santa fe musings

in downtown santa fe, i spoke to a man wearing a bolo tie with a red clasp who had stunning cerulean eyes which were only matched for noticability by his thick white beard. he manned the entrance to one of santa fe’s hundreds of art galleries and recommended a mexican restaurant and the bookstore i’d gone to an hour before. he told me about a jealous man who threw away his briefcase with a decade’s worth of his writing work in it when he learned that i was a writing major and explained that what he liked about santa fe was the mix of cultures, the nearness of the outdoors, and the art scene when i asked. we talked about my weird hair and whether my old bosses liked it. they didn’t; he wasn’t surprised – we’re both from central illinois, so he gets it. he shook my hand and introduced himself as steven.

at mcdonalds, i listened to a group of men agree with the one among them who preached about god’s love and the attention he pays to small rescues and the burning that waits for some of us. i find myself unconvinced that those two ideas can coexist. next, he’s talking about hitler and his murders. there’s no segue. but i guess he didn’t need one because then he’s back to evangelism, although his audience seems already won. he talks about being stared at while he walks down the street, too. “have these people never seen a white man?” oh honey. oh darling. his audience isn’t white.  i’m unsure of all things.

the miracle staircase of the loretto chapel

i was in two churches today, which is more than i’ve been in in the past year, if not three. i walked into the loretto chapel and nearly cried, facing a statue of christ whom i love. i would have cried, in fact, if other people hadn’t been in the room. it’s a beautiful church with a miracle staircase, said to have been built by a mysterious carpenter who just showed up to do the work when the sisters needed it done. the staircase doesn’t have the supports it should as it spirals to the second floor and yet it still spirals.

i’m…completely down to compare myself to a staircase, especially one in a building that moves me to tears.

a mosiac of the risen christ on the santuario de guadalupe grounds

the other church was less emotionally moving – or it was until i started walking around outside it. i wandered across a mosiac of the risen christ on the side of the building next door and was almost too stunned to actually look at it, so compelled was i to take as many pictures as possible to keep this sight with me. it was colorful and gorgeous and portrayed christ as a man of color, which is probably my favorite thing since he wasn’t, y’know, white. i hope that someday every portrayal of him as white gets stomped the fuck out.

(i love yeshua a whole lot you guys. my beautiful, radical, revolutionary, loving, take no shit god-on-earth. it feels like falling in love to get to craft and embrace and live my faith in the way that is true to the sound of god inside me. i tried to shake jesus but i just couldn’t and now he’s mine mine mine. and as the best bonus ever, this time i got mary magdalene, too.)

santa fe is very beautiful and very full of art. i can definitely appreciate why steven likes it here. the high altitude is kind of giving me a headache, but that’d pass given time. the view from this mcdonald’s is even good, a thing unheard of in my experience. i can see the mountains from here, situated just outside of Tourist Central, on the main drag through town: st. francis drive, named for the city’s patron saint. there’s a lot of catholicism here and a lot of budha and i even saw a really big ganesh statue. though i find myself particularly drawn to jesus, i, too, love this mix of cultures and religions. i live for the day when we’re all equally well-treated by this country and each other.

just an example of the public art in santa fe

soul trippin’

a little over a week ago, i started the first leg of soultrip – my name for this roadtrip that i’m taking from my hometown in the midwest to seattle, where i’ll be living when this trip ends. (you’ll notice that it also doubles as the name of this blog.)

i spent the first nine days of this trip crashing at my siblings’ places – first my brother’s and then one of my sister’s – and today was my first day on the road in the truest sense.

what i’ve learned so far is that kansas is really wide; i’ve been in it for what seems like forever. it’s not flat though, or at least not all of it is, and as you go farther west in it, you start to see these trees that look like they’ve been transplanted from a swamp somewhere and aren’t gonna make it. i think that’s what they’re supposed to look like though because people line their driveways with them, which is a thing you do with purpose. they provide no shade – because they don’t seem to have leaves? or they only have a sorry few which appear to be sloughing off – and they really do look like they’re gonna fall down dead on you so overall i’m not sure i understand the decision to use them as driveway décor, but as it’s not mine to understand, that’s cool.

it’s been a beautiful day for a drive though: sunny and marvelous, windows-down temperature and manageable traffic. i love driving more than pretty much anything else and the freedom i have to do this trip however i want to is both exciting and calming. i can drive for however long i want each day and take whatever route i want and grab some wifi wherever it’s available whenever i want. before i left, i played the “if you knew you were gonna die, what would you do before you did?” game with myself and discovered that i would do exactly this. which feels kind of like crossing over into whatever the opposite of the twilight zone would be: the place where everything is good and sweet and soft to the touch.

i have wanted to go on a cross-country roadtrip since i was maybe 19, if not younger,and i’ve tried unsuccessfully to plan several. those plans always included travel companions, either in the form of friends or a german shepherd that i have yet to own. a solo roadtrip was always too frightening for me to consider – until my life caught on fire last year, at which point a roadtrip across the country on my own became a significantly less terrifying option than staying where i was. however, in the last days that i spent at my sister’s house before leaving this morning, i started to feel fear lick coldly at my insides over this trip. it is, after all, a big (and somewhat risky tbh) endeavour.

the fear was surprisingly short-lived though. now that i’ve spent the day driving down a two-lane highway, surrounded by semis and strange trees, the trip just feels like the thing i should be doing. i feel safe and alive and capable when i’m behind the wheel and i want this in a way it’s been hard to want things in these past several months. and, god, how amazing it is to get to do what you want.

notes to my depressed self

because i know i’ll be seeing you again. (and probably sooner than later.)

  1. you will come out the other side of this. you always do. remember what your brother said: “don’t make the mistake of thinking now is forever, it’s not.” you might not believe me, but you know that kid ain’t lyin’.
  2. write. write anything. write the word “fuck” six hundred times. write garbled poetry garbage; write fanfiction; write bad fanfiction; start another original work you’ll never finish; just write.
  3. call your brother. even if you can’t say two words. let him tell you about his life and make you laugh. let him bring that piece of you he carries around back to you. you’re gonna need it.
  4. go out to eat. at a sit-down place. order a steak and some vegetables. it’s worth whatever it costs.
  5. have you showered today? yesterday? if you’re not showering every day, you really need to start, darling. hop in right now. put some music on. you don’t have to wash your hair, but i’d really recommend it.
  6. buy yourself some new lipstick and plan an outfit around it. go to starbucks and Get Seen and remember that other people exist. try to accomplish one thing while you’re there — your to-do list is plenty long and you need to cut it down, babe, before that anxiety drowns you.
  7. i know your apartment is a mess. invite a friend who doesn’t care about the mess over to watch you clean. you just need the company and then, i promise, you can do it.
  8. might as well cry all you need to. honestly, cry more than you need to. you’re so bad at starting, you’re probably only gonna get the one chance. and what happens in the privacy of your bedroom — or car — is nobody’s business but your own.
  9. go through a drive thru. go through a drive thru every damn day. develop a coffee habit. you need the human contact and an opportunity to be nice to somebody, even when your legs can’t carry you to it.
  10. i swear to god you are gonna make it. you are one resilient motherfucker. and making it has, historically, always been worth it.

today in mental health: dissociating and the importance of taking care of shit as it comes up

it’s funny what can become a measure of success. today, i spent all day feeling like i was in my body. i spent yesterday and sunday like that, too, amazingly. this is in contrast to saturday, when i had to call my brother to talk my anxious, dissociating ass down. i spent at least 10 minutes on the phone with that kid completely unable to understand anything he was saying. this was partially due to his sore throat and partially due to me just not being able to function – like, not even baseline function enough to process auditory information of that complexity.

i was driving back to iowa at the time, where a friend of mine was having a well-deserved party thrown in his honor. the party was taking place in a building owned by my aunt, whose abusive behavoir i’d left town over just three months prior. this building is across a parking lot from my old apartment, which i’d rented from her until she scared me too badly to stay there anymore.

it’s a three and a half hour drive to get there, which, normally, i love, but i hadn’t gotten nearly enough sleep the night before and on top of that, going back was making me batshit anxious. and, oh yeah, dissociating is a thing i do now.

“you’re gonna be okay, ky,” my little brother promised, over and over until i calmed down enough to hang up. “don’t make the mistake that thinking now is forever – it’s not.”

it’s really good advice and i wouldn’t have taken it from anybody but him. i’ve given him that advice a time or two. that kid knows where i’m coming from. even when i’m not able to articulate it at all, which i couldn’t during that phone call. who knows if i even got words in their proper order; he’d have been able to understand me regardless.

an hour or so later, i was sitting in a village inn swapping mental illness horror stories with a friend and telling her just how goddamn glad i was to feel like i was actually inhabiting my own skin. lately, it’s often felt like i slipped out the back door of my body for a quick breath of fresh air only to find that somebody had snuck in and locked me out. looking back, i don’t think it’s an entirely new phenomenon for me to experience, but over the week or so leading up to the party, it’d become an unsettingly common occurrence. i have this powerful urge to staple myself into my skin using tattoos. not that i know if that’ll work.

in any case, feeling real and present is very exciting these days. this is not the kind of bar i expected to have to stretch to meet, y’know? like, i’m not ashamed of it – everybody’s got their shit and this is mine – it’s just not the battle i was fighting with my mental health eight months ago. and i had my hands full then.

i’m very…tired. which is how i’ve been ending every conversation i’ve had with my loved ones for probably two years now: “i’m just so tired.” i don’t know why i didn’t do anything about it. didn’t feel like i could maybe – you gotta work to pay bills. didn’t want to abandon the life i was building. didn’t want to ruin the appearance of success i had. didn’t want to seem weak.

and then life went and gave me the opportunity to burn everything i had to the ground for somebody i loved and i did. under the most traumatic possible circumstances. so now i’m in life limbo.

i think i’ve moved passed the bulk of the physical exhaustion finally – i feel pretty good and my stamina’s decent. but i’m still emotionally worn out. it’s taken me two days to build up enough energy to write this. in these past two days, i’ve done – quite literally – nothing. yesterday, i did not get dressed. today, i did get dressed, but i did not shower. i spent all yesterday in bed and, while i did switch rooms today, i did not step foot outside the house, not even to roll my car window up which has been snowed in now. i’m taking shit back to basics; rebuilding my life and health from scratch. i don’t know what else to do.

it used to be i’d always try to add something to aid my mental health. i needed to eat better or sleep a regular schedule or see about getting my ass in therapy. but i never thought maybe you should fuckin’ quit some of this other shit ky. it seems obvious now that i should have. i think if i had dealt with the tired problem before life went to shit and added the dissociating problem, i’d be better off right now. i think also if i had dealt with the “i need to get my ass in therapy” problem back in 2014 – the best year i ever had by any measure – i’d be better off now, too. if i’d just tackled the small problems before i ended up with bigger problems, these bigger problems might not have been so big.

now, i’m very overwhelmed. and i’m scared that i’m not going to have the time i need to build life back up slowly and deliberately, while taking care to build things like responsible eating and sleep schedules and going to therapy into it as a natural part of it. not to mention it’d be cool to have fun sometimes. build relationships. foster some hobbies. just simply taking care of myself seems like too much task for one person and one person is all i’ve got. one person who’s gonna have to get a job again soon. which i have absolutely no idea how to handle on top of all of this.

i wish i had some advice to give on how to deal with shit when you’re all the way done, but i don’t. my life just kept exploding on me until i couldn’t, literally couldn’t anymore – i stopped getting up in the morning; i stopped sleeping at night; i stopped holding conversations. and then my mom went “hey, how about you step outta that mess, huh?” and took me into the purgatory of her home, the land of no expectations.

that’s not an option for everybody; i know that. it wasn’t an option for me until i was down to absolutely nothing. my parents are always game to save me if they can, but i’m not always down to be saved by them, y’know? often, my needs necessitate otherwise. and that’s not even beginning to think about situations in which you have to pay bills. or feed people.

the only advice i have from this is take care of your small problems while you can. address those little issues you think aren’t worth bothering with because everything else is going pretty good. if you suffer from depression but are feeling good right now: go to fuckin’ therapy or something. depression isn’t a one-and-done, at least not in my experience. it’s cyclical. most mental illness are that way, are an issue of maintenance, not curing. so work your shit out. build healthy coping mechanisms. actually do more than just build healthy coping mechanisms – build healthy habits, i.e. ways of being. give yourself tools to use not only when things are rough but when things are good so that maybe things won’t get rough or won’t get as rough.

i did a lot – a lot – of work on my mental health in the years before everything went to hell in a handbasket. before i discovered what i believe to be ptsd (and all of its accompanying symptoms, dissociation included) – which i think originated in some childhood trauma and got big time compounded by my recent experience of very similar trauma, which i only delineate to emphasize that if i had dealt with this stuff with greater intentionality and with the help of a professional at an earlier date, i could be in much better shape right now. the work i did was good and important and i’m proud of it – but it was a bandaid when i needed stitches. i was treating symptoms, not the problem — not on purpose, i just didn’t know. i feel fairly confident, examining the past with that 20/20 hindsight vision, that a professional could’ve gone: “that thing you think is a personality quirk is actually a mental health issue, dude. you’ve really gotta get some healthier ways of dealing” and then helped me build healthier ways of dealing.

of course there’s no way to say whether or not dissociating would still be a thing i do now if i had taken care of this stuff. and honestly, at this point, it’s like hey look at what i’ve got to be excited about today: i actually feel like i’m in my body! incredible, a success. i mean things are what they are.

(and, i really want to emphasize this, i do not have anything to be ashamed of. and neither do you. no mental illness you’re experiencing is shameful – whether you might have been able to prevent it or not. there might be some behaviors you want to rethink, but having a mental illness is just a thing that happens. stigma sucks and also it’s bullshit.)

i’m not mad at my past self for her failings; i’m irritated, for sure, at my little 22-year-old punk ass who thought she had her shit figured out when she hella didn’t, but the thing is that everybody learns at their own rate. i just hope that this moment for you is a moment when you’ll learn faster than i did. see my mistakes and please don’t make them. fix!! your!! shit!!! i’m rooting for you, babes. ❤

writing as an act of self-care

i’ve started actively using writing as a method of self-care and wow. that shit is magical. my current favorite coping mechanism is literally just writing fanfiction of my two favorite queer characters cuddling. just straight up thousands of words on the subject, all of my pieces just a variation of that theme interspersed with some talking out of mental health issues among understanding parties. it’s the most goddamn self-indulgent work i have ever done and it is doing fucking wonders =for me.

i’ve always been inclined to view my work as for myself first, foremost, and most importantly, but i’ve never approached writing deliberately as an exercise in meeting my mental health needs. it’s something i used to do as a kid, which i recognize in hindsight, but i didn’t understand it as self-care at the time.

the process started for me again on a bad depression and anxiety night. i was failing to fall asleep because i just couldn’t get my brain to stop shouting awful things at me, so i started daydreaming about how a scene could play out between these two characters i’ve recently fallen deeply, deeply in love with (something i’ll write about here soon – once i’ve got the right words for it).

since i daydream in narration – taking the time to edit my word choice and everything – the act was essentially writing without the physical writing part. i fell asleep! feeling pretty damn all right! i didn’t have any intention of writing that daydream out, but god knows i need the practice so i went ahead with it and posted it online (it might be for me, but i’m still an artist: the audience is a siren song).

as it often works, one piece made me feel inspired to write another one and, like the first one, i crafted this piece to be just exactly what i wanted and needed – no catering to an audience’s desires or anybody else’s understandings of these characters or even my own insecurities. i just gave myself what i needed. it was, again, wonderful, so now that’s what i sit down to do: i am 100% upfront with myself about what this writing is and i use it as self-care with intention.

i take these characters through tough, loving conversations about mental health and how they’ll deal with it in their romantic relationship. i linger on the soft and sweet touches i have them share. i don’t have a way to make either of those things happen for me in real life (i’m single, for one; bad at talking, for two; and touch averse, for three) but i can take these characters that i relate to so, so much and, essentially, experience things that will meet my need for comfort and touch and feeling like somebody can fucking see me for real, in the world’s safest space: a blank page.

the mix of the act and craft of writing – i do work to make sure these characters are in-character when i’m writing them and that my prose is interesting, dynamic, and poetic – with the outright pursuit of healing myself is incredibly powerful. i’ve never considered myself good at much except writing (i can write you any goddamn thing you want, except, like, if what you want is plot lmao; i’m categorically disinterested in plot) and writing has always been a self-esteem booster for me. to use it as a self-care tool is goddamn revolutionary.

like, it’s more actually more than just a coping mechanism. i’m really working through shit – at my pace. i’m spending time with myself, i’m exploring my needs and why i have them and how i can work to be able to meet them, and i’m identifying trends in my work that reveal myself to me. plus i’m accomplishing things! i’m finishing pieces, which is always a nice feeling, and i’m honing my craft. i’m working toward the goal of being the caliber of writer that i’d like to be, which i can only become by writing thousands upon thousands of words. i already see my writing improving. it’s the most win/win situation i have ever been in, honestly.

also, while fanfiction presents a unique opportunity to be used for self-care (it’s so easy – you already know and love and identify with the characters so you just get to fill in the blanks; you don’t need to worry if this moment fits the story you’re telling because the moment is the story and you’re beholden to no plot – unless you want to be), fanfiction isn’t the only way i’m doing this. i’ve got a poem or three – honestly don’t know whether it’s one or three poems, we’ll see – that i’m using to work through some shit. my last blog post was about working through some shit.

it’s interesting that i feel the desire for a need for an audience in all these mediums. i post all my fic; i posted that last blog post even though i was certain it wasn’t going to be useful for anybody else (it saved me that day); i’m hoping to get the poem(s) in front of people when they’re ready. i think that’s part of the self-care actually – my need to be seen, to feel as though i’m known in at least some capacity, and to know that other people are actually out there.

of course that also means that i still have that little voice going “but the audience is going to expect xyz.” but like fuck that. i tamp that little voice down. it takes some effort to do sometimes, but i am dedicated to defending this method of self-care against instincts i have that would encroach on it. it’s doing me so much good that i’m not going to let it become anything else. this is what i need, it’s goddamn survival. and i am gonna survive.

mental illness can eat my ass

i’ve been having a bad mental health…ten days or so. i just wanna be unconscious all the time. nothing feels worth doing. i literally don’t even wanna drive right now and that’s not even a feeling i’ve ever had before. or an anti-feeling i’ve ever had before. i really fucking hate depression!!! i have zero emotions, unless you count a vague sense of dread and self-loathing, and it is so irritating! i was working on so many projects!! i was getting shit done!! now i literally just wanna not be cognizant of anything, let me sleep until this passes. just like. knock my ass out.

but it won’t pass unless i do something to shoo it along. which is – you guessed it – super hard when i don’t wanna do anything!!! i can’t even manage to get glitter on my face anymore. this is the literal worst i’m so mad at myself. i was doing so good!!! nothing significant happened!!! just WHAM BAM SADNESS. or apathy i guess mostly. i’m so miserable!! it’s so stupid!!

ugh oh my god you guys. how does life work for the neurotypical. do neurotypical people exist? or are they just better liars than i am?

i’m so sick to death of all this pointless noise in my head.

and this post is pointless and self-indulgent and probably the anti-thesis of helpful but i’m so afraid if i don’t make it i won’t stick to the promise i’m about to make to myself which is to get up tomorrow at a reasonable time, produce a Look, get dressed up, and go to starbucks to wORK ON ANYTHING jesus christ. i gotta get a fanfic finished or make some progress on a poem or plan my drive to seattle or something my god.

if you need to be held accountable for doing something for your mental health, write it out in the comments okay i’ll know you did it and then you’ll have to follow through. we’ll be mental health accountability buddies. good luck to us. ❤

i’ve been falling short in all directions lately

i’m in a place where i’d given everything i had and now i’m giving everything that i have and at no point has any of it measured up to the problem. it doesn’t even seem like it’s much at all – and it probably isn’t. it definitely isn’t enough to meet the needs of the people around me, though that is what i’d like to do.

i was having a bit of a…meltdown about it earlier. the overwhelming sense of not being enough even when i am giving everything in me was making me feel immeasurably sad and pretty worthless. i am trying but i feel myself holding out empty hands to people i love all the time and i hate that.

and then i had one of the most Christian™ moments i’ve had in the past four years: i remembered a bible story. (a moment that is – frankly – something i’m not sure what to do with, as my relationship with my faith is complicated as shit, and i’m really uncomfortable even talking about it in this way that reminds me so much of the faith of my youth…but here we are.)

in mark – 12:41-44, if you’d like to look it up – jesus is watching people donate to the temple, cuz he likes to be up in people’s business like that. rich people are putting in rich people money, i.e. a lot, and then a poor woman puts in so little that it wouldn’t be worth mentioning if the money was what we were talking about. jesus calls over all his friends to point out what she’s done. “she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on,” he says. he’s praising her.

(i think it’s important to note here that he never said she was required to give everything she had to live on. i find it to be perfectly acceptable for you to retain what you need to be alive – god put you here alive in the first place after all, if you believe in that sort of thing. but the point stands that the magnitude of her gift is not in its actual size, but in its relative cost to her.)

so mate, i figure if jesus is cool with me offering nothing but my empty hands – since they are all i have – then i’m cool with it, too. this very little, this not-enough, is better than nothing; it is, after all, my best.

loves, there are 100% undoubtedly going to be times when your best doesn’t cut it. when it isn’t much and it isn’t even making a dent in the problem and it’s failing the people you love. it’s probably gonna happen a lot, tbh. but it’s beautiful that you’re giving it. you’re amazing for trying. look at how great you are, being your bright, broken-winged self, struggling against how much everything fucking sucks. you’re killin’ it, kid, you really are.

and, to be clear, i don’t just mean your best when you’re at your best, but your best at the point at which you’re giving. (relative to her remember?) i have this habit of comparing what i’m giving now to what i’ve given before – of comparing performances, as it were. my best has been greater than this. but i hadn’t lost then what i’ve lost now. i hadn’t been under the strain then that i’m under now. i didn’t have this new trauma. i’d had some rest. i hadn’t given most of me away already. so it’s really unfair of me to look at a past high when i’m at this present low. i am still giving all that i’ve got and it is just as good that i do so now as it has been in the past, even if it’s much less in quantity and quality now than then. and the same goes for you, babes.

that’s not to say that you don’t strive for improvement. tomorrow, my best might be better than it was today. i’m hoping so. i’m hoping that eventually, my low best will be better than my past high best. i’m working toward that.

just remember to treat yourself with kindness and to recognize that your best is a sliding scale. and even when it isn’t enough, which is going to really fucking suck and i’m sorry about that, it is still valuable – you are still valuable.

i believe in your worth, darlings, and in the worth of your offerings, however meager you may feel them to be. and i’m pulling for you. ❤

i almost killed this project before it even started oh my god

i decided to start this blog – weeks ago – and have been Fucked Up about it ever since. for all of these weeks, these uncomfortably many weeks, i kept thinking about how utterly pointless this endeavor might be and how i’m probably woefully unprepared for the responsibility of it (responsibility is scary as fuck, particularly when it comes to affecting other people’s lives holy hell).

what if this blog doesn’t mean anything to anyone? what if i’m not adding anything to any of these conversations? what if i’m just taking up space that would be better used by other individuals with more knowledge and better understandings of all things? what if i’m trying to have too many conversations or i’m making it too personal or not personal enough and therefore will reach no one anyway??? (this before i’ve even written a goddamn post! i’ve been too incapacitated by my fears to even!!! write a post!!!) and just, seriously, choruses and choruses of WHAT IF NONE OF WHAT I WRITE HERE MATTERS TO ONE SINGLE PERSON EVER in off-key reverberations, like my head’s a cathedral hosting the world’s worst children’s choir.

and like, it might not!! all of this might be the biggest exercise in futility i have ever put time and effort and heart into!! it truly might turn out to not mean one goddamn thing to anybody.

but i want to do this and that should be enough. fuck, it’s gonna have to be enough because i don’t fuckin’ have anything else. i don’t have confidence or assurance of my purpose or even a reasonable belief that i can pull this off or that it’ll matter one iota. so fuck that noise, i guess. that bad kids’ choir is out of a job because i’m done listening.

basically what i’m getting at is idk dude. i don’t know what the fuck i’m doing and i’m worried that i’m gonna say the wrong thing and i’m worried that i’ve already met and surpassed the “fuck” tolerance of everybody who might read this. i could worry forever or i could do the thing!! and see how it goes!!! so i’m doing the thing because i want to do the thing.

and, like, if you’re holding back on something because of tone deaf thoughts bouncing around your skull, please feel encouraged to hit the mute button on that and give ‘er a go. maybe all of our worries will come to fruition. but either something will happen or nothing will happen and nothing, frankly, sounds certain to be terrible. you and i can be helpless and flaily and generally clueless – but progressing! – together.