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. 

Screaming Skies

It is after all, just a life.
No bigger, no better.
I have breathed more shades, more pain, more joy, more crazy, more fear, more sadness than I thought possible to carry in this one body.
Death, song and daydreaming are my respites; temporary escapes from this swirling madness.
I inhale deeply, the rich, sweet smells of nature flooding my senses.
Music coursing the veins like venom.
I wait for signs of immortality, silly I know, settling for small inklings of hope.
I look down towards the dirt knowingly; seasons must change.
Time only cares how well we lived, and how much we’ve gifted away.
Haunting fading voices become chilling echoes of emotion, as new blossoms of possibility push their way through.
God must be in control of something, I pray to the sky and the sun and the music that lingers sweetly on the tongue, this underlying beauty and all her seasonal shifts will carry on.
We are nature’s finest and saddest creation, faceless shadows over time in all her mysterious pain and glory.
I don’t know how my story will end.
I can’t see it, but I can feel the sun inside the melodies of another.
I soak up the light on my face, my bones, on my skin breathing in the sultry colors.
Summer hangs out around the corner filling the abyss, mending the dagger chards of the scarred and broken hearted.
In my dreams, I already forgive you dying, leaving me here to navigate how many steps I must take in this imperfect body.
And I forgive myself too, for understanding far too well the aching need for the quiet night, and dark, brooding silence.
Some respite from the tortures of feeling too much.
And yet, I don’t stop breathing.
I am alive.
I wait patiently for the perfect cosmic moment, when the stars align sprinkling the earth with your beautiful essence, wisdom and woe.
You are all the raw diamonds left behind, and I catch goose bumps of you in between the summertime rain, on the winds of time.
You are home, and I am here, happy, hanging out for now.

 

Image Copyright: Tim Hale

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.

Paper Dreams

To never forget the page. The page carries me when I cannot stand, crouched in fetal position on the bathroom floor. The page dreams the big dreams when I see nothing through misty eyes. The page promises hope when I have exhausted all roads and left dreaming behind. The page holds my hand and guides me towards the words that are a wee bit brighter. The snow has lost interest in this corner of the land and gone off to find glaciers and ice hills, more appropriate temperatures to visit.

The earth is damp and sloppy. It is the perfect, moist soil rich for spring planting. I choose perennials in fantastic rainbow colors, planting them with love and reassurance. I cure these plants with care and attention, with the humanistic, egotistical hope they will return many years after I have gone. There is sad, sweet unbearable love in the choices made over the course of a lifetime. My choice to continue the cycle is highly personal, in spite of all the uncertainty that lies ahead.

 I love the sweet smelling purples, the sultry inviting reds, and the tropical fuschia buds rising from the earth. I cultivate my garden with deep love for spring and the seasons that follow. In my magical garden, I am not too sick to plant, to feel young and giddy with shock and awe each time spring bores hope in glorious color. It reminds me of all that has come before, the gorgeous, carefree, happy, healthier time, the easy existence and the odd, kooky characters that make up a life. The real, unimaginary ones that I have loved far too much, way beyond any possible earthly explanation. Those responsible for cultivating all the sappy, sweet, fun flowering pieces of my heart, curing them with care and healing devotion.

The page finds my robin her perfect nesting ground, granting sunshine, cloudless days and warmth, where round, warm eggs grow healthy babies. She is pleased; I am pleased as I watch from a chair by the window, dreaming of a world I once lived in.

The May snow magically disappears, melting away all worry into wet earth. I leave anxiety on the page and get on with the day, planting and tending my garden in rebirth. The thunder roars and the rain trickles down never reaching planet earth.

The seasons however unpredictable are funny like that. The sun shines from behind the thick cloud cover, mixing up the day with emotion. I laugh at the impermanence and the three-second mishmash storm from the heavens, a reminder of how fickle and fast it is.

We are ordinary beings, meager matter at a small percent.

Another storm looms overhead, I don’t fret about the daunting black cloud cover. I welcome the cool, fresh breeze instead.

excerpt, THE RED BENCH

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.

 

 

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

Drowning Above Water

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Turbulent waters soothe the gypsy, calming and evoking blue myth mystery. The maudlin, tumultuous sea, her wishing wells of fragile glass trinkets, forgotten treasure, and pools of sunken love, long discarded. The ocean and her black ink mystery whisper in tongue, tales only I can decipher. The beach house perched precariously on a bluff, is blurred and out of focus. Drifting farther and farther from reach, I am flailing and kicking. I scream sea bubbles trying desperately not to be pulled under. My weary eyes close, muscles go limp, as I surrender to the serene beauty. I am weightless. Drowning, I am finally free to listen to the sounds of quiet. Chimes dance and sway in the wind, calling me home. I know this place; I have been here before. She beckons. I am not unready, the flesh is not willing. I know I cannot stay here in the darkest, sublime solitude corners of the mind. With sea legs unsteady, I kick hard, resolute. I must embrace the riptides of imagination inside the forbidden, profound Mariana Trench depths of the mind I cannot fully comprehend. The sea is bound blue, white and grey urchin green, hauntingly transparent, and overly persistent.

I must stay, here, for now. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

Drowning above water.

 

 

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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