Lenten Sacrifice

I haven’t sat down at my computer since Thursday.  The kids were here so no work was done, and I’m pretty sure one of the kiddos broke my desk chair.  Awesome.

Yesterday, I had a panic attack.  It was around 1030pm and I could not fall asleep.  Both Mark and I had big days ahead, and I was very hungry all of a sudden.  I went in search of a snack and couldn’t find anything suitable, and suddenly, I was crying.  By the time I walked out to the living room, I was hyperventilating.  By the time Mark woke up and realized I was in panic mode, my heart started beating out of my chest, and my whole body ached.  Mark ran to find my Xanax and I took it and did some breathing exercises. 

Why was I panicking?  Couldn’t tell you, in the moment.  I thought maybe it was just stress over the fact that I couldn’t sleep when I knew I had to be up before 6am, but it really wasn’t that.  It wasn’t even the lack of snacks. It was just that I suddenly had this very childlike anger about not getting what I want.

Due to various circumstance, I have been sacrificing many things I want.  From writing advancement costs to large household purchases to simple everyday pleasures, I have said no.  And then, at 1130pm, when all I want is a couple Cheese Doodles and a good night’s sleep, the universe denies me this modest act?!  I don’t know; I just snapped. 

It’s not that I really mind, you see.  I am sacrificing for a greater goal, and that is just fine with me…most days.  But some days, my inner 6-year-old comes out and throws a hissy fit.  I just want what I want when I want it!

I don’t know if this feeling triggered my attack, but I’m guessing.  It’s how I felt in the moment when I started to cry, and I think it just snowballed from there.

I am remembering school today, because right about now we would be working on our Lent assignments, always the same every year: what are you giving up for Jesus?  I was typically urged to give up sweets, because I was fat in the 90s…before the rest of America caught up.  I knew one girl whose whole household gave up television.  I thought that was some serious commitment on their parents’ part.  Then, on Ash Wednesday we would read our little essays about sacrifice and get ashes on our foreheads and have fish for dinner.

So, if you’re a constant reader than you know I quit Catholicism some time ago, but all this stuff?  The sacrifice and the no meat and such?  Indoctrination, baby.  I can’t not think about it once Mardi Gras rolls around (which I would much rather celebrate.)

Sometimes, even as an ex-Cath, I think of some sacrifice to make during Lent.  Something small…or something nice to do for someone else maybe.  Not this year.  I’m not giving anything up, because I have been sacrificing for a very long time now.  This year I am going to reap some benefits, damnit.

Mark and I both started new jobs, so we are extremely hopeful life is about to change up real fast.  I can feel it coming, I’ve had some very prophetic dreams, and I have been told that I’m a little bit psychic (by a psychic, no less.)  So, I am currently confident in a quick end to the sacrifice.

Though, let’s be real…how quick?  Probably six weeks.  Let’s circle back at Easter.

New Year, New Me? No.

This is my last post of the year, and I don’t have much to say.  I already shared my writing accomplishments over the course of 2021, and I don’t have much to report on the personal front because let’s be real, it has not been a good year.  Really, it has been one smack in the face after another this year, and I am fine with 2021 being over.

What annoys me at the moment though is that this December there seem to be a lot of folks posting about how 2022 is going to be “their year,” and don’t get me wrong, I hope so, but c’mon.  We’re still in a pandemic.  It’s a lot more likely you’re going to have to go back to remote working/learning at some point, always have to wear a mask, and watch a bunch more people get sick and die.  So, I guess I’m not really feeling the positivity, y’know?

Don’t worry, I have an appointment with my therapist on Monday.

In the meantime, I just have to pull out the good ol’ Emotional Toolbox.  The ET is a concept I came up with many years back, essentially a mental list of my coping mechanisms.  It has little tricks for panic attacks, like sit in front of the fan, or pet your fuzzy blanket.  Then it has more complex plans for fighting anxiety and depression, like what I call the “Ross Method,” in which you break a task down into itty-bitty pieces so that it is accomplished easily.  One of my favorite tools in the ET is the “Silver Linings Search,” in which you find the good in the bad.  This always helps me out, and this is what I am using right now as I write this blog.

What good things happened in my garbage year?  Well, I had my surgery, which helped my tummy a little.  And my husband left a very toxic work environment.  My dad remains cancer-free.  My mother is getting her foot surgery.  My sister moved out on her own.  We got to have Christmas with my grandma.  We didn’t get sick. 

These are all good things.

Now, I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, except for my annual declaration that I shall read more.  That might actually happen this year though, as I have both a brand-new Kindle and upcoming cataract surgery.  I don’t think I will make any huge accomplishments, except perhaps releasing my mini-chap, which could happen sooner than I think.  Though, lack of accomplishment might be my depression talking.  In the beginning of the pandemic, I was ok.  In fact, I was ok for a long time, watching as my healthy-brained friends lost their minds when faced with the sudden onset of anxiety and depression.  I was peachy. I was a pro.

Lately, though, it seems it’s starting to wear on me.  Like, I don’t know if it’s Christmas letdown or what, but I am just not in the mood.  I mean, I try to write an end of the year post, I wanted it to be uplifting, but here we are, discussing depression again.

Because that’s how she works, my friends.  I never get a day off.

Anyway, if you want to go make 2022 “your” year, more power to you.  I hope you succeed.  I will be cheering you on.  Me, my goal is both simple and infinitely more difficult: get out of bed in the morning, and carry on.  That’s my New Year’s resolution.

What’s yours?

Creating Flavors

Back before the world got sick, I forced myself to attend an open mic poetry reading at a local bookstore.  Then, that ended because of the pandemic, and I retreated back into my little anxiety shell and didn’t come out for a year and a half.  Then, last week I saw an ad in the paper for a writing workshop.  There were only a few slots available, but I figured what the heck and threw my name into the hat.  Two days later I received an email saying I was registered.  Turns out, it was also a free event, so I was even more pumped because in case you were wondering, poetry collections are not best sellers. 

But then, as it does, my stomach came out to play on Friday and sent me into a tizzy.  Saturday, the day of the workshop, I felt better physically, but terrible mentally.  Firstly, I did not take my meds the night before because I was fearful of throwing up again.  Secondly, they pumped me full of the strong stuff at the ER and it was still wearing away come Saturday afternoon.

At 3pm, I was near tears, scared to go, unprepared, rushed…all the feelings of anxiety that like to stop me in my tracks.  I was even a little sick to my stomach, which made me all the more worried.  Mark did what he always does, and that is get me through it.  He remined me how excited I as when I got the registration email.  He reminded me how badly I wanted to get out into the world again, and he reassured me of my talents, as he does every day.  So, I got dressed and drank some coffee and got in the car and went.

Awkward at first, as always, I was maybe the second person to arrive.  I settled in and we got a box full of goodies (photo below) with a notebook and a journal in it, along with supplies for making tea bags.  First, Julio (whom I met once before at that bookstore, so it was a little easing to see a face I knew in the room,) gave a talk about the histories of tea and the cultural and religious significances, and then discussed the tea flavors we had and what they symbolized, which was very interesting.  I jotted down my combinations I wanted to try: hibiscus mint for mom, lemongrass mint for Bernie, and lavender chamomile for me.

After our selections, we took to writing about our flavors.  I didn’t get anything very good, because I was writing longhand which is just TORTURE in my opinion.  But I of course typed it up and then cleaned it a little, so you can find it below.  Everyone else shared their pieces, and they were lovely.  I like open mic style things because everyone’s flow is so different.  You have free form, traditionalists, rhymers, alliteraters, slam poets…so much variety.

After the journaling and sharing, we put our tea in the bags and decorated tea boxes.  Then, Bianca, who seemed to be the one in charge, gave everyone a personalized cup (and you just know I love stuff with my name on it.)  We had a little open mic, where you could share whatever, and I read Sick Since Sixteen because it was the first poem that came up on my phone.  It was a good choice though, because I received both snaps and “mmmh’s” which is like a standing ovation in the poetry world. Then everything broke up and most people started heading over to The Gypsy Parlor across the street for an iced tea tasting, and that’s when my brain screamed “NO.  GO HOME.”

So, I gathered my things and thanked my hosts and left, dejected.

See, the mingling bit was the part I was looking forward to the most.  I barely know any local writers, and it is so hard for me to get out of my shell and find actual humans.  And my stupid brain said no, then triggered my stomach to agree with it, causing me to gag on the corner of Grant and Potomac.  Sometimes I feel like that stupid brain-gut connection is truly ruining everything good and exciting in my life.

Anyway, I went home.  I made my tea, and it was delicious.  Soothing chamomile and destressing lavender.  Very helpful.  Then I typed up what I wrote in my journal, and texted Sahar to tell her of my woes.  She suggested I try to network virtually, which I don’t know if I would be better at.  I decided to follow the hosts of the events fb pages.  Hopefully that will keep me on the radar for upcoming things.

Julio is having an ugly Christmas sweater open mic, which seems pretty cool, but who knows if anxiety will let me attend.  I will try, though.  I will always keep trying.  In the meantime, I shall sip my tea and write in my journal and hope to make a new friend that I can talk about the business of words with.  Someday…

4pm
Gram was British, 
so 4pm meant tea time.
Our cups, 
filled with cream and sugar, 
(honey and lemon if you were sick.) 
Biscuits were a necessity, 
though mother would say 
“It’s too close to dinnertime!”  
“She’s already overweight!”  
No mind paid by Gram, 
tea and cookies at 4pm.
Rose Red tea, 
so I could collect the porcelain figurines, 
and terrible shortbread 
from a blue metal tin,  
She would have been one-hundred on Saturday, 
but I lost her when I was eight, 
her body as cold 
as the cup of leftover tea 
on her nightstand.
my goodies.

Camera Shy

One night, I was managing a show called The Last Meeting of the Knights of the White Magnolia at a tiny bookshop in downtown Buffalo.  I could fit maybe 15 people comfortably in there at a time, but this particular evening at least 20 folks showed up, one in a wheelchair.  It was my job to handle the crowd while they were in the small space, and so I did what had to be done.  I stood on the stage area and announced we were all going to play a game of Tetris.  The crowd laughed.  I then comically rearranged all these strangers so that everyone could sit comfortably, and so the woman in the wheelchair could get a spot in the front row.  For five or ten minutes, I just riffed, no problem.  In my head I thought, what is this, if not acting?  I mean, it’s basic improv.  I’d been onstage acting for so many times in my life at that point, that it was just natural.

Now, I don’t believe I have lost this ability, but technology has altered it.  As it turns out, I have no stage-fright, but I am painfully camera-shy.

I never liked having my picture taken, and with the advent of the selfie I was very cautious.  But now, things are changing again, and it is videos that rule the world.  And I just can’t.

I’ve made a few.  The ones where I introduce myself and read a poem are best.  The one I made for the suicide walk didn’t turn out too bad, but I stumbled a little, and my palms were sweaty, and my heart was racing.  Then came the Patreon idea.

On my Patreon, I have The Vociferous Vlog, where I read a poem and then talk about the inspiration behind it.  In theory, it’s a really good idea, but as it turns out, videos are not my strong suit.  I should have realized…I’d always rather read the article, y’know?

The first one I made was ok, but E and I did it together and couldn’t quite get the angle on the camera right.  I was far away and not as clear-sounding as we had hoped.  The second one was worse, because Mark tried to hand-cam it and shook the whole time, which wasn’t even obvious until I uploaded it to the computer.  Then, it looked terrible.  I looked good, but I also kept my eyes down the entire time, which is something I will have to work on.

You would think I would be better at this.  And also, I’ve done plenty of Zoom calls during the pandemic, and never felt this way about those…perhaps because I’m talking with someone?  PLUS, my Patreon is just starting out and only has a few subscribers, so why am I bugging over people I KNOW seeing me in a video?

No really, I’m asking.  I have no answers.

I know that you could drop me in the middle of a stage and I could entertain for an hour.  I know it.  But to get me to film myself doing five minutes of poetry talk on my own?  Nope. I try to summon the theater person deep within me but I guess she’s sleeping (likely due to some SSRI’s,) and won’t be coming to my aide today, at least.

I shall try again tomorrow.

My Mental Mistresses

I got dumped last week, by my therapist. 

She got a job at the agency I’ve been badmouthing for two years, assuring me that things have changed now that said agency has changed from a zero-tolerance policy to a harm-reduction model for substance use.  That’s why I left.  They were going to put me in the drug program because I smoked a little pot.  They also yanked my Xanax out from under me and when I had a full-on panic attack in my doctor’s office, he slammed the door in my face.  No thanks, I’m out.

Anyway, I found a swell spot after that large Buffalo-based agency that may or may not have a rising sun as their logo and started seeing a woman named Jamie.  My prescribers have rotated a little over the past two years there, but that is to be expected anywhere.  You don’t need to bond with the person giving you your pills; that’s what your counselor is for. 

Jamie was fine.  She was very good at her job, and I liked her very much, but I didn’t feel the “click” I have felt with other counselors in the past.  These are the people you open your mind to, and it is important that you mesh well on every level.  Jamie did a fine job.  But she was no Carissa.

I don’t remember when I had Carissa.  I know it was at that aforementioned agency I went to for ten years, and I know it was at their Hertel branch and I think it was while I still lived in Kenmore.  The thing is, my meds weren’t right at the time, so all of that time period is a mishmash of memory.  When Carissa dumped me for a job in the Southern Tier, I was depressed.  I was devastated.  She was my favorite, and she was gone, and it was over.  It was then that I recognized a peculiar thing: these women have no last names.

My first counselor was named Sarah.  I saw her at D’Youville College because my friends dragged me there one afternoon.  I never knew her last name.  When I moved over to what I refer to as the “Fancy Suburban Drug Dealers” agency, I had three other counselors, whose first names I couldn’t even tell you.  Of course, they pumped me so full of meds based on a misdiagnosis that I was practically a zombie the whole time.  Then, The Rising Sun, where I ended up with Carissa, who left me with no last name and no forwarding information.

Alas!  One day, she found me on Myspace.  I was very happy but I still don’t know her last name.  And now, Myspace is dead and I can’t find her on Facebook without a surname.  After Carissa, came Katie.

Katie and I were together for years, and I actually got to know her last name.  However., The Rising Sun implemented their zero-tolerance policy, and one day she told me they would be tox screening everyone.  “But that’s not a problem for you…” she says.

I tell her, right away, that it is a problem, that not only will I test positive for cannabis but that I believe it is an infringement on my privacy.  She becomes shocked that I have never mentioned cannabis use before and our relationship starts to crumble.  Now, I have only good things to say about Katie, who from what I understand is running some things over there now, and I am hopeful that her experiences with me and other clients has opened her eyes to other possibilities.  The trust between us was broken, though; she felt I had kept something important from our sessions.  I felt it was none of her gotdamn business.

An impasse.  Fortunately, she was promoted up the ladder and I was thrown over to the Orchard Park location, where I met Ashley.

Ashley was great.  She totally agreed that it was nonsense, the whole bit about the cannabis, and did her best to keep me out of the drug program at The Rising Sun, always stating that I wasn’t abusing the substance.  Then she moved to Colorado and oh my heart!  But…I knew her last name.  In fact, we exchanged emails, and after she was settled she got in touch.   We still occasionally email, and yes, there are topics I am more comfortable sending in a letter to her than expressing via speech to my therapist. 

In many ways, she reminds me of the feeling I had with Carissa.

However, after her departure I was moved to a woman named Liz.  She was fine, in the way that Jamie was fine.  But she didn’t fight for me. 

When I became a number at The Rising Sun, I was furious.  They were making me into a statistic…showing me on graphs as someone with mental illness who also had a substance abuse problem.   They insisted I start drug counseling.  I told them to fuck right off.

Which brings me to now.  I found a little place that was like “oh, you smoke pot?  Well, let me put you in touch with a medical marijuana doctor,” and I was sold.  I feel like my doc actually listens to me, which is new in general, and I never feel like a number because it’s a small place.  AND, I’ve had two good counselors so far.  I mean, not great…but good.

Anyway, I’m seeing a new woman named Rachel next week, and I am hopeful.  I hope we “click.”  Jamie thinks we will.  I’m actually going into the office to meet her too, which is something I haven’t done in a year, so that’s kind of exciting.

I wonder, will I know her last name some day?  Will I be gifted that knowledge after a year or two of counseling, when the bond is formed?  Will I look back ten years from now and remember her fondly?

Or will I not remember her at all?

Pep Talk

Sometimes, I will be super hyped to do something and then my brain will be like “haha, no,” and then I end up sitting on the couch eating cereal straight out of the box and watching old episodes of Fringe.  Oh depression, you vicious mistress.

So, I drag myself into the office and check my email and socials and try to prepare myself for the day.  I open a word document to start writing and then suddenly there is a garbage truck outside my door, banging and clanging its way slowly down the street.  No hope for concentration, so I pop over to Submittable to check on my poetry submissions.  No change.  Ho-hum.

Then, to the blog!  Alas, no topic.  Nothing, because depression ate it, like a hungry teenager raiding the refrigerator in the middle of the night.

I can’t focus my thoughts.  I look at my yellow umbrella that hangs off the bookshelf to my left and think that I should have taken it to the beach with me on Saturday.  I look at the star on the wall that says “One Day at a Time,” and I think gee that’s great, now someone give me a cigarette!  I look at the ceiling.  There are cobwebs in the corner.  Perhaps I should sweep them?

Anything, anything, anything but write.

After this, whatever this is, I am going to attempt to put my chicken-scratch notes on my chappie into type,  Then, put those typed words into an email, and send it to my editor.  Real, actual, needs-to-be-done work.,,but my serotonin levels don’t give a crap.  I also want to work on new submissions since it is August now, but that seems like a faraway chore at the moment. 

Oh, and I want to clean my house, because I had my four kiddos plus G this weekend and the joint is wrecked.

First, I guess, I will drink some coffee.  I will be grateful that the street is now fairly quiet, and I can write and work in peace.  I will sit here in this office chair until all my tasks are done, because while my brain and hormone levels and all that garbage may be telling me one thing, my heart is telling me another: you can do it.

Hibernation

Hi!

If you haven’t noticed, I’ve been out for a week and a half.  Usually when I miss a day in my blog it’s because I am in the hospital, but this was not the case this week.  I was home, and my stomach was calm.  My brain was not.  It’s still not great.  It’s kind of like when you have the flu, and you start to feel a little better each day.  I’m on day three of feeling a little bit better. 

I was kicking myself this time last week, mad that I hadn’t updated the previous Monday and had nothing to write about then.  I gave myself that Monday “off,” because I felt pretty down, and I wanted to take some time for myself.  So I watched some movies and made soup for lunch and snuggled with my blanket on the couch.  I thought I would feel better Tuesday.  I didn’t.

So last Thursday, I came back to the blog, feeling even lower, because it had been four days and I hadn’t written A THING.  Not my blog, not my WIP, not a poem.  Not so much as a sentence.

I felt slightly better while the kids were here this past weekend, but that all fell apart again Monday morning.  I felt worse than I had the previous Monday.  Blogging was out of the question.

So for the past week and a half, I have pretty much been hibernating in my living room, watching Pretty Little Liars and eating cereal.

I don’t know what my problem was.  It felt almost like I wasn’t taking my meds, even though I was.  And it left as quickly as it came, too.  I told my therapist and she told me not to worry about it unless it happens again, so I won’t.  But I always try to solve the little puzzles and figure out why my brain does what it does, so I tried to solve this mystery.  The best I can come up with is stress.  I handle stress so poorly…it just builds up and then drowns me.  I have been very stressed the past few weeks, and it is compounded stress; months of worries toppling down on me.  I wasn’t taking care of my stress levels like I’m supposed to, and I think it caused me to spiral a little.

After a week or so of self-care, I feel better.  I feel normal.  Maybe even positive, but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.  What I need to remember is to take the time for self-care regularly, and not have my stress get so bad that I implode.

Anyway, I’m here and I’m alive and well.  I still haven’t gotten to my WIP, but I just updated my blog, so that’s something.

Waiting on Opportunity

Oh anxiety, my old foe.

Today I am thinking about my friend Sahar’s husband, Rob.  For the new reader, they live in Kentucky currently, which I abhor.  They are simply too far away from me and that is unacceptable.  So last year when Sahar told me that Rob had a chance of a new job in Cleveland, I was almost as excited as they were.  That’s an easy weekend trip.  I had my fingers crossed, hoping they would hear something soon.

Again, this was last year.

This summer, he finally got the job.  Sahar is busy scouting out houses in Ohio.  They are very excited.  I am very excited.

Yet, right now all I can think of is how Rob waited A YEAR for this opportunity.

I have two things I’m waiting for right now, and if I had to wait a year, I honestly don’t know if I’d even bother.  I’m not that patient-it’s one of my faults.  I have enough anxiety waiting a couple of weeks.  I can’t imagine an entire year of that.

I’m going to go ahead and risk jinxing myself and tell you about these opportunities that I am waiting on pins and needles about.  First, the nearest opportunity…I entered a poetry contest.  I used to attend a group called Fourth Friday at my local bookstore…usually it was a featured reader followed by some open mics.  It took a lot, I mean A LOT of courage for me to go in the first place, then to keep going, then to read my work there.  Sadly, due to Covid, this is no more.  However, the groups organizer, Rachel, moved it online.  Now it has morphed into her own Facebook live poetry broadcast-a featured reader gets interviewed, they discuss current topics, and the reader shares their work.  The contest remains, judged by the feature, and she usually wraps up by sharing the winner. 

So, I wrote a little something the other day and sent it off on a whim.  As usual, I think it’s crap, but I thought the one I sent in March was crap too…but I won, and I ended up turning it into a micro-chap.  So who knows.  Anyway, this month, the winner will be given a seven-minute slot on her show to share their poem.  Since I am currently trying to hype my poetry book, this would be a truly perfect opportunity for me.  But the anxiety…half “I don’t know if I want all those people to see me” and half “everything I write is crap.”

The second thing that is weighing on me is that I recently sent some poems to the Buffalo News.  I grew up reading the poetry page, and always dreamt of being on it.  For some reason, though, it seemed a far-off hope.  Until the other day when I mustered the courage to send some pieces to the poetry editor.  I emailed him first with a couple questions and he was kind enough to respond, and then I sent off the poems.  Now, I have no idea how long his deliberation process takes, or how lucky I will be to be included, though he does favor folks from the Western New York area.  I also mentioned that I have a book out.  It is my hope that he publishes something, and I get a little local press.

Which is kind of the same thing with Rachel’s show.  I have some people giving me great feedback on my book who are Twitter followers, but it’s not really out there in my community.  It’s harder to market locally due to Covid right now, so anything that can help would be great.

Alas, anxiety.  Mostly, the anxiety of the wait.

I am no longer nervous to share my work like I was back in October when I went to my first Fourth Friday.  These days, I will scream it from the rooftop, if you’re willing to listen.  However, I hate the waiting, and the uncertainty that comes with that.  Usually I log my submissions and forget about them until I hear back, but I am obsessively checking my email for any word from the News.  Not to mention anxiously awaiting 830pm Saturday night when Rachel’s show airs.  (BTW-if you would like to check it out, it can be found on Facebook HERE.  This month’s featured is poet Oli Wiggins.)

So here I am, thinking of Rob, and wondering how he didn’t just lose his damn mind waiting.  I mean, I can barely stand a couple of weeks…a WHOLE YEAR?  Unacceptable.

The only way I can combat it right now is to just try to keep my mind busy.  When it wanders, it wonders.  Can’t have that at the moment.

Anyhoo…wish me luck.  Both opportunities would be huge for me in regards to marketing to my local community.  And I’ll tell you what, that is HARD.  I’m sure there’s a future blog post about it somewhere in my brain, but for now, I will just wait.

Dancing in the Dark

Last night, as I was dancing with depression, she said that I had no blog topic for today and that I should just take the day off and stay in bed.  She said a lot of things yesterday, and they all sounded pretty good.  By the end, I found myself huddled under a blanket doing worst-case-scenarios and having a literal screaming match in my head between Sane Brain and Crazy Brain.  After about an hour or so, I took my sleeping pills.  Sane Brain was getting quieter, and tired.  Crazy Brain was raring to go, and needed medical intervention.

When I woke up, I felt a lot better.  I sat down to write, and briefly considered ignoring last night’s darkness, until I realized that it is Mental Health Month.  Two years ago, I wrote a series of blogs about breaking the stigma of mental health, using one of my diagnoses as a jumping off point each week.  I received some lovely feedback from family and friends.  I hope I broke a couple of stigmas for someone.  One can dream.

Anyway, it’s two years later and I write about my mental health all the time, and not just in my blog anymore.  I have had three articles published at Mental Health Crisis Angels, which is a peer support group, mental health blog, and all-around stigma bashing organization.  The first was about my struggles with Severe Anxiety Disorder.  The second, about tips to deal with anxieties, big and small.  And the last was about Trichotillomania, which I developed when I was eleven. 

And then there is my chapbook.  The whole thing is about chronic illness and, by default, depression.  Now, I have had symptoms of depression since I was around 8 years old, but it didn’t go full-blown until I was sixteen and diagnosed with diabetes, which is where my chapbook begins.  Some of the poems in it are new.  Some I wrote 15-20 years ago.  All of them are about battling the depression caused by illness and trauma. 

Then my blog, where I write about mental health on a personal basis.  When I was first diagnosed, I was scared to share my experiences because of what other people would think of me.  I’ve had people call me a liar.  I’ve had people tell me I’m making up symptoms.  I’ve lost friends because I’m “too complicated.”  I’ve had to regain the trust of people I love.  I’ve worried about employers not wanting to hire me.  It seemed for a while that telling people about my illness made me lose them, so why share?

But then one day, about fifteen years ago, I posted something about Trichotillomania.  Just a logo or something from the TLC Learning Center, which was the only resource for TTM at the time.  A friend emailed me: she saw the logo, and decided to take the leap and tell me that she, too, had Trich.  I had known her for years, and had no clue.  She asked me not to tell anyone, as we had many mutual friends, and she was embarrassed.  I understood.  I, too, had been so ashamed of it, once.  However, it was that day that I realized we should not be ashamed-how much easier would my life have been, had I been able to confide in her?  How much less lonely would she have felt, knowing there was not only another person who was going though this, but someone who was already a friend?  Youth could have been a little different for us.  A little less lonely, at least.

Anyway, from that point on, I started sharing my experiences, opinions be damned.  I didn’t want to feel how I felt anymore.  I didn’t want to feel how my friend felt.  I wanted to stand up: for her, for myself, for everyone that was too scared. 

The stigma of mental health is, thankfully, changing rapidly.  Especially in our current climate, when people are getting whacked in the face with anxiety and depression on levels they have never known.  I still find solace in my professional-cynic status; I was anxious and depressed way before this whole shebang.  I will be when it’s over.  Right now, I’m kind of doing well because as I’ve said before, to me, the world has always been on fire.

So happy Mental Health Month to all of you.  It isn’t just those of us who live with mental illness that need to be celebrated and lifted up right now.  It’s all of us, because we are having a worldwide mental health crisis, whether we acknowledge it or not.   

Please please please, stay safe, stay sane, stay healthy.

And So It Begins.

At the end of August, I finished the assembly of my chapbook.  I thought, as I always think with these things, that is was crap, so I sent it off to be read by my few trusted readers and the reviews came back raving.  So, the bravery that lives deep inside me came out to play, and it sent my little book off to a few prospective publishers.

In my search, I came across one company that I particularly liked.  They’re local, which delights me, and have published a couple books by a poet I like.  I did a little research on them and found that they were accredited though the Better Business Bureau, and a member of the Association of American Publishers.  The reviews I found were all 5 stars.  The interviews I read with the editor were good.  The articles I found about upcoming releases were great.  So, in October, I sent an inquiry to them as to whether or not they published chapbooks.

In January, I received a response, telling me that my book sounded interesting and to forward my manuscript for review.  The review process, they said, would take about three weeks.

Months passed.

A little over a week ago I decided to write an inquiry letter, which was stressful as I have never done such a thing.  Usually I log my submissions and let them sit there until I hear back, but I was on pins and needles over this particular publishing company.  I figured out how to sound polite and professional and sent a little note asking if they received my book and were still reviewing it, and wishing them all good health.

On April 20th, I received a reply: “It would be my pleasure to help you publish your poetry.”

After more research and discussion, it came to my attention that this was a hybrid press.  Meaning, it’s sort of a cross between traditional publishing and self-publishing.  I do have to pay certain fees, which bummed me out at first.  But then I made a pros and cons list.  Yes, it would cost a little money, but it’s a good way to get your first book out there, and establish your portfolio.  Plus, I have complete control over the design and layout.  And on top of that, I look at it as a learning experience-I’d pay for school, wouldn’t I?  And in the end, I will have my book, and be able to sell it, and make that money back.  I went to Mark with my concerns, afraid to ask him to finance me when we have so many other things that need our financial attention.  His reply?  “I’d pay anything to hold your book in my hands.”

So, here is my official announcement that I am in the process of publishing my chapbook with the press I wanted most.  I am already working on it and learning about the development.  I am excited.

I asked my goddaughter if I could use a photo she took for the cover, and she obliged.  When the publisher sent me the mock-up of the cover and interior document, that was probably the moment that the shock finally wore off.

See, I didn’t really believe it for a bit.  I didn’t believe that someone wanted to publish my stuff.  I was trying to talk myself out of it (“well, it’s a hybrid press so do they really like it, or do they just want my money?”) while Mark was trying to talk me into it (“people do not publish books they cannot sell and make money off-they think it’s good enough to sell.”)  Sahar helped, too, pointing out that I was getting more for my money, given the services offered and the effort and cost of self-publishing.  And it should be noted that submission periods for chapbooks are few and far between, so theoretically I could be querying this for years.  No.  That’s too much.  And yet, even after the decision was made, I didn’t believe it.

I didn’t believe it until I saw the cover.  Until I saw the page layout.  Then it became real.

Still, there exists that unbelieving part of me that just knows something will go wrong.  The money will fall though.  The finished product won’t be what I see in my head.  No one will buy it.

I talk myself into these worst-case scenarios, and I know it’s because of my anxiety.  I know it’s false, because mental illness is a liar, and everything will get worked out in the end.  So, despite my fears I will make this happen, and actualize one of my dreams.  The whole book is about fighting depression and anxiety-maybe I should take a note from my own page, and fight against all these voices in my head that tell me it isn’t good enough.  There is another voice, quiet yet persistent, that insists I am doing the right thing.  She is joyous and excited, and I hardly ever let her out to see the sun, but I hear her nonetheless.  It’s that voice I have to listen to, not those loud and demanding ones that say I’ll never do anything I set out to accomplish.  Those voices are wrong.  It is the small voice, always pushing me, always celebrating my accomplishments, that I need to pass the microphone to.

Anyway, in closing, I’m publishing my first book.  I’m scared, I’m excited…I’m hoping you buy it.