when you put down the rope

Good afternoon, readers. Happy Saturday!

So, do you remember when I told you why I named this blog “Putting Down the Rope”? (No shame, if not. Read it here.)

Well, since treatment ended I’ve been feeling much more like myself. I’m sure recovery and the right cocktail of meds is doing the trick, but it’s so relieving to feel more productive, creative, etc. It feels like I’m putting down the rope.

Last night I had the opportunity to attend an art installation at my friends’ art co-op, Holy Unlikely. It was a gathering of some really amazing people, both extremely talented and exceedingly kind. I brought some of my photographs/poems to display in the visual art/gallery-style portion of the evening; something I would have never done a month ago. But now, I wanted to display it. My self-doubt was no longer shrouding my consciousness and I was proud to display the more vulnerable parts of myself. (Recognize the work?)

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My unnamed collection, which I plan on expanding into a series. Keep your eyes peeled.

Later on we arrived at the performance portion of the evening– open mic style–  where anyone and everyone were encouraged to sign up to share music, performance art, poetry, random thoughts, etc. I already knew I was going to abstain from participating in this part of the show; I was perfectly content being invisible in the audience. The last time I said I was going to do an open mic night, I ended up hiding in the bathroom when it was my turn. (I still can’t apologize enough to my friend who took the time to learn the song I planned on singing that night…I owe you one, Skyler.)

But last night was different. I felt safe. I felt comfortable. And I was surrounded by people who were baring their souls, just like I wanted to.

You see, art got me through some of the worst times. If it weren’t for this blog, I don’t know if I would be this far along on the road to recovery. It carries me when I can’t lift a leg to walk, it flies me into the clouds when I’m elated.

The memory of this feeling is what made me decide to share the art that got me through some of the hardest times of my life with a group of mostly strangers. I read three of my poems. I didn’t stutter, choke on nothing, or shake so badly it looked like I was having a seizure. And, most importantly, I didn’t hide in the bathroom when they called my name. I told everyone I have an eating disorder, and got applause when I mentioned I discharged from treatment. I read the poem that helped me realize the staff at clinic knew what they were doing even if I thought they didn’t. I read about love, I read about feeling invisible. You can’t take that away from me. Neither can Sasha.

Afterwards, the strangers, who I suppose weren’t strangers after all, came up to me to thank me or share their opinion. One person came up to me and told me they were proud of me and gave me a hug.

The thing is, I feel like shit most days. I’m warring with that rope most days, unable to believe what I have to say or create makes any difference in the world. But yesterday was not most days.

Yesterday I stood up in front of a crowd and delivered three poems into a microphone. My first public performance.

When you put down the rope you can live your life worth living.

Art is subjective, it’s meant to be shared. Art helps me exist in the world. My wise mind knew this enough to allow me to put down the rope, and walk to the microphone- raw hands and all.

 

 

 

there is a healing in nature

when i struggled
people watched me drown
instead of helping me,
and shouted demands and instructions
that i could not follow
as my hands flailed beneath
the deeps;
i think sharks would have
more empathy
than these people—
i struggled
frightened and alone,
angry and miserable,
morose and full of tears;
but no one would
hear me
they all believed the lie of my smile
perhaps because it was more
convenient
than asking me something deeper than
a question about the weather—
the weeping willows and soft needled pines
always whispered to me kindness,
the fields always gave me flowers and butterflies to
kiss away my sorrows;
the clouds always gave me worlds to escape to,
winds sang to me myths and truths
of old and new,
the sun gave me warmth and the rain washed away
my pain,
and rainbows always spoke to me of compassion;
there is a healing in nature
people just could not give me.

– linda m. crate

 

 

*If you are interested in submitting work, please email puttingdowntherope@gmail.com.

Call for Submissions

Calling all artists, writers, designers, poets, musicians, creators, humans!

I am developing a potential project, and I would love your help! I am currently asking for submissions of any medium for the blog!

I am exploring art and mental health and how integral they seem to be with one another. Especially following the suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, I really want to create a space that is a safe and healthy outlet for artists who struggle with mental health.

Your submissions can be anonymous or not, it’s completely up to you. I ask that when you submit you please specify whether or not you would like to remain anonymous, otherwise I will leave your name off of the piece. Also, please include any trigger warning at the top of your post, if needed.

To submit, please email puttingdowntherope@gmail.com 

I’m not looking for anything profound. I’m just looking for you. Bring me the work you love the most, hate the most, and everything in between. I am accepting art in any medium, whether that be visual art, poetry, music/songs, short stories, narrative essays, etc.

I cannot pay you for your submissions, but your work will be published and you can advertise it as such. I will moderate which pieces I will publish, though I will do my best to post them all.

Mental health issues are incredibly difficult to live with. Art makes them a little easier to bear. When it feels like too much, PLEASE reach out. If you are uncomfortable calling a hotline, reach out to friends or family. Even me. As someone who struggles with self harm and suicide ideation, I am here to remind you that you are special and loved, even when you don’t believe it yourself.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255. It provides free and confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week for people in suicidal crisis or distress.

You can also call 1-800-273-8255 to talk to someone about how you can help a person in crisis.

Call 1-866-488-7386 for the TrevorLifeline, a suicide prevention counseling service for the LGBTQ community.

Text HOME to 741741 to have a confidential text conversation with a trained crisis counselor from Crisis Text Line.

Online, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides a confidential chat window, with counselors available 24/7: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/…/LifelineChat.aspx

For crisis support in Spanish, call 1-888-628-9454.

For more resources, please visit CNN for more information about how to reach out for help for either you or someone you know.

 

If you have any questions, please email puttingdowntherope@gmail.com.

D-Day!

Well, that”s it. I am officially discharged from program! I was hoping to publish this yesterday, on my actual D-Day, but alas, time got away from me.

So, here we are. My first day of freedom. I definitely thought I would feel terrified to discharge, and I ended up leaving program yesterday feeling really positive. I’ve learned all I can…it’s up to me now.

I wanted to post something profound, but there’s really not much to say that hasn’t already been said.

The biggest obstacle I’m already facing is dealing with the loneliness. I no longer have a place to go and see friends every day. It feels a lot like graduating from college; you suddenly wonder what to do when you can’t just go hang out at your friends’ place anymore. If anyone has advice to combat loneliness, feel free to leave it in the comments.

Thank you for everyone’s support! The road to recovery is longer than ever, but I’m still walking!

It’s the Final Countdown

Wow. It’s my last week of treatment at my eating disorder clinic. I discharge in three days. What a long ride it’s been. And how strange to be leaving a place I’ve come to find comfort in. It’s funny thinking of it as comfortable, considering what has happened in those four walls over the last 5 months. I could say so much about my time in treatment- and I’m sure I will, eventually- but these are the memories, thoughts, and feelings that stuck with me:

On my second day of program I was in the bathroom before morning snack, texting my parents that I was going to leave. (This was after an early morning discussion in which I told them I wasn’t even going to show up for day two. I did.) Before snack I was still incredibly full from breakfast, and my body was making the adjustments it naturally makes when you start feeding it after a long period of starvation. I wasn’t going to tough it out, I was convinced the program wasn’t for me, that my eating disorder wasn’t as bad as everyone else’s, and that I didn’t need to be there. I told them I’d go to a less intense program. Something better suited for me. I sat in that stall and cried and cried. My mom told me to call her, but as I was being supervised in the bathroom, I didn’t. What came next was an avalanche of encouragement from both parents. My dad ended up telling me what I used to survive some of the hardest moments of program: taking it one minute at a time. One bite at a time. If I could conquer the next five minutes, I could do anything.

And here I am, one week left and still taking it bite by bite. It’s how I got this far.

I remember thinking that when I was done and discharged from program, I would be 100% better; “cured” from my eating disorder. I couldn’t have been more wrong. But don’t flinch, I didn’t say that was a bad thing. You see, I have made significant progress in my time here. Sometimes I don’t recognize myself. And other times, it’s really hard and I feel like I’m starting back at square one. What I’ve learned is: that’s recovery. It’s messy and difficult and nonlinear and a constant battle. It’s how I fight the battle that marks the progress and proves that I’m walking the road to recovery. It’s a long road with a lot of potholes and the sun beats down on you, but at the end of the day, I have the tools I need to be successful in my recovery. That is what I am choosing to focus on in these last three days.

I experienced the widest range of emotions in this program. The many meals I sat at the table in the dining room and cried into my lap, not able to look at the meal I couldn’t complete. Feeling shame as my peers would walk past me, exiting the dining room, and some squeezing my shoulders; a reassurance that only caused me more shame. They got to leave, but I couldn’t. They were watching me struggle.

And from there, the bonds deepened. On my darkest days I was seen. On theirs, I could see them. We never left each others’ side. Always hoisting each other up, carrying one another from one mile marker to the next. We were going to cross that finish line, and we would cross it together, whether we did that physically or otherwise.

Not only was there anguish, but there was intense joy. We all rooted for one another; when someone overcame a major barrier in their disorder, we were elated. Nothing will compare to when one of the younger patients, a dear friend of mine, found out he got accepted to NYU in the middle of program. That night, while checking out, everyone in the room listed him getting into NYU as their best moment from the day. Even now, I beam whenever I think of it. We are a family. When we struggle, we support each other, when we celebrate, we hoist each other up.

I still have tough meals (and tough days) despite being in my last week of program. And each time I struggle, I look around at the room of people, who understand what it’s like to struggle with something that comes so easily to everyone else, and find comfort.

I may be a warrior princess, but it’s only because of the army standing behind me.

 

To my friends in program: I will miss you all so much. Each one of you is so special and so beautiful, and I am privileged to know you all. Never stop fighting. Never stop putting down the rope.

Self-Harm vs. Authenticity

*Trigger warning: Self-harm*

 

 

Well, it’s time for me to out myself. I’ll do it AA style: Hello, my name is ____ and I am a self-harmer.

And I am working on recovery.

It’s difficult to admit to the f*cked up things I’ve felt or thought in my life. But I know now that hurting myself will not make things better for me. Maybe in the short term, but after that, people will just go back to living their own lives.

After a recent journey of self-discovery, I came to the realization that I hurt myself because I deeply want someone to notice me. Most of the time, I feel invisible. Unwanted, boring, the last person someone calls when they are looking for a good time. In my depressed mind, I convince myself that if I have a broken foot or a bruised and bloodied hand or a scar on my face, I will be more beautiful and, ultimately, more seen. To those of you who don’t struggle with mental health, I know you don’t understand. It’s a difficult thing to understand. Hell, sometimes I don’t even understand it. But my head does a great job of twisting the truth into lies that are nearly impossible to recognize. If it acts like a duck and it quacks like a duck, it must be a f*cking duck, right? Not in my head. I’m still learning that just because there’s a part of me that wants to beat myself senseless, doesn’t mean doing that is actually effective. Which is why I decided to write this post.

Earlier today, someone asked me if there was something that I’ve been wanting to blog about but have been too scared to write. Well, yes. There always is. But this one in particular is a big one. And I need to out Sasha. Because posting this will last a hell of a lot longer than any bruise or cut I could give myself. And maybe this way, I can stop being afraid and start being more authentic.

I don’t know if I’ll ever know or believe what it’s like to feel needed or wanted. Hopefully I will. But what I do know is that hurting myself will not get me the attention I desire. It won’t give me the love and connection I crave.

Earlier tonight I was having a tough time. We went on a meal outing in program, and I came really close to not showing up at all. I sat in the parking lot of the restaurant for a long time, crying, not understanding why I couldn’t just get up and go inside. Eventually, with the help of my therapist, I wiped my tears, pulled my hair up, and got out of my car. As soon as I walked in the restaurant I wished I had gone home. I felt all eyes on me. But I sat down at the end of table with everyone and stared at my hands, forcing my tears to retract back into my eyes. Within a few minutes I had a meal sitting in front of me, and I still hadn’t looked up from my lap. The conversation continued as it had before I was there, and I sat waiting for it to be over. But then, something happened.

I saw my friend stand up from her seat on the opposite end of the table and make her way towards me. I wondered if she was going to walk out the door like I wanted to, but she didn’t. She pulled out the chair across from me and sat down. I had been isolating myself. As much as I want people to see me, I want them to see the me that I want to present. Not the snotty, pale, broken me. And yet, here she was. Looking me in the eye. Asking me if I was ok. Willing to make that connection. And suddenly, I knew I could share myself with her, pain and all.

You see, even if I hate admitting it, I recognize that the attention I seek comes with authenticity. I can’t expect people to see me if I hide the parts of myself that I don’t like or am uncomfortable with. So, instead of creating the wrong kind of attraction by hurting myself, I’m publishing this post.

I don’t want this post to be misconstrued. I’m not looking for your pity, and I am certainly not begging for attention. What I crave isn’t superficial. I long for deep human connection. And I know that some of you reading this don’t know me very well, and I don’t want you to feel obligated to reach out to me. I’m doing fine. Just ask my therapist.

 

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i’m having one of those days where i just want to hide myself
sitting in this coffee shop with a bare face
no sunglasses or hat to hide my eyes
i feel like a sitting duck
like someone is just waiting to sit down next to me
and ask me if i’m doing ok
and i won’t have the strength to give the perfunctory response
i’m fine thanks
i’ll choke on it as it rises in my throat
and instead of words a sound will escape
guttural and raw
the bearings of my soul that have longed to escape
all because i could not hide my face

Final Friday, or An Ode to My Dog Beach Divas

On my last Friday in program, my last Friday upstairs in the place where I started, my last Friday with some of my closest friends, I had to write about it. I hope you expected nothing less.


the three of us march side by side
not in any rush to get anywhere
except to the place that drew us together
we laugh and joke
with those around us
leaving our struggles in our wake
this is our time

we sit down by the water
watching the ducks swim by
anxiously waiting for someone
to take their dog on a walk nearby
so that we may experience some
unbridled joy that radiates
from the furry four-legged creature
amidst the stress of pushing ourselves

no matter the weather
i go with them
i bundle myself up
because i know what i have to sacrifice
to keep up the tradition
and after all it’s not really a sacrifice
it’s an opportunity
to be fully present with the ones
who changed my life
who taught me to rise above
the hardship and celebrate
the successes no matter how small

i know this is not the end
our friendship defies the walls
of the building that introduced us
and yet i still mourn
no longer seeing them every day
no longer joining them
for one hour at the end of every week
to take a collective deep breath
after all
it is a dialectic

so today i will spread my blanket
on the grass once more
and lay under a blue sky
the sun gracing us with it’s presence
as if it knew we needed it on this day
and laugh and share and breathe
together
on our final mindful walk


an ode to my other two musketeers, the Harry and Hermione to my Ron
i love you both so much
keep fighting
and remember this is not
goodbye

Life After Bullies

i wonder if adults
ever look back
to the havoc they caused
in other children’s lives
i wonder if the bullies knew
their hateful words affected
someone so deeply that
twenty years later
that person finally began
to claw their way out
from under the stone
you threw all those
years ago

why don’t we try harder
to teach children that
words hurt
how did they learn
to be so cruel
at such a young age
life throws enough stones
we don’t need bullies
to pile on

i wonder what my life
would look like if
i wasn’t told
i wore the wrong clothes
or ate the wrong lunch
or liked the wrong music
i wonder what my life
would look like if
i played with friends
at recess instead of
walked the track
with my math teacher

i’d like to think
i’m stronger now
but it would have been
so much better
to develop that strength
independent of fear
and rejection
to test my strength
in other ways

now adults are
picking up the pieces
left by hurtful kids
trying to become their
own person separate
from the who they
thought they were
because others
told them so


I am very passionate about the affects of bullying and cyberbullying that children experience in schools. To learn more about how to make a change, please visit the following sites:

https://www.stopbullying.gov/

http://stompoutbullying.org/

https://rachelschallenge.org/

160,000 STUDENTS SKIP SCHOOL EVERY DAY FOR FEAR OF BEING BULLIED.