She gently placed three electrodes on my chest.  Sinus rhythm, minimal tachy she assures me as I lay in anticipation of drugs that will float me in tingles to worlds I know not.

What is that symbol on your necklace, she asks?

“It is the symbol of the Baha’i Faith…”


This piece is in response to a WordPress prompt to tell a story spawning from a source of inspiration, found in any form and told in any fashion.

Weekly Writing Challenge: Fifty-Word Inspiration

Hope in the Form of Light

The sun rises, in a foreboding nature, its early glancing rays the instillers of trepidation

Trepidation channeled in the quick exchanges, the goodbyes, the prayers

Offered quietly before waltzing with the asphalt in the bleak but simultaneously effulgent display

The car is hungry, growling for a morning meal

We stop at the pump, satiate its hunger and move on our way

My sister sips from a plastic bottle while I desperately attempt to dampen my dehydrated mouth

No food, no water. The river runs dry and fruitless

The sun continues to rise as I continue to plummet in anticipation

I arrive at the hospital, uncover myself from the comfort of my quilt

Grasp the stuffed dog I have named Puppy, who has accompanied me thirty-seven times

And I trudge my way through the sliding doors, check in with my ID and card

Proceed to the Surgical Prep Area

Puppy and I are soon whisked to the inner layer, the mysterious fortress where many enter and

Not all have the privilege to leave

Bay nineteen, oh my favorite number, I revel silently as I quickly don a hospital gown and paper booties

Feeling down, depressed, or hopeless – nearly every day

Having thoughts of hurting yourself or of suicide – nearly every day

So goes the depression screening

Pinch as a needle creeps into my vein, a flash of blood, success

Is my memory going? Well there is a determining exam

Today’s result? Negative, the woods are clear for now

Sticker time, EKG, EEG, so many machines, so many stickers

A burst of electricity passes through the conductor paste they have so carefully placed

On each side of my head

One, two, three seconds… Nearly a minute passes of hopeful seizing

Wondering if anything will ever work, if anything will ever bring peace.


This piece is in response to the WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge: Flash Fiction.  The challenge was to write a brief story – 300 words or less.  I chose to present mine in a semi-poetical nature.  Hopefully I was successful.


Unmet Expectations

In life, we set for ourselves a multitude of expectations, anywhere from I will walk my dog every morning and evening to I will work ceaselessly to jump through these hurdles and obstacles in order to attain this goal (whatever it may be).  Oftentimes we meet or surpass our expectations for ourselves, and quite often we fall devastatingly short.  Others in our lives, work, institutions, etc., also impose standards and expectations on us as individuals, and the possible consequences of unmet expectations can be disheartening and dire.  Perhaps our greatest critic in the evaluation of personally held expectations and expectations arising from others in our lives is ourselves.  Yes, one did not receive the promotion at work they were so ardently striving for.  Harsh self-judgment and dwindling self esteem ensue, creating a perfect storm for the deterioration of self and who they perceive themselves to be.  The boss or supervisor in the position of offering the promotion feels little or no repercussion on behalf of the employee failing to meet their expectation.  That is not to say that the boss or supervisor did not hold an expectation as well in investing in the employee to perform in such a manner.  However the main point is this: we hold ourselves to a multitude of expectations, some lofty and unattainable, some feasible and achievable, and at times some far beyond the confines of our abilities to attempt or achieve.  When we fail, in our eyes, we challenge our inherent worth as individuals and create conditions for the development of that perfect storm in which all emotions come to head and the blame and belittling of oneself manifest.  

I have held many expectations for myself over the course of my lifetime – audition and be accepted into various symphonies, achieve honors in piano evaluations and competitions, graduate valedictorian of my high school class.  I have achieved some expectations, while others have fallen to the wayside, as is the natural course of life.  I hit a point in my early teens in which I felt as though I was consistently not meeting the expectations I was continually setting for myself.  Being valedictorian became an impossibility, as I did not graduate from high school, instead completing the California High School Proficiency Exam, which was a direct result of the worsening of my bipolar symptoms and a steady increase in the amount of hospitalizations I was experiencing.  I have so devotedly endeavored to complete college, and have been attempting so since the age of seventeen, but I have not yet met this expectation that I strictly hold, and always have held, for myself.  I spent a few years in community college, taking classes on and off while constantly fighting this beast of an illness, and eventually transferred to Portland State University.  I spent three years there, nearly finishing my degree, when the hospitalizations (5) began again after six years of dormancy, and I began an unrelenting series of outpatient programs, appointments, ECT treatments, etc.  It does not look as if I will be able to return anytime soon, though I pray for fall.

I struggle with self esteem and self worth in my failure to meet this expectation.  It is one that I have been struggling and fighting unyieldingly.  Surviving my battles has shown that blame and nurturing the feelings of inadequacy are counterproductive and ill-inducing to the mind and the esteem in which we hold ourselves.  In this ceaseless process, I have learned something of utmost importance.  The outcome of our expectations, our fights – whether positive or negative – is irrelevant.  What is relevant is the love and compassion we hold for ourselves in the twisted, convoluted process of developing and setting expectations for ourselves and others, and not falling into the trap of self-deprecation when the results are contrary to what our minds forecasted them to be.  Expectations should be a process of growth and not opportunities that come with tags proclaiming either success or failure.  While I struggle daily with feelings of frustration and failure, I try to remember to offer myself feelings of love and compassion, and also appreciation and understanding for the path I have trodden, where I currently stand, and the roads I may tread in the future.


WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge: Great Expectations

Time Bomb

A mind is like a time bomb,

In more ways than one.

Our lives tick away

Until a moment of silent

Detonation and our souls pass peacefully

To the next world.

The ticking in my mind

Began as the soft ticking of a

Grandfather clock and over the years

Became the deafening boom of a

Tympani residing deep within my head.

Was this death, the conclusion of my life

Resting in such closeness,

Its bitterness tickling the tip of my tongue?

At such an inopportune time,

The time bomb detonated with great explosion

Reverberating through all of aspects of my life,

Leaving my mind shattered and in utter disrepair.

Oh, I found it was not death

I was to succumb to,

But rather a fate far worse

And devastating than death itself.


© 2014 Alexandra Shall


This poem is in response to the WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge: Time for Poetry.  I wrote this poem in my mid-teens.  I have reworked it a bit, but I wanted the original essence to remain, embracing any imperfections.  I see it as a snapshot of myself at that age – my emotions, my thoughts, my cognitive processes – and I appreciate the simplicity of the piece, not too many bells and whistles.  Returning to older poems provides me with a concrete, definitive illustration of where I have been, my journey, and where I am now.  I find delight and thanksgiving in this process.


This piece (I am unsure of what to categorize it as) is in response to the WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge.  The challenge for this week was to write a piece composed of fifty words – no more, no less.  What I have written is dark and perhaps disturbing.  This could very possibly be a reflection of my mood today.  The following is my take on the challenge.

Can fifty words have the power to absolve

Break open the flood gates of eternal guilt

Erase the muddy tracks of demons

Who have waltzed across my arms

Give back to me what was taken on a summer night

How glorious, how simple it would be

The power of fifty

Weekly Writing Challenge: Fifty

Searching for Silence

Starting in second grade, early signs of my illness began to manifest – obsessiveness, anger, extreme agitation and irritability, inappropriate responses to events.  By third grade, I was engaging in psychotherapy weekly.  As the years passed, my symptoms became more extreme, building and building, not seeming to reach a peak and abate.  With the growing intensity and instability of my disorder, my mind began to awaken from slumber.  It began with a hello and slight whisper.  It talked to me with both joviality and malice.  Simultaneously it was both my friend and my enemy, my torturer with the sole key to the prison in which I perpetually resided.  Construction workers began to build superhighways with no exits and a perilous absence of enforced speed.  My mind developed and grew rapidly, with such rapidity that I landed myself in the psychiatric hospital for the first time at the age of fourteen.  I was depressed beyond measure and nearly catatonic, yet my mind was there.  I talked.  It willingly talked back, offering macabre and disturbing dialogues.  Though my affect was flat and indicative of a major depressive episode, those superhighways were still running, cars speeding with disregard.  I was never alone.  Never.

As I recovered and shifted into several episodes of mania, those superhighways began to speed up.  We continued to chat, nearly incessantly.  I no longer existed in the physical world, and my connection to it was severed.  People, places, and conversations could not break the barrier.  My awareness of what existed around me vanished.  Everything entered one ear and quickly passed through the other.  My mind was solely my domain.  No one had the ability nor privilege to know the inner workings of it.

My mind has never quieted.  It still drowns out most of my environment and outer world, and it shrouds the names and faces of those around me.  I struggle to retain information.  Although, I am never without a companion, friend or fiend.  I remember much of my life as trying to slow the superhighways in order to find silence and solace.  I have pumped dozens of antipsychotics, antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, and mood stabilizers into my body in attempt to stabilize the misfiring neurons and disordered chemicals and neurotransmitters, though little of these drugs have worked.  My unstable mind has yet to find silence, and surprisingly that is acceptable to me.  In fact, I see it as a blessing.  You may ask, why am I comfortable and embracing of the lack of silence and the incessant noise that exists within my head?  It is because I am never without conversation and entertainment, and I do not know who or what I would be if silence ensued.  I have come to love my chatter and my unquietness.  While the opportunity to experience silence for a moment would be warmly welcomed, I would quickly sweep it away and draw my longtime companion back home.

Weekly Writing Challenge: The Sound of Silence