record myself – capture my voice. However, that would require some transcription. It’s interesting that – because I have been doing voice to text for about a year now – My speaking voice when I talk to my phone is such that there is a slow cadence to the words… An intentional pause, a clear annunciation… I speak the punctuation.

In an edited voice to text compositions there are many mixed up words in garble phrases objects become strange for a name and actions become objects. [<~ that sentence is an example of what happens in voice to text]

Meaning is slurred and sometimes inverted, as is a code or a subtle message from some that I don’t understand because I personally don’t know Have some words spoken clearly become other words entirely.

Often, people will begin history by telling about the place they were born or the circumstances surrounding their birth. They may give a brief statement about the people that come before them. For example, I might say that I come from a long line of anxious people. 

For a period of time I had that statement written on a piece of paper taped to my refrigerator, so that I would Remember. I also come – on my father’s side – from a long line of people that were remembered for being brilliant. My great great great aunt Leanora Ellis Beck for example, has newspaper articles written about her that in the headlines declare her to be ‘A Brilliant Woman’ as if that were the news. My great great grandfather, as I believe I already mentioned here was a supreme court judge in the state of Georgia in the first decades of the 21st century. 

The way the people know their stories eerily straightforward, an eight on a logical account vents in the surrounding circumstances.

[voice to text…hahaha]

I personally, I’m interested in beginning this oral history with information about The circumstances that are surrounding its development, and the methods by which it is being conducted. 

As I said, this is an oral history of myself and right now I am walking a section of Greenway on the east side rather the west side of one of the oldest rivers in the world which flows through the center of the small southern mountain city that I have lived in for almost 16 years and That many generations before me my ancestors lived near. I did not know this until I had been here for several years. 

Good morning –  here it’s foggy and cool. It is 8 July, 12 days before my 44th birthday. I’ve just begun walking on a half mile stretch of undeveloped Greenway, which is more like a trail with Sandy Brown unpaved ground and blackberries mullein And Vitex crowding the edges of the path. Their are camps here alongside the river that the city ignores, allowing people to set up temporary shelter. 

10:56 0709

A lot of the time I don’t much feel like saying anything. I don’t feel like taking notes. I think about what I might say I might take notice but the active documentation isn’t as appealing to me as it once was. I want to just walk, say nothing. This morning I left the house at 6:45 AM and made my way over to the park to walk the big loop that I walk every day. It was cloudy and cool, early morning. The blackberries do not become ripe all at once, But take their time, a staggered procession –  with some berries hard and completely underripe, while others are so ripe as the fall off the spiny stems. 

I saw a bluebird sitting in the red clay of the dirt path and it was beautiful for a moment before it flew away. 

This morning I have been sulking and unhappy for no real good reason other than my own shitty psychology and tired Stance of dumb resentment. Right now I am walking on a small stretch of Greenway to the south of the hill the houses sit on. sometimes you can see deer down in the bottoms by the drainage creek. It’s nice of the city has left a small wild place. 

This Afternoon I’m going back to my parents house and I intend to spend two hours looking at photographing and transcribing items from the collection of old family papers. This exercise is one that will teach me patience, slow regular progress toward finishing a job. 

I have in my mind The idea that I must be able to throw myself entirely into a project or a task in order to do anything with it. It’s part of my all or nothing thinking. Which is so deeply ingrained in me that it creeps in almost anything that I might do. I just saw a hawk. 

723 pm 0709

I am taking a walk after spending some time in Fairview visiting my parents. My father and I sorted some of the old family papers and found that letters from the time that my great great uncle Marcus was in the Marine Corps were stored with letters from the time that he had run away from home to join the circus just a year before he died in the Belleau woods in France. 

The experience of going through the letters and papers wasAn immersion, a fit of hyperfocused sorting – the emergence of an impromptu system of inventorying, photographing and storing in archival plastic the old letters. Both my father and I have a propensity towards hyperfocus when we are interested In a task and when we have a system of working together we work well. 

it has been a long time since I enjoyed spending time with my father. We had a great time. I Briefly visited with my mother, and pleased her by successfully setting up an email account for my father. 

The rest of the day was spent doing workFor wages, and attending meetings on the computer. 

I have a habitual resistance to having to work, that is immature unhealthy. I always have had a difficult time doing things that I’m not interested in. This afternoon I went to the gas station and the clerk was saying that she was sleepy and that she was a little bored Because of the person who worked the shift before her had already taken care of everything – the cleaning and stocking.

Can you look at your phone? I asked her. She said that she played around on it just a little bit but not much because, as she explained, they don’t pay her to look at her phone. And I thought to myself that I get away with doing as little actual work that I am not interested in doing as possible. And that I wouldProbably go crazy if I had to just stand at a convenient store register all afternoon and wait for people to come in so that I could be doing the work I was paid to do. I guess I could clean or inventory or stock when there weren’t customers in the store. 

I worked in the hardware store for for a little while when I lived in Portland Oregon, during the season just prior to making a big cut in my arm because of a suicidal depressionThat came in the aftermath experimenting with what it was like to be an intravenous cocaine user. The experiment landed me in the hospital with a big cut on my arm that I made in the morning because the thought of going to work at the hardware store was absolutely unbearable to me and yet I thought of calling out sick or simply not showing up was also unbearable and so I made a big cut on my arm and fabricated a story which,Incidentally, nobody believed about having cut myself badly while I was doing dishes. The man that I was living with at the time who himself with a recovering heroin addict who is also an artist with soulful eyes that seem to recognize something in me. Took me to the emergency triage department where I try to get a referral for outpatient mental health services, about my depression with my bleeding armWrapped up in a paper towel underneath my sweater. As I was getting ready to leave they asked if there’s anything else that I needed help with and I showed them my arm and said this might need stitches. The wound was gaping though  the bleeding had slowed. I did not get to go home from hospital that day. Nor was I allowed to drive myself to the emergency room to get stitches. I got to ride in the back of a police car, as if my self harm was a crime. It was my second gesture of suicide in less than a year. The first  was Following my departure from the graduate Department of sociology at the University of Georgia and could have actually killed me. 

I am lucky to have a wage earning job that affords me a small paycheck for doing things that I am somewhat interested in, or that or at least not incredibly stressful and tedious to me. I sound like a spoiled brat when I talk about the difficulties I have with work. I have profound learning differences And significant sensory immigration issues. I am probably on the autistic spectrum in someway or another or would be evaluated as such. 

Like many people on the autism spectrum I am in underemployed adult who is very intelligent and yet cannot seem to put together a functional life for herself. I am continually trying to make peaceWith this reality. If it were not for resources afforded me and my family which allow me to maintain a stable pleasant home and to have a somewhat reliable vehicle to drive I would probably be homeless. That is the reality. It would probably be homeless and have severe mental health issues more severe than I have because I probablyWould have experienced tremendous trauma in trying to make a way for myself. Maybe I would have found a case manager who helped me to get onto disability or helped me to get into some sort of housing program. Maybe I could have found friends and a communal housing situation that would have helped me to become an artist or find a job that I could stand it allowed me to make enough to live on. Maybe I wouldn’t be homeless. Maybe I would have a life in which I was happier and healthier than I am. maybe I Wouldn’t have experienced tremendous trauma in trying to make away for myself. Maybe I would have found a case manager who helped me to get onto disability or helped me to get into some sort of housing program. Maybe I could have found friends and a communal housing situation that would have helped me to become an artist or find a job that I could stand it allowed me to make enough to live on. Maybe I wouldn’t be homeless. Maybe I would have a life in which I was happier and healthier than I am nowAlways trying to make my way in a Neurotypical world as a person who is not Neurotypical.

 I had a strange experience earlier today when I was walking and they almost exactly the same spot I am walking in now I saw a hawk fly across the road and I thought that it was interesting perhaps a good sign and then I got a message as I turn to walk up the hill from my friend who said that she had just helped a groundhog I was responding back to her asking how she helped the groundhog when she honked and called my name and she was right in the parking lot that I was walking past And the groundhog they’ve been hit by a car the concrete wall and was paralyzed was right beside my friend and my friend didn’t know what to do and so I called animal control and explained that the groundhog was paralyzed and was suffering and asked somebody please come and get the groundhog to help it be humanely euthanized and I sat with my friend and we marveled over how I have been right where she is with the groundhog as she was texting me about the groundhog and how I hadn’t even been planning on going for a walk I had noticed how sunny and warm It was and so decided to just go for a quick fuck it might be a good idea to go up not quite asleep in the sun a little longer and then happen to be right where my friend was trying to help the groundhog. 

So anyway, on the way home from my families house at the old papers with my father I thought about our letters are over 100 years old actually off… And how it’s amazing that they’ve been saved for so long and thought about the reasons that people say things. People save things because there’s a story to tell because they want people to know the story they don’t want the story to be forgotten and they save things, Also to reserve people or places if they don’t want people or places and I don’t think that my great great uncle my great great great uncle I believe he was left very much behind only drawing papers from when he was a child photographs of him. So everything that they had of him the letters that he wrote in the pictures that he drew the images of him they saved as a wayI’m not letting him die even though his body was killed in world war 1. 

This morning when I was walking up this hill passing by Bartlett arms I was thinking about what it is that for the vast majority of black Americans they may not know what country or village their ancestors came from. They do not know their ancestors names of languages that they spoke and how there is something very tragic about that. I Thought about how children were taken from their mothers and about the people who died in the middle passage- how entire lineages wisdom of their ancestors their family stories tied in with them in their minds and hearts died with them. And I don’t know what sort of reparation there can be for denying people the right to know where they came from, what their ancestors names were. Makes me very sad to think about that.

“You haven’t seen me since Wednesday,” her daughter was mock incredulous in the passenger seat, challenging the woman’s reluctance to go to the natural foods grocery on the other side of town, across the river from the direction they’d be driving to go out to Fairview, where Geeg and B – her parents – live. The reason she hadn’t seen her daughter was because the girl had stayed at a friend’s house the night before, not because of some reason that would somehow cause the woman to owe her anything like vegan sushi and coconut water, like the woman shirking her responsibility to spend time with her 15 year old daughter, or not being a good mother. She didn’t owe the girl anything, but got on the 240 going west, not East. 

The day was hot and full of glare, Sunday July the 5th. Summertime of pale hot skies and thunderheads building on the horizons. The natural foods grocery store had shut down a few months ago, suddenly and with only a few weeks of deep discounts that got deeper as the final days before closing drew near. Frozen shrimp cut to 50% off, selling out before they could get to 75%. Hardly anything made it to 75% off. Lipstick made of minerals the color of bloodstained clay, boxes of additives for a high-end water filtration and enhancement system, Gulf wax paraffin for 1.00. These items that the store could hardly give away looked lonely on the shelves as the woman walked through on the second to last day before the store closed, taking a curious inventory and buying three 1/2 gallons of organic milk for 1.66 a carton. The shelves were all but empty in the wake of the sudden bankruptcy closure. All the stores in the southeast were closing. She and her daughter had gone to have lunch there at least a couple of Sundays a month for several years. When she was pregnant with her daughter, a decade and a half ago, she used to go to the store in a shopping center on the way to the beach in a different city, down on the coast, buying little plastic tubs of shrimp salad with fine hairs of fresh dill, the perfect amount of mayonnaise. 

The stores had all closed suddenly following a bankruptcy announcement, then only one of them – the one in the stripmall by the river  – had re-opened under new ownership, and the whole place looked the same except the wood floors had been replaced with a springy feeling synthetic board in a moss grey tone and something – tho’ she was not sure what – had been removed from the produce section to make more room between the standing islands of fruit and potatoes. 

Everyone was wearing masks as she and her daughter moved through the aisles, because everyone wore masks now, because of the pandemic that slowly creeping around the world when the store had closed back in the late winter. She hadn’t been wearing a mask the day she bought the 1/2 gallons of milk, hadn’t been thinking about masks or how far she stood from people in line. 

There hadn’t been any lines that late afternoon with the sun almost set. The store had been about empty by then, with only one register open, longtime cashier with graying hair in perfect ringlets tearfully ringing up purchases saying how she trusted that everything would work out. 

“Do we need yeast?” The woman scanned the bulk section, where the bins of bulk foods held pre-packed bags of nuts and granolas, sharp edged noodles made of artichoke pressing at the plastic. “No,” her daughter moved ahead of her. “I haven’t been able to find it in the fridge, but it doesn’t matter.” Her daughter moved past the coolers, cashew milk yogurt and grass-fed milk in glass bottles.

02/29/2020

The wind that raised me

whispered

spartina alterniflora

juncus romanus

laughed,

in wavelets

brackish reflections

of a blue that we called ‘sky,’

at the way we try to name things

03/07/2020

She wanted to sit in the sun on the ridge line, where the winter trees stood silent as sentinels in the West waning sun, branches rattling in the cold wind of early March. The wind, in its rising and fall, sounded like the ocean, and she imagined that the wind – though it can’t be seen – is much like water.

03/08/2020

She has a sense of remembering that when she was very young, she had no idea of herself as a person, or of her home in the woods as being anything distinct or out of the ordinary in the slightest. She was ordinary as far as she was concerned, and her home in the woods was not the slightest bit unusual, despite the fact that it was built in the shape of a half-circle made of plexiglass triangles, a geodesic dome that her father had learned from a how-to book and from talking to an old man at a land co-op in Florida. 

There were deer skulls and rattlesnake skins laid on the shelves of the bookcase and there wasn’t anything weird about that in her mind. It was just the house, just the dome, just the things that her parents brought in from outside.

She did not question these things in the slightest, the simple fact of her existence and the place she understood to be home. Probably most children are like this – they are who they are, they live where they live. Their lives are what they are, without questioning, suspicion, or skepticism as to the rightness of what is, even if some aspects of life may be terribly wrong, and perhaps ought to be questioned. 

She recalls that when she was very young, she didn’t have any idea that she was strange, or that her family was strange (tho’ not extremely strange, and not strange in ways that were especially scandalous. Perhaps strange is the wrong word. Interesting might be more appropriate. However, whose family isn’t interesting? Even the most boring-seeming and usual sort of families are interesting – especially when you look closely, especially when there are secrets. There are always almost certainly secrets.)

She did not know any of the secrets when she was very young, did not know that there is even such a thing as a secret, or that people (her parents, for example) had lives that she did not see, that they had existed prior to her being born. Children are incredibly myopic in this way. They think that what they see is all there is, and cannot seem to fathom that there was a world before them and that beyond the scope of their limited vision, the world stretches out further than they can imagine.

She knows this now, as an adult who has taken a child psychology class, but as a child she was blithely unaware of the shortcomings of her perception, and so she spent her early childhood in the blissful naïveté of a world that was – if not small – very limited, especially insofar as her awareness of the lives and realities of other people were concerned.

There were no other children or families within at least three miles from their house back in the woods, and the children and families who did live close were out across highway 40. They were black families and black children. When she was young she only knew the Hubbards, Kelly and Caramae, and they were old. She knew the Hubbards because they worked for her great-grandmother, who – aside from Ms. Coleman, who was from Folkston and lived in the small three room house out behind her great-grandmother’s house – was the only person who lived out in the woods with them, in a big White House down the road. The Hubbards didn’t live back in the woods with them. They drove down the dirt road in the morning, and drove back out in the evening. Kelly tended the pasture and the yard and the things that needed taking care of around the house, and Caramae swept the porches and polished the silver that nobody used and made cheese straws that everyone loved. They never worked on Sundays.

It was only her small family back there in the woods and she didn’t think that there was anything strange about that. It was just her life, just where she lived. Similarly, she didn’t think anything about who she was or what she was like. She was a girl with a brother, who wanted to be a bear. A girl with brown eyes and a name that was made of the names of her grandmothers. Faith and Rachel.

She was a girl who didn’t know that she did not know how to speak correctly, that she couldn’t even say her own name. She found this out, that she did not know how to speak correctly, when she went to school and said in the way she had been taught to say, “My name is Faith, will you be my friend?”

She had no idea that she mangled the word friend, turned it soft and inverted in the beginning, saying fwhuh-end, which wasn’t a word at all. Fwhuh wasn’t even a sound in any word at all, and yet she could not hear that she said the word friend wrong, could not hear that she could not say her middle name, her last name. Way-chel. Whine. The word bird was flightless and dumb in the sound buhd.

She has no recollection of knowing that she could not speak correctly prior to going to school. 

“We thought it was cute,” her mother once told her. “We thought you’d grow out of it.”

03/25/2020

She wakes up in the middle of the night, clock reading 3:31, 3:33. Wide awake, and not unhappy. Not worried about not sleeping. Trusting that she will rest later in the day.

She has a clear mind, focus. Yesterday, she got up at 4:30 to go downstairs to work on a project for her job, her job that now pays her to work from home while everyone else is working from home, everyone that can work from home, everyone that has a job, everyone that doesn’t work in a restaurant.

It surprises her that she isn’t keeping a journal. Isn’t taking notes at all. What is there to say? There is a sickness that is shutting down the world as she knew it. Things are strange. There are some shelves at the grocery store that are empty. Toilet paper. Paper towels. Americans are funny about our necessities.

The other day, she sat down and recorded a 1/2 hour of herself talking about how to not lose your mind during strange and frightening times, ruefully making the point in the first minute of speaking that times have been strange and frightening for a long time, and that – for some people, depending on the circumstances that one is born into and the privilege that a person has access to – things have been strange and frightening since the moment they were born.

She doesn’t like the way she sounds when she speaks, thinks the things she says are not that important. Trying to speak quickly, she is forced to oversimplify.

People don’t have attention spans for any longwindedness.

She woke this morning, as she has been waking up in the morning – at 3:30am or thereabouts – and was aware that she was feeling fear, and that she was thinking about her family and thinking about whether or not she was safe in the house she lives in on the street that runs through town. The fear was like a current in her, making her awake, leaving her to lay in the dark and consider the ways that other people might be feeling, wondering whether other people might be scared, too. Thinking about her father and whether he is frightened. She needs to call her mother today. 

She had a mental image of herself holding hands with the three people she’d been meeting with to discuss the possibility of creating a healing space, creating a way for people to gather and share and be witnessed. The way they sat together in their respective homes, almost four corners. East coast and west coast, south and north. Centering and feeling out into the sound of digital currents, the whispered pinging and static of the internet in their headphones when things are quiet on the line. In her vision, they held onto one another’s hands and it was like they were falling through the air, as if they’d leapt from a plane or were suspended in a great open water.

“It’s like we are holding onto one another.”

She woke up this morning with letters to write, posts she might make. She hadn’t said anything on social media in weeks. What is there to say? So much. Where to start.

It seems stupid that she felt silenced for the winter. Seems absurd that she was ever depressed.

She wakes up in the middle of the night with great focus and clarity. She has work to do. These are not times for retreat, not times for hiding.

Sitting in a meeting a couple of weeks ago, when things were still somewhat normal, when I left the house to go to work, and the coronavirus was something happening in other places, I listened to a person who works for the city talk about the amount of work that has been done and the amount of work that needs to have been done.

“We’ve taken some steps, and – yes – we need to have taken like 10,000 steps, but we’ve only taken a few, and – yes – progress is being made, and – yes – it’s not enough and we need to do more.”

The person went on, holding both her hands up like a scale. “It’s both these things. We’re getting things done, and it’s not enough. Yes, it’s urgent – and because it’s urgent, we have to slow down.”

“It’s urgent. Slow down.”

The person went on to reflect on the need for grounded and informed strategy when responding to dire needs, and the ways that people operating under fear and urgency are not thinking about whether how they see things is accurate, are seeing things through the lens of fear and within the frameworks of the systems they are are existing within, are operating on automatic, with a distorted ability to see people and situations clearly.

The statement “It’s urgent. Slow down.” has been like a mantra to me these past couple weeks, as the world has begun to change faster than I can wrap my head around and I feel an enormous call to action, a clamoring to help all the people who need help, a middle-of-the-night urgent human instinct toward survival that makes me want to go to the grocery store and be sure that my family has enough food and  – just as urgent – makes me know that lots of people aren’t able to get what they need to survive, and won’t be able to get what they need to survive, because they weren’t able to get what they need to survive even before the pandemic unfurled and the economies began to collapse.

When I think about this reality – that within a city block of where I live, the people who were already not getting what they need are even more dependent on resources provided by grassroots community action and aid organizations and formal services of service I feel a great urgency, a fear and a sadness.

A human instinct to do something to help.

Last week, before everything started to close down, my daughter and I were walking around downtown in the rain, looking around. I carried an umbrella, and kept trying to share it with her, but she insisted that she was fine with walking in the rain, that she liked it. An elder man moved down the street toward us, carrying a plastic bag of cans. “Give him the umbrella, mom. You have to.”

Her voice was serious. “Give him the umbrella.”

It was not a suggestion. It was a directive. I understood that if I didn’t offer the man our umbrella, my daughter would be disappointed in me and that there would not be anything I could do to justify my not offering temporary shelter to the man walking in the rain. The man, as it turned out, did not want the umbrella, but explained that he was hungry and that he needed food. I gave him all the paper money I had.

The other day, my daughter came home from going out with her brother to get a set of string lights for her room. “Here’s your receipt, but I gave all the change to a man who needed money outside of the store. He was kind of old.”

Although there is a lot that I do to try to help, through my work and my ways of living, there is so much more I could do and I am trying to quickly figure out ways I can contribute more to efforts to create protections and supports for the most vulnerable people in my community.

I will be sharing more here in coming days, and reaching out more to people, offering more. I am trying to respond to the sense of urgency with a reminder to slow down and be strategic in my giving of time and energy. To not spin my wheels or waste my breath, to not re-create the wheel or be blindly reactive. To give of myself in ways that matter and ways that make an impact.

After I wrote for a while this morning, I went running in the dark of downtown. I was aware that I felt uneasy, or frightened, and that the streets were empty. My legs were strong and since I’ve quit smoking breathing is easy. It feels good to run, and I am able to run fast. I noticed that I was a little leery, running down the dark streets. The adrenaline of low-level fear was probably making me run faster.

On Haywood Street, the stores all still had lit windows, cute displays configured just right, white paper signs on the windows. COVID-19.

The stores won’t be open again for a long time. I’m sure that throughout history, when everything has suddenly stopped, people have marveled at the ways things were left the same at the moment the great pause settled upon everything, at the moment of departure, doors closed, locks turned, lights left on. “We’ll be back!” 

There are signs that say this. Optimism is high.

I slowed my run and took pictures of some of the store windows, aware that things may not be the same again, that some of the stores will close down, displays packed up and put away, sold on eBay to the highest bidder.

The young people will not have school for two months, not until the middle of May, if then.

04/01/2020

shakey legs don’t matter a’all

riding a bike down to the corner at the bottom of the hill where there wasn’t a stop sign before, but there sure is now

to slow down all those folks

coming and going

to work at the hospital

get home

at the end of the day

beginning of a new one

legs don’t shake at all

til the feet hit the street

remember gravity again

legs skittering on the concrete

like trying to break through

to fly away to the sky

or sink right down

into the earth itself

there underneath the sidewalk

shakey legs like dancing

in the best pants,

black socks pulled tight up to the knee

almost the same shape,

the calf slimming to the ankle,

as the case that holds the fiddle

except it ain’t no fiddle

it’s a damn vi-o-lin

in a proper padded case

not scuffed or scarred or dirty

in any sort of way

despite the ride down the hill and shakey legs on the sidewalk and the leaving the case there on the sidewalk wide open like that to catch anything that might be tossed

into the soft space

that holds the instrument

the man with shakey legs will play

Beethoven

with a steady hand

at the end of the day

while the sun goes down

04/08/2020

they walked slowly

because that is the only way to walk

when you’re old and dying

and it’s springtime

 

When I see old people walking lately I have to wonder whether they are

moving along the greenway with the grass damp at the edges and the

river swirling lusty green volumes while the cars move over the bridge

sparse, long moments between the sounds of the wheels on the concrete

overhead, the heavy cha-chunk of the metal seams that hold the

sections together and the people driving overhead not noticing at all

that there are elders walking on the path beside the water and not

wondering, like I wonder, whether these elders know that they might

die and whether, because of this fact, the fact that they might die,

they have chosen to go out to walk beside the sun reflecting on the

moving surface of the river that keeps on doing what it does, flowing

on and on, maybe not even knowing that it is springtime, not feeling

the warming of the water, not hearing the calling of the geese as they

travel back north, not gasping at the whisper of petals and dusting of

pollen that falls upon its surface, and surely not having even the

slightest idea or the slightest wondering whether these elders out

walking are out walking because they know that they might die this

season, that it may well be their last spring.

 

04/06/2020

I constantly begin with the phrase, ‘there isn’t much to say.’ I wonder about this, the state of pervasive silence in me. It’s not exactly silent. I have thoughts, nagging little streams about work, bothered nags, grievances. Uninspired thoughts. Ungreat thoughts.

I would think that in the midst of an unprecedented global pandemic, I would have something to say. There would be things to notice, to pay attention to. And there are. There are things I notice and things I think about, but many of my thoughts have taken on the feel of secrets, a drifting interior narrative, a woman walking down the street and feeling silent, disconnected from herself, voiceless.

She wonders if she has a curse on her, or if she is just out of practice. If she has let herself go quiet because she stopped saying things.

There is a bird that sings in the middle of the night, a mockingbird. The birds call in the dark, sings in the dark.

It doesn’t bother her the way she thinks it would, shelves empty and streets quiet. There is a part of her that is secretly pleased by the disruption of the usual. “Thank God,” she thinks as she walks, nearly basking in the stillness and bird sounds. There’s been a terrible racket, a roaring, for so long. The earth has stopped vibrating quiet so much, has stopped trembling and quaking with the movement of people. There is an article about this and she thinks about how she has never thought about how difficult it really is to get away from it all, how even if she is in a quiet place, the world feels very loud, the movement of cities outside of her sight still busy in her head.

The internet is full of articles on coping with the grief and disruption created by the global pandemic. Suddenly, there are ads for National Alliance on Mental Illness on the I Heart Radio station, encouraging people to seek help if they are struggling.

Strangely, she feels better than she has in a long time. It’s not okay, she understands, to say that the conditions caused by the pandemic – the closure of stores, cancellations of flights, schools closed, jobs lost, the profound disruption of the economy – have resulted in a world that she feels suits her much better than what had been happening before, the hurried pace and crowded streets, the constant churning awareness of a world that just won’t stop, factories in China ceaselessly spilling out smoke and plastic, boot camp soldiers pulling on their shoes, walking out into the day, the world as usual.

 

04/24/2020

The stories smelled

like the underside of leaves

that had just pushed out

through the flesh of stems

in a gathering of cells

quick as lightning to open

without knowing why

into the sun that warmed

the tiny chambers of sap and cellulose

to cast green light into air

and radiate the simple, fervent scent

of brand new life

out into the world

 

there were other stories, too,

some that smelled like wind,

the wind of the north

and the wind of the ocean

these were different stories

some more quiet than the others

some so quiet

they were barely more than a breeze,

a soft exhale through the epiphyte

they called Spanish

even though it knows nothing about Spain

or anything else in the world

where things and places

have names

The tang of dirt and green oak blood

is at the edge of some of the stories

some of the stories I used to tell,

about who I am, about who I was,

about the place where I am from,

which doesn’t exist anymore,

in the way that it did,

just like everything else, eventually.

The stories got told in whispers,

hot breath and mother’s milk,

smoke and beer,

the cold of ice on the tongue,

hollering across a blazing field,

speaking low into the night,

with the pine gathered close and quiet seeping

the sharp smell of a home

I will not see again.

04/25 7:38pm

I walked across the bridge, river glassy cool and green beneath me, taking notes on what I am thinking and feeling once every hour or so, paying attention to whatever narrative is prominent and the emotional resonance that accompanies that narrative, also noting any ideas I might have, inspirations and noticings.

My idea is that maybe doing this rigorous ‘checking in with myself’ will help me to be more intentional in how I am inhabiting my experience and participating in my life, and may help me to identify patterns and trends. Of course, the sheer act of making note of ones experience is going to skew the subjective report on what’s happening, and it’s possible that simply paying attention will emphasize some aspects of my consciousness and experience and circumvent other aspects entirely. 

It would be completely fine with me if my taking notes on my experience totally and completely killed some components of my so-called shadowside. My so-called shadowside is the reason I believe that taking notes on my experience may be a helpful – if not necessary – thing to begin doing. I don’t know if the shadowside is the right name for this thing in me that seems determined to destroy my self-esteem. I think shadowside is the term used by Jungians to talk about the parts of us that are the greedy sides of generous people, maleficent desires and bitternesses. Grandeur in the humble mind, etc.

I have those shadowsides, too. However, they aren’t of much concern to me. What is concerning to me is that there is an aspect of my self-concept that believes that…

Ugh. It’s so hard to write it out. I can’t write all of it out at once. 

Anyway, the point of this checking in with myself regularly is to take inventory of what I am thinking and feeling, etc. – as I noted above.

So, now – at 8:07pm – I am thinking about how the sky is still light and there is wind outside, and last night I camped under old hemlocks in the cloud forest up by the Middle Prong wilderness, and today we ambled down toward the gap through a few different ecosystems – full of trout lily and false hellebore, May apple and Fraser fir interspersed with red spruce. Little slate grey birds hopping around in the native azalea not yet blooming, clicking chirps that sound like static electricity in the air. Thinking about wanting to write and illustrate a children’s book about what trees feel, and trying to hold onto the experience of yesterday when I was walking on the little underdeveloped trail beside the river here in town and my friend was talking about how trees have sense and memory in their root networks, and I wondered how it is that trees feel, and felt deeply sad and grieving imaging the quiet terror of having ones biggest limbs cut off, being pulled from the ground, and felt very much connected to everything in the world. A few minutes later six or seven vultures began to swoop and circle low over the trees on the ridge above the trail, making shadows that seemed to move faster than the birds in flight and projected huge across the trunks of trees and tangle of honeysuckle on the hillside.

I’m sitting on the couch with my daughter and we’re waiting for a tornado to come, because my mother called and told us a tornado was on the way.

I need to be succinct. It is 8:25 and I feel calm in my body and my thoughts are fairly grounded. I wonder if I should do work tonight so that I don’t have to do it tomorrow and notice a small, stressed feeling in thinking about that.

VOICE to TEXT

04/26 6:55am

I am running around in circles on the middle school track. I don’t run fast and the ground is flat and predictable, so I can type while I run. I am watching the clouds at sunrise, and they are orange. I will try speaking the text for this morning, these notes on how I’m feeling and what I’m thinking with the aim of keeping myself out of the grips of that to the self destroying thing that lives inside my head. It’s morning I woke up with a little bit of a headache… Probably dehydration and eating sugar. Eating sugar is not the best thing.  It makes me feel edgy, tired, a little depressed. Running should help, even though I don’t run fast. My thoughts this morning or hovering around and wearing it that often, before the sun even comes up, I am thinking about employment… Things I need to do, without issues that I see with the organization… Thanks I wish I could say… Is things are in my head in the very early morning. I don’t think that that is healthy, so don’t be able to maintain the headspace three from responsibilities to the organization that pays me wages didn’t do work for them. I have a lot of thoughts about things they need to be done about work and I notice for the thoughts create sleep I think I feel the edges of my head. In the shower. Like I said, I don’t think it’s healthy for me. That’s that I noticed, recollections of the meltdown that I had yesterday because some small aspect of myself, that toothy lurking thing that is self destroying and they want to wreck havoc in my life Curity, interpreted it’s all thing that somebody said to be in something slight the other was intended in a great consuming feeling of sadness and dread and shame bloomed inside of me as I was driving the car down the mountain and watching the fog – what was it foggy at all, but was clouds rolling over the types of trees like the heavy vapors spilling over the edges that some kind of gray cauldron that I couldn’t see, felt happy… Delayed even… About the way that it makes so much sense for anxious people believe in spirits of the world, watching those clouds move through the trees like ghost. And then my friend said this one small thing about having been happier a few moments before when we were still walkingSo close to the woods and they were now driving in the car… And a great losing of myself Millatti and I will disappoint and be an adequate still not into me… And I couldn’t speak anymore and said do they could feel my energy that it was heavy pressing thing, thanks Zaidi… The same adequacy and sadness over the fax all exploding from my nervous system and pushing out through the pores Small vibrations me too pleasant for my friend to be feeling which made me feel, even more like I want to just be able to disappear, I’ve been having ability with my toxicity with something they could only be escaped by the removal of myself pushing away the people that I care about. There is a great deal of crying a few miles later it’s not beside the river in another giving up frustrated by the impossibility of not being Just an extremely fucked up person that causes harm to people that care about her and they can never ever really live up to being happy in her 80s. Then I need help and it’s true, I do. But, there’s a part of me that is terrified of trying trying real way… It’s still not succeeding in addressing the issues personality, and my insecure anxious Anxious attachment style… These issues are getting worse… And the fact every aspect of my life, the most basic components of my freedom, which is ease in being myself.

So I recollect, this morning, so if those scenes from yesterday by the river… And how I said I don’t want this to happen anymore… And I meant that. So, that is why I am going to try to check in with myself, as frequently as I can throughout the day… Check on into that Tuesday lurking thing and me, to make sure that it does not burst forth in a way that causes harm to me or to anyone else. I understand that with the lurking thing is not a bad thing he scored… In internal family systems theory they might call it the projector, and I have a very strong protector and wants very much for me to not be hurt shame, very much for me to not suffer any humiliation Or betrayal by people that I trust… Which, unfortunately, has learned that there is nobody that I can trust… This is what happens when the most trusted people cause great harm… The ability to be safe and being oneself with anyone is compromised… I can, occasionally she’ll glimpses of who I am… Mostly, these days, to strangers… Because they Who are their opinions do not matter to me it is suffocatingly difficult to be open honorable with people within my inner circle especially, the person who I understood to be my best friend… Until they tried to fix me… Or, rather, try to help me in such a way that I felt that there was something about me the tragically needed helping… And, obviously, there is…

I’ve been speaking these words as I’ve run, very slowly, around the middle school track trying to get my miles in a little early, at least some of them. Since the pandemic started I have been walking him combination of walking and running for at least 10 miles a day… I’ve only fallen ever so slightly short of my 10 mile a day goal a couple of days… And there are many days that I exceeded the goal. Running and walking, Staying moving, it’s pretty crucial to my middle health. I stop smoking before… Or, rather, while the pandemic was still slowly burning through China Iran and establishing a foothold in Italy… When the children were still going to school and I was still going to do groups at the jail and going to meetings all around town. I haven’t use nicotine in over a month.

I think, the walking and running I’ve taken the place of that drug for me… Which, it’s OK. As I have been running very slowly, around the track the day has become brighter with blue skies and clouds… It’s so cool in the morning because we are in the mountains… Even though it’s almost May. I’ve mostly been thinking about the things that I have been speaking. But also, having small thoughts at the edges about what I’m going to do today and noticing the sunlight hitting the tops of trees and the site smells something that would drive vultures over near the fence on the west side of the track. And, I am going to go home and I’m going to take a shower, And I’m going to ride out to visit my family in the side of the county with my daughter, where we will say hello to the dog and visit for a few minutes before riding back into town where I will take another walk… And then proceed on with my day. I have had a great deal of creative energy lately… Thinking about painting and a sense of poetry and me thinking about writing books. There is a lot of frustration and pain Around creativity… And myself as an artist… Is it sort of learned helplessness, I think where tries and tries and tries again and again to do a thing and they ““ fail in doing that thing we learned that it’s best not to try even if something is yearning to do the thing there gets to be a lot of sadness and frustration built up around the edges like a moat or four first wall covered with barbs…

It’s been a life death thing for a long long time this issue between me and my creativity and I wonder sometimes if I follow the way of death… In terms of having a tragically had a practice that I can’t possibly resume… Having much damage in the relationship with my creativity that it is difficult to even go near the practices and processes that used to be such a home for me. I know that these things are only true If I allow them to be true… And that if I choose I can quietly see the resenting the world and everything I have decided to blame for me not creating and I can live out my life as a sad quiet and a better person… If I choose that… However, I could also choose to continue to try to keep trying to do some small thing every day closer to who I am and my healthier self And so I think I’m annoying before I really truly give up, to try that and I really try… And this checking in with myself which may not be every hour although it may be a brief check in very often with a few longer check-in‘s, like this one… Well, this is a part of that effort. I have noticed calls this morning and a lot frequently these past few weeks and I’ve been taking pictures of them again… There is no great in mind blowing sense that the universe are some great power is communicating through the suspended elements in the sky… But there is the persistence of patterns the resistance of shapes that I see reflected in so many other things and language and water and my whole body even the whirls it make the shapes hands. And really, it’s just self similarity As above so below, etc. Etc. yesterday, before I had the feeling of great empathy in connection with the trees and with everything, my friend had mentioned that there is evidence that all life on this planet evolved from a single shared common bacterium a single shared rudimentary structure… And that makes so much sense to me and, if it is true then really we are all very much connected To everything.

04/26 11:01am

I am walking along the undeveloped trail by the river and am noticing that the question “Did you have any interesting thoughts this morning?” inspires a huge amount of social performance anxiety.

04/30 7:40am

I don’t think that I slept well last night up feeling edgy a film over my body or I sweated. Somehow got into the room and was a distraction in the night and I friend was awake a lot as well, getting up and moving around is hoping to worse. I woke up this morning and felt as I went over things that I need to do a definite feeling reaching critical overwhelm in terms of tasks sponsor billet he‘s Voice to text is such a piece of shit sometimes I don’t know why it wouldn’t do it but responsibilities has anything to do with billets what is a billet even? I feel like the part of my brain it is orderly and task focused the working part of my brain is very much overactive and kind of feel this in my head heavy sharp sort of sensation in the left hand side of my frontal lobe. The good thing is is that I’m not caught up in The miasma of my amygdala and I don’t feel like I am in having any sort of trauma response. I do recognize that the state of being stressed and having too much to do and the sense of not having enough time end of having too much to do across too many multiple areas that that is going to increase my vulnerability to being troubled and getting upset at some point in the day. That will be compounded the vulnerability by me not having slept well. The miasma of my amygdala and I don’t feel like I am in having any sort of trauma response. I do recognize that the state of being stressed and having too much to do and the sense of not having enough time end of having too much to do across too many multiple areas that that is going to increase my vulnerability to being troubled and getting upset at some point in the day. That will be compounded the vulnerability by me not having slept well.I think that it’s going to be important for me to try to take a nap and also for me to write out the things that I need to do because maybe then and get them out of my head. For years I have been trying to figure out how to be efficient enough to do all of the things that I want to do and all the things that I need to do. And really possibility, but I have developed some tactics and strategies to help me to be more efficient and I’m always trying to find new tactics and strategies to help me do use my time well. I can’t really think of things that I can cut out of my schedule. I don’t watch television I don’t watch movies I don’t really spend time with friends other than my primary friend… I’m walking but, that’s probably the time that other people would spend resting relaxing watching television or spending time with friends and my walking time is an important part of my getting things done, because I am able to take mental breaks but also at times able to think through what it is that I’m doing and what it is that I need to do. I haven’t even mentionedI haven’t even mentioned yesterday morning while I was walking I saw a man always jump off a bridge. He was on the big bridge the Haywood Road bridge that goes over into West Asheville and he was standing there in the bridge was closed and there are police officers and he was on the outside of the railing is yelling fuck you fuck you and I feel my heart go down to my belly when I saw with compassion with empathy because I know what it’s like I want to die but I’ve never stood outside of the railing of the bridge I want it badly to be able to talk with him and I stood there for a moment with all of my energy and all of my attention focused solely on figure standing outside of the railing And I wanted so badly to say something to him however what I wanted to tell him it’s not a thing that can be easily condensed into strings of words and sentences it is a feeling the feeling of help I wanted to somehow help him to believe just for a split second because that’s all it takes is there a reason to be hopeful and that he could possibly create a life that he wants to live a life that is not full of pain and suffering and that there is a lot a beauty in the world and there are things that he will see inside appreciate that nobody else in the world makes you appreciate it if you died in those things won’t be seeing those things will be loved and that will be a loss for the worldI saw a bright red cardinal flying over the path and I wished very hard with the cardinal will fly over so that he would see just for a split second because that’s all it takes for the world is a place that is full of light and beauty even though it is also a terrible place is full of sadness and suffering. When we got back to the car after I did a brief Facebook live video because were in the few moments standing and staring at that figure who is outside of the railing on the bridge getting ready to jump that I really really need to get overWhatever fear or insecurity leads me to stay silent about things like mental health and about things like suicide I have a lot that I could say about these things some of which might really be helpful to people. I don’t think that I’m being grandiose or rotations when I say that something I might say or the way that I might say it could be helpful to another human being.  I don’t think that is being on patients. Everybody has a potential offer something to the world that may be helpful to someone and perhaps the way that one person might say a thing to be helpful in ways that whatever anybody else might be saying simply are not in so I feel like it’s very important that I self learn how to say the things that perhaps only I might be able to say in the ways they perhaps only I might be able to see them. So I did a brief Facebook live video on the subject and then I posted it in later I deleted her later after walking up the hill after I had sent to theOfficer who’sWho’s vehicle was blocking the road that I was a peer support specialist in the organization I work for and told them that I was a suicide survivor and that I would be happy to help needed help and the officer told me people at the bridge it so I ran in there and by the time I got there the person was already over back on the same side of the bridge and they were on the ground and they were screaming but they were not going to jump off the bridge that morning so I walk home. I haven’t said anything about that yet.

I deleted that FB video. 

04/29 8:17pm

It’s evening time now right about sundown they’re still light outside though and I’ve gone out for a walk… The most immediate thing on my mind is that I only have 8.5 miles on my phone… Even though I just took a 5 mile walk and should have 13.5 miles on my phone but, because I left my phone at home for five minutes my phone. There’s a definite sense of compulsion around this and an irritation this is been bothered by the fact that I did not report this is my house the same thing happened last week when I left the house and left my phone in so did not get a segment of the. This, I know rationally, does not matter in the slightest however I feel bothered by the fact that there is not documentation of those miles and those miles will not be a part of my weekly average. I am out walking for mile and a half to get to the 10 miles that I would like on my phone which will really mean that I will have walk about 15 miles today which is a lot of miles into something that I actually feel kind of good about because walking 15 miles a day is better than smoking cigarettes.I think that my dopamine is getting rehabilitated and that is creating a motivation there are some very dark clouds right approach to me and I’m wondering if it’s going to rain it’s cold outside in the low 50s possibly in the high 40s even that was the last day of April and I live in the American south I’ll be in the mountains. For her to go for the walk I had a brief conversation with a person who runs a nonprofit start up is focused on supporting communities of color and healing justice and wellness. I did some voluntary grant writing work for them a couple months back I got an idea and what’s wrong with compelled to write it out. I was called to. The ideaWas based on what I heard community members at a listening session say that they wanted. So I wrote it up into a grant proposal which I develop and submitted for the organization. I had a brief conversation with the director of the organizations afternoon and I was filled with this very distinct joyful exuberance that makes me feel young and excited the way that I used to feel before I was broke out in a shaded in relation to this work in a nonprofit human service says industrial complex. Stoked excited and full vision. I’m going to go and meet with them next week.I have more to do than I have time and I don’t really know how I’m going to manage to get all of it done. Part of what I have been thinking about is developing a community or public messaging project related to people not killing himself or people saying alive as it may be I think that the messaging keep living is stronger messaging don’t kill yourself but I think those messages are important. I’m walking up a hill and it feels good everybody to be moving. I think that I may be a thingI may be developing into a person that walks a long distance every day. That’s OK with me. I like it it’s good for me. Better than smoking cigarettes. I need to resume doing artwork and I kind of trust that I will it some point start doing that again but it seems that a lot of my time is taken up by work in my way turning. I feel motivated and very task oriented but also a little bit serious in a little bit businesses. I think Some lightheartedness and some playfulness would be good for me.

> On Apr 29, 2020, at 9:33 AM

> 04/27 8:10am

>

> I thought, last night, about taking some notes that. After eating a dinner for Calvin beans and rice, which is favorite meal Celine and reading a short story and a book very fiction. Prior to doing all of that I’ve gone for a walk on the envelope trail by the river, and saw a family of docs with at least 10 ducklingAnd also a family of swans no… Not swans keys. I’m going to pause my speaking because I’m walking right now and I see a small female bluebird and I’d like to look at her for a few minutes. Chippeway. As I was saying, I considered taking notes before I went to bed because that would seem like something that would be infidelity with this practice I am trying to establish paying attention and noting through the day the way that I’m feeling and the things that I’m thinking about. I wasn’t feeling any sort of distress last night, that I felt good calm and centered… And I think that is as important to take notes when I’m feeling that way as it is to take notes when I am not feeling so well. The purpose of this takingI’m paying attention is, as I’ve said, to try to get a handle on some darker aspect of my narrative in psychology which have been really disruptive polity of life and of my positive participation within relationship. It’s possible that I may be in the process of letting go of some of these old narratives and that’s why they become louder, more intrusive, quicker to be triggered… However, I really can’t allow myselfTo get in to those sorts of states anymore, or some small thing that I thought you said something somebody has said shit for me in to this really dark in to the place you’re thinking and feeling in with my self worth is not all my advocacy as a human being is laughable, and it’s not safe to be around any other human beings. I mean really, that she was toxic. And I agree grassy field where the range time down by the river in there two crews that are walking in the grass. I’m going to look at them for a few minutes.They flew away. So, things that are on my mind this morning are hovering quite a bit around work… And ask for the day will entail. We are lucky to have a job there allows me to work and that it’s not too tedious. Probably about 75% of the time I enjoy my work and find at least a little bit of purpose in it which, I mean come on, so lucky to be able to say that. This afternoon I’m going to become facilitating a meeting With the state about restructuring some of the professional certification and licensure aspect the field that I work in. And I’m going to be interviewing somebody for service learning internship or a community capacity building project that I’m going to be working on for the next few months.I still think about art basically all the time take pictures of things to serve as references the paintings that I might want to do and sitter whether or not feeling any poetry noticing thinking about… And it’s there… I just haven’t given it a lot of time in terms of productive creation of work. But I really need to do is work on the website… That would be a good investment of my time Some of the times when I’m feeling resentful of my job but if I put even half of the energy that I put towards developing this organization toward developing my personal work I would probably not have to be employed as a wage earner and that would be much more ideal in terms of self determination of energy and endeavor and I commendation of my unique needs. It’s interesting to think about why it’s so easy for some people to give them selves overTo the needs of something external to them and organization of family… I think that women in particular they have a tendency to doing this to meeting other people’s needs into trying to wedge their own personal needs into the small spaces of time with the limited shreds or G they may be left over from doing things for entities external.

> voice to text. 

> Anyway, is interesting to me that even just after a day and a half of making a conscious effort to check in with myself about how I am thinking and how that is impacting how I’m feeling, I feel much better… And that even though this is an exactly writing… This is speaking of my face as I am walking… Which is a different thing than writing… But is still giving voice to… That even after just doing this a few times and feel much much better. My friend, down by the fast flowing river while I was crying, call meThat I needed help… And that I wasn’t able to help myself. But, I don’t think that’s true I think that for years all of that writing that was helping myself and that if I presume that checking in and noticing and support myself and then having that state then I will be helping myself. I already a.m.

>

> 1:04pm

>

> I’m out for another walk… Queen work meetings and noticing the warm room for the station in the center of myself and I recognize joyfulness… I think this is in relation to a relationship because I’m feeling grateful appreciative person that I am with feeling deeply loving. It’s a nice day… And go to my children is out riding around like this with The friend of theirs. It’s nice that you’re able to see him during this time. Right now that we relax. I have a lot to do, room. I noticed an email that gave some information about publishers literary fiction submissions without an agent. I think that made me feel hopeful and interested as well.Really. As possible came out we are losing touch with.

>

> 04/27 5:55pm

>

> Well. Eating people nobility to do that sort of thing is not exactly personal narrative in which I am person

>

> Ha ha ha ha well, there seem to be some type of issues and using voice to text in doing these chickens with myself and what I am thinking about and how I am feeling. What I was trying to say was that I just had an interesting experience in which I facilitate a meeting with 20+ people some of whom were state representatives and I did a good job and doing a good job at that sort of thing flicks with my personal narratives which you know me that I am a, ineffective be cup and see, basically Not the sort of person who would effectively be able to facilitate a large meeting with diverse stakeholders.

>

> It was a really good example of ways T personal narrative a.m.

>

> 04/28 7:08am

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> I am slow running around the middle school track and it’s cold outside my hands sprain with the cold and my eyes are running. It’s almost me and so there’s a little bit strange to me in the morning should be so chilly. I didn’t sleep incredibly well last night, and had some issues with the blanket. On the morning I noticed grumbling in my attitude and the resentment about nice person that I was sleeping with because I have been laying on the blanket and keeping it keeping me from curling it around myself. This would be a very stupid thing to let foul up my mood and my feeling in the morning. I need to get up early anyway, because I have work to do… And then a meeting at 8:30. I was able to get a little over an hours worth of work done. And I am now running very slowly around the track at the middle school moving towards my mileage for the day. It’s interesting since I’ve been walking at least 10 miles a day I don’tDreaded or resist it in the slightest. I really feel good heading out the door. I think my body has adapted to this level of activity and now understands that it feels good to move. Even though I have been an active person for years, I still had to push myself or convince myself a lot of days that I want to get up and go move that I want to go to the why. But I wanted to go for a run. Dreaded or resist it in the slightest. I really feel good heading out the door. I think my body has adapted to this level of activity and now understands that it feels good to move. Even though I have been an active person for years, I still had to push myself or convince myself a lot of days that I want to get up and go move that I want to go to the why. But I wanted to go for a run.No, I kind of craving… And I’m excited when I’m able to get out the door to go and walk. I’m running very slowly and in kind of a Jocelyn way because I am taking more voice notes on my thoughts and experience for the purpose of checking in with myself and ultimately checking myself so that I don’t become a bitch over some dumb shit it’s lodged in my head and contributes to my bed psychology. My friend said that I needed help and that maybe somebody would be able to help me… I think I really just need to talk about this stuff I mean, that is what I would do if somebody were helping me… I will talk about this stuff and the act of doing that would help me aware of what was happening and that awareness is what we’re not really help me. I don’t need to pay somebody $75 an hour to talk about this stuff. I think that the huge part of why I have become somewhat unwell over this past year so it’s because I’m falling out a practice of self reflection and writing. That was a huge way for meTo take care of myself and keep my thinking is Felix right and he giveaways do things they were traveling to me so they didn’t just fixture in the way that things will fester if left on tinder to. This morning I recognize that I feel a little bit edgy I’m not sleeping in a little bit stressed because of the tasks of the day. I have a meeting at 8:30 that is of a somewhat troubling topic involving the miss use of state mental health grant funds for a poorly managed Program. Then I need to find someway to address racism that has become apparent in the organization that I work for. Actually it’s not so subtle… It’s pretty obvious, when people in leadership positions are making dumb ass comments about peoples race and that’s the city in the course of meetings. So, I noticed that those things were on my mind in the middle of the night… And I have a lot of frustration around the fact that I’m not being paid full-time wages and yet I’m doing the work That consultant and grant writers would typically be paid at least $50 an hour to do. And, I know that other people who work for the organizations are basically not doing shit during this work online pandemic situation and are getting paid their usual 40 hours a week wage. That’s fucked up. I noticed when I think about these things that I feel angry and indignant. I think that for me a lot of times anger is how I’m crossing of my boundaries shows up…And let me know if there’s something that is happening in my life is bothersome to me, but across as my boundaries values… That is not OK I think that a lot of the time I am in courage to flatten my anger to not be bothered by things and it’s true that it’s important to not be bothered by things do not let relatively minor things of little consequence unsettle ones peace and contentment in being. However, I think that if something is fucked up taking vantageOf or not respected or see something happening that is not right… That the feeling of anger coming up in them is not necessarily a bad thing… Of course anger comes up because of the tendency to want to defend oneself against a perceived threat. And so the orientation to solving the problem can start off wrong if it’s coming from anger. It sets up an offense defense dynamic. So I guess then it would be better or to neutralize the anger for the purpose of theThen being able to address the problem in replace of grounded Gallery or compassion and without that sort of judgment or defense that often comes with anger. So, that was a really good example of the way the talking through something or riding through something processing something on my own can help you lead me to a resolution of the issue. That’s why I’m doing this so that I can help to put my proper my feelings rather thinking in their proper place. So that I do not feel unhappyOr trouble in my life. It’s a sunny day… And I know that it will be warm later. I’m looking forward to that. Hopefully, I can go for a walk with my daughter. I think it will be a good day. I plan on doing most of my work early in the day and then having some time in the afternoon.

>

> 04/28 05:39

>

> It’s late in the afternoon and I walking up at Hill. It had a pretty full day for most of the computer meetings it was an effective day and a decent enough day… I also have been noticing that I’ve adapted pretty well with all my work probably because I have experience in working remotely from my time with you Chris project a few years back. These past couple years self very much I’m sort of centered around being a person who is disorganizedYou couldn’t manage my time things done. I can see objectively that I get a great deal done and often was surprised and capability throughout the week. A lot of my narratives are being challenged. That’s a good thing, because my narratives have forgotten pretty lousy. A lot of my energy has been going towards work recently I have my creative energy being dumped into those endeavors. I guess I’m pretty lucky to have a job where I am able to use creative energy and where I’m able He is creative energy who I’m able to bring personal strengths and interests into the work that I do. This afternoon I feel somewhat tired and my body a little weary… My head feels good mood is good. I don’t feel edgy or irritable. This afternoon and that was a good thing because I needed to rest. Somehow I have 17 hours in this pay period even though it is only Tuesday.

>

> 04/29 7:29 am

>

> I am at the track again running slowly so windy this morning the skies strangely overcast a little bit of metallic sheen flat Clements the sunrise is full of glare. I woke up this morning and strange dreams. All of my dreams have been single potluck deck, and this isn’t anything new… They been that way for years, perhaps forever. There’s always some kind of washed out please Summary please. Last night our flights… Scramble to try to work out lodging in a weird motel. The grocery store Shells we’re almost empty save for a strange Santa hat hanging and an N 95 mask which I considered buying because I recognize even in the dream that they are rare. Back. A small child the person of color, hugged my leg and looked up at me with absolute adoration and love… And I don’t know what this means that my ego is telling me some kind of antiquated wait save your bullshit perhaps!? This morning I woke up and felt ready to get out of bed because I enjoy the challenge of getting up and working for at least an hour before heading out the door to run… I updated the website sent you couple of emails out reach for a project and I considered making an introduction of myself Facebook group I have joined that is ministered by a local person of color who supports small businesses… And I considered making an introAnd went on and on in the way that I do… Hit select all and delete it saved it in the notes. I think I will ask how members of the group prefer the new members introduce themselves. Before I just go on and say a bunch of stuff. I feel fairly good in my head into my body this morning I’m meeting my goals which is encouraging goals for work goals for movement each day. There’s a wind this morning and I like it. Yesterday I read a Raymond Carver poem about hockey lost rivers and it occurred to me that simple poets are probably more brave and complicated or audacious poets. I haven’t written any times since the other day when I won’t grow one point.Prior to that I hadn’t written any forms. I see by glancing down at my screen that the accuracy of voice to text it’s somewhat lagging and that a lot of nonsense is showing up in this that I say. It doesn’t matter. Last night my friend asked me if I thought that when I spoke with her as we close approximation to the way that I write and I know it is not. Rain, yes. The part of the brain that speaks is different than the part of the brain that writes. And that my speaking voice is different writing voice unless I’m being oratory or rhetorical in that flourishing way when I’m feeling impassioned about something sometimes my writing voice slips out in that. We had a good conversation my friend and I about psychology and helping and healing doesn’t help. And I almost woke up my writing voice when I was saying something about self-determination be in the foundation Of any healing growth that may happen and that if there’s anything in the relationship that undermines her compromises our self determination, and ultimately healing and growth cannot happen. Especially, I said, for people who have long histories of having their autonomy compromised and having their boundaries repeatedly violated by forces or people external to them. Innoway, I think everyone because it is such a common thing in human relationships for us not to respect Or appreciate another person’s autonomy and to try to direct them where to control them or to manipulate them to meet our needs and desires and to be in integrity with what we think are to be happening he thinks they got to be doing this, I think it’s basically the foundation of every problem within relationships. Anyway, it was good to talk with my friend and I mentioned that I thought that it might be good but I reengage in my speaking voice in this process that I started with the AmyTo check in with myself so that I don’t get into an unintended and unruly headspace her way to feel it. It makes sense that I should call unaware and spaces I thinking and feeling they’re off and we just have an agency because to be honest I process things very quickly and I have a distinct visual and affective component to the way that I experience what might be called that. So, very quickly and outside of the scope of my conscious awareness,I can finally begin thinking and feeling about things in ways that really are very distorted and upsetting. Yesterday, I had an experience where my friend was being lighthearted and kind of playful in response to something I said I’m at the distance that I walk every day saying that I was basically as Walker now and he went on and on and I began to feel like he was making fun of me like he was making my practice of walking 10 to 12 miles a day out to be something more than it was. My friend is an endurance athlete and actually knows people that for all practicalRepresents our insurance walkers. I am not an endurance Walker. So, if you’re going to feel like my friend was making fun of me joshing with me a little bit like it at all it will do a child making more out of their accomplishment and it actually is in a kind of belittling way. It’s complicated, this thing that sometimes adults will do the children where they make a big deal out of something in the child is done and basically treat the child like an idiot as if the child cannot accurately estimate is her her complement and also it was ifThe child is gullible enough to send a hyperbolic ego inflation. I’m only feeling uncomfortable feel quiet and I said stop I feel like you’re in front of me. No I’m not in durance walker please stop I feel like you’re making fun of me. And then I could feel myself kind of shut her up go closed off not feeling it is anymore at the garbage and went for a walk and came home and ate dinner and it one point on the walk I told my friend I don’t not being distant because I’m hungryI’m being distant because I don’t feel socially safe. And I was like hell and, like I said dinner and we had a good conversation and I did not feel socially and safe anymore and I understood that my friend was just being playful. I knew that cognitively at times, but still my body reacted to it I could feel my heart beat faster and I felt embarrassed something like in dignity. In my experience like a child is being made fun of. Since then I would have this reaction so quickly With such ease because I was very much a child that was made fun of. The voice of Bel Air to me while I was feeling so sheepish and embarrassed and belittled was then I want to be taken seriously. And this is kind of a silly thing to want because how serious is it, really? This issue of us and our lives and our identities. I should be taking myself less seriously. This is like the serious year, Robert stop laughing and I get very very seriousAbout almost everything.

>

> And I hope that sometime I will be able to be less serious again Andrea have a lightness of being in the joy in being I think that if people feel that the very basis of them is not respected or held and dignified worth but a lot of their energy goes towards trying to defend that I’m trying to build that up and said they cannot and have it a lightness of being because they feel that some

> substance of there being is threatened.

>

> 04/28 7:50 am

> It is much easier to run slowly around the track while I am doing this voice notes because I am distracted from the fact that I’m running slowly around the track and that really running so late or on the track it’s not that interesting. I try to run 45 miles because that was helpful for me and meeting my mother calls today when it is supposed to rain it 100% chance of rain later in the day. I’m not opposed to walking in the rain and I may end up doing that. I don’t feel like I have much more to say on the subject of my thought of And feelings so I thought that maybe I might practice describing the wind where the light where the feeling of my footsteps just exercise kick you lading brain there’s a wind blowing from the south across the top of the new green trees and it begins the uppermost branches so that they look like sales and make the sound of wrestling and sighing a very gentle movement like rocking or dancing slowly I’m pausing as I’m looking at it because it takes much words away to watch the treesGo in the wind and the sun is risen to be well over the mountain that separates the east side of town from the west side of me in the peculiar glaring great clouds that I’ll get a slant in the sky this morning he burnt off that they’re still over the freshly risen son so that the light still has a behavior plan quality not bright her clean or clear but a little bit flat still a little bit glaring it’s right now it’s the impression of being yellow in the way that sunlightSometimes seems, especially in the spring grass is very green I can see the sunlight Glenn takeoff the small bits of shining rock that are in the asphalt that makes up the track but only at certain angles right now I’m running through the shadow of the school and on the other side of the track I can see that it is bright and it is lit but here it’s almost like the sun is still rising. I can feel my left hip the soreness my left knee also and then my right toe at the base of itDespite the Sorensons feel strong even though I am running slowly I feel like I could run for a long time my breath is coming very easily as evidenced by the fact that I’m able to continue talking in this way. I can’t think of any art projects that I wanted to do recently other than take a picture of the toilet paper in the bathroom which I took a reference shot of the other day in the afternoon light was shining through the old green curtain in a way it was early luminous.I got that curtain 20 years ago when I was living in Portland Oregon. And it’s silly to me that I still have it. I should get a new curtain that old one is worn out dingy. I snag leave my black thread or hindered from a long window panel years ago and didn’t bother to use the right color thread and didn’t bother to address the string tension on my sewing machine. In many ways I am careless person. A piece about that.There’s a bird that is singing off to the west side of the track in the trees grow on the hillside that the school since the top of. It sounds a little like a Mockingbird. I have noticed the birds a lot this season just like any other season but, it seems like they’re noticing of me has also increased somewhat this year we stop in regard another. At least this is how it seems to me. There is a big playerLayer of dark cloud hanging high up in the sky it is raining it and it reminds me of the coast like it like that I want to be hanging over the ocean I can see miles from here that there is a slight rain that’s falling from the cloud but here it is sunny.

>

> 04/29 9:13am

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> The mockingbirds chase away the crow, just like the crow chases away the hawk. Everyone one trying to protect the nest, protect the eggs, and everyone trying to get fed.

>

>

05/01 8:02pm

I did not take any notes or do any observation this morning… Sleep for a couple of hours in the cloud on ahead with the plans as I conceived of them which were to go over to Luna court perhaps sleep out tonight. The interview was weird… And I got activated the restraint of boisterous social interaction well I was going to the grocery store and got very carsick… And then the trails were closed. So we drove back to Asheville and I took a walk and I cried a little as I walk because I felt so sick and upset still… And it was bothersome…And then we are going to drive up to Craven gap… Tired and it’s super far and so we decided to just go and walk by the parkway near Biltmore… They were lots of cars going bye and loud motorcycles that, that was OK. So I tried to do a thing today and it didn’t work out… And isn’t that what happened sometimes they try to do something and it just doesn’t really work… I had a headache most of the day and now as I’m walkingI feel a cramp in my side which is peculiar… I don’t think that I feel well I’m still trying to walk to get the 10 miles a day that I am compulsively committed to getting… I thought all day long but maybe things weren’t working out because they were something else that I was supposed to be doing… And figured that there was probably something very important that I was supposed to be doing that I was missing because I was trying to go and do some conceived an unnecessary outdoor pursuits thing… That was silly. I wonder what it was that I was supposed to be doing? This morning I woke up with a short story in my head about how people will leave notes for one another on some of the street signs and posts along the corners and I thought about notes that I’ve seen hey Billie, we had to break camp we have your stuff… Please call Jay. But I wondered what sort of story my school out from the beginning having to do with people leaving notes for other people on holes in the street corners maybe even written on the edge of the sidewalk. What were the note say? What would the story be that was told to mentioning them. Anyway, I didn’t have a very nice day because I felt sick and upset most of the day and I wonder about whether or not part of my feeling sick and upset had to do with me not having checked in with my cell and not have a take a note. I was aware of when I got triggered and why I got triggered and how it made me feel a hell son like the bottom has been dropped out I was literally kind of staggering and lightheaded… Because I was so surprised by what it happenedAnd then I felt angry… And I could feel myself I don’t get sugared up the way that I do and I stop saying anything stop speaking and just throw it in the passenger seat in silence… That was how I spent most of my day of sick and have to associated… There’s no way to live.

May 2, 8:05am

I am walking past the big brewery by the river the one that makes the city like Portland while they’re making their beer… Funny how some places become analogues for other places based on ascent geographic feature the way a River runs through the center of this town like so many other towns got through with bridges. The house that I live in there is the tunnel Japanese flowering cherry And overgrown privet short little tunnel just the distance in front of the house and it’s like that longer tunnel that led to the house that I grew up in. As I speak these words because I am recording this on my phone using voice to text a little bit of a pressure in my chest… When I mention the house and a part of this comes from realizing that I almost do not remember…When I was younger I thought that it would be impossible to forget something… It seems like the reality of the place and the feelings smells the realness of that place it seems like that would always stay close… And I marvel at how older people claim to not remember the claim only remember a few things… How could that be? I think In order to remember one Hass to tend to their memories to spend time with them… The mind can only take care of so much and we can’t rely on memories to maintain themselves and get overwritten by whatever is right in front of us whether we want them to or not… It isn’t it kind of sad that the places that have been lost in the things that maybe only we know that may be only remember they are gone Just like everything I guess… There is some rightness in the slipstream of all of that there’s nothing last truth in that however, there’s also for me anyway some truth in that there’s something very human about wanting to hold onto and reserve the things that we love the places that have meant something to us. And as I speak these words I notice a feeling in my chest again something something big is bigger than me… And I think about howYou may not realize it but we are well into the process of losing so many places that we love already lost so many places that we’ve loved probably everybody has lost a place that they love and I wonder if that in this new world that is being forged what is another thing that connects us all… That everybody has seen the world change in ways that are sad… But everybody has lost something that we love.

What I am noticing in my thinking and feeling this morning is that I woke up with a bad headache with my sinuses congested especially my left sinus pressure all along the side of my face tired and kind of ill… Didn’t want to be in the house and I feel tired tired I’ve been saying that for years but I didn’t feel especially bad this morning… Anyway yesterday was very difficult day for me did not feel well and I had emotional troubles in part because I didn’t eat quite enough and I’m part because I did not move quite enough and in part because my usual practice and routine has shifted and in part because I had an unexpected social situation in the entrance to the grocery store that was surprising and confusing and unsettling to me in ways that someone activated some Of the difficulty that I have in how I feel things. By the end of the day I felt OK… But, I didn’t think that I could use the day and the best way he said it may have been used… I felt like I have been missed lead missed lead myself and my goals and that my plans and that that misleading have compromised qualityOf my experience. I’m walking on and developed part of the trail now… And it’s quiet. I like it.

 

05/03 8:36am

I am at the track at the middle school doing my very slow walking kind of jogging thing… A very very slow but it doesn’t matter I woke up this morning I felt so fucking stressed out because of the amount of things I have to do tomorrow and the way these things thinking about them look up magnified like something that will take 20 minutes seems in my head ache five hours and I feel like there’s no possible way that will be able to do all the things that I need to do tomorrow and before tomorrow… Creates a breathless panic feeling in meI don’t like it… This feeling is the primary reason why I struggle with working and why a visit by job because anything that I have committed to do creates a feeling of me it seems… And I don’t really understand how that is or why that is or what I can do to make that difference… I think that is because I have low stress Holleran’s… But it’s also about the way that I think about things… Like I feel that anything anything that I have on my schedule it’s something that I have to do and then I reflexively just have all these feelings of resistance and apprehension and resentment about the things that are on my schedule to do so it is Lawrence he’s thinking about things in a way that’s really probably not very helpful… Thinking about things in a way that a, I have to do them which automatically creates resistance and resentment and be, thinking about things in a distorted magnitude Kind of way like oh this thing then I’m totally capable of doing only take 20 minutes is really really a Normas and it’s going to consume me and I feel this incredible amount of pressure… And so I’m not really sure how to adjust to that kind of automatic thinking about things thing is that I apply urgency urgent… And that creates stress I’m a fucking stress case. How do I get this This way? It’s not healthy… So these are things that I’ve noticed this morning am I thinking in my feeling that I woke up early with a feeling of overwhelm and stress about the amount of things that I have to do tomorrow and things that I need to do today in order to prepare for tomorrow… And I look around the house and I see all the stuff that needs to be done… And I think about all the things that I want to do today outside my daughter and I don’t know Do you want to spend time with me and how I want to spend time with my friend but I don’t think that we’re spending time with my daughter it’s complicated and that there’s like what do I want to do and what do I need to do I need to clean the kitchen floor I need to haul my laundry and I need to clean the bathroom… Possibly do these things and get out and go somewhere… It is feeling on the conveyor and then every corner there’s something pulling at me demanding of my time and attention And it’s not helpful for me to be thinking about these things feel that it’s more stressful… And although it was necessary for my nervous system to release the stress and urgency distress signals that I created in the way that I think about things it’s not helpful for me to reinforce the stress by speaking in this breathless kind of panicked way I need to use my skills and look around and recognize that hey, there’s nothing that I have to do right now other than run around the track…And that I feel OK… And then I’ll get everything done because I always do and that the less conflict I create because of my stress levels the better.I want to have a nice chill day… And that’s totally possible and that’s totally OK…

05/04 7:18am

There are interesting heavy Roos colored clouds to the north end of the west this morning and yet to the east the sky is more clear and so the bright golden sunlight of morning is shining over everything the flashlight under a blanket I feel well this morning despite not having had quite enough sleep and despite waking up in the middle of the night right in because I heard a cat crying and I knew that I had left the cat out it was terrified in the middle of the night that she would be hurt

I feel like I have too much to do and perhaps not enough time to do it… But, I am hopeful that I’ll be able to work it out… Am I feel strangely quiet this morning probably because I am tired… I miss writing poetry maybe morning as I run around the track very very slowly focus we’re taking notes on describing the grass illuminated by the slant If the sun while the rain heavy ceiling hangs low… And the field is empty a brand new green… Benches top game on scene… I don’t have a lot of poetry in me lately gotten very very serious because of all the work. I feel that I have allowed myself to become almost entirely colonized by my job Despite the fact that I earn less than $2000 a month. When I think about this but I have given myself over almost entirely to the task of an organization that I don’t even really respect for less than $3000 a month I feel kind of sad and angry. What does that say about the extent to which I value myself… Then I’m willing to show upAnd do really strong work minimal reimbursement and at the cost of my headspace joyfulness mobility to be present… Yesterday, my friend was telling me stories my friend is a good storyteller… And I listened and I laughed… And I also thought, what the fuck happened to me? Are used to tell stories… Are used to be lively in my mind in my sharing memories were close And I could paint incredible pictures just with words… Voice so that I am able to earn wages… And that makes me sad that I’ve become a doll person anymore so that I’m able to focus on work. There’s something that is not right in that… That is not right at all. However, I also recognize that you’re reinforcing the phone Phenomenon of my silence saying it’s not helpful is not productive. If I want to be less silent than I should be less silent if I want to speak freely then I should begin slowly at first to use my voice again. I should have experiences that are worth telling us stories not experiences that I feel bored by experiences that I feel ashamed of what I feel or waste of my time and potential serious does that make me feel like a fool. I have to practice And storytelling. I wonder if it is healthy for me to be trying to walk or run some combination there of 10+ miles a day. I wonder if it is breaking down my body? I don’t know. It doesn’t seem especially healthy… If I’m not on a through wear, the only thing I am tasked with doing is walking all day long and resting… It seems like a little too much to be walking running so much while also trying to work so much and also trying to shop for relationship and not thinking at all about art about relaxation… I think there’s a part of me that feels like there is a lack of solidarity and relaxing… That if other people are having to work so hard that I also should be working hard… That I should not be enjoying my leisure there’s some kind of solidarityPrint stress… But, that’s not healthy I think the back that is bullshit.

05/05 7:17am

It rained last night and they are slick we are puddles on the track. There is cool, like the slow build toward summer is even slower this year. Cock in a perpetual interest season between warm and cool. The clouds look like clouds over the ocean, remind me that sometimes I think about the ways that we are in I just first Oceana of sorts vapors pulling and flowing streams and currents all around us surrounded by water. I feel calm this morning, and slept well. I fell sleep I was immediately after I lay down. I still feel like I have too much to do but, that doesn’t stress me out the way that it stressed me out yesterday.As I move through the events begin to happen and even really think about them now I will do this and I will do that and all of the stress And dread about everything that I needed to do seemed silly and unnecessary as a move through the day of doing these things… The day did not go as planned, but that was OK. There was a major technical difficulty with the zoom link for a workshop that I was supposed to be facilitating because it had been scheduled for 4 AM rather than 4 PM. I didn’t up being all right because the community theater for the group hosted in the workshop with and I were able to discuss a grant opportunity they are consideringThat would support the development of a community culture of peer support in a rural unity county not by the border. It’s exciting for me to think about those sorts of potential developments peer support for everyone we are all peters the building cultural movement of good neighboring. As I think about that this morning I noticed the smell of wild onion in that wet grass is beside the track and lightning and enlivening in my body. It’s work that’s exciting for me.

I begin to take these notes he is a voice to text is an effort to check in with myself and to note how I was feeling and what I was thinking about going to figure out the possible connections between those things what I was thinking about and how it was feeling. Just the act of paying attention seems to help me to better regulate my mood and experiences of reality.

7:38

She runs slowly around the track not even running at all really. Every so often the flash of her shoulder and her peripheral vision makes her startled like someone is running up behind her that she had not heard. She notices the clouds, like the inside of a pillow today piled like that soft like that with, darker shadows giving texture to the loft.

There is a sweetness in the air that she only notices if she pays attention. The smell of new green and grass is already gone to seed hundreds of timelines unfolding the earth around her in orchestra that isn’t heard unless you pay very close attention unfolding of life to slow build of insects calling out to mate, to live, to move towards the hot days at the end of the season when they were slowly thrown out the final hours of their lives without even knowing, the lease not in a way that we know, that they are dying. She has an inhabited much poetry. Remind his friends working in ways that are concrete and precise. Designed to make sense to those who were moving about in the material world designed to be Consumable and desirable products. Deliverables. It’s a different sort of mind state in the mind state that elicits poetry that brings forth the details and subtleties have since association and impression. It’s not conducive to poetry to be working on budgets. Unless she can come up with a poem about how it How it feels in her body and then the specific firing of her synopsis to be filling in numbers, column throws, doing math that is intended to quantify and represent some reality in the world of objects and movement. As she speaking these words, she thinks about the look of a spreadsheet and how that look is replicated in the feeling in her body. Flat, Grid lines. Cells that look like boxes. She hasn’t seen the ocean for the past couple of years that her friend is quick to remind her that she saw the golf of Mexico in January 2019 for a few days on a brief trip. She doesn’t know how to be in Fattic in a way that will help him to understand the significance that for the first time in her for decades of living she has gone a year without seeing either The Atlantic or the Pacific ocean. Not the Gulf of Mexico. The ocean the big expanse of water on either side of this country that she lives in. That, the fact that she has not seen the ocean in over two years, is significant to her. She will need to do something about that soon. She is running around the track, running very slowly. It’s not even running, it’s the shuffling gait of the aged and And firm. Her knees are sore and her ankle hurts there may be a foot behind the knuckle of her right big that is fractured from her kicking the cabinet a week and a half ago when she was frustrated, the day before she declared that she would not get angry again in the ways that she had been getting angry which were like the ways that she used to get angry when she was younger and frustrated and felt there was no voice and her and no place that she could speak herself safely. She doesn’t mind that she’s running slowly, and she is shuffling. It is better than no movement and it is easy to speak if she moves slowly. She is not doing this shambling run for the sake of trying to be any sort of athlete. She is trying to stay sane, and thus, stay alive. It helps her to feel calm and strong in her body even ifShe runs slowly. She’s noticing that the sun has risen behind the clouds to the east end that polarized saving diffuse rays are pushing their way out from behind the clouds in Erie silver blue light golden edges.

She likes it she is able to move her body around in these circles and speak whatever comes on without worrying over his brilliance or relevance. Lately she has thought about how her social spaces she has become a witness, and observer, not a participant. She spoke about this yesterday, walking with her friend. Saying, I need to start speaking again, I need to start participating, not just as a listenerOr an observer but as someone who offered something of her self into the conversation or exchange. She has become careful these past couple of seasons through the long and difficult winter watching her words not feeling sure of herself a clanging damp depression stimulating doubts and second guesses for value, the value of what she might contribute. The winter has been very difficult, and she’s Struggled some with not exactly wanting to live in the way that she felt the blaring of hostile thoughts and impressions in her mind frequency. She’s not suicidal in the winter, not in the sense that she was seriously considering ending her life. She would not do that that would not be an action that she would take. However, she had the feelings and the thoughts of suicideAnd she spent a great deal of time trying to cope with those experiences of feeling suicidal even though she didn’t want to die, even though she wanted to live. The other day after she gets in the man on the bridge holding himself who are the railing and the physician the suggested but he would jump, all he had to do was looking forward to that girl. That was all he had to do. I made a commitment to herself that she would get over her fears and insecurities and she will begin to say things about living and dying, and what she had learned about living and dying. So far, she hasn’t said much, in saying something now that she’s running slightly around the track, she is holding herself accountable. So much of her writing and her notetaking was an accountability practice, And exercise so that she would not forget what was important to her what inspired her motivated her crucial to her survival and central to her experience of being. Sometime over the next few days, she has decided she will go through and find all of the messages that she sent to her self over the past several months and she will put together a post. She may not edit these messages that she is writing to her self using voice to text. Because there’s something kind of artful in the imperfectionOf what we try to say oh you’re speaking out loud to ourselves.

05/06 8:23 am

I’m on my way home now after running for about an hour or so… I worked on two different grants for community peer support projects… And that was good… Because I woke up again this morning overwhelmed and feeling like too much to do. And because I had things to do I was experiencing the resistance and hesitation around the things that I needed to do. This created stress response So, my solution was to get some work done on the things that I was supposed to do… And I was able to do that while I was running… Which was a really good thing. It’s nice to be able to run really really slowly and have a focus of mine. I got one of the grant narratives almost completely finished, which is amazing. And I feel much more ready for the day. So, that’s a good thing to know… That the solution feeling overwhelmed I have a few minute things to do is, sometimes, to a watch the way I’m thinking about the things that I have to do and make sure I’m not thinking about the things I have to do it’s more stress and be to just get some work done on the things I have to do because then I have less to do and feel less stressed. It worked out really well to do some work while I was running this morning. And reminded me of the ways that I would go to the Y and at the bike while I was doing some work. I think the movement It’s good for my focus.

 

05/09/2020

 

So, how does a person figure out what their gifts are?

During times that I have really been struggling to live, the idea that I might have gifts and strengths seemed pretty foreign to me since the space I am inhabiting whenever I’m having a hard time feeling enthusiastic about the prospect of continuing to live tends to shape my perception of myself and my self-worth through a lens of deficits.

That’s part of the narrative of my personal struggles with wanting to live – it’s a narrative of deficits.

That’s part of my experience of suicidality and part of how I know (when I am well) that the state of suicidality is a liar.

When I am well, I know that I have value and worth. I know that I have gifts and strengths.

However, states of suicidality obscure those truths and so when I’m struggling in that way it’s hard for me to think about what my gifts are. Sometimes, it seems like if I try to think about positive things about myself or my potential to have a good life there can be a really vicious internal voice that comes up in a backlash against the truth of my worth and potential, the truth of my gifts and strengths.

For me, a lot of what I experience during times of suicidality is rooted in compound psychological and relational trauma and is the echo and amplification of all the terrible things that people (who themselves were wounded and hurting) have said to me about who I am and what I’m worth.

That’s a part of it, anyway…

So, how does a person identify potential strengths when they’re in the midst of struggling to stay alive?

I don’t have a real solid answer for that.

For me, it’s been good to try to have a short list of things that when I am well I understand are true about myself, and a few reminders of concrete times that my strengths have shown up or that I have felt strong and happy in myself. If there is a memory or a moment or a song or a saying that helps you to connect with the part of you that is strong and hopeful and happy to be alive you can use that to help to tether to the part of yourself that wants to live.

 

(Note: If you feel sad or upset about feeling like you want to die, that’s a clue that a part of you wants to live.)

When I’m struggling with wanting to stay alive, it can be really painful to think about some of these things because sometimes trying to tell myself good things about myself makes that same internal backlash voice that says “that’s not true. that’s not true…not worth anything and your life is shit” come up in me, and that can be really painful and confusing and frustrating.

So, sometimes it’s better for me to not try to think about gifts and strengths and things I hope for when I’m really really struggling, because it can be painful and provoking of additional harsh self criticism and self-worth second-guessing.

For me, it works better to wait for a day or a moment that I feel more neutral or even good…

Even if I am really really struggling, there are still days or at least moments within days that I feel halfway OK, where there is a little respite from suffering, a small shred of ease or hope.

For me, it works better I think about strengths and gifts when I am feeling either neutral or good.

A big part of my personal path to a life that most days I am really happy to be alive in has been to learn to pay attention to the things that make me feel good about myself in a way that is deep and authentic – not good about myself because I am showing up how other people want me to show up or doing things that make other people happy, but good about myself for me and in me…

Those times when I am feeling strong and at ease in who I am are clues to my strengths and some of the things that might be my gifts – when I feel happy and at ease in being who I am and doing what I’m doing.

 

05/21/2020

This afternoon, I found myself saying that it is important to me to ‘do the work that is mine to do,’ and that it is important to ‘do work that aligns with my values’ – and both those things are totally true, but – wow – what a privilege it is to get to *choose* the work I do and to get to do work that actually matters to me, when a lot of people have to just work any job they can get.

The work that matters to me has everything to do with doing my little part to help create a world where everyone gets to do the work that is theirs to do – the work that uplifts their strengths and gifts and affirms their passions, the work that they are divinely inspired to do – not because it earns them a lot of money (though I wish that every person was paid supremely for the work of their hearts), but because their spirit sings when they are doing the work that is theirs to do.

I am not lucky that I don’t have to work some crummy job that I can’t stand and that does not benefit at all beyond providing a paycheck that is never enough. I am privileged to be able to choose the work that I do and to do work that means something to me. That shouldn’t be a privilege. That should be a Human right, extended to all people.

She sitting in her kitchen you Apple cider vinegar and where they were here I’ll be

Well that was silly she has been speaking for at least a few minutes about cutting up kale in the smaller pieces so that she could soak it briefly and apple cider vinegar to soften it enough to eat raw it’s part of us it’s part of the slaw that she’s discovered that she enjoys a great deal she mentioned that she had contacted a friend of her spontaneously usually she doesn’t call people spontaneously usually she puts off calling them if she contacts them at all or she calls them on a schedule resist and apprehend the the timer call She standing in her kitchen cutting calendar smaller pieces so that she can soak in an apple cider vinegar and she thought for a minute after she called her friend that it was 106° where they were which is out in the desert and she had mentioned that here it was cold in the high 30s this morning and it reminded her of the Pacific Northwest or sometimes the day would be quite cold if it was supposed to be she’s noticed that she’s noticed that lately she is head and that this may not actually be a healthy thing track instead she worked on document To help you keep track of grant funding that they are organization so that the organization actually do the work for the most part she doesn’t always always know if organization

May 10 7:40a

She’s running around the track, your energy is low today… In the morning it’s cold and bright, too cold for me but with the look of string with the early sunrise blue sky green during warm spell several weeks ago… It’s Mother’s Day, but it may be any other day. She does not do the breakfast in bed, and her children teenagers now can’t to forget that there Is the significance in her being their mother. She woke up early despite the fact that it is Sunday and despite the fact that it’s Mother’s DayBecause you had work that had rolled from the week prior into the weekend. It wasn’t unpleasant, simple really but still I think that she needed to do attend to. I think that made the day play entirely hers. It’s been difficult for her to get psychological space recently, the sense of an open it’s self directed mine. The impression of having too much to do but she spoke about last week hasRight on, regardless of the fact that she has insight into the phenomenon in which her feeling like she has too much to do tends to make her feel like she has too much to do. Walking through the woods day before yesterday before the rains came she said that anything on her schedule tends to represent it self with an out her portion magnitude, meaning the things in her mind it’s a bigger more complicated than they actually are in this understandably create a stress response She has a lot of altered and her practice of making notes to her self, noticing her thoughts and the way that she feels in her body. She may have even missed a couple of days entirely. She doesn’t know. She learned that she is able to work on documents as she runs because she runs to slowly and so she has been staying on the clock while she goes to the track is working on documents as she moves around and around. Today, she is going to make an effort to pay attention becauseEven though she tries to remember and to keep close to her who she is and the things that are important for her to do they get washed over and I’m scared for the demands of the day and the task that other people desire of her. Somehow, taking a few minutes to talk to her self either in this way speaking into my phone and she runs around the track who is writing helps her to connect with you she is it was important to her. She spends a lot of her time thanking about art projectsHand writing projects that she’d like to be doing but she doesn’t speak about these things anymore if she doesn’t make notes about these things anymore and so they are a little further from being real just thoughts, daydreams only. One thing that she thought about yesterday and she was running around the track and not working on a document and not taking notes but just running around and with a little tiny bit of psychological space was the idea of being a secret genius. Actually she thought about the phrase secret genius as a possible name for a small limited consultancy Business that she could conceivably start with a focus on nonprofit and community initiative organizational development and project design and grant writing. The idea of the secret genius is that she really actually is a genius, at least in some areas measurably and documented as being such. However she cannot say this thing about herself that she is a genius in some areas because this is noxious and offputting to people because she lives in a countryWhich values and is friendly towards the stupid end which scorned intelligence if it is forthright. However, she continually finds herself in these positions with her intelligence is leveraged and utilized to the point of always being exploited and yet she is not recognized or knowledge for being intelligent Nora she recognized for their experiences and do the hard work they have led to her intelligence she is an expert but experience in many ways… And yet she finds her self in these rules for people want to use her expertise and use her intelligence in these limited ways and then adds her out of other conversations and exclude her from other processes. That is fucking obnoxious. It’s stupid that she settles for such work, win and she has been saying for years and years she could make her own work and probably be more successfulAny more satisfied. Anyway she doesn’t really want to think about any of that right now because aside from those aspects of her life she is a body running in the morning with the cold air I guess her face and a vague collection of memories of the person the animal that she was before she entered into the world of commerce and value social capital need to make one’s way. In reality she wants very much to have nothing to do with any of that… She doesn’t really care about it… And she wants mostly to be able to look at two different ways but the light is held in grasses all the different modes of green. She wants to be able to spend the day outside not under fluorescent lights she wants to be able to laugh… And to be light in her being she has gotten very very serious over the past year or so and this is in part because Of the amount of concern that she has for the world. Over the past couple of years the climate emergency that she has frightened about since she was a child has become dire. And let’s search capitalism has become a rabbit force of busyness and distraction driving tire country into a state of frozen and panic collective trauma. And she sees this things the evidence of the brief segments of news that she may catch the front page of the paper as she exits the supermarket, And she feels as she’s help her years a great sense of urgency in the sense that she needs to do something. It is not going to help the world if she is only spending her time walking is relaxing and watching the grass grow. Even though that’s all she really wants to do. That’s not true, she wants to save the world she wants to help to save the world

May 10 6:27pm

She’s walking around the neighborhood looking over the little bottoms between Gaston and talk to her we’re drainage stream runs through and their rounds of kudzu from years past tall trees it’s a little green area in the middle of the neighborhood… The day has been good, and this morning when she ran around the track feels like a very long time ago She wrote out to the edge of the county with your daughter… Said hello to our mother had a work meeting is due tomorrow… Came home played still for period of time and then went out to walk… And then came home it’s pouring herLet’s talk at what she did when she did it she gets tired by the end of the day and doesn’t want to do anything much other then.

Sent have any amazing thoughts as the day wore on the way today is due.

May 11 7:25am

It’s a little warmer than it has been in the morning sweat under her jacket, finally mid-May. She’s running around the track gotten up early and done some work on a project that she is doing to outreach recovery resources under resourced areas. But she has realized the past several days is that people are not nearly as text inclined as she is. We’re not nearly as delightedTo see who all of words how she is she’s going to have to figure out other ways to communicate with people if she is going to do this project well and had a way that reaches people. She feels good this morning fairly clear in her head and it is in her body although she wore her old worn out shoes to the track by accident and she can feel that the impact is rattling her bones and she knows that you’ll probably be sore later on today.

[Inaccurate partial family history deleted.]

There’s so many things that she wants to say something about. So many things that she wants to do something about. It’s overwhelming to her and so she says nothing it does nothing.

May 13 7:40 am

Sometimes the clouds look like whales and  remind her that we’re not very far there is a deep called ocean with great bodies moving through water.

 

June 23

glabrous shine dark red

to black, a critical mass

sweetness building slowBeautiful people

all over the world, living

sad lives, scenic places

a chart, scatterplot

would show no going back now

too much ripe, ready

what is it to live

the last summer of one’s life?

…asking for a friend.

Next year’s cane reach bold

soft green, fleshy thorn, straight tall

not knowing, they’ll wait

Someone fired shots

into the crowd, a party

four lives are gone now

Last week, a surprise

to find the dark half globe hid

among the blood red

Now, everywhere

more than ever, dominant

look…then they are gone.

 

It’s not surprising, really, that I would feel unenthused in the morning. My mother has cancer. My job feels empty. I have taken the same walk almost everyday since mid-March.

I noticed that the wild black raspberries were ripening at an increased rate, the early ripening fruits having been sparse surprises last week and the week before. There will be a brief abundance and then the stragglers will have their short span of days, and then the fruit will be gone for this year. I’m sure it is a bell curve – the distribution of ripening.

Then I thought of the word glaucus, trying to remember the word glabrous.

 

DRAFTS without Recipients

 

02/12/2020

 

She sat on the porch with a clipboard, filling out the form. The form was supposed to have been filled out the week before, at the beginning of the class. She forgot to, sitting in the group of people and listening close to what was said.

What is a punitive justice system?

What did she know about restorative circles?

She had never heard of a restorative circle before.

She wanted to tell her story, felt this rise up in her, honest, the desire to say to this room of people the words that would spell a story, that would put them there, and put there in them. To show them who she was, because – increasingly – it felt strange to sit in rooms with people, being a tall lady with glasses, a funny way of sitting, a voice that speaks too loudly or too softly, a voice that shakes. None of these people knew who she was, and she did not know who they were. Names and bodies, scraps of undetailed lives offered up in the go-around at the beginning of the weekly class.

She could make a list of the week’s work, the week’s ideas. The way that she would name these things, if she were to try to tell a person about them, about the way they slipped from one thing to another, bright catches and a span of a day here, a few days there, the tumble into a slipping stream of work half-done, tasks forgotten. This was the way she did things now, imprecise and impulsive, drifting at whim or distraction. She told herself that she was in flow, but sometimes it felt a little like her mind might be going.

She didn’t care what she thought about restorative justice. The only thing that was important about her ideas was the urgency in her around the word ‘restore.’ The way it spurred a flood of stammered statements, a give-it-back desperation, a muttering about humanity.

02/27/2020

The problem with doing brain work for wages is that it takes up a lot of my head space and orients my cognitive functions and purpose toward the needs and tasks of the organization I work for. When I worked direct service, my headspace was glutted by work – but, I got to the point that I could leave work at work and shift into thinking/feeling about the things that I might a) personally choose to think about and feel out of my own self-directed interests and motivations or b) what might arise from my consciousness through open contemplation

Doing brain work for wages has led to what might best be described as a co-opting of my mental energies to serve the purposes of entities external to me, and it feels like colonization of my head when I can’t maintain mental boundaries.

This is seriously affecting my mental health.

03/01/2020

The girl grew up in a house without butter, knew only the shallow plastic dish of Fleischmann’s, bullets of corn shapes ringing round, the snap of lid and chick colored oil that rumpled and folded like damp sand under the pressure of the knife edge – and Crisco, a similarly snapping lid on a dissimilar container, a cylinder of cardboard that would seem to keep nothing fresh, but with a papery foil interior that somehow suggested freshness. Sometimes, she ate margarine, for the oily salt taste of light yellow and sometimes – but not often – she snuck a half spoon of shortening, for the slick, fatty taste of nothing at all.

There was butter at her great-grandmother’s house, sagging-edged slab on a cut crystal dish shaped like a casket on the dark wood ovoid table that silently rested under the tiered chandelier that once a year was deconstructed and cleaned by the black hands of the women who worked for her great-grandmother, the crystal beaded strands dipped in vinegar water and wiped clean with paper towels that formed a damp crumple at the head of the table where her grandmother sat, wearing yellow gloves and fussing with the clear glass teardrops like they hadn’t been cleaned clean enough.

The table was too big for their family, and except for the day that the chandelier was cleaned, hardly anybody sat at it except for the three days their family suddenly expanded to include two pale-skinned cousins and an aunt and uncle from south of Atlanta who they only saw on those three days – Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter – when the butter from the previous holiday was set out once again, the stick slowly diminishing as the year wore on.

03/08/2020

surely as anything

the gleam of West waning sun

on tender needle swaying green

gleaming unseen save for their gaze

silent walking

(because what is there to say

after all, after she said

that her anger, her grief

her dumb opinions and analyses

mean nothing, are worthless)

 

young branches quietly illumined

at the end of the day

before time will leap forward

set the rising sun back

more grand than the overwrought courts

the 16th century

 

(whatever that was)

 

cryptic verse

persistent seduction

making women magic

not for birth or basket weaving

for warrior’ing or ululation

for rising bread

the alchemy of prayer and tincture

but, for the desire of men

 

(Romantic poems don’t move her anymore. Not like young trees do, anyway.)

 

03/11/2020

And she drove back from the conference, back to the mountains, she reflected on the experience of her heart beating so fast that it was difficult to breathe. Scary, she had explained, to speak in front of people. And it occurred to her that it was more scary to speak in front of people when she was really being herself, when she was really there.

03/13/2020

She keeps waiting for the unifying phrase, the sentence that will form the guts of the paragraph that will – finally – hold the whole thing together, that will form the fibers that connect one segment to another, that will allow – finally – all of these disparate parts to cohere.

She doesn’t want journal anymore, to keep a record of what is happening in her days, in the world, and how she feels about it. Yesterday, walking in the forest, her friend remarked that it was a quiet walk and then – a few minutes later – asked if she’d had any thoughts or ideas that day.

“I don’t feel like talking.”

She was unapologetic, looking at the buff and soft glowing gold-white dancing forms that beech trees make with their winter-dead leaves, studying the ways that dead fall dissolved, crumbled, eroded back into the forest floor, wood becoming dust. “Sure, I had thoughts and ideas, a couple, and there were a few synchronicities, but I don’t feel like talking. I am trying – “ She paused, briefly thinking and considering the irony of talking about not feeling like talking. “To de-center myself, to keep my attention on what’s outside of me, this place that is not about humans and what we think.”

Her words, her voice, felt invasive of the air around her head. “I don’t think that my thoughts are very interesting, and – sure – I could make them entertaining for someone else, but I don’t really feel like doing that.”

More and more, she liked to be quiet.

Yesterday, she noticed a tufted titmouse in the trees in the woods beside the forest service road, and – a little further down the road – a nuthatch. She never would have seen them if she’d been talking.

An interesting thing happened as she walked down the little trail that cut diagonally between one forest service road and another, the little trail with all the beech flats. She became aware, as she walked, that she wanted to walk off the trail, and to go to a stand of trees that she saw in the thin woods. It was not a strong wanting. It was a quiet wanting, a whisper wanting. Barely noticeable. “I want to walk over there,” she told her friend and – of course – he said that she ought to, if she wanted to. She didn’t expect to find anything, just a small clearing between sourwood and beech, pine. The small metal tag in the bark of the sourwood was the size of her thumbnail, aluminum and stamped with the number 3. The bark had grown tight around it, so that it wouldn’t move, could not be pulled out. It had been there a long time, the tag. She could bend it up and down, but not side to side. She didn’t want to break it. She wanted to pull it out, but would need pliers to do that – something she could hold tightly with, something that would let her pull hard. She had no tools and so she left it alone, but noticed that she had seen it, and noticed that she had seemed to walk right to it.

She looked around and wanted – without really wanting – to walk slightly Southwest, where she found an upturned aluminum can, that may have held Vienna sausage a long time ago, with the bottom pushed and rounded out, and small scratches all around it. The can was tucked into the base of a tree, and she picked it up, looked at it, and set it back down. “I’m finding all the metal,” she said, wondering about why she seemed to walk where things had been left by people.

03/15/2020

This morning, I woke up with the feeling of poetry in me, tenuous and slippery, grass in flowing water, the idea of a poem that had come in the night that – in the daylight – wasn’t a poem at all, but just a feeling, a few images of people and streets, sunlight golden and warm like in the morning. The glow of moss on stone. Not really a poem at all, just the feeling of a poem that came to her in the middle of the night.

She was grateful for the idea that she might still be able to write a poem.

Woke up and thought maybe she would be able say something beautiful, considered the possible way forward from the silencing winter.

She didn’t know how to begin moving forward. Felt strongly that there was something she might need to make note of or to reflect on in regard to the silencing winter.

There was no flow in her writing this morning, and she had to be okay with that.

There was a woman hanging out on the porch of the sober living house next door that had a laugh like a jack hammer.

Two days prior, she and her friend had been visited by what may have been a minor demon or catalytic purveyor of chaos inhabiting the form of a man driving a bullet-grey pickup. He stopped the truck right in the middle of the street coming off of the interstate called over the wood rail fence to where they walked in the park at the edge of the softball field. The day had cleared up some, flat grey giving way to partly cloudy, surprising pale blue and a gold afternoon light that surely meant that everything would be okay. “Hey,” the man called, leaning across to the open passenger window, “I need directions. I’m trying to get to Asheville.”

“Well, you’re in Asheville right now.” She told him. “Where are you trying to go?”

She and her friend had been walking back from the end of the greenway, where they had stopped by a bench to make an offering in the form of a mud-crusted baby food jar her friend had pulled from the bank, that they’d held together – her with her left hand, him with his right hand – putting their intentions and goodwill and energy into the grubby little jar. She’d held it until she could feel her hand begin to tingle and until the only thing in her mind was the desire to be able to help the forests and to help the people, to be able to write, to find help to be able to speak. “There,” her friend said, “now throw it in the water.” She wanted to throw it far out into the middle of the river, but when she threw it her arm bucked oddly, and she threw like a little girl, releasing the jar too late, so that it shot into the water right in front of her at a hard, frustrated angle.

She felt like she’d made a terrible error, had ruined her chance. Had messed up. Tears stung her eyes. “Maybe we’ll try again next year.”

Her friend looked at her, incredulous. “Are you being serious right now?”

She nodded, feeling embarrassed over her impotent throw. She’d wanted to throw the jar far out into the water, confident and powerful, to sink it surely into the deepest waters, but she’d fucked it up.

“Don’t you get that you’re missing the point? Listen to me. It doesn’t matter. Your throw was perfect. All of this is perfect. It doesn’t matter how you wanted to throw the jar. The jar doesn’t even matter. The point is that you tried and what came out was what came out.”

She felt crumpled and confused, because somehow she had messed up messing up. Not only had she messed up, she felt bad about messing up, and that was – itself – messing up. She felt too foolish to even exist. She knew she was missing the point.

They reached the end of the greenway path and her friend was still going on about how she was missing the point, and about how her trying to do anything was going to thwart her in her doing of anything.

“Can we walk back yet?” She was standing with her arms crossed and looking flat-eyed out at the river, her face held in stony neutrality, the posture and countenance of someone who wanted to disappear.

“No.” Her friend was sitting at the concrete picnic table, benches made miniature by the burying mud that build up the ground to be higher than it was when the bench was installed. “This is important and I don’t think you’re hearing me.”

She moved to stand slightly closer to where her friend was sitting and noticed that someone had written the name “Lauren” inside a heart on the stump of a tree. People wrote things on trees in the park, and she didn’t understand why. The name made her think of her friend who died, who tried to kill herself and then called for help, but called too late and died anyway. Her friend who died would want her to try, and she felt a small motivation rise in her.

03/18/2020

Someone said today, that it would be important to get a paper notebook and to write down what it’s like to be living in the end times. This isn’t what they said, of course. They said that we should take notes about what it’s like to be in the pandemic era, the COVID-19 era, where everything is closing down and the streets are as quiet as Christmas. The children’s school has closed down – like all the other schools in the state – and the YWCA closed on Tuesday, after the YMCA shifted the purpose of its facilities to providing emergency resource support and food delivery to vulnerable people.

I’ve been working from home all week. Making lists of online resources and sending out newsletters, scheduling zoom meetings. It’s not work that I love – the computer work, the document work. At least they closed the syringe services program at the health department. I was scheduled to work there this afternoon, but they finally got around to issuing the order to close the harm reduction clinic because it didn’t make sense for people with compromised immune systems and fragile lives to be going into the basement of the health department where the emergency services clinic was located just to get their needles.

Before I went to work this morning I went for two walks, one by the river with my friend in the early morning fog and one across the river with my daughter.

My daughter and I were going to feed the cats over the by the bridge. She is fifteen, and in some ways is very mature and in other ways is still very much like a kid. She is mature because she wears clothes that are too tight for her and has mascara under her eyes and she is like a kid because she still wants to go feed the stray cats. It turned out to be a waste of time, the feeding of the cats, because there was only two and they had already been fed, cheap cat food set into a paper bowl by the side of a dirt access road that led to under the bridge, red clay muddy ground, scrubby honeysuckle and catalpa growing up the hillside, last year’s kudzu vines grey and messy looking on the land sloping down from the highway. There were crumpled paper bowls all along the access road, and only two black cats. Both of them ran away as soon as my daughter and I walked up the road. We poured some of our expensive cat food on top of the cheap cat food, and walked up the road to under the bridge where random garbage was pressed into the dirt, and a camp was set up a little bit off into the woods.

We walked back down to the road and made our way across the bridge and up the hill to the shopping center where the cafe was closed, and

Today there was a young person of color walking beside the busy street leading up into north Asheville. A man. A young black man. He was leaning over and rapping his knuckles on the windows of cars, walking aggressive, carrying a small cardboard sign that said homeless and diseased, all block letters. Mighta just been fucking with people.

03/20/2020

(In the morning)

Lately,

there is something fleshy

in the early light sky,

colors like muscle fiber

pulpy and bleeding before the day settles into the grey it’s been leaning toward,

Lately.

the mockingbird has been noisy

at 3:00am almost every night this week

singing an alarm,

proclamation songs in the star magnolia outside the window

and so I’ve been starting out tired,

but somehow buoyed

by the secrets sung into the dark

Why does the mockingbird go on like that? Is it an idea that the bird has, a desire? Or is it just impulse, to open the beak and sing in the middle of the night?

It’s been almost a week since the schools closed, and we still have two gallons of milk unopened in the refrigerator, which is still keeping the food cold, bulb still springing on when we open the door. Some things we can still rely on.

I have forgotten about writing a book. It seems dumb now. An idea from another time, from when I was another person living in another world.

I went for a walk in the thin woods up by the river north of here and had to admit that I like walking alone, that I feel happy and relaxed, wholly untroubled, when I am walking alone. It’s easy for me to be socially distant. Social distancing is my norm, my comfort zone. I don’t get lonely when I’m not around people. I feel relieved, to be honest.

The other day, walking with a friend in the park before the restaurants and bars were ordered to close, we ran into people my friend knows and I wondered if they thought I was strange. Tall lady, older, hair too long and visible tattoos. I didn’t care if they thought I was strange, but I wondered if they did.

“People, ya know, they see us in these partial ways, these constructions based on what they observe and their assumptions about what their observations might mean.”

I am always a little curious about who I am to people, about what I seem like.

03/29/2020

The planets shifted as planets do. Moving into a different alignment with one another, edging and urging new ways.

There is something missing in me, something gone silent. I am consciously aware that I should have a lot to say, a lot to reflect on and think about. Many opinions and perspectives. The world is dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, which has shut down so much that seemed impossible to shut down, seemed like it would go on and on.

There is nothing that I might say that any person could not say. I guess I could talk about my experience – but I don’t even care about it anymore. It’s not that interesting. I am a person. I have thoughts and feelings. I notice things. I have desires and aversions.

It’s just not that interesting to me anymore.

The weather report suggests that it’s time

in the broad forecast of things

to consider the open road

at least that is what happens in a dream

where people wouldn’t shut up

about Whitman

and what does it matter anyway?

Ain’t no one going anywhere for a good long while, whether they desire to or not.

03/31/2020

The raccoon ran toward the fence like a dog, climbed fast and looked down at us with something begging

pleading

a worried starving look

04/01/2020

It’s always some ruined city, some flooded place. Rickety bridges and roiling water swirling around. Buildings that were the shells of buildings. Light coming in through the spaces that used to hold windows.

Even though it is almost April, it’s been raining and cold for most of the day, and she is sitting in front of the fire, wondering what to do next. She had a moment of remembering scenes from all her lucid dreams about ruined, washed out places.

04/08/2020

I am very sorry that people taught me that use and it be with me if it is easy convenient or economically beneficial to them… Those lessons impact how they perceive and pay attention to things with in this relationship… I really don’t want to believe that you I like that and I know you’re not… And I know that you love me… It’s just hard if something triggers that feeling of being taken advantage of… It’s probably good, actually, that I get angry and I don’t want people to take advantage of me… But I’m sorry that shows up in ugly ways

04/12/2020

She wakes up when the morning still seems more like night, dark and still save for the few ambitious birds that begin to sing long before the sun rises. The aim is to get work done early – before anybody else is awake, while the house is still quite and there isn’t much happening in her head yet. She doesn’t bother with coffee, takes a caffeine pill instead and turns on the computer, gives her attention over to whatever task has been given to her by the organization she works for.

She has all but stopped writing, and her humor is almost totally dead. It doesn’t really matter.

She doesn’t care anymore about saving the world or saying anything beautiful. She used to think that was tragic, the death of her art and creativity, but she doesn’t much care anymore.

She might have to start over entirely.

This tells her that she cares a little bit, that she would write this about starting over. If she really didn’t care, what would it matter to her, why would she start over?

Her friend is always asking what she is thinking about, and she usually says nothing, but a lot of what she is thinking about is writing or art projects. She thinks about how she could try – if she cannot write an essay – to write a poem, and she watches the wind in the tops of the trees out the window as the day becomes stubbornly lit and listens to the sound of very few cars driving by, and thinks there must be a poem in that, the way the mornings are so quiet now that the world is staying at home because of the virus. She should have a lot to say about the whole situation of the virus. It has changed everything.

She cannot shake the idea that she must have a curse, or maybe brain damage or something because where in the fuck is her voice? Where are her ideas?

What happened?!

Is it possible that the simple fact of her being in a partnered relationship and having a job to earn wages has undermined her capacity for art making and word saying?

Really?!

She doesn’t want to think that her relationship has taken away her voice, but if she looks at the concrete information available to her, there is a definite correlation between the relationship and the saying less.

Interesting that as she was beginning the relationship, she was in a period of time in which she was strongly re-determined to make a book. There was a lot of power and a lot of magic feeling in that time a couple of years ago.

God, she is so not into her voice lately. It’s the most boring thing ever. Her Broca’s Area is a motherfucking wasteland.

This – she understands – is a waste of her time. Maybe she should sign on to working for the day, and at least be earning some money or take a walk, and at least be getting exercise. This that she is doing is a waste of her fucking time and that makes her angry, because it used to be a joy – the writing. It used to be a place for her. Now it is not a place for her. Now it is just something that makes her feel dumb and like she is wasting her time, and that makes her angry. She is so angry. She doesn’t want to be angry.

She cannot begin to associate writing with being sad and angry. It was the most important thing to her. Maybe that was the mistake. She just wants to be able to feel poetry again. She wants to be able to feel alive in her mind again.

This is such rubbish – this that is at the forefront of her mind, this messaging about how she has nothing to say. If she just wrote down what she spent her time doing, what she was inspired about, she would have plenty to say. A lot of her life happens in secret, in the secret of her own thinking, which is a murk most days.

She walks down the hill, feeling the soreness of her feet, her knees, her hips. Since everything closed, she has been walking at least 10 miles a day. Something happened when she began to do this thing, this walking. She wants to walk more and more, even though her knees are sore, her feet are sore. It feels good to her now.

Writing used to be a bright and bounding thing. She feels like a stroke victim learning to speak again. The words slow and uncertain, pushing to find their form.

This is what happens with any practice if a person falters in their regular doing of the thing. Their ability atrophies. Gets rusty. Gums up.

There are walls in this neighborhood that are painted the color of unripe papaya.

The rain stopped in the middle of the night, but the water is still running down the street in streams reflecting the blue sky, bright white clouds. Bluebird day, is what they’d say, old country people reflecting on the way a storm comes and then goes.

04/14/2020

She is speaking as she’s walking over the bridge over the river rather cross the bridge and your chest feeling great happiness, something like sadness… Earlier in the day staring at the computer screen a little bricks in the face is smiling in this week she found herself saying “maybe I’m not OK… Maybe I shouldn’t feel this numbness, this flatness. Maybe I’m not OK? “

She self excludes… And it makes perfect sense that she does this for all the reasons that the lady on the webinar suck about, the difficulties with other people, the trauma and harm. The self exclusion under minds and stronger than any effort to create community inclusion she self excludes, home… It makes perfect sense that she does she was a child first contact with other children of them laughing at her Every time she spoke because she did not know how to speak in the way that was considered correct. Shouldn’t know this about yourself, that she did not know how to speak. She learned this about herself when, every time she spoke, the other children laughter. The person not to be her friend, but who is quickly becoming like all of the other people that she’s talk to me Dash someone who she doesn’t feel safe around, someone that she feels guarded around, hesitant around Dash Says that she needs to drop this victim shit. And she understands psychologically but that is true. But the thing is the new matter how much she tries to unbelievable that people are harmful if they will eventually hurt her and betray her like almost every single person she’s ever trusted in her life… Or how hard she tries to unbelievable that, she can’t seem to shake it. Feels peaceful with this reality and only wants to the extent that perhaps your fine self living somewhere out in the woodsLike where she began in some sort of cabin or shop or in the bowels of some giant city where she can disappear in the anonymity keep your eyes down spend the entire day just walking around… Truth of the matter is that she really only feels peaceful when she’s by herself, that is the only time she really feels deeply it is… For a period of time she felt that sort of years with the person who is her friend, but then the old ones open back up and she began to Notice the way is her friend so many other people that she has not felt safe around… Feel unsafe. This is really hard for her, recognition of this transition within the friendship from being a relationship with safety and ease – a rare and singular relationship of safety and ease – to being a relationship like so many others in which she feels but she must hide her self so she cannot show herself in the mechanismsThey protect her are so terrifically strong that even if she wanted to speak… Even if you wanted to share her work her ideas her vision and her passion her secret world she could night. Her voice falters her throat closes up your mind goes blank. She doesn’t know what to do about this, but it makes her very sad.

04/16/2020

She has learned that it’s possible to walk around the track and write. Run even. She can type reasonably well if she moves slow enough, and she likes to think that maybe this will be a game-changer for her, a way to re-engage with her voice, so to speak. The only problem is that a lot of what she has to say is dull to her and – she imagines – would be dull to anyone else.

She reminds herself that poetry exists.

Lately, she’s been confronting aspects of her psychology that seem to want to destroy her and she wonders if these parts are all stirred up because something in her knows that it is more important than ever to step up and to speak out.

Over the past couple of days, she has been to a lot meetings. Computer meetings, zoom meetings. Three webinars. One was on community inclusion among people with mental illness. This was the language they used. Mental illness. She spoke up at the end when they asked about topics that would be good for future webinars – “Practical ways to create environments that facilitate inclusion, that take into account things like sensory integration issues or processing differences. I’m a person with lived experience and I self-exclude because a lot of environments and events that most people might think are fun are not accessible to me because of sensory issues and processing issues.”

My voice got tight and my breath closed off when I spoke, because that is what happens when I speak sometimes.

I have shifted over to the I.

“and in the moment that I finally turned, knowing that in the reasonable world I could not stay, could not simply live there beside the tree or curl up and die there beside the tree, and so turned to continue on the walk that I’d been on, I didn’t have any sort of name anymore, and scorned any idea that I might be called by sounds other than the utterance of my beating heart and the small vibrations at the edge of my breath, and there was a weeping desperate keening in me, like something surely that a small child must feel when pulled away from a safe embrace, a howling and kicking sort of sadness, with hot tears and shaking shoulders, not wanting to go, not wanting to go.”

It was kind of like that.

Also, “She saw that it could all be torn away, cut and bulldozed, and that it had been cut before, and she pictured the forest on fire and cried about it burning even though there was no sign that it had burnt recently and she knew that the tree would die, that the forest did not last forever, and felt a huge sadness and fear in her about these things and yet because already she had begun to think again as she moved toward the road she’d been walking on she knew that everything dies and even though she knew that it was not a grown-up or equanimous accepting way to feel, not a mature way to feel, she hated that about the world, that so much that she loves gets taken away or hurt, eventually dies.”

04/18/2020

The periderm is a word

for what we say as bark

which is a single syllable for a billion

cells and bindings,

small exchanges of acid and water,

warming, cooling, slow arc of sun

gather of rain in just the right wind

an empire for ants

and other things we never see

To break a curse of silence

you lay in the bed for hours each morning

before the sun comes up

considering all the words

that you haven’t said,

the way you stopped speaking

almost entirely,

save for words like, “good.”

and “fine” and “yes,”

“no.”

And you feel the weight of all those words

in your blood and how your heart beats more slowly.

04/22/2020

A Brief Essay on the Toxic Culture of Hustle and Urgency within the Nonprofit Human Services Industrial Complex and the Mechanisms by which the Overcompensatory Tendencies among Trauma Survivors and the Well-Intended Motivations to Create Change and Healing within Poorly Designed Systems while Desperately trying to Earn a Fucking Living are Leveraged to Create an Exploited Labor Force of Helpers

05/23/2020

She was born into a world at the edge. A hospital beside a river, a house beside the marsh, outskirts of town at the end of a dirt road. Ocean stretched out beyond the line of horizon, led to the slow-crumbling coasts of lands on the other side of the world, places that were only ideas to her, colored splotches on the curve of a globe, flat shapes on a page, the enormity of the world reduced to glancing scale. “Oh, here is the United States,” smaller than her own hand, “and here,” tracing a journey in a few seconds with the tip of her finger, “here is Lebanon.” She found Germany, and England. Norway. Pivoted her pointer finger from the anchor of her thumb like a compass, connecting the places that had become bound in the chromosomal twining of her DNA – her brown eyes from her mother, her strong jaw and the silky fineness of her hair from her father.

There were no edges – really – though she did not know this when she was young.

When she woke up in the morning, after going to sleep as a strategy to avoid the fact that she did not feel belonging anywhere in her life, with anyone, not for more than a moment, went to sleep to avoid this knowing and dreamt of a huge mountain house left behind and full of lamps, woke up to the same knowing that she felt belonging only with herself and only when alone, she noticed that there were spider webs strung between the power lines, strung with droplets of water and thus visible.

The sun is going down on the day that I found out that my mother has stage 4 ovarian cancer. “I didn’t know that stage 4 just meant that it had spread from the original site. That’s all it means, just that it has spread.”

I was walking down the sidewalk, and the sun was hot. Stage 4 cancer, I thought. She has stage 4 cancer.

She told me that she and my dad had talked about it, the what if’s and the quality of life questions. I told her to get off the phone with me and call the doctor she needed to call about the biopsy appointment that she would have. That came next. The biopsy, and then chemotherapy to “try to shrink it” enough to do surgery.

None of that sounded good to me.

The 5 year survival rate for stage 4 ovarian cancer is 17%, thought outcomes are better for women under age 65. My mom will be 70 this year. 70 is a long life. It is a long, good life. Maybe she’ll survive it all.

I sent her the poem antidote for the fear of death by Elson, in between picking serviceberries and crying hot tears, real tears out in the open by the sidewalk and not caring at all. Not sobbing loud tears, just got tears that slid down my face, thick feeling tears.

She send me a picture of a row between bing red flowers at flying cloud farm where she goes to buy strawberries. “I will try to make informed decisions,” she wrote. I took this to mean that she might choose to forego treatment if that is an option. That she might choose to just let the cancer kill her as slowly or as quickly as it chooses to.

I don’t want my mom to die. This feeling is felt with the same child like intensity that when I was a little kid I did not want my mom to die.

May 29 2:33pm

I guess in the first few days of reckoning with the possibility that someone you love might die, there is a surprising flood of memory and associations – scraps of the substance and details of a person entering into the mind with surprising clarity, distilled.

I had an experience this morning, of realizing that my mom won’t always answer the phone. That a day will come when she doesn’t answer the phone, and I won’t hear her voice anymore. This makes me tremendously sad and I don’t want to be away from my mom at all.

5:20

She is being so cavalier. “Did you know that stage 4 ovarian cancer is one of the things that you can get guaranteed to go into hospice for?” She sounds chipper, like she’s learned a fun new fact about hummingbirds. “Did you know that the smallest mammal is a bat that is the size of a bumblebee?” She finds these facts in the newspaper, because she is still a person who reads the newspaper. She clips articles and puts them on a bulletin board near the laundry room, by the treadmill that nobody uses.

May 30 9:42

I’m sitting at the river park, under a serviceberry tree that I did not know was here. I’d never seen them until this year, and suddenly they are everywhere. I can’t stop finding them. They have become the defining fruit of this late-spring season, the week that I found out that my mother will die. There is a dusky winged woodpecker flying around – three of them actually, two males and one female, the serious business of a competition dance between  the trees.

06/04/2020

I haven’t said anything here about the state-sponsored killing of George Floyd because I realized a while back that even though it feels good (to me) to say how horrified I am at the persistent reality of American white supremacy and everyday racism, getting on FB and saying a bunch of stuff to people who (for the most part) agree with me…well, that really doesn’t do anything other than make me feel like I have proven myself as a conscientious white-identified person…which is gross to me.

While it’s crucially necessary to break the silence about white supremacy and cultures of everyday racism, Faith Rhyne going on and on about how upsetting the reality of American white supremacy is to Faith Rhyne is not actually doing anything other than satisfying my personal ego needs as they relate to my being a person with anti-racist values.

Saying things on FB to people who will mostly agree with me isn’t enough, and I’ve been trying to figure out what is a more substantial way to be an ally.

I write grants for free for POC led organizations to support projects that benefit communities of color and I want to expand that form of allyship.

I have conversations with other white-identified people about race and racism, and I give money to organizations that support liberation of oppressed and marginalized people.

Most recently, I have noticed this big call to action for white people to break the silence about racism and for businesses and organizations to meaningfully address racism.

While it’s great that so many ‘woke’ people and justice organizations are speaking so openly about racism and white responsibility to be in allyship – I’m pretty interested in encouraging ALL people to talk about racism and the ways it shows up in our lives.

June 24

I haven’t written in a while – aside from writing grants for work, and sending emails and putting together presentations. All of my writing energy has gone to those endeavors lately. That is how I get paid to write – haha. Eye roll.

The past several weeks have brought the news of my mother having stage 4 Ovarian cancer that has spread to her colon and liver and possibly other places. At first it was something that she intended to address by “having the bad parts cut out” – that, however, was not an option. Chemotherapy may “slow it down a little.” The doctor has told her that without chemo, she will likely die 3-6 months from now. She is still considering whether she wants to try the chemotherapy – or if she will be simply wasting her last month of feeling relatively well for a few months of brutal sickness before dying anyway. There aren’t a lot of good choices in a situation like this.

Right after I found out, I made a commitment to make notes everyday – but only did that for a couple of days, then stopped – not out of a decision to stop, but because of this strange slipstream of consciousness and activity that has begun to define my experience, where I start out the day and then a million small things happen and I completely forget what I intended to do. The cumulative effect of living this slipstream life for the past six months is that I kinda have lost my footing in who I am. I don’t have much personality to speak of because a lot of the time I am silencing myself to have to show up well, and have been struggling with a lot of unhappiness and frustration, some sullen boredom.

It’s been 90 days since I began working from home and the young people ended their school year. Thank goodness they are not tiny children and I was not trying to keep them entertained and educated while also trying to work from home. It is good that I was able to continue working from home, still earn a wage.

(I feel like I am caught out at sea most of the time, swimming in circles, occasionally being pulled under the waves and fighting my way back to the surface to find the land in sight has disappeared, has moved.)

Lately, I get the distinct impression that I am not needed in the roles I have inhabited and for the work I have been trying to do. Things have not been working out. I’ve been making mistakes, and my schedule is full of misspent energy and wasted time.

In the morning, I wake up and run or walk for a couple of hours, walk more throughout the day…about 10 miles a day.

June 21 – it’s the 2nd day of summer and also Father’s Day. I slept later than usual, and baked the cheese things in the mid-morning – still wearing my pajamas. The cheese things are an adaptation of my great-grandmothers cheese straw recipe, at least that’s how I think of it. In actuality, the cheese things are an adaptation of a New York Times Southern Cheese straw recipe that I found as a clue as to how to possibly make the cheese biscuits that I recall from my childhood – which were an adaptation of southern cheese straws, sliced into thin rounds as an alternative to pressing the thick dough through a cookie press, snaking out the straws. The cheese things are cut thin and flat, formed by chilling a brick of cheese and butter dough until it slices clean edged and holds its shape – a flat water like shape, baked at 375, usually a little burnt at the edges.

June 28

It’s a dingy seeming Sunday evening, Saharan sand muting the air over the mountains and casting a dull glare across the river.

She doesn’t feel like saying anything, doesn’t feel like speaking. She rides silent in the passenger seat, looking at the way they’ve torn up the road for the new greenway, new bike path. Red clay scraped and rutted, waiting for asphalt. In a few months, the job will be finished. Bulldozers moves on, grass seed sprouting, maybe a haze of dust still at the edges of things, a newness in the cuts of the young box elders that crowd in along the place where there wasn’t a road, but now there is.

The sand came all the way across the Atlantic Ocean, a massive storm that gathered itself up in the desert thousands of miles away and carried these particles over the ocean to the mountains here, blunting the view and making the blue of the ridge lines a flat grey.

She doesn’t feel like she wants to say anything or do anything. She doesn’t want to walk the miles today. Doesn’t want to converse.

 Current:

Lately, I have been getting up and running 5-5 miles at the track before my morning walk, so that by 9:45am, I will have 7-8 miles logged. The reason for me doing this is because I have been in the toothy maw of a terrible melancholia for at least the past several months, much much longer. The state crept in over the past few years, difficult days hung on a little longer, intermittent anxieties because blaring and persistent, until over the past few months my experience has come to be dominated by a bitter and sullen dark-minded melancholia. I haven’t laughed much this year. Seriously, maybe 3 or 4 times. I can understand how something might be theoretically humorous – but, I have had no mirth. Yesterday, I lashed out at my best friend – again – and then cried for a lot of the morning, pulling myself together long enough to do a meeting with a community leader in a rural county south of here. I felt completely insane – crumpled up inside and with my eyes still red, and yet talking clearly and articulately about peer support and the potential for a community culture of compassionate support for human struggles. It was a performance, like the majority of my work lately. Showing up and saying the things, feeling wooden inside. Writing the words like a machine. There have been a few projects that I have felt passionate about, times I have been briefly inspired to transform the system. Slow-running around track and working on a Z Smith Reynolds bid in the early morning. 

I have been deeply antagonized by having lost track of what I was planning for my own work – my own writing and art. I painted a picture of a tufted titmouse for my mom, to cheer her up. The little bird looks brave. I started a picture of my oldest child – who will be 18 next month – walking at dusk down a slope at the park, tree silhouettes in dark, without a plan yet for the lightning bugs that may be lit across the fields.

Several times over the years since I have gotten off of psychiatric medication I have considered “getting back on meds.” I usually only think about getting back on meds when I am feeling especially mentally ill – when I can recognize that my thoughts are fucked up and my body feels ill and my nervous system is exploding in tearfulness and fear and rage, then going numb. 

I have no doubt in my mind – even when I recognize that I am not in my right mind – that many of my struggles are rooted in complex trauma interfacing with neurocognitive and emotional processing differences. That is my mental illness. I am a person with measurably significant learning and processing differences that has been through significant injury and loss across multiple life domains. I have disordered sensory integration and am socially atypical in my motivations to be around people and in my low tolerance for social environments. 

I am absolutely able to manage my so-called mental illness if I am able to structure my life to allow me to take care of myself – which means lots of time to decompress after social interactions or time spent in busy, loud places, the freedom to not show up if I need to not show up, and time alone with interaction with other people or sensory stimulation. I need to be outside everyday, and have a hard time tolerating rooms where multiple people are having different conversations because I have auditory processing issues that pull my attention to all the conversations all at once and I can’t understand anything and I quickly become overwhelmed. 

I am absolutely able to manage my so-called mental illness without medication if I am able to take care of myself. 

Here’s the deal: My life is not structured to afford me the time to do what I need to do to not end up frayed and jumping at every sound and numb and angry and crying. That is how I have been for months, most of the time – since last summer at least. 

I don’t have a mental health practitioner because I don’t trust the mental health system and certainly don’t need uninformed and misinformed strangers analyzing and diagnosing me – that’s not safe or remotely helpful for me. 

I have an IQ of 151 and am probably on the autism spectrum in some way or another that was never identified because of the era in which I was born. I have had many deeply meaningful atypical life experiences – like growing up 2 miles back in the woods with a person who was born in another century at the edge of a town that was colonized by the US Navy for the purposes of establishing a submarine base which would become the location of the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons in North America. 

I am not going to have a 26 year old who just got out of social worker school tell me that I have bipolar disorder or generalized anxiety. 

I myself, however, know that I have been suffering with states that undermine everything good in my life and that – frankly – are a struggle to live with. My employer provides a ‘health membership’ to a small integrative health practice that is designed to be a resource for uninsured or underinsured people. It is the best medical care I have received in years and years. I actually trust the doctor I see there, and so I talked with her about going back on an antidepressant that I found helpful years ago. She let me make the decision, and didn’t push me at all. Even though I was sobbing and a wreck in her office, practically begging for help. 

She started me at the lowest dose and I took one pill last night. 

This morning I woke up and felt better than I have felt in a long time. 

Many factors contribute to how well a person feels. I ate a healthy dinner last night. My hormones have shifted from the premenstrual dysphoria profile. I have run every day this week. 

I took medication. 

This morning, I noticed something conspicuously different in the way I felt and my perception, the quality of my experience.

It’s entirely possible that what I was feeling was the placebo effect. However, I am not entirely unconvinced that what I was noticing was the presence of serotonin and norepinephrine on their respective receptors. 

There was an absence of anxiety. A feeling of quiet optimism and even gratitude for the morning. I wasn’t jubilant or ecstatic or in an elevated state. I just didn’t feel horrible. 

Recognizing that I didn’t feel horrible was an amazing relief because most mornings this year and a lot of mornings in the latter half of last year I did feel horrible – edgy and uncertain, clang-y and bitter, sullen and a little numb. Angry some days. More sad on others. 

They say that cortisol levels rise in the morning as our bodies prepare to wake. 

It’s Saturday morning now and I am at the track. My vision seems more precise today, like I can really notice the depth and shadows in the full-summer leaves, really are the branches distinct. I have run around the track about ten times and haven’t really thought of much. Just felt my breathing and my muscles, the sweat gathering on my face. It’s humid today, and I like it – the thick silkiness of the air. My body feels good. I am physically healthy. At the doctor the other day, my resting heart rate was 55. I have a blood pressure of 110/70. This is probably because of all the walking and running, the active lifestyle. 

I am so lucky that I don’t have a chronic health condition that impacts the functioning of my heart and muscles. 

Depression makes me sick and miserable – but, I can still make myself run, and that probably helps the depression immensely. Who knows? As bad as it is with me staying active and me using skills and me paying attention to triggers and trying hard to take care of myself – and yet still the depression was tremendously bad, extremely painful and erasing of who I am – well, if I had been using all of those tools and trying so hard to keep it at bay, it may well have killed me, because it seemed to be trying to kill me. 

Anyway, it’s interesting to think about the dogma against medication in the mental health recovery movement and how I myself had inhabited periods of time when I believed that really there is no such thing as a mental illness and the psychiatric industrial complex was just pathologizing normal human distress to create a controlled and profitable populace of miserable people. 

It’s true that the roots of Western psychiatry and conceptions of mental illness reach back to asylums that served the purpose of holding anyone who created any problems within the developing civilizations of Europe.

The next day:

Last night I was walking home from downtown, where I had headed after opting to walk alone, and to miss the river at sundown, to move instead toward the sound and grime of the city’s small center. The sidewalks were torn up and orange plastic fencing cordoned the jack-hammered rubble. Ever since the pandemic started, the city has been tearing up roads and sidewalks, laying down new bricks in a parquet pattern. Perfect angles and spacing, the labor of Mexican men. 

The previously disbanded drum corp from the housing project by the interstate had reformed, and a cluster of aging men stood in a circle in the park notorious for being a place of congregation for those who had no place to go and were intoxicated, needed to lay down or find a little something to help them get through the day. Some parks feel the same no matter what city you’re in and for a moment the place could have been in Portland, could have been in New York. San Francisco. There was a rush and chaos at the edges of the park, people entering and exiting, cars driving by, pedestrian tourists hurrying past, skirting the street because the sidewalk was torn up. The empty containers of charity to-go lunches were scattered along the brick fence of the park. Pigeons were blithe, happy as they always are. 

I had moved on down the street and gone up another, stopped in an import store run by a young lady who liked the big black tattoos on my back, visible because I was wearing an old tank mouse-colored tanktop, bright pink linen shorts, my ruined trail running shoes that I haven’t yet been able to replace, hair in a long braid and pale skin showing in lines on my shoulders where the sun hadn’t hit. I was looking for a ring, two rings actually. Silver bands. Plain to wear on my middle fingers, the ones with the hearts tattooed on them. They only had rings with stones, and rings shaped like cobras to coil around the finger. I considered the cobra and then left the store, walked toward the library up at the north end of the street, my face half covered by a grey buff pulled up over my nose and mouth. I stopped and looked into the Woolworth’s, where my daughter has a job interview on Monday for a soda jerk position. Somehow, my fifteen year old daughter got called for almost every job she applied for. I took a picture of the darkened space, the counter and the red vinyl chairs, the walls of art that had taken the place of drugstore goods years ago. The store I was going to look for rings in was closed, out of business, and so I turned to go down Wall Street to head home. The sidewalks were full of tables spaced apart, people having dinner, hostesses and servers wearing masks. I moved quick and was not a tourist. Was a local woman walking alone, wearing the same outfit I had worn all day – to vacuum the house and to go to the store. To drive out to Fairview where my mother was sick from chemotherapy. To take the dog out in the yard and try to throw the ball for home even though he only wanted to go back inside. To pull the corn snake out of its cage and set it onto the hay-covered ground of the dog yard, watch as it the snake raised its russet head and smelled under rocks with its flickering tongue as thunder came and rain I could not feel sitting under the branched canopy of trees began to fall in the heavy drops of the edge of a storm. 

Inside, the storm moved the branches like waves of water, tossing them in heavy gusts, making them seem to roll. A green ocean. 

I wore the same pink linen shorts and mouse-colored tanktop, but had on my sweater that is the color of goldenrod or saffron to lay down beside my mother and to put my arm around her middle, her belly large and distended from cancer, the bones of her ribs easy to feel when I rubbed her back. Shoulders sharp and knobby like cypress. I laid with my mom for a while, spooned her while she was still and resting, almost fell asleep but could not quite. Tried to be present, but was distracted by the feeling that I would need to leave soon to go back to town, to see my daughter, have some sort of dinner. 

I was only half thinking about that as I walked downtown, about my mother being sick and dying just on down the road and how I should be there as much I can to offer comfort. I wasn’t thinking too hard about that, but had noticed a dull sad feeling on the way back to town earlier, like something way down in me was mourning and I could only hear the crying faintly. 

On Wall Street, I heard the crack and roll of drums and I ran down the street to try to find the stairs back down to College St, but they’d been gated and so I ran back up around the corner to get to the park where the men with drums were assembling in a spaces out circle, and playing a few staccato measures to warm up. My body moves so easily to drum line music, knees and shoulders finding the segments of rhythm, anticipating and following, like the drums are playing me. I stood with my feet planted and moved in what to passerby might seem like strange small twitching movements, but to me were an echo back of the sounds that filled the small amphitheater of the park. 

I walked home alone and the sky was filled with pink clouds and drifts of gold. The tall  grass I’m the field alongside the road at McDowell was coming alive with fireflies and I felt happy. 

It’s a foggy morning, and cool. I think about yesterday and the way the sun broke over the mountains in a wave of warming gold light that hit my face so bright that I closed my eyes as I moved round the northwest turn of the track. The few clouds of the morning were curved and thin, strung like fish swimming against the blue sky. 

This morning, there is a thick grey that hangs over everything and the air is cool and damp. Wind stirs the trees alongside the school property in small bursts, less like a wind and more like some great unseen thing may be moving in the branches. 

I haven’t thought about much this morning as I move around in the looping ovals that add up to miles, breathing deep and steady through my nose, sending the oxygen to my heart, to my lungs, to all my soft and vital parts. 

I am trying to distance myself from mournful thoughts of my mother’s sickness and picture, instead, a miracle – a mass cell death, a sudden halt to proliferation. I open and close my fist fast as I run, a movement like flinging something out of my hand, and I picture light slamming into the thickest and most sick center of my mother’s illness.

The dog has had strange mats in his golden fur, mats that have gathered out of nowhere, and he worries them like they are burrs, but there is no burr, just his own heavy hair knitted into hard felt. My father and I cut them out carefully, but he won’t let me bury them. “Throw them in the garbage,” he says, pointing to the open mouth of the can beside the microwave. I don’t argue, figuring the excised mats will end up buried eventually, at the landfill as soon as next week, and perhaps that will do, despite the lack of solemn ceremony, the returning them to the earth. 

The reason I have the idea that the mats should be buried is because my elder friend got a strange look on her face and said that spirit told her to tell me that when I am cutting out the mats, I am also curing up my mother, working on her tumors, and that I should take the mats and bury them or burn them. 

I didn’t even try to suggest to my father that the mats should be burnt, as I knew that he’d have no part of that. 

Why is it so hard for white baby boomers to believe in unseen workings, to believe in the powers of spirits and ancestors, the earth itself? 

It’s the end of the day walking by the Greenway on the street named for an indigenous people’s nation where there is a broad field and a drainage stream down in the trees. 

I feel calm and present. The easy answer would be that, after 10 years, I got back on an anti-depressant and I actually have norepinephrine in my neurochemical landscape again. 

It’s really stunning actually to reflect on the months of severe depression, profound melancholy… Sullen bitter angry numb and yet walking through my days and trying my hardest to feel better. 

I feel better.

ABOUT THIS PROJECT

This site is an ongoing, intermittent unstructured personal research project that began in 2009 with the simple intent to draw a picture everyday for a year, and to ‘blog’ about my experience of trying to re-engage with self-directed creativity.

This space is not organized, and, beyond the descending chronological archives of posts stretching over a decade, is not especially linear. Although this record was created in 2009, content loops back many years, and – often – one period of time may overlay another. Such is life.

This project doesn’t have a clear structure, and functions primarily as a place to put unfinished work, a place to store ideas that I want to come back to, small art projects that I want to remember. The best way to interact with it is probably just to scroll, or search. See what you find. Some of this is beautiful, some of this is terrible.

At times, I’ve had some dumb ideas, and said some silly, illogical things in an almost insufferable tone of writing.

I’m okay with that.

This is a project about learning and un-learning, notes on the process. It never claims to be perfect, and part of the purpose here is to demonstrate how one’s thinking about a thing can change over time.

If there is a goal in this project, it is to engage in the practice of taking notes on experience and trying to feel out what is most alive to me at a particular point in time, to try to remember the things that strike me as beautiful or important, to use creative process as a means of better understanding my personal experience in relation to my experience of the world and what I see of it.

If one needs a methodological framework to make sense of what this is, call it an experimental autoethnographic record, an evolving data set collected through methods of spontaneous qualitative reporting utilizing text-based and visual media to respond to the questions:

“Who am I? What the fuck is happening in the world? What is important to me? Why?”

The limitations of this research are that it has no clear, directive parameters in method or reporting. Data is generated without specific prompt and in a variety of non-controlled research settings.

Researcher bias and subject subjectivity are inescapable.

However, these limitations also allow this project to be what it is – a bricolage of an imperfect person, assembled in what may seem to be a haphazard way, but that possibly suggests something of the author’s cognitive and emotional experience and is thus a means of reporting on simply that – the author’s experience as the person they conceptualize themselves as being, having the experiences they are having, noticing what they notice, and thinking about things, feeling things as they do.

Given that I am a person with significant learning and processing differences that affect my abilities, with great strength in some areas and profound challenges in others, and given that I am a person who survived being diagnosed with a severe persistent mental illness at a young age and who has ultimately recovered from a vulnerability to those experiences by learning about my unique wellness needs in being the person that I am and finding practices that helped me to understand and heal a lot of trauma, I figure that some of what I think about and share might be useful to someone out there, some kid in a basement hating their life.

Over the past several years, my posts here have mostly been long form assemblages of emails I’ve sent to myself – partial essays and segments of story, splinters of theory and poems, reflections on experience and notes to myself about things I want to remember, things I am learning.

There are a few outlines here and there.

I’ve written the vast majority of this on my phone.

I am continually trying to figure out what to do with all of this, and if anyone has any meaningful and sincere suggestions as to how to approach using this data, or how to use segments of it to make a book that might help some people maybe not want to die so much and might be useful to people trying to figure out their lives in the world that we live in, feel free to be in touch.

I am a citizen of the United States, who is culturally identified as being white and female. I had access to resources and privilege by virtue of the family I was born into.

If it weren’t for the ‘safety net’ provided by my family, I would probably be homeless or dead.

This represents a sampling of what one person chooses to show about herself.

There is only a fraction of experience shown.

Micro movements at the edge of a much bigger field of events.

Faith Rhyne is a person whose lived experience and education are rooted in:

– Growing up in the deep woods of the American South in the latter half of the 20th century in a house her father built from the parts of a different house. Growing up in a geodesic dome, just down the road from her great-grandmother, who was born in 1894, and who didn’t die until she was 16.

– Having a significant unidentified learning difference with an identified speech impediment that required special education classes from age 6-9.

– Severe childhood injury, almost dying twice

– Being friends with books and elders, woods and animals

– Adolescent psychiatry and experiential divergence

Watching the town she grew up in become a military town, learning about what it meant to have a nuclear submarine facility in her hometown.

– Dropping out of Camden County High School and driving a lot. Leaving home. Going back. Listening to songs on the radio and feeling my heart explode. Being homesick. Moving to Portland. Listening to records. Writing letters. Hanging out with houseless folks and experimental subcultures. Getting tattoos. Crying in my room. Learning Arabic and smoking cigarettes. Briefly stepping into boxing rings.

– Graduating from college with a 3.84, and a couple of suicide attempts, a couple of hospitalizations. Dropping out of graduate school. Some bad drug use. Lousy choices. Close calls. Heavy medication. A bad time. Big moves.

— Surviving

– Wanting to change the world

– Marriage and Motherhood

— Divorce and Motherhood

— Losing her mind because she wanted to change the world so bad

— Going back to graduate school

– Self-taught arts and creative resilience

…and – through it all – watching the place she called home for many years get destroyed in slow and fast ways, learning to try to cope with not being able to do anything to stop it.

— Loving the world.

Faith has professional and voluntary experience in many different settings and has worked in mutual service with people with challenges ranging from being an abused adolescent girl to being elderly or having AIDS.

She also knows how to inventory a hardware store.

Faith’s first volunteer writing job was with the Burnside Cadillac newspaper [Portland, Oregon, c. 1997] where she hung out with houseless folks and worked with them to build content for the paper, which provided income to houseless vendors.

Every Saturday morning for two years, Faith drove around town picking up old bread and vegetables, and spent the day with Food Not Bombs, eating soup and stiff bagels in the park.

Years later, Faith spent several seasons as a contract educator of human reproductive health and safety (“Sex Ed.”) in city and county schools, as part of her employment at a health and science museum, where she also had to dress up like a voluptuous banana for a stage-show about the dangers of watching too much television, and occasionally as a dinosaur in a performance related to proper dental hygeine.

As a volunteer court-appointed advocate for minors in State custody, Faith was awarded the recognition of Guardian ad Litem (NC, District 28) of the Year in 2008.

For eight years, Faith facilitated classes as a Certified Peer Support Specialist at a semi-rural Recovery Education Center in the western region of a southern state.

Faith enjoys creating spaces for exploration of the ways our stories are formed and told, focusing on the dynamics of narrative and perspective, such as the ways a story may change when told in 3rd person, and how things might look differently if viewed very close up or from a distance.

She has a degree in Sociology and earned her Masters in Psychology from Saybrook University, with a specialization in Transformative Social Change.  Her research interests include the use of creative self-documentation as a tool in navigating one’s personal and social experiences, cognitive/emotive/meaning-making styles, and resilience education and healing justice activism as a pathway to individual and collective recovery.

Faith likes to try to understand how things work.

Faith has crossed the country multiple times and once tried to prove something about God, patterns in nature and human language with pictures of clouds.

Formal Education

1994 – GED, Camden County, Georgia

1999 – BA, with Honors, Portland State University, Sociology with a minor in Black Studies

2006 – Coursework in Middle Grades Education, University of North Carolina, Asheville

2007 –2009 Part-time graduate level coursework toward a Master of Art Teaching degree in Special Education, with a concentration in Behavioral/Emotional Disorders.

2015 – Saybrook University, MA in Psychology, with a specialization in Transformative Social Change

Professional Experience

January 2019 – Present: Sunrise Community for Recovery and Wellness, Organizational Development Specialist

In this role, I work to support a nonprofit peer-led organization’s mission ‘to empower individuals and the community to manage and overcome substance use and mental health challenges’ by contributing to organizational program development and operations processes through grant writing, communications, project coordination, and participation in collaborative public health and justice initiatives which seek to address social determinants of health such as poverty and vulnerability to trauma as public health crises.

I support the organization I work for and our community partners in expanding and refining the role of individuals with lived experience in supporting recovery and in helping systems of care better understand the needs of individuals and communities struggling with complex challenges stemming from poverty and trauma.

As a recovery and resilience educator, I am passionate about people having access to resources that support them in understanding the role of trauma in wellness challenges and in learning resilience strategies to support individuals and communities not only in coping, but in creating change within their lives and collectively working to heal harm by addressing the complex factors which perpetuate poverty and increase vulnerability to trauma.

In 2020, I will be working on a participatory action research project to organize and develop recovery community capacity in under-resourced areas through working with community members to create a recovery workshop event that reflect community needs and interests, as well through holding community listening sessions to gather feedback on community needs and experiences in the social ecological system as it relates to formal and natural systems of care to complement existing needs data and to develop reports to local and state service providers in the effort to develop innovative programs to better meet the needs of under-resourced communities.

July 2013 – December 2014: The Icarus Project, Local Groups Support Coordinator

Primary Duties: In this role, I developed strategies and implemented processes to support an expanded network of grassroots mutual aid groups organized by and for individuals who experience the world in ways that are often diagnosed as mental illnesses. Additionally, as a member of the Icarus Project’s Organizing Collective, I offered support in areas of outreach, media creation, strategic planning, and communications.

February 2011 – October 2018: MBHS Behavioral Health Services, Recovery Education Center, Certified Peer Support Specialist and Qualified Mental Health Professional

Primary Duties: Within this position I facilitated recovery education classes with students receiving services in a semi-rural, state-funded community mental health and substance abuse recovery organization. I facilitated both evidence-based practices, such as WRAP, as well as elective courses that I developed, such as Creative Writing in Recovery and regularly offered wellness electives, e.g. meditation. In addition to facilitating classes, I provided one-on-one peer support to individuals with highly diverse and complex experiences, needs, and circumstances.

April 2009 – May 2010: The Health Adventure, Science Educator

Primary Duties: In this position, I taught a variety of health and science-oriented classes to a broad range of grade levels in an interactive museum setting.  Additionally, I served as an instructor for the county-mandated Life Patterns series, teaching adolescents about human reproductive health and safety in public school classrooms.  I was also responsible for assisting with planning and teaching special programs, such as Super Science Saturdays.

December 2007 – April 2009: The Health Adventure, Guest Services

Primary Duty:  Facilitation of a positive and engaging museum experience for both guests and visiting school groups.   Additionally, I frequently worked in the museum’s Explore Store and assisted the Director of Guest Services with maintenance of data files and mailing lists.

January 2006 – June 2008: Asheville-Buncombe Education Coalition/Delta House Life Development Center, Paid Tutor

Primary Duty:  Working with academically/socially ‘at-risk’ youth to develop positive skills in areas such as time management and task process.  I worked with families and school faculty to establish goal-oriented communication and accountability. Several times a year, youth were involved in community learning projects which were co-organized by youth and program mentors.

Recent Voluntary Work

2019 – Present: Buncombe County Safety and Justice Challenge Grant, Community Engagement Workgroup: Work as part of a collaborative team to organize and facilitate community “Let’s Talk Justice!” listening sessions. Specifically, I provide facilitation and documentation support, as well as participate in developing workgroup reports to community and presentations to justice system leadership as a part of a MacArthur Foundation funded initiative to strategically reduce the jail population by 15%.

2019 – Present: Buncombe County Detention Facility, Peer Support. I co-facilitate peer support groups on two different units at the BCDF. These groups utilize the framework of Wellness Recovery Action Plan in supporting those housed at the BCDF to develop personal strategies to cope with the stresses of incarceration, recovery planning for post-release, and also provides information on skills that may support coping with PTSD. Individuals in the BCDF are provided information on resources that may support them in recovery following release from the BCDF.

2019 – Present: Peer Voice NC, Strategic Planning Council, Recovery Alternatives you Forced Treatment Coalition. I participate in the strategy and action implementation activities of Peer Voice NC, a SAMHSA – funded statewide consumer network initiative.

2012 – 2018: BeLoved Community, Asheville, NC, peer support/mutual aid

Provided peer support and community support in a setting that exists to serve as a safe and supportive sanctuary and place of empowerment and connection for those experiencing houselessness, those who may be vulnerable to houselessness and those impacted by other economic and social injustices.

2011 – 2016: Asheville Radical Mental Health Collective, organizing member

Coordinated and facilitated weekly open community mutual aid space for people with diverse perspectives on mental health and healing, as a means of nurturing community engagement, visibility, and activism opportunities for those who identify as having lives which have been significantly impacted by mental health struggles and involvement in mental health treatment settings. I also helped to organize special events, such as multi-media art shows, movie showings, and workshops and actively built relationships with other community groups to collaborate on trainings, dialogues, and other events. Additionally, the network of people that were organized through this work had the opportunity to participate in an ethnographic research project utilizing participatory qualitative methodology with a doctoral student from the University of Texas’ Institute of Medical Humanities.

2007 – 2010: Guardian ad Litem, Buncombe County, volunteer court-appointed advocate

Worked effectively as a member of Child and Family Teams as an advocate for adolescent youths in DSS custody. This role required that I submit a formal report to the Courts on a regular basis for review purposes, and any additional reports as needed. This role required that I develop and maintain appropriate, proactive and compassionate relationships with young men and women who had experienced profound trauma within their lives, as well as effectively work with a variety of professionals within the system of care.

Contact:

faithrhyne@gmail.com

Well…

I am not able to do an exhaustive inventory of everything anyone has ever said about fear. Humans have been preoccupied with fear since the very beginning of our evolution. The instinct to live and to be alive is interwoven with the instinct to be afraid of things that might hurt us. This instinct is at the very core of our existence as animals.

In my own life, I have to recognize fear as a driver in my experience and perception. I do not want to be scared. I don’t want to think about bad things happening. I do not want to feel sad and angry about things that do not actually exist. I want to be able to feel sad and angry about the fear-producing things that actually are happening – if not to me directly then to other people, and to the planet, and thus to me indirectly – in ways that don’t shut me down and make me want to go to bed or create so much panicked grief that I am not able to function well. I want to be able to stay grounded and centered in myself as a strong and capable person. I want to be able to connect with other people, and to try to do my work as a person whose values are hinged on holding in reverence the reality of suffering in the world and a long-standing commitment to do what is reasonably within my capacity to lessen the lot of suffering and to support healing. 

If I am incapacitated by and exhausted by and distracted by fear, I can’t do those things. 

There is a lot that I am not afraid of. I spent the night on the top of a mountain in a thunderstorm. I walk down dark and unfamiliar streets alone. I know, in my rational mind, that I need to practice acceptance around the bigger things that I am afraid of – climate crisis, the disappearance of wildlife, my own uncertain future. However, I have fear. I feel it in my body, low level and then rising toward a horrified grief. 

As I write this, I am thinking about the possibility that a part of me that has been conspicuously quiet the past few years is all but howling with the recognition that the things I most feared as a child are all coming true. War. The death of animals. Forests on fire. 

Adults are not supposed to be scared about those things. 

Inside, I feel like a little kid watching the world end. 

I have been alive long enough to see that things are changing, and changing fast. 

I don’t know what will happen. Everything that I used to think I could rely upon as being a stable, likely reality has gone all shaky. 

Things that used to exist do not exist anymore. Forests become parking lots. Some places will be underwater in my lifetime. 

That scares me. 

It is good that it scares me.

It should scare me! 

Nonetheless, I don’t want to live with fear. Rather, I don’t want to live with fear in the way that I have been. I have to change my relationship with fear, change how it registers in my body and mind, change the way I relate fear with love.

The other side of fear is love. If I love, then I become scared that what I love will be harmed or lost. It is impossible to love that way, because then it becomes about fear, and the feelings of love become a tightening chest, a heaviness in the throat, slight scrambling of the thoughts. 

That changes what I think about, changes how I see the world and what might happen, changes how I *feel* in my life.

July 15

I was driving through town, and noticing that I felt lonely, anxious. I didn’t used to feel lonely. Interesting to be lonely again. My best friend is far away, and I have to reckon with this empty space that has been left in my days these past few months, and especially over the past several weeks, this being alone. It is probably good to know that something in the fiber of the friendship is woven with what certainly feel like unhealthy attachments, the pang of absence and worry that my friend will forget me, the sensations of being left behind. I also recognize that these things enter into my experience from a part of me that is still very much healing, and that it is perfectly natural and healthy for there to be ebbs and flows in friendship and the things we give our attention to. I know, in fact, that what I ought to be doing during this time, perhaps by design, is tending to my own affairs – projects and the forging of opportunities. Within this absence from my friend, there is the opportunity for reconnection with myself, and for reconciliation of the parts of me that are still wounded from attachments and difficulties with attachment. 

I was alone for a long time. 

I am alone now. 

As I was driving in the rain, I came up to a stop light and saw a man who I know as Jethro. That is his street name. I know his real name, too, but I only remember his street name. He is an old man who looks like a boy, a trouble-making, happy, round face boy, whose hair was blond when he was young, before the army and the alcohol and the life and death of it all got ahold of him. It’s easy to imagine his as happy as child, but I know that his life was probably brutal, as so many lives are. Still, he has a smiling face. Once, when he was crying at the church, drunk and crying, mourning the death of his lady, I sat beside him and held his hand, gnarled and tanned from being outside all the time. 

He wasn’t flying a sign, he was flying his hat, a black ball cap, holding it up like he was trying to catch coins from heaven, catching only rain. I stopped at the green light, cars behind me. Fished a few dollars out of the console, “Hey, Jethro!” I felt genuinely happy to see him, to see him smile at me. I held the bills out, and he thanked me. “I’m trying to do good, I’m trying. This, this ain’t no way to live.” He gestured to the open sky above him and the rain coming down on his head. 

“I love you, Jethro.” 

I meant it. 

“You’re okay. We do the best we can.”

I held my hand to my heart and he held his hand to his heart, and we waited for the light gone red to go green again. 

I drove over to the gas station at the bottom of the hill, pulled up to the pumps, noticed the woman with all her things piled up on a tarp-covered cart, saw the swaying older man thin strong shoulders in an undershirt, and thought I recognized him, knew that I knew him from somewhere, probably just around the neighborhood. “Baby,” he calls over to me, lurching like maybe he’s had a stroke, “baby, it’s raining. I got to ask, will you get me a piece of chicken in there. I’m honnnngry.” 

He drew out the word like a whine. 

“Yeah, of course,” I said, without thinking. I could easily get this man a piece of chicken. He took the gas nozzle from me, “Lemme do that.” 

I protested. He didn’t have to do anything. 

“I want to do it,” he said, and I understood that I should let him pump the gas. 

“I’ll go get you that chicken,” and moved to walk toward the store. 

“Baby,” he called, “one more thing. If you could get me a pack of Newport’s, in the box…?” 

“I dooooon’t know,” I called back over my shoulder, already knowing that I’d buy him the smokes, because small mercies are priceless in a difficult life. At the counter in the back of the store, the people smiled and laughed behind the steam trays and ice cream cooler set beside the lotto tickets and shelves of tobacco, the stands of gold jewelry and glass cases of pipes and papers, pills with bold claims. The Hindi wife of the store’s owner bustles around all day, sweeping and picking up, walking around the parking lot with incense and muttering prayers. 

I ordered the food and went to the other counter to get the smokes, a small hard rectangle that felt just like a present.  I got the man more food than he asked for, and he was holding the door when I walked out. 

“It’s your lucky day,” I said, and handed him his gifts. All the sudden I recognized him. “I know you! I sat with you on Grove Street.”

I leaned in closer to him, seeing that he had aged. “What is that phrase you said, that thing you said…?”

He paused, adjusted his parcels, his smokes and his bag of food and the collection of lumped belongings he had tucked into his shirt, right against his belly. 

The beginning of the word came to me: 

“Ashna…”

“Ashnakaya!” He exclaimed, and turned right toward me to hug me the way he’d hugged me on Grove Street. “My sister!” He held onto to me fiercely, kissed my cheek. “Ashnakaya!” 

His fist went toward the air, “Ashnakaya!” 

I still don’t know what the word means. 

He held out a small blue box, robins egg blue, and offered me the earrings and the bracelet inside. I believe in magic objects, but I don’t need anymore of them. “Nah, nah man, keep it.” 

He didn’t ask for anything else and after I said, “Go eat your dinner,” moved back toward the awning over the sidewalk in front of the store. The man who had been standing behind me at the food counter tossed a pack of Hostess cupcakes toward him as he walked. They skittered to a stop at his feet. “You got cupcakes now, too!” 

And I wasn’t lonely anymore. 

I think there is an opportunity in this loneliness to find what tells me that I’m not alone. 

In the meantime, I’m grateful that I was where I was today, because it taught me something. Human connection can come from all sorts of situations. It has been a long time since I had to crowdsource Connection, find small ways to have a shared experience with people, some meaningful exchange. 

I have been over-reliant on one source of connection and, in the current absence of that, I am left, again, to my own devices. 

There is a part of me that believes that it is almost inevitable that people will drift out of my life once they have gone through whatever process they needed me for, or whatever process we were in together, trying to grow and heal in the clumsy ways that humans do. 

That sounds callous, but it really is just the way things seems to move, at least in my life. I also have drifted from people. For me, that may sometimes be more about attachment issues and heartblocks than it is about the friendship having served its purpose.  

The vast majority of anything I write for myself (as part of my practice, which – really – is what it is, a contemplative and expressive practice) loops and stitches around themes of peace-making, conceptions of self in relation to the external, fumbling through problem solving, the perennial conundrums of navigating one’s potential, and experiential observation. 

So, it’s part of the way I housekeep my head and heart. 

This particular writing was about how – earlier – I noticed sensations of loneliness, which was interesting because I used to not feel that too much, and I figured that it was because I possibly had become over-reliant on a friendship, or had allowed myself to become attached in some weird way where absence creates a lot of feelings of stress/distress, which is kind of understandable because we are bonded and our bond exists in our bodies, too, in the ways we feel connected and the ways we feel one another’s absence, the missing…but, is probably unhealthy, the distress-around-missing, and – at the least – difficult to deal with on a regular basis because it is a disruptive and ironically disconnecting feeling…so, there are some opportunities for me to adjust my orientation to the absence of a friend and possibly get my energy focused the connection, rather than the absence, and do some stuff that I’ve been needing to do, etc. 

I think, truly (as truly as one’s thoughts can be) that everything is as it should be (based on interpretive evidence) and that this an important opportunity to do my own journeying and mentor-finding, and to work on some of the things I have been working on, to reconcile whatever is running in the background of me that makes me feel the sensations of loneliness in relation to you, because that is not necessary or accurate or remotely helpful. 

Or helpful only insofar as they let me know that I need to find some old person to hang out with or something, or reach out to friends, or sit down and write, to stay busy with things that nurture strength and love and trust that all is as it needs to be, to find a thread to flow and to follow it. 

My point, here and in the writing, was that running into two old drunk guys I know – I had just run into another one, someone whose hand I held for a long time while he was drunk and crying about a lost loved one – *evaporated* the sensations of loneliness and replaced them with a big, round goodwill and gratitude…

…and I remembered my practice of crowdsourcing Connection from when I was alone – almost very literally, at least for a season without allies and cut off from all relationships, not just physically alone, which I mostly was, but severed from all relationships and not showing myself to anyone or being at ease with anyone, how I would find – not through strategy, but through a confused and instinct driven almost desperate loneliness – ways to deeply connect with strangers and non-threatening acquaintances, have meaningful exchanges, be open hearted, supported…that is so important. 

That is a good skill to have, to be able to find connection wherever you go.

July 16

The way we understand ourselves, our experiences, and our world is based on models of understanding, schematics of belief that define our realities and the way we exist within them. These structures of perceived truth provide us with definitions and explanations about the phenomena of living, and are the foundations upon which we make meaning of what we see. 

All models are explanatory models. That is what a model does. It explains, provides a framework of reason, in the sense of grounds to exercise analytical processes and in the sense of causation, the explanation for an event, some phenomenon that we seek to understand. 

I did not know this, of course, when I was young and fumbling through my understanding of what the fuck was happening with the world and why I couldn’t stop crying and wanting to die. 

I lived in the woods with a family who was “a little different” – drove a VW van, with a mom who had a long braid, a father who built a geodesic dome for a living room way out in the woods by the river, worked on Cumberland Island, not at the paper mill. 

So, although I didn’t understand the mechanics of models in structuring my reality, I knew that some people thought differently about things than I did, than my parents did. Why, even my beloved great-grandmother, the matriarch who lived down the dirt road by the aging pear orchard, was racist as hell. 

“Don’t listen to anything she says,” my parents would say. “She’s a product of her times.” 

Years later, in an essay that would get me into the graduate program of my choice only to drop out and attempt suicide in the first semester, I mentioned that messaging from my childhood, to not listen to anything my beloved great-grandmother said about people of color, that she was wrong, but could not unlearn, did not know she was wrong. She was born in 1894. She’d been racist for a long time, a product of her times. 

That idea, that the period of time we live in can shape what we believe about other people stuck with me. I wanted to know how that worked, how someone I loved dearly could have such crummy ideas as to make my parents shake their heads. Why does that happen? 

My curiosity around this was, and still is, a child’s curiosity, a puzzle to solve, a mystery to unravel. To me, it was maddening to not be able to understand why some people are so fucking racist. 

When I began to experience stunning and violent depressions and rages at age 12, I had every reason to be sad. I had just watched the land I had lived with my whole life be bulldozed and paved. My entire town changed. The Navy came. My parents stopped laughing and sold land. However, all of that was just life, what was happening. It would be okay. It was okay. We had streets! 

Nobody acknowledged or could fathom the possibility that the reason I was so sad and pissed off was because I was sad and pissed off because I had just watched my home be destroyed, the place I loved most and was connected to, the place where I had worlds, utterly destroyed because of some deal my father was involved in that went south. 

At that age, I didn’t have the conceptual and self-reflective tools, the personal emotional intelligence, to understand that I was as upset as I was about the subdivision, the houses built over our road. 

I mean, it was a good thing? Right? 

My experience of emotionality was so tremendously powerful that it obliterated all capacity to understand anything other than that I was miserable, agonized, violently outraged, without really knowing why. It would have been enormously helpful if someone had sat down with me and just said, “Faith, it makes total sense that you’re grieving. You’ve just witnessed a horrific loss. Everything you feel right now is completely understandable.” 

To me, the woods were my home, the home to a part of me that was deeply at ease in being who I was, a little kid playing out by the marsh, pretending to be a bear. 

I have thought, for a very long time, that the woods had spirits, were full of spirits. I used to think I could feel them, and sometimes – especially at night – they were everywhere and rushing at me, a great whoosh of presence coming from the dark. 

I thought, at times, that perhaps the woods had a part of me in them, or if I had a part of them in me. They knew me well. I was a creature that moved through them, that loved them. 

If I lived in a culture that believed that the earth is alive and sentient and that trees carry spirits and ancestors are with us still, that the land carries those who died on it, that the land itself is the dust of the dead, I may have been told, “Faith, it makes total sense that you are in agony. You have watched your friends be torn down, ripped out of the ground, you have seen your sacred places defiled under concrete. The part of your soul that lives with the earth is wounded and outraged and the spirits move through you crying. It makes total sense that you are outraged. You are grieving a great loss, a tragedy.” 

However, it did not occur to anyone that perhaps I was grieving the land and the familiarity of the town I grew up in becoming plastered by a Walmart and a million gas stations, acres of strip malls, parking lots filled with the flashy cars of the Navy boys in the hot Georgia sun. My great-grandmother being old, in her 90s, wishing she could die because she’s just a nuisance anyhow, is how she put it. Everybody dead. Can’t get around, can’t hardly see, body is failing, mind still quite sharp. 

I have no idea where my parents got the idea to take me to get a psychological evaluation. Maybe from my pediatrician, about the “moodiness.” 

The model that was offered to me, and to my family was the medical model of mental illness. Depression. A chemical imbalance. Often life long. A disease of the brain. These explanations were offered without much acknowledgement that they, the explanations, were kind of dire. I mean, a lifelong disease of the brain? 

The idea was troubling to me. I tried to learn about it, but couldn’t find much but murky explanations. “Might be genetic.” 

Nonetheless, that was the model that my family and I were offered to understand why I was so fucking upset all the time, why I kept saying I wanted to die. 

Something was obviously wrong, but the explanation was wrong, too, and this – as it turns out – had devastating effects on the way I saw myself and the way my family saw me. 

It erased all other explanations, and turned my emotions into symptoms. 

July 18

Hi, _____ –  Thanks for reaching out. I don’t check LinkedIn much, so I am just now getting your message. 

Haha, I am struggling with many of the same questions you are. How to do the work we are most passionate about doing, with community and through education, without saddling oneself with a “career path” that – whole maybe related – isn’t exactly the kind of impactful work that one wants to be doing, or is so laden with requirements for credentialing that jumping through the hoops of degrees and training and licensure uses up all the energy that one wants to be using to make change and do good. 

One thing I have done is tried to find points of what I think about as synergy in choosing my path – which, as I noted, I am still trying to figure out.  

In thinking about synergy, I think about how certain opportunities might build skills or connections that will help me to do the work I most want to do, which is community-rooted resiliency education

I think that for people who have a unique vision, and unique experience or skills they want to use, it is hard to find external opportunities that are structured to hold and allow for the kind of visionary work that some people are inspired to do. 

Like, if I am working for an organization, I am doing the work of that organization, and must deliver their services as an employee. I have been lucky to work for nonprofits doing awesome healing and recovery work with community, so there have been many ways that the work I have done as an employee, the work carrying out the mission of an organization, has aligned with the work I want to be doing, and my personal mission. 

Working for organizations and community groups gave me a lot of good experience in how nonprofit service work is done, the systems that projects and initiatives exist within, and the different ways that people approach healing. So many different ways of approaching being of service! 

I am in the process of trying to find other ways of doing my work – ways that don’t require me to be in a set schedule position or make me beholden to the tasks of the organization if they are depleting to me rather than generative. 

In considering what I ought to do, I’ve taken in account my personal values and my experience in doing certain types of work in different settings to try to find what might be the best way to use my energy – what is worthwhile and, like I said, generative…inspiring and energizing and meaningful. I’m in the processing of considering what my personal mission statement might be. My vision and values. 

For me, that’s what’s shaping the path. Listening to what I am excited about and what brings up feelings of resistance in me. Exploring that.

It sounds like you are stoked about doing work to support education and prevention with young people (YES!) – and so consider the experiences you’ve had that have made you think, “This. This is it. This is what I want to do!” Not from an idea of what you should do, or what people might think is good for you to do, or what an education program or job tells you is the right path, but in your gut. 

Now, think of all the different ways that you might be able to have more of those experiences – it might be connecting with a community group, which will happen as you keep reaching out to people. 

Pay attention to things you notice on social media and in the environment. As you get more clear in how you envision what you want to be doing, you will start to notice events and conversations that line up with that. 

Social ecology is an amazing grounds upon which to do integrative education and recovery work, because we exist within our environments, and our individual struggles are tied to the struggles of the world. I think it’s totally necessary to seek out education in the interconnectness and coexistence of all things, and wish that every person working with other human beings worked from ecological perspectives. 

It’s smart of you, in my opinion, to be wary of degree programs that require a lengthy and costly clinical track. The public systems of care are not the only way to help people. I got my MA and although the education was fairly decent, it was totally unnecessary and now I have a ton of debt. In the changing world, there are going to be many opportunities (and necessities) for people to build community-rooted alternative supports and resources for people who are struggling. 

I am having all sorts of ideas now. Thanks for reaching out. It was helpful to me and inspiring to me to respond to you. Had a little bit of a “this! This is what I want to be doing!” moment. Helping people to figure out how to do what most matters to them in following their instinct to reduce harm and do good in the world. Such a human thing to want to help and not know how to go about doing it! 

I am still figuring out this stuff, too. So, for me, this exchange has been peer support. Glad you’re out there and motivated to help to prevent and heal harm! The world needs you! 

Please write back if inclined, and I hope this made sense. It’s first thing in the morning here, haha! 

July 19

What my mental illness is:

I notice that I can’t focus, and that my body is filled with sensations of fear and sadness. It is hard for me to not pay attention to these sensations, because they are attention-getting sensations. They cut off my ability to be present in what is actual and happening around me, pull my gaze into my own experience, my body shaking (literally), and the space of my heart and stomach absolutely flooding with feelings of heartbreak, fear, and loss. I am able to maintain an awareness that these things are just sensations, and that everything is actually okay, that I am okay, that the messages and thoughts that poke and prod at the feelings are just myths, code written by harm, not real. 

My eyes fill and a tear slides down my face while I sit against the wall at the dmv. I can’t stop it. I want to start crying. I am a grown person. 

I take a deep breath and tell my nervous system that it is okay, try to think of reality, the things I want to believe are real, but the sad-thoughts edge out the good, make them flimsy and without the substance of actual belief. These good things are stripped down to ideas, theoretical good things that I can tell myself are real, but that don’t feel real. What feels real is the sadness. 

When I am sad and worried about what will happen, I cannot think straight. I cannot laugh or be light in my being. The sadness comes into me and covers all that up. Obliterates me. Installs the sad world inside of me, totally fucks me up. 

I understand, in my wise and peaceful mind, my pure mind, which I do have and but can only occasionally access and inhabit, that there is absolutely nothing to be sad about it, there is nothing to be scared of, that all things are as they are and the world is full of beauty and wonder and immense possibility for healing and joyfulness in simply being. 

I understand that gratitude for whatever happens to me or does not happen to me is the only righteous and reverent response to the miracle of phenomena that I even exist, and that I am the person that I am, and that I get to experience love and loss again and again, and that it is a beautiful and sweet thing, all of it, no matter what happens.

I understand that I can take a deep breath and look at the underside of a leaf and be amazed to be standing in the moment I am standing in.

It is absolutely true that the cause of human suffering is the wanting of things to be other than they are, desire for something other than what is. 

All of my sadnesses and fears are based in wanting something to be some way or another in a way that creates attachment. 

There is some part of me though, some wounded sad and fearful part of me, that simply cannot grasp and learn these things. 

When that part of me – which lives in my “survival brain”, because anything that creates such strong sensations in me is tied to my stress-response/trauma-response mechanisms – is activated, by stress and especially “emotional stress,” stress that is formed in attachments that set up responses of fear and sadness around circumstances that are actually neutral or positive, due to distorted perception and narratives, I literally cannot inhabit the part of myself that knows that everything is okay.

Because activation of stress and trauma responses affects perception and meaning-making processes, my experience of myself and my life and my reality changes. 

I don’t see things clearly. I don’t read things right. It is hard to think straight and my intuition is muddied. 

I am ungrounded, live wires firing off in the part of my brain that learned to be afraid of pain and wants to avoid it. 

It is not, for example, inherently harmful to me if someone stops being my friend. This is how it goes. People move in and out of other people’s lives. My peaceful self is totally accepting and celebrating of these workings of the human heart and our relationships. I completely understand and am joyful in the belief that everything ultimately works out in ways that we can not even begin to imagine, so to just be grateful to be living. Keep moving forward. 

However, my “survival brain” does not seem to know this, and so – when I begin noticing, (without trying to) the learned signs and indicators of a friendship that is changing – I feel sad and fearful. 

The extent to which I become sad and fearful exists in proportion to how much a friendship matters to me, how much love I have for the person, how much joy my knowing them and laughing with them and dreaming with them has created. 

So, if I love someone a lot, the feels can be tremendous when I perceive them becoming distant. 

It’s been a lifelong thing that my sadness has pushed people away. Made me unbearable. Neurotic. Supremely unfun. 

I understand that there is no room for fear in big love, in real love. That fear creates doubts around the integrity of love itself, and erodes trust, which is less about what the person will or won’t do, and more about believing that the person is a good person. Good people want to be seen as good, because they are good. It is supremely dishonorable to doubt the word of a good person. 

That is what I hate most about the sadness/fear, that it robs me of the experience of being secure and joyful and celebratory in being loved by a good person. It completely fucks that up, and causes harm to the person I love. 

So, my solution is to deal with these aspects of my survival brain being attuned to certain things in the way that it is, through rigorous practice, reduction of avoidable stressors to reduce baseline stress activity and support resilience, and doing every single thing I know to do that keeps me in the present and allows me to inhabit my peaceful mind and experience more freely. 

I understand that I can just shift into my peaceful state, shut down the noise in me, and be deeply happy and content with all that is. I can do this. I am doing it now. 

However, it is sometimes really hard to shift out of those trauma-rooted states. My experience of being in a Trauma/harm-rooted state is that these things can be self-reinforcing. Meaning, that the stuff that comes up for me – the feels and the thoughts, the images – they all create additional harm, freak me out, cause pain. I can feel my reaction to some thoughts in my body, and this is powerfully problematic. I have been trying to learn to recognize lines of thought that may be issued through the workings of harm and trauma, so that I can know that these are just projections of my fears and are not real, but the space between thought and explosion of feelings around the thought, before I can even catch it…it’s like being stuck in the waves. 

There are things I try to remember to do, like stay in my body, watch my breath, observe my surroundings neutrally, with compassion and curiosity, remind myself of what is real, and know that it might not glimmer so much as the distortions explode, but that is because my nervous system is attuned to react powerfully to things that a part of me believes are threatening in some way. These can be social, emotional, attachment related, financial, environmental, personal. They can be related to loss or physical harm, or humiliation and being judged, being socially or economically punished. These threatening things can also be me seeing bulldozers and picturing earth pulled asunder. 

Today, just because of my thoughts, I started to shake in the dmv, and almost started crying. I knew it was because of my thoughts and I didn’t really believe my thoughts, but they felt real. I had the feelings of the thoughts as though they were real. I tried to stay calm, to bring my vibrations up, to fill my heart with love for fear that these blaring thoughts and feels about things I would feel sad about would radiate out from me and set seeds in the world of unfolding events. “No! That’s not what you want! Don’t think about what you don’t want! Don’t picture it!” 

While in the meantime, my headspace is stunned and flooded with thoughts and images of precisely what I don’t want.

07/24/2019

Hi _______ – 

I hope this finds you well. I am reaching out to you to request consultation, consideration for coaching services. 

As I write this, there is a small voice in me that is simply saying, “Help! I need help!” 

Let me assure you, I am happy and relatively healthy, and not in crisis in any way, but I do need help. 

I don’t know how much you know of my personal history as a person with mental health challenges related to her neurodiversity and life experiences, but a HUGE part of all of that (if not the central factor) is that I am a person who at age 12 was tested as having an IQ of 151. 

I am in the habit of acknowledging that these tests measure only a small range of who a person is and how intelligent they are, but they do measure something, if nothing other than how different you are from other people. Across a couple of measures, there are only 2.6% of people whose cognitive processing styles trend in the ways that mine do. 

I don’t know why my heart is beating so fast as I write this. I don’t think I have ever talked to anyone in a help-seeking way about this and perhaps something in me recognizes that this is something I desperately need help with, and support around. 

I need help organizing my processes and managing my life in a way that supports my growth and potential, and that allows me to develop my strongest gifts. I am twice exceptional, perhaps three or four times exceptional, due to trauma-creating lived experience which adds complexity to the conundrum of being really smart and yet also having profound difficulties in some areas. 

I understand what challenges impair my ability to be most effective and ultimately well and healthy in life, and I even understand what could be done to address them. I think that because I understand these things, I believe that I ought to be able to do them, and for years and years I have tried, but challenges with attention and stress vulnerability and the functionality and design of my life seem to derail me or facilitate my drifting in my focus and activity. 

I am in the process of making changes in my life, due to some of my current life structures being untenable and ill-conducive to my Wellness. I have things I am working on that I am excited about. I am trying to develop opportunities in the form of several big, ongoing projects, all of which are of vital importance to me. 

It is really important that I figure out how to do my life and work differently. 

(In my awareness as I write this are sensations related to the fact that nobody ever, ever talked to me about how my brain works. Despite years and years of mental health treatment, nobody – not my providers, not my family, not my teachers, nobody – ever talked with me about how maybe the ways I was smart had everything to do with why I was struggling. I didn’t even know I was smart, or that I was different. I knew I was different, but I just thought that meant I was fucked up. I knew that I was smart, because learning and knowing about things was so easy, but I just thought that meant that I should be able to do everything that anyone else could do, only better, when in actuality I had (and have) sensory and cognitive processing difficulties that functionally impair my ability to do or to cope with what is easy for most people.)

I appreciate the opportunity to reach out to you. Just writing this message has felt therapeutic, because in this small way, I feel powerfully less alone in my experience, and am taking responsibility for my wellbeing by reaching out for support. I am also connecting, and being open about my processing differences. 

This is a positive help-seeking experience! 

Thanks for your time and consideration in reading through this. Please let me know if you think that your consulting/coaching services might be able to assist me in figuring out how to be the person I am most effectively and most joyfully. 

I have very limited funds to invest in seeking professional help, but I also 

recognize that the constant stress of trying to do a life that is powerfully counter-therapeutic in its structures and functions creates enormous stress and difficulty for me, and I can’t continue to not address my needs – primarily the need to not have to go to work for an external entity to whom I sell my time, my emotional and cognitive labor, and my stress capacity, ultimately giving these things to work that in some ways is counterproductive to my goals as a human being. 

Creating different ways to do my life requires structure and planning, processes that support my accomplishing tasks inherent in change…and I need help. 

What do you think? 

July 27

It has, according to my calculations, been 10 years since I began – on a whim – recording my some of my reflections on experience as part of a project to draw a picture everyday for a year. At various points throughout that time, I have felt strongly convinced that what I most want to be doing in the world is to simply be moving about and looking around and making note of the things that I find beautiful and terrible. 

I have been able to weave this practice of paying attention and contemplating experience into my everyday life as I know it, musing over beauty and tragedy as I sit at the traffic light, as I hold someone’s hand, and in that I am lucky. 

In being a person with a big, bold imagination, I have often yearned to really see and to really feel the places and circumstances that I am able to bring to mind, that come – actually – unbidden, not brought by any part of me that is consciously deciding to dream of being far away from where she is, I have had to learn to be happy and grateful for what is happening, what I am able to do. Accepting of the things that I believe I am not able to do, or that I am not doing at the moment, and to somehow trust that there is some purpose to me sitting in a meeting under fluorescent lights when I’d much rather be outside where it is quiet and the air is sweet with the smell of earth. 

It is difficult to live a life that you don’t feel fully alive in, even if it is a life that others might be blessed to have. 

The graciousness of my existence in relation to the sheer human atrocity that defines many lives on this planet is something to be deeply grateful for. I have no reason not to be delighting in the everyday of my life, considering how truly difficult so many lives are. 

…and, yet, I want more…and I want less. 

I want, more than anything, to be able to use my time in the way I need to use my time in order to inhabit a state of wellbeing that I have come to understand as facilitating of laughter and lightness in being, of open heartedness and the ability to really care about what is happening in the world, not to care in this guarded and buffered way required in the expectation that one will not feel outrage and grief in going to the supermarket or participating appropriately in a meeting. 

Always, there is this countervoice in me that calls me out: “Why should you, Faith, get to spend your time doing what, basically, you want to do, when so many people are humble and content enough to do what they have to do, even if what they have to do is terrible, and they aren’t going around maudlin for wanting more, they do not bemoan the tedium and task of the everyday. They are grateful and happy for what they have. They are responsible and not selfish. They work hard, and don’t go around with this heaviness in them that blares all day – a dull sound like thundering tin – that their lives are killing them. They are able to let go of the people that they are and their deepest wants and needs as animals and in their core humanity. They are able to shut that shit down and do what they have to do. What is so special about you, Faith, that you should get to even think about these things, these questions of what you want to do and what you need to do?” 

For my entire life, I have based my activities and expectations of myself on a framework of functionality that was designed to conscript people to working in models of modern American industry, which exist for the benefit of American industry, whether that industry be tank tops and flip flops made in China, or high volume factory farms, war machines, or prisons, which create profit for the entities of corporation and business. 

The values of hard work being defined by your ability to get over yourself and show up for some bullshit that you don’t need or want to do, and to be happy with what you’ve got, even if your kids are hungry and the place smells like mold…these are values that were taught for the purpose of impelling participation and investment in the systems of economy, education, and reinforcing culture that keep all this going, that keep these systems of economy, education, and reinforcing culture going. 

It is my educated understanding – because I have been privileged enough to have access to learn about and contemplate ideas around what shapes our human experience – that who I am and what I am, most truly, has little interest in participating in these activities of commerce and conscriptive culture that says, “well, of course you have to strive for this sort of life where you get up and go to work everyday and you have a house and you have a car and you buy new jeans and like the way the target smells, and you buy the groceries and eat the colorful food made in factories you’ll never see and you don’t think about or talk about the deep fear and sadness that blooms in you when you wonder what happened to the person you were and the world you used to live in.” 

In many ways, this is as much a disability rights issue than it is anything else, because the reasons that I cannot participate in these models of commerce and consumption are rooted in that I experience these structures-of -how -we -do-things (how we work, how we get our food, what we do for fun) as harmful to the person I am in the effect that, for example, going to work day after day after day and having all this information and experience jammed into my consciousness in ways that overwhelm and stun, has on my ability to be reasonably well within my life, meaning not having a ‘panic attack’ – not being in fight, flight, freeze, submit, collapse mode in the course of everyday. 

“You should be able to do it, Faith. If you’re so skilled at all this recovery stuff, you should be able to keep your life together and be well enough to be able to go to work, and be responsible. You shouldn’t be thinking about going to the woods, or not having anywhere you have to be. People don’t get those things. Mothers can’t do those things.” 

I have a lot of feels around the fact that these expectational models of what a person is supposed to be able to do in order to be deemed a responsible adult and in order to be seen as a good mother, have acted upon the life of my family in such a way that I am reduced to an expectation-bound role, and that my kids are bound to be hurt and disappointed by my seeming inability to get my shit together and just get over myself and be happy to be giving someone a ride to the mall because these times won’t last forever. I love giving my daughter a ride to the mall, because i love her, but – really – is it actually necessary for me to be spending my time like that, or for me to be spending my time with her like that? 

I mean, why is she going to the mall?

“It’s what teenagers do, mom.” 

It’s so crazy to me that even being a person with a really lengthy history of mental health diagnosis and challenges deemed to be mental health related, I am still expected to be able to do everything anyone else does. There is some profound irony (and something that feels cruel), in taking away a person’s legal custody of their children because of mental health concerns and then expecting them to be able to do and be and show for everything a healthy, responsible, American mom can do and be and show up for. 

Within these models of the normal American mother there is the assumption that one’s children are central to one’s life, and that being with one’s children in whatever capacity, and being available to one’s children, is the paramount purpose of being once one becomes a mother. 

This is not to say that one’s children are not inherently central and connected to you, due to the immutable bond that exists between mother and child, or that – of course, you delight in the mere existence and presence of this person who came from you, this person who was fed by your body – or that, duh, if you ever need me, really need me, I will absolutely be there…but, that in the maternal role is this stripping of the person that inhabits that role, this critical dissolving of the things that this person wants and needs in their own lives, for their own selves, for the people they are. There is this expectation that we ought to give ourselves up, that this is noble and good, to exist only for our children, to do only what is best for them even if it comes to harm or cost to you, even if it kills you. Most every mother would likely die for her child, and most children would likely fight for their mother. 

So, why can’t I just do what I need to do and get over myself and do my life in a way that creates the optimal security and abundance for my children and be happy in that? 

My children are teenagers now. They were children before. They are edging into adulthood. These are exciting years. 

It’s crazy to me that all I am thinking about doing is restructuring my work and exploring other avenues of income which may be beneficial to the family and finding ways to travel more because that is important to me, to be having those experiences. I am thinking about being away from my children for several weeks, every few months, which is not that much, when you consider some people’s situations. I want to travel around and do workshops and training about recovery and community building in under-resourced areas. I want to find more and better, more effective ways to use my experience and gifts to alleviate suffering in the world in some way. In considering these relatively not-shocking variations on the normative expectations of mothers of adolescents, it’s crazy that I should feel inclined to launch into sociological critical analysis of the normative maternal role as impeding of freedoms and as harmful to mothers and children in its establishing of expectations which functionally strip mothers of the ability to be and to explore who they are outside of the role of mother, simply in the requirements of time, attention, and priority that one is expected to give their children, even when their children are near grown and don’t want their mom’s hovering around in their lives anyway…?

When I Am Well 

I experience sensations of groundedness – an ease and presence in being, a relaxedness. 

I am able to think clearly and am able to focus. 

I have ideas and inspirations.

I see beauty and have gratitude.

I sleep well and am motivated to exercise and go outside. 

My appetite is for healthy foods.

 I am able to laugh and be witty. 

I feel in-my-body, and have sexual energies. I am curious and interested. 

I feel loving toward and appreciative of people. 

There is very little fear, and I am able to quickly and effectively correct for triggers. 

My stress vulnerability is low.

 I am solid. 

When I am very well

I have a strong sense of spiritual connection and resonance with all things, and a deep appreciation for all things. 

I feel sensations of lightness and grounded excitement in the center of me. 

I experience poetry and synchronicity.

 I feel alive in my animal body and clear in my spirit. 

I believe strongly in a beautiful future, and have good energy toward doing without doing. 

I am peaceful and unhurried and am able to experience deep, present engagement in what I am doing, and my observer mind is sitting back smiling watching the phenomena of being but not thinking too much about anything at all. 

There is no fear. 

I feel strong in my body and generally amazing. 

Daily Maintenance 

I need to sleep for 8 hours at least 4 days a week. If I get less than 6 hours of sleep, I need to rest during the day or go to bed earlier.

I need to eat appropriately for my physical needs. Small meals, high protein, raw foods, adequate minimally processed carbs, very low sugar. 3-4 liters of water per day. 

I need to maintain and work toward improving my physical environment – make bed, keep room clean, work incrementally on projects to improve living space and decrease environmental stressors like clutter and grime and old paint, dust. 

I need to meaningfully connect with the people in my life in ways that are generative/nurturing of the health of the relationship. 

I need to spend time writing at least 5 days a week because writing helps me to keep myself well and helps me to stay connected with myself and what’s important to me. Writing is how I am a friend to myself. 

I need to spend time outside everyday. 

I need to exercise fairly rigorously at least 3-4 days a week and exercise moderately 1-2 days a week. 1-2 rest days with stretching and light strength training. 

I need to listen to music and expose myself to ideas that are interesting and important to me. 

I need to make note of and spend time with at least one thing that creates at least small feelings of deep beauty and appreciation in me. 

I need to intentionally name the things I am grateful for. 

I need to review my commitments and responsibilities for the day and surrounding days and plan my energy expenditures and time to afford self care and daily maintenance. 

I need to spend time with contemplation and sense of spiritual connection 

Wellness Tools

Being outside 

Unstructured time

Rest

Writing – connecting with myself

Connecting with people I love (esp. my partner) 

Making plans for a positive future, working on those plans 

Music / art 

Exercise/heavy work 

Taking care of my physical environment 

Triggers -> things that create stress reactions that impact wellness or change subjective experience, things that ‘take me out of my Resiliency zone’ 

Biological vulnerabilities 

Not enough sleep 

Not enough food 

Too much sensory stress 

-> how this can show up: 

irritability, cognitive impairment, distractable, General distress of varying intensity, with potential tearfulness and reactivity, increased stress vulnerability and – depending on confluence of factors (e.g. how sleep deprived or underfed I am, external pressures, capacity/time for rest/self care, presence of additional perceived stressors in micro and macro life domains, hormones) -> 

Vulnerability to acute severe depressive episodes that are connected to -> 

Challenges and Experiences Related to What My Rudimentary Survival Brain has Experienced and Learned as Harmful and Threatening

Physiological stress responses, bolts of energy in my muscles, or slackness in my body, shivering, internal sensations of distress (‘unease’ in my center, feelings of ‘anxiety,’ sensations of grief, generally increased stress vulnerability, potential for radical shift in experience and thinking/perception, reactive affective distress that is difficult to regulate, significantly impaired cognitive function and ability to connect with and be in the present, inability to communicate well, or to speak, extremely comprehensive intrusive thoughts and images of fear-related things 

Note: Even as I am experiencing these things, I am aware of what is happening and I understand rationally that I am not well and that my brain is operating from my stress response mechanisms. I am aware that I am ungrounded, and yet I can see this, and so am not entirely ungrounded. 

This awareness makes things more difficult, because I see the harm in where my mind is residing and I have been able – at times – to help myself feel better, and to make peace with distress and to tolerate it reasonably well, to at least not feed into it. 

If I am severely activated, and do not have capacity to cope, I am not able to feel better and that is scary and painful for me, because the feelings and thoughts that are part of that state are related to trauma and when my survival brain belches out a mixed assortment of memory, thought, visualization of possible events connected to fear and sadness, it is overwhelming and it feels like times I wanted to/tried to die and that is re-traumatizing. 

I have deep learning about being a person who can’t cope and who creates harm to people and things she cares about because of the way she is and when my survival brain begins spitting out vivid memories associated with the experience of not being okay, these very detailed and affectively-loaded images explode in me and are interpreted by my survival brain as a threat, and sometimes (often) I literally wince and gasp/make wounded sounds at what is showing up in my head. 

The internal distress escalates to complete overwhelm and a chaos of fight, flight, freeze, with feelings of being stunned and rushes of strong physical pain associated with emotionality. 

Like how profound grief hurts.

It hurts like that. Makes it hard to breathe, makes me want to collapse and feel lightheaded. Stunned and panicked all at once. 

Circumstantial triggers 

Too much to do

Pressure (or perceived pressure)

Lack of (or perceived lack of, and if I am perceiving lack, I am already not okay) authentic positive experiences 

Conflict (or perceived conflict) 

Perceptions of people being angry at me or hostile toward me, being around angry and hostile people, seeing too many people suffer and not having positive experiences with people (experiences which are neutral or eustress creating, not distress creating, not being able to experience things positively)

(Again, if I am perceiving->experiencing things as distressing, I am already not okay.)

Not having time to connect with what is important to me, having difficulty connecting when I need connection (Being stressed or already not okay in ways that make it hard for me to experience ease with people -> major escalator, many feedback loops nested into this.)

Being in stress-producing environments that are loud and with threats (actual or perceived, being around legit sketchy people or people who are harming other people)

Perception/narrative cues that I am not okay: 

– self criticism and judgement, negative self evaluation which shows up as intrusive thoughts and vivid messaging about myself, my capabilities and my future 

(this comes from *deep* learning)

–  perception of loss or compromise of important relationships 

– feeling not understood or judged by people who matter to me 

Warning signs that indicate increased stress vulnerability and vulnerability of challenges: 

Increased sound/light/movement sensitivity

Feeling physical disgust in environments

Being unmotivated and having difficulty in engaging in action 

Feeling disengaged and disconnected 

Having a sense of myself as not grounded, catching myself getting carried away in my thinking, having strong feelings or no feelings at all

Not sleeping well or being tired all the time

Minor intrusive thoughts/pressures about things I “have to do” 

Eating bags of potato chips for dinner, or not eating enough 

Increased reliance on/use of substances 

Not having things to say, feeling cognitively sluggish and uninspired

Not writing. Forgetting that I am a writer. 

Forgetting what I am doing

Losing track of time 

Difficulty organizing thoughts and expressing myself

Worth noting

Because of experiences of not being okay and then really not being okay in ways that created significant harm in my life and to myself and to people who love me, which resulted in legitimate neuropsychophysiological trauma…

(in the sense that the trauma resides in my experience not as a ‘victim’ narrative in my psychology, or as an idea, but as a complex state that apparently involves mechanisms of my survival brain that are sometimes outside of the realm of my conscious, rational control and which take over my experiences in ways that are retraumatizing because I involuntarily and with little effective power see and think about and feel all of these terrible things that I know aren’t happening and that I know aren’t real and nonetheless they are happening and real in my body and in the images in my head. I see and know that these states disconnect me from what is healthy and strong in me and I know they are dangerous and that is scary and sad and that makes it worse.) 

…that is associated with experiences of not being okay, there is a rapid fire feedback loop that dramatically overwhelms me. 

It is imperative that when I am not okay, I do whatever I need to do to get back to being okay as quickly as possible, by whatever means necessary, and to not try to be okay when I am not, because that never works. 

Action plan 

Acknowledge that I am not okay. Be okay with not being okay. 

(Need: Some phrase or signifier that anchors me in compassion and acceptance and a commitment to simply being with what I am experiencing.) 

Remind self of spiritual/philosophical groundings that support nonattachment, trust in what is, and loving kindness toward self and others.

 (Need phrase or signifier. Example: Mudita – as a phrase and as a framework of orienting to and ascribing feeling toward events that stimulate experiences of envy –  has been very helpful in neutralizing perceptions that cause me harm, are dishonorable to reality, are harming of those I love, and are not in alignment with my values. Gratitude and appreciation for what is happening (whatever it is) has also been helpful, as has trusting that whatever is happening is exactly what needs to be happening and reassuring myself that I will be okay no matter what.) 

Barrier to utilizing perspective grounding: If I am distressed past a certain extent, I can know these things in my head, but I cannot *feel* the peace that fully inhabiting these beliefs/perspectives brings. 

Loophole: Direct these perspectives to the state itself, savor it for what it is, be thankful for it, to be alive to feel pain. Remind self that pain is connected to love, and instead of getting stuck in “I love something, oh my god, I’m gonna lose it!” focus on gratitude for having the experience of deeply loving, really center in that, and assert belief in a positive future no matter the outcomes? Accept and embrace that I will not feel immediately peaceful, that I will not feel immediately good, that I am hurting and that pain is telling me something, be grateful for the pain as a message or as information about what needs healing. 

Do not incur additional harm in attribution. 

Remind self of how it feels to be deeply grounded and present. Do not mourn that I am not currently deeply grounded and present. Remind self that I will inevitably feel better and that I will reinhabit the sacred circle. 

Be patient with myself. Do not expect myself to be able to just be able to be okay, even though I know it is theoretically possible. 

Tend to the body. Run or walk or lift weights

Stop everything to the extent possible 

Barriers/feedback loops: compulsory responsibilities and obligations, pressures. Learned complex around being a disappointment and a failure if I am not okay.

(connected to)

Fear: if I cannot show up for something, people will be angry, disappointed and I will become disposable 

(connected to)

Underlying belief: if I do not meet people’s needs and expectations, they will be angry at me or disappointed in me and they will ultimately dispose of me or decide that I am a loser they don’t want to be friends with. 

Do not try to show up or be there for things that I am not capable of showing up well for. There is no good reason for me to show up for anything having anything to do with other people if I am not going to be able to show up at least somewhat well. If I can’t do it, and do it being well, without causing additional stress to myself or setting myself for an impossible situation, then call it off. It serves nothing for me to force myself to try to be okay when I am not. It is “painful” for me to be around people when I am not okay and they know I am not okay. It is “not safe” for me. The way I am when I am not okay causes problems in communication and affect and behavior and that creates harm for me and for other people involved. I do not want to be around people when I am not okay. It is hard to connect with people when I am not okay. That hurts me and scares me and makes me feel alone. It is pointless and stupid to try to force myself to “shift out of it” if I am past a certain threshold of distress. It takes time to reset. I can’t just “be okay” if I am fully activated in a trauma-related state. That means that sometimes I won’t be able to talk or to do things or to be there in the way that people want me or need me to be there, which ties into potential triggers around letting people down and damaging relationships, losing people. 

I need it to be okay to not show up. To not be available

AND I believe that there are things I can do or remind myself of when I am in these states to aid in their neutralization. 

First, awareness that I am in a state. 

Grounding in compassion with the state. I cannot always do this with myself if I am significantly escalated, because the content of state (which could probably be summed up as vivid shame-and-loss trauma) is not conducive to compassion, even though I can see that I am suffering, the content of the state is counter to compassion. In these states, I feel frustrated and disappointed and like a hopeless fuckup. 

(When these states affect my relationships or my ability to show up for things that are important to me (important for some reason or another), I feel angry and resentful toward myself as the creature I am.)

(I seriously think this is why some people commit suicide. States like this are like a hall of mirrors full of trap doors and double-backs. They are a set up for extreme existential and experiential distress.)  

Important:

Recognize that when I am saying “I feel like…”

(for example, ‘we are not best friends anymore’) 

I am giving information about what I am feeling and about the thought that comes up around the feeling. This is not to say that I actually believe we are not best friends anymore, but that I am having the feelings of deep loss and profound sadness and that I am having the painful thought (that I do not like and do not believe, but that is intrusively inserting itself into my experience) that a relationship is threatened or that a person will not want to be my friend anymore. 

I do not believe these things, and yet I feel them as though they are actual and happening. When tremorous feels reach a 5+ and definitely when they are at a 10+ – I experience a persistent and complex intrusive blaring of thoughts and sensations re: the content of my fears and sadnesses, which create additional trauma responses because of my tendency for affective processing of mental images and mind-content, meaning that what I think about and involuntarily visualize stimulates my stress/trauma response -> my thoughts and feelings can create additional stress and trauma. 

Tremorous feels represent activation of my fear, and show the attributes/characterizations of my fear.

When I am in that state, I am scared and sad, mostly about losing people that I love and fucking up my life. 

Because I have “lost” people and caused harm in relationships and made some pretty grievous errors, and have harmed myself in relation to tremorous feels that become disabling consuming crises of fear and trauma responses going completely into overdrive, all of that comes up for me, even if, when I am well, i have reconciled/made peace with those losses and become appreciative and compassionate towards those errors. 

So, I am basically in a trauma-affected state when I am at 10+. 

I recognize that the feels represent old harms, my body remembering heartbreak, replaying it. Replaying all the heartbreaks, all at once. 

What others can do to help me/things to be aware of

Understand that I am not trying to be difficult and that I already feel terrible about the prospect of disappointing people. 

Give me space if I need it. Do not be disappointed in me for needing space to take care of myself, even if it is not ideal or not what the other person needs from me in the moment. Do not take it personally if I need space to collect myself and get grounded. 

Support me in following daily maintenance, esp. sleep and food and limiting exposure to unnecessary stressors. 

Recognize that my communication is impaired and that pressure to speak or communicate clearly creates additional inability to speak, because I freeze and panic. 

Be aware that involuntary perception of judgement, criticism, and harm-I’m-causing is heightened, and I have particularly strong fear/retreat responses to people expressing frustration, people getting angry at me because of the way I am “being,” people talking with me about how I am not handling things well and how I should…etc. etc. 

My cognition and executive function and ability to implement prior learning around skills and perspectives is significantly impaired in these states, and that contributes to feelings of helplessness and frustration, feedback loops of tragic inefficacy. 

When I am in those states, I am essentially under internal siege and am just doing the best I can not to roll up in a ball until it’s over. 

Hug me, let me hug you. Walk with me. Remind me to look up. Talk to me about neuromechanics and philosophy. Sit somewhere quiet and beautiful with me. Breathe with me. 

Aug 19 – 

So, as far as a wellness tool and preventative actions I can take, I have observed over the past couple of days a tendency to get way consumed by my thinking and processing and contemplation – I think I am working through some really deep learning/unlearning processes, and reconciling some of the roots of distress in my experience, and that’s important…

However, in doing this, it is really easy for me to get totally absorbed in just sitting and thinking and feeling in this little solipsistic capsule of subjective experience and orientation toward my environment. 

I need to watch out for that.

Yesterday, I had to consciously *try* to pull myself into the present, to quiet down my thinking processes. 

(As I am writing this, I am wondering about contemplation as a process of thinking and contemplation as a process of deeply being present and open to and considering with curiosity what might come forth in one’s awareness. I think, for me, it’s both a top down “let me think about this analytically” and a “oh, okay, I am seeing what comes up and looking at that.”) 

Sometimes what comes up in the course of a day or as a broad theme in my life stimulates an impulses (a response to noticing that something creates distress or dissonance within my experience, an impetus toward “okay, I gotta figure this out.” 

My analytical process – by virtue of how I think –  takes on a rapid mind of its own, an involuntary churning through of thoughts and ideas and feelings and images/imaginings an…man, that can be stress producing, to be in sustained conscious and reflective awareness in relation to mind-states and affective processes. 

(Especially if am working through something that has the capacity – based on tendencies in interpretation stemming from deep learning – to create distress and especially of what I am reflecting on and making efforts to reconcile involves me feeling resistant to a certain way of thinking or feeling about something, ego dystonic and in conflict with my values or harm-producing to me -> feedback loops, which I am also working on undoing…so, it becomes this process of sitting with and looking at and deeply pondering these very uncomfortable and toothy landscapes of my shadow side and trauma-rooted experiences.) 

I have been in this long process of eroding fears and deep learned limitations in what I *feel safe* in doing and being. That means that I have spent enormous amounts of time over the past few years sitting and thinking and feeling, and not being enormously present in my immediate environments and dimensional existence. Ironically, one of my ‘thinking’ motivations – a topdown, ego constructed motivation – in trying to reconcile fears is that I know that going through these processes will ultimately help me to be more present and more at peace and more connected to the most important center of myself. 

I have to be very intentional in not spending too much time in that state of reflection and deconstruction of learned experience, because it separates me from my environment and severs my connection to what exists outside of me, and to my simple merging with all of that. 

Being in the state of resolving distress –  ‘what is this that is arising in me as a problem (suffering creating), something that I need to reconcile in the knee-jerk of how I’m seeing and interpreting a situation, because how I am seeing it is creating distortion and distress for me, how does this work and what does this mean?’ – can make me forget that none of this matters all that much and the world is a beautiful and fascinating and totally fucking absurd place, full of wonder and potential and great riches of experience right here in this very moment.

Trying to reconcile suffering by giving it attention and understanding how it works is helpful only insofar as the process by which we seek to gain understanding does not reinforce suffering or teach me to orient to suffering at the expense of my ability to interact with and engage with that immediate reality and the world around me. 

My interest understanding the basic mechanics of and landscapes of my personal style of suffering lies in a) duh, not wanting to suffer and b) recognizing that the states which cause suffering are powerful, informative, and dangerous, and c) recognizing that these states sometimes exist outside of the realm of my conscious control and intent, thus d) I need to learn how these states work so that I can navigate them in ways that are less harmful to me and people I care about. 

However, it is of vital importance to me that I remember that participation in and action in the world I live in, as well as intentional building toward the world I want to live in are crucial tools in responding to suffering and I understand that part of how suffering works with me is that it is painful for me to be caught in my head and heart and disconnected to what I want to be real…and so it is an obvious solution to be actively engaging in physical and material activities that connect me to the present and contribute to the present I want to create. 

Aug 20

Majorly helpful at the moment is drawing and visual art, also thinking about the house plans – especially the map room, thinking about gear for the planned trip (the trip I am going to go on!) and taking action

What is not super helpful for me is having a job and having to go to work, although I understand conceptually that I have a pretty sweet gig and that I ought to be able to suck it up and perform. Ugh. I just don’t want to think about anything about work. It’s become an involuntary stressor. 

Speaking of, it occurs to me that things (situations, scenarios, people, places) that I have repeated negative experiences with tend to become involuntary stressors – meaning that I experience sensations of stress arousal in a particular direction around those things, based on learning and association. 

This is very dangerous and impedes my ability to be at ease and to participate well and to be present for new learning because when I am scared I am experiencing fear and that is what I learn about a thing, despite other possible experiences I might be having if I weren’t scared. 

So much of this is involuntary -> happens lightning quick. 

Notes on biological triggers

I am at what I calculate to be a mild hormonal disadvantage, the entering into the outer edge of my ‘premenstrual’ state, where progesterone and testosterone are low. I can support myself in decreasing vulnerability to hormone related tremorous feels and activation of complexes by:

  • maintaining an awareness of vulnerability 
  • Following daily maintenance recommendations (seriously, do these things)
  • Keeping an eye on my mind and body sensations
  • Use reality-centering memories and beliefs to counter distorted perception and reaction (you know what these are.)
  •  Draw and write as much as possible. 
  •  Work on the house and do things that help you to feel good about yourself 
  • Keep on the ‘up and up’ – immediately focus sensations and energies around fears into love and peacefulness and gratitude to be alive and assertions of okayness regardless of outcomes.
  • Remember what that guy with the egg at the home improvement store said: “We create what we think. Be careful what you think.” 
  • Seriously…you have got to be vigilant in not letting this process and tendency unfurl. You – nor anyone else – needs to go through that again. It is super harmful and it fucks up your life. 

August 21 

There is thunder this afternoon, but it’s still far off. I’m sitting on my porch and not on the clock, though I oughta be…

It is so difficult to not let the missing feels drift into fear and sadness feels – to keep them anchored in love and appreciation and gladness for what is, what might come – whatever that might be. I have tried to counter the stirrings of a fearful/sad missing with memories of good times and assurances – but, that makes me feel in a muddle, too, because it sets up hoped-for outcomes. 

The only way I feel any peace about things is by finding ways to center in gratitude for and acceptance of whatever happens, and to tap into the energy of what I want to move toward, which are the life plans and endeavors in living well, walking happily and freely down roads, having conversations I want to have. Laughing. Being at ease. 

It might be good for me to work on re-opening myself to the vulnerability of what I deeply want – which is mostly to hang out with you and get to feel that sense of camaraderie and best-friendship.

I gotta get back to that place of belief in that what I want is in the process of becoming real. 

I am working on a diagram about secure and insecure attachment. Well, haha, I have a blank piece of paper in front of me. 

I think that the drift toward bummed and anxious, insecure states in relation to our friendship and love has to do with attachment issues and ways those tie into fear and self-protection, my learned tendencies.

That’s important. 

It fucks me up so much when I let myself edge into insecure attachment. It impairs my ease in being. 

The solution is not to try to guarantee security by adherence to certain practices and regular provisions of assurances, but to be able to inhabit that orientation of delight and curiosity and gratitude and appreciation and LOVE that makes me happy to just be in this, and to be able to trust that there is something connecting me to my most important friends that transcends the usual, easily-broken connections. 

I think there are conditional states of security – where maybe one is ‘secure’ so long as this isn’t happening and that isn’t happening, and then there are more spiritually and philosophically grounded states of security – where one is secure in the fact that they love and are loved and recognize the sacredness of that, and are grateful to be in what amounts to a momentary partnership with someone, working with them together to build a life, without any guarantees about how that will look or how long it will last. 

August 22

So, this  thought occurred to me today that when I am interpreting myself and the viability of my relationship in a pain-producing, suffering-creating way, I am seeing through the wrong “world eyes.” I think there is something to this that I wrote above, something to the pain that is caused by perceptions rooted in a worldview based on comparison and self-as-object/commodity, evaluated and judged to be worthy or not worthy based on the ideals of a consumerist and ultimately non-loving world, where love is conditional upon one’s values within frameworks of beauty, ‘success,’ social capital, etc.

Fuck that. 

I think that identifying the source of these garbage perspectives that harm me and separate me from the reality of loving and being loved has been a helpful step for me in establishing protections against vulnerability to getting into these head/heart spaces where I am not feeling so good about myself. 

That is the mirror of a particular world – one which I don’t have much interest in existing within. 

August 23 

Yesterday, I had the interesting experience of completely crashing out after work. I was tired, from staying up and connecting, which was important and enlivening to my spirit, and so it didn’t matter that my body was tired. I felt good in my mind and in my spirit. I wasn’t exactly on fire about work, and the things I needed to do for work, but I was able to do them, and didn’t experience distress in doing them. I knew, however, that my energy was elsewhere, or just quiet – a little disconnected from the vibe of urgency and excitement amongst my coworkers relating to spaces and grants. 

As I am thinking about this, reflecting on the somewhat peculiar experience of falling asleep so hard –  a clean, hard, sincerely tired sleep, a demanded rest – I am also considering the mechanics of energy and what sort of energy I might need to bring to my tasks – by ‘energy’ – in this case – I mean the openness and orientation to the action at hand, and the general body/mind state that results from whether or not I am in flow – which, here, means ‘present and engaged in the process one is participating in, not resistant, not generating of resistance feels in the body, but, light and present in what you are doing whatever it is, appreciative of and open to being a part of the process.’

I think of the conveyor as an unceasing progression of compulsory activity and energy expenditure towards activities that one perceives must be completed due to 

  1. a) objective life-death necessity of activities that ensure basic physical survival needs are met

or b) perception of necessity rooted in values, beliefs

(related to ~>)

  1. c) threat of social or economic consequence 

The feeling of the conveyor – for me – is one of fatigue, physical and mental weariness, an awareness of ‘not wanting to’ that requires energy and focus-consuming assertion of openness and willingness in experience and ‘attitude’…requires practicing acceptance and gratitude for what is <~ very challenging sometimes. 

Related: an internal conflict in will and motivation, deep questioning about what the point is, ethical and practical concerns about complicit or misguided participation in things that a) conflict with my values, b) undermine my personal needs 

I’d like to reconceptualize the conveyor from a reductionist procession of tedium and depletion in accomplishing tasks throughout the day to an unfolding flow of present, engaged action that I learn and grow within…that I trust to be precisely what needs to be happening…

(^such a blaring voice in me about what utter b.s. this ‘trust what is’ sentiment truly is sometimes, when atrocities unfold.) 

Nonetheless, in my life, nothing that is happening to me is remotely terrible, and most of it is fairly wonderful – actually amazing – and…so, I want to be able to enjoy all of what I am doing, because it is what I am doing…?

…but, sometimes it feels like a conveyor, the tasks and deadlines and errands…and I have to wonder why I am doing all this? 

The motivation/impelling force comes from love and commitment to people I love and to maintenance of life as we know it, and the need to earn wages to maintain (and “improve”)* life as we know it, and to be able to adequately demonstrate my love and commitment to people I love through the language of quality groceries and provision of material goods which represent “taking care of” and “caring about” in a capitalist culture and social economy. 

*The way “improve” shows up in my head is in ‘making the house nicer’ and ‘earning more money’ – the de jure American capitalist synonymization of improvement with wealth accrual, having a nicer house, better stuff…but, what I really think ‘improvement’ might be is more along the lines of laughing more, and everybody getting to be who they are, and not being stressed out and tired and pulled in a lot of different directions.