Category Archives: Recovery

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

My short memoir piece installed over 4 blogs. Hospital Visit Number 19, final blog.

 

It is cool in the hospital. I am glad for my thermal shirt, jeans, and thick socks.

Bobby approaches me and says hi. I say hi back.

“Wow,” he says, “You can speak.”

I give him a smile.

“And Smile.”

“Don’t get too use to it,” I say with a grin the size of the Chesire Cat’s in Alice’s Wonderland.

Dr. Purewal arrives at noon. We meet for twenty minutes in which time he determines I am good to go home.

I am on the patio of the hospital. The Phoenix sun is strong, wood thrown onto an already burning fire. The heat reaches my bones. I will be released in an hour. John will go over my medications and aftercare plan.

My mind is a slow hum. The sound is soft like a T-shirt dropped on a tile floor. Today, my mind is my friend. My mind is something to pay attention too. It is a waterfall. Thoughts dropped entering into a pool of calm water, the ripples smoothing out and again returning the pool to calm.

I will go home today and feed my cats. I will sit in a straight backed chair at the kitchen table with my grandmother and eat soup with rye bread. My depression has lifted. I am able to wash the dishes in the sink, dry them, and place them in the cupboard. Exhaustion has lifted. I’m no longer surrounded by dust. Life is clean again, not just a mirage in the desert. I press my hand to my chest. My heart beats strong again. I will protect it, but not to the point of eliminating all relationships. I can be strong and vulnerable at the same time.

I am happy to have my psychosis end. It’s not me that is horribly affected by my loss of reality. It’s the people around me. I am oblivious. I am lost. Those outside myself are well aware. Are present. I am glad to hold hands with my loved ones again. We wish on the stars together and delight in the moon. My wish is simple, stay home and love.

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

My short memoir piece. Hospital Visit Number 19. Installment 3 of 4.

The hospital staff and Guy remind me that I have schizophrenia. It is something that does not go away. Not like the pain of a pulled rotten tooth. I cannot pull this from my mind. I am wired, attached to hallucinations. Why do they feel so real? I am the extension of the antennae on an old fashioned television set. Aluminum foil. Yes, it is rigged. I am rigged. Through medication and support of people, they are trying to make the rigged part go away. They are trying to help me stand even when I sense that I am falling. Not falling into sickness, but falling into a different me, one I can only understand with the help of medication and clean people.

I will fall asleep in the hospital once again. I wake for medication and meals and the occasional conversation with the doctor and staff. I wake for my boyfriend. Sadly, I wake to the voices, too. They are with me like loose sleeves on a jacket that is too tight across my chest. Occasionally, they drop through the wrists of the jacket. It is in these moments that I exalt. I can count ten fingers and ten toes. I can make peace with my God. And most importantly, I can feel the love from those who touch me, warm like a wet washcloth used to remove the dust from my cheek. I am loved and I do love. This slides into my thinking like a person sliding into home plate, scoring the winning run, beating out the baseball sent from the outfield.

My mind slowly gets better. A cake bakes at 400 degrees for twenty minutes. Eventually, the toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Eventually, my mind comes out clean. I am able to communicate in simple sentences not requiring a great deal of thought from the listener. My silence is no longer the result of a sickened mind hiding from the florescent bulbs of the hospital.

It is breakfast time. All of us gather in the main area and receive a tray. I am able to enter the rec room and claim a seat at one of the round tables. French toast and sausage. Cereal and a carton of milk. The voices are soft. Thy no longer berate me. Pick up the fork, they say. Eat, they say. It tastes good, they say. I’m okay with them repeating what it is I’m doing. It is much better than being told to die or told to call the fat man obese and the skinny girl anorexic. My voices can be cruel, can ask me to do cruel things.

After eating, I return the tray to the cart. John, the psych nurse, approaches me, clipboard in hand, like he does every morning.

“Good morning, Kristina.”

“Morning.”

“Are you feeling suicidal today?”

Only in a psych hospital would a person start the conversation with this question.

“No,” I respond.

“And the voices?”

“Still there, but not bad.”

“How was breakfast?”

“Good. I’ll be going home soon, I think.”

“Are you ready?”

“Yes.”

“Maybe so. Maybe so. The doctor should be in soon.”

John leaves me with this parting thought. It is up to the doctor as to whether or not I go home. Dr. Purewal really listens to me. When I am able to hold a conversation with him and let him know I’m ready to go home, he usually agrees. He knows me well. He has been my doctor in the hospital for years.

 

Today is November 27, 2017. I am alive and well.

Like usual, I have no idea what I’m going to write on this blog. Of course, I hope you all had a fabulous Thanksgiving. I love the holidays and don’t experience them as stressful. But then I don’t cook and the only gift I buy is for my roommate.

I have thought much about my sister who’s a crystal meth addict and homeless. I actually dreamt of her last night. In the dream she was showing me her teeth, of which she only had a few, and the sores on the inside of her cheek. She told me that the infection from her sores would ultimately spread to her jaw and then follow her bone to her ear, making her deaf in that one ear. I asked my sister what meth did for her. Her response, “I’m rocketed to a new dimension, much like what happens to people of faith visiting with God. It is thrilling. My trip is thrilling.” That was the end of the dream.

I haven’t given up on my sister. I know the truth currently is that my sister has no desire to give up meth. I found a place where she could live for free for a year and they would provide for her all her meals. All she has to do is give up the drugs and get sober. She said no. She is three years younger than I am, 50-years-old, and I would guess that she has been using drugs for over 25 years.

With sobriety, I am safe. I am a sober drunk, 24 years sober,  with a healthy fear of drugs. My drug use amounts to me trying marijuana once. It left me paranoid and rocking in the corner of a room. Thirty years ago, this same sister told me I just smoked it wrong. Ha. How does a person smoke it right or wrong?

I am completely aware of the fact that I could be her. I don’t know why I was led to sobriety and she wasn’t. Out of desperation, I latched on to a program of recovery. I’m certain my sister has felt desperation at some point. I’m certain she suffers. Neither of these two things have brought her to her knees.

I will be warm this holiday season. I will eat good food. I will be physically clean. I will surround myself with people I love and who love me. Life is good.

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 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 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 July 10, 2017. I am alive and well.

Prior to sobriety, I was often lonely even in crowds of people. If I could have been at home with myself that might not have been the case. There was no coming home to myself and I was absent emotionally in my relationships with other people. I was a door with a rusty lock and a broken bell. I was a scratched window covered in grime. No one could get in or see in even though I was desperate for human contact.

Enter sobriety. Everything changed. Especially my social life. Especially my spiritual life. People wrote letters and dropped them through the mail slot in my self imposed door. They scrubbed my window clean, drying it with newsprint so as not to leave streaks. With effort, I opened the door. I looked out through the glass. There was dinner and coffees and movies and truth telling. So much so that it become a bit overwhelming. I am still an introvert. I now enjoy my own company with God at my center.

So today as a woman alone in her home, I will seek comfort from the spicy mustard colored walls that surround me and the ever present feeling of Spirit. The truth is, I am only as alone as I want to be. I can either set aside time to meet a friend or more importantly, marvel in the sense that all is right with my life. A bird just hit the window outside my study and bounced off. I too, can be that resilient. There are many ways to be in the world–four quarters make a dollar as does one hundred pennies, ten dimes, or twenty nickels. Currently, I am the paper dollar–a little frayed around the edges but still capable of buying two chocolate eggs. Cadbury. Fabulously delicious.