My Enchanted World

Horror Image of a Woman Trapped in Fabric

A Poem, By: MB

Fragile lips

Taste dry cotton

Red stained

To be swallowed

Penetrated esophagus

Burning lungs

Drowned in freezing waters5e8e8e2798f716695974f6fa4a9ba8ac

Pale frozen skin

Soul of solid ice

An abyss of frozen paralysis

Infinitely blank space

Nothing.

Crossroads of despaireb431ac1fc95ed95b193eb58c3c8df43

Gyrate a cocoon

Wrapped in cellophane

Revolving discs

Purple deflated domes

An archway to hell

Thrust forward

Razors blades

Lean into cutting

Pain is euphoric

My enchanted world.

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I Cried.

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Recovery is a strange concept when your image of recovery does not match reality in the slightest. There are no rainbows falling from my ceiling, no daisies leaking from my heels as I frolic across a meadow alongside unicorns.

Today I woke up emotionally hung over from the night before. My eyes were swollen and my head was throbbing from the hours of crying set off during a movie I watched last night. Now, I write about tears frequently, but in a metaphorical sense rather than the legitimate act of crying. The truth is that I haven’t cried, I mean truly cried, in several weeks, which is astounding to me considering my current circumstances. My mom is in the early stages of cancer treatment and my cousin, who I was very close with, just died, and yet I haven’t felt sad. Heavy, downtrodden, somber- sure- but not sad. The only notion I have that these circumstances are stressful is the fact that I have been experiencing some serious GI issues over the past weeks, symptoms that are expected to be an ulcer.

So, I have an ulcer from stress and yet I don’t feel stressed. This is a common theme in that has played out for me during my recovery journey. My body’s physical reactions speak louder than my mind’s emotional responses to situations. But something switched last night, something in that movie “Little Boy” hit home. As the child was crying over his father’s grave screaming out “you were my only partner”, I suddenly felt the weight of Andy’s loss and of my mom’s illness. There was an intense slicing at my chest as my heart was literally breaking and as it broke, for the first time, in weeks I cried.

And I cried. And I cried. And I cried. raindrops_3-wallpaper-1366x768

This morning I woke up and the physical reminders of my tears gave direction to my day. I tried to forget about last night, to put the emotional breakdown behind me, to forget about the pain of loss and fear that were still throbbing to the beat of my heart. I told myself that today would be productive and positive. After all, I got out all my “bad” emotions last night so there wouldn’t be any left. So the day started on a motivated note, but motivated in the wrong way because the “forget the past and move on mentality” which I was I approached the day with didn’t last. By the evening I was teary eyed, overwhelmed, and having chest pains from anxiety because I wasn’t honoring the fact that I was still feeling emotional. I was still missing Andy. I was still scared for my mom. I was still overwhelmed with my reality. A reality that certainly wasn’t daisies and unicorns, but rather tears, strength building, resilience, and broken hearts.

What I should have done this morning was sat with my sadness, allowed my grief to stay as long as it needed, pray for my mom, and let God hear about my fears. Stuffing and ignoring doesn’t work. I should know that by now. It has been drilled into my head over and over again in treatment. Stuffing and numbing were the foundation for my eating disorder so if I want to continue bulldozing my path towards recovery, those behaviors have to come to an end.

Without A Doubt

ocean-820x420I have seen the stroke of God’s paintbrush in places around the world. Machu Picchu. The oceans. Diving with sharks. Antigua and the volcanoes. Sunrise on the ocean. Long’s peak in the summer. A falling star on the beach. Northern Wisconsin in the snow. I look out at those wonders and know without a doubt that there is a God.

I have seen a lot of darkness in the people of my life. I have seen a lot of abuse, a lot of betrayal, and a lot of evil. People have hurt me and I have stood by while watching people  get hurt. I observe these events. I live these circumstances and I know without a doubt that there is no God.

9ed579c49640f307dac20663714eb3ccI had formed the belief that God’s creations were meant to be beautiful, but human’s were inherently ugly. That, oceans could remain sacred and stunning while human desires released a poison into the waters turning the glistening blue to a solid black. There was so much pain. There was so much suffering. There was so much agony eating away at everyone around me. Suicide. Murder. Addiction. Abuse. Depression. Anger. Drowning and tangled. Strangled and broken.

 

Then there was Andy,

And he is gone. The one beautiful soul that I knew is gone.

Now, I don’t know what to do because I feel like my soul is under attack and I used to believe that souls could not be touched. I used to believe that souls were sacred to the person in whom they were housed, that God would help guard them, that a force field surrounded them, and that no matter the amount of sin or pain or abuse or hurt that would happen around the soul it would be eternally protected. Then, Andy died and now I know without a doubt that souls aren’t always guarded.falling-04

Because there is a crack in my façade between my eyes. It continues straight down my middle all the way to the center of the earth making me two parts. One part here, one part forever shattered into a million hollow pieces. The pieces being frozen fragments of the millions of tears shed starting the moment he was taken. How could someone without a touch of evil be the one stolen? How could God let one of the few people who never hurt me and I never hurt be stolen? How could such a fragile part of my existence, the faith I had in humankind, be the thing that God went after?

A boy. He was alone and afraid. And I am now two parts. I refuse to become whole because I still have a million more shards of glass to cry from my glazed over eyes, tears whose cuts remind me that I am still alive. Sometimes you need to bleed, to hurt beyond what is imaginable to truly understand the sacrifice it takes to realize you are alive.

It is my soul, which is responsible for my inability to stop crying. It is my soul, which tells me I am a beautiful person and he was a beautiful person and there are more beautiful persons in this infinitely beautiful world. It tells me to look past the wonders of nature and deep into the beings around me, especially the ones whom are also under attack. It is my soul, which tells me to place my hand over my heart. I feel that beating in my chest and I know without a doubt that there is a God.

Because after all the evil I have seen and all the unexplainable hurt I have felt, I know a God that is able to light a candle in my damp, miserable casing which extinguishes all memory of the darkness I once knew.

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I Make Art Because It Makes Me Happy

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I intern at a place called Arts of Life. It is a community of artists with and without disabilities that work together to realize their full potential. At the studio, I get the pleasure of working alongside some of the most thoughtful and nonjudgmental individuals. I volunteered with the organization last semester and found my time at the studio enjoyable as well as challenging. Challenging, in the sense that the work I do there revolves around relationship building and artist mentorship, and for me, someone who is shy, reserved, and extremely socially anxious, these are hard tasks for me to undertake. When, I first began at the studio, I found myself doubting any ability I might have at getting to know the artists, but slowly as time went on I came to realize that it wasn’t solely on me to build relationships, that the task was a two way street. These artists whose workspace they had so graciously allowed me into genuinely wanted to get to know me. Asking my name, striking up conversations, asking for help when needed, my job as a mentor fell into place simply because I showed up. So the time I spent volunteering at Arts of Life last semester became an eye opening experience as it slowly revived my faith in my ability to connect with others.

In planning for this coming spring semester, I knew that I wanted to continue on that journey. Though every voice in my head screamed that I was unwanted at the studio, that I was lying to myself about ever being able to be a mentor to these artists, that I made them feel uncomfortable, still I found myself striking up the conversation with my supervisor about interning. Now, Arts of Life graciously accepted my request for an internship and I went home for winter break with the knowledge that I would be returning to the artists with an even more legitimate role in their studio in January.

Well, it is now January and I have worked two full days at the studio. In the weeks spent away from the studio over break my social anxiety just built and built and those first days back at Arts of Life were so stressful as internal criticism after internal criticism filled my head. But that was exactly why I had come back to the studio. So that I could enter into a work environment where those lies that fill my head, the lies that tell me I am unwanted, unneeded, unworthy of connection could be proved wrong. And I will say that even after just two days back at the studio, those voices are being challenged and connection is once again being built.

Yesterday, I painted with an artist named Linda. Linda is an amazing woman. She is kind and funny and caring. But for some reason Linda really intimidated me the first couple of months I spent at the studio. It could have been that I had a hard time understanding her because she had trouble speaking or it could have been because she had a tendency to yell or it could have been that Linda was in a wheel chair and it made me anxious to push her around because I was afraid of others noticing me. But I believe that above anything else, Linda made me nervous because I didn’t know her, because I had never spoken with her, and was unsure how to start a conversation. Well, yesterday Linda was yelling. Not about anything in particular. No actual words were forming on her lips, just loud noises that made me unsure what she needed. In the past, I would pretend not to notice and wait for another volunteer to address the artist, but no one was available yesterday. There was only one other volunteer and she was busy. It was up to me to go over and see what Linda needed.

So, I sat down at a chair next her desk and asked what was wrong. From, the mere act of me sitting down, Linda stopped yelling, she stopped calling out, and she just smiled. She smiled at me as I talked about the weather, she smiled at me as I talked about her purple jacket, and she smiled at me as I asked her about the painting her was working on. From there, Linda seemed calmer and I was able to get her to start painting. I helped her mix a few colors and then she would brush the paintbrush across the canvas and exclaimed, “it’s beautiful!”, “how pretty!”, and “so bright!” with every stroke. I felt honored to be a part of her artwork. To help her hold the brush, to help her mix the colors, but most of all to agree with her on how beautiful the piece was becoming, to be able to offer her compliments and kindness during her painting practice.

A little time passed and Linda and I continued to paint. Then, another artist started yelling and yelling and yelling. Linda started to get restless. She stopped wanting to paint and I asked her what was wrong.

She said, “Maryanne is yelling and it is making me upset.”

I told Linda that I was sorry that she was getting upset but that Maryanne was having a hard time right now. I told Linda that Maryanne would take a break in a minute and go into the quiet room to calm down and that once Maryanne was in the quiet room the yelling would stop. Linda listened to me and calmed down slightly, but Maryanne kept yelling.

“She is upsetting me more,” Linda then told me.

I started to sweat a little. This was the kind of situation that got me anxious. I didn’t want Linda to start yelling too and then one of the staff members to have to come over and think that I was poorly handling the situation. So I took a deep breath in attempt to calm my panicked thoughts. A few moments later I asked Linda a question.

“Linda, why do you paint?”

“It makes me happy,” Linda told me.

“If we painted some more would that make you happy?”

“Yes.”

“Why don’t we do that? Let’s paint so you can feel happy and it will help with the upsetting yells from Maryanne.”

“Okay,” Linda said.

I then proceeded to take the paintbrush mix it in the yellow paint and hand it to Linda and Linda swiped it across the canvas and exclaimed, “so beautiful!” My face lit up with a huge smile as I realized Linda had reminded me of something so simple and yet so profound.

Art is a personal expression. It is the release of creative energy that is built up inside of us. Linda and I connected on a much deeper level yesterday as I realized how similar her and I were. We both make art because it makes us happy. It is that simple. My artwork’s content doesn’t have to be beautiful and bright like Linda’s, but my artwork has to be made, same as hers. Linda painted yesterday to feel happy during an upsetting situation; I paint to release upsetting emotions. Linda paints with bright colors; I paint with black. Linda paints with abstracted patterns; I paint symbols and outlined images. Other artists paint in blues or faded green or pale yellow. But we all make art because we are artists and every artist has a reason why they make art that is profoundly personal and can be profoundly simple.

We make art because it makes us happy.

Tsunami

waves_against_stormy_weather_by_steinliland

Some days are more painful than others because I see your face everywhere I turn yet have this underlining knowing that it isn’t you. Rather, it is just someone who so cruelly has to look like you giving me a moment of hope and excitement of seeing your famous smile, and just when I am about to call out “Andy!” I remember its not, that it can’t be, that you aren’t here anymore, and somehow I have to make peace with that.

Today, I heard your voice in every stranger on the street and I looked for you around every corner that I turned, following that sweet tone, that peaceful presence that I came to love so dearly. I was in desperate need of it today with my raging fear and unprecedented anxieties. I needed your smooth confidence, your comforting texts, your funny Instagram posts; I needed you today. So, I searched and searched telling myself that this is just all a large misunderstanding and that if I looked hard enough I would eventually come across you once more.

swimteamBut I never found you, only a pile of memories that leaked through my Facebook feed. It is Memory Monday that is what we are all calling it. Post your favorite memory and comment on others. Dozens of photos with your face attached to them, dozens of words with your name inserted into them, but where are you in this all? Certainly not sitting with us all as we scroll past posts and laugh through tears at the times we spent together.

Today it isn’t enough to know that you are sitting in heaven smiling down at us. It isn’t enough knowing that you “are in a better place”. It isn’t enough because we shouldn’t have to reassure ourselves of that. I shouldn’t be sitting here through tears stained cheeks saying, “I miss you”. It is backwards, the idea that you at just 16 are gone forever. It is upside down and twisted and is not something that anyone should have to understand because you can’t understand pain like this. Not unless you are forced onto this dagger that will certainly penetrate your heart, the call that you never want to receive, the call that forever changes your world. “He is gone, Morgan. I am so sorry.”

Don’t be sorry, just please come back! I don’t want pity. I don’t want grief. I don’t want the reconciliation that you are with God and you at peace. This is unfair. This is unjust. And today, it is a painful day because your face is everywhere I look and all I want to do is tell you all about the pain that I am feeling, about the ache that I feel knowing you are gone, and I can’t…you

So I sit in my apartment and the silence maddens my brain. I am afraid as I see flashes of your crash zoom across my eyelids. I am panicky knowing I couldn’t save you. I am heartbroken knowing that you are gone. I want to curl up in a ball and sleep forever and ever because you have visited me in my dreams. I want to sleep so I can ride with the angels in your car that on earth failed you. I want to stand with you where you died and have you reassure me that you weren’t in any pain. When I am asleep, things make sense, but then my eyes open and the pain of the light and the deafening volume of the day hits me like a ton of bricks as another day begins without you.

Grief comes in waves that is what they tell me. Well, today hit me like a tsunami.

Bully

Too powerful not to post.  Bullying is not something that should be left unspoken.  It is real and painful and shapes kids self esteem.  As someone who has first hand experience with how horrible students can be, this video was really touching.

Snip

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Snip. Snip. Snip. Away it falls. Down to the floor. Stuck on her shoulders. Brown. Some grey. Blonde. Some short. Some long. Turn on the razor. Let’s start to get more aggressive. Shorter. Shorter. More hair gone.

Chunks of my mom’s hair started falling out yesterday. We knew this would happen. The doctors said between 14-21 days after starting chemo it would be gone. Yesterday was day 15. To make the process a little smoother we shaved her head tonight, my sister and I. I have never in my life held a hair razor, let alone taken it to someone’s skull.

One of my largest fears growing up was cutting hair or getting my hair cut. I cut my dolls hair once and got in huge trouble for it. It was a terrible day. Ever since I have had this deeply rooted fear that every haircut was going to result in the same turmoil. I have gotten over that with time. In the past two to three years I started realizing how petty all of my fears were growing up. Many of which were instilled in me because they were my mom’s fears. I used to be scared of almost all movies, even the Disney princess ones. I was scared of elevators, of closets, of the dark, of sleeping alone, of getting my hair cut, of driving on a bus, of driving on a train, of skiing, of the brakes on the roller blades, of rocking chairs, of camping, of mosquitoes, of bees, of bugs in general, of mountains, of the oceans, of heights, of roller coasters, of boats…the list goes on and on. Now, none of those things faze me. In fact in many ways I have made a complete 180 when it comes to fears because now I am afraid of logically nonthreatening things like food and conversations with people and dream of doing things like skydiving and scuba diving.

I practiced with the razor on my arm. It was easy enough to control. But when I went to take the first cut at my mom’s hair, I hesitated, and for a moment that 5 year old girl who cut off her doll’s hair came back into the room and I was terrified. Once I cut, my mom would never be the same. Gone. Gone. Gone. Snip. Snip. Snip. I took a deep breath and with the exhale released that five year old girl from within me. This is different. This is my mom. This is what I promised I would do for her. I went for it. My mom was already scared, we didn’t need my own fears crowding the bathroom. For her, I would make the process fun. Pop music was turned on. The camera was rolling. And as the minutes passed, I gained more confidence in the process and kept on cutting and shaving. First I shaved one side. We took a few pictures to show how she would look if she ever were to decide in the future to rock the one sided bald look. Then I shaved the other side but left the top long for a nice Mohawk. Then I just trimmed it up and left her with a pixie. Done. Painless enough and we got some good photos out of it.

It’s not so bad. So my mom is going to be bald in the next couple of days. So I had to shave her head. So she is going through chemo. So she has breast cancer. I still have my mom around. She still feels good enough to want a milkshake after the “shave” party. She is keeping good spirits. She is alive. And if I have learned anything in the past month or so, it is that every day that you get with the people you love is a gift. No one is guaranteed tomorrow.

Tubs and Suds

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You know when you drain a bath and that little tornado of water and suds forms as the water is slowly sucked out? That is how I feel. That I am a two-inch human swimming in a bath full of lukewarm water, tired and growing weak, swimming around the porcelain edge of the tub, but finding it too much of a climb to make it out. My miniature self is forced to swim in circles around my own self-depravity. And the more circles I swim, the more apparent it becomes that only escape is allowing myself to be sucked into that tornado of suds.

The tornado is my eating disorder. To go back to it would mean slowly spirally downward into the grimy, dark drain. Every time I restrict, every missed snack, every safe choice brings me closer to that tornado. The current is stronger on that end of the tub and my tired self finds the thought enticing to just allow my body to go limp and be pulled down, down, down. A few more days of this and then what? I am completely sucked into the tornado, unable to get out without help? There is a ladder somewhere on the opposite end of the tub. I haven’t seen it, but the voices outside of the tub, the one’s on the other side of that tall porcelain rim talk of it. I believe it is there because those voices have been patiently waiting for me on the other side, watching me swim around while consistently loosing all sense of direction, and they haven’t left. I haven’t made it to that other side to see if the ladder exists and that the voices haven’t been lying to me. But when I was getting close, I started swimming in circles again. Around and around, contemplating whether I was ready to climb out of this lukewarm tub. It was the circle swimming that pulled me backward. And now here I am in the current of that never-ending tornado of suds and my self-defeating desires are coming back.

The tornado of suds comes to an end eventually. All the water is gone and that porcelain tub is left alone to dry. Am I the tub and not just a component swimming in its waters? Is the eating disorder not just the helpless human fighting the tornado’s current? Zoom out. Zoom out. That is what Lindsay says. I am too close to this picture, only able to see a portion.

I think I am the tub.

A flooded tub whose water supply is going to take a long, long time to empty out.

Sinking

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When you have a friend in town and are expected to entertain for the week, but are simultaneously carrying the heaviness of loosing a loved one these are the thoughts that come about…

I keep laughing. I keep dancing. I keep moving around the city. I drink and eat and talk and sleep, but I am not there. I am lost in the deep caverns of my broken heartedness. Swimming downward into the depths of grief and loss and confusion. I am friends with fish, but drowning without oxygen. The fish swim and I sink. They have gills while every bone in my body is broken. Broken legs and broken arms. A broken heart has no desire to surface from drowning in the oceans of its tears. Let me sink and let me cry.

I don’t want to be saved because Andy died.

I say I am excited for next semester. I brag about my internship. I nod and respond to conversations appropriately, but the truth is I don’t care. The drone of your voice is intoxicating. It makes me high. I float away while simultaneously trying to sit here. I have no taste for laughter, no taste for hope, no taste for you, my friend. Stale and bland. Dry and crumbling. The seasons of life have changed. A new year that I don’t want to be a part of. You talk of resolutions. I choke on my tears. It is a year without him. A year beginning when he is in the ground. I can’t make goals when my world is frozen. Not moving, not comprehending, just pretending. My life is an endless performance. I severed and burned the curtain to forever expose the stage. I like it that way because to end means to move on and I can’t close the book on a chapter that was never written.

For my mom I offer hope where I am a breeding ground of doubt and for my heart I offer peace where my mind is racked in fear. Andy died a horrific death and there is no closure in knowing that. My mom is loosing strength and there is no comfort in that. So I laugh and I sing and the movie continues to play, but I won’t remember what we did tonight when tomorrow comes. All I will recall is the fact that another day passed without him. It has been 35. 35 tiresome and bleak and dark and painful and heavy and somber and hopeless days. Days happen after tragedy, but life no longer exists. Your hug does little to warm an unresponsive heart. I know you care, but I just don’t. Bring my family flowers and cook us food. Send us cards and email song lyrics. It doesn’t do much good.

I want to close my eyes. When I sleep he visits me. He takes me riding with the angels. He shows me the place where he died. The flowers and signs. Red, there is so much red. He squeezes my hand, I cry as he starts to leave, and that is when I know the pain of the sun is approaching. It is the day that is the most painful. The conversations I have with you. Around plans and schedules and meet ups and relationships. Stop. Pause. Don’t make me participate. Sleeping. Sleeping is what I want to do. My legs are steel and my eyelids are taped open. I cry tears of nails that cut my soft skinned cheeks. You keep talking and I get it. You don’t know pain like this. But I want to tape your lips closed and ask you for some silence. I need space to grieve. I need time to cry. Those don’t come often that is why I choose to sleep so I may see Andy one more time.

Yarn

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Rolled into a ball of thread,

Each string wound and knotted into my spotted mind,

Thread marking another twisted moment in time.

A child is here in this closet, in this ball right now

A child of six and ten and nine

A child I am, a child I never will be,

Frozen in memories unwilling.

Help me escape this relentless mind full of yarn,

Teach me the trick to unraveling a lifetime of knots.

Open me up and cut them out,

Leave my skull hollow and free of this adult bred in doubt.

Rip at my hair as if that would press pause on the scenes,

Linger behind my eyelids, strong, lit by kerosene.

I want no more yet they come. A chainsaw perhaps would work

Cut at the past, mutilate, destroy what should have been stopped

Behind my eyelids, all alone, darkness engulfing a child

Where is God then?

…and the knots draw ever tighter…

Because I can’t lean in and offer a seed of comfort

Child of six and ten and nine is left alone to suffer

Horrible the pain in my heavy chest

Crushing, it leaves me curled up fixated on this ball of thread

Knotted I am, a mess unable to be undone

The damage is irreversible; severing is the option to be won.