Rebuilding Bridges

By Jac Morrison

When I was in grade school, I had a hard time speaking. Whenever I’d try the words would bundle up and lodge themselves in the back of my throat until I forgot what I was even trying to say in the first place.

I think if someone had taught me how to use my voice as a kid, I wouldn't be writing this.

but they didn't, so here I am.

My mother keeps her sadness hidden beneath down comforters, rocks it to sleep with small yellow pins.

My mother and I are mirrored versions of one another; undeniably the same and undeniably opposite.

I take after her in the way that my sadness can consume me

but unlike my mother I do not quiet when it calls, instead

I call back.
scream, even.

I have been ill my whole life. When I was a kid I cried and cried until the other children bullied me out of elementary school; chased me around the schoolyard and called me crybaby. When teachers asked why I was upset I would tell them I was afraid.

afraid of what?

I'm still unsure.

These days, I am not much different. When my sickness consumes me there's not much I can do besides cry. When this happens it's like I am right back in elementary school -- words trapped behind my tongue like flies on duck tape. Now that I am older it is much more volatile. The swarming in my throat doesn't just die out anymore, it redirects itself:

re-manifests, and consumes me, pulls on my puppet strings and turns me into someone I don't recognize.

But it is me all the same.

I'm learning that when your brain is sick it can make you cruel.

Cruelty is easy;
cruelty requires no empathy,
cruelty is defensive,
cruelty builds walls and toughens skin.

In the past I have refused to acknowledge the way my sick brain can make me mean.

Anxiety manifests as outbursts of misdirected anger, insults made out of frustration, tantrums and snap decisions.

Sadness makes me cold, empty, uncaring.

Mania lets me walk over people without realizing, helps me become enthusiastically selfish, watches me burn all my bridges at once.

If I want to live a life where my mental illness doesn't wreck everything it touches -- I have to accept that my actions are my responsibility, regardless of their fuel.

It's okay to make mistakes, to be emotional, to be radically yourself in a world that tells the mentally ill that we are less valuable than our peers; but it is imperative to keep yourself accountable, even at your worst. It was not until I took responsibility for the ways I acted while I was ill that I began to learn how to stop these behaviors in their tracks. Through it all, I learned to forgive myself — to harness my mental illness, and to prevent it from ever poisoning my life again.

 

Standing In Solidarity via Social Media

By Jac Morrison

*TW assault*

This may be the hardest thing I've ever had to write. Because of that, I'm incapable of flowering it. I can't dust it over with adjectives, can't meander through with metaphors or similes or anything further than the cut and dry. Please forgive me for that.

By now we have all heard the story of Brock Allen Turner, the rapist who was caught violating an intoxicated, unconscious woman behind a dumpster. We have heard about his athletic career, his “generosity,” and how his future is now being dimmed because of, as his father so eloquently put it, “twenty minutes of action”. We have heard his choice to sexually assault a woman incapable of consent be blamed on binge drinking. We’ve been fed the same bullshit we are given every time a white man is accused of rape. He is loved, he is valuable, his future is worth more than that of his victims.

Many of us have become so personally invested in this case that we cannot contain the emotion it invokes.

This is because Brock Allen Turner is not unique.

We have all met him. In bars, at parties, in spaces where we felt safe. We have seen him with his arms around the drunkest girl in the room, waiting for her eyelids begin to droop so he can carry her off and convince himself that she wants him.

Many of us knew that girl.

Many of us were that girl.

I am no exception.

Three years ago I was at a birthday party in a house full of my closest friends. I did not eat dinner. I drank too much whisky. I'd never been so fucked up in my life. I became trapped in the bathroom after getting violently ill; I couldn't get myself up off the floor, I couldn't cry out for help. A friend broke into the bathroom after realizing what had happened. He carried me to the guest bedroom. He tucked me in. He brought me water. He kissed my forehead. He said I'd be alright.

An unknown amount of time later, he came into the room where I was sleeping and raped my immobile body. I will spare you those details.

I woke up with him still next to me, his pants around his ankles. The sun blared through the basement window, lighting up his silhouette and digging into my irises. I felt empty— nothing but a hollow longing for the girl I had fallen asleep as. I felt like a stranger in my own skin.

Friends refused to listen to me. They insisted they'd rather not get involved, that it wasn't their business; as if the violent non-consensual taking of my autonomy was nothing more than a lovers quarrel. I should have known then that they weren't my friends at all. But I didn't. I couldn't. If I didn't have them, I had no one.

I internalized it. Let it gnaw away at my insides. Watched it fester in the pit of my stomach, run through my veins and transform me into someone I didn't recognize. Someone consumed with resentment -- towards myself, towards the friends that betrayed me, towards the man who ruined me. I did things I shouldn't have. I burned bridges. I succumbed to the darkest part of myself.

Fast forward. It is June 2016. I have rebuilt myself. Left behind the friends who refused to stand by me in a hometown I vowed never to return to.

Sometimes, when I've had too much to drink I have fits of unexplainable anxiety. Sometimes I have nightmares of men I trust chasing me through the hallways of my friends houses. Sometimes I become consumed with fear in rooms with people I trust the most. I still cannot go to parties without someone anchored to my side. I still feel broken when I think of what was done to me.

But mostly I have healed.

A powerful statement from Turner’s victim was released shortly after his laughably short sentence was announced, and shortly after I also came out publicly against my rapist. It went viral on social media. CNN had it read on live television. It seemed to be all anyone was talking about for days.

Her honesty was inspiring, but beyond that, her story was painfully relatable. From the violent act itself to the aftermath, so many of us know it too well. Reading her statement and watching the empathy pour out from so many was a pivotal moment for survivors of sexual assault everywhere. Finally our voices were being heard through the vulnerable strength of another survivor.

It took all of my strength to finally admit what had been done to me. I was terrified, rightfully so, and I was crucified by many for speaking up. But beyond the cruelty of those who chose to stay comfortably ignorant, I felt relief.

For everyone who still carries their burden with them wherever they go, for those who want so badly to speak but feel as though they've had their voices stifled, for those who are still gathering the strength to stand up again -- I want you to know your vulnerability is not shameful. Your pain is not your fault.  You do not have to carry it with you.

"And finally, to girls everywhere, I am with you. On nights when you feel alone, I am with you. When people doubt you or dismiss you, I am with you. I fought everyday for you. So never stop fighting, I believe you."

The Secret History Of Burning Bridges

by Jac Morrison

Courtesy of  @elesq / Instagram

Courtesy of @elesq/ Instagram

Letting go is an art. It is a skilled practice that eludes and consumes you. You never seem to let go of the right things. You're not even sure if there are right things. You are a lit match in a balancing act. You are the fire and you are also the bridge but you are mostly the flame. You feel like a conscious conundrum. Because that is what you are.

Burning bridges has not always stood for surrender. Historically, it stood for strength. In Ancient Rome, commanders would order bridges to be set afire behind their troops while invading a new territory.

There was no retreating.

No escaping.

The only option was to fight for their lives.

You feel a lot like a Roman soldier most days. A soldier who's never sure the battles they're fighting are just. Who’s never sure the bridges they are burning are of diamond or of coal. You are leaving those who love you behind. You are moving mountains for those who will not. Those who cannot. Those who choose not to so very clearly but you rack your brain with all of the wrong parts of you that you wish to blame. Shift them to fit in little boxes hoping lovers come and check them off like you are a list to be completed.

Because you feel incomplete. Like you are a sketch half erased. A thought interrupted. A ticking clock with no hands to count the seconds.

And when someone finally arrives with palms up singing the hymnals of your heart, you armor yourself for battle like a misinformed militia. When you should be vulnerable, you are stoic and unforgiving. A fire lit from the soles of your shoes spreading wildly as you run, leaves embers of things that could have saved you behind in favor of wars you secretly wish to lose.

Don't burn your bridges is unfair advice. It is too umbrella. It does not consider that some bridges are too dangerous to be left intact.

Burn the bridges that are already crumbling beneath you. Bridges held together by uncertainty and abuse, leave them to ruin. Feel the boards quake beneath you and know that this, this is when you run. This is when running is an entirely acceptable course of action. This is when running means fighting for a life you've always fought against.

This is new territory, but this is not invasion.

This is departure, but this is not surrender.

This is your reclamation. This is strength. 

The Truth Behind a Frantic Mind

By Jac Morrison

I have always felt I was a person for whom there was just not enough space. Not enough room for my arms to stretch out comfortably. Not enough distance between long legs and solid ground. With my fingertips pressed high to the sun, toes extended and chest open, the air still swallows me whole; collapsing my lungs and crushing my bones. Even when I am small I feel as if I am taking up an uncomfortable amount of room, inconveniencing those close to me. My rough edges pressing them into corners and marking their skin with abrasions.

That's it. Abrasions. I feel abrasive.

The truth is anxiety controls my life. It swells my flesh and balloons inside of me until I am so inflated I feel I do not fit anywhere. Not in spaces with the ones I love. Not in social conversations. Not in love, or in hate or anything in between. My swollen nervousness makes me feel like a burden to all that surround me.

I am not alone, and it is not all in our heads.

The truth is, anxiety is misunderstood by those who do not suffer from it. It is not the same as the butterflies you feel before a presentation. Not comparable to the quiet worry before an interview.

Anxiety is loud. Anxiety is consuming. Anxiety is constant. Anxiety is impenetrable.

The truth is, we are tired of being misunderstood. Tired of being told to calm down. Tired of being labeled as psycho. Tired of why are you so worried? Tired of just get over it and stop thinking about it and you know how many people have it worse than you and you are too much to handle.

The truth is, none of us chose our weird brains. There was no "opt out of nervousness" option. No "check here for mental stability." No magic menu at conception where our souls proclaimed yes, I would like a large lack of serotonin and a side of self loathing please. Oh and don't forget the excessive worry and uncertainty!

The truth is, if you do not suffer from anxiety you could not possibly understand what it means to feel too big for the space you're allotted. What it means to feel less like a person and more like a burden. What it means to be told you are not strong enough when the air around you seems to weigh a thousand pounds.

The truth is, we are so much stronger than we are given credit for. Strength is not measured in calm moments, but in perseverance through the frantic ones.

Art by Olivia Rogers via  Instagram .

Art by Olivia Rogers via Instagram.

A Stepchild's Lament

By Jac Morrison

Home is an anomaly in my life, one that I am not entirely comfortable with. Home is white panels, blue shutters, green grass and a mailbox that spells out a surname that is not my own.

My father does not look like me. He is black eyes and black hair and fingers stained with motor oil calloused deep into his fingerprints. I am blonde hair and blue eyes and hands that tremble in synchronicity with my voice. We are not the same.

Daddy, if you're reading this, I'm sorry.

I know now that love is not defined through blood or last names or the family dinners that always left me feeling out of place. But often the love I received from my father was amok with insecurity. I am a stepchild. A stepchild. A child that does not carry my father's genetics. An outsider by marriage.

My father has 3 children that carry his name. They are beautiful, each owning facial features derived from both of our parents. Our parents. Does that make sense? They are ours. Ours as in mine and theirs. Mine and theirs.

Mine. Theirs. Ours.

My mother reminds me he loves me more often than she expresses her own affection. She never has to remind my sister of his love. She knows his love the way only a daughter could. I am not familiar with that feeling.

I have been angry and envious of the love that comes so naturally for my siblings more often than I care to admit. I have sat at the dinner table with my family, our hands latched together in prayer and even then felt a distance from them. Sat lonely in my room listening to the happy laughter of my family below sharing parts of their day. Felt my stomach drop when strangers told my sister she was definitely her father's daughter. Her father. Hers.

These thoughts wreaked havoc on my childhood. Made myself a stranger in my home. Feelings created by evil step parent tropes, Cinderella and my biological father only calling to remind me that Michael was not my father.

He was wrong.

I have never called my father by his first name. He has always been my daddy. He earned that name through his determination to give unconditional love even when I would not accept it.

I am grateful for my father. I do not have his eyes or his hair or his hands -- but I have his strength, his determination, his loyalty. I inherited his humor. Listened to his vocal inflections and made them my own. I may not have come from his seed, but he is the water and the sunlight and the soil that helped me to grow.

Daddy, if you're reading this, I love you. 

Photo Courtesy of Jac Morrison

The Art of Losing Your (Almost) Lover

By Jac Morrison

If the word "fickle" was personified, I am almost entirely sure it would materialize itself as me. I fall in love as suddenly as the wind changes direction. It takes very little for my imagination to launch itself into daydreams about a lustful future with whichever human might have laid their gentle hands on me the night before. I am a textbook romantic. There is no way around that fact. Being this way has taken me on many a happy escapade -- long nights spent thinking "I'm going to remember this for the rest of my life". The sort of lustful grand adventures fit only for a Peter Sollet film.

Of course, loving so freely often means losing those lovers just as quickly as they came. I am no stranger to scarfing down loaves of cookie dough in my candlelit bedroom while listening to A Fine Frenzy on repeat. Tortured and hopeless, scrolling through their social media accounts wondering if that last Bright Eyes lyric they captioned their latest selfie with was related to me (it wasn't). In fact, it has happened so dreadfully often that I have created a three step guideline as to how to overcome the phenomena that is losing someone that was never really yours to begin with.I call it "The Art of Losing Your Almost Lover".

Step One: Stop

Often times when a human (no matter how small an appearance they made in your life) leaves abruptly you find yourself in a panic. Anxious questions surge through your head as if you were frantically flipping channels on a television. What did I do wrong? Did I come off too strong? Was I too loud? Too quiet? Was I too passionate? Was I not passionate enough? The trick to quieting your worried mind is simply, stop. Breathe. Listen to your lungs process oxygen. Close your eyes. Be in this moment, be present in the space you are in. The world is not ending, your body is intact. There is nothing inherently dangerous about this loss, despite its immediate pain. You are okay, you will be okay.

 

Step Two: Let Go

This is often the hardest part, but I find it to be the most necessary. In order to heal over the loss of your almost lover, you need to forget them. I am not saying go full Clementine Kruczynski in Eternal Sunshine on their ass but you need to remove their existence from your immediate present, at least temporarily. Delete their texts from your phone. Unfollow their posts on Facebook. Put away the sweater they left on your bedpost. Stop listening to Keaton Henson's "10am Gare De Nord" on repeat. Put down the tubes of cookie dough. Turn off Garden State. Re-organize your life to what it was before they ever came around. Remind yourself there was a time before this lover, and there will be a time after.

 

Step Three: Love Yourself

Now, I know what you're thinking. "Oh, here it comes. The grand cliche of ~You Have To Love YourSELF Before You Can Love Anyone Else!!~ But that is absolutely not where I am going with this. I do not think there is a guideline to love that says you need to be fully comfortable in yourself to love another person. (Who really is fully comfortable in themselves anyways?) But I do think it is essential to at least try to love yourself after the loss of an almost lover. Because frankly, in the recoil of your failed romance, who else is going to? Tell yourself that the inability of another human to love you the way you expected absolutely does not reflect on your character. You are not unloveable because one human doesn't love you. So, in spite of your almost lover, be in love with yourself. Do the thing that you are best at, congratulate yourself on it. Take yourself out for gelato. Take long, steaming bubble baths. Dance around your living room to your favorite angry punk music. You are good. You are worthwhile. You are valuable. Tell yourself these things until they no longer register as words in your brain.

You are good. You are worthwhile. You are valuable.

Losing an almost lover is arguably just as difficult as losing a partner. Often it comes abrupt and unexpected; one minute you are dreaming of a blissful tomorrow and the next you are stumbling back trying to regain footing as if the floor had collapsed right out from under you. But just like any other tumble in life, you will stand back up. You will dust the melancholy remorse off your shoulders, and if you're anything like me -- it will not be long before you fall in love with someone else's gentle hands.