No matter how many times this morning I repeated I am in fact NOT full of hate, bitter, ugly, paralyzed with fear or consumed by the crazy, I could not reason my way out. I’m a rapid cycler, I’ve been hypo-manic for weeks and yes headed towards the inevitable come down, the hideous depression and the dark. Black nothingness is something I understand, the concept I accept and am accustomed to. It’s always there, lurking, stalking, circling a part of my DNA. No, I cannot wish it away or yank it out like an abcessed, putrid smelling decayed tooth. The crash and burn snatches the pretty pieces of me, my self-worth, joy, hope, strength, wonder. Yes, I’m constantly skipping ahead to the future, not in a happy-go-lucky way but trying to map the least destructive, less painful route. I don’t even understand what’s happening to me, which thoughts to trust or block so how could you?
My worst fear, the one that buries me like a sinkhole is that I end up alone with my crazy. On the streets or even worse, like my father who had no idea who I was in the end. His crazy consumed him over an agonizing amount of days and years. It is slowly and excruciatingly doing the same to me. Silently, while I am screaming inside. I realize I am not going to win this war, I understand that. So why bother writing books no one will read? Painting rooms in a house I will surely have to leave. Why bother? When everything and everyone I love will die and be taken away. Why bother when I will be left insane, why the fuck should I care? About anything. God doesn’t. I’m not sure how much pain one body can endure, I’ve had more than one soul can carry. Today, I do feel sorry. I am allowed. But wallowing is dangerous, heartbroken tears make my eyes puffy, my heart heavy and the guilt of hurting those I love too heavy to bare.
I didn’t start the day with bad intentions. Most days I pretend happy, hoping it will rub off. For you and for me. For my benefit that I am indeed strong enough to cope with this bullshit brain that never stops the whirring, annoying chatter. If I do end up in the streets, so be it. I’d best plan now, pick a pretty, warm corner where the sun shines with a soothing view. The bastard disease has not yet ripped away my imagination. No, not yet that’s all mine.
My BFF talked me off the ledge, the pity party granted until noon and that’s all. The number of hours wasted, screamed, cried and hurled accusations at my mother is more shame than I care to remember. I insisted to my friend (when my head controls the dialogue I CANNOT think, to say I become irrational is being charitable) that I was ‘happy’ once, a ‘free-spirit’ which she quickly shot down. “Who is this person you’re talking about, that wasn’t you.”
I’ve been pretending so long since before I can remember, I don’t even know me. The lines dangerously crossed in my mind.
I’m not going to write books, do anything anymore. Why the fuck should I?
I quit. Why fight when there’s no winning? I can’t battle an invisible disease. Well, you have two choices and one is true midnight black nothingness. The other, keep breathing.
Do not feel sorry for me. Do not dare feel sorry for me. I do not want, need or ask for your pity. I’m sharing this because these words, my most hurtful truths, this unbearable pain, the incomprehensible fear someone else out there in a parallel world might be feeling them too.
Don’t judge my crazy or put a label on it for your comfort.
I did not ask for this mind, it’s what I got.
Tomorrow, tomorrow I’ll feel better. I probably won’t given the logic and the statistics, but tomorrow will come with or without me.
Fear has never been a friend of mine. Fuck it. Onward.
CRAZY, NOW GET OUT OF MY HEAD.
I am writing.
truth always wins.
This may be the most overrated, overused phrase in my catch-all, go to, spit it out library. Most times I don’t really mean it, “I’m sorry” is the quickest way around, under, over and out of an uncomfortable situation.
Boundaries, now there’s a swash and spit mouthful. A word worthy of top shelf book space. I don’t pull it out often enough. Managing the days with a serious mental illness (it’s high-tide time I accept it) boundaries should have an entire section in Webster’s. Not really but damn it well should.
There are the managements, physical ick-awful pain, aches, nauseous, brain burning exhaustion. The clenched jaw, neck so tight you’re unaware until you grab a stick of gum to quash the anxiety and each chew hurts. It’s worse than the worst flu delirium and yet there I go again, apologizing. “I’m sorry for not taking the laundry down, I’m sorry for needing a minute, an hour, whatever to wait out the hot flashes, chills, blurry eyes that are clouding my fucking vision. I’m sorry I cannot think straight with the incessant ringing in my ears, head spinning from the constant whir. I’m sorry I can’t remember what I was thinking two seconds ago, or which of the million thoughts swirling around I’m going to shut out, or which I’m going try and focus on.
I’m sorry this is my fucking, miserable reality. It’s not exactly what I’d hoped either.
I’m sorry you think I don’t care, or am not listening. I’m sorry you think I don’t care, or am not listening.
For that, I am truly sorry. I am listening behind the white noise and I do care about what you’re saying. I care about what you said two days ago, that I am just now processing.
See, how that goes. I’m sorry. I am the first to understand empathy is the wasted, throw away emotion. There are better, far healthier choices, words to choose.
So I’m going to try hard, as if I don’t try every single solitary second so you get my exhaustive, over-exaggerated, moot point.
Boundaries. I’m going to incorporate that word into my repertoire, get used to hearing the way it sounds.
No. I can’t.
I’ll let you know when I am able.
Polite, and to the point.
I use my words. Use your voice. Tolerance. One love.
#endthestigma Stigma Fighters
I am honored to be included on Stigma Fighters. No matter who we are, we cannot face Mental Illness alone. Sarah Fader and Stigma Fighters are doing important work sharing, discussing and opening the conversation.
Say NO to Stigma, YES to empathy, understanding and kindness. The time for positive change is right now.
Stigma Fighters : Jacqueline Cioffa
It hurts, Ya’ Know
by Jacqueline Cioffa
The earliest picture I have of me lives in the stories I’ve been told. The image of a sweet, loveable, desired baby girl with sparkly hazel eyes and an infectious, bubbly grin. Can you picture her? In her white crib with pastel yellow and blue painted sheep, beaming inside out, her delicate arms wide open. I can if I squeeze my eyes real tight, I can feel her eight-month bright-eyed wonder, innocence and exuberant joy. The stark white blank slate possibility and endless adventure of a life that is still to come. She could color it neon green, bubble gum strawberry, juicy purple, azure sea, sunshine yellow, paint any color she chose. I’m guessing in her mind this baby believed she could fly. Shimmying up the wooden bars, tugging with determination with strong legs she would hurl herself over the edge, not caring where she might land. Her distraught mother would find her on the cushy rug clapping, giggling and intact. No one ever figured out how the mischievous darling managed to thrust herself out of that crib.
I have a funny deja vu feeling her new-new untainted soul; unspoiled heart and bare canvas spirit were the perfect tapestry for the little human being who trusted she could fly.
They placed a net over the crib for her own safety, and in the dark when she lifted herself up feeling the bouncy cord hitting the top of her head, her spirit broke. As hard as she tried, willed her tiny limbs life would become less and less colorful until black was the dominant hue in her jumbo box of Crayola crayons.
It was no one’s fault, you know. Slowly, and all at once her sunny colorful mind dimmed and became dull. The dark that is the all-consuming fear of living a life with no color is her reality today. She cannot reconcile the diagnosis, “insanity runs in the family.” She does not know how to keep the child safe, keep that wondrous piece with her. She doesn’t understand how her broken mind can ask her to be separated from the most exquisite, adventurous, kind, funny, lovable parts of her. She refuses to believe in a world where the only light she sees is through a pinpoint hole in the deep, dark recesses of the fractured mind where science has no tangible answers, where she is forced to battle. She prays the flicker of light that remains, that is all she has left and trusts and believes in does not dim and burn away.
She cannot reconcile the two living embedded inside one mind. They are so very different, and yet they are the same. She trusts the muscle that is her bursting purple heart that her chaotic misfiring brain plays tricks on her. She is blinded, consumed with the pain of staying sane. When most days she’d really rather be the child whose arms are extended to the wonder and magic that is the beautiful gift called life.
She is I, I am she. Together we fight the insidious, solitary grown-up war that is mental illness. When exactly it happened, the particulars, the precise moment I went insane who cares.
It happened. To me. And her. Mental Illness is the agonizing, paralyzing, uncompromising, anxiety-ridden, paranoid, numbing fear, night terrors in the daytime. It is the hideous, unforgiving, relentless, tedious, Ad nauseam unknown. Mental Illness is the unwanted safety net that stops me from believing I can fly.
Well fuck you disease, it hurts anyway. I don’t care if I break a few bones, act stupid, and say inappropriate things, scream and cry. The hazel eyed, precious baby keeps me dreaming colors and alive.
I won’t lie.
It hurts, ya’ know.
* * *
Jacqueline Cioffa was an international model for 17 years and celebrity makeup artist. She is a dog lover, crystal collector and Stone Crab enthusiast. Her work has been featured in “Brainstorms, the Anthology” and numerous literary magazines. Living with manic depression, Jacqueline is an advocate for mental health awareness.
She’s a storyteller, observer, essayist, potty mouth and film lover who’s traveled the world.
Jacqueline lives with manic depression, anxiety, paranoia, agoraphobia, depression, mania, med. resistance in a tidal wave of symptoms the best she can. Some days that means coping by counting the seconds. Writing saves her from the brain chaos, the respite mini sanctuary spa vacation from the harsh reality of living with mental illness. By sharing her voice, truest truths, struggles and wins she hopes others facing heartbreaking challenges find solace, solidarity and serenity. Jacqueline is her own best advocate, fighting a broken healthcare system, researching alternative treatment as well as traditional medicine. She champions anyone who is fighting hard to survive.
Say NO Stigma, YES to empathy understanding and kindness. The time for positive change is right now.
FOLLOW THE LINK: http://stigmafighters.com/stigma-fighters-jacqueline-cioffa/
Manic Depression, Benzo Taper Withdrawals, Fatty Liver Diet and oh yeah, there’s THAT (see below).
Did I miss anything? I think I’m going to cocoon in bed with baby pillow and watch a movie.
Preferably something ‘light.’
COME ON, GOD, BUDDHA whoever the fuck is out there listening.
“Agoraphobia is often, but not always, compounded by a fear of social embarrassment, as the agoraphobic fears the onset of a panic attack and appearing distraught in public. This is also sometimes called ‘social agoraphobia’ which may be a type of social anxiety disorder also sometimes called “social phobia”.”
Authenticity. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the word, gargling, swishing it around in my mouth and spitting it out.
If I only show you the photoshopped, concealed, makeup pretty me you’ll never understand the underbelly. The crunchy grit, rawness hidden beneath. The really good stuff, the honest kind that matters. Most days I can only see how my illness defines me. Every single piece that’s been stolen, the immeasurable, inexplicable loss of self. The shame, self-hatred, feelings of worthlessness, doubt, insecurities, paranoia, fear, inappropriate remarks, irrational behavior and the myriad of negatives that live inside my broken, chaotic mind. Not to mention the physical excruciating pain, dizziness, anxiety, numbness, sweats, chills. Or the forty-ish pounds of added weight, the personal fuck you reminder of the crazy scales. Matters of life and death, I stopped counting the pounds. There are the ‘friends’ who conveniently vanished, stopped calling, texting. I admit, I’ve cried, hid my face in shame, lived with resentment and assumed the worst. It must be my fault.
That’s not what this day or this post is about. Today is about threading the needle and the incredible luck I’ve been dealt. Yes, luck.
Somewhere in-between psychosis, wanting to die and twelve years of psyche meds, twelve years of disappointment, fight, agony, fear, mania, depression and feeling sorry for myself, I forgot. The crucial element. Luck.
My therapist, whom I adore talks it out with me. She said something that kinda’ stuck, “you’re not the norm.” I didn’t quite get it. “Most of my patients (mentally ill) don’t have anyONE. You have more than one, you are not alone.” It’s so true, I am never alone while living with this solitary, suck-ass, fuck-off, bite-me disease. It’s authentic no doubt, there is no room for false illusion.
I am lucky. I’m lucky I have a home, a comfortable safe haven. I’m lucky to have a kindred spirit animal, Lupita lovely who comforts me when I am buried inside the madness, teaches me patience, moral responsibility and makes me smile more times than I can count.
I’m lucky no one asks too much of me, no conventional job, financial stress triggers. Don’t worry, I own that guilt. Guilt is a wasted emotion I excel at. I am lucky I still have the capacity to have a clear thought, battle the bad ones. I’m lucky I live with someone who does not let me wallow and knows when I am not wallowing at all. I’m lucky I have the one who puts her aches, pains and disappointments under her tongue and bites down hard dealing with the crazy that is her daughter. I am well aware even when I’m not gracious, nice, and pretty goddamn awful. I’m lucky there is more than one person checking in, wishing me well. I’m lucky for the ones I didn’t expect with the kindest hearts.
I’m lucky my heart is the bigger muscle and my mind the smaller one. I’m lucky I have a wicked imagination. I’m lucky I can still lose myself in the words, writing and dreaming on the page. I’m lucky god, buddha whoever sent me and gave me some gifts to share. There is something beautiful in the ethers, beyond our fixed expiration date. I’m lucky I believe in that. I’m lucky I’m sensitive enough, intuitive enough, aware enough and kind enough.
I’m lucky I have a stubborn, ugly mean streak too. It keeps me alive.
I could go on and on but that might seem manic, crazy, mad. Stirring up all the uncomfortable feelings, words and foreign adjectives that swirl inside your mind. Forget it, I didn’t write this for you.
I’m lucky if my experience helps the solitaire, lonely person struggling like me feel less alone.
I’m lucky I choose authentic however scary it may be, I am the lucky in-between.
I’m learning luck is not a state of mind but one of heart.
Labels, I am lucky I’ve plain worn them out.
Right here I’ve been. Five years, or six? I lost track. From this chair. In this room. I recover, over and over. I type days and days, novelties. My view, the intimate, safe space where I am free. To be. The color I am. Black circular with the pinpoint hole starving for the light. Sick, oh yeah. I have been that. Not today. Today I am less unwell. I am sunburst orange, slightly out of focus. The sun is out. Time to teak the lounge chairs. Put away summer season. This room I love, this space can wait.
I wrote The Vast Landscape, mostly to stay alive. Because I HATE the word BiPolar and all it has taken, not only from me but those I loved madly. I wrote. When the bad thoughts came, I wrote. When the velocity in my brain was too much, I wrote. When I was curled in a ball screaming, sobbing on the kitchen floor, I wrote. The Vast Landscape is my truth sitting in hope. This book, my personal Fuk You to the insidious disease. Today, I win. I’m still here. I am not stronger than the broken mind, I know. I am resilient.
I shake my head by the visceral effect the story has had on so many.
I’m sharing a touching note (pieces of it). I hope she won’t mind.
It gives me the courage to keep fighting. Keep writing. It matters, your support matters. A lot.
“Jackie, I have to tell you, I bought your book yesterday on Amazon..my very first book on my very first tablet. I finished it this morning!!!!! I still have goose bumps! Simply amazing..raw, beautiful, soul-wrenching… details I know are truth, some I know as fiction..all stunningly emotional. This may be too rambling, but I am at a loss for words that can appropriately describe these feelings. I cried. I sobbed. This is an amazing work, filled with beautiful tributes and so much emotion..congratulations! And, thank you for sharing so much of yourself. You are gifted and generous..I know everyone who reads this, will be touched..I can’t wait for your next one!!”
9-13-14 The Vast Landscape Book Signing
Grass roots marketing, a friend mentioned the other day. Yes, I suppose The Vast Landscape is just that. I am just stubborn enough, crazy enough, ambitious enough to believe I could self-publish a book. Those of you who know me, understand living with mental illness is no joke, any step forward and out of the house is a huge accomplishment. Thanks for coming out, for the humbling support. The Vast Landscape, the novel’s appeal is for the reader to decide. For me it’s solid, rock steady and the skin I’m most comfortable in.
“Harrison is beautiful chaos. She saved me in many ways.” Jacqueline Cioffa
“I am allowed one piece of pretty to call my own.” The Vast Landscape by Jacqueline Cioffa
#TheVastLandscape #signingSuccess #NeverQuitYourDreams #ShopLocal