Regret Nothing : 30 Days of Truth

Day 22 : Something you wish you hadn’t done in your life.

I never regret anything. Because every little detail of your life is what made you into who you are in the end.
Drew Barrymore

As a woman with Bipolar Disorder, emotions are a quintessential part of my life.  So, naturally, it would be shocking for me to admit that regret is not an emotion that I often experience.  Difficult to believe?  I would certainly believe so, especially in a person where emotions are often extreme and feral!

I experience a certain lack of regret for a number of reasons.

I typically choose my words and actions wisely.  I have often said, “There are just some things in this life that you cannot take back.”  Once certain behaviors are out there in reality, there may be no amount of apology or reparations that can fix the damages.  However, this is not to say that I don’t make my fair share of mistakes.

I do not regret my mistakes.  Mistakes are learning experiences, not irreparable failures.  Thomas Edison once said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”  That is exactly the nature of mistakes.  They are meant to teach us lessons.  It is up to us to derive an appropriate lesson from our mistakes.

There is another saying out there about regret.  “Never regret anything, because at one time, it was exactly what you wanted.”  That is precisely it.  Often, the choices that we make seem like the best choices for us at the time.  I am a stubborn kind of person, and even if there was some kind of time machine where I could go back and warn myself, I would certainly not have heeded my own warning.

I am a firm believer in fate, and I have faith that everything happens from significant purpose to later be determined in hindsight.  You know what they say, hindsight is 20 / 20.  And when we begin to work out the course of the events in our lives, we start to see how the tapestry comes together to weave the people we have become.

I am a stronger person person for having bipolar disorder.  I am a better mother for having a son on the spectrum.  I am a better wife, because I have a husband who loves me.  I am a more determined person for having dropped out of college.  Each struggle provides me with more character and more things to build myself up.

A wealth of evidence exists in my life to prove fate to me.  Xan and I met ten and a half years ago, through my high school sweetheart.  The two of them had become college roommates, and I had grown quite close to Xan.  And throughout the years, we remained close friends, despite any falling outs we may have had.  It was like we were drawn together by some unexplainable force.  I explained a great deal of that in a series of posts entitled, “Possibility and Ascention”, “Seeds of Affection”, and “Mo Anam Cara”. After all we had went through in the five years we weren’t romantically involved, we came together after all.  And as imperfect as my marriage is, it is the most perfect, unconditional love I have ever experienced.  I have certainly found my soulmate.

Every experience has a place in the tapestry of one’s life.  Experience is an essential part of who we are.  Our successes and mistakes come to shape us into the people that we are.  And without those experiences, we might not be the people that we will eventually come to cherish.

Often, I treat everyday as if it were my last day, or potentially the final day for someone I love.  After Xan’s car accident, my eyes were wide open to the fragility of life and the certain mortality we all face.  Each day must have some peaceful conclusion, lest someone passes in the night.  A lesson has to be derived from each event, and work toward the betterment of my myself and those around me.  And each day, I attempt to say or do at least one thing to better another person’s life.  Or at least their day.

I live life to live it.  I regret nothing.  Because in the end, it is my life.

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The Infamous Accident : 30 Days of Truth

Day 21 : (scenario) Your best friend is in a car accident and you two got into a fight an hour before. What do you do?

It was the first day of June, and at hot, sunny one at that.  Heat makes me miserable.  Well, truthfully, it doesn’t take much to make me miserable.

Xan was late coming home from work as usual.  I was ravenous with hunger when he called on his way home from work.  My attitude was sour, because we were nearing the 7 o’clock hour.  It had been far too long since my last meal, and I was bitter that he had a blatant disregard for his family’s needs.  We bantered back and forth as to what we wanted to do for dinner.

Suddenly, the phone cut out.  This was a usual annoying occurrence during his daily commute home.  And I impatiently waited for him to call back, ranting to my mother about what an incredibly inconsiderate jerk he had been.  The wait continued, and I found that I was fed up with the situation.  I attempted to call him back, but the phone went straight to voicemail.

I was furious.  Just because I gave him a little attitude after a long day gives him the right to ignore me?  My anger continued to grow as I attempted him again and again without any luck.  Suddenly, a strange number came up on my phone.  I answered, expecting it to be a bill collector of some sort.

It was Xan.  He said, “Lulu, don’t panic.  I’ve been in a car accident.”

When someone tells me not to panic, naturally I go straight to it.  I am an alarmist, and I always expect the worst.  I frantically screamed, “Oh my god, are you okay?!”

“I don’t know,” he responded, sounding dazed and a little confused.  He continued after a brief pause, “I think you need to call an ambulance.  Could you call an ambulance?”  There was no urgency in his voice.  Only a flat tone.

I didn’t know what to do.  How could I call an ambulance for him when I didn’t even know where he was, or what was wrong, or really what happened in the first place?  Suddenly, the adrenaline started coursing through my veins.  My head cleared and I assured him, “Hold on, I’m coming.  Where are you?”  He gave me his location, and I prodded his broken mind for more information as to what happened for more details.

“I’ve got to go.  The paramedics are here,” he informed me.

Urgently, I told him, “I’m coming.  Tell the paramedics to wait, because I’m on the way.  Don’t let them take you without me.”

My father offered to take me.  My brain was buzzing like live wires during a ride that seemingly took forever.  Is he okay?  Is he going to die?  What happened to him?  What’s going to happen now?  Please God, please let him be okay.  I hate myself for all of the needless bickering.  Those could have been my last words to him.

I arrived on the scene and jumped out of the car.  I crossed two lanes of traffic and stared intensely at the accident scene.  AT first, all I could see was a circle of police cars, some policeman directing traffic, some paramedics, and the ambulance.  I started to panic again when I couldn’t see Xan.  As I continued approaching, I saw the other car.  The entire front end was completely smashed in.  My heart seized and my throat started to close.  I couldn’t know what to expect.  But, naturally, I feared the worst.  I feared Xan on a stretcher, profusely bleeding and broken.

The Jetta came into view as I frantically continued into the scene, and it was a sight that rocked me to my very core.  I gasped with what little air I could manage.  The whole driver’s side was entirely smashed in, looking as if it could have done lethal damage to the person in that car.  That person being Xan, my lover, my husband, my best friend.

I was still desperately searching for him.  Everyone took notice of me, and watched intently.  I called out his full name, “(Withheld)!!!”  And I ran, rounding the police cars to find him sitting on the traffic island.  I plunged to the ground, scraping both of my knees under my thin skirt, and I carefully embraced him.  I sat down beside him to inspect him.  I asked again, “Are you okay?!”

Once again, he replied in a very unsteady voice, “I don’t know.”

He bared a swollen knee and described his head and neck injury.  He didn’t even know it, but he had a piece of beaded glass embedded in his thick eyebrow.  That paramedic approached us and said to me, “He hasn’t decided if he’s going to the hospital.”

Xan started mumbling some things about transportation, but I sharply cut him off.  “Yes, he’s going.  He is going, and he’s going now in the ambulance.”

Once I determined it was okay to leave him for a moment, I went to assess the damage to our beloved vehicle.  It was absolutely heartbreaking.  My first car, the car that I worked so hard for, that I lived in abject poverty over, the car I never had a chance to drive, was completely demolished.  It had a car sized dent spanning the entire driver’s side.

I went inside, determined to find Xan’s glasses, which no one bothered to look for.  I collected the rest of our belongings, and that’s when I saw them.  They were jammed between the driver’s side door and the seat that now touched each other.  I dove across a glass covered seat in that thin skirt to retrieve them.

I accompanied him in the ambulance.  They preferred that I sit in the front as they loaded him on the stretcher and put him in the back.  I heard the conversation clear as a bell.  ”You are a very lucky guy,” said one of the paramedics.  The other said, “Yeah, that crash could have killed you.”

That’s when the seriousness of it hit me.  He was lucky.  Very lucky that day to be alive.  The car was impacted at least 35mph in the direct center of the driver’s side.  He was thrown to the side a bit, and came back with a nasty smack to his head, sending his glasses flying.  The driver’s side could have crushed him in.  He could have been killed.  He could have died that very day.  I would never have been able to take back all of the nastiness that happened.  I could have never made up for it.  I could have never seen him, held him, kissed him, or talked to him ever again.

I stood with him, holding his ice cold hand the entire time.  I ordered nurses and doctors around.  I made sure he was hydrated and escorted him to the bathroom.  He was irritated, but I didn’t care.  I was not about to leave his side.  I was going to care for him in whatever ways that I could.  I would stay with him, and comfort him, though he claimed he was fine.  I would joke with him and help him feel better.

That night, I stayed up as much as I could.  I woke him up every couple of hours with increasingly difficult questions.  It started with mother’s maiden name and our son’s middle name.  Eventually, we ended up with first address, grandmother’s maiden name, and his biological father’s date of birth.  I was determined to ensure he was alright.  I had people on call, waiting in the instance that he had to return to the hospital.

Luckily, he managed to escape a potentially deadly crash with a concussion, a bruised knee, a cut eyebrow, and a pair of slightly bent glasses.  Unfortunately, he did end up having post concussive syndrome.  For a long time after the crash, he wasn’t quite right.  In time, he got better.  But at the very least, he was alive and for the most part, unharmed.

Today, I still cringe and panic anytime the phone cuts out or he turns up late from work.  But, I’ve learned my lesson.  Grudges aren’t worth it.  Always reconcile as soon as possible.  Because, maybe one day, that person won’t be there in another moment to reconcile with.

A Different Kind of Spiritual : 30 Days of Truth

Day 19 : What do you think of religion? Or what do you think of politics?

Again, two hot button topics.  And again, I am far less than inclined to share my personal opinions on one of these subjects.  However, I do think it is important for a person to explore their own spirituality and maybe get ideas from another when they are unsure of their own beliefs.  Not to say that I intend on cramming my own spirituality down a reader’s throat.  Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs.

Therefore, I am entitled to my own, and under the First Amendment, I am guaranteed the right to express these beliefs.  I’d like to preface this post with the following.  I have disabled the comments, because of the sensitive nature of this post.  I highly discourage flame wars and refuse to provide a forum for them to happen.  I would rather remove the temptation than have to mediate later, once the damage is already done.

I do not expect anyone to be on the same bandwagon.  I have some unusual beliefs that come from a mixture of an Episcopalian upbringing, a self-proclaimed spiritual parent, and living amongst the Jewish people in their community for certain durations of time.  If you have any comments, questions, or concerns, please address me directly at lulu.em.stark@gmail.com.  I will be happy to engage a person in a private conversation on this matter.

With that said, I will begin the exploration of my spirituality.

I will state this up front, so there is no confusion later on.  I am far beyond disenchanted with organized religion.  I do not believe in religion, and I feel that it has done more harm than good in the world.  We have seen holy wars since the beginning of time, no matter what people would like to term them these days.  Many people have been forced from their homes.  Others have been sentenced to painful deaths and were cast out into exile for what they believed in.  All over differences of opinion on religion.

This is where everyone is going to get riled up.  I do not believe that Jesus ever existed.  I believe that Christianity was an idea that was concocted by the Romans for social control.  They had a population that had a monotheistic religion and another with a polytheistic religion, the latter dying out.  It was an attempt to get everyone on the same page.  Essentially, the Romans wanted to put a code of conduct out there and make it profitable.  And that they did.

There is no historical record of Jesus.  There were many historians living in the Mesopotamian area at the supposed time of Jesus’ life and death, and no one recorded a man who could perform spectacular miracles.  There may be tomb markers, but many people were entombed as part of commonplace burial ritual.  Jesus was an extremely popular name at the time.  There would be no possible way to find him on a registry, as all of those names were rather common.  Hence the suffixes, John the Baptist, etc.

I can say this with confidence, not because I am ignorant of Christianity, but because I am well educated.   I am baptized and confirmed Episcopalian.  I had perfect attendance in Sunday school for nine years running.  I started teaching the courses myself when I came of age.  I have read the Bible cover to cover.  And I find that so many of the rules are antiquated and just plain common sense. Wash your hands before eating?  Of course.  Don’t sleep with your brother’s wife?  Of course not!!!

I suspect that my subscription rate will plummet after this.

With all of that being said, I’ll continue with my own ideas of spirituality.  First, I prefer terms like spirituality and higher power in reference, because they are broader scope, less offensive, and do not indicate that I am a member of any religion.  I am not religious.  I am spiritual.

The universe is all made up of the higher power’s energy.  Energy and matter can never be created, nor destroyed.  That means that all of the things that exist today have existed in one form or another since before the beginning of time (because you know time is a human construct).  It was at the beginning of space.  If this is true, then that means that we’re all a part of each other.  That is true too.  We are all one in the same, from the amoeba to the complex human and beyond to planets, places, and beings we don’t even know exist.

We are all born with temperaments, and that’s all.  As for the rest of it, we are blank slates.  No being is inherently good or evil.  There is no black and white in those terms.  Which means that the higher power is not entirely benevolent, nor is the lower power.  They are opposing powers, as described, but they are not God and Satan as depicted.  They are one in the same, two sides of the same coin.  But, it remains the same coin.

We can take notes of our own morality from basic religion.  I do have a belief that all religions are really worshiping the same higher power, and generally all of the same moral guidelines.  However, it’s not as cut and dry as they would have you believe.  You will not be condemned to hell for failing to wash properly, although you might get an infection.  Some of those rules were made for practicality sake.  Cleanlinesss is next to Godliness, just means that we don’t want you getting sick and getting the rest of us sick with your epidemic.

As for other things that are outdated, I feel as if premarital sex is outdated.  In the days of old, the reason a woman did not engage in premarital sex was for lack of birth control and Maury Povich and paternity tests.  In those days, women relied on men to be their breadwinners and protectors.  A man is not biologically inclined to take care of a child that is not is, nor was he burdened by the responsibility that society would place on him.  Therefore, a woman would be left to do so herself.  But, in those days, women couldn’t work and take care of children at the same time.  The last thing villages needed was a whole family of fatherless children, relying on the resources of others to care for them.

Here are the things that are not dated.  The Golden Rule is the first and foremost guide for a moral compass.  If you don’t want it done to you, then refrain from perpetrating the offense onto another.  Period.  It really is that easy.  We all know that hitting hurts, robbing another is unfair and sometimes devastating, and taking another life away from someone else and their family is beyond devastating.  We all mourn the loss of those that we love.  Why would someone take something that isn’t theirs, only to destroy it for themselves and everyone else?

My belief in the process of death is rather unusual, because it borrows from several cultures.  There is no such thing as redemption at death.  One is judged by their actions or inaction,  positive and negative, the quality of their life and spirituality, and it is weighed out.  Only, the judge is not the higher power.  The judge is you.  There is no immediate heaven, or immediate hell.  We have souls that are always learning.  To be enlightened is to have a soul that is wise and open to education.  That is our point to any life that we lead.  We are here for a purpose, for a lesson.

Do you ever see themes occurring in your life?  Those themes are meant to teach you something.  It is your life’s lesson.  Without enlightenment to your life’s lesson and experiencing all of the fulfilling experiences meant for you as a part of the nature of your being (whether it’s animal, human, etc), then your soul does not get to move on to the next life.  You will repeat the lesson and the life until you have reached full enlightenment.  It is at that point that a being is allowed to choose what they would like to do with their eternity.

With or Without You : 30 Days of Truth

Day 15 : Something or someone you couldn’t live without, because you’ve tried living without it.

Most people would prefer to choose a certain special someone or an object to contain all of their affections.  Though my relationship with this is troubled, I have found it to be impossible to live without it.  Even if it’s so hard to live with it.

Medication.

I have made the attempt several times in my life to live without psychiatric medication.  My first was a psychiatric evaluation when I was thirteen, and I refused treatment.  What thirteen year old has the intense desire for repeated therapy visits and pesky medicine?  As a direct result, my symptoms progressed, and I wound up my own cutting board.  When it became concerning, no one was willing to take me back for actual treatment.  Instead, I unnecessarily suffered until I humiliatingly revealed myself and my wounds to an outsider.

The next time was in my late teens.  After being medicated for nearly five years with no result, I was ready to give up on $60 co-pays for a medication that just gave me heroin-like withdrawal symptoms when I forgot to take it.  (That was also the first time I became strongly inclined to start carrying medication on me in clever, cute containers).  I spent a gratuitous amount of time on weekends in a different county, an hour away from my home.  The bus services were shoddy at best, and if I forgot to take my medicine on Friday, then by Sunday morning, I was violently shaking and vomiting in front of my relatively new boyfriend.

This new boyfriend, Avi, convinced me that there was absolutely nothing wrong with me.  The medication was doing more damage to me than good.  It was a waste of time and money.  Psychiatry was a joke and a con for cash.  It would be in my best interest to get off of the medication.

The funniest thing about that was the fact that I became irreconcilably depressed when I weaned myself from the Lexapro, an SSRI.  I required way more than my typical six hours of sleep.  I could no longer party until dawn.  And mostly, my only desire was to scream and cry my eyes out.  After you’ve been hypomanic for so many years, having a crash like that was epic.  Coincidentally, it coincided with the very first cliff fall in our torturous relationship.

And resulting in that choice, I developed functional alcoholism prior to the legal drinking age in the United States.  It took several abusers, victimization, abject poverty, and becoming an abuser to take me down into the depths of a bottle.

I found that I had even given up on self-medication.  When Xan and I got together, it became obvious that he suspected I suffered from addiction.  Though our relationship was certainly not new, our courtship was brand new.  In order to not put him off, and make a show of my own self-control, I slowly ditched the bottle.  I was so addicted that I found I had to be intoxicated to make love to him.  At least a little.

A few years later, I started treatment.  I had managed to remain sober, however, I had completely lost control of myself.  Several months into treatment, I ran into every medicated person’s greatest fear.  My medical coverage was eliminated.  Every pharmacy reported the same thing; Lamictal costs a fortune, and if I can’t afford COBRA, then I sure as hell cannot pay for it from pocket.  I found myself soliciting every pharmacy within a 10 mile radius for assistance.  Finally, one came through for me.  But, not before I suffered cruel withdrawal symptoms.

A similar withdrawal happened over a holiday.  I was unable to see my Pdoc before Christmas, and he had taken vacation through the New Year.  The office had a policy not to call in medications, so I had to make an appointment to go in.  Catch 22.  For four days, I laid there writhing in bed.  Xan took charge, and I had a refill that same day.

The very last time was one of my own poor choices.  That is exactly what mania does – it gets your hooks into you and tells you dirty little lies.  I had decided to attempt to wean myself from medication slowly so that I could prepare to attempt pregnancy.  I did so alone.  Instead of consulting a doctor, I went ahead.  And instead of getting off of medications, I had psychotic breaks the likes of which I have never been remotely acquainted with.  The result was more medication and a lesser likelihood of having a second child.

I have been without by force, by accident, by coercion, and of my own volition.  Like it or not, I cannot live without medication.

Hillary, Why? : 30 Days of Truth

Day 14 : A hero that has let you down. (letter)

Preface:  I didn’t exactly grow up with what people define as male and female role models.  There wasn’t a singular person I emulated.  Figures moved in and out of my life, leaving behind admirable traits I wanted to embody.  However, I never expected to find myself in a singular entity.  All of the best, because this prompt is about the disillusionment with idealized people, public entities or personal entities.

Dear Hillary Clinton,

I grew up in what I consider to be “The Golden Years” during the Clinton administration.  I remember the time before that, when my father, a war veteran, was fighting for disability.  And I also recall my brother, a young boy with autism, was having problems getting help through public programs.  Our family went through very difficult times prior to the changes that the Clinton administration brought to our country.  It was a brilliant time of prosperity and effective, accessible, public programs.  The Clinton administration focused on aiding the populations most in need, and keeping politicians and capitalists in check.

Unfortunately, it was about the time of my adulthood when the Bush administration took over.  And his final blow to the country came at the worst possible moment of my life, in 2008.  Prior to that year, I had managed to struggle my way out of poverty and minimum wage hell, into a comfortable desk job.  My soon-to-be husband had worked his way up the career ladder in a short period of time, using nothing more than great ambition, incredible intelligence, and amazing talent.  We were in a comfortable middle-class situation, as all young couples aspire to be before they are married and have children.

A month before our wedding, I was unjustly terminated as a result of my new. but high risk pregnancy.  Companies just seemed to see fit doing what they pleased without much legal recourse.  Unfortunately, the minute I began to take legal action, they offered me full reinstatement to my job with medical considerations.  Pennsylvania is an “at-will” state, so if I were to have declined a full reinstatement, I would not have been able to collect unemployment.  I needed the medical insurance felt as if my hands were tied.

Upon my return, I had found my desk was completely bare, sparing only my personal effects.  The company had lied to me about the nature of my full reinstatement.  Though I was restored to my job, I was not restored to my computer access or my essential functions.  In essence, this company made me a glorified personal assistant to a personal assistant.  Very soon after, at the admission of a nurse at a practitioners office, I discovered that the plan was to write me up for any unplanned missed sick days, and eventually find legal grounds to fire me.  I should have been protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act, but the company had found their loophole.

I quit, before they could fire me again, and leave a permanent black mark on my employment history.  During our honeymoon, my husband’s company held a tribunal for layoffs.  The only reason we know this for sure is because the administrator seemed to have forgotten that the nurse on staff was my MIL.  By the time we returned, we had both resigned from our jobs, and were left completely destitute, save for the tiniest bit of wedding money remaining.  By this time, I had gone beyond my first trimester and was showing.  Though my husband was able to gain employment within the next month, we had gotten into severe debt.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t so lucky, seeing as how I was discriminated against at every turn. And at the time, high-risk pregnancy was not considered a long-term enough disability to collect SSDI.

Nearing the end of my pregnancy, Bush decided to start throwing money at every large company that would solicit him.  I wrote Stop Them Before They Spend Again!, originally a blog essay against the Bush bailouts, seeing them as an economic detriment.  And they were.  We are still feeling the economic effects of such bad administrative decisions and capitalistic greed globally.  My husband has just now secured a full time job with potential for advancement.  But, that’s potentially due to the fact that the company is actually Canadian, and not American.

I’m not pinning any of the aforementioned on you.  I was setting the scene for my disappointment.  I voted for you in the primaries.  When I heard that you were interested in running, I was overjoyed.  I saw a time where we, as a nation, could make good decisions and dig ourselves out of the huge hole.  I saw a rise in the middle class, and a quality of life like we have never experienced before.  I was a little disappointed that you lost the primaries, and I don’t feel as if you really gave the campaign as much effort as President Obama.

The biggest disappointment has yet to come.  When President Obama was elected in 2008, it was an exciting time for Democrats, Liberals, and pretty much the entire nation, seeing has how President G.W. Bush had the lowest approval rating of any president ever.  I was pretty thrilled, but not as thrilled as I would have been had you been elected.  And I thought to myself, “There’s always 2012, or even 2016.”  When you announced that you were retiring after this term, and did not have any ambitions for running for President, my heart was crushed.  How could the woman who pioneered Universal Healthcare back in the 1990’s not want to run for office?  If any woman had the chance to become the first female president, it would be you!

I looked forward to the possibility of another Clinton Administration.  With Bill at your side, we could have been the best nation in the world once again.  Not to say that President Obama has not done his best and given us some relief.  But, I really believe you could have gone above and beyond for us, as Americans.

Anyhow, I’d like to thank you for all of your political leadership and efforts throughout the duration of your career.  I’d like to also thank you for being a strong female role model for all of the girls and young women of the world.  And, I’d like to also say that there’s really no hard feelings.

Best to your and your family,

Nails – A Tribute : 30 Days of Truth

Day 13 : A band or artist that has gotten you through some tough days. (write a letter.)

Trent Reznor receiving an award for truly remarkable music.

Preface: In the liner notes of Pretty Hate Machine, the first studio album by Nine Inch Nails, there is a statement that says, “Nine Inch Nails is Trent Reznor.” Indeed, it is. This is why I address this letter as such, though I would like to include every person that ever had a hand in his projects. They were also important in making his music happen.

Dear Trent Reznor,

Yes, I am indeed very young to be following your career. I ask you to dismiss any immediate notions of some kid fan looking to “find a voice” or “find an image to latch on to”. Fifteen years ago, that may have appeared to be the case. However, I advised any who made the accusation that it wasn’t a phase, and in my age group, it certainly wasn’t a fad. The music spoke to me, and I took a lot of shit to pride myself as a fan in my peer group. It wasn’t about a popular song, attraction, lifestyle, or any of that bullshit nonsense. It was the lyrics and the music, not the man or the movement.

I sincerely doubt that you will ever personally read this letter. It’s not a matter of dismissal, or anything of the like. I realize the intense focus, schedule, and deadlines that must accompany such incredible success. However, I’d like to assure you this isn’t one of those stalker letters, but only a fan tribute. And, of course, an exercise of prompt response to a blog project. If it wasn’t for this prompt, I may have never written this at all. That is, despite the fact that there is much in my personal life that I can attribute to the music.

Today, I am a part-time music teacher at a local inner city youth program here in Pittsburgh, PA. I am aware that you are local to the area, which is another reason the music is personal to me. You grew up in the area, therefore you were aware of the lifestyle and culture of the region and how it affects a person. But, that wasn’t the only personal connection. In the seventh grade, though music had been a lifelong passion, I became symptomatic with a mood disorder. A deep depression was ravaging through my life, taking each passion away from me. It took one man, my band instructor Warren Sullivan, to convince me otherwise.

One day, he took the class to the Piano Graveyard, a hallway behind the auditorium where old, detuned and broken pianos went to die. He wanted us to experiment with sound, though most of us had never touched a piano in our lives. I sat at a piano bench, disinterested in just about everything, including that exercise. Others plucked at sour keys, and some just pounded the pianos in the effort to make as much noise as possible. Mr. Sullivan sat down beside me, clearly as downtrodden as I was. I looked up at him and noticed this awful look of defeat and resignation.

We didn’t speak for a few moments, just poked at keys together. And this was the first time a teacher had addressed me personally, as an equal. He said, “Have you ever had anything really bad happen to you?” I nodded. He asked, “So bad that it changed your entire life?” Again, I nodded. He told me a story, a secret as to why he would be unlikely to return the following year. I liked the guy, and it was difficult to swallow.

And he said to me, “Did you know that I knew Trent?”

It took me aback. “Really?”

“Yeah, we were in a college band together,” he replied.

“So, what happened?” I eagerly inquired.

Mr. Sullivan look uncomfortable for a moment, but continued timidly, “We had creative differences.”

I noted, “I could see that.”

We were quiet again for a moment, and he admitted, “Do you know what the last thing I ever said to Trent was?”

“What?”

“Trent Reznor, you will never amount to anything!” He paused, then continued, “I guess I was mistaken. And that’s something I live with every time I hit a bad spot in my career.”

“Wow,” I breathed. It was really powerful. But, it taught me a valuable lesson. Go with what feels right and where my heart takes me. Never try to take anyone else down to get a leg up. And, it kept me in band, even with the terror of a director that took over. I withstood her for five years and five more instruments, just so I could get as much music under my belt as possible. I was inspired to move to tenor sax, which opened up the door to all woodwinds. Today, I have an alto on my wall, only because I can’t find a reasonably priced tenor sax. Imagine me, all of 4’11″ with a tenor sax strapped to my neck. The thing went down to my knees! It was worth it.

Anyhow, returning to the music itself. I started off with the album “The Downward Spiral”, which could not have been more appropriate for the life changes I was going through.  To this day, I have owned four physical copies, because I would wear them out so badly, and one digital copy, all legal.  It was at that point in my life that I became symptomatic with Bipolar Disorder“The Downward Spiral” was my mainstay.  I knew in my bones that I was different somehow, and that the deep depressions were abnormal for a young adolescent.  But, the album in it’s entirety showed that what I was going through, particularly the self-loathing, suicidal ideation, self-injury, questions of faith and religion, disdain and disillusionment with the world, and dysfunctional relationships were not uncommon events.  I had figured that if these things were inspiration for an adult, why couldn’t they be my inspiration, with the music being my solace.

As I grew into adulthood, the music came with me.  “Pretty Hate Machine” and “Broken” lent me music that resonated with me.  In a way, these albums aided me in support of developing my identity apart from parental and societal expectations.  I realized that I wasn’t like the others, and I could never be.  Instead of fretting about it, and making futile attempts to conform, I fought for the freedom of expression.

The music and lyrics tapped at something deep inside myself.  It found the part of me that conflicted and the dissonance touched.  It found the fundamental contradictions that created so much confusion and made it flow.  I identify with the complex and unique chord structures.  They are beautiful, yet eerie, and have so much tension in them.  My ear can identify them in music I wasn’t aware that you had a hand in, not because of the musical familiarity, but because of the way it touches me.

I could go on identifying each album, with various songs that have colored my life.  But, I find it unnecessary.  The message is this.  Each album contained a number of songs that had personal meaning.  Most were very fitting for the time period of my life, whether it was touching upon symptoms of my progressing disorder, dysfunctional and abusive relationships, general discord with life, or absolute disgust with society and the people that run it.  And in those songs, I found the music and lyrics to tell me the most important thing I needed to know in my life.  I am not alone.

So, today, I share my passion for music with kids, and help them find their sound.  I do that as part of my passion, and as my day job.  As a person who suffers from mood disorder, you could probably appreciate the following.  I spend most of my time putting the same message out there through creative mediums.  If you are suffering, you are not doing it alone.  I know how you feel.  I was granted the gift of music and writing to share my story and give a certain gift of companionship to those in need.  And, I feel as if you had a hand in aiding that.

I am still a fan and a listener.  I am greatly enjoying the long rumored, “How to Destroy Angels” project.  I appreciate how the music was able to evolve with me.  Or, it’s possible that I was just able to put it into a different context.  Either way, I am grateful to have had such an inspiration and support in my life.  Many thanks for following your passion, and not letting Warren take you down.

All the Best,

Lulu Stark

Control, or Lack Thereof : 30 Days of Truth

Day 12 : Something you never get compliments on.

One of my more recent posts eluded to a crisis in my life.  I haven’t revealed it yet, because in all truth, I am rather ashamed of some of the realities of my life.  In personal writing lately, a rambling piece entitled “Write it Out, Right it Out“, I went on say:

I’ve always been caught in my own world of the mindf***, you know? And when I’m drunk, I am more susceptible to mindf***ery. I don’t like it. I start to lose grasp on my reality, and sometimes it disappears completely – my grasp, that is.

I have made references to my alcoholism in the past, but never with much detail or emphasis.  I neglected to mention that alcoholism is a real part of my present, mainly because I didn’t consider recreational drinking to fall under that category.  I was sorely mistaken.  I wrote to a friend:

Somewhere along the way, I stopped taking substance abuse seriously, like it wasn’t a fact in my life. I’m going to guess that mania had a little to do with it. Like I was above it all because I had gotten away with it.

And another in the same piece, “Write it Out, Right it Out”:

I don’t think I actually believed myself when I have described the seriousness of my alcoholism in my past. Or maybe I thought that it was somehow different, because this is a different situation. Or maybe I thought I was just too young and immature to handle myself.

The fact of the matter is this.  I have been suffering from terrible alcoholism from the age of 19.  At the age of 17, I took up drinking as a recreational activity.  When life events sent me into a tailspin, I spent the last six months of my 18th year in a state of perpetual intoxication.  By the time I was 19, alcohol was a regular fixture in my life, and was a part of every recreational activity.  Finally, it progressed the point of functional alcoholism by the time I was 21.  I described it to a friend as:

Except, I know that there was two years that I spent drunk every single night. I made excuses, like friends and parties, but I would drink by myself. I remember there were nights I’d drink until 4am, and have my boss call me at 6:30am to ask where the hell I was.

During the two years, I had a solid schedule. Wake up at 2pm, leave for work at 2:30pm, work three to nine, drink and eat nine thirty to four or six in the morning, and do it again. I had even devised strategies to avoid vicious hangovers and physical withdrawal. Occasionally, I would venture out with a bottle in my purse, just in case there wasn’t any alcohol where I was going.

Since my son was born, there have only been a handful of what I consider to be benders, which were periods of time where I would invent a reason to have friends over for drinks.  I never intended on getting wasted, and I usually didn’t.  But, there were occasions.  Some relatively benign, ending with me waking up with a vicious hangover and swearing off alcohol entirely for awhile.  Others, they ended disastrously with an altercation, and I would find myself resolving the situation by dumping all of the booze down the drain, with a certain satisfaction at my self-restraint and determination.

Here’s the truth.  I never get complimented on my resolve.  Because, everyone knows that I will always go back to the same old, same old.  No matter how much I appear to change.

I am not always forthcoming about my weaknesses, especially the ones that spark shame.  I am embarrassed by my lack of self-control, especially in matters that are extremely frowned upon.  There are a lot of bad character traits that I can identify, and openly and honestly admit to.  However, lack of self-control is not one of them.  I’ve never considered myself as impulsive, and people often view it as immature and juvenile.  I have always considered myself to be mature and responsible, with certain exceptions, like during college, because impulsive actions and lack of restraint were commonplace, and socially accepted.

Many can argue that impulsivity is not necessarily a character trait of mine, rather, a feature of Bipolar Disorder.  Maybe that is true, because there really was a brief period in my childhood that I recall being very responsible, consistent, and mindful.  And yet, there are still incidents that I recall as being not well thought out before execution.  A condition of childhood?  Maybe.  Facet of personality or symptom of psychological disorder, it stands as probably the weakest trait I have.