Love & Imitation

there must be a way for us to understand you and i…

A Note of Gratitude

NB: TRIGGER WARNING

Thank you for

Swollen strawberry-red lips

Swirls of black and purple bruises

Smashed bones and crimson trails on the floor

Wrists turned white, fingers a shade of navy blue

 

Since we parted

I pick up broken pieces.

I pour liquid gold to fill the cracks.

I break the silence to share the love and power that

Spill from a still-beating heart.

To glow bright in the dark of you.

 

I am now everything that you hated most.

Survivor,

Warrior,

Empress,

Complete.

 

A note of gratitude – GB

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Some mornings you wake up, and you realize instantly – today will be hard. It happens the minute you open your eyes, as soon as you are conscious of your first heartbeat. For those of us who battle with mental health illness – this feeling breaks you, even before you have a chance to put up a fight. Because today, you will not find joy in the simple things that make you smile on every other day (puppies and Balam Pichkari and fresh orange juice and mid-morning phone calls). Because today, you will be wracked by a constant nagging feeling of inadequacy, and self-doubt, and guilt (“The mask will slip today. They will see the cracks. The will realize that I am nothing like them. What did I do wrong to make them act this way. I will probably fail them”). Because today, even those that love you most will be frustrated by you, angered by your silence, bored by your pain, and annoyed at your inability to answer the hardest question of all, “What’s wrong?” Because today, you know you will find yourself completely alone with the quiet darkness in your head.

And that’s when you have to decide that the solitude will not break you.

It won’t be easy – because your illness will find ways to hurt you. It won’t be easy – because those that claim to/want to understand, will misunderstand. And that will hurt you. It won’t be easy – because although you really just need someone to listen, you will retreat into silence. And that will hurt you. It won’t be easy – because, completely unfairly, you were dealt a difficult hand. And that will hurt you. But the hurt is not the end.

That is when you hold on to something in your heart and physical space that grounds you. A ring, a song, a hug from someone who cares, a memory, a cup of coffee. A reminder, from this world that you inhabit, that affirms to you that you are HERE, you are strong, and most of all – you are important. That this world will be irreparably empty if you were to disappear. That you are full of love, full of light, full of inspiration. That you are going to go on to do incredible things in this world – to fight for what you believe in, and find ways to help those who have less than you, to support the people you love most, to create art that moves and inspires and lifts, to make life better for someone else who suffers like you. And while you think of all these things, and they seem unattainable and distant and impossible – remind yourself of the many times you have faced a day like today and survived. Remind yourself of the last time your mind and body started to fail you – and you fought back. Look back at the last time you were here in a moment as dark as this one and remind yourself of how spectacularly you’ve burned, how tall you’ve grown, and how your magic has, despite everything, changed this world. Look back and find inspiration – in all that you were, all that you have become, and all that you are going to be.

Today seems impossible, and as always you suffer in silence. But, don’t for a moment apologize for your illness or your pain – it is not to be ashamed of. Don’t for a second think that you are any less than those who are different from you. And don’t, for God’s sake, let ANYONE convince you that you are wrong to be you. Find those spaces (within yourself and outside) that let you be free. Find ways to be good – to yourself and those that you love. Don’t let the pain make you hurt those who matter – especially not yourself. You, you beautiful thing, are better than that.

And to those who truly love us and care – I know today won’t be easy for you either. But please, be especially interested in the things that I cannot seem to say – it’s hard to talk when trying to swim up from under a wave.

Don’t get lost – because YOU are cherished. X

It’s a little bit lonely down here…

(Trigger Warning)

Some days, it’s all a bit too much. It starts with a nagging voice in the back of my head and it ends with a deep drop in the pit of my stomach. And suddenly (or sometimes, slowly), nothing is OK. That’s the thing about living with a debilitating mental illness – you just never know when you might lose control. All I’m left with on days like this is a constant, dull ache and a loneliness that is both empty and impossibly heavy. I can’t always pinpoint what it is that makes me feel this way – and, for many months now, I’ve managed to use techniques I’ve learned in therapy to avoid any relapses into full blown depression. But today…it’s all a bit too much.

It’s a strange thing, this whole living with mental illness thing. I always find myself telling young people I mentor, or my friends who suffer from similar illnesses, that there is no shame in being a sufferer. Just as you don’t blame someone if they have a serious physical health condition – it is never the sufferer’s ‘fault’ if they have a mental illness. Sometimes, however, I feel like I repeat these things to convince myself, more than the people to whom I’m speaking. Because, in reality, I know that there is a horrible stigma surrounding mental illness, and this stigma silences me more than I’d care to admit. I know that after finishing this post, my cursor will hover over the “Share” button much longer than it should. But, this is me – diving into the deep end.

Tonight, I really wish I could call someone and talk to them. But the one person who might understand lives 5,000 miles/5 time zones away, and is probably asleep. I wonder what it says about me that in the 2500+ people I know well enough to be friends with on facebook + twitter, I feel like I have one single person who I can be sure will pick up the phone if I called right now…I suppose this is why it is important for me to share this post and break my own silence.

A few years ago, I worked for 13 months with US veterans who were returning from their second or third tours of Iraq and Afghanistan. I worked mainly as their first respondent psychological contact and relayed any psychological issues they were having to the mental health professionals that our organization was affiliated with. Time and time again, the issue of the lack of understanding from family and friends would come up. Not simply the lack of understanding about the experience of war (which is, admittedly, near impossible for any non-combatant to ever fully comprehend) but also an inability to understand the experience of living with PTSD, living with depression, living with Dissociative Identity Disorder – basically, living with mental illness. Our training expressly forbade us to ever share our personal health history (physical or mental) with our patients, so I had to constantly fight the urge to stand up and yell “PREACH!” during so many of my sessions. Those feelings of isolation and self-censorship and invisibility in front of those you love were all too familiar.

I’d like to believe that people care about each other. Despite all the proof in the world that suggests otherwise (especially, right now), I’d like to believe humanity is compassionate and empathetic. Even on days like today, when I’m tempted to hate the world as a result of my own isolation and also everything that is happening globally – I can’t. But, I also believe we can do a much better job of caring for and protecting the people that we love, especially the more vulnerable folks who suffer from mental illness. To me, it’s quite simple – just as you would try to understand and empathize when someone you love is physically hurting, do the same for someone when their mental illness takes over their spirit. Oftentimes, know that their body is pushing desperately hard to stay alive, while their mind slowly closes in on them.

“Understanding” means not belittling them when they are ‘irrationally’ sad or anxious or frightened. Understanding means never calling them “crazy”, even in the middle of the worst fight. Understanding means being attentive to when they are acting differently, embracing the fact that your loved one probably doesn’t quite get why he/she is acting or feeling this way – but being compassionate anyway. Understanding means never knowingly provoking them into reacting badly. Understanding means never pushing them purposefully into situations which may trigger flashbacks and result in psychosis or psychological distress. Understanding means respecting silence and distance. Understanding means knowing that your loved one carries around a condition that might make them feel like they’re constantly on the edge of drowning. Understanding means being patient, supportive, and kind so that they don’t actually drown. Understanding is encouraging them to seek professional help and/or spaces where they can be vulnerable and share their experiences, without ever feeling judged or maligned. Understanding is giving someone time to heal. Understanding, above all, means making your loved one feel safe – reminding them that they may be different from you, but that that difference does not make them weak.

It was 38C (100F for you Amreekans) and super sunny here in Southern California. Your bog-standard “beautiful day”. The thing about mental illness though is that I went through today feeling like I was in the middle of a torrential downpour, alone without an umbrella or any shelter in sight. (Sorry for my use of the hackneyed weather metaphor, it’s been a long day :P) Logic (or urban legend) might tell you that writing down all my thoughts would make me feel better and I should end this post on a happy note – but the truth of the matter is, it doesn’t and I won’t. The dark rain clouds (sorry, again) and all-encompassing sadness haven’t mysteriously disappeared because of this blog post. The trauma from my past and the damage it has done doesn’t magically erase itself because of me sharing my thoughts. Sadly, that’s not how mental illness works. This post won’t make me or (chances are) anyone else feel miraculously happy – but, the thought that even one person might read this and start a conversation with me or themselves or a loved one about mental illness is more than enough for me.

In the mean time, I’m off. Retreating under the covers with a good book and good music (this and this, tonight) has forever been my favorite escape. Tomorrow is a new day. I can’t guarantee that it will be better, but I will certainly be stronger.

Goodnight x

On David Moyes

If a football club could embody chronic mismanagement, it would have to be the Manchester United of 2013-2014. Sadly, like almost everything else we’ve done this season (“RT to vote Wayne Rooney as your Man of the Match!”) – David Moyes’ sacking too was handled with glaring incompetence and an unprecedented gracelessness.

The reasons for his departure are hardly debateable – uninspired performances, and the lack of concrete evidence that things are going to get better very rarely buy a manager time, especially in this ruthless and unforgiving era of modern football. And let’s not kid ourselves, we are not special. We’ve been blessed with the exceptions of Sir Alex Ferguson and Sir Matt Busby, but we sack our managers when they’re not good enough. Am I one of those who has been bellowing “Moyes Out” every week- absolutely not. Do I think it was time for him to leave – eh, it’s probably the most “sensible”  and only outcome there was left. It’s been proven just how different (and arguably unsuccessful) Moyes’ style of play and general managerial mindset is from the accepted “Manchester United way”. If the experiment had to work – it needed an entire stripping down and reconstruction. And for that, it needed time. A LOT of time.

In his short tenure as United manager, David Moyes has made mistakes. Many, many mistakes. Countless gaffes in the press, seemingly clueless “HOOF!” style football, embarrassing transfer window fiascos, the revolving door of lineups and formations – all bad! And the effects are clear as day (can we just NOT talk about the Premier League table, please). However, in my opinion, his aggrandizing of Wayne Rooney was probably one of the biggest blunders of the entire season (cue a stream of abuse). Building a team around one player is never a smart thing to do. It is especially dangerous when there are other players in the squad who would outplay Rooney in his “preferred position” on any given day of the week. In a team filled with superstars with big paychecks and even bigger egos, a manager has to prove that he is stronger than them all. He has to put the team and its results first, above the whims of the individuals. He has to show he has vision and ambition. All the evidence suggests that David Moyes sadly failed at all of this.

It quickly became obvious that David Moyes was over his head and completely unprepared for what the expectations are at Manchester United. But it has to be said, from the outside, it looks like he was never given the support that he deserved. From rumors of treacherous behavior from his players (I personally feel most betrayed by this) to the spineless suits of the United board room and of course the all-encompassing catastrophic omnipresence of the Glazer family – the club can hardly stand up and say they did their new manager justice. If anything, the fans (mostly match-going, not the angry crazies that hide behind their computer screens) this season have been the only heroes – they have shown more faith and fight during a difficult season than any of those in charge of our football club.

It’s a sad day for Manchester United. Not just because it caps off a season so horrible that even the most hateful of our rival fans are stunned. But because it ushers in a new era that a lot of us are not at all used to. The myth of the Old Trafford “fortress” was routinely and methodically dismantled during football matches, this season. And perhaps that was simply allegorical for a much larger crisis facing the club. For so many years, we were the no-drama big club, however as Gary Neville put it

 “The weight and explosion of the information coming out concerns me. That club, for 20-odd years, contained and managed information. It was completely off the scale like nothing else that’s happened in the club in 20 years”.

It was a strange feeling going to bed last night, knowing that I would be waking up to the news of Manchester United Football Club sacking a manager. It is the first time in my lifetime that I’ve seen this happen. I tweeted saying that I hoped that United did right by David Moyes and let him leave with his dignity intact. They didn’t. Moyes found out about his fate, just like the rest of us, from online newspapers. Apparently after the story broke, he didn’t get any calls of reassurance or confirmation from the club. And yet, after being dismissed face-to-face by Ed Woodward (don’t even get me STARTED on the monstrous calamity of a professional that this man is!) this morning, David Moyes stayed on at Carrington to shake the hand of every member of the team (MOST of whom let him down this season) and personally say goodbye to them. It’s a sad day to lose the manager of your football club. It’s an especially sad day when the manager is one of the last remaining Good Guys in modern football.

It was a bit of a slow motion disaster, David Moyes, but cheers for the effort. Like at the end of every failed romance, I find myself thinking – maybe the timing just wasn’t right. Ta-ra Moyesy…at least we had this:

Image

Psalm 27:14 (NIV) – Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.

With every difficult day that I survive, I feel my heart grow more courageous and I feel my faith and horizons broaden. It’s not always easy, it doesn’t always seem fair, but I believe in His timetable for my life.

Loss and Small Things

“Ammu explained to Estha and Rahel that people always loved best what they Identified most with.”

I finished re-reading my favourite book (of all time) today – The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy.

It has been almost a decade since I first read it. I remember when I, a precocious 17 year old, turned the last page of the book all those years ago. I remember having devoured every word, every sentiment, every fullstop contained within its covers, in a week. I remember feeling breathless and empty. Like I had just completed a pilgrimage and, at the end, found myself devoid of all other reasons to exist. I remember telling my mother, “If I died now, it would be OK. I’ve led a complete life because I read this book” (I wasn’t joking about being precocious). It is a book that has had the most profound, long-lasting effect on my spirit and sensibility. Perhaps, for this reason, I was so reluctant to revisit its pages. Encountering the reality that something is not quite as beautiful as you remembered it to be is one of the most devastating experiences in life.

But one Sunday afternoon, I strolled into my parents’ library, looking for a book to read. And, like a spurned lover avoiding an irresistible ex’s gaze at a crowded party, I decidedly ignored The God of Small Things. Some temptations, however, you are just not meant to turn away from. And so, I carefully slid the book out of its spot on the tightly-packed shelf, and sat down to be heartbroken, once again.

The book is, without a question, the most intense literary journey that I have ever encountered (and, arguably, will ever encounter). Roy is the most measured yet manic author I will ever read. Every word, no matter how seemingly whimsical, is deliberate. There are moments where you are so completely unsure whether to laugh out loud, or weep uncontrollably – it could drive you mad. Language becomes a mere formality as the tragedy of the journey starts to take control.

The God of Small Things. Its depression, its darkness, its profound explorations of society and the complexity of humanity, its characters (oh, such rich, layered characters), its stories of loss, heartbreak, redemption and condemnation – words could never do this book justice. But, most of all, what makes this book so remarkable for me is the deftness with which it dissects my most private, inner musings. It is a most astounding reality that a book, written by a complete stranger, can so completely give voice to all that makes you a person.

Today, as I read the last words of the last paragraph of the last chapter of the book, I felt like my 17 year old self, again. If ever there were a book, within whose pages and tear-stained realities I would want to spend my entire existence – it is this one.

“She knew who he was – the God of Loss, the God of Small Things.”

cupcakesandkids

Sugary goodness with my niece and nephew. Some days I’m allowed to be happy too 🙂