womanhood

“womanhood”

by: piper grace lynn

 

Quiet, girl.

Pull your shirt up.

Now, pull your skirt down.

You are distracting the boys.

Quiet, girl.

Can’t you hear?

A man is speaking,

Show some goddamn respect.

Quiet, girl.

Step to your left,

That’s it, get out of the way.

People are trying to walk here.

Quiet, girl.

What’s wrong?

Are you on your period?

Don’t give details, that’s gross.

Quiet, girl.

Why the long face?

Give me a smile, sweetheart,

You look much prettier that way.

Quiet, girl.

You thirsty?

Can I buy you a drink?

What do you fucking mean, “No”?

Quiet, girl.

That’s fine,

You’re a bitch anyways,

Wouldn’t wanna waste my time on you.

Quiet, girl.

Jesus, calm down!

You’re so sensitive, you know?

You need to take a Xanax and chill out.

Quiet, girl.

I know, I know,

You were talking,

But I had to stop you. Listen.

Quiet, girl.

Give it to me,

You don’t need to carry that.

It’s heavy and I don’t want you to get hurt.

Quiet, girl.

God, your legs!

They’re out of control.

Wear pants if you’re not going to shave.

Quiet, girl.

I’ll be the leader,

Think you can follow?

Preacher says it’s biblical. Submit.

Quiet, girl.

What’s wrong,

I thought you loved me?

You must not, or you’d give me a peek.

Quiet, girl.

Ha, hungry?

That’s a lot of food.

Don’t ruin your womanly figure!

Quiet, girl.

Ma’am, I hear you.

But look at what you were wearing.

You were practically asking for it, don’t you think?

 

Quiet, girl.

 

Quiet, girl.

 

Quiet, girl.

 

No.

You be quiet.

I’m here,

And it’s my turn to speak now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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suffocation

I wrote this earlier today and was cut short by a panic attack. I wrote as much as I could before succumbing, once again, to an illness I cannot escape. Maybe it will resonate with you. Maybe you will see you are not alone.

—-

This morning, I awoke to rain falling lightly outside my window. It was an hour later than I had intended to rise, but I believe my body has wandered long enough in this life to understand it’s sometimes necessary to silence my phone’s alarms while I am still asleep. Perhaps the earth wanted to wish me a good morning before anything else could. “Look what I’ve done for you,” it whispered between drops. I yawned and stretched.

I’ve recently decided, as an act of self love, to daily engage in yoga and meditation. My anxiety has been running wildly as of late, unchecked. I suppose, as is true for all chronic illnesses, medication can only do so much. So, I slowly pulled myself out of bed, stumbled my way towards the bathroom to empty my bladder, and laid carefully on my yoga mat. Within seconds, the resident cat stepped onto my belly, curled up, and fell asleep. How lovely, I thought, to be a place another living creature can come to for rest. I decided to lay there for another forty-five minutes, letting the feline sleep. I meditated on each of our breaths, studying his life instead of my own. It was soothing. I think this act of self-love will suffice instead of yoga, today.

Of course, I left the house eventually and was bombarded with a renewed sense of paranoia, as is common for each of my days. My hands shook as I drove to the coffee shop I now sit at. My body trembles in response to a large, buzzing crowd of people in this place that was once so quiet. I mourn the end of summer, when fall brings with it hundreds of strangers about to begin college. I am not ready to let go of this space. I am not ready to surrender to the claustrophobia, the social anxiety, the need for solitude.

Perhaps a gentle rainfall stirred me awake this morning as a reminder that I am not quite as lonely as my mental illness would have me believe. My body, even, takes care of itself. It quiets things I am not ready to hear yet and is instead responsive to the earth’s light kiss. Creation says, “Linger.”

But I cannot, because the panic envelops me as a polluted fog. I can’t even enjoy this safe corner in the shop. I have been found out.

I belong to this paranoia now. I am shaking. I am scared. I can’t breathe.

 

I’m (not) Coming Home

Home. My fingers tremble as I spell it out. Whatever sentiment it should give me is unfamiliar.

We are taught that home should be a place of safety and rest, and the word on our lips should be sweet. There are songs about returning, sermons encouraging you to be a prodigal son or daughter. If you’ve left, go back. Celebrate.

But, like many others, I cannot identify. I cannot celebrate a homecoming. My home and most of its members have never been truly safe or capable of unconditional love. My formative years were mostly spent hiding, pretending to be the girl I could not be. Now that I am an adult, I am a disappointment, and acutely aware of it.

I was raised in a conservative, fundamentalist Christian home, and I am recovering still.

Growing up in that sort of environment, I was taught Jesus is literally the answer for everything. If I had a test in school, ask him for wisdom. If I had an owie, ask him to heal it. If I had a nightmare or debilitating fear, command whatever demon was tormenting me to leave (in Jesus’ name). I could not dress immodestly, nor could I date until I was 16 years old. I couldn’t read books or watch tv shows/movies that involved magic (i.e. Harry Potter, Dragon Tales, anime) because it was witchcraft and would probably open doors to demonic attacks. If I was worried about something, I didn’t have enough faith and needed to just “give it to Jesus.”

You can imagine the hurt and even trauma I endured when I developed severe depression and anxiety.

I’ll be very honest: right now, I don’t know what I believe. I believe there is a God, but, beyond that, I’m just not sure. I’m angry, hurt, bitter, confused, and disappointed. So, I don’t mean to bash religion or what you may believe about God. But I have to address the wounds fundamentalism brought me, and perhaps even you.

I was in high school when I first began suffering from depressive symptoms. And I hid them all, believing strongly I would be a disappointment to my parents and God. I tried so hard to have more faith and surrender everything to Jesus. Everyday, I would ask for forgiveness for failing to be happy and joyful, and, once again, ask to be given rest from these heavy burdens.

They never went away.

It was my hell, and the King of Jews was right: torment certainly looked like weeping and gnashing of teeth.

When I finally confessed to my parents that I was suicidal (and sooooo sorry), they asked about whether or not I had truly made Jesus Lord of all of me. I said probably not, I will though. And that was that. For the next 6 years, they never once tried discussing it with me again.

I don’t think it was because they didn’t care about what I was going through. I think they genuinely believed, and still do, that depression and anxiety are spiritual issues. To have either, in their minds, is to lack faith; to have somehow allowed Satan to have a foothold.

But, whether they meant well or not, this was never okay.

I have spent years believing that I was a failure of a Christian, incapable of impacting the kingdom because it was my fault I was suffering so deeply. I tried and tried and tried to stop crying myself to sleep, to stop skipping meals. I tried to quit being so sensitive and thinking about death. But I just couldn’t. And I hated myself for it.

I have spent the same number of years not getting the help I needed because I was waiting for Jesus to finally be happy with what I asked and take it all away. I never considered medication because mental illness was supposedly only a spiritual issue, one I hadn’t been forgiven for yet.

Now here I am, six years later, having been recently diagnosed with severe depression and severe anxiety. Here I am, six years later, in weekly therapy. Here I am, six years later, taking antidepressants and medication for panic attacks. Here I am, finally relieved and grateful to be getting the help I have always needed. But I am doing it without my family’s knowledge. My therapist and I are always working together to address the painfully deep wounds fundamentalism left all over my mind and heart. Everyday, I have to remind myself that I am not a failure for getting help or being dependent on medication; I am not possessed by a demon. If there is truly a God, maybe the expectations that were also dumped on me don’t perfectly align with his.

But, who knows. I certainly won’t pretend to. All I know is I am better now with therapy and medication. I am better now with help. I am better now after leaving behind the conservative and fundamentalist upbringing that was so dangerous to my mental health. I don’t get to join with others when singing about home, but perhaps I’ll find my own safe place to hum about someday.

depths.

4:31pm, empty.

Shaking.

Afraid of the sickness in my brain.

Every couple of seconds, my eyes flick up to the door of this coffee shop, watching carefully for threats my anxiety has convinced me are always imminent. Active shooters, natural disasters, potential rapists. My fiancé sits to my right, talking on the phone, and I wonder again if my deep sadness will someday become too heavy for him as it is for me. How long can he continue loving a woman trapped in herself? Mental illness is probably not contagious, but oh god, what if it is? Will our next kiss take this ambitious optimist from me? What if the shooter storms in here, sees my beloved James before me, and steals the life from him, leaving me to fend for myself in this hateful world? Truly, I don’t think I would make it if I ever lost him. I’d beg the gunman to take me too, my death already being decided upon. A bullet to my head would be an act of mercy. The public would gaze upon my lifeless body in a casket and, perhaps for the first time, murmur, “She looks so peaceful.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, “Write clear and hard about what hurts.” But he didn’t have to tell me; it’s all I know how to do. The only writing material I possess gathers in the crevices of my heart, wounds that bleed and bleed and bleed. I don’t mean to be dark or broody, but I aspire to write from the depths of my soul; like the ocean, the deeper one goes, the darker it gets. You could say I am drowning. My hands are always shaky and my mind weighed down, begging for an escape. Even knowing I am not alone does not lighten the load enough for my lungs to fill completely; it only makes me grieve. I try to be strong, but even paper, my intimate friend, cuts me. I wake up every morning, pull the quilt above my head, and wipe tears from my eyes as I wonder how I’ll live with myself another day. [Tell me it gets better, stranger. Tell me it gets better.]

There are good things in my life. Sometimes, my mornings are slow and my cat purrs beside me as I wake. My fiancé loves me well and stays close, in and out of storms. Occasionally, the coffee shop I frequent will be slow and my favorite seat will be unoccupied. If I’m lucky, the fog that so often chokes me will lift and I’ll be capable of offering simple smiles to strangers and running errands without being overcome by panic attacks.

I want to be able to say that the good here outweighs the bad, but I cannot honestly do that. The truth is, as peaceful as my good days are, my bad days seem even darker. I think we don’t appreciate unburdened moments enough until the weight comes crashing back down on our shoulders, paired with crippling anxiety and a fog so thick, breathing is no longer a friend.

This being the first post on my site, I realize I am setting a tone. But, make no mistake: the emotion compelling my fingers to type is from a desire to write vulnerably, to admit, “I am not okay, and I don’t need to be in order to say good things.”

I do not need to be okay in order to be good.

I am not okay, but I am good.

I am good.