22

I feel like every year I always say the same thing. It’s been hard, it’s been painful, it’s been chaotic. But this year has a different tone. It’s been life-changing in all the ways that transformative years have.

I never thought I’d come this close to death again, at least not outside my head. This year I gave in. I found myself filling up the glass so high that at one point I just did not remember any reasons to keep going. That’s so painful to write and read. I didn’t believe in myself and honestly, I didn’t believe anyone around me. I found myself disproving all the love I was given to hold and in the process, self-sabotaging it. 

Mental struggles have always been something I was pushed to be ashamed of. Never believed or held, just pushed to ignore and “move on”. Nobody has ever taken the time to sit and listen and really think about what I was feeling and why. Until someone that did came along. And they cared, so much. That, in its totality, was terrifying. I’ve gotten so good at lying that I forgot to be honest with myself about the stake of putting someone I care about in the midst of fire between me, my head, and my demons. I have been mourning the loss of someone I love for more than a pandemic. 

I’ve been mourning loss since I was conceived. 

And honestly, that being the truth I don’t really know what else to say to make it real. To make people listen and believe me. But all I can do now is focus on the ones that do and are here present with me on this journey. 

It’s weird looking at age as a construct and also as timestamps for accomplishments and milestones that are hard to stomach. I did not choose this life to be so hurtful but once again I have to deal with the consequences of sincerity and breaking point. Yet, there’s so many more highlights I want to champion. 

In the span of a few months I have excelled at something I never thought I’d be doing, I’ve started believing in myself and my creative practice more than I ever have before, I have met some incredible people that have held me accountable and present in ways I didn’t know were possible, and I continue to rebuild my relationship with my mother and brother as the centers of my family union. 

This all started with moving to DC and coming upon independence once again. I left Miami escaping cynicism and superficiality, and then I came North to fall in love with it all over again. Coming here was the most impulsive decision I have ever made, and trust me, I have made some pretty impulsive decisions between trotting countries. Everyone was surprised, nobody asked if I was happy but rather they asked why? How? Are you coming back?

Coming back home became a coddled experience  for less ambiguity than the one I shared about my decision-making process. But it was good, it is good. I started a wave of depression that I could not beat alone, but this time I wasn’t alone. I was just heartbroken. It took every inch of me one day to not lose sight of my purpose in this life which is none other than to be the person I am around the people that I love. Centering my life around people is not only the understanding that I have of community, but it also allows me to stay humble and remember that I can’t and shouldn’t be selfish because the same way I have suffered from someone’s decision, there will be loved ones that will suffer due to mine. 

That sums up my first session with my psychiatrist too. He said firmly that mama and abu coni would be so disappointed and hurt if I left this world and most of all, that they already felt my sadness with me through their love. I never want to disappoint them, and I’m glad I beat those feelings day by day, hour by hour. 


Going to the hospital for suicidal ideation was not something I expected to do, nor did I want to do, but that I’m very glad I did. Being on suicide watch for the entire night at the ER brought back some medical trauma in ways where I already thought I had entered death as I knew it then, but in a much different context now. Being in that room smelled like my blood and soared through my IV scars. I physically felt sick to my stomach, and I was, too, literally bleeding already. I had tried to kill myself as I got my period that month. How poetic. 

When they asked questions like what was my plan, how I would do it, when I’d do it, I answered like a bot with a script. Knowing I couldn’t hold in the answers to those questions to myself anymore. I repeated, my name is Barbara Valencia, my DOB is … and I want to kill myself. I will cut my wrists, I will do it alone in my apartment, and I will not tell anyone. My preferred method of pain is cutting, I do it when I want to leave my pain in permanence, and I used to cope through this with permanent ink on my skin to deflect the fears that empty patches are canvas waiting to be reminded of this external pain. 

I don’t want to scare you, nor did I want to remember these painful details of what happened so soon and so raw. However, I had to tell someone that when I was alone sitting in that ER waiting room full of people and desperation, of COVID-19 patients, drug addicts, and dying folks, I was fucking terrified of how far my mind had come for me to end up there. 

I want to take a pause to break the stigma around mental illness and getting the help one needs to live in safety. I don’t describe this experience as a horror movie-like plot to scare or deteriorate the image of the life-saving resource that getting help really is for these cases. I am just a person who was taught to take my trust with me in and swallow it with my pride because nobody would care enough about another woman not feeling like herself in this world, over and over and over again. So this is where my hesitation comes from, and it was implanted by addicts that I know too well. Sadly, in a lot of ways, I too partake in this vicious cycle of belief at times and it’s the most destructive behavior I am challenging myself to break.  

ANYWHO, being alone physically has been hard. Yet, so intra-necessary. I have once again leaned on my friends for support when I needed the most and they showed up in ways I couldn’t have imagined. I am so happy to be part of their lives and feel very thankful for them being a part of mine. I don’t know what else to say other than I’m trying, trying really hard to be there for myself and my writing right now. And for once in a while, I am hopeful.

Answer of the day

At this point, there’s enough questions surfing through TikTok that anyone who struggles to succumb to the truth will lose faith in answers.

Yet when the rhythm of “Good Days” unravels a masked sadness, I know why the answers aren’t spelled out into words. They belong to the silence that unraveled with you.

There’s enough ambiguity between who we are and how we are that it has become so unappealing for either of us to look and not run.

I wonder what your coffee looks like these mornings. Is it sweeter? bitter? lonely?

Like in chess all the pieces at play are compromised, they switch word for word and trust for none. Checkmate is pain, it’s remiss recognition. What I wondered then and fear now is so different and cloudy. How could I take away the picture of us with a mistake that is worth fixing? how could YOU let it go so easy? was that all made up and disposed already? was I that easy to forget?

I didn’t want those words to come out. I never do. I want to keep pretending that things are fine and that they will miss us. that we will miss us. and that when we come back, if we come back, things will be easier, purposeful, and real.

No lies allowed. Only a pass for the bathroom, a pass to obscure, a pass to lie low when aiming high is too out of touch.

I don’t know what this is or what it was meant to be. I’m just angry.

Estranged

Alone. For so long I’ve been alone, not just lonely.

I remember being a kid who saw, spoke, felt, mourned, and had hope. But it was not based on the ideas that those before me and those after me would provide me with a net of safety. Now I have to rise up and be the net, and hold myself, and hold them back.

I got used to the silence in my bed. I got used to the sweats and the tears. I got used to the haunting of them all in my dreams and my nightmares. There’s always this mountain in between us, physically and emotionally.

I dream of union, and I resent it. I dreamt once of Venezuela and their mountains, like ours, luscious and green, full of life and water. But then I dreamt of serpents next to it, curves, the highway and the road that should never be driven. El actual culo del diablo.

Pero I wasn’t scared, I was tanning. I was sipping on a drink with my mom reimagining our lives and the ones who we wished were there with us. My brother came to mind when I sipped that drink.

“I wish the babies were here, I wish we could be in their lives more. I miss them”.

It’s been more than 500 days since I last saw them and I would, quite literally, give up anything to have them near me. To give them a hug and talk to them about their history, about our herstories.

“Donde estan?” say’s mama about G and A.

“Estan bañándose en el rio, disfrutando del agua.”

“aaaa ya, está bien, entonces vamos a cocinar si quieres”

“Pero se dañó el ventilador y tendríamos que sufrir de calor”

“no, tranqui ya voy a arreglarlo, como siempre, voy yo a arreglarlo”

Refunfuñando me fui. I then loop into a fight with my dad over how much we need to pay to fix the broken parts of the fan. He, like always is trying to cheat, and me, like always, trying to tell the truth. I can’t escape that fight.

For him, it must be his life’s worth that money is worth everything in life, yet, for me the fight is how it will never replace honesty and human decency. Respect. Honor.

Maybe I’m foolish to fight against exactly what I’m attracted to. I crave the lies and I bore with the honesty of souls that want to capsule mine but are not reactive with chaos for me to receive. I envy those who can make it work, who can ignore. Likewise, I wonder just for a day what it would’ve been like if it had never been a fight.

But my ex says, “my life would be more interesting if we fought like we used to.”

I guess that’s my selling point. I’ll fight for you, I’ll fight with you, I’ll fight alongside you, but still. That’s never enough.

Then there are the nightmares in my childhood bed, the one that has enough sabanas for all the people that slept in it like they slept through me. I always go back to running into that room and closing the door like gasping for air. Somehow even though I remember the lock didn’t work, in my dreams all my hopes lie in it. In its function and use, like a shield I know too well to disappoint me.

I run through the houses and spaces that scare me and I coddle myself into that room like it’s never seen me before. Or rather, like I never meant it to see me before.

A fight breaks out. I get burned outside my door, and all I can do is lay in a bed full of roaches and menace that keeps chasing me alive into a deeper hole than the one I’m crying to be left out of.

“Abre la puerta Bárbara, abre la puerta te digo. No me voy a repetir. Abre la puerta.”

All my life I’ve been told to open doors I cry to shut. I think this is why swinging them open to threats that make me just as scared to run as they do to fall makes me romantic.

It makes me want to be wanted. So much that many times I end up here, forgetting what I was chasing in the first place, because feeling this empty in theory feels the same as it did in the chase.

liberation

I feel her in the tea that I know by herb and not by brand, 

she’s glistening in shadows that hug the city. The mountains forget what time it is. 

they lose themselves in the clouds like when my tummy hurt at the beach and all I could do is

lay

lay

lay

looking up trying to figure out who was looking down

what is a God if not the desire to be perceived with purpose rather than objective

I can taste the centrism perceived by the gringos that laugh at the words I can’t pronounce,

they think they’re so smart to battle the tongues of all the women who could not speak,

I was carried in wombs that weren’t allowed to see

the sun 

pray to the stars 

// without // screams

I crave the land like I crave my mother

looking at the mirror and glaring at the teenager that mothered spirits born and unborn

carried weights of absent men 

formed regrets of pubescent care

yet

I see her in the blossoms down the street from my window

I see her in the gardens that I’ll sow with my kindness

I see her in the mirror when I drop an insult to my knees and let it roll melted in neurons

I see her in my wish for love when all I’ve felt is deprived of such

my hands are dry but the rain is full

Mustard Seed

le dije a mi mamá que quería morir
y dijo
tu corazón es como un grano de mostaza
she said pain was here it’s watered it’s mustard
the pain in my soul had roots that broke bones
it chews on a generation
deja rastro de muerte en la sed de serpientes
pero le dije a mi mamá que quería morir
y dijo
tu corazón es como un grano de mostaza
crecí a conocer que a b o r t a r fia su arriendo
y que de mostaza muere el corazón sediento

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