Heather L. Barmore
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    Change In Action at Babble Voices

    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?

    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.

     

     

     

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