Wednesday, April 11, 2018
I have had a lot of relationships with men who were quite a number of years older than I. This dynamic operated in those relationships. We are not born knowing how these things operate (especially those of us who are also "damaged" in some way). Serving as a placater, a projection object, and a receptacle of abuse may, if fact, be all we have ever known. Sadly, it may feel completely normal. It has taken me many years to understand the function of misogyny in my own life and the way it has shaped my experiences, opportunities, and, often, lack of opportunities. Until I was well into my forties, I might have said that I did not need feminism because my choices were my own and I lived my life according to my own desires. While I consider still that this is true to an extent, as I said, the function of misogyny in my world has become so much more apparent. And example: I was speaking recently to a long-time acquaintance about a man who was my boss in my 20's and 30's. For many years, I had said that this man treated me well and did not treat me badly because I am a woman. What I am able to notice in retrospect, though, is that although he treated me well in interpersonal interactions, he materially advanced the careers of at least three men I can think of who were not half as smart or talented than I. Did he actively sabotage me? Not really. Did he fail to provide me with the support that might have carried me out of roles that increased my socioeconomic servitude and overall distress (which he provided to men who were not as qualified)? Absolutely. A greater level of professional support and socioeconomic independence at that point in my life may have even let me avoid the contact with psychiatry that eventually ruined mostly all of my prospects. So, yeah, it's a long game. And, it is complicated.
Saturday, April 7, 2018
Illusions in Orange Neon: Snap Chats from the Drug Store
I have written a fair amount about the experience of the woman survivor. The blunt trauma impact of force, in its afterglow. The subtle, seductive-wet mouldering and eventual erosion of self esteem that accompanies a few sweaty rounds of coercion. What interests me most today is neither force nor coercion, but illusion. Most specifically, the illusion of choice. The promise that is a sparkling mirage for those who have been lost too long in a chaos that is possibly not even their own.
I can recognize the complaint ones.
The mental patient women,
in front of me at the drug store,
without enough money to cover their inane purchases
of hair dye and flavored potato chips.
They are overweight,
but not so grossly obese that some asshole
wouldn’t fuck them
just because they can’t fuck anyone else,
or perhaps because these compliant ones
will take a dick up their ass
or do whatever else they are asked.
Know our people by what they choose and what they carry with them to the counter of the CVS, Walgreen’s, and Rite Aid. Or, perhaps, it is the drug counter at the Stop and Shop or Target, if a trip to a completely freestanding monument to pharmaceutical domination and state mind control is too much of an inconvenience. There isn’t much to worry about in that respect, though. If CVS is your favorite, as it used to be mine, you will find at least one in any reasonably sized municipality. Their numbers have, in fact, almost doubled from 5,474* in 2005 to 9,681* in 2015. Other people do not like CVS; and, that is okay. On the other corner, within walking distance, there will almost certainly be another choice. Walgreen’s? There were 8046* of them in the US in 2010*. It is so important to have a choice.
It is as though they have a giant,
orange neon arrow above their heads.
screams the text above the arrow.
Their hair is cut too short for their large bodies,
partially shaved and partially spiked up
with more product of the drug store.
Their pants never fit.
These women are cut in half
where the pants expect their waists to be.
Something is for everyone at the drug store. There are hundreds of varieties of sugar and carbohydrate nightmares, guaranteed to satiate the late-night-early-morning-mid-morning and just before noon Zyprexa fueled cravings. Chose a Coke or a Pepsi to make things go down more smoothly. Substantially different, aren’t they? Fifty different ways of “family planning”, or perhaps just plain old pregnancy prevention if you are like me and many thousands who have been told we will never be able stop our medication long enough to sustain a pregnancy. If family planning is forgotten today, there is Plan B for tomorrow. Growing older and finding it more difficult to be smoothly objectified? The lubricant comes in liquid and gel forms, right here at the drug store. Through chemistry, better living. Behind the miraculous pharmacy counter, at least a thousand ways to die. Today. Tomorrow. At age 30 or 63. Feeling a little blue on that Zyprexa? Add Abilify. Still anxious on Klonopin? What about a cheap, purple bottle of something pretending to be Merlot? Right over here. So many choices.
They speak too much,
and too loudly,
attempting to hold a full conversation with the cashier
about WHY they THOUGHT they had enough money
for the hair dye in a brassy cheerful color.
(Their THERAPIST has recommended bright colors)
along with other bits of useless magical thinking.
It is 2016, the middle of July, six years almost to the day since psychiatry killed the brilliant, artistic woman I felt as my child from a dimension only slightly removed from this one. She was 30. A junkie, her father, my ex, said. “Who cares what she overdosed on or why?” Tore me the fuck apart with his goddamn indifference, and confirmed I was wise to have left him two years earlier.
It’s a month out from when I held the hand of my best comrade and offered him whatever he could take from my being to make the opening of the channel easier for his passage into the next dimension. “I don’t want to die,” he said. I told him I knew, but I would also understand if he changed his mind. Congestive heart failure, they said. Years of smoking, they said, heads shaking. Overweight. Silently, I filled the blanks. First generation antipsychotics. Tricyclics. Atypical antipsychotics. SSRI’s. Benzos. He said many times, “We die 25 years before our peers who are not psychiatrically involved.” Two days later, I documented this for him one last time. Then, I placed a period at the end of his obituary. Full stop.
for them to finish
in a line of five, then eight.
The eight cannot see the orange neon sign.
Only I, in my fat, blatant insanity—
a woman with long, greying hair
who speaks infrequently and softly
know it is there.
They leave, the compliant ones,
with only the flavored chips and pharmaceutical poisons
that can be purchased with welfare.
and hardly ever speak.
No one would ever guess I have somewhere to be.
It’s still July and it finally rains—torrents. Even the chilly Northeast is as lush as the tropics, and oppressively hot. I watch the rain blur the hanging greenery of the branches outside the window and absently take in the too-loud motor of the window air conditioner that has been installed through a hole cut just for that purpose in the back, outside wall of this cheap motel room. I chose the man next to me for his brain, his cock and his politics, not necessarily in that order. I am not ashamed of my thick, naked waist as he puts his hands there. I want his cock in my ass and tell him as much, happy, max-chilled and even smiling with the lines on my face softened in a haze of the Ativan that will facilitate my multiple orgasms directly. I don’t know if this man will keep my psyche safe, but he respects my freedom and will continue to do so throughout infinity. I don’t know if my heart is safe with him, but I can, without fear, tell him the truth about exactly what I would do with a locked building full of shrinks, all the gasoline my heart desired, and a beautiful, sterling silver cigarette lighter etched with some exotic, foreign word for liberation. In this moment, I have no fear; only deep, delicious peace.
He pulls the clip out of my hair and it falls everywhere as my energy rises toward him, more intense and insane in each moment, proportionate to rage and frustration that flowed before through my bondage. No one is looking for me. My treatment team dissolved eight or ten years ago. There is no therapist, not even me, to dissect the next two hours of my life into five or ten bad, terrible, regrettable choices.
Forced treatment is violence
Coercion is violence.
The illusion of choice is violence.
I am as free as most of us get.
I can see the the orange neon motel sign through the rain and steam outside of the dirty window pane rather indistinctly. It says there is a vacancy. I move in for a deep kiss with my lover, betting the vacancies are far too few for those who substantially need them.
*quantities of CVS Caremark and Walgreen’s stores retrieved from http://www.statista.com/statistics/241544/cvs-caremark--number-of-stores-since-2005/ on July 24, 2016
I might as well start this essay like I start all of the others and acknowledge that the details of this story are receding into dissociation, a bit like your hairline. I know you happened to me a little after I turned thirty. I may have been thirty-one or two. It was the year when I was almost thin enough. I only ate yogurts for lunch over several months; and, I may have been under 160 pounds. I felt I was still at the large end of normal, but small enough not to attract derision wherever I went as a “fatty” or a “hog” or “Piglet” or whatever bacon analogy the patriarchy might randomly assign. The Black men I worked with at the community social services agency, always a bit more forward than the Caucasian ones, only told me that year that they liked thick women. I had colleagues who were a bit larger to whom they said they liked big women. Any you, last man standing, were charmed enough by my intellect and my eagerness to please you that you overlooked what you considered to be my aesthetic flaws.
I remember how the sun came in and warmed you bed that day in July when you pulled of my plain, white, panties, size large, out from under my unremarkable denim skirt, size sixteen. I wanted your fingers inside of me. Two of them. I came and then I sucked your cock. I remember, very well, when you took off my panties, how grateful I was that I had lost the weight. Everything from that point forward feels like it could have happened in a casino. It was all about numbers and odds.
I remember the first time you ever told me you felt cheated. By me, of course. It wasn’t about my weight that time. It was, I think, my “mental health”. Something had happened. I had gotten upset. Not self-directed-violent upset. Not suicidally depressed upset. It was I drank a bottle of wine and smoked a bowl and wanted to talk to you upset. You didn’t feel comfortable. More accurately, I didn’t MAKE you comfortable. I felt badly; and, I consumed all that wine and pot without even once considering how it might make you feel. It made you feel cheated. I remember, I could not believe what I was hearing. Was this really the man, more than old enough to be my father, who had taken off my panties on a sunny day in July and made me feel calm for, perhaps, the first time ever in my life? Did he really mean he felt cheated by what I am, as opposed to what he thought I was before? That couldn’t possibly be. And, if it was so, who actually SAYS something like that to the person they love?
Thus began a conversation and a narrative that lasted the full ten years of our relationship. It was always about me, and “how I was doing”. Was I stable enough for you to love, or were we “just friends” for the week? Was I swallowing the pills like I was supposed to, or was I having a “relapse”? Was the abusive cunt-therapist you hand-picked for me pleased with what I said to her, or had I “acted borderline” in my session, causing her to abort it at 30 minutes, while still charging me the full price? What else was I to expect from her, you demanded. I wish I could say it was the longest, most tedious conversation of my life. It was close, though.
I always have said I am not much of a gambler. That I avoid gambling because I addict to everything else so easily it seems best not to start. Many more times, I heard you say you felt cheated. Always in a sickening, sniveling, entitled tone that made me want to break you fucking neck. And yet, I think I did gamble on you. And, you cheated so much more than I did, if I ever did at all.
I feel cheated, twenty-three-years-older man.
I was cheated that day in July, before the millennium changed, as the sunlight warmed the smooth linens on your bed and reflected the pale yellow you had painted the walls, a breeze from the open window moving the paper crane you had made and hung from the ceiling. I was cheated, in one of the best years of my life, of a lover who was literally anything more than a marginally controlled pedophile. You had no business touching me; and, you knew it. Your fingers dripped with guilt as you pulled them out of my cunt. But, you knew the others had, so you could as well. And, you knew you had done it before. Somehow, you apparently felt this wasn’t as bad.
A few years later, you cheated me again. Yes, man whose oldest daughter is eight years younger than I. Like you. I feel cheated. Entitled to so much more. Another “relapse”. More wine, more pot. The harder stuff wouldn’t come until later. On the advice of cunt-therapist, you drove me to the hospital and signed me into the psychiatric ward. Where I would be raped one night by a large, Black man who attended the community center where I worked as a “client”. Where the night nurse would tell me that injuries like mine were, “What happens when we throw ourselves out of bed because we aren’t getting the drugs we want.” Where my records were falsified and my future was sealed. You cheated me out of so much that day.
I came out of the hospital and went back in. I don’t know anymore how many times. I doubled-down on our “relationship”, putting even more into you and your family than I had before in hopes a smidgen of your attention. Another orgasm on your smooth sheets. A little more calm. The conversation about my “wellness” and “recovery” got louder and droned continually. It took me three years to tell you I had been raped in the hospital that first time, and by whom, because it was an individual known to you. I told you on a Friday evening. Your response was, “Oh well, you have had so many cocks inside of you, what is one more?” I had doubled-down hard and hedged nothing. I didn’t even challenge you on that statement. I was sure you would come through with loving kindness and plan some enjoyable distraction for the weekend. I didn’t hear from you for two weeks. It was the first time ever that I felt really contaminated by the rape.
I really went for broke in the next two or three years. I planned and facilitated a move for your oldest daughter. Baked endless gourmet treats for holiday dinners and helped care for your middle daughter who went in and out of rehab a couple of times before kicking Heroin. I ferried you to and from the airport for the extended vacations you had been taking since your retirement. You cheated me, man-with-the-middle-daughter-you-call-only-the-borderline. Every time you commented on how much weight I had gained. Every time you offered me a plate of plain greens with sour, red, vinegar. Every time you told me how under-employed I was, most likely as a result of my weight, but also, certainly, because no one ever would forget those hospitalizations, nor should they, of course. Let me say it again. You fucking cheated me.
So many other things happened in those last couple of years, as you might have guessed if you have given it any thought at all, though, knowing you as I do, I do not feel even slightly inclined to believe that you have. When I took in your middle daughter because you were too abusive for her to stand, of course she told me what you had done to her. I lost all my credibility as a human being by not believing her and loving you even a few months past that horrible point in time. It was her, of course, who brought the hard drugs into my life. Years of your toxicity in my blood had mad my tolerance high and my need for something a bit stronger to blot you out intense. I don’t think you noticed, no-man’s land, but I am fucking telling you now.
Ten years are gone now since I sat on your porch swing with you and told you I was not, again, going to assume the “just friends” role in your life so that you could, again, date someone you found more interesting while I continued to fill all of the menial, care-taking roles in your life. “You don’t want to be friends?” You asked, a bit surprised.
“No.” I said. “I am walking away because this is what I want.”
And, I did.
These are the first days of 2018 and it is almost eight years since your middle daughter was found, dead, in your house while you were on a trip to Montana with your new wife. That was also a beautiful day in mid-July. She was dead from an overdose. You and your remaining family called it suicide, though I don’t believe that was probably the case. I cried when I found out I could not view her body because the funeral home had cremated her before I got there. I sent flowers to her memorial service, but I did not attend and disrupt your new life. The truth was, I did not want to see the new wife, there in my place. I did not want to spend another day as one of your discarded women (the cunt-therapist’s term for what I would be if I did not tow the line of “recovery”). I reached out tentatively to your other daughters to have someone with whom to very occasionally grieve. The youngest one eventually told me I was attention-seeking and “pretending I was a part of her family.” Yes, man-who-is-now-near his own death, there is no way in hell they don’t know.
I met you almost twenty years ago and feel cheated to this day. Yet, I am not the one who was cheated the most. If you think it was you, man-without-compassion-or-love, you can go fuck yourself.
I’ve a long history of putting my thoughts to paper on my mother’s birthday. Ten-twenty-three. When I was a child, I could not, for a time, remember if it was the twenty-first or twenty-third.
“Just remember turd,” she said. “Twenty-third. Rhymes with turd.”
So, I suppose, began the poetic aspect of my career in words and letters.
This year, particularly plain in my mind is the suicide note I wrote on ten twenty-third of 2014. It was a laundry list, really, of all of the people who raped me and all of the ways she gas-lighted me into believing it was okay. I’m being very, very, literal here. It was full of white-powder Heroin and misogyny. Those were the “olden” days of street drugs, though, and only the misogyny was spiked with Fentanyl then. Still, to this day, I have never had anything as good.
I dream about it.
On good nights.
The place was an abandoned funeral home in Utica. I was down to my last gallon of drinking water from the Dollar General a few blocks away. There wasn’t any food; and, the things I did to fill my time, I did not want to do anymore. I was sleeping on an ancient piece of foam rubber on the floor with the Amish country (made in China) quilts I had bought for myself on a holiday with other social workers who counted the ability to purchase such things as measures of their success and belonging in a certain, lower, strata that, nevertheless, included such things as memory foam mattresses and running water. Another life. I was already dead.
“What’s your favorite number?”
“Your favorite number, shit-for-brains. WHAT IS IT?”
(Innocuous enough, like the last name of my sweet, naive high school boyfriend, who, naturally enough, turned out to be gay)
“NO IT’S NOTYOU DUMB FUCKING BITCH. It’s FIVE. Your FAVORITE MOTHER FUCKING NUMBER is FIVE.”
Many days, I would go up to the third floor. There was a room up there that was almost pristine within the general decay of the place overall. A white limestone fireplace was on one side, and an oriental rug with bright colors was in front of it. It would have made a beautiful sitting room in a real place to live. A floor to ceiling window looked out on the street. I could sit in front of the window all day, feeling like I really lived in this place. I watched the traffic, and the homeless folks with their large plastic bags, and around three to three-thirty, the school kids. On very rare occasions, one of them would look up and see me, then grab the arms of their friends and point upward, mouth in a wide O. They would quickly look away and run, assuming, mostly correct, that I was one of the ghosts known to haunt the towering structure on the corner with the peeling gray paint.
Other times, I would go to one of the cemeteries and photograph the tombstones of the old Italian families that had settled this crumbling industrial town in better times. They were beautiful, really. Some had fully detailed statues of forgotten patron saints on top of them. One day, I took a photograph of St. Pascale looking as though he was pulling down the wrath of the ages from the sky with his upraised right hand and pointing finger. Later, at the McDonald’s where I often went for dollar burgers and free internet, I learned that he is only the patron saint of cooks.
The twenty-third falls five days after the eighteenth. October 18 has seemed like a bit of ground zero for much of this particular trip. It was the anniversary of my first, disastrous marriage, which was the origin of the phrase “cunt face”, still reserved by me for those who revile me the most. Make me feel like I am being ground into the cheap berber carpet of a midwestern college town apartment while you rip out pieces of my hair and slam your elbow into the side of my face, screaming at me that I WILL incubate your disgusting semen until it takes the form of your drippy nosed, grimy fingered, progeny, if that is your wish.
Yes, if you make me feel like that, I will call you a cunt-face. Your shock and revulsion at such a wantonly crude insult will (sometimes, momentarily) fill the the empty hole in the center of my chest.
“IT’S FIVE YOU CUNT-FACED BITCH. Your FAVORITE FUCKING CUNT-FACED NUBMER is FIVE, GOD DAMMIT.”
The eighteenth of October marks also the birthdays of two subsequent, significant, lovers of mine, one of whom echoes significantly less than the first husband. The other one, well, he whispers low, but insidious.
“You have a life, but it is not much of a life.”
“You could compete better in the job market if you were thinner.”
“I didn’t know you were THAT crazy.”
These days, mercifully, he is periodically silent.
“WHAT IS YOUR MOTHER FUCKING FAVORITE CUNT-FACED NUMBER?”
I made my list of rapes on my mother’s birthday in 2014. I added a few other assorted grievances and called it a suicide note. I reviewed my exit plan. I reviewed also my assets, which included the gallon of water, the Amish quilts, my ability to command words and make them do somersaults and hang from a trapeze if that should be my bidding, a working vehicle, and a possibly-working credit card, among negligible others. Still, a lot of privilege to go before I walk directly in the shoes of most of my people. I went up to the third floor and mentally checked the fuck out until twenty-five.
On twenty-five, the possibility of the credit card morphed into the reality of a full tank of gas. I put my filthy quilts in the trunk and drove away. Three-hundred miles and another tank of gas. A real meal, for the first time in several days. God damned if I don’t still love Denny’s for their six dollar breakfast combinations that come with LITERALLY ALL THE FOOD GROUPS. It was twenty-five. It was one of those rare days when the ravenous hole in my soul was easily filled with protein, carbs and a huge glass of orange juice (THAT DID NOT COST EXTRA!).
God, I was SO thirsty.
It was twenty-five and almost twenty-six, and five-hundred miles totally, when I washed the mold of the abandoned funeral home and the grime of Utica’s dead factories off of my still-living skin in a $49 motel room.
Turd. Twenty-third. Seventeen.
Yesterday, I did almost nothing. I was good, settled among my pillows, reclined, medicated, connected slightly to the outside world. I had the digitalized company of two women activist friends on and off throughout the day. These women, one from the UK and one from its revision, New England, they are as fucking solid and enduring as St. Pasquale.
Every time I tried to get up, the pain started a bit to the left at the base of my spine. It radiated outward to the farthest part of my pelvic bone and hip joint before it took a sharp turn southward and landed in my knee. From my knee, it followed gravity and continued into each small bone and joint in my foot and ankle, making me want to roll outward onto the side of my foot. I felt and moved much like a hermit crab who has put herself inside a shell that is too heavy on one side. When I could, I leaned my right side against walls and held onto things when things were available to hold.
These days, the only thing I can sometimes do is make myself comfortable. The piles of cushions. The soft, worn, quilts, clean now. Medical grade to smoke and some pills that become some powder that then becomes yet something else again, periodically effective against the pain, but not always, and never enough to let me walk completely upright with my head high when that particular pain comes. It’s best not to try. Sometimes, when I get the recipe just right, the voices completely and totally stop screaming at me how I’m wrong about numbers for a few hours.
This is nobody’s cunt-faced recovery story.
Friday, April 6, 2018
Here are aspects of being silenced. Aspects of being alive. Confessions of multiple suicide attempt, multiple overdose and multiple diagnoses survivors. Confessions of the Chronic. Not the trendy kind that end with the protagonist posing with the governor of some god forsaken southern faction receiving his or her peer certification certificate and extolling the virtues of the (insert 12 step program or trendy, monetized thought control mechanism here) that saved him or her from a certain death.
Being a suicide survivor has become even trendy of late. I don’t mean the kind of suicide survivor who has lost a dear family member or friend to a completed suicide–the kind of hits you get on the first twelve google links when you search “suicide survivor”. I mean person who has attempted to complete suicide, and survived…individuals for whom an incomplete suicide is as simple as their many other incomplete life events…relationships, careers and degrees. It is as simply gone as the missing pieces of their swiss cheese psyches.
Not all suicide survivors are grateful. Not all of us have “recovery”. No, we have not found any kind of religion in middle age; and, we have not lost the extra weight from the Zyprexa and become a yoga instructors, although we have tried. Our last suicide attempts are not in the memorial place of our roaring twenties. Our attempts were, perhaps, last week. We are not in recovery from drugs, prescription or street. We are firmly in relapse. The last time we woke up, surprised to have our feet still firmly planted on Earth, was in a leaky, cheap motel room somewhere in the Northwest, or the South, or South America, or India. It was early this year, or late last Fall, or on a perfectly beautiful day, July 16, 2010, a Friday, when it seemed the whole world might be grateful for the release of a temperate weekend.
Some of us were, understandably, looking for attention, just as you have accused us of doing in so many cliches, and now memes. Why not? Many of our families have abandoned us. We have lacked the boundaries to keep our lovers and rapists from using our bodies in such indiscriminate ways that it is necessary, finally, to affirm that our bodies are ours to dispose of as we see fit. We pretend a great deal that our suicide attempts, our overdoses, our fits of cutting rage do not happen. We pretend that New York City is the same thirteen years post nine eleven; but, we know she is begging for a relapse. The Lincoln tunnel into the seediest part of Jersey is a mistake, of course. We never intended to use the syringe secretly stolen from a diabetic friend, and planned to stay at the Holiday Inn on the last of our bad credit. The Maplewood Motel, with its pink walls and electric blue carpet and $30 rate for three hours during the day is another foible, naturally, brought on by the fatigue of a drive through Manhattan at rush hour, along with the general lack of life, recovery and planning skills for which we have been berated over the years. That bag of Heroin, boldly purchased from a stranger at a nearby Shell station? It does not exist. We are out of practice, hit a nerve, and bleed profusely on the dirty sheets.
We do not meditate, we do not WRAP, our emotions do not respond to CPR and our peers mostly sell us out for the $10 an hour jobs offered by the system in exchange for their truths. In more cliches and more memes, they tell us we do not try hard enough. Just one more wellness plan, one more meeting, one more shot at a community college that promises to somehow materialize for us jobs just above the subsistence level. It would be a lucky thing for us to get these jobs, we of the tribe of spoiled identities. For these institutions, we are a sure thing. Our student loans are manifest destiny, with or without the nebulous kind-of-sort-of-pretty-decent job we are supposed to get. Hell’s bells, it is easier and cheaper to become a Certified Peer Specialist and live at the same socioeconomic status, or a little better without the never-ending loan payments. There is a little more money for the Chronic.
Chronic does not happen overnight. We may begin our Chronic Journey with hope for relief from the voices we know we are not supposed to hear, and definitely are not supposed to use. If only we remember to take the lavender pill in the morning and the green and white one at night, the voices will stop clanging in our metal skulls with the traffic noise and the screams of the children we aborted for fear of the sins of the mothers‘ lavender pills, and green and white pills, being visited on the children.
We go complacently, initially, into institutions that promise to monitor our crisis behavior and label it with something that looks like the Target logo. Then the treatment begins, and it never ends. It is not so much treatment as it is throwing shit at the Target marquee and hoping some of it sticks.
We are copiously mourned by our sisters turned therapists. These sisters hope to minister to the Chronics, but soon burn out on being mere adjunct supports to a powerful system that holds our Chronic brothers and sisters in a vise of inadequacy and shame. Let’s start with the little pill, but wait, it is not working. Here is a bigger handful of pills. We can have the whole can of generic Diet Ginger Ale to get them down if need be. Still no change? Still Chronic? Treatment resistant, perhaps? We will sedate you for the brain shocks you so desperately need. The nurse will put the needle in. She is not out of practice, but she may hit a nerve on purpose. We are not people, not even patients. We are the chronically ill, the unrepentant insane, and we deserve a little wake up call for needing so many services and still not being able to get our shit together.
Some of us are lucky enough to make it to middle age before our capacity to perform an almost good enough dog and pony show goes completely out of the twenty-seventh story window, like those poor souls in the twin towers who had the choice to burn or jump. A few of us jump. More of us burn. Many identify an earlier time when we wish that we would have jumped. It is somewhat unclear why we feel the time has passed, but we struggle on anyway, on fire with the pain in our heads and bodies, looking for another open window. It seems so hard to find.
Many of us are dead already, cremated by families that didn’t want us and shut up forever in the $40 cardboard urns. We burned, we hurt, we listened to the clanging and the screaming until we gave up on the lavender pill, the blue and green pill, the nurse with the needle and the therapy group where we are told, again, often by our peers, how desperately we failed to meet their acceptable standards. Whenever and however I die, cremate me, but don’t put me in the $40 urn. Roll me up with some blue Kush. Then, let the chronic speak.
© @mildlydysthymic 2018 (2014)
Thursday, April 5, 2018
They ask me, do I like it, about the teaching. I am somewhere past the borderline, unwilling to report yet another thing I do not like. Another thing that fills me with anxiety and dread. Another thing that exploits me and sends me to the edge of explosion each time a boundary is tested. I am unwilling to report it, so I have stopped speaking to just about everyone.
I still have the uncanny ability to parse things, and with an unvarying degree of accuracy. I know who has stopped texting me late at night because my behavior in that relationship passed the limit of what he feels he can handle emotionally and sexually, and because I have weighted the madonna/whore dialectic too far in the whoring direction, even though he wallowed in me as I did. And he knows that I know this, and have no patience for hearing his archaic criticisms and too-vivid descriptions of his nervousness around “our” boundaries, the ones that are really only his. To his credit, he is silent.
Early Fall has passed into late Fall in the space of twenty-four hours. On Saturday, seventy degrees and beautiful. I sat on the patio in the light for a few hours and stared into nothing. Sometime overnight, snow fell, bringing down one big limb and one smaller one in the back yard. I picked them up and snapped them apart for the trash that comes on Monday, thinking of the relationships I have snapped apart as casually because I can no longer tolerate emotional intimacy of any kind. In the end, they fill the barrel and I put on the lid.
On Thanksgiving, I see one of the last of my comrades where she lives, in a nursing home for those with “behavioral health” concerns. I put her there myself almost a decade past. It was a choice between this and leaving her to die on the street. I imagined possibly worse things than dying might happen to her if left on her own. Quite vividly, I imagined these things. It seemed like the best thing. Those were not the same days that I spend now. They were days when I lived as a strong woman, defiant of my labels, capable and ready to make the hard and awful choices between one evil and another for those too confused to choose for themselves.
In those days, I would see her, my friend and comrade, and we would talk. She would tell me of the CIA operatives outside of her window, and the helicopters, especially the helicopters, that were coming for her. She asked me if I saw them and heard them. I said that I didn’t, but I saw and heard other things and she agreed we both saw and heard things the other didn’t. She was unhappy in those days.
My friend, like me, does not speak much anymore. She rides a wheelchair because she has fallen so many times, and wears a blue foam helmet in case it happens again. She is medicated, heavily, with Haldol now, in addition to the antidepressants, sedatives and atypical antipsychotics she has taken throughout her life. She no longer tells me what she sees and hears. I wonder if it is because the voices and visions are finally medicated away, or if it is just because her words made no difference in her own life, and because there was no one, really, to tell. She will go with me to the day room and lay her head in my lap for a time now, occasionally recounting vaguely about a time she fell. I cannot be sure if she means yesterday or several years ago.
After a time that is different for us all, it no longer matters when we last fell, or whether we see and hear the same things as those both beside us and passed away. There is a Thanksgiving of silence and we are grateful, or we are not.