SURVIVOR

When life throws shit at you, and most assuredly it will, remember this. I see you. You are stronger than you think. You are kinder, graceful, brighter, smarter, funnier, richer (and not monetarily), and unique. On the days I forget, and think manic depression will most definitely kill me, I dig deep. Who the hell knows where or when life’s reservoirs will dry up. I don’t, neither do you. Then, I remember. I am a goddamn, strong ass warrior and there are people who need, support and love me, same as you. It’s okay to feel down, overwhelmed, anxiety ridden. We all do, even the ‘normal ones.’ It’s okay to feel all the feels, cry, scream and curse. I understand it is a hell of a lot harder living with a mental illness. I was normal once, too. You know what? I’m no different than you. You have your own set of problems and heartache, so remember – I got you. I see you, I feel you and I’m rooting for you. In this shiteous, chaotic, beautiful place that is the world right now find a little piece of joy in your heart, take care of it and watch it explode. There is beauty in pain, and healing in holding on. Surviving, thriving, living. That’s life, that’s me, and that’s you. You are the miracle. Rinse, and repeat. Hate, resentment and anger have left the room, SURVIVOR. – Jacqueline Cioffa

 

The Unwilling Participant

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The Unwilling Participant

Some idiot had the bright idea to hang a birdcage outside a locked window on a mental ward. It hung from metal steps dangling like a goddamn Snickers bar, only filled with birdseed and shit. The rustic, red paint had chipped away seasons past. Maybe it was part of an arts and crafts afternoon, who the hell knows? I used to stare at it for hours, tapping the glass waiting on the birds that didn’t come. Perhaps they thought if they came too close, it could be dangerous. They would get caught somehow inside the cage, the unwilling participant with no way out. I hated that fucking birdcage, how it swung freely on the wire taunting without a care.

         How inviting the pretty blue sky looked with fluffy, white clouds through the dirty, rain stained windowpane. I detested the stairs that climbed towards the celeste sky and the ginormous silver contraption at the highest point on the roof. It was probably a ventilation system that circulated stale air back inside the ward. If I could just find a tiny crack in the glass, maybe the crazy inside the halls wouldn’t stink. Maybe I don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about. I’m not on the outside swinging in the breeze, the wind giving me goose bumps, the sun bathing and warming my chilled bones with Vitamin D. It’s amazing how time halts while you’re pacing up and down the halls arms flailing, flying and flapping your wings.

         Time keeps you stuck, staring at an old, ugly birdcage for hours wasting away the minutes. At home, I curse the birds; they shat all over the walkway leaving violet trails of mess. I’d clean it the best I could with water and a broom even though the vile crap made me wanna hurl. There must have been 50 trails of eggplant muck on the ground. From my unfortunate vantage point it was impossible to reach through the locked window. The lonesome and sad, all but forgotten cage. I’d probably wind up getting sucked into the silver vent and spit out if I managed an escape route, road kill splattered onto the sidewalk.

         You won’t see a birdcage hanging at my house, ever. No, no thank you. No siree. I’ll leave the sad decor to the professionals. Funny, I wonder who had the thoughtfulness and good intention to hang it. Funny is an odd choice of a word, because the scene was not very funny at all.

 

 

I support #TheLoveEffect film – ‪#‎SuicideAwareness‬ ‪

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As an Advocate, Buddha Collector, Spiritual Seeker, Author, Being, and Human how could I not stand up in support of #theloveeffect film?

Living with mental illness, suicide and the dark are the all too familiar unwelcome visitors, and close companions.

Experiencing the personal devastating loss of someone precious, brilliant and beautiful to suicide is unbearable, impossible to comprehend. And, yet somehow we manage to go on.

Not without help, none of us can do life alone.

I use my voice. Everyday. Every single day I make a promise to write the hard unspeakable truths, insurmountable pains and blinding bliss. To choose hope, not fear.

To always seek out the light.

I support #theloveeffect because the film shares uncomfortable truths, ones that matter.

Every life matters. Suicide and depression are real, they aren’t going away.

The time to #StartTheConversation is now without shame, only courage and joy.

The sea, sun, and the elements make soothing, stunning backdrops in #theloveeffect trailer.

The perfect setting to vital, important topics.

One love.

Kickstarter: THE LOVE EFFECT – Film Launch!

by Drue Metz

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/druegrit/the-love-effect-film-launch

“SUICIDE AWARENESS – A CALL TO ACTION

• Over 1,000,000 people die by suicide every year.

• There is one death by suicide in the world every 40 seconds.

• Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide.

• Suicide is the second leading cause of death for 15 – 24 year olds.

Why aren’t we discussing this? As filmmakers, we have an opportunity to be fearless, vulnerable and open by sharing a story that’s both universal, dramatic and ever so poignant.

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A film dealing with suicide and pain is never easy. Especially when it hits so close to home for so many of us. With the support of many celebrities, organization groups and people around the world, we have decided to take this head on – connecting our own struggles and pain with suicide, loss and depression to make a film that poetically expresses the importance of LOVE and its EFFECT. Short films are a difficult thing to create, however with suicide being such a relevant topic, we feel this story is a voice that needs to be heard.”

Waves of Insecurity by guest author J.C. Hannigan

I’m over the moon to have J.C. Hannigan here as guest author. I have much respect for the intelligent, gifted, smart as a whip woman, author, mother, wife, colleague and friend… She is efficient, funny and the first to extend a hand to a fellow writer. That speaks volumes about her persona, her willingness to help while managing a chaotic busy life, various blogs and successful writing career. I bet J.C. makes ridiculously long to-do lists and knocks them off with a big smile. She is a human tornado with sweet-scented rain and wind inviting you into her magical world of words. When I first read Waves of Insecurity, I took pause. I almost forgot she lives with Multiple Hereditary Exostoses, a debilitating chronic pain bone disorder. That is not how I see her, I imagine envious endless locks of chestnut hair, inquisitive blue eyes and a bold red lip. It’s funny and not funny at all the (mis)perceptions we are ‘learned’ about ourselves. Ms. Hannigan is not defined by society or the weight of the disability she carries with such grace. She is beauty-full.

Meet J.C. Hannigan. She’ll tell you in her very own raw, real, heartbreaking, eloquent and inspiring words.

JC Hannigan

Waves of Insecurity by J.C. Hannigan

I have always been an insecure person, uncomfortable in my own skin. When people look at me, I feel on edge and antsy. It’s like their eyes are burning me, making my skin shrink so that everything feels tight. I can’t help but wonder if they are taking in the scars on my body and my oddly shaped limbs and wondering what in the hell happened to me.

I know how harsh and judgemental people can be about appearances. Hell, there are entire shows that are dedicated to ripping individuals down for how they dress. If society judges people so profusely on a silly thing like clothes, I can only imagine how harshly they judge based on scars and physical “imperfections”.

It took me nearly ten years to put a pair of shorts on in public. I used to wear shorts and dresses all the time, back when I was a kid who didn’t know any better…back before the curious stares of strangers made my skin feel tight and unpleasant. In high school, I wore jeans and long-sleeved shirts all the time. I couldn’t imagine showing off the angry raised scars on my arms and my shoulders. I feared that my peers would make fun me the way they made fun of so many others for their differences. I couldn’t stomach that too. I feel naked when I show my limbs, as ironic as that is to admit. I feel stripped bare when my scars are on display. I feel like people can read my struggles and that they will categorize me in some way that I simply don’t want to be categorized. I don’t want the pity; I don’t want to be defined as that girl with the scars and the bone thing. I was defined by that for so long that I started to associate myself as that person. But as desperate as I was to hide those parts of me, they could never truly be hidden. Observant eyes still picked out the misshapen limbs through my layers. Observant eyes still detected the limp and the uneasy way I held myself.

Observant eyes still questioned and probed.

Being sexual when you have a physical disability and an abundance of emotional issues and insecurities is so difficult. I felt naked when I wore short-sleeved shirts – imagine how I felt the first time I presented my body to a boy? Imagine how badly that stung when that same boy decided my bone thing was too gross and freaky? It only added to the abundance of emotional issues and insecurities. It only solidified that the cruel, taunting voice in my own head was right.

Now, ten years later…I know that disabilities and scars do not have any weight in someone’s beauty. I don’t count those things against others when I look at them (and I never did); I see people as people. I define them by their actions and the way they treat others, not whether or not they are marred with scars and carrying the weight of a disability that can feel as if it segregates them from others, from the healthy people.

And for the most part, I have learned to love myself. I wear shorts now, and while I can still feel a lot of discomfort when eyes are upon me – I hold my head high. I know I am beautiful, I know that I am even desirable. Most importantly – I know that physical beauty does not have any weight in my accomplishments or who I am as a person.

But every once in a while, I still feel that suffocating wave of insecurity that crushes my spirit and makes me want to hide within myself…

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Author Bio:

J.C. Hannigan’s love of reading was spawned from a very early age. She inhaled novels with an unquenchable thirst. Eventually, that love of reading turned into a love for writing. She started to pen stories at the tender age of nine while sitting at her white desk, pencil posed over lined paper, writing countless stories about a girl, her best friend, their horses and the adventures they’d have going on trial rides together. Born with a chronic pain bone disorder called Multiple Hereditary Exostoses, she didn’t get to play sports or run amuck like her siblings and peers. Writing kept her company amid a world of surgeries, bad pain days, and isolation.

She started a blog when she was fifteen-years-old, chronicling the challenges of high school, dating, and coping with her chronic pain bone disorder. That blog went on to win a Bloggie for Best Teen Weblog, and J.C.’s ego inflated quite a bit over it (enough to continuously mention it even today).

J.C. currently resides in a small town in Ontario with her husband, their two sons, and two dogs. When she isn’t trying to wrangle kids and dogs, she can be found writing. In addition to writing new adult romance and suspense novels, J.C. writes a blog for the MHE Coalition, discussing the struggles of living with Multiple Hereditary Exostoses. She also contributes to several other websites, including her personal blog, the OCH Literary Society, and she is the content manager for Stigma Fighters Canada. Through her writing, J.C. brings to light awareness of mental health and social challenges. Her writing has been described as edgy, bold, poignant, and raw.

Other hobbies of J.C.’s include hiking, camping, binge-watching shows like Outlander, Game of Thrones, The Vampire Diaries, and The Walking Dead, eating dill pickle chips and daydreaming of travelling around the world. J.C. adores interacting with readers, so don’t hesitate to reach out and say hi! She tries her best to respond to every message. To learn more, visit her on Facebook and follow her personal blog of random ramblings.

Title: Collide (Collide Series Book 1)

Author: J.C. Hannigon

Publisher: Booktrope Publishing

Re-Release: May 11th 2015

Purchase Link: COLLIDE

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Synopsis:

Harlow Jones has a troubled past, and a questionable future. Surrounded by death, tragedy, and intrigue, she is forced to mature long before her time. Plagued by anxiety and depression, she hides her inner turmoil with spite and sarcasm. Her thick skin is impenetrable…or so she thought. Until she becomes involved with her grade twelve English teacher. In this exclusive entry into the new adult genre, with raw style that is as dark as it is poignant, Collide presents the ultimate choice: forbidden love or doing the right thing.

Connect with J.C. Hannigan:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/jcahannigan

Twitter: @jcahannigan

Google +: J.C. Hannigan

I hate the word #BiPolar. It’s ugly, an overused throwaway word.‬ #I’mAWhatever

I couldn’t resist responding to the lovely Carol Adriana Estrella‘s post on Facebook this morning.

“Doing a small survey:
What are your first thoughts when you hear the word “bipolar”. Being that is an illness, I see it used around A LOT as an adjective or a subject.”

Visit the very hip and informative blog Is Ok Not To Be Ok to view some of the varied responses (including my abridged one).

Carol explains, “I did a very informal survey today asking people what were the first thoughts that came to their mind when they heard the word: bipolar. I got an incredibly array of answers from the usual (and often not funny) jokes, to what a harsh reality is to live as a bipolar individual.”

Thank you, Carol Adriana Estrella for starting the conversation today.

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I hate the word, “bipolar.” It’s ugly, an overused throwaway word. Call me whatever. I’m a ‪#‎Whatever‬ if you must. Jackie works too.

The forward from GEORGIA PINE explains how strongly I feel about the word(s), “BiPolar Disorder.”

“Perspective

I wrote The Vast Landscape, the prequel to Georgia Pine at a dark, scary time in my life. Harrison, the brash heroine, was someone tangible I could cling to. She gave me reason to get up, to go on, to fight, a much-needed respite from what was happening in my real, everyday life. I made the conscious decision not to write about manic depression, the disease that has disrupted every neuron firing through my beautiful, chaotic mind. Bipolar Disorder, the label I detest, is en Vogue. It appears in trendy bestsellers, Oscar winning films and sensationalized television. It’s glamorized, modernized, made to look cool. Trust me, it is not. Mental Illness is the train wreck, the ugly, cruel, exhaustive, intangible, and solitary battle. It does not discriminate among rich, poor, smart, stupid; it brings grown men to their knees, ripping whole families apart. Writing The Vast Landscape freed me to live my dreams on the page. Harrison is I, I am she, mixed together so deeply the lines disappear. The outlines blur, intentionally. Was The Vast Landscape reality or fantasy? That is for the reader to decide. We are all disabled, broken parts, lost individuals, trying to find our way. Truth is what you know, here and happening now. There is only love and love is the bravest character of all. Harrison is the voice in our heads, asking the important questions. Where do I fit? Why am I here? Will I love, be loved? We are born with a fixed expiration date, yet we carry on, walking this earth the best we can until we’re pixie dust. Cherished, kept alive in memory and yellow parchment, we become precarious, aged photographs in a cardboard box. Lives touch, intersect in the most unpredictable yet meaningful ways. The essence continues because you do. Harrison leaves the door open a crack. I seize the opportunity to revisit my whole, healthy self a bit longer, live in the mystic beach home I adore, dream eyes open. Hope is our greatest asset. To choose hope against the worst possible odds is the true measure of life.
The story continues in… Georgia Pine.”

Excerpt From: Jacqueline Cioffa. “Georgia Pine.” iBooks.

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"This first Friday in June, all I know is I am doing my best. My very damnedest. And it looks like this…"

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I felt like this today.

You don’t need to hear about the numbness, excruciating pain, overwhelming anxiety, residual anxiety, paranoia, dizziness  or that I prayed to whomever was listening to just end it. Fucking end the ridiculous, relentless, ad nauseam, non-sensical hours that consume my days. Frankly it’s wearing me down, ripping me to shreds and fucking exhausting fighting invisible monsters.

Yes, I know I’m sick. Yes, I understand tapering off benzos is worse than hell it’s maggot filled shit. Yes, my empathetic, cool therapist talks it out. Reassuring me I am indeed strong enough.

Resilient enough. Tough enough. However. Makes me wonder.

Where in the hell am I going to replenish precious missing elements when the planet is currently fluctuating between earthquakes, tornadoes and drought? In a constant state of chaos, flux. How to replenish when I can’t remember pieces of yesterday. Blurred and hazed memories clog and pollute the brain.

Where? How? Why? Great questions. With zero answers.

I said NO anyway. For shits and giggles, ya’ know.

I don’t feel like shit, I feel eradicated, violated and obliterated.

I go to the hairdresser’s armed with my peppermint and lavender doused washcloth unsure I can make it through the hour-long dye process without flipping the fuck out.

Home. I want, need, have a deep desire to be home.

Grey roots and I have a larger more burning desire to feel pretty, alive, and validated.

Breathe, just breathe. You are safe. You are fine. You’ve been through this before. You are safe, breathe.

Your stylist is your dear friend who knows and loves you well she will take you home if necessary.

FUCK YOU anxiety, fuck off, go fuck up someone else’s day/ existence.

It’s sitting there threatening strangling my neck, throat, cramped shoulders, tingling extremities and limbs. Sitting patient, greedily waiting to pounce.

I apply eyeliner (Armani #02 pencil my fav.) and concealer to brighten my shiteous, difficult existence and in spite.

Tomorrow will come with or without me, isn’t that the cliché? What they say? Whoever the hell they are, Martians maybe. Fuck if I know, can’t be sure.

This first Friday in June, all I know is I am doing my best.

My very damnedest.

And it looks like this… on the outside

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“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” – Harper Lee

I am somebody’s child, you know. Jacqueline Cioffa #mentalillness  

I never cared much about looking back when I was young.

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I could not wait to leave this house, this town get out and experience stuff. You know the obstinate dreamer looking for bold adventure. It worked. I ran. I ran fast and far, and kept running. That’s the funny thing about developing a serious illness, you are forced to re-prioritize. Becoming insane in the middle of Manhattan did not bode well for me or the strangers that crossed my path. The fancy friends eventually grew tired and gave up on listening to the paranoia, illusions of grandeur or understanding the enticement of pretty pink and shiny purple horses or the flickering lights of the carousel. Ones you can’t dismount or runaway from or dismiss, like the mania and depression you can’t out run. Round and round you go, in perpetuity. There are worse things than glaring evil stares when dancing alone in a Radio Shack in Harlem. There are even worse things than sitting on the floor in the middle of Rite Aid, Gatorade in hand, sobbing because you don’t know where you are, why the room is spinning or if you’re going to hurl from the strobe light storm happening inside your brain. There are even worse, more horrific things than why you’re all alone sitting on the cold, dirty floor. You are sure there are. You watch the news, bad shit happens. This bad to you, you’re not so sure.

Mortifying, that’s what mental illness is. Ruthless, ugly, hide your face in shame from the judgmental, fearful stares. The noise level in NYC is just too high. You can’t stand when passerbys brush against you, the subway screeches to a halt, or the taxis whizzing past. The bright yellow hurts your eyes. You can’t see. You can’t hear. You cannot process the incessant, relentless buzz, hums and whirring noise.

S.T.O.P.

I am somebody’s child, you know.

I am somebody’s child, same as you.

I used to love the Carousel screaming and running towards it, arms flailing like the happy carefree girl I once was.

What I can’t figure out is what the hell I’m supposed to do? Now. With this.

Some people are addicted to the mania jonesing for the next high, the visions, euphoria.

No, no, no.

Not me. I’ll take the black hole depression and blasé every single time. It’s quieter and peaceful alone in the dark. Except for being skinny, that part of the mania I’ll keep.

There’s only one thought to trust, one way to save yourself.

Maybe, maybe if you go back you might find your way.

Safe passage awaits.

Home.

Maybe I’ll breathe easier there.

Maybe the familiar, childhood home might save me.

Probably not. It’s my best shot.

You see, I don’t care if I live or if I die. I know that sounds harsh, exaggerated, self-indulgent but it’s not.

I only care how I live and where I’ll die.

I’ve been asking my mom about her mother as far back as I can remember, cataloging the information in a deep, pooling reservoir of serenity where I could reach in calling on the stories to be soothed.

I have tidal waves of memories, and ripple effects of love stored in my brain.

My grandmother, May, died in her sleep before we could meet. Fifty-three is too young to leave, she was barely getting started I bet.

I know some things about her. She liked to fish and the solitude of being on the water. We have that in common.

She drank a Manhattan every night after work. She was a baker’s daughter, my mom still makes her molasses cookie recipe at Christmastime. She loved her husband who’d get sick, (like me) and then better but never quite the same.

“Don’t bother your father,” the phrase handed down to her own daughter.

May worked in a plumbing shop with him, raising her children to be responsible, gentile and hardworking.

It was a simple, honest life.

She liked to dance, but didn’t go out often.

She loved gardening, planting roses and peony  bushes.

Did you know it takes peonies a full year to bloom? 

Maybe May knew while planting the seed, her heart full of family.

An invisible string from the heavens touching mine, her orb a sweet- scented blushing pink.

Maybe she knew, probably not.

She’d adored diamonds like me, wore an outrageous sparkling solitaire with facets that shimmer and catch the light on my finger. I only wear the precious heirloom on special occasions or when I’m morosely blue. It makes me feel pretty inside, close to her.

“You never told me I looked like her,” drilling my mother with yet another ten-thousandth question.

She nodded, “it makes me sad and happy at the same time.”

Home, a place one doesn’t fully outgrow and never truly leaves behind.

But home, this home however much I am the failure for needing to return is where I would like to live and how I would hope to die.

Not necessarily the physical dwelling, but the contentment feeling and serenity of a happy place inside.

Surrounded by love. Less alone.

Unencumbered by the weight of heavy living.

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“Legacy can feel heavy, sad or even sweet-smelling at times. I am the gatekeeper of this home, but not the original keeper of the key.”

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“The chaos comes with you,” simply stated my friend. -The Red Bench excerpt by Jacqueline Cioffa

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“As an artist do I need constant flux to create? How will I find words in the woods surrounded by trees and rotten cornfields? How will I find anything besides dying, wet leaves?

I cannot escape the volume in my head, the constant churning. The Jesus fucking Christ, turn it down chatter. I have been told to be patient. Wait for the drugs, the quieting veil, and the lavender calm to smooth out the ringing. My mind is full of death and black spots I’m sure, much like a stroke patient after a spell.

   “The chaos comes with you,” simply stated my friend. He was right. I am here, here am I. Sick and tired, tired and bullshit sick.

The blank paper waits and my hands navigate the keys and the thoughts go where they may.”

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-excerpt from “The Red Bench” by Jacqueline Cioffa

"Because you, more than anyone I have ever known loved being alive." L.B.H.

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Lupe and I must have walked the loop at Hoopes Park a thousand times, or more.

In ten-degree freezing black ice, navigating lethal dangerous walkways (and fallen more than once), on grey-cloud, weepy wet gloomy days.

You name it. We’ve dredged through it.

It helps, ya’ know. The walk.

To free the brain from the pressure, dark and dangerous thinking.

Easing up, releasing the unrelenting anxiety.

When we walk past the white pristine house with the red door, I have to fight the urge not to run up and knock.

Or barge in.

She’s not there.

I know this to be true in my head, but my heart searches for her.

Missing every puzzle piece and all her silly ways. Her sage advice, too.

The water fountain, Buddha and Zen room she created, so proud to show me the space.

Her home with the red door is just a dwelling now, somebody else’s house we pass on the walk.

Suicide was never her choice, she just couldn’t stay.

I don’t believe there are coincidences, I choose to believe there are signs along the way.

L.B.H., I believe you threw me one today.

It’s the perfect sixty-degree, pretty blue sky day with sunshine peek-a-booing through the clouds.

Like a child playing hide and seek, giggly and covering their mouth to contain the excitement.

Just like a happy child, exactly like you.

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http://standagainstsuicide.org

Thanks for the Buddha, water fountain, precious memories and luminescent magic that was your life.

The Zen room has a new home, with me.

I’ll do my best to keep them safe.

I’ll do my best to keep you safe, using my voice.

I stand against suicide, because your life matters.

Because you, more than anyone I have ever known loved being alive.

You, and your gypsy-free spirit, brilliant, bold, courageous, compassionate, goofy, non-judgmental, all-encompassing, curious, big beautiful love would be walking right beside me.

You are.

I can’t see you, but I feel your presence in mine.

I did not forget.

2 days and eight years gone is too long.

You were, and continue to be forever loved.

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