Letter From the Editor

Nikki Gonzalez

Art, we know, inevitably imitates life. Though, it is often no fine line at all that separates an artist from their work but, instead, a thick and wide bog of gray that we trudge through; connections revealed only in shadows and glimpses. This is certainly true for my selection of each issue’s theme. I can’t help but to extract from the situations in my own life, from the things that are quietly gnawing in the recesses of my own mind at the moment. There is, without a doubt, a bit of me in each selection, even if they are pulled unconsciously. But, in calling these themes out – in putting my voice to them – I can stare them down and grapple with them. What’s more is knowing I have an entire community (my parliament!) of writers, artists, and readers joining me, standing ready to add their voices  – even if their own words with the theme may sound a little different than mine.

 

And so, MANIA.

 

Characterized by the DSM-V, mania presents itself for clinical diagnosis as “a distinct period of abnormally and persistently elevated, expansive, or irritable mood, lasting at least one week”. Emil Kraepelin described mania succinctly as ‘increased busyness’.   But we don’t need clinical certification to know it. It’s the mind that just won’t rest. The energetic itch to just do! do! do! something, anything; to stay busy and distracted. The ideas, the activity, and the ego, too, all grown uncontrollably big.  We’ve each contended with this to our own degree. But we – in these pages! – confront it with our talent. 

 

We use our LANGUAGE. We harness the words to square off with mania. We SPEAK to it, knowing that silence offers no power at all. We will not hide behind others, let them speak for us. And we, too, take on the roots of the discord, whoever or whatever it may be flaming its fires, by addressing them, insisting with our words that they step in front of us and be dealt with. It’s scary, no doubt, but our words are our weapons and our shields, alike. There are no cowards in these pages.

 

And, as I promised – as I always promise – we take on mania in true Parliament style – both reverently and irreverently, as it deserves. Our contributors’ works in the pages that follow battle with the theme with humor and stoicism; with creativity and with hands open bare. All possess bravery .They could have chosen to cower into silence. Instead, they face it with their own words.  This includes submissions to our extra call on our social media pages for #manicthoughts. Throughout these pages are people’s thoughts -- the funny, the serious, and the disturbing, alike -- sent in and shared boldly.

 

BUT … 

 

Permit me a moment to step up on my soapbox and veer slightly now. Here is where things get personal. There is a disparity in perception of mental phenomenon like mania, one that spans all of history. 

 

Try something with me? Let’s play a little word association to access the schema folders of your brain that propel your thoughts and interactions unconsciously on a daily basis. Ready?  When I say ‘emotionally hysterical’, you say _______? When I ask you to close your eyes as I say ‘emotionally hysterical’ what picture paints in your mind? More specifically, who comes to mind?

 

Is it a woman? You couldn’t be faulted if she does. A misogyny lurks and it’s been sneaking, squatting there for some time. 

 

The word ‘hysterical’ comes from the Greek ‘hystera’ meaning womb, originally believed to be the physiological center to hysteria’s onset. In Ancient Egypt, for example, spontaneous movements of the uterus were blamed, and uterine repositioning treatments were performed. Sex(!), however, was the cure put forward by Greek physician Melampus, who posited uterine melancholy (I kid you not) and its resulting hysteria symptoms, stemmed from lack of orgasms.  Surprisingly, it would be Sigmund Freud, the notable misogynist himself, who would allow for the consideration of male hysteria. But that’s still thousands of years of deeply-rooted beliefs to contend with. And the word, too, remains.

 

And, damn, do words matter. Language is power in scripting our perception.

 

So, as a result, she comes to mind. She is labeled with words like ‘coercive’ and ‘manipulative’. She is ‘emotional’. She is not given the benefit of clear perspective because your opinions of her have been long-ago shaped, even if you don’t know her. With only fragments of her story, you have 

already shouldered her with your judgment rather than offer the assistance she asked for. She doesn’t get believed. Even as she has the evidence ready in her hands to present.

 

(But she’ll learn. She won’t ever return to you for help again.)

 

We have painted the pages of this journal, all of us, of all gender identities, with our evidence in words and art. We vocalize even in the face of fear. Believe us or not. Label us ‘manipulative’ or not. But here we are, our feet firmly planted, ready to scream if we must at the mania and the labels (and labelers), both. We don’t cower in silence. There is no safety there, after all. There are no solutions there. We speak bravely.

 

Let me step down now off of this box. Let me take a defiant breath. (I’m certain you - those of you that needed to hear this, those of you who my finger points directly at, hiding though you may be –  have heard me, after all, and understood.) But let me continue to talk about bravery for just a moment longer.  This bravery comes in the form of a diminutive woman of just 18 years. A woman whose origins could very well have scripted her life powerless. Instead, she is here, on these pages boldly. Angela McCarthy provided the art for this issue’s Art Inspired Contest and I am delighted to showcase her talents that are only beginning to emerge into their full potential. Angela’s personality oozes into her work. Raw. Powerful. Confident. Art imitating life, as it does. 

 

Thank you to our contributors and to you, our readers, who join us and embolden us to continue to face the themes of life.

 

Nikki Gonzalez

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