The Remains Of Paradise

 

For 20 years since diagnosed, I have walked past an ever-changing garden on my way to appointments, even winter didn’t suppress its beauty. Its mysterious tender was meticulous in planning through every season but yesterday it was gone. In its place; mashed soil and a path of winding dirt where splendor used to grow.
The scent was gone, the scene was gone, my diagnosis very much in tack. Twenty years of growth, ripped out, gutted.
I looked around, others must know what is missing? But people walked by unaware, too young or too busy to remember. There have been better gardens bigger, brighter, yet this one regardless what was in my mind I always paused before it. This one held significance, memories of my illness and the beauty found while trying to weed and conquer it.
I’ve made this walk most times in solitude but once many years ago I walked the path, my daughters small hand in mine, unaware her mother had to tend to her failing mind. I pointed to the full blooms as she skipped and sang along joyously beside me.
That day, sitting in the office she sat at a table colouring as the session progressed and my eyes filled with tears.
“When will I know?” as I looked over at her
“Know what?” he replied
“If she is me”
He leans back and tells me the odds.
If there is one thing that could break my heart is knowing I was capable of passing on such a cruel illness.
I continued living for her, for my family and I was truly happy for moments, moments I forgot the illness existed and welcomed another child.
The years continued, and my garden grew out of control, tangled, I became distant and thought the best way of them not being me is not existing.
That little carefree girl in 2009 gave me all the love I had given her. With only the help of her father, she became a caretaker to me and her brother. Today, I see the effects, but she still grew wildly beautiful. I could write the endless things she did and still does out of love, but it would be too many to list. She and those I hold dear proved love wasn’t a word but an action.
Since the chaos, breakdown, I was shown compassion, forgiveness for and illness the ones I hold dear know I didn’t choose. I am beyond grateful for the fresh start, living to see how my daughter is as a mother and the strong beautiful girl being raised in her light.
I cannot get back the past, it is gone, its lived its life now I must live mine.
Sometimes things must me ripped out to begin again properly. I must believe this because I have lived gutted, barren and survived.
On solid ground I build my Paradise of belonging with hope, fortitude, and gratitude with those I adore.

 

 

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Reaching

My Dreams have long arms

Stretching out like airplane trails

Leading somewhere, I have yet to go

Descending on concrete

Ground

 

My dreams have long arms

Like branches that hang from 100-year-old trees

Snagging my wild hair and untapped thoughts as I walk by

In blinded routine

 

My dreams have long arms

Swinging and swaying around my

Masquerade apparel

As I try and live half alive

Taunting

We are ready

Even if you are not

 

My dreams have long arms

Cut, tend, and dig

Through my rooted depression

Resentment

Seclusion

Restlessly scraping

What I thought I needed to hold onto

 

My Dreams

Of no mercy

Pulling and

Dislocating

My comfort of existing

 

My dreams, their longevity

Have stayed awake, as I lay dormant

Reaching heights, I could not

Holding me up as light ignited my unopened eyes

In a hue of life

 

I embrace my dreams of long arms

Eyes meeting theirs

As they whisper, you have another chance

Hold onto me…

 

2018

The Magic of Life

2018

The last time I said I was magic, I was wearing stoplight red lipstick, black eye makeup, hair ignited as the suited Doctor sat across from me and calmly asked

“April do you believe you are magic?”

“Yes,” I said as I smiled wide, put my fingers out to the sides and wiggled them

Tada!

 

Well who knew magic could cause so much trouble

 

That was my first time locked away

 

And guess what, I found out quickly I was not magic

 

High above the city, I couldn’t Houdini myself out of that glass box ward that took my breath away

 

Now I know science is a thing

And I’m glad it is because science/medicine helped fix my brain… somewhat.

 

However, lulled on lorazepam to take the delusional magic away

Something survived.

 

I leaned on the large glass window; barren face pressed to the coolness my hands trembling. I looked over the city, the beautiful living city, with snow falling so perfectly I felt that was true magic.

It was falling

It wasn’t crashing

The snow danced down onto solid ground.

 

A place I now wanted to be.

Wanting to live became my new magic….

 

It has been 8 years since that moment.

Five and some years to get back up

Different hospitals, different pills, a wee bit shock therapy

 

Zap Zap

 

But the biggest change happened when I changed my perspective of this world.

 

I get up early now, enjoying the solitude now that it is a choice.I listen to music that sounds like falling snow, the dreamy kind that dances,  mimicking the melody as I type.

 

I didn’t used to like the quite/aloneness because my treacherous thoughts were so loud

but over these trying years

I have listened when I couldn’t speak and I have come to hear and see so much wisdom and grace.

 

I know as you read this  your thoughts may be loud, you may hurt, you may be where I was and still go sometimes….but please read on

 

 

Let’s starts with you are beautiful.

So fabulously beautiful!

Not the frivolous kind of smoke and mirrors but your heart. Even if you don’t think its working

place your hand on your chest do you feel it? That is your life, your life to change, mend, to strive to do something powerful.

 

You are not your illness.

Ever.

It is just genetic, tragedies, accident, that created it, but you get to create you, isn’t that amazing!?

You didn’t get a choice of the other things but you get to choose what you make of yourself. It took me awhile to understand this, because who was I without the tragedy, bipolar, OCD, epilepsy and chronic pain? Because while being treated for those I lost track of who I was. Appointments took over my life, so I began to make appointments to find myself again. I went to coffee alone, I read, I took long needed showers and baths, I walked with my face in the sun, I walked in the snow. I wrote, I painted

I created me.

And you can too.

 

You will hear lots of things like “you just have to try harder” “you should smile” “you should get out more “on and on

Let me say this

You are trying, even when you open your eyes, so start from there and build on that.

Not everyone is going to “get “how hard it is just to get up.

For years, I was so angry with people and I held onto that and guess what anger and healing do not go hand in hand. So I began explaining myself and if people understood great, if they did not it was not my responsibility.

I had to leave behind those that did not validate my recovery, as wellness of spirit became my full-time job.I surrounded myself with people who loved me through everything, people of integrity, kindness, honesty.

 

You need to make goals achievable. At first, I made these grandiose goals while housed in a hospital room, it’s only natural to dream that big when feeling so small but I was sabotaging my health and wellness.

I started small, showering, makeup, walking. Then those actions, goals snowballed and somewhere in-between trying my hardest just to live, living became automatic and I began achieving bigger goals.

Now I still stumble, sometimes my brain and heart say “oh no not today” so I go back into that automatic mode and try again.

Always try again

Because inside of me somewhere (that has yet to be found on any scan)

There is the belief that the  impossible is possible

 

Last week before I entered the place the housed me and my depression and now the place I teach art (that was an unexpected goal)

I stopped before I entered

As the snow fell immaculately

Fell slowly enough it could be caught

Fell as though it were not coming from the sky

But from a place of wonderment

 

With my hair half wild, half pinned back

I smiled wide

 

And thought today, tomorrow and all the days I have left I will ignite them with purpose

 

Even if it is simple as smiling at a stranger, getting up on hard days

I will strive to create the magic that is

Life

 

And on occasion

Fingers out to the sides

Tada

(I just won’t get caught this time)

When Time Stands Still

2015

When Time Stands Still

I am 16 again, feeling the warm air embrace my skin, the sunlight illuminate my surroundings. I have Pachelbel cannon playing on my cassette player in the front of my bicycle basket. I feel free. Effervescent free…….

As I sit here my eyes water like the puddles I used to ride through as I listen to those very notes from a song I have not been able to listen to without feeling guilt, shame and defeat. So I kept that song away from me.

Until now.

In the years following, I was given the title Bipolar, a title that changed my life. Although it is not used anymore I prefer manic depression. Why? Because it seems more honest.

Over the years I have believed so many delusional things. I have walked the tightrope of mania wearing the perfect shade of red lipstick, laughing with a wide smile, late nights, wild thoughts and finally self-destruction. I then fell …crashed off the wire into depression, wanting nothing more than death. I loathed myself, what I had done during the high wire act; I loathed my reflection and I tried to stay away from it. I lived in and out of cages, either my own or the hospitals to keep me safe. I felt lost, detached from myself and the ones I love.

Was it my choice to be manic or depressed? No .But is it my choice now to control it, now that I know the signs? Yes.

I also choose to say I am not bipolar, I have it. The tile I choose to take away because I am more than that.

As the high notes of the melody plays in cannon, I feel the pull of freedom and hope the days I can’t keep my head up and days I feel my fate is to end my life are over.Please be over.

I have an amazing title, one I was given and will keep. My title, a mother, a grandmother, a wife.Titles I hold dear because of those that gave them to me.I never thought I would be any of those. They never once took titles away from me; they never once held the disease of manic depression against me. My fight /flight was as much theirs.

I also have been given the title of an artist ….something I never asked for but will wear that proudly as well.

With humility, I will wear those beautiful titles until I leave this earth.

 

Photo at age 16 by my sister Julie

 

I Should Have Been Born A Man

I should have been born a man

Well this is what I say

All the time

Would I have been more acceptable that way?

Would I have not been thought of crazy?

Could I swear more then?

Sleep around more?

Would my power have been acceptable?

I could then grab my crotch in public

Have wandering eyes

And flirt with any women I like

Even if she doesn’t want me to

Sleep with women for sport

Honk my horn

Yell out my car window

Grab their asses as they walk by

Get my buddies together to

Degrade

Break hearts

Just because it is fun

Yes, it would have been fabulous to be that man?

I should have been born a man

I say to everyone

The world would have listened to me more

Because for some strange reason the penis acts as an antenna

People listen

“Ladies and gentleman the penis in coming into the room”

They sit up when a man speaks

With courage and power

I should have been born a man?

A man that feels it is acceptable

To take a women’s rights away

To steal as much as he can

Take

And break

And then

I could have been the other man that says

Oh you’ve been a bad bad boy

With a wink

And a slap on his ass

Because he is  part of the man’s club

And lets him walk for his crimes

unforgivable crimes

Yes I should have been a man

So I could have been one of the good ones

You know the ones that are few are far between?

The ones that fight for us

The ones that say

You are beautiful

Even when your life is not

The ones that don’t

Think of us as

Whores

Bitches

Sluts

Weak

Powerless

And

Crazy

When we can’t  stand all the pain anymore

And break

The ones that think we are worth more than them

The ones that refuse

To be that other kind of man

Even though they feel different in the world

Because they are not part of the club

They don’t give into that

The ones that slow dance just right

And hold you when you’re sick

Yes I even envy that power

Of a good man

That they seem to make everything better

a little freer

And a far more beautiful

Of a place

For us to be women

 

Photo By Grzegorz Kieszkowski-2008

 

 

 

 

Award Winning Depression

December 2011

On days when I feel faded like someone has clumsily water coloured my surroundings and hung them up before they were dry, I look up to my wall where a bright painting and certificate hang. I stare at them until the words “you have accomplished that, you have the ability to accomplish much more,” forms boisterously above all negative thoughts in my mind.

It was the week leading up to my big night out and I daydreamed continuously, not of the event, but of my nurse and husband coming to the agreement that I should stay home that night.” Yes,” I imagined them saying “you can be safe in the comfort of your own misery, with your suicidal thoughts and unwashed skin, yes, we believe that is best for you.” However, I knew it was unlikely they would agree to this.

I talked to my nurse, who made sure to book me in for an appointment a few days before the show, knowing all too well I was trying to avoid that night. Once in her office I explained it was still too soon, I couldn’t face anyone in the condition I was in. She continued to listen patiently as I carried on, hoping she would take pity on me and agree, but when I finished she looked at me confidently and disagreed.Then, she went one step further and in precise detail explained the reasons why I needed to go , but more importantly the regrets I would have if I didn’t. As I left her office, I envisioned a brighter scenario for that night, but as I walked further, I felt the vibrancy of her words dissipate like the paint I rinse off my brushes.

I arrived home; thoughts once again muddied and told my husband I wasn’t ready to be in a room with that many people. He calmly reassured me “I will be there with you the whole time, nothing to worry about. “ I expected this answer, but still I hoped he would have agreed for me to go into hiding just until the night passed. I wanted to live the invisibility I felt, I didn’t think that was too much to ask. The problem was I had too many loved ones counting on me; I had to start fighting to get better again, even though all I wanted to do was accept defeat.

I woke up early that day, had breakfast, took my prescribed pills, and “one” extra. I thought the “one “would aid my shaky nerves, unfortunately, it did not help. I then went upstairs and laid out newly purchased clothes, costume jewellery, and makeup all bought two days before the event. I looked over everything and thought “I don’t deserve this” and more so, this is all just a masquerade. My husband urged that I must wear something spectacular for my special night, even though I would have been content in paint clothes.

I took a long needed shower and began to carefully construct myself.I painted my face immaculately as if it were one of my canvas and added the finishing touches, the most perfect, lively red lipstick I  had ever seen. I combed and parted my naturally wild hair, pinning it in back with jewelled barrettes. I then slipped into a pair of long black palazzo pants and a flowing shawl top. I finished by putting on an ornate choker necklace and fake pearl earrings.I stood up, put my slumped shoulders back, and there she was, the illusion of the charismatic  artist, the woman I used to be, once strong and confident.

My husband came into the room “you look like a doll!” he said and smiled “are you ready?” I knew this was not a question that needed a loaded answer and I replied “yes “but couldn’t help myself and added, “I am just so nervous” but as always he reassured me and we went on our way.

We arrived several hours prior to the show so we wouldn’t be stuck in traffic or get lost. To kill time and settle my worries, we walked around the cold streets arm in arm. We sought shelter from the bitter wind by sneaking into the closest place; McDonald’s. We ordered and sat down keeping the conversation light. He joked about how sophisticated we were eating here tonight, and then he added; “sorry I can’t give you everything” I responded back “this is perfect” and I smiled as we continued to eat our greasy food.

After we walked around the block a few more times, we went back and sat in the car; I was staling. “Look at all the people that are going in “he enthusiastically said, I replied “at 5:05 I will go in I promise “and at that time precisely he said, “Times up” and shut off the car.

Holding my hand firmly he walked me through the doors where we were greeted by unfamiliar smiling faces.They told us where to check our coats and me, being an artist in the show, was told where to get my name tag. After we had completed that, we walked the steps up to the gallery, confidently he held my hand, and lead the way looking back with a smile.

Once through the doors I looked for my work, there she/I was my reflection. “ Brand” in shades of vermillion paint , clenched arms around myself, gritted teeth and the most horrific feature, my psychiatric file number carved aggressively into my arm. There in front of me, displayed beautifully, was the torment I had tried to hide for so many years, with smiles and the right outfits, until I crashed and the hospitalisations began. I looked over at my husband with glassy eyes “I don’t think I can do this “he held my hand tighter “its ok, this is a good night “he said reassuringly. He took the lead again, we walked around looking at all the beautiful and emotive art, and I began to relax.

About halfway through the night, when the gallery was full and lively, an announcement was made. Everyone was asked to come into the main room as speeches were to be made and awards were to be presented. I listened and looked on intently, not for my name but to see who would be called.I was trying to get a good look over everyone’s head. Then it happened they said it my name. I stood paralyzed, thinking there must be someone else in this room with the same name as me when no one went up and they called out my name, again I knew it was me. For the first time since this depression took a hold, I had to find the courage to stand on my own, no Doctor, nurse, or husband could accept this award for me, I had to move forward, and to my surprise, I did.

I got up on stage and all I kept telling myself was “don’t cry, don’t break down here, please just hold on”.I looked around for something to ground me and there he was, as always, my husband. He had rushed up, front and centre and reassured me with jesters it was o.k. Still shaking I listened to the gallery owner speak beautifully about my work, my chest swelled with honour and pride. When he was finished I shook his hand and looked at the audience.I could feel the encouragement of the crowd, not because I was mentally ill but because I was there, like the many other artists and guests that night we had persevered, we had erased stigma simply by showing up.

I wish today I could tell you that everything is better in my life, but I cannot. However I can tell you this, when I won the award for “Best Emerging Artist “  at the Touched by Fire show on December 8th, 2011, I emerged as much more that night, I became a fighter again, a fighter who reaches for brightly coloured paint and smiles when it stains my fingers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 The Empathy of Ravens

 

November 2017

I have always had an affinity to bright colours and equated them with perfection
And Love
Until I heard a story about ravens.
An empathetic bird, that given the chance picks a mate for life.
I always wondered how something so dark could carry those traits
Until you….

Today is your weather, the in-between skies of light and dark.You in the lucid, my half-awake morning with arms extended to both sides. You, the middle holding me together as you always have.

I walk
Uneven
As Novembers air licks my neck and whispers “you will fall again into my arms my darling” my constant remembrance of my love affair with Monsieur Morose before you, my heart clenches until your voice of perseverance knocks him down and wins me over
“Keep walking, Keep pushing forward”

With my ravenous shadow behind my eyes that look up with hungry hope.I feel a face you have pecked away at over the years until you formed smile lines around my mouth and eyes, signs of love, like the initials by foolish lovers carved on trees I pass.

I imagine ours would read

Fool
+
Madness

However, are we not mad fools to be in love?

Or is it bravery?

it’s a fine line my darling…

There are many frail structures in my mind but love grows brash and brave in every direction, filling in the cracks of the 40-year-old ruins.

Love is adaptable in our world.

You taught me, Love, is more than placid moments and things in common, more than the embrace of lips, the tussle of sheets in good lighting. It hurts, it dives it struggles and holds on for dearest life, scratching and clawing in an unflattering light.

It surrenders to be free.
And only then can it begin to soar…

Your commitment of love took refuge in my hatred. My nights of loss, my river of weeping, my bastard bread incurable disease. When everyone saw me at face value you listened to my pleasant lies of sanity and smile to match, and when I plummeted you were there holding the bloodiness of truth.

There you lived… in my wounds, fresh and healed picked. You have never shied away from the broken. You only were the keeper to the pieces I tossed aside as garbage and built as a nest of recovery.

You took my scrapes when it’s all I had
or all I would give….

Love, you took on everything I could not.

Memories plunge into me, I was a little girl on a ferry boat down the Mississippi, the black water turning the massive wheel of the lifeless water .l embraced the rails with my scavenger hands as if it were hope and flashed a smile you would have known to be false even by a picture. The railing did not seem large enough for the wanting thoughts of going under, the feeling to leap into that endless.

To be free

When I did leap years later, your hands were my enormous barriers that grabbed me by the hair bringing to your mouth to suck the black out of my lungs and take it upon yourself. My demons, my agonizing hurt, the desolation of depression, the terror of night, the lighting, the electricity all became yours.

And even when I begged

“Please tell me what I have forgotten”

You replied

“Only some memories are mine to own”

Forgive me
Because I have yet to forgive myself
of even the forgotten….

As I sat hopelessly caged away from everything I loved, only you came to see me daily, perched on my ruins. You held my ravaged hand as if it were an uncut rose in perfect bloom and said, “If I could take it all away I would “in that moment you created seeds of hope.

I know in this life you are the sole person who would take all that away
If you could…

I can only imagine as you left me caged, how the helpless, how alone you must have felt but you never gave up.

Not even for a moment.

When I wore insanity as perfectly as I once wore red lipstick, You fought the whispers, the gawking, leading me through the dance floor of life with confidence as those whispers fell into background music  “one day this will all be a memory ” you said holding me close.

Your acceptance is all that mattered
In your eyes
I was not
The patient,
The madwoman,
I was your partner, your equal
Your mate for life.

When I lay down at night my dreams ready take flight through storm-ridden skies, I look into your eyes, the blindness, the blackness and I forget about the world that created me this way.

For a moment suspended in your sight is an unspoken bedtime story of hope.

I remember when I was young; I wanted to believe fairy tale love, the kind they cut all the dark and ill-fitting parts out. However, I could not relate when something was missing.

And my story I believed was already composed

I would take my own life,
It was just a matter of time.

Then came you, keeper of time and the missing parts and I am still ticking…

Tick
Tock

I close my eyes and feel my hearts time continue beating.

You tell me the moment you saw me you instantly fell in love

I reply, “That’s crazy you can’t fall so quickly”

You smile

And I remember the first time I met you, you swooped in and pecked my cheek, then later took my hand and we became airless on the seedy bar dance floor.

You danced me from chaos to calm ever since

And here is how my story continues…