Top 10 Albums of 2012!

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My Top Ten Best Albums of the Year:

10.  Cat Power – SUN — I was pleasantly surprised with SUN — it’s truly a great effort from Chan Marshall.  Chan, before the production of this album, felt really discouraged as an artist for various reasons, a lot of them based upon expectations to meet certain standards while also shredding some at the same time — these pressures existed both inside and outside of the industry.  It was brave of her to follow the kind of sound represented on SUN.  She just went with it, put her heart deeply into its production, and out came an end result that is a great predecessor to The Greatest.  It’s a new-ish sound, but it’s not too new to the point that it makes Cat Power fans totally uncomfortable.  Some may disagree, though.  I know that for a fact.  SUN is just truly a great effort, and has been a great listen for me this year.

09.  Purity Ring – Shrines — Hello, Purity Ring!  What can I say, I love this band.  They’re in this weird little “clique” that came out this year, of which I like to call the Canadian Clique of Electronic Music.  Purity Ring is not strictly electronic in my opinion because I find their sound to be very experimental and unusual.  They do not gravitiate toward any boxed-up category — they are just true to their art-form.  I’ve spent the past several months listening to them — and I began to take notice of the lyrics that are integrated within the intricate tracks.  There’s poetic rawness and a bizarre input of unexpected darkness (anatomy, uncomfortable imagery, stark statements, dream-like & surreal scenarios) that the duo brings to the table.  Edmonton, Alberta is where the duo hails from, and the sound of Purity Ring is large, grand, and vast — just like the landscape of a hidden, gem-like territory of this northern Canadian province.  This is a band, like Grimes, that will likely stick around and reinvent their sound with every polished album such as Shrines.

08.  Crystal Castles – (III) — I still listen to (III) whenever I drive anywhere in my car.  This may possibly be because it’s the only CD I own/have in my car — but I definitely do not mind this factor.  Crystal Castles made an album that I love.  Some feel this way, some don’t.  That’s why I’m not going to analyze it too much.  I obsess over any kind of media that makes me feel and react in a strong, intense way.  After the release of their single “Plague” and its video — consisting of one of my favorite horror/art-house scenes in cinematic history — they leaked things bit by bit, and surprised many along the way.  Sadly, I did not get to see them in Kansas this past October, but I’m sure I will in 2013.  Getting back to what I was saying about art making me feel — after I first listened to the album it made me feel uncomfortable, creeped-out, almost jumpy.  It made my mind feel dark, heavy, grim, and godless.  The music took me to a goth territory that is very exciting to hear in 2012 — it’s honestly an album with affect, dispassion, angst, and chaos.  What I find so disappointing is that Crystal Castles has a gigantic fan-base who love their old shit of bleepy Mario Bros/Super Nintendo sounds that were OK when they came out, but now I do not really listen to (I) and (II) unless it’s for a couple of tracks.  So, a lot of people don’t know what to do with (III) — can we dance to it?  Yes.  Can we enjoy it like electronic music?  Can we mosh to it?  Can we feel it?  Absolutely yes, on all levels.  (III) will the album that I will be blasting if I am alive during our Earths’ apocalypse — there’s no doubt about that.

07.  Grimes – Visions — I am in love with Grimes/Claire Boucher, and I am happy to say she’s my best discovery of 2012.  She’s a strange girl who is also, of course, Canadian and cool as a cucumber.  Grimes is getting noticed — her entire vision is becoming more integrated in the scene of electronic music, and especially any bands from the Canadian Clique.  Grimes is so, so unpretentious, in my opinion.  Interviews with her show a frenetic girl with an unusual appearance, and you then learn she’s a visual artist slash musician.  Grimes is self-taught and self-governed with her music.  She establishes her own voice on the album Visions — which is an audio-visual experience that is truly, truly creative — it’s not only fun — it’s exciting.  It’s strange and bouncy in its ambiguous darkness.

I believe Visions is a dodgy album for 2012 considering the vamp of the generalized electro sound being a forever relentless ongoing invention — but her mark in the field is deeply etched &  drawn in place.  Grimes forte is music videos, and I believe she’s probably going to commit more to videos for a while, which I love.  Her videos are inspiring for all of those DIY-ers out there.  She performs with strange, alluring personality that is also awkward and humble — so she’s approachable, and her music is as well.  “Genesis” and “Oblivion” are beautiful songs, and smart singles with complimentary videos that expand her vision even further.  “Symphonia IX (My Wait is U)” is my personal favorite with its cinematic pacing and immense grandeur of opera-like electronic music that has elements of a theatrical experience, where being the audience is very much enjoyable.

06.  Christina Aguilera – Lotus — Yeah, Christina!  I love this album.  It’s very enjoyable to listen to.  Christina is one of my absolute favorite vocalists, and female artists.  Ms. Aguilera really inhabits her own space as an artist with this album: it’s not over-controlled by a band of producers and “yes” people — there’s simply her backing up the production every step of the way.  I wish Christina participated more in songwriting, though.  Why would she hire someone to write a song like “Your Body”?  Can’t she trust herself to write her album singles/hits after everything she’s gone through in this industry?  Well, that’s fine, because “Your Body” was a brave single for her to release.  As its first single, the song was ultimately released first into the open waters full of sharks and animals that eat art whole on sites like PerezHilton and PopMatters — where there are the “opinionated” individuals who aren’t afraid to be downright hateful with pop music.  Pop music takes balls.  Pop music is a bitch.  It’s the most competitive thing on the world stage in context with the music industry.  Yes, her music is, always, over-sexualized and at times shallow, one-dimensional.  In the end, it’s always at least very entertaining.

“Blank Page” is a song that I feel deserves a spot right up to one of Christina’s reliable power-ballads along with “Beautiful”, “Hurt”, and “You Lost Me”, as some examples.  She creates albums into experiences: with opening intros that lead into hand-picked tracks that follow in a famous pop sequence: a couple dance songs, then a ballad, a couple consist of both, then it’s more dance songs, then ending with a ballad.  It’s formulas that keep pop music alive, and she has fun doing it.  “Lotus” is Christina’s best album in regards to the control of her vocals.  Only a couple songs does she blow you away with her occasional shrill-shriek singing that makes you too intimidated to sing along with!  She paces herself, and also experiments with her voice.  I love “Lotus” a lot.

05.  Lana Del Rey – Paradise (EP) — I say “fuck OFF!” to anyone else’s “opinion” about the artist Lana Del Rey.  I hate reading/hearing what people say about her — the way people so unforgivably shred an artist into pieces really pisses me off.  Lana Del Rey first appeared to me as a sensitive artist who wouldn’t be able to handle the harsh blows of the stupidity that swims throughout what is called the audience.  It’s not like she’s an artist that’s constantly thrown in your face: so if you don’t like her, don’t watch her!

Lana Del Rey is an authentic artist to me because she stays very true to her fundamental artistic image.  This image, in a few words, consists of the American Girl, the Girl from California, who is not from this time, yet instead pulled from time capsules planted next to Sunset Blvd motels and buried in the nearby sands of the beaches on such emotional landscapes.  She rides along the windy, twisty roads down mountains near Malibu, California with the fresh morning wind that gusts in her face and hair, making her feel alive.   This image is mastered by Lana Del Rey, especially in 2012.  She’s of her own species, her own kind.  “Ride” is an example of what a true professional female musician represents.

Be careful of how quickly you judge an artist like her — because Lana Del Rey has the ability to maintain a lot of success despite all of the setbacks of her career that is still only toddler-sized.  The release of this EP took major balls, and even still it had to eat the shit of the press.  Luckily, it lives on forever in the hearts of fans like myself.  Fans who make up an audience that is reasonable and rational — and do not overthink why they love an artist like her.

04.  TGNHT (Hudson Mohawke X Lunice) – TNGHT (EP) — This EP was really, really exciting to discover.  I remember my first listen to it was when I was getting ready to go out  to the bars — getting my best outfit together, trying my hair in 5 different styles, spritzing on the cologne — an amount that’s just enough.  This is a fun process that leads to a fun night and I really, really love music that amounts to that feeling of excitement.  Who doesn’t live for going out for a good time?

TGNHT consists of these guys who are producers/DJs and they’ve obviously put in their time having observed electronic music for god-knows-how-long — so their own original creations have a lot of credibility behind them.  I had not ever heard of these guys before this EP.  The EP is very successful, and is gleaming light on them that’s probably long overdue.  If they’ve got this EP out, I can only imagine what else is up their sleeves for the future.  2012 needed a 10-ton dynamite EP like this one — explosive, very explosive.

03.  HOLY OTHER – Held — I love the darkness (or the general goth sound) that exists inside of electronic music these days.  Contemporary electronic music, I suppose, is the proper box to wrap these acts up into.  Sound creations from HOLY OTHER consist of a multi-layered, subdued sound that nails down and delivers a feeling, an affect — something highly abstract as opposed to being “dance music” or strictly experimental to its audience.  The opening track “(W)here” shoots up through a murky surface into an eerie territory that is very much influenced by ambient/house jams and is not unfaithful to the subtle ingredients of contemporary R&B.  I can’t wait to see what else HOLY OTHER releases after their triumph with Held — as they will continue as pioneers of experimental electronic music that yields strong atmosphere and affect — elements that create connections with the audience, rather than just merely entertaining them for the sake of entertaining with their music.  HOLY OTHER intends to do things with their music, and it’s highly respectable, and great to have discovered them.  Held is a great album of electronic obscurity midst lots of other innovative acts in their league.

02.  Pete Swanson – Man With Potential (EP) and Pro Style (EP) — I cannot get enough of Pete Swanson — who is most often identified as one of the main engineers of Portland’s Yellow Swans, a terrific electro-noise cocktail whose songs glitch and glimmer in their odd, at times discordant, sound structures.  I mark Pete Swanson as one of my greatest musical discoveries of 2012, if not of this decade.  The sounds of Man With Potential & Pro Style put me into a state of reverie that I cannot really articulate.  The length of the opening track “Misery Beat” blew my mind and took a firm grip of my very own intrigue: the rest of its discordant compositions follow headily in a difficult, yet rewarding, sequence of tracks.

Pete Swanson’s music on these EPs are conceptual (at least in my opinion) — and Man With Potential is definitely some sort of concept album.  The concept behind the EP certainly follows some sort of nonlinear, abstract flux that draws in a listener and takes them to a strange psychological territory.  Tracks slew along like psychological topography for both the artist and audience, thus creating an unusual bond of action and reaction through the medium of electronic music that experiments endlessly.  I do not expect many people to really “get” my gist of this because it’s difficult, discordant music that is noise, but the noise is more controlled than it seems.  Intricate programming and selected factors of style influenced by house/industrial/Euro electronic that meets rhythmic counterbalances of a common rap/R&B track — this creativity and original sound is very interesting to explore.

Pete Swanson doesn’t hold your hand through the experience: you are all on your own.  Sometimes it’s scary, sometimes dancey, sometimes too unusual, sometimes fun.  The tracks are lengthy and expansive, more captivating an audience for a concept album that you sit & listen through — and its affect drives everything forward.  Dark and moody gothic influences drive through Pro Style as well, but not nearly as much as Man With Potential which may find Pete Swanson a man who has already met his potential — and will continue to produce work that shines in dark, strange territory of psychological music that is experimental and generally electronic.  Cheers to him, he’s great, and I love his work a lot.

01.  Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel… — Well, this is a no-brainer.  It never was even for a moment when I first heard of the albums official release from Fiona’s relentless record label Epic Records.  In 2012, I experienced my very first (and perhaps only) live concert in Kansas City, MO at the Midland Theater where I stood only a few leaps away from Fiona Apple on stage.  I was a die-hard motherfucking fan having some sort of exorcism while the rest of the audience remained subdued, watching her with intrigue, as one would observe a piece of art in a museum.  People do not always know what to “do” with Fiona Apple in regards to her music, personality, and live performances.  I, on the other hand, know exactly how to handle her in every aspect possible.  All it requires is a little bit of emotion, and a little bit of letting yourself go by stopping all of the questions, comparisons, and expectations.

As an album, in the present moment, it’s a perfect piece of art that’s fine-tuned and crafted by Fiona’s engineering talent: her ability to write the lyrics on this album will impress me for all eternity.  She’s the best female songwriter in the industry.  She has a style that is so singular, so original, that it cannot be distinguished from any other female artist whom Fiona may be “cut from the same cloth” — which is something I disagree with.

Fiona is her own cloth — she exists in her own bubble in space and time.  By embarking on a very extensive tour for this album — she proves herself as a grown woman with extreme talent as a skilled artist.  Fiona is provocative on this album such as on the song “Jonathan” where she, on a first-name basis, sings about a failed relationship on top of sounds similar to machinery that whirs and works in the background, then unfolds on a made-from-scratch piano ballad, until we morph completely into her territory that is created from Fiona’s heart — a very personal, vulnerable, strange little place that is the size of the Atlantic.

Fiona demands that you be careful with her due to her fragility, but also due to the abrasiveness on her surface:  she can hurt just as she’s been hurt, and she can love just as she’s been loved.  Fiona is the mastermind of her own emotions and she willingly explores them in songs like “Every Single Night” — a song lyrically comparable to a Confessional-mode where the artist fully self-discloses, but stylistically knows how to blur all the lines that need to be blurred.  She speaks through the fourth wall by shredding it to pieces — there’s nothing holding her together — she’s in pieces right before you — and you need to look closely in order to understand the bravery and brilliance she exudes endlessly.

Fiona is flighty and flaky when it comes to her career itself because she lets everything happen in its own timeline, not a timeline created by anyone else, even herself: her own creative process is something that’s respectable as it is frustrating for her fans.  This album stays in somewhat of a familiar territory, but overall is the much-needed expansion of “Extraordinary Machine” because she goes beyond any previous work by existing as Fiona Apple in 2012: an artist who plays around with both simplicity and complexity in a risky, yet effortless way, and is truly herself when it comes to the context of her musical and visual style.  Now, more than ever, Fiona is proclaimed as a true artist.  Her fourth album is equivocal to all previous work — a factor that’s unheard of for solo artists.  Fiona is strength, courage, and vulnerability that is humble, truthful, beautiful, and challenging.

            Albums that did not do it for me this year in 2012:
Passion Pit – Gossamer — I am not going to get critical, nor will I critique, but this album ended up on pretty much every other top-10 list year and I have no idea idea.  Passion Pit did not progress nor reinvent anything with this album — instead they catered to their regular sound and left me feeling bored, uninterested.  I question whether I’m even a fan of this band or not, though.  They’re well-loved by many, so it doesn’t really hurt that their fan population may exclude myself.

Bat For Lashes – The Haunted Man — Man, oh man.  This album was such a let-down for me!  I had been looking forward to it for so long and it just… ugh… simply let me down.  When I tried to make it through all of the tracks, I felt compelled to just listen to her previous albums instead!  Natasha Khan (Bat For Lashes) is definitely “growing up” as an artist, but I don’t see what took her so long to make this album.  Sorry, but it’s no wonder that her record label continuously rejected any material she would send to them.  The album is just plain.  “Laura” as a piano ballad is nice, but not as her first single.  It seems like she’s a totally different artist now — there’s not a semi-sinister, dreamy David Lynch-enthused soundscape that typically describes the vision of Bat For Lashes.  Instead it just feels like she’s trying to write/create music that will be marketable and, while that’s very true, it’s a just on to another several years before her next album.

Madonna – MDNA — After being bored with Gaga’s “Born This Way” after it’s first full-listen, I expected a little something from the realm of dance music.  Madonna highlighted the Superbowl with an explosive performance, yet she was singing a new song from this record that made me feel distracted — it made me feel like it wasn’t what she should be releasing.

My issue with Madonna’s music is a familiar issue that I’ve always had with the “marketable music of dance/disco” because dance music, in itself, is a product.  It’s created with top-notch programmers hired along with the best song-writers rounded up together where they basically “reinterpret” the artists’ image — and then the artist says “yay” or “nay” to the results.

Madonna is perfectly fine being in this area of the industry, and I have nothing against it.  It’s profitable because it’s what is blasted in every gay club every weekend all around the world.  Clubs are picky with what they choose to remix or play for the dance-floor, and this is in a part of the industry where the attention span is only a mere few seconds long.  I enjoyed some parts of this album — but MDNA isn’t even love-to-hate good, or music just for fun/enjoyment.  You still hear some sort of misconstrued theme/message being translated in her music, and it’s distracting.

                                 Album I wish I could include for 2012:
WHITE RING – Black Earth That Made Me — Okay, so this album was only brought to my discovery in 2012, except it’s been out since last year.  I feel like since I’m on the topic, I may as well digress a bit.  WHITE RING really impresses me.  They’re doing something new and atypical with electronic music along with the efforts of artists similar to their sounds.  WHITE RING is a group that has fine-tuned artistry that intends to breathe fresh air into electronic music — all while trying to revamp the “goth” or “industrial” genre into a more approachable format — a format that reminds its audience of hip-hop, rap, and common styles that ring similar to the creation & production of mainstream rap, thus creating “witchhouse” I guess.  SALEM of course leads the discourse on this sub-genre which has become ever-so-trendy, much to my surprise!  WHITE RING & SALEM are bands that create marketable music that doesn’t stretch out to the market — they cling on to their independence and exist in a musical land of experimentation.

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TASTE MY GAME: a poetry collection — Poems Nine and Ten.

UNHINGED. (NINE)
Paul’s his name and I’m unafraid of it.
Paul could never imagine how badly
I wanted to enjoy myself – but instead
I remained held up inside my head, sadly,
But he knew me enough to know that
I’m just too hard to know.
I would tell him, “I wish for once I’d just
let the seconds be what they are –
and rid my brain of idyllic delusions
while I simply realize that reality is there,
it’s mine – and it certainly always had its way with me
So, why can’t I have the same power?
I don’t know.

We lied together on a couch and he told me that he wanted me.
I asked him “do you really, though? Do you really want me?”
I found it possessive and I still let him cross all of the lines.
Sometimes Paul’s smile was better than any response
with lots of words, words.
Two of us, tall, dark, and handsome –
Yet I’m stuck in the angles of this triangle as my brain
must always invite itself in.
Trust me, boy, you don’t even like me, let alone want me.
You can see the ugly edges as the image begins to pour out
and I can’t keep everything attractive and social any longer.
Static – it’s all I am. Static, the noise, the unchanged
self trapped in a boundless midnight sky –
They all get sad when they realize I will always be unhinged.

Dead or alive, I will thrive alive inside of my head with
my unerring need to analyze that will outlive you all.
You can try to kill it, shut up its noise.
But you’ll only be frightened to see that
my thoughts are raging and invincible
and my calibrated calculations of those who want me
are immortal and unworldly, strange.
The damn things will resurrect without any ritual –
They’ll just liven to come back for more
and leave me nothing, they leave me unwanted.

ABSTRACTIONS (TEN)
Mend the severed cord
Cut from all of its warmth and left
Writhing to dust on the ground –
Desiccation into these days that are
Congruent with other days.
Minutes multiply like how a mirrored wall
Will create an image of infinity
As they form into the structure of hours
The hours, hours, hours that will, of course,
Become days
Filled with time and its space.
I’m caught in the middle where I own
my very own time zone.
Things happen here you’ll never see.
Slap me in my face – slap my identity.

TASTE MY GAME: a poetry collection — Poems Four through Six.

i was left to rye out your words (FOUR)
Cross my path and cross my heart
Render it to perfection with such bright little surges
of flickering specks of glinting hope –
Maybe your company wasn’t all that I was wishin’ for
Because I could have been entirely here for myself –
The one static person who’s anyone but you.

My hands stiffen into a clutch around my drink
A neat whiskey that settles deeper in the glass
Seething in its piss yellow stink.
I’m reminded of a familiar moment when
I really believed in a person that was real – warm flesh & blood
That could walk into a room to arrive and satisfy my sullen smile.

Except, now, I’m left with July nights that will soon
accumulate to where there aren’t any more –
But a calendar month passed into an August’s burst and bloom.
I calculate more blanketed, quiet nights
Where my sighs of relief will be singular noises in a dark room.

Pathfinder (FIVE)

I’m the one condemned to be slutty, moribund and flirty
Therefore your vices call to abandon a boy like me –
I’m the kind you can desert.
What else can I do with my father’s good looks and my
Clean-shaven face? I can’t help it that I’m a good kisser,
I’ve just always been a natural.
You only sit before me in an assay of my judgments –
Not a fair game when all’s you can claim is the
Tired, bored, glib boy who thinks he’s a man,
Yet he’s not really one at all, he always just stays the same.
Virtues and vices really just squeeze you dry
with your vice’s vice-grip –

It’s easy for me to see it all pouring from you.

Yeah, you’ve heard the talk correctly. I’ve been around.
Ventured many places and
strange apartments, yet your terrain’s a place I won’t
afford to ever give a trip.
I’ve been to it before: it’s a place where I could never get lost –
there’s too many directions – a predetermined, mapped-out
exploration that’s easily explored
just as it’s also the easiest route taken.

Dispassion (SIX)
You’ve got nothing against me,
Yet nothing for me, either – and this leaves me
Unsure of which matter is worse.
Don’t promise me a damn thing ‘cuz I just don’t need
to get my hopes up – what you make predictable
is also equally cruel and unjust. So, I just beg you
to politely tell me lots of lies, lies, and lies
and then leave me alone with them, quietly with make-believe
until it will really make me believe.

I’m tired of driving ’til I see stars in my eyes

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Moving forward, in itself, is a daunting task for me, but it’s becoming so much easier because I’ve begun to cope with my life using simplified methods and techniques that are cut down to precise concision.  One example being that I ride.  I just ride. (a concept vis-a-vis Lana Del Rey, respectively.)


The overwhelmingly positive response that came from my previous post simply made me feel very, very fulfilled and more comfortable with my self-expression, as it’s already been accepted by many.  This is my territory, but my analysis of everything is due to my interpersonal conflicts, so again, please do not apply your perception of me that’s entirely based on this information.  Well, I had no idea there were so many people out there that would read my interpersonal manifesto and actually “get it” — or at least did not pass me off for a creepy, crazy, or unstable person — which I may possibly be at times, but never to anyone that could confront my situation head-on and really attempt to understand it, and to help me.  November 2012 will be an unforgettable month because it was not only harrowing but horrific — the daunting experiences strengthened me like strips of thick steel that construct a giant ship sailing through open Atlantic waters.  I am powerful now.  No longer do I self-deprecate or wallow in self-pity where I go to an unforgiving territory that does not allow me to stop feeling sorry for myself.  Please keep in mind that my writing here is for the purpose of my writing — I am experimenting with creative nonfiction, stylizing elements with characters that did in fact exist, but are still in a grey area that protects their privacy.  The likelihood of the information being factored against me is slim to none, but I also acknowledge the risk I’m subjected to for my self-disclosure here.  I am an open book here because I want to share my own moving experiences and convey my catharsis.  Otherwise, I’m shut-up following rules, playing it safe and tucked away in anxiety anywhere else — and anyone who knows me can understand this.

__________________________________________________

“I would have told her that I’ll never know what it’s like to be her. But I know what it’s like to want to die. How it hurts to smile. How you try to fit in, but you can’t. How you hurt yourself on the outside to try to kill the thing on the inside.”
— SK

My return date to work is not officially been established just yet.  I believe I’ll have at least another week of short-term disability so that I can see my new therapist and adjust to the new medications that I’m on.  I’m not going to sugar-coat it — the medications are potent and kick my ass.  I kind of get anxiety when I take Geodon because I react so intensely to it.  About an hour after taking it in the late morning, I begin to feel so exhausted that I literally search for any possible way to collapse into my bed or any place I can fall asleep.  I fell asleep in my car the other day for about an hour in the grocery store parking lot — and when I woke up I totally felt fine and was completely OK to drive.  Still, that was a scary experience.  Obviously it was the best idea to just sleep there than to attempt driving, of course I know how critically important it was to just stay there — it would’ve been extremely dangerous for me to drive.  Never will I take it in the morning, it’s now a PM medication only.

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Geodon does not really have this much of an effect on me now — I’ve adjusted to the fatigue after a few days of adjustment.  This medication is very, very helpful with my mixed-mania episodes.  Last night was pretty frenetic and caused me to get really agitated and I get this sensation in my legs to just walk, run, shake, rattle — to anything with them — the energy comes from a place of immense restlessness.  Pretty much it’s like feeling physical frustration wrapped up inside of me.  During this I come off ass bitchy or having an attitude to others but that’s only because I am feeling so unpleasant on the inside.  It’s not personal at all to anyone.  I can’t have a phone conversation with my inquisitive dad and try to pretend I’m feeling ayyy-okay… and I’ve gotta just end the call and figure out how to calm down.

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Part I: Misconstrued Information, Subjective Displacement

What frustrates me is that my inpatient treatment at the psychiatric unit did not really provide me any specific methods of “dealing” or “managing” my bipolar/episode shit.  Except for one group session where I connected with other bipolar patients — most of whom were very fuckin’ severe — I had that one session to discuss what I was actually there for!  Mostly… my admittance was built around chemical dependence.  This was because I (truthfully) admitted to having been dependent on prescription drugs in order to deal with my episodes, and I told them I can get carried away with white wine.  Basically, I acknowledged that I self-medicate.  But… I already knew this.  I did not need to attend 12-step meetings every day where I had to identify myself as an “addict” — because I am not an addict, I just have no method of coping with this disorder so yes I’ve taken more (of my own) anxiety meds than I should, but come on… I’ve gotta do what I’ve gotta do in order to function!  It’s like okay, I could take an extra 1mg of clonazepam at work OR try to continue working without it and feeling like a dysfunctional mess which will land me in trouble at work.  What you’re reading is not an addict in denial — I know exactly what I’m right about.  My psychiatrist did not react negatively when I told her any of this.  She understands that she prescribes these medications to me, and after a while my tolerance builds up with them.  Animosity erupted with myself and the psychiatric unit because they lied to me by stating one: they spoke to my doctor about “tapering off” clonazepam, and that I felt “addicted and completely reliant on it” — both things never occurred, and I never stated  that.  Yet still, they slapped a green-sticker on my wrist band.  Green stickers were the chemical-dependent patients, kind of like how orange jumpsuits identify murderers in prison.

daisy

Objectively, I have self-medicated which does become habit-forming, yes, but I’m not an alcoholic because I have a glass of wine to take the edge off of my restless & fitful mood.  I’ve taken several different anti-anxiety medications ever since I was 16 years old.  At this point, they don’t really fucking do anything for me.  So, I don’t expect anything from them… I hardly even take them!  Like everything else, my word is against theirs — and they’re doctors — professionals — and I’m only the lying, overly defensive and inventive addict in denial.  Honestly, it felt really offensive.  This is why I wanted to leave so badly is because these people weren’t even fucking listening to me at all.  After my assessment was finished they admitted me (which was going to happen anyway because my doctor ordered my admittance, and they also got a fully-paid check from my dad, so yeah) to the wrong program because of a misconstrued discussion about my prescription medications and unrelated/maybe related habits with “alcohol” which in reality was my legal consumption of wine a few times a week.  Okay, so, what about me having a fucking meltdown and so episodic I felt like exploding and was completely unable to work?  Oh, that’s addict behavior.

Being in the drug-addict unit was eye-opening because I had no.. idea… how incredibly addicted these individuals that I had casually interacted with beforehand were internally fixated to their drug/drink of choice.  This one guy admitted to such a large amount of Xanax usage that shocked the shit out of me — I wanted to give the guy an enormous hug!  Their stories were so, so harrowing. Another girl I made friends with disclosed her addictions that began when she was 10 years old, and since she didn’t ever disclose this information to me, I didn’t understand how she appeared so normal and functional when in reality she was on the edge of overdosing every time she used her drug of choice.  I didn’t relate to these issues, yet I absorbed and soaked in the saddest things I’ve ever heard in my life.  These individuals radiated sadness — a strange, sort of faded energy that was desperate, completely desperate.

dfgdf

In one of the narcotics anonymous meetings I had to attend (also, there wasn’t anything else to do, anyway) I had to confront a weird spotlight put on me, since it was my turn to talk, and I began with “My name is Sam and I am… an addict…” and after that, of course, with no judgment the room greeted me back with compassion.  Cult chants were the first thing that popped into my head.  I steer clear of cults and cult-like thinking.  I know that’s a common reaction, but man I was just very out of my element.  Kind support from the other people was great, but I couldn’t help to compare my situation!  I felt so damn boring compared to everyone else!  I didn’t know what to say, I didn’t have a story with addiction, necessarily.  I didn’t want to pass either because that didn’t seem fair.  I wanted to contribute something.  So, I began to nervously mumble that I do struggle with anti-anxiety medications like Klonopin/clonazepam, Xanax/alprazolam, Ativan/lorazepam, etc — but at this point I’m taking such low dosages of only 1 of those, so there’s no point to abuse them in the first place — and I haven’t taken anything “extra” in several months, nor did I care to.  Sounds like bullshit, I know.  Believe me, I would be skeptical of one’s justification about taking prescription drugs.  Why would I deny being addicted to anything at all though?  My dad thinks I am still lying about all of it — but really?  I stated that I was an addict apprehensively because I knew making such a heavy and strong statement like that was due to a stupid, misconstrued mix-up with the psych institution and I was just going along with it.

I really didn’t appreciate them placing me in a corner, on the spot, in that meeting — as I had to introduce myself as an addict just so that I could identify with them yet also concurrently identify with my own sense of self (?)  I identified with the other patients in many, many ways — believe me — but deadly dangerous addictive behavior was not entirely one of them.  But, I digress, I’m not sure how I feel about the 12-step program, now that I know a lot more about it.

What if I wanted to say “My name is Sam”?  Then I’d be unusual for not stating alcoholic/addict.  Why is it so important to self-proclaim that?  It’s like defining yourself with that word — no one should ever define themselves with their bad habits.  I have issues with prescription drugs in the past, but I don’t take that fact and integrate it into my identity.  I don’t feel like that’s healthy or appropriate, but that’s how it works.  By incorporating religion — and attaching a book visually and conceptually synonymous with the Christian Bible — this program acts like a 12-step dogma that has a lot of drawbacks that make it ineffective for the severity of some situations.  It’s not my place to say what should occur in these meetings, but I do think more and more people are becoming skeptical of the 12-step construct.  Men and women lamenting, sharing their individual histories like they carry around an archive of pain and suffering — miserable people fighting with the urge to use their substance, to figure out a life without the obstacle of the matter.  There’s just a lot more constructive, productive, proactive things that should take place during the meetings.  Storytelling seems to be a major emphasis, and this is what confused me after I attended many meetings.

Compromise felt necessary, but what if most of those people didn’t really mean their statement of being an addict — just like how I didn’t mean it?  What should’ve felt cathartic or brave felt phony, counter-intuitive, wrong, weird… and I’m sure others may have felt the same way.  Sorry, but I just don’t agree with applying “alcoholic” or “addict” to my name as if they’re like my fucking credentials or something!  These are not attributes that a person “earns” and then incorporates into their identity.

What I really wanted to say was: Hi, my name is Sam Swayne, B.A. in English/psychology, only son of my two parents, employee of x company, huge lover of art and film, licensed driver of a 2007 red Chevy, resident of downtown Kansas City, Missouri, frequent jogger/runner, and, also, I am diagnosed with bipolar disorder and I struggle with self-medicating.  Maybe that sounds overwrought or overly articulated but to me, for such a personal fucking situation,  that is how people should identify themselves in these fuckin’ meetings.

For example, I have no clue where I could even obtain crystal meth.  Let’s say I did become resourceful and found it somewhere to buy — would I feel comfortable with the individuals doing it?  No.  Would I be able to afford it, if it became a weekly habit?  Uhh… no.  Would I even do it in the first place?  No, because I am scared of that drug — I would be so scared that I’d have a bad reaction to it and end up “inadvertently” dying.  The same thing goes for MDMA, cocaine, heroin, whatever — all of that stuff would freak me out.  Anyone who knows me knows that.  I’ve never done any of those drugs.  I’ve smoked weed and drink wine (which can be applied in the present tense, I don’t really care) and, yeah, I had a party-boy phase when I went out to bars and had lots of cocktails, but I always partied safely.  I’m not perfect and I’m not invincible to substance abuse — yeah, I’ve used stuff in a dependent manner — like alcohol makes me feel confident and extroverted, and weed makes me feel extremely silly.  I feel like I access the funniest version of myself, and it feels totally harmless.  What’s wrong with me smoking it and being in a state of hilarity and joy?  Well, I suppose it’s because it’s a drug making me feel that way.  But… it’s still not harming me.  Everyone in the meetings I went to during inpatient brought up marijuana in the most negative light possible.  They were very hard on themselves for using it — most of them feeling awful for using it so “excessively” when in actuality, they just became tolerant to the previous amounts and had to smoke more.

I would never fucking smoke crack.  First of all — it’s not in my nature because my luck simply doesn’t work like that — I simply just can’t get away with doing shit like that!  I’d end up getting caught, becoming really sick from it from my body rejecting it, or indefinitely experiencing something traumatic and/or humiliating in the process.  It’s not desirable to me, it’s not intriguing, and I have no curiosity for it — and I am the most curious person I know.

I bring this up because most of the patients there were smokers of crack or methamphetamine.    Most of them were there for at least their third time, some of them had been in the program six times, not including programs at other hospitals.  Addiction is now conceptualized differently to me: it’s incomprehensible how much of a problem it is.  It’s a really, really harrowing conflict of the human condition.  My interactions with these people forever changed my perceptions about drugs for the rest of my life.  I care so deeply for these people — my sensitivity to these people in my surroundings skyrocketed — I swam in empathy and vicariously felt their frustration, anger, guilt, and straight-up sadness.  Drug addicts are all universally insulated with a sadness that is practically tangible, it manifests in dark shadows under the eyes, a worn out body with a soul that’s taken on too much.

This shit doesn’t only effect superficial aspects of their lives — it changes who they are, it distorts their lives into a twisted fucking mess that seeps deeper into a swamp of quicksand, and their spirit becomes sucked into the gravitas of a black hole and their identity and essence becomes damaged.  Right now those people rest deeply in my heart, where my humanity hopes something will mend the damage at least a little.  A little, at least.  Their suffering deserves at least a little bit of light, of some sort of resolution.  I just hope maybe they’ll eventually tire of the drug, other than that, I don’t know.  I find it so grim and nihilistic — my personal reaction to the reality of drug addicts in this world, specifically in the US and other nations that wallow in large populations of various addicts.

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Part II: Breakfast with a Side of Battery/Assault and Apathy

Behavior was another matter, because some of the drug addicts stir in their detox.  These people are raw, vulnerable, and miserable in their situation.  This ties into one lady in my unit who was one of the most terrifyingly aggressive girl I’d ever been around.  What I guess you can call an “altercation” one morning definitely further proved I wasn’t exactly in a productive environment.  It was Thanksgiving day — and for some reason I actually woke up at like 7:30am and went out into the isolation area to eat the hospitals’ strange/interesting breakfast.  I felt calm but alert, and I enjoyed being out there alone — it was peaceful to just sit there and eat — it was mindlessly calming.  Suddenly that girl came around the corner and picked up her breakfast tray and  dropped it next to mine, jerked the chair back, plopped down and started eating — but she projected pissed-offness like none other — something was about to make this girl flip out big time.  Just her sitting next to me made me feel anxious, but I stared ahead — blankly — and chewed the food.  Then, another female patient came out, picked up her breakfast tray, and sat on the opposite table across from me and the pissed girl.  At first, the two of them were just eating until the other girl said something.  I sort of recall something like “are you stuffing your stupid face fast enough bitch” and then I realized these two girls were each others’ aggressors — BIG TIME.  I have no clue why they were even in the same unit!  These two were Latina middle-aged women with huge animosity toward one another.

The girl sitting next to me practically switched into an “animal” mode.  I sat there, listlessly staring at the situation in front of me.  The morning/late night staff were no where to be seen.  That was my first observation: “okay, they’re going to fight and no one’s here to see it except for me, but whatever.”  I was so apathetic that I didn’t really care.  Anyway, she slammed her fists so hard on the table that her tray of food went flying onto the chair/space next to her and she starts screaming “what did you fucking say!  what did you say cunt!  you fucking bitch you fucking piss me off today, oh yes  you did!” and the other girl stands up, screams back at her, and dumps her food on the floor and starts hurdling toward her with the breakfast tray.

This breakfast tray was hardly a feasible weapon — it was max 1/2 thick blue plastic — I definitely wouldn’t want to be hit with it but it’s hardly decent psych-unit fight weaponry.  First, they started pushing each other and then one threw a punch on the side of the girls head (that had to fucking kill her fist, hitting someone’s thick ass head!) and then the two began the breakfast-tray championship: beating each other in the face & head with the trays while screaming at each other.  The girl that sat next to me said “oh oh oh you’re gonna get a taste of this tray PUTA!” which I translated to “bitch” thanks to my viewing experience of “Thirteen” and being exposed to a lot of negative Spanish lexicon.  The two continued for about one more minute until the staff finally came running — hurdling — toward the fight, trying to break it up.

Here, the psych unit staff people were fucking pathetic, I’m sorry.  There was no way the strength of two middle-aged white nurse ladies could compare to the strength of two tattooed ex-con Latinas in a bitch brawl.  All of this happened so fast, my reaction was still totally blank.  I just stared at all of it rather than observed it for what it was.  Typically, this is my humorous way of being so disgusted with the world that I can’t even internalize what’s happening.  If something is really ridiculous, I become really passive and annoyed.  It was really hilarious in the end because neither of them were really injured in any way.  They both got injections of Haldol — which didn’t do shit for the girl that sat next to me!  She was still conscious and fighting the nurses after the injection.  That shocked me because if that wouldn’t tranquilize her, then what the fuck would?  Finally her eyes fluttered and they dragged them back to their rooms.  I finished chewing a nasty piece of toast and washed it all down with an elementary-school-sized carton of Vitamin D milk, and rolled my eyes.

The incompetent staff came back out to me with tons of questions about “what happened” — they were acting as if such a thing had never occurred before, despite us all co-existing in a psych ward… they were all out of breath, shaken up, disturbed by the aggression — I’m sorry, but isn’t this their profession?  Yeah, it’s scary, but don’t work there if it bothers you that much.  I asked the two morning staff ladies where they were — or anyone for that matter — and this seemed to irk them as if it was “none of my business” so I understood it as that; alright, the whole matter wasn’t any of my business.

Since I was now in a shitty mood, having my breakfast intruded with that hot, ridiculous mess of stupidity, I definitely copped an attitude to the staff ladies and finally responded with “Well, I don’t really know what to say Carol, maybe you and Mary should’ve already been out here to see it for yourselves, don’t you think??  Alright, I don’t want to fucking talk to any of you people so leave me alone!”  and I ended the scene by emptying my tray of crusts and leftover god-awful pudding in the garbage can.  Then, I tossed my breakfast tray in the pile along with the two blue trays — puta weaponry, wreckage lying on the table among the aftermath of wasted breakfast food that consisted of sausage links, scrambled eggs, and burnt toast.  As per usual, the staff responded neutrally to my attitude and didn’t say anything else to me for 3 days.  My reports from them were “despondent, antisocial with staff and patients, apathetic” — and they couldn’t have articulated that any better.  Actually, all of the words were impressive — I loved the descriptors and how I likely have a deeper understanding of the words than they do.  Looking back, I feel like a total asshole and I want to somehow send a Hallmark apology card to the nurses… but what can I say?  I started to become a product of my own environment.

Later that afternoon, after attending several draining group sessions about surviving sexual abuse, controlling anger, and a sense-of-self seminar — the girl that sat next to me for breakfast earlier comes running up to me smiling and starts to talk to me… acting the polar opposite from earlier, thus her outburst from that morning perhaps being her ugly side?  I dunno.  She had an undercurrent of that ugly side at all times, even when she was being “nice.”  I learned that her name was Lisa — which immediately made me smile, hoping she was kidding — as my mind is constantly making film references to “Girl, Interrupted” — where I felt like Susanna Kaysen in the plot of my life experience in the psych unit.  It was nice to see Lisa smile, but she had braces on both the top and bottom rows of her teeth — and they badly needed to be remove.  The cement rotted into the surface of her teeth, an obvious indicator of her drug usage of course, but this ultimately ruined her permanent teeth to where she would need extreme dental work in order for them to look halfway normal again.  Each tooth had fat gaps between them — and the bottom were all silver… silver from some kind of material that was deliberate I’m sure, just how a lot of black people have “gold teeth” — I didn’t understand how she had silver caps AND braces.  What orthodontist would approve of such a thing?  Every time Lisa talked to me I stared at her mouth, never anywhere else.  Her mouth was huge and menacing.  When she’d yell, it was like a banshee, when she was angry it was loud like a guttural animal in the woods.  When she was being “nice” this frightening smile was glued to her face.  I didn’t trust her because she was behaving like she was “on” something — bouncing off the walls like Tigger and striking up conversation with me?  But, from that point on, I sort of became her “target” friend — she clung to me to every meeting and event, etc.  She was very, very kind with her compliments.  Lisa spoke in an intensely cliche Latin-American accent, her brain mixing it up with Spanish and English causing a distinct Latina/ghetto girl lexicon.  She told me that I was “so fuckin cute” and that I reminded her of her son.  There was nothing else to do but hang out with her and listen to her life story.  So far I sound really judgmental of her, but that’s only because I was judging her at first.  I shouldn’t have done that — but being trapped in such a negative environment brought out the worst in me.  Lisa, when medicated, spoke quite rationally and even had a decent vocabulary.  She was competent and self-aware.  She was a survivor, a person who survived such shitty turmoil that not a single white middle-class American person like myself could even fathom.  Lisa’s crystal meth issue landed her in this program for the 5th time.

Lisa and I — bizarre as it sounds — connected really well.  Lisa articulated bipolar disorder with such clarity and I found myself agreeing and relating to everything she said, or explained.  Lisa uses crystal meth to self-medicate during extreme, uncontrollable episodes of mania that would go on for many, many weeks at a time.  Lisa lost custody of her two kids for pretty much most of their entire lives.  Luckily, she remains involved with them, and they visited her on the visitation days.  Lisa showed me beautiful artwork she made with all of the resources she had — mostly mixed-media pieces that she hung around the bed in her room.  What really intrigued me was this one day we were in her room, sitting on her bed, and she thoroughly explained the meanings behind the images in these pieces — it was really impressive and fascinating.  She had this great ability to visually communicate her inner-madness using typical arts and crafts materials.  Lisa knew right off the bat how therapeutic it was for her to make these collage/mixed pieces.  Over time, they became more sophisticated and detailed, including one that had tiny cuts of red tissue paper in a carefully-drawn anatomical picture of the human brain — the paper severed in half, divided, separated.  The tissue paper represented chaos — yet it was a chaos she understood, and a chaos that I understood when she explained it.  Different afflictions like guilt, craving, need, anger, control, lack of control, love, hatred, compassion, apathy, humor, carelessness, recklessness, panic.  In the middle it appeared similar to a Venn-diagram in the “grey space” between the two parts of her brain: a multi-layered chunk of tissue paper representing madness — her madness and her relationship with it.  Its control.  Its bothersome bind between her emotional polarities.  Moments with her consisted of major humor, hilarious stories — her ability to express dark humor was much appreciated by me.  Then, at times, she’d project negativity toward me that was odd and misconstrued and always, always irreconcilable.  No compromise.  Only her perception, her distortion, her surrender to cerebral madness and its unforgiving grip on her ability to live her life with functional behavior.

I began to question behavior altogether — it’s concept.  Are people like Lisa really damaged, crazy, and mad?  Are they just people expressing their lives cursed with conflict — their mental illnesses defining them?  Lisa can go to an AA or NA meeting and easily identify herself as an addict, but she’d probably first identify herself as bipolar, crazy, or angry before anything else.  Lisa will probably continue to use crystal meth on and off for the rest of her life as a way to cope with her disease and to supply her sense of self with pleasure that she is perpetually devoid of.  She will be in and out of hospitals, clinics, facilities, rehabs, whatever you want to call them.  But she’s going to these places and being treated like an addict — just how I was being treated.  Counseling, one-on-one therapy at least twice a week, for as long as she wants, combined with legal medications are, to me, her best bet in regard to her wrestle with madness.  I don’t think she’s mad, I don’t think her brain is severed into two, I don’t think she’s unattractive, and I don’t like how all I thought about was her appearance at first.  But, I’m superficial and lacking the life experience of these harrowed individuals.  Now, I’m not so much.  I do not judge addicts, drug users.  There is some kind of reason they sought out the substance.  Maybe it is a choice, maybe it is not a choice they make.  Does it really matter?  Is it their choice to suffer with a mental illness?  Absolutely not.  Is it their choice to struggle with mental illness in a judgmental, misconstrued, and an ignorant, cruel society?  No.  Society is incredibly cruel to these people who have already endured so much.

My heart strings have been tugged to their fullest extent.  I can’t go to bed at night without these people in my heart.  Without forgetting their struggles they tuck away and fall asleep with every night. They wake up and it’s still there — all of it.  In a world so chaotic, hopelessness becomes quite understandable.  Not necessarily acceptable — but there’s reasoning behind it that I comprehend now more than I ever have.