you are allowed to be crazy so long as you read the fine print

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art by lora mathis

Last night I took an inordinate amount of shrooms and I suddenly found myself feeling every repressed feeling surrounding my father’s passing. I was just out with a friend and then BOOM! I was pressed down by the immensity of the love and loss I quieted nearly six years ago. And obviously because I am the most irrational rational human this side of the Mason-Dixon line then I decided I needed to go see my dad.

Naturally.

I wanted to be where my dad was. I wanted to fly directly to Kenya and sit with him for the first time since the pallbearers lowered his casket into the red soil of the village. I wanted to feel his presence one more time by any means necessary.

I regret now that I tried to share my experience with various family members and friends. I regret that I was vulnerable and naked and I showed the part of myself I worked so hard to hide from the world all these years.

And the emotions I felt were not limited to my father’s passing. I was also feeling the entire weight of years of repressing my emotions and ideas in order to make other people feel comfortable. I quieted my own heart song in order to allow other people to feel more at ease.

I wanted to go to Kenya because that is where it all began and daily I wonder who I would be had my parents not decided for me at such a young age that I had to grow up in America. That I had to be oppressed and silenced and broken down because of the color of my skin or a difference in chromosomes.

So I went to the airport. I made the decision to purchase a one way ticket and just go home. I just wanted to go home and be next to my father. I wanted to see my family. I wanted to just give the big ole middle finger to this American dream and go back to where my dreams all began.

I made the mistake of calling my mom and one of my best friends to tell them where I was and where I was going and of course they attempted to intervene. Christ, I have had so many interventions that I could probably start sitting in on them and guiding people as to the correct and incorrect modus operandi.

I was met by a delightful young man named Rod who worked for United Airlines and he told me he didn’t think I really wanted to go to Kenya with just a backpack and two books. He kept telling me what I wanted as if I wasn’t fully present and fully capable of discerning what going to Kenya on a whim meant.

But I did understand and I still understand. And when two paramedics showed up with six police officers I fully understood that what I wanted was irrelevant. I understood that it didn’t matter if I recited Dante’s Inferno in its original language and told you all of Anna Karenina’s family members names or what Sylvia Plath was wearing when she died.

None of that mattered because everyone else saw what they wanted to see even though I was trying to show them what I was seeing. I was seeing my truth. I was seeing things more clearly than I had ever seen them before.

I am back in Logan Square after signing an AMA form for the paramedics and rolling my eyes at the people in blue. Because I might be crazy but I am free from the chains and weight of other people’s expectations. And next time I’ll just smoke a joint and buy my boarding pass before going to O’Hare and I certainly will not call my mom or my best friend.

I am a smart, strong, and genuine individual and gone are the days of asking permission to be who I am. Gone are the days of feeling as if I am stepping on someone’s toes by experiencing the world the way I experience it. I have spent time being psychoanalyzed. I have taken the countless medications. I have talked to multitudes of people and no one has ever offered me something even close to insight as to why I got the brain that I did.

Why some days are technicolor and other days are grayscale and other days are a mix of the two.

Honestly, I don’t even care what color my days are anymore. I’m just happy I’m alive to see the entire rainbow and then some.

 

i lost my mind and gained a little peace of mind (funny how that works)

 

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lisa frank nihilist

I tried for years to fit within the parameters society and my family set for me but I have come to accept that I have failed them all gloriously and that is just absolutely, completely fine by me. Because finally, for once, for a brief moment in this dreadful existence I like who I am. I am okay in my skin. Yes, of course I want to die. I don’t actually care if I die later tonight, if I’m being completely honest, but for once I would prefer if I didn’t. I would like to see what happens tomorrow for me, my friends, my family. I want to know if perhaps my life has some meaning (I am almost certain it doesn’t).

But either way, that’s okay? I am just riding this wave…the good, the bad, the manic, the semi-sane moments I can manage to hold onto.

My father always responded to any inquiry with, “Because of many becauses.”

Because of many becauses.

Because.

Why am I still alive? Because.

Why are you still alive? Because.

Because because because.

It’s been almost three years now since the first time I was admitted to the psychiatric hospital. Weird. I always knew I would end up there. I guess you could call it a sixth sense. I remember watching Girl, Interrupted and knowing those were my people. And similarly when I read for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbo is enuf I knew. I knew deep down in my heart of hearts that my kooky mind would probably land me in a psychiatric ward.

I am not ashamed to admit that now. It is a part of who I am. Just like my exes, and the drugs, and the booze, and the questionable life choices.

Ah, it’s all beautiful and sad and real and…me.

I can say with absolute certainty that I paid my dues. I have done the heart work and I intend to continue doing more of it as my life continues on. I am excited about it even.

Weird, huh?

This could go on but I want to go do other things (there is so much life out there, I gotta go see it my dear!) so I will leave you with this last anecdote: every so often I am riding the CTA and I see one or two of the folks I was in the psychiatric hospital with and we talk briefly. I am often saddened because a lot of them have returned to John Madden Mental Health Center (it is a real place and it is real, real scary and underfunded and exactly what you would imagine a shitty BARELY state funded mental health facility to be like) since our stay but also a lot of the folks are happy and healthy and doing the same heart work that I am currently doing.

And that’s real. That’s what we’re all trying to do.

I am doing some real heart work and I am real proud of myself. And I love myself.

Truly. I love who I am. Who I was. And who I have yet to become.

Because of many, many becauses.

something, nothing, whatever

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photography by Viviane Sassen

Alexandre Dumas wrote in the final pages of The Count Of Monte Cristo that, “in order to know how sweet it is to live one must needs have wished to die.”

Today as I laid in bed talking myself out of yet another manic episode/panic attack/whatever you want to call it I kept repeating those words in my mind. Inbetween trying to decide which wrist I would slit first, or whether I would tie the beautiful cum stained fabric from Kenya around my neck, or if I would just Elliott Smith it up and take one swift stab to the chest…I allowed my mind to just take a quick gasp and think of what…what worthless, meaningless, nothingness I would somehow miss out on if I finally ended it all.

I think about killing myself all the time and I’ve been trying since I was twelve. That’s no badge of honor, it’s just crippling, gut-wrenching, and debilitating depression.

Some people’s hearts are trying to kill them. Some have bum livers. Some have bum…whatevers. But every day some of us fight…no, actually, sometimes we barely manage to lift our heads or put one foot in front of the other…let alone on the fucking floor. But either way, every day some of us fight our fucking brains which don’t want us here.

Brains that see the darkness and the emptiness of this whole existence. And we cling to the littlest glimpse of nothing…even if it is a little something.

I am tired. I am so fucking tired of being depressed and trying to find a way to not just hop in front of the CTA (which for the record wouldn’t even kill me unless it was going express).

And as I laid here not less than thirty minutes ago I ran through every reason to die, and every reason to stop and just…be done with it all. And then I followed up with the little things. And then I weighed my options. And then I finally thought that I have been here before and I have barely scraped by and it seems as if I will always, always, always be in this place but I’m still here.

I’m still here.

It’s more of a curse than a blessing but it’s something. It’s all something. I don’t know if my life is “sweeter” because I have wished death upon myself. But I know that maybe, just maybe, it’s not as bad as the time before or the time before that. Because every time I wrestle with that goddamn demon masquerading as a brain, I come out a teeny bit stronger. But of course those who wish to die are not weak, they’re…something.

It’s all something.

And I’m here.

And that’s something.

 

tough love

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Me, Ma, & Pa circa 1990

Dear Mom,

You were always my biggest advocate. If dad said “no” I knew I could turn around and you would say “yes”. It wasn’t worth it for him to fight you on a decision concerning your little baby girl. I guess I picked up on that early. How could I not? I’m not blaming you. You made it so easy. I wanted simple things like going to a friends house, a new dress, some random candy at the grocery store.

But as I got older the stakes became higher. I needed rent money. I needed you to pay my hospital bills. I needed you to support me to such a great degree that eventually, after all these years, you broke. I can’t blame you. I can’t even be mad because you’ve given me so much. I just couldn’t figure out what to do with it.

I suppose I still have some figuring out to do. It would be so easy for me to resent you for not understanding my depression or bipolar disorder. For you not comprehending what I’m going through and shutting down every time I came to you in tears.

It would be so incredibly easy.

But you’re human and we are far past the point of me being just your daughter. I am an individual who fought you for years for my freedom, only one day to turn around and reject being set free. Funny how that works, no?

I have my flaws and you have yours but I cannot ignore that you have done so much for me and let’s face it, will probably do so much more. I’m not mad. I suppose I am just scared of what happens next. But god, I’ve been waiting to fly off for so long, maybe just maybe, I’ll get my wings on the way down.

All My Love,

Leli

meh.

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Be You But Better by Polly Nor

I am so sick of this journey of self-discovery called my twenties. I wish I was one of those nineteen year olds that saw a future, set some goals, and achieved them all before twenty-three at the very least. But instead I am twenty-six and I have achieved nothing of note. At first it was fun not being tied down and living life on the edge. Never knowing what the next week would bring. But eventually the soul gets tired. You start to long for a place to rest your weary head. And I am just so fucking tired.

I am sick of myself, this angst, this goddamn depression. I don’t want to be on a roller-coaster anymore, I want to ride the carousel. Preferably one of the slow moving sea horses. I am terrified of sea life but I’ve always found something aesthetically pleasing about sea horses. And like, the male carries the babies, which is ideal.

And another thing, I want to puke all the time, and more often than not I actually do. My life is actually, finally, definitely making me sick. I considered that I might be pregnant but the gods cannot be so cruel. I can barely raise myself from my bed let alone a child.

Goddamit, but then I have this out of body experience and I see/hear myself and I think, “Fuck, what an over-entitled brat with a questionable work ethic.” But that can’t be the sum total of who I am. I don’t believe that I am entitled to anything except life, love, and the pursuit of happiness. I mean, I’m technically in pursuit of all of above.

Do people ever catch that slice of happiness or do most of us just settle? I don’t want to settle. I don’t to wake up one day and realize I want to die at forty-two. I’d kick myself knowing that I knew now what I know in that moment. That maybe you don’t get the dream life, maybe you just get a life, and…settle.

I think how much easier my life would be if I just sat down and didn’t question everything so damn much. I watch people who move with ease through this world and I am awe struck. I, of course, am aware maybe they break down at home like a Stepford Wife but damn, what I wouldn’t give to be able to just fake it.

 

an easy silence

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Image via Tumblr

I have spent most of my life terrified of silence. It was unsettling for someone to not be speaking, in my mind. Silence equalled time for the other individual to assess my faults. Silence meant time for the other person to second guess whether or not they liked me. Silence meant time for me to second guess if I even liked myself.

It was only very recently I started to delight in the quiet moments. The unspoken magic of two people so at ease with each other that they could just sit next to each other without exchanging a single word.

I have this comfort with a few close friends. In fact, my closest friends are the ones who I can sit next to on the train for hours and not feel the need to exchange a single word.

My father used to ask me to just be quiet from time to time. To just go to my room and sit with myself and my thoughts. I used to get really sensitive about it because I felt like I was being censured or scolded for being my chatty self.

But age and time have shown me that there is some quiet magic in just sitting with myself and drinking a cup of tea or reading a book alone in my bed.

There is something magical about sitting next to an old friend and simply listening to the beat of our hearts and the urgency of life.

A few weeks ago I had the most remarkably unremarkable day and it will forever remain one of my favorite memories. I did nothing but talk with an old friend, meet a few new ones, and walk around Chicago.

I used to think that being an adult and moving out of my parents house would be exactly like the movies, all flashing lights and drama, but honestly it’s been pretty average in its own extraordinary way.

And I’ll take it. I’ll take extraordinarily average.

midwest is best (sorry LA!)

 

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Seeing a World through Her Eyes  by Carrie Mae Weems 

I am in the middle of trying to make a few difficult life altering decisions. I am also quite amazed at how much my life has changed in only a matter of months. I am exhausted, overwhelmed, but also excited and optimistic. All things which I have not felt in a long time.

In fact, I have felt almost nothing for a very, very long time.

I have spent years in a cloud of depression and hopelessness and now I have managed to get a hold of my life and be able to navigate my depression and its highs and lows. So it is only natural when presented with the opportunity to uproot all of this and start over in a new city and find a new therapist, and be away from my support system, then I would initially have some reservations.

Because the last time I tried to run away and move to LA, my life fell apart. But I guess the most significant difference this time is that I feel better. I know what most of my triggers are and how to cope. But at the same time I am not that far removed from my depression and the negative effects it has had on my day-to-day life.

And so I am trying to figure out what I want to do and if in the end I will regret not taking this opportunity. If I will look back in ten years and be like damn, I shoulda packed up and moved west and lived my Hollywood dreams.

But at the same time, I also want to take care of myself. I want to know that I am going to be safe and healthy and have some sort of handle on this Bipolar Depression.

I love Chicago. I love Logan Square and I am finally in a position to live here without feeling like I am dying slowly every day. I cannot say the same for LA.

I am always of the belief that your gut knows the answers to all of life’s questions. Were this to be an opportunity I wanted, then I wouldn’t be sitting here waffling on the subject and second guessing my decision. I don’t really want to work in television. I want to be an activist and write books. I want to connect with people on more than a superficial level.

I want to connect with every day people. I don’t need to be knee deep in LA’s culture. I would love to split my time between the west coast and Chicago. But Chicago is home. It really is.

So, I think I have my answer. But that also won’t stop me from being confused and being unable to sleep over the decision. I think though, and this is just me speculating, that maybe another and more doable opportunity will come along in the near future.

I want to stay in Chicago. I don’t need the glitz of LA and I secretly suspect LA doesn’t need the maniacal magic of Mwongeli. I am honored that the opportunity came my way but someone else would definitely appreciate it more and be more excited to receive it than I would.

I gotta take care of me and my sanity. So Chicago, I think we’re gonna stay and try this one more time. I have never had a home base, I have never felt like I could stay in a place for long without suddenly needing to escape.

I am home.