oracl

writer, artist, indigo.

jellyfish

jellyfish-854848_960_720

an hour ago, i was walking around on the beach.

high tides had left sea things scattered, half covered in sand, as far as you could see.

i was walking freely, very present.

til i saw a little jellyfish in the sand and paused from the inside out.

i stop in my tracks but in a subtle way so my friend cant see. my heart sinks.

she tells me they are all dead, its ok.

i am walking carefully now, not present at all, hyperfocused, avoiding them.

they are everywhere. i feel ridiculous and drift into mental images from my past.

when i was five, i was running around on the beach.

high tides had left sea things scattered, half covered in sand, as far as you could see.

i am running freely, very present.

til i step on a jelly fish and am stung.

pain.

stunned,

i stop in my tracks in a very loud obvious way and wail

the memory blurs and i *cannot* remember if i was comforted. perhaps i *do* not.

later that night

my imagination runs wild as it usually does.

it was so powerful then i could actually create things i could ‘see’

and my little mind turned all the clothes on the floor of our one bedroom apartment in flatbush

into jellyfish. waiting for me.

i am shaking, watching their wet, gelatinous bodies slink around the floor

i call out to mommy, who is very tired

after what feels like a lifetime she rolls out of bed, grabs me and throws me onto her bed

before rolling over in the opposite direction, annoyed.

i shake a little less and fall asleep.

(this is a lesson i would learn again and again.)

 

an hour ago

i was walking around on the beach.

high tides had left sea things scattered, half covered in sand, as far as you

could see.

I was 24 years old, avoiding dead jellyfish.

and for once, in that moment, I was okay with it. I wasn’t trying to escape it.

I wasnt trying to avoid it.

I wasnt trying to repress it.

I’m not calling the part of me that never got the comfort she needed stupid or crazy

I’m walking with her, adult me took her by the hand today and we walked, together.

we just were. we were not at odds with each other. we decided to be one with each other.

(there were a few moments there were my current consciousness blended with hers. i looked down and for flashes of seconds, had five year old feet. i felt her innocence heal the adult me of my judgements against her. i felt the adult me take little me in her arms and hold her and let her feel. very cool, very useful when this kind of dimensional *blend* occurs, because thats where a healing/integrated perspective is born <3)

i will comfort myself tomorrow, but today I will defiantly avoid jellyfish.

i will comfort myself tomorrow, and move through the fear tomorrow, but today i will sit at the bottom of it, with absolutely no resistance. and finally be THERE for myself, stand by myself, stand with myself. not the self i want to be but the self i am right now.

fully feel my fear. Feel its every effect on each part of my body. It suddenly felt so harmless and innocent, to feel how i feel, as if something reached out of the sky and uninstalled a program that needed to go and had been taking up too much space.

i walked for twenty minutes through an old, old inner shadow, suddenly made manifest, with perfect symbolism, in physical reality, at this beach.

fully felt my fear and told myself it is ok that is there. my programmed mind jumps to shame first and foremost but not today. today the fear was ok.

i think i may have moved a mountain just now.

each surrender seems to catalyze a deep, profound inner shift in response

and then, the last thing is a miracle in the external world that is completely in alignment with my being.

the only way out is through, and the seed of the miracle is your willingness to walk with little you.

c

 

 

 

A Highly Intelligent Woman Speaks Out

The Practical Free Spirit

On Tuesday I read a blog post in which a female blogger made a list of people in her acquaintance she’d put in charge of governing society if she was a monarch. All the people on her list were male. When called on this fact in the comments, she mentioned one woman she knew who she felt was “awesome,” but then proceeded to say she’d listed people she knew who were “wicked smart” and that offhand, she couldn’t think of any other women she’d put in that category.

Typing that just now makes me want to yell and scream and possibly hurt my foot by kicking something unexpectedly hard.

As a woman who is “wicked smart,” let me explain something to those of you who haven’t thought about such things. High-IQ women often do not present in the same way as high-IQ men. That doesn’t mean they’re not just as…

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love

when it happens

he will understand. He will not say he understands. He will not say sorry I wish I could understand but I cant but I love you anyway and I’m trying. He will understand.

he will have spent a life

like yours, in shadows

busy plumbing his depths on the outskirts of ‘them’ where the wildflowers try to bloom but usually don’t because they’re too self conscious

he will have spent a life

undoing every knot that someone else tied inside him until the beds of his god forsaken fingernails are bruised and bleeding,

he will be real among ghosts, abandoned bodies

he will have fought for it, like you did, on hands and knees in talks with god on quiet mornings in December

perhaps his aura will emit a matching shade of purple blue so bright that

modern shamans will only be able to gaze at us, quietly, from a short distance

knowing smiles betraying glowing insides that burn with recognition of our union

and when they approach us to tell us we are beautiful, we’ll understand that we earned it

and say thank you

and glow a little more.

and when I am sad or he is sad we will mix our blues with purple kisses and make indigo love

we won’t need dirty words, we’ll have telepathy.

he will get it. He won’t say he gets it. He wont say sorry I wish I could get it but I cant and I love you anyway and im trying.

He’ll just get it.

The day you realize this,

you will cry and cry and cry

but that wont scare him

for he too will have cried

alone in rooms too small to hold the love he kept aflame inside through storms that raged for years, relentless

alone in rooms inside him where the black and blueness waited like a monster

that only needed love. His love, the light of his blessing

(in my daydreams, we are mostly healed)

the blue black soothed, the wait is now for goddess

to unlock vaults of gold the monsters used to guard, defeated

they lay slain by love

self love that is

which had to come before hand, it was the only way

and only now are we truly free to love one another

when it happens

you will know what love is

like you should have known, so long ago

but until then,

you must plumb your own depths, baby girl (be strong)

you must untie every knot that someone else tied inside you

until your bony war worn fingers find their way,

find themselves wrapped around his, each one screaming in tiny little finger voice that they will never let go

(no one has ever kissed you like he will)

until then, you will bypass distraction

illusions,

half baked romances that you sometimes want to build just so someone can touch you enough for you to feel more alive more often

until then you will not fret that there have been no boyfriends

no coupled profile picture moments

no ‘bae’

no warm body that you know will always make your own his priority

no kept promises or hands to hold in silence on mornings in december

until then,

you will heal and heal and heal. and heal some more. And love yourself out loud in lots of color

until you fully are who you were meant to be before they put you on the assembly line

until the day you are your soul manifest in form, eternal

until the day that lights the final darkness, rendering the expression of your divinity a conscious act of will

and when the woman-child inside you truly lives out loud and shines her light all free and fearless

you’ll come upon a figure in a clearing

and find another unicorn

and ride his rainbow to the end of the world.

Mental Illness Series Part 5: Sexual Assault, College Rape Culture and PTSD

(Trigger warnings: graphic depictions of sexual assault)

 she begins to write

she pauses in fear and anxiety

she lets the memories wash over

she accepts and embraces the pain they carry

they subside

she takes a deep breath

she reminds herself of why she opens up and tells her stories in the first place

she reminds herself that no matter what they did she is beautiful still

she reminds herself that regardless, her soul remained pure and untouched, eternal,

she knows her words are powerful,

and that with great power comes great responsibility.

she thinks about the people in her life that have suffered, alone, through the same thing

she thinks about their struggle, and the deafening silence they are forced to endure

she thinks about centuries of women (and men) wearing wounds near where their wombs are

and now,

lit up from within, compelled

by something even more powerful than her own fear,

she begins to write

again.

In April 2011, as a nineteen year old college freshman at Wesleyan University, I experienced sexual assault, and nothing was ever done about it. A year or two later, as some of you might remember, a massive social justice panel  happened at Wes due to gathering reports of incidents of racist behavior and administrative fuckery in general. I stood up and told a story about how Wesleyan denied my basic human rights by completely failing me in every single way after my assaults. I never saw justice, only cold shoulders from the administration. But all the sexual assault drama that has been happening at Wesleyan ever since, (especially recently) has had me looking back on my own experiences and wanting to speak out about this important topic. This blog post will reflect on the effect not only rape but rape culture and systemic institutional failure to confront it had on my mental health. It will be a bit different than my usual fare. Instead of writing totally new content, I found some journal entries and two emails I wrote to friends, all from that time period. Raw and real and intimate as fuck. Back in time we go.

Dear (Friend),

 ok so i have to say this. i need to tell someone, no one knows not even matt yet and it is killing me me inside. just as bad as what happened the night after. please dont respond to this i just need this off my chest. so the weekend that the situation happened, it was only the SECOND thing that happened. the night before, I went to another party and got fucked up, as usual.. me and matt got there early and i ran into a bunch of cool seniors i know. so the party started and i was fucked up as usual and went downstairs to where the party was. I was just dancing and dont remember what happened. matt and portia were there but we were all fucked up. All of a sudden I was upstairs in a room. This is the bad part. its so hard to type but if I dont tell at least one person about this i feel like i will drown in it. so anyway i come to and this chubby white guy is having sex with me. i had no recollection of meeting him. none whatsoever.apparently we were on a couch downstairs making out? i had NO idea what i was doing…couldnt have, that drunk. so anyway its happening. i was still drunk so i just went with it. this disqualifies it as rape I assume. which is why i haven’t told. i was conscious but only barely and so mentally deluded that i just went with it. i did not plan to do anything that night…the worse part was that i had a TAMPON in the whole time….i was on the end of my fucking period. so we just keep going and it was such a strange situation.it was so disgusting and not fun at all but i DIDNT DO ANYTHING. Thats what drives me crazy is that i didnt do anything! its like “coral’ was away and some other “compliant” girl was in there. i swear on my life, dude. i cant even explain it. he also made me give him head and i did it! i didnt want to, i was FUCKED UP and i did not know who the fuck this person was AT ALL but i did it! (thus all the shame and guilt and feelings of disgust and desire to be completely celibate) i SWEAR TO GOD it felt like he was treating me like this was something he learned in porn and not real life. it was horrible, the memories are degrading. then we passed out and the next morning i woke up and he was ugly and chubby and gross but he was nice to me so i was nice back….but its like what else COULD i  have been…im always so fucking nice….i was so confused not only as to what happened but how i could possiby have let it happen and continued to go along with it. i acted as if everything was fine and we even made fucking small talk and walked back towards my house (he was going to gym, the fucking fatass) like it was all fine. now i cant get this out of my head because i did not want that and he is so gross and whats worse is that he was a junior meaning he’ll be back again. meaning im going to see his face. what makes this so horrifying is the fact that i KNOW who he is and what he did and there is nothing I can do about it. at least with the other guy i dont know who he is…i mean which is probably worse because it could be ANYONE. fuck my life. i lied to matt and portia (well kind of, i was DELUSIONAL, i rationalized it all away until i looked him up on facebook and saw his pictures) anyway i lied to them and they believed it. but i know that those seniors that lived in that house know and probably others saw us downstairs, just like what happened the second night.

now, i have to live with the thought of seeing him around campus for another long year and maybe with him telling people, thinking it was OK! for the rest of my life! everytime i think about it, which is every five seconds for the past few months, i honestly feel and this sounds crazy but i honestly feel like if I see him I will die. This is weird as fuck but sometimes when I blink I see a dick in my face. It’s so scary and horrible, these weird things happening, I think its ptsd? I feel like if I see him I will die on spot, or pass out cold. which is preferable to me to having to deal with him, have him SEE me, have to SEE him, you know? on top of that i could not get the tampon out for two days! you can get Toxic shock syndrome and die from that shit. i had to literally dig a fist in myself to get it out (graphic i know) because of him.

then to get over that, i go and get even more fucked up the next night and thus the whole thing that happened with THAT. so now you know. twice in a weekend. twice in TWO DAYS. i feel a little better now that someone knows the truth about that night, about the entire weekend instead of just a part of it. its been eating me up inside, people only knowing parts and even more people only knowing what they saw and not what was really happening with me. off my chest. *breathes*

see you soon.

 

(this next email to another friend tells a more complete summary of both nights and the entire situation)

Coral F Foxworth to jap218
show details May 4

Im about to tell you alot. On friday night i went out and got wasted like we all do here every weekend and had sex with a really gross guy that I didnt mean to. I had no recollection of meeting or talking to him but remember the sex part, it was like an outer body experience because I didnt really want to do it but my mind and body were like not connected. I had had a tampon in and he did not take it out and it got stuck near my cervix which can lead to fatal infections. I was scared and nervous and worried sick all day since I could not get it out but finally saturday night I did but my vag kind of hurt and was a little sore. Then I went out again and got fucked up to erase what happened the night before. I didn’t know how to even begin to confront what happened other than to numb myself and be self destructive. Around 1, my phone ran out of minutes and texts and all that. X and X and her friends left me downstairs alone (we were all belligerent and they couldnt find me). I dont know what happened after that. Next thing I remember is waking up in my bed with my panties missing and my leggings on inside out and no coat or bag or key or card to swipe into my building with, confused and with WAY sorer vagina than it had already been. X and X and her friends said they found me in my house passed out on a chair on the first floor and brought me upstairs. I dont know how I got back or what happened to me but I thought since the beginning that I was possibly raped or sexually assualted. Later I was at lunch and mad people who I know were at Psi U that night were standing in a group in the dining hall looking at me and talking about me. (X tried to deny that this meant anything but I think it does) my friend said she saw me belligerently making out with some generic white guy in the corner but cant give me any more info.
I have a feeling that I was raped. I cant prove it but I feel it. Ever since I’ve been depressed and anxious and feeling worthless, guilty, embarrased, horrible, etc. A lot to be honest. Nothing is important to me anymore.

So me and matt went to the health center to take all the precautions (Plan B, pregnancy test, blood work for STD’s, pills for certain STD’s, the doctor reported the incident to PSafe (who are shitty and im sure will do nothing)
I went to the hospital with matt next to get a Rape Kit, so that I could have the option of pursuing this legally if I wanted to. But everyone at the hospital made me feel like shit, looking at me with confusion and pity. No one was outraged, they all just think im mad fucking stupid. This one nurse especially kept hugging me and shaking her head and telling me to stop drinking and move on and learn from it as if I fucking raped myself and it was all my fault (which I still kind of believe in the state im in) The doctor made it seem like I shouldn’t get the rape kit. At the last second I decided not to get the rape kit and to just get examined, they found no signs of struggle just maybe a mild bacterial infection. We finally left. The next day I went to talk to this pyschologist and told him what happened and FINALLY an adult/authority figure ANYONE (besides matt who cried about it the next day) was outraged and promised that i would be made exempt from classes and finals and shit (I cannot do work and look at at textbooks when Im not totally convinced that life is still worth living) He put me on Xanax to help with the depression and anxiety and now i dont have constant horrible thoughts of shame going through my head. So now I just sit in my bed all day chilling and trying to gather the strength to want to do anything. this is what happened. Im sorry i didnt tell you earlier its just that i was distracted. Now the xanax is helping so much and i am more relaxed all day. He told me to keep myself distracted all day so ive been listening to music and chilling.“

I will now add a third piece from the summer of 2011 when I was dealing with serious PTSD as a direct result of what happened in April. Backstory: By then, the administration had completely fucked me over. When I tried to talk to this white male PSafe officer about what happened, it was traumatic within itself. He just looked at me like I was a fucking idiot and said oh well, there’s nothing we can do, sorry. And that was it. Dean Marina Melendez is also a slimy bitch who did not help at all. I won’t even talk that much about it, I just want people to know the truth about what this school did to me. At Middlesex, the worst hospital in the world, the doctor convinced me to NOT get a rape kit because ‘rape kits are only for when you are going to pursue a case’. To this day I have a feeling that Wesleyan had something to do with this, why the fuck would a responsible doctor confront a terrified adolescent and convince her not to have it done?

The ONLY adult that showed me compassion and care was Doctor Larry Antosz, who would become my therapist for the rest of my time at Wesleyan, one of the best people I have ever met. He cried hysterically, in passionate anger, when I told him what happened to me and how the school handled it. I don’t really know why they recently fired him, but I hope that he gets an ever better job at a place where he doesn’t have to take on the whole fucking world in simply trying to be a human being rather than a administrator who is entirely interested in preserving the fucking reputation of the University. ANYway, (lol that felt amazing!) the excerpt. This is the kind of terrible, relentless rumination and mistrust of everyone around you that results from not only the assault itself, but the way our environment responds to it.

“So I have been having thoughts about the guy from the second night of that weekend. He is so ugly and pasty and disgusting, I can’t get the word DISGUSTING out of my head. I hate what happened. I hate it. I am filled with a horrible unsanitary thoughts every time him using my body pops into my head. I swear to fucking god I will NEVER be intoxicated around white guys again. He was so gross and kind of fat with a nasty body and I cant BEAR the thought of him crowding up my mind but it does. I also CANNOT BEAR THE IDEA OF SEEING HIM AGAIN. I went on facebook and turns out he’s a junior, so he’ll be here again. I think about him telling people and feeling all self satisfied. Ugh. Horrible. Sometimes I think, hmmm, if I have no recollection of meeting him and basically just came to while he was having sex with me it might qualify as rape. I can’t report it though since I was so delusional and drunk and messed up (emotionally I mean) that I was civil with him and thought it was OK at the time. Gray area, right? I can’t say SHIT. I am afraid of other people knowing about it. I am afraid to see him, to be anywhere near him, I have constant daydreams of passing out at the sight. I wish every day that it never happened. I have all these violent thoughts of murdering him in different ways. They give me little chills of fear and pleasure. I don’t like them, but then again I do.

It’s possible that when I’m blackout the side of me that longs for closeness, the pent up, caged up, denied sexual energy in me comes out without me being aware of it. There is no safe and open model for heterosexual female sexuality in the mainstream culture… especially for black girls. This white environment tho. Hookup culture seems so violent in certain ways. I don’t know. I’m young and horny naturally but my sexuality is made so complicated, repressed and denied and pathologized from the time I am little black girl in this world and maybe it explodes out of me when I’m too wasted for self control, maybe I threw myself at him…but no…I wouldnt do that…thats not me…..I’m just making shit up to fit the narrative of rape culture which says it is my fault. I might have ‘made out back’ with him but I could’ve done ANYTHING, and it wouldnt matter what it was because I was completely unaware of what was going on. I was not able to make choices. He made the choice for me, even though I might have kissed him back.

Even if I did tho, that still doesn’t mean I asked for any of this. But then again….is it my fault though? Litle nagging voice inside is brutal… telling me it is all my fault. Am I lying to myself?

I feel so ashamed of that night because I feel like other people saw. No, I know they did. And judged. I wish someone would’ve helped me, taken me away from him. But you cant expect that because I guess when someone is making out with you at a party its your fault if you get taken up to his room. No one is going to stop it. No one did. This is bothering me just as much as the Psi U thing. I have really learned that being a drunk female seems to mean that boys can do whatever they want with you and no one gives a fuck what happens. This is our world. I wonder how I can possibly be happy in it. I want to be happy and all but every time I think about the school year coming back, I LOOK cute in my new clothes and its sunny and nice but then I have thoughts of panic attacks, passing out just from being in Usdan, people knowing, people talking, staring. I wish I could blot that weekend out of my life but I feel like it will follow me around like a monkey on my back forever, stealing my happiness away and replacing it with a huge desire to HIDE. That’s it! They make me want to hide in my room and never come out. I don’t want to be seen. I had felt so invisible all these years. And then I bloomed and I was very sexually visible in a blink of an eye. I wont lie, sometimes the new attention, denied me so long, was intoxicating. But still…. I didn’t want any of this shit. The MINUTE those white guys could get their hands on me they did…as if the mere presence of my brown, female body in this hypersexual space was an invitation to a free meal. My blooming body and sexuality turned out to be a curse, something that makes men want to fucking use you and come after you when you are so drunk you don’t even know what’s going on. They took the flower that bloomed and crushed it and pissed on it and now it’s laying there fucked up and all people do is point and pass by.

That weekend was the biggest violation to me that I’ve ever experienced. I feel like other people, no, I know others know more about what happened then I do. And it sucks because it’s not like I can explain. I feel an overwhelming need to not trust anyone. I think I am starting to really hate people in general. I have known so many shitty people, been unfairly judged so many times in my life I can’t count. And that’s just a fact of life. How do I explain to onlookers “No, I’m not being a slut, I am only making out with this guy because he grabbed me and I don’t know what is going on and if I’m kissing him back its only because I am blackout? People don’t give a FUCK. Everything is personal responsibility. That’s why I guess I cannot trust anyone anymore. It’s just better that way.”

In closing: I have since healed and moved on from what happened and no longer have such a bleak and cynical view of the world….it took a lot of hard work and patience and self love and time though!!!! But it can be done and I’m a living testament to ‘it gets better’ and that’s why, as per usual, lol, I made this post so painfully honest. I know I’m not the only one out there (hi you. *hugs*…this struggle is so real aint it? we’re amazingly resilient and we need to be proud of ourselves and talk about what happened in order to bring it out of the shadows of shame, stigma and silence. Together, our voices can and will be heard and make a difference.)

I will now end with this blog post with a very brief entry from the fall of 2011.

Today is October 11, 2011, a Tuesday, and today there exist a few things at Wesleyan that didn’t before. They hired a sexual assault person, a black woman (lol), who is here specifically to deal with situations like me. There is now a Support Group that is supposedly happening starting this year for survivors of rape and sexual assault. (Speaking of which, I might go. I watched “For Colored Girls” with my friends and I wish they had told me there was a violent rape scene in there. They didn’t. I did not enjoy that. That’s the thing with friends, even if they know. ) I’d also like to know if this shit has happened to anyone else at Wesleyan since the culture of silence about it is basically a brick fucking wall. I would never find out any other way and it would be nice to connect to people who can understand my pain and the irrational, insecure things I do and say…which my friends maybe kind of don’t….) Basically there is a lot of shit in place so that what happened with me, the incident and the administration, from the Dean’s office to the Counseling Dept. from the CRC to Reslife, wont happen again. They sent me from ‘resource’ to ‘resource’, I was floundering around at the start of the summer, all messed up depending on support from Wesleyan, where the shit happened in the fucking first place. It is apparent that they hired this new woman and started this new program and are doing all this shit….because of me. I guess that makes me feel good since at least something helpful could come of it. I hope this new lady and these new programs help a lot of people but more importantly I hope it somehow steps out of the realm of ‘support’ group and attempts to step into the reality of rape at this school, affect change, teach boys not to fuck drunk girls in their rooms. That would be nice. Maybe something good came out of the incidents after all…..maybe not so much for me but for all the girls who this will happen to after me and all those who’ve experienced it already. I’d like that.

 

In love and solidarity

coral

 

 

 

 

Eggshells: A poem

I was always the one to tread lightly.

I used to deflate around you

Out of habit

I would put on my lampshade

pour the ice water of your opinion on the fire that burned inside me

Lord forgive me but

the world can only ask me

the world can only ask a black woman

For so much

patience.

So now,

I STOMP on your eggshells.

Listen.

In a little classroom,

with 4th grade rainbow children

all about,

he tells me

calmly

that

I am nothing.

This white ‘friend’,

Who ‘meant no harm’,

Tells me

That social inequality

Is just the result

Of a larger,

Unblameable

problem

Called “differences in intelligence”.

There are rainbow babies all around us

We are paid to teach them how to fly.

But apparently

the black wings come

a little bit

smaller.

He tells me that

the intelligent

succeed.

the intelligent succeed.

test scores, he points out.

Statistics.

Culture.

He rides the bell curve up

and

down

my

spine

without ever mentioning it,

prickling the last of my snapping strands,

I bristle.

But we wear the mask.

And I, too sing America.

So I argue back

I’m smarter than he is and I know it. I learned to speak his language

in marble corridors where pedro and juan buffed floors til they shone

to impress CEO daddies

and bleach blonde martini mommies

on parents day at boarding school.

i might be genetically inferior

but i got into wesleyan too

i can do what he does

i can speak his language.

so,

I explain and remain calm

to defang his calm violence

his learned imperialism

his justified silence,

his smiling, friendly murder

of an entire people

with just a few well meaning words

from your average

friendly

always well meaning

always well meaning

always well fucking meaning

white guy.

Lady sings the blues to him.

She explains

all the ways

in which to box up a people

lock them in a prison

lock them in a prism of non-reality

hard work comes before success  in the dictionary,

but so does black

And that’s only writing

So if “We the people” meant anything at all

Then things in writing don’t mean shit

For me.

Lady sings the blues to him.

I say

Lets step away from the material reality of endless

Merciless

ongoing

oppression, to see

That there are invisible prison bars

In the minds

In the souls

In the hearts

Of my people.

Tell me where the success is to be found behind bars?

If you are my friend,

If I am real to you

And not just some outstanding exception to all the other naturally dumb niggers,

Look behind my bars

See that there is pain and blood dripping off my words,

And quiet resignation and acceptance of privilege oozing out of yours.

See that every time you tell me that people of my skin color are less intelligent,

You grind a smiling dagger around in my gaping wound.

I STOMP on your white eggshells.

Listen.

They are as thin as the white lies spread flat over three hundred years of history,

Trying to choke LIFE out of the people who want to live it.

But here I am.

Sitting in the same classrooms as you.

If you think the rest of us are dumber,

You must think me special.

What an accomplishment,

You think,

That I am here with you.

That’s awesome.

Totally great.

Even though she probably got here on the full scholarships they give to black kids

To spice up the website.

With exciting ethnic flavor right?

I know you’ve thought it.

And then he tells me,

My white friend tells me,

That affirmative action

Based on his prior reasoning about our intelligence,

Is wrong.

I stomp your eggshells

until they are dust where

They sat

in quiet solidarity.

Until the big,

Black

Scary

Angry

Complaining

BITCH elephant in the room

Went a little

Insane.

And woozy

With visions

of freedom,

She dreamt of

Having a voice

And then she dreamt

Of learning to use it.

Though they told her

That they will never get it

And they told her

To just survive

And don’t fight.

Just accept

And don’t question

And don’t argue,

Because they have the power.

And they don’t give

A fuck

About us.

I am the mad black animal in the room.

I am the creature that fell off the boat

That traveled slow, slow, slow

On calm seas

To eventual equality.

If you listen close

You can hear the sounds of the waves

going ‘hush, hush’

‘Hush” Over and over again.

I was falling off.

And there I was

A creature

with a white friend.

Watch as my trunk

encircles you,

Wraps around your neck

and forces the hot air out of your blown up head,

and pulls the pacifier out of your skinny pale lips

pacifier pacifist.

And I call you that

not in the sense of war

but in the sense of you

being passive.

Because passive

Is what you are,

among other things,

that I won’t name,

when you think

that affirmative action

Is not necessary. is unfair.

(aw, your poor little meritocracy! delusions abound.)

you are passive because you

sit

In your smart pink body,

blonde hair gracing your Aryan super brain like a crown of glory,

And you watch

as grass grows

In black communities,

slowly

slowly

slowly,

ever

so

slowly.

And in the moments

that you look away,

as is your natural

white

reflex,

you miss the fleshy pink hands

ripping it up

ripping it out

From the roots

and you turn back again

and wonder what happened,

and blame the grass for being of inferior quality.

you blame the ground that you WALK on, every day of your life, by virtue of your birth.

Step off me

and listen.

This white friend of mine,

he will always

look away.

because he can.

He will look away right when he needs to

because it isn’t his fault

It isn’t his fault

It isn’t his fault

It isn’t his fault

I stomp and crush your eggshells

I sweep up the dust

And throw it in the eyes of any onlookers

Black or white

Who dare to

Even conjure up the thought

Of silencing me.

Listen.

I stomp on your pale, white eggshells

I grind them into nothing.

the little black girl I tutor was listening

the entire fucking time

she is an introvert

like me.

she works quickly. she is observant.

she is nine years old and she bubbles with special

with knowing.

with potential

as much potential as anyone else.

(I bristle I seethe I ache)

I will talk to her when he walks away.

 

But as for you

When it is all over you will know. And you will try

to cry with me.

and I will toss you away from me.

fuck off, Nazi.

and when you get mad,

i’ll put on my best puppy dog eyes

and ask

Why are you so angry?

Mental Illness Series Pt 4: Giftedness

OK, next post in the series. Lets warm up with a few quotes.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Marianne Williamson

“Special needs garner sympathy and regional support but gifted gets neglected and will always elicit envy amongst those that don’t live with it daily. The label is there like any other descriptive label, it is just that this label seems to offend the “normal” population. Gifted is a loaded term because it connotes a gift, a privilege, a blessing, something fortunate and through the lens of the envious, but uninformed, it means better than and elitist. These are the myths. The myth that gifted is all a positive benefit with no challenge.”

-i dont know where this is from

“In this culture, there appears to be a great pressure for people to be ‘normal’ with a considerable stigma associated with giftedness or talent.”

-some smart guy

“Most of the women I work with who are gifted deny that they are, or are totally embarrassed to admit it. It seems I am always asking them to look at themselves: ‘Even if you don’t want to admit this out loud because you think it’s immodest or because you’re embarrassed, at least in your own heart of hearts admit what you’re dealing with. Most women who are gifted, as you well know, think they’re freaks, and feel horribly different — isolated, alienated, ostracized, ‘What’s wrong with me’?”

“Therapeutic assessment of gifted persons with asynchronous development, heightened levels of awareness, energy and emotional response, and an intense level of inner turmoil often results in their developmental transition being mislabeled as a personality, mood or attentional disorder. When misdiagnosed clients are wrongly prescribed medication to suppress the “symptoms of giftedness” there is the danger that the wonderful inner fury of the gifted process will be neutralized, thus minimalizing the potential for a life of accomplishment and fulfillment. Unique interpersonal challenges that gifted individuals encounter include learning to interact in the mainstream world; manage expectations and pressures to fit the norm; defuse unconscious hostility, resentment, antagonism and sabotage directed at them because they are perceived as advantaged; set appropriate boundaries for the utilization of their abilities; collaborate with others, and manage the daily dilemmas of giftedness involving relatives, bosses, coworkers, neighbors, counselors, teachers and other members of the community.”

-some blog

“It is painful when others criticize them for being too idealistic, too serious, too sensitive, too intense, too impatient, or as having too weird a sense of humor. Gifted children, particularly as they enter adolescence, may feel very alone in an absurd, arbitrary, and meaningless world, which they feel powerless to change. They may feel that adults in charge are not worthy of the authority they hold. The children soon discover that most other people do not share their concerns but instead are focused on more concrete issues and on fitting in with others’ expectations. The result for these gifted youngsters is conflict, either within themselves or with those around them.”

                                                                                 -some other blog

Lets dive in. According to all the standard criteria, I’m “gifted”. I’ve met the standards since the 2nd grade, when they tried to skip me for the first time. Mom said no. She said no again the next year. I’m glad she did.

 Last week, I ‘admitted’ that I identify as gifted to a close friend. I sometimes try too hard to explain myself to people I care about and in general, because of an enormous desire to be understood. I have felt misunderstood…no…I have been misunderstood for as long as I can remember. That’s not some misguided relic of effete adolescent projection, either. It’s true. It’s also one of the statistically proven results of being this way. I almost NEVER use the word gifted, I almost never discuss my struggle to deal with being overwhelmed by my potential, my limitations, my isolation, my differences from the statistical norm and the enormous effects they have on my life. I keep it guarded inside. It kind of sucks, because it’s such a big part of me, yet I know I am usually not safe to discuss it. In our society it is not truly safe. It is taboo. No one wants people to think they see themselves as a ‘special snowflake’ or better than others. My friend, sitting next to me on the subway, immediately responded with something along the lines of, “When you put it like that it can make others feel bad, as if you think you are better than the rest of us…I understand what you’re saying but it just sounds bad.”

Something like that.

 She might as well have stood up, positioned her self directly in front of me, gripped my face with both hands, slowly raised her left arm, and brought it down on my right cheek with one swift, highly effective motion. POP!

It stung.

I mean, it wasn’t thaaaaat bad. But I was incredibly frustrated. That’s not a normal response to what was a very unsurprising reaction to a harmless conversation, I know. But intensity and hypersensitivity are two of our hallmark traits, can’t really help that. Why, you are probably wondering, would she be bothered by what her friend said?

It’s because for many of us, a lifelong sense of inferiority and alienation is often the biggest curse of giftedness. Never in my life have any of my qualities or characteristics made me feel better than anyone else. In fact, we are far more likely to feel worse: misunderstood, different in a bad way, too intense, too much, too fast, too weird, too complicated, too sensitive, too ahead of the curve, too random, too unrealistic, too difficult. We overanalyze and beat our selves up and are far more self critical than people imagine. At 22 years old, in a room full of people I know, I often feel alone. I figured out a long time ago that I wouldn’t really fit in if I were to be my unfiltered self, so I learned to edit that self to survive because I was too sensitive to not give a fuck and needed social validation and acceptance to feel good about myself. We’re all only human, yo. Even when we have high enough emotional and social intelligence to be pretty well liked in our environments, there is a disconnect. A lag. A wide, invisible gulf. To this day, even though I have slowly been finding like minds, there is a very real and very persistent sense of abject isolation and loneliness that comes with this deeply misperceived way of being. I wasn’t and am not upset with my beloved and wonderful friend. Her answer was textbook, a very clear reflection of how our society mistakes the mere articulation of giftedness as some kind of threat.

 “Most people don’t know that what is considered normal for the gifted is most often labeled as neurosis in the general population and as a result, they are personally and emotionally vulnerable to a variety of unique relationship difficulties at home, work, school and in the community.” BINGO. (blog)

 Plainly acknowledging the existence of certain inner qualities that result in statistically rare levels of ability is completely different from setting up a hierarchy in which the more ‘gifted’ you are the better you are and the more value you have as a human being. I don’t believe in that at all. Not one little bit. That’s another hallmark actually, heighted moral sensitivity from a young age, caring about equality and fairness. Being told you seem like you think you’re better than others for acknowledging the reality of who you are, or that the way you perceive yourself is haughty and elitist, does indeed feel like a slap in the face, for all the reasons I just explained. Not to mention the good ole early existential depression that is almost always part of this ‘elite’ package. A few months ago I found an old journal and stared for a long time at one entry in particular. From August 2006, a pretty calm uneventful drama free summer. It was very brief. I wrote ‘I feel depressed but I don’t know why.” I was barely 14.

Slap. My cheek hurts. I honestly WISH I could taste what it’s like to feel superior because of who I am. My ‘giftedness’ has been one of the biggest sources of pain and anguish in my life hands down, and that’s why her words stung. Now that I am finally embracing the term, and learning to love instead of dislike myself for being this way, a reaction like that is bothersome, even though it is to be expected.

I didn’t expect her to understand why I was frustrated. I usually know pretty quickly if someone is going to understand what I’m talking about or not, and either promptly give up or press on accordingly. Extreme perceptivity is yet another trait on the list. It’s annoying at times…and probably the main reason for my social anxiety, being able to see layers of people, having to respond to their surface masks while looking three levels underneath and perceiving the discrepancies acutely. Which to respond to? Fuck I’m digressing.

A lot of you are students at elite universities… so many of you will already know a lot of what I’m talking about. (Although, oddly enough, giftedness often correlates with underachievement within traditional models of ‘success’, weird huh?) Still, let me list some criteria and common characteristics of giftedness, it’s way more complex than just IQ, which is severely limited and somewhat misguided in its attempt to quantify something as abstract and multifaceted as ‘intelligence’. Here is a basic list:

Higher and faster than average intellectual/cognitive ability

Makes intuitive leaps in thinking

Originality

Natural multi-tasker

Varied interests and endless curiosity

High level of language development and verbal ability

Has extensive vocabulary; early or avid reader

Self taught, non-sequential learners

Driven to comprehend, complexity of understanding

Unusual capacity for processing information

Highly observant

Highly creative; offers unusual, unique, or clever answers

Originality in written, oral, or artistic expression

Independent thinker

Able to comprehend subject matter at advanced levels

Perfectionist

Sensitive/Highly emotional

Overexcitable/Unusually intense

Abstract thought

Powerful, vivid imagination

Risk taker

Sensitive to beauty, justice

Engages in metacognition

Highly self critical

Advanced cognitive and affective capacity for conceptualizing societal problems

Tends to question authority

Advanced sense of morality and justice

Idealistic from a young age

Compassionate….

The list could go on for a while, and all of this shit has been proven many times over. It’s real y’all, and it’s way more than IQ. It is an entire complex set of characteristics that one can start to notice in early childhood. Sometimes, it really, really fucking sucks.

The way they see the world and the shit they think about all day are not things they can usually discuss with most people in a way that is fulfilling and it can be extremely frustrating. (If you google this topic you will see that this is very common and I’m not actually being an elitist dick, just keeping it real.) They can be constantly ravenous for satisfying connection and stimulating conversation and understanding. I can’t guess how many blank stares I’ve gotten, how many times I’ve been implicitly rejected, left out, or straight up ridiculed for saying, doing or being something out of the box. People usually don’t realize they are doing it. That has a lot to do with the fact that we are all programmed for conformity in American society, set up to monitor ourselves and monitor others….and then set up to exteriorize that monitoring as monolithic, external ‘social norms’ that must be yielded to. Not everyone realizes what has occurred or how ideology is operating through them when they do it. Sometimes people do it on purpose and get joy from it because it makes them feel less weird and shitty inside.

We all know the ‘smart kids’ are more likely to get bullied in school. I was no exception. The first time another girl started a fight with me, I was about eleven. She hit me and a crowd gathered, ready to partake in this normal, violent ritual inherent to adolescence in the hood. I remember, crystal clearly, standing there, scared, wondering why she did it, what made her want to do that. It didn’t occur to me to simply react and hit her back. I didn’t want to hurt her back. I wanted to understand her. So there I was, having a fucking moral conundrum when I should have beat that ass and proved to the other girls I was no pussy, (jk). I was physically bullied all through seventh grade for being smart and weird and different and passive. Middle school especially can be really rough for introverted little smart asses, and we sometimes carry the traumas with us into adulthood. Some of y’all will know exactly what I’m talking about.

Speaking of which, I’m supposed to connect this back to mental illness, forgot. Ok…so the sensitivity part….is touuuuugh. Even the sensory sensitivity is a lot to deal with. My close friends know all too well that I will jump and ‘overreact’ when I step on a crunchy leaf or if a bee buzzes by my ear and that the screen on their laptop is probably too bright for me to not squint and turn it down. “Does anyone else think it’s too bright?” “No, Coral….”. (I can barely look at TV screens and very sunny days can literally hurt. I’m a producer yet loud speakers sometimes cause this ‘interference’ crunching static thing in my ears which hurts and sucks.)

The emotional and moral sensitivity, however, are the reasons for the famous fabled connection between madness and giftedness. It’s pretty common knowledge that most of history’s famous gifted people were deeply troubled or ‘abnormal’ in one way or another and would have had psychiatric labels had they lived today. Their quirks drove them toward doing dope shit though.

On the one hand, being able to easily perceive, comprehend and analyze all the ratchet bullshit around you in this crazy modern world WHILE ALSO being excruciatingly sensitive to said bullshit makes us highly vulnerable to breaking the fuck down. Depression, anxiety, the works. I believe those are more sane reactions than (woah just jumped because a hair touched my leg see what I mean? Like who does that) getting along just fine as if shit is OK. Shit is NOT ok and we see that, early, and deeply, and feel it very intensely and cannot shut that shit off or stop dreaming about something better. It can drive one crazy…and often does….but it can also drive innovation, self actualization, and artistic, technological and social advancement.

On the other hand:

“Many common mis-diagnoses stem from an ignorance among professionals about specific social and emotional characteristics of gifted people which are then mistakenly assumed by these professionals to be signs of pathology.”

*snaps*

To finish up: I don’t think I will bring it up with that friend again. Instead I choose to stop acting like I don’t know what I am and embrace that shit regardless of whether it sounds ‘bad’ or not. Without my extreme depth of emotion, I wouldn’t make the music I do or write the way I do or see into people the way I do. Without the excruciating sensitivity, I would be able to numb myself to the accelerating horror I see around me, never reaching for more. Without the knack for speedy analysis…you get the point. My friend was only trying to show me how my self concept might alienate people, and I get that…but….I’m gonna just keep talking about this because it’s true and it matters and I shouldn’t have to hide it or feel bad about it. The only way to fight stigma is to talk about things that are misunderstood and bring them to light.

I finally accept myself as gifted, but even beyond that label, I finally accept myself, without any qualifiers. If you fall into this category too, you’re clearly not alone and it’s OK to feel proud of that aspect of yourself. Especially if you are a woman or person of color. Find like minds, find your fulfillment, talk about giftedness as if it weren’t something to be ashamed of, cuz its not. You aren’t putting anyone else down by being real with yourself and believing in your abilities. Perhaps you doing so will inspire others to tap into their own innate brilliance, which I believe resides in every person on this earth. Go out and do something awesome for the world and for yourself. Or five things at once. While you weep to classical music while solving world hunger, drinking profusely, composing a Pullitzer prize winning haiku, boring the ears off your friends while ranting about the God particle and forgetting to feed yourself. I’ll end how I started:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Marianne Williamson

love,

c

Mental Illness Series Part 3: Attention Deficit Disorder

The worst part about losing my job, yet again, was the look in my boss’ eyes.

He’d been trying, for a long time, to help, to give me something to do that would help me survive & allow me to focus on music. I showed up, once again, with no notepad or writing utensil. He had asked me over and over and over again to bring these things. I forgot. I forgot. I forgot again. He is upset now. I am not moving fast enough and my laptop is stalling. I feel his eyes on me. He exudes power and confidence and organization and productivity and industriousness. My opposite. Intimidating. I feel small. I feel as if he is looking at a disobedient five-year old. My imagination runs wild. He is sick of me. (Get out of here coral) I can’t focus. I can’t focus. I am starting to think irrationally. All of this happens within, all he can see is an apparently blank face, which must be infuriating. He cannot see the turmoil happening inside. I realize this and it fuels my irrational thoughts. Where is my notepad? I’m going to starve. What will I eat next week? Miscellaneous rapid fire thoughts. I show no emotion, yet. I try to focus on the immediate. But I’m anxious now. My mind is racing.

And then, just like that, in the moment where I need to prove something, anything at all in order to keep this job, I have forgotten what we were talking about.

No! Fuck! Not now. Any other time but now.

I look foolish. It is excruciatingly obvious. He has really tried, for me, for a while now. How could I have fucked this up? I am unbearably uncomfortable now. I can feel the disappointment and frustration emanating outward in waves, their origin his gaze, penetrating me to the core. I have no answers. I have no excuse. I am the excuse.

Shame is a visceral phenomenon. My fight or flight is kicking in, an acidic tingle in the back of my eyeballs hints at what is coming (Run) Now, the tears form. (Get out of here get out get out) He gets up to retrieve a pencil and pad, pissed, shaking his head. I get up fast, sprint to the bathroom. It is empty thank jesus. I walk into a stall, lock it. Back to the wall, sink to the floor. Defeated. The embarrassment. Breathe.

I hang my head. I go deeply into my mind.

______________________________________________________________________________

Lazy. Shy. Clumsy. Weird. Daydreamer. Offbeat. In her own world. Spaced out. Unresponsive. Passive. Awkward. Aloof. Impulsive. ‘No common sense’ was an old family favorite. (My former boss, after I returned, said something along the lines of: you need a team, you need help, you need some kind of interface to deal with reality.)

He’s right, I thought. I have felt overwhelmed by external demands my entire life, as if the accomplishment of life itself was too much to handle. Living with ADHD can be like having fourteen televisions on in your brain, all on and loud at the same time, constantly switching channels, and being told to follow the plot of just one of them. Hyperactives cope by trying to do everything at once. Inattentives (thats me, there are less of us) simply stop, or never start at all. This is a very, very real neurobiological difference in brain functioning, which leads to differences in cognition, which subsequently leads to differences in behavior. This has been studied extensively. ADHD is not a deficit in my opinion, but the phenomenon is most certainly real. (More on this later.)

Later on, he’d be less pissed off. You’re so in your head” he’d say, more sympathetically now, the skin between his eyes wrinkling. I would feel then, as if he could not possibly see me, except through a lens tinted with pity, except as all the things I can’t do. I feel as if he thinks how I am is a flaw. I assume so. This is the message we get our whole lives, more times and in more ways than NT’s can imagine. And by NT I mean neurotypicals, namely people who, because science, are taxonomically grouped with “those who perceive reality correctly and therefore behave within society accordingly.” There is a spectrum.

I am curled up in a ball on the floor in a gray bathroom stall. Memories slam around in my head. The bits and pieces. It is all coming together now. I am 22 years old looking back.

Flashback. I pulled my file while working at Prep for Prep at 19.  I was 12 years old in Prep.

‘Great ideas, great potential, inconsistent.’ Every single teacher. Quirky. Quiet. Very original ideas. Not working up to potential. Inconsistent. Messy. Late.’ The recognition sizzles inside. Diagnostic buzzwords dropping like bombs. I’d been researching for months. ADHD. People like me often take refuge in labels at first, when they finally discover “the one” that explains it all. Labels can make things feel better. Labels can put the life long isolation from other people in a less personal context. They can eventually take you from ‘me vs the world’ to ‘me versus myself and my ADHD’, to, eventually and with much inner struggle, ‘me vs a society that stigmatizes people like me’ instead. All I’m saying is that they can help us begin to recontextualize years of feeling defective. Also, for all you who have no history of ‘mental illness’ and are not familiar, it is very, very normal for people to not arrive at the diagnosis that actually explains their situation until YEARS after their first contact with the mental health system. This is simply the nature of the process.

Tangent: Two years ago, when I received a third diagnosis (which turned out to be wrong which is mad typical for adhd especially for women) one of my best friends flat out said he thought I was being a ‘hypochondriac’. I could see in his eyes that he did not take it seriously, I could see that he thought my endless online research was me looking for something, he saw it as me allowing ‘the man’ to tell me there’s something wrong with me when there isn’t. And I understood that. But I still knew I was ‘different’. I still faced things that made life as usual, made conventional ‘success’ unlikely. I still struggled with basic things that he never has. I was still failing most of my classes, again, and he wasn’t and never has and never will. Although he’d been through a lot and had friends and family deal with serious ‘mental illness’, having gone to hospitals, having been on meds, having been bed ridden with a non-physical issue….my experiences were on another level.

And therein lies the key difference in our relationship to diagnostic psychology.

 It hurt me really bad. And he said it thoughtlessly because he was not personally familiar with what its like to ‘go through the system’, he didn’t understand how the process works. I have another friend who believes she qualifies for ADD and talks about it all the time, yet has never had a serious problem in school or in keeping a job. Can you see why this is so frustrating? I admit, all the little bits and pieces of ADHD do sound like regular issues everyone has.  But it truly is the degree, constancy, and above all the observable consequences in ones life, that makes it a real disruption. The other day, while venting about my struggle to keep traditional jobs, another close friend suggested that I was just ‘psyching myself out’ and something along the lines of ‘it’s just that you don’t wanna do it’ slipped out. (UGH. NO.) Everytime, it makes me want to isolate, it makes me question my relationships. Do they know me? Will anyone ever understand? Even the people that are closest to you will truly struggle to realize that you’re not just a lazy fuck up, especially if you are inattentive and most of it is internal/invisible. If you know someone with ADHD or any label, please don’t do this to them. We do not work like you, which is precisely why we tend towards unconventional careers. It takes years of learning self-discipline and creating external structure in our lives, to do the same things you can. To explain it as simply as possible, in ‘normal’ brains there is a chill little dude who sits at a switchboard in your skull. His job is to prioritize, structure, self control, regulate, manage, define, plan and do all that logistical shit, his name is ‘Mr. Executive Function’.  Some of us were born with little dudes who are just not very good at their job. Stimulants are like artificial little dudes that we ingest to make up for it. Anyway, I am not going to wake up one morning and simply be able to decide to not be late, remember details and stay on task. I will have to bust my ass for a long time, and it will never come natural. Having to defend my character/protect my self esteem from comments like these, all the while trying so hard to do things people take for granted, gets mad old. I can’t put in words how painful and isolating invalidation in its many forms can be. End tangent.)

I set a record at Shellbank Junior High. For lateness. 100 times in 7th grade.

A year later. 8th grade, I am failing geology. I do not care about geology. I cannot do all these impersonal little details about rock formation. I physically cannot force myself to do it. My little man wont budge. My grades depend on it. I know it. Dr. Miller knew boarding school was my best chance. He knew I wouldn’t thrive in the prison like high school with the fights and the metal detectors next door. I knew it too.

He replaced the 65 I actually earned with a 95. I got into Taft.

9th grade. Set a school record for demerits (at a very old school.) Mostly for constant lateness and a messy room.

Teachers never really saw me shine academically at Taft, only in dance and music…until my senior thesis, which was about black women’s hair. Something I cared about, that stimulated my mind, sending me into an overdrive of inspired focus. They invited me to speak with them about it, light in their eyes as they felt my passion and the way it made it easy for me to write sixteen well-researched and thoughtful pages, six past the limit. That light dimmed as they noticed missing commas, poor attention to detail, and a serious lack of organization of my thoughts. Because many given the label ADHD-PI (PI stands for primarily inattentive) tend to be pretty smart, I kept getting by. Quiet and obedient, and, secretly, completely elsewhere. Nobody noticed, my grades weren’t perfect but thanks to raw intelligence, they were enough. Until college.

The roof caved in.

Shitty grades the entire time, unless it was something I loved, like social theory or ballet. Incompletes, absences, lateness, walking into class only to gape in horror at the papers everyone else brought in. I frequently forgot entire assignments. I thought it was only depression, anxiety, and being too idealistic to care about grades on pieces of paper.

On the forums I began to browse this summer, I found out how common the timing of this breakdown is if you qualify for ADHD. In hindsight, it makes sense that all of my final papers were written on stimulants. Because college doesn’t provide the daily structure of K-12, we become, increasingly, unable to function like everyone else. It becomes more obvious the older you get and the more responsibilities you have. Most undiagnosed inattentives hit a massive brick wall either in college, or in the first real job afterword. This is all proven and backed up by statistical and anecdotal evidence.

I am still on the floor of the bathroom, ruminating, terrified of facing my boss and the inevitable end of another job. It was supposed to be so easy. All I had to do was promote something on social media and to companies. Send emails, make phonecalls, follow a pretty simple plan, complete a month long project, keep on top of details, track progress in Excel. Basic things. Simple things for a reasonably intelligent adult.

I couldn’t do it.

_______________________________________________________________________

Inattentive type. Dreamers, loners, space cadets. As kids, we probably walked into things and dropped things and lost everything. We sometimes get any number of random diagnoses thrown at us throughout our lives until this one, the right one. Depression or anxiety are commonly comorbid. Overwhelmed by the pressure of regimented school/work life in modern America, we are scatterbrained, ‘elsewhere’. People sometimes look at us funny when we communicate. Sometimes we slowly stop trying to communicate. We become lost in the inner worlds we live in. Or we try harder, harder still, those are usually the hyperactives though. Sometimes they get on people’s nerves for being ‘a lot’, but on the flip side, sometimes inattentives not being present can really make people feel uncomfortable and alone, as if we don’t care about others or are ‘aloof’ (if I had a nickel yo..)

I am cognitively incapable of being highly motivated by external force unless that force is something like a gun to my head. Apparently I don’t have the normal amount of dopamine, a neurotransmitter partially responsible for concentration, motivation and the like. We live inside a cavernous, foggy, loud inner world that makes all the little details of the external one so hard to navigate. Friends and and family lose faith in us, slowly, over time, because the only thing we are consistent with is inconsistency. We are people who never keep a phone or keys or show up on time, and piss their friends off as a result. People whose minds jump from tangent to apparently unrelated tangent in a way that can sometimes tire people out. People who cannot think in straight lines, who can’t naturally plan or stick to a schedule for the life of them, people who hide the fact that they stopped listening thirty seconds ago and struggle endlessly to fill in gaps while engaging in the tiring dance of socializing in which our quirky personalities are definitely not always well received.

(Are you starting to feel like you understand a bit more? I feel that I have a gift in writing and breaking things down for people, and I feel compelled to use it to spread understanding and compassion for millions of others like me. This post, as usual is very personal but the personal is political. It’s not just the huge famous activists that have the biggest impact. Sometimes, it’s a few people within a social circle who have the tenacity to give stigma the finger and speak up. In a small but important way, they make a difference in the lives of people around them. They know how fucking scary it is to ‘tell your business’ and appear less than perfect to others, we live in a society that puts so much stock in appearances. I hope that by now, people understand that the point of my blog is not to get attention for myself, but to speak out about things that desperately need to be voiced. THAT is how you fight stigma, not just by talking about how stigma is bad. I open up to demonstrate that it is OK to do so, I do it to show the world that you can and should love your flawed, imperfect self and not feel ashamed of your differences even if those differences are currently pathologized. How can we collectively heal and fight stigma if people don’t talk openly about things which society says they should hide? Fuck that. You free others as you free yourself, yall.)

Woah tangent. We have issues with short-term memory. We can’t even hear people speaking to us sometimes. (Getting screamed at and kicked out of a classroom at 12 for this sucked. It would have seemed impossible to onlookers, she was speaking loudly, right next to me. really didn’t hear her. She made me go stand outside. So embarrasing.) We can be extremely creative and can hyperfocus, which is the ability to concentrate intensively on one thing. It can make us unhumanly focused and productive, barely eating or moving, if something makes our hearts glow or our minds perk up, (this explains why I constantly make music and research things I care about for hours at a time, barely registering the outside world in an almost trance like state.) Fitting in and being able to respond in the way people expect us to in social situations can also be a real struggle. One on one is easier, following what is happening in a group can be hard. We miss social cues, zone out during small talk, may be withdrawn, passive, impulsive, the list goes on. ADHD is more than the cultural stereotype of the 8 yr old boy spazzing out in class, guys.

We sometimes grow up believing there is something really wrong with us at the core of who we are, and if we don’t have one of those super supportive validating families, we get very little evidence otherwise.

____________________________________________________________________________________

 (Back to the office)

I drag myself, albeit unwillingly, out of the bathroom, back to his desk. We mutually agree to let me go and I walk out. I can’t tell if the last look on his face is anger about having ever paid me at all, or just straight up pity. I don’t know which is worse. (I am not good enough. I am not responsible. I am not an adult. My shit should be together at all times and if not I am bad.)

I walk outside the Soho office onto Broadway, make a left towards Canal. The heat is oppressive. The world is oppressive. But nothing is as brutal as the booming of my megaphone loud inner critic. Stupid. Lazy. I hear the voice of my brother echoing in my back of my mind. The last words I ever heard from him were ‘What’s wrong with you, Get your SHIT together Coral’. Click. He hung up.

I feel physically sick now. Instead of getting on the train and trapping myself in a hotbox of other people’s emotions and sweat I keep walking, walking. I need space. The whirlwind is strong and there are old, dark thoughts mixed in that I can’t ignore. I beat six years of severe anxiety. The coming/going depression is at a level I can handle, weeks go by and I don’t even visit those stomping grounds anymore. What is wrong with me, still?

I thought I was free. I found my mission, my purpose, in music, in outreach, in innovation, in writing. In contributing to a more beautiful and humane existence on earth. I found my spirituality, my center, my soul. I found myself. All the years of isolation and introspection, the long inner journey towards a far away light. I was supposed to be walking out of the tunnel to the other side, not walking about all aimless in the city because I lost yet another job that I absolutely needed to continue feeding myself.

Last night, one of my close friends asked me what my plans are for September. I don’t have a new apartment lined up. I don’t know what to do and paralysis is trying to set in. There are a million little details of finding a new job and moving, a million things on an endless to do list. I really, really can’t tell A from B or up from down in my head, they all blend into a single cacophonous symphony of ‘fuck, I’m just going to sit here and implode”, even though my wellbeing, my life is at stake… can you wrap your head around that?

Imagine being in a car and there are fifty zombies running towards you, you can see them very clearly in the rearview mirror. Your foot is on the gas, but your brain refuses to send the signal to it that will cause it to press down and move. In fact, your brain refuses to send ANY signal and you are forced to sit there. And wait. One of the hardest parts of being so called ADHD-PI is starting things, anything at all.

Where was I? (Checks) Oh, here I was. My friend asked me what my plans are for September. ‘You need money, you need a job’ he says. I do, and I know it. I see the zombies very clearly, but my little man is asleep at the wheel, my foot limp on the gas pedal. I sit there. I wait.

Many of the people on the ADD-pi internet forums find solace in sharing not only neurobiological and psychological but spiritual characteristics, many feel this intuitive sense of ‘I came to do something beautiful here that hasn’t been done before and doesn’t fit into a box yet’ too. Yet, this summer, as I spent hours browsing them, I saw myself, time and time again, in the words of the others, in their stories of a lifetime of shame. Lazy, stupid. Just try harder. You need tough love. You worry us. You stress us. You are a problem. Just do what I do.

Just be like me.

I can’t ‘just keep a job’, he doesn’t understand. (“You need a job to survive”) I bristle inwardly. I know that, and my intelligence and self-awareness recoil at the blow. Now I can’t look at my friend in the eyes. I want to throw something at him. I’ve been rolling a massive stone up a steep hill for too long to not experience even a statement meant in innocence and concern as a painful pin prick.

Just be like me. 

Again. The fear of yet again being misunderstood and labeled and chastised again, by someone I love. I am starved for understanding, for someone who loves me to say, hey, I am aware that both very real cognitive differences and intense life circumstances are combined in your situation to create something that is really tough and unique. I see past my own perspective and realize that you cannot simply wake up one day and make a choice to just magically do everything you should do. I respect you and know you want to thrive, and if my understanding of your situation is so limited that my idea of ‘helping’ is reminding you that we must work to eat and live, I will rethink my understanding and ask you questions so that I may truly understand, if I want to. I will offer you thoughtful suggestions and tangible ways of helping that may help you without belittling you, by, for instance, being someone you can check in with briefly every week to see if I accomplished goals. Also, I totally understand that ADHD is not a real defect, disorder, or series of irresponsible immature decisions, and that it only truly exists as a problem within a specific matrix of modern American society, which is obviously fucked up and asks way too much of us, like for instance that we must work within an exploitative economy to pay for the expensive right to exist for most of our adult lives….or sit in buildings being conditioned to be docile workers for most of our childhood, becoming almost entirely domesticated in the process. I listen to you, I know you are misunderstood, and as a result I want to understand you deeply, so I did some basic research and I know that ADHD exists as a diagnostic category because

1) It is incredibly profitable to pharmaceutical/psychology/psychiatry industries

2) It is incredibly useful for controlling unruly humans whose behavior poses a threat to a system that should have ended with the industrial revolution, but lived on in the way we conduct schooling and the workplace in modern times, which are incredibly outdated but remain because they are the building blocks of capitalism, reinforce capitalist ideologies, and extend biopolitical control right into our brains/bodies.

3) Humans beings are categorized (normal/abnormal) as a way to control them and that’s the whole point of traditional/mainstream/legitimated state/medical/psychiatric/educational discourse. We are living in a sick, unsustainable system that puts money and conformity above fulfillment and individuality, it parades as normal simply because it is the status quo. People that cannot conform to the expectations of American society must be labeled and ‘othered’ in order for the whole scheme to work. Humans pretty much share the same DNA our hunter gatherer ancestors did, and modern society is not natural to us at all. The modern work and school world that you need stimulants to function in isn’t even two hundred years old yet, and the book that defines this as a disorder is a product of the 20th century! You good ma, I see the bigger picture and the context of all this stuff 🙂

4) You keep playing this song lately and getting all emotional: (https://soundcloud.com/raury/gods-whisper) What is an indigo? I don’t believe in that stuff, nah, none of that weird new age hoo-haa mystical shit is real to me, which is why I’m doing just fine within ‘the real world’ without ever questioning the larger purpose of my existence or the idea that the ‘meta’ physical world even exists. I looked up the lyrics to the song and read them:

“We are indigos
(Savior, Savior)
Living lives we chose
(Savior, Savior)
Show you’re brave
Those with faith
(Savior, Savior)
On a mission
Led by intuition
You should listen.”

Um yeah…nice song but Coral what the fuck is this nigga talking about? What are YOU talking about, you weirdo….intuition is a psychological process rooted in evolutionary drives for survival and nothing more, according to my bio class. And you don’t ‘choose’ your life…huh?

Gah whatever, you freak. I love you, so I think you should follow your own path and blaze your own trail. Those who are intimately connected to the whispers of their souls/their inner worlds should not be pathologized, they should be accepted and celebrated for the original contributions they can make to society. (I will add that I totally expect the vast majority of you to be a little, if not a lot weirded out by this one, maybe by me in general 🙂 Not much I can do about the fact that some of what I perceive is outside of the realm of what can be picked up on if with a purely logical/materialist mind state. I very rarely find people irl who have any idea what I’m talking about when it comes to metaphysical/spiritual narratives of certain phenomena that we normally discuss ‘rationally’, so yeah, be freaked out, but don’t negate the rest of this essay.)

I understand all these things Coral. Isn’t it refreshing that I did a little reading on your label? That way when you talk to me about it, I won’t dismissively tell you that you need to work to survive as if you aren’t aware of that already. I wont unknowingly make you feel like an idiot. I understand that the way you are is different but you are not broken or defective, I want you to feel safe talking to me about things because I know you probably already feel isolated and criticized and have for a long time. In fact, I just read a recent article that shed light on how different undiagnosed ADHD is for women and how normal it is for them to have also been depressed or anxious, for years.

I know you aren’t lazy and stupid, I see you working tirelessly on your passions and in your love, care and acceptance of others. I understand and accept you as you are right now. I believe in your capacity to forge new ways of caring for yourself, in your tenacity, strength and courage. I believe that people like you who cant ‘just get a job’ are actually kind of important in the grand scheme of things, as their differences force them to innovate new ways of survival and create new ways of understanding who we are and what the fuck is really going on in this crazy world. People who can’t just do what I do are incredibly important and they have every single right to exist on this earth even though they can’t just function like I do. I believe in you because I have seen how much you have fought just to exist. I approach you with love, faith, and belief in your inherent creative capacities, I am EXCITED to see how you face this challenge of rare developmental traits. So, armed with all this knowledge, I want you to feel entirely comfortable and we can now proceed, I will interact with you a little differently.

Sigh, a girl can dream. Or else, she must become her own best friend, and tell herself these things, whispering sweet nothings and ‘its ok, you’re ok, even though you fucked up’ to the soul she alone knows,

at night,

as she drifts off to bed. She must tend to the embers burning within her, she must remember who she is beyond the labels and the criticism, she must hold on for dear life to her value in a world that tries its best to take it from her.

Over her cold, dead body, she thinks, as she takes a deep, calming breath and drifts into the world she half lives in while awake.

Thanks for reading yall.

coral

Mental Illness Series: Depression at Wesleyan, Part Two

unnamed

( taken during the summer I’m about to describe. he captured where I was back then. perfectly.)

There is physical pain. Broken tissue and screaming nerve endings. Prolonged and visceral, embodied and instant. Raw.

But then, there is depression.

The emotional torture of depression is worse. There is a reason humans are more likely to commit suicide to stop the pain within before they’d do it to stop the pain without.

By the time I arrived at college in the Fall of 2010, it wasn’t new for me. Some people don’t experience a clear cut beginning, there is no definitive ‘episode’….it doesn’t start, last ‘at least two weeks’, and then taper off, it doesn’t match the diagnostic criteria in the DSM. It’s not so cut and dry. For some of us, those experiences referred to as ‘depression’ began at some distant point in the hazy home movies that play and replay on screens in our minds, in our pasts. For some, it is as much a part of us as our personalities, as our names, we know it like we know our faces in mirrors. We know it in a way that makes impossible any separation from ‘I’.

That’s for another time though. I’m not going to get into the causes/context right now. Instead, I’ll try to put words to the visceral experience, not of the moderate introspective depression that I had dealt with on and off for years, but the very worst if it, what doctors would call ‘severe clinical depression’. I will bring you inside and get more honest than ever about something I KNOW is an epidemic that is far more silent and hidden than it has to be. However, words can never do experience justice. I’ll put music up with future posts. It gets closer to the essence of what I’m about to say. After I explain, I’ll talk about what it was like dealing with this and trying desperately to hide it while at Wesleyan, I’ll describe my behavior from the outside, explain how I got by and what interaction with people at Wes was like. (Trigger Warning: I get into talking about intense suffering/bring up suicide. Keep in mind that this was years ago and I’m doing well today.)

Part One, Summer 2011

I tread water in the core of an ocean whirlpool. This body of water is mine and mine only. It lay at the center of a planet no one has ever heard about, population, 1. This planet exists only in my mind, but as I sink deeper, it becomes the only ‘real’ thing I can see and feel. I’m way past exhausted and worn out. But my heart keeps fucking beating for some reason, it hasn’t realized that I’m dead already. So I keep on treading. I begin to resent it, to resent life.

(You’re worthless.)

As time goes on I get to a point where nothing else is real. Only this. Every day. Every night. Every day, in the water, I forget I ever knew land.  No. Now I know I never knew land. What is land?

(You’re broken.)

At a certain point I stop wondering.

And then, I forget I ever wondered at all.

(Everyone hates you. You are not loved.)

Drowning is painful especially when it’s a prolonged process. Imagine drowning, except for a month. Arms broken, legs broken. Treading. Failing myself, failing everyone else. When it gets bad, real bad, I can’t even rest in my sleep. There are nightmares in it, waiting like predators. I start waking up to run from them, at 3. Again at 5:30, then again at 7 am. Smoking weed to calm down. It makes me feel paranoid but it’s a minor distraction, like an anesthetic for my broken bones that keep flailing. The exhaustion makes me trip over myself when I drag my aching body to the shower, if I even do. I stop caring how I look. I stop caring how I smell. (You are completely alone in the world and you always have been and you always will be.) Late again for work at 8:30, bills to pay (I was 19 at the time, it was the summer, I stayed at Wes, worked 9-5 in Middletown, rented in Beta.)

As usual, I write and write and write, but I now begin making music every day. All I have is this confusing Garageband shit which I do not understand at all yet, but I push myself. Every night after work. It helps. It’s all that helps. For a little while, I can channel the pain. I think about the family I did not go back to. I think about the friends who are off living their lives around the country, summer internships and friends and joy. I will not burden them with my emotions, I decide. (No one wants to hear your shit, Coral. Nobody cares about you. All you do is hurt them. Let them alone.)

I tell my therapist at Davidson where I meet him every Tuesday, I tell him, I feel like I’m in a hole Dr. X, I can’t get out. There aren’t any colors here. Why is my life a gray lack? These waves crashing down on me make it hard to breathe. He’s concerned.

It worsens. Being alive remains a chore. I am wondering, now, if it’s a chore I want to keep partaking in.

(It’s not. This will never end. Ever.)

(I am starting to believe you.)

(I wouldn’t lie to you would I? Is life not unbearable?)

(It is. But…music. And…one day…I  wanna…help others with the things I know… Somehow. One day. I still have dreams. What if I can make it?)

(You don’t have any solutions though. Just that dull, throbbing pain you know so well. Every day is the just like the one before it and the one coming. You don’t even know anything different than me. Not only are you are a poor and black and female and too sensitive in this fucked up world, but look at you. Look at your past. Your life is a void. You’ve failed. Nobody knows who you are. You don’t even know who you are. You aren’t worth the effort. You’re a burden. Everything you want to be, you aren’t. You confuse and disgust yourself. You deserved everything that happened. You’re lost. Your dreams are dying in the water and floating to the bottom to rot. You’ve been struggling for so long, Coral.)

(I have.)

(Aren’t you tired? It’s not like your friends really give a fuck. You can’t trust people, Coral. People hurt you. Even the ones that love you. Especially the ones that love you. You know this. Think about it. Ruminate. Ruminate. Clowns.)

(If you say so. I only have you these days. You’re probably right. Don’t with the clown not again. I’m scared. Why do you paralyze me like this. ANYTHING but that.)

(That dialog I just fell into? That was life. Constantly. That’s what depression was like for me, for a very long time. Back and forth. Back and forth. Thankfully my phobia, the recurring symbol from the last part, did not lend itself to full-blown psychosis, and I’m so glad to have finally discovered its deeper symbolic meaning. (Future post! Now, its meaningful for me to explore my own strange, murky depths, to be fascinated by the creations of the mind and the unconscious, and to study how trauma can manifest in thoughts and perceptions, especially now that I’ve got some distance from being in the thick of it. It is often the things that we are most afraid of and most disturbed by that make us all so very human. I also admitted the clown thing because we ALL have ‘disturbing’ irrational thoughts, especially during rough times. We just don’t voice them because of the pressure of normality. I don’t like this and although that might have freaked you out, it’s just honest and it’s not that scary once you understand the messages hidden within ones deepest fears.)

It wasn’t long before I moved into another state. Those of you with depression who did not identify with the previous experiences will probably identify with this: the loss of ALL emotion. No pleasure, no fear, no up, no down. No nothing. It got so bad that my body, I guess, was like FUCK THIS SHIT I CAN ONLY TAKE SO MUCH. Then, I quite literally stopped feeling emotions, and did not cry again for two and a half years. I went numb. This is another flavor of depression, an emotional straight jacket, when you become completely cut off from your soul. Away went the nightmares and the treading and the pain. There was only absence. (Hmmm, its quiet in here. This is different.)

“Im in this new thing, now Dr. So and So. I can’t feel anything at all.” I could see the  motors in his brain whirring.

Well….I didn’t feel nothing. Suicidal thoughts remained. They were all that remained. I ended up in a psych ward before September rolled around, got out, and started sophomore year, still depressed. I’ll talk about what this was like and what hospitalization is like, for all those who don’t know, in a future post sometime after Part Two. This series will be non linear and non-chronological like how I think. I will also intersperse it with blog posts about other topics to keep my blog from being an endless struggle fest, lol!

Part Two (End of Summer 2011-2013/Dealing with depression for rest of my time at Wesleyan while trying to hide it from everyone and feeling ashamed about it/what it looks like to others)

Stay Tuned.  This was a lot for me and I need to give myself time to write the next one.  I find so much strength in doing this as an exercise in vulnerability and raw honesty for the sake of piercing the ‘everything’s OK all the time yay awesome problems are taboo’ bubble I left behind me at Wesleyan, if even in the smallest way. I can be hard to read irl, so I know some of you that knew me there are a bit shocked. I still get afraid of judgment from time to time, as it is not very often that I see the people around me expressing themselves in such a public and intense way. Not everyone supports what I’m doing and I have gotten some bad feedback. But you know what? So be it. This is something I believe in, this is about tearing down the walls I’ve built in order to truly reveal myself in a way that I wasn’t able to until now. I don’t buy the idea that the only type of healing is the private kind. This is about telling a story that I am sure will resonate with so many of you, in different ways. This is about letting go of shame and reaching out to you in solidarity, dear readers. Like I keep repeating, I’m not very good at small talk. But I am finally embracing the fact that I can jump riiiiight into the big things with ease as a good thing! And I can write about the things we do not speak of…with a vengeance. Not quite sure yet, but I think this is a gift I’m supposed to be using rather than being quiet as fuck and unsatisfied because I feel silenced by the social tendency to not be who I am say what I really want to. With the help of blogging, I am creating a comfortable niche on the other end of the spectrum of communication preferences, and I like the water over here, where I can be my true self and express what I want to. This is practice for a different kind of activism I am slowly cooking up in my mind, and to me it’s a beautiful privilege to share my experiences with you, even if I don’t know you very well, because we’re all people and we all have our shit and the tough topics are what truly make me interested in talking/writing in the first place.

😀

If you recognized your self in my words and are not yet seeking help, be it from your homies or your family or a professional, please please do. If your friend or loved one is going through depression, allow my story to shed light on what it can be like inside, and I hope it helps you help them. Yes it is as intense as it sounds, even if it doesn’t always look like it on the surface. To an outside perspective it can seem quite ‘unintelligible’. The stupid fucking lists on all the mainstream websites barely scrape the surface of the wide range of emotions and experiences collapsed under the monolithic term depression. I’m offering you a tour through my own inner terrain if you want to explore the strange, dark lands depression reveals in a person.

c

Confessions of a Chronic Social Media Over-Sharer

A definition: http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/overshare

If you’re not familiar, get familiar, via these articles, if you are, skip em:

http://www.thewire.com/national/2013/05/undershare-vs-overshare/64971/

http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2013/08/19/oversharing_on_facebook_researchers_weigh_in.html

Ok. I am an unrepentant, chronic online ‘over-sharer’, and I don’t think I should be ashamed of it, nor will I temper myself or concede with judgments of my chosen style of social media use as misguided, a result of a ‘failure to compartmentalize’ or a ‘need to get attention’. (It’s interesting how the wire observes that this critique is often launched at female bloggers. Hmmm.) No, Slate, I am fully self aware in my honesty and I am not some pathetic ‘exhibitionist’, this is not information I ‘would not reveal otherwise’. If people are critical of what I post because they are staunch advocates of privacy and keeping to themselves, they can look the other way. I’m a person, we’re all people, we’re all in this life together beyond the arbitrary boundaries we constantly erect between each other. I want to express who I really am online and find like minded people by doing so, and that’s totally valid. If you want to be private, that’s cool too and nobody is judging you, so why are so many writers today penning critical articles projecting their own fears of ‘oversharing’ on line? Who decides what is ‘too much’ and who made them the authority? I am sharing out of love, not out of fear. If people don’t like it, move on to ‘safer’ less personal pastures. I think our fear of oversharing is, in other words, our collective tendency to feel afraid of being truly honest, a self-conscious tendency to put what others may think of us before what we think of ourselves.

With all due respect to the myriad of bloggers and writers who take to the internet to lament the oh-so- terrible ‘over-sharing problem’ we apparently have today, naming all kinds of pathologies that are supposedly at its root, I will keep baring my soul, and you can keep your respectability and your pseudo nostalgic yearnings for a contrived ‘private’ past, thanks. Took me a bit to get to this conclusion though. Here’s a snapshot of that process/a new style of dialog type writing I’m trying out:

(Aggregated critiques of over-sharing online:)

Stop over-sharing about your private life, girl. Not only is it not important, it might hurt your career possibilities in the future! Employers will look you up and read about how you were depressed. They’ll read about your bipolar diagnosis! The stigma of imperfection! Vulnerability is bad! No! No! Are you stupid? Get a grip on reality. You’ll probably end up working for someone else, that’s most people’s lot in life regardless of their cute little dreams. If you don’t hide them, they’ll see the Facebook photos of you in college, drinking and smoking, dressing in provocative clothing, partying like the twenty something you are, having fun. Not good. They’ll trace you online and see all the fucked up things you admitted about yourself in your blog! You’ll ruin your chances to appear like an impressive, responsible worker with her head on straight and a squeaky clean social media image! Fuck, Coral! You’d better erase that shit before you settle down and start looking for a real job, because no real boss is going to hire you. Besides, focusing on and sharing about the self is narcissism, you self-absorbed blabbermouth, er….blabberhands! All this me, me me. Get over yourself. Why don’t you write about things that objectively matter? And another thing, social media is making you lonely, you need to get out there and talk to someone face to face for crying out loud. Publicly putting your personal troubles out there for all to see just shows how misguided you are, what ever happened to etiquette? You can’t just say whatever you want. Not only is it important to think about what future bosses and grumpy middle aged women at HR will think, it’s highly important to consider what is and is not appropriate in social settings in general and tailor your words to fit those expectations, Coral. Don’t be so naïve and open, especially with strangers. Your honesty will come back to bite you one day! Be aware of what others will think of you! Back in the day, kids used to have private diaries. It’s a shame that everyone wants to be so out there now. It’s fine to blog, but some things are meant to remain private, and that’s that.

(My opinion)

Well then. No need to be so mad at me. Jesus. If, in the future, it was my intention to work as an employee for a firm or company, especially the kind that googles my name, finds evidence of a multifaceted, complex human being with issues, quirks, and imperfections, and quickly crosses me off the list, well, you’d have a point. But it ain’t. So fuck em. Guess I’m not respectable enough, then. (The nerve, who do you think you are?!) Hey! I’m talking. I didn’t interrupt you! LIKE I was saying before being so rudely interrupted: If they can’t factor in my so called ’imperfections’ as part of the richness and wholeness of my personhood; if they discount me for falling short of some bullshit ideal, then their workplace policies and vibe are probably repressive, conformist and stifling, and they can and should dump my resume with the quickness. Unless I’m writing about fantasies of mass murder on my blog, chill out. If I do work for someone else, I would like that to be a company that respects the fact that I am an actual human being, not a resume, not the ‘worrisome’ findings of a Google background check, not the raised, judgmental eyebrow of Mrs. Human Resources. I’m NOT your human resource. And if the contents of my blog make you uncomfortable, you should probably do some soul searching your self. Maybe start your own? (Oh, please, I have better things to do. Like pass well meaning judgment on you for instance. I’m only trying to help you see that Hey. I’m. Still Talking.

Listen. (I’m listening. *sulks*)  First of all, what if I want to live for today and not for some theoretical point in the future? What if I want to blog to react to my feelings in the moment rather than keeping silent about them for some guy in an office and his possible opinion of me? Besides, I want to be my own boss in the future. And, I both like and personally benefit from being as honest as I feel like being, as often as I want, in real life and on social media. I drink, I smoke, I do ‘bad’ things. So does theoretical boss, and he knows it He’s human too. Doesn’t mean we both don’t work hard, doesn’t negate my talent, but come on, of course I have problems that I’m trying to work through. People who think it’s bad to put the not-so pretty aspects of ourselves and our lives ‘out there’ tend to be the types to repress those things in themselves and put up fronts to others. I’m human, and hiding that, even by omission, feels like a betrayal of myself, feels like I am buying into the shame we all buy into when we accept external definitions of what is ‘good’ and ‘bad’, what is ‘safe’ or ‘acceptable’ to reveal to others. And besides, what are we agreeing with when we see online evidence of these so-called ‘transgressions’ as a shameful stain on our reputation? The wolves on Wall Street aren’t paying for their transgressions, are they? Lets not pretend, some can and do get away with whatever they want because they have money and power. Besides, the only real reputation I have is the one among the family and friends who actually know me.

Moving on. There are legitimate reasons for what you proclaim to be an ‘over-sharing’ problem. To me, social media is not some vehicle with which I can spew my narcissistic, self-deluded navel gazing out into an unsuspecting public. I blog for my circle of friends and for anyone else who can relate and wants to discuss experiences and ideas. I do it to keep my loved ones, who live all over the word, in the know about what I’m up to. I’m very introverted, so writing and sharing online works out beautifully for me. I blog candidly about my inner world to reach out and connect to others on a deeper, more honest level. I look around and intuitively perceive that as a rule, we hide, we often do not share, when we could. We don’t feel safe enough, or we see it as pointless, embarrassing, no use, what about etiquette, right? (Random PSA: If I hear ONE MORE ARTICLE bashing something that Generation Y overwhelmingly partakes in, I’m pressin charges.) Believe it or not, I really like the feeling of being alarmingly upfront, personal and authentic in my blogging. Not because I am too caught up in myself to believe that I am the most important topic in the world or because I have some psychological ‘issue with boundaries’. Lol, don’t get it twisted. It’s because authenticity, within and with others, is one of my dearly held values, something that defines the essence of who I am. (There you go talking about you again) Yes, I am. Life is experienced through the lens of the subjective self, and I think that using social media to share ourselves is a great way to open up to other people in social world that we all know discourages raw honesty. I do best with all things subjective and raw and personal. I find strength in being vulnerable. I used to hate that about myself, thinking I was ‘awkward’ for NOT knowing how to not be personal, for having this enormous impulse to self disclose and forego conventional conversational barriers. (I have made a few people uncomfortable with my candidness before, but most people end up respecting me for it. I’ve found that the more I refuse to wear a mask, the more likely people are to take theirs off, and look, there you have it, a real foundation for building a connection between two souls. The private messages I get from people ‘oversharing’ right back to me in return are worth so much more to me than a phone call from a job I will hopefully never apply for anyway, and they are worth the possibility of being seen as weird and ‘too open’ by those who praise ‘healthy’ compartmentalization.

Masks are the norm and ‘oversharing’ is historically taboo in atomizing, alienating American society, which is probably the greater systemic reason for millions of people taking to the Internet to reach out to one another in the first place. Everything in context, you know? I ‘overshare’ to counteract the very real pressure to ‘appear’ a certain way, to use social media to market myself and display a superficial image that will objectify me for consumption by my peers and future employers.  Don’t you find it a little weird that in a time where mental illness is apparently epidemic, our earth is dying, and the wage gap is incredible, there remains a heavy blanket of stigma against ‘oversharing’ that keeps us alienated in our suffering by making it ‘normal’ to keep conversations and interactions ‘light’ and detached? I do. And if you don’t, that’s cool. But that doesn’t make me wrong, and it doesn’t make you right. It’s all perspective. Think of it this way: can we not do a perceptual script-flip and argue that there is a huge problem with ‘undersharing’ that the internet is having a dope affect on? How can people ever know that they are not alone in their subjective experiences if we as individuals do not talk about them? The internet the critics want is fucking boring, anyway.

Like I said, I am down to overshare, and hey, maybe I am making an unwise, idealistic sacrifice of future employability in the name of some stupid misguided ideal. But hey. Never been very good at pragmatism. Maybe I’ll learn, change my ways, and delete this blog one day.

OK.

Now you can talk.

But I’m not listening. Gonna go ‘overshare’ some more. (*Leaves*)

(*______n/a_______*)

Coming out as ‘Crazy’: A Mental Illness Series, Pt1: The Introduction.

I am going to begin a series of posts about my experiences with ‘mental illness’.

I thought I would clarify some things first.

1)   What do you mean by ‘mental illness’?

Last summer, a truck that should have taken my life ended the existential/spiritual crisis that had prolonged my misery for years. It was a lengthy, complicated process of coming to a new awareness about the deepest origins of my problems, and thereby, modern human discontent in general, which I will describe at length in a future post. (huh?) Anyway, I no longer subscribe to the medical model of mental illness.

The medical model basically advocates the following: the many varied forms of human mental and emotional distress/psychological abnormality are primarily biological and genetic in origin, although external environmental factors have an important effect. Human wellbeing depends on the right amount of neurotransmitters (serotonin/dopamine/etc.), which are those little chemicals in our brains that control things like mood, arousal, appetite, etc. It also depends on normal processes of perception and sensation in the brain, which go beyond neurotransmitters. Psychiatry mechanically alters those chemicals through the application of pharmaceutical drugs that are supposed to restore crazy to mental ‘health’ and ‘normality’, and psychotherapy is basically supposed to retrain the brain to function correctly. The medical model says, in a nutshell, that we are ‘broken’ and can and should be ‘fixed’.

Today, I am both highly critical of and extremely educated about the perils of such a POV. But I will wait until the end of the series to wrap it all up and explain how I came to reject this model. Most of my account will show who Coral was before she came to this realization. You will see me fighting, struggling under the crushing weight of an established, authoritative paradigm that is forced on everyone who gets labeled with a psychiatric diagnosis from the DSM. (Please keep in mind that I am in a far, far better place today. 😀 So, throughout the series, don’t freak out/get scared or worried. I’m doing just fine these days.)

For now, I am going to bring you, reader, backwards into my journey, into the places I traveled through alone, before I had any idea that there were other ways of conceptualizing my experience.

2) Why are you doing this? Isn’t this a bit much, Coral?

Above all, I am doing it for me. Brutal, self-revealing honesty has become therapy for me in the past few months. I spent most of my young life experiencing things that made me ashamed of who I was. I used to hate myself, to the core of my being. Yes, I really did just admit that. (I will admit a lot of things that will probably make you feel awkward while interacting with me since you aren’t used to people being so openly vulnerable.) On top of that, we live in a society in which, due to the enforced normalization of human experience wrought on us due to thousands of years of control based/fear based civilization (i’ve got a lot of theories, lol), there is a very real stigma on those of us who deviate from ‘normality’, a heavy burden on those of us who suffer inside and cannot be productive or lighthearted or social as a result. However, as I got older and became more aware of others, I realized that I was far from the only one and that as a rule we tend to try to hide our struggles and put our best face forward, we try to be ‘strong’, we try to ‘fit in’ and be normal, we don’t often talk about the deepest, darkest things unless it is with people we are close to who we know will not judge or condemn us for these things. I began to realize that my experience, although intense, was FAR from unique. The more I began to open up to people, the more I realized that not only are we are facing an epidemic, of seismic proportions, that many of us are unwilling to discuss publicly; we are also quite simply facing the natural dark side of human existence, which often gets labeled as ‘bad’ or ‘sick’. My intuition and perceptiveness grew sharp and I got good at seeing past the quiet lives of desperation some of us lead, seeing past the surface of conventional social behavior to realize that so many of us are struggling and feeling so alone. So, out of newly learned radical self-love and an increasing awareness of the desperate need for individuals to be upfront and vocal about mental illness, I decided to come out as ‘crazy’ (a term I am clearly critical of). I’m doing this for me, to give a great big fuck you to all of the years I spent in hiding. A great big fuck you to all of the paradigms and hospitalizations, all of the harsh judgment, all of the informal and subtle invalidation, silencing and shaming from others, all of the pills I forced down my throat, all of the lies I believed when I thought that there was something deeply wrong with me for going through what I did. There wasn’t. I am taking my power back.

However…I am also doing this for you. Because I love you, too, in a way that doesn’t require me to know you.  This is for you. This is  also to help you understand and support your best friend with depression, your sister with anorexia, your mother with bipolar disorder, your girlfriend with debilitating anxiety, your twelve year old cousin who cuts but the family won’t acknowledge it. Struggling from a young age has equipped me with the strength and the courage to openly talk about my mental illness experience and I am taking the opportunity to use the Internet and social media to reach out to you, dear reader. I want you to know the gritty details of my own experience. Now that I absolutely detest stigma and the things it forces us to do to ourselves, I want to scream about what I went through at the top of my fucking lungs because there are things inside me that deserved to be voiced then and deserve to be voiced now. I choose to open up and bare my soul because there is a part of me that thinks that this is such a powerful, beautiful, revolutionary thing to do for others. Even if you never got a diagnosis, you might find that you can relate somehow. I want to reach out to the deepest, darkest and most human things in you. I want you to know that there are so many others, that I’m here, too. You are not alone. And you don’t have to hide. You don’t have to tell the world, either, but by God, you do not have to hide or be ashamed of dealing with mental illness in any form. The pressure to hide is real but I am bursting with the need to speak as authentically and genuinely as possible about the things I have experienced. Maybe it’s a bit exhibitionist, maybe I’m misguided, and maybe this is too ‘intense’. But FUCK that, I do not care anymore. Besides, since I started using social media in a personal, ‘intense’ way, I’ve gotten so many unexpected, heartfelt messages from people, many of whom I did not really know, the kind that make me feel like I am not alone and that beneath the thick veneer of normalcy that pervades our everyday life, there are hearts beating just as offbeat as mine, souls falling apart and putting themselves back together again just like mine. That is the kind of connection I am looking for. (Never been good at small talk.) I want you to know who I am and where I’ve been so that I don’t have to hide anymore. And I want to know who you are, too.

I spent years shut up within myself and now, I want to make noise. I want to start conversations, if only in my limited circle of friends.

And? I’m off.  No turning back. Some of you might be thinking, Coral, why? There is no need to do this, just heal within your self; you don’t owe anyone any explanations. I know very well that I don’t. But I also know that for me at least, healing cannot happen in a vacuum, that I must share my story of struggle, of hope, loss and redemption, to really, truly heal, I must reach outside of myself to others. I can’t really explain why. Not sure if I even fully know why. I just have to. It’s coming from this strong inner drive. Hopefully my efforts benefit someone, anyone out there.

Ok, so: the first post in the series will be entitled: What it was like to experience severe depression at Wesleyan University while trying to hide it from everyone. It will be posted when it’s ready.

(Warning: I will be blunt and honest and sometimes graphic. I know that some things are emotional triggers for some people, so if I am including anything of the sort, I will add a disclaimer at the beginning of the post. Also, feel free to contact me to talk about anything, and feel free to share my shit out there in the webosphere/among your loved ones and homies.)

love,

-c

“I pledge my commitment to the Blog for Mental Health 2014 Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.”