When your brain is wired "normally," you don't think cohesively. I have experienced trauma from a young age and I have ADHD so my brain jumps from thought to thought, making it hard for me to express myself verbally. Everything I say and write has to be sorted and deciphered before I communicate with others so they could understand me. I wanted to explore how I could accurately represent myself and my thought process through form.
Breathe Jules. You have to breathe Jules–but breathing was never my strong suit, I’m asthmatic– no you have to breathe–why am I so tense? One time that lady told me I had the legs of a runner but I’m a lazy piece of shit, I can’t run because I’m bad at breathing. I can’t even breathe right, can’t even see right, that’s why you need glasses– Just breathe Jules, you can breathe– no breathing, you need to be writing. When was the last time you worked? What about the deadlines? They needed those notes last week but you couldn’t even get out of bed until the sun started setting, you don’t even talk to them because your words are all spent, you’ve peaked and hit rock bottom but you’re only twenty-two years old… what a disappointment. What a waste– Why can’t you fucking breathe Jules?– You’re such a disappointment. You’re queer and not the socially acceptable kind, you’ll never meet the expectations everyone had for you, that you could be something great but you’re just a dead-end desk jockey with nothing to say, nothing to tell, too ashamed of yourself to ever be proud of your queerness and your fatness and your shyness and your sadness–I just want to breathe in peace–You don’t get peace. He took peace from you when you were who the fuck knows how old because your brain rotted to shit and took all the memories with it. Now you’re stuck being sad about shit you don’t even remember and people you’d rather forget when they don’t lose a single moment's breath over your pain, your suffering, your sleepless nights and paperwhite scars (you think a tattoo could make you forget?). Just get over it, get over yourself and just–breathe.
This is one long train of thought that was broken into three fragments throughout the main piece. It shows how, when you're in a bad mental spot, thoughts spiral and melt together. There's a lot that can be said about this, but some things are better left unspoken.
It's quiet. The words I am dying to hear just won’t come. Pregnant pauses and swollen silences engulf the ear and swallow the mind. It's quiet. With no room to grow, no room to breathe, no room to suffer, no room to know. Queer little voices trickle through, thrashing, violent, creeping out the door and it's quiet. There is a palisade inside of me. Thoughts and memories float down the river on little white kayaks and sail into sharp gates of pointed pines, shattering at the very first touch. It's so very quiet as we sweep the shards of glass thoughts that hurt to touch and draw the reddest blood. It's quiet because it splinters.
It's funny that this fragment ended up being the beginning of my paper because it was the very first one I wrote. I got hung up on the word "palisade" because of a Sufjan Stevens song without even knowing what the word meant. It turned out to be a type of fence meant specifically for defense and blocking things out. This a fragment about being shut out of your own mind, of being carried down a current of thought only to be stopped by predatory palisades.
No sense can be found in my festering head. Maggots eat my sentences like rotted apple cores, spitting out arsenic to poison and wither my crops. The carrion flies plant their seeds between the decaying carcasses of all my past selves and creep through the twisted highways of vines that hide the carnage. Blooming in the sickly heat, wriggling buds consume the fractured pieces of me. When will this rotting summer end? When will the pupae harden their shells, sprout their wings and leave me with fertile soil to grow?
This idea began with a joke, actually. There's been a meme going around on Twitter about "brain rot" that got my wheels turning. While it was meant to be funny (which I also think it is), I wanted to take that concept literally and make it creepy. I also really related to that joke because I often feel like there is something wrong with my brain because of my mental illness. I was also inspired by the song "Rotten Apples" by The Smashing Pumpkins, especially the line "dust to dust, we're wired into sadness."
Why did you come back if you never had what it takes to be a decent man? Other kids had ski trips and afternoon drives; I had pulling out my molar in the dark while I watched you sleep in your mothers’ basement to the lull of true crime television.
Why did you take me to meet her? You called her fairy girl. I remember the shimmer of her wings. You twisted my six-year-old brain into origami paper cranes, so now I can’t even recall her fucking name but I know her sparkle. I told Mom then you were gone, why did you let me feel all that blame?
Why did you leave me in your beat up blue work van while you smoked cigarettes and fed your sickness and blew my college savings in a treasury of cheap plastic? Black and red and white and red and black, it shuffles, it splinters...
Iron out the folds, sort the cubes and stack the memories. Why couldn’t you have been better than your father? Why did you leave me in your beat up blue work van while you smoked cigarettes and fed your sickness and blew my college savings in a treasury of cheap plastic? Why did you take me to meet her? Why did you let me feel all that blame? Why did you come back if you never had what it takes to be a decent man?
Something weird about trauma and mental illness is that it badly affects your memory. I don't remember most of my childhood, but parts of it are coming back with therapy sessions and connecting with my inner child. These are all memories I have about my father. We don't have a very good relationship; he suffered from drug and gambling addictions when I was a kid and it put a big strain on my family. I think he's still trying to atone for what he did and I'm still trying to forgive him. I wrote this as part of an unsent letter to him on Father's Day. The final "memory" is just a bunch of questions I have for him in order of chronology.