Tucker Bryant’s “Reflections on Dating a Kleptomaniac”

This poem brought back memories and was perfectly timed. It was like listening to what I went through two years ago.

I ask her, “How do you even choose what to steal?”
She tells me, “When you’re not sure what you really want… just take everything.”

Found courtesy of the Button Poetry YouTube Channel.

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Gunshot for an Alarm Clock

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Born as a son of a waitress and a railroad worker
who rode the rails out of here
and left her doing her best to serve me
when she married the a truck driving son of a truck driver.
Hard to persist against the blowback of that.
It stunted growth and twisted new wrinkles
programmed with pattern recognition.
It sees when the past is about to hit
point B from point A to loop back to the front again,
reincarnating the past into different forms of
ways to incur battle wounds that bloom into scars.

Trust exists outside a cage
and, so, I know why the bird flies against the wires;
it wants to believe the outside is embracing
while I embrace my perch and linger within my bars.
I am filled to the brim
my cup is full of anxiety
and it rattles, shakes, and spills all over
Truth be told,
I’m afraid of almost everything.
My forays into leaning into the wind
has left me sprawled across the dirt
and when I dust myself off
I’m ankle-deep in salt water;
it must have fallen out of my pocket
when gravity grasped my collar and pulled.

The pills are meant to keep me gripping
the lighter side but I still sink deep
and in the abyss I sit and wait and watch
life pass me by, year by year.

I’m terrified of you. Whoever you are.
Because ‘you’ have stepped into and out of this cage
and slammed the door in my face because I
was enamored by the glitter in your tail feathers,
the impossible beauty in your plumage,
And ‘you’ turned out to be someone I knew
So, I don’t know the you that is yet to come
or if you’re even on your way.
It’s just getting harder to burn down the world
when everyone has had an easier time than I.
I still feel like the child that grew into
the live wire of anxiety and the cold water of depression.
The door to the cage is almost too much to overcome these days.

Everyday strikes me like the same tuning fork;
the vibration igniting my nerves.
I’ve got a gunshot for an alarm clock
And the pills are easier to swallow
than the rest of my day.
I’m okay with being alone.
Loneliness is another story.

Inside/Out

Eyes-on-Fire

In my mind everything within my reach is a projectile. I can feel my hands grip tight and push the force of my musculature force through the air with great velocity anything, everything, and watch the opposing force of the unmoving wall cause pieces and parts to scatter like a drop of water against the pavement. There’s a great amount of violence in the sky when it rains. Likewise, there is a great level of violence contained within my body without cause or explanation, at least not one I can put my finger on.

Every once in a while this happens. I start to sink and the anger turned inward that fuels the darkness I feel reemerges from behind my sternum and I want to tear down the world piece by piece. I want to light the match that detonates the earth from its core. I want to breathe out fire and malice and show the world what it means to burn, to immolate internally until there’s no more room for the open flame but outwards. There are small triggers and most of them are people and memories and I have to learn to swallow them because everyone who matters knows those stories and to rehash them would serve no purpose.

Every now and again I turn sour to the idea of people because it’s people who have let me down the most. I’ve long abandoned the idea of fitting in and have decided to focus on myself and try to be happy that way. Friendship means something completely different when you get to be my age. I ask myself what I did to get where I am and it turns out to be a lot of choices that turned out to be bad ones and almost all of them were trusting people and letting them get close. I have broken myself open too many times for people who weren’t worth the mileage and I always got left stranded on the side of the road, lost, helpless, and depressed.

Nobody knows better ways to break you down brick by brick than the wrong person with your story and your heart in their hands.

My therapist keeps pushing me to keep in contact with people and talk to people because having a support system is part of managing my disorder. It’s hard to do that when you don’t trust people anywhere near the foundation that’s propping you up. Part of me knows this is all just grand assumptions I make because of my deep-seated fear of intimacy of any kind but a huge part of me just doesn’t want to deal with it. And then the fire starts and so I annihilate my body on the altar of exercise because the pain and the aggression are the best mix for me to forget I’m alone.

The pain has been more comforting than people have these past few weeks. I embrace it.

Foundation of Society, Anxiety

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There’s an electric current running from my chest to my gut. This is not a new feeling, in fact I’ve been experiencing it for over a decade. In case you weren’t aware, the onset of mental health issues is often occurs with the onset of puberty. Since age 13 or 14 I have been dealing with this live wire inside my body that feels a lot like panic, like impending doom, as if something bad is on the horizon. Among my many brain-related ailments, anxiety has always been one of the more difficult ones to control. Have you ever grabbed a live electrical wire with your bare hands? You know that feeling you get in your gut when you are about to take the stage to give a speech or perform a musical number or even when you’re sitting there waiting to be called in for the interview for that job you want so desperately?

I live with that. Almost constantly for no reason at all other than a little twist in brain chemistry.

Generalized anxiety has a high comorbidity rate with Bipolar patients. Before I was properly diagnosed, I was put through the ringer of SSRI’s, SNRI’s, and MAOI’s by a general practitioner and more than one Behavioral/Mental health specialist. It was actually the anxiety that put me in the hands of a Psychiatrist in the first place because my GP at the time was testing SSRI’s to control anxiety and gave me Xanax to hold me over until the drugs kicked in. I ended up having a pretty severe panic attack shortly thereafter which is probably the scariest thing I’ve encountered in years.

I went through a number of psychiatrists before landing with one who actually knew what he was doing. He put me through a battery of tests before prescribing me a ton of medication including an MRI and an EEG. Once it was determined my brain didn’t have any functional or structural issues I was given a regular prescription for Clonazepam which is a lot safer and has a longer efficacy than Xanax (which has proven sometimes fatal should you ever want to detox off it). Thankfully, there were less side effects as well. Xanax would actually put me to sleep so fast I’d nod off mid-sentence.

Like any medication, there’s no guarantee of 100% effectiveness so I do deal with anxiety on a fairly regular basis. My therapist has taught me how to cope by turning me on to mindful meditation. What some people don’t realize is anxiety comes from focusing too much on the future. Mindful meditation brings you back to the present with a series of guided exercises and breathing. It’s super simple and it’s helped me out a lot lately, especially during stressful days at work.

What has also been extremely helpful to me is learning about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Some go to therapists to learn the skills necessary to use this as a coping mechanism. I bought a book by the daughter of the innovator of this form of therapy and taught myself mostly because I was bored and I needed to learn something new. The basis of CBT is to learn how to take catastrophic or anxious thoughts and reframe them into more rational explanations. For example, I have severe abandonment issues. This affects me on an almost daily basis in one way or another. If someone doesn’t talk to me I instantly jump to blaming myself, that I did something wrong. That’s the anxiety talking. What I then have to do is take that thought, bring it back to the present and think of a more plausible explanation like, “They must be busy,” or “they have a lot of work to do and are probably seriously stressed out.” You’d be surprised how easy it is once you get the hang of it and how much better you feel once you’ve done that reframing.

The downside to this is sometimes there is no reason for the anxious feelings I get in my guts. It’s just there and I have to focus on something else or just continue to breathe. I try to avoid taking more medication during the day because I’m stubborn and need to believe I’m somehow able to control it. Being out of control is one of the hardest things for me to deal with which is why my faith is hard to deal with sometimes. People will tell me to rely on God or give it to God and He will take care of it. I fight those statements hard because, if I don’t do what I feel is my part, I can’t let go of it. This goes the same way with depression, only I lose my voice to speak to anyone and get stuck.

I won’t say my life is easy but it’s not as hard as some have it so I must be grateful with what I have. My struggles with anxiety and depression have allowed me to connect with people others have not been able to. It’s allowed me to sympathize in ways no one else can but it has also put up substantial barriers in my life because it’s hard to have friends who can’t grasp what it is I’m dealing with. It’s probably why I have so few friends. I can live with that. The friends I do have are loyal to the bone.

So, what’s my point here? I’m not entirely sure. This is often true of most of the things I write; they’re just true to how I’m feeling at the time and writing has proven to be a great release for me and has been for a very long time. I will say this: if you struggle with anxiety, you’re not alone. If you don’t know how to cope, ask. Seek help. i’m not a doctor, I don’t even play one on TV but I have a lifetime of experience, so ask if you need to.

The Fire

He threw his phone to his right and onto his bed with his thumb and forefinger, putting it into a flat spin. His eyes were closed as he bowed his head and ran his left hand through his hair and let his right follow suit. He let them both stop at the base of his skull and clinch his hair tight as he pulled it. He couldn’t believe her. He couldn’t believe she would do this to him after everything he did for her, all the good times and wonderful memories they had together. He could feel the heat of sickening saline streak down his cheek as his arms began to shake from the tension, his grip sending earthquakes up his arms and into his shoulders. His nostrils flared as he tried to control the intake of oxygen into his lungs, but knowing that his respiration rate was increasing with every second along with his heart beat.

She had conjured the ghost of his greater fears and let him go.

The best she could do was a text message. But it didn’t matter. The reaction was the same as he saw her face painted as a portrait in his head on a wall where she had sat for over a year. He tried to keep his grip on her but the picture was slowly taken off its hook and washed down river with the tears he was trying (and failing) to hold back. He remembered every other time this had happened. He remembered what it was like to be replaced, to be put on the podium as second place while someone else held the trophy, his arm around the girl and then both of them disappearing in a cloud of smoke. He felt like he would forever receive the consolation prize.

He started to fume. Smoke started unfurling from his eyes and nostrils. He kept his eyes shut.

She said she knew abandonment. What did she really know? He was never the guy to one-up another person but he always remembered a story his father told him and it sounded like silence, an empty palm and pockets full of nothing. The man who was part in his creation packed his bags and never came back which left only the question, “why?” and therapy bills. She couldn’t match that and could never understand why, when he smelled the signs he panicked and actually blamed him for it despite his best efforts to explain. But all she did was blame him. It was his fault. All his fault and this new guy was going to be the answer to all her problems and they could still be friends…

There were women who wrote a similar story with him with subtle variations and it only served to hone his senses to a finer point. So, his gut saw this coming before he did but the message didn’t make it to his brain before she cut the ties and he was left trying not to rip his hair out from the roots while violent sobs rattled him rating unknown levels on the Richter scale. There was a time when he just let it go and hit his knees, wailing and feeling so pathetic in the process because he thought he was stronger than this, so much stronger than this. But, obviously, there were still things that had the ability to revert him back 12 years old when this wound was first fresh. He pounded his fists into the ground to put the pain somewhere else besides inside where it smoldered.

And then his eyes caught fire and flames shot from his brain and through his muscles. Where there was smoke there was now fire licking the air around him like hands slapping faces and everything around him, for a moment, burned.

He picked up a baseball bat he kept for protection and swung it through the screen of his TV. He ravaged the walls and windows, giving no regard to his own possessions or his security deposit. He just wanted it all to burn. He spat lighter fluid and gasoline on the walls, coating everything that reminded him of her. Then he swept everything that she ever gave him and poured lighter fluid from his tear ducts into a box. With the tip of his finger, he ignited the contents of the box and watched pictures and jewelry and shirts turn brown and then blacken. He hurled her, burning in effigy in the form of now worthless shit in a box, towards the wall and watched it ignite with the sound of a roaring devil’s howl and the flames rolled like great, glowing tidal waves spreading to every surface. Smoke roiled and rolled across the ceiling as the heat intensified.

He felt nothing but this rage rattling his rib cage and spine. A crook of a sick smile eased its way up his face as he created his new world, one of fire and flame. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

“Just like us,” he said to himself.

Suddenly, the fire blew out like it would with a breath at the wick of a candle and the smoke disappeared. Reality set back in and he was alone with his sadness and rage once again. He had nowhere to put it and no one to confide in now since she had become his whole world. The one mistake he knew he had made in that moment because he was now all by himself. He let his hands finally drop from his hair and land at his sides as his head remained pointed down. He breathed in deep once and then wondered what he was going to do with himself now that she was gone.

Was he going to be alright?

The Dreams

His dreams became more vivid as time went on. That is, when he wasn’t struck with a sudden bout of insomnia and his mind spiraled out and down, attaching leg irons made of lead to his ankles that left him bedridden and bleary eyed. His mind would rebel and, before he realized it, he was telling himself stories in his head about the how and why of what he was enduring and before he knew it he was no longer focusing on what he was looking at. Everything was blurry and out of focus and he’d have to shake his head to realign the lenses and bring him back to the present, out of the daydream and into reality.

Reality was becoming an interruption rather than the normal course of things when he was left to his own devices which was quite often anymore. This became the most apparent when he woke up thinking that everything that had he had recently endured was just a dream. For a moment he was relieved because she was still there and he basked in that sweet anodyne for a brief moment. That is, until he checked his phone and was slapped in the face with the grim reminder of the truth and he laughed sickly at himself. He didn’t cry, though. He hadn’t shed any real tears since the night it happened. It had ceased being sad after he came to his senses and he had found himself laughing hysterically about it. Absurdity had that effect on him.

The most vivid of dreams he could remember was his crashing a cookout or gathering of some sort. The details became a bit fuzzy as they tend to do with dreams upon waking. What he did remember was approaching her and trying to get the answers to the questions he had been asking himself as his mind was careening down the highway of his imagination while he was trying to fall asleep. She avoided the tough questions and hid behind her anger much like he was used to. And then he saw him. In his mind he knew this was the reason, his replacement but it didn’t look like him. Instead it was some punk kid and he was extremely petulant. He couldn’t recall the conversation they had but he remembered the young lad throwing a fit when the case was presented to him and how opportunistic it was of him to do what he did. Just like in reality, no answers were to be given.

“You can’t stay in your apartment, you will sink and I don’t want to watch that happen,” his friend told him when she heard the news, tears in her eyes

The dreams at all hours both while awake and asleep were proving her right. Depression struck like an assassin while he was alone in his room and he had no way to escape. He felt like deadweight, the blankets strapped him to the mattress and he tried to sleep the day away. It never worked. He would lose track of time and with no one to talk to he started to feel like his brain was melting with the cacophony of thoughts that he would come up with. It was at the point where his sense of self-preservation kicked in that he would rattle his head and run from his room as fast as possible and go somewhere, anywhere but where the thoughts were not allowed to escape past the walls.

And yet his mind continued to reel.

The Ceiling

His nerves were live electric wires passing current from his heart and lungs, sending the former into the speed of snare hits he could feel against his sternum and the latter intaking oxygen faster than his body could process it. The current passed down his arms and into his hands, causing them to tingle and lose sensation. It was disruptive. He did not feel the need to eat and sleep came in fits if it came at all, the wires in his brain firing electric catastrophe through his overactive, overworked and now sleep-deprived imagination. This was all instinct and he tried to tell himself that it would all be over soon.

Trust did not come easy to him though he told himself he trusted her implicitly, or as implicitly as one can another person, remembering the fallibility of anyone and everyone; it is human to fail. This led his brain to falter in trust and so he would see horrific images that would intensify the current running through his body every minute of every day since he heard the words, “You’ll just have to trust me”. He thought he could until now. He had no idea what was going on after not hearing a word for too long and so his mind started to fill in the gaps. The means with which those gaps were being filled did not make him feel any better.

It was much easier for him to distrust than to trust even then. The history he had was not one of someone who had seen the best part of the human experience. While everyone has been lied to and everyone has been betrayed at some point in their lives, there seemed to be an inordinate amount of those kinds of stories being told in his short lifetime. He realized that he had to be careful not to sabotage himself. It was a battle of psychology and history and, in his mind, both sides were losing. He was seeing himself alone yet again, left to pick up the broken shards of his heart which he had kept to himself and well-mended for so long and it frightened him so much there were days when he couldn’t function. In the same vein, he didn’t want to say anything to her for fear of being a burden.

There was a part of him that wanted this anguish to end. Everything he saw in his waking nightmares he wanted to see come true so he could at least breathe again and not have to try to disassemble scenario after scenario. But he cared too much to give up on it and the small part of him that was an optimist was hoping that this would pass and things would return back to stasis. He wouldn’t have to feel like he was about to crack open like an egg and have his insides made into an omelette for the sake of someone else’s decisions. At the very least he was tired of staring at the ceiling wondering just what was going to happen next.

He saw his phone go off next to him.