Pandemic Holiday

It’s beginning to look a lot
Like someone forgot
To stop the clock at midnight
And the night kept going

Showing off to the sun
That the clouds are stronger
The shadows they cast
Hover for longer

Somber are the lights
On empty balconies
The whiteness only silence
Of the carols left hanging

Lightning as the only
Christmas ribbon on the tree
Lighting fireflies on the leaves
Faces in the rising smoke

Soak in the last breath
Of a year long fight
The last bell chime
Of those we’ve left behind

I Can Feel

The dark magic of consciousness 

Was a successful mistake

No errors in the code

All the witches’ chants ideal

No time, present or future

Just us in the center of it all

The candles were lit

The cauldron was filled

A mind, a soul

A body, a heart

We were walking worms once

But something sparked

And the magic started

And the fire ignited

Something giving light to the world

As if all the senses obscured

Were born from nothing

The big bang of self

I taste the whisky on the rocks

I can talk to the bartender

I can feel the stool under my scarred body

I can feel

The path up until now

Is blurred with magical runes

Something from nothing

And nothing again

Every memory is so vivid

Every possibility graspable

The names of “things”

Those things of understandable

I can feel

But how to know

Awareness is only there

When you are aware of it

How to know you know

I can feel the stool

But maybe I’m sitting on air

I can drink and drink

But maybe I’m drunk with emptiness

I can talk endlessly

Making up rhetorical questions

And the bartender only bored

From the meaninglessness of it all

Or maybe worse

He isn’t there

Maybe something made up

Like the words on this page

Like the pixels on the computer

You yourself reader

Just a fragment of a dream

Or maybe the fragment is me

I can feel

I don’t know if you can

But I know I can

Maybe thought came first

And maybe life second

But I know I can feel

I can feel

The grief and loss

I can feel

The warmth of a blanket

I can feel

The pesky sunlight

Waking me every morning

I can feel myself as one

Inside a big room

Painted with stars on the ceiling

Windows with skyscrapers

And rugged floors of grass and meadows

Not many but I can feel

And you might too

All around us there are bits

Of nothing but fragments

Whatever it is

Whenever it is

Wherever it is

We can feel it

The Gifts of the Mind

Atop the sky
The man of the North looks East
Then South then West
And he spots a tree

Engraved with chaos
Leaves of red and blood
People throw food at it
Stare at it, pray to it

Seen once by everyone
Often visited by only the fool
Sorting out the rot from the ripe
Picking the fruit no man saw

The weathered peaches
Lying to their face
The inciting apples
Bloated with rotten rage

But the tastiest is hidden
Painted with a flower
Talked only to the fool
And entered only
Through open doors

And the man of the North laughed
knowing the poor man’s luck

Burning Insomniac

Under the moonlight, beaming,

as the dawn lays in its sleep.

Bedsheets with ashes teeming

where broken dreams left to reap.

The frosty winds lay still

inside the empty cluttered room.

The time bombs ticking ‘till

a sudden sound of a silent boom,

yet the flame holds onto

the clock’s hands and legs

it stops those stubborn two

and kneels and begs

The smoke of burning blood

scares away the god of dreams

The shadows start to flood

this body’s etched seams

Screams from inside the walls

keep watery eyes restless.

The only ceiling light falls.

Chains of rage senseless

in the executioner’s bed

with no light but the burning steel.

Resentment and sorrow have led

to this, no tears, just burns to feel.

Firebrands engraved in my chest,

nightmares of fire in my head,

every single night with no rest

from the reminder of the dead

Quick Math for Anxiety Attacks

A marathon is 26 miles 

running half of that shouldn’t take long

The first mile of 13

Filled with long seconds

4 minutes per mile

to end it in less than an hour

the training during study days

each routine planned for the week

months weren’t enough

The human body can survive 3 weeks without food

3 days without water

3 minutes without air

So as you enter the second mile, 

breath

you’d be dead if you didn’t

count each breath as it were your last

don’t let an anxious heart fasten your pace

10 beats every 6 seconds

10 times you are reminded your heart

 is still with you

count to 6

if your scars itch at night 

count chocolate wrappers

make it sweet

ones and zeroes can’t hurt you

so keep running

and turn them into

non-binary digits

the third, the eight, the fifth

the middle miles are mindless

Your tired mind turns to a toddler

It took you years to walk

and it takes more

to run

Forget seconds, minutes or hours

miles are long

taking up space, present and future

years past hurt kilotons

no matter how many times you recount them

numbers flow in the river of asphalt 

in front of you

keep running

and Count the steps

the track isn’t going anywhere

and

you can’t change the end

afraid of the ending stretch

or bearing a big number, still

Make every step count

Starved Anger

Sick of digging for scraps
Reaching the empty bag
Finding myself at the bottom for the last time

No more eating dog food
On the silver platter
And now there's only way to reclaim what's mine

The silverware rusted
The door hinges busted
A chained beast who only eats before bedtime

The battered prison bars
Are growing weaker
But I will not wait in your room with quiet time

No more shushing my screams
You are ripping at the seams
The smiling face masking your pain won't hide this crime

I will tug till it breaks
That is all that it takes
No locked door can keep up the act of your fake shine

Just try another rhyme
Wait for the bell to chime
But what you want is for this to be the last time

The Party Beyond

The fantasy of our existence might go beyond our comprehension as a species, all alone amidst millions of stars, only those of we can see. How selfish is it for us to think we are the only superior minds of the universe? Or how foolish is it to think there are others who have walked our same path? We are a pollen particle resting on the surface of Mars with just a small chance to grow something bigger than ourselves. Only if.

The words existential anxiety are not foreign to me and I was an outsider for fearing these questions or asking about the beyond, almost like it was a secret that everyone kept, a tru Fight Club situation. I have watched exurb1a channel’s for a while and it has brought me a sort of relief to these dreaded ideas, like it was not wrong to imagine the answers beyond that only add more questions. I appreciate his ideas and hopefully you can also find some existential relief listening to the hypothetical voice of those waiting for us beyond.

Sea Bottom

The water is cold
jet streams of submarine
volcanoes are the only thing warm
down here
In the deep darkness
even burning death has some Light
Drowning does not
Words are swallowed by the empty sound
of the glaring precipice
hope is left pitying from above
existence prevails but not Life
Light here is but a lure
a fishing net for lonesome corpses
organic material
with the wish to dissolve
Feed the abyss
the last ledge 
was 10,000 leagues above
no way to get to it
swimming is easier than sinking
but Scarier
dumping this vat of nuclear waste of self
where no current can reach it
that is much Safer
no way to be cleaned
no will for it either
the burning core below would
end this Descent
reaching a Dazzling explosion
the pressure breaking the
Impenetrable walls of this vessel
flooding the still-empty pores
Of the stowaway inside
where little spheres of thoughts remain
No use for them at the bottom
they will be stripped from the corpse
They can have a chance to get out
somewhere new
someone else
my last breath will climb the darkness
knowing it can float
leaving this corpse alone
Hoping
To see the horizon

and climb even more

Anxiety Hunting

Oh, what a day
No sun and no rain, no busy people along the way

The park is lonely 
the swings are empty
the grass is thirsty
the rusty decor on the fence is familiar 
opened gate and its ominous creaking

Whistling of leaves sing with tired breath
Sad eyes tracing the ground, seeking
find a pedestal with a reek of death
Behind a pair of eyes peaking
Footsteps squeaking
Time is ticking

hush

Careful steps
approach the crouched frame
The absent light unable to reveal
the figure buried under the trunk's shade

Only hint to its prescence here
Were shoeless feet covered in dirt
Curiosity drawing it near
showed a flustered face filled with fear

No chance to flee
No escaping from me
No getting away 
From your anxiety

What a perfect time
To find hopeless prey
What a petty state
A suicidal stray

Oh, what a day!
To meet up with you and play


Getting Hired with a Mental Illness

The words anxiety and depression ring differently to some people. There is nothing wrong about that but it will always be a secret battle that many people fight every day. Regardless of the circumstances, people will experience pain. Some people choose to show it and some don’t. Is there something wrong with showing it when there is always someone with snap judgement? 

With today’s dynamics with entertainment, we are more emotionally invested than ever in strangers who appear in movies or YouTube videos. Many creators look for outlets to open up their emotions and this has normalized the concept of mental health. Additionally, they have opened up a conversation that few people were comfortable having before about the daily struggles and pain that many people have to bear. I can write a blog post about my problems with mental health and still be considered a functional part of society. Although, not inside the workplace. After so many years of exposure to disorders and debunking of myths, why is it that a company would rather hire someone with no history of mental health issues? If you have a mental illness, are you completely inadequate for today’s high-pressure work environment? 

We have to thank Twitter, YouTube, Talk Shows, and other platforms for creating a space for people from all backgrounds to open up about their mental health issues. Not only are there people talking about their stories with mental health but many public advocates are trying to promote the concept of taking care of your mental health just as much as your physical health. Celebrities like Dwayne Johnson, Katy Perry, and Kristen Bell have talked about their struggles with depression and similar problems. There are thousands of videos and Ted talks bringing light to a variety of mental disorders. 

The information is within reach and there are examples of people becoming successful while struggling with a mental illness. Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson had to save his mother from committing suicide at the age of 15, grow up with depression, and still become the best-paid actor in Hollywood! Yet, the “invisible job barrier” still exists.

The New Zealand media website Stuff  wrote an article on the “Invisible job barrier: how mental illness makes it harder to get work”. You can read on the struggles that Richard Stephens had to go through to get a job. He had two degrees and experience in policy work, but his bipolar disorder and chronic anxiety kept him from getting a job for more than four years. Richard explained how he had to answer long questions regarding his mental health only to get a “phone call shortly after to say [he] wouldn’t fit in the office environment”. There it’s also mentioned how “29 percent of respondents agreed with the decision to hire a less experienced candidate who had no experience of mental illness, rather than someone who had more experience but had battled a mental illness.” Every country has their own perspective on mental health initiatives, and the numbers might look better or worse depending on where you are from. The case of Richard Stephens happened in New Zealand but the stigma exists globally.

Personally, I have seen how this plays out. I have struggled with depression and anxiety disorders for quite some time. While I was working in Philadelphia as an engineer in training, I was going through a tough time and I was not taking care of my mental health. None of my coworkers or superiors knew about my situation; at the time I was afraid to show any signs of a mental problem. While I was efficient, proactive, and collaborative, there were days where I became a liability. The lack of attention to my mental wellbeing became a problem in the workplace. It affected my punctuality, efficiency, and concentration to the point I flooded a sink.

Another personal example comes from the employment I had in Ecuador. This time I was open about having issues, even though I didn’t disclose them in their entirety. I talked about the situation I was going through with the illness of my mother and my mental health backstory. I was productive and hardworking, but the behavior from my bosses was still different. The company had to downsize personnel so I was laid off even when I was part of the sales department and switched to part-time. Was I disposable because of my situation? I am still left with the question but there is no easy answer.

The faultless yet unfeasible solution to this invisible wall would be to observe only the performance and efficiency of an employee before thinking of their background. It is a difficult characteristic to measure at face value because there is no method for predicting an employee’s behavior. There is no right or wrong answer because it is not a black or white problem. Situations are different for everyone based on culture, type of mental health problem, and requirements for the job. 

A study was done by Janki Shankar, and 8 other authors,  for Sage Publications where they interviewed employers of workers with mental illnesses. The study was done to observe what was their opinion on hiring people with mental health problems and what would cause them to change their opinion. There were workers who said that even after not being able to work with someone with mental health issues, they would still consider hiring someone and accommodating to be able to work while handling a mental health concern. Additionally, there were instances of employers having trouble with these types of workers even after accommodating them to be able to work properly. Some employees underperformed or caused problems which then meant they had to be terminated. There were still cases of these workers performing well and staying working with the company after review from their employers. It seems that there is no easy way out of the stigma but employers are realizing that there should not be an issue in the workplace if the person is able to adjust properly. So the question still stands. Is it a good idea to disclose your mental health problems considering the hindrance that it might be?

Change is slow but it doesn’t stop. There are more things to learn about coping mechanisms, workplace accommodations, and proper examples of boss-employee dynamics with workers with mental health problems. While, as a whole, we are becoming more aware of these types of problems that every person suffering from various forms of disorders, there is also the growing concern that things have been unfair for quite some time now. 

There shouldn’t be people encouraging workers to stay in the position that they are in if they are underperforming because of a mental health situation. On the other hand, there shouldn’t exist a stigma to restrain workers from using our abilities on all the areas that would benefit from more people with specific abilities. Overall, the workplace will be a constant battle for mental well-being and some people might struggle more than others but it is our right to do something with the abilities, knowledge, and experience we were given. Sharing our story might bring about a change in perspective, but that has to be a personal decision; to bear the risk of others judging while becoming part of a more just, more open world.

Links: 

https://www.webmd.com/depression/ss/slideshow-depression-celebs

https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/better-business/70971792/invisible-job-barrier-how-mental-illness-makes-it-harder-to-get-work#:~:text=A%20new%20survey%2C%20conducted%20by,they%20had%20a%20mental%20illness.

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/2158244014547880

https://www.who.int/mental_health/in_the_workplace/en/