Questions as Daggers, Questions as Saviors

But you seem fine.
You look like you’ve been doing well!
You don’t seem depressed on social media.
Why didn’t you tell me you were feeling bad?

Don’t assume. You know what they say. I’ve gotten so good at hiding how I feel, shoving the emotions down so far I seem to misplace them altogether, that even those closest to me don’t see a thing.

I’m sneaky. I’m clever. I know the right things to say and do and wear. I know how to hide the scars, internal and external, and pretend like they’re not even there (are they even there?)

I’m sneaky. I’m clever. This gets me in trouble.
I’m often in trouble.

I don’t want you to take it personally. Really, I don’t. It’s not you, it’s me (really, it is).

The facade I maintain is one I’ve been perfecting for years, my fears of vulnerability stemming from a long list of disappointments and misplaced trust.

I don’t like to worry anyone,
don’t like to be the center of attention,
don’t like to be the one to drag the party down.

So, if I ask you for help, know that it’s taking every ounce of me to do so,
every last fiber of my being to muster up the courage to let my guard down and stand before you with my heart in a box of doubt, tied together neatly with my greatest insecurities and nightmare-inducing thoughts.

And I’m sorry if I haven’t.
Don’t be offended if I never do.

But you have a great life.
People have it much worse than you do.

I know. Really, I do. Guilt is my middle name. It seeps into my bones and erodes my body from the inside out. What’s left is nothing more than a pile of skin cells and disappointment.

People are starving.
Homeless.
Sick.
Dying (why do I wish I was dying?).

I’m sorry. I am. That’s all I can say (that’s all I know how to say).
I’m sorry I feel this way.

I wish I could change it. I wish I could fix the world’s problems with a swish of a wand, with a big bandaid stuck across its oceans and continents, one that heals the hurt across the globe.

I wish I could do the same for my own mind, for my own heart,
for the hurt I endlessly feel as the days stretch on and the months stretch on and this life stretches on and on
and on
and on
and on.

I wish I could fix my problems as easily as magic or medicine.

Maybe that’s selfish.

Maybe that’s survival.

You can’t love anyone else until you learn to love yourself.

But you see, I don’t think I’ll ever really,
truly,
honestly,
love myself.

I don’t think I know how (do I know how?).

Will I ever really learn, as easily as I learned how to write my name or tie my shoes or ride my bike across the pavement?

Will I get an eviction notice plastered to the door of my heart, a “Do Not Enter” sign stapled to the aorta?

Will it whisper softly,
“Beware,
Beware,
Beware,”
As it beats,
beats,
beats
to keep me alive?

Will I just be lonely forever?

Why are you on so many medications?
Why don’t you try exercising or eating healthier?
What about deep breathing or meditation?

You see, I know all of that, too. I lose track of the pills in my medicine cabinet,
all the dosages and names and bottles,
all of it blurring in my vision as I count the tiny circles and oblong ovals in my palm each morning and afternoon and night.

But, you see, it’s taken two years to figure out just the right combination of ovals to make the dark things less dark, the bad thoughts less bad.

Two years is a long time and sometimes I worry if it was time wasted (I worry that most of my time is wasted).

And sometimes the dark things are just as dark, the bad thoughts just as bad, anyway.

Sometimes my only exercise for the day is running away from my problems. This kind of running allows me to stay under the covers. Most days dragging myself out of bed feels like a marathon.

Panicking makes breathing difficult. Meditation seems unrealistic for my clouded mind.

I appreciate the advice, really, but I can’t emphasize enough how difficult it is to hear all of it day in and day out,
and day in and day out,
and day in and day out,
always constructing some combination of excuses to make them stop talking at me like I am a child.

It’s just not that simple, as much as I wish it was (I wish it was).

It’s not that big of a deal.
Stop overreacting.
You’re being dramatic.

But, you see, it is that big of a deal. Making mountains out of mole hills is my specialty and crying over spilled milk is part of my morning routine.

I know I’m overreacting. Trust me, I do. I know more than anyone that my thoughts are out of control and my actions are beyond what they should be. I know.

I know.

I know.

Dramatic used to have a positive connotation for me. I put my extroverted personality onto the stage rather than in my personal life, but here I am panicking under the showerhead because I’ve got six assignments due at the end of the week and my friend hasn’t replied to my text in two hours and 13 minutes but they’ve already opened my SnapChat and I watched a group of girls walk by me and laugh and I’m positive it was because I didn’t wear makeup that morning because it took me over an hour to convince myself to get out of bed and I ran out of time after pulling my limbs into the shower and I nearly died walking to class because I didn’t look both ways before I crossed the street and I haven’t told anyone that I did it on purpose (I did it on purpose).

That stage is now my life and I am constantly putting on a show where people leave at intermission.

Maybe it’s not that big of a deal.
Maybe I’m overreacting.
Maybe I’m being dramatic.

Maybe I’m me.

Maybe I don’t like any of those things (I don’t).

Are you okay?
How are you doing?
Do you need to talk?

Keep asking. Keep asking.
Keep asking.
Keep asking.

Because I may say,
“Yes, I’m okay.”
“I’m good, how are you?”
“No, I don’t need to, thanks.”
And I just might be lying to you (I am probably lying to you).

But one day I may get the courage to say,
“No, I’m not.”
“Not so good, actually.”
“Yes, I do, please.”

One day I might find the courage to ask for help even though it’s taking every ounce of effort not to run the other way,
not to shove the feelings down like I’ve done so many times before,
not to plaster that signature smile across my face like wallpaper, a sickening slap of paste across my lips that seals the sadness in tight.

So don’t be offended if I lie. It’s not you, it’s me (really, I mean it).

So keep asking. Keep asking.
Keep asking.
Keep asking.
Please keep asking.
Please don’t stop asking.


This piece comes from our community member Sandra Mercer. You can find her other powerful entry in our Coping series here.

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Feel free to leave a comment for Sandra below.

Always remember you are not alone.

You are loved.

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

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Creative Pieces dear hope

Windshield

Go ahead
and ask for help
Or confuse your pride
with strength again.

Progress is perspective.
And now the flames are close
as you ran
all the way inward.

Preaching about hope,
While letting ice
grow thick on windshields.
Driving through the night
with the defrost set on zero.

You feel welcome in the cold
As if you were born in it
It’s the extremes that you feel
It’s not the small talk conversation

It’s the knowledge and the worth
You fought to have and threw away
Locked the key and dug your grave
In a cemetery unmarked

When it could have been vandalized with art
But you refuse to acknowledge that
Your brain that used to flourish
Is now a maze you can’t figure out

But walls are only meaningful
if you know what’s inside.
And rusted gears will turn
Until there’s nothing left to try.

PF

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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Creative Pieces dear hope

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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Creative Pieces dear hope poetry

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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Creative Pieces dear hope poetry

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

c360_2016-08-27-15-11-25-997


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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Creative Pieces dear hope poetry

Quote of the Day: 10/27/16

A quote I came across today that reminded me of the beliefs we have here at Dear Hope.

“I think people that are driven to make art are coping with things – anxieties or what have you. You feel boiling rage or crushing depression without knowing why, eventually engaging in a lot of coping mechanisms you aren’t aware of. The difference between then and now is just awareness, knowing where it all comes from, what the dangers can be, being able to hopefully exert some control over everything so that I’m not obliviously self destructive or wasting my energy.”

-Greg Puciato of the Dillinger Escape Plan

Source

dear hope

Poetry: quiescent ontogeny (shedding September skin)

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go back some steps and paint the rest the colors they were meant to be.

parasites preventing psychology-
absent sounds without answers, potential apart metamorphosis.
the mistakes were easy,
splitting monochrome apart of the omniscient wind.

and they never learned anything.

I couldn’t escape the quiescence of ontogeny
descending east or west in our
oblivion as nothing-
these spider webs bury dead
under my intuition
ashamed of my own decisions
refusing to light,
but the flicker always subtle in the night,
aggressive how I wanted to make it shine.

we’re butterflies with broken mirrors,
scintillatingly self-reflecting that our deepest fears will never resonate with
the man under the bridge or the
child in Idaho or the
part of my father i never want to see in myself,
but always will.
hand-crafted maps fade because we’re told to abandon
caterpillars
as if this growth was a virus and not a blessing disguised as
thousands of glass shards unlocking doors.
I wanted to know more.

I couldn’t think where my mind begins
it shifts back hollow where I started
blonde curls lost frivolously among the pile of careful maple leaves
you should’ve tried to understand while you
blurred the sharpness of this image,
shades of fuschia indecisions
evading a dream,
incomplete sets of glass menagerie fog when I fall asleep.
shuffling the shutter, parallel to the stress it put me under.
a life repeating its first day,
continuing cabarets
confusing caves in sheep
crystallize
an endless disease.

flowers don’t communicate in binary;
your daisies were fireworks,
mute mutilations of my morbidity,
simultaneously transforming
sheep from tangible reality.
as I felt every strand of indifference-

IT ALL COULD HAVE BEEN DIFFERENT.

but
our faces yield yellow hues in
both pines needles and piles of
orange maples.

ashamed of where I hadn’t  been
because of the person I have yet to become
knowing what I will never be.
It was strange to see me as a human being
amorphous
feathers drifting incomplete
as crows without grief
circling aware
predicting what I could not escape
luminescent highways miles from fate
time spent
in the essence of these transgressions
pardon me gray.

what can i call colors i see,
branches of the trees from Polaroid memories,
or dreams of what the world should be?
where can i find these answers on this endless canvas,
this bruised, mountainous landscape,
constantly hammering away against our wars with self-abandonment?
what’s the spectrum where
trees and
everyone you’ve ever known that’s felt loss
can sing in harmony?

trapped in my mind,
hope is destiny when it’s not in our plans

running out of time,
the colors will fade as limbs grow thicker

footsteps erase.

mirrors adapt.

This piece is a collaboration between Zachary Johnson and Danny Kochanowski.

Always remember you are not alone.

You are loved.

-DK

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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Creative Pieces dear hope