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

Holy Water

pitcher

I have a Baptist church pitcher of holy water on my counter

I don’t know how many Sunday’s it witnessed

(Can I get an amen, brothers and sisters?!),

but I celebrate the holy water it gives and they gave me.

The preacher arrived bearing a coffee cup filled with good will

opening their church home to me with an invitation

I accepted.

I didn’t accept because they were giving me something

I did, wanting to find a church home, with loving heart

Sunday arrived as did the parishioner to cart me to redemption

There I sat in a church so big, cold, overly puritanical

The ceilings dripped chandeliers over the congregation

I sat through the service where the nice people smiled nicely

I sat through bible study which didn’t feel much like home

I hugged while exchanging pleasantries

with a half-promise to return and a Baptist pitcher in hand.

About a week later, the pastor, accompanied by a scary believer

showed up just in time to help unload my chicken coop.

We shared our views where we sent one another away in love.

But I think of them every Sunday when I nurture my plants

as well as every night when I set the coffee pot with holy water

Winter Mile

There are roads to travel that go on for quite a while

but there are none that go on for quite as long as that

of a Winter Mile

When the light has wrung the last drop from dark beguiled,

there are none quite as somber bespoke as that

of a Winter Mile

Warmest sleep of children deep in coverlet dreaming wild

no safer haven of a lover’s wish be true than that

of a Winter Mile

Revision

Rolling down the road before

Been there, done that, know the score

Crossed that bridge, then burned it down

Trapped myself in my hometown

Ghosts of me walk laughing by

Anger driven, cocaine high

I barely know the face of then

But I wear them as my diadem

Broken heart lay broken wide

Spilling love from what’s inside

Trains of childhood sing forlorn

Don’t chase those tracks. Don’t heed those horns.

Into The Otherwhere

There are times in my life where I felt so much weariness just maintaining my facade that I couldn’t bring myself to explode. I mean strip down to the bare bones and rebuild myself into my birthright. The very idea of destruction to create something real seemed counter-productive, but without truly understanding, I invoked Inanna, Goddess of Love, Fertility, and War. One of the Ultimate Mother Goddesses that I embraced with great fear but deep trust. I had no idea what I was doing, but in the core of my being, it was the right thing to do.

Gate of Authority

I removed my crown. I released my prayers to a God I didn’t believe in, or rather, doubted his existence. I surrendered my name that identified me by birth and allowed it to become dust of the earth. I gave my power to the winds of change, the solid earth, the fires of passion, the waters of emotions, the edge of the Universe clenched tightly in my abandoned fist. I allowed myself to become whatever would become.

Gate of Perception

I took off my rose colored glasses to allow any vision of the new world to manifest. I needed to understand the rawness of reality. I required it because I could no longer make my mind see what wasn’t there. I had to face the illusion that I’d created; safety, love, comfort, stability. I couldn’t lie to myself any longer. I opened my eyes and felt shame for what I’d allowed myself to be fooled by because it was truly obvious.

Gate of Communication

For every time I justified words that weren’t my truth. “Oh, you just have to get to know him. He’s not really that bad of a guy.” or “You don’t understand. He’s not like this at home.” or my favorite lie, “He didn’t defend her because he was defending me.” All lies.

Things I told myself because I wanted so desperately to be loved, to be worthy of love. I needed to speak a truth that nobody seemed to want to hear. If I raised my voice, deafness fell on my audience. I became (to cross pantheons here) Cassandra, the soothsayer that could see the future with 100% accuracy but nobody would believe her.

When I realized my voice was aimed at the wrong people, I let it go. They didn’t need or weren’t ready to know me at that level. Onward!

Gate of Compassion

For so many years I was groomed to be the perfect victim. So much so that it never occurred to me that I was one. Even now, at 50, I still have difficulties thinking of myself as anything other than me. But world events or politics such as they are, remind me on a deep level that I was bred to be consumed by men like popcorn, until I found this gate. I had to find a way to love every broken piece of myself. I had to discover that the words I was taught to destroy myself by people that sought to destroy me, were theirs, not mine.

My words were those of a mother caring for a sobbing child. My words were ones of comfort and reassurance that I was worthy of love, capable of love, in fact, I AM love. This gate held me for the longest time because centuries of anguish had to be unwoven, stripped, and remade into my light, not into their darkness.

Gate of Personal Power

At this point I realized that I was harming others with my shards of broken edges and broken promises. I released deception of myself. I released deception of others. I had no reason to manipulate others to suit my needs even though I tried constantly. I allowed others to take from me because if I gave it, they couldn’t steal it.

I returned the power I had stolen from others and set them free of me. For example, I had to walk away from relationships that no longer served me or my companions. I gave up drugs, abusive relationships, alcoholism, nicotine, and the acceptance of violence against me.

I no longer gave sex away willy-nilly (I know). I found more power in holding my core strong. I mean, I love sex, I won’t lie, but there’s something different when it’s given freely and not coerced or forced from my loins. Now, you may think, “Well, duh, Mare!” but I again point out that I was groomed to believe that my vagina was my worth. I didn’t understand the power because it was not seen as power but shame.

Okay, so I also learned that telling my truth to large groups of people was extremely cathartic. I was allowed to say what happened to me and my family lived. I was safe when I walked the stage and spoke of the gun violence I’d experienced at the hands of someone I once loved. I learned at this gate that my personal power was more than who I am, it’s what I am to myself, to others, and to the world. It is my light of LOVE that will not ever again be dimmed.

Gate of Creativity

I found new ways to value myself. I had to believe, from top to bottom that I was created with a purpose so Divine and sacred that only by walking deep into my belly could I find the earth in which I was planted, the water which nourished me, the air that I knew so intimately, the fires that cleansed me, the spirit which guided me. I had to eliminate anything that contradicted that balance of perfect love.

You may hear me joke about my body size, but it’s my shell. I love every inch of this meat suit. It’s kept me moving forward for half a century. It’s weathered so many stormy seas and still sets sail each morning. How could I discount one inch of this glorious being I am? I love me. I love my body. I love how I feel. I love how I look. I love who I am. I had to accept me to love me with no conditions. It was hard work, but baby, look at me now!

Gate of Manifestation

So at this gate I stand Naked. Bare bones flapping in the breeze like wind chimes. Flesh stretched over shells to make drums, entrails stretched into harp strings, and nothing of my former self remains. There isn’t a door or an audience to applaud this place I find myself. I can’t even stand to be around people at this point. It’s not that I’m afraid, I can see them as they are. I see them for their lost paths and misguided anger. I’m not different than them, but I’m not the same either.

I want to step through and see myself reborn. I want to become what I’m meant to be. I’m ready. I have nothing more to lose. Seriously, nothing. Every material good is vanquished. Everything I thought I knew is scattered on the side of the highway between there and here. I have so much lost blood that I’m crusty with scabs of things I’ve torn from my body that didn’t belong there. Leeches of my energy, parasites of my love, rapists of my body, shamers of my spirit are all released into the mud I’ve created in tears cried zig-zag across the country. I am ready.

Gate of Death

And there she died. The part of me that couldn’t love. The part of me that was so devastated she hated the sound of her own name. The knife-like pieces that stabbed anyone that got too close, that wanted to take anything from me, that needed anything from me, that wanted me to be happy or not. I had to allow her to die. I had to lay her to rest with a fancy wreath of flowers in a cold field under the ever-watching stars where the milky-way sang a dirge and witnessed the sacrifice. I was finally free.

Rebirth

As I write this, I realize that for many years I struggled to find my footing. I had many people along the way that helped me even when they didn’t have my best interests at heart. I had to trust the journey. I had to reach out to people that I was deathly afraid of, but found them to be some of my strongest allies. I’ve trusted some people to my error, but they taught me to be cautious with whom I interact my power with because not everyone has my heart.

I still have years to go in this life, Lady willing, but I want to know what it’s like to find that peace of mind. I am strong, I know that, but I’d like to help others find what I’ve found. I’d like to show them the way to love of self, others, and the divine spark within. Here’s hoping for another fifty years!

The Tender Heart

A tender heart gives love like breath

like clinging to a mother’s breast

flowing freely falling fast

love is born to last

too last

But also is the bite of death

that cracks the shine of granted health

broken hearts are staples

for those that are truly able

to give

to love

to be

all in without fear

regret only for not having more time

but loving while remaining blind

to the inevitable end

Today vs 355 Days Ago

Today I watched an emergency vehicle roar

followed by a chorus of five more

the hymn they sang was not for me

but I found myself unable to breathe

I started to panic, filled with fear

as if they were suddenly going to stop here

I wear her shirts and her ashes

as if those would conjure her

breathe, ironically, life back to her

to us

to the moment in time where we were

all of we, together, being happily.

It was a feeling of holy

a feeling of communion

as we broke bread together

The laughter we shared

reciting our ancient tales

filled us faster than food

She just at fifty, me at 49

We’d spent a love-time of life

but never enough time

The chaplain at the hospital said,

on the day Bean really died,

Maybe you were the face of God

she had to see before she could

finally be at peace.”

It was the most comforting words

because I often think of them.

I often think of Bean’s face in that same way,

the face I needed see before she went home