On Hiding Behind Okay

For the past month, I have been hiding behind okay.

What turned out to be a rare and serious case of strep throat the first week of April pushed me into a manic, panic attack ridden state with memory problems where I was messing up at work, forgetting basic details, and also my throat felt like knives and I had a raging fever but was too stubborn to heed my body – so I worked four full 9-5 days until the clinic finally called me, told me they got back the lab results, and that no it wasn’t allergies, yes you are seriously ill.

Then I went on antibiotics.  And I didn’t know it at the time, as the research just came out in 2015, but antibiotics can push bipolar patients into manic states.  So, already delirious off fevers and infections, I swallowed two pills daily that led to me becoming suicidal, violently unstable, a crying wreck with no self-esteem that thought she was a horrible person, and multiple panic attacks where I was inches away from walking into traffic or jumping in front of the Metro.

If you had asked me how I was doing, I would have said?

Okay.

I still went out with friends.  I went on dates with the guy I like.  Sometimes I had to cancel, and sometimes I went home in a crying wreck, curling up in my bed for a ball for hours.

But I didn’t miss a day of work.

I didn’t miss friend’s parties.

I didn’t miss my kindred dinners or blots.

I went to classes from 7:20-11:00 on Mondays without complaint.

I push, and I push, and I push, and I never admit that I’m not okay.

My best friend told me that apparently all my friends think I’m a badass, which never really dawned on me, but they’ve seen me wrestle with this monster that is bipolar type 1 with psychosis, paranoia, anxiety, panic disorder, and OCD.  One alone could put someone on disability.  I’m such a special snowflake I have six diagnoses.  And I work a my dream job doing hard work on Capitol Hill for forty hours each week and still have time to be a cornerstone for friends.

When I was at my sickest, and I couldn’t take care of myself, I still was taking care of other people.  Two Sundays ago, six of my friends opened up to me with their worst fears and problems all in the span of 5 hours.  It was therapeutic for me to help them, because I was so mentally weak and unstable, I thought maybe if I could stretch to listen to and nurture them, I could fix myself.

I still haven’t fixed myself.

After an entire month, I’m finally stable again, and my mania and panic attacks have worn off.  As in I-can’t-breathe-I’m-going-to-violently-kill-myself-and-blame-my-parents-for-not-aborting-the-worthless-cunt-I-am panic attacks.

I like to fantasize about my death a lot.

Oven head like Sylvia Plath.

Self mutilation like Van Gogh.

Pills, poison, jumping from a building.

It’s nice to know that at any moment, you can end your hell of a life.

And trust me, my life was absolute shit.

Sometimes I think suicide is stupid.  Sometimes I think it’s worth it.

Samael calls it selfish and shameful.

Michael just holds me and sings lullabies and runs his fingers through my hair.

Freyr became a tree with me, and I felt so at peace as a tree, feeding off starlight and rain.

Sometimes I wish I was normal, just for one, a single, glorious day, not a slave to my emotions or the turmoil and intrusive thoughts and delusions.

These gods and angels and demons, they could all just be in my head.

This universe could just be some sick trick a comatose brain is playing.

When you’re one of the crazies, you realize reality is fickle, and that you are never in control, not really.

So yes, I am okay.

But then again –

I am never okay.

When I was crying to my mom on the phone about to jump in front of the six o ‘clock train, she said I was too high-functioning to ever go on disability.  And it’s so fucking true. I’m too talented.  Insanely smart.  Too strong.  Not that being on disability means you’re weak, but honestly, with my diagnosis, most people are flat out homeless and very few have high profile jobs saving the world.

Most are probably just dead.

So I guess I’ll keep living, keep being useful, and try to take care of myself.

Because if I don’t, I’ll break again.

I’ll want to die again, return to the void.

Samael turned into the Void in one of my dreams, and he wrapped himself around me and I just dissolved.  Into nothingness.  That’s how I hope Death is.  Just erasing.  Nonexistence.

Because hell no am I doing this again.

I quit life next go around.

I will be nirvana.

Nothing.

 

Mania, O Mania

At first it was a brain on fire
cruel nights, razors, psychosis
gods talked and demons caressed
you are Eve, Mother Mary, Whore,
anything your brain tells you
you threw all your belongings out
the window, glass cut you, you tried
to hurl yourself out, only stopped
when a wailing mother dragged you
to a straitjacket, and stale hospital
beds, the ward couldn’t hold you,
the drugs drowned you, but your
madness still frothed to a foam
the voices and sobbing Devil were
sweet, horrible, murderous, splendid
the nurses were angels, your parents
were predators, you couldn’t remember
your name – Iris, Puck, Persephone –
you cycled through myth encyclopedias
a new delusion to wear each day,
Depakote and Seroquel and Clonazepam
they all sounded like veneral diseases,
but you swallowed the medicine anyway,
nurses checked under your tongue, a
gulp of water to make them go down,
you scribbled mania in rainbow pencils
lit the ward up with rabid laughter,
it took four years to find yourself
again, and truly, you never even left
the hospital, because inside, you still
carry the skinhead Buddhist monk on crack
the beautiful olive diplomat’s daughter
the girl who picked her wrist wounds
the words of the pagans and poets, you
are a walking mausoleum, and bipolar bodes
unwell, chronic, there is never an escape.

On Imposter Syndrome, Brokeness, and Beauty

I am, to date, my most successful at querying since I started at 22, so from 2015-2017 at a ripe old 24 years of age I’ve learned a few tricks.  I have three fulls out right now with stellar agents and three partials with top notch, six-figure-and-above dealmakers that would be dreams to work with.  If any were to offer, it would make my life, though the chances of course are slim.

It’s only been nine days since I queried my top batch of agents and I got three requests so far, with dozens more who have yet to respond.  I have never, in two whole years, ever been this successful.  Still, I wonder – am I imagining this?  Am I an imposter?  Does my writing, well, suck?

I know I’m young.  I’m barely out of college, still in grad school, and still developing my voice, or voices, seeing as I seem to have Multiple Persona Disorder when it comes to writing..  Agents have given me great feedback, but many times, they tell me they love the premise, or that I have a great concept, but that something just didn’t work.  The execution was rough.  I need more characterization.  The writing was lush and evocative, but I’m not quite there yet.  Needs more background, less background, more exposition, more action, less detail, more detail – rarely do two agents think alike!

My Firebird retelling has truly been a labor of love, and I look back at my ten paragraph queries from two years ago and the teensy awful 50,000 word manuscript it used to be and think, how could I have been so damn naive and unsavvy!  And oh god, how could I have sent this off to those patient as saints agents???

I’m not a natural at this, I’m basically a stick in the mud, who only learns when she gets hits on the head a lot.  Agents made my manuscript what it is today, and they made it that way through suggestion and rejection.  It’s the best it’s been, and while it’s not the best thing I’ve ever written (those projects are still unfinished 😉 ) it’s pretty damn solid by my own meager standards.  Which are probably not enough to get published at this rate, but at least I’m creative.

And still, I always think I suck.  That I got these requests on accident.  That agents loathe my writing and think what I create is trash.  That out of the seven requests I have out right now, they will all end in scathing rejections, even though that has never in my life happened.  Agents have only ever, at worst, given form rejects.

I’m just so used to being broken mentally, I think my writing is broken too.  That there is some piece of storytelling craft that I am missing because hey, I have OCD, manic depression, psychosis, and a host of other disorders, and under a CT scan my brain would have a shrunken prefrontal cortex and scars from manic and depressive episodes.

It ties into my extremely bad anxiety and panic disorder, bolstered by mixed episodes that combine the loveliness of suicidality with depression and crippling panic attacks/obsessive thinking and intrusive thoughts to self harm and mutilate, or just jump in front of that car, and the truth is, querying and putting myself out there is not mentally healthy for me.  It makes me unstable.  I’m managing a brand new job, a new townhouse with great roommates, a disorder where I can’t even look at alcohol, have to be in bed by 10 pm, not even drink frigging grapefruit juice, which I love, and one that ends with 1 in 4 people committing suicide.  Chances are high I won’t live past 25, and that was the date I set in my mind at the ripe old age of 15 when I realized life as a mentally ill person with snowflake diagnoses was, well, hell.

But I’m over exaggerating, and rambling, and because I’m broken, sometimes I can’t see beauty.

I’m as stable as I’ve ever been, making a great salary in a great city with a great boyfriend, working for an organization that is amazing and saves so many of my favorite animals and aids communities around the world, doing amazing work that helps people, when I may not ever be able to help myself, at least I stopped rhino poachers or saved endangered lemurs and birds or gave people with no livelihoods hope.

I am whole in so many ways, and because of that, I think it’s okay to take a break from this whole publishing quest.  I have half a mind to rescind all my full and partials and just become a hermit like the Tarot card, but I know that’s just a kneejerk reaction that is from my impulsive self-destructive craving for death and mayhem.  I have a huge Thanatos drive.  I have wanted to die so many times that perhaps a part of me has died already.  I die a bit every time I finish a story, it’s like another piece of my heart has been taken from me and eaten.  I serve my heart up on a plate for onlookers who judge its merits, when really, they’re judging my soul.  And it sometimes hurts.

I know you’re not supposed to take literary rejection personally, and I usually don’t, but sometimes, in my moments of weakness, I circle back to the thought that I’m a shit writer.  That all my successes, however small, so far have been flukes.  That my poetry is trash.  That I am trash.  I have such a low opinion of myself that sometimes I think I’d be bettering the world if I dove headfirst into the subway.  I have to stand far away from the oncoming trains, because almost every time, I have the urge to jump, even when everything is going right in my life.

Maybe it was the stress of my dad being hospitalized this weekend that made me reevaluate my creative aspirations, the thought that the person I hold dearest besides my mom could be ripped away from me by something as cruel as death, that spurred me to feel unstable.  Usually I’m the first to put myself out there, first to volunteer, to lead a class discussion or group project, I reach for the stars, and figure hey, if I fail, at least I can say I tried.

But it always circles back to the imposter syndrome.  I was trying to enjoy Girls last night, one of my favorite shows, when Hannah Horvath was interviewing a female writer, and part of it just made me cry.  All my efforts felt futile – Hannah is a struggling writer, always reaching so high but failing, not realizing what she already has, and maybe a part of me felt like I was, in a sense, this TV character I loathed.  Maybe I always see the glass half-empty.  And my mood swings be damned, I’m elated one second and terrified or a soul sucking black hole the next, even though I’m on five different medications, see a therapist once a week, abstain from even Mike’s Hards, have never so much as smoked or toked once, live a straitlaced boring existence where I do everything right, break and break and break again as I try to appear stable and sane, when inside I am mad.

Inside, I will always be damaged, but in ruin is beauty, and the cracks in my mind let the light slip through.  So persevere on I do, and no, I will never give up.

Only a sane person would.

On Killer Query Letters

So that’s my third manuscript request in four days.  Clearly, all it took was a query letter revamp, a hook, and instead of going months between full requests, I have a 50% success rate with full or partial requests for my novel.

What changed?

I added a hook:

A Cold War fairytale.  A family of Russian monsters.  A bastard prince.  A witch Kaschei the Deathless covets like a golden firebird.

My story is multilayered: a story set during Ivan Kupalo, a retelling of the myth behind the Ivan da Marya flower where a sister of night falls in love with a son of fire, a reimagining of  Stravinsky’s Firebird ballet in which the firebird – this time a witch – saves herself and her beloved prince – and her entire kingdom – from Kashchei the Deathless.

My comp titles are UPROOTED meets DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE.  My query letter used to be ten paragraphs of rambling trash.

You’ve seen me struggle with this, when I started posting the very first chapters of my novel at 21 on this blog in 2014 to the great novel overhaul of 2016 where I added 30,000 words to my manuscript and major edits and plot points to the framework of the story.

None of that mattered if I couldn’t sell it.  If I didn’t have a hook.

Now the novel is with seven agents, and only a year ago I couldn’t get a single one to look at it.  I’m beyond proud of myself, but I’ve racked up my fair amount (a lot) of rejections from being young, naive, and a shittier writer than I am now.

A writer that didn’t know how to make something sound marketable.  Someone that didn’t know the very genre she was writing in, just writing something from her heart that she loved, because she believed in the story of her favorite characters, and because it was, beyond all else, fun.

I think good things are coming.  I really do.  I’ve spent enough time with shitty periods in my life – suicide, depression, panic attacks, constant drowning anxiety that doesn’t let you breathe, PTSD, night terrors, the rollercoaster of mania and crash that comes afterward, getting laid off, not once, but twice within two years due to company downsizing, losing 50 pounds, dealing with toxic people that were driving me mad.

I am a walking pill that never stopped writing.  I slept on that fairy hill and went mad.  I ate the fruit of the underworld and now my soul is unearthly.  I have been through the harrows of hell that is mental illness, been hospitalized with no hopes of recovering, clawed my way up through thorazine drips and antidepressants and antipsychotics and intrusive thoughts of cutting off my toes, biting off my tongue, driving into that tree, and despite all expectations – nay, promise to myself – that I would die when I was 25 – I’m 24 and now I actually want to live.  Now I actually believe in myself.

I think I can be a real writer.  I’ve given up over a decade of my life to this craft, spent days mourning rejections on full manuscripts, written the same damn story over and over again until I got it right.

I put the madness of a crazy, violent brain under wraps and only let the demons inside me come out in dreams, in sick visions and violent delights as my mind rapes itself.

I did all the shadow work, ran for 5 years from him, learned to grow a spine and not be a doormat, and never did I stop writing.

I didn’t stop when I tried to drown myself.

I didn’t stop when I was in the mental ward, grip on reality nonexistent, devils and angels seeking me out and driving me insane.

When I was manic, I wrote.  When I was depressed, I poured all that pain into my writing.  When I was barely alive, catatonic and bloated with drugs I wouldn’t give a horse, I put pen to page and raged.

My writing is an act of resistance.

An act or rebellion.

The pulse of my blood.

My declaration that I am alive, not a slave to my diseases, but master of them.

There’s a reason my query letter is killing:

Because I have already died a million times.

The Demon Drink, Mental Illness, and the Unfairness of It All

When I was a teenager, I dreamed as usual that I was in Samael’s palace, and again, as usual, he was piss drunk. We were dicking around in a stained glass hallway outside the library and he was swilling this clear, strongly alcoholic-smelling drink in a shot glass.

Me: “What are you drinking?”

Sam: “Aqua vitae.”

Me: “… so like holy water?”

For years I just thought he was getting drunk off holy water or something else stupidly Satanic in my alcohol illiteracy, seeing as I’m a teetotaler and can’t tell you the difference between Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Blanc (did I spell that right), but oh no, was I wrong. The bastard was drinking vodka.  No wonder it smelled like the Grey Goose I drank straight from the bottle on Blowout freshman year (last day of classes where we all get piss drunk.)

Sam usually drinks vodka or fucking radioactive absinthe like a loser, or god forbid, a whole bottle of red wine, which he supposedly emerged from with Bitch Tits Lilith at the beginning of time.  Considering he planted the original grape vine in Eden, dude has a different drink in hand for every hour of the day.  He’s even drunk margaritas with umbrellas in them.  Loser.

I don’t drink or do drugs due to medical reasons and it makes me actively suicidal and manic (as in pressing knives to my wrist and wanting to jump in front of the subway) – been there, tried that – I’ve only ever had one drink a day – a glass of wine one day, maybe a Mike’s Hard the next – and just a single drink makes me a crazy lady. God forbid I ever tried weed – I’ve heard horror stories of people with bipolar disorder and anxiety having horrible episodes after smoking marijuana. I’m even allergic to pain meds like Percocet and Vicodin which make me psychotic.

Basically, drugs and I don’t mix AT ALL and though all the spirits I know drink and some, like Sam and Aym, do weed and other more hardcore drugs, I never drink unless I’m in dreams, and in them I turn into a flirtatious idiot that dances on bars in Hell, sings karoake badly, and runs around breaking things and laughing like a maniac. I handle alcohol about as well as Sam, which is to say, not at all.  I go crazy and hyper.  He gets maudlin and emo and violent.

I’ve never been drunk in real life (I’ve only ever had one drink with a heavy meal, with the drinking episodes usually spaced out between three or more months) but even being buzzed makes me dissociate. It really sucks because I love wine and mixed drinks, but I’d rather not end up bleeding out from my wrists, butcher knife in hand in a bathtub, or baking in a stove like Sylvia Plath, so I absolutely cannot have alcohol.

I’ve often thought this was unfair: why does my goddamn disorder mean people pressure me into drinking even when I say it gives me nightmares and makes me unstable?  People have mocked me for not drinking even though there is a 90% chance a single drink will make me suicidal – it makes it so my body can’t process my meds for days afterward – and there’s a big chance I’ll try to walk into traffic or drown myself.  It sucks, but whatever.  Alcoholism runs in my family so it’s probably for the best.

I tell all my friends and boyfriend to not let me have alcohol because I’m impulsive as fuck and will sometimes be like “Half a glass of wine won’t hurt me, teehee!” Newsflash, Allie: you’ll get hypomanic, won’t be able to drive that night, and will have vivid nightmares and hypnagogic hallucinations for a week!  You may even have a breakdown at work and try to cut your toes off.

Being bipolar is unfair.  Having OCD is unfair.  Having severe anxiety and panic disorder is unfair.  I have to do so much just to simply appear normal: take meds morning and night, have a healthy routine where I’m in bed by 9 and up by 7, exercise, go to therapy.  This routine and abstinence from drinking and drugs means I can work full-time on Capitol Hill, means I can get straight A’s in graduate school, means I can write novels and poetry that maybe don’t suck, means I can have healthy relationships and be a productive member of society.  Still, I get intrusive thoughts, am suicidal when triggered, have panic attacks, and go hypomanic if I’m elevated.

There is no cure, and I hate it.  I hate being me.

Hiding Under Wedding Vine

I didn’t search for Love:
he found me moon-mad and
famished, rain-hollowed
and worn, then filled my
bones with honey and wine.

I didn’t have his number,
know what his teeth cut
for dinner, or the timbrel
of his song Sunday morning.

I didn’t know his name
for the longest time –
just a shock of flames
that curled round his
temples like glory.

I’ve been broken so long –
damned – that I thought
my tempest heart barren
not worthy of patience or
even the slight smile of
a kindred heart –

I thought I was worth
ash, coal, burnt feathers
my mind is a disease,
mutilated child, cripple
I am weak, weak, weak.

I didn’t know I could be saved.

I didn’t know his sword
was the tongues of saints
or that his shield was
adamant angel regret.

All I knew were his roses
smelled sweet, that he was
shy, kind, a cutting of his
Father, and that somehow, my
hand fit in his.

He’s always been my guardian,
saved my soul from abyssal
chaos, it’s not my place,
it’s not my place, I cut my
veins open and blood drips
like his hair under starlight.

I’m not meant for devotions
for rosaries or penitence
I’m not meant for salvation.

So why Love, why?
Do you call me?

Can’t you see I’m already dead?

Hayah Havah

Sometimes I look back on my manic writing and wonder what the hell my brain was smoking. 😛

Appear, appear, whatso thy shape or name
O Mountain Bull, Snake of the Hundred Heads,
Lion of the Burning Flame!
O God, Beast, Mystery, come!

-Eurpides, The Bacchanals

Hayah is the name that God
stated would be known for eternity.

The Son of Mourning cries “I AM.”

Hayah Havah

Into nothing.

They say Sin was born from his heart, and sprang full-formed like Athena, then fell with her father to Hell. They joined in filth and bore Death.

They became Death. It’s a slip of the tongue.

Some speak in tongues and psalms. I choose riddles and lies. The hardest answers are never hidden, but you will die looking in my arms.

The Nachash was the slyest of beasts in the field, graced with Sapha, language. He whispered to the furrows of the earth, like the ghost of dead Pan’s piping.

Sapha, his hiss. The Word of God.

He called his creation Hayah. Nachash was fond of names. He called her many things.

Hayah meant Life. To fall out, like the Shekinah, exiled from above. Hayah, to become. A soul in chrysalis. Set in perpetual motion in a dance that has no end, kinetic heat to thermal, transcending matter and time. The first soul in the belly of the ouroborous.

He will swallow her again at the End Times. And Nachash will cry, for he yearns for the brilliance within her, but the serpent cannot see into his own flesh. He asks her how it tastes and she weeps. We are all in the belly of the beast. He cannot see that and thinks he’s alone.

She was Chayah then. The Mother of All Living, a promise. For a short time, they walked together. The animals did not fear her, bears fed her honey from the trees. She was just a child in those days. A flower yet unripened that Nachash carried on his backs.

He sought good earth to plant in, as only a man on his belly can. In him are bones like Cadmus’ teeth, where he sows them, there grows nations.

Some say Eve was made by the snake. He crafted her from the jewels inside his skull. Knowing no one else, Nachash was her dearest companion. It was perfect, for a time, and he taught her the whispers of the stars he had learned on his thousand sojourns. But he grew hungry for a heart, and the Nachash desired to eat her.

Dragons, however noble, think us prey at the end of the day, and Havah, however beautiful, would taste exquisite with ketchup.

He did not like the thought, so Nachash waged war against himself and ate his flesh til he was nothing but bone. Still, the beast gnawed within him, so he chose death over her destruction. People often die for their dreams. He’d thought them all fools until he imagined his could fail.

She did not ken endings yet and tried to breathe life in him.

In death he exiled her, and she wandered through the wastelands. She found Adamah by the sea and they cast their lots together. Wayward children abandoned by their makers, kicked out of the angels’ nests.

When they joined, the animals turned from her and nettles stung.

Overnight nature unleashed its arsenal. Perhaps the Nachash was jealous. It is a question no one asks.

When the Bacchants crown themselves with serpents, they cry out the names “Eva!” and Saboe!”, invoking the god of madness who gave his heart and blood for wine. Sabazios and Eve, who devoured Zagreus’ heart and dared dream of taking fate’s thread in her own hands.

Some say that Eve was the snake, or, that she became one. Perhaps she was Medusa, cursed by love to become a monster and bear the stain of zuhama.

It flows like blood each moon from her children, and the sly serpent gets his offerings via humanity’s exquisite biology. Neither bitches in heat nor man enough to walk in the Light of God, we haunt the between-spaces like him, exiles in our worlds. Cursed for fairness they claim is vain, and a weakness they measure by bloodletting alone.

But we are the givers, always have been. Eve gave as Adamah could not. She gave until she thought she would break.

But even serpents cannot untie Gordian knots. She tried to unravel hers, but it is a history knotted into oblivion. She tries to remember, but the memories slip from her hands like sand.

So Hayah sits in the dirt, drawing labyrinths, and imagines herself the monster in the middle, minotaurs be damned. Ariadne can dance clockwork around the hero and strangle him with her threads. Adamah leaves her on the shore and the serpent comes.

“I love you,” she said.

“I will eat you.”

So he ate her mortality.

When Hayah’s first blood came that night, the Nachash renamed her Chavah. He found it was easier to take back things once forgotten than break promises he had never said.

Chavah, a word that means “Snake,” for he was the serpent, and she was his child.

Moses asked the purifying fires of the rose bush Adonai’s name. The Angel of the Lord cried Hayah Havah. He weeps it at night when he is alone:

Hayah Havah Elohim. Eloa Regina Angelum. Your flesh is my bread and wine.

Sister, my sister, stop crying, for the world is bitter, but our love is sweet.

My tears are the waters of life, and our children will rise from the ash. Sister, my sister, come with me. Our children are so small and fragile. Dared I dream that we could raise vines.

In the moonlight you thought me a stranger. You came to me with open palms. One damned me for my betrayal, the other kissed sweetness into my heart.

I wear your curse as my glory. This stigmata flow black like our words.

Wisdom, my sister, fall with me.

For too long I have been entombed.

*YHVH- personal Name of God, derived from root Havah (there is, to be)

God made mankind but for loneliness.
Yah the Serpent encircles the Tree.

Yah Weh. He is the Snake.
The serpent that crowns Shoshanna.

Names.
Such funny things.
He called me his rose and his lily
Adders should know nothing of love.

There was no God to wage war against.
Just a sacrifice to Himself

The Id revolts against the Ego.
Angels the intermediary
are caught in the dance
between.

Bite me,
I’ll tell you his secret.

God?

He’s not dead

Just mad.