Round Up: The Agony and the Ecstasy (+ In Print: Nosebleed Club & Closet Cases)

 Hello, my loves.

It’s been a while. I can only apologise. There has been a lot going on irl these last few months – my chronic illness worsened, I went on dates, I got some rejections and a fair few acceptance letters, I lost my phone (which is why last month’s tarot poems got scrapped – I will be back in a few days with prophecy and beauty for your inbox, don’t you worry), had a depression relapse, and now I have a flu-related infection which is limiting my motion. So, it’s been a lot. 
This place is for me to share these parts of myself. I choose to be open and to share. I choose to not retreat within, where it is so easy to brutalise and smother. 
 I have had so many drafts of this post since July. In fact, here is some of July:

July burned restless and oil slicked but it’s ending in drizzle and rain. It’s been a busy month, mostly good but unquestionably exhausting, but there’s no rest for the wicked and I’m still lurching on.

I love to write in transit now, on the commute, on the train, moving and disconnected, a pocket of time within the chaos of the morning where the heart rate slows and the words spill out. I’m late, as usual, but my anxiety doesn’t know yet.

Here are the things that have rushed by me this month in a blur of sweat and gold: the results of the essay I wrote in agony after my injections came in and inexplicably I ended up with a distinction; I came to an internal resolution concerning my distant heart, which is to say, I’ve started dating again; I’ve finally started sending off my book to be judged in the great beyond and hopefully someone will want to print it.(And Breathe.)

When I started writing this blog post, on my way to work on Tuesday morning, I wasn’t quite ready for the day that was coming my way. The first half of the day went to absolute hell and the rest felt dragged down and out, I was exhausted before lunch and I never quite recovered. As I continue writing this blog post on a Wednesday afternoon, I am on my way home from a coffee shop where I met a really lovely girl and the week suddenly seems to have a brighter hue.

I feel more capable of being joyful about my own achievements. So, once again:A distinction? On my first module? For the final essay I wrote in the writhing agony of my steroid injections? Okay, I more than earned the fancy sourdough pizza reward for a result under those circumstances, right? (Sidenote: nduja sausage is Incredible.)Dating, after years of pain and discomfort surrounding my eternally sick and often tired body? Anyone who knows me well will know this is revolutionary. I’m not the hopeless romantic most of my poet friends are but hey, it’s a start.

And here is two weeks ago, the swift fall after leaving my phone in an uber and it being stolen soon after, shattering my personality on my own rough-edges:

It sounds so trivial to put to paper (or, more accurately, typed into the notes section of a very old and mightily cracked iPod touch), but over the last few days I have come as close as I’ve come in years to entirely breaking down because I left my phone in an uber.

Already I can hear the sarcastic cries of Oh How Tragic, mostly incomparable to the pure venom of my own chicken scratch in my work notebook this morning, the venomous hiss of What the fuck is wrong with me? Pathetic bitch.

What a trivial reason to crack, in the face of political critical mass, a world that has been literally burning before our very eyes multiple times this year, and actual nazism returning to disturbing prominence. A phone, I whisper sharply to myself, that’s the hill you’re dying on? It’s not even a fucking  good one. 

The truth is that obviously there are myriad reasons losing a phone is difficult, particularly  as someone with depression and multiple chronic illnesses. The phone is full of alarms and reminders for medication and exercise, to eat food and perform the acts of self care that keep my body and brain from rebelling on a daily basis. The phone is how I access yoga videos I follow in the mornings that prevent me from having panic attacks on the underground every commute. The phone is how I contact my international friends who kept me sane alone during hospital stints and recovery from surgery. The phone has my medication info if something happens to me. It’s a very practical tool to help me look after myself as well as something that did it’s absolutely darnedest to keep me sane during extensive periods of brutal isolation and pain. So I suppose it’s perfectly okay to be sad, to mourn for the things I’ve lost. God knows I really haven’t been looking after myself without it.

But the act of losing it seems to be the thing that has caused me the most damage, because really it’s not being without the phone that has sent my brain spiralling into disarray. Not having my phone is not why I gasped for breath mid panic attack gripping the edge of the bath on Sunday evening, shaking and not entirely feeling within my body. Not having my phone is not why I didn’t want to eat or exercise or why I have relapsed into self directed cruelty.

It’s the act of losing. My early onset anxiety raised a perfect control freak. I check things twice. I pack my bags three times to make sure I have everything and still leave feeling uncannily like something has been forgotten. Some latent part of my brain is absolutely fucking furious with me for having done this. How could I be so careless? So forgetful? So ill-prepared? 

The fury is my problem. Depression thrives, feasts upon self hatred, and years of physical pain in a body that has seemed to hold active contempt for me has made it so very easy to lapse into. The majority of my recovery has been about learning how to be gentle with myself, to be patient, to be kind. It takes a lot of therapy to not hate the body that won’t sleep because of the gnawing pain in the stomach, vomiting all night, rolling around the floor in delirious agony; it takes an awful lot of therapy to not hate the body that has tried to kill you. 

What I’m afraid of is the return of this cruel voice. The bitterness has slunk forward so easily. I’m scared of how close to the surface it must have been. How swift was I to be so mad at myself that I stopped doing yoga or working out? How easy was it to just curl up, furious tears making tracks down my cheeks and hardly move for two days? How righteous did it feel to keep myself awake all night like a punishment, force my body to cope with delirium just because I could?

Pathetic bitch. 

Imagine saying that to someone’s face for being upset because they lost their phone. I would never be so callous to someone else, and yet self inflicted it rolls off the tongue. 

God. I have so much work to do.
And here is now:
I am okay. I am weak and tired, and behind on studies, but I am breathing deeply and proud of what I achieved in the blur of the dark, and how quickly I am able to recover now that I’ve taken so many years to practice it. The slide into dark is no longer so steep, and it does not take long for the sun to whisper through. (Also, I do have a truly wonderful support system. Incomparable.)
Part of this levity comes from the wonderful things that arrived over the weekend. Yesterday, as you might know if you keep up with my twitter or instagram exploits, Nosebleed Club (a stalwart of the tumblr writing years, and an incredible resource for young, wild, and weird writers looking for their voices) released its first short story collection, of which I am a part. My contribution, “Moonchild”, is a story about identity, depression, and the moon. It’s a short, weird little thing that took me a year to finish, but which I hold close to my heart. You can download the whole beautiful collection here, and if you do read it please do let me know what you think. A preview:

She dies again, heart fluctuating in a long deep breath when she is jogging through woodland in Lagos, because if nowhere else then here she might find some capitalised Purpose.

(She has hunted for it in: an art history degree she never wanted but could define herself by for a few years; three long dead succulents on her windowsill, framed by two fly-soaked ferns; four guided diaries which petered out around page 10; classic novels by great dead men; decidedly not classic novels by online tastemakers with yogi and proud doggie-mommy in their biographies; a shameful number of empty whisky bottles and her grandmother’s voice revealing in painful inches the sacrifices of their ancestors that feels almost familiar to the mysteries of her damaged heart. It is a spark not bright enough to light her.)

Ironically, what writing this piece showed me is that, well, telling stories is my purpose. It helped me process indescribable grief of being given a life sentence of chronic illness as a child by making it something fantastical and strange. Really, all things should be fantastical and strange. I can’t help but think this is the very point of stories, the why of telling them.

I also found out that a queer fashion photo project I am a part of is open to pre-orders. The book is called “Closet Cases, Queers on What We Wear”, and I am there, a poem and a girl striking a pose in the din of a club in flowing indigo trousers. It’s so liberating to be able to so overtly project my sexuality, something that still often feels like a closely held secret, even though it defines so much of my art and my desires. I often feel once-removed from queer culture, but not here. Not now. Pre-orders available here. (Thank you Megan Valpert for giving me a space in which to say this.)
So this is where we are, my loves. Gay as in happy, queer as in strange, sick as in strong, and burning like saints in the encroaching cold. I love autumn, don’t you?

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