Suicidal: Conversations on the Edge

This is a collection of observations based on times when I or a friend was suicidal. Do not freak out. I am not suicidal now. My thinking is, I admit, a bit disordered because of my toothache, but I’m quite safe.

Many of us, in the course of a lifetime will either talk TO a suicidal person, or talk AS a suicidal person. And I think we all wonder what to say or do…as usual with these posts, there is no one answer that is always right. And sometimes, an answer I list here as a wrong answer might be the right answer in a particular situation. You see, humans are capable of infinite diversity.

Scarred forearms of a schizophrenic.. Suicidal people might engage in self harm
Photograph by: James G. Owen

As always, I advise you to take suicidal persons seriously. If you have no idea what to do call this number. If the suicidal person is unable or unwilling to talk on the phone, they will talk to you and tell you what to do. Don’t get alarmed or frustrated if the suicidal person will not talk on the phone. It’s not just me, many suicidal people get weird about the phone.

Remember, when you are talking to a suicidal person, you are talking more to an illness than a person. Their illness has already shot down any positive thoughts they might try to cling to. It rarely helps a suicidal person if you approach them with the ‘Think of all you have to live for’ line. That illness, that depression, that bi-polar, that schizophrenia has already undermined all the good bright things in life. The ‘Think of all you have to live for’ attitude may only increase their sense of guilt, shame, and depression.

Another thing well-intentioned people do is try to play John Wayne playing a good-hearted Army sergeant. They grab you and say ‘Talk to me!’ This approach can scare or intimidate the suicidal person badly. A better tactic is saying “May I listen?” Remember that a suicidal person is living in a realm of rapidly diminishing choices. Their tunnel vision is tapering down to a single point. Inviting them to talk adds a new option, and it sometimes can change how they view the world.

Sometimes suicidal people engage in self-harm. Most cutters, burners, and scratchers only engage in these behaviors privately. But when people are very suicidal, they can become disinhibited, so you might see these behaviors. And they are not pretty things to see. Everyone who sees self-harm wants to say “Stop that!” and that is a reasonable impulse. But curb that impulse. Ask them, instead, “Are you doing that so you don’t do something worse?” Now, that might seem like I’m giving you poor advice, and it is poor advice, but it is also sound advice. Weigh the consequences. You would prefer to have your friend as a live cutter than as a dead friend who will never cut again.

Suicidal people often quit sleeping or eating. And that isn’t good. Try tempting them to eat with hyper-palatable foods…try ice cream, milkshakes, twinkies, doritos, whatever you think they might eat. Don’t worry that you are offering them unhealthy choices, just try to get some food in them (and if it’s me, offer pork rinds!) If they aren’t sleeping, try to get them to take a nap. They will be resistant. Build them a blanket fort to nap in, let them put their head in your lap to sleep, promise to stay while they sleep…again, do whatever you can to get them to sleep.

When you are dealing with a suicidal person, realize that they are still ‘in there’ they are just very small, very scared, and nearly voiceless. Their illness has grown large. It occupies all the space where the person normally lives. The person you know has been crowded into a very tiny corner. So speak slowly and clearly. Be prepared to repeat yourself. Your voice is a tiny whisper, the illness is roaring.

Remember, too, that the illness is the enemy. This sick, suffering person is not the enemy. You are not trying to outwit the person to get them to a safe place, you are trying to outwit the illness. The struggle is real, but you will make a mess of things if you do not know what you are struggling with. Also remember that getting the person to agree to go to the hospital can be very difficult. It is even more difficult if the person has been checked in before.

Suicidal People might be afraid to go to the hospital
Health does not always feel as comfortable as illness.
Image by ♥KatB Photography♥

The hospital will take the person’s complaint very seriously. The hospital will go to heroic lengths to keep the person safe. But the hospital is, first and foremost, a hospital. The scared, sick, suicidal person will be subjected to indignities, they will wait a long time in an ER bay (waits of 2 days to be admitted to psych are not uncommon) The hospital is good at what it is good at, warmth and comfort are not areas where the hospital excels.

But getting the suicidal person to get help, getting them to go to the hospital should be a major goal. BUT do not lie to them to get them to go. Find another way to get them to agree. Understand that they might very well know exactly what the hospital will be like. Understand that they are scared to go to the hospital. Understand that they do not want to put up with the indignities of the hospital. Just keep truthfully bringing it up as the best option. (and, sadly, it is the best option, in fact, it is the only option.) Try to offer to take them to a ‘better’ hospital. Because we all know that some hospitals are better than others. We all know that the better hospital might transfer them to a hospital that is not so good, but going to the better hospital greatly increases the odds that they will be admitted there.

Finally. A suicidal person is generally not seeking attention. If they reached out to you, it was the last desperate act. Reaching out to you took tremendous effort, probably it took all their energy to do it. They are being suffocated under the weight and volume of their illness. Do your level best to get them help. There is something about you that the suicidal person believed and trusted in with the last of their will. If a suicidal person asks for your help they are telling you how highly they think of you.

In very rare cases, some types of illness use suicidal threats and behaviors as a way to manipulate others. These illnesses are more rare. And being used like that makes YOU feel terrible. You can feel angry or betrayed. Try to put that confusion and those negative feelings aside. Remember that this person has gotten so sick that they are threatening themselves to be heard. Get them to a hospital, get them help. They are really sick, and they are a very real danger to themselves.

Basically, helping a suicidal person is the same as being a good friend at any other time. Have empathy. Listen intelligently. Use your head and your heart. Put yourself in their shoes. And act decisively to get them the help they need. The world is a hard and scary place sometimes. We need all of our friends healthy and alive as long as normal mortality permits.

Suicide and Suicidal Thoughts: An Inside Perspective

Remember:

Oppression thrives off isolation. Connection is the only thing that can save you.

Remember:

Oppression thrives off superficiality. Honesty about your struggles is the key to your liberation.

Remember:

Your story can help save someone’s life. Your silence contributes to someone else’s struggles. Speak so we can all be free. Love so we can all be liberated. The moment is now. We need you.

~Yolo Akili

A dear friend of mine shared these words with me a while back, and I took them personally. They reminded me of why I chose to come out of my shell a little bit and write this blog. They reminded me that I have a responsibility to save my own life first and foremost. They reminded me that if I save my own life, I might then be able to help someone else save theirs.

I’m in sorry shape right now, holding in there with this toothache that has been horrible for over three weeks now.  I told the housemate the other night that I was having a hard time with the toothache. No one wants to live with a bad toothache. I don’t want to live with a bad toothache. But I have to be clear with myself that there is a huge difference between the words ‘I don’t want to live with this toothache’ and ‘I don’t want to live.’ I got caught up in the toothache and lost sight of the difference between the sentences for a short time. But I climbed back on the horse. And I really don’t want to live with this toothache.

Voodoo doll with large clamp on her head. An image of suffering.
Voodoo Doll Tatto Flash by S. Grice, colored by me.

 

But even as recently as this past October I could not differentiate between ‘I don’t want to live if I have to feel this sick’ and ‘I don’t want to live.’ And I got lucky on that one. If I hadn’t gone to the hospital crying ‘I don’t want to live’ I may have died from a near-fatal lithium level. You see, the lines get blurry and there isn’t always a right or wrong answer when someone is feeling suicidal.

I believe that every person to some degree or other has a suicidal impulse. I think part of free will and self-determinism is exploring the idea of NOT living anymore. Some people will only ever think of suicide in the most abstract fashion, “I was so embarrassed I wanted to die.” Some people react to many conundrums with some kind of suicidal impulse. I must admit that I fall into the latter camp. If I am brutally honest, even on my best days, suicide crosses my mind at least once. On bad days, it is the only thought I can hold in my head.

I don’t like to talk about this. Probably no one does. Someone who constantly talks of suicide begins to look manipulative, and even if they aren’t manipulative, the topic is pretty much a downer. Whether I like to talk about it or not, today I’m going to talk about it.

Now do not, I repeat, do not get freaked out. I’m talking about my thoughts here. I am not talking about actions. I’m fine, I just have a toothache. I’m not letting a toothache push me off the Dravosburg Bridge. So remain calm, remain seated, keep your trays in the locked upright position.

I think there are a surprising number of people who go through their entire lives being quietly passively suicidal. For the most part, they just buckle down and get on with it. But life can be hard and a big enough stress, or a bad enough situation (say a toothache that is over 3 weeks old) can push that suicidal inclination from background noise right to the forefront of their awareness. That person’s interior landscape changes dramatically. Suddenly the background noise has become a looming presence right in front of them shining a flashlight right into their eyes, blinding them to anything else. I’m sure it is different for everyone, but that it how it is to me.

Suddenly the person finds themselves in direct conflict with their very self. The will is screaming ‘DIE!’ while the body is screaming, ‘LIVE!’ The body becomes the enemy that must be defeated. Some people attack the body directly-they become the self-harmers, the cutters, the scratchers, the burners. Some people begin to quietly plot elaborate revenge on the body-they become the smokers, the drinkers, the hard drug users. Some people strive to outwit the body-they begin to pay careful attention to the contents of their medicine cabinets, they take careful note of tall buildings they encounter, they observe every rope, every bridge abutment. And some people try to retreat from their body completely-they withdraw, they become unresponsive. I’m a mix of all four, and probably most people are.  And look, I’m not saying that every person who exhibits these signs is necessarily suicidal, most probably are not…but if your friend gets weird in a way that you find scary, never rule out that they might be suicidal.

There is good news and there is bad news about suicide. The good news is that most people fail at it. The bad news is that some people do not fail at it. Every person experiencing suicidal thoughts and urges should be viewed as a potentially successful suicide. They should be gotten to a safe place like a hospital or treatment center with all possible haste, and they should be helped to feel safe with themselves. If you don’t know what to do for them call this number.  And don’t feel bad about calling, sometimes the smartest thing you can do is call an expert. Please don’t mistake my next words. Suicidal people should be helped. Please don’t mistake my next words.

BUT.

BUT.

For some of us, we need to think these things all the way through. Sometimes alone, sometimes with help. But we have the right to our thoughts where we might not necessarily have the rights to our actions. I told someone here at the house that I was feeling suicidal. I explained why the normal actions were not appropriate in this case (if I am locked up in the looney bin, I might miss the dentists appointments that can fix the toothache, duh) and I retreated to my room to think it through. And my friend checked in on me regularly. I thought about things this way and that way. And I was able to realize that suicide is not an optimal toothache cure. And that sounds funny and obvious when I write it here, but it was not funny or obvious while I was arriving at that conclusion. It was big and dark and scary. But it was only big, dark, scary thoughts. There were no actions. “Just” thoughts.

I feel like I should tell you things to say or do for a suicidal person, and I promise I will in another post. What I want to say to you right now instead is this. I think there are a lot of people out there who are passively suicidal. I think if science were ever able to study that number, many people would be shocked at how many there are. And I think people have a right to be passively suicidal, they have a right to their thoughts, and they have the right to think them through. BUT. If someone tells you that they are feeling suicidal, then they are no longer passively suicidal, they are actively suicidal, get them to help and safety with all possible haste. BUT sometimes life gets weird. Sometimes a person IS actively suicidal, but being in the hospital could actually make the situation worse (say they have a toothache that has gone on forever…) then keep them safe yourself if there is no alternative. Be an intelligent friend. Give them some space, but be present, check on them, be prepared to interfere. Believe me, if I had taken one suicidal action, I would be writing this post from inside a hospital. I am blessed to have intelligent friends.

A Beautiful Ugliness: Musings on Being Ugly

My friend and teacher has been sharing some of her daily writing with me this week. She is writing about beauty, and her writing is captivating. All the beauty makes my head spin. I love beauty: beautiful music, beautiful art, beautiful architecture, you name it, if it is beautiful I probably love it. My entire being vibrates when I see beauty.

I think my love of beauty is because I am a homely creature. I was an actual ugly child, a really ugly adolescent, and as an adult, I’m still pretty ugly. I have pictures to defend these statements, trust me. That is not negative self-talk, or me running myself down. In a culture obsessed with beautiful women, I’m a proudly ugly one.

Photo of the Author
Photo by: B. Van Meter

It has been a long hard journey to embrace the fact that I’m never going to be pretty. But I have fought and learned how to be my own sort of ugly. It was not easy to get here. When you are in mental health care, you can find a support group for ANYTHING! Anything except being ugly. I guess it’s good that I’m no fan of support groups, because there is not one for me.

There are also not a lot of therapists who will let you alone about being ugly. I find this weird and distressing. I do not, I emphatically do not want a therapist who is gonna blow sunshine up my ass. Years ago if a woman said she was fat, some Little Mary Sunshine would immediately contradict her to tell her she had ‘big bones.’ No she didn’t. She was fat. And finally people are allowed to self identify as fat. Finally. So why can’t I self identify as ugly?

There is no good reason that I can not say I’m ugly. The fact of being ugly does not actually hurt my self-esteem. I have a few good points and I cherish them. Often I am at odds with my body. I have always felt like I was trapped in it. Truly, I want to live as a being of pure spirit-I would fly straight to my Egguns (beloved dead) and dance with them forever. My lack of love for my body is not based on anything as happenstance as its appearance.

I do think that there are a lot of circumstances where ugly people face some discrimination. That being said, I don’t think discrimination against the ugly is an insurmountable obstacle. If my looks don’t win you over, you are not alone, but I can win over almost anyone with my humor and intelligence. So I don’t worry too much about my looks putting me at a disadvantage.

The obvious exception to looks not being insurmountable is dating. As a heterosexual female, men expect me to display some beauty I do not possess. I am clever with my make-up brushes and my clothes, but I don’t get asked out very often. It would be very lovely to be dating someone, but I come equipped with the ‘baggage triple threat:’ I’m crazy, I’m ugly, and I’m weird. So thundering herds of eligible bachelors fail to beat down my door with predictable regularity.

But what does all this whinging about ugliness have to do with my struggles with schizophrenia?

A lot more than it should, sportsfans. A lot more.

There is no psychiatric harm in identifying oneself as ugly-unless you aren’t. (but that is someone else’s struggle, not mine) I should be able to discuss my ugliness with my treatment team, and have the fact be respected. But if I try it, I’ll end up in some self-esteem support group telling lies about new hairstyles just to escape. That is not fair.

There really is not anything wrong with my self esteem that I’m going to discuss on the internet, and what is wrong with my self esteem is wholly unrelated to being ugly.

We are all made up of layers and layers of facets like fine cut gems. Some facets are right on the surface, easy to see, possible to touch. But the facets that flash the brightest lie deep inside the gem. Some of those deep surfaces are bright and some are dark, but they all lie deep inside where surface contact will not disturb them.

The surface of my gem was poorly cut, the angles line up wrong to be harmonious to the eye. That is as it is. In my deeper layers, the lines are often jagged where they should be smooth. The lack of pleasing aspect on the surface is the ugliness the Gods gave me as a gift. The jagged lines that are deeper are the schizophrenia warping my light and darkness subtly so that I see a very different world than most. The same gem, two very different things.

And, yes. Yes. I did say that I consider my ugliness to be a gift from the Gods. And that is true. My surface is displeasing to the eye. I can rest secure in knowing that if someone loves me, they don’t love me for what is on the surface. I know that the very few people who love me love me on a very deep level, and I know I can trust that love to be load-bearing, because it has not reached my heart from a shallow place.

I will listen to anyone and everyone about balancing the schizophrenia, and I will try almost anything-from psych meds to psychotropics, I’ll listen and work to get better. That is a promise.

Just let me be ugly, I’m happier this way. That is a promise, too.

 

Rape and Schizophrenia Are Friends

So I’m not kidding around with therapy this time. I’m there to do the deep and hard work. I’ve been seeing this therapist since October, and we have done the easy stuff-religion, my life at Four Quarters then, my life with Pete now, and the people of those times who left a mark for good or ill. (Okay, nobody actually went into the ‘left a mark for ill’ department, but concluding that took a bit of sifting.)

So while working on this easy stuff the therapist and I got to know one another. We built a relationship that would enable me to do the hard work. I trust her a lot more than I trust most people. But I also know that I can not take therapy for granted. Medical Assistance pays my therapy bill, and they could decide to stop covering therapy at any time for any reason, so the therapist and I must go hard, because we never know how much time we have.

Last week, in my appointment I talked to the therapist in depth about the date rape that preceded my current derailment. I laid out what had happened in exacting detail. Continue reading “Rape and Schizophrenia Are Friends”

To Feel, or Not to Feel, That is the Question

I talk a lot about what I experience, I talk a lot about what I think, I don’t like to talk about how I feel so much. But I know that talking about the emotional impact of mental illness makes it a bit more personal, it is simply easier to relate to how a person feels, as opposed to what they think.

So I am going to see if I can write a bit about how I feel, but I know it won’t be easy.

Living with mental illness is a short hand way to way to say that someone’s emotional state is a hot mess. It truly is. Often I withdraw from my emotional state and try to live my life in a more detached fashion. It is easier than poking around at my feelings.

I feel like living with schizophrenia is a lot like living with a dysfunctional parent: you love it, you hate it, you cover it up as best you can, and you clean up a lot of messes. But first and foremost, you feel shame. Often I feel ashamed that I am not strong enough to beat this on my own. Often I feel judged by invisible others-I feel like they find me lazy, like they find me weak, like they find that I do not try hard enough-I feel deeply ashamed when facing this invisible jury. So before any other feeling, there is this feeling of overwhelming shame.

Feelings are different from reality
The illness feels much bigger than me.

Following close behind the shame comes the love, and its shadow, the hate. There are parts of me that truly love the schizophrenia. When everything becomes too much, schizophrenia swoops down upon me like my guardian angel; it swirls me in its hallucinatory robes and hides the things I can not cope with. And I know that I should not love the schizophrenia for that. I know that it would be better to deal with reality instead of checking out and trying to put my reality back together later. But I still love when my illness saves me from the reality that is often too much. But I hate my illness for the very reasons that I love it. That’s why I think it is like a dysfunctional parent.

I hate my illness when I feel like I have a grip on something, and it inexorably pushes me under. I hate my illness when I fight with it, but can not struggle free. I hate my illness when I gasp and choke and can barely draw breath. I hate my illness when I want to do something, but it dictates that I must stay in a darkened room huddled on the bed. I hate my illness when I realize in how much of my life that it dictates I be a non-participant. In other words I love my life, I hate my life, and I am deeply ashamed of my life.

This is hard to write. I do not feel good about living with the stigma of mental illness, it makes me feel unworthy of any good things in my life. I feel that being sick renders me unlovable. I fear…oh how I fear, I fear, I fear. I fear that I will lose the esteem of those who I want to think well of me. I fear that I will never wander free of this illness. I fear that people fear me, are afraid that I might become violent, I fear that I and my illness are socially unwelcome. I fear that writing my truth will stigmatize me further, I fear that writing my truth will isolate me more. I fear that writing about my schizophrenia will somehow fuel its fire, and that it will grow stronger.

Mostly, though, I try to live cut off from my own heart, and that might be the worst of it all. I do my best to keep my heart sealed away from myself and everyone else. I do not trust myself to love properly. I am guarded, untrusting and untrustworthy. My heart is an abused dog cringing in the corner of its kennel, it does not come out of the corner for threats or kindness, it bides its time awaiting euthanasia. My illness and my emotional unease around my illness have essentially killed my heart. I deeply regret that, for I did believe that it was the finest part of me.

The strongest criticisms I have faced in recent memory are that I am too guarded, too secretive, that I do not open up. Those criticisms were offered very gently, very kindly. And they are all true. The people who offered those criticisms were trying to help me and my heart take a step out of the corner. But my truth is valid too. My truth dictates that rolling around in madness and mire should not be a price someone has to pay to be near me. My truth suspects that madness might be contagious. My truth is that a clean person who sits in something dirty will become unclean. My truth declares that my heart has suffered enough, and has earned the right to hide in a corner.

The ultimate thing I feel is that parts of me have had enough once and for all, and that I am entitled to feel that way. I feel that I can not take too much of my emotions, and that I and everyone else has a right to be protected from them. I feel that I can work toward health a long time without bothering my feelings. Perhaps in time my feelings and I will both heal. But, for now, perhaps my feelings have earned a rest in a quiet place. I think they have.

 

So I Stopped

I stopped a long time ago. Stopped writing here, stopped seeing people, stopped doing stuff.

In one of those seismic shifts my invisible world came unmoored from its orbit and moved into the front of the seat of consciousness. I slid into it, into madness like the average person slips into a warm bath. For me, madness has always been easy. Numb and voiceless I drifted in my inner world of eyeless angels and headless dogs. No one watched me go.

I do not have a raving sort of madness, at my worst, I am voiceless. At my worst I am still, still as a starless night, still as a sleeping volcano. But like that sleeping volcano I seethe and roil deep in a place below sight and sound. In perfect stillness, in utter abandonment of life in the realms of the living. In unison my Gods turned their eyes away. I spent days with the word ‘macerate’ as my mantra.

Things went from bad to worse to oblivious. I did not care, I could not care, I would not care. My emotions were battered and bleeding from the death of a thousand cuts, and I did not speak it. My vortex world had caught me up and I spun there far below the surface.

Sometimes I could do small things: cook a meal, maybe vacuum a room. More often I could do nothing. Roll from one side to the other, light a cigarette. Smoking down there in the darkness. The fight for sanity is a long and bloody battle and I was wounded and weary of war. I had lost my will to battle for sanity in a world that seemed far crazier than I can ever dream of being. So I quit scrabbling, quit clawing at the sides and fell out of life.

Endlessly smoking deep in the dark.
Endlessly smoking deep in the dark.

And I know that my time in madness was a priceless gift. I slept indoors, was given food, and smokes real things with real costs that I neither earned nor deserved, but they were given freely, tirelessly, without remonstrance. My benefactor is not wealthy, he has a dead end part time retail job, and he somehow keeps the wolves from our door with only that pittance as his sword and shield. He is not kin and more than kind. Before him there was precious little ever given to me where there was not an invisible contract of debt.

Slowly, over a great deal of time those small and constant kindnesses begin to create tiny patches of light in the land of shadows. Slowly, over a great deal of time I began to fight a tiny bit.

I went back to my GP, went back on med…after med…after med. Nothing helped, but we just kept trying. Six weeks of effexor, six weeks of thorazine, six weeks of haldol, six weeks of seroquel, it was an endless loop with a haunted house of side effects and no efficacy in sight. Finally clozaril, my ancient enemy was pulled from the GP’s bag of tricks, and like a fool, I swallowed the pill from Hell. Clozaril is still the pill from Hell, and it rides a pale horse.

The GP advised me to find a psychiatrist, he was at his wits’ end. It’s like going to an online dating site as an act of desperation and finding you are a 98% match with Beelzebub. But there were no more options, so I called the Medical Assistance people to see about seeing a psychiatrist. This took me on a strange new journey. The Medical Assistance people were kind, warm and friendly on the telephone. They gave me a list of psychiatrists in my area who accepted Medical Assistance along with their phone numbers. I’m glad they made it so pleasant, because I had no idea that I would repeat this process fruitlessly 14 more times.

The Medical Assistance office just has pages from their phone directory-lists and endless lists of names and phone numbers of psychiatrists who accept Medical Assistance. In my time of calling psychiatrists, I called countless child psychiatrists, multitudes of methadone clinics, psychiatrists who only treated alcoholics, psychiatrists who only treated gender disorders, only treated phobias. I called psychiatrists who treated everything and everyone…except me.

My GP stuck by me, researching as he prescribed. Me and that doctor could hunt bears together. Last August, he put me on a pill that had an amazing new side effect-endless vomiting and diarrhea. I had never had such a side effect in my life, but I gamely took it the whole 6 weeks. And I was sick as a dog the whole six weeks.

The last drug my GP wrote for me was lithium. No one had ever prescribed lithium to me before. (this is not a love song) Along with my prescription, I was given orders for bloodwork to be drawn in 30 days to check the lithium levels. After just three days on lithium, I thought that it was making me sick, but I decided to soldier on. And I felt worse and worse.

Here’s an aside that is not an aside. Our housemate goes to Burning Man every year, and he went last year. He came home with some kind of large-festival GI bug…probably norovirus. He ended up in the ER. Two days later I was in the ER with the same thing. They gave me a ton of fluids, and bunch of shots of anti-barfing drugs and sent me home.

The housemate was fine, but I got sicker and sicker.

At about 3 am one morning in early October of 2015, I was awake barfing into my trusty trash can when it dawned on me that I no longer wanted to live like this. It wasn’t the suicidal impulse I was familiar with, it was a very reasoned idea. The idea that I had gotten too physically sick to live. I felt that bad…it was like I had had the flu for nearly 8 weeks.

The nature of my will to die was so different from my usual headlong plunges into suicide that it scared the shit out of me and I did something I have never done before. I called a suicide hotline. The suicide hotline lady talked to me for hours. She kept me company until we knew I could get a ride to the hospital. I was taken to the hospital ER for a standard psych admission, so they drew all my bloodwork prior to admission and put me in a psych ER bay.

For those of you who have never seen one of these charming places, it is a totally empty room with a flat table bolted to the floor. There are no pillows or blankets, just an empty room, like Sartre’s concept of Hell without the people. Past experience had taught me that I was going to be in there for a long time. Of course they took my shoes, clothes, and book away, too. I hunkered down to wait.

I did not have long to wait.

The door burst open and an avenging army of ER staff poured in. I was put on a gurney and shuttled rapidly to an ER ICU. Apparently my blood lithium levels were nearly lethal. I was in danger of seizures or death, and needed a bit of patching up before I would ever see the psych ward. I didn’t have seizures, I didn’t die, and after a couple days, they sent me up to psych.

The ward was decent, the coffee execrable, and the staff was exceptional. By the time I checked out 10 days later, my meds were at least workable, I had been assigned a psychiatrist, a therapist, and a type of hopped up social worker called a case manager to try to get my life back on track.

It is no walk in the park, I’ve seen the psychiatrist twice, and he has changed my meds radically twice. But I guess I’m back in the game, fighting again. It isn’t perfect, Hell it isn’t even good…but put in perspective, balanced against the landscape of what it has been, I’ll take it.

Wrestling the Dread

I have been fighting writing this post for over a week. I’m fighting it right now. In all seriousness, I can not imagine any possible present, future, or past for myself that does not include this fight. And even now, I’m avoiding writing this by talking about not wanting to write it.

My dad.

I would rather make out with Godzilla than talk about this. However, it is easier to talk about my dad than my mom, so I’ll start here.

As a small child, I was crazy close to my dad. He took me to Phillies games, Flyers games, taught me to fish, bought me a baseball glove and taught me to not “throw like a damn girl.” He pressured me into riding roller coasters and climbing trees. He taught me to set points, gap spark plugs, and the joy of big block 70’s engines.

multiple-delusion1 - Copy

He taught me the importance of lying to my mother as he turned the floor of the mouldering shed in our backyard into his own personal nightcrawler plantation. (Those, in this context, mean big fishing worms-not zombies)

He took me to the ballpark, and really he made an extra effort to get tickets if my personal hero “Super” Steve Carlton was pitching. We would meet his work friends at the Vet. He introduced me to them as ‘his first-born son.’ Many years later, one of his car pool buddies was astonished to find out that I was, and had always been a girl.

He would take me on camp-outs in the Great Pine barrens of New Jersey. We canoed in the cedar waters there, and at times, I would give anything to smell that strange cedar water smell.

He taught me the ‘right’ way to eat a hot dog: mustard, sauerkraut, onion, if you felt bold.

From him, I learned to shut up and walk it off, to shut up and eat, to shut up and leave the stupid doll at home-we were going camping for chrissake.

Maybe this doesn’t sound too bad. Reading it, it doesn’t sound that bad. But I wanted to try to look at the good stuff first. It was that bad.

On his best day, he was volatile. He would scream, hit, punch, and swear. He threw stuff. It remember him throwing a long-handled pipe wrench at my head when I was about 8. Because I was too weak to break a seal on an outdoor shower. I felt like that was fair of him to do. After all, he had to stop brazing pipe to break the seal, and that meant he had to start all over.

He would unpredictably throw food from the dinner table, refusing to eat things he said were ‘ugly.’

But I really believe that he tried his level best to make me into ‘something.’ But the something he was trying to make from the wet, unformed clay of my childhood had nothing to do with who I was or am.

I was supposed to be the ‘smart kid’ in our family. My mother, it was generally acknowledged, was fairly dumb, and my sister was an unpleasant enigma, to both me and my father. She stuck fast to my mother, and my mother favored her to the point that both sets of grandparents were critical. But my mother and sister both had the sense to hide from him.

Me? I ran to him. Every time. So mine were the black eyes, mine was the eternal role of disappointing him. And being told about it. It was I who unwittingly took him up on his countless questions, ‘Do you want something to cry about?’ ‘Why are you acting like a spoiled little girl?’ ‘Are you looking for something to be afraid of?’

Some smart kid, huh?

There is a lot more, of course. A lot more. But I’m going to stop here. This is more of a start than I thought possible, but hopefully less than will give me a week-long meltdown.

Living & Learning

Well, I just spent a couple hours crafting a nice post. In two seconds I found a button here that made it disappear forever. The once and future Luddite rides again.

But it is probably for the best. The post I wrote was not talking about the thing that needs talked about, I suppose. But I have found every possible way to avoid dissecting my own heart. I guess it is time to pick up a scalpel and get to work.

echoes_of_schizophrenia_by_xhimsoulsx-d4h6c0f1

 

From NBC News: “It’s obviously the work of a madman,” Santa Barbara Sheriff Bill Brown said at a news conference early Saturday. “There’s going to be a lot more information that will come out that will give a clearer picture of just how disturbed this individual was.”

A young man,  Elliot Rodger, 22 shot multiple people. But before he did, he made a video and posted it on Youtube. It has been cross-posted everywhere, even though Youtube pulled it quickly. It would seem gratuitous to post it here. I don’t know Elliot Rodger, his family, or his victims personally. But they are all in my prayers.

On the other hand I would like to give Elliot Rodger a vicious pinch. Because I can guess what is coming.  His actions and his video do not paint a picture of mental stability. I’m not a psychiatrist, or a psychologist, not even on TV, however, I do know crazy when I see it. (Like in the mirror every morning) Soon experts will begin issuing analysis and statements about this young man’s psychological state. He might end up having a different disorder, However, I’ll hazard the guess that schizophrenia will get thrown out there.

I feel saddened, sickened, shocked, and shamed. And if they stick the schizophrenia diagnosis on him, I will feel worse. When things like this occur, and you suddenly find you share a diagnosis with the perpetrator, there is that shock of recognition. There, but for the Grace of God, go I. It drives home very keenly the fear, and the dark lurking horrors of this disease. This disease kills. It commits acts of torture, torment and barbarity. And I have this disease.

I do know that schizophrenia has a wide range of symptoms, and that they vary as wildly as do schizophrenics themselves. The internet says so, and so it must be true. On long dark nights of the soul, I will try to comfort myself with this fact. Historically, it won’t bring me any comfort. Instead, I will sit in my darkened room and run my hands obsessively over my face, trying to see if it feels like the face of a killer. I will minutely analyze my every act and compare it with an impossible standard of sanity, and fail. And the fear will come and lick at my toes, gently at first, but the tide will come in, and I will drown in the terror of my own potential. You look at it, and find the behavior to be insane. Well, bingo!

Is my endless fear, shame and guilt going to change anything for the victims of this recent tragedy? No. I know it won’t. Is it somehow going to prevent me from committing a similar act? I probably would not commit an act like this, at least, I pray that I never would. But I do think that owning the possibility, the grim awful worst case scenario face of naked unabated schizophrenia, and trying to confront it helps me maintain a kind of clarity.

Do the prayers of a schizophrenic woman unknown to any victim or their grieving families have any possibility of lifting their wounded hearts, their battered souls? If I did not believe that, I would not be praying them.

LITANY OF THE FAITHFUL DEPARTED

Lord, have mercy on us,
Christ, have mercy on us. 

Lord, have mercy on us.  Christ hear us,
Christ, graciously hear us. 

God the Father of Heaven,
Have mercy on the souls of the faithful departed. 

God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
Have mercy on the souls of the faithful departed. 

God the Holy Ghost,
Have mercy on the souls of the faithful departed. 

Holy Trinity, one God,
Have mercy on the souls of the faithful departed. 

Holy Mary, Mother of God,
Pray for the souls of the faithful departed. 

St. Michael,
pray for the souls of the faithful departed. 

All ye angels and archangels,
pray for the souls of the faithful departed. 

All ye orders of blessed spirits,
pray for the souls of the faithful departed. 

St. Joseph,
pray for the souls of the faithful departed. 

All ye holy patriarchs and prophets,
pray for the souls of the faithful departed. 

All ye holy apostles and evangelists,
pray for the souls of the faithful departed. 

All ye holy martyrs,
pray for the souls of the faithful departed. 

All ye holy bishops and confessors,
pray for the souls of the faithful departed. 

All ye holy doctors,
pray for the souls of the faithful departed. 

All ye holy priests and Levites,
pray for the souls of the faithful departed. 

All ye holy monks and hermits,
pray for the souls of the faithful departed. 

All ye holy virgins and widows,
pray for the souls of the faithful departed. 

All ye saints of God,
pray for the souls of the faithful departed. 

Be merciful, 
Spare them, O Lord 

Be merciful, 
Graciously hear us, O Lord. 

From all evil,
O Lord, deliver them. 

From the rigor of Thy justice,
O Lord, deliver them. 

From the power of the devil,
O Lord, deliver them. 

From long-enduring sorrow,
O Lord, deliver them. 

From cruel flames, 
O Lord, deliver them. 

From horrible darkness,
O Lord, deliver them. 

From dreadful weeping and wailing,
O Lord, deliver them. 

Through Thy holy nativity,
O Lord, deliver them. 

Through Thy most sweet name,
O Lord, deliver them. 

Through Thy most profound humiliations,
O Lord, deliver them. 

Through Thy infinite love,
O Lord, deliver them. 

Through Thy bloody sweat,
O Lord, deliver them. 

Through Thy scourging,
O Lord, deliver them. 

Through Thy crowning with thorns,
O Lord, deliver them. 

Through Thy carrying of the cross,
O Lord, deliver them. 

Through Thy most cruel death,
O Lord, deliver them. 

Through Thy five most holy wounds,
O Lord, deliver them. 

In the day of judgment, 
We sinners, beseech Thee, hear us. 

Thou Who forgavest Magdalen,
and didst grant the prayer of the thief, 
we beseech Thee, hear us. 

That Thou wouldst be pleased to deliver 
the souls of our parents, relations, 
friends, and benefactors, 
from the pains of hell, 
we beseech Thee, hear us. 

That Thou wouldst be pleased to have mercy 
on those of whom no special remembrance 
is made on earth, 
we beseech Thee, hear us. 

That Thou wouldst be pleased to grant them all 
the pardon and remission of their sins, 
we beseech Thee, hear us. 

That Thou wouldst be pleased to receive them 
into the company of the blessed, 
we beseech Thee, hear us. 

King of awful majesty, 
we beseech Thee, hear us. 

Son of God, we beseech Thee, 
hear us. 

Lamb of God, 
who takest away the sins of the world, 
grant unto them eternal rest. 

Lamb of God, 
who takest away the sins of the world,  
grant unto them eternal rest. 

Lamb of God, 
who takest away the sins of the world,  
grant unto them rest everlasting. 

Christ, hear us. 
Christ, graciously hear us. 

Lord, have mercy, 
Christ, have mercy. 

Lord, have mercy, 
From the gate of hell, 
deliver their souls, O Lord. 

O Lord, hear my prayer. 
And let my cry come unto Thee.

LET US PRAY:

O God, the Creator and Redeemer of all the faithful, 
grant unto the souls of Thy servants departed 
the remission of all their sins; 
that, by pious supplications, 
they may obtain the pardon 
which they have always desired.  
Grant this, O God, 
Who livest and reignest for ever and ever,

Amen. 

O eternal God, Who, 
besides the general precept of charity, 
hast commanded a particular respect for parents, 
kindred, and benefactors; 
grant, we beseech Thee, that, 
as they were the instruments 
by which Thy providence bestowed on us our birth, 
education and innumerable other blessings, 
so our prayers may be the means to obtain for them 
a speedy release from their excessive sufferings, 
and admittance to Thine infinite joys.  
Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. 

Eternal rest give unto them, O Lord,
And let the perpetual light shine upon them. 

May they rest in peace.

Amen. 

 

MOJUBA
Omi tuto , ana tuto, ache tuto, tuto ile, tuto alaye, aricu babawa
Mojuba Olofi , Olorun , mojuba Olodumare ,
Mojuba Olojoni Oni Odunmocuedun, Olorun ,
Alaye , Olorun Elemi Olodumare Oba Aterere Kaje , Olodumare ibae baye tonu ,
Mojuba atijo ojo ,mojuba atiwo Orun , mojuba Ayaiodun Oni Odun , Odun Ola ,
Mojuba Orun mojuba Oshukua , Mojuba ile ogede afoko jeri. 
Iba a semojuba gbogbo wan olodo ara Orun : oluwos , iyalochas , babaloshas ,
omo kolabas egun inbelese Olodumare
Mojuba gbogbowan olodo ara Orun : oluwos , iyalochas , babalochas , omo kolaba egun
lagba lagba inbelese , timbelese olodumare .
Ibae bayen tonu gbogbo egun ara Orun ori emi nani Obatala
Egungun egun iku ranran fe awo ku opipi o da so bofun le wo.
Egun iku bata bango egun de bi aba fatori na le egun a sede ashe.
Ibae bayen tonu gbogbo egun ara Orun ori baba iya tobi mi padrino.
Ibae bayen tonu gbogbo egun araOrun ori yubonna mi iyubona.
Ibae bayen tonu gbogbo egun ara orun ori igboro kale ile.
Ibae bayen tonu gbogbo egun , gbogbowan olodo ,
lagba , lagba otoku ara Orun timbelaye ,
InbeleseOlorun olodumare.
K’tInbelese Oludumare.