Category Archives: Mental Health

Today is December 11, 2017. I am alive and well.

My short memoir piece, Hospital Visit Number 19, installment 2 of 4 blogs.

I miss you. I have been tucked away. The days slope near weeks like a long slide on the playground. How does it happen that you are always who you are? At least to people like me who have not seen you naked. Lights out. Bare skin. Toe nails. I see you in your favorite boots–black, cowboy, loose souls. I don’t wish to see you naked. You are too strong for me to do so.

You always wear a pressed black shirt with enough girth to disguise the belly you say you have. Black pants, smooth pockets. Empty? No. I think not. Maybe an odd tissue waiting for you to sneeze. And a peppermint. My grandmother carried peppermints in her pockets. The Tibetan prayer beads you wear hint at color. In the right light they are blue. Your long white beard is warm. Your white hair, wisdom attached to roots like a small hand on a Radio Flyer.

You touch lives.

The earth rotates so slowly that I imagine we remain standing still in a rush of daises. You see wind in breeze and send it on to hurricane across young pages the color of wheat. I am lucky to have you as a writing professor. The first time I met you, you touched me like lightening striking a tree that had been asleep even with wind. Nothing rustles in my branches. The air is so still in the hospital. If I wasn’t breathing, I would think I was living in a capsule on a mission to Mars. I send you a letter telepathically. The water you drink has a tinge of sweet this day. Thank you for blessing my life. I am brushed by your kindnesses.

The hail has yet to completely crack the lens of my glasses. I know my case manager is trying to make this happen. Where is Kristina? She is lost in the prison of her own thoughts. I try to explain to him that my thoughts don’t belong to me. They extend past the length of my arm, through my outstretched fingers. I am lost in sentences that remind me of mud. Schizophrenia is nothing to write home about. The hospital has too often been my home. I am not allowed to cook hamburgers with onions and mushrooms.

I miss my boyfriend, Guy. It is not easy to touch anyone in here. Even a visitor. He has become a visitor. I don’t feel his arms around me in a tight embrace, matching that of Santa Claus at Christmas. Am I being a good girl even when I am in trouble? The hospital staff considers me good but sick. I don’t feel sick. I feel tired. A flat tire with no donut available. It becomes necessary to tow. I am moved here to watch the tall man beg for cocoa. I am moved here to catch up with myself. The marathon is over. I am learning only now how to untie my shoelaces. They were knotted to my ankle. It didn’t matter that they had sturdy soles. I needed to feel the carpet between my toes. It is hard to be this vulnerable.

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Today is December 4, 2017. I am alive and well.

My short memoir piece to be installed over 4 blogs. Hospital Visit Number 19, installment 1.

The doctor will try to shake loose my shadow and fail. My schizophrenia is in full bloom. I seek sleep in the hospital gown and am left with wrinkled cotton creating patterns on my back. The hospital gown is not flattering and catches breeze from the movement of other people. I stand still as a hinge. I am told the elephants have moved. The teeth of the comb have been cleaned. It is another calendar year and I am again in the same place protecting my heart from the suddenness of a light snow fall. The snow fall will wait as it is summer in Phoenix. The hospital is the same as I remember it; a series of doors the same color marching down a long hall.

When my hands are locked at the knuckles I cannot plant alfalfa. I am told alfalfa is good for arthritis. I need to let my grandmother know this. Her knuckles are tinged by muscle ache. I can’t tuck the charm bracelet she gave me into velvet. Instead, the elephants with their ruby eyes get tossed beside the comb on the tiny nightstand. Strands of hair now wrap around the teeth of the comb.

It is cold in my skin. In two hours my shadow will appear obvious. It will reach the knob of the door before I do. The door does not lock. The psych techs need to be able to enter on a whim. They are in place to protect me from myself. I didn’t realize I was in danger until it was almost too late. I thought back to yesterday. The bottles of Tylenol and Ativan lined up on the counter begged for my attention. Had my grandmother not walked in, I would have swallowed mouthfuls and then laid down to leave. I have no idea who is on the other side to greet me if anyone.

I am at the end of the long hall in front of the nurse’s station, in front of the desk where the psych techs spend most of their time. The telephone is on the wall across from them. They can her whole conversations. No words leave my mouth. How will they know my heart has stopped since noon? I protect it the way a child does her first hat.

There is not enough room in the hall for the tall man to shout, but he tries. It does not get him the cup of cocoa he craves.

I do not enter the rec room on my left. The voices I hear are louder in there. They compete with the television which is only still from midnight to five a.m. The nurse says she sees me talking to myself. She is wrong. I respond to the voices in a friendly way so as not to irritate them into calling me names. Slut. Cunt. Bean stalk. Irritant. Fucker upper. Slut is my favorite one as I am rarely sexual. I remind them of this. They don’t care.

Today is November 13, 2017. I am alive and well.

…aren’t we more like pack mules/than gods most days, picking our way/across the desert or up a mountain path with avalanches/and the heaviest of loads are our grudges and fears/while poetry and beauty rest on our shoulders like fairy wings/or one of those pastries in a shop in Paris,/almost too beautiful to eat, but eat them we do/with their frosting of butter and sugar and eggs.   Barbara Hamby

The truth of our pain is all we have, it is the key to who we are.    James Baldwin

An artist must learn to be nourished by his passions and by his despairs.  Francis Bacon

I love quotes and thought these all related nicely. I write “the truth of my pain.” Maybe it’s true that “it’s the key to who I am.” I also believe my passions are the key to who I am.

My pain is deep and not preventable. Because it’s deep it rarely shows up unless I let it. It can storm and I won’t get wet because of my umbrella. Discard the umbrella, and I get soaked. It takes awhile to dry off. Living with pain with no barrier to disguise it can lead me to tears. It also leads me to people who share my same experience. They have made it through and I can too. I watch as a raccoon puts his paw in a jar to fish out a coin. With his paw clenched in a fist, he cannot pull himself from the jar. He has to let go of the coin in order to free his paw.

I have let go of the coin. I write about having schizophrenia. I write about multiple suicide attempts, I write about being alcoholic. Pain can attach itself to all three of these things. But I don’t stay there. I let go of the coin. I step out of the mud. Sometimes I get help cleaning myself off. Help is always there and it’s okay to accept it.

My God takes care of me. My God always has my back. The right people are placed in my life at the right time. My friends nourish me. I am passionate about loving them. I also hope I nourish them. It’s beautiful to watch my cats bathe each other. They are always clean, but they don’t go outside.

I go outside. I live a good life despite occasional falls. I also write about great things, not just painful things. My car still runs after 256,000 miles. I have the money to get my teeth cleaned. I fill the grocery cart with fabulous foods. I loved the same man for fourteen years without straying. Although we’re apart, I still do love him. I am comfortable in my own skin. I am passionate about flowers bought on Friday, about words falling in line with each other to make a sentence, a paragraph, a page. Life is here. Life is staying.

Today is October 30, 2017. I am alive and well.

Everybody knows if you are too careful you are so occupied in being careful that you are sure to stumble over something.   Gertrude Stein

I don’t throw caution to the wind. I am careful in my life. And I don’t think I’ve stumbled recently. I’m not certain what stumbling looks like unless it’s to fall or stutter. I do stumble over my words often in conversation. My brain takes a quick nap and I can’t think of what I’m trying to say. I don’t know if this is because of my schizophrenia or my medications. I know I’m not stupid. But I also certainly do know I prefer writing to speaking. I’m a rather quiet person.

Do you think Gertrude means physically taking a tumble? I don’t wear high heels. I believe high heels gives one the opportunity to stumble. It’s hard to fall off of flats or boots.

How else might one stumble in life if not physically or verbally? I looked stumble up. It means to fall into sin or waywardness, to make an error (blunder), or to come to an obstacle to belief.

Do I stumble in my faith? Do I have moments when I don’t believe everything will work out? Are there moments in which I believe that God doesn’t have my back? Yes, but rarely. I spend most of my time feeling blessed. This has been a long time coming.

The reason I am careful in my life is because of my mental illness. I will do anything to not become psychotic. Psychosis is a shadow in my mind. It is a parrot with a sharp beak. It is news announcing terror. By structuring my life, I avoid pitfalls. My roommate says I’m so predictable she could set a watch by me.

At times I regret rarely being able to be spontaneous. I am in bed by eight and still wake tired after eleven hours of sleep. One of the meds I take causes this. I’m not complaining, though. My meds have given me life.

My roommate says there is someone out there who will love me and not be bothered by all my quirks. I know my ex did and does. Maybe that’s how I will stumble. I will stumble upon someone who will lift me up, who I too could lift up. I would love to stumble over a duffel bag full of money. The most grievous thing I’ve done is not to have spent my money well.

Writing this has been like not being able to move over a lane to make a left hand turn because of traffic. Why I picked such a challenging quote to respond to I have no idea. I stumbled onto the quote and I have stumbled over the quote. So much for not stumbling!

Today is October 16, 2017. I am alive and well.

The coffee was so strong it snarled as it lurched out of the pot.  Betty MacDonald

That is how I like my coffee; strong Recently though, as of a week ago, I have decided to let go of coffee. Typically I was drinking 12 cups a day. Now, I’m down to 6 and am thinking soon to make it 4.

I am seriously addicted to caffeine. The first time I decided to stop drinking coffee was because someone had told me it would help lift my depression if I stopped. That was over twenty years ago, and then I stopped cold turkey. I was so sick. For two weeks I sweated at night to the point of saturation. I could ring my t-shirt out. I also had terrible diarrhea. After two weeks, I was still suffering with the side effects of no caffeine and my depression was no better. I said “fuck it” and began drinking coffee again.

This time I know not to stop cold turkey. I tell people I am giving up coffee. They’re like “why would you do that?” I’m doing it because I am tired of being slave to my addiction. I am doing it because I will save $80 a month.

I drink coffee morning, noon, and night. If I know I’m not going to have the opportunity to drink at one of these times, I buy chocolate covered espresso beans.

I was addicted to alcohol. I was addicted to nicotine. In 34 years, I have had one night of drinking. That was 24 years ago. It has been 26 years since I smoked cigarettes.

Addiction is cruel like a busted radio cranked to blasting in a small room that can’t be quieted until the batteries are removed. It’s like being shot in the head by your own hand and not dying but being left permanently disfigured.

By the grace of God, I have never been addicted to food, gambling, sex drugs (other than alcohol, caffeine, or nicotine), or shopping. I don’t live in extremes today. Maybe some would consider my life dull. I don’t. I find it refreshing. I find it peaceful.

I will give up coffee. I will not be slave to anything. I hear the saxophone. The vocalist sings of freedom.

Today is October 9, 2017. I am alive and well.

Exclusion is always dangerous. Inclusion is the only safety if we are to have a peaceful world.      Pearl S. Buck

There are three things I learned from someone to never talk about amongst people I don’t know. They are religion, politics, and sex. I am a spiritual being. I am a political being. And I am a sexual being. Yet, I don’t really address these things in my blog. Why not? I ask myself that often. Is it because I’m afraid of losing followers of my blog? Maybe. Is it because these things are deeply personal? Maybe, even though I write about things that are deeply personal like suicide, mental illness, and alcoholism.

My first time practicing exclusion happened when I was 18-years-old. I attempted to harm everyone close to me so that I had no one who loved me. I wanted to be free to die. Somehow, in my mind, I couldn’t take my own life if people were loving me.

I did reach the point of not feeling responsible to anyone. I did attempt to take my own life. I ended up in an intensive care unit. Upon awakening in ICU, there stood my grandmother and grandfather beside my bed. I will always remember my grandmother’s face. In that moment, it was one of absolute love. I had not been condemned by my decision to die.

Present day, I still exclude others from my life. I don’t mingle with people that hate. I don’t want to expose myself to that soul depleting practice.

Can I love these people from afar knowing we are all of this world? We all struggle. We all experience pain. We all dream. We all have people we care about or have cared about.

Can I love the man who just murdered 53 people, injuring 500 more in Las Vegas? No. I judge him. I am horrified by him. Can I forgive the likes of him? Big question. Answer, I don’t know. Although, I do know forgiveness is in my best interest. I don’t want my heart to harden.

I hope Democrats and Republicans and people of neither party can hold each other in loving thought and with respect while still believing vehemently in what they believe. I hope that all people are touched by a bit of the divine. Even petting a dog or loving a cat is simply divine. Certainly, praying to a deity who is not understood and cannot be defined is divine.

As far as sex, well, I’ll just say have fun, feel deep, and don’t get pregnant unless you want to. This includes everyone from heterosexuals to the LGBT community. We can all have some part in pregnancy.

Today is October 1, 2017. I am alive and well.

I’m sending this a day early. Tomorrow is so busy.

Excerpt from Mind Without a Home written by me, Kristina Morgan

When my hands are locked at the knuckles, I cannot plant alfalfa. It is things like this I think about in the psych hospital. What alfalfa has to do with anything, I’m not certain. I think about the goat my grandfather bought to eat the grass and weeds in the corral. The goat refused to eat these things and instead wanted to eat only hay. My grandfather wasn’t about to keep the goat as a pet and pay for its food. The goat got sent back from where it came. I was sad. I liked the goat.

It is cold in my skin. In two hours my shadow will appear obvious. It will reach the outer door before I do and find it locked. I send my shadow in to meet the doctor. I do not want to appear too bright. Too bright, and he thinks I need to lessen the amount of Wellbutrin they give me. The antidepressant has saved my life many a time. I would rather my mind be too stimulated than have to deal with depression. Depression is a blanket that folds itself around my head making everything muffled and far away. I cannot see to walk forward into a life that is worth living. Depression will steal life every time. This I know.

I have little to nothing to do with the other patients. I don’t know how to talk to them about picnics on the lawn. They embrace one another. Share feelings back and forth. My feelings are a Frisbee I don’t throw but keep clutched close to my chest.

I sit at my post, in the chair at the table to the left of the nurse’s station. I write with pens my doctor said I could have. No other patient has a pen. They have little golf pencils. I wonder it they know they too could ask their doctor for a prescription to have a pen. It is good they trust me to not write on walls or stab someone with ink.

Every time I check into the psych hospital they take my pens from me until the doctor writes an order. I cry every time. Once, Charley, one of the case manages, came to my rescue as much as he could giving me full-length pencils. His gesture was kind. I still wanted my pens.