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The Candidate

He irons his own shirts

Tucks bed sheets sheets so tight

You could bounce a silver coin

His fridge is clean and stocked

cucumbers for juicing, Thai food on Friday’s

A subscription to Business Weekly and The Economist

He doesn’t waste money at Starbucks

Instead, during lunchtime he

Pays a woman to

Hit him with a wide leather strap

Standing on his fingers in five inch heels

He talks in a baby voice to her vilifying

Begging mama to have his diaper changed

And on Wednesday before court

His secretary dusts his black gown

The judge sits in his wooden chair

Deciding the lives and fates of others

Who depend upon his justice for their own

Sitting there, FitBit on his wrist

Anticipating the next time

She’ll spank him raw

Perhaps his eye isn’t quite on the ball

His priorities are screwed up and wadded in the corner

Could be it’s his lonely childhood

Or the rejection of his first girlfriend

Maybe the pain reminds him to stay awake in a sleeping world

Or self hate takes a breath and sinks again beneath water

It’s possible he does it purely for kicks

Though I know of nobody without some reason

The sting of violence

Sits like icing all day

Does it influence his decisions?

We simply cannot say

For he may not know himself and this may all be a charade

He goes through to feel anything at all

And his head may be empied of quandry

His heart of compassion

The day he is voted to sit on the Supreme Court

Careful what we put into place

They stay a life time

Bringing with them often, little grace

Move

travis-bozeman-396018-unsplashWhen you broke my heart

It wasn’t you who broke it

I had to give permission

All the days leading up to that fall

And the nightmares moving behind my eyes like greyscale film

In someways I’d always ended at this sharpened point

I did this to myself

It took that finality to break me apart

I held the chisel to ice

A distant memory of two people filled with joy

Was like a sore on my skin unable to heal

But I want to close my torn chest of its gape

Not see the stain of you separating me from the strength that comes from letting go

I know in time you won’t be a memory

Or even a regret

You’ll be the nothing I wish you’d always been

A cool blank space where all potential pain

Dissolves as salt on snow will leave barely trace

I don’t even wish you didn’t exist

I want to stop wishing for anything in your name

You’ve been a rot in my soul too long

It’s time to move on

Cut the crusts off

038-048 BeautyPapers#2_TomJohnson_SY.inddWhen they say

You’re so beautiful

I’d prefer they

Get a needle

And stitch their mouths

Shut

It isn’t true

I have a horse for a jaw

A mountain for a forehead

And my eyes are

Continually watering

With their words

Some do not feel like kindness

They are broken pieces of yourself

Irreconcilable

Don’t call me that

Can’t you see beneath the layers

A scream is

Not beautiful

You only say that

Because words have become filler

For silence

And

Often for truth

But the truth is

I am an animal

My jaw continually muscular

You chew

This artificial sweetener as we

Press ourselves obedient

Sitting in high chairs at empty tables

Void of nourishment

The formal hedges of the maze, flower late this year

Too little rain save saline, and crackers, left to dampen in the tree house

I always said

Cut the crusts off

Take a plunge

Underwater you can see better when they come

Patent toes incased in skin, cramping their march

Like wooden soldiers who

Briefly lent life’s lumbering

Will grow flushed and warm

Retaining their glimmering uniforms

Dyed into the marrow of their grain

Did you see the imprint of the pillow where I have lain?

Watching for night markets among the trees

Hawking their jewels as magpie thieves

A glimmer of willow the wisp

Forfeiting glamor for real magic

Vaporized by the sound of reality

Clicking like an old boiler trying to knit her self the semblance

Of youth

Glazing the russet bleed of nightfall

Sent off

I licked

the envelope

containing myself

shut

and before I knew it

standing by the metal post box

let it drop

heavy and thinly covered

composed of filigree

a sound I am reminded of

with each urge

to be enclosed and

sent off

I know not where

but it will have

sail boats that knock against each other

with gentle shoreline waves

and at night

a lute

plays reedy and low

as dancers without shoes

as slim as whiskers

bronzed by day

slip in and out

of wet candlelight

 

Be the friend you would like to have

On the surface I may not seem like much but I have always held this truth;

“Be the change you want to see” (Gandhi)

That means be the friend you would like to have.

I used to be the typical teenager, self-involved, over-sensitive. I thought I was being a good friend but looking back I can see some easy mistakes I made such as always putting my feelings first and not being able to empathize enough with others.

Now that I’m a bit more empathetic I really try, but I must admit it has been hard to make friends as an ‘adult’ because so often people lie and let you down.

More than anything I wish I had friends where I live now, when I moved to America I really lost the ones I left behind, as distance tends to do that, and I didn’t make new ones. I know I should ‘join a club’ but I’m an introvert and that’s really hard for me to do.

Friendship is so underestimated and one reason adults can be lonely especially if like me they don’t have kids.

I would never treat a friend badly and I really don’t understand those who do. Even on WP I have had some people mistreat me, those days are over, I’m too guarded now, which really if you think about it, is a shame.

If we all treated others as we would wish to be treated and we were HONEST the world would be so much better. Period.

Anxiety & how to survive surviving

Anxiety as anyone who has experienced it, which most of us have intermittently, can be rough. When it doesn’t go away it becomes a mental illness rather than a mere short-lived symptom and can be debilitating as you attempt to do the things others do.

Wading through mud is how we experience life is one way people with anxiety describe the feeling.

Watching others able to do things without hesitation, then attempting it yourself and finding it akin to holding your breath for a prolonged period of time, or experiencing a heart attack, makes living with anxiety an isolating hardship.

Typically people who experience anxiety keep quiet about it, due to social stigma and the embarrassment of admitting that they are anxious about something that others do not appear to be.

Some people who experience anxiety are able to work through it and ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ and because of their success, it may lead others who are not able to follow at the same speed, to feel like they have failed. But there are many layers and degrees to anxiety and this will always impact a person’s ability and how far their efforts take them.

Picture this; It is possible to be standing still trying with every pore of your being and yet not appear that you are (trying) to anyone else.

Picture this; It is possible to do something without trying and thus, expend no effort whilst someone with anxiety has to work ten times as hard to produce the same outcome.

Working ten times harder to do something is pretty exhausting. It can lead you to feel inferior because you perceive others finding things easy, and you conclude, therefore it’s me there is something wrong with. I am weak.

But anxiety is no joke and living with anxiety is a daily battle for those who do not respond to medication or therapy and/or have found the long-term side-effects of medication unacceptable.

We’ve all heard how anxious people are more prone to certain diseases (heart disease primarily) and struggle with jobs that are high-stress as so many of ours are these days. Anxiety can impact academic performance, test-taking, public-speaking, relationships, communication, authenticity and sleep. Often people can only tell we are anxious when we confess, otherwise they may perceive us to simply be avoidant, aloof, quiet or shy.

Shyness and anxiety can go hand in hand but one does not beget the other. The ‘bad rap’ both get in American society especially, is unfortunate. Just as the world does not need to be completely filled with extroverts, we should not expect shy people to become outgoing nor anxious people to stop existing in favor of daring people. Diversity is a good thing, that includes the types of people we are. Anxiety only ever becomes a problem when it begins to rule you and dictate to you, rather than the other way around, some anxiety is natural and we all experience it. In fact, the only people who experience almost no anxiety are psychopaths and sociopathic, meaning, if you have a conscience you invariably experience some anxiety and that’s a sign of being balanced.

Mental illness is when something becomes too much that it controls behavior in a detrimental way. I see it like the snake and the snake-charmer, the mental illness is the charmer, the result is the hypnotic snake that lulls us into altered behavior. In the case of anxiety this can manifest in our missing out on things we might actually like to do.

The first port of call is to establish, are you overly anxious and is it negatively impacting your life? If you are simply an introvert who loves your own company or smaller groups of people, and would prefer to read than say, go to a party, that is not a mental illness it’s a great choice and you will probably be very successful! If you are not going out because you are paralyzed by social anxiety that’s cutting the pleasure out of your life and something should be done about it.

Fortunately unlike some other mental illnesses, anxiety is relatively treatable. That does not mean everyone with anxiety will benefit from treatment but the success rate of treatment is higher with anxiety than any other mental illness. Nobody knows why this is for sure, but some reasons could include, responding well to medication and better options for therapy. Equally, in the milder forms of anxiety there is less morbidity, meaning some mental illness is very intrenched and hard to treat.

For some however, anxiety does not dissipate and this is true of all treatments there are those who do not respond. It’s not their fault, and it makes it very hard for them because it acts as a double-whammy, firstly they have something they see others may not, secondly they do not respond to treatment, two negatives. If you know someone like that, consider the impact of a flippant remark like “you may be anxious but just relax” and how that could add to feelings of inadequacy and error.

Anxiety is heightened by stress and what constitutes one person’s stress differs from another. Personally, the work place was my stressor. I related it subconsciously and consciously to stress because of bad experiences. Anxiety is often ‘the fear of what could or may happen’ rather than what’s happening right now. You can experience anxiety in the moment, but often it’s more of a preview feeling. In the case of work place anxiety, you can get very anxious on say., a Sunday night, imagining the potential stressors Monday morning.

Unfortunately whilst therapy can help you become aware of your ‘internal scripts’ and dialogue and seek to change how you self-talk by changing the meaning of what you internalize, it’s not a certain cure. I can tell myself, Monday may not be bad, Monday could be good, one bad experience does not equate to all bad experiences. And I may logically believe that, but emotionally it is harder to translate the logic to the emotion. The pathway is often fraught with long-learned anxiety triggers and it’s almost a battle of the wills.

Sometimes you hear that someone has been ‘strong enough’ to over-come their negative self-talk and I say, good on you if you’re one of them. Equally, this can lead to feelings of failure for those who are unable to quit the long learned script in their head that manifests dread. Sometimes it’s not even a palpable ‘fear’ so much as a generalized anxiety and it can manifest in more ways than an internal script. Anxious people often sweat, have trouble sleeping, may seek drink/drugs/bad habits to assuage their anxiety without even being aware of it, may increase their heart rate or worse case scenario have a panic attack.

All these things are symptoms of an anxiety disorder that can if left unchecked, control and dominate the strongest people. Whilst much can be done and should be done to limit anxiety, there is always going to be a difference between a laid-back person and an anxious person. This is as much as anything, personality, life-experience, coping, DNA and possibly even biology. The latter because anxiety can be learned, and can run in families (inherited) through a mixture of biological and social traits. Depending on how much is biological it may be impossible to completely eradicate.

Epigenetics is the study of whether something is biological in origin or ‘learned’ (socialization) with the belief being, it is a mixture of the two, and by understanding the relationship between two, you can better predict and understand, outcome. Studies done on twins show that whilst they have the same DNA their ‘life experiences’ and where they live and with whom, influence their outcomes. This is true about every facet in life, including what we eat (we are what we eat) how many children we have and tons of other little nuances. Epigenetics is complex and we can never know for sure, how many factors make up the differences and similarities in people and studied populations.

Whilst a researcher may need to generalize to create a working theory, within that generalization are many differences that do not get picked up by mass studies, this is true of the layers of anxiety and each person will vary in their response to treatment and cause. What may cause anxiety in one, does not in another, but equally, they may become anxious about something else entirely. Ensuring we are sensitive to those who experience anxiety will obviously decrease their anxiety! Thus, we can be the change we want to see!

Mental Health Month “Personality Disorders”

The first day I was interning in a crisis center, I heard two women talking, and one said; “Whatever you do, don’t ever see a client who has Borderline Personality, they’re the WORST”

Shamefully I had studied but didn’t know very much about BPD yet, as I was only a year into my studies. I went home that night and read up on it and subsequently read some books devoted to BPD including the well-known book “I love you / I hate you.”

Shortly afterward I found out a friend of mine was BPD (BPD often goes hand-in-hand with Bipolar, as we often see Anxiety and Depression co-morbidly). She educated me significantly in a first-person account of what it was like to suffer from a personality disorder.

The very words ‘personality disorder’ strike me wrong. It’s not really giving someone a chance is it? If we label them as being disordered in some way?

It is thought personality disorders ‘grow’ in childhood and upon reaching maturity can be responsive to treatment or not, depending on the depth and extent they were reinforced in childhood. They usually have triggers such as the link between BPD and being sexually abused in childhood.

Why this is – isn’t so hard to understand if we consider, we all have personalities that are shaped by our experiences – any wonder then that certain experiences will commonly shape certain personalities and responses/reactions. If we take this to an extreme, a ‘disorder’ is a disorder of that personality caused by something wrong and traumatic that occurs to a child.

Why then doesn’t every child who is sexually abused BPD?

Because BPD and other personality disorders must be reinforced. If you are abused as a child but someone finds out, the person is taken away, you are told it was not your fault, the trauma is made better by a rectify and love and lack of shame, then you may well be affected by that abuse but not altered by it in terms of your personality.

If however, the opposite occurs and that trauma is reinforced, then by its very nature of reinforcement, the personality ‘disorder’ forms and every bad thing that happens afterward goes to continue that reinforcement.

It can work something like this;

Child A gets raped by her step-father. Child A tells her mom. Her mom calls her a dirty little liar and beats Child A. Child A is then raped repeatedly by her step-father who threatens to kill her if she ever talks again. Child A remains silent to her abuse for years and it goes on, unpunished. At 15 Child A goes to a party, gets drunk and is raped by a friend. Child A is told by her friends she is a slut and deserved it. Child A internalized all of this and develops BPD which among other things is characterized by a profound lack of trust in others.

Phrased like this, are any of us surprised?

In other words, a personality disorder is a consequence to abuse. As such I find the use of ‘disorder’ punitive because we’re saying the person has something wrong with their personality we are focusing on that, without really considering how this occurred.

Why? Because BPD can be very destructive, both to the person with BPD and those who know them. When you are dealing with someone who is capable of throwing everything into flux, it’s hard to make time to consider the background. You are too busy putting out the fires. And that is why BPD is so feared by therapists and wrongly, stigmatized as being a personality disorder people dread. Whether people dread it or not, any health care worker should aim to help those under their care and treat everyone equally. Perhaps that is easier said than done, but this is why more time should be spent learning about the formation of personality disorders.

Later on in my training I was warned again about BPD folk and told that they can be highly manipulative and destructive, they can and will always try to bring you down. I recall thinking ‘I can’t see how anyone could do that’ but later on I saw several colleagues have to defend their licenses against false accusations by BPD patients who were ‘testing’ them or flexing their muscle.

It appalled me to think anyone, even someone mentally ill, could deliberately go after someone with the sole purpose of trying to ruin their life. I found it hard to understand and empathize with them on that. Which is why I now understand why mental health workers can fear certain diagnosis in people. But despite this, I believe, given the right training and awareness, people can find ways to help those who even lash out at them.

BPD is characterized by a pull-push approach to relationships, an intensity, followed by a rejection, both of which are extreme, due to an inability to trust people shifting from intense attraction/like, to repulsion and hate. For most of us, this extreme is not impossible to imagine, perhaps if we have fallen out with a friend who back-stabbed us or a relationship went wrong because someone cheated on us, we went from love to anger at very least. With BPD those emotions are amplified and far more aggressive, with anger as the source. BPD individuals stoke the flame and are among the most angry and vitriolic of the mental spectrum.

For this reason when befriending someone with BPD it’s important to secure firm and unwavering boundaries. Ensuring the BPD knows the ‘ground-rules’ in other words, don’t flirt one day, and be cold the next, don’t be close one day and distant the next, because by doing that, you are feeding into their fears that nobody is trustworthy, and that will only bring on an extreme response.

Many BPD’s confess that the hardest part of the illness is the social disapprobation and isolation. They do not maintain long-term friendships or relationships, they are at high risk for suicide and self-harm, they vacillate between self-incrimination and feelings of persecution. In short, it’s an instability of their psyche due to being fractured in childhood.

This is among the myriad reasons I condemn child-abusers unreservedly. It is not just rape and abuse, it is messing a child’s life forever when you take someone and you fracture them. If we can take child abuse more seriously and catch more of them before they go on to ruin more people’s lives, this will have the knock-on effect of reducing the numbers of people who grow up to develop BPD and save them from difficult and unfair experiences in life. The one positive of a personality disorder is you can prevent it from happening, we cannot do that with all mental illness but when we can, we have no excuse but to try our hardest.