Heather L. Barmore
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    Change In Action at Babble Voices

    Sunday
    Apr132014

    The end of a long, cold, lonely winter

    "We hit the sunny beaches where we occupy ourselves keeping the sun off our skin, the saltwater off our bodies, and the sand out of our belongings." ~Erma Bombeck

    This past weekend I turned into one of those obnoxious jackasses who I have spent all winter hating. You know the kind; the ones who post over 900 photos of ocean and palm trees and SUNLIGHT as if to say, "Look at me! I'm warm! You're not! BOOM!" Because hey, y'all, I went to Miami.


    I don’t know if you recall and/or had personal experience with the Polar Vortex but there were moments this winter when it was 27 degrees outside and I’d be walking around Albany in a t-shirt and flip flops because remember when it was -8? Yeah, the high-20's is what we started to refer to as a 'warm front'. When I landed in Miami on Thursday and saw that great big, bright, round ball in the sky I had an "once was lost, but now I'm found. Was blind but now I see" moment. Do you know what feels good after seven months of winter? Humidity. There was a brief moment where I stared out over the Atlantic and made mental note of what a body of water looks like when it's not frozen. 



    It’s been a long winter on many fronts and without getting into detail or a lengthy cliche-filled, vague post on the sadness of the last six months; I'll simply put all of that energy into making a real attempt at looking forward. One morning I made the mistake of rehashing a particularly difficult evening in the past. I contemplated the what-if's and the utter loss I felt and in the middle of my walk down memory lane I started to tear up which turned into suppressing my sobs between sips of a mimosa. This was about when I realized that my constant woulda, coulda, shoulda-ing is completely unhealthy and solves very little. And then I gave myself a pat on the back for my self-awareness about the situation and what really makes me happy. And then I was like, dude, 30 years old. What is up! Then I got a second mimosa and pulled myself together because there is no crying while beaching.

     

    So, Miami. It’s exactly as advertised. Like, you know that there will be bright lights and scantily clad women (and men) and then you leave thinking that you could totally become a gynecologist. By day I sat and spent time reflecting and wrote (more on that later) more than I had in the last two years. By night I allowed myself to be distracted by the glitz enough to propel me to that state of euphoria. Miami is the place to run to when you want to leave everything behind.

     

    It was perfection. Needed. Appreciated. Embraced with a warm hug and a nuzzle. Soon to be turned into an annual event with one of the best travel partners a woman could ask for. A travel partner who, after 25 years of friendship, still knows how to make me laugh myself into a fit of hiccups.

    Before I say this next part just know that this entire trip was paid for by me as evidenced by the look on my face when I took a gander at my checking account yesterday afternoon. Like, oh, I'm going to have to get a second job and there's absolutely nothing wrong with subsisting on Ramen and Bud Light for the next three weeks. We stayed at The Surfcomber, a Kimpton property located on Collins Avenue. It was everything you could want in a hotel during a vacation - and more - including staff who learned our names because there we were, always together, always with the drinks by the pool. I am known for doing a lot of complaining on Twitter but I did have to send out a tweet of love to Kimpton because good service should be recognized. As should the free, daily wine hour.

    I’d write more but I'll stop here for now because a) It's supposed to snow tonight so I just want to stare at some of these photos and remember how wonderful Friday was and b) I'm too busy experiencing my very first sunburn. Which, for the uninitiated, yes, black people get sunburned as well. I'm far too interested in singing THIS ARM IS ON FIRE! to anyone who will listen. 

    Anyway, onward because spring? I’m coming for ya.

    Tuesday
    Mar182014

    In the Darkness (Part II)

    “...throw roses into the abyss and say: 'here is my thanks to the monster who didn't succeed in swallowing me alive.” - Friedrich Nietzsche

    As a blogger/writer/storyteller/human being, I have a tendency to share my expeiriences for the simple reason of ensuring that no one feels as alone as I have felt in the past. Lonliness is a dreadful thing, isn't it? In the throes of my own depresseion, I feel as if I am wandering around and no one gives a damn. I am not attempting to martyr myself here but to portray and almost excuse my need to push those that do actually care as far away from me as possible. My mind plays tricks on me to say that no one wants me around, I am alone, their - my friends - attempts to reach out are not real. Nothing feels real.

    Anyway, where did we leave off? Ah yes, trying to explain myself and a disorder that consumes me, my every thought, my very being. People used to say that I seemed different, that's because I am different and nowhere near like myself. Sometimes I wish for a physical ailment. Isn't that horrible? I'd rather be diabetic or have cancer or perhaps a broken bone. Something that others can handle far better than a broken brain. Mental illness is seldom understood. The lack of understanding is accompanied by confusion directed at those who suffer. 

    "Why can't you just relax?"

    "Why can't you just be happy?"

    "Why can't you just focus on the good in your life?" 

    Why can't you just fuck off, is what I'd like to reply with but, of course, I do not. 

    Their assumptions of my simply being able to snap out of my "funk" only serves to exacerbate feelings of inadequacy and self-loathing over my brokenness. I have to wonder if others - it's always those elusive others - think that I enjoy being like this? Do you think I find glee in having my entire body and mind seize with fear because of anxiety over a new situation (however minor it might be). I take no enjoyment in the sixk days where I stare at the wall, physically unable to extracate myself from my bed. Or when I am able to move from my bed to my bathroom. I sit on my toilet, staring at the shower and begin to cry. 

    There is no enjoyment in driving across an overpass thinking that if my car were to go over, would it really matter? 

    I am not forced to explain myself nor my ailments to anyone but I have grown weary of the looks and the not so subtle responses to a 'sick' day when I look perfectly fine. I am sick, I want to scream at the top of my lungs, EVERYTHING HURTS. 

    Here is where I wish I could leave you with some nice anecdote on understanding and feelings all wrapped up neatly with a bow. There is an OK part of this which is acceptance of myself, this illness and the hypomania and depression that sweeps through from time to time. The truth is that being OK is relative and conditional upon good days or weeks and those that are bad. To read what I have put out about myself and mental illness over the past several days both frightens and relieves me. I can acknowledge how another reads my words and is taken aback by my cavalier attitude towards depression and ever wanting to end my own life. I can assure you that this is not a place where I am right now but to see such things on a screen even causes my insides to tumble. I feel fine right now and wonder how I could ever think such horrible thing about myself. How is it possible to ever believe that I am not loved, wanted and cared about? It's because mental illness is such a cruel thing. It will lead you to believe that you are not good enough so, you are forced to question the point of going forward with a life you have worked so hard to build. At least worked hard to build in those moments of clarity. 

    Now that I have put myself out there, I will bask in the normalcy of this day and rejoice in the mundane. I don't know what tomorrow will bring or the next month I can only put one foot in front of the other.

    (I suppose this is the tidy ending)

    "I'm OK", I say to myself. "I'm OK." I have to be. I must tell myself that as the alternative is far too much to bear and for this moment in my life, I want to smile and say that I'm doing well. Because right now I am.

     

     

    Monday
    Mar172014

    In the Darkness (Part I)

     “I appear at times merry and in good heart, talk, too, before others quite reasonably, and it looks as if I felt, too, God knows how well within my skin. Yet the soul maintains its deathly sleep and the heart bleeds from a thousand wounds.” - Hugo Wolf

    I would walk through my neighborhood of Spring Valley every evening. I was a smoker at the time. Not a pack-a -day smoker but enough that I had developed a bit of a cough. But what can I say? It looked cool. As I got to the end of each smoke - just before I was to flick it to the ground - I would instead hold the still lit tip of my cigarette and put it out on my arm. My left forearm to be exact and twice on the fleshiest part of my stomach. did it hurt? Probably but I don't remember. It was the only thing I could feel and putting cigarettes out on my body awoke me and reminded me of my physical presence. The singed off skin, the smell of burning arm hair, were further reminders. I would continue along down the street oblivious to what I had just done. I'd shrug it off only now does the ease at which I was able to cause physical harm to myself frighten me. For much of the spring I left my arm bandaged. There's a photo I have where I am in the front row, smiling as wide as can be. Everything looked normal but it wasn't.

    It was a few weeks later when I disappeared for the weekend. I knew where I was, of course, but my friends didn't. I had recently leased an apartment two blocks from campus and that is where I stayed, not speaking to a single soul save for the cashier at a nearby convenience store. The phone would ring and I answer to no one. In hindsight the first weeks of my desent into depression all blurred together but disappearing, hurting myself, these were better than the alternative.

    The alternative was this: each morning and evening on my commut to and from Capitol Hill I would stand on the platform at Metro Center. I would watch trains go by and wonder what would happen if I put my foot out just one inch too far and fell. A jump seemed far too dramatic. I just wanted to slip in front of a metro car and that would be the end. What hurt me would no longer do so. It would be over.

    Do you know what it's like to be so destroyed that you are incapable of feeling anything at all? It feels like nothing at all because there is nothing left for you to care about. It's easier to tempt death than to continue to not feel. I wanted to jump but I didn't. I couldn't. I still don't know why.

    At 23 I was diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder and that diagnosis brought everything together. It's not simply a feeling of hopelessness/despair/uncaring. My brain had been removed from my body. My apendages worked, I smiled, a front was put on but my brain was a bystander. Dead weight in my head. The depression intersperesed with moments of hypomania and euphoria at the simplest bits of good news. It's the depression that kills - or so it has felt in my experience. It feels drowning but instead of treading water, kicking your way to the survace, you release and relax. Might as well let the water take over. Medication helps and is what triggers you to kick your way to the surface and take a breath. There's that gasp for air at the top but then there's the aftermath. The people you have hurt, relationships destroyed. How do you explain to those who love you the most that you ache from the inside out? How do you explain that you want to raze everything in your path not because you want for others to feel bad but because those for whom the love is mutual don't need to see you like this? At your worst.

    How do you explain the numbness? How do you explain that I don't care. So why should others?

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