Awake


In the third grade, I had my first stint with mental illness. My only real friend had just moved away, and no one wanted to play with me at recess. I was depressed, big time, and I was also working through grief at the loss of my friend. The stages were evident (retrospectively) in the narratives that went through my head as I tried to sleep. Some nights I would cry. Some nights I would invent stories in which who had abandoned me continued to wrong me; some nights I would scream my anger at her. At eight years old, I would spend some nights thinking seriously about death. But it wasn’t until the next school year that I started to understand that these thoughts were anything out of the ordinary. lonely-child-1024x678In the fourth grade, after she saw me hitting myself repeatedly during tests, my teacher sent me to weekly group sessions with the school counselor.

It’s gotten worse since then, but it’s also gotten better since then. My depression comes in waves. The stresses of elementary school, junior high, and high school all took their toll on me. So, too, has the unforgiving coldness of winter, as well as the unrelenting loneliness of summer. Depression is not a constant companion, but it is a consistent companion.

My anxiety, on the other hand, does not come in waves. They aren’t as bad as they could be, and I’m always learning to ways to negotiate with them, but they never leave. Ever. In fact, I’m not totally sure where my anxiety stops and my nervous personality begins. Fretting is ingrained into my very aspect.

I was born an anxious person. I was also born a sad person. That’s sort of my point, my raison d’être: to be anxious and sad. It makes me see things that other people ignore, and it allows me to be introspective. In that, mental illness is what makes me a writer. I’m only an artist because I was wired incorrectly at the factory.

Maybe I should be grateful. Continue reading “Awake”

The Magenta Stoplight: A Poem


highway

A strand of cotton candy cloud
lingers on the sunset
like caramel on ice cream
or an ex-lover’s kiss on my cheek.
I’m in your car, on the way back from the party,
thinking I’ve done everything wrong;
the streetlamps are carpet-bombing us with yellow light
and dizzying uniformity.
When we come to the magenta stoplight,
which buzzes like one of the mosquitoes it’s ensnared,
I notice that the end-of-day wink is casting dim lavender
on the city’s bricks.
Midnight blue is encroaching from the East,
and the black spray-painted letters on the overpass
are as incoherent as radio static.
You turn to me, your hair orange and pink lit from behind—
your face grey.
You pull your hand from the steering wheel and reach it
towards my knuckles—which have been tight this whole time
like the braces I had removed in high school or an embrace
that you don’t realize until later will be your last—
and you’re soft with me, your skin like a butterfly
imploring a flower for permission to land.
For a moment, I want to give in—
stretch my petals out to you, offer you
my every inner sweetness—
but a glint of glassy green strikes your eye.
The whole world, it seems, is a candy box
and I can’t trust any of it.