Where the hell have I been??!

Hello there friends!

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You might be wondering why I haven’t been updating my blog, and why in the past year I have been in and out of here on a very in consistent basis.

 

Well simply put: LIFE. Life happened.

 

For a more complicated explanation then please keep reading.

 

Back in September we moved from Germany to Portugal. It was chaotic as hell before the move, and even more so after wards.

 

I am very grateful that we were able to stay with my parents while we searched for our own place. We found the most amazing place for us and then had to move ALL OF OUR JUNK from my parents’ garage to our new place. While this occurred my fiancé (Oh yea, I got engaged!!) was working on the road.

 

Also grateful for my family’s help, without whom none of this shit would have been possible, and I would have definitely lost my mind and set something on fire.

 

Then we had the holidays which were wonderful. A few battles with the cold and flu. Then January came around and my fiancé (then my boyfriend) asked me to marry him right before he headed out on the road for 10 weeks. Typically, he’s not out for that long BUT, that’s what happened at the beginning of the year.

 

That’s where my mental health went to shit. Before you come in here spewing bullshit. NO it had nothing to do with him leaving for work. I had felt my mental health decline over the span of the move because it felt like we hadn’t had a moment to stop and breathe for MONTHS. It was all a blur of packing, cleaning, unpacking, packing, moving, cleaning some more, building furniture, unpacking. Let me tell you, we STILL have some boxes upstairs because FUCK it’s been exhausting.

 

I hit a very low point, that I would rather not detail here for both my mental stability and your own. Just know it was the lowest I have hit.

 

I got some help. I have been feeling better, but also extremely frustrated.

 

Why?

 

Because I no longer knew what the fuck I was doing with my life(professionally).

With my mental health hitting a brick wall, I stopped working. I had some sprinkles of work, but it dried out. I had zero motivation to bother finding more. I am fortunate enough that I have a partner that had kept us financially stable, but IT ANGERS ME. It angers me that I dropped the ball so bad because of how my brain was communicating with me. I have no other excuse other than I felt like shit and didn’t know where to turn.

 

Now things are looking a bit better, but I am still running into some shit where people want to pay me PEANUTS for a ton of work because they think “anyone can do what you do” SURE OKAY, GOOD LUCK WITH THAT!

 

I am trying to be more positive about this work situation because I did get offered a really cool opportunity which I hope opens the gates to MORE opportunities. I am working on some other projects as well that I am excited about, but it will take some time before I am willing to post about any of it publicly.

 

What else has happened? We got a puppy!! Her name is Luna and she’s a German Shepherd! A beautiful girl who has been a lot of work and early mornings, but it’s been so good for me. Walks in the woods with her make me feel so much better when I start to get that anxious feeling growing in my chest.

Sadly our cat Arya is not a fan at the moment, so I have to divide up my cuddle time, but we are working on changing that.

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What’s happening with this blog?

 

I really am aiming for a more consistent update schedule! I have some backlog of reviews that I am about to post. In general, I hope you stick with me.

 

I hit a really rough patch there, but I am coming out of it stronger.

 

See you in the next post!!

 

I’m Good. I’m Okay. I’m Fine.

 

TRIGGER WARNING: Depression, Anxiety, Suicide Ideation. 

“How are you?” should be the easiest question to answer. It’s the entry into the world of small talk. I hate small talk. It doesn’t feed my soul.

“I’m Good.”

“I’m Okay.”

“I’m Fine.”

My go to responses–sometimes I mean it, sometimes I don’t, but the alternative responses don’t seem fitting in every day encounters.

I can’t just sit there and say: Well Insomnia kept me up for almost 72 hours straight last week, which caused me to have multiple panic attacks in a row, I felt like death was knocking on my door, and depression made me take multiple naps then for days. Small noises make me clench my jaw shut so hard I give myself headaches. How are you?

I think that would take most people by surprise, and I don’t expect many people to understand what it’s like to live with a constant sense of fear and loathing within the very core of your soul. Or to feel like a beehive is in your head 24/7. Because feeling nervous isn’t anxiety. Feeling sad isn’t depression. Falling asleep at 1:00am isn’t insomnia.  Having to explain myself is exhausting.

I am about to drop full truth bombs in here, the likes of which may make some people feel a sense of concern for me, but I would like to put forth the knowledge that I am okay. I struggle yes, but not like before. Everyday is a new day and as such I fight forward and hope for the best.

This year has been a little overwhelming in many ways. I can now see this beacon of hope that’s just a little over a month away, but I have had some tough days. Crying because I am so frustrated with myself because I can’t fall asleep, or then if I do fall asleep I will wake up at 4am but will have zero motivation to get out of bed till 11am. I don’t even close my eyes half the time. I am just there thinking of a bunch of worst case scenarios about absolutely everything and everyone.

I’ve had this though since I was very young. I would pace around if one of my parents seemed to be running late coming home. I recently read Matt Haig’s Reasons to Stay Alive and it made me realize just how far back my anxiety started.

So how do you deal with something that has possibly been ingrained into you since you were really young? And where did it start?

I am on meds, but I feel at the moment that they are not as effective as they once were. My doctor though has been an grade A asshole, and hasn’t really helped me. At the moment, I am waiting for our move to Portugal to speak to a doctor and get better medication for myself and find someone, a professional someone to talk to.

In the past possibly since I was about 16 I’ve had suicidal thoughts. They came in and out of my mind like a tv with bad reception. I haven’t felt that way in a long time, but I can still remember the despair I felt, and how I couldn’t tell anyone. I cut myself and blamed my cats. I would DIG MY NAILS into my face and scratch myself. I don’t do those things anymore, but those memories are a part of me.

My anxiety lately has made me feel isolated. I walked to the grocery store yesterday and it felt like a journey to Mordor.

I know my mental health fluctuates a lot at the moment. Sometimes I am at 90% okay and some days it drops to 10%, but each time someone asks how I am doing. I respond with the same three replies and I just alternate between them all.

“I’m Good.”

“I’m Okay.”

“I’m Fine.”

There’s so much more I could write. SO much more I could say, but for now just know one thing. When you’re feeling these things, the best thing for you to do is to speak to someone. Anyone. If a close friend isn’t it, then a hotline. I have done it before.

If you need to vent, write it out because no one can stop you from expressing your deepest and darkest parts of you.

I struggle all the time.

I want to be a published writer and sometimes I am well aware how I am holding myself back, but things will change. I wake up some days with no hope at all, but so many people around me fill me with joy, and that joy has helped me cope.

When I cope…I begin to hope.

You will find that feeling too.

Ask Me No Questions, I Will Tell You No Lies.

 

Pace. Sit. Pace. Sit.

She does this for hours and then heads straight to bed.

She can’t get her mind to stay silent, and she can’t stop her heart from racing.

Her eyes close for about an hour, but she’s not sleeping.

She opens them back up and looks around the dark room. The shadows whispering everything she tries to ignore the entire day.

They tell her so many things. They make her mind spin, and when she gets up to start pacing around the house the room begins to spin along with her mind.

Dazed and feeling frustrated from not sleeping, she makes herself a cup of coffee.

Sits on the couch with the mug in her hand, steam rising along with her heart rate.

She stares off out the window watching the sun come up, and everyone goes about their day.

She just sits there. The coffee goes cold.

Her phone lights up because it’s always on silent. Some sounds make her clench her jaw.

“Hey! How are you?” the screen asks.

“I’m good!” she replies.

“I’m good!” she lies.

©2018 Joana F. Simoes

Depression is a Neighbor

This is a short story I wrote for a contest. I did not get chosen this year but I was last year so it’s okay. I did want to share this story with all of you. It means A LOT to me. So here it is:

Depression is a Neighbor

©2018 Joana F. Simoes

I don’t mean to take over people’s lives. It’s my job. I don’t have an excellent reputation, but I am also hugely ignored by many. Hence why I am still around. It’s a conundrum.

The people I affect give me a horrible name, but the ones who don’t believe just go on
pretending I am nothing but a figure of everyone’s imagination. “It’s all in your head,” they say to those who I visit.

That’s the truth. I do enter straight into their thoughts and slowly take over, but my job is very misunderstood.

Today is an especially interesting day; it’s some of my busiest days. The dark clouds are
blanketing the city like everyone in town let their toast burn this morning.
I have so many appointments today that I had to skip having breakfast, like most mornings.

I skip a lot of things throughout the day. In fact, I am not entirely sure I am wearing a clean shirt at this very moment. I always walk to my appointments. I find cars, buses, and trains too nerve-wracking for me. Who knows what can happen to those things?
I look over my shoulder and put up the hood of my black jacket. It’s not raining yet, but I like to stay within the comforts of my clothing. The world is an ugly place, and I am not here to make it any prettier.
8:00 am
I knock on the door of the first appointment. I visit Maggy every day; she lives on the next street over.
“Maggy? Are you there?” a barely audible grumble comes from within the apartment.
“Maggy you have to let me in.” I look at the time. I have another appointment in 20
minutes. I can hear footsteps from behind the door. She turns the lock, yet the door doesn’t open.

“Hello?” I ask.
“You’re not coming in! Not today Satan!” Maggy is in a mood today. She’s usually my easiest appointment. Apparently, unbeknownst to me, the door was unlocked when I arrived, but she just locked it.
“My name isn’t Satan, Maggy.”
“Close enough.”
“Maggy, you’re atheist. You don’t believe in Satan.” I remind her.
“Stop telling me what I believe in! You don’t know me at all.”
“I’ve been coming here every day for the past three years. I know you very well.” Silence
follows. “I know that you stay in bed until noon. You try to get up earlier only to head back to bed in the afternoon. You cry in the shower and cry in the corner when no one else is around. You pace your apartment when you should be sleeping at 2 am, and sometimes you forget to do normal things like eating or drinking water.”
“That’s your fault!!” she yells back at me. I shake my head. The ugly part of the job.
“You’re not wrong, but that’s the deal.”
“I never made a deal with you. I never asked for this.”
“No one does. It just is the way it is. I used to visit your mother every day.”
“Don’t. Do NOT talk about my mother.” A touchy subject with Maggy, but one that usually
gets her to open the door. I try to turn the knob. Still locked. I have 15 minutes now.
“Maggy, you need to open this door.”
“How about you just go to hell. Or do I not believe in that either?” she asks.
“ Well if we are going to be perfectly honest, you do not.”
“You’re a pain. Did you know that?” I do in fact know this. I am not like a broken bone, but I inflict some of the worst kind of pain known to humanity. I make people feel worthless, really less than worthless. Insert “it’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it” cliché here.

I start tapping my foot on the wet stone steps to an imaginary beat. This has never
happened before. Maggy has never fought me. My quota has been going down the past
couple of months. I get yelled at constantly to pick that quota back up. Sometimes I wonder
if the world would be better off without me in it.
“Why are you still at my door? Haven’t gotten the hint yet that I am not letting you in Mister know it all?”
She will eventually break down, they all let me back in. Maybe not today but ultimately I see their names on my appointment list once again, but Maggy, she’s a regular and If I lose her, I may very well lose my job.
I keep tapping my foot and staring at my watch. Suddenly the curtains on the windows to
the right of me fly open, and Maggy is tapping at the glass. She shows me a bottle of water and sticks out her tongue. Right there, laying there is a pill.
“Don’t you dare!!!” I yell at her.
She gulps down a bunch of water, and I know the pill is surfing straight down. Maggy smirks, and suddenly slams her two middle fingers against the window and the curtains once again fly closed.
“RUDE! That was a little unnecessary and a little hurtful to be quite honest.” I say.
“Here’s a tissue.” And she slips a tissue through her mail slot.
That’s the moment I move onto my next appointment. I make a note to pass back around
before heading back home.
My next appointments all go smoothly. They let me in, and they crumble into a pile of
melted thoughts and numbness. They get up, and then head back to bed or find solace at
the bottom of a bottle. At the end of the day I feel drained, but still, decide to head towards Maggy’s again.

I tell myself it’s because it’s just on the way home, but it’s because I’ve never had anyone put up so much of a fight. Not in years. As I walk through the streets hearing
pieces of conversations. I find myself entranced by human emotions. I usually numb most of them, but listening to them and wanting to know more is against our rules.
As I turn down Maggy’s street, I hear a beautiful laugh from the opposite side of the road.

I turn to look, and it’s coming from Maggy. Something inside my soul tears to shreds. I’ve
never seen such genuine happiness on her face.
I turn and walk the opposite way to avoid her seeing me. I keep walking with my hood up, and my eyes look straight ahead. The day has been miserable, and that is the essence of my job.

I stop at my door and think once again, would the world be better without me here?

One More Light – RIP Chester Bennington

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It’s a strange feeling to hear that another musician has taken his own life. Stranger still because for my generation Linkin Park helped so many of us through so many rough patches in our own lives. Hearing about Chester Bennington’s death struck me quite hard. As a teen, the words he sang helped me so much. I was a quiet and awkward teenager. I didn’t quite stand out or fit in. I had my small group of trustworthy friends, but always felt like I was battling myself mentally to stay afloat. His voice and his words made me feel less alone, and isn’t that what we are all looking for?

“Because I can’t hold on when I’m stretched so thin
I make the right moves but I’m lost within”

As a teen these and so many other words comforted me. I don’t find it poetic that the musicians that seem to make us feel better, have a lot of demons within. The darkness in the words has to come from somewhere. It’s sad to think that while his band and his voice brought forth a light for all of us, that the same light couldn’t seem to find a place to shine within himself.

“I’ve become so numb, I can’t feel you there,
Become so tired, so much more aware.
I’m becoming this, all I want to do
Is be more like me and be less like you.”

I know the struggles with depression and anxiety well. Linkin Park and many other bands entered my life when I was beginning to show these signs. I don’t know what I would have done without them. I know these different bands not only helped me through, but they toughened me up. Granted many lyrics may seem dark, but they mirror so many feelings within. When you hear it, and sing along to it, you lose some of what’s weighing down your soul. I know I am not alone in this.

Sadly I haven’t been able to listen to Linkin Park since yesterday, and I haven’t been able to listen to anything by Chris Cornell since he passed away either. It’s hard. Those voices are silenced forever, and we all know they had so much left to give.

I know many people who are broken because of Chester taking his own life, and losing that battle he helped us fight, but we must stand strong and help one another. Use his music to keep moving. Life is precious and while it seems hard some days, we have to keep going. If you are having a hard time, please talk to someone. I know my readers are from all over the world so please find your country’s suicide hotline here: http://www.suicide.org/international-suicide-hotlines.html

You matter, you are loved, and you have so much to live for. We all hope that Chester found peace. He may have lost his battle, but you don’t have to. Talk to someone. Save yourself.

This was hard to write, and even harder to write down the correct words. I hope you can understand where I am coming from. I won’t go on the subject of people calling him coward or making jokes, because those people are scum, and don’t need any more attention.

RIP Chester Bennington.

 

The Mourning Song

 

This is a fictional essay inspired by current events. If you are concerned about my mental state, I promise I am doing well. Inspiration strikes in weird ways, and I felt I needed to write this.

TRIGGER WARNING: This essay mentions depression and suicide. If these things have negative impacts on your mental state, please do not continue reading.

The Mourning Song 

© Joana F. Simoes 2017

In Honor and in memory of all those that gave us something to hold onto in our darkest moments, but could no longer fight for themselves. We miss you.

 

 It is not poetic this morning that the rain is coming down harder than it has all year. It is not romantic or cozy today that even with all the windows wide open, the clouds and the pouring rain aren’t allowing much light to shine through. I imagine this is what my head looks like right now. I want to let all the light and brightness to come in, but something just does not allow it. I would turn to my favorite singer’s voice and lyrics, but it’s too hard.

Last night as I scrolled through my phone, as one does to pass the time these days, I started to see little trickles of news that were less than appealing to me. Also not exactly a shocker at the moment, but it was something harder to believe. This had to be some kind of hoax. He could not be dead. As time passed it was harder to ignore. News agencies all around the world were reporting it now. He died. My heart turned to stone and instantly dropped out of my body.

People take a lot away from teens, and their emotions. They chalk it up to hormones, and body changes, but for some it’s deeper than that and their feelings still go ignored. This is why as a teen I turned to his music. His voice, his melodies, and his powerful words were the stable ground I had to walk on when everything else seemed to be crumbling underneath my feet. As an adult it was still a coping mechanism and the most powerful tool I had in my arsenal.

He died, because he lost his fight with depression. I don’t like to say he committed suicide. The only thing he committed was a life of putting forth strong and powerful music that somehow saved so many lives without him realizing it. The battle with depression is a hard and treacherous one. It deceives even the most pure souls into believing they have nothing left to give to this world. It will make a great day turn to dust in a split second, and you cannot reason with it, you cannot negotiate with it.

I am having a hard time this morning. I am ignoring my medication, which I should never do. I am ignoring all the things I have learned from my therapist about what I should be doing to get myself out of bed and into the day. He has left this big black hole in my soul, and I don’t know how to fill it. Am I worthy to be here if he was not? How many people in the world are feeling the exact same way?

People have been writing online that mourning a rockstar’s death when there are other important things happening in the world is a waste of time. I don’t accept that at all. If people knew or felt a quarter of what some of us feel when we hear a certain song or watch a movie that makes us laugh deeper than we have laughed in ages, they would get it. They would understand that not only do these people deserve to be mourned; they deserve respect, our love, and attention.

That was the moment that it hit me. Maybe he would no longer create music that could bring meaning to my dark days, but all the music he’s already created will always be a part of me. I am doing myself and his memory a disservice by ignoring all the steps forward I have taken, that his music had helped me make in the past.

I get up take my medicine. Give my depression the care and love that any other illness requires and demands.

I put on one of his records and let the words and music roll over me, blanket me in comfort. This is a song like no other, but today it is the mourning song.

 

 

A Little Louder for the People in The Back – A Look at Mental Illness

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I feel tired.

I feel tired all the time.

Anxiety and depression can do that, but having to explain myself a million times also does that. I get tired of getting skeptical looks, and strange waves of anger from people because I don’t and CANNOT fit into their mold of what a sick person looks like. Because I am not running a fever, I cannot be ill. Really there’s so much more bullshit that I have dealt with through out my struggles with anxiety that I felt the need to once again talk about it.

Everyone who deals with mental illness deals with it in their own way, not only that but not everyone will have the same feelings and symptoms even when they deal with the same illness. That’s always something that many people can’t seem to grasp. I cannot tell someone else’s tale of struggle, but I can tell you mine.

I was always a really shy kid. I also cried A LOT. When my parents would say that they would pick me up from say the babysitter at a set time, and they didn’t show up at that exact time, I would instantly start to sweat and I would begin to pace and ask a million questions because my mind was imagining the worst kind of car crashes in the world. At the time most people chalked it up to me being an emotional kid, but looking back I think that was just the beginning of my anxiety. I was definitely always known as the weird quiet child who liked to read. I was never a super talkative person, to this day I am not a talkative person, UNLESS of course I feel comfortable with you.

Let’s get a little darker now. I remember a time when I wasn’t aware that what I was feeling wasn’t just normal anxious feelings. In high school, I was told that I definitely had social anxiety. But it wasn’t until my early twenties, that at some point where I was having trouble breathing, I was crying nonstop for what felt like decades, and I dug my finger nails into my face that I finally realized something was really wrong with me. Since then I have sort of learned to manage it but it isn’t something with a cure. I have my really good days and I have my really bad days. I don’t hurt myself anymore, but I do still deal with panic and anxiety attacks.

The thing is, sometimes my anxiety is exacerbated by all of the negative shit that has been thrown my way in the past or even recently. I talk very openly about my struggles for a number of reasons:

  1. I want to be open with the people closest to me and also to the people I work with. Not for pity, but for understanding. There can be days where I have a hard time functioning.
  2. I want other people who are fighting this to know they are not alone.
  3. I want people who are completely ignorant about this, to learn how to deal with someone close to them and their anxiety or depression.

I also do it, because I always get asked weird shit, or talked about in a negative light because people just don’t understand. When I cancel plans with people because the thought of having to be around a group of people or public transportation is just terrifying that day, I don’t need to be told that I am flakey. I am not flakey, I am putting myself and my mental health first. I don’t feel that it is necessary to possibly be alone on a train, having an anxiety attack just to meet up for a drink. That’s not what I will ever do. Many friends stopped inviting me to places in the past, and many people were extremely rude and aggressive about me canceling plans. So when I find someone who understands without missing a beat, I try to hold onto those people. My advice to anyone who has dealt with this is to let go of the ones who tear you down over your struggles, and keep close those who let you take care of yourself first.

Recently someone said that they knew I was trouble when they first met me because I couldn’t look them in the eye when I first met them. This angered me greatly. Not because they don’t like me, not everyone has to like me, I really couldn’t give two flying dicks about that part. It angered me because when I first meet people, I tend to have a hard time making eye contact. Meeting new people causes an alarming amount of stress for me and I have a hard time making eye contact. They took that as me being –I don’t know…some kind of vixen? An evil queen wannabe? Don’t know. It’s just one of the many times someone has misunderstood something about my anxiety and twisted it to make me look bad. It’s not new for me.

evilqueen

When someone has a physical illness everyone is ready to be helpful, supportive, and show empathy. As it should be. I am quite grateful that physically at the moment I am healthy. The thing is that many people don’t see anxiety and depression as a real illness. They seem to think we are all drama queens who can’t get our shit together. I wish I could be that good at acting because I would probably have an Oscar sitting on the mantle of my big ass house on a hilltop in Portugal. I hate when I have a bad moment in front of people I don’t particularly like or trust because I know from experience how they will use that against me. I also hate getting “advice” from people who have never in their lives dealt with anxiety or depression themselves. Stop telling me to do yoga or to drink tea. I’ve done those things and they don’t work for me. Everything you can possibly name, I have tried it. I already have my ways of dealing with it, but again there ISN’T a cure. You get better with time, and then you will still have a few bad days here and there. It’s just how it goes.

None of us want your pity. We want your respect and yes a little bit of empathy would be nice. If I feel so tired that I need a nap, then let me nap. My brain doesn’t function like yours. It spends hours and days sometimes trying to untangle my thoughts, and that in itself is really exhausting. Pretend my brain is running a bunch of marathons through out the week there comes a point where I just can’t take it anymore. I am drained of all energy.  I do not nap on a daily basis, but if there’s someone out there that does and needs it, then let them. This is another one of those moments where we get told that we are being lazy.

So when I am asked why I constantly talk about my anxiety, my response is because people still think I am being rude, lazy, stuck up, or generally awful all because I choose to do certain things to better my mental health or I do them because my anxiety sort of makes me do things that people find strange. I shouldn’t have to constantly explain myself, but because mental illness is still a topic that many people ignore, I HAVE TO explain myself so I can hopefully make a break through with some people.

Know that this is a REAL illness, and millions of people are struggling to move forward every single day. Stop treating us like we are liars and stop telling us to relax. I promise you, it really doesn’t work that way.