So, I haven’t done anything spoken word related in quite a while. (Since the beginning of quarantine, I think.) I’m in the bad habit of procrastinating from things that challenge me out of fear of failure, and generally sabotaging myself creatively. And also, honestly, I had a lot going on personally, and I think it was probably good to take a break. But I really miss editing audio, and it’s super close to my heart. So recently, I dusted off this old recording from a few months ago, of a poem I wrote, and played around with it, and made a little spoken word track. It’s in no way perfect, and I’ll probably change it later–but for now, this is what I’ve got.
I’m hoping to do more stuff like this in the future, and I’m working on a video for this right now, which is super exciting! Like I said, this is very messy, but I hope you like it anyway.
All sounds are in the public domain. Poem by me, and very messy ukulele also by me. (It’s not much, but I’m still learning, so, uh, cut me some slack. Like I said, hopefully much more impressive things coming soon.)
trigger warning: self-harm. crisis lines are here if you need them.
I write a lot of poetry about feeling numb because honestly, although I try really hard to make sure I write about different topics, and don’t repeat myself too often–but at the same time, when something’s on my mind, it tends to get written down at some point. However, this is one of my favourite depression/numbness poems I’ve written as of yet. It’s really late as I write this, and I used up my last brain cell mixing this piece frantically and cursing myself for not getting it done sooner, but the general point is that I’m proud of this piece. 🙂
I know this could be said about a lot of my posts, but this piece–especially the spoken word track–is very personal to me. I normally don’t cry when I write or record things… I mean, sometimes I write them while I’m crying, but that’s different. This is actually one of the first pieces I’ve written in a very long time that’s hit this close to home. In the recording, before I polished it up with some voice effects my voice got all thick, and I started tearing up a bit, and when I recorded a little song segment, which I didn’t end up using for this track, it sorta got worse. (As you can tell, this was written and recorded during the phase in quarantine where I was constantly just barely avoiding falling apart at any given point, and still denying how shitty my life was.) (Whereas now, I just kind of sit in that fact all day long and brood in it. Which is fun.) And back then, about a month ago when I recorded this, that was when it really hit me, I guess. How alone I was, and how scary the world was starting to get. It felt like a slap in the face–but, like, a slap in the face I needed. And one that marked me finally figuring out how to cope with quarantine.
In terms of mixing this, I opened the handy dandy Adobe Audition, aka my audio editing software, and kind of played around with slowing down the music. I layered a couple different voice tracks, and then split them in half to allow for a slight pause in the middle of the track. Then, I tried to make it sound a little like it’s playing on a car radio, by mixing the “inside car” effect on Audition with a slightly distorted, retro effect on the other track.
The audio of people talking in the background is actually also a lot more significant than it probably sounds to the average listener–I actually recorded a little bit of the day I was talking about in the poem with the intent of using it as a sound effect in my podcast, so I dug up the old recording on my phone, added a slight reverb, slowed it down a bit, and shoved it in there, because we love some secret references to my life in spoken word tracks.
And then I slowed down the music a little, and voila, one month of procrastination later, we have a spoken word track.
Anyhow. I hope this helps someone? Makes them feel less alone? It means a lot to me, I guess. And this whole thing sucks, but at least we can know that we’re not the only ones going through it. Which is something.
As I discussed when I originally posted this poem, a little while ago, compulsive skin-picking has plagued me for a really long time–since I was seven years old, at least. It’s something I’ve been doing so long, I guess I’ve kind of learned to normalize it.
I wish I had some coping mechanisms to give you guys about this, because it’s a really hard thing to struggle with, and honestly there aren’t enough people talking about this stuff openly online. But to tell the truth, I don’t know what I’m doing any more than you do. I’ve hinted at it with my therapist a couple times, but I’m still terrified to bring it up any more deeply with her. (Ironically, I feel like therapists are in general probably some of the least judgmental people out there.) I’ve heard lots of stuff thrown around online, and tried some of them. But I guess nothing has ever really stuck with me, because deep down, it doesn’t feel like a problem I need to fix at all. It’s just something I do, and the only real drawback of it is, yanno, spending three hours on the bathroom convincing myself if I just make myself bleed a little harder it’ll heal over perfect, and glowing, and beautiful. (It never does.) And the weird trancelike place I enter, where I don’t even feel like myself. And the anxiety of constantly criticizing my appearance. And the deep-seated body image issues that make me feel that self-conscious are a huge part of why I pick at myself in the first place. But it still just sort of feels, no matter how much I try to reframe it, like a normal thing I’m just going to do no matter what, and that isn’t really harmful to me.
But mixing this piece was somehow just really therapeutic and helpful. And I think it was something I really needed to do. To just sit with this monster in my head, and try to understand it for a while.
Wow! I made a spoken word poem! Yippee!! If it’s your thing, the original written poem for this piece is here.
There are a lot of hidden references to my childhood in this poem, that I wrote with the full intent of being very mysterious and sneaky about them, but since I have no self control and can’t keep a secret to save my life, I thought I would do a sort of Genius-lyrics style breakdown of the references in this poem, since, I dunno, I’m extra.
1. a little girl with bug-eyes, and dollar-store sneakers
When I was little, as many kids are, I was pretty awkward. But unlike most kids, I was very much aware of it, due to a lot of bullying that was directed at me because of it. My eyes were just normal eyes, that part is just a metaphor, but my face was constantly covered in scabs from picking at it whenever I got anxious, my teeth were a mess, and my hair was always frizzy and chaotic. There was this one specific time in first grade, one of the most distinct memories I have of feeling different, when I was wearing these cheap sneakers my mom had picked up at the dollar store, and they weren’t like the ones the other girls were wearing, and I totally freaked out about it and thought not having super expensive sneaks somehow made me a lesser human being. So as a kind of way of punishing myself for it, that recess, hid in a corner alone in the cold, watching people pass by–pretending I was invisible. It was just a little thing, but it hurt, to hate myself that much–and I still remember it very clearly.
When I was little, I was very sensitive. Honestly, I still am, but obviously I express it in very different ways now. I didn’t really know how else to express my anxiety at that age, honestly–so I ended up lashing out a lot, and crying a ton in general. During my early elementary school years, my dad was also trying to get an accounting degree, and my mom had just gone back to work, all right while my mental illness was starting to fester and worsen. So my first and second grade years were just kind of a nightmare. There wasn’t a single person out there who I trusted with my thoughts and feelings completely, and both my friend group and my family was almost always fighting about something.
a girl in a glass house
As a kid, I was definitely a bit of a hypocrite at times. In a weird way, lashing out at others at that age was my way of indirectly hurting myself. Because I wanted to make them to hate me, as much as I hated myself.
And I’d love to say that I’m over that… but honestly, I’m not. It sucks, and it’s something I’m trying really hard to work through. But I’ve spent so long desperately racing to the top, believing my only worth as a person lay not just in being isolated and different, but being better than everyone else in the room, at any given moment.
Also, in fifth grade another class did a unit on metaphors and had to illustrate them on the school walls–and I remember how that was the first time I heard that metaphor, and I really overused the hell out of that metaphor that year.
a girl dressed up like a christmas tree
This refers to this really specific memory I have from eighth grade. I had a choir concert, that I had not practised for at all, so I had no idea what I was doing. It was my first year taking classes at a regular school, and one thing I really struggled with during that first month or so was how I wanted to dress, and the fact that I literally had not talked to a kid my age for longer than five minutes in two years and just sort of rotated between the same three outfits. I remember that night, how sleep-deprived I was, how i felt like I was suffocating or something, the walls pressing in closes and closer on me. I didn’t have any friends, so I didn’t even know who to talk to, and just kinda drifted around the room aimlessly. I ended up wearing these hand-me-down pants my neighbour gave me, and this old, worn out, red T-shirt, and my favourite green comfort sweater that actually is really cute if you, yanno, don’t wear it with a clashing colour–and was agonizingly aware of how awkward the whole thing looked all night, and had a whole panic attack in the bathroom about it. Hence, “dressed up like a christmas tree.” Honestly, what I most remember from that night is how paralyzed I felt inside my own body. I didn’t know who I was, or what I wanted, or how to fit in, or if I even wanted to fit in. Which pretty much sums up the first couple months of eighth grade, actually. For some reason, that’s another memory I can recall very clearly.
a girl curled up on the couch
In my elementary school and middle school years, I would spend a lot of my bad days curled up on the couch, just sitting there for hours, reading, or writing, or scrolling through Tumblr on my laptop, my brain just sort of turning to mush. I still do that sometimes. I don’t know, there’s no specific memory that inspired this line, it’s just somewhere I’ve sat and felt really sad, and hopeless, and not really wanted to do anything at all at, for a really long time.
And with that, I think I’ve broken down some of the easter eggs in this poem! Hopefully this was interesting! If it was, please let me know, I’d love to do it again if this is a hit.
What was your elementary/middle school experience like? I’d love to know, I feel like mine was pretty strange, and I’m definitely glad I’m out of that period in my life now.