CNF: The Endless Backwards Hopeless Remembering

by Joanna Acevedo


On Tuesday, it seems, I have a brief, fleeting, psychotic break. You understand, these things happen. I write to B telling him the sidewalk is breathing and I can’t decide whether to slice my wrists. Alarmed, he tells me to call the doctor. Can’t get an appointment until Friday. Of course, why wouldn’t that happen? I hide under the covers at my parents’ apartment in Chelsea, watching Hulu, afraid of the cats, the shadow shapes in the walls. I sleep, fitfully, Chickpea the cat nosing me to feed her breakfast at 4 a.m. But I live.

It is May, and we have a spate of unexpectedly cold days as Mother Nature adjusts to summer. Reacclimating to sanity, I take a powerlifting class. Deadlifting the barbell, I get disoriented, and try to hide this fact from the instructor, who notices, reminds me to breathe. You don’t know the half of it, I want to tell him, but I cannot begin to explain. At home, I projectile vomit green juice and make plans to clean the bathtub. Your knees hyperextend, says the barbell instructor. You’re just finding out so many fun things about me, I joke, but the reality is I am on a ship and it is sinking.

I do what I’m supposed to. I don’t drink. I take handfuls of Zyprexa. I explain to my mother, in detail, exactly what she should do, say, to my various employers if I am involuntarily hospitalized; who to email, what wording to use. Joanna has taken an indefinite emergency medical leave. I try not to lose my shit. I am losing my shit.

As I write this, I don’t know what tomorrow holds. I don’t know how many good days I have left, the perfect capsule of the morning keeping me in its golden hands, the traffic humming under my window, the elevated train rumbling, the tears that prick in my eyes when I think about the inevitable, the potential, the loss of the mind I have tried so hard to hold on to. I don’t know what comes next. That’s the fun part. The finding out. The endless backwards hopeless remembering.



Joanna Acevedo is a writer, editor, and educator from New York City. She is the author of two books and two chapbooks, and her writing has been seen across the web and in print, including in Jelly Bucket, Hobart, and The Adroit Journal, among others. She received her MFA in Fiction from New York University in 2021, and also holds degrees from Bard College and The New School.


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What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “The Endless Backwards Hopeless Remembering”?

I wrote this piece while coming out of an acute psychotic episode. As a sufferer of Bipolar disorder, writing is often the only thing that keeps me grounded in a world which is sometimes scary, unfamiliar, and overwhelming. At times, it feels like there is no hope, which is what this piece is about. Writing can be a solace, and in this piece, I was just trying to hold on to what little of myself I had left, try to stay positive, keep my sense of humor, and hope for the best. It’s sort of like a time capsule, a snapshot into my disordered mind, which from a point of more stability looks alien and unreal, but also scarily close to home. I’m forever grateful to have my writing, which has saved me again and again.


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