hands

the bar is cold on this November night,
the warmth of the air stolen and poured
into stomachs of patrons sipping whiskey Cokes and shots of Fireball

at the end of the bar, a laugh-
gray hair and wrinkles excuse the
acidic honey off his tongue,
while the bartender smiles through gritted teeth

takes me back to 13
crowded halls and busy students
unsolicited hugs, hands of boys on girls.
I know that if I mattered
it would be their hands on me.


I remember boys in middle school slapping girls’ butts as they walked down the halls between classes. It was all in good fun; the boys were popular, and the girls were flattered (at least, I assumed they were). In the clearer light of adulthood, I see that for what it was: a complete disregard for girls’ – children’s – personal space. It was unwanted sexual contact. It was assault.

It’s a fucked up world when a child feels not-good-enough because she isn’t being assaulted.

jaw surgery: beforehand

Two years ago, I was sitting in my orthodontist’s office for a consultation on Invisalign. I had braces as a teen, but, like everyone I know, stopped wearing my retainer to sleep after a few months – so my teeth had ended up slightly crooked.

When my dentist referred me to the orthodontist, I thought it would be a quick, relatively cheap process, since my teeth were mostly straight.

Around this same time, I was going through the most stressful period of my life to date, and had developed a habit of clenching my teeth at all hours of the day and night. Whether it was 7 AM or 3 PM, my teeth were almost permanently pressed together. I was also getting migraines . This had started happening during my senior year of college – I assumed from the mattress that I was sleeping on that year – about once or twice a month. In the Fall of 2016, I was getting migraines about 20 days per month.

Sitting in the orthodontist’s office, talking to him about the posibility of getting started with Invisalign, he took one look at my x-ray and asked, “Do you get headaches a lot?”

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wings/sellout

There is an artist inside of me, enveloped in a cocoon. Her head cocked to the side, shoulders by ears, legs crossed at the ankle – a newly formed butterfly. She rolls her neck and gingerly reaches out an arm, trying to stretch her sticky wings after their metamorphosis.

But the cocoon is not papery-thin like she expected – it is hard, wooden, solid. Its walnut-shell exterior echoes as she knocks. The wall that once kept her protected now keeps her docile. She fights until she tires, but the wall does not budge, and she falls asleep.

In the morning, the cocoon is a bubble, and stretches with her. She wiggles her arms and legs, but the shimmering rubber will not pop. It is maddening. The world that she longs to be a part of is just outside, but the bubble suffocates her as she tries to escape.

Rather than claw her way out, fighting against the cage that has locked her in, she folds herself back up, crosses her ankles, and sings herself to sleep.


I cannot get over the gnawing feeling that I am not creating enough. I have grand ideas, but never flesh them out enough to bring them to life. My entire approach to creativity is half-assed.

I am afraid to sell out.

I am terrified of creating something that feels contrived. I want to make important works of art – but am so afraid of making something forced that I entirely avoid creating anything at all.

mold

I thought it was for you –
             the blue;
     The red, the green,
     the broken self esteem.

But it is mine alone,
     mine to shape, mine to mold
     into what I want,
     not what I think you want.

waves

I spend my life holding back the ocean.

Some days, the tide is low. The water barely touches my toes, and I feel good. Keeping the waves at bay is easy.

Other days, the ocean is still, and I thrive.

And then there are days like today, when the waves crash over me. They pull me under and drown my senses. I am carried, flipped, tumbled around, and it takes everything I have to get myself to shore.

My medication gives me far more low- and no-tide days. And for the days when the waves envelope me? I have a baseline, and I know that it won’t last. I have walked on the shore making seashell memories before, and I can look forward to the waves receding.

They always do, eventually, and that is worth the wait.

normal

I am not normal, and I am not exaggerating. Just because you can’t see my mental illness does not mean it’s overstated.

I do not have anxiety because I get nervous to speak in front of other people, or because I have an irrational fear of dark basements.

I rehearse entire conversations in my head, on a loop, psyching myself up to even open my mouth. I feel my pulse quicken when the conversation moves in a direction I am not prepared for. I get overwhelmed by people who are talking quickly, loudly.

I do not have OCD because a coffee mug turned the wrong way bothers me.

I have compulsions to place my foot in an exact spot on a sidewalk crack. I alter my breathing to align with my steps, always making sure my right foot lands on the top stair, just as I inhale. I make clockwise circles with my right hand around objects in my line of sight. The top corner of my laptop trackpad has the paint worn off of it where I have absent-mindedly run my finger along it until it. feels. right.

But despite all of these quirks, I am not broken.

A friend asked me once if I would prefer to not have to deal with all of these things. Wouldn’t I rather be “normal”? I can confidently say, no.

I can’t help but wonder what my childhood would have been like if I had known then what I know now, that I have never been “normal”. I don’t know if the path that I would have taken would have been drastically different, or if my friends or interests would be the same. I do know, though, that the things I have had to work through on my own, with my therapist, and with the help of medication, have made me in to a stronger, more me version of me.

I am not normal, and I am proud.

my anxiety

My anxiety is green. It is the color of silently putting down others so that I can feel good enough about myself not to break. It looks like shame and guilt for knowing that those thoughts are not true, but thinking them anyways. It is self preservation that makes me feel like shit.

My anxiety sounds like Friday nights sitting alone, because I’m afraid to inconvenience anyone by asking them to spend time with me. It is last minute cancelled plans when someone invites me out, and the silence of not being invited again.

My anxiety is warm. It clings to me, a tiny monster on my back, its fuzzy arms slung over my shoulders. It whispers in my ear that we should just go home, that I’m not meant to be here. It is comfortable. It talks to me like an old friend.

My anxiety convinces me that everyone else knows what they are doing, that they all have some intrinsic knowledge of how to… I don’t know… human? It tells me that there is a connection missing in my brain, keeping me from knowing how to behave.

Don’t talk too much. Why are you so quiet? You’ll stand out too much if you wear that. Don’t ask that question; they’ll think you’re dumb.

It is a constant reminder that I am different.

My anxiety is the reason that I ask my boyfriend, “am I complaining too much?” before I hit “Publish”. It’s the reason that I don’t form opinions, in case my opinions are wrong; the reason I second guess every choice I make, every word that comes out of my mouth or gets typed onto the page. What if it’s not good/smart/strong enough? What if am not good/smart/strong enough?