there are things that i would never say or do

have you listened to parekh & singh’s album, ocean? friend, you should – i just finished my maths homework before class in a bit and i’m feeling tentatively okay. just the right side of tepid.

last week i was in the pit. i didn’t go to class for three days, and all of those classes had attendance policies. have i gone ahead and messed up my grades? maybe. could i have avoided it? unfortunately, no. it’s what the great sciencey people who put definitions to what happens in my life call a hypomanic hangover. baby, do i have an analogy for you.

imagine you’ve been feeling really good for a while. i’m talking two or three (two and a half) glasses of that really good merlot and then a shot of tequila because party time, type of good. lots of dancing – the kind of drunk where you’d dance to a siren – and lots of good feelings. you got things done, you’re allowed to relax, the people that love you really love you and things are good. you never stop drinking because you don’t have to. things are good.

 

then, after being drunk for three and a half weeks, you get hit with the mother of all hangovers. every single one you avoided manifests in one big boulder on your head and chest and legs, and suddenly you can’t get out of bed for a week.

the hangover is depression, my friends.

today has been remarkably better than last week monday, and while i’m still walking about in a bit of a hnagover haze, i’m hoping this doesn’t turn into a full fledged depressive episode. the whole world and jesus know that my gpa cannot handle that.

in case you were wondering about the title, it comes from the featured song. but, here’s a list anyway:

things that i’d never say or do*

  • yell at someone for not having manners and ask if it’s because their mother didn’t teach them
  • squinty-eye a vegetarian or vegan who didn’t want to be plant based anymore
  • betray my heart
  • eat butternut pie or smell some sort of squash with cinnamon without gagging a little bit
  • make fun of people with eating disorders or people who actually like nickelback or people who like fanfiction
  • vote for fascists
  • not marvel at how stunning people are
  • stop wanting to be more true to myself

have a good time of day, people.

love & light,
shalom xo


* in some instances, this can be read as things that i’d never say or do again

velocity

my name’s shalom and i have bipolar disorder, amongst other things. friends, i am manic and i wanna write about it. it’s 11:05 pm and i can’t get my fingers to move fast enough because my brain is going far too fast, but we’re here, and now i’m gonna talk about it.

mania is a little weird, to say the least. everything is amplified and i can’t open my eyes wide enough. i get weird bursts of energy that translate to “hey, you need to spend money right now.” mostly in the form of buying stupid things like hangers, or too much tide detergent, or stickers.

according to science and medicine, my mania is hypomania. i never get to the point that i do potentially life threatening things because i’m manic, and i’m really grateful for that. i do, however, have energy levels that exhaust me. man, am i tired. my brain is a never ending “wowowowowowowow” and my body is trying to keep up with it but it really can’t.

in girl interrupted, susanna kaysen expresses it really well. she describes the two poles of mental illness as viscosity and velocity. viscosity is slow, thick, and dull. velocity is a hundred kilometers a minute. did you know that the earth moves at 1000 miles an hour to complete its rotation? i feel as though every part of my body is trying to keep up; like if i don’t move that fast i won’t rotate and make it to the next day. i know my logic is flawed, friends. overperception is one of the things that i’m very good at, manic or no. here we are. welcome to the brain.

it’s midterm season and i am spinning. i’m spinning past logic and past what i’ve worked so hard to fix, past dysphoria that i can only fix when i have long braids in, and past what i thought i knew i did when i am manic. i’ve spoken about how i feel like i’m in a plane but nobody’s flying the plane – how i dissociate and what the depersonalisation and derealisation feels like. i’m dealing.

i miss my home, and i miss my habits. i miss the island in my kitchen and the couches in the upstairs lounge. i miss crawling into the corner of my bedroom when i needed to turn things down to zero, but i’m dealing. my doctor sister told me to find support structures when i got here, and i think i have. you’d be proud, sharon.

ya girl manic, but she’s tryin’. always trying. i wonder what it’s like to be the universe, experiencing itself ironically?

love and light,
shalom xo

don’t worry baby

hi friends! today’s the last day of teen suicide prevention week in south africa. i’ve already written about this but i was going through some of my stuff the other day  and found something weirdly specific that i’d like to share with you. is it a bit personal? yes. is it overly personal? yes. am i a chronic oversharer? also yes.

today i’d like to share a suicide note that ended up not being a suicide note from 2015. yikes. it’s a weird thing to share & put on the internet, but this week is important and this is important and i’m doing this. in june 2015 i wrote a note in my journal (named janine). this is it:


i am so tired. i’m just so tired of being tired and then not being allowed to be tired. i can’t do this. i wish it was different but i can’t do this every day. i can’t do this. i’m not even seventeen and i feel like i have forty lifetimes lived out inside me, each with a dreadfully unhappy ending. i can’t do this. i can’t just go to school and exist and come home and exist and get up and exist if existing is the problem. i can’t do this anymore.

i want to be sorry and i want to feel and i want hope that it’ll be better but i can’t do this. i can’t cry for help because nobody is out there and i can’t even cry these days because it takes too much to cry. i can’t do this. i wish i could tell you to show this to people after but you can’t because you’re a journal and nobody even i can’t fucking do this. i can’t do this.

okay, if someone finds this, and i half hope nobody does, i want you to know some things. i’m sixteen and i’m in my final year of high school and i want to stand in front of a fast moving vehicle twice and make sure there’s nothing after. i know it’s pretty disturbing because sixteen year olds are supposed to be living out the hype of grade ten and being a senior and kissing boys and drinking alcohol you shouldn’t but i…i am not them. i am sixteen and tired and the more i sleep the more tired i get. i have some friends at school but they’re not really my friends. they like doing stuff and leaving me out of them and then telling me that i’m not part of that part of the group. and i have some friends from my old high school but most of them are too busy living out their final year of high school to be bothered and…i can’t be bothered anymore. i’m too tired to do this.

i’ve written notes like this before but they used to be dedicated to whole people and how i wished i could have done more for them because any semblance of sanity or functionality disappeared once i let them down. i hope i haven’t made any promises to you. i’m sorry that i can’t live them out. i can’t live anything out anymore. i’m so tired, reader. i’m so tired and i can’t do this and i can’t feel so much and nothing at the same time anymore and i can’t long for life and love and normalcy when i look the way i do and am the way i am and i am so sorry.

i love you so much. i wish i was okay, i wish i could show you how much i love you. i love you, and i know you might not know me but i love you. i want you to know that you’re so strong and brilliant and i’m so proud of you for having made it so far. your story is so far from over and i am so excited for what you will become and what you are. i’m sorry i won’t be around to see it but it doesn’t matter because you will be and it will be brilliant. i know it’s a lot of pressure because this strange girl with nothing to show for herself is leaving you a message to continue when she’s quitting, but it’s all true. i believe in you. now and later and always.

if you meet someone who feels like me one day and you don’t know what to say to them, tell them…tell them that they’re enough. tell them that even though they are done, the world isn’t done with them and that there is so much left for them to do, see, live, love and be before they go. tell them that they aren’t cowardly or craven for wanting things to stop hurting. tell them that you care for them and mean it. tell them that one day they’ll find people who care about them as much as they care for everyone else. tell them that their capacity for love is endless and that everything that hurts sucks but that they can make things with it. tell them to talk to someone and if that person won’t listen, tell them to talk to someone else. to a billion other people who will. tell them that even though the world acts as though there is no room for them, that your world has room for them. tell them that they are brave and honest and raw and valued and important. tell them that they are important and that the world needs them. call them friend, and mean it.

i feel so at odds with myself. i wish someone would have told me the things i would have said. i’m so sorry. i’m so tired. i can’t do this.

tell them that it’s gonna be okay if they keep moving. tell them to get out of bed at least once a day. tell them that loving everyone is enough and that while nobody tells them that they are in love with them, that they are loved. tell them that their love is strong and bigger than their tired. tell them that the biggest thing they can do is try their best not to get lost in the nothingness that comes with tired and lonely and i want to die. take them outside. tell them to breathe and to touch and to do their best to feel. tell them to keep on. learn to live with them. learn from them and with them. live.

don’t tell them a sixteen year old told you this.they probably won’t take you seriously. (take them seriously.)

i love you, dear reader. i love you and my mom and my siblings and my friends and my “friends” and the kid who stole my shoes in first grade and the teacher who humiliated me in grade five and everyone else. i love you and it’s so not your fault and i’m sorry and i love you. you are so loved. i want this to be different. i want…i want to live too. i want to love too. i want to keep loving. i’m just so tired.


i didn’t kill myself that night. i read the letter again and again and again and felt too much like a fake to give all of that advice and then disappear. i’m still around, and every day is a struggle. i have a bunch of these letters and most of them don’t end with a realisation that i wanted to live. this one did, though. i’m grateful to my past self. i called SADAG and went to school, told my teacher i needed to be in therapy because i wanted to die, and walked out of class when she told me i was being dramatic. suicide is dramatic. it’s a matter of life and death. take it seriously.

do what you need to do to stay alive. the sun will rise and we will try again. don’t worry, baby.

love and light,
shalom xo

it’s kind of a funny story

hi friends! it’s national teen suicide prevention week! a lil warning: there are a good bunch of triggering mentions of death n suicide ahead. so, if you’re not up for this, visit the lovely dora @ for the goldfinches or this post from matt @ the lil engine that couldn’t that always makes me cringe laugh in support.

In 2014, I did the best school project I ever have done – I got to create an anthology on whatever I wanted for English. I could talk about anything. I had to write a really big essay as the preface and talk about all of the pieces I’d be using, and I could write about anything. It’s still the most I’ve ever enjoyed an academic project.

The title of my anthology was “life, interrupted” and IT focused on mental illness in young people. It was a crazy experience because most all of the works I included came down to choices rather than first time reading. There’re only so many books, in my experience, that captured what I felt to a point where I could rest in the fact that I wasn’t alone if someone could write about it. I chose Susanna Kaysen’s Girl, Interrupted and Ned Vizzini’s It’s Kind of a Funny Story. Today, I’d like to talk about the latter, and it’s author.

IKOAFS is the kind of book that I had to stop reading after the first three chapters because it was too personal. It was too real, and too accurate, and Ned Vizzini was looking into my head and would tell people how messed up I was because they would know exactly what and how I was thinking. Because I was Craig, and I was Craig right down to the standing on the bridge and feeling free and wanting to jump a year later.

It’s Kind of a Funny Story is about Craig, a smart kid with some douchey friends (some (one) of which are okay) who finds himself depressed, and then suicidal. He checks himself into a psychiatric hospital because he wants to get better. He learns a lot & works through a lot. He realises he’s not into the girl he thought he was into. He meets people who help him to work it out. He starts taking his medication again. He chooses to live.

Ski. Sled. Play basketball. Jog. Run. Run. Run. Run home. Run home and enjoy. Enjoy. Take these verbs and enjoy them. They’re yours, Craig. You deserve them because you chose them. You could have left them all behind but you chose to stay here. So now live for real, Craig. Live. Live. Live. Live.
Live.

It’s Kind of a Funny Story, Ned Vizzini

This story is hard. It’s hard because it fits, because it’s mine, because it’s Ned Vizzini’s, and because Ned Vizzini didn’t live.

I’ve always hated the phrase, “commit suicide”. Since I was nine, I’ve hated it. If you commit something, it’s a sin. If you end your life, if you commit suicide, are you a sinner? Are you a sinner for feeling too much? Are you a sinner because it is unbearable to hold up a universe of suffering on a daily basis?  Are you a sinner for wanting it to stop? Am I a sinner because I wanted to?

(The answer is no. This is a topic for another day.)

Ned Vizzini died by suicide on December 19th, 2013. He lived, he inspired, he loved, he wrote, he tried,  he won, he became a beacon for depressed teenagers, he pulled me from the edge, and he died. It was said best here: “the great, unspeakable tragedy of The Bell Jar is now the tragedy of Funny Story.”

Everybody dies. The personalities of Ned Vizzini & Craig, the protagonist, line up really nicely. He captured Craig’s spirit because it was his own and showed Craig’s victory because it was his own. The whole book is based on wanting to kill yourself, and then not. Craig & Ned didn’t line up there.

It’s not as though it’s as simple as stating that Craig lived on and Ned didn’t. Ned could have ended things when he was 23, before he admitted himself to that psychiatric hospital. He didn’t. He could have not written IKOAFS. He did. He could have been so brilliant by doing so much less, but he did more and more and more than enough people will ever be able to thank him to. Ned was strong, and brave, and honest. He was talented. He was – he is – life changing and influential.

Life can be a lot sometimes.

This is Ned’s legacy: he tossed a bright, orange-and-white ring to us drowning kids and pleaded with us to stay afloat. And we read his words, and we understood, and we eventually made our way to shore.

If there’s something to take from this, from Funny Story, it’s what’s kept me around. It’s what keeps me around.  If you feel like you’re going to kill yourself, or if you feel like you want to, it’s a medical emergency. Call a hotline. Walk into a hospital. Call a friend who can look after you, if you have one. Don’t wait until you think you’re bad enough to be hospitalised. Suicidal ideation is a medical emergency.

Nothing would be better off if you weren’t around. I say that to myself every day. I have to do my best to believe it. I think you should, too.

South African National Teen Suicide Prevention Week runs from the 18th of Feb til the 24th. Take care of yourselves, and of your friends.

Live. Live. Live. Live.
Live.

love & light,
shalom xo

 

the kids aren’t alright

i’m feeling lowercase today, i think.

i haven’t been around here much lately. i actually turned my computer on for the fist time in about three weeks today. i’d love to tell you that i’ve been away planning things and now i’m back with an exciting series and that i have another posting schedule i won’t keep to, but that’s not so.

stuck in the jet wash
bad trip i couldn’t get off
and maybe i bit off more than i could chew
and overhead of the aqua blue

i’ve been going through some stuff in my head. i honestly don’t know how to say this to anyone without sounding absolutely mad but i haven’t felt like a whole person for the last month or so. it’s as if i’m  a plane on autopilot – only i’m also a passenger who’s been informed that i am, and i’m freaking out about it because somebody should be captaining this ship, but there’s nothing that i can do because i’m a bit of a helpless passenger.

i don’t know if i’m presenting myself very well.

i’ve had a lot that i’ve wanted to write about, but i’ve had the great misfortune of not being able to do almost anything. my body is fidgety while my mind is tired, or my mind is racing while my body is exhausted, so i’ve slept a maximum of four hours a night for the last month or so. it’s hard to be a person when you don’t feel like one, and when you feel like someone other than yourself when you do.

fall to your knees, bring on the rapture
blessed be the boys time can’t capture
on film or between the sheets
i always fall from your window to the pitch black streets

i feel very spacey. i’m still going to school and i’m taking notes in lectures and going to rehearsals and caring for all my friends, but it’s very alien. something is very off, and i know it, but nothing is fixing itself.

my friends are lovely. they’re full of advice and ‘alternative methods’ to help me sleep (i see you and i love you, xabs) and they remind me that i’m not eating when i should be. they ask about my medication and when i tell them that i feel like i’ve lost it, they listen. usually, they think i’ve lost it too, but they listen, and i love them for it. i overwhelm them a lot; i mother them. it’s a habit of mine – a selfish one, to some extent. i like to know that people are alright. it makes me feel like i, then, have the right to be fine, too. this is flawed in many ways, but they let me fuss over them, and for that, i’m ever grateful.

and in the end
i’d do it all again
i think you’re my best friend
don’t you know that the kids aren’t al-, kids aren’t alright

i talked to my sister about how i’ve been feeling earlier today. she asked what my plan was for the next couple of months, or at least before i go back to the doctor. well, i’ve thought of something of a plan while i’ve been writing this, and here it is:

my strength comes from loving. i will continue loving people as hard as i usually do. i’m going to try to keep doing the things that i always do, like work and school. i’m going to try to remember to eat, and i’ll try my best to sleep more. i’m not going to ignore the way i’ve been feeling, but i’m going to try and push on through it, rather than go around it.

this kid’s not alright, but she’ll pull it together somehow. it’s not all bad. i made two new friends today. i’m doing fine-ish.

when it rains it pours
stay thirsty like before
don’t you know that the kids aren’t al-, kids aren’t alright

love and light
shalom xo


featured image from risenmags.com

‘tortured artists’: a note

“The myth of ‘You have to be a tortured artist’ is a myth. You can have a happy, healthy life and still go to all these crazy dark places in your writing, and then go home then go play with your child and hug your wife.”

– Dr Lin-Manuel Miranda

The year is 1870. Vincent van Gogh is  a crazily talented man who is terribly troubled and misunderstood. Nobody buys his work. Nobody cares to read his letters, and he spends much time in isolation. Time passes, and he grows more and more lonely. 1890 rolls around, and he (allegedly)* commits suicide. He dies in the arms of his brother. People start to notice him once he’s died. “His work – it’s almost as if you can see his pain!” It’s believed by many that he wouldn’t have been able to produce any his best works had he not been in such dark places so often. His work becomes a hit, and he accrues posthumous fame. The tortured artist trope is born.

Following his death, and long after, many people subscribe to the idea that those suffering will create the most beautiful things. This idea is affirmed by tragic losses such as Sylvia Plath and Ernest Hemingway. The question: does mental illness make for better art?

I study English at university, along with my other three subjects. In the literary field, you’ll come across countless artists who were mentally ill, and claimed that the mental illness enabled them to write as well as they did. Some pseudo-scientific studies have shown a clear link between depression and good poetry, but I disagree with them almost entirely. Unfortunately, mental illness is romanticised to the nth degree, thanks to the likes of tumblr, and the idea that you need to endure some form of affliction to be great is frequently taken to be gospel truth. to  I’m saying what Lin-Manuel Miranda is saying – that the myth that you have to be tortured to make good art is a myth.

I’m certain that mental illness can inspire art. My experience has inspired my writing and my choices when performing on stage. I don’t, however, believe that a poem written about heartbreak by a happily engaged person, would pale in comparison to that of a heartbroken person.

I’m of the opinion that the ability to transcend your own experience in your artform is one of the highest forms of art. To get into another’s frame of mind without being in that frame of mind yourself takes a massive amount of skill, and the idea that your work would be inferior because of your transcendence sounds highly unlikely to me.

love and light,
shalom xo

*there is speculation that good ol’ vanny may have been murdered,but it’s all a bit sketchy.

4 a.m. sunrise

Being up for the sunrise is different to getting up to see the sunrise. See, it’s 5:11 A.M where I live, and I’m yet to find sleep. This is a usual occurrence for me. It’s a pity; the sunrise seems to lose its brilliance when the only thing you have to offer to the awakening earth is your exhausted, eye-bagged self.SAM_2241.JPG

The sunrise is always changing. It starts as it does: a little dark and highlighted by the little lights and houses that mean nothing in the grand scheme of things, but everything to those that dwell in them. The orange gives this crazy kind of hope – dare I say misconception? – that the sun will come up, and the brilliant blue sky will present itself, and the day to come will unfold with the same kind of magic.

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The early bird catches the worm, and somebody zooms past the house front in an attempt to get to the train station before it’s crowded, or to get away from everything else that is crowded. The sky starts to brighten, and more people stir. The joggers come out, and the birds make more noise than they were making ten minutes ago.

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It’s an every day thing, the sunrise. I suppose our tininess is too. Every day, all of us – inconsequential people – wake up in our inconsequential houses to run our inconsequential errands until we die. Inconsequentially.

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I didn’t get to see the sunrise. There was no sunrise today. More than a sunrise, there was an overwhelming period of cloud cover with a dormant sun threatening ever so slightly to peek through. The cloud cover seemed to almost exactly mirror my mental state. 2015 has been a lot of grey.

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I feel quite strange today. Maybe it’s the lack of sleep over the last six months, maybe it’s the lack of medication, the weather, the hyper-awareness – I don’t know what this is. I know that I have three very distinct lines of feeling, though. One: I am terrified of everything and I want it all to stop, I want to stop being afraid, I want to be alone and at the same time, not. Two: I am more powerful than anyone could ever imagine. If you’re not scared of me, you should be. There is nothing that the world could throw at me that my brain hasn’t already. Not even death. Three: Nothing. I feel nothing. I am apathetic under a stained white shirt and jeans that used to make me feel something.

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I am not the teenage girl who gets up at 4 AM to see the sunrise. I am the girl who stands on a rooftop at 4 AM after being awake for longer than she can remember and sifts through the surrounding sounds while wrapped in her friend’s blanket.

It is not ideal. But, there have been, and will continue to be worse things that can and will happen at 4 A.M.

there are worse things than being awake at 4 am. another day will come, and the sunrise will come. eventually.

And all the kids cried out,
“Please stop, you’re scaring me”
I can’t help this awful energy
Goddamn right, you should be scared of me
Who is in control?

Control – HALSEY

Love and light,
shalom