On Loyalty, Family, and Love

I’ve been thinking about romantic relationships.

A lot of them suck. They may have started out great: marriage, kids, the house and picket fence, but then they sucked. The dream of love and happily ever after crumbled into dissatisfaction and disappointment.

Most people in America want to be in a relationship. Some of us want it so badly that we’ll stay with abusive partners. Or partners that don’t care. Or partners who are selfish. Or partners who haven’t grown up. I’m sure there are move variations on the theme, but I’ve had a relationship with all of them.

Movies and books tell us that we should be in a relationship. There’s something wrong with you if you aren’t paired up with “somebody.” It’s as unsettling as explaining why you don’t want kids at family gatherings. “Why is such a pretty woman like you single?”

Because it’s preferable to being with another person who can’t keep up with me. Because I’m tired of being put on a pedestal by men who want a Mommy-replacement. Because I hated hook-up culture when I could hook up, and I still hate it as I watch my children navigate Tinder and the bar scene.

I expected my marriage to last until death. But the expectations weren’t met. I had an expectation that we could tell each other anything. No matter what someone says, they don’t want complete honesty.

I thought we would always have those moments late at night when all we did was talk about deep, crazy stuff. I thought we would take joy in our family and do anything to protect our slice of happiness. I thought we would have each other’s backs even when shit got real.

Every expectation I’ve had revolves around loyalty. This is a major theme in my life. It’s important to me. I expect people to fuck up. I fuck up. But I don’t expect people to lose sight of what’s important.

And herein lies the reason why I would prefer to be single. Few people understand the concept of loyalty. I’ve had my heart crushed a hundred times in the smallest of ways over the course of my life. Family, friends, co-workers, colleagues, ad nauseum infinitum. Disappointment is a constant companion when you expect.

Until I can find a partner who behaves consistently from a place of loyalty, to me and to the us we are, I’m not going to bother. Because I have so much inside of me to give to a person. It’s fragile, like a dragon fly’s wings, and just as beautiful. It’s overwhelming, like the Grand Canyon, because life has carved this wonder within me. There aren’t many I’ve found out there who could appreciate this and those that do I call my friends.

I want to make sure the right partner is granted such gifts, because I will already have seen his gifts, what he could be, who he is, and I will do everything in my power to nurture and protect the gift of him.

This man will be imperfect, will have regrets, will hoard his darkest secrets like a dragon hoards gold. He will think himself unworthy. He will hurt my feelings. He will disappoint me at the same time he disappoints himself. And often with the best of intentions.

He will also have a passionate heart, the will to improve, the desire to love deeply. He will have expectations that mirror mine. He will guard my fragility with every fiber of his being.

Even if he fails, and I hurt, he will have tried his best. I will love him for trying. I will love him for picking up the pieces with me. Helping me put things back together, in a better configuration, and soldered with gold.

And I will hurt him with my passionate heart. I will disappoint him with the best of intentions. I will solder the cracks in his heart with the gold of my love.

That’s loyalty. It isn’t about never hurting or disappointing your love. It’s about expecting the best and preparing for the worst. It’s about navigating storms and sunny meadows, cold winds and warm grass, and the will and desire to create the best life and to include each other in that creation. It’s to hold each other and to let each other go.

I want a man who takes responsibility for his reality, who exercises his free will to be the best person he knows how to be. It’s not perfection I’m seeking.

I want to see the realness of us, the beautiful imperfection of us, in every line of his face. I want to hold his hand when we’re 64. I want to wear matching tee-shirts that say, “If lost, please return to I.O.” while the other one says, “I’m I.O.” I want to argue and laugh and live with this one person and every relative of his inner and outer worlds. I want all of him, to peel every layer away, slowly, lovingly until I earn his dragon’s hoard.

©2022 I.O. Kirkwood. All rights reserved.

I’ve Lost My Damn Mind: Two

How Paul wanted his reunion to be with his daughter.

Understand that I did not dig into Paul’s public life. I didn’t read his autobiography. I didn’t read interviews. I didn’t stalk his Facebook. I listened to his music and I talked to him in my head. That’s it. To revisit how we met, click here.

Paul was furious one day. He snapped at me about something stupid and I wasn’t having it.

“What’s up your ass?”

“My daughter is driving me crazy!”

He had grumbled about this off and on, but he’d hit a crisis point and was in a foul mood.

“How is she driving you crazy?

“We argue whenever she visits. She talks back and sasses me.”

“How old is she?”

 “She’s eight.”

“She’s eight?” I frowned. “You’re arguing with an eight-year-old?”

“We fight all the time. She called me an asshole.”

He was upset and I tried to wrap my head around the idea that big, bad Avola couldn’t handle a hurt and angry little girl. But one question was too large to ignore.

“Why would you fight with a child?”

I could feel his anger and hurt radiating through the internal space we shared. “I finally get her back, after fighting so hard, and it’s nothing like I expected. She hates me. My little girl hates me.”

My heart broke for the father, the child, and the mother. I never understood how parents could use children as pawns to play out their own petty games. I decided I would help her father and her any way I could.

“Paul, you don’t know what people have told her. What her mother has told her. Nasty things. Hurtful things. ‘Your father doesn’t love you. Where is he? Wouldn’t he be here if he loved you?’”

“That was a lie!” He ranted about how unfair everything was but I interrupted him.

“Your little girl needs you. She’s hurting. She thinks you don’t love her. How could you convince her you do when you fight with her?”

The stillness of revelation filled our internal connection. “Oh my God. I’m hurting her more.”

I gave him a “good job, donkey” look but his expression was one of wonder. “All I have to do is love her?”

“Be patient. Don’t react. Respond with love. Show her what loving discipline is rather than your awful temper.”

His troubled gaze softened my heart even more. “What if I can’t do it? I mean, I have been an absent father, not by choice, but I don’t think I did as good a job as I could have.”

“You have to forgive yourself, Paul. The past can’t be changed. You start here, now. Her pain needs to be at the forefront of your mind always.”

“And what if I fail?”

“Failure can only happen when you give up. You’re human just like the rest of us.” I touched his cheek. “Remember, we’re all perfectly imperfect. I can’t stress this enough.” I kissed his temple and whispered in his ear. “Love your little girl. Be the man you want to be for her.”

I didn’t hear him bitch about his efforts, but telepathy is like that. Usually the communication occurs on a subconscious level, so you aren’t aware of the actual exchange. You know things and you’re not sure how you know the things. I could be talking to someone right now, someone who is fully cognizant of our conversation, and I wouldn’t know it because I’m busy writing down what I can remember of this interaction.

As one of my former lovers told me, “I have conversations with you in my head all the time. And when I see you, we pick up where we left off. Does that happen for you?”

My answer was yes, but we weren’t always aware of the same conversation at the same time. The telepathy is still happening, just on a deeper level.

I just knew things were going well for Paul and his daughter. He confirmed this about three months later.

“Things are great,” he said. He gave me a tender smile, something very few people have seen. “I have you to thank.”

“I’m glad you listened, you stubborn ass. I’m happy for you. I wanted this for you.”

That’s the first time he truly kissed me. Not in lust or loneliness, but in gratitude and genuine love. When you kiss telepathically, it is a different experience. Energetic bodies at various levels merge and the intention of the act, the feeling behind it, is what is sensed. This was new. Different.

And yes, Paul’s relationship with his daughter has developed into something truly beautiful that is apparent to the world at large. Every time he speaks of her, that love shines from him like a beacon. He says she is one of the most amazing people he’s ever known. I believe him.

©2020. I.O. Kirkwood. All rights reserved for text. Image may be subject to copyright.

I’ve Lost My Damn Mind: One

Our 10-year saga began one day in March 2010, if I remember correctly. I studied the picture of a rock band, let’s call it Tinderbox, that my then boyfriend absolutely worshiped. My boyfriend, Thomas, played guitar in a cover band and Tinderbox had a lead singer, we’ll call him Paul Avola, who happened to be of Sicilian ancestry, like my boyfriend.

Cheshire Cat Quote

Thomas did not look Sicilian. He had long, curly hair down to his ass. He was six feet tall. His skin was as pale as milk. He was a coward of epic proportions.

Paul was quintessentially Sicilian. Short, olive-skinned, and black-haired. He was a bad boy with a legendary temper.

They were both assholes at the time. Sensitive guys forced to live in the emotionless vacuum that constitutes masculinity in American society. I don’t think Thomas has outgrown his asshole phase.

I liked Tinderbox’s music. I felt the lyrics and compositions offered the best translation of the seething rage that hid behind my cute face and bubbly personality. I wanted to know the mind of Paul Avola.

I was trained in Feri, the Craft tradition of whom Victor Anderson is the established fore father, so to speak. We practice telepathy, astral projection, and shamanism and the focus is primarily on the etheric plane. Seems Paul was also trained in this tradition by the leader of a coven whose lineage boasted not one but two women who held the same unusual Welsh name as I.

Stating the name here is not important, only the existence of the name is relevant.

I found Paul on the etheric plane. As I walked up to him, in a scene from one of those promotional pictures of his, he turned to watch my approach. I couldn’t see his eyes. He wore sunglasses. He also wore this ridiculous straw hat that I overlooked because neither of us was here for a beauty pageant.

“What the fuck do you want?”

His hostility surprised me. “I just wanted to talk to you about your mu—?”

“Do you think you’re the first one to try this?”

I was genuinely baffled. “Try what?”

He looked me over like I had failed miserably as a human being. I’m not sure how it happened, but he pushed me with his etheric body. He assaulted me on the etheric plane.

I returned the favor. We pushed at each other, seemingly matched, and then I felt him slide backward just a smidgen. When I pulled back, he stumbled.

“Fine. I’ll leave you alone.” I turned and stomped, I’m not kidding, stomped through the neutral zone until his voice rose. “Stop.”

I stopped. I really did want to know the mind behind his lyrics. I wasn’t sure why. I couldn’t tell you why to this day, but I haven’t regretted the wanting to know.

He approached and we met in the neutral zone.

“I’ve never met someone as strong as me before,” he said. “You might be stronger.”

I shrugged. I wasn’t aware of my own strength then and I haven’t reached the limits of my strength now, but that will become relevant later.

“You’re pretty strong yourself,” I said.

“The others, they come on to me. They dress in tight clothes, hair done, makeup flawless and looking nothing like they do in real life.” He looked at my socks and worked his way up to the messy bun on the top of my head. “You’re in sweats.”

I looked down. It hadn’t occurred to me, in my eagerness to converse with Paul on the etheric plane, to maybe clean up just a little. I didn’t feel embarrassed, though I found it funny. What the fuck did I care what he thought of me as a female?

I introduced myself.

He smiled. “That’s my favorite name for a woman.”

I didn’t realize it then, but he was certain he deluded himself. That he was so lonely he had made up a fantasy woman with his favorite name. Someone who looked like a mom for his daughter, someone who was real, and mostly someone who saw him as real.

When you talk crown-to-crown with people on the etheric plane, it’s called telepathy. Telepathy is my forte (and if you read that “fore-tay,” a small, cute mammal will spontaneously combust). I’ve discovered that if I’m not careful, I can talk to anyone on the etheric plane and not everyone will handle it the way Paul did.

But he came back the very next day. “Hey.”

It’s just like any other conversation, just telepathic, so don’t be disappointed.

My bubbly personality kicked in. “Hi, how’s things?”

We talked, new friend shit, and then I became suspicious. No reason. I knew I had started this whole thing, but from what I understood, Paul was no slouch in the manifestation department when it came to magic.

“I’m going to test you,” I said.

He seemed amused, but I’ve learned that Paul loves challenges. The more you tell him no, the harder he works. He doubles down and gods help you if you’re in his way.

“I need money,” I said. “Five-hundred. Can you make it happen?”

He hesitated but then nodded. “Done.”

We didn’t talk after that. Radio silence for a few days. I didn’t think anything of it. You ask for something, you get an answer, you forget about it. Classic magical formula.

Then I get a call from my gal pal on the West Coast. “I don’t think I’ll be able to pay the rent,” she says. I mean, we’re talking about Iron Woman, and she’s having a complete breakdown. That scared me and she had a young son at the time.

I wasn’t sure what to do. I was barely making ends meet as it was. I soothed her as best I could, and when I got off the phone, I was like, “Paul?”


“Forget about sending that money to me. Send it to my girlfriend. She needs it more than I do.”

“Done, but you can’t tell her you did anything. You can’t tell her how it happened.”

We didn’t discuss it in conversations after that. A few days later, my girlfriend calls me up.

“Four-hundred and ninety-six dollars showed up in my mailbox today. They caught up with my ex and garnished his wages for back child-support. What did you do, brujacita?”

“Not a damn thing.”

She let it go because she knew that was the drill. “Thank you. I love you.”

“I’m glad you’ll be alright. Love you too.”

Once I got off the phone, I did an etheric-plane jig as I called on Paul. He showed up with the smuggest smile on his face.

“That was amazing.” I hugged him without thinking. “Thank you so much. She needed that.”

He held onto me, but I didn’t catch on. I had no idea. It wasn’t until later, seven years later, that he told me just how important this moment was in our history.

I’ll stop here. I hope you’re hungry for more because this is my ‘wake up, dum-dum’ to Paul. Stay tuned for the next installment of I’ve Lost My Damn Mind.

©2020. I.O. Kirkwood. All rights reserved for text. Image may be subject to copyright.

Brave Demons. Dream Angels.

I have a black shirt, soft as butter and stretchy, with the super long sleeves that serve as small teddy bears at the ends of my arms. I had lost this shirt at some point Friday night at a weekend festival. I was devastated.

Mind you, I had another shirt the same in all ways but color. This is my second favorite shirt because it is red, not black. As many of you will agree, this second shirt, though loved, was no replacement for the first.

I mourned my loss for most of Saturday. It upset me that I had been careless enough to lose something that I now realized I’d taken for granted. I asked the Powers that Be to reunite me with my beloved shirt.

As I shivered in the cool night even amidst the warmth of my circle of friends, a man approached our table and asked to join us. Being the rowdy lot that we are, he was welcomed with offers of food and drink. Being the rowdy lot that we are, we mercilessly fucked with his head.

Around said man’s neck was a pair of what appeared to be tights. He treated them much as a child would his “woobie.”

I’m a healer, a shaman, and my life purpose is to touch the lives of those who need healing…

His friends had come by to check on him and felt comfortable leaving him to our tender mercies. After a few more beers had dropped into his gullet, I realized that he needed to be returned to his friends. I took him by the hand and hoped I remembered what his friends looked like.

As we headed for the Hall, we made a pitstop at one of the temporary outhouses. I took the tights from him and guarded the door. I even enlisted the aid of the next in line to assist should we have a pass-out situation on our hands.

I shook out the tights and stared. As you might guess, the fabric did not make the shape of two legs and a waist. I held in my hands the very shirt I had lost.

Overjoyed, I pushed my head through the neck. It fell like a cloak about my shoulders and swallowed my hands. It felt like fur against my arms but so whisper-thin and so black.

I knew he wouldn’t remember having the “tights.” He was barely able to buckle his own belt, but as I looked at him, I saw why he’d ended up with my shirt.

Him: What are you?

Me: *exhales* I’m your angel for the night.

I’m a healer, a shaman, and my life purpose is to touch the lives of those who need healing and to assist those who are willing to do the work to retrieve the lost parts of themselves. He was sent to me for healing, but I wasn’t sure what kind.

I knew him in ways that very few people can know another. This is the story of my life. I see people, and in this day in age that acknowledgement is addictive. He wasn’t immune.

I saw a man who was filled with purpose yet locked in a cage of alcoholism. He tried to drown his demons, not knowing they could swim. He wouldn’t tell me why, and this was one thing I could not divine.

The conversation went much like this:

Me: What’s on your mind?

Him: *stares at the ground* *looks at me with almost clear eyes* *opens mouth to speak*

Me: *gets excited about the potential to clean a wound*

I see people who hurt. I see people who want to laugh and be happy.

Him: What are you?

Me: *exhales* I’m your angel for the night.

Mind you, I wasn’t talking about anything other than guarding his soul so that whatever forces within him could work in peace. Connecting with someone is such a pleasurable experience and too many people sexualize the event.

Sexualization is a defense mechanism against connection. Not because sex isn’t a good way to connect, but because our society twists sex into something it cannot be.

Him: I hurt so much. What is wrong with me?

Me: You’ve forgotten how to dream.

Him: Life is hard.

Me: You’ve been running away. You’ve forgotten how to dream. When you face life, you learn. When you have dreams, you have purpose. I’m hoping you’ll face these challenges while sober.

Him: *drunken pondering* *nods* Fair enough.

He was quiet for a little while as we smoked cigarettes and I prayed I wasn’t fucking this up too badly. I was doing what I could to stay open, to not make this about me, and to listen instead of talk.

Me: Why do you hate yourself?

Him: I do hate myself. A lot. *flings arm out to take in the festivities* What do you see when you look at all these people?

Me: *observes the string lights, the swirl of black clad bodies with hints of color, the inebriated faces wreathed with smiles, and the air full of laughter and crude jokes*

He tried to drown his demons, not knowing they could swim.

Me: I see people who want to love and to connect on a deep soul level. I see them floundering as they try to find their way because the true path to connection has been crowded with distractions. I see people who hurt. I see people who want to laugh and be happy.

Him: We’re here for them? They are us?

Me: Yes, and we are them.

After that profound statement, we returned to my friends. I told my friends where I had been and what had happened. They agreed I should continue my assigned mission.

Many of you will think I had to choose, but I didn’t. My friends know me, and they know my purpose in this reality. This was the biggest take away for me and I don’t know if I’ve ever felt this humbled or grateful in my life.

We are all loved. We are all connected.

I swam in a sea of human energies and I was recognized. It’s a sense of arrival and I want everyone to feel this connection.

I had a deep and insightful conversation with his friends after he had been put to bed. His friends love him dearly. He is a wonderful man when he’s sober.

I may not see the outcome of my influence. I haphazardly followed the plan of something greater than one human being. Despite this man’s stumbling in the dark, I had become an instrument of love and light, a lamp shining in the darkness of his life.

You would not be chosen for this bewildering experience if you weren’t ready.

But in this apparent “tragedy” I took away one very important understanding. We are all loved. We are all connected. Angels touch our lives all the time and when we need them most.

You may be called to perform this angelic duty. You may stand in the eye of another’s storm, a beacon in the dark, before the gales and torrents claim him again.

Remind him to dream. To dream big. To embrace the glory of his purpose here in these fragile, flesh-bags we call home. You would not be chosen for this bewildering experience if you weren’t ready. You are enough to change the course of a generation with the flutter of your butterfly wings.

©2020. I.O. Kirkwood. All rights reserved. Pictures may be subject to copyright.

ComCon: Ascension Handout 1-9-20


1-9-2020The Bridge Logo

This week’s topic is about raising your vibrations by recognizing spiritually abusive behaviors that denigrate and separate and the spiritually supportive behaviors that affirm and integrate on all levels of existence.

Next Step: we plan to include an audio and/or video podcast so that people around the world may participate. If you are interested in donating time or resources to provide support to the Spiritually Awakening of Humanity, please contact I.O. Kirkwood at iokirkwood@live.com.


  1. Disassociation and Narcissism: I am not here, or I am all that matters
  2. Mental Rigidity: My way or the highway
  3. Emotional Fracturing: The splintering of the soul caused by abuse
  4. Carelessness: Negligence and insensitivity
  5. Deceit: Not just lying but manipulating the biases of others to cause them harm
  6. Dependence: Allowing another to dictate your behavior
  7. False Reality Delusions: Fake news and propaganda
  8. Divided Competition: power-over mentality, divide and conquer


  1. Empathy and Compassion: Realizing that we are all one, Kindness for self and others
  2. Mental Openness: Receptive to new ideas
  3. Emotional Stability: Integration of psyche; Refusal to participate in self-sacrifice
  4. Responsibility: Every thought, word, and deed is yours
  5. Honesty: Emotional clarity; is it true, is it necessary, is it kind?
  6. Autonomy or Sovereignty: Self-governed, self-sustained, self-supported; Boundaries
  7. Reality Assessment: Making decisions based on the information you have in that moment with mental and emotional clarity and without attachment to the outcome
  8. Unified Cooperation: Interdependence, Creating holistic systems, Empowerment

Regardless of your belief system, the greatest Adversary we face is EGO: not government, not religion, not corporations, but you and I as we engage in (self-) abusive behaviors.

Your best defense against all “attack” is to identify these abusive behaviors and use supportive behaviors to counteract them.

After community, feel free to leave your thoughts and comments below.

Source: www.ascensionglossary.com (click on headers to reach specific topics)

The Bridge Healing Center is a 501(c)(3) organization that provides spiritual services to the Lightworker Community. The center is located at the Westminster Town Mall, 4 N. Center Street, Westminster MD  21157.





In addition to the lovely and vicious Bipolar II, I also have several of her escorts: OCD, PTSD, General Anxiety Disorder, and Major Depressive Disorder. The anxiety and depression are responding to the medication. Even the PTSD is tempered, but the Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder requires a medication that makes all the rest harder to manage.

OCD is a fear of death or a sense of impending misfortune if certain rituals aren’t performed. Sometimes you only have one element, but usually the two stomp hand-in-hand through a sufferer’s life.

Obsession is an idea or thought that continually occupies or intrudes on a person’s mind. The obsession is always unsettling, agitating, and/or terrifying. One of my “favorite” obsessions was visions of wrapping my infant in plastic wrap and watching him die.

He’s still alive, just turned 19, in case you were wondering. But I don’t watch the news anymore for obvious reasons. What? You think I came up with that shit on my own?

Compulsion is an irresistible urge to behave in a certain way, especially against one’s conscious wishes. My life was a nightmare at one point. I woke up at night and had to leave the comfort of my bed to perform a ritual of considerable complexity.

I tried to fight it. I would lie in bed and stare at the ceiling as anxiety built in my chest, as the compulsion fed itself from my powerful imagination. It’s like Restless Leg Syndrome, only in my mind. The feeling drove me from my bed and into a loop of obnoxious and sometimes frightening behaviors.

“Logically, I knew this was a ridiculous waste of time and peace of mind, but I couldn’t stop the cycle.”


My ritual began with the front door. Is it locked? Never mind that I locked it myself before going to bed that evening. Afterwards I checked the sliding door and the steel back door in the basement.

After that, I walked up the stairs and checked the deck’s sliding door. Once that was done, I would check the knobs on the gas stove to make sure they were off. Then I would sniff around the stove to make sure I didn’t smell any gas.

Then I would visit my three-year old’s room. I would lick my finger and place it under his nose to make sure he was still breathing. Finally, I would return to my room, at which time I would shake out all the blankets over my sleeping ex’s body to make sure no Brown Recluse spiders lay in wait.

I followed this exact ritual three to four times a night for several months. There were no deviations in the order of the steps. Logically, I knew this was a ridiculous waste of time and peace of mind, but I couldn’t stop the cycle. The PTSD didn’t help at all because all of my obsessions and compulsions were safety-driven.

“I do believe that the rise of mental illness in America has been created over generations of dysfunctional coping mechanisms.”


The struggle is real, my friends. We all joke about how people we know seem OCD. But it’s not very funny. The humor alleviates the discomfort of those who don’t understand.

OCD isn’t the hell of Bipolar. It’s the purgatory of physiological brain illnesses. As if you are redeeming yourself while you struggle to shed these obsessions and compulsions.

OCD keeps you up at night. It destroys relationships, causes hoarding, and can develop into agoraphobia. I know from personal experience on all the above. I know the illness doesn’t go away, not completely.

I do believe that the rise of mental illness in America has been created over generations of dysfunctional coping mechanisms. Passed down from mother to daughter, father to son, the symptoms have increased in intensity as the culture feeds off the illness.

It’s like a chicken-versus-the egg kind of scenario. Is it physiology or culture that creates these neurotic chicks? I’m not a medical professional, so I can’t answer that question based on research, but my personal experience is that the hereditary, default factory settings create a predisposition.

“In our American culture of violence against women and children, regardless of gender, OCD is a sickness that blames the prey for not escaping.”


Example: your family may have a default factory setting for heart disease. Will it manifest in you? Depends. There is no condition in the physiology yet, only the possible development of the condition. Outside factors contribute, but it might only take one Twinkie to trigger the condition.

Society is a merciless trigger. The relentless lack of security in American culture develops the predisposition into a nightmare for the sufferer. Violence, abuse, social shaming, and other boundary violations are prime culprits.

OCD is an illness of fear, of an intense desire to feel secure. Because you have experienced some sort of violence, you become susceptible to the condition. It only takes one event. One. In our American culture of violence against women and children, regardless of gender, OCD is a sickness that blames the prey for not escaping.

Contra-social behavior should be treated as an illness and early on. I can’t imagine any child going out of his or her way to behave in a manner that causes ostracization from the peer group. Unchecked, the behavior is purposefully exaggerated by some teenagers. That’s when it looks deliberate but it’s still an illness. And yes, some of them are socio- and psycho-paths, but that’s still an illness.

“My Rx is this: Kindness, Awareness, and Compassion.”


I have suggestions on how to reduce the number of people who develop the illness. How about we all take a vow to be kind to each other? Some of our number will always disappoint, but there are plenty of “well” people out there who could create a safety net for those who are at risk.

My Rx is this: Kindness, Awareness, and Compassion. Learn about boundaries and what happens when those boundaries are violated. Understand that contra-social behavior is not a moral weakness but a physical one.

Reach out to those who could use some help. Gently nudge your “anti-social” and/or “self-destructive” friend to get help, whether a type of therapy, medication, or both. They may just be socially awkward but better safe than struggling with remorse.

You don’t have to do any of the above, but those around you, the ones who hurt, would be very grateful if you did.

©2018. I.O.Kirkwood. All rights reserved for text. Image may be subject to copyright.

Suicide Is NOT Sudden

Considering recent news, I wanted to add my two cents into the dialogue. I feel I’m qualified to enlighten those of you who think that suicide is “sudden.”

The human instinct to survive is Herculean in its efforts to keep one alive. It is damn near impossible to want to end one’s own life. I’ve read stories of people amputating limbs to survive. Better to bleed to death trying to escape than lay down and die.

The only time, the only time, a human feels the need to take his own life is when the torture of existence is too great to bear. Even seppuku is an attempt to escape unbearable shame, one that would follow the person to the ends of the earth. Better to avoid the pain all together.

But suicide is not a mind-set in the West. It isn’t a cry for attention. It’s the last resort.

I’ve said before that I had planned my own suicide. I can hear the reactions now if I’d followed through: “She’s the last person I would have expected to commit suicide.” “She was always so bubbly and full of life.” “She was always willing to help and always wore a smile.”

Even my children would have been shocked, and they lived with me through the worst of my battle.

We only hear about the successful suicides.

The “sudden” suicides.


But this is the norm for people who suffer from bipolar. The untreated condition sucks the joy out of living and turns the sufferer into a non-functioning lump of self-loathing.

You cannot conflate healthy depression with bipolar II or any other “mental” illness. If you are one of the many lucky ones, you have no idea and I would never want you to understand from personal experience.

Emotional pain isn’t enough to cause suicide. If you are legitimately depressed because of a death in the family or a break up, that’s normal. You aren’t going to kill yourself. You’ll work through it and each day, the pain will recede just a little.

Maybe you won’t eat or will eat too much. Maybe you won’t sleep or will sleep too much. You might cry for a month, but it’s not the same kind of depression that someone with bipolar experiences. It’s not something you can escape. My body refuses to cooperate.

The hallmark of bipolar II is the mixed state. This state is a combination of depression and anxiety. The sicker I got, the worse it got. It took every drop of my energy to function at work. I had a constant buzz in my head, like a table saw, and often, it buzzed through the tender flesh in my head.

I not only feel emotionally ill, I am physically ill during a mixed state. The force of a migraine, that stabbing agony behind one eye, the nausea, the vertigo, attacks my entire head. My joints ache.

I went to the hospital during an episode and they could find nothing wrong with me. The prognosis was an “atypical” migraine, whatever the hell that means. I was in pain. My head hurt, like nails were scraping the inside of my skull.

But very few of us can articulate the pain. We’ve been suffering for so long that our pain receptors have short-circuited. In fact, we cause ourselves physical pain, through cutting, tattoos, piercings, and other methods (I like to rip out hang nails), to distract ourselves from the ever-present pain of being awake.

Into each life a little rain must fall. People with bipolar II understand this. We’re compassionate because we understand pain. We’re kind and empathetic to another’s distress.

But we don’t get April showers. We live with monsoons, hurricanes, and sometimes tsunamis of agony.

A fucking tsunami. The kind that devours everything in its path. Many of us suffer alone. Some, like myself, go to the hospital but doctors can’t find what is hurting us. They don’t have the tools to measure what hurts, or the knowledge.

There are moments of surcease. We’re upbeat, happy, and full of energy. It’s called a hypomania and it’s like the sun breaking through the clouds after a storm.

This is a state of joy that is transcendental. You are one with the universe. You can taste colors and sound, almost as if your body has flooded you with a googolplex of endorphins. It is an all-natural acid trip.

But is it worth the ensuing pain? No.

The pain is torture. You cry because you hurt, if you cry at all. You drag through your days and act as if nothing is wrong. No one sees what you endure. No one knows that you’re dying inside. You deliver an Oscar-worthy performance despite the illness.

But there is no such thing as “mental” illness. It’s physical. If it was a “mental” illness, medication would not work at all. But our society has stigmatized those who suffer, and we remain silent. Not for our own sake, but for the sake of our family and friends. We want to spare them the shame.

Until it becomes too much to bear. The pain, the suffering, the crushing loneliness all contribute to the eventual, and often unsuccessful, attempt to take one’s own life. We only hear about the successful suicides. The “sudden” suicides.

©2018. I.O. Kirkwood. All rights reserved for text. Image may be subject to copyright.

When Legend’s Rise: Godsmack’s Pluto Transit

When Legends Rise

April 27, 2018

Spinefarm Records

Godsmack has always been the one artist that voiced the feelings that I locked away beneath a smiling façade. As the band grew, my appreciation for their work grew.

Until—1000 HP.

I called it “canned” Godsmack. I demanded something more, something better, than revisiting a past that no longer held relevance. I wanted the grrrr and the soul. I wanted the contained release of fury tempered by experience.

Every good composer has a formula and it’s one that works. It gives a frame work, but it isn’t an excuse to stick to the tried and trope.

I admit, I avoided listening to the new album, When Legends Rise. Disappointment feels the same as heart break and I don’t have enough heart left to afford it.

But Godsmack delivered this time around.

Is it gritty? To a degree that it blends the old with the new and drops bombs of nostalgia (bitches). There’s still a few growls, riffs, and groovy rhythms left in the ol’ fellers.

Is it pop? Eh, for those snobs who act like Godsmack is the Yanni of the hard rock/heavy metal genre, maybe (may you rot in your self-importance along with your testosterone-poisoned idiocy).

Was it meant to appeal to a wider audience? Yes.

Was it manufactured or “canned?” I’ll give that a no.

“When Legends Rise,” is a perfect front-load song. It felt like a nod to power metal, rather than an attempt to be heavy. There is an epic quality to the lyrics and the cleanness of Erna’s vocals showcases the range and depth of his voice.

Of course, there’s “Bulletproof,” another pleasing front-load that was issued as the first single with an interesting video accompaniment. I’m still trying to figure out if Pasquale’s leisure suit was ashes of lime green or ashes of goldenrod in color, but I digress.

Once we get past the hit-makers, things get interesting. You can see the formula. Every good composer has a formula and it’s one that works. It gives a frame work, but it isn’t an excuse to stick to the tried and trope.

Treading a path of authenticity is an evolution. Sometimes it devolves into mimicry and many times it opens a doorway into unexpected creativity and fulfillment.

Frameworks give the freedom to experiment, and what I really enjoyed about the remainder of the songs were the sudden changes, unexpected changes, in the melodies, especially demonstrated by Rombola’s guitar.

I enjoyed the addition of hand drums without going overboard. I enjoyed how the children’s choir kicked off the song “Unforgettable.” A ballad in “Under Your Scars,” no less? (And I loved it??) These risks may be calculated but still frightening as hell if you wrestle with the continuity of a career.

I’m a lyrics person. I want to know every word that is sung. I want to know what it means, and while familiar themes of Erna’s past efforts are present, they are coupled with new imagery that is deeper and burns a hell of a lot more because no one shakes mortality or loneliness.

I think the only song that didn’t quite fit the album was “Eye of the Storm.” It felt like an add-on, and that always bothers me. Perhaps a few more listens will warm me up, but I am very pleased with the album overall and glad I spent my cash on a preorder.

Treading a path of authenticity is an evolution. Sometimes it devolves into mimicry and many times it opens a doorway into unexpected creativity and fulfillment. If you’re in a group and they’re on board, ready to deliver solid musicianship, then you’ve got a platform for artistic integrity.

Rating: 4.2

©2018. I.O. Kirkwood. All rights reserved for text. Images may be subject to copyright.

The Beast Within

She drank every blade of flame;

Gazed deep into his Dante eyes

Pressed soft lips to the embers

of his pain.


A taste of cool rain and soft,

evening skies. A tender sigh.


Eyes the depth of ancient groves;

Her dew-drenched touch

trailed mist across his burning skin.


©2018. I.O. Kirkwood. All rights reserved for text. Image may be subject to copyright.

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