Thursday, May 4, 2017

the pillow

the sweetest strands support my head
hold me above the world

I can watch the turmoil pass by
from the top of my pedestal

I'm restless
I'm detached

I am reminded
I am needed
I am placated

the comforting hold brushes my neck
softly, so nice, keeps me here

I can see so far
I can see my dreams

touch them, even, if I stretch my fingers and wave

but the sweetest strands hold my head
and the pedestal ends so near

I dare not step
I cannot die

not yet

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Everything turned out well in the end, but this is about suicide.

Today I came across one of those list articles on facebook. This one promised all the quotes that people with depression had found helpful. I clicked, dubiously. These things are usually full of feel-good bs that advises us to just think happy thoughts. As if we weren't already struggling to do that every single moment. As it happened, this article wasn't the worst offender I've seen. It wasn't particularly helpful or memorable, but at least it wasn't completely offensive. I would have forgotten it completely if I'd come across it before now.

For a long time, I thought there were no words that could help. Or if there were, I thought they might always elude me. Recently, I found words that affected me. Words that ripped my heart out, showed it the world outside depression, and stuffed it back into my aching chest.

It wasn't pleasant, but nothing pleasant had ever affected the feelings of hopelessness and aloneness that are the hallmarks of my depression. Maybe it had to be something that hurt, to put my chronic hurt into perspective.

Because of these words, I learned what it looks like to be on the outside of depression, looking in, and the insight I gained surprised me. I learned that I wasn't able to figure out the words that would help me fight depression because I was too far inside my own head. This was something I had to see from the outside. These were words that could have been pulled from my own writings; they were the voice of my depression, verbatim.

The words? They were a suicide note, written by someone else, using the script that reverberates every time I spiral down. Only the names were changed.

It was eery.
My heart broke.
Cracked open like a rotten pomegranate.
All the worms escaped the fruit,
and the sun lit every bleeding corner.
And I understood.

And it would have killed me if that person had not made it to safety.
The day they almost died, they taught me how to live. 

Saturday, February 11, 2017

[Book review] Boy meets depression

My first impression of this book was not favorable. This, I thought, is not a person who has mastered themself, who can look back and be objective. This person still carries the hurt of their loneliness everywhere, and their writing is imbued with it. The humor sounds snide; the stories sound whiny. The author acknowledges this early on, though, so at least there's fair warning. The first paragraph ends with, "I came into the world kicking, screaming, and crying. And maybe not much has changed since." 

My first impression was arrogant, apathetic, and wrong. This book demonstrates the real pathology of depression, and for that, it's brilliant. You hear the negative thought processes that people with a depressive disorder experience, the anhedonia, the alienation, the feeling of being lost. "All you can see is the moment you're stuck in," he says, and he's right. 

So read this. It'll help you understand, and maybe have a little empathy for the millions of people who suffer from depressive disorders. But maybe be prepared to find the author's tone a little annoying.

Blogging for Books provided me a free review copy of this book... and I still feel kinda 'meh' about it.

Thursday, February 9, 2017


There's a lot on my mind.
I'm going to write about it... as soon as I get my homework done, which could be a while.

Until then, here's a bit of prose:

I wish I could
gild your scars
so you could see your beauty.

It was inspired by a friend of mine, and a Japanese pottery style. I'll tell that story soon.

Monday, January 9, 2017

ground work

Dash and I are learning to do ground work. "It's all about energy," my trainer says.

Dash works harder than she asks: he canters when she asks for a trot. He does this four, five times. She doesn't try to stop him, but she changes her posture - lets her arms hang at her side, stands relaxed, calm. He gets tired eventually, and trots. She praises him. The next time she asks for a trot, it takes him only one round at a canter before he slows. 

His canter is fast. I know, that should be obvious since he's an old racehorse. This was one of those things I knew before I ever rode him, but I didn't really have a context for that knowledge; I couldn't picture just how fast his "fast" would be. The other day, he and I cantered around in the round pen for the first time and I finally got a feel for his speed. I've ridden a gallop before - speed on a horse is not new to me - but Dash's canter felt like I'd straddled a Ferrari.

Watching M do ground work with Dash, I got to see how very long his strides are at every gait. I commented on it, and M reminded me that -duh, he's a thoroughbred. I've been on a lot of different breeds of horses before, and I've seen huge differences between individual horses, but looking back, they all seem slow in comparison. Dash is the first OTTB (off-track thoroughbred) I have ridden, and the difference is huge. It's like going from a moped to a Maserati... after spending a lifetime thinking that mopeds were maybe a bit too fast sometimes.

I'm not sure I shouldn't be switching out my riding helmet for a motorcycle helmet.

Even his trot is fast and long; he extends his forelegs with a natural and commanding step. M wants to do dressage with him because he has such wonderful extension, but he doesn't like the dressage saddle. Dash prefers his western saddle, heavy beast that it is. I keep feeling like I should replace it with a lighter saddle, but I'm not sure whether he'd appreciate the gesture. 

Starting ground work now is going 'back to the drawing board,' after I skipped the sketch and went straight to execution in the beginning. Not in a bad way, though.

I haven't done ground work in a round pen since I was a teenager, working with my first horse (a Polish Arabian called Goldy). Dash hasn't worked in a round pen at all, except those couple of rounds of cantering the other day. It's an entry level tool for working with horses, but we managed to skip that until now.

There's an metaphor to be pointed out here... Something about the parallels between doing ground work with Dash and the 'ground work' I've been doing with my therapist, who's bringing my thoughts back to who I was before - eveything - and figuring out how to be who I want to be now... But all this ground work has me tired of heavy introspection, so I'll just say: it's fun, learning with Dash. He's a sweety. 

Monday, December 26, 2016

thought control [The Happiness Trap]

When I was growing up, my heroes were the strong, silent cowboys in my dad's favorite movies. The John Waynes and Clint Eastwoods. I wanted to be them. Totally in control of myself. Calm and collected at all times... until righteously angry. That's when they got devastating. Their anger left people dead in the dusty western streets, but somehow they always seemed in control. Even enraged, they were men of few words.

Women in my life and in those movies were always reacting. Their decisions were reactions; their emotions were reactions; their reactions were dramatic and attention-grabbing; their reactions were either overblown or manipulative. They were never in control. People in control don't require manipulation - they can say what they want.

But the cowboys were self-sufficient. They didn't need anything or anyone, and they didn't want anything other than what they already had, other than the occasional vengeance. Their monolithic essence was the epitome of control.

I wanted to be in control of myself.

I spent a lot of my first two decades being told I wasn't in charge of myself.
Girls can't be mechanics. Or race car drivers. Or in control. Or allowed to say no. 

Sometimes I wonder how different my life would be if I'd felt more allegiance to my assigned gender. I don't really know what it feels like to be any gender, but I've always been taught that being a girl sucked. Somewhere in there I learned to associate masculinity with self-control, and self-control with maintaining a flat affect.

Stop feeling sorry for yourself.
There's nothing to be afraid of.
Get over it. 
Snap out of it.
Don't be a crybaby.
Don't be such a girl.
Keep a stiff upper lip.
Don't be sad.

No wonder I rejected all things "girly."
No wonder I rejected showing my emotions.

No wonder I felt so much shame when I developed a depressive disorder and couldn't hide the pain.

My therapist loaned me a book, and it's making me rethink my entire approach to emotion and expression.

I've valued manners for more of my life than I can remember. They're important, because they're a means of kindness, and kindness is what makes society best. Manners meant not subjecting other people to your negative emotions. Manners meant being nice, always, because situations never improve with cruelty and I'm too practical to do otherwise. Manners are an ideal to aspire to.

I still believe manners are important, and a means of spreading kindness. I still believe that rudeness or unkindness never improve a situation and that we should always be kind. I still believe that having good manners is something we should constantly work toward. ...But: I no longer equate being 'nice' with completely subjugating my emotional reality, but this is not an either-or situation. The people in my life - including me - have benefitted from my ability to sublimate my emotional turmoil when a calmer mind was needed. Unchecked anger and retaliation never improve a situation, and I have no desire for petty vengeance.

So, what's different now? I am increasingly willing to express discomfort, unhappiness, and even anger. I'm not always able - a lifetime of suppression coupled with some serious social anxiety make that a hard habit to break - but I'm willing. And in safe spaces, I'm able. I still try to temper my unhappiness and anger with compassion for the other person's feelings, even if they're being an ass. I'm usually successful, and that's not something I want to change. It goes along with that whole manners thing.

[That book is The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris. What I get farther, I might do a review. So far it's inspired a lot of thought - in a good way - and I'm only in chapter 1.]

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

some thoughts from today's travels

The dew evaporated like an unwritten thought.
If it weren’t for extroverts, I’d have no friends. Thanks y’all. You’re cool.
I find it far easier to meet and interact with new people when I’m otherwise alone. If I’m accompanied by someone I know, I’m too focused on supporting that relationship to expend additional energy on trying to manage a multi-party interaction between myself, the person I know, and the new person. The more people involved, the more complicated the exchange becomes, and the more likely I am to be overwhelmed. But if I’m alone, I have the benefit of anonymity. I don’t owe anyone anything other than basic courtesy. That is so much easier.  

I attended an anti-harassment training event tonight. Here’s my takeaway:

There’s an element of awareness or symbolism to prejudice: I wear my hair covered frequently, but in a style that is different from the well-known hijab. The style of hair covering I wear is also used by Muslim women, but it is not recognized as such. So the question is: if a Muslim woman wears her hair like mine, is she harassed as often as Muslim women who wear the hijab? I think the answer is no, because in American culture only the hijab style is associated with Islam. This means that Islamophobic behaviors are not necessarily triggered by Islam’s symbols (as interpreted by the Muslim person), but by the symbols of that religion as interpreted by the harasser. Ergo, Islamophobia is a function of the perpetrator’s cognitive processes.

I believe: White supremacy (or bigotry, or Islamophobia, or nativism, or…) does not coexist with self-awareness in the mind of an individual.

When you call 911 (to report hate crimes/harassment), you get your local emergency services involved and on record. This forces acknowledgement of hate crimes at an institutional level, allows for the possibility of federal government attention. This also keeps the reality of hate crimes personally relevant for your local law enforcement personnel because it gives them direct experiential knowledge that it’s happening in their town. Those individuals are then more likely to correct the dismissal of such happenings in their daily conversations. They are more likely to speak up and say ‘this is happening, this is real.’ They are less likely to repeat or tolerate the hate crimes or even microaggressions they encounter in their jobs and homes.
If it is the silence of the powerful that does the most damage, if that silence is what allows hate to fester, then we need every voice – especially the powerful voices – to speak up against hate.

Why is speaking up or intervening a successful way of stopping hate crimes? How does this function on a psychological level to change the cognitive process of the perpetrator? Is it because intervention reveals the perpetrator’s behavior to be socially unaccepted – that of a demonized outgroup rather than the dominant ingroup they had thought to represent? Is this also why ignoring the perpetrator (a social indicator of insignificance or disapproval) is so effective, even though it goes against our common instinct to confrontation?

The police chief of Tucson, Chris Magnus, said tonight that “When it comes to immigration, we are unwilling to operate as an arm of the federal government… not one of our officers will ever ask the victims or witnesses of a crime about their immigration status… We are here to serve our community. That means everyone in our community.” 

Historically, the people who have stood up against genocide have shared these traits: high empathy and a high sense of connectedness to other people.

If you don’t understand what’s meant by “microaggressions” or don’t understand why they’re bad, you should watch this very short and humorous video: If Microaggressions Happened to White People – Decoded – MTV