Tag Archives: Mental Illness

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 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 November 13, 2015. I am alive and mostly well.

My fingers have been silent for awhile. I imagine them covered in mud, unable to snap one musical note. There is no water to rinse with. There are no paper towels to dry with.

I am standing outside in a black cotton shirt and jeans, my boots lined with faux fur that peaks out the top. My boots are waterproof.

It begins to rain. I extend my fingers. They are without mud.

Not only have my fingers been silent, but I have been  quiet in my emotional life. I have not read e-mails. I have not lined up coffee and meals with friends. I have not wanted to go to meetings, but I go anyway. I’m behaving like a depressed person who still showers, eats meals, and makes it on time to work. Maybe I have simply needed to be still. Stillness grabs me in a tight embrace.

The cats have enjoyed me being home. They wrap themselves around each other on my bed, butted up against my legs. I pray not to have to go to the restroom anytime soon because I don’t want to disturb them. Yes, they have taken me hostage. They are black and cute, one chubby, one skinny. I don’t want to be a writer who is always writing about cats.

The stillness allows me to reflect on my current life. My brain has not been sick for a long time although schizophrenia is tethered softly to me. The other day, I had to Skype with a psychiatrist whom I didn’t know. The first thing I said was, “This is weird.” I asked if other people were tapping into the computer, listening to our conversation. She told me the computer was secure. I sat for ten minutes saying yes to some questions and making certain she didn’t change my medications. I have been hospital free on these meds for over seven years. I have not had to beg a psych tech on the unit for dental floss. I can retrieve dental floss from my bathroom drawer whenever I want, stretching it out to any length I want.

I wil blog more about my reflections in stillness another time. This blog has gotten long. Be well. me.

Today is September 12, 2015. I am alive and well.

Does our mind follow our body like a pan following heat? Or does our body follow our mind like that of a comatose individual?

As someone with schizophrenia, I have to be careful when following my mind. When psychotic, delusional, and/or paranoid, I am instructed by my mind to do bizarre things. None of these bizarre  things include killing. Unlike the media suggests, not all mentally ill people have it in them to kill and act violently.

I am a pigeon, gray wings folded against my body in anticipation of flight. I sit, spine straight, head up, eyes opened but not focused, on my bed. I send my mind to the corner lot down the street. My body does not follow.

Construction workers are building a house. I settle on the branch of an oak. I smell fresh sawdust. It is cool. One of the workers wears a red scarf. I covet the scarf, but cannot act to get it because my body is not with me.

One day, the house will hold people. The people will make memories. The boy will become a congressman, the girl, a forensic pathologist. The father is a teacher and the mother, a phlebotomist. They can afford to pay for their children’s education. They can afford to pay for fancy cereals and fresh greens. The kids dress in the latest fashion and play golf on Sundays. No one can tell me this is not so because my mind believes it. I believe it.

The wind tugs on my feathers. I enter the sky and return to my body.

My body craves movement. My body craves exercise. I drive to the gym and get on a treadmill. I read trashy magazines while my body walks. My mind is following my body. My body falls into a steady rhythm of walk. My body carries my mind gracefully; I do not trip, shoe laces tied, feet moving repetitively, one-two, one-two, up-down, up-down.

In answer to my original questions, I believe the mind and body are both powerful. I believe they are inseparable even though a torture victim leaves her body. In order to die, the mind will retune to the body. Both are locked in death. After death, well, that is a whole other thing. The soul speaks…

Today is August 10, 2015. I am alive and well.

To begin, I don’t have kids and have not often been around them. I don’t know if I’d be any better in my interactions with them then the parents I see at the library. Yesterday, a mother was screaming, yes screaming in the library, at her four-year-old son “there is no where to play right here.” The boy was spinning around and around with an empty red basket in one hand. Who was he harming? No one. He wasn’t even in the way because he spun in a tight circle, his body gaining momentum as if he could drill a hole through the floor.

There’s a pond in the library. I don’t know what else to call it other than a pond, a body of water on the first floor beneath wide cement stairs that contains no fish, just scattered change from well wishers. The toddlers are fascinated by this. I applaud the parents who let their children touch the water. The children recognize wet. Water drips from their chubby little hands.

I abhor parents that put their child on a leash. They do this buy attaching a back pack, usually in the shape of a monkey, to the child’s back. The monkey’s tail becomes a leash about five feet in length. This contains the child. Just as I think a child should be able to play anywhere that suits their imagination and doesn’t disturb the reality of others, I don’t think children need to be contained in such a way, especially if they’re in the children’s area of the library.

It is creative chaos in the children’s section. There is more than just books. There’s a puppet house with puppets, large building blocks of wood, a canoe shaped item that the kids rock in, some PVC pipe creations ready to be reconfigured, puzzles, computers, desks and chairs. Virtually, a small bit of paradise for children to explore. Let them roam, I say. Let them laugh loudly and thwart the screaming mother’s chastisement…but then remember, I am not a mother.

I regret not having children even though there are many good reasons why I didn’t. First off, I would have to come off all  my psychiatric medications. This would be traumatizing, and I suspect the trauma would have a negative effect on my fetus. Then there is the fact that I’ve never been financially stable. Nor would I want my child to inherit  schizophrenia from me. I do applaud women in my same situation for going for it despite everything. I have met some of these mothers. Their babies are loved and cared for. As adults, these same babies will probably have a great deal of compassion for the downtrodden. I understand it could go another way, but for today, I am hopeful that mothers with mental illness do well by their children. I am hopeful that mother’s without mental illness do well by their children.

Today is November 26, 2014. I am alive and well.

Excerpt from my book Mind Without a Home: A Memoir of Schizophrenia…..

September 1993. I am 29 years old. At eleven years of sobriety, a heavy cloud drops on my head. Voices from other realities plague me like a gaggle of hurt geese who can’t find their way home. Men and women in black suits appear in my home and at my front door and in the grocery store aisles where cans neatly line the shelves, and boxes of cereal promise to make me an Olympian. Their presence is a plague. In three months’ time, I overdose seven times. The intensive care attendants get sick and tired of bringing me back. They refuse me cups of soda and stop washing my forehead with soft cloths in the ICU.

I move three times within these three months. People don’t want to rent me a room. Taylor comes to my rescue, as she has done many times before. She converts her living room into a bedroom.

There are three of us living in a small two bedroom apartment along with Taylor’s two large dogs. No one complains while I’m there. And no one kicks me out after I get drunk.

__________________________

not an excerpt. present day…

Life is so unlike the above today. I have 21 years of sobriety, live in my own condo, have not attempted suicide for I don’t know how many years. And I have learned to manage my symptoms well enough to have a good and full life. My past seems weird to me because I am so removed from it. I don’t live yesterdays. Today I am content with life, with who I am, wishing good cheer for all..corny, yes. But corny lights days and massages nights. I am wealthy without a dime. But I can always come up with enough to buy coffee other than Folger’s. Loving is the best thing I do in a day.