Posted by: marilynmayamendoza | September 25, 2020

Mirror, Mirror, not on my wall

You can guess the end of the sentence; I am not the prettiest of them all. People are often surprised I don’t own a mirror other than the bathroom one I don’t look into. So, it’s not a wild guess to surmise that I am not a fan of seeing myself on video. I had the cool experience of being part of a poetry slam that was filmed for local TV and internet. It was a great experience in person but seeing it on my computer made me feel sick. You see,  I have a form of body dysmorphia disorder. It’s official. I took a test on the internet and checked off all the boxes except for skin picking. I had acne at 10 and my mother had screamed, “Don’t touch your face” too many times for me to go there. I know where my physical flaws lie and don’t want to go there, but I went there. I wanted to see if my poetry was a hit. The video hit me, and not in a good way. My appearance was stunning, and not in a good way. To be fair, I had a series of mishaps while getting ready. The dress I was supposed to wear had a stain and no cleaners in my town has a one hour service. Heck, we don’t even have a three-day service, so I was forced to wear a dress and sweater that was a teeny bit tight, and no way was I going to not wear a sweater. Women over fifty,sixty and seventy, you know what I mean.

Then there was the hair. If you read my post about my financial situation, you know I had to face the indignity of my partner coloring my hair with drugstore product; not that there’s anything wrong with that. Ok, there’s a lot wrong with that. For one, it didn’t work. It was weak and the color was brassy. Then I bought a pair of what I thought would be invisible glasses from the drugstore; well they weren’t so invisible and with my torn cornea and weak glasses I could barely read the poetry I had memorized but didn’t feel confident enough to perform without a paper and glasses covering my face. And there were other flaws I don’t want to go into now or ever. People question me because the title of my book is “Agoraphobia to Zen” I like to say Zen is a process of living in the present and presently I’m having a body dysmorphic moment.

I learned not to mess with mirrors a long time ago when an unfortunate encounter with a magnifying mirror almost pushed me over the edge. It was in Brookstone’s and I stayed with that mirror for longer than the old man next to me sat in the test drive massage chair; read long.  I learned later, no one should own a magnifying mirror because it is not how you really look. It is frickin magnified. It is how you look in your own mind if you have the disorder above. I went further than  just not looking into mirrors, I cleared my house of any and all mirrors.

I don’t think I have body dysmorphic disorder because the flaws I have are not minor and were pointed out to me in detail by my mother ad nauseam.

eg: Mother: M you look pretty today. Me: I do? Mother:. Pretty ugly that is, ha ha ha!

She was proved correct when bullies at school pointed out the same defects and joined the chorus of my mother’s “constructive criticism.” By the way, there is no criticism that is constructive if you are screaming, name calling or swearing. Maybe we shouldn’t criticize anyone at all. I don’t.

Back to the poetry slam which was my recent encounter with my appearance. My dedicated partner Jackson said I looked fine, and my best friend agreed, but when the computer froze on my open mouth, I felt the self-hatred that had formerly tried to destroy me, well up again. The good thing is after the 15th or 100th viewing, I was able to see past the inside mirror and childhood tapes; and could only see the vision of a woman who overcame trauma and abuse and came out on top. I am now able to see my inside which is beautiful in a spiritual way, more important than mere looks.

If you want to check out our poetry slam it’s on YouTube and my blog which is linked in the description box. I welcome comments on my poetry or the slam, but please don’t ask me to look in a mirror. I’m just not ready yet.

Posted in agoraphobia, body dysmorphic disorder, healing from anxiety and agoraphobia, Poetry slams | Tags: abuse, anxiety, author healing humor, physical flaws, poetry slam

According to the Mayo Clinic, the definition of body dysmorphic disorder is

Body dysmorphic disorder is a type of chronic mental illness in which you can’t stop thinking about a flaw with your appearance — a flaw that is either minor or imagined. But to you, your appearance seems so shameful that you don’t want to be seen by anyone. Body dysmorphic disorder has sometimes been called “imagined ugliness.”

When you have body dysmorphic disorder, you intensely obsess over your appearance and body image, often for many hours a day. You may seek out numerous cosmetic procedures to try to “fix” your perceived flaws, but never will be satisfied. Body dysmorphic disorder is also known as dysmorphophobia, the fear of having a deformity.

Preoccupation with your physical appearance

Strong belief that you have an abnormality or defect in your appearance that makes you ugly

Frequent examination of yourself in the mirror or, conversely, avoidance of mirrors altogether

Belief that others take special notice of your appearance in a negative way

The need to seek reassurance about your appearance from others

Frequent cosmetic procedures with little satisfaction

Excessive grooming, such as hair plucking

Extreme self-consciousness

Refusal to appear in pictures

Skin picking

Comparison of your appearance with that of others

Avoidance of social situations

The need to wear excessive makeup or clothing to camouflage perceived flaws

The risk factors are

Childhood teasing

Low self-esteem

Societal pressure or expectations of beauty

Having another psychiatric disorder, such as anxiety or depression

Having this disorder is part of who I am, part of my anxiety disorder, but I don’t give up ever. Aloha

Posted by: marilynmayamendoza | February 17, 2020

Why I write


People often ask me why I’m so determined to write everything down.  What is it about writing that keeps me glued to my desk for hours and days at a time? I had to stop and think. Is it because I enjoy expressing myself with words?  Is it because I have an instinctive talent for writing?  Or is there a deeper reason?   My answer is–I write because I must.

Writing eases my suffering . . . writing is my way of reaffirming my own existence.    Gao Xingjian

This quote by Chinese émigré’ and Nobel Prize winner in literature says it all for me.


Raised by a bi-polar mother, and a mostly absent father, I never believed I had a talent for anything. Children always believe what they are told no matter how false. My mother called me ugly names, and said I was too ugly to find a husband.

― She didn’t notice that she used black magic and put a spell on her daughter. She didn’t know the power of her word, and therefore she isn’t to blame.”

― Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements



I started keeping a diary when I was ten. I still remember that shiny, red book with the perfect key. I believed that key would keep my inner-life hidden, but my mother found my diary and read my mind when I was a teenager. She accused me of all sorts of mayhem because of the secrets I had written. I was too embarrassed to tell her that my love of words and adolescent longing for a boyfriend, conspired against me. I was not sleeping around. In fact, I was a virgin.  That incident taught me that words are powerful. I needed a little of that power.

“A word after a word after a word is power.”

 -Margaret Atwood

I was told other things by friends and teachers, but what I heard was. I was a good singer, but not good enough to compete in the real world. I could act, but I wasn’t pretty enough. I could dance but the choreographer at my drama club, sneered that “Puerto Rican girls with their big butts should cut out the rice and beans.” This was before Jennifer Lopez brought “booty back.” In English class, I won third place in a writing contest. When the teacher read our stories to the class and “Surprise party,” my offering, received the loudest applause, I knew I was finally good at something.


I got married at sixteen to save myself from abuse, but leaving didn’t save me. Writing saved me. I escaped my mother but not the abuse. Abusers have a knack of finding their victims. One night I was attacked by a stranger while out with friends. Life became like a horror movie, complete with monsters at night, and panic attacks and severe headaches, and dizziness, during the day.

I carried books like friends everywhere I went, and reading and eating soothed me for a while. I gained seventy pounds of pain. At first, the extra weight protected me from the world, but not from my growing anxiety. Then, I stopped going out at all. Bad things might happen if I left the house. I might get dizzy and land in the emergency room again.  I was too full of fear and confusion to face the world. I ended up literally hiding in the darkness of my bedroom closet.  But through all the torment, I wrote. I wrote to forget my fear, I wrote to understand and most of all, I wrote to heal.

“When we deny our stories, they define us.  When we own our stories, we get to write the ending.” Brene’ Brown

One day. I discovered a diary written by a woman who hated to write, but was forced to do so in the mental hospital she died in.

That woman was my mother. Through her words, my confusion and fear subsided. I learned about her life, and I learned that her suffering was caused by a mental illness with a stigma that prevented anyone from naming it. It wasn’t her fault. I learned understanding and forgiveness.

Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn’t it is of no use.”

― Carlos Castaneda

I knew I had to write both of our stories. I never expected to write a book, but sometimes a path of forgiveness and clarity can lead to unexpected joy.

For me, writing is like living twice while experiencing life in the present moment. It can be torture, but like a hot sauna is said to detoxify the body, all types of writing heal and detoxifies the mind. This is my path. It has a heart, sometimes a broken heart, but an authentic one.

Why do you write?

Posted by: marilynmayamendoza | August 15, 2016


Yes, that’s me in Rio at the gymnastic final doing a round off back handspring on the balance beam. Last night I stuffed a ball from the Australian team in beach volleyball and received a pat on my tiny rear by my teammate. Tonight I have to run the 100 meter finals in track and field. I really do—me– against the whole Jamaican team. In reality, I’m a 65-year-old child/woman who struggles with severe arthritis and frequent bouts of madness.

I’m such an Olympics fanatic, I make Leslie Jones appear demure. I walk the balance beam on the brown lines of my ceramic tile floor and the most energetic moves I manage are the fake salutes of the gymnasts at the beginning of their routine and the proud march from apparatus to apparatus or in my case from the couch to the fridge. Yet, in my mind, I’m there with my team. All the teams.

I have a gold medal in make-believe. I used this gift my entire life to escape from my chaotic childhood. It works better than other soothing techniques I’ve tried like eating my weight in potato chips and ice-cream or marrying every man who asked me—all four of them.

Making believe makes sense. I pretend I’m young and forget my aches and pains, I hardly notice when people are mean or hurtful and I live a wonderful life in my mind. And that’s what really counts anyway.

I always wrote stories in my head. I acted out scripts in front of dusty mirrors and while looking at my blurred image in front of dark televisions. I envisioned an exciting life I sometimes thought was real. I still do.

I never belonged anywhere. I was too much of this and not enough of that. My first grade teacher gave out lollipops ever day to the best reader and I accumulated a stash of sweetness, yet it all soured when Mrs. Edwards, who my mother called a sadist, screamed at me for my sloppy penmanship. At least she didn’t put me under her desk, and kick me like she did to the kids who couldn’t understand English.

I don’t know when my anxiety disorder emerged. As a child, everything and everyone scared me. I held many words inside but they rarely emerged. I can’t point to any one incident that pushed me over the edge to mental illness. Brenda Jackson shook her fist at me once, and after that, I hid my eyes under my mother’s arm when we entered Brenda’s side of the housing project. Her eyes promised a fate worse than death. Reading Grimm’s fairy tales nightly probably contributed to that misery.

Yet, parodoxidly I recited poems by heart to my mother’s friends and later on, sang and acted in school plays. As long as I wasn’t myself, I was fine. Or was I? There were days I used food, books and daydreaming to soothe my troubled soul.

But when I stopped caring what other people thought of my less than conventional behavior, I started taking chances and living life on its own terms no matter what. I didn’t care if some people treated me as an outcast. I only needed a few people who got me. And I found a few loyal friends who stood up for me during those hard days that leaving my house or bed proved impossible.


I was ten when the Olympics first aired on television in 1960. That year it was held in Rome, Italy and watching the Soviet Union and other Iron Curtain Countries collect gold medals while leaping, jumping, and belly flopping on the mat held me spellbound. That year, —Abebe Bikila from Ethiopia achieved the first gold medal by a Black African, running barefoot in the marathon. And Cassius Clay who later changed his name to Muhammad Ali won the gold medal in boxing. Perhaps most of all, Rome, itself in its historical splendor showcased the wonders of travel and fame. So, the Caracalla Thermal Baths were used to host the gymnastics events and the Basilica of Maxentius was the backdrop for wrestling. I was hooked.

Even when I was deep into a mean postpartum depression, aggravated by an impending divorce and living part-time in my walk-in closet, I came out for the Olympics. I ordered pizza, cut five rings out of cardboard, and for a while, I forgot my troubles. I cheered for the winners and cried with the losers. I discovered the Olympics rivaled reading, wine, and even Cinnabon for sheer distraction from stress. Yet, people warned me about the dangers of living in a dream world. They were wrong. My imagination and enthusiasm for sports, dancing and writing poetry saved me.

I slowly healed from severe anxiety and lived a full life of parenting, working and, traveling. I wrote a memoir and faced my past with humor and strength. But I never lost my childish awe of spectacles like the Olympics. So, yesterday, while watching gymnastics, I leaped into the air holding a soft medical weight I imagined was a rhythmic gymnastics ball. When I snapped back to reality, I found myself not in Rio, but in my house in Hawaii. I laughed and laughed, not caring I’d pulled a muscle in my leg and sprained my ankle. Nothing hurt because in my mind I was Simone Biles in Rio reaching for that final gold medal.


Posted by: marilynmayamendoza | June 26, 2016

Diet Disaster

I’m dieting again for the millionth time. I’m eating something called a granola bar. What the eff is granola anyway?  It doesn’t taste like food or a  food that I’d want to eat. I look at the ingredients and it has corn flour and sugar. That can’t be good.  It’s supposed to stop my hypoglycemia when I’m on the go which is not often since I have agoraphobia. I hate these new effing words. Can I just say I get dizzy if I don’t eat for many hours while on the go which is not often because I don’t leave my house?

I hate dieting but it has been the bane of my existence which means a pain in my ass. So why do I do it?  I do it because I don’t want to buy new clothes that I can’t afford or leave my house in order to buy them.

I remember the first time I went on a diet. I was a new mother at eighteen and I carried 150 pounds on my five foot frame before and after giving birth. What! That’s what I said.

I remember the shaming that went on in the labor room. What! Yes, it was 1969 in Brooklyn and the nurses thought we were too much in pain to have a brain.

I remember the head nurse parading a slew of medical professional in my room saying. “Look how big this one is:” This one, what am I, a medical specimen.

“Well, she isn’t as big as the one in room three,  that one is enormous but yes, wow” the younger nurse said.  Wow indeed! Where did you get the license to judge and shame me in front of my roommate who was Chinese and didn’t even look pregnant? She couldn’t understand English and was too preoccupied with her labor to care but still, I felt more pain than my hard labor required. So, after I gave birth, I bought my first diet book.

It was The Stillman diet. For those of you too young to remember that piece of crap diet, It’s basically meat and water, a lot of water; too much water anyone should drink in a day. I ate two meat patties with ketchup twice a day and an ocean of water. I looked forward to that ketchup. I wanted to pour the whole bottle on that meat patty, probably because I was starved for any nutrient whatsoever. I lost five pounds a week, every week. It was amazing. I had to stay in because I was peeing more than the average bear. My boyfriend taught me to say that. I don’t really know how much a bear pee’s but I can guarantee that I peed more.

The bad part of all this and believe me there were a lot of bad parts, is that I became a zealot for this particular diet, and I wasn’t even getting paid by Mr. Stillman or anybody else for the excellent promotion.

I’m persuasive when obsessed and I went to all my friends houses making sure that not one drop of milk would be poured into a coffee at breakfast, nor one vegetable at lunch or heaven forbid a grain of rice eaten at dinner. This is difficult in Puerto Rican households where husbands insist rice and beans are the meal and everything else garnish. I didn’t care. I was on a mission and pretended not to notice the dirty looks I was getting from my friends families. My husband worked all night so I didn’t realize how much trouble I was causing. I’m immune that way.

All of my friends lost weight but inevitably we couldn’t keep it off for long. So then, I found a new diet that promised if I was faithful I could keep that weight off forever, and so it went on and on until I realized diets don’t work unless you either fix what is inside your head and soul, or lose your sense of taste. I guess I haven’t done the later because this granola bar tastes like crap.

Posted by: marilynmayamendoza | June 2, 2016


Marilyn-Monroe-665x385[1]I was seven years old when Marilyn Monroe died. I remember crying for a week. We shared more than a name, we shared a chaotic childhood and a serious lack of self-worth. I remember bullies taunting me with “There’s the ugly Marilyn Monroe.” That made me hate my name. But I never hated the first Marilyn.

Her real name was Norma Jean Baker. Her mother was institutionalized with severe mental illness. My name is Marilyn Mendoza and my mother was bi-polar or manic-depressive as they called it in the fifties. Norma Jean was brought up in foster homes, where she was sexually abused. This affected her whole life, and in particular her relationships with men. My mother, in her illness was emotionally abusive, especially about my looks and doubtful ability of catching a husband. We had to catch men then, like so much fish. Both Marilyn’s married at sixteen to escape miserable lives. We both threw our first catch back in the dirty ponds where such fish swim.

When I was eight, on one of my mother’s trips to the hospital where she begged for shock treatments, I was sent to my grandmother’s house where no one spoke English. My cousin, jealous of the attention she thought I was getting from my grandmother, left me alone on a lonely street one night to fend for myself. I was traumatized, and lost my way for a long while. Panic attacks and agoraphobia took over my life and forced me to hide inside a closet too afraid to leave my house. I decided to heal, find my voice and survive. Norma Jean changed her name to Marilyn. I changed my name to Maya. We both needed new identities.

I thought if I found love and fame, my life would be perfect. Norma Jean found love and fame but it wasn’t enough to fill the empty spaces that abuse and abandonment had left inside of her. She was beautiful, yet felt stupid and a few days before her death pleaded with a magazine writer not to profile her as “a joke.” People, including my mother, tried to convince me that I was an ugly joke. I refused to believe them. Yet, I searched for love my entire life like Marilyn did, and only when I learned to love myself was I able to save myself. I found the light that always burned deep inside of me, thankfully stronger than a “candle in the wind.” Norma Jean would be ninety years old today. I miss her. I wish she would have learned how to save herself.



Posted by: marilynmayamendoza | November 28, 2015

You don’t deserve this

Source: You don’t deserve this

Posted by: marilynmayamendoza | November 28, 2015

You Don’t Deserve This!

There is a new Madison Avenue buzz word that is getting on my last nerve-“You deserve this”  It is all over the television, internet, radio, mail that is circulated, and mostly thrown out. You deserve this new car, ring, spa visit, trip, bigger TV- fill in the blank. You deserve to be in debt.

When I was young I didn’t think I deserved much of anything but I did travel and did a lot of what I wanted despite a severe lack of funds. I won’t go into the planning and conniving that took. I did it to heal from an anxiety disorder. I ran to danger, I ate too much, I married too many men, I went to too many emergency rooms with panic attacks. I finally realized I could heal to a certain extent if I believed I deserved healing.

Now, seeing- you deserve it– used as a trite catch phase to get people to open up their purses seems almost evil. I am living below the poverty level and can say I don’t want or need too much stuff anymore. Stuff can be a burden. Yet, sometimes I open up a brochure that says I deserve a trip around the world and I almost believe it.  But why do I deserve it and how does the writer of that brochure know I deserve it?. Does he know that I helped at a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter or have been both hungry and homeless at one time in my life, which I have? But he/she doesn’t know me. I could be a Mother Theresa or fill in the blank of your favorite villain.  I will not say Donald Trump.

What I deserve is my business not Madison Avenue s. I deserve to be happy, kind, free of abuse and have a few more pennies in my pocket than I do now. I do not deserve to be in debt forever, yet I am. And not because I believed I deserved to have more, more and more but because I like to eat  good food, fix my leaking roof and have enough teeth to chew on something a bit meatier than oatmeal or jello.

So, whoever is throwing this deserve crap down our throats, stop it already! I know what I deserve but you don’t. And friends, trust me- you don’t deserve to be hoodwinked.






Posted by: marilynmayamendoza | September 8, 2015


P1030426I found you in the most unlikely place

on top of a mountain where the clouds obscured you

You were in a fog of uncertainty

I was in acceptance of fog

Yes, I found you in the most unlikely place

You were drowning in a river of unreality

I could save you and place you in my fantasy

Images running through your mind, desiring love of a different kind

I brought you to a land of forgotten dreams

Where it seems that the sky almost touches the sea

Both of us in unlikely places

hurt by likely persons

But that image you sent me of your eyes

reached out to the center of my pain

And I knew I wouldn’t be hurt again

And we took the plunge into the most unlikely place

of turbulent waves of emotions and found peace and love


but rarely lasts

grown up love

Posted by: marilynmayamendoza | September 5, 2015

I should have been a hippie

I should have been a hippie because I love crystals and stones

And bright colors and rainbows, love and my mind’s already blown

I should have been a hippie but I’m Latina and my clothes had to match

So, I copped- out, wore pant suits and a Timex watch

I should have been a hippie but I was scared of drugs, pills and bad trips

But I had them anyway, even thrown in a ditch

I had a bad trip on acid but it wasn’t my fault

was slipped in a glass of wine taken from a vault

I should have went to Woodstock but I just had a baby and my mother said no

but Janis was there and I loved her so

I could have went to Woodstock, it could have been fun

But I hate mud and crowds of naked people who run

I should have been a hippie when it was the rage

and they went to Marrakech with backpacks and sage

I went to Spain with a trunk; studied Flamenco but I sucked

So I tied a bandana around my head and was a hippie in disguise

Men yelled and followed me so that wasn’t too wise

I could have been a Jewish American Princess with different kinds of strife

But we didn’t move to Queens,my mother was scared of life

So we stayed in the projects and I fought to fit in

as my other half, Latina,  blonde hair and a wide grin

I should have been myself but that took years and a few bottles of gin

I’m a hippie now and do what I want

I ignore the sneers and the bullying taunts

I embrace the life I’ve been given lose or win

I don’t care what other people think

But I tried to wear a dotted shirt and a skirt with a print

After a minute I changed, and here is the hint

I’m Latina not only from my dad, but deep within

And not to match my clothes would be more than a sin

I should have been a hippie and it’s not too late

I’ll be my unique self when I arrive at heavens gate

Posted by: marilynmayamendoza | August 23, 2015


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