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Today is February 19, 2018. I am alive and okay.

I try to put my heart on paper.  –Osama Alomar

I’m actually a little depressed today. No reason…unless it’s because I’ve been silent and absent in my writing. I haven’t blogged for a couple of months. The young adult novel I’ve been working on has been quiet for a month. I miss my characters but not enough to really visit with them.

A friend asked me why I write. I had to think about it for awhile. While thinking, I thought of socks in the winter and flip flops in the summer. Writing is the best meditation and link to God that I know of. I think most people have entered the zone at some point in their lives. It’s a place of complete freedom from self. There is no depression. There is no schizophrenia. There’s a feeling of floating on my back in water during the night, the stars ablaze, the moon, large in its friendliness.

Granted, when I’m in the zone there is no human contact. After coming out of it though I am a better friend. Both my parents are dead so I’m no longer a better daughter. Why am I better in my relationships? I think it’s because my soul has rested. I’ve been imbued with God.

Writing is like having all the cherries line up on the slot machine. It’s like using a hand to lift a fork and feed myself chocolate cake with an outlandish fudge frosting. Writing is scribbling on paper writing in joy even when creating an evil character.

As I’m certain someone has already said, I live to write and I write to live. Without a pen, without paper, I flutter in the wind never landing squarely on my feet.

This blog has fueled me. My depression is a little less. I’m reminded that I don’t have to be silent. I don’t have to be absent. I wink with my friends in mind and am offered peace.

 

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Today is January 1, 2018. I am alive and well.

Wow. Another holiday season come and gone. We now have to wait a whole year again for its return. I love this season and am always a bit blue when it’s over.

Looking back over the year, I’ll say that the most difficult thing for me is knowing that my sister is homeless and missing all her teeth except for one in the front due to crystal meth addiction.

I understand addiction. I know how all consuming it is. It’s like being in a box with one small hole in it and a radio, thinking that you’re sitting on a velvet cushion. The radio is stuck on your favorite song repeating over and over again until the lyrics become irritating and then inconsequential. The hole is the only thing that allows you to breathe.

When the box is opened, you have no idea if it’s day or night. All the new space is overwhelming and the silence, frightening. You seek the comfort of the box again and your favorite song. There’s really no velvet cushion when your certain there is.

Again the song becomes meaningless and you tire from lack of oxygen. The box will be opened again and again. You’ll become overwhelmed and seek confinement again. The rotation is endless. Then someone puts a cork in the hole. Suddenly, you can’t breathe. The person with the cork yells loud enough to be heard over the music. The person wants to know if you’re ready to enter space, breathe freely, and be given possibility one step at a time.

You pound on the box meaning yes. The box is opened. You suck down air and cry because the air tastes so good. Sadly, my sister’s box has not run out of oxygen. I pray for the day that it does.

The highlight of my year was having one of my short writing pieces be nominated for a Pushcart Prize. I’ll find out in the spring if I’ve won or not. Accolades or not, writing is a must for me. Recently, I’ve begun writing a young adult novel. I’m having a great time making things up and love when my characters direct me to places I didn’t know I was headed.

May this year inspire you to be your best. If you believe in God, to be the person God wants you to be. May we all spread love even if that’s the last thing we want to do. Good morning to the sun. Goodnight to the moon. All is well.

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 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.

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 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.