Walk on Water


Walk on Water (1)


I was maybe ten or eleven. My feet, dressed in navy blue Keds, dangled over the water. I could see the soles and my dark knee-length socks reflected in the water. I sat on the edge of a pier and found that peaceful part inside myself. It was a part of me that I could only find when I was alone.

I know my family thought I was odd. Sitting on the end of a pier over the calm waters of the Magothy River, I could feel their eyes on my back. From the warm den with its picture window, they wondered about me. They worried about a girl who would choose to sit out in the chilly, overcast March day, Easter no less, than in the warmth with her family.

But I was content here. I was wrapped in my own little world of magic and probabilities. I’m not quite sure what I was dreaming at the time, but a voice interrupted.

I knew the voice wasn’t outside of me. I wasn’t sure if it was me or someone – something else, but I could hear its words very clearly.

“Walk on water.”


“Walk on water.”

I hesitated. How was I supposed to walk on water? Like Jesus. Jesus was a miracle worker. I doubted I was.

“Go on. You can do it.”

The bottom of my feet tingled, right through the soles of my shoes, and my body felt weird. Lighter. The water beckoned, and I wondered if I had finally lost my mind.

I felt like two people in that space between two moments. The breeze froze. Sound halted. Even the gleaming ripples held their place as if caught in a photograph.

I was torn between faith and terror. I knew in a very deep part of myself that this walking-on-water thing was a possibility. I understood on a visceral level that I was able to bend space and time with my thoughts. But was it probable? And what would happen?

My mind raced over the potential fallout. I could fail miserably. I’d sink into the water, floundering and freezing, and end up in the hospital. First the ER and then the sanitarium because I had clearly tried to commit suicide. And I heard voices. Tsk, tsk.

I could succeed. My family would watch me walk to shore, unharmed, dry as a bone, and serene as a perfect, summer day. I would be canonized as a saint by the Pope no less. My grandmother would be so proud. “I made her come to church every Sunday.”

And no one would leave me alone. I would be pursued, hassled, and asked to perform the miracle again and again. Scientists would study me, even want to dissect me, and I would become a ward of the United States government. Perhaps to use as a weapon against Russia.

Either way, I would die inside. I thought of my brothers, alone with the monster that consumed our father and helpless beneath the indifference of our mother. I knew I was all that stood between them and the madness of our home life.

I didn’t want any of it. And as the voice continued to cajole me, I chose to do nothing. Well, I chose to argue with the voice, and this was something I did not do to an authority.


I waited for punishment, for reprobation, and for rejection.

“Why?” was all the voice asked.

“I’m needed here. This is the path I chose.”

I could feel the voice’s silence in my head like a pressure.  Weight squeezed me into something small and insignificant. I struggled against the heaviness.

Perhaps I was a coward. Perhaps I had chosen the devil-I-know. I’m sure I did. Fear is a many-splendored prison. But I knew that any way I sliced this bread, all the pieces were stale.

The scrutiny, the concern, and the potential for imprisonment was too great if I chose to act on the voice’s demand. Though I was in a different prison, I knew that eventually, I could escape.

I also knew I had work to do. I had children to raise and words to write. I had dreams to pursue and a life to build. I had my humanity and I had plans to develop it to the highest heights I could reach.

The voice stopped cajoling as it watched the visions that unfolded in my head. I felt the pressure ease and let out a sigh of relief.

“Very well. You have made your choice.”

I blinked. The chilly breeze caressed my cheek. Sound flooded my ears with the lap of water against wood and the call of a hungry seagull. The waves threw muted flashes of light into the dark cavern beneath the pier.

I was alone again. I was sane again. Mostly.

I rose to my feet, dusted off my skirt, and shivered. I had never remembered an experience like that. I had other instances of insanity, but none had made me feel as small and frightened as this one.

I studied my grandparents’ house, which looked like one of the models that Pop Pop would place around his beloved Christmas train garden. On Easter, the garden was carefully stored away for the next Christmas.

I returned to the stifling warmth of family. I picked through the basket of candy I’d been given. I pulled Easter grass from my hair. I argued with my brothers (“Stop touching me!”) as we returned home.

I felt relief as my head hit the pillow. The status quo had been maintained for everyone but me. My brothers were as safe as I could keep them, wrapped in the bliss of ignorance.

Only I was changed forever and to this day, that moment on the pier haunts me.

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

Suicide, My Sweet Suicide


Suicide my sweet suicide

I wrote this post on August 21, 2018. I do not claim to have predicted this tragedy. I.O.


I know I’m a little late on the draw, and that my carefully considered opinion may not help in the aftermath, but when Jill Janus of Huntress took her life, it left me stunned. Not because it seemed unlikely. I’m too much of a realist to be shocked by suicide, especially when committed by someone battling mental illness.

Jill was very open about her mental illness. She struggled with it every day and somehow managed to put a good face on it. I didn’t know her personally, but her bravery and honesty encouraged me to do the same. I realize now that she is my hero out of all the people I could choose.

Today, as I suffer for going to a concert on a Sunday – just going to a concert, not performing like she did – sent a shiver through me. Will I be next? Will I end it just to escape a particularly bad spell out of a handful of bad spells?

Because I have them. I will repeat myself until not only the sufferers understand, but those blessed to not have any way of relating to their suffering loved ones. On an average of every two to three weeks, I’m reminded of why I take my medication every day.

Jill was very open about her mental illness.

I have bad times, almost 26 episodes in a year that may last anywhere from 1-5 days at a time. Very few people know this about me. Even my loved ones are shocked when I tell them.

But these episodes are mild in comparison to untreated bipolar. I’m grateful this is all that is happening instead of a full blown relapse. I have a significant degree of control over my wellness now.

I am currently suffering from a migraine, a syndrome that often goes hand in hand with Bipolar. I didn’t drink or do anything weird this past Sunday, but the act of going to a concert, of enjoying myself, has a price.

I travel for work. One to two-hour drives, one-way. I love what I do. I do a job that gives my life meaning and that helps others. But I can’t work back-to-back days like that. I can’t work week-long details in the heat of August like I used to.

…the act of going to a concert, of enjoying myself, has a price.

This isn’t getting old and decrepit. I know plenty of people older than me who are tired, yes, but not debilitated by such work. I would need an entire week to recover. I would need to lie in bed most of the day.

I plan rest around what I do, rather than the other way around. I slept for most of the next day after the Grand Canyon. I took naps in between every activity on my vacation because I HAD to. When I was awake, I was full of vim and vigor. But I had to recharge because each activity exacted not only a physical toll but an emotional toll.

All those people. Fucking everywhere. Some so rude my blood simmered. I can’t imagine how it must be to have everyone in your face because you are a well-known and respected musician like Jill. As much as I’d appreciate the people supporting my work, I’d snap at some point.

I have gotten to the place where I tell my friends, “I love you. I want to see you again, but right now, I cannot people anymore.” Because I want to be able to tell them the same thing twenty-five years from now.

I can’t imagine how it must be to have everyone in your face because you are a well-known and respected musician like Jill.

My comrades in arms, boundaries are a good thing. Being actively nice or in performance mode all the time doesn’t get you anything but exhausted. There is a point where giving and giving and giving becomes a psychotic nightmare.

Take care of yourselves. Rest. Acknowledge that rest is not a weakness but a way to build your strength. If someone can’t handle your need to rest, get rid of him. If someone refuses to respect your boundaries, send her packing. Sometimes, you’ll have to be firm, and that’s a shame, but kindness can be disguised in assertiveness.

I know it’s hard. Believe me, I know. I’ve been told I’m kind to a fault. But I want to live. I want to enjoy life. I do not want to slide into the darkness that Jill fought to keep at bay.

I want her to be proud of me. I want her words and deeds to carry forward. I want her to know that wherever she is now, imperfectly perfect as she was, she had an impact. She saved lives, mine included.

I do not want to slide into the darkness that Jill fought to keep at bay….She saved lives, mine included.

To Jill’s family, I convey my deepest sympathy. You understood well enough to support her through her nightmare the way she needed. Relinquish blame. You stood by her side through all of it and you are brave and noble people. I hope others learn from your resilience and compassion.

You will not be forgotten, Jill. Even by people who have never met you. There is no shame to what you did or didn’t do. To me, you are a fallen hero and I will carry the standard, wave the flag, shout to the skies that you were never weak. You, sweet Jill, were stronger than many. Rest in peace.

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