Posted in ASHLEY IN WONDERLAND

FIGHT FOR YOUR WRITES

Well, it’s been a really, really long time since I’ve sat down and tried to write something – allowed myself to write somthing, rather. As much as I would like to deny it, my greatest outlet, writing, has become very difficult for me, because I don’t want to relive or look back on trauma that I have suffered in the past. I used to write down everything that happened in my life – conversations, feelings, thoughts, events – and now it’s like I can’t possibly bear to relive it. I live my days on autopilot, completely relying on the hour to tell me what it is that I’m supposed to be doing, instead of doing what I want or feel. It just feels easier that way – having a game plan to follow exactly to get you through to tomorrow, instead of wandering and giving yourself free time to think – because thinking leads to wandering mentally, which leads to trouble.

Of all the things that I have done and been in my life, a “writer” is the most important. Writing is so dear and special to me that I know the only way out is through – I have to face this. So I’m going to try to be a little more open and try a little harder to put pen to paper, even if it’s just for my own sake. Sharing my emotions on this platform has always been a wonderful release and hopefully will be a way for me to connect with those that have mutual and shared feelings. 

I had a mental breakdown in December 2017 and I didn’t really expect for it to take this long for me to bounce back. I was really unaware of how bad it was at the time, but I was thinking that I would be back to myself in a week or so, tops. But it has taken years and a lot of pitfalls along the way, and that’s something that I’m dealing with. Before my initial breakdown, I felt like I was handling my mental illness very well – it did not seem to be handling me, that is. I (for the most part) took my medication regularly, and though I had emotional ups and downs, I felt like a functioning member of society, and that helped a lot. At worst, in those years, I would have labeled myself emotional with tendencies towards anger – I had no idea what was brewing underneath. 

When I lost that functionality to “maintain” what I thought I was taking good care of, and when I suffered an injury in 2018 and I lost a lot of myself, mentally and physically, I really went off the rails. Years have passed and I am still looking back over my shoulder trying to find that girl that I knew “before”. The reality is that girl is gone – I have evolved past her, for better or worse, and I have to let go of who I was and accept who I am now – which, let me be clear, is not necessarily a bad thing. There are facets of that person from years ago that I am ashamed to say that I was, and I’m certainly glad to be at this evolved state, because this person is a lot more caring, considerate, and even a little wiser. But it’s still difficult when you have physical and mental limitations that bar you from doing the things that you used to do with ease in the past. It really is a grieving process and I haven’t done very well with it – I mourn myself every single day, and I know that I need to stop that, because I don’t always want to be at some girl from forever ago’s funeral when I could be living my new life right now. 

With my bipolar disease, I have always been more emotional, maybe a little more manic than depressed, and depression has been something that has developed in the last few years. I’m talking soul crushing, absolutely debilitating depression – and that’s not something that I’m used to, and it’s something that scares me a lot – even though it’s been a few years that I’ve been going through it now, when the wave comes and I go under, I am terrified every single time. It is hard to always want to hurt yourself, and to always think about ending your life – and that’s just something I live with daily. I have always been a suicidal person. I remember telling my mom when I was a teenager that I wanted to kill myself and she was just stunned, but I meant it – I wanted to die. I’ve participated in self harm, self dosing, and so on, but I was not used to the intensity that this particular depression brought on – the constantly wanting to die every day, to waking up and being disappointed that I had not died, and that has been overwhelming as well, because that is a scary place to sit at all times mentally. 

I have lost friends because of my openness about my mental illness, and I know that deep down that’s okay, because some people don’t want to or cannot handle dealing with people who are mentally ill. It may be triggering for them, it may be something that they just don’t want to deal with, and that’s okay – not everyone you meet in your life is someone that you keep in your life. 

I have a hard time with the fact that I’m not working – my career meant everything to me, my graduation from mortuary school is one of the greatest accomplishments of my life, and not being in that industry right now is heartbreaking to me – but I also know that I am not emotionally or mentally ready to be out in the world because I am still so fragile and I am still working on myself, and I have to allow myself to be okay with taking time to heal – which is one of the hardest things in the world to do. I have always earned my own money, I have always paid my own way, and to not do those things makes me feel unworthy of living and like I’m not a part of the real world. Being disabled now makes me scared to leave my home because I’m scared that I might fall or have an injury because I’m not sure footed, and so most of the time I just stay home and people come to me and I miss being out in the world. (And I know that we ALL miss being out in the world because we’re all going through a pandemic right now but I’m talking about the before times, when I was too scared to even go to Walgreens). 

While things have been difficult, they have also been so good, which can be so confusing. Things have changed drastically in many ways. I moved out with my fiancé almost a year ago, we’re (mostly) thriving, living on our own, raising three beautiful daughters (two cats and a Cabbage Patch doll), and will eventually start planning a wedding when I’m not lazy. It has been so good for me to be out on my own and to have to take care of my own home, and it’s also been difficult too, because sometimes I have really bad days and just get really overwhelmed by cleaning or organizing or just even taking care of the smallest little things like laundry or emptying the litter box. 

Since I gained 150 pounds after my 2018 injury, I had topped out at 605 pounds – which is not a natural weight for my body. I have always done better in the 300 pound range, and so I was twice the size that I feel comfortable at. I have been trying to lose weight, and managed to I lose over 100 pounds but shit happens, and I’ve been stressed and depressed and back on my binge eating game. And I admit, I’ve done some really unhealthy things with food lately – binging and purging, starvation – punishing myself because I’ve gained some back during the pandemic. I am so angry at the sheer failure of it, but I just keep trying to stay active and keep moving and remember that weight is a fluctuation and it goes up and down and you can lose it and gain it, and it’s just numbers and it doesn’t have to be my whole day, or my whole week, or my whole life. 

What I really miss is writing and I wish that I didn’t feel this aversion towards it because if I’m being honest with myself, I think I am a good writer, and I don’t give myself a lot of credit and whatever talents I may have I dismiss pretty easily, but writing has always been my thing, ever since I was little, and I’ve completely stopped doing it. I always joke that when life started to happen to me is when I put down my pen, and the reality is that I couldn’t handle the life that was happening to me. Much less write about it – because then I would have to look back on it, face it, try to understand it and deal with it – and I didn’t want to do that.

I have spent a really long time thinking that I’ve been handling things, when in reality I was just pushing them under the rug and now at the age of 34, they are coming back up full force – it is a traumapalooza here, and I recognize that, and I recognize that I am not capable or trained to deal with that trauma. I need help. Since my suicide attempt in November, I haven’t been to a therapist – I was fired from seeing my thrice weekly therapist before the attempt, and then I was kicked out of my therapy group afterwards because I spoke against Donald Trump (and really I have no regrets there), but it has made me feel a little iffy about therapy and whether or not it can help me or if I even believe in it. But I have been thinking about trying to get back into it because the trauma that I am dealing with is something that I just can’t handle on my own and I know that. 

I guess the takeaway is that the mind is a really powerful thing, and we really have to nurture it and treat it as well as we can and protect it with all our might, or else we will crash and burn because we haven’t been keeping that guard up. I can tell you honestly, I never once thought of being protective or keeping a guard up around myself or my mind during all of these years – I just barreled through each day, and then one day I couldn’t go any further – I snapped. And it is taking years, literal years of my life, of my youth, to try and get into a better place – and while that saddens me so much, it also encourages me in a way, because I feel like I am possibly heading towards the path that I’m supposed to be on. And look, I have no idea what that path looks like, what it entails, who will be there when I get there – I just know that I have to get going and find that path that I’m supposed to be on. Because as cynical as I am, I do believe there is a path for me – and it may take 20 more years, but I do believe that I will get there, because I do believe that I have a purpose – at least a small one. I really can’t say what it is, I really couldn’t even guess if you paid me, but all I can do is try to find that place that is waiting just for me. And being willing to try to try feels like a monumental moment of growth in itself. 

Posted in adventuring, FANGIRLING, LIVE MUSIC, PHOTOGRAPHY, POP CULTURE, travel, wanderlust

HAUS OF GAGA

Nearly six months ago, I was in Las Vegas seeing Lady Gaga for the first of two shows I was going to be fortunate enough to attend during her Vegas residency. The first show, in November of 2019, was the Jazz & Piano show. The second show, scheduled for April 30, 2020, today, was going to be even more special. My mother and I had meet and greet tickets to the Enigma show.

Obviously a lot has changed since November, and we didn’t make it to Las Vegas today for the Enigma show. Or the meet and greet. That packs a punch.

I’m trying to stay positive and upbeat today, though it is admittedly hard. It’s all out of my hands anyway, so moping really won’t do any good. Covid-19 is in control of everything we do (or, rather, don’t do), and crying over an opportunity lost is just time wasted – although trust me. I’ve done some crying.

I wanted to share these photos with you all – especially for those who were not able to make it to Vegas for whatever reason, be it Covid-19 related or not – that I took at the Haus of Gaga exhibit. It was an incredible experience to see these iconic fashions close up! They aren’t the greatest photos, and the reason I didn’t share them before is because I assumed I’d have a second shot to take another, better batch, so bear with me.

Disappointment aside, I am grateful that I got to see my favorite musician shine so brightly back in November, and am grateful that today, while I’m not where I’d like to be physically, that I have my health, that my family is safe, and that we are getting by, breath by breath, moment by moment. Enjoy the photos (they are all totally thrown in at random, sorry!), and I hope we all get to see each other and smile and laugh and dance together to the pulse of the music that moves us very soon.

Posted in adventuring, ASHLEY IN WONDERLAND, PHOTOGRAPHY, POP CULTURE, travel

I LIKE SCARY MOVIES

So, I admit it – this was an adventure built totally of Instagram FOMO (that’s fear of missing out, for you boomers). Earlier in the year, I saw a lot of my California friends visiting an interactive exhibit called “I Like Scary Movies” in Los Angeles, and my body NEEDED to go. I knew that I had a late fall trip planned to visit Los Angeles in November, but, sadness abound – the exhibit closed in July, I believe it was. It was such a disappointment to see that we would miss out on such a cool experience, but I chalked It up to the East Coast blues and something else that I would have to miss due to my southern proximity.

It was just about a month ago when I got the “I Like Scary Movies” exhibit back on my mind, and I just so happened to morosely look it up – I was hoping to find that the exhibit was on tour, or would be touring soon. However, what I found was better – because for the week that we would be in California, they were doing an encore performance! WHAT! THINGS LIKE THIS DON’T HAPPEN TO ME! I snatched up three tickets faster than you can say lickety split and it was ON. We were going!

On our last day of vacation, after leaving the Disney bubble, we followed some questionable directions to a block of warehouses somewhere in Los Angeles, and there it was – “I Like Scary Moves”!

The staff (who was fantastic and so helpful) immediately greeted us, walked us through the rules, and set us off through the exhibit. This would probably be a good time to explain what the exhibit is, eh? Per their website:

“I Like Scary Movies is the experience that all scary movie fans have been dreaming of! A groundbreaking art experience that is a true celebration of some of the most beloved horror films. This is a unique opportunity for fans to interact and enjoy these films that they love in a completely new way with amazing interactive art and photo opportunities to share with their friends. I Like Scary Movies was born from the mind of experimental artist Maximillian, who wanted a way to dive deeper into this dark genre and explore these worlds outside of the traditional scare maze.”

So follow along through my experience at “I Like Scary Movies” if you dare!

NOTE: I’m only posting my own photos from the experience because I don’t want to post something that will make Tyler or my mother want my guts for garters. This does mean you are missing Tyler on a tricycle, and I’m sorry for that. Anyway, enjoy!

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Posted in ASHLEY IN WONDERLAND, DEATH/LOSS, MENTAL HEALTH, writing

3 MONTHS

It has been three months today since my grandfather died, nearly to the minute as I am writing this – and that feels somehow both absolutely mind-blowing and impossible to believe, and also somehow … right. I guess. I honestly don’t know Forgive my inability to be eloquent, but time (and most everything) don’t make sense at all when someone leaves, and that is the one thing I have grown to know for certain in the months in his absence.

Grief. The big g word. What have these three months looked like, in my mourning? What has this GRIEF felt like? It feels like a million things, because it changes so often – I am powerless to it. Some moments, I think of him and smile at some silly memory of him being ridiculous and wonderful. Some times I hurt and tuck my tail between my legs in shame when I think about time wasted arguing about politics or other dumb time stealers that make me feel ashamed now, looking back. And other times, I find myself bent over and gasping for breath, waves of panic hitting me so hard, the world too small and the loss too big, only able to think about words like “finality” and “forever”.

I guess it really doesn’t feel like three months, now that I think more about it, and maybe that’s because I haven’t actively let time try to pass. Because I am so often in that room where he spent his final weeks, watching him sleep, trying to make conversation whenever he was able to rouse, and finally, telling him it was okay to let go. I spend so much time back there that I am not here, three months later, as much as I guess I should be. I really don’t know what I should be, or where – there’s no instructional booklet on how to survive a hole being blown right through your chest and consequently having to live around it.

Because that’s what it feels like. A hole that is still very much open, very much tender and sore, that I am trying my best to keep clean and dressed and live with. I am trying to live with this, and some days, I just can’t. Some days I lay in bed until it is late in the afternoon and I howl for him, some days I want to leave this world to be with him again, and some days all I want is just five more minutes, just five more minutes to make sure that he really heard everything I said in the end – and wanting and wishing and breaking down about it won’t change it. And isn’t that the frustration of it all? Nothing changes it.

My family has started to move on in a tangible sense, and we are doing it together. We’ve started to clean out closets, the spare bedroom – though his desk, his battle station, remain untouched – and he’s still a part of most every conversation we have. He’s here, as much as he can be. We talk about how we see parts of him in each other, and it feels good to be likened to him – even when it’s the bad stuff, like temper tantrums and mood swings (at least I got it honestly). We talk about his childhood, I try to commit every word to memory. And I think we love each other harder, make an effort to see each other more, bicker a little less. My grandmother is doing such an amazing job of commanding this ship that some days, I feel jealous of the way she navigates and wonder why I can’t do the same. But as Modest Mouse said, we all float on, and I guess we do. A quarter of a year has passed – my first birthday without him has passed. The first Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas are to come. And more months will pass, inevitably, hastily, and with a hole in our chests that never quite heals.

As dumb as it sounds, this old Winnie the Pooh song “Wherever You Are” is what I used to describe today in my physical journal, so I’ll close out with some of the lyrics.

Continue reading “3 MONTHS”

Posted in ASHLEY IN WONDERLAND, DEATH/LOSS, LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL, PHOTOGRAPHY, relationships

THE GO TO HELL HAT

I used to always beg to borrow this hat when I was a baby punk rocker in high school, and joked that I looked better in it than my grandfather did. Now it hangs in my bedroom and still smells like his cologne, and honestly, I’m humble enough to admit: it looks pretty damn good on both of us.

Posted in ASHLEY IN WONDERLAND, MENTAL HEALTH, relationships, writing

09/26/19, 2:05 AM

I wish I had your number cause I could use your particular brand of hurting right now.

See I’ve been doing so much searching and I need your down to earthing real bad.

I could tell you bout my problems and you’d tell me how to solve them and make me feel sorry for being sad.

Because no one ever had it worse than you and you make all my sad stuff just turn rose colored and rad.

Only I get so fucking mad at you, it’s like I didn’t earn my blue, and I have every right to suffer like I have.

But by the time I get mixed up with you I realize that you were the cue, the trigger, and the symptom I already had.