Keep Walking, Don’t Worry

keep getting up before the sun

keep your wit

but make sure it’s secret

until you’re able to trust again

it’s okay

if you don’t know the difference

for a little while

take a walk down the railroad tracks

behind your parents’ house

stare at your boots

feel small and upset

beside the vastness

of the dead swamp

the 1997 family photo stays in the front pocket

of your blue jeans

mother, father, two daughters, a family wedding

remember the tantrum before the plaid jumper

the white socks, the Mary Janes

as if you need such a stark reminder

that past self preserved

now broad shoulders have filled out

the cracking voice

the scruffy chin

the court date

now you are more yourself

than you were

when you were five years old

trying to fall asleep

in purple Pocahontas sheets

wishing towards Sirius

praying on your knees

to a God you’ve never met

that tomorrow

would be a tomorrow

with groves of aspen

golden lion’s mane

and concrete

be thankful that everything is different

that you didn’t give in

to temptation

but keep listening to sad songs

shake the dust

watch the robins

smoke before bed

take sleeping pills

don’t worry about it

visit the ocean

please remember

the tide will always recede.


This poem was submitted by our friend Cal. Cal is a queer and agender mixed media artist and poet from Boston. You can visit Cal’s Instagram page here, and read more of this beautiful work by visiting his website here.

Always remember that you are not alone.

You are loved.

AC

Want to submit to Dear Hope and share your story, art, or article related to mental health? Email wemustbebroken@gmail.com

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International Suicide Survivor Day

All week I have been struggling to find the words to say to you all in regards to today being International Suicide Survivor Day.

Even now as I write this I find myself deleting and rewriting the same words in some effort to express what I am trying to say.

Overall, I feel proud.

I am proud of myself for taking the conscious effort to continue my own life.

I am proud of all of you who are continuing to fight for your own lives.

As I read through social media news feeds, I see so many people raising their voices and opening up about their own struggles. I read about your own experiences and how hard you fight every day to stay alive, and I am so proud of all of you for continuing to open up and share your personal battles. Not only can it be therapeutic, but by doing so, you are inspiring others. You are showing other people that they do not need to be okay all of the time; you are showing them that a fulfilling life is possible while living with a mental health condition; you are showing them that even if they struggle, recovery is possible and attainable.

At Dear Hope, whenever we read a submission or read your comments, we feel your pain and your joy. We are there with you in your highest and lowest points, and we are rooting for you each and every day.

At Dear Hope, you are always welcomed, needed, and loved.

I’m a fairly emotional person and all I want to do today is hug every single one of you and tell you that you’re doing such a great job. It’s hard, it really is, and fighting can be discouraging and exhausting, and there are days where you feel like all your strength is gone but you’re doing it. You’re living. You may not see the progress you’re making but we do.

On this International Suicide Survivor Day, we want to tell all of you — whether you have been battling with your mental health, have had or still are having harmful thoughts, and to those of you who may have attempted to take your own life — you are a survivor. You are a fighter, and no one can take that away from you.

Lastly, we want to take a moment of silence for everyone who is not here with us. You are missed, loved, and this world is not the same without you. Today shows that you are not alone — there are millions of other people out there that know what you’re feeling.

Today, and every day, we ask that you share your story. Share it with us and share it with those around you. Your story is important and it is valid. We are listening.

You are loved, always.

AC


Want to submit to Dear Hope and share your story, art, or article related to mental health? Email wemustbebroken@gmail.com.

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Watching Her Go

She keeps saying she’s leaving.

But I don’t know where she’s going.

She keeps telling me she’s done.

But nothing has been finished.

She keeps thinking she’s gone numb.

But feels it when I pinch her.

She keeps crying in the dark.

But there’s no sad movie on.

She keeps missing my calls.

But I know it’s on purpose.

She keeps drinking more wine.

But it’s becoming a problem.

She keeps swallowing more pills.

But she’s already exhausted.

She keeps screaming my name.

But I have already lost her.


This poem was submitted by our friend Kelsey. You can follow her on Instagram here.

Always remember that you are not alone.

You are loved.

AC

Want to submit to Dear Hope and share your story, art, or article related to mental health? Email wemustbebroken@gmail.com

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“Confession of a Surviving Liar” – Coping This Is Who We Are, Entry 24

Trigger warning: this post discusses suicide.

Below, we have a coping piece written by our friend Icess Fernandez Rojas. This piece is not only powerful and emotional, but a symbol of strength. Thank you, Icess, for  bravely sharing your story with us.


“All art is a kind of confession, more or less oblique. All artists, if they are to survive, are forced, at last, to tell the whole story; to vomit the anguish up.”

― James Baldwin

“We each survive in our own way.”

― Sarah J. Maas

July 2015

I am a liar.

I know how to react when the question comes. I know what will happen if I answer with the truth. I know what I will do if I think about the truth too long.

“Icess, do you want to hurt yourself or others?”

“No. Of course not,” I say straight-faced, like answering whether I wanted red or white wine with my dinner.

A check mark on the clipboard. Then the next question. Topic dropped. Another fooled.

If I answered yes, I would be immediately admitted somewhere where I couldn’t hurt myself, watched for a day or two, and then something about medicine. I wanted to get to the medicine part, to the part where chemistry was going to fix me.

The real answer to that question was yes. I thought about killing myself like people planned out their vacations. There was a letter crafted. Instructions. Simple. Direct. Perhaps reassuring. Hopefully reassuring.

My death would be just as simple, just as direct. No blood. Nothing to clean up. Neat. Clean. Even in my death I thought of others, of the people behind me who have to clean up the mess literally and figuratively.

Damn it, not even my death was my own.

Coping: This Is Who We Are dear hope

The Lie that Ableism Feeds Us

First let me be honest with myself and you.

I have been here before.

I have been so almost well that I start thinking that it might just be all in my head, that I could wield my will like a magic wand and wave all of this away.

I seem to have an almost recuperation cycle, where I begin to feel guilty, lazy, pathetic.

I day dream about doing laundry independently, washing dishes at all, taking dates out for fun nights on the town, walking by myself in the rain, hugging my children without coughing, being a “productive member of society” again.

That is always accompanied by a deep, subtle in it’s expression, but pervasive sense of self doubt which leads me to both question how I have handled my illness *am I just being lazy* and push myself to “try harder.”

Let me be clear, this always eventually results in my body crashing hard, usually in a pretty scary way.

Because my illness is real.

I am not being lazy

I am not just giving up

If I actually gave up, I would die. I am not actually exaggerating. This world, which by and large I am not in any way compatible with, would kill me.

But it is still hard not to listen to the world that measures worth in productivity, in hours worked, in dollars earned. It is hard not to listen to the well meaning people with suggestions and advice who just know I could do this or do that. It’s hard not to listen to the pity eyes and good intentions of loving relatives who are just so worried about me.

So let me tell you, and let me tell me

One more time

For the folx in the back

And the folx in the back of my mind
I am real and I am doing just fine

I am real and I am doing just fine
even when I would like your help, I don’t need your saving or your salvation

I have value

I have worth

I work damn hard, thank you very much

Even when I am not fine, I am doing the best I can

Repeat after me

Even when I am not fine, I am doing the best I can

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A huge thanks to Selissa Leonard for this powerful and insightful submission. You can find more of her work by visiting her website, here.

Always remember that you are not alone.

You are loved.

AC

Want to submit to Dear Hope and share your story, art, or article related to mental health? Email wemustbebroken@gmail.com

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Photography Series: “Still Fighting” by Alessandra Ortiz

What if we could see depression?

1

Would we still doubt its existence?

2.jpg

Would we still think that it’s a sign of weakness?

3.jpg

Would we still believe that it’s “just a bad day”?

4.jpg

Would we still assume that it’s a cry for attention?

5.jpg

Would we still fear others’ opinions of ourselves?

6.jpg

Would we still be too nervous to ask for help?

7.jpg

Would we lend a hand to those in need?

8.jpg

Would we find the courage to fight and keep going?

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Would we finally understand that we are not alone?

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A very special thanks to Alessandra Ortiz for these beautiful photo submissions. You can find more of Alessandra’s work on her blog and Instagram. You can also read her previous submissions to Dear Hope, such as her piece, “Morning Routine” here, and her latest poem, “Her” here.

Always remember you are not alone.

You are loved.

AC

Want to submit to Dear Hope and share your story, art, or article related to mental health? Email wemustbebroken@gmail.com.

Follow us for more posts, inspiration and art on FacebookTwitterTumblr, and Instagram

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“The Violent Ward” – Coping: This is Who We Are Entry 22

By: Leif Gregersen

He had me firmly by the left arm and was twisting it.  It hurt bad, and he was going to take me back there again, to ‘the room.’

“Wade, you don’t need to force me, I’m not resisting you.”

Wade was a good looking guy with shoulder length brown hair and a neatly shaved face with a well kept moustache.  He twisted my arm more as he walked me to the isolation room and looked down at it.  I looked at his face again, and I could see him smiling, trying not to laugh at the fact that his actions were severely hurting me to the point of injury.  He had to be a closet psychopath.  Me, I was only psychotic.

Wade brought me to the side room, shoved me inside and slammed the door.  I could hear the metallic click of the magnetic lock that only opened from the outside.  I was back, and I hated the feel of the white painted walls, the hard floor with the interrupted pattern of small tiles on it that seemed to put messages in my head.  Most of all I hated that nothing I could do would get me out of there before someone on the other side of that door felt like opening it.

I had so much anger, so much pain inside me that when the staff put me in the side room, I would cut loose.  I screamed a string of profanities as loud as I could, and let go as many hard kicks to the door as humanly possible.  I did this until I was hoarse and my shoeless feet ached.  I don’t know what I was accomplishing, but it helped me calm down, and the staff never seemed to be able to give me trouble for it, so I kept doing it.

The room was small, maybe 12 feet by 12.  There was nothing in it, no TV, no padding, no window.  My only companion was the air conditioning unit in the corner built into the wall.  It hummed out a throaty, low sounding waft of cold air for a few minutes every hour.  Still, the air seemed pretty stale in there.  It was institutional air, a lot of other people had breathed it in an out before me and I would likely breathe the same air in again in the near future.

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All I had in that room was a bottle to piss in, a plastic mattress and what they called a strong sheet.  There was no way to hang yourself or injure yourself in any way unless you got creative like I had done, and you kicked at the thick metal door until you felt like your foot would break.  I saw people pick at the linoleum if they were motivated to find a way and take a little piece of the stuff to try and cut their wrists.  It rarely worked.

I had arrived on that ward about five months ago.  I had been living alone, and it seemed like everything was going right for me.  I had credit cards, I took trips, I had a car and led an active life. For some inexplicable reason, I decided that I could lower my medications—not a lot, just a little.  It was a mistake that nearly cost me my life.  At the very least it cost me the next six months of my life that I spent in that horrible place.

My psychiatrist seemed to have no interest in helping me.  I had gotten sick of the doctor’s inaction and the fact that he never talked to me, and I ended up telling the nurses and other staff members that he was incompetent.  They laughed and told me to tell him that.  Little did they know I was just crazy enough to do so.

“You’re incompetent, and I want a different doctor,” I said.

“Get out.” He said in reply.

That was it.  ‘get out.’  The next weeks and months went by so slowly I could hardly stand it.  I didn’t get a new doctor or any help from the old one.  Once he came by to tell me that I would be put in jail if I kept making phone calls to people.  I had called a former girlfriend’s dad one time to ask him a couple of questions, and he had gone ballistic.  No one took into account that I made no threats or insults, and I was severely mentally ill at the time.

My doctor had left instructions that at the first sign of any problems they could put me in the side room without hesitation.  There was no judge and jury process, no need to contact a supervisor, they just had to gang up and throw me in, with or without injecting me with something ominous, and they could leave me in there as long as they wanted.  Over the next five months, I must have been in that room more than a hundred full 24-hour stays.  I tried everything to get back at them for this injustice.  They had set things up so even the ward receptionist could have me put in the side room for absolutely no reason.  One time I filled the piss bottle and then tossed it under the door frame.  Another time I took my mattress and tipped it against the wall and hid behind it making them have to come in and take it away from me.  I like to think that my spirit couldn’t be defeated, that I had a will that would outlast those bastards, but it didn’t work out that way.  I turned into a simpering wreck in the long, tedious, painful and arduous months.  I even made a phone call to the Canadian Special Intelligence Service thinking they had been torturing me for information.  What they didn’t sweat out of me they tranquilized out of me with a long list of medications.

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Then one day my doctor took a short vacation.  I got a chance to see the Psychiatrist, and he had me immediately taken to a ward that didn’t even have a side room.  After all that waiting, all those ‘side room’ visits, I was put back on the medication that I was taking before my hospital stay—but now at the proper dose.  I got better within a month, good enough to walk right out of that place.

The next months on the outside were rough.  I went to a group home run by a penny pinching, self-serving, uncaring old wretch of a woman.  She did things like serve us one potato with watery gravy for supper and took 90% of our disability benefits each month.  One day her sister came over and caused a leak with her washing machine, and she came to me and screamed in my face.  My roommate convinced me that was assault and that I should call the police.  I did, and the cop went right to her, listened to a small web of lies and then came down to threaten me with being taken back to the hospital.  It makes me so angry to think of not being able to say my side of an issue because an oversized moron who is too lazy to do his job has a gun and a taser and will use them.

My life was a mess when I left that hospital.  I never thought I would work again, never thought I would travel or do the myriad of things my heart longed to do when I was younger.  But I found a home.  I found a group home that gave me regular medications, someone to talk with and a comfortable bed.  A group home where everyone dealt with mental health issues as either sufferers or caregivers, and suddenly the stigma of my mental condition was gone, and I could heal.  That was 15 years ago.  The whole world changed since the time I was in the hospital for six months.  There have been wars and stock market crashes, oil booms and opportunities of every kind.  This Spring I made a lifelong dream come true of traveling to London, England and was in awe of the history and traditions.  Five years ago I published a book about my life with bipolar disorder and two years later a sequel.  Life has become a thousand times more incredible than I ever thought it could, and as I finish writing this short essay I wonder how many of those people in that hospital did care, really did want me to get better.  I know I could have been a much easier patient to deal with and that I was pretty bull-headed.  What would anyone do when someone took their freedom away?  How would a person without an illness react when treated so unfairly?  But I also thank the stars that a place like that mental hospital, for lack of a better term, exists that can take someone in when they are seemingly beyond all help.  It may not be a pleasant thing to be drugged and warehoused, but now that I’ve come out the other side I feel stronger for it, and now have a whole new understanding of my loved ones and friends.  Every opportunity I never thought I could have had has come my way.  I don’t know if there is a way to end all pain, but I do know faith in yourself and hard work towards a worthwhile goal can change bad luck into consistent positive results, and bring meaning to any life.

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This incredibly brave and moving piece comes our friend, Leif Gregersen. You can read more of Leif’s work based on his experiences with mental health here, or you can find his mental health memoirs on Amazon: Inching Back to Sane and Through the Withering Storm. Thank you, Leif, for sharing your story with us.

Always know that you are not alone.

You are always loved.

AC

Want to submit to Dear Hope and share your story, art, or article related to mental health? Email us at wemustbebroken@gmail.com.

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