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Surviving

Guest Posts, Marriage, Surviving

Flamethrower

April 21, 2017
water

By Lori Fetters Lopez

Some days it’s enough that he breathes. The exchange of air grates on my psyche like the high-pitched squeal of a six-year-old at the sight of a spider. A childhood dream to be a pilot, he sits with his hands grasping the yoke of a computer flight simulator. At his perch, he can turn from the pretend to the surreal. An endless choice of television shows filled with intolerable stupidity, followed by commercials selling drugs with side effects more damning than the symptoms they claim to cure. It all culminates into a farce. He’s been deployed for months and I’m left with only the memory to fuel my fire.

Hands on hips, I look at the obstinate water softener spewing its juices over my walls. I’m lost in incredulity wanting to collapse into the wet. Yesterday, I replaced the damn thing, the day before, the water heater. It mocks. Disgusted, I walk into the garage where the car lays in shambles begging me to crawl beneath its underbelly hoping for an altered result. First, the valve cover gasket, then the radiator, and now the gas tank.  The large door stands open revealing that another rain has brought our grass to grow. The lawn mower sits in the corner, a pigheaded child too engrossed in a video game to go to the bathroom, it leaks. Fixed before he left, obvious the repair was in vain; the first fill drains onto the floor. The mailbox leans forward as if reaching for the next letter too long overdue. Someone crashed into the pole and I replaced it. Too tired for more, I forgot the concrete anchor to gird its pole. I could call someone, pay someone, but that’s not who I am. I persevere. Continue Reading…

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, Racism, Resistance, Surviving

But What Does This Mean? Racism, Unity, And The Next Four Years.

February 6, 2017
racism

By Kristina Newman

This morning I woke up in the middle of the night to the screams of my daughter crying. I panicked even though this was not a new occurrence to me. We never let her come in our bed anymore but this time I needed to see her. As I snuggled her in bed my anxiety grew and my stomach clenched.

I thought about how this is only the second time I have been truly scared for my life and the life of my loved ones as a result of what was going on in the political world. The first time was when the announcement we were going to war in 2003 was made. I was in the car driving from California to Arizona with my dad. I remember asking him, “but what does that mean?” I meant, what does this mean for me? What does this mean for you? What does this mean for America? Will bombs reach our shores? How will our lives change after this?

14 years later I find myself asking the same questions. I understand who won, but what does that mean for me and the ones I love most? What does that mean for our country? I am a black woman who is married to a Jewish man and raising a biracial daughter. I am an ally to the LGBTQ community and many of my dearest friends and family identify as such. When their community bleeds, my heart bleeds too. I have friends whose parents and students and loved ones are immigrants. There are Muslims who are rightfully scared for their lives and have been since September 11. These are the communities I am most scared for. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Surviving

Gravity is Denser Here, Everything Sticks to You

January 23, 2017
message

By Melissa Joan Walker

At Country Fair Apartments, I come out at night and stand in the hall, 4 years old, and watch my dad and his friends, smoking a bong. My dad strains forward in his chair, eyes excited, and yells at the fight on the TV pushed against the dingy white wall, the rabbit ears wrapped with tin foil for good reception. He lifts the foot-tall purple bong to his mouth, then cleans the bowl with a long metal prong with a curl on the end of it. His index finger grabs that curl and pushes through the hardened resin. Loosens it to smoke, then repacks the bowl from the baggie. Says, “Bud?” in a strange voice and his friends, Ed and Maury, lean back into the sofa and laugh.

Ed, tall, thin, Native American blood, with a bony nose that makes him look like Abraham Lincoln to me, wears a leather biker jacket with no shirt. His skin shines with sweat. Maury is black and for decades he will be one of my favorite of dad’s friends. They all laugh when dad makes jokes about my body, but Maury is the only one who says, “That’s fucked up,” and ducks his head, glancing in my direction. Later he gets pudgy after he has to stop drinking and go on antipsychotics but now he holds a can of Miller Lite loose in his hand and leans forward on the couch, and covers his mouth with his arm as his laughter turns to coughing.

Ed is languid, his movements slow, his chin-length hair pushed over to the side, one lock of hair falls across his bony forehead and into his eyes, he leans back on the sofa. He is my first crush, this beautiful man. His eyes close and he smiles. Moves his hand up to his face and rubs an itch like he is moving through water. He wears jeans and black work boots. His motorcycle is parked outside, in the edge of the grass, at the edge of the parking lot. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Resistance, Surviving

Our President-Elect Caused Me Chest Pains and an E.R. Visit

January 15, 2017
chest

By Stephen D. Gutierrez

The turkey was almost done and our guest was almost here and the house looked warm and cozy and everything was going superbly for our best Thanksgiving dinner ever, everything timed perfectly, my son Ben helping out, Jackie a star in the kitchen, me an adroit helper, the music on, the news off, the day cheerful and honest, a bright fall day in the San Francisco Bay Area, with enough gray to make the leaves stand out autumnally, and smoke in the air from a neighbor’s chimney when I stepped outside to get air. I did this often because inside I worried and fretted and battled anxiety, a looming sense of dread, of unavoidable catastrophe. I took my calming pill and walked around the block and saw neighbors strolling post-prandially, perhaps, the early eaters, and jovially, everybody happy and thankful.

All this unfolded around me so splendidly and movingly and authentically American, so naturally and kindly, not a worry in the air, only that wisp of smoke, I should have taken off my shirt and pretended I was an Indian coming out of the suburban bushes ready to partake of the national feast. I’m Indian enough! I can play both sides! I chuckled and stayed busy and still, I felt it, a pain in my chest.

So I decided to check my blood pressure. Next thing you know Jackie’s on the phone, calmly, with me sitting outside, calmly, giving the numbers and the symptoms to the right people. “It’s 170 over 100.” Next thing you know I’m in the hospital because of the chest pain, which wasn’t severe but persistent enough to concern me, obviously, and I’m still unfazed but a little upset that I just fucked up Thanksgiving dinner. Continue Reading…

Addiction, Guest Posts, No Bullshit Motherhood, Surviving

To The Girl Whose Mom Just Died From Drugs: It’s Not Your Fault

January 11, 2017
drugs

By Lisa Fogarty

Before you watched her unravel, bit by bit for all 17 years you’ve been on Earth; before she pulled the plugs on people and places until there was just an empty room and her in it; and long before she died from the complications of a debilitating drug addiction, your mother was a little girl with skinny legs and a laugh like a solar eclipse.

We were friends, but more like cousins. She’d sit on her twin bed cross-legged and stare into my eyes with feline expectation. She wasn’t another aloof victim of my generation’s casual contempt for everything. She was a mental vagabond who once got homesick after a weekend away, which should have been our first clue that this world would never give her what she needed. She was too thirsty to be happy, but had a fat laugh that stayed nourished throughout her life-long drought, a laugh independent of joy and one that made the entire room quake with the force of her freedom.

Before she saw too much, your mother was almost infuriatingly naive at times, hiding cigarette butts and cheap trinkets from boys in an Aldo’s shoebox beneath her bed. She stashed dollar bills in there, too, and no matter how desperate she was to split a $4 calzone from the pizzeria on Lefferts Boulevard, she’d let us both starve before touching the money she was saving to buy a Ferrari. On the weekends I slept over we watched Friday Night Videos and I made fun of her for shushing me when sappy songs came on. One Saturday afternoon in October we got caught in a rainstorm. She was 14 and failing math class. “Let’s stay out!” she shouted with a laugh that had grown threatening enough to challenge the sky. We roamed through the neighborhood like stray cats, sticking our heads under drainpipes. She had a way of making you feel like there was no better way to spend your last day on Earth than washing your hair in cold rain. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Surviving

There Are Ghosts Here

January 9, 2017
room

By Summer Krafft

This is what being his daughter has always looked like: trying to keep a panic attack silent in a room that does not lock.

There are ghosts here.

Outside the door is a hallway. At the end of the hallway are two doors and a staircase. Down the staircase, there is The Man –The Man who has always seemed more wolf than man. And I am back here, in response to his call. “Something’s wrong,” he said. “It’s bad,” he said. “You need to come immediately,” he said. “It’s not the kind of thing you tell your daughter over the phone.” So I boarded the plane across the country. When we got to the house, I inhaled a sharp breath before walking through the front door, the one I had walked through so often as a child.

I hadn’t seen him since he’d had the strokes. Memory began to make its way back in and I needed to keep as much space between his hands and my body as possible. When I got there, I noticed the way his left leg dragged when he walked. I noticed how often he lost his words -The Man who made a career on language, suddenly wordless. I noticed the storm clouds forming in his eyes. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Surviving, The Body, Women are Enough

Parts

December 22, 2016
parts

By Kim Haas

I am 12, walking down the street with my mom. I’m wearing denim shorts and a new T-shirt from K-Mart that has the word “Foxy” quilted across my newly evident chest. The letter “o” is actually the face of a fox. A car slows down and a guy yells something out the window at me, pelting me with words about my body, my shirt, my legs—whatever it is that has caught his attention.

This is the first time this has happened to me. I’m not the pretty one. Not the popular one. I am quiet. I read. I’m the good friend. The good student. The good daughter. My mom walks us a little faster, muttering under her breath, “Now, it starts.” I keep up with her but part of me wants to slow down, lag behind her, see what else my presence walking down a street might inspire. Another part of me wants to hide behind her, using her as a shield from the world, from the gaze of men, passing judgment on me as if it’s their right to do so. My mom is right. Something is starting: my life as a collection of body parts.

In January of 2015, two Stanford University graduate students biking across campus saw a male on top of a half-naked, unconscious woman behind a dumpster. They restrained him until police arrived. In March of 2016, freshman, Brock Allen Turner was found guilty of three counts of sexual assault. Facing a maximum sentence of fourteen years, he was given only six months because a longer sentence could have a severe impact on Turner who aspired to be an Olympic swimmer. He served three total. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Surviving, Young Voices

The Aftermath Of Assault Leads To A Call For Help

October 4, 2016
assault

TW: This piece discusses sexual assault and its aftermath.

By Ashley N. Doonan 

I am a doctoral student in Rhetoric and Writing at Bowling Green State University. I teach Freshmen English as well as take courses within my program. I come from New England, and I have only been in the Midwest for about a month and a half. Unfortunately, my experience here has already been tarnished.

On September 1st, 2016 I was robbed of a vital piece of myself. The violation—the shrieks, the moans, the blood—all as I was forced down and pressed into the carpet rhythmically against my will for what seemed like hours. After that day, I resorted an old coping mechanism of mine—that is, not eating. That numbness, that lapse back into my eating disorder sucked me in almost instantaneously.

Things started to decline quickly, and there’s no doubt that one cannot maintain an eating disorder while simultaneously succeeding in a Ph.D. program. Therefore, I have sought out a dietician who is highly supportive and specializes in the treatment of eating disorders. However, she does not accept insurance and the standing rate for the comprehensive six-month package costs $3,250. “Begin WELL” was the program suggested to me based on my assessment (more information on that can be found here).

As a graduate student, I simply don’t have that type of money nor do I have any financial support from my family. As of today, I have a second job, however, my university limits the amount of hours that graduate students can work. I am extremely uncomfortable asking others for assistance but I know how much I need to be seeing this dietician in order to stay in school and avoid a higher level of care. My dietician is willing to work with me via monthly payments versus paying for the entire package at once.

During my eating disorder in past (you can read more about that here) I found that hunger stole my voice. The year wherein I was too afraid to go to class, when I’d come up with any and every excuse not to go out with friends—I refer to that period of time as “the silent years.” Little did I know, my sexual assault and subsequent relapse into my eating disorder would pull me back into the realm of silence. The work that I do currently involves discussing the rhetoric of mental health—a topic that will likely become my dissertation. I believe that advocacy for mental health issues is one of the most vital things one can do; for me at the current moment, that means vocalizing my story because I know that I need assistance to make it through this. Moreover, I hope to reclaim my voice because I refuse to let my trauma and eating disorder rid me of it.

Even the smallest of donations would be appreciated, as I am doing everything that I can to stay out of the hospital. My GoFundMe page can be found here.

Warmest wishes,
Ashley N. Doonan

 

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 Dallas Oct 22. Click the link 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, Surviving, Young Voices

Broken Hospital Bracelets

August 17, 2016
trauma

TW: This essay discusses rape and trauma.

By Ashley Doonan

“It has been a pleasure working with you,” Dr. Leslie says as he hands me a cab vouch to North Station, “we’re here if you need us.” The taxi drives down McLean hill and I gently loosen my hospital bracelet. “This is it,” I think to myself, “this is learning to walk again.” I breathe deeply and stare into the sun.

Three weeks prior, it was raining. I stood in the Clinical Evaluation Center, second-guessing why I was there. A nurse spoke gently, “we’re sending you to the Trauma Unit.” The semester prior, I had finished my Master’s thesis on a subject matter related to trauma—I knew all of the signs and the symptoms, the causes and the effects. Still, identifying myself as a sufferer remained alien to me. It couldn’t possible be me, I thought that day, how did I become this fragile? I often find myself wondering what are the evolutionary mechanisms that cause intrusive thoughts after a traumatic event occurs? Perhaps it is for safety, but the pain that is produces emotionally seems utterly unproductive. Even the trauma specialists lack the answer to this underlying question. Thus, we sit with these thoughts day after day, desperate for a means of escape. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Letting Go, Surviving

California

August 8, 2016
change

*Image courtesy of Tiffany Lucero

By Wendy Wisner

Sometimes California goes drifting through my mind as I’m falling asleep. It looks like it’s detaching itself from the rest of the continent, as I’d always heard it would, the sea levels rising, the land sinking.

Or I see it suspended in air, tilting back and forth, the way it did during the ’89 earthquake, my mother and sister in the living room, me standing in the doorway, the chandelier slowly swaying.

I think I want it to erode, break up and get washed away.

Or I want it never to have existed.

Mostly, I want it to come back to me. I want it to fill the odd-shaped hole in my gut that started opening all those years ago when my father left us—when he left us for California. 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, loss, Surviving

Luckier Than I Deserve

July 28, 2016
daughter

By Ann Klotz

My husband and I are lying on the bed, warm October sun slanting through the window, an afternoon nap.

It has been a week, starting on Tuesday morning with a 5:30 a.m. phone call, announcing the unexpectedly swift death of a teacher we all love.  Loretta had worked at Laurel with me, teaching English, then leaving to have Margaret, and then baby Tommy. Her cancer was discovered when Tommy was weeks old.  Her battle is swift, virulent, hopeless.  Fifteen months from diagnosis till death.  Last week, she and I had had an email exchange about fruit flies. She, awake in the wee hours of the night, offered me remedies; I, astonished that in the middle of her fight to live to mother her children, she is generous enough to think of me, whining on Facebook about the infestation that grosses me out and refuses to be cured by any of the home remedies I try.

When Loretta’s best friend phones to tell me Loretta has died, I know I have to call our daughter. There, in the dark.  I text her:  Bad news. Phone when you can.  We’d agreed earlier this fall that this would be our code.  She implored me to keep her informed.  She loved Loretta; they shared a sarcastic streak, and Loretta offered Cordelia a loving but unsentimental ear that helped Cordelia manage—having your mother as the head of the school you attend isn’t necessarily so easy.  Cordelia babysat for Margaret, and after Loretta’s initial diagnosis, last summer, spent time with both Margaret and Tommy.  It was what she could do.  But, in August, when Loretta was re-diagnosed, she wasn’t strong enough to see Cordelia, and Cordelia, leaving for the semester, knew better than I that the cancer, this time, might ravage Loretta faster than we wanted to believe.

“I might not ever get to say goodbye,” she said, teary, but not crying. Continue Reading…

depression, Guest Posts, Surviving

Depression Stole My Mom

July 24, 2016
depression

By Julie Hoag

“I can do it myself,” I said, I was mad, insistent I do it all on my own.

I wasn’t going to let her fix this for me. I yanked hard to loosen my backpack to free it from a metal bar under my seat when my mom dropped us off at school that day in December. My thirteen-year old sister got out of the back seat, I got out of the front passenger seat. That was the last time I saw my mom alive.

We had tried to start my car before going to school, but I flooded the old black station wagon and it wouldn’t start. I wanted to take the new white station wagon and drive myself and my sister to school, but my mom needed it for the day. I was sixteen and I admit it, I was a brat. I wanted to drive myself, and not be driven by my mom. I could drive and I had a car, I never rode the bus and being driven by my mom embarrassed me.

We went to school, clueless to what horrors would come later in the day. I went through my day oblivious to others because I had the worst problem: my mom was sick. She had been losing weight and spent hours on the phone talking to friends. She saw untruths like my dad looked older and skinnier when he looked the same to me. She was different, not my dad. Continue Reading…