random thoughts while feeling feelings

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i started this blog around six months ago - during summer. over these months i've talked quite a bit about my experiences & struggles with mental illness. the struggles always seem to multiply during the winter months. i live in the midwest & winters are often quite harsh, if not at the very least perpetually grey.

it always calms me to put these thoughts, fears, feelings into words. i wrote most days, maybe a small poem or maybe a journal entry or even an occasional rant. here are a few things i've written during the grey days.


random thoughts
part I.

here's the thing. 

when we're born we're barely solid matter. we ooze into this life, fragments of another, blind and blank and already exhausted from being. 

we come out screaming. 

this is no coincidence. 

safety doesn't exist. we're never not raw, we're never not just a composite of many corpses that left traces of a complex being, physically or otherwise, so that we can exist in the inexplicable manner that we find ourselves in at this very second. 

no man is an island. 

suffering starts at day one. this is unique to no one. this is the pendulum of life, a precise weight necessary to keep swinging, on and on with no end in sight. 

pain & joy sway in a well-timed dance. they twirl around the room leaving you dizzy & disoriented. which one is leading? can one exist without the other? 

maybe we can learn the dance. we breathe in and we lunge and curl and stretch and with the perfect movement we can catch it. we can catch the swirling sparkle that battles the darkness. we can learn the language of joy. maybe. 

here's the thing. 

as living, breathing souls, we're all connected. and what ties us together is suffering. this starts at birth. 

we come out screaming. 

this is no coincidence. 


part II.

"when winter wraps itself too tightly around / a dream from which i will wake"


i feel like i'm crawling in an endless dark. i'm on black gravel and my bleeding palms pull me forward into the neon night. the air is heavy, there is nothing before me so i could curl up in the cracked earth, or i could skid my skin across these crude rocks and i'm not sure i will survive and i'm not sure i want to. 



part III.

(yes, it hurts. and yes, it will heal. like hard earth thaws, the hollow parts of you will soften and fill and overflow life. just hold on for tomorrow. take my hand)

(from Smoke Signals)



xo,
Ashley



Listening to:

art & identity

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"Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness." - Maya Angelou

i have been seeing this trend going around online that people are posting their top 10 most influential albums from their younger years.

i love this, because i think you can really learn a lot about a person based on what art has impacted his or her life. out of all forms of art, i would say that music has impacted my identity most greatly.

this may be odd, as a writer, but i'm awful at reading (to my shame), so the poetry in lyrics and the emotions that music notes evoke has always brought me the greatest comfort.

it is so healing to listen to something that fits your exact mood in that exact moment. it's like floating down a river with the sun warming you, sparkling water surrounding you, and the earth accepting you as you are. you are free & alive.

music has shaped me in every possible way. i remember the first time i realized that i'm allowed to have a different taste in music than my friends. i was in 7th grade and was introduced to metallica. i couldn't get enough of it. this opened the door many new genres for me. i've always tried to keep an open mind, so i can honestly say that i love all styles of music.

so now, choosing only ten influential albums from my youth was more challenging than i thought. here is what i came up with, in no particular order:

death cab for cutie - transatlanticism
brand new - deja entendu
blink 182 - take off your pants & jacket
system of a down - steal this album
sigur ros - ( )
regina spektor - soviet kitsch
damien rice - O
bright eyes - lifted or the story is in the soil, keep your ear to the ground
taking back sunday - where you want to be
animal collective - feels

if you're on spotify, i actually created a playlist titled 'influence' with one song from each of these albums.

this part of your story is so vibrant and lovely, and when we share with one another, it can be like water running down a fresh painting, colors dripping down to give to others. sharing art with one other, as maya angelou said, can be one of the best cures to loneliness. i'd love to hear in the comments some albums or other forms of art that shaped your identity.

xo,
Ashley


Listening to:

Freelance Whales - Generator 1st Floor
(fun fact: i walked down the aisle to this song at my wedding)

depression & anxiety: the perfect storm

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i've talked about this in small bits in most of my posts. so you could take those pieces and put them together to bring to life this thick, dark fog in my life. but to make it easier, i'll give you a bit of a look inside of that darkness briefly now. 

i'd like this post to be educational - to have a bit more insight into what your loved one is experiencing. i'd like this post to be consoling - if you deal with this yourself, you know you're not alone. 

so here we go then. 

i've always been incredibly sensitive. strangers' sad stories broke my heart and have stayed with me for years. i carry each one like a rock in a backpack. 

i became vegetarian when i was 15, and went vegan over a year ago. i can't stand the thought of innocent animals suffering in any way. 

i remember hurtful things mean girls said to and about me in grade school. scars from unrequited love have changed me. 

so this sensitive little soul went out into the world like a naked body in the middle of a snowstorm. i feel everything. 

things got so dark during my senior year of high school, i finally decided to talk to my doctor. i was diagnosed with major depression and an anxiety disorder. 

as i have mentioned, these things ebb and flow over my life. i've spent years on medication, and years without since this diagnosis. 

winter is always the hardest. it seems that both anxiety and depression come out to play when the weather is this grey. 

other seasons it seems that i'm mostly wrestling with depression symptoms. others it seems to be anxiety only. but when it's both at once, it is absolutely crippling. 

depression tells me i'm worthless, but i don't have the energy to do anything about it. anxiety tells me that i'm wasting my life, that there's so much i should be doing, that i'm not living up to my potential. but i don't have the energy to do anything about it. 

i remember a time last winter, a band i loved was playing a show in a city two hours from me. for a few months i had been planning to go and was going to drive up with a couple of friends. the day came around and for whatever reason i could barely get out of bed. i felt this incredible weight on my chest and it hurt to move. now this isn't exactly a physical symptom, it's deeper. it's flowing in my veins and rattling through my bones. it grips my throat and i can't breathe. 

in the moment, i think that i would rather have a broken leg or broken arm or both. because then at least there's physical proof of my pain. but i digress. 


needless to say i stayed home, and my friends went to the concert without me. i spent the night curled up, alone, crying in the dark. my anxiety berated me ceaselessly. 

i felt pathetic, isolated, broken. 

having both anxiety and depression is like being in the eye of a tornado. everything around you is spinning, but you're stagnant. you're in a straitjacket while your life whips by, leaving burn marks, always threatening to destroy you. 

this is my experience, anyway. 

maybe you've felt this way, or maybe your experience is wildly different. that's the beauty & horror of any illness. it is unique because you are unique. it is a fingerprint, a snowflake, one of a kind. but know this - the colors in the painting of your life may be a fragment of a shade different, but there is someone (most likely many people) who have similar colors, and want to be understood just as you do. 

mental illness is a wild bird we constantly try to harness, but still continues to be uncontainable. someday, i believe, we will get a grip on it. maybe it'll be something like allergies, they'll flare up occasionally, seasonally. but we'll have ways to treat it, and even ways to cure it. it deserves this kind of attention. but i digress.

struggling with depression is painful and real. struggling with anxiety is painful and real. it's as real as a broken bone, as real as chronic pain, as real as every virus we've ever known. 

it hurts and it's hard, but you're not alone. there will be seasons of freedom in your life. springtime peace will pass over you like a cool breeze. cherish that light and hold on. nature thrives on change, and all we can do is ride the wave. let it crash over you and make you new. hold on. 

your story is stunning. there is hope for us, i know it.

xo,
Ashley

Listening to:

 

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