Chapter 1

Chapter 1

Learning the Art of Togetherness 

It seems as though my entire life has just been one giant fucking complication. This might sound like if I’m complaining to you, but I can honestly say it’s just the facts. You could say that from the moment of my conception, through my birth and early years, and especially in the years as I transitioned into an adult (if you could even call me that) my life has always been complicated. And, you know it’s not just my life that is complicated, it’s me. I myself am complicated. Furthermore, I complicate every situation around me to no end. What can I say? If there were a special course to teach people how to complicate their lives, I would be the professor. Never can I have just one simple day or moment. Decisions are long and drawn out because the indecisiveness of my mind is vast and never-ending.  The multitude of “what-if” situations never ceases to play like a movie reel in my mind. The possibilities of what can happen to me are endless, and therefore my mind is always on the defensive, and I strive for ways in which I can avoid the unavoidable. My cup is always half empty and I strive for the bare minimum of effort possible. I am lethargic, defensive and aggressive. You would think growing up with a bunch of do-gooders I would have come out striving to achieve the best of the best. Quite the opposite really, I’m content to relax and let others do the hard work, me? I’d rather sit back and eat a whole box of donuts (Munchies! They get me every time!). This wasn’t always the case; I wasn’t always so tired and content to let my life pass me by.

In our home growing up, and still to this day, there has been a Mom who is madly and irrevocably (against her better wishes) in love with the Dad, who feels quite the same about mom. And so Mom and Dad had Four Daughters. One Lawyer, Two Teachers, and Me. This is the small circle that consists of my childhood family. Together we have everything we need in this world to be happy, with our collection of animals and kids. Over the years our small family has grown to include three more, as dad got the sons he never wanted. Some have come and gone over the years, but only a few have been permanent. Add to that how we’ve been multiplying through procreation, and we’re a big unit now.

Growing up, I was that kid on the playground making all the rules. The one who ran the block and made the decisions in her group. If you couldn’t keep up, you weren’t good enough or smart enough to hang with me and my kids. My conniving scheming days started in first grade Christian School when I attempted to write my own excuse letter for not having done my homework, or when I was reprimanded in second grade for attempting to cheat on my math test. Our personal favorite was when the decrepit old Crane threatened to paddle me in third grade for writing a bad food critique about the cafeteria food — utilizing only cuss words. In personal education, I was the girl who was excused for her “serious” heart condition (not that serious), and the one who always got to sit out during the mile run. Still, to this day I cannot run a mile under fifteen minutes. Pathetic, I know. I had more growing up than just street creds on the playground, I also had three other sisters to come home to at night, and we would spend countless hours doing those things that only girls know how to do. Barbie villages would overtake the biggest of our rooms and we would set up shop. There would be dream houses, beach houses, grocery stores, and malls. Convertibles parked in each lot, and shoes, clothes, and accessories strewn throughout the hallways. Whole camping sites, airports and communities would be constructed within hours. By the time we were done bringing it all out, we just wanted to play outside. So out we would run to chase after the ice cream man, who coincidentally would allow me to run a tab with him. Endless days of ice cream, candies, and games out on the pavement led to the wild days of my youth as we ran through the neighborhoods on our bikes, threw ourselves high into the air from the trampoline, or watched the sunrise as we played endlessly into the night on our Super Nintendo, Nintendo64, and so on and so forth. You name it, we had it.

It was in these early years of strict Christian teaching that my love for books was born. I was the nerdy one who was years ahead of her reading level, the girl who treasured her library card, and who would strive to read all the books in the class, and then some. In third grade reading books would no longer satisfy my craving for the mixture of words into a story. I began to crave to make my own output. I needed an outlet for my creativity as the more stories I read, the more I wanted to create some of my own. My earliest creations were crude and rudimentary at best considering I was only 6 years old and could write at a 5th-grade reading level. In those early years, my life was so consumed by words that I was soon running out of appropriate reading material, to the point that my teachers, to keep me complacent, would feed my mind with encyclopedias and dictionaries. In those early years of the ’90s, my book bag would weigh like a ton of bricks because of books, now the Kindle has changed my life. Still, to this day my favorite smartphone app is dictionary.com and others, which test knowledge and terminology.

It seems logical that I would eventually work towards a degree in English Literature as this was the one set of coursework which I generally enjoyed. I spent many years wandering in and out of classrooms, lost in a haze of confusion as I thought about the future and what it would hold for me. In the years after graduating high school, I lost myself, and because of this, my school has suffered. I spent many years growing anxious over what would become of me if I did not decide on a profession and start working as an animal towards it. I thought only of money, greed and how to get to the top as fast as possible. I crashed and ten years later I finally have a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature. However, I still seek knowledge, and it is my ultimate goal to reach the top of my field. It’s a goal I never give up on and always come back to. I gave up on the forced corporate lifestyle my life had taken. I felt the need to be free to create my own words and allow the world to hear my message. I needed to give my creative outlet its chance to shine, and the Bipolar Mind has been demanding an audience.

As I discovered the open courses of English Literature, I discovered exactly what my soul had been yearning for. The professors I encountered and the coursework I was introduced to have changed many of my perceptions on life, and have altered many of my ideologies. I can no longer see the world in the strict black and white I was taught to look with. I see the bright colors of both sides to the story and see the compassion of learning to live with the experiences of another. By enrolling in a variety of literature classes my mind’s eyes have grown and my soul has traveled the world. I discovered a place in which words hold true meaning and can be used to sway nations and spark change. I discovered my niche.

 


 

Growing up, I lived at home with my three closest best friends, who also just so happened to be my sisters, and there was no need for me to look elsewhere for love and commitment. I had what I needed at home. The four infamous sisters were also blessed with a fifth honorary sister, who still to this day knows me better than I know myself, being that we are separated by six short months, and raised together for the last thirty years.

Each of these ladies over the years has influenced me for the better, and over the years of growing traditions and expanding families, we have mastered the essence of just what “togetherness” means, and have adopted it as a family mantra.  At the end of the day, if we are together, we are happy. As a whole, we are women who can accomplish anything with our combined forces, and we have been known to move theoretical mountains. I’ve actually seen them do it. These women have accomplished what I would have considered impossible and pulled me from the brink of my madness, from the brink of life, and made me wish to keep living. Each of them has given me a purpose in this life, and for them, I hope to do the same. But it leaves you wondering, what is this “togetherness”?

First and foremostly we do everything together, as a whole. No matter where you are, or who you are with, or how far apart we are; you must always find a way of filtering the information between us all so that we are all “in the know”. This is how the women in our family function, and the more we know, the more shit we talk. Plain and simple. We love to talk shit, about everything and everyone. Put us all in a room together and it would be difficult to get a word in. Hell! We even talk shit about each other. We are systematic, ruthless, and operate as a pack of lions; each one of us taking care of the others in the pack. There are no strangers allowed, and if we don’t like you, we will take you down. At the end of the day, we are family and we love each other. It is because we have this emotion for each other without judgments or malice that we are able to function as such a unique whole operating unit. Each of us brings something to the table, and we all share each other’s burdens.

From early on there have been signs of the mania that would eventually throw my life off course. The speed in which I would race through life since early on, as well the fast thought processes and rapid speech were all indicators of demons lying dormant, waiting for their chance to rise above the surface and show their prickly horns. Since young my inhibitions have always been low, and I have always loved to move faster and faster, stuck on Alice’s teacup whirling until my surroundings were blurred, and life beside me became unrecognizable. As a young child, you would pass these signs off as naturally being high-strung, and simply full of energy. However, in the later stages of my teenage years, these same systemic symptoms would shred the pieces of my life apart, and not for many years would I be able to rebuild it.

It takes a woman in possession of great wisdom, patience, and back steel to deal with my Demons on a daily basis. At the end of the day, all roads lead back to Mom, as she is the one with the answers and provides all the love and nurturing our souls could ever need. She gives and gives unselfishly until the love bleeds from her heart and leaves her body wracked with exhaustion. During the high stages of my mania, she provides the anchor to pull me back down, and during the bare bottom of my depression, she provides the reinforcements to pull me from my cave. She is the mother, and her love exceeds everything that is horrible and brings everything that is beautiful. It is because of Mom that Togetherness was born; to her, we are forever grateful.

Many traditions have been curated over the years. Such as sitting and eating dinner as a family each night, full table setting and all (Rule: plastic for us, glass for Dad). Family vacations were taken on a yearly basis, and memories were created to last us a lifetime. Still, to this day we treasure these moments that were given to us at these stages in our lives. Because of the values of love and family that were instilled in us at these young ages, we have continued to develop lasting relations among each other, and continue to rely on each other heavily. These relations will later become the base of the support system built to help rehabilitate my life in later years.  Essentially, in the battle against the Bipolar Mind, the Support System is pivotal.

Shockingly enough I was pretty shy throughout the beginning stages of my life. I would normally stick to the handful of friends and family that I knew, and would not venture out much further than that. However, as I began to grow and was moved from the strict rules of Christian School to the free for all experiences in Public School, it was as though the shackles had been let free and I was given the space I needed to grow.

On my first day of third grade, in a new school, surrounded by an all-new environment there would be a line of words strung together that would change my life forever, “Hi! I’m new here too, want to be best friends?” and we would be, for the next eighteen years…

Illustrations by: Alexis Bringas

Defined by Bipolar

An introduction to the Bipolar Mind, and who she is…

by a Not-so-Anonymous Means

I feel like I have written and rewritten these words a thousand times. I have imagined these words in countless multitudes, and each time a different version is born. New words, new paths, and new imaginings. A multitude of possibilities, each one possessing a thousand new beginnings, a thousand fresh starts; always and always new words. Each new possibility brings with it the promise of a new beginning, the ideology that anything can shift your life onto another course, to launch you from one chapter to the next. And yet, each version lays unfinished on the tethers of my mind to be forgotten on the winds of tomorrow. Each thought flits away at the end of each night and the morning brings fresh new beginnings; fresh new thoughts, fresh new starts. Always looking forward and always in perpetual motion. There is never a pause in this life; there is never a redo, a take-back or a repeat. There is only forward, an unknown future that holds a thousand possibilities as the sun rises over the horizon. What does she bring in her wake? What will the days hold as life continues to revolve around what we do not know? The thought of new fresh beginnings should be exhilarating and thrilling, for the promises that can be felt on the future winds of tomorrow. But what happens when forward only strikes fear in you. When forward is not where you wish to go? What if the future, grey and unknown as she is, only builds anxiety for fear of the unknown?

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Each thought brings me to a new path, a new point in the endless line of moments, each springing life into the next sequential movement. The cannabis that I breathe in slowly and exhale with pure joy, fills me with the creativity and productivity that I need to write this down. To give to you, faceless as you are, this anonymous message built from all the corners of my mind. Like the pieces of a puzzle slowly falling together into understanding. Over the years a blackness has shrouded the pathways of my memories, and the more Indica I take in, the more the blankets are lifted, and the light is shown on the truth. In these moments I can see my life from a different perspective. I can allow reality to shine a light on the false images that my Bipolar Mind has created. For she will always twist reality to her means and make the eyes always doubt what they see, and leave the ears always straining for the truth.

What is reality?

What is the truth?

Who am I ultimately?


Crazy? Or Sane?

Crazy? Or, Sane?

Crazy? Or? Sane?

In my mind there coexists two warring powers struggling for control of the physical. There is me, and there is the Bipolar Mind. The other half of me, the one that I try to keep locked in the deep dark corners of my consciousness. She is the ugly sister that I keep in my closet, the one that I try with all my might to keep hidden from the public, for fear of being shamed. She is the Beast I cannot control, the Demon who haunts me at night, and the Banshee who screams and feeds on the fears of others. She has no care for those around her, and uses her words like the cut of a blade. She makes those closest to her bleed the tears of love, until they are pushed to the limits of their hearts. She makes them doubt their patience, and whether they can endure the malice that she produces. She is the beast I cannot control, and if you have met her, I am sorry for her words and actions. To her loved ones, I hope you continue to endure, for she wears her shackles with strain.

Crazy or Sane?

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At the end of each night, and rise of each morning there is always something missing. Some thought that goes unanswered, or some trail unfollowed. Each path is lost due to the shackles on my mind, and the dosages of the medical poison they prescribe. Each of these toxins I put in my body creates a haze over the events of my life, both past, and present. My mind falters at lost images of my past and doubts these events as though they are not my own happenings. These lost moments haunt me each night and always have me thinking, trying to recollect each moment, trying to see them through. As always though, they are lost to the night and the demons that will eventually pull me under.


Sometimes I don’t even know where to begin with the rollercoaster that is my life. Can you imagine living your life at about 160 mph each moment of each day? And that’s cruising speed, my life with caffeine or on drugs is much, much faster, factor in my manic episodes, and time seems to fly by you. It’s exhausting, exhilarating, exciting, and frightening. It’s liberating to the point that you want to throw your hands up and yell into the air; and yet it can be so frightening that enduring with your eyes closed might just be preferable. Sometimes you run straight back to your hidey-hole, and sometimes you ride the rollercoaster with such a ferocity that you feel your heart rip from your chest, somersault into oblivion and land you back on the floor with your two feet firmly planted. Who’s ready to ride again? Because I am!

When life comes at you that fast you thrive on your impulses, and sometimes you don’t get the chance to sit back and think about your decisions. Sometimes you live in the moment and the past doesn’t have time to catch up with you. You race forward, from one moment to the next, not taking a moment to stop, breath, and think. Just think for one moment of the future and its consequences, think of what can happen to you and those around you and think of the consequences of each action and how this might affect you and others. When the Bipolar Mind is in control there are no moments for these thoughts, there’s just a race to the imaginary finish line located at infinite. When she’s in control, she makes the decisions, she makes her moves at lightning speed, and she does what’s best for her at that moment. She is selfish and cruel, and her conniving malice is never-ending. She looks out for her. That is all.

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Who picks up those pieces though? Who deals with the consequences that lie in her wake, and the destruction that she has caused. Those who get hurt, either get lost or get over it.  There are no other options. The Beast is in control, and she takes no prisoners. Those with blood ties to the Monster within make their appearances scarce until the demons are under control. Family is forever, no matter what demons you carry. When the damage has been caused, and the Bipolar Mind has retreated to her corner, to lick her wounds, who is it that nurses the wounded, and rebuilds the ties? Family endures beyond the lines of conscious and subconscious. All beasts are linked to another in some way, and this tie is what keeps us humane.

You can say that each individual on this planet is in possession of his or her own kind of crazy, but none can compare to the crazy, which thrives in the dark recesses of my mind. I am no one, and yet I am everywhere, the only difference between you and me? I have no control over the emotions that wrack my body at each moment of the day. My emotions are magnified to the utmost possibility, without literally destroying my soul. Although, I will say that, on occasion, said soul has been lost to the darkness far longer than I would have preferred. And yet, when you flip my coin, I am on top of the world and my power is untouchable and limitless. I am unstoppable and the world is my oyster. But what can you do? The Bipolar Mind does what it wants when it wants.

But who is she? Where does she come from? And why was I cursed to carry her burden on my conscience? She is me, but I am not her. Of that I am certain. I carry her memories and share her mind. She thrives on my emotions, and I thrive on her energy. However, I know for certain I am not the malicious beast that the Bipolar Mind paints me to be. My life is full of bright, glimmering pieces of light. They shine with such exuberance, that you feel blinded by their beauty. I am surrounded by the utmost outstanding people who make nothing but positive influences on those around them. They are the picture of a kind, caring, loving family, who only do good unto those around them. Together we are a family. So who is this demon that lives within the recesses of my mind? Why does she haunt me during the quiet hours of the day? Whispering a tortuous tune into my ear, over my shoulder, always nearby to drag me into her underworld.

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This is her message to you. The remembering’s of our collective memory, in both her perspective and mine. This is our story. It can be loud, scary, and insane, but it is ours, and it is begging to be told.

 

Illustrated by: Alexis Bringas