Fear has been consuming me the last few days. Weeks. Months. It was camouflaged as daily worries, bills, being a good provider for my daughter–all of which I feel I am failing at. I’m drowning in debt/fines. Well I am not drowning, I’m just overwhelmed, waiting for this damn disability is killing me. But anyway, last night, after another night of being wide awake, thoughts flying and racing and accumulating, I began to look at what was going on beneath my pounding heart and cramping chest (good ole anxiety)-but before I could see the problem, I thought of Jesus, and I began to cry. When I am at my breaking points, he comes out of nowhere. I felt his hand on my forehead like a parent checking for a fever and I felt love. My lost girl, my lost child, I could feel him say. Which only made me cry harder. Whether this was my subconscious speaking, madness, or Him, who knows, but they were words given to me, not created by my waking psyche. My pillow honestly felt like his robes and I cried and cried and I told him that I’m afraid. Afraid of what? Death? Yes. No. I’m afraid of myself. Again. I’m afraid of fear–terrified of fear. I could feel peace seeping in a little, and then I reached for him thinking the moment was fleeting, but he was still there, in my heart, and I was saying in my mind–you’re still here, you never leave—and the response was that he never ever leaves, that he is here and was here the whole time, I just had to realize it because I was the one that would leave, not him. Having someone to love you so unconditionally and never leave you and still want to hold you and dry your tears no matter what kind of monster you feel like–that alone makes me cry. I tested my ‘sick thoughts’ on him and they didn’t hold either–you’re just sick, he’d seem to say–it’s not you. My chest pain began to go away. I thought of my favorite (psalm?)–when you see only one set of footprints, that is when I carried you. He has carried me quite often. And you know there is no asking for relief from this life, there is only being thankful for what you have. I stared at my little Emma and thanked him over and over for her and then I went into a sort of deeper meditation, asking myself if maybe I’m too tired for this life. Or something else was asking me if I was too tired to do this anymore. The room changed. Everything I looked at looked tiresome and redundant and depressing and empty and so so lonely. I’m so lonely. I thought about death, about how that slip must be so simple when the time comes, a relief. But some kind of light always remains in me–I KNOW there is something greater I am meant to do. I have so much more to give. I have so much to teach Emma. So much is in me. And in my heart He said–then do it. Love yourself, it’s the only way you can love her better and show her what you want to show her. Take care of your body, or it WILL fail you. Get up. Again. And love yourself.
This poem I wrote tonight for open-link night over at dVerse Poets Pub by Claudia in Poetics. It was too interesting I had to give it a try–I may be too late for it but oh well, fun exploring the “borders” here!
The pop and snap of prescription pill bottles, swallow, light and inhale,
scrape of a chair, cluster of tap-tap-taps on the keys, a silence–
At some point everything becomes clear. That doesn’t necessarily mean a good clear, but fact is preferred over fiction when you’re locked up in a mental ward. Again. And it’s snowing out–and worse–it’s New Year’s Eve and you’re thirtieth birthday is coming and you’re little girl must be looking for you. It’s all you can do to decipher the shell-shocked woman-child looking back at you in the tin mirror bolted to the wall above your sink. Here you get your own sink because this time, this trip into the bin, they knew it was much more serious than they had originally thought, and your “security” was upgraded. You have a thought you would usually have–that the upgrade only makes you feel more nuts–but at this point, you don’t feel nuts. You are nuts. I say to myself ‘I’m clinically insane’ and for a moment I believe it’s something to smile about. When the leading psychiatrist told me on New Year’s Day morning that I was clinically psychotic and suffering from complex PTSD, I thought about my mind–clearly–for a second, and I imagined a blue and orange brain-scan image showing clouds of sick. Then I slipped back into the room , in and out of dissociating, and the yellow walls were much too close and I could taste rubber in my mouth and then the hyper-arousal–the flashback coming. My clarity is gone. I need drugs. I need chemicals to help me this is too much–and I dart across the sitting room to the glassed in cage the nurses sit in eating Christmas cookies; Nurse Jo knows me well by now, she knows I’m too embarrassed to say anything; I inch towards the far left window near the hall to my room, she casually looks up and I give her the look and point to my room. Like I don’t want people here to think I need help. God I’m an idiot sometimes.
Nurse Jo always followed with a heated blanket, Seroquel, and fact sheets. As I laid there sucking in air and crying like I imagine I must’ve when I was a little girl, feeling blindfolds on me and blood on my cheeks, hot and sticky and too real, Nurse Jo would shut off the lights and tell me to squeeze the blanket as she calmly, almost like a drifting story, read aloud the facts of trauma and sexual abuse and post-traumatic-stress disorder. I liked facts. They neatly fit into my head, massaging my brain.
It is this—I healed because I wrote it. I was in the full fall-down, I was hearing voices at night (bipolar/psychosis) as the complex PTSD boiled to its apex. I had put down the pen awhile before because I was so lost in what was coming, I knew it was coming—and what came was me having to step off the ledge and into the dark, into the madness. I had “psychotic breakthroughs” every day, where nothing is real, the room is an illusion, voices looked like strings or threads from some distant world. I was having body memories, I was hypervigilent, I was holding my head, running around the empty house, a real screaming in my head, crying and talking to myself, talking to my dead grandmother, begging for relief. It only got worse. I spent so much time on that edge—how strong our will is when we are terrified. I knew that falling down into that darkness meant one thing—I would somehow make it through and be cleansed, saved, find my grace, get through it, and live. Survive. OR I would be completely destroyed. Annihilated. For a long time after I fell/ as I fell, I believed I was completely annihilated. The girl I was was dead. Something—the pain—took her away from me, and however dirty and fucked up she was I wanted her back not because I liked her, but because I wanted to be a self, a someone, an identity that was naked and raw at the bottom of the well. The world was pointless and endless. I wanted reason and purpose to guide me out. I wanted to see a point, but there was none. It was vast empty space that took you a step beyond terror and into dissociation, where you see with real eyes the mystery of things you can’t name. Dissociation scared me but while I was in it I was too separate to express any fear. I’d lay there for hours in the infinite space, my body numb but floating, my mind aware that it was gone. How had I gotten to this point? How had I lost? I thought I was losing. I spent many nights in the psych ward believing with all that was left of me that I had lost the life. I would forever be this empty pit, this shell, suffering the psychotic waves that made me cling to my mother like a drowning little girl. There was no logic or base to end the fear. I was reliving years of sexual, psychological, and physical abuse (the physical not as damaging as the others), I was skinned alive and thrown backwards, back into the gut of my memories, and I had to sink or swim in that acid. I chose to swim, even though I believed I was gone and dead. I died, I really did. This woman today can’t even feel what it was like to be her anymore. She is a lost shadow that taught me and built me, I blossomed out of her. Because she was brave enough to swim. How did she swim? She wrote it down. All of it. Poetry, essays, scribbles, stories. I was sick like that for a year. I died for a year. Sorry to repeat but its difficult to see those words. I lost it every day, I died every day. My family was so supportive. We had codes and a support system, built by my sisters, and I chose to use it. I didn’t know then that I was making choices—going to the hospital again and again, trying new meds, going to psychotherapy, the psychiatrist, taking my meds, calling for help help help, saying simply to my fiancé “it’s coming” and he’d hold me as I shrieked. Yes you have to fall and know you will either make it or die, its fifty-fifty. And because of the sickness, you believe with all that’s left of you that you will die. And you do. The falling is death as you climb into the mouth of your monster and realize the very thing that’s killing you is the very thing that will heal you. Your monster is your teacher. And your monster and teacher is you, and it is also something greater—something nameless and divine and holy. Faith from somewhere gets you through the sludge of time. Faith wakes you up slowly to a day where you for the first time in a year, see the sun, you’re even so close you can almost feel it, and faith tells you that you will. I never believed in anything before, I was too lost my whole life. Now I know with every ounce of me that I’ve earned that SOMETHING wondrous and huge and as full and as vast as that void I was in was also a space of awareness. Acceptance. Something held me in that dark time, something not of myself or the others. Something that makes my heart sing today, something that gives me peace, a kind of grace I feel running through me every day. I’ve never felt so good in my life. I’m not this split girl with multiple, broken identities, broken. I am this whole being that is calm in settling into every moment. Every moment is a blessing. I guess you have to believe once that every moment could be the end, could be your destruction, and believe it, in order to find the grace in loving every blessing, and appreciating everything—right down to the bumble bee.
I’m writing this today, it comes out like a flood. I was inspired by a friend named Brendan who introduced me to this:
In the Gospel of St. Thomas, Jesus said “If you bring out what is inside you, what is inside you will save you. If you fail to bring out what is inside you, what you fail to bring out will destroy you.”
My madness was expressed in psychotic delusions and writing. Writing saved me, I swear to all that’s holy.
Another thing—in my vast amount of time I spent healing towards the end of that year (last year), I traveled through my writing and began to question how I’d gotten there, how I’d made it. I was propelled like a crazy magnet to Tao and Buddhism and Hinduism. I read the Upanishads and other books/sources. I read the poetry. I meditated on my back porch in the spring air. I read books on Buddhism, I read books on Christianity (my favorite being Why Christian? By Douglas John Hall). The Rig Veda, The Buddhist Scriptures, The Secret of the Golden Flower, The Bhagavad Gita, parts of the Bible, most of Alan Watts—my personal favorite that made my heart pound was The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are. EVERYONE should read that book. Ever since then, at the very secret core of me, I want to take my daughter and move somewhere remote, somewhere surrounded by Zen and no pop-culture, no consumerism. I wanted to live off the land and use my hands and teach her with my soul. Teach her what I’ve learned and seen and how beautiful life can be. If I could do anything in this world, it would be that. Unattainable? Can I find a way to do that here? That is what I struggle with now. Off track. Anyways, writing. I’ve always been a writer, even when I was a young girl. It is something naturally in me, it is what saved me (along with a few other things—God, the Godhead, time, meds, and love—not my love, I couldn’t love myself, but the love given to me by others, I borrowed their love to hold me up a little). My friend Brendan wrote “whatever great wounds we suffer are the very wombs of their healing, if we find a way to approach them and name them, let them sing their litanies and tragedies, grieve them, let them go.” He nailed it.