Posted in disney, DISNEY WORLD, FUNERAL SERVICE, MENTAL HEALTH, writing

INSTAWHAM

I have a social media problem. Primarily instagram. I’m not afraid to admit it. What I AM afraid of, however, is the damage it is doing to me as a young woman and a human being. And while I am in this inbetween season of my life wherein I am trying to get a better and healthier grasp of my mental health, preparing for funeral board exams, and eventually finding a place in the funeral industry, I have promised to come clean and honest with every mental and emotional problem that I endure or suffer, in the event that me spilling my guts could possibly help someone else. There isn’t much that I can do right now, other than wait for life to open the next door. So here goes.

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Posted in MENTAL HEALTH, writing

I ALWAYS KNOW WHERE THE BATHROOM IS

I always know where the bathroom is
In every building that I go
I always know where the bathroom is
Because that is where I’m safe, I know

I always know where the bathroom is
Flushed red chest and wild eyes
I always know where the bathroom is
Where I can pretend I’m not alive

I always know where the bathroom is
Sweat trickling to the cold tile floor
I always know where the bathroom is
Escape just behind the lock of a door

I always know where the bathroom is
Murmured conversation all around
I always know where the bathroom is
The place where I’m allowed to be upside down

I always know where the bathroom is
Hand to the wall, breathe in, breathe out
I always know where the bathroom is
Where my mind is free to shout

I always know where the bathroom is
A concerned friend texting from outside
I always know where the bathroom is
My head pressed between my thighs, “Oh, I’m fine!”

I always know where the bathroom is
You see, that’s where I stay
I always know where the bathroom is
There’s nothing else, game over, no other way.

Posted in ASHLEY IN WONDERLAND, LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL, turning 30, writing

Every stumble & each misfire

Oddly enough, I have been surprisingly calm about turning 30 – maybe even a little excited, dare I say? In all honesty, my calmness has been entirely shocking to me. Typically by the time September rolls around, I start to get that metallic, anxious taste at the back of my throat because I start thinking about aging and lost opportunities and all of the societal terrors that are ever so kindly imposed on women. In the week before my birthday, I am at my worst – crying, panicking, and most of all, in an endless cycle of self-loathing and self-criticizing. I have never handled birthdays well, no matter what the age – any mention or reference to aging has always been enough to make me clench my buttcheeks hard enough to suck an entire chair up my ass, legs and all – but somehow, when it comes to this one, I feel cool. Seriously. I feel pretty cool. This tells me that I’m either growing up or about to have an absolute mental breakdown – is there even really a difference between the two?

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Posted in MENTAL HEALTH, writing

BEFORE/AFTER

I have been living with a pain in my neck and shoulders for the past few days that feels like some sort of stress-born entity has planted roots and taken up a permanent residence inside of me, tendrils coiling lovingly around the knobs of my spine. Very matter of factly did it move in, like I had no choice or say in it at all. I never even thought to fight it, never even thought I had the right to. I am and always was bound to be the corporeal home of this being – was always meant to carry this weight.

I lay in my bed and I study the world around me through the tiny screen that is my way out – I compare, I compare, I hate myself, I hate everything about who I am. How did all of these lucky people that I know get to become able, capable, confident? What exactly is it that happened to me to make me so hard on myself? I try to look back on my life and pinpoint it – was it a childhood trauma,  some deep, emotional disturbance? I don’t know. But every day feels like I’m tip-toeing closer to the edge of a cliff.

What happens next? What do I do? Who am I? I don’t know.

Agitated, agitated. I’m happiest alone, but I crave motion, company. Stillness makes me nervous. I don’t feel like myself anymore, I haven’t for years – I constantly think back to the “old me” and wish I could find her again, she was fun, she was free, she wasn’t afraid. Instead I feel restless, old, stuck, uneasy, caged – I can NEVER see the forest for the trees. Summer is hard for me – summer is always hard for me. I want to say that I am not okay, I want to scream it as loud as I can until someone hears me, but I can’t find my voice, and even if I somehow could, what would matter? What would change? Those who want to help me annoy me most. I’m too tired to talk, it takes too much energy to try to make anyone understand that I feel like I’m already gone.

I am aware that time is flying and I can feel it, sticky and hot, as it rushes by and sucks the breath out of me, but somehow I still seem to be exactly where I’ve always been, watching everyone else pass me by.

Always watching.

Jealousy and spite are getting the best of me, I am a bent and bowed creature, labored and wanting. I don’t want to work, I don’t want to fight, I don’t want to do anything at all. I feel dumb, sluggish, my once attractive features warped into a constant ugliness that is all that I can ever see or fixate on. If I could pick myself to death, skin clean from the bones, I would, and with a smile.

I have lost sight, I have lost hope, I am unfocused. I search for answers, I have no answers, there are no damn answers. I hurt and I hurt and I hold it because I can’t bear to share it, can’t stand the feeling of my guts hitting the floor as I pour them out.

 

Posted in ASHLEY IN WONDERLAND, FUNERAL SERVICE, MENTAL HEALTH, PHOTOGRAPHY, SCHOOL, writing

Summertime Sadness

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Well, it is unofficially and undeniably already here – my very own case of summertime sadness (thanks, Lana, for giving such a clever name to that listless and unfulfilled feeling that haunts me from late May until early September).

I’ve got a lot going on these days. I’m working full-time as apprentice funeral director/embalmer, I’m going to school full-time (which involves traveling an hour and a half away twice a week to Piedmont Tech for biology classes after work – meaning I don’t get home until nearly 11 PM at night) – this plus the rest of the coursework for other classes and trying to maintain sanity as I learn an entirely new career that isn’t quite so simple (I mean, embalming a human body is a little more complicated than working as a cashier at Target, and I can say that with confidence, as I have done both) – my point being, I don’t feel good. I’m stressed, and stress is hard for me, because I take it to a bad place. I take it to a place of blame and self doubt and it is truly the sickest and cruelest thing I could ever do to myself. I feel sad a lot lately. I feel overwhelmed and stretched thin and all of the things that I love seem to go abandoned – like blogging, reading, crafting, etc. I know – at least I hope and pray – that all of this will be worth it in the end, when I have that degree and my apprenticeship is complete, but it is hard to give away your time when you feel like you have none to give, I guess. Especially now, during my personal hardest time of the year.

I’ve always been prone to summertime sadness – while everyone else is orgasming at the first mention of summer rolling in, I withdraw, isolate myself, go away inside – I’m mean, snappy, frustrated easily, angry – I don’t know why this is. I just know that I have never felt joy in this time. It has always felt like something to be suffered (probably because I have the good common sense to be revolted by 95 degree heat). And mentally, as far as my levels and mania and ups & downs go – this is where I always find myself at my worst and most desperate. So to have an already heaping amount of external stress dumped on top of a place where I’m already trying to hold a hand over an open wound in myself feels like a mountain I’m too tired to climb again this year. Already, my teeth are gritted, shoulders hunched, “can’t can’t can’t can’t” a steady mantra on repeat in my mind.

I thought that taking a mini vacation to Disney World before this semester began would be a really good thing for me, and in some ways it was (pics to come later) – I flew again for the first time in years and got over that major fear (HALLELUJAH), and that felt AMAZING – plus I had a great time with my best friends at one of my favorite places in the universe, so you really can’t complain about that. Sadly, some “triflin’ shit” got in the way of pure & total rest & bliss, and it put quite a bit of a damper on my relaxation, but that was also a learning opportunity, too, which I’m grateful for – I’m quite used to trying to constantly be everything for everyone, and I worry to the moon and back about everyone’s happiness but my own. Fortunately, the aforementioned “triflin’ shit” helped me to put my foot down and realize that sometimes I deserve to be happy, too. And I think that was a big step for me – and having that notion cinched in my mind is something I’m going to carry with me into the summertime sadness – I DESERVE TO BE HAPPY, TOO. There. I said it. It’s on the internet, so it must be true.

I think something important for me, at least during my bouts of summertime sadness, is to be mindful of my triggers, so I can at least step around the landmines as best I can vs losing my damn leg to one. But how to get past the depression? That, I have no clue. This is how I always end up around the beginning of September plotting my suicide and being irrational and out of control to the point that none of us – my family, my friends, myself – know how to handle me- I get so down that I can’t see up, only straight ahead.

I guess I just wanted to chat with myself on my blog and rationalize what I’m feeling. The first step to getting over or past any hurdle is to accept it, and I accept it – I’ve got the damn summertime sadness. It’s a real thing, it’s valid, and I’ve got to somehow gird my loins and try to make it through. And mostly I think I just needed a good whine, and writing always makes me feel better. I get so damn hung up about writing and trying to make it perfect, but none of it will ever be perfect – and I guess I’d rather post lots and lots of sullen or meaningless crap than look back and wish I had taken the time and wonder what I was thinking way back when.

Feel free to leave your favorite summer suggestions in the comments – just remember, I hate the outdoors, all people, places that aren’t air conditioned, and basically everything. Just kidding – I’d love to know your tips and tricks for summer fun – or, even more importantly, what helps you get through your own version of “summertime sadness”.

Till next time xx

Posted in FUNERAL SERVICE, LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL, MENTAL HEALTH, turning 30, writing

A LIFE WORTH WRITING ABOUT

Whenever I try to write these days, I feel a sense of panic that I can’t really put words to. Writing used to be my most natural and craved form of expression – every word, every exchange, every thought had to be documented once, twice, three times over. I was religious in my documentation, the telltale hump on the middle finger on my right hand always red and swollen. My diaries were my friends, my confidents, the only people who knew the truth about who I was, what I had done, and how I hurt. Like a fool, I took for granted the person I was and the life that I was naturally living, and instead used to cry to the fates and beg the universe for a life worth writing about. And then when one fell into my lap, when things were hot and fast and out of control, when I had EVERYTHING to suddenly write about – the pages slammed shut and I put away the pen.

I rationalized this because a lot of things that I needed to say were hard. And some things are just too hard to write about. So … I stopped, pretty much completely.

Can you blame me, honestly? It’s like, you try as hard as you can and work with a furious fervor to squirrel away the things that hurt into a place where they aren’t constantly falling back into your immediate line of vision – and writing is just purposely recalling blinding, white hot pain for the sake of …?

Of what?

What was the point of recalling what I barely made it through the first time? Then again, didn’t I always want this? Countless pages in countless diaries, wishing one life away to make room for another?  Oh, how I wanted to be a real, bonafide adult, like the ones on TV – to have all the mythical secrets of adulthood unlocked and for the taking. Wasn’t that the story that I kept waiting to write?

It is this narcissistic and frustrating combination of finite disinterest and fleeting whimsy that seems to be where I spend most of my time these days. All of the time that I wished away is exactly where I wish I could run like hell to now. Most days, I feel like a battery in a car that won’t turn over – you try as you might, but the damn thing just won’t do it.  Everything in my life, not just writing, falls into two categories – hard, or not. If it is hard, if it even SEEMS hard, I don’t even bother looking at it. Writing is hard, so I don’t do that anymore. Facing my fears is hard, so I’ll just turn away and not look. It isn’t that I don’t want to move forward, or that I don’t want to be present or progressive – I just can’t find the strength. But here I am. Ashley the adult!

Every day, I’m toeing the line between desperate to make a point and exhausted by the idea of even trying. Working around the deceased has made me siamese, one single body split, fighting two alternative visions. There are only so many times that you can artfully arrange the shell of what used to be a human being into a fancy casket before you make yourself look down and wonder what the hell we are all really doing here in this life. When death becomes real to you, really, really real, everything matters SO much. The fear of wasting a second of your life is all-consuming. I panic so often about not doing it (life) right – the same old fear of not living “a life worth writing about” –  yet similarly, I can’t help but feel that nothing truly matters in the grand scheme of things, because we all leave the same way – alone, and with nothing. Both viewpoints are right in their own ways, but there has to be some sort of middle ground that doesn’t leave me hollow inside and terrified of facing reality.

I have to laugh now when I think about the desperation of wanting to carve out “a life worth writing about” – it’s sort of like walking willingly into quicksand.  Before you know what you’ve done, you’ve gotten so far off track – one leg stuck in the muck, no escape foreseeable. I have spent SO much of my time in this life wishing for something better, something bigger, SOMETHING WORTH WRITING ABOUT – but I have very rarely been willing to actually work towards the promise of a better tomorrow. If wishing hard enough created reality, I would be the richest woman in all the world. But instead I am poor, because I have robbed myself blind. I’ve stolen my own ambition, I’ve bartered away my strength and confidence, and I’ve crippled and hobbled the purest and best part of me – my imagination – and replaced it all with cynicism and fear.

I wish I could go back in time and tell myself to stop wishing everything away, to stop questioning everything so damn much and just take each day one at a time. Because we do all die, and you don’t get a second chance, and you should never waste your time worrying or being afraid. Instead of letting that reality be my touchstone, I have spent nearly 30 years wringing my hands and wondering if I’m doing it all wrong. An entire life that has always been a game that I am playing against myself and am still somehow losing. If I could go back in time, i would shake my old self by the shoulders and tell her that life was and will always be worth writing about, even on the hardest day, and to never, ever lose that good and pure part of yourself. It doesn’t have to be extraordinary to be documented. Face your fears, every single one of them. Don’t NOT try because something might not come from it.

I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my time here – none of us ever really get it all right – but the biggest one that I ever made was putting down my pen and shutting myself up because I got scared. It may take everything that I’ve got, and it may truly be for nothing in the end – but a life worth living, much less writing about, would not mean a damn thing without this, my purest expression, my most honest release. And I know that I can do this, because just like I know without a doubt that I would go back in time to tell my younger self to never stop writing, my younger self would visit me in the future and be shocked that I ever had.