Rebel Rouser

When they zapped my brain, I did not recognize the nurse who had been there all along.
I recalled my mother’s face, worry lines and all.
Too familiar.
I forget sometimes with all these cells coarsing through veins, tripping up emotions that things came easier once.
Life was uncomplicated, and I took it for granted.
It was the little moments I shrugged off, the nothing less than important.
Vital lessons of joy and exhilaration.
With no electronic distractions and tortoise shell healing, I ventured out.
Creating fairytale landminds of imagination.
Words, oberservations, storytime coffeebook tales and me.
Those were the happiest, carefree minutes I can recall.
Where did the feisty, rebel rouser go?
One bad-seed simple cell becomes a life so jaded, so messy complicated.
Most days I am angry, sad, inconsolable, regretful longing.
Ambivalent.
Most days I’d rather be dead than carry the weight.
Most days I wish to hurry them along.
Stupid, stupid wild child be quiet and let me think.
Other days I long for a reboot, sunshine and a fresh start.
Palm Springs, majestic mountains and course sandy beaches.
The bloody burden of living.
To hell and back.
Am I allowed to say this?
Surely you’ve felt out of sorts.
No, no, no sour grapes please.
The vines are frozen solid anyway.
To choose life even when it stings.
To follow love.
To take a naked selfie.
And a big, big, big long look in the mirror.
Self-love requires discipline, conviction and a healthy dose of rebellion.
Post it notes are positively lovely.
Dreamy reminders that stick.
Even when all roads feel exhausted.
To choose the smallest room for living and sit in stillness.
That is torture and pain.
That takes courage.
That is patience.
Self-awareness and empathy are no small feat.
One red cell quantifies a fate.
I am not mean-spirited or selfish.
I am too damn honest.
Scribbling words you may not wish to hear.
Screw it.
Few have traveled where I visit.
You have not embodied this small room.
Overcrowded.
Egocentric, over-eccentric, paranoid, panicked, depressed, suicidal, and manic at times.
So what.
It’s all mixed-up.
The ugliest parts housed right alongside the beautiful.
So be it, mind of mine.
Some cells went haywire.
Others did not.
Shock me back to your absurd reality.
Fucking crazy, isn’t it?
To think we are all dying differently.
Silly.
Call me a rebel rouser.
Insanity feels perfectly normal to me.

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

 

Chasing the Sun

Chasing the Sun

Don’t look down at your feet
The answers won’t magically appear
On some tiny telephone screen with videos buzzing megabytes and wasted seconds
A billion unknown faces
The unfamiliar bizarre millennium
Scrolling fast and furious
Thunderstorms and lightening threaten
Look up and out and dig deep
Go ahead look all around
I dare you
Eyes closed
Lift your face to the sky and cry
Right into the sun
Filling caverns of regret and sorrow
With sunflowers seeds and poppy go lightly emotion
No one is ever only happy
No one is only ever sad
The sun shines through your ratty tattered secondhand sweatshirt and the clouds warn Your heavy, sighing shoulders
There’s an autumn chilly breeze
In the air
Rust colored leaves fall one by one
Slowly
Almost there
But not quite really
Turn around and crook your neck
In the opposite direction
Like the yellow sunflower stretches
Dancing dawn to dusk jumping ahead of her shadow
The fresh mango delights and uplifts the salivary senses
Summer sun is my absolute favorite gasp of breath
Chasing away the dreary blues
Leaving behind all the frigid heart-heavy feels
I am
Forever and always
Chasing the sun
Chasing her golden hues
In search of longing, warmth and wonder
Chilled under the spiteful clouds that cover the mood of the day
The impending rain
Go away now
Each drop a tear moistening my face and stiffening my bones
I will not let go of her brilliance, prematurely
Forever in search of a new yellow dawn
The blissful revolving and swirling reminder
No one is only ever happy
No one is only ever sad
Seasons come and go like it or not
Even in tropical temperatures
There is flooding waters and peril
Danger of drowning
Quietly mostly, and sometimes screaming
I am
Forever and always
In love with a beach and her ocean
Palm trees, wading pools and blistering heat
Her star shine warms the soul while the moon hums away the night
With the promise of a new dawn, blue sky and wide open spaces
I am wild and wistful and free
Under the glow and summertime glisten
I am now and forever just a girl
Somber in autumn and chilled to the bone come winter
I am forever happier under the warm rays
In love with the light
I am only ever mostly happy
Chasing the sun

Caught in the Crossfire

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I am told the brain feels no pain, no pressure. That is only half-truth. I have experienced a different reality; never exposed to screaming silence quite like this. I’m scared out of my mind imploding from the inside.

I make ballsy, hasty decisions to beat down the bullshit, chemical imbalance. Humiliated, I lie alone on a gurney, port in my arm, the tacky acrid green plastic band too tight around my forehead. I wait for the inevitable, the blackout cruises my veins, leaving me in the dark and the thirty-second aftershock. I am in a room filled with know-it-all professionals scurrying to and fro; as if this was the simplest routine, like the morning dump after a cup of coffee.

A dude in white and a turban scolds the nurse crudely, “hurry up, he’s late and has to be somewhere,” the words so cold and nonchalant as if administering a simple shot.

How can that be?
When this was the singular, most critical, crucial brain saving moment for me?

It took years of back and forth indecision, yes, no, to and fro…

A barrage of loud, invasive machines and needle preparation, a whole lot of courage, desperation and moxy to get here. On some cold, anonymous, colorless, could be anywhere hospital floor, waiting for the ‘pros’ to press reset, a fresh start, brain back to zero.

The mood swings forever too high, and hauntingly low.

“Are we going to an operating room?” I ask the nurse, trembling one tear. I let only one fall down my cheek, white knuckling it. My aged, wrinkled and broken-hearted mother waits somewhere out there on the other side of the wall.

”No, we just pull the curtain,” she responds curtly to my embarrassment and dismay.

I know my mother; my resolve and courage are waiting. Anxiously waiting, somewhere out there, and away from this bone chilling gurney.

Thank God, I have not forgotten this vital piece of information. My elderly, fragile, disillusioned mother has lived this hell before. My father endured electric shock a long, long, bad dream, time ago.

Yeah, but that was twenty years past. They have come so far. They have come so far. They have come not so very far at all, motherfuckers.

“You won’t feel a thing, it’s a breeze.” Liars and thieves they are.

Crying, confused, mind-raped, beat down, my fucking skull bursting as if bashed against a wall. I can’t speak. I cannot escape the excruciating pain, pulsating through my jaw, my throat, neck, over, under and all through my head. No, this cannot be anything. This is something unlike I’ve ever felt before. My fucking head is imploding, unrelenting, unforgiving suffering and it’s day six after shock.

I’m in shock. Violated, dehumanized, traumatized and violated some more. Confused, betrayed and abandoned.

Countless pomp and circumstance, arrogant specialists have said this is the norm the first time round.

I resist, fuck you, fuck you one and all.

Give me back the manic depression. At lease I can handle the accommodations down there, deep inside the black hole vortex. I’m not sure what to do with dazed, hazed and nightmare uncertainty. Quick somebody hand me a pad and pencil, to dabble and scribble notes, the jumbled thinking. Buzz, the incessant ringing. No, I do not want to kill myself; I’d gauge your beady eyes first with the led pointed weapon and my fury on the page. 

The fuzzy, dream haze state where everything certain, even the tallest Evergreen sways to and fro in a strong, gust of wind. I am shaken to the core, awake less me. Less the intricate, puzzle pieces of my person. I cry real big salty tears for my mother, her bruised, defeated heart. Her exhaustion and reassuring ways rock and lullaby my bleeding ink broken heart.

She loves me time and again, and helps put back the broken parts.

Hers, and only her love anchors her daughter’s gypsy Mustang, wild free spirit.

I am told it went well. Oh, so very well. I am an excellent candidate. I must not rule it out, stay open-minded. Fucking douchebag oxymoronic, my mind is wide-open mood swings.

Me?

I just want to hang in the dark and quiet awhile ’til the pain subsides, and I regain a small piece of my pride.

If I had cancer would you still look at me with your pity? Don’t. I don’t want it. I need your strength and resolve. Keep your pious pity for yourself; it won’t serve me at all.

Would we stay friends or would you write me off the embarrassment, the nuisance, too busy with your own chaotic life to bother with the nutter?

I am strong; I am a goddamn warrior child of God. I have endured all the various shit storms thrown at me. I have let them do inhumane, controversial things all in the name of insanity. I have the will, fortitude, and the want to beat this. But, try as I may, the various tricks and treats, I can’t quite find the right medical potion.

I am lucky, I believe in the shamans and Angel spirits who whisper my name on the wind.

Child, walk barefoot on the earth, dig up the dirt, let your fingers feel the grooves in the heavy rocks, and crystal healing trinkets you carry deep in your pocket. The spirit is sound, and safe. They cannot rape your soul, sweet girl. Remember, they cannot mind fuck your brain. Only God and the stars that came before you are real. The invisible illness is an exotic blessing, and proper curse.

Fuck the professionals, I live on the land of Indian nations where shaman healers left buried treasures, right beneath the surface.

I am eggshells’ uncertain in autumn, but the smell of promise and spring will be here. 

It is my favorite season, an exceptionally warm and beautiful time.

Did I get me right, or did they do me all wrong?

Me, I’m alive and whole. I’m going to buy a badass, trucker treasure hat, some timberlands with steel toes, and go deep into the woods, where my Onondaga Indian Nation ancestors, healers and women left treasures, spirit gifts, trinkets, wisdom, artifacts, and pieces of their spirit guide souls.

I am nothing if not my word and the stories are my powers of observation.

Fuck off, quacks. I’m traveling down the “Good Red Road.”

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.

 

 

Passo dopo Passo

Passo dopo Passo

A photo by Andrew Branch. unsplash.com/photos/Wlm53j4te78

 

I cut the grass. Big whoop dee do. To some this might seem trivial, like why the hell is grass between her toes so important? Grass between my toes, in my teeth is of the outmost importance because it means I cared enough to push myself, and get off my ass. Out of my comfort zone. Some would say shake it off, the depression, but you can’t shake off a sadness that sits inside you making it hard to pull on your sneaks, and simply walk outdoors. To push when you mostly want to hide, tricking yourself into believing you might be getting better. And, you just might. Maybe, with the right combination of meds which is tricky business. Just maybe it’s because those blades of grass inside your sneaks, clinging to your socks and tickling your toes feels like an accomplishment. You get out of your head, and look up at the clear, baby blue powder puff sky noticing the clematis and smelling the intoxicating aroma of peonies in full bloom, planted lovingly seasons past. Someone asked if I was bed ridden? Should’ve I have been? I could have, but I didn’t. I’m moving slower than usual, writing much slower than usual, thinking at a snail slow pace. How can I be the same me but so different? No matter how bad my muscles ache or my shoulders tense, I keep moving. I’m wondering too, how much time do others spend doing things they don’t want because it hurts, is trivial, or seems menial? Like when not just your muscles ache but your skull and heartbeat hurt heavy too. Fresh cut grass smells like clean, green living, cool and inviting, not sad. No, not sad at all. I’m not sad for a beat, and that beat means mulched grass will grow back stronger, healthier with each passo dopo passo. That freshly cut grass smells just like heaven. Maybe I’m growing stronger too, standing taller and more resolute. The joyful, satisfactory memory of a job well done and sunburst yellow sunshine’s warmth, buried deep inside the muscle. I plop down grass stains and all. I lie on my back and look up at the wide-open ceiling, cracking the slightest smile. Hope lives. Hope is alive and well, grasshopper.

Humanity ~ Jacqueline Cioffa

 

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Humanity By Jacqueline Cioffa

We are a sick society.

Before you hurl stones, rocks and bullets at my beliefs, or me please don’t.

I never asked to be put in a 2 x 2 narrow minded, cement block box filled with blame and shame, yet here I am. One of the crazies. On the outside I appear pretty, well mannered, kind and a little bit eccentric. The three-pound brain matter floating inside my skull and faulty DNA tells me otherwise. The darkness and the violent genetic history, the ever-present reminder the cracks and fissures could explode. The grandfather who threw boiling water at his wife ending up in Willard, a violent act, the relative who committed murder and suicide, a violent act, the gorgeous, brilliant cousin who I adored’s death by suicide, another violent act.

Do I blame them, absolutely not. Do I understand the out of your mind depths of a psychotic break, yes. I have been out of mind, spinning out of control, consumed by the crazy. Who’s to say the phone I hurled at my mother in a moment of paranoia, fear and rage could not have been a loaded gun. I cannot honestly say with one hundred percent certainty that I would not pull the trigger. In that one instant I am not a thinking, rational human being with a healthy brain. I can’t in good conscience be responsible for brain matters I do not understand, that Science does not understand and when crazy is shrugged off as the inconvenience.

All people have a propensity towards violence, throw in Mental Illness and it’s a recipe for disaster. Now, do not misinterpret or misconstrue what I am saying. There are millions of upstanding citizens living with mental illness and thriving with not one hint of violence in their beings. Me, I am blessed with an army of support, a goddamn brigade of humans who circle around me, creating a bubble of protection when I am unwell. Which, in truth is every single day. I am broken, cracked and seriously fragmented. What I am not is delusional, in denial or unaware.

I do not blame myself. I will not blame myself. I will blame the mental illness that has wreaked havoc on my life, and the ones I love dearly.
You see, I would kill for them. And, that scares the hell out of me. I have written the blame and shame game in I AM ADAM LANZA, I have shared the ugliest, darkest, scariest pieces of my insanity in SEVEN SHADES OF SICK.

Who is to blame for the massacres, the sick individuals who walk into a school or movie theatre with mass arsenals readily available?

I blame every single one of you. And myself. I blame the lackadaisical therapists who missed something, the arrogant pyschiatrists who check the clock unwilling to study, delve deeper, question everything they know about mental illness throw it out the window and start fresh. I blame the media whores who shove the pictures of dead children and gruesome images of grieving parents without following up. I blame the fractured, broken mental health system where prisons have become modern mental institutions. I blame the government, politics, the NRA, greed, power, and money-grubbing mongrels for shoving the news down our throats with no concrete answers. I blame the parent who buys their child a laptop, or a Smartphone because they’re too busy to go outside and throw a ball around, to communicate and ask simply, how was your day?

I blame anyone and everyone who is in denial about the violent, sick, twisted world we live in.

I blame Social Media for creating an easily, accessible outlet glorifying the senseless massacres. I don’t blame the lonely, isolated, unwell human beings with no support system. They are very real, and they exist in our world. They are humans desperately trying to fit in. Their sick, twisted minds don’t need the apathy of a deluded society.
I blame anyone and everyone who thinks their child would or could never commit such a heinous act. Guess what, I am somebody’s child.

And I’m telling you not to look the other way. Violent acts happen every single day.
I do not need or want a gun in my home.
Who do I blame the most?

I blame humanity.

 

“MINDTRIP CROSSFIRE HUMANITY EDITION: MENTAL ILLNESS, MASSACRES & MISINFORMATION”
Originally published in THE LITHIUM CHRONICLES courtesy of Nicole Lyons

Look for The Vast Landscape and Georgia Pine on the GRAVITY Imprint of Booktrope Publishing

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