Wrong door, Right Place

The following is a possible trigger for C-PTSD, major depressive disorder with recurrent severe w/o psychotic features, generalized anxiety with panic attacks, which also happens to be my diagnosis.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Call 1-800-273-8255 Available 24 hours everyday

Due to a lack of a psychiatrist, I was switched off one anti-depressant which kept me stable to another one at the lowest dose. Within a week of the switch, a couple months ago, my world came to a crashing halt.

I noticed that I wasn’t calling my friends as frequently but didn’t realize that isolation is one of my first go to’s. Then I stopped painting or writing and what I did write was short, tidy, and not up to my particular liking, but oh well, publish it anyway. I started wondering why I felt so sad all the time, but still, my alarm bells never rang.

By the time I was sleeping 16-18 hours a day, I realized I was in over my head. I felt like a complete failure to not have understood how far down I was going. It wasn’t very long when I started thinking, “What is the purpose of being alive? We’re going to die and within a couple years, nobody will remember me like they don’t my best friend Bean after she died a couple years back (in my house an hour after she told me she loved me and asked to sleep for one more hour that cost her life.)

I’d chat on the phone with whomever I needed to, but I couldn’t form the words asking for help. Strong women don’t do that, only weak women and I’m definitely NOT that. I had tears pouring out of my face washing oceans across my lap. And yet, as my vision faded to black, my therapist suggested I go to an outpatient program at a hospital because it would be more intensive than she could help me with. She saved my life.

I showed up first thing in the morning and parked in front of the main doors to the hospital. I started to cry. I was so raw, the gaze of the lady at the counter seared my muscle, sinew, and bones. I wanted to throw myself on the floor and beg for help, but instead, I choked back the sobbing wail and asked the receptionist to register for the day program. She asked me to have a seat.

A pleasant looking woman offered me a chair in the assessment room. I thought, “Oh great, quizzes about where I am on a scale of 1-10.” She asked why I was there to which I became suspicious of her question.

“I came to register for the day program because my therapist said it was a good idea.” I offered.

She asked me questions about my state of mind. This is going to sound obvious, but do not tell the lady in the assessment room: “Why are we even here? What’s the point in living? I wish I was dead.” You get the picture. It was gruesome in my head, but once I started I kept going.

She said something about thanks for being honest. She left the room for a bit. I started crying again, or maybe I hadn’t stopped. I don’t remember. I already had a two tissue deep finger cast I kept dabbing my eyes with as needed (frequently).

When she returned she sat down across from me and leaned over the desk. “I don’t think you’re safe right now. You have threatened your own life. We’re going to keep you for a few days so you can get back on your feet again.” I sobbed heavily.

I wanted to hate her. I wanted to blame her for my darkness because knowing my brain was attacking me, realizing that she was right and hating myself for my weakness, I signed a ream of paperwork. She allowed me to make a couple calls while she processed the paperwork.

I called my mom and my husband and told them what was happening. I arranged for my mom to get the car to Ben. I continued sobbing. I couldn’t breathe. I felt like a crumpled piece of fish soaked newspaper. She asked me to remove my jewelry. I begged to keep the necklace with Bean’s ashes in it to which they relented.

With just the clothes on my back, I started following the first person who said “Follow me.”

Locked door, hallway, locked door, hallway, etc.

The path unclear, I dragged behind as the realization of anxiety dripped through my body, causing me to flush sweat. I started sensory soothing by rubbing my fingertips together and lengthening my breath to settle my shoulders.

Locked door, hallway, locked door, hallway, etc.

There were people there dressed in shorts, bathrobes, jeans and t-shirts, while the staff seemed human, I was screaming weakly in my over-crowded brain. There were men and women sitting randomly on the floor having various volumes of phone conversations that I couldn’t understand as I tried to keep up with the quick walking leader.

Locked door, hallway, locked door, hallway, locked door.

As she opened the door she started explaining stuff about rules of my new temporary home. I couldn’t pay attention long enough to get half of what she said. My panic level kept rising as we approached the nurses station.

Over the course of the next few hours, I was poked, prodded, gauged, tagged, and hung upside down by my rear feet. That’s not true about the tagging and rear feet. I got all processed, given a room with a fresh made bed where I struggled to sleep against the every 15 minute life-check. At bedtime, I took whatever they gave me, and slept fitfully.

The schedule is rigid and filled with groups to help give tools to be used when we got released. The age span was varied across generations. The rise and fall of their humming with sparkles of laughter seemed alien. It had been so long since I wanted to smile.

Fast forward to Saturday when I “woke up”, looked around and wondered what the hell I did this time. Some things from the fog began arriving at light-speed with the resounding shuddering groan of burdened heart. I was feeling physically better with a sidekick of humor.

The people stationed with me in the prison of lost souls finding their way home again were unbelievably kind, introspective, wise, giving, and genuinely looking out for each other. We exchanged our journey through the mental health system like trading cards spread out in an emotional three-card monte.

It wasn’t as morbid as you may think. It was soothing to know that other people have experienced horrors like mine. They made me feel “normal” again. They helped me believe in the amputations that we endured in our psyches that couldn’t touch who we were really are. They gave me hope even when they didn’t have it themselves. I needed those battle-worn veterans mingling their stories with mine, conjuring solutions through our newly refreshed communication skills.

I got released on Tuesday afternoon on the condition that I’d arrive Wednesday morning at 8AM for Outpatient Therapy classes to which I agreed. My mom came to get me and bring me home. I made her a card in art class which she loved. She brought me a hot cup of coffee with hazelnut creamer in it. I practically chugged it down. “Ah, nectar of the Gods.” (Bless you Bapa). I felt relief, excitement, loving, and most of all I felt and feel grateful to be alive.

Wednesday morning arrives and I return to the same door I went in the last time. I ask the receptionist where I could find the day program.

“You go back out the doors you came in and drive down the side of the building where you’ll see the door to get in.” She directed. I thanked her while thinking thoughts of wonder.

Sure as tooting, I drove around, parking in the back lot where the door actually was. As I parked, my favorite Bible verse: Isaiah 43:1: “…Don’t fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine.” appeared in my mind’s eye. It brings me deep comfort because I imagine LOVE saying that to me. It fills me to the brim.

I am very blessed to have walked into that main door instead of the Day Program I was supposed to find. I AM strong. I am not my diagnosis. It is an issue with my chemistry being out of whack. I do believe I am a miracle. I’m feeling a thousand times better than I did a week ago when dying seemed like a great idea. It wasn’t. It isn’t. Call

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Call 1-800-273-8255 Available 24 hours everyday

Not Old Enough

Turbulent Life

I won’t mourn you while you’re still here making choices;

choices of where you’ll breathe last when the time comes

decisions that are yours, and only yours, to make. Always.

I will, however, laugh with you until you can’t any more.

I will support your choices, defending your life at its last.

You’re not old enough to go, but I know that’s not up to us.

I won’t mourn you while you’re here, but I will love you,

my friend, brother to my sister-in-heart, brother of my brother.

A Year of Firsts

This is a time for lasts, as we say goodbye,

but this is also a time for intensely real firsts.

A time when the reflection upon our own mortality

comes to the forefront, peeled away into puddles of grief.

The firsts that haunt the memories

are those that ask, “How can the birds be singing?

Why does the traffic keep moving?

Don’t they realize my world just stopped?”

Like a delicate flower praying in amber

First, there are the beginnings found only at the ends,

then there are the lasts that can only be found

looking in the rear view mirror

as the year of firsts steps forward

begins.

When it first comes home that there isn’t any

physical shell to go sit with,

to hold hands with,

or look into their eyes on this day or any more other days,

the comprehension of our provisional lives

settles like “dust-we-meant-to-get-to-until-things-changed.”

The sound of their breathing or their laughter

has begun to fade and yet, they show up

unexpectedly fully present as echos of last being.

What they don’t warn anyone about

are the May 4ths, the June 13ths, and the October 27ths.

The ordinary, every day chores laden heavily

with surprisingly unpredictable waves

The first meal alone, knowing they aren’t there.

Using the last of the coffee you bought

on your last shopping trip when you didn’t know;

While there was still hope you would shop again.

Packing the clothes they used to wear catching

a whiff of their cologne

that sparked the memory of their hugs.

The realization that along with your firsts,

you also experienced unwittingly, your lasts.

All of the things that seemed so mundane,

ordinary when they were around,

even through challenges,

suddenly become

…absent.

And although they never leave us

their love woven into our cloak of shared life,

everything seems suddenly out of sync;

off kilter; out of phase,

unraveled.

When we think of the deaths of our people

The ones we knew inside and out,

We brace ourselves for the celebrations

because we’ll go through the motions

We’ll go through the first motions of knowing

with all of our people, but one, we’ll be grieving.

Whispering ‘Bless their hearts” reverently,

We’ll be eating funeral sandwiches,

served in hushed tones after the nice service.

We’ll make motions of Christmas, Thanksgiving,

their birthday, your birthday, and the first anniversaries.

It’s the days of confetti we go to like holy sacraments

feeling gawked at and sacrificial; awkwardly naked.

But smiling politely with a discreet exit

helps to survive through the first holidays.

This is a time for new beginnings, letting go of goodbyes

but this is also a time for honoring that which has been before

A time when the reflection upon our own mortality

comes to the forefront, inspired by the love

which brought blessings and comfort throughout the years.

May peace be granted to you as it has been to My loved one

Lady Di’s Crown Royale

Songs of Nation’s Pride

This poem was originally posted on April 16th, 2015 as part of a writing challenge. It seems to fit the mood I find myself in today. The day before the inauguration of Voldemort the Orange (my phrase) and his Plunder monkeys (Stephen King’s phrase).

I truly believed at my mother’s knee

That when I sang, “My Country ‘Tis of Thee”

The words I sang were truer than true

That if I bled for honor, it would be red, white, and blue.

But I’ve awakened to find a land divided

Bathed in disparity, desecration of what was once united.

I was taught at my Navy Veteran Daddy’s knee

That the Star Spangled Banner was to be honored deeply

That if I sang with truth in my heart

I’d stand united with my countrymen, never to part.

I believed in the land of the free, home of the brave

But I’ve awakened to find a land of the fee, home of the slaves.

I understood from my Grandparent’s legends

That America the Beautiful open armed beckoned

The words describing purple mountains and amber waves

Breathing life into the fruited plains of graves

But I’ve awakened to find a dying fracked rocky tops

Blackened drought plains laying desolate of crops

Where my family is from in Michigan The Rapids, la Grande

Makes me, all joking aside, a Yankee Doodle Dandy

Where the emblem of, the land I loved

Was supposed to be where there’s never a boast or brag

But I’ve awakened and I’ve found this only applies to non-fags

If you’re slightly brown skinned or poor, they turn you away

Ain’t nobody got time for that, they’ll remove you from society’s gray.

Cycle turns

flowergarden

I am an untended garden, riddled with forget-me-nots and weeds

My earth has not been furrowed asunder; tilling life to the topsoil

I have grown fallow, un-supporting of life, but yet, there are some

perennials that cling to a hope of return, of vibrancy dallying

But I can only roll over in my floral nightgown, whimpering in my bed

allowing the blistering son to scorch my once glorious stance

I admit, I’ve become self-watering. I needn’t wait for the gardener

My groans of grief roil the soil, creating bitter roots exposed as lies

Everyone knows that when the earth laughs, people die.

She accepts their bodies back to her world, but I could still breathe

so I am not granted respite from the overabundant fertilizer spewed

over my once lush landscape. But, I will rise, for the weeds can’t hang on

when I forbid grasping of my rooted passion for life. Here she comes

the one that removes the rot with compassionate hands.

Here he comes, the one that scratches that spot in the very middle

She tends to me while singing lightly a childhood song forgotten

He digs deep with his grip, releasing the tainted, blighted plants

She opens the earth to expose me to the warmth of attention

He plants perennial seeds to grow through the coming seasons.

I inhale deeply, knowing that my rebirth will again grow fruitful.

My cycle continues in ample countenance to their loving attention.

I await my own fruition. I will grant only the very best of myself

to create the most beautiful garden I can create. This, is why I weep.

Ghost Town of the Last Bouquet

of the lost bouquet

of the lost bouquet

It all happened so fast. Shortly before I died, a friend of mine said, “Why don’t you have a wake to see what it would be like when you’re gone?” I thought about it sincerely. I was only inspired to ask the question because several people I knew had passed from the breathing life. It’s not like I was inviting death to visit or anything. I was just curious as I watched people of all walks come to give honor to the deceased.

I’d considered mortality before when I look at the life I lead without children, without anyone to which I could pass my traditions and stories into the future. It took me several weeks before I concluded that I didn’t want to know what people thought of me. I officially opted out because nobody really wants to know how much they’ll be missed unless they didn’t plan on coming back, right?

A week later, I got sick. I went to sleep for a while. I’m not even sure what happened. I was, then I wasn’t. I tried to communicate with my husband but he couldn’t hear me. I didn’t understand. I spoke. I screamed. I tried to write to him. I watched as my friends showed up on my doorstep. I knew some of my beloveds were upset, but they buckled down to work as if their own lives depended on it.When I woke up, people I loved dearly were milling about my house. Many of them were packing up my personal belongings. Some of them were picking through my things, selecting items as mementos, while I stood in the middle of each room spinning in circles crying with grief.

There were times of visitation with my friends whom spoke tender words of compassion to my surviving spouse while hovering behind weeping eyes and choked words. I wanted to take away their pain. I wanted to wrap them into my arms, to offer them comfort as they’d done for me so often. But I couldn’t reach far enough out of myself. I was trapped in a place between planes.

While I witnessed the parade, I saw that people brought gifts, food, donations of all different kinds. I watched the place I lived become an empty shell. No decorations, no dinners cooking, no shower gel scenting the entire upstairs. I slept on the floor of my studio curled up in a small blanket-less cold ball on a smelly carpet. I tried to get comfortable, but there is no way when my life rejected me.

The next day all I could feel were spirits moving near me, but I paid them only enough notice to acknowledge they were there. I could hear the hushed tones of neighbors outside my window. I looked but I couldn’t see them. Everything took on a gray light as if gauze were filtering everything into uncomfortable dullness. I felt the press of others but I resisted their call. I wasn’t ready to leave. I wanted to make sure my beloved was well.

People I didn’t know walked into my house and started commenting about the bare walls. They expressed how they were going to change everything around to suit their taste. It was then I realized my beloved was no longer there.

With a tug that dropped me back from the window, I turned to face a tall man that looked familiar to me. He reached out his fingers beckoning me to follow. He smiled reassuringly but I held on to the breathing life. I looked out the window once more, turned back to the tall man, with a burst of courage, I took his hand. Then I wasn’t.