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The Essence of Life’s FIRST EVER PUBLICATION!

My most ardent supporters near and far, it gives me great pleasure to release my first ever chapbook, I Choose to Launch Forward: Poems. Most of these poems were written during my time in the psychiatric hospital in Raleigh, North Carolina, and they all mean something to me, no matter how long or short they are.

I am releasing this Chapbook at Pay-What-You-Wish, which means that if you can only afford to pay $2.56, go ahead! You don’t want to pay anything? That’s OK, too. Want to pay $20? My heart would be immensely grateful for the offering. Any monies paid go right into making this business happen: supplies such ink for my printer, colored pens, notebooks, post-its, a table or desk, and more.

As time progresses, you will learn more about some of the poems in this Chapbook. I can read one, “I Choose,” on the blog already. Many more will be coming throughout the coming weeks and months.

In the meantime, what poems would you like me to comment on? I’d like to stop talking so much about me & my poems, and bring some other poems and opinions about those poems on. Drop me a line at eoflifepublishing [at] gmail [dot] com with the subject line “Poem Commentary” and I’ll pick out a few to read and respond to on the blog.

So, without further ado, here is I Choose to Launch Forward: Poems by Essence Breshanté. You can click the link to download.

If you would like, you can pay via Paypal, CashApp, or Venmo. These are:
Paypal: paypal.me/eoflife
Cash App: $ebscott91
Venmo: @eof-life

If you would like to pay and need another payment option, please let me know. We’ll work something out. Please remember that this is a token of appreciation for all the support you have given me. Every view, every follow, and every like warms my heart. I mean that.

Thank you every much.

For more from The Essence of Life, including when the newsletter will be starting back up again, please go to eoflife.substack.com and subscribe. It’s free!

“So, why Do you write?”

Writing has been something I’ve done since I was twelve years old. I took it seriously to make sense of the world around me. But that sounds… trite, no matter how true. What about the world did Essence at age 12 live in need to be made sense of through writing? And only through writing? Why not with paints, markers, crayons, film? Why with words? What was so special about them?

The most reliable thing in the world at age 12 were books. I had just started middle school, where I had told my mom I did not eat on a school field trip because she could not be bothered to buy me lunch, so lunch was cobbled together for me. The Voices that would plague me for a decade reared their heads and wreaked The Most Havoc on my brain. There was no order in my head, only chaos. And there was no order in my reality, only chaos. The most order there was in my day to day life was that I went to school, sometimes standing because no one offered me a seat, so horribly I smelled (a combination of smoke and gods know what else). At school, I could get some food (though my mom did feed me, it wasn’t healthy), some attention, and I could be around books and (ideally) people who were smarter than me. If nothing else, I could get some order for a few hours.

I wrote because I was losing it. Nothing made sense. My preteen self had just become a woman all too soon, and I was afraid that no one would love me. Writing, for me, became a way to talk to someone because there were no other adults. No other teenagers. No other anyone. It was just me, myself, and this horrible feeling of filthy all over my body.

Could I be loved? Did I even want to be? So many questions and my own answers swirled in my head. I did not know if I could, if I would. Who loved stupid little girls? I questioned if I was a virgin still that night. Writing and reading became the only places where I felt safe to share and experience life.

The most order there was in my day to day life was that I went to school, sometimes standing because no one offered me a seat, so horribly I smelled

ESSENCE BRESHANTE

A book I really appreciated in my youth was Missing, my Catherine MacPhail. The pain that the protagonist, Maxine, goes through when she experiences invisibility over her family’s search for her brother Derek, penetrated me. I sat on the stairs crying as I read that book, knowing what it was like to be “cast aside” in favor of another sibling; my sister in this case, though she was not missing. She was simply a favorite child.

Maxine was the girl I wanted to be: bad–she cuts school, walks around town, she might have even shoplifted. She wasn’t me, but she was. She was sad, and scared, and hurt. She wanted to be loved. I think she understood her parents’ pain for how things went with Derek’s disappearance–he just did not come home one day, the story goes–but it was also, hey, what about me? I’m here too. And it was specifically that gut feelinng I felt every time I read Missing and Family of Strangers, by Susan Beth Pfeffer, about sixteen year old Abigail who struggles with low self-esteem and a dysfunctional family after the death of beloved brother and son, Johnny (he had meningitis). Abigail, to 12, 13, and even 14 year old Essence, really… just was such a damn moment to me. Abigail ultimately attempts suicide, and has to do therapy sessions on a regular basis.

When I look back at Family of Strangers now, aged 30, I can see (I mean, I always saw) why Abigail would attempt suicide: Abigail was the family lynchpin keeping things together. In my own life, I am the lynchpin keeping things together for my family in the North. I do not like it; in fact, I can’t stand it. I’d much rather they get gainful employment anywhere else but off my back and breasts. I am out of milk and patience. And…. I just could see Abigail really tired of trying to hold it all together and be afraid of talking to her crush, Tim. I just… could relate so hard to all of that.

And now, at 30, I write because I can’t see a life without it. Writing is in my body, my heart, my soul. A life without writing is no life to me. A life without words is no life to me. I’ve been writing blogs, novel attempts, poems, journal entries, and more for almost 20 years. This is inside of me, and it will not leave. I imagine nothing else and nothing greater.

So, why do I write?

I write to make sense of my life lived. My life lived was one of hardship and gashes and serious wounds that, if left untreated, would become seriously infected over time. With proper therapy, diet, and support, I am slowly beginning to mend these gashes and wounds so that they become scars.

I write to create the life I want. The life I want, I believe, can be created through writing. Perhaps not an exact replica, but a close approximation. I write to create, explore, hope, and dream of a better world, a better outcome, and better opportunities for myself and for others.

I write because it helps me stay “even-keel.” If I don’t write for extended periods of time, no one wants to be around me. I become mean, bitchy, and just overall unpleasant to be around. Writing is what keeps me stable, happy, and polite. Reading also helps with this.

“I Choose” (Poem & Inspiration/Reflection)

I asked myself that night
Is this was the life I wanted?
If this was a life I thought I deserved?
I eyed the knife, then eyed my life.
Then, I chose myself.

*

A simple but powerful poem about December 5, 2019—the night my fiancé pulled a 6-inch butcher knife on me.
Since about age 18 (2009), I put up with a lot of unsavory stuff no one else, no other person would have ever put up with. Ever. The men were dogs, horny as all hell—so damn frustrating. Like—I have brains! I’m smart! Up here!! But, alas, I only seemed to attract the horndogs….
That night, I had said to fiancé, that the life I was living, I could not live it. I was tired of it. It brought me my 3rd hospitalization, the second in two years, at Woodside Psychiatric Unit in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina. It brought me a lack of sleep/deep, REM sleep/dreams. Brought so much grief…
And I was just tired of it, you know? So I chose, for the first time ever, myself. I had never done that before. But I chose to do it. Not just for me, but for my niece, who was then five years old; for those who never, ever, saw that shit in their home, and for… really everyone, but I knew I had to be the example, and I wasn’t going ride that ride any farther. So I let him dig him a 12 ft. grave and tried not to shit a brick. Because I was not having it. You go be a tool by yourself. I don’t have to accept it. No sir.
So, when I chose myself, I chose everyone. I chose my nephew, my cousins—to never, ever even glimpse the cycle of abuse of any type. Now, what they do beyond me is one thing, but I can say in my heart of hearts that I did not let that man kill me. He dug his own grave and buried himself in it.
Nevertheless, I wish him all the best in his future endeavors. I won’t spit in the wind.

Want a T-shirt with some of this poem on it? Check out my Spring shop!

On My Own–for Real: An Update

I know it’s been quite a while since we have last communicated. I put myself in a bit over my head with this endeavor. There was a lot going on that I could not keep up with—and in some cases, did not want to keep up with. I was losing ground fast and quickly losing time as my mountain of projects planned grew higher and higher. So, then, I fell into despair as I started to have more responsibility placed on me at home in Gaston: learning how to take care of Essence. I did not know how to do that, and—I felt—that the excruciating slow pace it took to learn how to do the most mundane things frustrated those who love me. It frustrated me, too.

            With the inability to go anywhere because I could not drive, and on top of that I had to call the bus to go anywhere, I became even more frustrated. I loved, and still love, the quiet of Gaston, North Carolina. It was exactly what I needed while I recuperated from the disaster of the previous 28 years. Everyone there were the people I needed in my life at that exact moment. But when things were coming to a head, I had to make a choice: do I stay in Gaston, or do I move? My goal was to begin to safely come off the medications I took (I have been on medication since I was seventeen years old), so I admitted myself to the hospital. My grandmother drove me into Raleigh. Down to the day, I chose everything. I had to make this change, or I was just not going to be OK for anyone.

            What ended up being the major tipping point was dealing with unsavory things that my bloodline did to me in the name of love. I am learning that I need to pull these emotions in and not let them explode at an inappropriate time. Things came to a head when I was at a point where I wanted to drink caffeinated coffee and self-harm. This would have led to an involuntary commitment to an inpatient psychiatric unit. I know that I cannot have caffeinated coffee ever again. One cup will make me have more and more. I simply cannot have the stuff. I can only have decaffeinated coffee and one cup of green tea a day. Not a cup more. I must be very strict about it.

            Shortly after that, I went into a hypomanic episode where I changed my name on Facebook to Sophine Sage. For a while there, I felt very guilty about the name change; it made me feel like I was losing control—a feeling I had in New Jersey, where I never felt 100% safe and where I often felt like I was many people. As a result of my needs, it was decided that I would not return to Gaston, North Carolina and find another place to live. I would always have family there but living there was not going to be a Thing. And that was fine by me, because I did, and still do, want to live in Durham, North Carolina in an apartment of my own.

            In the hospital, I had to decide: what was I going to do with my life? How did I plan to start this new life? I was told that I was starting this new life, and I had an amazing opportunity, but for a while there all I could see was thornbushes, snakes, and more. However, in part because I had nowhere to go and in part because I was not going to disappoint anyone, least of all myself, I remained in the hospital, doing the work on myself, trying my best.

            I also had to stop and reevaluate what the Essence of Life Publishing Company needed. Were monthly newsletters too frequent? (They were) Was I putting too many projects on the table for me to complete too quickly? (I was) So, I just unintentionally set myself up for failure. Communication did not happen with subscribers of my newsletter, which is bad business practice, and bad friendship practice. I don’t want to be a bad businessperson or a bad friend.

            Which means that right now, I am doing a complete overhaul of The Essence of Life Publishing Company: what it needs, what it will be, and what it will look like in the next five years. However, I also need to take care of Essence, so she does not get burnt out. That means drinking water, exercising, eating well, and staying prayed up. It also means a good shower, some good hair care, and good oral care. I want you know that Essence will be back soon, and this iteration will be better, because I will be better. And that, my friends, will be what counts.

            Thank you.

The Chaos of Coronavirus Allowed Me to Breathe: A Reflection on 2020

I moved to Gaston, North Carolina in October 2019 to get married. I was not supposed to have the amount of calm that I have had this year. I was supposed to worry about blood sugar counts, dialysis treatments, and my own well-being.

But I got to live worry-free for the first time in… quite honestly, my entire life. I turned twenty-nine with little fanfare and a ton of rain. I got to spend Valentine’s day at a bookstore in LIttleton, North Carolina with my favorite person (and just as much a book lover as I am) buying bags of books for a dollar a piece and then they surprised me with more books for my birthday (my birthday and Valentine’s day are about a week apart). 

This summer, I took part in Camp Kamala for Exceptional Youth & Young Adults in Transition as a Senior Peer Manager. I led Communications & Journaling and helped out with the Emotional Intelligence groups in the afternoons with my family. I met new family members, and I began the process of sincerely working through my trauma from New Jersey and the little bit from North Carolina. 

This Thanksgiving, I called a few friends and some family nationwide. I am grateful for this to not cost me more than what I can afford. I had a wonderful thanksgiving holiday. I laughed a lot, and I got to help my grandma cook a little bit by peeling the sweet potatoes. The next day, we had leftovers–always a welcome treat. Keep the memories alive. (wink)

In many ways, I see 2020 as a blessing because of where I have been to experience it. If I had remained in Mercer County, New Jersey, where I am from and where I had lived the majority of my life, I cannot say what shape I would be in. I would have done several stints at the local mental health unit over the course of the pandemic, would have been in and out of hospitals for anxiety & panic attacks and my fiance’s pain & discomfort, a possible case of coronavirus, and quite honestly would not be in the shape I am in today. 

I had a doctor’s appointment last Thursday. I have many things that definitely should be checked out: my lack of a menstrual cycle, my urge incontinence, and my vision. I want to “live with quality” as I told my doctor. 

Christmas and Kwanzaa are times to look forward to now. In the past, I did not look forward to Christmas. I told people in a group therapy session that I hated Christmas because of what it reminded me of–it reminded me of what I did not have: people who genuinely cared about me, laughter, and the traditional trappings of what the holiday meant. My fiance would chase a Lottery number in Pennsylvania, so I spent the holiday predominantly alone. I would call my uncle in Virginia and we would talk until my fiance came home. Tears ran down my face as my peers sat in stunned silence. I had to be Scrooge or the Grinch incarnate. Really, I just hurt. I was horribly depressed, and the only reason I came to the program (when I could get out of bed to get dressed and go) was so I could get a cup of coffee in the morning and in the afternoon. Someone brought in religion, and I told them to shove it. “I don’t believe in God,” I said, still crying.

Today, I still don’t believe in the pie-in-the-sky God surrounded by angels playing harps. But I do believe in a Divine Order. That is what I worship every day when I receive my meals, or when I am walking through the homestead where I receive and I am filled with the need to simply give thanks for what I have and where I came from. The difference is like night and day, apples to oranges.

However, this year has not come without its challenges. I have had to challenge bad, Trentonian habits such as disorganization, poor hygiene, and poor upkeep of bathroom space. Because I was not expected to do these things ever, being asked to do them was, like… hard. What do you mean you want me to make my bed? What do you mean you want me to clean my bathroom every two weeks? And it would get semi-done, only to fall somewhere near “cooking for the family” and “bathing regularly” on my list of to-dos. Today, I am proud to report that, with a hell of a lot of help, my room is more pleasant to be in (my Grandma comments that “someone actually lives in here?!”), that I have made my bed consistently this week, and that I am working hard to keep my room neat and tidy. I do have plans to clean my bathroom tonight because I feel like it needs it. I bathe more consistently than I have in the past.

In 2020, I learned how to cook. I did not know how long it took water to boil once upon a time. Now, I can cook ten meals with little to no assistance. I love that I can cook, which means I don’t have to live on microwaveable meals or wait on someone to cook for me. I haven’t used a microwave in over a year and I don’t miss it. 

One resource I gained for the kitchen is the magazine Chop Chop. Aimed for toddlers and through about age 8 or 9, Chop Chop teaches very simple recipes and cooking skills. Even though I am well beyond their age range, I find these magazines helpful (when I read them, which I just started doing My Grandma picks them up from our local Social Services office. Simple meals and sides, and if those four year olds can make them, surely I, at 30, can make them.

I am being called to something higher. Whatever I am doing on the ground is not enough. In 2021, I see something launching off this foundation in Gaston. What, we will see… and I will be ready for it when it does.

The Difference Between Bloodline and Family

WHEN WE hear the word “family,” a lot of us hear “the people who raised me” or “my immediate family.” In my opinion, not a lot of us think of family as people who are beyond those who raised us or are in our immediate family–especially if we were never taught to fhink that way.

I recently learned that there is a difference between who is family and who is bloodline. And for me, that difference is this:

Bloodline is what is in the DNA of every person on this planet. For example, if my father and I were to take a DNA test tomorrow, the results would come back that he is my father, no questions asked. I can mentally disown him; I never have to respond to a single thing he sends me via email, text message, or carrier pigeon. But the DNA will never lie. I do not consider him a member of my family, but he is a part of my bloodline, and I cannot deny bloodline.

People who are in the Bloodline category are people who are abusive, manipulative; they are bystanders while the abuse or manipulation of another family member is taking place. They are people who have benefited in some capacity from another family member’s abuse. The benefit can be monetary, emotional, sexual, in tangible items such as a car; food, shelter, water. Abuse can be physical, emotional, psychological, financial, sexual, or a combination of these. It does not have to happen only when the family member is a child, disabled, a stepchild, or any possibility you can think of.

For example, the abuse I underwent took place when I was in my early 20s. At 30 (basically), I am only beginning to see how much damage my bloodline caused me psychologically, socially, and financially because they chose to live a particular lifestyle that exploited the benefits of my disability, such as the use of public assistance programs. Because I was not well-versed in the ways of mainstream society, interacting with it was not something I did very well. Because those who were supposed to teach me how to interact in mainstream society did not, I am now only learning how to cook meals for myself and get things like Food Stamps, my learners permit (so I can drive), and assistance through OVR (Office of Vocational Rehabilitation). I once had to ask Siri how long did it take to boil water so I could make oatmeal. I truly was 29 years old and had no clue how to boil water. I can laugh now, but it’s not funny. My bloodline did not support my well-being, happiness, or health. I was allowed to walk around in ill-fitting, smelly clothing for years. I was allowed to eat hot dogs dailiy for years. Family does not allow that.

Family is the group of people that do not necessarily have to be biologically related to you, but they are people who you trust, who you generally get along with, and has some people you may even seek to emulate. For example, the people I live with on the homestead in Gaston, North Carolina, are my family. There are people I seek to emulate–or at least take on some of their habits and incorporate them into my daily life. My friends on the Internet are my family. My brother & his family up north is my family, though they are biologically related to me. My mentors in New Jersey are my family. I have known them since I was at least 13 years old.

My family is honest with me about what I can and cannot do at the moment. They work with me to help me achieve my goals & dreams. My family makes me laugh, smile, and cuss in jest. But sometimes they make me mad when they leave dishes out all night and the soap container is two feet away (just… wash the dish?!) or leave dirty dishes in the sink that I seem to be the only one who clean (can someone ELSE clean these?!). And I’m sure I make them mad (can she clean the floor? I’ve done it every day this week…!) and I can make them laugh too (I can land a funny every now and again!). But we generally get along, even though I am the oldest (I am your sister.) young person on the homestead right now. If we were happy 100% of the time, it would be weird. But if we were angry 100% of the time, it would also be weird. No one lives in those extremes all the time (I hope not at least)

When can you be sent to Bloodline Status?

PEOPLE CAN be relegated to bloodline status quickly in my book. People who are at bloodline status at the moment are there because they are my bloodline (they are related to me biologically, such as a parent, sibling–even half-siblings count!–or extended, such as aunts, uncles, and cousins), and because they have done some truly foul things to me that have stopped my personal and social development in its tracks and have put me in an awkward position.

But what about if a person who does you wrong was never biologically connected to you?

THAT IS a wonderful question, and I am very grateful you asked it. Those people just become those I do not associate with. Personally, I block them on social media, block their calls, texts, messages, and emails, and allow them to live their best life.

In the past, I was a very forgiving person; however, I am finding that the older I get, the less I tolerate. 2020 has been teaching me what I will and will not put up with. I have friends I have known since I was a teenager, and we don’t fight because we both have a mutual, sometimes unspoken, respect for one another. Other friends, I had to teach them how to treat me. Still, many more I just cut off because they were never going to get it. I am learning how to be a better communicator of my needs, which was not prioritized when I lived with my bloodline.

Now that I live in an environment that supports health, wellness, and self-care (“self-care is healthcare” my Grandmother always says.), I have been able to prioritize myself and in turn my healing, my growth, and actualy getting the support I need to be the best person I can be.

You teach people how to treat you

In an issue of The Essence of Life’s newsletter, Reflections on life lived & a lfe being created, I talked about how we teach people how to treat us. When the events of last December happened, I could have very well gone back to Trenton, New Jersey, lived with my parents, and lived miserably as I explained the heartbreaking situation to too many people who were rooting for us, potentially couchsurfing as I waited for social services to kick in, even spending a night or several at the Rescue Mission in the process. That was not a life I wanted to live. Luckily, I was allowed to stay on the homestead, and so my life was able to begin…. right as the Coronavirus pandemic hit the United States and made everyone else halt.

But, sure, I could have gone back North. Could have dealt with Corona disaster (Trenton was not doing well with it at one point, and my family is nothing but essential workers.), could have been dead. But I was too proud to go back North. I would have gone to Virginia, but Jersey was no option for me. Neither was back with the ex. You teach people how to treat you, and by that I mean I knew what he was capable of. I could have taken my chances with him–but if I woke up dead, that was on me. No one else. I deal with that.

But I chose to make a way in Gaston. And I’m glad I did, because it was here I learned the difference between family and bloodline.

My personal experience

When I first began thinking that I was being abused, the hardest thing was speaking about it. I was so afraid that people thought I was crazier than they knew. I was even more afraid of how it would reflect on my parents. I did not want to believe the overt, rampant disrepect that permeated my daily existence living with my mother. I did not want to rage over the facts that my sister got to get her clothing washed every week and I walked around smelling like a combination of piss, shit, sweat, and menstruation on a daily basis; that my sister could eat TV dinners and I got four hot dogs a day or nothing unless I found it. That my sister could sit around all day and do nothing while I bust my ass and got an education for myself.

For years I had bought into the mantra that you do anything and everything for family. Even while my “family” (bloodline) was showing me who they were as selfish people, I just wanted them to love me. As they laughed in my face, as they let me walk around smelling like a dumpster fire, as they did allowed me to be unprepared for life as an adult with disabilities. What they knew about Essence in her 20s was they had her by the balls.

At that time, I had nowhere to go, and no one to ask if I could stay with them–they would have to come in and pick me up, etc. I was not one to disappoint. I pushed harder to please–the harder I pushed to please, the worse I did. This mad me more reckless and desperate I could get to escape the cage I was in. In turn, I became more depressed, heard more voices, and ideated more frequently about suicide. Because I did not see these as “normal 20-something behaviors,” I became more and more silent about my actual problems. I began sitting in therapy sessinos in near silence. I began to eat less because my food was restricted: four hot dogs once daily; want more? you find it. If I volunteered after school, I was often the very last person called to eat, made to walk down the aisle by myself, got my plate as I held back tears. I stopped eating after that, and it was very easy to say that I was not hungry, or I ate at home before I came. My fingers began to get skinnier, my legs too. Everyone complimented me on my weight loss. Almost no one figured out that I had been walking daily for over three years (since age 16) and semi-unintentionally restricting my food intake–only to eat dessert, and then gorge on extra food from the event when I got home. I knew I would be walking it off throughout the following day.

*

MY 20S were so focused on pleasing other people sexually, emotionally, financially that I completely lost myself. When I tried to do things that made me happy, I was yelled at and belittled. So, when the Stimulus checks came, what did I do with mine? Not pay ahead my phone bill or rent. I helped out with food (because if I’m helping to eat it, the least I can do is buy more), and then bought books, clothing, and office supplies. (notebooks, pens, binder). The US Stimulus checks started at $1,200 for single people, and I’m a single person. I got mine, and I went to town (online) ordering all the stuff I wanted, buying food, and buying nothing else I needed. Then my tax refund came in. More clothing, more books, and a mini-fridge (I did need the mini-fridge). I had about $2,200 that I just partied with, basically. I have never had that much money in my entire life. No one got mad at me when I bought these items. No one yelled at me or cursed at me, did not talk to me for three hours, made me cry for a week. I’m pretty sure my Grandmother sighed and looked at my building, but she let me spend the money how I saw fit. She knew I never had that much money before. I was Hot Shit!

Not having support of your personal growth, support of your talents, and your achievements and accomplishments celebrated is disheartening. To see the disdain in my mom’s eyes every time I so much as exited my room to get something to eat, something to drink, or use the restroom. The this bitch every time I said hello, hi, or can I have some just crushed my already insecure, fragile soul. On top of having nothing I do be good enough… and then everything I endured up to now…. it takes a lot out of you.

If you think you are being abused, you’re not alone. If you can, read about abuse warning signs. Read about enmeshment (also called “emotional incest”). Coronavirus makes things very tricky right now in terms of getting away (in my opinion). But the things I wish someone had given or offered me at age 20 are:

  • support
  • understanding
  • validation
  • a safe place or judgment-free zone to vent/process in group setting
  • love; self-love; being taught self-love
  • knowledge of mainstream society

Supports

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_suicide_crisis_lines

This is a list of suicide crisis lines & emergency numbers for many countries around the world.

The Epicenter, Us & Only Us (Poem)

The Epicenter, Us & Only Us

For R. K.

everyone surrounded us,
was a mere blur, or orbited us
& we semi-remembered them.

but we were an “us against the world” couple
at the epicenter of the world, we had each other.
when it went to shit, that was us.
& when we fought tooth, nail, fist—
we knew what we had.
or i did.

in the middle of the end
you were dying.
metal like a gun you wanted to blow
yourself away with,
a heart that spread venom darker than death.
what light can reach you?

i don’t know if god forgives you.
perhaps someone does.
god forgives graciously, it appears.

but does he forgive a dead girl, a dead Agnostic Woman for only doing the right thing? —destroying the epicenter
in an attempt to save her own life?

In Response to “The Tools” (Poem & Reflection)

In Response to “The Tools”

Are you asking me to sit & sob in your office
as we untangle the web of me? —

Are you asking me to look for some humanity
in mess, snot, and yuck?

I do not know if I want to enter this labyrinth
enter this cocoon—

The work is necessary, I know & understand
that does not make the act any less terrifying.

But what, at the end of the day, will happen?
We both know the answer:

I will emerge butterfly
leave my husk behind.

At the end of the day
it is the only way.

So, I shall dive in,
if nothing else but for my own sanity.

I shall dive in, sit & sob
begin untangling & see a different, greater outcome.

Written Saturday, April 11, 2020

**

MY GOAL that I work toward every day is recovery. Not recovery from my mental illness, however. Recovery of my power, my strength, and my happiness. I expect to regain my power every day. I am certain that I will.

In 2016, I was living the stressful life. A life of avoidance, addiction to coffee, deep-seated depression, anger, & resentment of the life I was living: an unauthentic life. I was disgustingly unhappy. You know this if you are a regular reader of this blog. So, it was no suprise that on New Year’s Eve Weekend I finally gave up and admitted myself into the inpatietn unit of my local medical center on the suggestion of mental health professionals and a psychiatric nurse. It took little persuasion on their part. I was tired of the bullshit. i was tired of lying about my life to certain people; I had been doing so for years. When could I be wholly me?

*

BY THE time I was 20 or 21 years old, I was just going through the motions of day to day life. Therapy was a place where I sat for 50 minutes and lied to people. I prattled on about the boy i liked, I talked about school. People saw my weight loss; fewer questioned it. “I like to walk; I don’t know how much I weigh,” I told one therapist every time he asked me what I weighed as I disappeared by the week. I walked to get out of the house, small, crampted, and uncomfortable as it was. The three-mile cumulative walk to and from the local high school did wonders for me. I walked there about six days a week, sometimes seven. I walked about 21 miles a week, sometimes more. The wonderful thing about Hamilton Township was that I could walk down the side streets and have it still feel expansive as ever. I walked those miles in the heat, the rain, even the cold of winter. By the time I was 21 years old, through a combination of disordered eating and constant walking, I weighed 188 pounds, down from 232 in 2009. I have not been that small since.

I was avoiding so many things for decades: my mom’s avoidances of me and the sexual abuse I had endured, her favoritism towards my younger sister, everyone telling me to eat much less, the fact that I was not a Christian but (at the time) Agnostic. I saw all of that, but I wanted so much to unsee it that I began to destroy myself. I self-harmed by whacking my left wrist against metal poles. I began to restrict my eating with my mom’s inadvertent encouragement (she fed me once a day after I turned 19 while knowing I was unemployed; if I wanted more than that, I had to get it myself). I took more classes at community college in an attempt to be like everyone else: able. But I fell more and more behind. I became more and more tired, and I spent less and less time at home. It was very clear i was avoiding things, and I was avoiding them in unhealthy ways: near-reckless behavior, self-degradation.

Because I was not honest with myself except for in my journals, which I showed really no one, but I could not express that honesty in my lived experience, I was imploding. I yelled, I cursed, I even bullied some people. I put on a front.

And sometimes, right up to my hosptitalization in North Carolina, I would do that. I wanted people to see what I could do as opposed to what I could not. As a person who struggles witih mental illness and a learning disability, my immediate instinct is to shine extra bright–to not see my learning disability and mental illness. At one point, I would not disclose either one. People would be surprised when I disclosed after I had left the job. They would go, “Oh, I never noticed! You worked so well/so hard!” Today, I immediately disclose, because if I get hired, that’s going to be something we’re going to be dealing with. I answer those demographic questions, I bring it up. I used to be ashamed of that stuff–like it made me less than my peers. I never want to be odd man out. The older I get, the less others perceptions of me through the lens of my disabilities matters to me. I want you to like me, because we all want that, but it doesn’t hinge on my ability or inability to be like everyone else.

*

SO WHEN I wrote this poem, I wrote about the challenges of starting the healing process. That whole sitting with yourself and in your stuff, working through it (safely!) and more. I am grateful to have a therapist who is encouraging me to work out my traumas and to have insurance to cover the costs of that and my medications. Because when I wrote “The Tools,” it was, like, yeah, I have the stuff inside me (like a Lotus flower) to help me, but now how the hell do I use those things to get me from Point A to Point B? Do I trust myself, and myself with you, to get me through this process safely?

The Tools (Poem)

The Tools

What tools do you expect me to pull or find?
I believe I know how
I do not know with what.

Written March 17, 2020

**

WHEN I wrote this poem, I was listening to the song “This Love” by Craig Armstrong feat. Elizabeth Fraser and scrolling through the poet Meggie Royer’s Facebook page where she shared a quote by Elena Brower: “Some part of me knows how to heal this.”

I was still working through my disastrous end to my engagement, was actively in therapy, and constantly writing. My brother and sister had moved back home from their respective schools because the Coronavirus was now taking over the South, where we live. I was not a happy camper. I liked it when it was just me and my Grandmother, because I had all of her attention and we could talk with no interruptions but a phone call every now and again, and I needed that because I did not have that in Mercer County…. really ever.

So, through all of that, I was looking for anything to connect to. I didn’t feel so unmoored as I did in 2016 or even when I first arrived to North Carolina in October 2019. I was beginning to feel a sense of myself again. I just would sit at the long table facing the window and would write all day. “All you need to worry about is making your bed,” my Grandmother told me. Well, I fell down on making my bed, but I did whatever else I could: wash dishes mainly. I sat in the living room and wrote all day. I had breakfast, I would read, I would write, I would have lunch, I would read, I would write, I would have dinner, I would read, I would write, I would go to bed, and I would do it again. I did that because it was all I could do. I could do nothing else. I wanted nothing else at the time. I wanted things, but I was so scatterbrained that I did not know how to approach getting them. I just… flung out at them, and then knocked them down.

As I prepared to write about this particular poem, I realize I wrote the sticky note for this on my ex’s birthday, March 17.

*

I NEVER in a million years thought my ex-fiance would do anything as horrific or as violent as pull a butcher knife on me. He always called me his helpmate, his soulmate. “You remind me of my grandmother,” he said. I was endlessly devoted to him. I made sure he had anything and everything he needed. I wanted to see him happy. I tried. I tried so hard. I sat in hospital rooms, emergency rooms, talked to doctors, nurses, technicians, assistants, advocated, listened, took notes. I kept a meticulous schedule. I knew when things happened and why they were happening. I knew how to work NJ Transit like it was my employee. I could find the bus stops, work technology (I was a lot younger than he was, for what it is worth). I called transportation, sat in dialysis. He helped me through my violent Episodes, encouraged my writing (though he was mega reluctant to read any of it. I know now that that was his addiction talking) and publication of it. He gave me the courage to walk away from my parents (though it may have been to serve his addiction more than for my benefit).

My ex-fiance may have pulled that butcher knife on me, but before that he helped me out of the worst situtation I could have possibly been in. He was my first serious relationship, the first one I went All In for–and I mean All IN. He saw things I would have never saw–I was too close to it to see it. So, for that, if nothing else, I would be foolish to not (from a safe distance) thank him for helping me out. I wuold not be alive writing this blog post, working on The Essence of LIfe if it were not for his support.

Which is what made the events (a year coming up this week) so horrible. All of the effort we put in… and the changes he was exhibiting: the paranoia, the disrespect, the hostility… I did not understand them. No one did. But we were not going to continue to take them and put ourselves at risk.

You teach people how to treat you. I knew about his past, about other events that I am not at liberty to discuss, but I did not think it could happen to me. But it could, and it did.

He did not think I would change for the better. When he did what he did, he called me daily from the psych ward. I blocked the number. I began calling doctors, dialysis centers to explain the situation, to keep them abreast of what was happening because a) I did not want the headache of repeated phone calls and b) I didn’t want to be an emergency contact for him anymore, so I for sure needed to follow through on the letter i sent to the psych ward. So I called people daily, changing, begging for him to not call me anymore. I got mean, I got bitchy. It took energy to explain the situation again and again and again. Phone numbers I did not recognize were calling me, not leaving voicemails. I called them back to stop leaving me voicemails. I got mean when the calls still came, when people were incompetent. I pulled all of that out of me when I barely could keep my own self together.

*

FEAR TACTICS do not last forever with me. “Shit or get off the pot” as it were. The night I ended the engagement and rescinded my promise of undergoing testing to donate my kidney, he tried the same tactics my parents used on me. Threats, violence. I told him he was skating on thin ice. My sister was furious. I can’t blame her.

“You are doing the same shit my dad does to me, and I’m not having it. You don’t own me. I’m not your property,” I told him.

He remained locked in. We were at a deadlock. He was used to me acquiesing to people out of sheer exhaustion. I was exhausted, alright–of myself, of him, of my life up to that point.

And I shifted 360 degrees.

*

I pulled out of myself healing, growth, and courage to fight by choosing to attend my therapy sessions, take my meds, and do the healing work. I still do, even when it is not easy. I get dressed, eat, and take my medications. I interact, I challenge. I don’t stop, even when I want to. I am done when I am done. No one else defines my limits anymore. No one tells me who I get to see, what I do, or who I date. You have your input, absolutely, but you never get to inject your poison like that again. No one will have that much power over me, and I will not allow myself to be degraded like that. My niece (6) and my nephew (due date May 2021) will not witness me be treated like trash, nor will they witness any man treat me like trash. Neither will my younger sisters (19 and 20) or my younger brothers (21 and 28). Every day I do the work I do becasue I must. But I also must remember where I came from. I came from the end of a butcher knife, and before that from fiscal, emotional, psycholgical, and sexual abuse. I acknowledge all of it. I pull from all of these experiences to create the work I do on a daily basis. What I am learning this year and for the next while is not letting the experiences define me as a person. I define my experiences, my experiences do not define me.

Asking for Things We Need (Poem)

Asking for Things We Need

I know I need…

Something? 
Supplies? 

Support!
Quiet on the COVID-19 front 
More therapy sessions (!)
To call my therapy office (!!)
To stop with — (stop?)
To be brave
To work on saving money
To pay Sis + Jord
More people in Gaston, NC to talk to because I just know the ppl I live with.

An in-person writing group.
Self-love
Organization of my books
Kisses on the forehead
Hugs.

But what else?

I have a cup of tea every day. 
I want to have more of it on hand because it tastes delicious.
I need chia seeds in my oatmeal
Clothing that sits on me well.
To not overuse the ink, toner, and paper
To read more books
To go to Durham’s Barnes & Noble and inhale
To sit in a Starbucks and write until I get hungry.

I have…

My books
My music (Praise the Apple Music Subscription!)
My good-tasting, healthy foods
My tea
My notebooks, pens, and paper
My family
My weirdo calendars 
My holy blood & holier self

What do you need?

You seek to be cleansed in me
& sometimes a handholding in the dead of sleep
& sometimes your breath your breath your
In-ex life stops the cold
And I wonder who else has that power.
That Power?!?!?

Some God/god or Goddesses I have not met yet.
They just ask me to continue the good fight when my eyes open

& they pick it up as my eyes close
& they pick it up as my eyes close

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