It hurts, Ya’ Know
by Jacqueline Cioffa

The earliest picture I have of me lives in the stories I’ve been told. The image of a sweet, loveable, desired baby girl with sparkly hazel eyes and an infectious, bubbly grin. Can you picture her? In her white crib with pastel yellow and blue painted sheep, beaming inside out, her delicate arms wide open. I can if I squeeze my eyes real tight, I can feel her eight-month bright-eyed wonder, innocence and exuberant joy. The stark white blank slate possibility and endless adventure of a life that is still to come. She could color it neon green, bubble gum strawberry, juicy purple, azure sea, sunshine yellow, paint any color she chose. I’m guessing in her mind this baby believed she could fly. Shimmying up the wooden bars, tugging with determination with strong legs she would hurl herself over the edge, not caring where she might land. Her distraught mother would find her on the cushy rug clapping, giggling and intact. No one ever figured out how the mischievous darling managed to thrust herself out of that crib.

I have a funny deja vu feeling her new-new untainted soul; unspoiled heart and bare canvas spirit were the perfect tapestry for the little human being who trusted she could fly.

They placed a net over the crib for her own safety, and in the dark when she lifted herself up feeling the bouncy cord hitting the top of her head, her spirit broke. As hard as she tried, willed her tiny limbs life would become less and less colorful until black was the dominant hue in her jumbo box of Crayola crayons.

It was no one’s fault, you know. Slowly, and all at once her sunny colorful mind dimmed and became dull. The dark that is the all-consuming fear of living a life with no color is her reality today. She cannot reconcile the diagnosis, “insanity runs in the family.” She does not know how to keep the child safe, keep that wondrous piece with her. She doesn’t understand how her broken mind can ask her to be separated from the most exquisite, adventurous, kind, funny, lovable parts of her. She refuses to believe in a world where the only light she sees is through a pinpoint hole in the deep, dark recesses of the fractured mind where science has no tangible answers, where she is forced to battle. She prays the flicker of light that remains, that is all she has left and trusts and believes in does not dim and burn away.

She cannot reconcile the two living embedded inside one mind. They are so very different, and yet they are the same. She trusts the muscle that is her bursting purple heart that her chaotic misfiring brain plays tricks on her. She is blinded, consumed with the pain of staying sane. When most days she’d really rather be the child whose arms are extended to the wonder and magic that is the beautiful gift called life.

She is I, I am she. Together we fight the insidious, solitary grown-up war that is mental illness. When exactly it happened, the particulars, the precise moment I went insane who cares.

It happened. To me. And her. Mental Illness is the agonizing, paralyzing, uncompromising, anxiety-ridden, paranoid, numbing fear, night terrors in the daytime. It is the hideous, unforgiving, relentless, tedious, Ad nauseam unknown. Mental Illness is the unwanted safety net that stops me from believing I can fly.

Well fuck you disease, it hurts anyway. I don’t care if I break a few bones, act stupid, and say inappropriate things, scream and cry. The hazel eyed, precious baby keeps me dreaming colors and alive.

I won’t lie.
It hurts, ya’ know.

*   *   *

JackieCioffaJacqueline Cioffa was an international model for 17 years and celebrity makeup artist. She is a dog lover, crystal collector and Stone Crab enthusiast. Her work has been featured in “Brainstorms, the Anthology” and numerous literary magazines. Living with manic depression, Jacqueline is an advocate for mental health awareness.
She’s a storyteller, observer, essayist, potty mouth and film lover who’s traveled the world.

Jacqueline lives with manic depression, anxiety, paranoia, agoraphobia, depression, mania, med. resistance in a tidal wave of symptoms the best she can. Some days that means coping by counting the seconds. Writing saves her from the brain chaos, the respite mini sanctuary spa vacation from the harsh reality of living with mental illness. By sharing her voice, truest truths, struggles and wins she hopes others facing heartbreaking challenges find solace, solidarity and serenity. Jacqueline is her own best advocate, fighting a broken healthcare system, researching alternative treatment as well as traditional medicine. She champions anyone who is fighting hard to survive.

Say NO Stigma, YES to empathy, understanding and kindness. The time for positive change is right now.

Jacqueline can be found:

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