Category Archives: mental illness

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 1, 2017. I am alive and well.

The first thing my sister said to me when I ran into her after 7 years of no contact was “Wow, you’re still alive.” And then my uncle said to me yesterday “I bet you didn’t think you’d see 53.”

It is true. I had no intention of living to 53. A driver has no intention of holding up traffic when her truck stalls out. I have had somewhere between 15 and 20 suicide attempts in my lifetime. The last one was in 1999. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to die since then; that’s simply the last time I attempted. Maybe the East Indian doctor with the soulful dark eyes, smelling of lavender, rubbed off on me. She told me at my bedside in the hospital ICU that I had a lot of life to live. That I had something special to offer. A five-year-old gets excited when she opens the door of the restaurant for her mother for the first time, offering entrance. I got excited about my book being published in 2014. It documented my recovery from schizophrenia and alcoholism. And yes, my time away from my last suicide attempt.

I have been free from the obsession to die for sometime now. That thought had plagued me like wanting a cigarette, needing a cigarette, in a smoke free coffee house. All thinking got set aside as I prayed for God to take me after swallowing handfuls of pills.

I am very bad at dying. It is hard to kill one’s self. I believe that those who do die from suicide were meant too….I can’t tell you why I believe this. Some ice cubes in a glass of tea float to the top while others remain at the bottom. I can’t tell you why all the ice doesn’t float to the top, getting in the way of the straw.

I am in the way of death. I have floated to the top. God removed my obsession to die. Life is new to me on a daily basis.

I remember the first time I tied my own shoes. I was excited to be able to do this on my own. On occasion, my shoe becomes untied while walking on the treadmill. I push the pause button and then bend over to tie my shoe. Ready to walk again, I hit a button and the treadmill resumes.

Life resumes. I love breathing. I love eating cake with butter cream frosting. I love that my cats woke me up this morning wanting kibbles. I take care of two living things. They thank me by curling up against me while I’m on the bed napping, writing, or reading.

There is no time to die today. Afternoon approaches. I know I will eat vegan chili, salad, and cornbread. I know I will wash my hair later. I will leave the house today to go to a sobriety meeting. I am 53 and loving it. So I say to my sister “I am alive and well.” She responds with a “thank God” and “it’s good to see you.” It is good to be seen. It will reach a 115 degrees here in the desert. And then there is air conditioning to be found inside.

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

Two friends let me know they wanted to know how I felt in my last blog; how it felt when I broke my wrist and got called a boy. I thought how I felt was implied in the actions I took. They said not.

When I walked myself from the two teachers, without talking to them, to the nurse’s office I felt alone and my wrist hurt as if a big foot had snapped it in two. I was a shy third grader, too afraid to ask for help yet showing up at the nurse’s office like a colt on the way to a blacksmith for the first time.

Dressed in pants with my hair short and my body long I was mistaken for a boy. One particular time, I was walking down the street with my grandfather. We were heading home after getting ice cream. A neighbor called to my grandfather and asked if I was his grandson. My grandfather replied “granddaughter.” The damage was done. I was hurt and embarrassed; a small dog wet from a bath looking like a rat. My grandfather tried to make good by bringing up my report card. He said he was proud of me. All A’s.

I ran into my sister at my psychiatric clinic. I was there to get medication. I heard her say “Kristina.” Looking up from my book, there she was. She had deeply wronged me years ago so I had walked away from her. Until that moment, I hadn’t had any contact with her since my father’s funeral seven years earlier.

Seeing her was terrible. She looked like she was suffering. She looked haunted. A friend said of me decades ago that I look haunted. Now I know what she meant. It’s something to do with the eyes and expression of the face. A child waiting to be scolded for licking all the frosting off the cake.

My sister is a drug addict along with being mentally ill. It has never been more obvious. She no longer has her Sandra Bullock good looks. She is missing her front teeth and the teeth that she does have look rotted. Her face is tanned like that of a person who can’t get away from the sun, who has no shelter. Although it’s not cold, she is wrapped in a blanket. Her pants are hospital issued and her white t-shirt has seen happier days. It is no longer full of air and breeze like soft cotton is when new.

I give her my phone number but am not particularly kind to her. All said, she is still my baby sister. I wish I had been more welcoming. It’s been six days and she has yet to call. If anyone reading this knows her, please encourage her to get a hold of me. I am an older sister wanting to erase some of her strain, wanting to offer her a hot cup of coffee laced with vanilla syrup, wanting to embrace her in a hug that is intended. All said, I do love her. It hurts to know she suffers. It hurts like frost bite on a winter day, so unnecessary if simply clothed. There but for the grace of God go I…..

Today is April 10, 2017. I am alive and well.

So I let my friend, Gloria, know that I would be posting a blog every Monday. Letting her know this makes me accountable. I’m a say what you mean and do what you say kind of woman. I will indeed make an effort to post every Monday.

Rather than write, I’ve been doing a tremendous amount of reading. Sometimes I flash back to 1998 and the two years I spent depressed, in bed, wishing I would never wake. When I did wake, I read. It was two years of chocolate cake, cheese danish, and reading. I was so sensitive to sound and stimulation that my grandmother’s feet shuffling down the hall outside my bedroom door infuriated me. I was the stalk of a sunflower who had lost all her petals and could only dream about the color yellow. The stalk I was, rotted. I had to morph into the roots of a potato, a yam, something of the earth that was sturdy enough to withstand long periods of drought. Waking was brutal.

I have an enormous fear of depression. I never want to find myself confined to a bedroom for long periods of time again. I don’t want to rot in my own mind.

I have a friend who is severely depressed. I share with her where I’ve been. I might as well be talking to a snail. She doesn’t respond to things I say, but then, I could not perk up from pep talks, either. I could not fathom that someone else could have been locked in the tunnel, also. No light. Little breath. Short gasps. And me, tucked beneath dirty sheets.

Thank God life has moved on since then. I read today and remind myself I am not chained to books. I can put the book down and fix myself a spinach salad. I can put the book down and shower, allowing the water to massage my shoulders. I can put the book down and wash my sheets, making myself comfortable in the family room. I answer the phone. I put gas in my Fore-runner. I drive to work. And I do work.

I may have a dark night, but I don’t have dark weeks. I am free to roam outside my home. I love being alive the way my cats love watching the wind rattle the bushes from their perch on the window sill. The light pours in. I am alive. I feel my cats rub against me and I do love.

Today is April 3, 2017. I am alive and well.

I’m reading a young adult novel The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall. A young adult novel because I’m interested in writing a young adult novel. And yes, the main characters in the book are ghosts.

One of my closet friends has been a ghost hunter, recording paranormal activity. Obviously, she believes, without a doubt, that places can be haunted. I don’t know that I believe this. I do know that I feel my grandmother and mother near me at times. I don’t know if that’s because they truly are or because I will them to be with all my might. My cats, Grams named after my grandmother, and Annie named after my mother, do often stare at space intently as if they’re watching something move about. Their ears prick up and their eyes focus. I imagine a gust of fog entering my bedroom like smoke trailing from a lit cigarette in somebody’s hand.

I’m  also listening to Andy Cohen read from his diaries. I wonder what makes his drinking coffee and buttering toast more interesting than someone else doing the same thing. Seeing as his diaries made it to fourth on the New York Time’s Bestsellers List he must be doing something right. The mundane becomes extraordinary. I wonder if he can make flossing teeth entertaining simply because he’s Andy.

I write memoirs. I must think, like Andy, that something I’ve done is worth telling. I’ve listened to people say “write what you’d want to read.” So I’ve done this. I’ve written about hope despite the fact that I have schizophrenia and alcoholism. My sweat is no sweeter than others; I’ve just managed to wipe my brow on page ten and change my socks for a clean pair on page eleven.

Writing about my life is hard, is fun, is something I hope to continue doing even if or when someone tells me I’m boring.

Today is July 4, 2016. I am alive and struggling.

I stopped taking my anti-anxiety medication three months ago. I had been on it for at least ten years. The doctor said my body had probably gotten used to it and it no longer was doing what it was intended to do. For two days, I have been riddled with anxiety to the point of being paralyzed. Anxiety is like having all the nerves outside my skin, pulsating with fluorescent lighting. It is having a brain obsessed with what could go wrong:  my truck could get a flat tire again or die in traffic; someone could have logged into my checking account; my home could get bed bugs; and the new, cheap products for my face could cause me to break out in a rash. Silly. Nonsense. Whatever it may be called, my mind doesn’t drop my obsessions easily. They pin themselves to me as easy as pinning a name tag just above my left breast.

I have been hiding out in books. No writing. No shaving my legs (I’m a hairy Greek girl). No cleaning my condo. I talk my way through grocery shopping and laundry, grateful that I’m able to do those things.

Maybe the solution is to take anti-anxiety meds again. That seems too easy, like filling an empty ice tray with water. Today, I choose not too. I am happy to be free from one of my seven medications. The others my brain needs–I don’t want to fall off the scale again. Here’s to weight keeping me stable. I am heavy enough not to float away with a lopsided mind. This is good.