Birthday Wishes

Thanks to everyone who sent me such kind, thoughtful, sweet birthday wishes. I really appreciated it. 🙂

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This Changes Everything

Authors’ Note: POTENTIAL TRIGGER WARNING

If you cannot handle an honest take on life and discussions of depression and mental health, please do not read below this image. Thank you. 

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It didn’t set in until this month.

The majority of my days are Groundhog Day-esque. Lather, rinse, repeat. Dull. Uninteresting. Zero challenge involved. Over time, this method of “living” has worn me down. I’ve kept silent, but today I feel the need to say “I HATE IT. I hate everything about it.”

A little over a year ago I sat in full blown tears when I realized there was never going to be something in this world to cure me. With multiple diagnoses which are highly comorbid, I remember trying to hold back the tears by saying, “I can’t cry. I’m wearing $30 mascara.” I tried blowing it off. I tried using humor. I failed miserably, and no one noticed.

As someone who unintentionally fell into advocacy, fueled by my rage post the ER visit from hell that I still can’t fully talk about without going into the “red rage zone”, I spend a lot of time fielding questions and phone calls, dumbing down information for people so they sort of understand what I’m saying, and doing my best to help others. All while I’m dying inside more and more each day.

This past Spring, a nurse got in my face and asked if I was suicidal. I replied multiple times with, “I have a therapist. I’m fine. Thank you.” and ignored the question because, quite frankly, it didn’t pertain to why I was there. If I come into an office with pneumonia or go to Urgent Care or the emergency room with a broken bone, do NOT ask me if I’m suicidal. It doesn’t pertain to the injury or illness at hand, and medical professionals should NEVER scream and/or get into the face of someone who has a trauma history and a clear-cut diagnosis of any form of PTSD. If I had reacted by physically harming her (I romanced the idea for a good twenty minutes or so.), I would be in the wrong. I would have looked like “the mental patient”, or worse. By pulling myself together and reminding myself of who I am, that bitch still has a face. For now.

“Mental illness” is a phrase I loathe using. It’s a phrase that is incredibly hurtful to me, and always has been. Perhaps because it is so often said in fear, in blame, with malice, or with false empathy, I’m not entirely sure. I prefer to say “Everyone’s brain chemistry is different.”, which is accurate. I could probably get at least one doctor to agree with me on this.

I have openly and honestly discussed my battle with a difficult form of depression. For me, it is virtually un-treatable, so they refer to it as “Treatment Resistant”. I’ve failed more than twenty-five medications, and this year, I failed another. I just started taking something new (to me), but it’ll be a while before I know if it helps or hinders. My first dose definitely affected me and the side effects after the medicine left my system were not high on my list of “Let’s do this everyday”. On one hand, I am lucky because my doctor is trying new things and he has challenged us both with his commitment.

I also suffer terribly from anxiety, Complex-PTSD, and chronic migraines. Two of these diagnoses are hereditary. My headache specialist happily informed me that since my father got occasional headaches (I inherited my pain threshold from him. My father wouldn’t take so much as an aspirin unless something was bordering on emergency.) and my mother had a few migraines in her life, that I most assuredly inherited my migraines from one side of my family or perhaps both. This was nothing I didn’t already know.

Everything that makes me unique, smart, sharp, tough, witty, snarky, and a bad ass stems from at least one or two of my collective diagnoses. It does not make me better or worse; though people would love for you to believe anyone with different brain chemistry is going to either cause you harm or harm themselves. We are treated as lesser. We are labeled and ostracized. Within my own family, I’ve constantly been told I have nothing to be depressed about. I’ve experienced both exclusion, ridicule, and have seen everyone’s true selves. And yet, I see signs of various mental illness in a great many of the very same people who sit in judgment of me, feeling superior because they would never cop to their diagnoses, if asked. They are in denial, and I used the words “mental illness” for them because I have never seen anything special or unique about any of these individuals. I have never thought, “Wow. This person is something special.” When people describe me, it is usually in a positive light and the word “incredible” is often used. It is interesting phraseology, but I’ve also been told I “just want attention”. What crazy, delusional person would say such a thing? Fifty percent of my genetic make-up. 😦 I can’t take this person too seriously. If I did, they’d never walk, talk, or breathe again.

People often underestimate me, and they absolutely underestimate my ability to come back when challenged. If I counted how often a person has said I’m “so nice”, “so sweet”, “the kindest soul”, and/or “so caring”, I would be richer than Bill Gates. These are not words I’d ever use to describe myself. The inability to read non-verbal cues is apparently something many people either choose to suffer from or simply don’t realize they’re doing. If you spend two minutes looking me in the eye, you might catch a glimpse of the real me. “She may be small, but she is mighty.”

My mother once told me I’ve had the most interesting facial expressions since the day I was born; that she knew I was not only looking at someone, but I was also looking through them. She told me, “You see people exactly as they are. Not as they pretend to be. Sometimes, that scares people away, but it’s only scaring the wrong people away. The right people will always stick by you because you’re incredibly loyal.” When I think about those words, I can almost hear her voice again.

I have my moments. I can certainly be nice, sweet, kind, and caring, just not all on the same day, lest I ruin my reputation. 😉 I have limitations on how much niceness I spread around.

My physical and emotional pain is completely invisible. Unless I mention it, no one would ever know, and thus far, only one person seems interested in understanding the complexities of it all. I don’t have a lot of facial expressions. I’m predominantly quiet, unless I have something to say. And you’ll often hear the word “formidable” used in the same sentence as my name, providing the person is smart enough to grasp the fact that I’m not passive.

When other people talk about various forms of mental illness; OCD, anxiety and/or panic attacks, bipolar disorder, trauma, or personality disorders, they tend to be shocked by my openness and honesty. I suffer silently and I suffer alone. I have ceased to discuss it with family because I question their concern for me. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt someone’s concern was genuine. No one has EVER taken a call from me when I was in a crisis situation. People don’t call to check in on me, either, but they’re very quick to dial my number over the slightest thing bothering them, and I find myself exceedingly annoyed by the ridiculous questions I get via text almost daily. Loyalty, compassion, and the ability to be emotionally present are the things I provide, but they’re also the things I am not provided with.

So, it took me all this time to realize I am passively suicidal. And despite knowing this; people have consistently said or done something this year to hurt and upset me. My thoughts, feelings, and overall health has never been taken into consideration. No one has ever said, “Man, she’s going through so much right now. She’s fighting for her life. I’ll wait to talk to her about this until I see she’s feeling stronger.” My suffering is almost completely ignored. I wish people could see how horrible this all is for me and not attack me. I wish they could take my suffering into deep consideration; not as an excuse to avoid a discussion, no, but as a solid reason to know how close I am to the edge.

I can’t remember the last time someone asked how I was doing and it wasn’t someone in customer service. I can’t remember the last time someone genuinely cheered me up. I wish someone would understand how much pain I keep contained. I’ve never used my health as an excuse and I’ve never hidden behind it, but I often think people forget I’m human. The fact that I openly declared being passively suicidal should be enough to get friends and family to sit at attention. I can’t tell you how many times this year I truly believed my life was just moments from ending.

Because it was something I felt I needed to do, I went back into therapy last year. I was seeing someone once a month, and that particular situation worked well, until the therapist left the hospital she was affiliated with. She let me know well in advance, and even when she told me, it wasn’t a shock or a surprise, but it then took me time to find someone new. I saw two people, initially. One I automatically deemed “too young”, and I don’t mean chronologically. I mean in the sense that I didn’t feel she was prepared to genuinely assist me. She immediately got under my skin in a way that let me know she was not a good fit, and I also felt incredibly uncomfortable in the building her office was in, and the surrounding neighborhood felt unsafe and emotionally charged. I shouldn’t be going anywhere if I have to second-guess my personal safety. The second person was okay, but when she pissed me off in two separate sessions, completely twisting my words and practically stabbing me in the hand with a few of her questions, I was hesitant to go back. I mentioned it to my doctor, sort of in passing, and I appreciate the fact that he looked at me and said “Why are you trying to force it?” Beforehand, I felt bad. I never want to waste someone’s time, but he said the perfect thing to me in the moment, and there was nothing about his tone that bothered me. If anything, I was relieved that he knew me well enough to say something. He helped me get set up with someone in the same office, and thus far, things are going well. I feel like she’s got a good head on her shoulders and, because I laid all the dos and don’ts down in the first appointment, she has been good about letting me take point on how I want to proceed. She feels she’ll be able to help me, but she has no idea how hopeless I truly feel.

In the past when I’d read about how people were pushed by friends and family, or maybe one more than the other, into suicide attempts, it appalled me. I would think to myself, “No, not my family. They love me.” But the truth is, people like the idea of me, especially in passing, but love is rarely found in my life. I have friends who likely have more combined love for me than twenty family members, but my family would all deny this. It took me a long time to understand that love means different things to different people. Anyone who ever loved me unconditionally is long gone, and the pain of that sits deep within me.

I often hear people say “I love you.” in passing. It’s the end of many phone calls, but it means more to me than it does to other people. To me, it is a truth, or I won’t say it. There are many ways to say you love someone. It can be by helping them through difficult shit, or telling them to drive safely. It can be so many small and large things, and yet, I feel so devoid of it from people. My cats display more love when they look at me than most people ever could, yet I know many people are quite fond of me. It’s a short list, but I don’t doubt any of the people on it.

Inevitably, once this is published, I will get texts, e-mails, and a few phone calls. This will happen either all within a few hours or over the course of a week. People will ask me questions, pretend to be interested in what’s going on in my life, etc. I will also be accused of writing about each person in my life specifically, be accused of placing targets on their backs, as if I’ve got the time to psychoanalyze all of them and as if my readers are going to attack them physically in the streets! It is ridiculous behavior, but at least they’re all consistent. 😦 I’m supremely honest, so I MUST be targeting them. I mean really, the world seemingly revolves around a LOT of fucking people whenever I speak the truth. It’s baffling, to say the least.

All I want are some good days. Good moments. No pain. I’m desperately trying to survive this life. I’m tired of crying, something I almost never do. I’m tired of the emotional abuse. It is a horrendous burden to bear, especially when someone tells you you’re not being abused, or that you deserve every last ounce of hatred and vitriol a person can spit in your direction. I understand being upset or angry, but I’m tired of it being taken out on me as personal blame. Every time it happens, I reassess my life. No one should have to fight this hard just to stay alive.

It’s important to talk about feelings. It’s important to work things out of your system. Unfortunately, writing this was not a purge of emotion. This is an explanation of my daily life. It is slowly killing me, and those who know me refuse to see it.

I didn’t know until this month. I didn’t know how completely unimportant I am to people who should always have my back. I’ll stop here, though, because the emotional wounds are deep. I’m not sure there are enough sutures on the planet big enough to fix all the emotional harm that has come my way. But I’ll be damned if people don’t start backing off.

When you can’t see past the tears, and can’t breathe without feeling spikes in your chest, passive turns to aggressive, and absolutely no one is more determined than I am once I’ve made a decision. I need love and support right now, and if the people in my life can’t provide safety and a calm, quiet place for me to exist, then I need to stop being the dutiful family member and friend and prioritize nothing else except my own desires.

I know now, and this changes everything.

copyright © 2018 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity, LLC. Further protected under the Digital Millennium copyright act. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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I Remember

I Remember

This day is emblazoned within my mind. I would learn so much within a forty-eight hour span of time, and I would be permanently changed. But no one tells you that when you’re a child. No. They try to keep you “innocent”. Except in my family. My mother decided I was not going to be lied to or be told nonsensical stories. I’ve been treated like an adult, with free thoughts and a free spirit, my entire life. There’s much to be said for this methodology because, even today, people do try to shield their children from many things. There’s no perfect way to be a parent. Did you just shake your head? You can disagree. That’s fine.

There are so many moments in life, but as someone with extreme intuition, this one still gets me.

I remember a full day of fun, spent with my mother, brother, and Grandparents. I remember exactly where we were, and that we had been in a specific store just minutes before the tension began. I remember feeling confused when some form of visibly silent arguing began, which is when my mother and her parents would switch languages in front of my brother and I. My brother probably doesn’t have any recollection of this, but I do. Whenever another language was spoken around me, I paid attention. I still do.

I remember my mother becoming frustrated, bordering on furious. The plans had changed and she was hurt, trying to rein in her temper. She was trying to put on a brave face in front of her children, but I felt the shift in emotions immediately. Once again, my Great-Aunt and Great-Uncle would get their way, and my mother was not pleased. She was not manipulative and didn’t appreciate manipulative people. She was never fake by nature, but in those final moments, she was putting on a show.

Me, always questioning everything, precisely as she taught me, demanded to know what was going on. “Where are they going? Why are they leaving? I have to say goodbye to Grandpa.” At that point in my life, my entire world revolved around my mother, Grandfather, Aunt (my mother’s sister), and brother.

My mother, of the softly spoken everything, of her calm, easy-going nature, would reply with a tone better suited for a teenager that arrived home at four a.m. drunk, without a phone call. “You don’t need to say goodbye. You’ll see him tomorrow.” I remember trying to get one final hug and kiss, and being forcibly taken away from him. I was angry. He and my Grandmother waved, promising me tomorrow. Tomorrow didn’t happen the way any of them expected, I am sure.

It was extremely early in the morning. Ever the night owl, I left the room I shared with my younger brother to find out what was going on. I remember facing my Grandmother, her always stoic expression conveying something was wrong. I had never seen her so quiet, so sad, so lost.

“Where is Grandpa?” I demanded. You rarely saw one Grandparent without the other, even though my Grandfather was the predominant force between the two. She looked up at me with a blatantly sad expression on her normally expressionless face. “He’s gone.” was the answer I received.

Gone. What did that mean to me? It made no sense. “Then we have to go and find him.” was my reply. I was adamant. I knew he would not leave without me, without talking to me, without saying goodbye. The fiercest part of me knew that he would never leave by choice. Never. She shook her head and waited for my mother to explain to me that the single most important man in my life was “in heaven”.

I quickly learned that NO ONE understood this concept. They would look at me sadly, point up to the sky, and tell me my Grandfather had “gone to heaven”. I did not believe them. I had already extensively searched the clouds and he was not there. Because they all pointed up, I believed he had gone to a castle in the clouds. He would always study the sky with me and show me things, so this made sense in my mind at the time.

I remember his funeral. The entire chapel was filled beyond capacity. People were huddled in to make additional room. Hundreds of people had come to pay their respects. My Grandfather was beloved, respected, admired. I remember looking at all the people, so many of them strangers to me, and everyone looked back at me sadly.

I remember the cemetery. The line of cars was unreal. Again, a testament to this great man. I remember my Great-Aunt Minnie and Great-Uncle Charlie wanting to dote on me from the funeral home to the burial site. I remember my cousins, Gloria and Lenny, trying to lighten the mood in the car. Lenny was known for his sense of humor. My Aunt Minnie tried distracting me with cookies. I was not to be distracted, though. I was this man’s only Granddaughter and I knew I had a purpose on this day. After all, I fought to be there. No one thought I should be “subjected to death”. I’d heard this stated quite a bit in the previous day, and knowing myself, I was paying exceptional attention to who said what and how they said it. I’ve always been a keen observer.

My mother sat down with me and explained everything and asked what I wanted to do. I remember her friend Ellen saying “Don’t you want to stay home and play with me and your baby brother?” I remember looking up at her coldly and saying “No. He is MY Grandfather and I AM GOING.” My mother actually stared at me, shocked by the tone of voice I had used. Before that moment, I had always been described as the “little girl with the ancient eyes”, even as a baby, but in that moment my mother knew I was the fierce warrior she had prayed for. There would be no further argument. I had stood my ground.

Cemeteries are for the living. It’s how we remember those we’ve lost and try to honor them. There is nothing more final than seeing someone’s name and the dates of their birth and death etched into granite or marble. Is it bizarre that my Grandparents’ headstone is the same as my parents’ stone? Not really. I remember asking my mother what she wanted for my father and she said “Just bury us together. Get one stone. Something similar to the one for my Mom and Dad, okay?” Her only concession was that her side have a specific design. I custom-designed that stone with the help of someone who does that sort of work. The final result was startling, same as it was to see my Grandparents’ names etched in finality.

After my Grandfather’s death, I remember heated discussions. My Great-Aunt, my Grandfather’s only sister, asked my Grandmother if she could still go on her vacation, despite the traditional 3-7 days where Jews sit Shiva. My Grandmother acquiesced, as she always did in situations such as this. My mother didn’t speak to my Great-Aunt for YEARS after the fact, and my own anger would become part of the mix as I got older and heard the entire story. If, G-d forbid, anything ever happened to my brother, I would not be on a plane the day after his funeral to go anywhere. I would never show his life such disrespect. It’s nonnegotiable. How the hell does someone claim to be in mourning and then get on a plane to go anywhere to enjoy themselves?! I will forever feel haunted by that move. In reverse, I can assure you my Grandfather would not have done something so despicable.

My Grandmother never spoke about it. She had friends, family, tons of well-wishers, and her children and grandchildren by her side. She became a prominent, front-and-center Grandmother in the wake of my Grandfather’s death, whereas she was very much in the background most of the time before his passing. There was NOTHING she did not do for us, take care of, or handle if my father refused. If my brother or I ever needed something, it did not matter what it is, she was there. She went to all of my gymnastic competitions, every drama performance, every Glee club performance, every Graduation. If it was during the day and my parents had to work, she was the face we saw in every crowd. She loved us, she helped raise us, and she was always right across the street. With her, we would get extra time before cancer came and took her from us. The insidiousness of that disease, coming along and taking someone who stayed out of the sun (I always remember her being under an umbrella or sitting in the shade.), never smoked, rarely drank, was devastating. It just goes to show you that no one is immune.

For roughly the next three years, after things had settled down, I would openly discuss suicide, a word that had NEVER been used in my home or in my life. My family did not discuss such things, EVER. My parents would stare at each other in dismay, and I know what they were thinking. “Where did she get that word from?” I had never been exposed to it, but it was constant. I was determined to be wherever my Grandfather REALLY was, and I made this clear. Every time I would talk about it, my brother would become hysterical, clutching me and telling my parents “She’s my sister. She can’t leave. Don’t let her leave me.” His face would turn red and he’d cry himself into an asthma attack at times. We were incredibly adult for kids, I now realize, but back then, I thought all people had similar family lives and discussions. They did not. They do not.

It’s important to discuss loss, grief, death, and every aspect of mental health with your children. I have suffered the majority of my life because my mother was afraid for me and my father was in denial. But as someone recently said to me “You could have harmed yourself so many times by now, and you’re still here. You’re still in one piece.” Only, I’m not truly in “one piece”. I’m very much a broken, pretty mess, but people only focus on the visual on front of them. They are sitting across from someone who is dressed appropriately, someone who is clean, hair done, makeup on, and they think that someplace, somewhere, I have it all “together”. Sometimes I do, but mostly, I do not. I don’t pretend. I am as imperfect as the amethyst I wear around my neck nearly all the time, except during a Full Moon.

To this day, I still suffer. I still hurt, wondering how different life might have been if he had lived another ten or fifteen years. I miss him terribly. But most importantly, I remember. I remember it all.

copyright © 2018 Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

“The tears I feel today
I’ll wait to shed tomorrow.
Though I’ll not sleep this night
Nor find surcease from sorrow.
My eyes must keep their sight:
I dare not be tear-blinded.
I must be free to talk
Not choked with grief, clear-minded.
My mouth cannot betray
The anguish that I know.
Yes, I’ll keep my tears til later:
But my grief will never go.”
Anne McCaffrey

Dazed, Confused, and Out Of Sorts

I’m running out of ways to describe my current state of mind. Earlier this week I had a different sense of self, and then I came home to discover I had lost my house key and the remote for the alarm. Thankfully, they were found and brought to “Lost & Found”. I received a return call the following morning letting me know they were safe and sound, and that I could come and get them, which I did on Thursday. You cannot imagine how stupid I felt in the moment, especially considering my history. I have had a set of house keys since I was eleven years old. I still have keys for every place I’ve ever lived, except my last place of residence where I tossed the keys onto the front lawn on the final day of moving. That was my way of shedding myself of the negativity of a horrible experience that is still haunting and affecting me on a daily basis. It wasn’t an exact science, but in the moment, I didn’t want to physically be carrying around a physical memory filled with pain.

I don’t normally lose something I tend to keep my eye on. That error made me so upset, and it made me question myself for days. It was an enormous “What the fuck is wrong with you?” moment, at least for me. I know many people will say I am human, no one is perfect, and/or shit happens, etc., but I take my responsibilities seriously. Anyone who thinks otherwise doesn’t know me at all.

Despite that incident, I had an extremely productive neurology consult with a new doctor. I waited nearly six months to see her, and I was definitely feeling iffy walking into the situation. After going through all of the standard questions, a quick baseline test, and doing a neuro history to rule out what I have and haven’t tried, she immediately discussed the treatment method with me that she feels I am the best candidate for. I was relieved to hear someone cut through all the bullshit and go straight to precisely what I have wanted to do migraine-wise for the past six years. I have a three to six month wait, but she feels it will be worth it, and I am hopeful. It’s by no means a cure; I will still get migraines, but after my first year of treatment, I shouldn’t be getting daily migraines any more, or migraines that last for weeks at a time. In less than three years, I have had eighty migraine-free days. That isn’t even two straight months without searing pain. To be taken seriously right out of the gate and have someone treat me with such respect was truly a bit of a shock. As I’ve likely said before, my faith and trust in the medical community is basically nonexistent. In the past year, I have met three good doctors and maybe one or two decent medical professionals, but everyone else has been a medical failure, and for me, even one medical failure is one too many.

When I explained the appointment to my brother and told him how it went, he asked me what I am supposed to do for my migraines for the next three to six months. His exact words were “What are you supposed to do in the meantime? Chew Excedrin?” It was a valid question, and it reminded me that I had not asked for an abortive, so I will call ASAP and see if my doctor is willing to get Relpax approved until the new treatment begins. Thus far, my insurance company has been very on the ball with nearly all of the things I’ve needed, so I hope this won’t become a battle. I honestly can’t handle another moment where I have to battle anyone or anything. I am mostly a basket case (which is truly nothing to joke about) on Promethazine. As it turns out, stress really DOES affect us far more than we realize.

I have seen myself decline in a dramatic way over the past year. I have never felt more “off” or out of touch with myself than I am now. Being chronically ill isn’t fun, nor is it glamorous. It is a daily battle just to get out of bed. This is something people don’t seem to realize, unless it’s happening to them.

I am having a difficult time wrapping my mind around the fact that it is June. I rarely say “I want to go back to this month and start over.”, but I have definitely been feeling like this quite a bit lately. The heat waves and then 30-40 degree drops in temperature have taken their toll on me. But from here on out, I expect this to be a disturbingly hot summer and I am stressed with the thought of trying to navigate through it. I don’t want to deal with being sick, dehydrated, and isolated. There’s not much I can really do about any of these things, but the knowledge that it’s all headed my way is genuinely too much for me.

I am trying to keep up with everything here and still live my daily life. The truth is, my daily life is exceedingly dull and unhappy. I lack the ability to be fake and pretend it’s something it isn’t. So while I am clearly not writing as much as I would like, I am still doing the best I can. I thank everyone who has stuck with me all these years, for better or worse. Having an outlet for my thoughts is important to me.

Hopefully I will be able to write more this summer. I can’t make any promises, but I can try my best.  Here’s hoping I achieve more than heatstroke over the next few months.

copyright © 2018 Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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A Decade

If I added up the minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years I have spent missing my mother, I am pretty sure it would be an astronomical number. All those moments have brought me to this day; the tenth anniversary. A decade without my mother. It makes me sick to my stomach, putting the words out there into the universe.

My life has changed in such dramatic ways since I hung up the phone for the final time the night she passed away. No matter far I have come, no matter how much growth I have achieved, no matter the rises and falls, I am still gutted by every moment that led to her death.

The people who loved me the most are all gone. I live in a world where no one mentions my mother. No one talks about her, no one acknowledges that she even existed, and it deeply affects me.

I remember when she was alive and people would often accuse her of being “too emotional”. I don’t think people, especially now, are emotional enough. I don’t think people are anywhere near as human, kind, caring, or compassionate as my mother was. Occasionally I catch myself looking for those qualities in others, and I find people sorely lacking. Perhaps this is why I am more introverted and isolated than ever before.

I am by no means searching for a “mother figure” or “mother replacement” because those are simply things that do not exist for me. No one else could ever be her. I can hear my father’s voice whenever I speak to my brother, but my mother’s voice has grown distant and foreign, and for me, that is very sad indeed.

I’m never not going to be disgusted to have someone, be it a family member or a friends, act like today is “just another day”. Today is the day I lost my mother, my best friend, and my guidepost. As imperfect as I am, I will never be the kind, caring, loving person my mother was to her children and other people. I have learned to accept that.

Lighting Yarhzeit tonight was difficult and highly emotional, but I did it. I’m doing my best. My Mom always told me “Your best is all you can ever do, and if people don’t like it, at least you know you didn’t sit around ignoring a situation.”

I’m a writer because of my mother. She introduced me to power through my voice, and that’s something that will never change. Nor will my commitment and devotion to her memory.

“Seek the sweet surrender of simplicity. Listen to the sound of faith like a flute playing inside your chest. Go within. Serenity lives always within your reach.”
-Ching Qu Lam

copyright © 2018 Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

I’m Still Processing

Hey, everyone. 🙂 It’s been a rough time for me. Unfortunately my “rough time” is on a never-ending loop. No one is more tired of it than I am.

During all of this chaos and pain, I haven’t had “Writers Block”, but I have certainly had “Writer needs a break.” and “Writer needs a fucking vacation.” Unfortunately, the devil is in the details and any kind of break isn’t in the cards.

For me, one of the most crucial things about being a writer is choosing your subject matter. Do I want to write about people dying? Not so much. Do I want to write about Kate Middleton giving birth? No. Do I care about every single thing going on in the world? No, I don’t. That doesn’t make me a bad person, it simply means my priorities are different. My brain has an insanely fast processing system for certain types of information (I’m not kidding. Even when I’m asleep, I feel like I haven’t ever been “powered down”.), and sometimes I want silence. Okay, more often than not, I genuinely want silence. Inner peace is more difficult to achieve than one realizes.

I had a horrible experience last week that I do want to talk about, but in fairness to myself, I am still processing everything so that when I do speak up and speak out, people will understand why I am doing it. It’s important to call certain things into question and raise awareness. When it comes to mental health, any form of chronic pain, and migraines, I am NOT going to be silent about my experiences. These are small medical communities full of daily sufferers who aren’t being taken seriously. They are being cast out and demoralized by the very people they turn to for help. It’s disgusting. I refuse to be someone who doesn’t use the power of her position and voice to help others to the best of my ability.

Initially I was quite embarrassed over the incident. I do plan on talking about it, probably in my next major post. In the midst of having to feel ashamed and embarrassed, I thought “What if this happened to someone who wasn’t as smart or as strong as I am? What if this happened to someone who couldn’t advocate for themselves and go home at the end of this?” It’s been slightly over a week, and my mind is still in shock that I went through it and came out the other side. I know my behavior was in check, and I know I didn’t lose my temper until things escalated, so I shouldn’t be embarrassed at all. It’s important to explain and share it. I would hate for any of you to have gone through this. I had a few minutes where I was angry and afraid, and then this deeper part of me responded. Sometimes I forget that I’m a knock down, drag-you-by-your-hair, lay you out on the ground, make you cry for your mother, FIGHTER. Sometimes I need to be reminded of that. Of course, I’d like to be reminded without the outrageous drama. This will all make sense soon, I promise.

To those of you who have reached out to me over these last few weeks via social media, or by phone or text, please know how much your thoughts, kindness, compassion, and words mean to me. When friends and readers come to you with support, those are some of the best moments in life. Cherish them.

I think part of why I felt overwhelmed by the support I received is because I don’t ever assume my words or thoughts are making a difference for someone else. To then hear how my experiences, struggles, humor, and grace under pressure have helped someone get through their own battles, well, it puts a lot into perspective for me.

For the most part, I write something and I click publish. I might look at it once or twice after the fact, but I don’t usually go back. I put it out into the universe to be read, and I go on with my life. There’s only so much self-promotion I am willing to do. I don’t respect anyone who shoves their work down your throat, so I refuse to be anything like that.

More and more, people are coming back to me, sometimes months later, to thank me for speaking up, for sharing my very real thoughts, and for inspiring them. I am only egotistical to a small degree in that I am proud of the things I put my name on, and I’m the first person who has to laugh at my jokes and weirdness. When someone calls me and they’re genuinely hurting and upset, but by the end of the call they are laughing hysterically, I realize I have a gift that helps people. Perhaps G-d really does work in mysterious ways. 😉 I am a firm believer that people are drawn to you for specific reasons. Anyone drawn to me is either looking for strength, loyalty, a genuine ear, a genuine friend, or all of the above. Because in the beginning, we are all just words. You have no idea how that will transition into real life, but anyone who has ever met me and become a bigger part of my life will tell you I am consistently the same person. I can be hysterically funny and make you feel better, I can completely have your back, I will take your secrets to the grave, and/or I can be detached. I don’t think a single one of my true friends has ever witnessed the detached side of me. I am well aware that I’m rare. I have had to accept my rarity throughout the course of my life, but I feel like the right people come into your life and they stay. Anyone with an agenda, who doesn’t get what they want, is going to leave. It’s difficult to know what someone wants when they’re “new”. I suspect anyone who first meets me is meeting the cool, detached person who isn’t about to kiss anyone’s ass or try too hard for anything. I’m not looking to impress anyone. I am not starving for attention or friendship. I would rather have one genuine friend than one hundred “friends” coming into my life with an agenda. I can spot bullshit immediately.

In the midst of the ordeal I am still processing, I was asked “What do you think your purpose in life is?” I think we can all safely agree that is an exceedingly DEEP question to ask anyone. Like anyone else, I am still discovering my path, navigating my talents, and taking things one minute at a time. I will almost certainly spend more time wondering about purpose, and seeking it out. For many people this is defined by their roles in life. Mine is not. It’s a little bit like when someone says “You’re obviously a great Mom because you have cats.” The look on my face when people say this to me is always one of “Where the hell did that come from?” One thing has nothing to do with the other, and the analogy is kind of disturbing to me. It’s highly possible for a woman to be great at something and not have it likened to anything other than “You are great at this.” As human-beings, we wear many hats, but those hats should not be all that defines us.

I often find myself in situations where I feel appointed as the chief “slayer of demons”. While some people might say I don’t have to take on that responsibility, I will take on that which is of deep importance to me. If something could become a much bigger incident, I am more likely to see the bigger picture and get on board quickly, as opposed to backing down.

As a Scorpio, my sign is ruled by Mars and Pluto. Only one other sign in the zodiac has the same ruling planets. I’ve always found it interesting that Mars, which falls in line with the Roman God of War, would be attached to me. The way other people describe me is much the way astrologers and astronomers describe Mars. Combined with the constant regeneration of Pluto, it makes an awful lot of sense to me. Whether you believe in this sort of thing or not, I always notice how much these things tend to influence us. For many, it is without any knowledge whatsoever. I much prefer to be knowledgeable.

This incident is an enormous demon, and will probably not be the last one I have to slay in my lifetime. Not for a single second did I hesitate about retaliating. So while I navigate all the legalities and take a stand, I hope others will understand that I’m not only doing it for myself, I am doing it for everyone and anyone who is too afraid to speak up, or for those who fear backlash and/or repercussions.

I’ve been reminded of who I am. It’s taking a little time to mentally process all I’ve experienced and the knowledge that followed. I am determined to keep my head fully in this battle, and I know I will get there.

Wishing you all an empowering weekend and a fierce Full Moon ahead. 🙂

copyright © 2018 Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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Every Witch Way, But Mostly Dead

Authors’ Note: **POTENTIAL TRIGGER WARNING**

Yes, the title is spelled correctly. Yes, it’s intentional.

Most of my weekends are spent doing things I’d rather not do. The weekends were once my refuge for sleep, quiet, peace, laughter, productivity, cooking, more laughter, and space. They are now filled with rushed moments, trying to pack a lot of time into a few hours here and there. I almost NEVER get to do something I genuinely want to do, and despite the fact that I am being supremely honest about that, I can’t say it doesn’t gall me. It does. There’s not a lot about my current life that I signed up for. I find that’s a repetitive theme these days.

On one hand, a person might try shaming me by saying I don’t appreciate what I have. I don’t recommend attempting that tactical method with me. I might seem nice, but I’m not. Only someone who truly understands what I am going through and experiencing would understand why I say what I say and feel as I do. The truth is; I don’t need to justify my feelings to anyone or have them agree or disagree. They’re MY feelings. I own them, and they are accurate.

By a certain age, we all kind of find our niche and know the direction we plan on taking, whatever that direction may be. It could be personal, professional, or a mixture of the two, but the decision is made somewhere along the way to go right or left, or maybe North, South, East, or West. Some of us meet forks in the road, whereas other people see smooth sailing on the same road from the initial decision until the end of their life. My life, for some unknown reason, is one fork after another. It is an expensive place-setting with more forks than one really need have on a table called life, but there they are; ever-present and obnoxious as hell. I’m not a mermaid, you can’t dangle shiny things in front of me and distract me. Perhaps one should try diamonds instead of forks. I’m a Royal Asscher kind of girl. 😉

For a while now the saying “Different levels, different devils.” has been on a repetitive loop inside my head. I have plenty to write and say, and no interest in actually drafting any of it into a post or anything else. I don’t get writer’s block, but I do experience writer’s boredom. Let’s call me a severely bored writer for the moment. It’ll pass.

My usual desire to be creative on other artistic platforms where I have either interest or talent is also in a “bored” phase. For me to walk into ULTA and come out with NOTHING is almost unheard of. I found it kind of disturbing when I was the person who didn’t walk out with a bright orange bag.

A friend asked me how I was doing last week and I replied “I’m in a state of really not giving a shit about anything or anyone.” Not realizing that her reply could make or break someone else, she responded by saying “Oh. That’s kind of a good thing, I guess.” I informed her it most certainly is not.

I’ve been pretty ill on and off for months. I was holding up halfway decently, and have slowly started to decline. Let’s get something straight; no one should EVER rejoice in someone else’s pain or hardships. You can’t tell me I’ll feel better if “just pray harder” or if I “take a bath” and “light some candles”. Seriously?! What the fuck is wrong with people?

Your mental health, and mine, is just as important as the rest of your health. I call Mondays “Mental Health Monday” because I allow myself that time to do nothing, but take care of me. To shut everything and everyone off and allow myself to get into the correct head space to do what I need to for the week. Unfortunately, I already know that I will be badly triggered tomorrow. As a result, today was not the day I intended for it to be.

I am forced to make a heartbreaking decision. Will it kill me? Physically, no, but it will kill my soul, whatever is left of it after feeling like I’ve experienced various forms of hell for the past two and a half years. If I do it, there’s no point left for me anymore because I will finally know there’s no future left for me to return to. There’s no point in forging ahead without what little in this world that gives me hope and keeps me alive.

As usual, my brother caused critical damage to this situation, refuses to take ownership of his behavior and words, and I have no where else to turn. I have always been told that I don’t know how to ask for help. There’s a reason I don’t ask, and it’s because time and again, I’ve been shown cruelty and the true nature of others. If you genuinely want to help someone, then you’ll do it and NEVER throw it in their face. You won’t lord it over them and tell them what a horrible person they are. If you genuinely want to hurt someone, well, I’ve been hurt enough.

This week will be full of challenges and pain for me. I hate feeling hopeless and I hate feeling like I have failed when the truth is, I’ve FOUGHT LIKE FUCKING HELL to get this far. My body feels like it’s perpetually at war, and it is. My immune system fights itself and it leaves me in a constant state of fight or flight. As I type this, my heart isn’t sure if it should be calm or jump out of my chest. It’s exhausting and I’ve had enough.

I spend a little too much time in Witch City, and have for the past year. Yesterday I was subjected to more people than I EVER want to be around in close spaces for over two hours. I have never been more happy to escape crowds of people. I keep thinking how sad it would be if this was my last weekend ever. I wonder if the selfishness of others would then finally be realized.

I never get to do anything of my own choosing. But I do get to control what I write.

copyright © 2018 Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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