“Moments” 09.23.22

In society today, many people have phones smarter than they are. Most of them have cameras. It is easy to get carried away and photograph everything in our lives-even what we had for dinner. Life happens all around us, yet we are glued to our phones and hardly look up, even to speak with another human being. As we fall farther into this world of endless possibilities and cyber relationships, we want to document everything. I have found that personal relationships lack the most photographs. When I am with friends, I can’t find my phone and don’t look for it. “Time flies when you’re having fun.”

Our lives flash by in a series of moments. We preserve the memories we hold dear, though time distorts the facts. I believe this must be the reason we create home videos, stage photographs, pose, smile, and “cheese.” When you upload a memory to your mind’s long-term hard drive, will you return to that moment after it is over? Will you remember that moment if you don’t take a picture? Does the person behind the camera save a precious moment, or lose it, as they watch the action from a different angle? Does our urge to snap a photograph prevent our first-hand experience? Watch behind a camera as your child takes their first steps. Do you treasure this moment forever, having caught it on tape, or do you miss it entirely? The videographer captures moments, trying to commemorate an occasion that won’t happen again. They are wasting beautiful pieces of life. Watching is not seeing.

–SJB

“Reality” 09.16.22

Generally, the human population is afraid of the unknown. I am afraid of the unknown. The vast expanse of interstellar space. The sea full of creatures, deep enough to swallow me whole. Seeing is believing. In some cases, I prefer to be in a state of blissful ignorance. I do not want to know the contents of a hot dog. I eat sushi smothered in shrimp sauce in order not to taste the sushi. I prefer my sushi in disguise. I live in fear of losing the ones I love, so I pretend that will not happen. Denial is my friend and my enemy. I will not be prepared. I do not know how to handle that eventuality. Filled with crippling anxiety, I dread the day when reality hits home.

In many cases, people will not believe intangible truths. Reality must be within reason, existing in the parameter of “normal.” It must be heard, tasted, seen. Some people experience mental illness as reality. This is a truth which cannot be completely healed or erased. A large number of people cannot see it, but for many more, this is an invisible wrecking ball. Reality twists words and distorts memories. It is passed down through generations of people who share different ideas of truth. This creates conflict and misunderstanding. Reality cannot exist without listening. Nothing will change if everyone is hiding behind their own ideas and no one has an open mind.

Today, the world exists almost solely online. We are losing our social skills. The outdated forms of communication, such as conversations with our neighbors while walking our dogs, have reached extinction. Conversing with strangers has become “creepy,” and such holiday traditions like “trick-or-treating” have become obsolete. While the world changes and grows, we are expected to follow. Some children today have become so attached to screens that they escape to “virtual reality.” We are close to shutting out reality completely. Look around. Where are the gleeful children running through sprinklers, having tea parties, and climbing trees? They are inside, playing computer games and forgetting how to talk to each other without their faces buried in their phones. Is reality “real” anymore?

–SJB

Note: This illustration is very busy, so if you are viewing this article on your phone, you may not be able to see it clearly. If you want to see it up close, you can visit my website: samanthabuice.com

The blog articles can be found under “The Chronicles of Jane.”

Thank you for reading and have a great weekend!

“Powerful Women” 09.09.22

In some cultures, women are more desirable if they are heavy. This conveys the message that those women have plenty to eat, and must come from money. Some societies revere pale women, wealthy enough to remain inside while others suffer outside, diligently working for their lives. I believe that women strive to please men; we are the peacocks. Observation has afforded me the view of female strategy. Women tend to wear what they perceive to be attractive, preparing for the day with butterflies in their stomachs, hoping to be noticed. Often, it matters not how much time we spend on hair, face, or body; men do not notice. Eventually we become competitive and jealous of the women who do obtain attention. We tear each other apart in our fight to the top, dissecting ourselves and noticing every flaw. At this point, we are no longer peacocks, but hens scrabbling over a rooster. This began long ago and follows us to this day. Obviously, the men are at fault…

There are many ways to send a message.

On March 9th, 1959, Barbie made her debut. One could buy a Barbie doll for $3, but she cost so much more to the female body image. She was the impossible plastic figure of how a female body “should look.” Barbie set an unattainable goal among little girls and women everywhere. She caused more damage than anyone could fathom. She was a goal, a motivation, an obsession that rubbed on and never rinsed. She was the new ideal. Barbie is a powerful woman.

Tipping the scale, the all-powerful villain in a beloved family film is the depiction of a strong, independent woman with original thoughts. “The Little Mermaid” flooded the theaters with little girls and their parents who finally gave in. On November 13th, 1989 a fairy tale comes to life as a tiny, beautiful, young mermaid becomes a main character and a damsel in distress. Her prince saves her from the “evil sea witch.” Children are faced with a version of reality where “Ursula” is the “bad guy.” She is a woman in power, so she is depicted in a negative light to make sure the world knows who is in charge. She is defeated and stored in a vault with the other villains to be seen ten years later. Ursula is a powerful woman.

We all have the option of harnessing our inner villains and choosing a path more frequently trod, playing it safe like a mermaid with feet. We can turn our heads when power and “villains” make changes we don’t agree with. We can spend all of our lives striving to fit into a Barbie box. Or we can embrace change and admit that sometimes we are wrong. Powerful women walk this earth: Barbies, Mermaids, and Sea Witches. Together we rule the world.

–SJB

“Coffee and Cucumbers” 09.02.22

I believe that all dogs are born with gentle personalities. They are trained by people, who shape their view of the world. Dogs are good. They are best friends, companions, family members. Animals have special qualities, certain customs, and keen senses. The relationship between dogs and their humans is remarkable. Dogs have the capacity to love and care for the safety of their “masters,” bridging the gap between animal and domestic partner. Often, dogs are trained to be service dogs and emotional support animals. Some of us need more help than others, and these dogs provide comfort when anxiety attacks.

One evening, my husband and I were sitting on the couch, and I casually mentioned that I wanted a dog. I don’t think he knew I was serious. On July 4th, 2018, a litter of six puppies was born, one male. When I discovered them at an animal shelter nearby, there were three puppies remaining. In September they were old enough to be adopted. I drove to the shelter every day to visit the puppies, before I could leave with one. I played with them, trying to choose one. Logan chose me. He was shy and sensitive. He clawed at my braid, in sore need of a nail trim. In view of that fact, he reminded me of a superhero who also flew solo until he was ready to join the club. That mutant also had sharp claws. Logan latched onto my shoulder and never let go. He still rides behind my neck when we embark on adventures involving the car. He no longer weighs three pounds.

Logan was trained as an emotional support animal. I taught him to ride in a backpack through the airport so I could fly with him in my lap. Focusing on him helped to distract me and ease my anxiety. He can sense my feelings and is very protective. When he eats dinner, he knows that when he finishes his food, I am supposed to take my medication right after. He bugs me until I remember, as I so often forget. Logan is the first puppy I have ever trained. I have been with him for the entirety of his life. As I cannot have children, Logan behaves like my kid. He is comforting and keeps my mood stable. When he is near, I feel safe. He sits on the arm of the couch and guards the house through the window. He is sitting there right now.

Since Logan is my first puppy, I didn’t know exactly what to feed him or how much. My veterinarian had suggested many different foods and quantities. He was gaining weight. We discovered that this was due to the amount of treats he was given each day. He acquired an injury with his knees, and the doctors said that if he weighed less, he would have less to carry around. So, I began feeding him cucumbers instead. He loves them! If I mention “vegetables,” he hops up and down and twirls in circles. I feel this way about coffee. We have a system that works best for us, and we keep balance. We are synced.

–SJB

“Crazy” 08.26.22

“There’s no such thing as Normal. There’s no such thing as Crazy. We’re all a little in-between, and the line is very hazy.” –SJB

Since the beginning of my bout with mental illness, I have bristled around the word “crazy.” I avert my eyes when films include false renditions of electro convulsive therapy. I have been subject to that harsh reality. My mind has been fried several times. I have awoken with a headache so painful it feels as if I have undergone brain surgery. When we watch scary movies, I am physically sick when I witness torture in this form. I look away, and ask my husband when it’s safe to face the box again. For years I have witnessed “crazy” people in the negative light: the shooter, the unstable, the bad guy. Today I decided to own one of the most popular, misunderstood words I hear all the time. “Crazy.” I can be crazy and wear it proudly; a fearless uniform for a larger game at play. It is not a label, but a word used by people who fear the unknown; minds closed to invisible reality. “Crazy” people wield the power to educate the ignorant.

I am in control, though in a movie I would be sent to an asylum due to my voices and delusions. So? I’m “crazy?” There was a phrase used when I was younger that I won’t forget. “I know you are, but what am I?” Everyone, whether they like it or not, has a little crazy in their bones. “Crazy” is just a word. It is used as an adjective, an insult, and part of an outdated statement; used as frequently and carelessly as any. Hold your head high, because when you are called crazy, you are not the ignorant. You deal the cards.

–SJB

“The Man in the Glass”

I did not write this collection of words. I believe the poet was anonymous, but I am not taking credit. I think it is an important message for all to hear; a lesson in knowing oneself, whether or not you are a “man.”

“When you get what you want in your struggle for self

And the world makes you king for a day,

Just go to a mirror and look at yourself

And see what that man has to say.

For it isn’t your father or mother or wife

Whose judgement upon you must pass,

The fellow whose verdict counts most in your life

Is the one staring back from the glass.

Some people might think you’re a straight-shootin’ chum

And call you a wonderful guy.

But the man in the glass says you’re only a bum

If you can’t look him straight in the eye.

He’s the fellow to please, never mind all the rest,

For he’s with you clear to the end.

And you’ve passed your most dangerous test

If the guy in the glass is your friend.

You may fool the whole world through your pathway of years

And get pats on the back as you pass,

But your final reward will be heartache and tears

If you’ve cheated the man in the glass.”

“Drawing Class” 08.12.22

For many years, I thought that the laziness and procrastination I experienced was my fault. I thought I was just “not in the mood” to get off the couch, to tear my eyes from the television, to dig myself out of a book. I was distracting myself from denial and crippling anxiety. I thought I was somewhat depressed when my feet didn’t touch the floor in the morning. Often, the facts are intangible; my mood disorder was at play.

More than two decades passed before I grasped the whole situation. My therapist informed me that I was not clinically “in the mood.” It is due in part to my mood disorder. Sometimes I feel lazy. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by stress and resort to procrastination. I know it sounds unbelievable, but the truth sinks in and the excuse becomes reality. My dog ate my homework.

In college, while strenuously attempting to graduate, I failed my drawing class twice. Part of the reason was my immense difficulty with perspective and reality. Those monsters follow me everywhere. However; there were other forces causing me to suffocate under my sketch book. I was filled with anxiety before I entered the classroom. It worsened as I set foot inside. I continued to try, fail, stand up and try again. I could not win, so I began to skip class. When I reached this point, the dread settled deep in the recesses of my mind and body. Just one day, right? Just one class? I was a commuter student. I lived at home and drove thirty minutes to college every day, depending on my class schedule. Sometimes, I would drive to the school for the sole purpose of attending my drawing class. Sometimes I made it into the building. Occasionally I made it down the hall. To the door. Peeked in. When I recalled how many lessons I had missed, my stomach filled with angry bats. I turned around and drove home. This behavior continued for months, so I failed my drawing class twice. I was so “out of the mood” that my body was stuck in quicksand so deep I could barely breathe. I still have bouts with my mood disorder and have “lazy” days. I am surprised and proud that I graduated, however; I did not graduate with a credit from my drawing class.

–SJB

“Career Day” 08.05.22

When a person experiences severe mental trauma, it never departs. It fades a little, but it leaves a scar. I was diagnosed with Bipolar I Disorder almost twenty years ago, and ten years ago I was hospitalized. The doctors told me that my brain would recover from that trauma after two years, but apparently not. I cannot forget. The pain subsides, but it pilfers my memories.

There are some memories never forgotten, pieces of the past we remember fondly. The beginning of my dream is a memory that sticks with me. As a child, I was fascinated with words, and how to construct sentences. I loved to read. My creative life was built on that foundation. Crayons were my best friends, connected to my fingers like branches on a tree. When I mixed color with ink, there was no going back.

When I was in elementary school, I spent much of my time in the library. All of the students were working with all their might to read more books than any other. We were competing for the top score. Derrick Dendy was always in first place, and I was always right on his heels. I never caught up. He must have read more than he breathed, and never taken a bathroom break! When I wasn’t in the library, I was running outside during recess. Those activities kept me busy and filled my soul with a natural high. Aside from those past times, I was enjoying art class above all else. I was strenuously attempting to make the images in my mind transfer to the canvas, to no avail. I was so frustrated, but also tenacious; I was hungry for success. My parents witnessed my frustration, and provided art lessons in a quaint studio above a frame shop. I attended class every Thursday afternoon and loved every minute. While I was illustrating, I was writing. I wrote and illustrated books that only I would read, knowing they may never make it to print. I just enjoyed being with the characters and developing the stories. In the first grade, I won first place in the “Young Georgia Authors” competition for a story I had written, titled “A Cat Named Fred.” It was my first trophy and it is resting on a shelf in my house today.

My elementary school had a “Spirit Week,” and every day was themed. One day, we were to dress up for our dream jobs. Career Day. I wore my favorite green dress and toted my messenger bag full of paint, crayons, pencils, and paper. The typewriter was too heavy. How else is an author expected to dress? I prefer pajamas.

In the eighth grade, there was a similar activity. We were questioned about our future goals. My goal was to write something people wanted to read. I hope I have accomplished that feat.

I went to a performing arts high school, where I honed my skills. I attended college and majored in Fine Art. After my studies, I did my own thing; happy to be rid of authority figures and free to create whatever I please. I wrote, illustrated, and published two books about my relationship with my mental illness. I am coping, creating, and making my inner child smile.

–SJB

“Who Am I?” 7.29.22

Who am I? Who are you? When asked to describe ourselves, we lean toward hobbies and jobs and often resort to adjectives. Who am I really? There are many adjectives to throw around in search of identity. I have adjectives. I will not define myself with adjectives. They are most used when describing someone you don’t know at all. I have hobbies. My personal hobbies consist of writing and illustrating, walking my dog, and reading. I have a cool job. I wear my pjs to work. I wake up when my body decides it is time. I have a deadline, but control over my schedule. This is my dream job. Not everyone gets the job they wanted when they “grow up,” but I reached my goal. When I was old enough to read, writing followed close behind. I wrote children’s stories and illustrated them, knowing they would probably not make it to print. I wrote and illustrated because I loved it. I spent most of my time with a pencil, pen, crayons, colored pencils, a typewriter. Now I remember them fondly as my beginning. Play became work, as I always dreamed it would. Work drives me toward my truth. This is part of who I am.

Does our past define us? Can we meet our eyes when we are faced with a mirror? Do we recognize the person on the other side? Decisions and actions change our future. We share stories of our youth with people who are willing to listen. Does our identity matter if no one is listening? Are we talking to ourselves? Are we listening to ourselves? Do our souls respond?

Do we know who we are? I wrote a book about remembering who we are, but our identity evolves over time. We have to keep up! We can remember, but we must also move forward.

In the end, I believe we are to know our souls as well as we can, because they are our best friends. Who am I? Who are you?

–SJB

“I Hear Voices.” 7.22.22

Many people talk to themselves in one form or another. We curse at ourselves when we fail. We pat ourselves on the back for a job well done. Sometimes we mumble under our breath. But does anyone else get a response?

When I was first diagnosed with Bipolar I Disorder, I strived to uncover the mystery of my mind. I learned how to recognize the symptoms of oncoming mania. It was obvious when I was depressed. My mental illness became a self project. I employed workbooks, read memoirs, researched, watched and became more aware of my situation. I learned to harness my emotions, as if I were riding a horse for the first time, or biking with training wheels. I couldn’t always catch the signs, but as my illness progressed, so did I. Truthfully, I was dealt a cruel hand, but I squeezed that rotten lemon and moved on with my life.

As I ran, and slipped, and fell, I realized that in order to rise to the top you must first hit the bottom.

I worked my way through education with heavy eyelids and acne that threatened to claim my face forever, side effects of several medications hindering my progress. I loved to run and I was captain of the cross country team in high school. Toward the end of my running career, I began to experience a side effect called “ocular gyro crisis.” I lost control of my eyes. I didn’t know how to explain it, so this continued for a few years before it was diagnosed. It is one of the rarest side effects of one of the heavy medications in the cocktail.

Shortly after my twenty fifth birthday, I was hospitalized. After many months, different combinations of drugs, several shots in violating areas, and miserable weeks in solitary confinement, it was clear that Bipolar I Disorder was not the entire truth. When I returned to my home after the nightmare of captivity, I was diagnosed with Schizoaffective Disorder. It is a mix of Schizophrenia and a mood disorder. My illness had taken control for a while. I can hear things and see things others cannot. When I talk to myself, she answers. She is not the only voice I hear. Sometimes, there is a conversation between two strangers in the back of my mind, to which I am not privy. Random keys and phrases from their discussion pop up and make no sense.

Voices in my head often sing songs and tell jokes. Often, they are good company.

Sometimes voices influence people to do bad things. These are not voices to follow, no matter the constant beckoning. You will find yourself lost in a sea of confusion, drawn to the sirens. It is impossible to find peace when voices surround you. Typically, they cannot be silenced. I just want you to know that you are not the only one who deals with this, and I hope you can find some comfort knowing that. I am one of those people and I haven’t figured it out myself.

While I was in solitary confinement, I grew used to conversations with myself because she was all I had. My best friend. I am aware that others have predicaments like these. The mental health system does not have the capacity, resources or knowledge needed to care for everyone; especially people who need it most and cannot afford it. This is wrong. Some people, despite having money, also have difficulty finding relief of their burdens. The system is flawed. Everyone has a mental illness of some sort, whether or not they care to be diagnosed. Some cases are worse than others, but no one is “normal,” no matter how much they want to believe it.

Not everyone is cool enough to hear voices. It’s a special talent. Remember this. Listening to voices is different than hearing them. If you can hear and not listen, you may find a bit of a reprieve. We all have issues and no one is identical to anyone else.

Those voices are inside you, but YOU are the boss.

–SJB