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Mental Health

Guest Posts, Mental Health, Surviving

Mother And Daughter: An (In)Complete History of (Almost) Suicide

March 12, 2017
suicide

CW: This piece discusses suicide and suicidal ideation.

By Amy Buchanan

One of my earliest memories is this: Sitting in the passenger seat of an old, beat-up blue Volkswagen, tracing a raindrop with my finger as it slides down the window and swallows up other raindrops along the way. My bare feet don’t yet touch the floor. I’m barely tall enough to see the gray world outside. My pajamas are twisted up, cutting a red line into my neck. My mother’s boyfriend opens the door and ponderously shoves a wastebasket full of my socks into the back seat. He is a bear of a man; I adore him, but he can be scary. This morning he is scary. Just sitting next to him brings anxious tears to my eyes.

“Where are we going?” I ask.

“I’m taking you to some people. You’re going to live with them now.” He forces the car in gear, and we begin to drive away.

“Where is my mom?” I cry, a keening sound too big for my small body.

“Who the hell knows. Probably going to the ocean to drown,” he looks at me. “She doesn’t want you anymore. Now shut it.” Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Mental Health, No Bullshit Motherhood

This Cross I Bear

March 10, 2017
sunshine

By Leslie Wibberley

I should have seen the signs, long before she fell so far and so hard. Instead, I just kept pushing. “You can do this, sweetie, just focus and try harder.” Seemingly innocuous words, I thought. Encouraging words, right?

Wrong.

I should have known better. After all, I’d grown up with a mother who suffered from clinical depression and had attempted suicide on more than one occasion. With that kind of family history, you would have thought I’d have seen this coming.

Well, I didn’t.

I grew up with a mother who lived in perpetual darkness, but also with a father who epitomized sunshine. For every storm cloud that gathered and dumped its torrents of rain across my mother’s sorrow filled shoulders, there came a gentle breeze filled with warmth, sunshine, and the music of song birds; my dad.

I like to think I take after him. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Medication, Mental Health

Unbecoming

September 15, 2016
sleep

By Julia K. Agresto

I haven’t slept in days. The crushing anxiety that plagues every waking minute of every day won’t let up. It’s a constant feeling of being deeply afraid, although of what specifically I don’t quite know. It’s a strange combination of caring far too much about everything and nothing, and no longer caring much about anything at all.

Each day begins the same: with a tearful phone call to my father. Or a phone call where I don’t say much and don’t cry, but I call anyway because I just need to feel someone there, to feel somehow less alone in my loneliness. I’m unsure which of the two is worse for him. In either case, I feel like an impossibly heavy burden. I know the weight of my sadness and his inability to remedy it are slowly destroying him. I know he is at a loss for what he can say or do. I wonder if, like many others who have seemingly disappeared from my life because they too are at a loss for what they can say or do, he debates whether it would be easier to just let me drift away. But I’ve already drifted. I am standing on a tiny island in the middle of a colossal sea waving my arms desperately, waiting to be rescued. Nobody sees me.

One day during our ritual phone call, my dad says, “You can’t do this anymore. You’re not sleeping. You’re missing work. You’ve hit a wall. You need to go on medication.” I resist. I’ve long operated under the misguided notion that medication equates to weakness. That succumbing to this last-ditch solution would mean I’ve admitted defeat. I’m terrified of side effects. I’m terrified of gaining weight, even as I’m withering away to nothing, so severely depressed that grocery shopping and cooking have become too emotionally taxing to deal with. He tells me that he’s found a psychiatric nurse practitioner in my area who can see me that day to evaluate me and prescribe something for the anxiety and depression, and to help me sleep. I am so completely drained and exhausted that I finally agree. The thought of never escaping this hell that I’m in finally becomes more painful to me than the stigma of being medicated. I figure that things can’t get much worse (this turns out to be untrue, as I’ll soon learn that the adjustment period to these new meds is complete and abject misery). Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Mental Health, Young Voices

From the Ground I Burn

September 8, 2016
suicide

TW: This essay discusses suicide.

Note from Jen Pastiloff, founder of The Manifest-Station. This week is Suicide Prevention week and this remarkable essay is part of our Young Voices Series for Girl Power: You Are Enough. Together we can help erase the stigma of mental illness and there is nothing to be ashamed of about depression. I believe even the messy parts of being human are beautiful. If you need to talk, there are good resources available including To Write Love On Her Arms and 1-800-273-TALK. We are stronger together, helping each other. The Manifest-Station is always looking for more writing from YOU! Make sure you follow us on instagram at @GirlPowerYouAreEnough and on Facebook here. And remember: You ARE enough.

By Leah Juliett

Death threw me a bridal shower last summer. It sat at the crook of my neck in the shape of the cold belt that no longer fit around my contorted waist. I exhaled and my cracked heels exited cold ground. My voice ripped out of my larynx and I have not seen it since.

Mental illness is a cold turkey my family always forgets to serve- never spoken of; sitting in an oven that demands repair. White-skinned relatives always militantly ready to snap the steel gate closed before the smell gets out. Last fall my mother forgot to take out the trash for three weeks and maggots spilled out onto the garage floor. The smell of bone dust lasted in the car port until December, but has stayed on my body. I emote bleeding sockets and rug burned back. I reek of a decaying brain.

My childhood bedroom has become both gravedigger and priest- mourning me and calling me holy. Pouring dirt on naked body. My skin begs to have more stiffness than elasticity. I do not want to recover from what haunts me. I want to be drenched in it; wet thighs, bleached lips. I want to remember all the times I slept underground.

The first girl that I fucked with was made of fire. Her hair was dipped in raven ink. When she slipped her head beneath my hollow stomach, I cooed. I was dawned in trauma, bones cracking under heavy weight of my skin suit. Trauma too pretty to be spelled into post-traumatic stress. My body not a war veteran. When I told her I loved her, she left a flower at the head of my grave and departed like the weary admire the death of someone they wished they’d known better.

When my family eats dinner, I like to believe they chew the meat of my Adam’s apple. My throat throbs. Small hands clutch voice box. Birds cough out of asthmatic chest. The oxygen that steams from my inhaler is cold and milky, the color of male ejaculation that drenched my early teens. When I press it to my lips I wonder if this is how they try resurrect a corpse. My breath is some form of witchcraft, my inhaler a magic spoon. No matter how often I want to die, I always press the red plastic wagon that floods a surge of air back into my charred lungs.

The bridal shower was quaint. I drank a glass of water and took two Lexapro cookies that crumbled and tasted sweet under my teeth. Gifts sat under a large oak tree outside of my window, wrapped in shiny paper I’d seen at the local drugstore. I imagined all of the thank you notes I’d have to write. Mother. Father. Sister. Grandmother. Grandfather. Childhood pool. Plant on my bedside table that I’d named after Sylvia Plath. Blood. Answering machine. Suddenly it seemed like an undoable task. I cannot write a letter that does not sound like a obituary. My fingernails carved words into the hard wood of my desk. There is no erasure of what is written in stone, but wood can be burned. This quiet body can still be burned. From ash, I can fit into the cells of my old skin like plant seeds and I can build myself into a new man.

There is a burial ground at the pit of my stomach where my body allows poison people to continue to live. The rotting, the asthma, the constant churning of broken shells under wrists that beg to be cut open. The undead dance on my clavicle, etch foreign words into my pelvis. I cannot feel sexual attraction without a ceremony of grief- my vagina only wet when my eyes can no longer produce tears. This is the birthday party I never had.

The problem with mental illness is that it does not sit cold in the oven. It marinates the whole house. It’s the maggots, the turkey, the bones left under the bed. The quiet throb when you read newspaper obituaries for people you never met, only, all of the people are you. It is the sliver in your thumb that always seems to find it’s way into your nervous system. It pokes floats in your cardiovascular system until your chest ruptures. I wasn’t born for small things. My body, my coffin, my illness is so large I cannot hold it in my hand. It wasn’t being gay, or hating my body. It wasn’t being naked or touched or exposed or cut open. If I were clean of impurities, there would still be a sickness. The alien graveyard still living under new city. I cannot dig up what is too deep to see.

Death approached me after all the guests had left. It handed me the belt from the top shelf of my closet. It stretched around my neck like the pearls I’d imagined would go nicely with my bridal shower dress. I wanted to turn my body into a cross, hanging like Jesus from my bedframe. I wanted to relive my mother’s church.

Death looked at me with eager eyes, a handsome fiancé-to-be begging me to accept such a grandiose proposal. My chest sat heavy beneath all the lives I had not lived.

I do not know if I will ever marry. I do not know if I could stomach a diamond.

When I handed back the belt I did not deny death. My voice is too strong for this caracas. When suicide strangled me, my throat strangled back. Words beneath my ribcage pushed upwards until unholy screams pierced the room I slept in. I am a banshee body. I am a watery grave. I am uncomfortable, I am unearthly, but I am here. I will live here until the Earth turns over and the graves spill out. I will dance among decaying bodies falling backwards from the sky like a haunting snowstorm. My voice will not die. I will not die.

When Death threw me a bridal shower, I burned down the building. I grabbed my voice from His melting hands and ran before the noose pulled me back into the bad place. I have not seen Him since.

Leah Juliett is a nineteen year old poet, actress, LGBTQ+ activist and intersectional feminist from Connecticut. She is the author of “Orange Peels and Other Things that Burn” (2015, Amazon Publishing), and has competed nationally at the Brave New Voices Slam Poetry Competition. She has been featured in Seventeen Magazine, Teen Vogue, Buzzfeed LGBT, Attitude Magazine, and The Huffington Post. Additional work has been published on The Clit List and The Odyssey Online.

 

Join founder Jen Pastiloff for a weekend retreat at Kripalu Center in Western Massachusetts Feb 19-21, 2016. Get ready to connect to your joy, manifest the life of your dreams, and tell the truth about who you are. This program is an excavation of the self, a deep and fun journey into questions such as: If I wasn’t afraid, what would I do? Who would I be if no one told me who I was? Jennifer Pastiloff, creator of Manifestation Yoga and author of the forthcoming Girl Power: You Are Enough, invites you beyond your comfort zone to explore what it means to be creative, human, and free—through writing, asana, and maybe a dance party or two! Jennifer’s focus is less on yoga postures and more on diving into life in all its unpredictable, messy beauty. Note Bring a journal, an open heart, and a sense of humor. Click the photo to sign up.

Join Jen Pastiloff at her Manifestation Workshop: On Being Human in London Oct 1st and Dallas Oct 22. Click the links above to book. No yoga experience needed- just be a human being! Bring a journal and a sense of humor. See why People Magazine did a whole feature on Jen.

 

Check out Jen Pastiloff in People Magazine!

Check out Jen in People Magazine!

Guest Posts, Mental Health

Crazy

August 12, 2016
crazy

By Lisa Solod

Now I know how my mother went crazy.  Or, rather, crazier.  Sinking down into the depths of it so far that she could not move. Literally. I know how as in how it felt, because I felt that way myself not too long ago.  But I got up.   My mother didn’t.  Not at first, anyway. She had to be pried from her bed and taken to a mental hospital where, somehow, she got “well” enough to leave.

There were times after that, years even, when she was indeed sort of well.  Unless she wasn’t.  She functioned but then she had always kind of functioned, on and off, all her life. All of my life. The off part of the on and off was the hard part: for her, for me, for my father and sisters, her friends and other family.  The off part was what finally sent her to bed and then landed her in a mental hospital.

I know the how but I still am not completely sure of the why. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Medication, Mental Health, Surviving

Lexapro: A Love Story

August 4, 2016
medication

By Kenna Conway

“Don’t drink. Continue taking your medicine,” my friend repeats in my ear as I throw bikinis into my carry on.

I half lift my head, slightly acknowledging her words of wisdom.

“Are you listening to me?” she asks, taking my silence as a worrisome sign.

“Sort of,” I reply, before turning my attention to a crop top.

I have this pattern- some call it subconscious self sabotage. I find myself in Italy, tempted by the tastes of fine wine. I know before I leave U.S soil that I will have some after a year of purity. The first glass tastes strange. It is airplane cabernet. I sip it very slowly, checking to see who is around me. I feel like I am doing something wrong. Sneaky. I don’t finish it. The second time I drink, I am at dinner. The pizza is much better than the wine. I do it again the next night, but with gluten free pasta instead. After a month, I leave Florence feeling like I am not in love with booze.

Weaning off medication comes gradually as well. My supply is running low, so I begin to cut the dose. At first it seems like a fine idea. My sex drive returns and I feel a heightened sense of creativity. As I move through the streets, I am turned on by life and the multitude of emotions passing through me. And then slowly I begin to slip. My Montmartre apartment becoming more and more appealing than an unexplored city. I am crying a lot, for no reason at all. I want to believe that I am releasing something, that the tears serve a purpose. But I am afraid it is just the same familiar sadness that has been haunting me since childhood. Before heading home, I start swallowing my pills again. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Mental Health

The Year I Lost My Mind

May 24, 2016
doctors

By Sarah Fader

In 2011 I lost my mind. After I had Samara, I remember sitting in a hospital bed hysterically crying. When she would cry, I would cry. It hurt to nurse her. Every time I placed her on my breast to nurse I felt my uterus contracting and I yelped in pain like a puppy that had its paw stepped on.

I told my brother in the hospital when he visited “I don’t know how I’m going to do this. I’m scared.”

“Don’t worry,” he assured me, “mom and dad will help you if you need them to.” His words reassured me, but I was still scared. I was afraid to be a mother of two. I’d had Ari for almost three years and he was my one and only. I doted on him, I read to him, we painted colorful watercolor works of art together and we went out to eat muffins and juice frequently.

But now things were going to change. I had a new little person to take care of and add to our family. I had a little girl. She was beautiful and squishy and pink and I loved her immediately. However, I had no idea how I could love two human beings equally.

So I tried to be the best mother I could be. I did not stop. I went to the library with an infant and a 3-year-old, I went to the playground with an infant and a 3-year-old, I went everywhere with an infant and a 3-year-old. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Mental Health

Small Deaths and Small Magic

March 28, 2016
suicide

Trigger warning: This essay discusses suicidal ideation.

By Summer Krafft

He stood there, the oddness of a boy turned statue, at the end of the hallway. The light filtering through the window outlined his silhouette as he stared through the glass. It was the only window in the place.

Sometimes I say I don’t remember getting there, but it’s not true. What is true is that sometimes I cannot bear to tell it. The doctors said what they could to make it plain: suicidal ideations. They wanted it to seem as if I could explain my being there in two words, as if it were simple.

I think a better way of saying it is that I dreamt of making a blood masterpiece with the sharp kiss of knives against my snow skin. Which is another way of saying I already knew how to dry-swallow a handful of little chemical marbles. Which is another way of saying I was not afraid of drowning; it seemed just like the returning to a before-birth, to a time of not being.

I guess that’s how I got there, to Heritage Oaks Adolescent Psychiatric Facility. The place with the stark white walls and impossibly long hallway lined with doorways –no actual doors– two patients inside each of them, a large window overlooking a dumpster at the end. The place that smelled of Lysol, Jello, unwashed teens, and dried blood. The place where there was always someone crying or screaming or begging to go home, echoing like childhood lost. A place where I ended and began.

My memory of this place is anchored in the people: Maddy, who was fifteen and hospitalized there for her fourth suicide attempt. Elaine, the biggest and meanest twelve-year-old I’ve ever seen who just kept singing ‘This is the Song that Never Ends.” Xenia, who was both the prettiest and the saddest of all of us, who would sneak into the room of the boy who liked to punch holes in the walls. Stacey, my roommate, who stared at me while I tried to sleep and did not speak and had the habit of ripping off her bra and flinging it across the room when she got upset. Jason, who was there because his mother thought he was going to kill his sister. When I asked him if she was right, he gritted his teeth, jaw flexing like a small murder, averted his eyes, and shook his head no. I couldn’t tell if he was about to cry. I didn’t have the energy to be scared of him. I was there for my own momentum hurling me towards death. I was there because no one who loved me could trust me to be alone with my own hands. Continue Reading…

Abuse, Guest Posts, Mental Health, Relationships, Trust

I Should Hate You, But I Don’t: Loving and Letting Go of a Pathological Liar

February 12, 2016

TRIGGER WARNING: This essay deals with the damage caused by a pathological liar. 

By Ashley Gulla

I didn’t think I could survive you.  I didn’t think I could find my way out of that dark, black hole I found myself in a few years ago.  Even when you couldn’t take it anymore and quietly slipped away from me, I had no idea how to surrender.  I don’t know the pain of losing a child, so it may have been ignorant of me to think, but the death of “us” left an aching, empty space I imagine was comparable.  Or at least I did when I was in the process of letting go.  Because I wasn’t just letting go of you, I was letting go of my innocence, and that was a heavy price to pay for loving you.

That empty space still exists but it’s different now.  It’s just as vast as it ever was but it’s not nearly as dark or scary.  Those parts of me — my fear, my insecurities, hopelessness and obsessiveness — don’t hurt to touch anymore.  I’ve stared the monster that lives in my head straight in its eyes, and I’ve learned to be friends with her.  I, even some times, find myself lost in that emptiness, with a sense of appreciation and humor, over that the fact that I’m still standing after everything.  And some days, standing would be an understatement.  I’m dancing, flying!  Other times, not as often as before, I’m crawling.  But I’m still here, and I’m happy.

I don’t miss you.  I don’t wish things were different.  And for the first time in the last three years, I’m happy you’re not the one surprising me at work, or finishing my sentences when I can’t find the right word, or wrapping your arms tightly around me as we both fall asleep.  I cringe remembering how foolish I was.  How much trust I instilled in you.  How I hung on every single word, when I knew better.  And I always knew better, but I desperately wanted to know different.  I recognize now how desperately I wanted you to be different.  And how unfair that truly is.

But I also remember every single night I cried until I had nothing left inside, not because you were unfaithful, but because of the cat and mouse game you played with me.  Because story after story after story was just another way to manipulate me to feel a certain way:  jealous, insecure, guilty, afraid, secure, happy, loved.  I became a shell of myself trying to sustain a relationship that wasn’t sustainable.  The very spirit of who I am and why you loved me, which I believe you did, was missing.  Or, hiding really.  Scared.  Angry.  Hurt.  Broken.  Shaking somewhere in a dark corner, away from the world.

I lost myself in the process of trying to hold you to a standard that just wasn’t possible.  To say my heart was crushed would be putting it lightly.  I was not only learning how to accept that “we” were never going to be, but more importantly, how to trust myself again because in the midst of trusting you, you taught me not to trust myself.  With every reassuring lie and false promise, you convinced me that my intuition, logic, and understanding of the world was wrong.  I knew better.  But I wanted to know different. Continue Reading…

Binders, Guest Posts, Mental Health, motherhood

My Son of the South

June 20, 2015

By T Hudson

Ben—whose name in Hebrew means the Son of the South—has thick chestnut wavy hair, hazel eyes like mine, and a strong prominent nose. He believes that his friends are not his friends at all, but rather members of the Mafia or the CIA or the FBI out to imprison him, harm him, or poison him, that helicopters and motorbikes are instruments of surveillance, dispatched to spy on us all, and that our computers and telephones are bugged.

He is nineteen when it starts. The doctors call it a psychotic break, but the words seem all wrong, because for something to split or tear apart, it should be brittle or weak at the seams in the first place. My son is whole. He takes a surfboard into the ocean each weekend, heaves his lithe body onto it and glistens with the elements. My son writes. He plays Rachmaninov’s piano concerto by ear, and he has a scholarship to one of the most prestigious public universities in California. That’s why it can’t be right that he has schizophrenia. Can it? Can it really?

We live in a prized home with sought after views in the oldest and quaintest part of Hollywood. Ben is going to be a doctor and I will proudly join the ranks of British immigrant Yiddisher mamas. I’m just waiting for it to happen, so when it doesn’t I blame myself. Maybe I haven’t loved him enough or maybe I’ve loved him too much. Either way it is my fault.

 

It begins in the laundry room in the early hours of the morning. I find Ben cold and alone tracing the wires of the telephone circuit board.

“This is how they are monitoring us,” he whispers, his face stricken, his breath sour.  “We have to cut some stuff out, change the receiver, I can do it.”

“Who?” I ask. “Who is monitoring us? And why.”

Ben puts a finger to his lips, and quiets me. His eyes look a shade darker with him framed as he is against the white plaster walls. He begins rifling through the tool kit, although he doesn’t seem quite sure of what he is looking for.

“Don’t do anything yet,” I say, my voice barely audible.

I look at my bike hanging from the rafters, the spokes still muddy from my off-road ride. The room contains everything we want to hide away from the neat order of the rest of our lives, eight years worth of clutter, and a washing basket of damp smelling clothes. It is frigid, especially at this late hour. Built into the hillside, carved out of the bedrock, we are underground. I need to sweep the floor as if to make room for us. It is imperative.

I take the broom and work it around Ben’s size nine feet, buying us time—time to hope he has a fever-induced delirium, something that might pass with a couple of Advil and a good night’s sleep.

Ben has never rerouted wires before in his life and, besides that, we have suspended our landline in favor of cellular phones. These wires that my child is obsessing over are part of a defunct apparatus from a bygone age.

“Let’s go upstairs,” I offer, swishing the last dust motes across the grain of the old hardwood floor.

Ben agrees albeit reluctantly, and walks behind me with a languid gait, one I hardly recognize. Once seated at the dining room table I take his temperature, smooth my palm across his forehead as I have countless times before.

“98.6,” I say. “Normal.”

The dining room boasts large sash windows that open to a hefty forty-foot drop. Ben stands against the pane and with the first light I see how thin and pale he has grown in recent weeks. I feel my throat tighten as denial gives way to fear.  “Did you take drugs?” I ask him. “Hard drugs?”

He stares at me and shakes his head as if I am the one who is suffering from delusions.

Continue Reading…