Lately I’ve found despair in even the sunniest places. I want so badly to be strong and while I live and breathe a philosophy that strength isn’t measured by thwarted breakdowns or ‘well-managed’ sadness, I won’t hold myself to the same standard. Instead, I measure my own strength by the degree to which I resist self-destruction. When the pressure builds and finds no outlet, I implode. I am ‘recovered’ / I am so not recovered. After years of silence, I live out my sadness with the mic turned up high. Silence was its own form of self-destruction; one that dampened the relationships I both cherished and so deeply feared. I believed that anything less than a compelling performance would make me insufferable. I return to my bathroom floor where the voices in my head are engulfed by a deafening quiet. I lay face up, hoping that if I am determined enough the tiles below my very sad bathroom floor snow angel will absorb me into something immovable and strong. I don’t disappear. Sometimes the quiet makes me feel stronger; it nurtures this very intoxicating complex that even I forget is not reflective of what’s true. I cover my arms and put on my ‘fuck you’ attitude and red lipstick and I am ‘strong.’ But God, I am so tiny and breakable inside. I am ‘put together’ / I am falling apart. I am studious / I am spending two precious hours Googling mustard-colored sweaters instead of writing my essay. I coach my kids at work on how to find strength in pain / I crumble inside while we re-enact a scene from Flavor of Love. I am awake, I am present / I am unhinged, I am somewhere else entirely. I am a giver / I give myself absolutely nothing. I thought it would all be ‘figured out’ by now. Does anyone figure it all out? I can’t sleep; my eyes trace the edges of a bedroom door that will remain closed because no one is actually out to get me. I am safe / it isn’t that simple. What is safety when all you know is a dull alarm signaling that calamity is near? What is safety when calamity is actually just your mind losing itself over and over and over? Why are some people like this and why are some people not? Why is it that some people avert their eyes when I speak and others pull me aside after class and say “same”? Why are my meds not working? It took me years to find them. Apparently going to therapy is hard when the only person you are mad at is yourself. Is my brain chemistry ‘broken’ or are ‘normal people’ actually the exception to the rule? I’d rather be broken, but I’d much rather be fixed; I am a screaming contradiction. I crave attention and I loathe attention. I am upbeat and I am dead. I leave bruises on myself and then I get back up and I do it again. Lately I’ve found darkness in even the warmest places. I am not safe in my own head, but I am also not going to pull my own crisis alarm. Inevitably, I am not good at hiding and someone is always here in minutes; I convince them I am okay and I keep going. Everything has cracks and the truth always comes out. I am sleeping, but I never sleep. I bake cupcakes and they are perfect. I am perfect / I am imperfect as hell. I don’t want to be perfect / I ‘have to be perfect.’ Fragments of what is not good enough, what is broken and twisted, leak from my chest and I scramble constantly to stuff them back inside. I make cupcakes and laugh and smile and re-enact scenes from Flavor of Love with my kids. I am an artist living somewhere between my stage and my reality. What is safety when calamity is actually just your mind losing itself over and over and over? It is dark too early now and I live in a space with no windows.