Heather L. Barmore
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    Change In Action at Babble Voices

    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?

    Monday
    Mar102014

    Please Call Me Bossy. I've Earned It. 

    "To free us from the expectations of others, to give us back to ourselves - there lies the great, singular power of self-respect."  ~Joan Didion


     

    I went through a terrible phase of being the weakest link. I was the girl who was teased and called names. I was too black or not black enough. I was chubby. I was the girl everyone disliked yet I continued to make overtures to please those who wanted for me to simply disappear. Offerings were made if only to get me a seat a certain table or to have a certain person utter three words to me. If there is one thing I remember from the mid-90’s it’s that being a perpetual people pleaser will bring you nothing but ridicule. There was a quick turnaround come high school when I decided to be mean, nasty, angry, sometimes menacing. For what exactly? To prove that I wasn’t someone for my peers to walk upon or to prove that I could be just as mean as the others.

     

    Thankfully, I’ve settled into a happy-ish place but it took until well into my 20’s to sincerely believe that expressing my opinion will not end in disaster. I’m aware of my limitations and abilities which allows me to speak up. Of course people think I’m scary, mean, bitchy and...wait for it...BOSSY. What I deem to be hard earned assertiveness, others took the wrong way. I am not going to stop talking simply because others are uncomfortable. Furthermore it took my entire life to grow a pair and get a backbone. Why on earth would I quit now?


    ‘Bossy’ is the word du jour thanks to Sheryl Sandberg who, when not running Facebook, is telling women how to feel and think in order to be taken seriously or to achieve her vision of success. Never mind the sheer awfulness of attempting to mold young women and girls into one’s own idea of what they should be though I have to wonder if I’m the only one who hears these stories and thinks ick.

     

    The word 'bossy' is now some sort of pejorative to describe and demean young women and girls. It's also something I haven't thought much about until today. Why can't we simply take back the word without a massive campaign to have ti removed from our lexicon? When someone points out that I'm intimidating (or anything synonymous to 'bossy'), I don't cower and question my behaviors. I smile because I am. I used to be the person who others ignored and it took everything out of me to attain some semblance of self-acceptance. I want to be someone who others listen to and I hope that if I ever have daughters, I am able to instill the same confidence in them. There are plenty of things preventing younger generations from leading, I disagree that being referred to as 'bossy' is one of those things. Instead teach your daughters (nieces/friends' kids) to say 'thank you'. If you are that child's parent, give yourself a pat on the back for doing such becuase you are soon to have a strong woman.

     

     

     

    Wednesday
    Jan152014

    Hi. How Are You?

    "Online writers: the most important thing we can do is to help people improve their lives by telling the stories of our own attempts." - Asha Dornfest

    I should be reading about how to harness my creativity. The tagline of The War of Art is “break through the blocks and win your inner creative battles”. You know what feels like a block? My head. God, that was terrible. I apologize. I am neither funny nor witty. But now you see where I am creatively. Or shall I say, “creatively”.

    Favorite Yoga Teacher likes to tell me how great of a writer I am. I’m not saying this for head pats or affirmation it’s just that every time anyone comments positively about my writing I get nervous. My heart begins to race, I might even be starting to sweat a bit. I cannot recite my exact reactions what with the unrelenting pressure I put on myself. Oh goodie! The pressure is followed up by the anxiety and now each tap of the keyboard feels like an elephant is sitting on my chest. I am going to have a panic attack due to writing five sentences. In case you were wondering, life? It’s going well. Can you tell? Don’t I seem so together?

    Anyway, I thank her - Favorite Yoga Teacher - and make a half-assed attempt to get out of my head. All I have ever wanted to do is write. If I had written a list at age 11 of things I wanted in my life it would have said: “1. Watch the State of the Union in-person, 2. Have a member of Congress learn my name” and then in giant bold letters, underlined nine times would be “3. WRITE”.

    ****

    Are you bored? If you aren’t just yet might I direct you to my archives? There is positively nothing more riveting than a reclusive 21 year old with an undiagnosed mental illness and an addiction to cheap pinot grigio, spewing her every thought on the Internet. At 30, I have the gift of hindsight and (more) self-awareness but my God, early 20-somethings are the most vapid and narcissistic bunch. Not only did I believe that I was the first person to ever graduate from college but the first person on the planet to ever get a job. And have to go to work. And deal with life and, you know, COPE.

    I can only shake my head and laugh now at the absurdity of my actions. I smirk because now I know that what I thought was the worst was nowhere near the worst. Every time I was only confident in my failing spectacularly with arms outstretched, I wasn’t. It was simply life.

    ***

    There are pages of an unfinished book proposal across a number of hard drives because I fear failure. I don’t do well with change and I second-guess every sentence as it comes across the screen. But that’s the whole point right? To use my words and own them. To develop, embrace, scream, tear up and cringe. Sometimes I feel like unable to breathe it’s imperative that I allow these feelings to come, to acknowledge them and then brush them aside. I can continue to note my reactions and feelings from the utter internal despair to the outward glee. Stories can and should be passed along knowing that what is true for me is not true for all involved.

    Apparently not everything is about me. Did you know that?

    ***

    I enjoy writing. Even at my worst I have been able to put out my best. Right now I am shaky and flinching because this stream of consciousness isn’t great. After months - OK, years - of deep suffering from FOMO, I have acknowledged that while I can put a paragraph together I will never be design blogger or a lifestyle blogger and at the rate I’m going “mommyblogger” isn’t looking too good either. Months have been lost trying to be something that I have never wanted to be. I don’t really want to be the leading resource on polka dots being the new stripes or 149 ways to use a mason jar. There are stories to tell that cause my heart rate to quicken not out of panic but out of the sheer anticipation of figuring out how to best tell the tale. That is who I am.

    Can we move on? I will write and post though not as frequently because I like beefy paragraphs and to let a sentence sit for a day or three before spinning it around on its head. I love Eden’s approach to blogging which is to do so sparingly, about once a month. If you are dying to know what I’m wearing or the color of my nail polish there is Instagram. There’s also Twitter and Facebook because WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT BOURBON. ALL BOURBON AND YOGA. AND YELLING! Tomorrow I’ll talk about politics. It will be good.

    ***

    I used a lot of “I” statements. I’m so rude. How have you been?
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