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

“Miss Marge’s Cat”

When I took Miss Marge Swenson on our date, we had a conversation. I tried to pawn my last kitten off on her. She said, “At this stage in my life it wouldn’t be fair to bring a cat into my home. I sure do miss having a cat.” She’s 93 and that was a valid, although sad, argument, it was sound of logic.

We talked a bit more and I found out her favorite color is purple. It used to be blue, but for some reason, she explained, it’d changed to purple. I immediately decided to paint her a cat.

When she saw the painting for the first time, she immediately named the purple cat, “Mr. B.” because that was the name of her friend. It absolutely delighted me to see her aglow with joy. I don’t think it gets any better.

In the small painting in the background, I filled that with four other paintings before I stopped myself and asked how I feel when I see Miss Marge. I see her as a breath of fresh air as if I were standing on a mountain on a clear sunny day in the early spring with maybe a suspicion of rain hanging in the air but not enough to feel any kind of muggy. As soon as I thought that, I saw it and painted it.

I liked the squishy flowers because I wanted them to represent the four Sunday’s in a month (sometimes five) when I get to see my Always Beautiful friend, Marge Swenson.

This took me to this, the 5th try, before I got it right in my head.

This took me to this, the 5th try, before I got it right in my head.

The contrasts were some of my favorites. Don't hate on my leaves.

The contrasts were some of my favorites. Don’t hate on my leaves.

I love warms and cools together. It feels rich and lively to me.

I love warms and cools together. It feels rich and lively to me.

Miss Marge will always have comfortable slippers to wear on this stage in life.

Miss Marge will always have comfortable slippers to wear on this stage in life.

Miss Marge's Cat Mare Martell Acrylic on Board 16X20

Miss Marge’s Cat
Mare Martell
Acrylic on Board
16X20

My friend!

My friends

My friends, not my art

I didn’t believe you because I was sure you were a lie.

Nobody ever gave without expecting something of me.

But there you were with shirt sleeves pulled up to your elbows

Stepping into my dance of horrors with a graceful heart

You expertly guided my feet as I stumbled along behind

While I asked guidance, you answered me with elbows deep in the mire.

You didn’t hesitate. You didn’t stop. You gave without askance.

After the dervish had danced, I drove you home in the night

You didn’t turn into a pumpkin. You hugged me, told me you loved me,

vanished into your home with a step lighter than air.

Again you approached our friendship but I was skittish with fear.

How many times have I placed my faith in trust only for it to disappear?

There you were with jovial laughter, warmest hugs from open arms.

“This can’t be right. This doesn’t make sense.” I argue with myself.

You tell me what you like about me, what I do, who I am.

Nobody has done that without wanting something in return.

(Rarely so).

I test a limit. You laugh. I push a button. You show me the right way.

You get pissed but you work through it like I do, using words and humor.

I feel like I’ve been shown a rare jewel in a crown that belongs to the masses.

I feel as if I may be able to trust this friendship, but I won’t lie

It scares me to allow people near to me because they always leave.

But maybe I can give enough to our friendship where I won’t want to

because of what you’ve already promised with your actions

because of what you’ve already given from your heart.

The Hands of an Angel

Peace and rainbows to my beautiful friend, Jenica Fredrickson.

Peace and rainbow to my beautiful friend.


Dedicated to Jenica “Hen” Fredrickson

The hands of the angel are stained with rainbows.
When her wings are unfurled so her spirit can soar,
The world explodes with the confetti of her brilliance.
Though her clothes are blurred from their original intention
She beams cotton-candy pink smiles that bless the faces
Of her people with glittery indulgence,
Homages to their inspiration that lifts her path
On the wispy winds of change and fruition.
The updrafts of their laughter, love, and livelihood
Offer distance to her sparkling prismatic brushes
And she flies. Oh, how she soars!