Category Archives: Mental Health

Today is September 25, 2017. I am alive and well.

I committed blog suicide with my last blog. I painted myself as a selfish, self-centered woman with no time for personal relationships. I was brutally honest, yet I’m not all of that person. What did I intend to say? I have no idea.

There are two things I value most:  love and truth.

I am loved beyond the edge of language and I love beyond the edge of language. I have a large family mostly made of friends with a few blood relations added to the mix. God and my family provide me with the oxygen to get through a day. God in the abstract. My family in the non-abstract.

I love God like I do the rising sun or the humming moon. Like I do the energy passed between me and another. I love God like I do electricity or running water; all things beyond my understanding. I am a light in a lit world. Seemingly my own, yet belonging to something large, something brighter.

People are bowls of fruit, oven baked bread, the proud sunflower. They are radios, televisions, and cell phones. People are smiles, frowns, and hard stares. Reaching arms and planted feet.

I love people like I do warm towels, down pillows, two scoops of chocolate ice cream. I love people with an intensity that matches the acceleration of a Lamborghini.

Keats wrote “truth is beauty and beauty is truth.” Truth/beauty are necessary to my life. I once had a friend tell me I shared too much. She was trying to protect me from adverse reactions to what I said. I talk freely about mental illness, alcoholism, and suicide. These things I have come to terms with. They currently don’t keep me from an amazing life. I told my roommate last night that there is freedom in having as long a piece of dental floss as I want. In the psych hospital floss is limited. I have not been to a psych hospital for eight years.

Telling the truth is not hard for me. Nor is accepting the truth of others. I am taught how to be in this world gracefully by others who have grace. I know when I do wrong and am able to right it most of the time. Life is sensational and intriguing. Thank God for standing in green grass.

Today is September 18, 2017. I am alive and well.

Mortal love is but the licking of honey from thorns.   Anonymous

Does that quote mean that my basic being and your basic being is created with thorns and then covered with honey? I don’t feel thorny, nor do my friends. When meeting someone for the first time I don’t feel that I might get pricked when the honey of their being melts away. I believe in the kindness and goodness of people.

Does the quote speak to the presence of my character defects? I do have character defects. People love me despite them. I will write that my worst one is selfishness. I am extremely selfish with my time. I crave time not spent with others, but rather time with myself. Worry is another character defect. I can worry about everything. Worry is a flower I plant knowing that it’s going to die and leave me petals. Worry is a baked cake that falls in the middle but still tastes great. It just doesn’t look like how I thought it ought. In other words, many of my worries are legitimate and do happen but I’m always left with something good that comes from mess.

This past week my garbage disposal stopped working and my truck wouldn’t start.

My garbage disposal was doing nothing. I worried that the sink was going to clog and spill over. Guy told me about a restart button. It was there! I pressed it and now all is fine.

I dreamt my truck wouldn’t start and come morning, my truck didn’t start. I was worried I’d have to spend most of my time waiting for buses, riding buses. It turns out that I simply needed a new battery. My dead battery was under warranty. I paid nothing!

So, I speak to having faith that all will work out. It curbs my worrying.

My love for others goes deeper than honey and I am not pricked by and do not worry about thorns. If a person’s short comings are too much for me, I step away with love. If a person doesn’t like me, I think “good.” I all ready don’t have enough time for those I love. Having one less person to pay attention to is a blessing.

On another note, I celebrated 24 years of sobriety yesterday. Coming from the daily drunk that I was, this is a miracle. God has blessed me in many ways. Sobriety is just one of them.

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

There ain’t no use in dyin’ ‘fore yer time. Lots of folks is walkin’ ’round jes as dead as they’ll ever be.   Alice Caldwell Rice

I know what’s it’s like to walk around dead. I remember clearly waking up from a night’s sleep, from a nap, from several naps and having nothing to look forward to, nothing to feel joy about, nothing to love.

I was a vessel with no oars, adrift. I didn’t know I could swim to shore at anytime. Getting wet was painful. It reminded me that I could take a towel to dry off. I could get into clean clothes. Neither thing appealed to me. Both things required too much energy.

My grandmother was afraid to leave me in the house alone. She was afraid of what I might do….I might try to take my own life. A balloon will pop if too much pressure is applied. The latex that is left afterward is trash. I was certain to leave trash. I was certain to leave a life not lived. Harsh, but true.

My grandmother had to go to the mountains to close up the cabin for the winter. She asked my mother to come and stay with me. My mother did. She created a space for herself in the family room in front of the TV with sheets, an ashtray, and a bottle of vodka. Mom whose petals have long since fallen off leaving only the unblinking face of a sunflower.

I didn’t mingle with her when she was there. We were both dying in our own ways. Maybe my life greeting her life would cause a silent flame that had no place to burn. A candle wick unlit saves the candle from melting. Maybe we thought melted wax was too messy and impossible to clean from the carpeting. Our lives were not messy. They were stale.

I don’t recall the day I began to walk back into the living. But I know that I did because I am here and have been here for quite sometime, unafraid of leaving little messes in my wake. I try to clean up as I go and am usually able to wipe the water spots from the mirror leaving a sweet reflection of a kind smile.

My mom didn’t fare so well. She died at the age of 58 from alcoholism; her liver stopped working.

I regret the love that went unshared between us. I believe the most valuable thing we have to offer is our time. I didn’t give my mom time. So, today I hope to spread kindness in this world. Walk into life with a smile for others. Corny, yes. Necessary, yes. I reach out today and am offered a bouquet.

Today is August 21, 2017. I am alive and well.

It takes far less courage to kill yourself than it takes to make yourself wake up one more time.   Judith Rossner

I have spent days finding life particularly hard for no good reason. I trip on the curb of a sidewalk in front of a beauty parlor. One of the manicurists sees this and comes to offer a hand. She picks up the magazines I have dropped and my keys, than reaches for me. I don’t take her hand for fear of pulling her over with me, both of us landing hard on the sidewalk.

An invisible hand offering to pull me up each morning is always there. Most of the time I actually take it. The grip is strong. I don’t fall back against my pillows but instead place my feet on the floor and stand. I turn on a light. My little area in this world brightens. My cats walk figure eights around me and between my feet. I am able to feed them kibbles for breakfast.

I use to wake but not wake, if that makes sense. My body would motor around the house heavy with depression. It hurt to move. It hurt to talk on the phone. It hurt to sit at the table with my grandmother with whom I lived. Magically, this changed.

I have attempted suicide many times in my life. My last attempt was 20 years ago. I remember it clearly. My grandmother found me unconscious in the living room after I overdosed on Ativan and called 911. I woke up in the ICU a day later to the stare of an East Indian doctor. She was young. I guess mid-thirties. Petite of stature. Probably, 5′ 4″ and a hundred pounds. She took my hand and told me I had much to do in this lifetime, that my life was important. I said nothing but let her face imprint itself on my heart.

I’m no longer the cactus who refuses to bend in storms, refuses to let go the thorns. Instead, I’m a bush who waves in the wind and allows herself to be pruned.

I can’t say that I wake up happy all the time, but I do wake. Eventually, it occurs to me that I’m living in love. That my life is charmed and blessed. I’m a 6′ tall woman with no weight on my shoulders. My stride is wide. My gaze no longer haunted. I roam around in my day a free spirit. The ball and chain that I use to be attached to sits quietly in a corner of my bedroom as a reminder that movement has not always come easy to me. But now I do wake. I do walk with my breath a steady in and out.

Today is August 7, 2017. I am alive and well.

If a mind is just a few pounds of blood, dream, and electric, how does it manage to contemplate itself, worry about its soul, do time-and-motion studies, admire the shy hooves of a goat, know it will die, enjoy all the grand and lesser mayhems of the heart.

Diane Ackerman

I contemplate my mind frequently. It is an engine attached to the caboose of my heart. When mind and heart are in sync, beauty happens. For me to think my mind is special is amazing for I have schizophrenia. I am at peace with this. I wouldn’t change it as it has given me bursts of creativity. Yes I have rough patches, grass browns when needing water, but they pass and I’m left in wonderment.

I believe my soul wants to live in real time. My conscience floods my soul with magic. I believe in the power of soul to ignite hours each day. A candle not gathering dust. A wick waiting to be lit. I don’t worry that my soul will become polluted and I’ll end up in hell. I don’t know that I believe in judgment day.

I’m not certain what “do time-and-motion studies” means. Does it mean we follow a clock? Recently, the library I work at flooded. I was moved to a branch while repairs are being made. I let the boss at my new location know it was really important for me to get my same hours. Time matters. Fortunately, she accommodated me. You don’t get what you don’t ask for, yes?

I feel time move. Especially recently in respect to my age. There’s a gentleman I want to ask out but he’s twenty years my junior. He was an infant when I had my first real kiss!

The line “admire the shy hooves of a goat” is beautiful. I admire the swift feet of my cats, the way my friend sips coffee, the sun entering my windshield. Often, small things vibrate like the pigtails of a toddler.

Of course my mind knows it will die someday. My brain will shut off. My heart will stop beating. My feet and hands will be still. I use to want to speed this process up. I have attempted suicide at least nine times, three of them ending in my waking in ICU. Not wanting to die anymore is an act of God. I value my life and hope to give something back.

“Enjoy all the grand and lesser mayhems of the heart” of which there are many. I’ll leave you to meditate on this. Thanks for your readership.

Kristina

Today is July 24, 2017. I am alive and well.

So, I need your help. I have to date received 20 rejections from agents regarding my second book, Emma. I rewrote the query in the hope of making it stronger. Below is my new version. I would love it if I could get a yay or nay from you; nay you wouldn’t read the book based on the query, or yay, you would. Thanking you ahead of time. me

Emma, the Giraffe at the End of the Hall follows my book Mind Without a Home: A Memoir of Schizophrenia. Kirkus review called Mind Without a Home “inventive, jaggedly lyrical, and disturbing.”

Emma is my continued journey away from the crippling effects of schizophrenia. Unlike years ago, I am addicted to life. Life shows up in good form and in bad. The dark isn’t a terrible thing; it’s simply a moment without batteries. My mind is treating me well; dust stops at my ears. I am moving like a swan in sneakers without webbed feet. I am a little beetle surfing the air on a green leaf.

I make a home outside the psychiatric hospital with a lover, Guy, and two Shih Tzus. Seven years go by, and I remain hospital free.

I lose the lover and dogs without losing my mind. Guy was good to me for as long as he could be.

The book comes at a time when people with mental illness are targeted in the media after  hellacious acts on their part. The percentage of those challenged with mental illness committing a crime is really low. My account lets people know that someone living with schizophrenia can be a sane and productive member of society with no tendency toward violent behavior.

The book is imagistic, metaphorical, not always lucid but lucid in its own way; the hat covers my grandmother’s head allowing the air to slide along her nose. I still hear voices no one else hears. I still think things like there is a plate in my head that I need to dial into. And the other realities still exist.

Today, I am comfortable single with many friends to be responsible to. I am loved beyond the edge of language. A great sense of peace occupies my days.

I would be happy to send you more, or the entire manuscript, to help you decide if it is for you.

That is the end of the query. Someone told me I needed to drop one of these two sentences,”I am moving like a swan in sneakers without webbed feet” or “I am a beetle surfing the air on a green leaf.” Which one do you think I should cut out?

Again, thank you for your help.

Kristina

Today is June 19, 2017. I am alive and well.

Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake.  -Thoreau

My dreams are not fancy. I dream about being able to purchase as many jars of jam from the grocery store that I want. I dream about dining out all week long. I wish to buy a Toyota ForeRunner to replace my 1998 with 252,000 miles on it ForeRunner. I dream of a house with at least two bathrooms and a yard and a baby Shi Tzu who my cats love. My second book would sell to great acclaim and because of this, people would  run to buy my first book. The fact that laundry just tripled with the new washing machines being placed in my complex would not bother me.

The things in my dreams are not outside human capacity. I don’t dream of flying, my body surfing clouds and traveling in sunsets. Reading minds is not something I would care to do just as I would not want to clobber people who are mean to me recently or ever. Oh yes, there was this one guy who was locked in the psych ward with me who called me a freak.

My dreams don’t move me to a national level or world view. I don’t dream of impeaching the president or reversing climate change. Getting rid of cancer and AIDS would be fabulous but I rarely think of these things, which reminds me of how self centered my dreams really are.

I do dream of my grandmother and mother returning from the dead in 50-year-old bodies. Sharing my life with them and my new found freedom from the effects of schizophrenia or other mental illnesses would be possible. Would happen. Both my grandmother and mother would know that I’m happy. It’s possible that they do know this even though they’re dead. Possible because my cats often times act as if someone I can’t see has entered the room, their gaze significant and penetrating.

Dreams are wonderful things. On some level, they bring with them hope. Longing does not make me sad. Longing propels me to live deeply. Say yes to life and life says yes back. It’s that simple.

May 29, 2017. I am alive and well.

So, I’m entering a contest with a short memoir piece. I think it’s important to know that I have schizophrenia before reading it. Schizophrenia sometimes influences my writing. Thanks for the read! This is part one of three.

Hospital Visit Number 47

The doctor will try to shake loose my shadow and fail. 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 as still as a hinge. I am told the elephants have moved. The teeth of the comb has 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 will wait as I am in Phoenix. The psych hospital is the same as I remember; 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 a 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. 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 if anyone is on the other side to greet me.

I am at the end of the long hall in front of the nurses’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 hear 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.

 

 

Today is May 22, 2017. I am alive and well.

I miss clothes shopping. There is no money in my budget to do this with. The truth is I own 17 pairs of jeans, 2 pairs of dress pants, 5 blouses, several shirts and several jackets. I don’t need anymore clothes. To think I can wear a different pair of jeans everyday for a week and a half is mind blowing. And I don’t grow out of them. My weight is stable.

People think I’m naturally thin. This is not true. I work at it. If I had my druthers, I would eat cake with butter cream frosting on a daily basis. I love butter cream frosting. I always go for the flowers. If a cake has whipped cream frosting I am disappointed. Cake is an elixir. Cake is a joy. At Safeway Grocery there is four different kinds of cake, single serving of all, in the same container. Whoever thought that up is a genius! And yes, I would eat it all at one sitting.

I also exercise a great deal. I’ve been lifting weights and walking on the treadmill for years. Guy, my ex, is a personal trainer and set me up well with this. Currently, I weight train with Christy for an hour four times per week and walk on the treadmill six times per week for 50 minutes. Believe it or not, I don’t like exercise. I wish I could send my body to the gym and leave my mind at home reading books.

I’ve been thinking about homelessness a great deal, lately. My sister did telephone me. She is homeless. I asked her where she slept, hoping she would say a shelter. She didn’t; she sleeps on the street. Maybe there’s a park nearby. There is a big park by the library where I work. People commune in the grass. People sleep in the grass.

I wonder about little things being difficult. Where do you charge your phone? You’re on FaceBook…where do you use a computer? How do you shower? How do you maintain your clothes? I mean, c’mon, I have 17 pairs of jeans and they’re all laundered.

I have a full refrigerator, a stove/oven combo, and a dishwasher. I don’t use my dishwasher, but I do have one. I also have a microwave I use to heat water often in order to make coffee. I have coffee, by God. No, God has nothing to do with my coffee, but God has given me life; I’m talking spiritually. I say in respect to my sister, “there but for the grace of God go I.” I spend time in the hope of growing my spiritual condition. If I were on the streets, would I do this? Probably not. Where is God in my sister’s life? Maybe that’s not a question for me to ask.

I love easily today. I love my life today. Any problem today is a luxury problem. And have I mentioned?…I have two cats who curl up to me as I write in bed. Heaven.

Today is May 14, 2017. I am alive and well.

Is it too cliche to write about mother on Mother’s Day? I do it anyway.

My mother has been dead for a long time. I miss her more today then I did when she first died. I have more life experiences to share with her. A whole tablet full of life; sentences that breathe…I had a boyfriend for fourteen years who left me for another woman and moved to Florida. Mom was not familiar with me having boyfriends. She knew me to have girlfriends. She hated the fact that I had girlfriends.

Mom died from a liver that stopped working. Yes, it was an alcohol related death. I knew she drank too much, but I didn’t know it was signed up to kill her. She was walking around as usual on Thursday and then in a coma that night. The second to last thing she said to me was from a psychiatric urgent care. She was acting crazy and her roommate called crisis. Crisis took her to the urgent care. She said to me she trusted “all the wrong people.” I’m certain she meant my father for one. He ran away with another woman the same month that both mom’s parents had died. It was tragic. It was a river stopped by a damn beavers had made. The flow interrupted. She asked me one morning to go to my father’s apartment to catch him with the other woman. My father was living in an apartment for work and would go home on the weekends until he wouldn’t anymore. I refused to go catch him.

The psychiatric urgent care wanted to clear my mom physically before treating her mind. They thought she looked bad. She fell into a coma in the ambulance on the way to Lincoln Memorial hospital. Honest Abe. The honest thing to say about her death is that her alcohol consumption killed her. She was a drunk. I tell her story with the hope that other people will put down the bourbon, knowing that alcohol is “cunning, baffling, and powerful.” A person can’t direct what heavily drinking will do. The alcohol is the beast with all the power.

I visited her at Lincoln Memorial. The last thing she did was sit up and stare at me. I told her I loved her. I told her I knew she loved her daughters. She laid back down with a sigh. And that was it. She died without waking again. She was only 58. Five years more than I am right now. Five years I have to set the world afire doing my thing. What is my thing to do? To write. To read. To work. To love. To write.

I miss you mom. When the cats are both staring at the entrance to my bedroom, I choose to believe it’s you who has come to visit. You give me strength. You taught me to be courageous. I will always be your daughter. I will live past 58. I hope you are proud of me. I love you like I do walking. I walk forward with you on my mind. You, leading me to water. Thank you.