I wrote a story that I can relate to personally. So many of us try to make our pain or illness more palatable to others (and ourselves) by resorting to humor. It’s a joke now that millennials suffer from near constant existential crises. Low wages, high costs of living, the crippling weight of student loan debt that so many of us were promised we’d easily pay off. These things are true in many countries around the world, but not all. But for those that do suffer under the weight of the odds stacked against us, I hope this story is cathartic in how you can relate to it. I hope you know you’re not alone.
“I’m both my biggest fan and my biggest enemy,” she said laughing. Her friends all laughed too, agreeing vehemently, comrades in their self-loathing.
Later that night, she sat alone in her bedroom, dirty dishes piled high on her desk, bed linens unwashed these past four months.
“I’m not going to apologize for being me,” she posted on social media as she painted her nails red.
Her worth was exponentially higher than she would ever acknowledge, although her heart yearned to believe it.
Serotonin and dopamine, too low most of the time, spiking only when she gave voice to her pain.
©2019 Heather Stephens
The prompt was “Water”.
Water is always blissful for me. I love being near it. Whether I’m at the beach, looking out on the Pacific Ocean with a thousand other people or I’m walking along a river or I’m gazing at a lake, I find peace always.
Water calms me. If I’m feeling capricious or my mental illnesses are too much to bear, I know I can at least find some semblance of focus.
I love being near water.
The lake always gave her tranquility.
And it was a gift. Tranquility was something she did not usually possess. Yet as she sat on the shore, a blessed calm passed over her, blanketing her in warm silence.
Her mind, too, was quiet.
So she relished this, away from the pressures of a life gone horribly wrong. A life that could have gone a thousand ways, but had chosen a harsher course.
Still, she had the lake, and all that it gave to her. Strength could be found in its peaceful waters.
Heeding the wisdom of the still water, she survived.
© 2017 Heather Stephens
It is said that those with chronic illness or mental illness only have a certain amount of energy with which to do tasks, needful tasks, like personal hygiene and housekeeping. That is why so many with such afflictions either can’t work or perform poorly when working or attending school.
I personally struggle with several debilitating illnesses and afflictions. Some days I can’t brush my own hair, other days I can’t shower. The sicker I get, the more often these days occur. I need help preparing my food. Some days I can’t even feed myself and I need my husband to spoon my food into my mouth.
It’s too much.
But other days, like today, I am capable. I can write, I can think clearly. These days are gifts and I take advantage of every single one.
A messy room. A dirty kitchen.
Lessons in tidiness never heeded.
She stepped over the piles of clothes on her way to get a glass of milk.
It had gone sour.
Of all the reasons one might have to keep a house neat, she possessed only two that kept it filthy.
Her mind. Her sorrows.
Should she obtain a way out of the muck that grimed the kitchen countertops, she would feel a new sort of responsibility. To keep it that way. The thought exhausted her.
The burden of freedom. ‘Twas too much to bear.
She resigned to her suffering.
© 2017 Heather Stephens