i am… sylvia

The Bell Jar

When I picked up the The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath last week, I wasn’t sure if reading it was going to be a good idea for me right now… but I couldn’t really put it down. For me, reading Sylvia’s book has been theraputic in the surprisingly same way as reading other women’s post-partum depression (ppd) blogs. The message is the same.

These articulate and beautiful women who are able to write about their own suffering are sometimes the only mirror that I can see when it is too dark to see into myself.

Like Sylvia’s book, these blogs and stories may mean one thing to most people…like “being a woman is tough”, but to me… they are a lifeline. To those who have sat at the bottom of the dark closet and cried their eyes out too many times, it is incredibly validating to read these words. They speak to our most basic human need and tell us… ‘you are not alone.’

In the book, when she shows the psychiatrist some pieces of a letter that she tore up and thinks that he will understand the significance that she is showing him that she can’t even hold her hand steady to write in a straight line. I get that. It’s like the voices in your head are so so loud that you imagine others can hear them too.

Maybe most readers just skim over the significance of that part but I get it. I get how you can be so messed up in your head that you can only assume that the craziness is so visible to the world.

Also, I get the frustration that she felt being unable to control her body and mind enough to write a simple letter in her own handwriting. That happens to me.

When I googled reviews of this book (lest I just trust my own interpretation…), everything I read praised it as a feminist novel about the plight of women in the fifties…how sylvia couldn’t accept the role of wife and mother… yadda yadda… They are all missing the point…

It’s about madness. It’s a portrait of what it feels like to be depressed. Of what it feels like to lose control of yourself. Sylvia Plath allows us inside her head to witness her decline into madness.

What may seem to the outsider like a simple event: “sylvia goes to the bus station, buys a ticket, and takes a bus home.” is really the product of an involved and agonizing inner dialogue where Sylvia is affected by her own paranoia, suicidal thoughts and a pattern of thoughts that perhaps only someone who has been there can truly understand. What she doesn’t say, or maybe she does, is that this inner dialogue happens again and again all day long for someone who is suffering.

Even when my thoughts are clear and my mood is good, the fear of returning to this dark prison is something that I will always carry with me. Sylvia writes, “How did I know that someday–at college, in Europe, somewhere, anywhere–the bell jar, with it’s stifling distortions, wouldn’t descend again?”

Sylvia Plath

30 things by 30 years old

30 things I’ve already done before my 30th birthday (next month):

I hiked on the Great Wall of China
I swam with dolphins in the Red Sea
I gave birth with no medical interventions
I breastfed two babies
I quit jobs impulsively
I ziplined over the rainforests and hiked through them
I went to the Louvre, the Vatican and the Western Wall
I walked in (and out of) Auschewitz
I married my high school sweetheart
I was hit by a car
I gambled in Las Vegas
I rode the trolly in San Francisco
I rode the subway in New York City
I stood at the mouth of Niagara Falls
I ate tapas in Spain
I drank wine in Nappa
I slept in a tent in Algonquin Park
I rafted down rapids on the Ottawa River
I spent more than 150 hours in therapy sessions
I completed a university degree
I watched an opera in Vienna and walked along the canals in Venice
I uncovered history on archeological sites in Israel
I had a miscarriage
I struggled with PostPartum Depression
I stayed up all night with friends
I skinny dipped in the lake
I saw four countries at once from a mountain top
I built a professional website from scratch (x5)
I cared for children who weren’t mine
I hiked in the Swiss Alps
I vomited from drinking too much alcohol (x2)
I got high in a cafe in Amsterdam
I got friends to volunteer to help people
I ate $100 dinners
I had sex in cars and outside, in hotel rooms and boiler rooms, on stairs, even in a bed
I suntanned in Thailand and ate Pho in Vietnam


(full disclosure: there are 36 things listed here. note ‘i learned math’ is not on the list.)

Wherein I discover the meaning of life

Is the glass half full or empty
I ask her as I fill it
She says it doesn’t really matter
Pretty soon you’re bound to spill it

-Indigo Girls
(of course, cause they rock)

I think it all comes down to whether you believe that people are generally good or bad. This will determine the sort of life that you lead.

I was taught that people are generally bad and selfish but I am learning that the opposite is far more true….and far more wonderful. But I think that there is so much in this world that we will always find the truth that we are looking for.

Warning: I am about to be very profound and brilliant.

In summary: the meaning of life according to Lyla Jackson:

Enjoy and do no harm.

here is what this means. it means that the overall goal of any activity is enjoyment. But, often you must undertake activities that you do not enjoy in order to enjoy something and enable others to enjoy as well. For example, you could always enjoy and never make food for your children, but that would be harming them and therefore, go against the first rule of “enjoy but do no harm”. so, if i don’t enjoy making food but i enjoy eating a warm meal and my children enjoy eating a warm meal than making the food will bring us all joy and i can focus on that while i cook. If the activity does not in any way lead to joy- leave it. If you are currently feeling stress, try to remember that you are supposed to enjoy.

for example, last night i started to feel stress that my kids weren’t falling asleep but then i thought that i could stop worrying and just enjoy that we were having time together and that they were enjoying falling cuddling together. i switched my lens and it changed my feeling.

maybe too much. maybe i’m too sped up now. i feel like i should copywrite this post and publish it as a treatise so that it can sit on the shelf beside Karl Marx. Is this feelings of grandeur? fuck. (pardon me.) whatever. enjoy. publish.

I am… unpredictable…(potential trigger)

So… last week was a bit rough for me (read: it was my time of the month and depression took over) and while I was sitting at the bottom of the figurative well, I read my “I am” poem and wondered if I had really written that. I thought that it would be interesting while I was stuck in the bottom of the damp well, to try to write another “I am” poem that felt more relevant. I’m feeling more alive now but here is what I wrote::

I am dying and invisible
I wonder why anyone is still trying to help me
I hear nothing
I see nothing
I want nothingness

I am not.
I pretend to know that I will be okay. I don’t.
I feel pain
I touch my own bruises
I worry all the time
I cry for every reason

I understand. No, I don’t.
I say this. No one hears.
I dream of rewinding my life to avoid connecting wih the people I love and will hurt.
I try to protect my family from me.
I hope. I have no hope.
I am. I am not.