I don’t deserve it

We have our stars.  They shyly admit they were depressed for a while.  And a few bipolars, who are just like the alcoholic stars.  They act inappropriately, disappear for a while, thank god for their recovery and are normal again, until the next time.  But let’s imagine mental illness were treated like a popular disease.  We could:

  • Raise research money free from the taint of big pharmaceuticals. Treatments beyond just meds could then be explored.  Magnets.
  • Lobbying to be able to work part time and get benefits, instead of the “Can’t work at all” and “You’re too lazy to work” categories.  Lots of lobbying.
  • Reward employers and responsible media.
  • Plus all the everyday stuff: job re-training, affordable housing and healthcare, half-way houses.

But there’s so much guilt that it’s hard to ask.  I mean, what kind of illness makes you say horrible, terrible things you can’t control?  It’s not an illness; it’s just bad.  Or what causes you to miss a ton of work, inconveniencing everybody, because you’re suddenly afraid to drive?  I feel bad; like I’m being a bad person.  I’m ashamed to ask for a day off work when I’m hearing voices — how could I ask for others to support my horrible behavior?

If I had cancer, yeah, that’s a worthy cause.  Let’s give housing aid and work training to the intellectually disabled.  But I don’t deserve it.



Good night, Paisley

When I’m suicidal, there are two ways to feel.  One is dramatic and emotional (I want to die) and the other is cold and calculated (I want to be dead).  The second is much more dangerous.

I want to die.

I want to be dead.

I am interested in the process of dying and every excruciating detail. I want the process of dying to be over, and for there to be blissful nothingness.
I cannot stop replaying the romantic details in my head.  I picture how I will look when dead, perhaps like Ophelia. I choose methods of suicide that are fool-proof.  Or I plan to combine methods and backup methods so if one thing fails another will succeed.  Shot gun with pills and carbon monoxide.
Timing is vague. I want to wait until everything is perfect, and set a specific date in the future.
I want the pain to stop.  The pain aches and rolls and splits me up and down.  I cannot take any more. I want all thought and consciousness to stop.  The voices drive into my brain like a jack hammer and I feel impelled to act: DIE.  DIE.  DIE.
I think about it spontaneously. I have a will and all documents in order.  I say goodbye in sideways ways to those I love.
I would make a mess of it. I lay down plastic sheeting so it’s not messy.
I cry in bed. I am cold and resolute.

Suicide is the answer to different questions at different times, but it basically comes down to whether I need the pain to stop or I need the thinking and voices to stop.

There’s a line in The Princess Bride that I think of:  “Good night, Westley.  Good work.  I’ll most likely kill you in the morning.”  Not tomorrow morning, though.

Seth and the preacher


Reality Psychosis
Seth (the boyfriend of my friend Olivia) and I walked into the ante-room of Mr. Haseltine’s office, where we have hung out several times.  He wanted to go to Columbia and be a pediatrician.  He was an NMSQT semi-finalist.  He locked the door and turned out the lights. A cloudy figure in a big white lab coat floated in, locked the big oak door, turned out the light. The room turned to browns and blacks in a smeary way.
Seth sat me down in the middle of the room and bent over kissing me.  I became rigid, stock still. The lab coat turns into the white-robed Preacher from a play I had seen with a rape scene: Dark of the Moon.  The Preacher was played by one of my best friends, Bob, who had laughed over the rape while holding up his white preacher robes up.
Seth forced his tongue on my lips and into my mouth.  I was disgusted and shocked.  His tongue was massive and hard, searching for something in my mouth.  His hand was around my neck. A giant redwood comes in and out of my mouth as I sit frozen.  The roots and trunk go in and out, the branches coming towards me, leaving me.
His hands slide from my neck down my body, inside of clothes, opening buttons with a squish.  My body won’t move; my mouth won’t make a sound. My skin turns red, then black, in the places he touches me.  There are swirls and hand prints.  The black gets charred and geometrical, like the remains of a log the morning after a fire.  Dry pieces fall off.
My friend Bob, the Preacher from the play, unlocks the door and pops his head in.  He looks at me half-dressed with censure.  He leaves. The Preacher flies over again,  The redwoods assault my mouth.  The skin falls off me in blacks cubes of char.
Seth stands up and rubs his pelvis back and forth against my arm. My arm turns white with leprosy and falls off.  I flail the stump of my arm in hopes someone will come and help.
Seth stands back and sighs deeply.  He adjusts his pants, buttons me up and adjusts my princess collar.  I don’t remember any more. The world turns to only colors, no texture, depth or shape.  The colors drip down on top of each another, angry reds and yellows, mocking blues, and browns and blacks.  The colors drip down until I can only see the brown of the locked door in front of me and it all begins again.


Black olives

I got five marriage proposals in four years.   I did try to love them; I’m not completely heartless.  But I couldn’t feel anywhere near the depth of feelings I had had for Lauren, for Livie.  Communication was not as deep.  Fun was black and white.   I felt more intensity eating black olives on the stoop with Lauren than I had had with any guy.  Ever.

I just kept trying.  I wanted to be the happily married young mother like my parents kept demanding.  My marriage wasn’t going to be about deep love.  Maybe I would get some kids.  There was this one guy who constantly proposed.  But god, he was pretty dangerous when drunk.  I have no idea why I married him; it wasn’t for love.  Bad things happened.

I wonder why those guys fell in love with me.  I had my suspicions about why I couldn’t fall in love with them.  I couldn’t even use the L word in my head.  I was a ….  NO.  A small white cloud came over the word in my mind.  In college it would have meant having my stuff packed up, parents called, and sent home in disgrace.  Now it meant a canyon in the family.   But not telling was hiding and shame, which had its own burdens.

I didn’t date men again.  I kept my distance from women like Lauren and Livie.  My mind, oh my mind, and the sadness of never having love again.


Lisa: We would

Lisa was tall and lanky.  She and I met at Crane Road to walk to school together every day.  She walked in a sort of fast-scrape, fast-scrape kind of way, with her green Army surplus bag beating in rhythm.  She saw me at the corner and smiled at me.  Her hair was long and wavy, golden, and a tendril escaped and curled down her face, and she pushed it behind her ear with a quick jerk.  I watched her make that gesture a hundred times a day.

After school, if I didn’t have to work, we descended on the village of Scarsdale.
We would sit on the stoop and eat half-sour pickles from paper bags.
We would buy daisies and hand them to people on the train.
We would go to the headshop and pretend we were customers, you know, real druggies.
We would buy paperbacks:  Steinbeck, Vonnegut, Hesse, Ram Dass.
We would laugh.

My chest was lifted by invisible threads when I was with her.  Her fingers were always slightly bent, as if holding an invisible orange, and flitted around as if juggling those oranges while she talked.  And smart, oh so smart.  I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her, even if I never could touch her.  I wanted her by my side.

And then she was gone.  We moved to Michigan.  I gave her my favorite ring, and she sent me an outline of her hand with the ring drawn on it.  I put my hand on her hand.

Poetry I had read before I understood.  In my head, I was dancing to Rich Girl in socks on her hardwood living room floor, as silly and full as I had ever been.  Lisa

Music I heard with you was more than music,
And bread I broke with you was more than bread.
Now that I am without you, all is desolate,
All that was once so beautiful is dead.  (Aiken)



It probably won’t happen very often

When I was 14, an older friend of mine, Seth, locked me into the ante-room of a teacher’s office and molested me.  Then a little while later, the older brother of a classmate, Norman, and I went to the Spanish club office, where he molested me.  Then a full-grown married man in an H.M.S. Pinafore production I was in took me to see the production better from the balcony, and he molested me.  He was a piano tuner, and soon after, oddly enough, came to our house to tune the piano. Everywhere I turned were men.  You’d think I’d learn not to go with them, but plenty of times I went with males and nothing happened.  It was hard to tell.  I honestly wasn’t real clear on what I was supposed to do. New school, no girlfriends, a mother in the 1940s.

These things had the expected results and effects on me.  When I finally told my parents, they assured me that I was not morally damaged, and my future husband would forgive and understand.  My hallucinations and voices became worse and turned evil.  Eventually I began to perseverate, where the scenes would play over and over like an ancient movie in my head, starting over like a snake biting its tail.  I became promiscuous and had no emotional connection with sex.

Yadda yadda, it was bad, I survived.  I realized how much it still affected me when I had to deal with a step-son who molests other mentally challenged men and women.  The system says:  This Happens.  Everyone in the situation seems to accept this but me, and I’ve been told my view is colored by having been molested.

I didn’t have words for the things that happened to me.  I bet my step-son’s victims don’t either.  It was so out of the realm of my experience that I just stood in front of the mirror and stared at myself, wondering if anyone could tell.  I looked under my clothes, expecting there to be black or red marks.  I took a deep breath and went on to French.

What do my step-son’s victims do with this.  Experts have told me that the molestation bothers me a lot more than it bothers his victims.  The staff watch him more closely now.  It probably won’t happen again very often.

It probably won’t happen very often.


February, 1984

The first week in February, 1984, my parents disowned me, I dropped out of school, and my house burned down.  My boyfriend, first serious love and English professor, Mack, had been trying to break up with me the week before, and we were in the midst of negotiations when the fire started.  I heard something in my room in the basement and saw the flames.  I told Mack to call the fire department, tried to fight the fire myself by batting at it with rugs.  It sputtered, caught the curtains, and raged to the ceiling.

I ran outside down the street for help, but no one answered.  I had my favorite purple peasant shirt with fancy embroidery on the bodice and cuffs, a pair of jeans, and white tube socks:  all I had in the world.  The police came and warmed me up in their back seat, but my socks wouldn’t dry.  Somebody called my parents, maybe Mack.

I padded sock-footed through Kmart after my father, and he bought me some boots. He asked which of his books I had, and mourned the loss of a whole set because two were now destroyed.  He told me that my mother had been too upset to come.  Someone gave me a pink coat, I remember, quilted fiber-filled.  That first night I spent at Mack’s; he made it clear I couldn’t stay more than one night.  I wore that purple shirt to bed, still smelling of smoke.  I wouldn’t take it off.  I engaged in lovemaking as payment for the bed, and Mack said that the purple shirt was the sexiest thing ever.  Oh.  The next day he drove me back in his Toyota to my burned down, now drowned home, and helped me pick up some pieces, two Macy’s bags of pieces.  $50 was hidden under a book, and had somehow made it through unsinged.  I picked up my two Macy’s bags and walked to work.

They turned on a new song full blast when I walked in the door:  Talking Heads Burning Down The House.  They laughed and cheered and told me it was going to be all right.  I smiled. They had collected $160 for me somehow, although we only earned $3.35 and hour.  At 1 a.m., Sonja had a place ready for me to stay with her while her roommate was out.  We had hot chocolate with chocolate chocolate-chip ice cream, Kahlua, and a tiny taste of cocaine.

After Sonja’s roommate came back, I stayed with two or three different people, but luckily did not have to sleep with anyone again to pay rent.  I went to my beloved ashram, but was turned away (with a cup of chai) due to too much karma to burn off.  Wicked hallucinations from bipolar rolled in and out.  For six months, from day to day I kept my eyes open for empty floors in case I needed to move quickly.  Finally, I got a room in a house again, with my own key and a big yellow hippy-flower key chain. I guess you could say I had been one of the mentally ill homeless.