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.
I am not a conservative Christian. Nor am I Roman Catholic. In fact, I was never raised in an environment that influenced me to follow in the ways of Monotheistic religions such as Christianity, Judaism, or Islam. Although Mama would never have discouraged it.
Mama was one of those Pagan-Wicca-Spiritual-I-dunno-whatever kind of people. I am not much different. Growing up, we did full moon rituals, made clay dolls based on the season, and recited all of the Chakras in order before bed. Halloween is one of our favorite holidays since it’s OUR holiday for once (not mention, all that witch merchandise though), and I am born on the original Christmas – Winter Solstice.
When I was younger though, I was in the closet about my religious beliefs. My town was very Christian and Mama felt that kids would not react to it so well, so I did not tell a soul until I was 14. Unfortunately, not going to CCD classes definitely set me apart from the kids, so I was welcomed with phrases like “You are going to Hell” and “Jesus is going to kill you”!
I ended up having a lot of nightmares about Jesus. Didn’t help that the first image of Jesus I saw was at the church where my Dad got remarried. That statue of Jesus hanging from the cross still gives me the shivers.
Anyway, Mama saw that the bullying was getting out of hand, so she decided we should attend a Unitarian Universalist church nearby.
Well, I confused people into complete silence instead having them yell slander at me on the playground.
I’d say that’s a success.
Years of Unitarian Universalist youth group sessions, Mama reading me spiritual children’s books at bedtime, and my own life adventures has formed who I am spiritually, and I am damn proud of it. I believe in the Universe and its power to bring what I need when I need it, be it in the form of an event, a God, a human, an animal.
I don’t see anything wrong with that, or other people’s interpretations on religion and spirituality. I rather enjoy getting into debates about such things with friends and family. I respect all viewpoints, and I expect the same from everyone else.
So naturally, I am not a fan of those who go out of their way to tell you that your spiritual point of view is wrong. And no, I am not just talking about the guy who comes up to you once a week to tell you that you are going to hell (thanks for that memo, by the way). I am also talking about…
Atheists! Or more specifically, what I liked to call the Fundamentalist Atheist.
I am not talking about the average atheist who is just like “Yeah, I don’t believe God”. (Sidebar: There are other Gods besides the big G-O-D. Just saying.)
I am talking about the person who laughs in your face as soon as you say your beliefs.
I am talking about the person who goes up to you and says “You know everything you believe is crazy, right?” and then makes rude comments about odd things related to your spirituality. (Astro projection is a relaxing meditation, thank you very much)
I am talking about the people who think that religion is the reason for 9/11.
I am talking about the people who hate on conservative, Christian republicans and say that those people display crazy behavior, when they themselves display the exact same behavior.
And I am not okay with that.
I am not okay with you disrespecting my friends, my family, other people, or myself.
You do you.
Please remember re-read your tweets, your FB posts, your own thoughts, before you express them, and think about how you make people feel. Think about how you would feel if you were being attacked for your non-beliefs. You may think you are helping people, but you are actually hurting them, and you are pushing away new experiences and opportunities to understand a viewpoint that isn’t your own.
I am not saying to start believing in God, or Buddha, or Bastet.
I am simply saying to open up your heart and listen to what people have to say about their spirituality. It might not change what you believe, but it will teach you something.
And doesn’t that make it worth it?
He was supposed to go in that day. He needed to get new jewelry for the store.
I sometimes wonder what it would have been like if he had gone in.
Would he be a martyr? A saint?
All day, I am taking orders for Challah, birthday cakes, rolls. Someone asks me to write on their birthday cake, and wonder if they feel conflicted on this day. They have a joy in their life, on a day that is a horror, a scar on the face of so many lives.
I think of my friend who will never share another birthday with her uncle. I remember her scanning the footage for his face, insisting she saw him jump out, he’ll be fine. My chest still pings to this day, haunted by her determined, anxious face.
I think of my friend who lashes out when anyone talks about his father. I never really asked what happened to him, given the pain it caused him, but sometimes, I wonder if perhaps his father was one of those men in our town who never returned home that day.
I think of the memorial park. It was in the heart of town, a few feet from my high school. It was on the left corner at the head of Fair Street, next to the instrument shop where I would get my violin strings. I can’t recall what it was before that time – a gas station? A parking lot? A vacant area where a building once stood?
Either way, a few years passed, and it was the 9/11 Memorial Park, to honor our fallen, especially our fire department. We lived in the farthest town a firefighter could be part of FDNY. Many of them went in those towers that day. I know a friend who glances a leery eye at her father when he has a drink. He was one of the ones who made it out, and she suspects that he is still haunted by his friends who will never share another drink with him.
A martyr? A hero?
Mama’s best friend, he was in high school. He stole his brother’s ID, and snuck away from home for a week to do clean up. There wasn’t much security back then. That day never sits well with him.
I wonder about Dad and my uncle. This incident resulted in years of overseas tours for them. I think of all the time this stole from our family.
He was supposed to go in that day. He had work to do. I still wonder about how I’d feel if he had gone in.
A martyr? A saint?
A victim? A hero?
Would I have been the person I am?
A victim. A martyr. A saint. No hero.
In front of the mirror, I make myself into perfection.
Layer upon layer, I create a persona, a creature I want to be, to be believed.
A bus I used to know, large bag of heavy memories and the regrets of someone some time ago who drove me to fear some fires.
A sea of faces I have grown to ignore, I walk alone into a space that was a second home.
The back of a gentleman I once spoke to, just a ways in front of me. I dart into the hallway I spent nights wandering, laughing, tricking doors into not locking me away.
The room of education, of art, of three years of my life.
To my left – room into room of familiar faces.
I am smoke, passing through without a breath nor a word nor a hair noticed.
I look through the hall door, a play on repetitive motion, I had it seen so many times.
What is air. What is tension.
This is no nostalgia.
These are what I used to know.
What I thought I knew.
What I wanted to believe I knew.
Breeze whisks me away.
I will not become a disaster.
I was never what you used to know.