External Processor: An Essay

I can’t stop talking about all the things I’m not supposed to talk about. I read an article by Eleni Pinnow. She lost her sister, Aletha, to suicide.  Eleni’s grief howled through her words, and one statement struck me and never left—“the reason depression and suicide are so pervasive is that we don’t know how to talk about them”.  I want to talk about them.  I want to talk about all the things my mind tells me not to and not feel bad about it.

I can’t stop talking now.  I can’t stop writing.  The words gush from every part of me.  My words are tireless fingers untangling everything that’s knotted. Where words struggle to reach, I feel a compulsion to place sound there.  I think I feel that if I can give my discomfort a voice, it will be less apt to linger.

Whether it’s my mental health, my body, my eating disorders, sex, growing up, my struggles and triumphs—I don’t feel bad talking about it.  Exposed, yes.  I question if I am sharing cherished information with an undeserving audience.  Closure isn’t my goal.  It isn’t validation either.  I don’t aim to be heard or achieve any degree of fame.  It is enough to form my voice in the world and know I’ve dared my words to exist. I want to say all the things I’ve never heard said before.  I don’t regard my work as esoteric or profound.  Rather, we’ve been socially programmed to suppress these things, and I want them to surface.



You don’t want others to live their values,

you want them to live your values.

To say the former is to paste an entire topography onto a person without ever learning their coordinates, their landscape, explored the valleys of their being and the desserts of their experience.

People are oceans,

You can’t judge their depths from the waves.



She Blogs Now– A Reintroduction

I don’t think I ever introduced myself when starting this page.

I wanted it to be anonymous so I’d never have to claim the darkest parts of me or be the owner of my damage. It’s been months since my last entry.

To call most of my 24th year of life a spiritual blizzard is equally cliche and accurate. Eleven months of internalized winter flurried my norms away. I weathered traumas and misfortunes and incredible surprises. It was humbling, embarrassing, and ultimately, transformative.  I realized who I really was when I understood how brutally I treated myself through trauma, and I was disappointed.   For all my struggles, I’m still here– better than I was a year ago. I am, perhaps, the best I’ve been in my short life.

You emerge different after survival. A creature more raw, aware of instincts and attune to themselves. That’s how I feel now. I don’t feel “grown up”. I don’t have it all figured out. What I have are my values, my softness, my open heart, and an unending garland of words my mind continues to string. They are here for you. Even if your choice is to reject them or gawk at them or the cyber abyss swallows them whole, I am willing to share them with you anyway. 

So here it is, the proper introduction I never gave the first time around:
My name is Marisa. I think my parents knew I’d be (to quote Roxane Gay) a difficult woman, and they spelled it with one “s” as a warning sign to the universe. In actuality, my mother had not seen it spelled “Marissa” until after my birth. I have a poet’s heart, and a politician’s brain– they are always at war with one another.
Much to my teenage self’s chagrin, I live in the Midwest. My love for my home state is hard-won. Through cornfields and adolescent bullies, I turned taunts into something tangible to call my own. I weathered lonely to be loved. I endured to edify. There is a special miracle in being the architect of your own blessings. I don’t feel this way every day, but I come back to it in one way or another.
I am still learning that although love requires sacrifice, I don’t need to sacrifice myself to be worthy of love.  Any love that demands the desecration of my spirit is no love at all.  And that might make me lonely sometimes.  Slowly, I’m understanding that the hollowness of being alone is also the openness of possibility.
This page has blackened to obsidian at times.  My head is a happier place these days.  My life is brighter, perhaps the best it’s been.  But mental health is a shapeshifter.  I will never be too confident in my state, only in my resilience when translucent dulls to opaque.  But this continuity, is equal parts reintroduction and love letter.  An ovation to my community, to my mentors, family, and friends who have been my heaven amidst my hell.  Thank you for guiding me home.  Over and over again, thank you for reminding me who I am.
I’m not sure there is a purpose to this text. It’s amorphous like the writer herself. I don’t know what my life will be at this point. I’m 24. I don’t know what I’m talking about, or, I do– within the context of my own experiences. It’s easy to be an expert in lives you’ve never lived. It’s easy to dispense advice from a pedestal, never dismounting into discomfort. This blog hails from the mess. These words will be muddy, unkempt, and contradictory.  But they are shared now.  They have a voice and a light, and I thank you for indulging me in that, if only for a second.  Thanks for stopping by.waterslide

On pain

Our relationship to pain– how we react and respond to it– changes everything.

This idea ruminated in my mind from the moment I saw it.  My thoughts latched onto this because I don’t have a healthy relationship to pain.  I avoid it at all costs until I come into contact with it.  Once agony and I collide, I can’t let go.  My stubborn perseverance encourages me that there’s some prize for enduring the most pain.  It’s a fool’s prize– the one given to marginalized people as an incentive for their silence.

But pain is a cat burglar.  Denying it entry only motivates it to break a window, infiltrate a vent, wind itself inside a hiding place just long enough to jump out and scare you when you’ve convinced yourself pain is long gone.

What if I were open to aching?  What if I acknowledged the thief as it entered?  These aren’t solutions.  Then again, these days, I’m no longer in search of the answers.  I just want to ask better questions.  We weld questions so complicated that the simplest answers become out of reach.

For now, all I can do is become a doorway and witness to my own discomfort.  I seize my right to arrest my pain by acknowledging and addressing it.  I’ve spent too long being a bystander in my own suffering.

Heft: Notes from the Grayspace

I’m struggling with self-worth right now.  I’m struggling with staying alive.  I’m an optimist sandbagged by depression, desperately clawing for hope.  Everything hurts right now: my body, my head, my spirit.  It all feels so heavy.  Is it always supposed to be this hard?

I feel like I have to force people to love me.  I chase until I am breathless, heaving.  Love was introduced to me as something I had to earn.  I never unlearned that.  When you’ve never really been wanted your whole life, when the only thing you’ve been to others is option rather than priority, it’s hard.  I wish I could gloss this with poetic language, make the pain sound pretty, but it’s not.  My emotions and mindset are coarse, brutal, unrelenting. My head is desolate, my throat tight, stomach heavy. I can’t even call it rejection, as it rejected implies that you fit somewhere at some point.  I am aimless, a nomad homesick for community.

People don’t want me as a person.  As a concept—something consumable, disposable, ready at their leisure—I am wanted.  But my vulnerabilities, my hopes and hurts and everything in between—nobody is interested in that.  I know this because when I ask for help, I am shamed. How dare the concept think she’s a real girl?!  How could you reach so close to others that you almost touch them?

I don’t want to be alive right now.  And I know this is so utterly hypocritical to my last entry, a stark contrast in message.  I meant every word I wrote last time.  I mean every word I’m writing now.  With every breath, I’m fighting to stay here.  The last thing I want to be is a tragic tale.  Part of this stems from believing that I am capable of multitudes, that I can offer others something good.  I still believe, as cloudy and everything is, that the best is yet to come.   I cannot house the responsibility I do as a sister and friend and mentor in this world and end things. Even if  I can’t be loved back, I am obligated to everything/one I’ve ever loved to continue.

But the other part is that I don’t want people to discuss me, and say “if only I knew, I would have done something”.  Let me be clear:  No you wouldn’t have.  I’m fighting for my own life because I know nobody else will do it for me.  They will watch me drown, as I am screaming for help, and trust that some other person will throw me a lifejacket.  That other person doesn’t exist, and you don’t want to be inconvenienced.  My screams make you uncomfortable, and you will feel relief when they stop.

My mental health and self-care is my responsibility and no one else’s.  I am not pawning it off or expecting anything from anybody else.    But, then, if I fail at this.  If this is the monsoon season that drowns me, please don’t come to my wake wishing you knew and proclaiming your love for me.  You don’t love me.  You loved an idea that served you.  You didn’t know because you only saw and heard what sounded sweet and looked pretty. You were never interested in me, and it’s hard for me not to hurt over that.  It’s hard for me not to ache and cry and wonder, “why not me? Why never me?”  Why, after I learned to love myself, after I did set boundaries, after I have been my own knight in shining armor, after I have tried therapy and exercise, and got all the accolades was it never enough?  I could never ascend from the option category of anyone’s relationships.

“You are not a reflection of those who cannot love you, Marisa.  You are abundant.  They are smallness.  It’s profoundly unhealthy to emotionally flog yourself over matters you can’t control like this.  It’s out there.  What you’re starving for is out there.”  I tell myself these things a lot, repeating affirmations like prayer until they are spoken into reality.  I try to soothe myself.  But being regarded as inconsequential by so many for so long inevitably affects a person’s self-worth.  It happens over and over and over, reader.  It happens whether I want it to or not, regardless of strategy or lack there of.  Rejection finds me.  Scarcity finds me.  I attract all the things I ultimately repel.  They just linger long enough to remind me that I do not love being alone.

No answers are hidden in this post.  This is not a scavenger hunt for hope between sentences. Suicidal is familiar for me.  I’ve burrowed and barreled my way through agony and made transportation systems of my emptiness before.  It never feels easier, never lighter. I would more than willingly take a lifetime of this, if I knew I would be loved as something other than an afterthought.   But I don’t have that guarantee.  Depression, anxiety, and suicide are dragons I’ve slayed before, but I’ve never overcome my lack of belonging.  Loneliness is another beast entirely, savage and unrelenting. I can’t banish it through binge-ing, purging, sweating– I know this because I’ve tried.  You cannot be a village unto yourself.  I cannot make a community out of only me and be my only support system, and I don’t have a solution.  I put myself out there.  I am a good friend, sister, daughter, co-worker.  Hell, I’m even liked.  It is exhausting to put my whole self out there every time, all the time, and have nothing reciprocated.  I don’t think I can keep doing this, but I don’t know what else to do. I am an oxymoron– always brimming with life and fire, while always so close to the grayspace that is suicidal.  I don’t want to be that anymore.

I didn’t always want this

My mind has always felt more haunted house than head.  I learned anxiety before the sound of my own name.  You can still hear it like an accent in all the unnecessary apologies I pepper in my sentences.  By 8, depression moved in. My head made islands out of crowded rooms. I never felt like I belonged, always isolated the the thunderous, looping fictions I told myself.

It became so loud that I attempted suicide 3 times–all before my sixteenth birthday. I played twister with medications–taking them in a variety of different fashions. I believed I was a burden.
I was eight when my perspective became more shadow than substance, when I defined myself as burden rather than being.

As I got older, I looked for people who were adrift like me.  I looked for wrists with scars that matched mine, like self abuse was a language written in hieroglyphics on the skin.  I wondered how many people saw food as the enemy instead of just… food.   I was homesick for community.  My pre-college self was a nomad desperate for a hometown, some coordinates to stake herself into.

College offered some relief.  Still, in college, I wondered how many people posted galleries of the lives they hoped to live, a contrast to loneliness.  Even when I was happy, surrounded by people, I’d feel my spirit drift in the gray space where you aren’t dead, but apathetic toward continuing to live.

Ten years ago, I couldn’t fathom my early twenties. It sounds so silly now, and I hope if I read this at 40, I’ll roll my eyes, howling. Conceptualizing a complex and fulfilling existence on the pillars of my own creation seemed more fantasy than future in my teens.

There’s nothing “after” about this.  Most days, my breath feels more concrete than air.  My head makes islands of crowded rooms. There are nights anxiety holds me hostage from sleep and mornings when everything outside me is barbed wire.  I don’t feel like I belong a lot.  I am what high functioning anxiety and depression looks like.  I’ve known depression longer than most of my favorite people. Anxiety is the native tongue I’d give anything  On the worst days, I choose my life over the alternative. Every day I live is a monument to survival, a love letter to all the women I’ve been before–thanking them for not letting go.  I can’t regard my past selves with anything but reverence, knowing that every painful day she/they endured brought me to this messy and beautiful and rich and unconventional marvel I call my life.