Valerie’s Thesis

Valerie’s Thesis by Valerie Parente

If there’s one goal in my social life it’s to enchant another person’s mind
The perfect interaction is a transaction where I teach you and you teach me
Just promise you’ll teach me without being preachy
because I thrive on being enlightened and I die when you condescend
so help me understand the world outside and I’ll translate the art sitting in your psyche.

Nothing bothers me more than when someone thinks I’m just a dumb girl
because inside my mind is a large web of things that make me obsessed
and I know that comes across like I can’t find my thoughts.
The truth is I just struggle with my words when I have to speak them into the world
but give me paper and a pen to write and I promise I’ll blow your mind.

I know it sounds pretentious but if I’m being perfectly honest
I’d rather you read what I write than see my picture and click “like”
Yes I still have an aesthetic but that’s just the visual poetry of my intellect
If I have to post my face to get your attention and enter the conversation
then I’ll gladly pose in place only to switch your direction to mental reflection.

I believe our minds are a never-ending storm given a body in this crazy world
that God gave us physical anatomy as our way of making sense of mentality
The pain that comes with having an ego serves to recognize the other in a collective soul
So you better be damn sure that if I find another mind that can discuss this even one time
then I’m going to hold onto that conversation like it’s my most valuable human connection.

– Valerie Parente (4-16-2020)

Thoughts While Social Distancing / Quarantine

Thoughts While Social Distancing / Quarantine by Valerie Parente

Society is in probably the weirdest state a lot of us have seen in our entire lifetime. The closest thing I can remember that came close to this culture-change where you can literally feel the collective worry and uncertainty of friends and strangers was 9/11. That was vastly different in so many ways though. This is not a single event on one moring that affected our lives forever, this is an ongoing day to day “I don’t know when this is going to end” crisis that is going to affect our lives forever.

Comparisons aside, I think the social isolation is the hardest part of all of this (for me at least). Having anxiety and depression and a slew of other mental disorders has always been a pain in the butt, but I learned to adapt and get used to it to the point that sometimes I didn’t even realize when I was acting out of anxiety or depression. Now that I’m quarantining and socially distancing myself from literally everybody who isn’t my direct family I’m realizing just how important socializing has been for me through the years in overcoming my eating disorder and OCD.

In the past when I’ve had an irrational thought, usually attributed to OCD, I always had the option to get out and distract myself with friends or even the company of strangers. I didn’t realize just how important it was for me to be able to go for a drive to the local coffee shop and just sit there writing or reading. I didn’t even have to be interacting with anybody else, but the idea that I was around other people was incredibly comforting. Despite my personal problems, the world went on. I could see it, I could feel it, and I could prove it to myself by going out in public. It was a simple freedom that had significant affects on my mood. This is why I think I’ve been more uneasy about the introversion of staying at home than the actual worry about the virus itself. As I sit here in my own head I’m realizing that the most uneasy part of this social distancing and the lockdowns taking place is that notion that the world does not go on. When I’ve been stuck in my own head I was always able to go out into the real world and see that everything proceeded as usual and I could literally see that my anxiety did not mean it was the end of the world in the larger scheme of things. Now there’s an unsettling cloud above everybody’s head that maybe, just maybe, it is the end of the world. Maybe, just maybe, your anxiety is justified. No, you cannot escape your own head by taking a stroll through the mall or grabbing a coffee at your favorite coffee shop or even by stopping by your friend’s house for a quick catch up. None of that is an option right now, and we don’t know when it will be an option again. And that’s incredibly unsettling to say the least.

Very rarely a crisis like this happens where you really do have no choice but to find the strength in yourself and only yourself to stay calm. Distraction outside in public is not an option when it comes to quarantine. Sure you can read, write, use social media to connect with friends, or learn crafts and skills that you never had time to learn before, but you can’t go out in public and distract yourself with a “real world” that carries on despite your personal problems. There are so many simple pleasures that we have taken for granted like the mere freedom to grab a coffee down the street. As lame and cliché as it might sound, I think this coronavirus is going to teach a lot of us to appreciate what we have. For those of us millenials with mental disorders, I think we’re going to start realizing just how important the company of strangers can be. It’s an annoying lesson for any one who has fought any form of hardship in their life because we’ve learned this lesson before, must not on a global scale. A lot of us really do appreciate our blessings because we’ve been to that place of mental turmoil. It’s pretty frustrating that we have to learn this lesson again but SO much more magnified. Nonetheless, there’s always room for improvement. This is a rare opportunity where not just one individual or one individual family is going to have to heal from this trauma, no, this is going to be the whole world healing. And we’re all going to have that commonality with total strangers from now on. Maybe at the end of this there will be more compassion, understanding, and of course appreciation for each other’s company and basically every simple pleasure we have that we never dreamed would be taken away. I’m sure this is the slap in the face a lot of us needed to realize “holy shit that thing I was worried about before was NOTHING compared to a Goddam pandemic”.

I’m not saying this is the end of the world. It’s not. I really do believe it’s going to be okay. We have great luxury to be able to sit at home, and not only that, but to also be able to have a say in how this crisis plays out. We can all help the human race by doing the right thing and staying home. We will, no doubt, be forced to confront our mental health in the eerie moments where all you can hear is that inner voice, but let’s make that experience constructive. Let’s learn about ourselves. Let’s learn that we have great blessings. I know it’s hard to see now but I really think this is going to have major positive effects on a lot of us if we allow it to. It’s either think positively, or let all the suffering and havoc wreaked by COVID-19 be in vain. I vote we think positively.

– Valerie Parente (3-23-2020)

An Obsessive Compulsive’s Take on the Coronavirus Crisis

An Obsessive Compulsive’s Take on the Coronavirus Crisis by Valerie Parente

Day Five in quarantine, and I am full of so many uncomfortable thoughts. How odd it is to live during a time when everybody else is performing the compulsions you’ve been told were “irrational” for over a decade.

I have been wildly afraid of germs since I was 13 years old (I’m 25 now). I don’t touch my face unless it’s right after washing my hands. I deem my clothes “dirty” as soon as I exit my home. I keep bottles of hand sanitizer in my car and every bag I have. And in the past few years I have gotten really good about challenging these germaphobic thoughts and compulsions by going out more, touching my face, not taking a shower immediately upon coming home from being out in public, and doing so many more little acts. Now with the COVID-19 crisis it feels like everything I’ve been told was “irrational” is becoming the norm. Yes, this is an unprecedented situation and the rules of what is “cleanly” and “germy” have now changed, but that doesn’t make it any less bizarre for someone who has been told for the past decade that constant hand washing and not touching your face is unreasonable and compulsions of the mentally ill. Now we’re desperate not to fall ill in the name of doing these manic compulsions. The acts that were was once deemed over-the-top are now being drilled into our brains.

I can’t speak for everyone with OCD, but for me, there was always a sense of “I’m being ridiculous, but I’m going to do it anways” when I performed a compulsion to get rid of germs. I always kind of knew I was overreacting. I knew it. Did I believe it? No. Knowing and believing are two very different things. I very much believed I would get sick if I didn’t shower before going in my bed, but I knew deep down that this was not a normal thought process and that I was being crazy. This coronavirus crisis really is an OCD sufferer’s worst case scenario played out. It’s everything we’ve ever been told was an overreaction now being categorized as a necessary course of action.

People always told me it wasn’t the end of the world if I let a germ touch my skin. Now the world is in this freak situation where it might be the end of the world. We’re in a realm of danger where it actually can be a matter of life or death if you don’t wash your skin. That’s absolutely mind boggling for me. I’m not necessarily upset, and I’m not even complaining, I’m just uncomfortable. Perplexed. Shocked. I never thought I’d see the day where all of the obsessions I was told were unnecessary to entertain have now been given credibility on a global scale. I guess the best word I can use to describe all of this is wild. It’s just wild.

Social distancing. Hand washing. “Don’t touch your face”. I’m equally curious as I am concerned with how society is going to behave once we move past this traumatic chapter. My gut tells me a lot of people are going to develop obsessive compulsive disorder after this. We’re fostering that obsessive compulsive mindset and placing it on a pedestal of “life or death” importance (and rightfully so), so how can you go from that drastic and dire mindset back to “oh you’re being ridiculous for wiping down your seat every time you go to sit in it”? I really don’t have the answer. I guess we’ll all find out, together.

– Valerie Parente (3-17-2020)

Immaculate Introvert

Immaculate Introvert by Valerie Parente

I hate parties.
I always feel so out of place
like I don’t belong to the human race
because I can’t relate
to how other people operate
all the alcohol and games.
It’s not a problem with who I am,
it’s a problem with who I’m not
because that’s not what I want
when I think of the perfect job
I’d rather lose myself in thoughts
writing and drawings from my heart.
Creation feels better than partying,
creation is what I live to be
an artist on an emotional journey
making sense of the world consciously
that’s how I set my soul free
and be the best version of me.

"Kelsey" by Valerie Parente

– Valerie Parente (8-18-2019)

Tangled

"String Me Along" by Valerie Parente

“String Me Along”

Tangled by Valerie Parente

All these tangled thoughts
have one common thread
twisted in a pattern
I’ve memorized in my head.

Stringing me along
with so much time spent
leaving me weak and worn
frayed and torn to shreds.

So much pretty yarn
it tells me where I’ve been
but it’s nobody’s concern
when I tie up the loose ends.

I wonder how long
until someone notices
I’ve been weaving my words
hoping that they’ll be read.

– Valerie Parente (5-31-2019)

toxic relations

toxic relations by Valerie Parente

There’s something I need to say
about the way you behave
You’ve become a cliché
just a guy who plays games
a fool desperate to claim
that you aren’t so strange
thinking a girl can replace
all of your negative traits
as if you could erase
every ounce of self-hate
with the sound of a female’s name
but at the end of the day
your connection with her is strained
she doesn’t really relate
you use each other to manipulate
that dark and empty space
that rots in your depressed brains.
But you won’t admit your mistake
I know you’ll try to debate
say that you’re honestly okay
but say it with a straight face.
say you’re not a pathetic display
of all that time you had me waste.

There’s something I need to get off my chest
about the way you’ve digressed
You’ve become so obsessed
with destroying relationships
in the name of loneliness
imprinting the egocentric
on someone you barely met
and it’s so inappropriate
how you made her your outlet
meanwhile your friends
the ones who emotionally invest
can only shake their heads.
You know I tried my best
cause I’ve been in that mess
so Goddamn depressed
A mind with no self-respect.
And I just want to protect
one of my favorite humans
from a pattern so toxic
because if you weren’t worth it
I wouldn’t have written this.

– Valerie Parente (4-3-2019)

The Miracle of Language

darkI correct people’s grammar. I criticize poorly worded sentences in commercials. I cringe at ridiculous lyrics sung on the radio. I proofread my text messages before sending them. But I think the reason language is important to me is because so often I have a jumble of irrational snippets of information and lacerated thoughts senselessly flying around my head. So to be able to pull that structureless jumble outside of my own head and construct it into coherent sentences is a big deal for me. To be able to put into words what doesn’t quite make sense to me is nothing short of a miracle.

– Valerie Parente (5-6-16)