Rest in peace Amy Bleuel: The Semicolon Project

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” A semicolon is used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life. ”

It is heartbreaking to think that Amy is no longer here with us. She has been out in the world constantly trying to raise awareness and educating people about the importance of overcoming the deep rooted mental health stigma. Whenever I have tried finding some resources online, I have read a story or two about how this project saved someone’s life and gave them hope.

Thanks for all that you did Amy. We know there is long way to go, but your efforts will not go in vain because your story isn’t over;

Rest in Peace. Love ❤

Here is to surviving the holiday season

I might have had some unrealistic expectations about the holiday season this time and they might have sucked. Big time.

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Just a sketch I made

All the books I were to read, all the stories I were to write, and all the art I were to make still remain untouched. I spent the last three weeks curled up in a blanket drinking chai, watching snow and Netflix, okay a bit more of Netflix than snow.

It also makes me wonder if there were no external pressures, I might spend my whole life trying to escape life, just lazily looking at things drinking tea.

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Just another sketch I did

2017 is going to be a good year.

I can feel it.

So here is to all of you who survived the holiday season.

Love and hugs

Jo

Finally, could this be it?

” Troubled as the future was, it was the unknown future and in its obscurity there was ignorant hope.” Dickens

He was the most handsome boy in my class. In the first ever conversation we had, he clearly established his hatred for the harry potter series. He just didn’t hate it he HATED it. So that was it, there was no chance of us becoming friends ever. I can be friends with a muggle, but a muggle with no respect for magic, no freaking way. But, he was also the most handsome boy in my class and I enjoyed looking at him. If you ask me my love life history I can tell you about my three-year imaginary relationship with the cricketer Parthiv Patel or my two-year long imaginary fling with a gay boy from my neighbourhood. So you can sense the pattern, I fantasise about guys where there is no chance of anything ever happening. My therapist told me it is the fear of abandonment but whatever.

When you keep subtly stalking a person on a daily basis, along with noticing the subtle variations in his stubble growth you also accidently end up noticing that he keeps looking at the most beautiful girl in the class. So there it was, nothing was really going to happen between us, he likes somebody else and hence my guards were down and I gave myself full permission to crank up the fantasies.  I couldn’t think of anything coming between the relationship of the most handsome guy and the most beautiful girl in the world my class. So they could go live their happy life and nothing was going to hurt my rich, poetic fantasy romance.

Our class had only 30 people- among that 30 only 15 of us had the intention of having a life outside classrooms, 11 of us were hanging out together all the time, 5 of us were living in the same dormitory and only two of us were living in the same building. Guess who the two were?

So the most handsome guy in my class became my friend by proximity of homes. And, if you had asked me a month later, handsome would be the last word I would have used to describe him. We started spending weekends together because it was easier to make plans with a person living next door.We went on long walks, drank cheap german beers and watched mindless American comedies. We became buddies, we became as he would always say- Goodfellas.

I started putting kajal and my pretty dresses for our movie marathons. I started baking eggless cakes because he was allergic to eggs. And, I was always waiting by the phone for his replies.

I had hopelessly fallen in love with the muggle.

Being in love with a person who does not love you back is hurtful, being in love with your best friend who does not love you back is torture. It is never having enough with always having a lot.

There is an arrogant ignorant hope that comes with unrequited love, the delusional belief of having a happy ending.  Every girl who came in between me and him was only a distraction until he was to realise his true love for me. What was the worse that could happen? even if it wasn’t going to end well, the feeling of being in love was so worth it I told myself a million times. Kafka wrote his best novels after his hear was broken. So worst case scenario- I would be the next Kafka. I was going to be a love martyr.

My stomach started making knots whenever he mentioned other girls. My life became an eternal wait, waiting for him to call, waiting for him to text, waiting for him to come over and waiting for him to turn around and fall in love with me. Every decision to move on after a cancelled plan lasted only until his next sorry text. Every little action of his started holding some sort of meaning to it. Nothing was simple anymore. Every time he called my heart would race with the hope, Is he calling to tell me that he has fallen for me? Finally, could this be it?

There is quote from Susan Sontag that goes something like this, “The amount of crap you are willing to take in the name of love is like the level of messiness of you can tolerate in your room, everyone has a different limit, you don’t know the limit of it beforehand but you will know it when you reach it ”

It took me two years and five months to realise it was never going to happen.

Letting go of him was the hardest thing I ever had to do.

But I did.

I felt free.

In the new found cockiness, I asked myself, ” You cannot simply be friends with the man you are in love with, what the hell were you thinking? ”

Last weekend at my class reunion I saw him after the longest time. He hugged me like only he can and said, “hey, haven’t seen you in a while”. That is all it took for all the feelings I had tried so hard to bury to rise back up to the surface.

My mind started racing, He said hey, haven’t seen you in a while, what does it mean? Finally, could this be it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

The dream: A bookshop that is open at 3am

A bookshop

Opened magic book with magic light
From: Fotolia

In a town where there are long dark dreary winters, where it would snow the whole night I will build a bookshop that will be open the whole night. I want to see everyone who is awake at 3am, the artists, the broken hearted, the insomniacs, the depressed. There will be fairy lights all around the shelves, cozy chairs, and silent corners because at 3am the only loud voice should be the one in your head. You might get sick of the harry potter memorabilia around, that are one too many- but I won’t be able to help it. You will get a cup of warm hot chocolate and a piece of apple pie, please come in and read or write or draw or dream. Fill the walls with your art. Leave a note in the books. Write a letter to that person who is keeping you up at 3am. You will have to pay because I am sure I will be broke. But money is not always a piece of paper, write me a poem instead.

In a town where there are long, dark, dreary, winters, where it would snow the whole night I will build a bookshop that will be open the whole night.

What should I call it?, Thoughts and Cakes? May be…

3am knows all our secrets.

Tell me that one dream you have?

-Jo

What is your support system?

I have a new therapist, Dorothee. With the help of German- English translators we have managed to work together just fine so far. Last week she asked me to tell her what my support systems are, it surprised me that it took a full ten minutes to describe all my support systems. Maybe I am one of the lucky ones to have so many people and things to count on if things were to go south again. Even with all of this, in an episode of depression, I feel utterly and hopelessly alone. I almost never reach out to someone on a bad day, partly because I am ashamed to ask for help, also because I don’t think a person can walk into the room and take away my depression.

As it is evident both these thoughts are not really logical. First, There is no shame in asking for help, period. I preach that very often but fails miserably when it comes to putting it into practice. In the case of physical ailments, no matter how big or small they are, it is relatively easy for me to reach out for help. ‘I have a headache, can I leave early today?’, or ‘Can we meet on a later day because I have the flu?’ or ‘There is a tumor in my breast, I need to have a surgery immediately’ . But when it comes to problems of mind I hide in a cocoon, The thought that constantly nags me is, ‘What would they think about me?’, so I try desperately to pretend to be that person who has their shit together. After a lot of thought I have narrowed down two arguments that could ease up the reaching out process, 1) people don’t think about us nearly as much as we imagine 2) People appreciate it if you ask for help, it makes them feel important and better about themselves and believe it or not there is a lot of kindness left in this world, empathy hasn’t left the planet yet.

As for the second thought, that nobody can walk into the room and take away the depression, it is true to a certain extent. You and only you know the extent of your depression and hence there is a limit to which even a qualified professional can help you. But, having an understanding person at the receiving end of your loud thoughts can make you at least momentarily better. And, recovery is a lot of these small moments added together.

Well, the whole talk with Dorothee also made me think about people who cannot boast of having such a strong support system or any at all for that matter. No matter what I was doing this thought bothered me like an itchy cut. I had the privilege of having a closely knit circle of friends in this foreign land, who I chose not to ask help from but what if you don’t have anyone to reach out? What if you don’t have an insurance that will pay your hospital bills? What if you don’t speak the local language?

I lived in a shelter for ‘women in distress’ after my stint at the rehab and there I met a girl. She was a refugee from Tanzania, with long curly hair and colorful clothes. In a sea of visibly distressed people, she was the only one who smiled at me. We used to make small talk during the five minutes it took us to heat up the flavorless soup they gave us. The day I was moving out, I went to her room to say goodbye but she wasn’t there. The social worker gave me her telephone number and I send her a goodbye text. Two months went by and there was no reply from her. Then, last Thursday evening she replied, we chatted for a little bit but something seemed off. I took it as her disinterest in talking to me, so to wrap up the conversation I send this message ‘Nice talking to you again and if you need any help you can ask me anytime’. After ten minutes she asked me if I could buy a sim card and take it to  her room if it wasn’t too much trouble. It wasn’t any trouble so I went to the address she gave me.

Instead of an apartment, another closed psychiatric ward welcomed me. She had tried to kill herself and failed. She broke down when she saw me. We sat in silence for a long time. Then she started telling me her story, of losing her parents at an early age, a kind neighbor taking her in as part of his family, his passing away last year, her move to another continent as a refugee, a life in complete isolation, a meagre support money that got delayed in the strings of bureaucracy, a govt who wants to take her refugee status away, depression, rehab…….’ You are my only friend here she said’. Me, who hadn’t made a real conversation with her until then was her ONLY friend in this foreign land. I didn’t know what to say to her. ‘You can count on me, reach out whenever you feel low’ I managed to say after what seemed like an eternity.

Sometimes support is just being there.

I couldn’t sleep for two days after. On the third day, I created a local chapter for a mental health NGO (No stigmas) on a social media website , I asked them to fill up ‘your expectations from this group column to sign up’, overnight 18 people joined, all of them hope to have a support system. We are meeting each other for a coffee on Wednesday.

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I am too much of a mess to support anyone but Sometimes support is just being there. 

Tell me what are your support systems?

Love

-Jo


I will post a list of things I told Dorothee in a few hours.