Jacquese Armstrong | Edison, NJ

For Jacquese (she/her), the isolation of quarantine sparks flashbacks of a time nearly 40 years ago when psychosis, depression, paranoia, and anxiety held her captive in her apartment. Instead of focusing on the details of her past trauma, she puts to use what helped her so many years ago: her creative mind.

The aloneness of COVID 19 doesn’t distress me. I’ve always been an escapist. As a child, my main escape route was through books. I lived the character or injected myself into the story.

Story Transcript:

Negotiating Spaces

In my head, it is that small hollow space with a front room, bedroom, bath and kitchenette, my first apartment. It is a warp in time, a twilight zone. I have no fond memories there. This is the place where I lost my world. This is the place where I lost my mind…

I was 20 when my world got turned upside down and came to a halt. That was 38 years ago. It has never been any semblance of same since. It’s been a long raggedy mile.

But, here I stand, in another apartment that feels like the first, the sole inhabitant. And, the world has been turned on its head again. Only this time, I have company. Or do I?

I’m not bound to my shelter like before though. The shackles of psychosis, paranoia, and the confusion of delusion are not keeping me tearfully and emotionally drained in that hollow space. No, it threatens to work backwards this time. COVID has formed shackles that will not let me roam freely.

First, I am traumatized by the remembrance of the start of the end of a certain light that once existed as me. And, I had to mourn her again. Thankfully, I’ve been through enough therapy to know what was happening. But still, there were tears and emotional draining.

I can’t believe I’ve lived to see the lights go out on Broadway twice.

Instead of giving into trauma, because I’ve dealt with her before, I built a fortress against her butt. I’ve always been an escapist and now that there’s nowhere to go…I guess I’ll have to fight. Now in my mind and in my poetry, I’m a warrior; but I only come out of that bag, if I want to.

Never thought I’d say that living all my adult life challenged by psychosis, depression, paranoia, anxiety and the rest of her friends is an asset, but you can see where I’m going with this.

So, among other things I create expressive arts workshops for mental wellness. I started using this time to amp up my game. I joined every free artistic workshop I came across online and a few technical ones too. I’ve been answering every call for writings or poetry I run across, keep more than one art journal, gratitude journal, do daily devotions and am developing online alternatives for my workshops.

I try to give myself no time to think of the “no escape” angle, it reminds me of the shackles of psychosis and I’d rather not go back there but heed the lessons taught.

So, I try not to go to that small hollow space with a front room, bedroom, bath and kitchenette. The warp in time, the twilight zone. The place where I have no fond memories. The place where I lost my world. The place where I lost my mind…

Instead, I concentrate on creating art from the emotions that hollow space left me with.