sunday afternoon when the caffeine wears off

 

The cold flows from the windowpane

to my fingertip

finding a home in the maze

of minuscule lines and coils

etched there.

 

I can picture a haze of cold air that hovers between

the glass and the tip of my nose.

I wonder briefly about energy loss,

form my lips and tongue around the words

entropy and thermodynamics.

thermodynamics.

 

I have tried to be kinder to myself

lately.

I am always angry at my body

for doing what bodies do

I try to see my flesh as a canvas or

a friend or

at least something other

than an enemy.

 

I tell myself to look outside and see

that nature is beautiful the way it was created

but then I am distracted by the thin, brittle branches of the trees

black, damp and skeletal without their lush leaf clothing

and my gentle thoughts turn wretched with longing.

 

You

are bullshit.

I tell myself no,

you are magic

I fight back

halfheartedly.

because who

could believe that.

 

and it goes. and it goes.

May // Mental Health Awareness Month

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"The opposite of love is indifference"

Of the many, many things I've learned this year, mental health awareness is by far the most important. 

Like most people, I was always aware of mental health concerns—I know the basics of Bipolar disorder, I've seen the commercials for depression medication, and read about suicide in books or in the news; however, it's never been a huge concern in my life. The closest I've come to the topic is scrolling through eating disorder recovery accounts on Instagram.

Instagram was my introduction to the terror a brain can unleash on a body. I saw how mental illness can slink in and wreak havoc on a person's health and happiness, tear apart families, destroy a life. 

The reason I'm finally talking about it, is because everyone else is finally talking about it. Mental health issues have been highly stigmatized in the past. They were the topics of scary movies and folktales, but otherwise swept under the rug and not acknowledged. Tell me, how does that help? Yeah, it doesn't. 

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Lately though, I've started to notice a shift in that toxic mindset. People are talking, people are reaching out, raising awareness, telling their own raw stories. At my university there's been multiple efforts to improve mental health. The athletic department launched the campaign #TalkToMe to encourage students to be open about their struggles. They also started a video-challenge to complete a four-person pushup to represent the statistic that one in four people suffer from mental illness. In addition, the Marquette's newspaper, the Wire, is in the midst of a huge project called Break The Silence, including articles, meetings, and speakers to bring awareness and to combat the epidemic of adolescent suicides. 

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On a level much bigger than the university, mental illness is being openly discussed in TV shows like 13 Reasons Why. Now, whether or not the show does a good job of representing depression and suicide, (many people are firmly in the "NO" camp) maybe any publicity is good publicity? Maybe not, but either way the show has definitely brought some serious issues into the public eye and opened up a conversation—it's about time.

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When people feel free to talk about their struggles without judgement, it is empowering. When people feel listened to, when their feelings are validated, they are more likely to seek help. This social shift can save lives. That's how important this is. 

A word about mental illness—

Mental illness is NOT a body type. It is not a bad day, or eating your m&m's in order of the rainbow. It's not "oh she's just antisocial" or "he just wants attention." It is an illness just like a sinus infection, just like arthritis, just like cancer; and it deserves to be treated as such

A chemical imbalance in the brain (the cause of many mental illnesses) cannot be healed by advice alone. No matter how well-meaning the delivery is of your "just look on the bright side" or "just try to eat normally," it's not helpful. Please keep it to yourself. 

Mental illness needs to be acknowledged and fought against, and awareness is the first step. I hope this post encourages you to do some research, donate to the cause, volunteer, or just make an effort to be more understanding. I hope we as a society are on the path to ending the stigma that shrouds mental illness, and I hope that we make strides this month to support everyone that it touches. 

Skype session with Anders Fjellberg

If journalists can't make a difference with their work, then they have no purpose. This is a thought that I think all writers have to wrestle with at some point, because—at least for me—a main draw to writing is the opportunity to influence change. 

My journalism class recently was able to Skype with the brilliant Norwegian journalist Anders Fjellberg about his long-form feature story, The Wetsuit Man (Link). The story itself is fascinating, but it was even more incredible to learn the background of how it unfolded; the published work is only the tip of the iceberg. 

Fjellberg is a great journalistic role model, and I look up to him obviously for his writing skills and successful career, but also his philosophy and life outlook (well, what little I could gather from an hour of watching him talk on a screen). He said, "A lot of successful journalism depends on luck, but a great journalist has to create the circumstances to be lucky." That means reaching out to that extra source, making a few more phone calls, always going the extra few inches. It may result in nothing nine times out of ten, but that one time could be an extraordinary discovery. I love that he said that, because I could always use reminding that stories and reporting are ultimately as good as the effort you put into them.

Fjellberg also explained why he structured the story the way he did. The mystery and foreboding he created with vivid descriptions and short scenes was a strong hook, but served another purpose as well. The Wetsuit Man is ultimately a story about refugees from the middle east, but that realization sort of sneaks up on readers, so it's hard to recognize it until the end of the story. As Fjellberg said, "it's a refugee story that doesn't look like one from the outside." The Wetsuit Man is different from the typical refugee story in that it has an element of mystery that draws readers in, and gradually incorporates the narrative of the refugees and their families, expertly illustrating the sadness, hope, and dire circumstances that drove the men to such a drastic acts. And to conclude, the story of the investigation, aftermath, and impact on their families. 

I asked Fjellberg if he thought more stories like this one would make refugees more accepted, or if people read a story from the point of view of a refugee they would sympathize more, offer more help. He said he has to believe so, because otherwise his work would have no purpose. He said he has to stay optimistic and hopeful for the future, because otherwise nothing will change.