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Back to Black: One’s Rock Bottom Can Be Another’s U-Turn

I recently watched seasons 1-5 of “Weeds” on Netflix streaming.  SPOILER ALERT: When U-Turn dies and Nancy gets a U-Turn sign tattooed on her ass, I was inspired.  I actually considered doing the same.  It just seemed like a funny message, and a clever/convenient double entendre.  Similarly, I’ve always been moved and energized by the (now classic) “Here I Go Again” by Whitesnake.  You knowHere I go again on my own! Going down the only road I’ve ever known! Like a drifter, I was born to walk alone… You get the point, there’s a lot to be said for travel euphemisms?  I don’t know. I figured I should start my first post in a while with something nonchalant and silly.  But the truth is, I’m writing tonight because of a realization I had today.  I figured, at this point, if I have an audience, I don’t know who they are, and I’m a lot less concerned about that. I don’t have an agenda, besides telling my story.  For a moment there, I got so caught up in delivering a hopeful message, and doing it a certain way, that I lost myself, and stopped writing.

This morning, singer Amy Winehouse was found dead.  The rumor is that an overdose is what finally did her in, at the ripe ol’ age of 27.  It startled me for a second when I realized she was 27, and then saw her birth year.  I’m 27.  I too, was born in 1983.  We all know the rock star references that are made here… Jimi, Janis, Jim, Kurt, etc.  I’m no rock star, but I’ve been calling myself one for about a year now.  I grew a little worried after proclaiming such a title and then realizing my age.  My blog before this one was called “Musings of a Self-Proclaimed Rock Star.”  It was amusing, but also cathartic, and often raw.  I’ve decided to make it public again and you can find it.  Even since closing the blog, I’ve been tweeting under the name @RockStarMusisings.  Yes, I’m coming out.  I’ve come to realize you either hide nothing, or you hide it all.  Hiding shit is far too much work, and I’m far too lazy to work that hard to keep other people comfortable.

Amy’s death jolted me into this moment in a way nothing else has.  I read the parts of Russell Brand’s blog post on her, that were shared on msnbc.com, and I realized that Winehouse and I have a lot in common.  As for addictions, mine have come and gone, and the only one that has ever REALLY threatened my life, is food.  Mainly because cocaine is expensive; alcohol can be miserable; and sex become tedious.  Man!  Whew!  I had forgotten how refreshing honesty can be.

All that aside, I felt like Brand was really making an appeal to non-addicts to realize that addiction is a serious illness that kills people, and otherwise saying little about Winehouse besides the fact that she was distant, and a genius that we only saw at a glimpse.  Now, I know you’re wondering where I am in that description, but I’ll elaborate.  I don’t think I am a genius, but even now, it breaks my heart to realize that I, much like Winehouse, have  held the world at such a distance that if I died, the world wouldn’t realize what it had lost.  I agree with Brand.  I think Amy Winehouse was incredible, and the media reveled in her slow demise, and mostly missed the light that she brought to the world.  And this is our world.  It is shitty.  But what hurts me about what we have lost with the death of Amy Winehouse, is that we have no idea.  That sultry voice, that deeply rich, dark soul.  She had such a wealth within her, and we will never get to know it.  We can joke all we want.  When I first heard of her death, I blah blah blahed about who was next, Lindsay or Charlie.  But Amy wasn’t just another troubled soul, and musical genius aside, she was a human being.

I’ve heard through social networking that Amy’s mom commented about making mental preparations for this day, knowing it would (or thinking it might) come.  This takes me back to the days after my suicide attempt, when my mother was staying with me.  During a heated argument one day, she admitted that it is hard to move forward, and stay involved, because on some level she knew I would do it again, and I might just be successful next time.  She voiced to me that her distance was an attempt to keep herself safe, and to cope with that remaining chance that I won’t survive.  As inexcusable as that may be to many of you out there, who have no idea, I understand it.  Amy probably understood that.  As much as she probably wanted to be sober, and not let herself and her loved ones down over and over again, she probably understood their distance.  She probably knew that they had to keep themselves safe.

Tonight I was reflecting on addiction and I realized that it is a thin line between giving up on, sticking by, and enabling an addict.  You have to love them unconditionally, but you have to set boundaries.  You have to draw a line, but you have to let them know that you always want what’s best.  I know that a lot of times, to an addict it looks like loved ones are walking away, when in reality, they’re doing all that they can to save the addict’s life, and maintain their own sanity/safety.

I was truly blessed to have dodged hard addictions, but as I type this, I’m sitting in a chair in the corner of my room, next to a stain on my wall.  The stain is from my last suicide attempt, and the vomit left behind.  My walls are a pale purple, but around the stain, you can see an aura of pale blue, where friends came and tried to wipe away the evidence before I got out of the hospital.

I get that Amy Winehouse was one of those whose death was “bound to happen,” out of all of us… I get that.  But I also agree with Russell Brand: She didn’t have to be.  I know there is a misunderstanding about artists.  Most people think that your best work is done while you’re in the pits of despair, but one can only survive down there so long.  I get that you can’t enable, but I wonder who was fighting for her.  From where I’m sitting, there were jokes about her condition, just as there continue to be, but little else.  Of course, I don’t know about her personal life, but usually the people who are consistently surrounding an addict, are also addicts.  Generally speaking, addicts, when battling head-to-head with their condition, have one priority, the drug.  All others are simply extras in the movie reel of their lives, just background music.  Life isn’t lived as a series of moments, goals, accomplishments… life is composed of getting high, and the plans that you devise between highs to achieve the next high.  Funny how something so simple can completely consume you.

So, I’m not a musical genius.  So, I’m not in the public eye.  So, I’m not wealthy or producing records that are going platinum, or performing in front of thousands.  So, I’m not hooked on heroin.  So, I’m not caught by the paparazzi, wandering the streets at night, disheveled and distraught.  Do I need to be?  Frankly, I feel that this world knows more of me than it did of her, despite her fame and notoriety.  She was a ghost to us, and now the presence that we felt subtly, though oft ignored, is gone.  Will we realize the void, no matter how quiet, that remains in her absence?  Perhaps, not.  But this little earthquake that has left me thinking, and sometimes speaking out loud, to myself and those around me, “I can’t believe Amy Winehouse is dead,” perhaps there is something to be said for that.  I believe it is possible for our souls to ache for something that we don’t even realize that we’ve lost.  When someone accomplishes so far below their potential, we all lose something very great, especially in the way of art, which can inspire us so deeply and undoubtedly change the world.

I am 27.  For so long, but especially so over the past few months, I have held the world at a distance.  I am uncertain of why.  I suppose it is mostly out of fear.  There is always the fear of what people will think, and fear of failure.  As a survivor of sexual violence, there is also a fear of being revicitimized.  We fear trying, but not reaching our potential.  And to the contrary, there is a fear of reaching your potential and being disappointed.  I’ve feared losing people, only to push them away in the end anyway.  There is a fear of living, and all that “living” entails.  The rush of love, and the pain of loss; two things that, as hard as we try to force them apart, are always packaged together.  And there is a lot of pain, and certainly plenty of loss to be experienced out there.  People leave because they want to, or leave because time rips them away from us.  There are stubbed toes, broken bones, burns, cuts, and bruises.  There’s rejection, and dismay.  There’s fear.  Oh!  The crippling fear.  It all comes full circle.

I realize now that there are people out there, who are so gifted, constantly stuffing down their potential, for whatever reason.  I imagine Amy had something inside of her that haunted her.  It could’ve been huge, or just a twinge of pain that she couldn’t stand to feel.  She wanted to shut it up, numb it out, or kill it.  And eventually she succeeded, but for that, what did she lose?  And on a universal level, what have we lost?  Another little bit of hope that could’ve inspired the next step in improving this damned world?  Perhaps it was her voice on a tattered CD out there, that was playing on repeat for the kid who would grow up to do something great for this world, simply because her voice kept her/him going.  What voice will that kid hear now?  Or maybe Winehouse’s voice was the last of its kind, an endangered soulful echo that has now become extinct; and because of our blatant  lack of appreciation, the voices of generations to come will resemble that of Ke$ha or Rebecca Black. Dear God, the horror.

I understand that there are parts of my spirit that ache, but I’m willing to withstand it for the sake of something good.  If I have anything to offer, no matter how great or small, I do not feel it is my right to destroy any remnants of hope this world may have.  For all the fear, for all the pain, I have to believe that there is purpose.

Do I believe that there’s a reason that I (or any other troubled talents out there) am alive and she isn’t?  Well, besides the fact that heroin is like playing russian roulette with a nearly fully loaded gun, no.  Eating yourself to death takes more time.  I attribute my failure to stick with addictions to a short attention span, an empty wallet, the fact that I’m easily bored, and a fear of commitment.  In the grand scheme of things though, she and I have both toyed with our mortality, and any way you look at it, the game can only end one way.  When the game is over, one fact becomes blazingly obvious, there was a human being who is now gone.  On top of that, she was a human being who held a wealth of talent, the depth of which we can never know.  I think that’s what frightens me the most.  If I have more to offer, as I believe I do, it is scary to think that being entangled in fear and doubt could stifle that gift.  I too, could die without having shared of myself, or utilized my opportunity to contribute goodness to this desperate world.

We all have the potential to offer beauty to this world; in the end the big question is whether we will fight it or let it flourish.  I’d like to think that this realization is a bit of something good coming from tragedy, but I suppose only time will tell.  It is nice to believe that every screeching halt in one life’s potential, can cause a u-turn in another.  If someone was headed towards an early end, another sudden silencing of greatness, maybe Amy can be a reminder that there are other options, and so much more to see along life’s detours.

My deepest prayer for you, Ms. Winehouse, is that somewhere out there, you’ve been blessed with a peace that you never managed to discover on earth.  And if you’re down, I’m hoping that even on your cloud, you’ll still step up to the mic from time to time.

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“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you… It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

~Marianne Williamson

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Let There Be Light.

I have been getting responses from my previous post that are inspiring me to clarify something.

First, I want to say, please… if you have experience with suicide, share your story.  No matter the perspective, sharing promotes healing and understanding.  I’ve heard from people who lost loved ones to suicide and even those who were in my shoes, but found their way out.  You have to know that offering these perspectives is crucial to igniting hope and inspiring change.  Doing so can, not only save lives, but also lend itself to improving the quality of life for those who are just getting by.

“I believe that life is a prize, but to live doesn’t mean you’re alive.”

-Nicki Minaj

Second, I want to add, as I humbly climb down off my high horse, that listening is as important as sharing.  I told my experience, because I wanted to contribute an often unheard perspective, but I want to make it clear that listening is just as, if not more, crucial.  I’ve been so angry at people for not listening over the years, but lately I’ve started to realize that listening is like respect… if you want it from someone else, you have to give it to them.  I want to hear your stories as much as I want you to listen to mine.

“A friend is someone who helps you up when you are down, and if they cannot, they lay down beside you and listen.”

-Unknown

I want to thank everyone who has shared, and supported me.

I also want to offer my tools, the things that get me through my darkest of hours.

Tools, like flashlights, that can get me through the darkness:

Poetry:

I am a writer, and more specifically a poet.  As much as writing helps, hearing or reading poetry that expresses things that I cannot, is so inspirational, and constantly reminds me that I’m not alone.  I have the beginning of two different poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay tattooed on my flesh.  I recently discovered a performance/spoken word/slam poet who has touched me in ways that are beyond my capacity of expression.  His name is Buddy Wakefield.  Nothing I can say will convey his God-given power, so I’ll just share video of him performing one of his poems:

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Music:

Music, to me, is like poetry that you can dance to.  Genius!  I have an ever-growing hope/faith/love/survival soundtrack.  One day I’ll share the playlist so you know all the songs I’ve collected.  For today, I’ll share the one that has helped me most recently.  It is my current anthem.  Nicki Minaj’s “Fly” featuring Rihanna:

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My Dad:

I love my pops, and I’m so blessed to have a dad who is worth a shit, because I know so many people do not.  He has been my rock.  I did not realize how much he loved me until after my second suicide attempt.  When I started to bottom out 6 months later, I had to make a decision that was just as terrifying as the decision to end it: I asked for help.  He was the person I called.  He dropped everything, and drove me 3 hours to a hospital that I preferred for several reasons, and put down $5,300 for me to be admitted without insurance.

This is my dad, snoozing on my couch with my dog: 

My Dog:

I believe dogs are cute, furry, messengers of God.  My dog conveys unconditional love in a way I have never experienced from any other living being I’ve encountered.  My opinion is that my dog is a daily reminder, a glimpse at God’s enduring love.  I owe my life to her.  At my LOWEST, she was the one thing that made me reach out to someone else.  I didn’t want her to be uncared for, or left behind after I was gone, uncertain of how long it’d be before someone found us.  She dances at the sight of me, which makes me laugh.  Sometimes she smiles.  She likes to curl up on top of me when I’m on the sofa, and we nap together.  She needs me as much as I need her.

My Siblings, and Especially, My Sister:

I have 3 half brothers and 1 sister.  My brothers have helped keep me grounded, because they’ve been where I am with my parents.  They have experience and advice; and they relate.  Today, my brother and I talked about his summer wedding plans.  I was actually really excited to venture to San Diego to see him get married.  Unfortunately, his wedding is the same weekend as the overnight walk that the American Foundation for Suicide prevention is doing (www.theovernight.org).  Because he understands my struggle, and how close this issue is to my heart, he gave me his blessing to miss the wedding in order to do the walk.  Love!

My sister is a psychologist.  I have no doubt that her family experience drove her to this profession.  She has offered honest advice, and has asked for mine.  Both are so important.  Her perspectives help, but knowing she trusts my input fertilizes my self-worth.  I would do ANYTHING for her.  We didn’t always get along.  As kids we fought… a lot.  She is the core of my life.  When I look back on the most important moments and relationships in my life, she is at the top of the list.  No one has gotten as close to my heart as she has.

This is my sis:

My Friends:

Friends have come and gone.  Even the ones who left for good have left their proverbial footprints.  There have certainly been times when I had no friends, but I’ve spent just as much time with friends by my side.  I wouldn’t be here without the humor, support, perspective of my closest friends.

Treating Myself:

Sometimes it is so important for me to make small steps for pushing myself into another day, despite my uncertainty that the sun will rise again.  Manicures, movies, walks in the park, staying up to watch the sunrise, going for a drive with windows down and music blasting, getting a new hairdo, making a nice meal, pretty much anything can help.

Prayer/Meditation:

Honestly, prayer has been a consistent, though underused tool in my life.  I think I use it as a last resort too much.  I believe deeply in the power of prayer, and yet I turn to it far too little.  Whether you believe in God, or not prayer helps.  It may be God answering those prayers, but I also believe that putting positivity out into the world and focusing on recovery is healing.  A friend of mine posted this as her Facebook status recently:  “Instead of asking God for something, how about giving Him something this week? A great place to start is your heart.”  That helped me so much because I realized that I can’t expect good things to constantly roll in, and never express my gratitude.

I’ve heard it said that prayer is talking to God and meditation is listening to God’s response.  Meditation is powerful like prayer.  It is so powerful to stop in silence, and allow your mind to empty while your heart fills.

One of my favorite quotations about prayer-

“Everybody prays whether you think of it as praying or not. The odd silence you fall into when something very beautiful is happening or something very good or very bad. The ah-h-h-h! that sometimes floats up out of you as out of a Fourth of July crowd when the sky-rocket bursts over the water. The stammer of pain at somebody else’s pain. The stammer of joy at somebody else’s joy. Whatever words or sounds you use for sighing with over your own life. These are all prayers in their way. These are all spoken not just to yourself but to something even more familiar than yourself and even more strange than the world.”

Frederick Buechner

Movies:

The Shawshank Redemption, The Bridge, Amelie, Magnolia, What Dreams May Come, Crash, Amazing Grace… these films have inspired me.  Though, some may find most of the movies I listed to be very dark.  It is what I relate to, I can’t help it.

Self-Expression:

A week or two ago, after coming out of my darkness, I got some clippers and turquoise hair dye.  I had not taken on such a task in quite some time, mainly because doctors had managed to convince me that such behavior was “manic.”  I realize that may be true for some people, but for me, I sometimes need to express myself.  Sometimes I want to do something that makes me feel special, and expresses my individuality.  Making that effort is actually a good sign for me.  I have gotten so depressed at times, that I didn’t want to do something so drastic, for fear of what I’d look like in my coffin.  Expressing myself, through words, through art, through music, through hair or clothes… all of these things remind me of who I am and why it matters.  My hair has since initiated a few dirty looks from old people, but has mostly started conversations with strangers.  Turquoise hair is not something you see everyday.  It throws people off.  And whether they’re laughing at me, or inspired by my “gumption” (that’s how my neighbor described it), at least it stirs something within them all the same.

Community:

I seek out groups of people like me.  AA is a good example.  Having people you can relate to is very important, and as you can see on my “About the Author” page, I fit into a lot of labels, so there are plenty of groups getting together out there that I could easily fit into.  I suggest meetup.com.

Laughter:

I can often have a very politically incorrect sense of humor.  At the same time, I’m often extremely sensitive about social issues.  I think it is possible to have a healthy balance of both.

I think Philip DeFranco conveys this best.  Last Friday’s post was heartfelt, and yesterday’s was intense.  Most of them are a good balance of sincerity and hilarity.  Check him out.

This show cracks me up more than anything ever… EVER:

Spirituality:

I’m not at the point where I feel qualified to shove my beliefs down the throats of others.  That being said, whether you believe in God or not, there is consistent evidence that spirituality can be an intense support in difficult times.  Prayer, meditation, and God, though often vague, fluid, or altogether undefined, have been consistent supports in my life.  If you see representatives of spirituality in your life who drain you of your hope, you’re probably looking at the wrong representatives.  A lot of people claim God, while simultaneously having no clue what “God” means.  As much as I respect atheists and agnostics, I do not feel, at my core, that believing in nothing, or denying the proof of God (as it has manifested in my life) is helpful or hopeful, for me.  I have seen how deep the darkness goes, so I have to believe that the light reaches just as far.

Doctors/Counselors/Support Groups:

When I had no answers, When I suspected God had abandoned me, When my loved ones came up empty, When I couldn’t keep myself safe; there were still places for me to turn.  I have worked with A LOT of counselors, doctors, and even some support groups.  Some have helped, some have not, but all were willing to try to help me get through, even when I had nothing.  I know these things are not available to everyone because of the pathetic state of health care in our country.  For that, I’ll default back to prayer.  There are a lot of resources out there for people in crisis, who lack the funding or the insurance to get help.  That is when churches, friends, google, and community are so important.  I’ve actually discovered many other resources from people at church or in AA.

Helping Others:

Listening.  Being there.  Helping find resources.  Volunteering.  Fundraising.  Sharing your story.  These are just a few examples of the numerous ways that helping others has actually helped me.  I definitely believe in karma, or what goes around comes around, or putting in what you want to get out.  Lending a hand to someone builds confidence.  It makes you feel worthy, and like you matter.  I know there are so many people out there who are going through, have gone through, or will go through, the same things.  I believe that we’re on this earth together for a reason, so that no one has to suffer alone.  As hard as I know it is for most of us, let us not forget that none amongst us are immune to horrible things happening to us, or are completely incapable of doing horrible things ourselves.  I think Gandhi said it best:

‎”All humanity is one undivided and indivisible family. I cannot detach myself from the wickedest soul.”

-Mahatma Ghandi

If nothing else, begin by offering your assistance to others, to reassure yourself that someone will do the same for you in hours of darkness.  Eventually, you will forget that motivation and you will act, not in hopes reciprocation, but the expression of true empathy.

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If I didn’t believe there was a purpose, I couldn’t go on another day:

HOPE.

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“Out of suffering has emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”

-Kahlil Gibran