Catharsis

Why do we do it?

Why do we put ourselves through things like catharsis just so we can feel? We deliberately listen to songs that hurt us. Songs that remind us of pain from our past, songs that we listened to when we were with someone we no longer talk to. It isn’t just music either, we watch TV shows that make us cry even though we know it’s coming. But, why? (Looking at you Grey’s Anatomy!) woman-sad-near-water

Well, I can’t speak for everyone, but I’ll tell you why I do it. Currently,  I’m listening to a
playlist I made. It’s not even supposed to be as deep as I made it, but somehow it came out that way. There are 30 songs, and eleven of them are indeed that deep. In fact, all day, I’ve felt myself on the verge of a breakdown and here I am. Listening to those ten songs, that now have more meaning to them than I originally planned.

I’m not sure if it’s a good thing that  I made the playlist that deep, or maybe my brain is just in overdrive from recent events, but either way. While I’m writing this blog on catharsis, I’m putting myself through it and honestly it feels a little fucked up. My eyes hurt, my fingers are shaking, and my heart feels shattered. Plus, blowing your nose with a septum ring in is just a pain in the ass.

Also, I should’ve mentioned this earlier, but for those of you who don’t know by know, (or haven’t gotten from the context clues I’ve loosely provided), catharsis is the process of releasing emotion… on purpose. The fact that we even need to push ourselves to release emotions like that is just insane and this is coming from someone who builds up emotion like a pro. Wow, while I wrote that, even I knew it didn’t sound healthy yet here I am with almost twenty-two years of pent-up emotion.

Let me say this though… I’ve been working on it. While some of my nights still consist of crying on the bathroom floor after a day of difficult emotions and stressful moments, I have managed to fight the urge to do it alone. Even though it’s been a long journey to get to where I am now, I’ll forever be proud of the fact that I’ve shown at least a little progress… even if it did take quite a few years to get here.

Podcast: Fiction

From the time I learned how to read, I’ve always read fiction. I could get lost in Wonderland or Hogwarts, just by opening up a book. The simple stumble into a couple hundred pages could result in many hours, or even days, spent entwined in the content between the cover pages. Yet, one of the best parts is the smell. Oh, the smell of a book. If you’re an avid book reader who’s in love with printed literature, describing the smell is almost impossible. It’s easy to get lost in it. Just picking up a book and sniffing the pages, old or new, it’s enticing. A digitally printed book doesn’t even compare to a hard copy, especially since a hard copy could be placed on a shelf. Personally, I love having my books on display.

Ah, the display. IKEA really has some fantastic bookcases even though they’re cheap. Alphabetically organized and divided between read and unread, the books give off a floor-to-ceiling library effect. Now, let’s not forget about the people responsible for my aesthetically pleasing case.

There are currently 266 books, or rather 178 authors that are alphabetically aligned on my shelves, but let’s get down to the authors I have the most books from. Off the top of my head, there’s JK Rowling (who we all know and love), Danielle Rollins (a, as she puts it, candy-coated horror novelist), and Chuck Palahniuk (who you might know as the man behind Fight Club).

These three authors have the most books on my shelves, and here’s why:

For one, all three authors write in some form of fiction. Whether it’s considered fantasy, horror, or transgressional, fiction is always my go-to.

Joanne Rowling, or JK Rowling, is the writer behind the entire Harry Potter franchise. Naturally, I have more books of hers than I do anyone else’s (besides Chuck’s) and I’ve been reading and rereading her books since 2006.

The Harry Potter series has had such a big impact in my life. Right from the start, my mom read me 60 pages a night so I could get through them before the big AR tests we had. Now, for those of you who don’t know what AR tests are, they’re Advanced Reading tests we used to have to take in elementary school. We got points for each one depending on our grade and I was number 2 in all of the fourth-grade class of Martin Walker Elementary, all thanks to JK Rowling and her magical books. Immediately, I got hooked on Severus Snape (RIP Alan Rickman), Mad-Eye Moody (may he rest in peace, as well), and all of the mythical creatures throughout the books. While the series may be finished, Rowling still continues to produce widely-loved novels even to this day. I’ll always appreciate the boy who lived under the stairs, and I’ll always appreciate the woman behind it.

Danielle Rollins is a different story. She’s a fireball with her words. One minute I’d connect with a character and the next I’ll start feeling queasy due to some gory scene she slipped in. Her books are like roller coasters and if you go under her pseudonym, “Vega,” they just get gorier. Now, I’m not talking Saw-gory, because she is technically candy-coating some of the scenes and the books are for young adults. Yet, somehow, someway, I can’t read them all the way through without taking a few breaks. Rollins, or Vega, has published a total of six books, and I barreled through them in a matter of weeks. Now, let’s get into my all-time favorite author, Chuck Palahniuk.

From this point forward, for the sake of not mispronouncing his last name, I’m going to refer to him as Chuck. Chuck is a trangressional fiction novelist who refers to his fans as Chuckleheads. All of his books plotlines were written so that the main character broke out of societal norms. For instance, in Fight Club, the main character got tired of working a nine-to-five job, so he started doing illegal activities after hours. Which, coincidentally, I can’t talk about due to the number one rule: “Don’t talk about fight club.”

Chuck has published a total of 21 books and I have 17. Alphabetically, by book title, there’s Beautiful You, Choke, Damned, Diary, Doomed, two copies of Fight Club, Fight Club 2, Haunted, Invisible Monsters, Invisible Monsters Remix, Lullaby, Make Something Up, Phoenix, Pygmy, Rant, Snuff, Survivor, and Tell-All.

Surprisingly, there’s actually a story behind one of the copies of Fight Club. On Black Friday, my fiancé and I woke up at 7am to go and get a signed copy of it. Now, we didn’t meet Chuck because he wasn’t there, but we now own a signed first-edition copy of Fight Club and we’re planning on putting it in a shadow box. It’s become one of our prized possessions and we don’t let anyone touch it, which sounds obsessive, I know, but the Chucklehead in me can’t resist.

Anyway, I think that’ll be enough for this podcast. I hope each and every one of you go out there and find a good book, get lost in the pages, and have the same experience I do when I find a new favorite. Make sure to keep up with me to find out more about the vast world of literature, multimedia topics and the study of writing.

Reflection

My composition process changed by switching to a more audio approach because I had to think about how I’d say it while I typed it. I included commas where I’d usually take a breath.  On Microsoft Word, I typed up the blog so I could read it easier. That way, I could double-space the text and increase the readability. Overall, this was an interesting and fun experience and I’m glad I finally did a podcast.

November 12, 2014

It was a humid, yet chilly Wednesday night; which oddly isn’t unusual for Texas. The sun had just left to awaken a new part of the world and I was just getting off work. As soon as the clock hit 10:23, I would leave the confinements of C.R. Clements and set off to my destination: home.

Copperas Cove, Texas was a small town that I knew like the back of my hand. It used to only take 20 minutes to get through the entire thing, no matter which direction you went through. Surrounded by five hills, with a school district that worships the Bulldawg football team and faculty scandals, Copperas Cove isn’t a place that is well-known. Yet, it’s very close to the third biggest military post in America: Fort Hood (1). Primarily made up of military brats (me included), the town only holds 32,000 people as of 2016 (2). So, it’s a melting pot.

Now, the school that I worked at was my old intermediate, my fifth-grade alma mater, and where I walked the halls as a part of Ms. D Smith’s Snakes; my homeroom class. As a freshly graduated eighteen-year-old, it was a bit uncomfortable to walk the halls as a custodian, but I did it anyway. I started the full-time custodial position in August of 2014, so by November, I was already three months into my job. At the time, I was living with my mom and I was about to hit my one-year mark with my boyfriend Cody Lee. We started dating my senior year of high school, but we went through a long and winding path until we finally were the complete high school definition of official; it was on Facebook. However, we won’t go too far into those details because they’re pretty personal. Let’s just say, that we were both involved with other people when we first started hanging out, I met his parents, he met mine, and we were basically dismissing the inevitable.

“You know you like him, I don’t know why you’re staying with that guy who hasn’t talked to you in two weeks,” my mom would say while I’m on my way out the door to see Cody.

“I know. I know. I know. I have to break it off because we’re going through the same cycle of nonsense that we go through. Every. Single. Time,” I’d tell her.

This wasn’t the exact conversation, but at the time I still dismissed it. Eventually, I realized I wanted to be with the beautiful brown-eyed boy I met in the aisles of Wal-Mart a few months prior. So, I had to break it off with the guy in Indiana who had been ignoring me for weeks. Since he blocked me on Facebook (wow, I was clueless when I was seventeen), I decided to text him and break off the relationship officially before we finally crashed.

Cody on the other hand, well, his story is for him to tell. All you need to know is that, after months of self-doubt, we officially got together on November 12, 2013.

After he got off a shift at Wal-Mart at 10pm, he walked up my parents’ driveway with a bouquet of roses and asked, “Will you go out with me?”

To which I promptly replied, “No,” and walked away.

“Okay then,” Cody said as he walked back to his Suzuki Forenza.

“No, no, no stop, wait! I was kidding! Yes,” and I ran up to him, put my hands on his face, and kissed him.

Now, there we were almost an exact year later. November 11th. While I was walking to my car after a long shift, my “David Tennant as the Doctor” text tone went off and I checked it.

Are you still coming over, Cody asked. (We had an agreement that I’d sleep at his parents’ house tonight because we stayed at mine quite a few in a row.)

So, I texted him back: Yes? Let me go get my things and I’ll be right over.

Drive safe. Text me when you get there.

I arrived at my moms’ house at around 10:40pm, sent a quick text to Cody, and went inside to get my stuff and tell my mom about my day. It was my usual routine, so I grabbed my makeup, hair products, pajamas, and a few outfits. I always tended to overpack, so it all went into a suitcase. After a year of dating and sleepovers, Cody’s parents were definitely used to me hauling in my things. So, I updated my mom, said a quick goodbye, and as I headed out the door she said, “If he proposes, you better come back here and tell me.”

“We’ll see,” I yelled back at her as I shut the door.

When I pulled up to Cody’s house, I texted him that I finally arrived at around 11:45pm.  The moon was glaring through my ’77 Chevy C10’s windows and the air was cooling down. As I got out of my truck and went to grab my array of bags, David Tennant went off again.

Just come in the front door… don’t knock.

The text wasn’t usual. The whole thing wasn’t usual. So, I decided to leave my bags. Cody would’ve normally helped me with them, or he would’ve at least came out and opened the front door for me. Walking straight into the house though? That never happens. The door was always locked after 10pm. However, I continued my journey down the driveway and up to the front door where there was a note. Since this was a few years ago, I don’t remember the exact words, but I believe the note said to walk inside and follow the clues.

Inside the house, the lights were dimmed and there were red rose petals scattered on the floor. On the side table, next to their brown pleather couches, were more rose petals and another note. It read:

Danielle, if you’re a piranha. Then I’m a piranha.

The next note is where we baked our first batch of cookies together.

The saying was from Finding Nemo. Originally it was from the little girl in the dentists’ office, named Darla, who tried to shake Nemo awake (3). She was kind of a terror. Sitting in the dentists’ chair, she revealed her braces and said, “I’m a piranha.” Somehow, it evolved from there.

On the way to the next note, I avoided stepping on the rose petals on the destined path while I walked through the house. The next note was found on the kitchen table, also scattered with rose petals. This makes note number three over a span of maybe thirty feet from the front door to the back door. The clues were unneeded, but they were such a nice touch and the moment felt so surreal. My mom’s voice was running through my head, “If he proposes, come back and tell me.” Nevertheless, I continued to read the note:

I love you to the moon and back, now check the back door.

Quickly, I looked behind me. The back door was unlocked, but there was a note covering the peephole. This made note number four. Which simply said to open it and when I did, Cody quickly told me to shut it which caused my anxiety to act up. I started to get a little shaky, but I only waited a few minutes before I cracked the door a little and asked if he was alright.

“I’m fine, I’m ready, come on out babe,” he said.

I walked onto the back porch and there was a fire going with stuff for smores on a chair next to it. The air was only getting colder, so I was glad that I was wearing my letterman that night. Along with the fire, the smores, and the cool winter night, there was Cody. Kneeling on one knee in a suit holding open a silver box.

My hands flew quickly to my mouth. I was in complete shock. After all of the clues, I kind of knew what was coming. I had my mom’s voice in my head yet, I still couldn’t believe what was going on. My boyfriend, of a year almost on-the-dot, was kneeling in front of our favorite pastime; roasting marshmallows.

“Danielle Mahriahna-Skillings Johnson, will you marry me?”

Tears streamed down my face before I could even get the words out; this moment was so surreal. “Yes, oh my gosh, yes!” He stood up, put the ring on my finger, and it fit perfectly. I was seriously in-awe that he remembered my ring size; I couldn’t believe it. He wrapped me in his arms and I just continued to cry. After all the failed past relationships I went through in the past to get to this point; I was engaged, I was happy, and I was utterly in-shock.

It immediately hit me that I had to tell my mom. It couldn’t wait, and she wouldn’t have liked it if I waited until tomorrow. I had to tell her. So, I told Cody and he said that he already knew we would have to go over there. In fact, he planned to take me back home afterwards to tell her regardless.

So, we walked back in to the house and both of his parents were standing there in their pajamas with their chihuahua. They were in on the whole proposal the entire time.

“Welcome to the family! Even though you’re already like a daughter-in-law to us,” they said while hugging the both of us. I still couldn’t believe it. I was going to be an AllBee.

The Cycle of Self-Hatred: An Anthology

The Cycle of Self-Hatred: An Anthology

Ever since we were kids, we were told that we could do anything. If we wanted to; “we could be astronauts, we could be superheroes, we could be Disney princesses/princes, we could be the President of the United States” (T.F. Anon.), but how many of us have attained these goals? NASA is not flying people out anymore until approximately 2021. The superheroes in the comics and the movies do not exist (unless you’re filthy rich and can afford Batman or Iron Man’s lifestyle). Disney princesses/princes must follow intricate roles for low wages (in FL and CA they are not sustainable), and now we are on our 45th president.

Personally, I wasn’t brought up with these unrealistic goals because my mom wasn’t the kind of person to tell their kids they could reach for the moon. (I say mom because she’s been there through it all, my dad was absent during most of my big decisions). Instead, my siblings and I focused on the here and now. I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up until the Spring of 2017. Up until then I set my own goals and crushed them. When I first started college I went through about six different majors before I stuck with English. Throughout the whole debacle, my mom was still there for me. She didn’t care what school I went to or what career path I wanted to follow, she just wanted me to be happy with my own decisions. While my brother and I have remained indecisive (for most of my life) and my youngest sister is still six, my eighteen-year-old sister has known what she’s wanted to be since kindergarten. So, the way we were brought up has differing affects on all of us.

These unrealistic goals have been inflicted onto us since before our parents were parents, before their parents were parents, and so on. Setting these goals are a prime example of what society wants us to be. There isn’t anything wrong with telling your kids that they can be astronauts, princesses/princes or the president, but sometimes they grow up to think about this more literally than it’s originally meant. Thanks to a few anonymous participants, I have concocted an elaborate example on how three things can start the cycle of self-hatred and how they can be resolved.

COMPARISONS

Let’s begin with what exactly self-hatred is. It starts out as an internal argument with yourself. You don’t like the way you look, the way you compare yourself to others, the way others seem to compare you to how society thinks you should look and act. The simple act of following a blog or fashion magazine can lead to the downfall of positivity. As soon as you start comparing yourself to others, you can start to lose your self-love.

Keeping a firm grasp on your self-love is very important. I had it once. My grip was tight, and nobody could touch me. Over time, things started to change. Social media became more readily available. My bare face with bags under my eyes, acne, and large pores weren’t enough. The times changed. Makeup was the new norm, and when I started to figure it out, women started to get praised for baring their naked faces. So, which is it?

Society will always evolve, but I’m not the only one who has fallen into this cycle. There are several others. According to a few men and women I interviewed; Darnell, Emmanuel, Marisol, and Braxton (these are pseudonyms to keep them anonymous). I am not alone. All four of them have informed me that their cycles of self-hate begin with comparisons.

Darnell and Marisol were brought up to think that there is a certain age for certain life achievements. If you’re not married by the time you’re in your mid-20s, you’ve failed. If you don’t move out at eighteen, you’ve failed. If you don’t get your own home with an established income by the time you’re 30, you’ve failed. All of this became preprogrammed into their brains as they grew up. Filled with “you must” and “you have to’s”, Darnell and Marisol were sent into the real world with high expectations. Soon they were met with the sudden reality that the goals that were set cannot be planned, and if they were planned, they were not easily attainable. (Marisol eventually discovered a potential solution, but we’re going to get through everyone’s personal growths later.)

Emmanuel was brought up the same way. Except he grew up with the lack of a great parental influence. His mom was absent his entire life. Sure, Dad was physically there, but he wasn’t there mentally. Soon after graduation, his dad decided “wait a minute, I have a son. What is he doing with his life?”. This left Emmanuel with two choices that his dad gave him. Either he had to join the army and get out of his dad’s house, or he had to quit his current job that put miles on his car. Regardless, it was an ultimatum that his previously-absent father set before him. Despite having a long term intermittent (yet serious) girlfriend, Emmanuel chose the military.

Braxton often finds himself thinking back to the “good ole’ days”. He kept focusing more on the “what-if’s” instead of the “here and now”. Nostalgia was taking over his thought process and he constantly compared his current life to how it could’ve been if he just changed one step in his past.

STRESS

Another factor leading into the cycle is stress. Personally, I go through days of questioning everything and wanting to pull my hair out. School and quite a few personal issues have taken a toll on my mental health these past few semesters. There would be times when I’d quit showering or eating, and there’s times when my fiancé would force me out of the house for mental breaks. I’m not alone in the amount of stress I experience either. Sarafine, Spencer, and Mark (pseudonyms of course) have similar stories.

Sarafine has recently started college and the number of classes and the amount of debt shoved upon her has increased her stress level. She goes through periods of self-doubt and moments where she’s just wanted to drop out.

Spencer grew up learning incorrect ways to cope with her stress. Instead of handling it, she would shut everyone out and isolate herself. After isolating herself too much, she’s ended up spiraling into a pit of depression and anxiety starts to set in.

Mark used to be a happy, easy-going guy until he “let the stress of job hunts cause him to get weak-minded” (Mark). He let his guard down and decided to listen to the bullies around him and eventually ended up breaking down. The meaningless words from his close friends and family caused him to feel more down than he already was, and he still hasn’t found a way out of the cycle of self-hatred and lost hope.

UPHILL BATTLES

The final factor leading into a cycle of self-hatred would the continuous uphill battles we face every day. Some of us face more than others and they can range from continuously fighting off your mental disorders, to changing the way you’ve thought about something your entire life, to trying to ignore bullying. Jamie, Alice, and Bridget have all given me their personal experiences with these uphill battles.

Jamie’s self-hatred started as early as kindergarten when she realized she liked girls. In kindergarten, she told her mom that she really liked one of her friends, who was also a girl, and her mom told her it was wrong. This lead Jamie to believe that liking girls was wrong all throughout her life because her mom engrained this thought into her head at such a young age. The conflicting emotions inside Jamie’s head eventually grew worse. She started to suppress her feelings and started lying to herself whenever she thought that her feelings for a girl increased to more than a friend. As she got older, this suppression eventually turned into depression. She felt isolated and it drove her crazy until she realized she wasn’t alone.

Alice discovered that she was looking for love in all the wrong places. She was raised with an abusive mother, who wasn’t biologically related to her. It wasn’t until she was five-years-old that she discovered that she was adopted and in her teens, her mom prevented Alice from expressing herself. Since then she realized that she didn’t belong with her adopted parents and the closest thing she had to a family was her uncle and grandma. However, their relationships only stood until her grandma passed away and her uncle did something her dad didn’t like so her dad secluded him. Luckily, her and her dad still had a closer relationship than she did with her mom, so she had someone to talk to while he wasn’t away (he was in the military). After a ton of realization hit Alice, she started to experience the true symptoms caused by her parents that put her up for adoption. As she got older she started to put more pieces together on why she is the way she is mentally and has surrounded herself with likeminded peers.

Bridget told me that some factors that contribute to her self-hatred is internalized racism, abuse, and isolation. She was treated differently while she was growing up and people talked down to her because she was half-black, which left her feeling inferior. Even though she’s aware that it isn’t rational, she feels that she would be treated better if she were fully white. Bridget studied psychology and sociology in college and she learned that sexual abuse is one of the main causes of eating disorders, and that being in isolation increases self-hatred and suicidal depression (Bridget).

RESULTS

Now what happened to the man who helped me realize how many unrealistic goals are embedded into our brains at a young age? He’s focusing more on his career and what he wants to do with his life (T.F.).

Marisol eventually discovered her passions, she discovered her love for animals and pursued a career in the same field. She’s surrounded by dogs every day and it helps, but the urge to compare is still there. Emmanuel faced a difficult decision and chose the more logical route to please his father. Braxton also found his passions, but unlike Marisol, his passion was more in the vehicle area. Braxton decided that working on cars was more important than living in the past, so he put his all into his work.

Sarafine cut all the toxic and negative people from her life so she could start focusing more on the positive. School is still just as overwhelming, but she’s made sure to fill in her free time with fun activities. When she isn’t working on a paper, she’s hiking with her dog or going on adventures with her boyfriend.

Spencer decided to focus more on her personal health and changing her nutrition helped her improve her overall lifestyle. Her mind became clearer, she’s able to concentrate, sleep soundly, and her stomach issues caused by stress went away.

Jamie watched YouTube videos with several people who went through situations like her own. She read personal stories about the LGBT community on various sites and felt more comfortable with herself. While she still couldn’t understand why her mom put those negative thoughts in her head, she still makes sure to remind herself that she isn’t alone.

Alice has undergone a lot of counseling to help realize all the things that she was repressing. Going to counseling has helped her ease her mind and take into consideration that what she’s experienced throughout her life, wasn’t her fault. Now she’s more vocal about her opinions than before and voices all her concerns to where everybody hears them. Also, she’s surrounded herself with friends who have gone through similar experiences and they’ve helped her realize she isn’t alone.

Like Spencer, Bridget began to focus more on her nutrition as well. She started to get really into skincare products and started to express herself more. Also, she now does this little trick where she replaces the negative thoughts in her head with positive ones. Thinking this way has helped her increase her self-love overall but it’s still an uphill battle.

While Darnell and Mark haven’t found their paths yet, they all remain positive on their journeys. Self-hatred might not have a cure and it’s incredibly hard to fight your personal battle towards self-love, but if there’s a will there’s a way. Eventually, you will achieve complete happiness. It might feel like an uphill battle right now, but if you’re determined enough you can keep fighting and succeed. Erase social media if you must. Take more selfies every day. Dive into your passions. Do anything that will distract your mind from constantly comparing, stressing, or creating more issues for yourself. Everyone feels down at some point, even those that seem happy-go-lucky 24/7, but don’t give up just yet.