I knew I wanted to write a post for Borderline Personality Awareness month, but I didn’t know it would be this post-about having suicidal ideation once again. It’s hard to write about this since I haven’t been here since last summer. Here is a place where I want to do everything or anything to stop the intense emotional turmoil and pain, I’m in. Here is a place where I write dark poetry about ways to end it all. I mean my poetry got so dark; Sylvia Plath would have been proud of me. Here is a place where I cry multiple times a day and any little thing is a trigger, and my coworkers start asking me if I’m okay. Here is a place where it feels like none of the healthy coping mechanisms (writing, music, keeping busy, talking to friends, mindfulness, long walks in nature, etc.) are working and I started to wonder what the point of it all is. What’s worse about this happening this time around was that there was no tragedy or life changing circumstance to trigger these feelings of wanting to die. If I had to pinpoint the trigger of this major depressive episode, it was as simple as upping the dosage of my mood stabilizer. Now, I was already in a low mood since last week because my quality of sleep had gone to shit lately so last week, I asked my medical provider to up the dosage on my mood stabilizer that I take at night to sleep. I was also working an extra shift at my second job, so I was more tired than usual.
On Monday night, I started on the new dosage and on Tuesday morning I woke in a state of extreme anger and agitation. I’ve been here many times before but this time it felt different. Everything and everyone annoyed me to the point that I wrote some really mean and cruel poetry and played my ANGRY AF playlist on repeat. This was the alternative to what I really wanted to do, which was to punch walls or smash something to bits and pieces. I also imploded on myself and went into self-hate mode where I hated my brain chemistry, my BPD, and well basically myself. Being in this negative mindset felt like several steps backwards based on all the progress I’ve made and that made me spiral even more. I cried at lunch that day. I went to my second job and felt fine after.
On Wednesday, I felt I was in a better mood and thought I was in control of my emotions. I even wrote a poem about how my therapist was so instrumental in helping me. Then the afternoon came, and I got a rejection email from a grant I applied for that really hit me straight in the gut. Once again, I was extremely angry and agitated. And I almost went into my “I’m going to be reactive AF” mode. However, I was able to stop myself. I headed to my second job and cried on and off the first two hours of work while I was stocking. Luckily, I reached out to my friend “K” through text and she was responsive. Also, I was closely working with my supervisor the latter part of the night so that kept my mind busy. I ended up going to sleep later than I’m used to and woke up on Thursday a complete and utter emotional mess. Because of the state I was in, I made the responsible decision not to drive that day, but I still went to work. For the first two hours at work, I cried, and I couldn’t do anything to stop it. My coworkers kept asking me if I was okay and I lied and said I had a raging headache. I’m not completely out to the whole office yet about my BPD or all my mental health issues. Maybe they bought the lie or maybe they didn’t. Throughout the morning, I tried my best to practice mindfulness to calm down and it helped a little. Then I had a second cup of coffee and that did the trick because I was finally able to be coherent enough to chat with a couple of my coworkers. I want to think that my “masking skills” from the past really helped in making my coworkers not suspect how much of an emotional mess I was. I reached out to my friend “K” once again and other friends and they were all responsive so that helped. And then lunchtime came, and the dark and intrusive thoughts came out in my poetry, and I cried a lot. I guess getting the worst of it out helped because my mood improved in the afternoon. I decided to clean up and organize my office. I made a list of tasks to occupy me at work for the next few days. I made a separate list of tasks I wanted to accomplish in my personal life. I also decided to do something kind for myself and signed up for swimming lessons since I never learned how to swim. I went to my second job and that also kept me busy which helped me tremendously. On Friday, I woke up in a much better mood and drove to work. I felt this huge sense of relief, but I finally felt like I was back to what is now my normal optimistic and confident self. This sent me into a bit of euphoria that got me side eye from one of my coworkers. Lol. Okay, I know it’s kind of ridiculous for a middle-aged woman to get excited at the supermarket over cuatro leches cake and a sour patch energy drink but damn after a 3-day suicidal ideation episode, it’s the little things that count. I took the terrible experience as another way to learn about myself and maybe try more preventive measures next time I switched meds or upped a dosage.
I learned that my mental health was declining when I started listening to the same angry or sad song over and over again. I don’t know how many times I listened to “That’s Hilarious” by Charlie Puth last week. I also learn that when I’m in the worst of it, I need to listen to the “Fuck Love “album by The Kid LAROI. Don’t ask me why, something in my brain finds his teenage angst and anger comforting. I also learned how I dissociate during these episodes. It was like a watching this train wreck of emotions take over my body and mind and not being able to do much about it. It was difficult and scary to experience. The best thing I did was keep going to work at both jobs no matter what. I feel like this kept me busy enough from spiraling even further. Also, planning something to look forward to like scheduling swimming lessons was extremely helpful. Reaching out to friends about how I was feeling bad and getting their love and encouragement helped me as well. And of course, understanding that the feelings of hopelessness and despair won’t last forever and honoring those feelings through journaling and writing poetry is important. For some reason, documenting what’s going on helps me process and get through an episode like this quicker. When I get into a major depressive episode that causes suicidal ideation, it gets scary and lonely. Having a diagnosis like borderline personality disorder makes me 1 in 10 people who could give in to that hopelessness and take action to take my own life. Even at my worst, there is a voice inside of me that is determined not to be that 1 in 10 because well, I’m too awesome to die. Also, if anything else, I don’t want to do that to my children and leave them with that trauma. I’m proud of how I handled this depressive episode. I listened to myself and used all the resources I had to get over it quicker. I remember that last year and the year before then, I had many of these episodes and would either try to drink it away or buy something from Amazon or do something self-destructive. I didn’t do that this time around. The fact that it’s been 10 months since this happened shows how much my mental health has improved. For anyone going through this, understand that you’re not alone and it’s okay to feel how you feel. The important thing is to keep going because even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time, there will always be something in life to look forward to or get excited about. It could be new food to taste or that new album from your favorite artist that’s about to come out, or even seeing a rainbow after it rains.
I wrote this in May of 2003 when I was going wrestling with a terrible bout of depression. I kept trying to find the light of the end of the tunnel but it was hard.
A sponge is what I am as I start to absorb this mortifying and painful experience From a sponge I become A meatloaf of frustration From a meatloaf I become A tall and full glass of self pity and regret From the tall and full glass I’m trying Very hard to become a hard rock of acceptance
I don’t remember the first time I had suicidal ideation but I remember the first and only time I made an attempt to end my life. It was the morning of December 5th of 2016. It’s hard to remember the exact events of that day but I do remember the triggers before that day which led me down that dark path. Some people might think that by writing about this I’m sharing too much of my personal life but I stopped caring about other people’s opinions this year. While it is hard for me to revisit that day and tell my story; it is important for me to share my story in hopes that someone somewhere struggling doesn’t feel so alone or that loved ones look for signs if someone near them is in trouble. Talking about suicide and its possible causes is an important conversation to have that should be normalize.
To friends, family, and coworkers, I’ve always tried to maintain this image of having an almost perfect life of suburban bliss. Relatives from Peru, the country I immigrated from have told me that I’m the American Dream. Looking at my social media, this image is perfectly crafted with pictures of me with my family and friends.I specialize in posting those candid family shots at some event in town #momlife, me with friends downtown #girlsnightout, and me at work #bestjobever. You get the point. I’ve crafted this image of being this perfectly put together woman who has it all and does great at balancing all of the expectations and responsibilities thrusted upon her by society. People close to me call me strong, amazing, and awesome. They see this confident woman that manages to handle life and almost every obstacle thrown at her with grace. I remember being 17 after announcing my unplanned pregnancy to friends and one of them telling me, “ I can’t believe how calm you are and how well you’re handling it, I would be freaking out”.I smiled at her and told her, “Well, it’s done now. I just have to deal with it the best way I can”. Even at the tender age of 17, it was ingrained in me to suppress my emotions and show others this facade of being a strong woman. Needless to say, there’s always been a lot of pressure on me to maintain this image. This pressure almost killed me.
In the winter of 2016, my life looked perfect from the outside. I worked from home as a Bilingual Child Support Agent making more money than ever, I’m married to a doting husband, I have 3 wonderful and amazing sons. I even lived in a quaint but nice 3 bedroom house on a street named Candy Ct in a relatively quiet neighborhood. And don’t forget, I still had time to have the occasional girls night. So hashtag perfect life right? What people didn’t know at the time was the following:
–My oldest son, who was a senior in high school at the time and an excellent student, was struggling with one of his classes and I was starting to get calls and emails from the school about it.#failingasmom
–I realized my marriage was unsalvageable and there was nothing either of us could do to save it. #mymarriageisafailure
-I was gaining weight because I was stress eating. #lowselfesteem
–I hated my job as a Child Support Agent and it was taking a major toll on my mental health. I did not handle being yelled at all day with clients well.#Ifuckinghatemyjob
–Also, the political climate was changing for the worst for immigrants and people of color after Trump was elected. #fuckAmerica
And, I was binge drinking at night with my prescribed xanax to deal with all of it. I was also taking Lexapro in the mornings. #selfmedicatingtocope
In November of that year, I was starting to fall into the pit of despair that is depression and while I knew it was happening; I was in denial. I had been here before having PPD with all four of my pregnancies. I kept telling myself that I could keep a handle on it, I didn’t have the time or the luxury of having a mental breakdown. Even though I was making more at my new job, we were still a low income family since I was the only main provider. I had no family to call on or fall back at all if I was to go to a psychiatric institution. Plus, my children needed their mother to be there for them. So I tried to bury any feelings of despair deep within me with the help of alcohol and Xanax.
After weeks of feeling this way, on Sunday, December 4th, I felt a new low that night. I don’t know why I didn’t reach out to friends. I had isolated myself from everyone in a lot of ways. I kept in contact with people close to me but it’s easy to keep a facade of being “okay” when I’m not. I’ve been doing it since I can remember. Gotta love that Quiet BPD. I remember feeling like a complete failure because I was raised by my mother to always be strong or at least keep that façade of strength on the surface to show everyone that you’re not weak or crazy. There had been a couple of “weak women” with mental illness in my mother’s family who were looked down upon because of this. I grew up with this stigma that those with mental illness were “weak” or “not right in the head”. Also, I felt very privileged compared to my mother and aunts who came to this country and had way more hardships than I ever did. I remember thinking that night how nice it would be nice to fall asleep and never wake up. Waking up meant facing my reality that I was a failure at everything in my life that defined me: a mother, a wife, and a worker. The next morning, I woke up around 6:30 am and I felt numb and dead inside. I didn’t want to face my depressing and horrible reality and I made a decision. There was no point in living if I was a failure at everything. Feeling like a failure is worse than death to me. I texted my supervisor and told her I was sick and couldn’t sign in to work, I wrote love letters to my sons, my husband, my parents, and my closest friends trying to explain what I was doing, and I got the coffee from the kitchen counter that my husband had prepared for me and took the xanax bottle that was on the kitchen table to my son’s bedroom where I had been working at. I sat down on the recliner in that room and swallowed each of the 15 pills one at a time. I remember that right after, I got a call from my oldest son’s counselor concerned about him. I vaguely remember the conversation. Right after, something in me made me send a text to my friend Janet from college that lived 10 minutes from me. I honestly don’t remember what I texted her, all I know is that I finally fell asleep. I was woken up from my sleep as my husband shook my shoulders, he was telling me something and I vaguely remember that it had to do with my friend calling him. He wanted me to go to the living room but my legs felt like lead. So he half carried me to the couch in the living room and forced me to drink coffee. I fell asleep shortly after. I remember waking up and talking to my husband but I can’t remember what I said, all I know is that we both made a decision that I needed to quit my job and that afternoon, I emailed my two weeks notice letter to my supervisor. And my friend Janet came in the afternoon and took me to a Mexican restaurant to eat tacos, my favoritecomfort food and we talked for a long time about what had happened. I also remember my friend Janet talking to my husband about me. Since I was a legalresident permanent alien at the time, going to a psychiatric hospital was not an option for me. The application for citizenship specifically asks about whether you have been in a psychiatric hospital. Me, my friend, and husband knew that I couldn’t take a chance on my future petition of naturalization being denied. You see, that famous poem on the Statue of Liberty by Emma Lazarus “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore” is really a lie in this case. What America really wants are these almost perfect and model immigrants but that’s another blog post.
After this happened, I fell into a deep depression. It didn’t help that I had also withdrawn from my mental health meds without the advice of my doctor. If it wasn’t for the fact that I kept a journal after this event, I wouldn’t know half of what happened during what happened during that time. I call this time period of my life, “The Great Depression” of 2016 and 2017 that lasted until November of 2017. During “the Great Depression”, I kept my journal religiously, and I gave myself a month before looking for another job, and reached out to a formercoworker and friend who referred me to her ex husband for marriage counseling. I also completed and filed my paperwork for naturalization. I also eventually found a job with the school district as a parapro. I even got a tattoo of semi-colon in February to remind myself that my story isn’t over. Even during the great depression, I still tried to be as productive as possible. I also kept this list with me-It was a list of important events (birthday, anniversaries, graduation) that I needed to be alive for. I also kept a list of reasons why I needed to be alive (my kids, parents, husband, friends). I kept these lists with me at all times because that’s how bad my depression was at the time. It was a really dark period of my life.
I reflect on this 5 years later and I feel like this was a lifetime ago. Since that time, I’ve been diagnosed with Bipolar 2 and Borderline Personality Disorder. I’m also on three different kinds of mental health meds and am going to therapy. Depression still visits me from time to time, especially when life gets overwhelming or something drastic happens in my life but I have way better skills to cope with it now and not let it get to an extremely bad place again. Iwould never tell anyone that I’m cured of depression because that would be a lie but I will say I’m much, much better at not letting it take over my life like it has in the past. Writing my story and sharing it with world may seem excessiveto some but I’m sharing my story in the hopes that someone reading this comes to an understanding that people that die by suicide or attempt it are not selfish or cowards; we are people that feel this immense and excruciating pain and we want to escape from it by any means necessary. I also write my story in hopes that if there is someone out there struggling with suicidal ideation and depression; I want them to know that they are not alone and it is possible to get to a better place #youareworthit.
Here are a few helpful links related to this story:
I wrote this in April of 2002 when I was depressed and felt empty. Chronic feelings of emptiness is a trait of living with BPD. It’s rough sometimes.
I’m at a very bad place I struggle and struggle to come out of this miserable and horrible place But somehow feel confined With a helluva strong glue at the bottom of my pitiful feel Stuck to the pit of here( my life) I continue to Dream and dream The impossible dream To someday become unstuck
Escribí este poema en el 2003 acerca de Lucas. La nostalgia de el me visitaba frecuentemente y eso me inspiraba bastante.
Cuantos años pasaran Para pararte de amar Cuantos labios besare Para sacarte de mi mente Cuantos pensamientos más tendré de ti Hasta poder olvidarme de ti Cuando se me quitara este deseo De querer vivir contigo en un sueño Cuando parare De quererte ver
I wrote this in May of 2003 when I was depressed. At the time, I didn’t think about getting help. I also didn’t understand what was happening to me. No one knew because I had become a master as masking my emotions. Instead poetry was my therapy.
The sadness creeps up on me like a wild animal upon its prey Slowly but surely I become all too quickly Miserable again I ponder the question Why, why, WHY? I am young and healthy Yet I begin to feel like I’m slipping on thin ice and what scares me the most is I DON”T KNOW WHY?
I wrote this poem in 2019 while going through a deep depression and reflecting on my crazy year of 2018. I put myself in a place where I was constantly objectified by men and even my friends. It felt good since at that time I felt the high of unhealthy validation for a while but then it got tiring.
I wrote this in 2003 about the first Andrew. Yes, I have a hard time letting go of someone after a breakup especially if I really loved them. I think one of the reasons I thought of the first Andrew often was because he was one of the few guys in my romantic life who didn’t objectify me.
You stay on my mind Even after a long long time You haunt me in my dreams I wake up in tears that form a stream Then you appear in my poetry Your memory lives inside of me And at last I ask myself why? I can’t let you go, my wonder guy
I wrote this 20 years ago on November 1st right before the great breakup of 2001. I wish I could say that I get over breakups quicker now but that would be a lie. After fights or breakups with partners, I seem to always go back to the girl I was in my teens and 20s. My brain is wired that way and I’ve accepted it. It’s something called age regression that shows up in people with Borderline Personality Disorder. Fear of abandonment is so severe that some of us will feel like we are literally dying after a breakup. Some of us will stop eating, some of us will sleep for days, some of will self harm or have suicidal ideation. With each breakup, I’ve noticed I’ve acquired healthier coping mechanisms. Nowadays, I’ve learned to listen more to what I need in order to heal than what doing what I used to do to escape the pain of heartbreak. My method now is cut off all contact with the ex, exercise, write a LOT and do loads of self care. I’m careful not to fall into any quick escapes from my feelings like going on tinder and trying to find someone new. Do I think I will ever get better at accepting a breakup like a normal person? I don’t know but I hope so.While I’m thankful for all of the inspiration and growth that comes from every breakup ;it’s also very overwhelming, exhausting and draining at times.
You showed up unexpectedly in my life Like a pleasant surprise Calling and seeing me every day Making me dinner and leaving me roses on my dashboard I thought “finally, the one has come” Suddenly all of those nice things started becoming scarce The dinners, the roses, seeing me became non-existent Even talking to you on the phone has become too much of a bother of you I’m no fool, I know exactly where this doomed thing is headed Pretty soon you’ll give me some lame excuse As to why “we” can no longer be And my heart will shatter into pieces yet again There will be nothing left to say I’ll just realize once again You’re just like every other fool
I wrote this on January 1st, 2003 about this dude that I hooked up with a week prior. I was upset about John and of course wanted to escape from my feelings of rejection. So I started once again seeking validation from men and ended up hooking up with some guy from the bar.
The night I met you I was drunk and blue Because of that impossible love Who said I wasn’t good enough So I decided to drink my pain away and then you came my way With your charming and smooth manner I should’ve known you were a player But you told me everything That I wanted to believe in How you had never met anyone like me And that you wanted us to be It sound almost too good to be true But i was feeling lonely too So i decided to give in to you Afterwards you promised to call But instead you went awol And many days later I sit here In a river of foolish tears Wondering why why why I always fall for the same false lines
McKenzie Harpe’s debut collection, When Pens Became Megaphones is aptly named because of how powerful the writing is in this book. The poems in this book are passionate and compelling in examining a variety of themes. A few of the themes covered in this book are mental health, relationships, family, racism, and social injustice. . The book is divided into four sections which are, “Speak With Yo’ Mind”, “Speak with Yo’ Soul”, “Speak with Yo Fist” and “Speak with Yo’ Heart”. Harpe does not mince words or is subtle to express herself in her poetry and that is something I greatly admire. I also want to mention that the format and presentation of the book is very professional and flawless in how it’s laid out making it very appealing for the reader. I will discuss 2 poems from each section that really spoke to me.
The first section “Speak With Yo’ Mind” talks frankly and honestly about anxiety and the feelings that come along with it and how the poet copes. The poet presents a true understanding of how some people feel with the burden of anxious thoughts and how trying to find peace with that can feel like an uphill battle. A poem that spoke to me about dealing with anxiety was Medicine. The poem Medicine talks about the healthy coping mechanism that music can be for someone with mental health issues. This is presented in the fourth stanza with the lines “music is my only redemption/the only prevention/for lost hope” (Harpe,15) As a person with mental health issues myself, music is one of my healthiest coping mechanisms. When the world gets too “noisy” for me, I tend to put my earbuds in and play something to either calm me down or hype me up depending on my mood. Another poem from this section that resonated with me was Evicted. Evicted presents a picture about kicking anxiety out. This is presented when the poet states, “see, I only came to organize/my thoughts on my hanger, /but now I’m cleaning out more than my closet. /I’m kicking you out, anxiety” (Harpe,17) There is a power in that verse which shows the poet taking her power back from anxiety taking up space in her mind. As a person who also suffers from anxiety, I completely get it.
The second section pays a tribute to where the poets come from and her family. Harpe does this by talking about the women in her family as well as her friends. One poem that I especially loved was My Day Ones where she captures the ease that comes from long term friendships or connections. This is stated in the poem, “a necessary vent/ after years/of personal growth/and that vibes still the same” (Harpe,31) This poem resonated with me because it reminded me of the connection I have with my childhood friends from Hawaii. Weeks or months can pass by without us talking and out of the blue one of us will say something in our group chat and we’ll catch up on life. Another poem I absolutely loved from this section was Auntie. It displays the resilience and strength of a woman who has breast cancer. Harpe shows this woman’s strength from the first line, “I know a woman/who’s not afraid of monsters” (Harpe,36). This poem resonates with me when I think about breast cancer survivors and victims of breast cancer . Another thing I like about this poem is that Harpe captures the essence of this woman going through something really harrowing in a way that respects her humanity.
The third section Harpe explores the great social injustices that have been happening and still happen in this country. Harpe does this by talking frankly and honestly about racism and white privilege. The poem Armed is one of my favorite poems in the whole book. It speaks about how words can be weapons of change. When Harpe says, “I load my pen with thoughts/the aim with precision/ spit fire on these pages/ and hope you see my vision/ this is more than just a poem (Harpe,59), she speaks the truth with how people tend to underestimate the power that artists can have when to comes to social change. This poem reminded me that one of the reasons I write is to give a voice to the marginalized immigrant community that I come from. Another poem that really resonated with me in this section was the poem The Five Senses. This poem addresses how white privilege continues to undermine and oppress minorities in this country. I was blown away by how the poet used all of five senses to do this. For example, for the sense of hearing in stanza 2, the poet states “what does it sound like? /hearing a native language/and calling it a threat. /yelling at minorities/to go back home/to places they never even met/like we didn’t forget/you never discovered/this country to begin with, (Harpe,66). That stanza gives me goosebumps from how powerful it is in addressing racists and calling out their hypocrisy. This part in this poem really resonated too since I have been subject to prejudice and discrimination due to my ethnicity and former immigration status.
The fourth section “Speak with Yo’ Heart” explores themes related to love and it’s not just centered on romantic love, but it also talks about self-love. I really resonate with the poem Dramatic. In the first stanza the poet states “when you date a poet/understand that your attitude/will become similes/your emotions/will become metaphors/your actions/will be the starting line/for each stanza ( Harpe,83) How true is this for many poets who will take their inspiration from their romantic relationships. Some of us even have a blog dedicated to this type of poetry (😉😏). Another poem that really stood out from this section was Saving Grace. In this poem, Harpe talks about her “toxic relationship with anxiety” and how it has impacted her. A powerful verse in this poem was “this time I felt sad/lonely/and nonexistent. /turns out, he had changed into this person/called depression (Harpe,93). Harpe shows how agonizing it feels like for a lot of us when our anxiety turns into depression. I also want to mention that the end of this poem was very hope and filled with faith. Once again, Harpe captures the painful truth that most of us with anxiety and depression must live with.
With her debut collection, Harpe presents an amazing talent for being open and honest about life, identity, social justice, and mental health. My only complaint about this book is that I wanted to read more. Yes, that’s how good this poetry collection was. I don’t usually read a book in one sitting but Harpe’s writing captivated me in such a way that I couldn’t put it down. I highly recommend this book for anyone who likes poetry that’s inspiring and empowering. I look forward from reading more from this poet. Below is a link to When Pens Become Megaphones