Browsing Tag

angela giles patel

Converse-Station, Interview, writing

The Converse-Station: Angela Giles Patel Interviews Chloe Caldwell.

September 7, 2014

The Converse-Station.

Jen Pastiloff here. I’m the founder of The Manifest-Station. Welcome to The Converse-Station: A place where writers interview writers. With the site getting so much traffic, I can think of no better way to utilize that traffic than to introduce the readers to writers I love. The dialogues created within this series have stayed with me long after I’ve read them on the page. Today’s is no different. It’s between Angela Giles Patel (who happens to be one of my best friends and one of the 2 editors of this site) and the incomparable Chloe Caldwell, who is just an astounding writer, teacher, truth-teller.

By Angela Patel.

My first introduction to Chloe Caldwell was via her Letter in the Mail from The Rumpus. In the letter she admitted “I’ve never known how to write a letter, or a postcard, (or an email…?) without just going into the dumb shit in my brain.” And it continued on for nine glorious pages filled with all sorts of wonderful. By the end, I was smitten by her and immediately read everything I could get my hands, or cursor, on. Then I learned she was teaching an online course at LitReactor. I signed up, paid attention, and the rest is history. Continue Reading…

courage, death, depression

Depression is a Duplicitous Asshole.

August 11, 2014

by Angela Giles Patel

Everyone battles something. Some of these battles are episodic and some rage over the course of a lifetime. Many of these battles are so private that they happen without anyone else even being aware of them taking place.

Today I learned that a man I respected for his ability to share himself so publicly died. His depression had reportedly been growing in severity and yet he still entertained. And I felt the harshest of reminders that just because someone is bold enough to speak openly about struggling with a disease, they are far from free of it’s grip. Just because someone’s job is making us smile, it doesn’t mean they are carefree–it just means they are very good at their job.

Continue Reading…

depression, Guest Posts, healing

Holding On: My Journey With Antidepressants.

June 7, 2014

By Angela Giles Patel.

The most dangerous time for me are the moments after I remember that I forgot to take my medication. This is the time when I can convince myself that I am on the path to weaning myself from the required daily dose, that I am already hours into a medication free life and can keep going, that there is no time like the present, that I will be okay.

I have been on anti-depressants since I was fifteen and first prescribed a tricyclic. Though I cannot recall it among the string of arguments with my mother, there must have been something I said that jolted her. I was unhappy and articulate which meant that I could tell her with venomous precision just how much sadness I was experiencing. And I did so, on a regular basis, telling her how I wanted to live anywhere else, how I hated school, how I wanted to disappear.

If I felt like I wasn’t being heard, I would stick hand written lyrics to the refrigerator door. Little sad notes next to reminders that we needed to buy more milk. The Cure, The Smiths, Depeche Mode, Joy Division – they were the soundtrack to my high school years. When it became clear that I was well beyond the realm of teenage angst, or, more likely, when it became clear that she couldn’t navigate my waters in the midst of my father’s vodka tinged storms, she sent me to a psychiatrist. Finding someone else to help me was one of the best parenting decisions she made.

I went willingly.

I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder.

My therapist was a good fit for me. He took me seriously, listened to what I said, answered questions I had. He also prescribed an anti-depressant. He fed my love of reading, recommending books that would give me a broader perspective than the one I had living in a small town in southern Utah. Soul on Ice, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. The books were edgy and expansive. I wrote about how I felt, he read it, and we talked about it. There was never any real discussion of me not making it through my teenage years, it was always a question of how. We set a goal: I would make it through high school and move out to attend college.

I considered my need to use an anti-depressant nothing more than a by-product of living in a dysfunctional home and I never balked at taking it, or at the weekly sessions I had with my therapist. The small white pill made the edges less sharp, and life felt easier. I thought the medication was temporary, that once I no longer lived at home, I would no longer need it.

In college, I let the prescription lapse and found myself sliding back into a space I thought was hundreds of miles away. What I was feeling was so familiar that it scared me and I again began a regimen of therapy and medication. Rather than discussing how to endure my environment, the therapy focused on how to best be me. Among the many things that make me who I am is the fact that I am a person with a clinical disorder.

I’ve been on five different antidepressants since I was a teenager, moving from one to another as I changed doctors or as newer medication became available. The biggest change to the type of medication I was taking came in my 30s. After my sister died, the run-of-the-mill antidepressant wasn’t working, my body chemistry had upped its game and thrown anxiety into the mix. Combinations of medication were tried until I felt balanced. Although I stopped therapy years ago, I continue to see a doctor who helps monitor my medication.

And here I am.

Holding on.

Thriving even.

So nothing pisses me off more than to see someone talk about how they used to take medication for depression or anxiety, but now they don’t have to anymore, because they discovered yoga or running or god. The idea that somehow they have managed a victory that is important enough to broadcast, that what they have accomplished can be outlined and followed is misleading at best. And although they won’t say it explicitly, the implied judgment is clear – if you are not enlightened enough to be able to survive without medication, something is wrong with you.

No shit.

Something is wrong with me.

What is wrong with me is not a bump in the road, or a case of the blues, and it is not something that can be addressed by the right herbal tea. It is not a pothole, it is a fucking canyon – one I can only navigate with help. This is why I have to take two burgundy colored capsules every morning. If I don’t my mind turns against me. It’s not a failure to be enlightened, it’s who I am. The kicker is that I am enlightened enough to know that who I am is someone who’s mind can fail to be her friend.

I hate taking the medication. The idea that I cannot fully function without it breaks my heart on a regular basis, but I can’t. I’ve tried. It wasn’t pretty. I hate my dis-order and my dis-ease enough that I occasionally allow myself to become tricked by depression. I am not sure who said it first, but they are right – depression lies. One of the biggest lies it tells is the one that starts with the idea that medication is unnecessary. Maybe it is optional for someone who just needed a little boost to get through a rocky period, but for those of us who are predisposed to depression, proper medication is critical. To suggest otherwise is a failure to understand the true nature of the problem.

There have been a handful of times where I have stopped taking my prescription on my own, always after missing a dose. The immediate onset of withdrawal symptoms coupled with a careening mood were enough to snap me back to my senses within a few days. I have stopped my medication under supervision twice. Making it past the painful withdrawal period and becoming fully engaged with my depression felt perilous, and I was quickly placed back on medication after articulating my concerns. Even so, if I could trade the fact that my pharmacist knows my name before I open my mouth to ask for the prescriptions my doctor has called in, I would. I don’t need that kind of recognition.

What I do need is space to be me. I need quiet and time to reflect. I need room to be still and recollect. Truth be told, I occasionally do a bit of yoga and I regularly run my heart out, but neither of those is a panacea. I also need my friends. They accept that my disposition is a part of me, nothing more and nothing less, just another feature I have, like my messy red hair. Above all else, they understand what it is to be gloriously unique. And I need a reliable pharmacist, preferably one who genuinely smiles when she sees me walk through the door.

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Angela Giles Patel has had her work appear in The Healing Muse as well as on The Nervous Breakdown and The Manifest-Station. She tweets as @domesticmuse, and when inspired updates her Air Hunger. She lives in Massachusetts where she conquers the world, one day at a time. She is one of the editors of this site.

 

 

Jennifer Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station, is a writer living on an airplane.

Join Jen Pastiloff, the founder of The Manifest-Station, in The Berkshires of Western Massachusetts in Feb of 2015 for a weekend on being human. It involves writing and some yoga. In a word: it's magical.

Join Jen Pastiloff, the founder of The Manifest-Station, in The Berkshires of Western Massachusetts in Feb of 2016 for a weekend on being human. It involves writing and some yoga. In a word: it’s magical.

Join Jen Pastiloff  and Emily Rapp at a writing and the body retreat in Stowe, Vermont Oct 2015. This will be their 3rd one together in Stowe. Click the photo to book.

Join Jen Pastiloff and Emily Rapp at a writing and the body retreat in Stowe, Vermont Oct 2015. This will be their 3rd one together in Stowe. Click the photo to book.

Dear Life., writing

Dear Life: Who Are My Peers?

February 12, 2014

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88Welcome to Dear Life: An Unconventional Advice Column.

Your questions get sent to various authors from around the world to answer (and please keep sending because I have like 567 writers that want to answer your burning questions. Click here to submit a letter or email dearlife@jenniferpastiloff.com.) Different writers offer their input when it comes to navigating through life’s messiness. We are “making messy okay.” Today’s letter is answered by Angela G. Patel, who also is an editor for this site (and one of my closest friends) and… who is attending my Writing + The Body retreat in a couple weeks with author Lidia Yuknavitch! The retreat is sold out but email info@jenniferpastiloff.com to be added to wait list.

Send us your questions because there loads of crazy authors waiting to answer ‘em. Just kidding, they aren’t crazy.

Well okay, maybe a little. Aren’t we all? xo, Jen Pastiloff, Crazy Beauty Hunter. ps, I will see you in Vancouver in a couple weeks! My first workshop there! 

 

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

By Angela Giles Patel.

Dear Life, 

Men We Reaped, Jesmyn Ward’s remarkable memoir, an extended exploration of the deaths of five young black men in a Mississippi community (including Ward’s own brother), caused me to look anew at my own life, which also has been marked by trauma: Sudden loss of a parent at a young age; chaotic adolescence culminating in pregnancy and marriage at the age of 18; a marriage marked by violence and drug abuse (my husband’s); an acrimonious divorce followed by a decade of custodial interference; single parenthood in a hostile urban environment; poverty; emotional instability; the experience of 9/11 as a resident of New York City; life-threatening disease; the sudden loss of an adult child; and now the recurrence of life-threatening disease. Yet I am white, well-educated (MFA from a major university), well-spoken, and, for now, after many years of struggle, financially comfortable. So people assume—and I generally do not set them straight unless I know them very well—that I have led a relatively easy life. Largely because of the trauma in my life, I stopped writing for many years, only recently picking it up again and finding great solace in the process.

The question that plagues me? Who, exactly, is my peer group? White people of my educational status and socioeconomic station seem to lead suchcharmed lives in comparison. Yet who else available to me has the literary insight to give me the feedback my writing needs? Because of the lag between my MFA experience and my return to writing, I have lost touch with my teachers. And while I generally felt supported and valued by those teachers, I felt like a fish out of water when it came to the other students.

I recently moved out of New York City to a much smaller city in a different region of the country. In my new town, I have spent time in a critique group with other writers, all of them younger than me, some of them with children still at home, most of them married, all healthy…. And while they have been generous and insightful in many ways, as I continue writing I feel the lack of an essential understanding, and I feel increasingly that the poems and other writings (fiction and nonfiction) I am excavating from my traumatized interior are burdensome to them and impinge on the happy lives they are trying to build and maintain. I don’t think it’s a matter of age, although I am sure that age plays a role (I am in my mid-50s). Most writers in workshops are relatively young. Older writers with the skill to offer literary criticism tend to be 1) successful already and, hence, unlikely to be interested in offering criticism on a regular basis, and 2) ready to settle back and not work (or network) so hard, having already established connections with other writers and artiststheir age.

My question really is an existential one in this era when the fortunate can afford to isolate themselves from the unfortunate—and usually prefer to—and tend to be fundamentally uncomfortable hearing about difficult life experiences. Yet, I feel very strongly that the unfortunate often have extraordinary insight into the true nature of this earthly existence—but very few avenues for expressing it. I don’t know how I would have survived, emotionally and intellectually, without books by writers like Jesmyn Ward, Viktor Frankl, Sylvia Plath, and others that reflected my own inner experience.

Somewhere there must be good writers who can offer feedback without feeling uncomfortable about difficult subject matter, who have the personal and artistic integrity to see the intrinsic value of such subject matter, and who can offer literary criticism without trying to psychoanalyze the writer in the process (a common problem). How do I find them?

I know it is important, in the meantime, to continue writing. I know someone else’s response shouldn’t be the dominant reason one writes. And yet it is hard to continue over time without a peer group and without feedback. One can only get so far on one’s own.

Thanks for the chance to pose my question,

Aspiring Writer

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Dear Aspiring Writer,

The comfort you have found in writing is quite familiar to me and you are absolutely right, there is great solace in the process. As writers we have to write, even when it hurts. And there comes a time when every writer has to decide if they want to share what they have written.

Clearly, you are at the stage with your work where you want your voice to be heard, but I am not convinced that you are looking for peers. I am even less convinced that the peers you think you deserve exist. Your criteria is stringent and exclusive, and by that I mean terribly narrow. You dismiss younger writers because they are inexperienced and can’t relate to your work, and you dismiss older writers because they are above putting in the time you think your writing deserves. You want to have people who can relate to your pain read your writing, but they need to be of a certain class so that they can offer you “literary” feedback. No matter how good your writing is, and I have no doubt it is good, you have whittled your potential peer group to a nub.

Here’s a thought: stop looking for a peer group and start looking for a tribe. Look for people who connect with your soul, not your experiences. Put together a group that can give you a variety of opinions. Don’t dismiss feedback because it isn’t literary enough, some of the best feedback you will ever get will be a gut reaction rather than a clever assessment. Honest feedback will tell you when you are being self-indulgent, so here is some honesty: you need to look at why you want people to interact with your work. If it is to congratulate you on what you survived, that’s fine but you need to own that and not hold unsuspecting readers accountable. If it is to get feedback on the quality of your work, you need to own that as well, because it takes a heavy dose of humility to have your painful experiences rejected, trust me on that one.

If you are writing for more than you, if you are writing because you feel diminished if you don’t write, if you are seeking to hone your craft, then absolutely get your work in front of people however you can. Go to readings, check out a local indie bookstore for author events, ask booksellers about book clubs and writing groups. There are also a number of online forums for writers. Stanford has a decent writing program that covers most genres. LitReactor has classes as well as reading groups. You get the idea.

Be prepared though, the hardest part of getting feedback is really listening to the feedback. You need to be humble enough to hear what is being said, grateful enough to listen to the finish, gracious enough to be grateful, and brave enough to reflect on it. Believe me, it’s not easy. Rejection hurts, especially when it is a rejection of your own experience and pain. But it happens. Often. Never forget that you can learn something from everyone you share your work with. As you form your tribe, feel free to send a sample of your work to “Dear Life” and I will be happy to chime in.

All the best,

Xx Angela

 

Please note: Advice given in Dear Life is not meant to take the place of therapy or any other professional advice. The opinions or views offered by columnists are not intended to treat or diagnose; nor are they meant to replace the treatment and care that you may be receiving from a licensed physician or mental health professional. Columnists acting on behalf of Dear Life are not responsible for the outcome or results of following their advice in any given situation.

dear-life-square

 

 

Guest Posts, healing, loss

Air Hunger

December 4, 2013

By Angela Giles Patel

 

They always begin the same way: a sudden flash of heat is followed by a cascade of electricity that deftly makes its way through my body in a quick, cruel wave. As soon as it hits my collarbone, I feel my face begin to flush and immediately put my hand to my throat, a quick reflex to try to cool my neck, a strangely protective measure. Then the chill begins. I focus on breathing. I keep my hand at my neck. If I can feel a pulse beneath my skin, I am still ok.

The first attack occurred on May 29th, 2001, exactly thirty days after my sister died, twenty-four days after she was buried, seventeen days after I returned to the east coast, seven days after I went back to work and four hours into my workday. The official diagnosis for what I experienced was ‘air hunger.’ But I didn’t feel a hunger for anything. There was no sense of lacking something or of needing anything. I wasn’t hungry, I was being invaded. I was being overrun. Something was winding through me that I couldn’t control.

Until that moment, I honestly thought I had crossed through the worst of the pain.

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My sister had died unexpectedly.

She was twenty-eight.

We buried her next to my father.

You can never prepare for hurt, and heartbreak can happen in small degrees or with a bang; when a part of my common history was lost, it was an explosion. After the initial shock, after the effort of the funeral, after the sharp edge of grief softened a bit, I tried to settle into the unkind quiet that followed. I didn’t understand that the quiet was white noise, masking a scream that hadn’t stopped.

Those first seven days back at work were hard. I kept hearing the same tidy phrases — ‘Life moves on.’ ‘It gets easier over time.’ ‘You must be relieved she didn’t suffer.’ I thanked people for their kindness. I answered questions about how my mom was doing and told them how I was doing. I was tired of being asked if I was ok. I was tired of saying that I was. The bathroom was my sanctuary. The locked stall door gave me a place to regain composure. Rather than talking to people about what had happened, I wanted to say

“Please stop telling me you are sorry for my loss.”

“Please don’t tell me I will eventually feel better.”

“Stop asking for details.”

or simply

“Go away.”

Being gracious hurts.

But on that day I was forced into an understanding that I was nowhere near the boundaries of my grief and the topography before me was vast and shadowy.

I was at my desk, drinking coffee, and something in me gave way. I suddenly felt hot, then cold. My hands and feet felt frozen and heavy. A ripple of painful energy cascaded through my body. Then came an electric stab. An icy steel thread was rising from my core. Snaking its way through capillaries, veins, and arteries, it moved until both ends were straddling my chest where they began twisting together in a vicious double helix. Breathing felt unnatural. I was aware of a strange sensation in my fingertips. The back of my neck bristled. It seemed as though ice crystals were forming under my skin.

Objects around me that were familiar and clear just moments earlier took on muted tones. I had the impression that I was not fully present, that I was disengaging from my perceptions. I could see a dark cloud moving in at the edges of my peripheral vision. I was being closed off from the world and sealed in an unfamiliar place.

All of this happened in less than a minute and no one had noticed. I have only a hazy recollection of pushing my chair back and telling whoever was closest that I didn’t feel well, that I was going to my doctor’s office down the street. Insisting I could make it on my own, I stood up and headed to the elevator. I didn’t think to take anything with me.

As I left the building, my mind raced to determine what this experience was, to catalogue the sensations. I couldn’t, I had no frame of reference. The jolts of electricity kept coming and they were so painful that I would hold my breath. I had no idea what was happening to me. I was convinced this was how my sister felt just before she collapsed, so I knew I had to keep moving. For two blocks I moved, one foot in front of the other, determined to make it to the doctor’s office.

Step.

“This is not my day to die.”

Step.

“This is not my day to die.”

Step.

I had hit some unforeseen capacity for hurt. I was being redone by my own heartache. I was being refined by grief. Teeming with fear and an undeniable dread, each step forced me to acknowledge that I was now different.

The two blocks felt like two miles. I remember the hollow sound of my heels on the pavement and the satin lining of my skirt swooshing against my legs as I walked. I never wore that suit again.

Once inside the office, I held onto the counter, repeating to the registration attendant that I was not well. That I knew something was not right. That I had to be seen. I refused to move and they finally relented. I was escorted upstairs, placed in an evaluation room and told to wait.

I sat on the examination table and wrapped the fingers of my right hand over the edge just to have something of substance to hold. My left hand was keeping the plastic oxygen mask over my nose and mouth as I tried to take in steady and even breaths. I was asked a number of questions. My answers sounded muffled through the mask.

The doctor finished her assessment and told me that I was suffering from ‘air hunger.’ She said someone more experienced with ‘this type of thing’ was waiting for me upstairs in ‘Behavioral Health.’ I quickly realized that ‘air hunger’ was a phrase designed to calm, that ‘this type of thing’ was meant to make what I was feeling seem normal, and that ‘behavioral health’ was another way to say I was far more broken than I knew. And I was.

I was so broken that the person I had been before my sister died didn’t exist anymore. For a month I had tried to cope by doing a crude imitation of myself. I was just going through the motions and acting enough like my old self that I thought people might stop asking how I was. I couldn’t answer that question. I had no idea.

I assumed that if I faked it long enough, the fake part would become real and I would be ok. If I could slip into old routines, I could become my old self. At the time, I didn’t know that the dull ache and constant feeling of nausea that began the night my mother called to tell me my sister collapsed and died was just the beginning. I was emotionally altered. I was psychologically altered. I was physiologically altered. While the world moved on, parts of me were now fixed in the singular moment when I lost more than I ever comprehended having.

I had been rattled to the core.

I still am.

The attacks continue.

I cannot predict when they will occur.

I should be more used to them now, but every time they start, I come back to the same astonishing realization: warm blood really can feel like it is running cold. This unnerving sensation puts me more on edge. I am here but not here. When they begin, I become my own shadow again, cast long and dark by a hot sun, looking for definition at the edges, and all I can do is try to be focused and composed until it fades.

I was told later that I have acute general anxiety disorder, brought on by the trauma of my sister’s death. This diagnosis feels as clinical as the initial assessment felt trite. But I like unintentional elegance of ‘air hunger.’ From the moment she died, I did have a hunger. I hungered for my sister. I hungered for time to wind itself backwards. I hungered to relive moments that were insignificant when they happened, but had become tinged with regret.  I hungered to fill the hole inside me. I still do.

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Angela Giles Patel has had her work appear in The Healing Muse as well as on The Nervous Breakdown and The Manifest-Station. She tweets as @domesticmuse, and when inspired updates her blog, Air Hunger. She lives in Massachusetts where she conquers the world, one day at a time.  She is one of the editors of The Manifest-Station.

The 12 Day Detox is here. Sign up now for May 25th cleanse. Space is limited. This detox comes at just the perfect time. Reprogram your body and mind as we move into the new season of spring. This is your time of rejuvenation and renewal.This is not a juice fast, or a detox based on deprivation.

The 12 Day Detox is here. Sign up now for May 25th cleanse. Space is limited. This detox comes at just the perfect time. Reprogram your body and mind as we move into the new season of spring. This is your time of rejuvenation and renewal.This is not a juice fast, or a detox based on deprivation.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being. Yoga + Writing + Connection. We go deep. Bring an open heart and a sense of humor- that's it! Summer or Fall 2015. It is LIFE CHANGING!

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being. Yoga + Writing + Connection. We go deep. Bring an open heart and a sense of humor- that’s it! Summer or Fall 2015. It is LIFE CHANGING!