Salem: Part Two

After the plane touched down in Boston I was completely elated. I kept looking at the itinerary that I made for myself on the plane and was ready to embark on my new adventure. After gathering my luggage and walking for what seemed like fourteen miles to the rideshare pick up lot, I met with a lovely man who just so happened to be my Lyft driver. On the way to Salem from Boston, he showed me awesome looking buildings with such enthusiasm, and it gave me reassurance that I made the right choice with choosing Salem for my first solo trip.

I was staying in downtown Salem, and boy was it different than what I had been expecting. It was small. Like incredibly small. There was one section of the town where my hotel was that had older cobblestone, so the only vehicles that were allowed to drive on it were delivery vehicles. As a first impression, Salem left me in awe. The town seemed quaint and adorable, which was shocking to me due to the morbid history that took place on its very land. There was a cemetery that was a two-minute walk from my hotel, museums galore, and homes that were centuries old. There were shops and small restaurants everywhere, and they were incredibly enticing. I was so excited to start exploring and to learn as much as I could possibly learn about the place that I had always wanted to visit. 

My hotel, Hotel Salem, was hands down the best hotel that I have ever stayed at. I saw the same people basically every day and had pleasant conversations with one person in particular. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming, and the hotel was GORGEOUS. I checked in early, and my room had just been cleaned and set up for my arrival, so the door was sitting open waiting for me to occupy what was inside. When I saw my room my jaw literally unhinged itself and involuntarily opened. I stood there, in shock and in amazement at how perfect the room was. I actually left my room just to make sure that I was in the correct spot, and to my excitement, I was. When I travel, which is rare might I add, I usually stay in Holiday Inns or places like that. So I was expecting the same old same old with my hotel, but what I got was so much better than anywhere I have ever stayed. The ceilings were tall. I am not great with measuring heights and whatnot, but I would estimate probably like twenty-five-foot ceilings. I had a king-sized bed with multiple pillows, (which I got extra excited about because I was going to have that all to myself) and I immediately wanted to curl up in it and take a happiness nap. My bathroom was probably the most beautiful bathroom that I have ever seen. There was this stunning dark blue tile on the walls and in the shower, which I immediately told my husband I wanted for our bathroom. The tub was huge and it looked like I could easily unwind in it, and the shower was pure magic. The shower was huge, and every day after exploring I would just hibernate in the shower for a bit to unwind. That hotel made me comfortable and relaxed, and I will stay there every time I go back to Salem. Oh! And I simply can’t forget to mention that my room had an interesting little bonus feature to it. I am pretty convinced that a spirit lingers there. One of my dresser drawers kept opening as if my little friend kept trying to prank me. One night it kept opening and every time I would turn my back after closing it would open right back up. I was (am) still so convinced that it was a spirit that I set up my phone on video to try to catch it in action, but I think my spirit was too smart to be caught. Sneaky little bastard. 

Anyways, after seeing my room I was exhausted from not sleeping the night before and from traveling, so I simply ordered some lunch and took a much needed two-hour nap in my ginormous comfy bed that I could actually sleep on diagonally. It was a spiritual experience having that kind of restful slumber. When I awoke from my nap I was so out of it that I had to remind myself where I was. I got up, splashed my face with some water to help wake me up more, and then I grabbed my jacket to go explore my temporary home. 

I feel like I started exploring at the perfect time. It was chilly, but not too chilly. And the sun was starting to go down. As I mentioned before, there was a cemetery that was about a two-minute walk from my hotel room. So I decided to make my way towards that spot. When I arrived at the cemetery I was shocked that it was actually one of the places that I wanted to explore. I was at Old Burying Point Cemetery, which is the oldest cemetery in Salem. It was beautiful. It was a lot smaller than I was expecting, but man it still took my breath away. The gravestones were incredibly old, and just seeing them was very humbling. You know I am not oblivious to the fact that one day I will die just like everyone else, but even with that knowledge there still is that sense of invincibility. I know that I will die, but it is still hard to process that. But seeing all of these graves, all of these people whose ages ranged from a year old to people well in their eighties, it reminds you of the fragility of life. The cemetery was the most peaceful spot in Salem in my opinion, and I could easily spend hours there. But the sun was almost completely set and everything was starting to shut down, so I headed back to my hotel for some rest. 

I actually went back to Old Burying Point multiple times during my time in Salem because of the peace that I felt almost became addictive. I loved looking at each gravestone and paying my respects to the people who are there. I felt such a magnetic energy pulling me to Old Burying Point, almost as if the spirits of the people that were residing there were trying to keep me there to tell me something. Call me crazy, but I do believe that spirits are a real thing. And I think that when we die, we learn everything that there is to learn about the universe and about life. Every single secret becomes common knowledge, and I think the people on the other side are screaming at us to listen to them. They want us to know these secrets, and maybe we just aren’t listening. Anyways, now that you guys know that I am crazy, (hi, I’m Brookana) Old Burying Point is as breathtaking and beautiful as they come. It is hands down my most favorite part of Salem. 

Luckily, adjacent to Old Burying Point was the Salem Witch Trials Memorial. This particular memorial was for the victims of the witch trials, and it was truly moving. The memorial had large stones with each of the victim’s names engraved onto them, and it seemed as if that was Salem’s way of trying to apologize to each of the people that they executed. Some of the stones even had flowers on them, which I found beautiful. It is important to remember that despite how fascinating the history of the trials is, there were still innocent lives that were taken and we should always remember who they were. I visited the memorial three times while I was in Salem, and each time I felt a tremendous amount of sorrow for the souls whose lives were stolen from them.

 

 

Another great memorial that I visited was Proctor’s Ledge, which was where the victims of the witch trials were hung. I found this memorial even more moving than the Salem Witch Trials Memorial. I felt as if I could feel this heaviness to me. I was grieving the loss of these innocent people, people who lived many centuries before me. I can’t imagine the fear and the agony that they felt, and the pain that their families felt when they were taken away from them. When I learned about the witch trials back in middle school they never really talked about the humanity behind the victims that were executed. They never talked about the repercussions that the families had to face or the torment that the victims had experienced. But seeing the place where the majority of the victims took their final breath is an indescribable feeling. It is a chilling feeling. A feeling of pure terror and disgust. And it makes you respect the trials even more because of the people who had their lives wrongfully stolen from them. 

I also paid a visit to the Salem Witch Museum. This was a cute little museum that consisted of two exhibits, and I feel like I definitely learned a lot about how the trials had begun and the hysteria behind it all. The first exhibit was basically the story of the trials told over a loudspeaker and the second exhibit talked about the history of witchcraft. It was a very interesting experience, and I am happy that I went. 

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Past six o’clock at night there isn’t really much to do in Salem since all of the shops pretty much close down, so I decided to embark on a walking tour through Salem Night Tour. The tour meeting spot was a shock to me. We met at a store that sold Harry Potter merchandise, and I knew that I was about to have a wonderful evening. I even purchased my very first wand. The tour was a lot of fun. I was in a smaller group, which I loved because it gave me an opportunity to ask the tour guide questions when one would arise. They were very knowledgeable about Salem’s past, and I found myself to be intrigued throughout the entire tour. We walked by where the prison used to be during the trials, we walked by Salems Town Hall where the movie “Hocus Pocus” had filmed a scene, we walked past Old Burying Point, and we walked by the house that the board game “Clue” was based on. The stories that the guide told us were equal parts scary, horrifying, and enthralling, and despite the chilly weather, I had such a great time gaining more knowledge on Salem’s past. 

The Witch House. There is not enough time to discuss how much I loved Witch House. The Witch House is a home that was owned by Jonathan Corwin, who just so happened to be a judge during the trials. I was told that eighty percent of that house is original, and I could feel that that was true. I did a self-guided tour throughout the home, where I was fortunate enough to see many pieces of furniture that are dated back centuries. Throughout the home were various papers that had intriguing facts about how people lived back in the 1600-1700s, and it was totally captivating. There was something about the house that had a similar magnetic energy to the energy that I felt at Old Burying Point. I felt oddly comfortable in that house. Like I never wanted to leave. It felt peaceful and welcoming, and like a place where I could learn so much. It was one of those places where you could feel the history, and it just made me feel like I went back in time and experienced what it was like living in that house back then. But it wasn’t just the history that made me feel like I never wanted to leave. There was the sweetest woman who worked there that was incredibly knowledgeable about not just Witch House, but Salem as a whole. I definitely monopolized her time for upwards of forty minutes, just asking her questions about the home and about Salem. She answered every question that I had and was eager to share the history of Salem with me. She even showed me markings around the house that left me in awe. There were builders marks and marks of protection etched into the walls and ceilings of the house, and it made me feel as if I found a time machine and when back to the 1600s when the house was built. I was fascinated, and the house still has me fascinated to this very day. I would say that Witch House is my second favorite place to visit in Salem. There is so much to learn about the trials and about that time period, and the house helps you understand the history so much more.

 

A fun little activity that I decided to do was get another tattoo. There was a tattoo shop that was about a minute walk from my hotel called Witch City Ink, so to commemorate my first solo trip, which happens to be my most favorite trip that I have ever been on, I got a witch hat with a couple of sprigs. The shop was incredible, and my artist was so talented, and I constantly catch myself staring in awe at my newest addition.

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There are a ton of really adorable shops in downtown Salem, but my favorite shop hands down has got to be Emporium 32. They have a fantastic collection of oddities and just cool items that range from books, art, alcohol cups, absinthe spoons, jewelry, and hats. Everything was so unique and breathtaking, and I spent more money than I would like to admit at that store. My wallet is going to be in trouble for when we buy our house because I found out that they ship artwork and I plan on utilizing that convenience

There is so much to see, do and learn in Salem. Everything about Salem is so special to me. I loved the feeling that I felt in Old Burying Point and Witch House where I felt like I could feel the history. I loved learning about everything that happened there and why everything happened. Even though downtown Salem was adorable and beautiful, the history of the land is unscathed, and that morbid feeling that you get from that pain and suffering also turns into appreciation and gratitude for the generations that have lived before you. It truly is a magical town filled with magical curiosities.

I am Falling

I am falling. 

When it comes to my depression and anxiety, I never know what each day is going to look like. Some days I feel like I can live a functional life, while some days I can barely get out of bed.

I am falling.

Just as I thought everything was starting to look up, I realized that I was starting to come back down.

I am falling.

Internally I am screaming for help as loud as I can, but as desperate as I am to reach out to others I am afraid to burden them.

I am falling.

There is a tiny voice in my head that keeps taunting me. “Here we go again. Brookana is falling into another low.” I want to grab my mind and shake it, I want to scream “SHUT UP” and “LEAVE ME ALONE” but I know whatever I do I won’t be able to quiet the voice. 

I am falling. 

I haven’t cut in a decent amount of time, and the only reason I am writing right now is to distract myself. I see my scars on my thighs, the marks that represent that desperation to feel something, to satisfy my mind. I don’t want any more of these reminders, but the amount of strength that it is taking to not pick up my blade is exhausting. 

I am falling.

I haven’t left my house in three days.

I am falling.

I am isolating.

I am falling.

I am not sleeping.

I am falling.

I wonder what it is like to not have to experience depression and anxiety. Is it as sweet as I imagine it to be? Not having to worry about sinking, not having to worry about bleeding, not having to think about how your own mind is trying to sabotage your life. How freeing it must feel to not have anxiety that dictates what you can and can not do, to have this warden in your own personal prison, to have the power to literally take your breath away and make you feel like you are dying.

I am falling.

I imagine my life is a giant rabbit hole. I keep falling and falling until I can finally grip something and pull myself up, and then out of nowhere I slip and I am falling again. If I hit the ground, that means I am gone, but if I can eventually pull myself up I could finally experience living.

I am falling. 

My cat won’t leave my side. I think he can sense something is wrong.

I am falling.

This time around, I refuse to say that I am fine until I actually feel fine.

I am falling.

I am breathing. With each breath that I inhale and with each movement of my chest reminds me that I have more life to live. 

I am falling.

I need time to work through this.

I am falling.

Just like every other time I sink into a low, I know I will be okay.

I am falling.

I am strong but I am fragile

I am strong but I am fragile. 

I have had people tell me that I am weak because of my mental health. I have had people tell me that I need to cope better with life. I have had people tell me that I need to grow up. I have had people tell me to put my big girl panties on.

I am strong but I am fragile. 

I feel like I am like a windshield with a crack. With time the crack gets bigger and bigger until you fix it or it just shatters. 

I am strong but I am fragile. 

My strength stems from not following through with the things that my plagued mind wants me to do. Pills, knives and the garage give me haunting thoughts that chill me. I don’t want to do anything, but sometimes I do. I am constantly in a fight with myself, with my heart and my mind constantly playing an intense game of tug of war. I want to stay but I want to go. At the end of the day, I choose to stay so my heart always narrowly beats my mind. 

I am strong but I am fragile. 

I have worked so hard on making the best out of my life. Medication and therapy have been incredibly helpful. The days where I wake up and I don’t feel like I want to die are my favorite days. Being in love feels sweeter, being outside with the air caressing my skin feels freer, friendship feels more special, life just feels like it is finally getting easier. I can breathe, I can appreciate, I can feel bliss. 

I am strong but I am fragile.

As hard as I work on my strength and my well-being, it can also be easy for me to crash right back down. My mind is funny that way. I have a strong inkling that my mind is sitting at the edge of its seat, just waiting for something inconvenient or unfortunate to happen so it can have another chance to bring me down. Sometimes my mind can swoop in so fast to bring me down that I can almost feel my heart break from defeat. Here we go again, time to fight for life once more.

I am strong but I am fragile. 

When my mind wants me to end my life I do whatever I can do fight against it. I listen to music. I snuggle with my animals. I clean. As much as I try to distract myself, my mind can sometimes be stronger than me. It has this need for me to harm myself, and it won’t shut my thoughts down until it is somehow satisfied. So it is almost like we make a deal, or a compromise one might say. So when I dig into my skin with that razor it is almost like I can breathe again. I held up my end of the bargain, and now I can have a few moments of freedom from my tormenting mind. 

I am strong but I am fragile. 

I am sick, but I am trying to get better.

I am strong but I am fragile. 

I want to live.

I am strong but I am fragile.

Changes

It has been a year and a half since I have been able to sit at my desk and open up my heart and soul to the world. A year and a half of pain, tears, laughs, and big decisions. Many moments of loneliness, worry, pain, love, and excitement have ticked away.  A lot has happened since I was able to write, and now I am ecstatic to finally be doing what I have been longing for so long. Here are some things that have changed within the past year and a half:

 

  1. My beautiful, loving, wonderful furbaby Lupin passed away in October 2018. There were about three times in the past year and a half where I thought that I was going to die, and this was one of them. Without going into too much detail, Lupin suffered from a urinary obstruction that landed him in the hospital for a while. The vet warned us that it could happen again, however, since he was so young he couldn’t tell us when it might happen again. Less than a week after his release another obstruction occurred, and that is when we decided to surgically widen his urethra to prevent this from ever happening again. Although the surgery was successful, Lupin was unable to cope with all of the trauma and sedatives and passed away about two weeks after the surgery. Lupins’ death took a part of me that I will never get back. Anyone who knows me knows that my animals are my world, and I literally felt a piece of my soul get ripped right out of me the moment Lupin drew his last breath. It was when this was all happening that I was almost involuntarily placed in the hospital for being suicidal. I was in such a bad place that I admitted to my endocrinologist (who also monitored my mental health) that I was having suicidal thoughts, and she wanted to send me to the hospital. I convinced her not to do that (which I regret) and she ended up calling my psychiatrist to see if he could see me right away. He also wanted me to go to the hospital, but I eventually talked him out of it by agreeing to different medications as well as seeing him weekly. 
  2. Stephen and I adopted a new cat. After Lupins’ death I needed to place my negative feelings somewhere where they could become positive. That is when Arya came along. Arya was a six month old kitten named Lindy when we first saw her, and I fell in love with her the moment my eyes landed on her. Arya is so petite and tiny, and yet so spunky and insane. She keeps me laughing from the moment I wake up in the morning until the moment I close my eyes at night, and my soul is so happy that she is my daughter. 
  3. Stephen and I made a huge decision back in February to move back home to Chicago. This decision actually came to us while we were visiting our family back at home, and it was definitely unexpected. We had been toying with the idea of moving back home for a while, but then on the last night of our visit I woke up to several missed calls and text messages from my friends that were watching our apartment and our cats that our apartment had caught fire. Also, to add more trauma to the situation, they couldn’t find my cat Gimli. I just remember crying and throwing up from the stress, and frantically trying to figure out how we could get down to Dallas last minute. Luckily my friend was able to get Arya, but the idea of Gimli being missing, as well as my friends being in danger from the fire, sent me over the edge. Stephen and I were set to fly home at eight that night, but unfortunately, it was too expensive to change our flight to an earlier time. That was one of the most agonizing days that I have ever experienced, but something good came out of it. One of my friends remembered that there was a small hut that was being remodeled near our apartment, so I called the apartment complex to see if they could go see if Gimli had sought out shelter there. After about forty-five minutes of waiting, I got a phone call saying that they had found Gimli in the hut and that he was safe and not hurt! Tears uncontrollably just streamed down my face for what seemed like a lifetime. Tears of sweet relief and bliss. Everyone was safe, no one was hurt, and Stephen and I were about to be reunited with our furfamily once more. It was when that fire happened that Stephen and I ultimately decided that where we were living was too tainted from all of the bad memories that had happened there, and that was when we had decided to move back home.
  4. Earlier this year I experienced another severe low. This low started in about April, and to be frank I am still coming out of it. As all of you know, my lows tend to be very scary. With that being said, this one has been quite a doozy. I think that the scariest thing about my depression is that my suicidal thoughts start to become more and more frequent. Usually, the thought of suicide alone scares me, but this time around the scariest part about my suicidal thoughts was the idea of actually doing it wasn’t scary to me anymore. I honestly can’t tell you how many times I have come close to actually doing something to myself within this past year and a half, and especially since April. Because of this, my cutting was starting to become an everyday thing, to the point where I would go out of my way to try to hide it from Stephen. Somehow Stephen would always find out what I had done, and because of my downward spiral, Stephen sat me down and said that if I didn’t try harder to get some help in Chicago then he would have to leave me. He couldn’t handle the stress of constantly wondering if he was going to come home from work and find me dead, and the fact that I was cutting myself so frequently made him even more upset. So I found a new psychiatrist, and I have been speaking to a therapist a couple times a week. I still have my really off days, but I do feel like I am finally getting better. 
  5. One of the reasons why I was diagnosed with PTSD this year was because of a sexual assault that I was a victim of before I met Stephen. I will get more into this at a later time, but looking back it has been something that always did trigger me. I suppose I never knew the extent of the damage that it had done to me until I started to talk about it more. For the past few months I have been really trying to heal from that past incident, and I hope that healing from that trauma will help with my future low episodes. 

 

So those are some changes that have been a part of my life for the past year and a half. If I have learned anything at all it would be that I need to allow myself time to heal from the past and not look down on myself if I have a setback. Words can not describe how free I feel right now, and I can feel my passion through the tips of my fingers.