Browsing Tag


Guest Posts, Mental Health

Promises and Lies

March 7, 2018

CW: This essay discusses suicide. If you or someone you know needs immediate help, please call 911. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting CONNECT to 74174. The world needs you.

By Jen Soong

In a cramped motel room, I stared silently into the dark, lying still as a corpse. Until recently, I had been studying at a prestigious university, my future beckoning brightly. My father kept vigil over me, still his little girl. The distance separating us — a few feet, at most — felt like an unbridgeable gulf.

Jen-ni-fer, he said, his once-steady voice cracking as he broke the silence. Promise me you’ll never try that again.

I promise, I lied softly, knowing those were the words he needed to hear. Lying proved to be easier than living. No, I’m not having any thoughts of harming myself. I lied to the clinician to gain my release from the locked hospital ward after my dad arrived. Yes, I will seek help if I have those thoughts again.

The next day, I repeated those lies to a disinterested psychiatrist in a drab beige office, tuning out his line of inquiry about my ethnicity. A verbal no-harm agreement. Like a security blanket, it generally works only if the child tucked underneath believes it. Let’s play pretend. I knew my lines to deliver, even if they weren’t completely honest.

I took too many sleeping pills. Truth is a slippery slope. I just wanted to sleep. If I never spoke the words out loud—that I was tired of living—was I technically lying? If the bitter truth, a suicide attempt, is never examined in the light of day, then it can stay buried in the past, like the ghosts of my ancestors.

We don’t talk about these things.

Earlier that day, my dad questioned why I had run away when I was a kid, a time I could still cry out for help. He was desperate to connect the dots and reach a logical conclusion. My father, armed with a PhD in electrical engineering, will read a manual from beginning to end before attempting to fiddle with anything.

Daughters don’t come with manuals. My dad was my protector; once he scolded the boy who crashed a bike that caused my skinned knees. Dirt and tears, these could be wiped away with his pocket handkerchief. Protecting me from myself was not a formula he could solve.

Depression runs in my family. My dad’s mother committed suicide when she was 59. The last time he saw her alive was 1956, before he boarded a freight ship from Taiwan to study in America. Thirteen years later, he flew back to his homeland for her funeral. After the service, he learned she killed herself. His sister had discovered her body in the bathroom along with a suicide note.

We don’t talk about these things.

Late at night during family gatherings when I was still young, adults whispered in hushed tones in the kitchen, usually with fruit — likely oranges or Asian pears — peels and peanut shells littered on paper plates at the table. The secrets swirled in the air, sucking the oxygen out of the room. When I entered, my body immediately tensed, torn between wanting to know and needing to escape.

Often, I would descend into the basement to play mah-jong with my cousins, shuffling tiles and competing for red and blue poker chips, never revealing what lay behind our tile walls. It was easier to hide our hurts, mask our missteps, swallow our pride. If we never questioned our elders, then perhaps we would take home the greatest jackpot.

This unwritten bargain will be familiar to immigrant children, whispered softly like a mother’s lullaby. We will make unimaginable sacrifices to raise you in America, land of riches, and you will play the role of the dutiful daughter, living a life of immeasurable happiness.

Lying in bed that night, I couldn’t find the words to explain to my dad how lost I felt. Depression had stolen my voice, betrayed my mind and filled my soul with an insidious darkness. No map could lead me out of this bleak, nameless place. Instead, I lay in wait, knowing my dad, my hero, would sacrifice his life to light the way home.

Jen Soong is a writer and brand strategist with more than two decades of media and marketing experience. The daughter of Chinese immigrants, she grew up in a small town in New Jersey, lived in NYC, Boston and London before moving to Atlanta in 2005. A graduate of Cornell University, Jen is working on a memoir about one woman’s struggle to understand her depression and her family’s history of suicide.

Donate to the Aleksander Fund today. Click the photo read about Julia, who lost her baby, and what the fund is.

Family, Guest Posts


January 28, 2018

By Sheila Grace Stuewe

I darted into my neighborhood Hallmark store and held my breath. To my left stood an endcap stacked with plastic potpourri bags. Who’d buy that? Someone with a sewer back up? Homes should smell of pancakes on Sunday morning as mine once did, not like chemically altered flowers.

Past the dust-catching collectibles—statues, candles, and ornaments—to the rack of Father’s Day cards, I sped. I didn’t know why I had an urge to send Dad a card. In September, he’d reached the three-quarters of a century mark. He wasn’t going to live forever even with his Prussian peasant genes—stocky, sturdy, stubborn, and seemingly impervious to the effects of decades-long alcohol abuse. And I needed to stop exhuming what may or may not have happened forty years ago.

Standing in the middle of the dad-of-the-year aisle, I felt my throat close—an allergic reaction to that artificial scent? I coughed. I tried to swallow. I rifled through my purse for a bubble gum ball (the only kind I’ll chew—no mint for me). I popped it into my mouth. As my teeth bit through its hard surface, a burst of cherry—red, tart, yet much sweeter than the real thing—my childhood favorite. If only I were on a swing in Marquette Park, Dad pushing me higher, me leaning all the way back, my legs soaring in the air. Instead, surrounded by doodads and sentimentality, I wondered if I’d find a card I could send my father. Continue Reading…

#metoo, Abuse, Guest Posts

On Harvey Weinstein, #MeToo, My Past and My Daughter’s Future

January 21, 2018

CW: This essay discusses sexual assault. If you or someone you know has been assaulted, find help and the resources you need by calling the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673, or visit

By Jane Rosenberg LaForge

My father was a storyteller. He most enjoyed telling stories about his family, my sister and I included, how life befuddled and bedazzled us, as it did to his immigrant parents. He consumed novels, newspapers, and magazine articles, and then sought out his usual interlocutors, my mother among them, to comb through every last detail so he might glean the correct implications. But he hated science fiction and fantasy, because so much was left to hocus pocus, or some deux de machine that you had to accept, lest you deflate the whole project.

My father also experimented with religions other than the Judaism he was born into. He investigated everything from Scientology to Catholicism, because he wanted   a “proscribed life” without the endless debate of the familiar Talmud. He wanted to rely on an already tried wisdom, not just rituals but an ethos that would be all encompassing and reassuring.  That he wanted this spelling out of what to do and how to do it on his own, secular terms belied the purpose of religion, and he wound up settling for a life of doubt, since the alternative—faith—could not be explained in rational terms, and was too supernatural. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts, Young Voices

I Am A Thief

December 8, 2017

Note from Jen Pastiloff, founder of The Manifest-Station. This is part of our Young Voices Series for Girl Power: You Are Enough. We are always looking for more writing from YOU! Make sure you follow us on instagram at @GirlPowerYouAreEnough and on Facebook here.

By Gabriella Geisinger

I am a thief.

At age fourteen I began shoplifting. It was part of my teenage rebellion. A ring here, a bracelet there; a tube of mascara or lipstick would find their way stealthily into my pockets as I sauntered, impervious, past cash registers. I only acquired items that were small enough to conceal in the palm of my hand. By age eighteen the habit had waned. My first year at college provided whatever psychological freedom I required to keep the mild kleptomania at bay – for the most part.

With adolescent abandon, my freshman year passed uneventfully by. August soon became May and I packed up several suitcases, shoving them into our Pampolna’d bull of a car – a black minivan with a nasty habit of spewing maple syrup scented steam when it over heated – and returned to New York City for my first summer at home in three years. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, parents


October 11, 2017

By Acacia Blackwell

My mother told me that my father had the sweetest breath in the world. This was a man who chews tobacco and has been known to go for weeks at a time without brushing his teeth. “And you have it too,” she said. She leaned her face close to mine. Millimeters. The kind of proximity reserved for mothers and lovers. She said, “Breathe on me.” My mother closed her eyes and inhaled my breath like she was breathing in a part of my being. The way I inhale my lover’s armpits, craving the raw, human intimacy of sweat. “Yep,” she said, opening her eyes, “sweet breath and too much gums in your smile. You are your father’s daughter.”

Father’s daughter. Fathers’ daughter. Fathers. Daughter.

Once, when I was almost but not quite yet a legal adult, I managed to piss my mother off in the way that only teenaged daughters really can. She seethed but for the first time I didn’t back down from her rage. I raged back. Her glare receded—a softening—and she offered only a resignation that, “You are me. And your father. But you might be more of somebody else than both of us combined. He didn’t bring you into the world, but he clearly brought you up in it.” Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts

Practising Grief

September 11, 2017

By Julie Butler

I’ve braced for my father’s death my whole life.

Dad was two decades older than my friends’ fathers. As soon as I could understand mortality and average life expectancy, I counted down the years and milestones I might have left to share with him. I became a child who practised grief.

As a teenager, I snooped through the folds of his wallet to find the neat, white envelope where he kept his nitroglycerin, as though keeping a secret inventory confirming that he had slipped a tiny tablet under his tongue might protect me from shock if his heart gave out. That was the threat in all my worried forecasts; a sudden, massive, lethal myocardial infarction.

There were times I believed I’d arrived at that eventuality, bursting through the backdoor, my bare feet descending two porch steps at a time. I anticipated the snip of pruning shears that would prove to be too much exertion. Yet, Dad’s heart defied my worry. So focused on what may come suddenly, I did not consider that death may slowly claim him, and in minute pieces. There was no rehearsal for dementia. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts, healing

Over and Over

July 5, 2017

By Jessica Knuth

There is an unexpected sense of loneliness in watching the dead body of someone you love being taken away from your home. Alone in the back of a car. Zipped up inside a body bag. Driving away into resounding blackness.

Somehow, in your delirium, through the tears and snot, through the sharp pains in your chest and loved ones touching your shoulders, your hair, somehow you manage to walk down the hallway where your Dad should be sleeping, where he has slept your entire life, and you look inside his bedroom, though you know you shouldn’t. The bed is unmade, sheets jumbled and repositioned in haste. There is a stain on the bed and you can’t tell if it’s blood, or urine, or vomit. Otherwise, the room is the same as it was two hours earlier when he was still alive. When his lungs still worked. His heart, his brain, however limited. Before he went from present tense to past tense. Animate to inanimate. Living to dead. Continue Reading…

Fatherhood, Guest Posts, parenting

My Age of Fatherhood

June 28, 2017

By Vincent J. Fitzgerald

Parenthood was the furthest thing on my mind when you were thrust upon me, but I undertook the charge, and its grown-up responsibilities, because part of me desired to be a grown up. You were fragile, vulnerable, and needed me close. Fatherhood was the first time in my life someone needed me to survive, and although often confounded by its tasks, I adapted, and was saved from reckless games my peers played. I never looked back, fixed my eyes on you, and hoped your future bright.

Divorce darkened that future for a while, but I remained a steady presence during the death of our family. Infidelity and deception devastated you, and although you had grown some, you still needed my shoulder to provide your tears a place to land. The whole affair rocked you at peak suggestibility, and although my wounds were also deep, I ignored them to ensure I tended to yours.

You had been hospitalized for a million days during which I prayed for your return. The moment you felt the victory of verdure, we imploded, and I feared you would return to where people never smiled, and medicine was measured by voltage. It was more worry than could fit in me, but mine was a malleable mind, and it expanded to the point of burst synapse. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts

Beach Town Liberalism, And An Answer For My Deceased Dad

June 18, 2017

By Deidre Reed

It’s Father’s Day, the first one since my dad passed six months ago. Tomorrow is my birthday.  We’re in church, my mom and me.

I lit a candle for my dad, but by the time we got to the last row where my mom’s wheelchair fits, it had blown out. Being full of magical thinking and even more full of guilt, I spent a good while staring it down, willing it to spontaneously light up again.  Certain the dud wick meant that my dad was still pissed at me from The Big Upstairs.  Maybe I’m still a little pissed at him, too.

Halfway through the sermon, the family to our right – all five of them – doubled over with the giggles. That has to be one of the greatest feelings ever, when you get the giggles in church and just. cannot. stop. I nudged my mom and whispered that it reminded me of that Christmas Eve service, remember?  Where we’d sat behind that lady with one roller left in her hair, right smack in the back of her head? We’d taken turns pretending to pluck it out in slow-motion while stifling snorts.

If you’ve ever known someone with dementia, you know that weird things can set off barking laughter, and that did it.  But when my mom laughs now, it turns into something that sounds like she’s wailing and choking and possibly dying.  It echoes, people sometimes shift and look away. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts

The Life of This Grief

December 9, 2016

By Lesley Harper

When I was a kid, I had panic attacks. I worried when my dad went into the bathroom late at night that he may not come out and that we would find him swinging in there once one of us was brave enough to open the door. I would close my eyes and hold my breath waiting for the sound of the toilet flushing and the footsteps back to his bed. My mind would play tricks and my heart would sometimes skip one of its beats when I felt there was about to be a gunshot or the sound of him stepping off the side of the tub and into his death. I didn’t have the word depression then or any of the qualifiers so often accompanying the word: clinical, chronic, cyclical, situational. But I had a profound understanding that my father was deeply sad and I lived in constant fear of the damage his sadness created in our home. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts

I Am My Father’s Daughter

July 31, 2016

By Chamisa Wheeler

It’s OK, I tell my 37 year old self…

It’s really not.

I have not seen my father in 27 years until 2 days ago.

2 days ago,  I said Hello and a final Goodbye, in person, as my dad is lying in a bed, dying in a nursing home, after a short visit of 25 minutes and it was apparent it was time to leave…I said “I love you Dad”with a kiss on his forehead and walked out of the room.

Excuse my french, but what the fuck do you do with that?

Backtrack to last week:

I got THE phone call last week. The ONE call, I knew would happen at some point, for many years now, knowing it would come, and still not knowing what the hell I would with it when it came.

I had  thoughts before…had visions of what could happen. I saw myself driving with my brothers to go see our dad…see the town he lived in, called home. Hoped it wouldn’t be at his funeral, but in my thoughts, it was possible…Or maybe we wouldn’t go at all.

Had many years to think about this moment and I thought I had prepared myself. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, writing

Guidelines For Submission

July 13, 2016

By Katie Lee Ellision

When an essay I had written about my father was accepted for publication in 2013, I decided on a rule for letting him know about it. I would send him a finalized copy of the piece before it went live or to print–not so that he could decide whether or not it would be published, but just so that he knew what I had written and where it would be. I thought this was fair to both of us. So when I got the final from the editor, I called my father up, though we hadn’t been speaking much at that point.

I won’t spend time on the details about why my father and I hadn’t been in regular touch—that’s a much bigger story I’m writing. What I do want to talk about–and for a long time I couldn’t talk about anything else–is his reaction and its effect on me and my writing.

When I called to tell him about the publication, he was congratulatory and eager to read it.

“So…” he said, “is this about you and me when you were a kid or…?”

“Just read it, dad,” I said, and he said okay. Continue Reading…

Eating/Food, Family, Guest Posts


July 8, 2016

By Vincent J. Fitzgerald

A week prior to my father’s arrival for his annual ten day visit, I am stricken by a plague of hyperawareness about my shape, and as much as I long to see him, I fear judgments to come. On the day of his arrival I am bloated with turmoil while I drive to pick him up from the airport. I have failed to reach his weight expectations, and a glance at my belly hanging over my seatbelt distracts me. At 44 years old, his approval of me maintains its pricelessness, and bearing extra weight is the same as presenting him with a subpar report card. To discern which way best hides my shame, I alternate pulling my shirt down, then rolling it up while I wait for him to exit the terminal. He struts out the door all swagger and smile while I suck in my gut until spleen hits spine. He scans me from afar, leering at my midsection, and I feel objectified.

My kiss on his cheek is a lone dividend of a childhood marred by paternal detachment, and I am grateful for it. When he pulls back to assess me, I cover my midsection with his carry on, and wonder how much baggage he brought with him this year. Body weight has become his obsession in recent years, but the central focus is my weight, not his own. He executes scrutiny the way narcissistic parents do, baking criticism within supportive suggestions, and belching health warnings to induce fear. On the ride back to my home, I try to update him about my kids, career, and impending nuptials, but zone out to complaints about his wife and professed love of his dogs. The conversation takes its inevitable turn towards all things gastronomic, and his saltiness seasons our dialogue at random intervals for the ensuing ten days. Continue Reading…

Family, Guest Posts

Dressage: The Story of A Father, A Daughter, And A Horse

June 19, 2016

By Mary Wysong-Haeri

My legs and seat move with the horse, absorbing his gait. My sits bones move with his rhythm: one-two-three-four is walk; one-two, one-two, is the power of the trot; and the canter is a waltz, one-two-three, one-two-three, as wind whips past my ears. It whistles like a kiss.

The power of his body moves through me and I try to look like I am not moving even as every part of my body is in motion. There is contact in the reins to control his shoulders and my seat drives his hind legs. Each of my legs moves separately to control his gait and keep him straight. I am always afraid on my horse: he has a mind of his own and I cannot be certain of what he will do at any given moment, but I ride him, I love him, the more for that.


I was lost when the streetlamps came on. There weren’t enough of them and, frightened, I ran from one circle of light to the next. I had promised my mother that I would walk home from my friend’s house. I don’t remember the name of the friend or what she looked like or where we played, in her bedroom or the yard or both. I know the sun was low and the sky darkening when her mother sent me home. Continue Reading…