By: Brenna Renée Prather
Theatre Design/Art Portfolio: brprather
Your recovery is a commitment. It is something that you must commit to, wholeheartedly, every day, for the rest of your life – regardless of whether your world came crashing down, or the land is filled with daisies, unicorns, and sunshine. Otherwise, you accept death immediately. You are choosing life or death. That is your commitment.
It is important, however, to remember that sometimes, much like other parts of your life, you fail. You fall down. You scrap your knee. You lose yourself to the pain.
And you know what? That’s okay. That’s okay, so long as you get right back up, wipe aside your tears, slap a bandage on that knee, and keep trudging along to a better moment, a better day.
Recently, I had a stumble in my own recovery. A hiccup. I was constantly stressed and anxious due certain pieces of work in my life. I was eating nothing but junk. My mood shifts were drastic. And on two separate occasions, I almost relapsed.
I have since brought myself back up, but for anyone out there who is struggling with recovery, I just wanted you to know that it’s okay. It’s okay to not be alright all the time. It’s okay if you fall into a dark place sometimes.
Because here’s the thing – mental illness is not like a cold. You cannot take some medicine to make it go away. You cannot sleep it off. It is there, and it is always there. It is a part of your soul and who you are, and you must work with it if you are ever going to be happy. Whether you do therapy, take medication, go to support groups, or do something else that eases your personal ailment (exercise, hobbies, journaling, etc.), you are working on being a happier you, and that’s what is important.
Remember to never be afraid to ask your support system for help. Be sure to know who that is. It is not for the faint of heart. In this stumble, I have seen the people who will withstand the tests of time with me, and those who I will definitely not be writing home about. And that’s okay.
Does it suck knowing that certain people will never understand you? Yes. Is it better to know now rather than later which of the people in your life will love and appreciate you, no matter what? Oh yeah! And don’t worry, people who can’t handle it, we don’t hate you. It’s a hard job to support someone who suffers from mental illness. Better to be honest than to cause unintentional heartache.
Never settle for people who don’t love you for who you are, and don’t try to save people that you can’t.
And most importantly, never ever forget to love yourself. You are you, and that is special and beautiful.
To the guy who thinks I’m too stuck on myself to talk to anyone, you are probably not alone in that opinion. I don’t talk much. I tend keep a serious look on my face when I can. I am not the kind of person who runs up and starts a chat with just anyone. I just generally keep to myself.
To the guy who thinks I’m too good to talk to him, you might not know it, but I have PTSD. Years of manipulation, threats, and emotional abuse from a man I looked up to has given me generalized anxiety, social anxiety, and issues with depression. My natural response to people is to keep my distance, to stay away. The serious look on my face? I use it to deflect social interactions.
I do try to socialize, given that is what humans are – social creatures. Alas, in the past, I have spent hours pouring over every conversation I have in a day, in a week, over a year. Hating every word I ever say. Doubting myself. Agonizing over everything I ever said to anyone, driving to the end of my sanity.
You’ll understand if I don’t always want to jump head first into the nearest conversation.
To the guy who thinks I am being a stuck up b—-, my abuse taught me to hate myself. He told me I was fat, laughing at my eating habits. He told me I was ugly, but yelled at me when I decided to cover it up with make-up. I snickered at every sneeze and cough I ever uttered. Pointed out every outfit I wore and ripped it apart, the words being his shears.
To this guy who thinks that the problem is me and not him – it’s not me, it’s definitely you. I have made a lot of headway in my recovery. In the past few years, I have learned to love my body. I wear whatever I want, put on make-up if I feel like it, and don’t feel self-conscious when I sneeze. In the past few months, I have taught myself to enjoy conversations, and not to overanalyze them afterwards.
But here is the catch – I only feel like conversations with people I genuinely enjoy talking to.
Now, of course, my anxiety has kept me from talking to people I’d like to, but to those people, awkwardness would come into play. But you and I both know that our meetings are met with coldness, and that would be because you are LGBTQ-phobic. You made fun of the first plus-size model on a magazine cover, and said all women should be eating well and staying thin. You are more irresponsible than a kid on his 21st birthday, and you generally make everyone around you uncomfortable.
So yeah, maybe I am too stuck on myself to talk to you. But maybe you should figure out why that is before ignorantly pointing fingers.
Trickling down from the dark blue
into wild violet
blending into passionate red
feeding into the oranges and yellows that are the last memory of
I look at that moment happen every day as I take the long walk back to my apartment.
Men scream slurs and derogatory terms at me
a touch of loud radios
the screech of a motorcycle
That is the symphony.
Breathing in car fumes and softly cooking food, I walk. I think.
A cold customer, imagine of a cake in their face comes to mind.
I wonder what tomorrow brings.
Will I see you again? Will we really tango this time?
I walk from day into night as the sun makes its exit,
the moon takes its place –
sitting in its guard tower as
We walk mischievously through the shadows it cannot reach.
I walk through the night, hoping to see your face.
I walk through the night.
I swallow down fiery anger whenever his posts run down my feed.
Complaining about all the things he has supposedly done that are supposed to make girls fall at his feet.
Saying he’s such a nice guy. That girls must only like jerks.
“You know what your problem is? You know why you don’t have a boyfriend? Because you think straight guys need to act like gay guys.”
Yep. You are such a nice guy.
I was drawing inspiration from my friend Joseph (who happens to be a queer male). He treats me with respect. He makes me laugh. When I am having an anxiety or panic attack, he grabs me, looks me in the eye, and keeps telling me it’s OK until it is. He has made me into a much better person, a much happier person. I have tried things I never thought I could possibly do, or ever want to do because of him. He’s a good person.
Based on that, one could see that I would like a romantic/intimate partner who treats me with respect. Who asks for my consent, and is OK with whatever answer I give him. Who makes me happy, be it by lovingly teasing me, or giving me Reese’s peanut butter cups for no apparent reason, or just telling me it’s OK when I need to hear it. Who is a good freaking person. And I think that is something similar to what every girl (and hopefully every human being) desires.
So please, guys – Stop saying that girls don’t like nice guys. Because we do. But for us, that means being a good person. Respecting us. Caring about us no matter what.
And remember, just because you are all of those things and we don’t want you to be our romantic partner, it doesn’t mean we’d rather be with a jerk. Sometimes, the other parts of both individuals’ personalities just don’t click. It isn’t meant to be. Grieve, eat a whole pizza, and keep going.
Because you will find a girl who is compatible.
Or you’ll end up dating dudes. Whatever floats your boat, love.*
It was small, a little paragraph. Someone might read the first sentence and not think much of it.
It describes the interactions this person who is stuck in a deep, muddy hole. They are having difficulty getting out. Possible rescuers come, who simply stand there and instruct the victim, telling them to just keep trying. But the victim slips and falls, and the rescuer yells at them, calling them pathetic, a quitter, and then walks away. After a few visits, the victim is left unattended to, all alone in this dark hole. They try and try to get out on their own, but repeatedly they fall back to the bottom. Soon, they just sit there, letting the mud pull them further down. After all, what is the point of going on, trying to get out? By the end of the paragraph, you learn that this is a representation of depression. You take from that what you will.
It hit me hard. I was going through my own rough entanglement with depression, the first of several stints. High school, the breeding ground for fucked up hormonal outputs. My home life was trash, and the lack of there actually being one did not help. I poured myself into school and after school activities.
I was running away.
I don’t think I ever stopped running.
Not even when I opened up. Not even when my condition was made aware to me. That was 3 years ago, when I transferred to UB. My past was more or less shoved into a box under my bed, into the darkest corner. It was meant to be avoided, in order to find happiness. To define structure.
“Remember that your interactions with your fellow collaborators will affect your future. Your enemy now will be your boss later. Choose your words carefully.”
I did try new things, as per college life requirements. I changed my style. I drank a little much sometimes. I made out with friends I knew well, and acquaintances who barely knew me. I did ridiculous and foolish things, and still managed to get up in the morning to pay my bills.
But I was a hollowed out tree trunk. My life made me a shell, nothing of substance. I gossiped. I partied. I stopped writing. Silence. And so my anxiety and depression sank me back into the deep, muddy hole. I was in a sea of tree trunks with nowhere to go.
Cleveland was the last straw. I spent a lot of time looking for a way out down there. Radical paths. Trying to avoid suspicion. Though. Some part of me knew that no one there would have held me back from that jump.
Thankfully, I returned back to my true home – to my pen, my writing, my muse, where I keep my sanity.
Loneliness still plagues me when the moon silently approaches, and when the sun shines so bright that I am blinded by its typical beauty. Few comment on my photos, like my Facebook posts, answer back my phone calls. Sometimes I still wonder – would they noticed if I just picked up? Walked out of their lives for good?
I still wonder, as I attempt to choose between my love for the arts and design as extensions of my being, and my dependence on writing for salvation and survival.
Today, I get up for myself. I enjoy myself.
It will all work itself out eventually. It always does.*
My first Thanksgiving break at UB. Our last face-to-face reunion.
I was a bit nervous going in. Joseph assured me that it would be fine. And if I felt scared or unsafe, he was entirely reachable. Taken aback, but….happy. Yes, happy. No one was ever looking to stand for me like that. Everyone always just assumed that I could take care of myself, no need for assistance. It was nice to feel human. Nice to have someone realize that even I could not deal with some of life’s great challenges. I felt so safe, safest I had ever felt.
He asked about shopping that Sunday for the week. Confused, I reminded him that I must leave Sunday morning. I still had classes, and finals to take.
That face. He had no intention of having me leave.
Thankfully, Arthur was kind enough to venture 45 minutes out of his way to come get me. The relief I experienced when I saw his headlights beam across the driveway….
Very little conversation after that. A phone call every few weeks, demanding money he felt he was owed. Threatening my cats, Mama, myself.
Last time I heard his voice. June 2013. Threatening, as per usual. About my cats. I was distant the whole time. I felt my ability to care for his anger slowly fade away. His threats held no value anymore. I was too far away for him to do anything to me now. Still frightened, but I had lost the ability to want to continue any communication after that day.
After that were Facebook messages. He had deleted Mama and I from his account, but he still managed to send a message every few months or so.
Happy Fat Tuesday!
A concerned message about Snowpocalypse ’14.
Despite the fact that I knew his threats carried no weight, I still went into panic mode when a simple message would come through, sometimes being so bad I became unresponsive, or worse, aggressive.
103rd year anniversary of the sinking today.
April 15th. Yes, indeed. The anniversary of the sinking. He recalled all of those years of aquarium visits, memorabilia collecting, and repetitive viewing of Titanic. The anniversary seemed to be more memorable than my own birthday, I suppose. Although, to me, it was sometimes more important than my birthday.
I acknowledge his message. Answer his inquiries about my cats and how I was. I let him go.
I felt….calm. No hyperventilating. No bursts of uncontrollable anger and panic. Just…peace.
Later that night, after spending an hour under the stars for my Astronomy class, I gulped in the air in triumph. I did not know then, but I had won. He had lost his grasp.
I had feared this day could never come. Feared that anxiety he had instilled in me would always remain. Feared I would remain broken, unlovable.
I thought he destroyed me.
But he didn’t.
Today, I have been smoothed over and made to glow. My edges defined. All together now, assorted pieces formed beautifully, cohesive not up close, but from afar.
I am mosaic, strong and beautiful.
I am mosaic. Hear me roar.