I refuse to be forgotten. I refuse to be left behind. I refuse your attempt to excuse your life that intertwines so delicately with my mine. To the mother who sacrifices her child in order to languish guiltless in her sentimental dream world, I refuse to be silenced. To the world that would sooner fragment me, compartmentalize me, break my neurons and pulsing life and hand it to a man in a suit to analyze, conform and make me over miter for miter, I refuse to forget. I am not a statistic, I am not a model for the masses, I am not a project one must fix, and I am not a Broken Arrow waiting to be found. I am a woman. I am a woman whose fabric is coarse from the river that people have forgotten to contain. I have had to set up my own moral sandbags to keep your bottom feeders from eating me whole as I cleansed in your pools. As long as I can write, may it be by pen & pencil, keyboards or lipstick I will write, and in my words I will not be forgotten. Am I the first to have suffered? Of course not! But I will push to the front to be heard. I will seek words and colors and textures to bring to life my personal journey that began in your midst. I will cause others to understand the why’s and how’s of my existence. I will stare candidly into the eyes that feared the strength I possess, so much so they needed to quench its essence.
Nutz & Boltz Part I
I do not know why October is always a hard month for me, at times I get a passing glimpse, a memory, a brushing of darkness across my eyelids, but the pumping of my heart and sweat above my upper lip tell me to flee…and I do. I have always held to the thought that when your life is yanked away, when love, money, your reason for living, your loss of trust, or your loss of faith stare darkly back at you from your reflection, it is time to stop. Your world has taken an ugly turn and it is best to ride out the turbulence. This particular dusky October afternoon, there was just no simple way to know or declare combat on what had begun to happen, I had begun crying now for three days straight and could not stop. I had no time to build the walls before the stone hard pain overtook my senses and grabbed me by my throat and began shaking me like a damaged rag doll. The war I had to declare was about determination, determination to survive. Everyone has a breaking point and I had reached mine.
Let me start from the beginning: crying was all that was left of me, a deep well of salty tears, a wasteland of emotions, a cavern where many before me had dropped their sadness. Their lost lives, lost loves, losses of all sorts, a place where others, like me, can dip into the well and find endless, ancient tears in abundance to quench a thirsty soul, where the heavens drop close to the whitewashed roofs of human sadness and give up their life. I was their newest dweller.
It was around 2:30 AM and I was put on a hard table, my heart was listened to, my pulse taken by cold, dry hands and my blood had been drawn. I had been living in a cold world for some time so here I at least felt in tune with my surroundings. I allowed people with faces I’d never remember to probe me, undress me. They opened puffy, tear-stained eyes wide and showered loud, noisy lights, intruding on the darkness within. I felt the prick of needles. Would this make me stop crying? How could someone cry so much, and for so long? I began to fade into a warm, soft sleep with dozens of dreams helped along by tranquilizers.
I don’t remember a thing until the afternoon of the next day. I woke in a sunny room. There were two beds, the other was occupied by a very small women who’s back was to me, I felt a wave of sadness, just the way her knees bent, the angle of her head, she looked sad, a projection of myself, I am sure. There were two bathrooms and our blankets and walls had matching patterns. The floors were shiny like someone had taken a soft cloth, and with care buffed the sheen into the tiles. I had a nightstand close to my bed with nothing personal or familiar. I jumped off the bed and went into the restroom, nothing just a clean restroom. I walk down the hall to where I could see bright lights and chatter. There was a small, closed glass window. The girl behind the glass opened the window and let out a boring sigh as she asked, "Yes, how can I help you?" I groggily replied, "I need to brush my teeth and wash my face." "Wait a second," she nodded towards someone behind her. A young girl dressed rather preppy came out from a locked door and said, "Follow me, you are not allowed to have anything personal, I will attend you while you wash and brush." As we entered the restroom she handed me a small plastic bag with a toothbrush, wash cloth and a small bar of soap. I still felt groggy and asked, "Where am I? What is this place?" I could hear her voice tighten, "Your doctor has just arrived and he will come to your room shortly to talk to you, please hurry." I finished and she stepped back to let me pass her as she looked into the washbowl. What a strange thing to do, I thought. "Why don’t you just lay on your bed there till the doctor comes to see you," she said with a toothy grin.
I heard the squeak of his shoes before he entered. He was a tall, robust fella. He wore rimmed glasses that were out of style and which hid kind blue eyes. His face was warm and open, I immediately felt comfortable with him. He pulled up the chair that was next to my bed and took a pen from his shirt pocket and began telling me how I had come to be his patient, and what would be happening within the next few days. I was in a psychiatric hospital quite a ways from home because my husbands insurance could not find a place that would take me at such an early hour. Shortly I would be given a series of tests, by different folks, whose training would help my doctor to understand the root(s) of my problem, and what medications would best help in my healing. I would have at my disposal, a Psychiatrist, a Psychologist, an Intern, a Dietitian, a Head Nurse and a flurry of Nurses, both male and female who would attend my needs depending on the time of day or night. I would be sent to a medical hospital nearby, in an ambulance for a MRI and CT, and EEG. When all the tests are back, which should be in no more than two days, this same team will convene, along with the patient and her spouse and a plan would be set into motion to help me recover and be whole again. I will be expected at that time to become involved in the various activities the hospital had to offer such as, psychodrama, crafts, and music. I would have one hour a day of one-to-one therapy with my Psychologist, who would come to the hospital, my doctor would be in every day to read my chart and make any changes in medications as needed, he would also be available for questions. All questions I asked about how long I would be in the hospital were met with, "Once we have all the tests back, then we will talk further." Since my skull was an impassable clutter and I was psychologically blind, I would need this mans eyes and knowledge to guide me. I quit asking questions, once again, I fell into the slow sad days of my world and began watching things around me. The milk of human kindness that had always coursed through my veins had been sucked away; I was to spend my first few days in this place, this hospital, experiencing a slow sadness. Prior to my new incarceration, the voices from the outside and those inside, had picked raw and bloody sores into the fabric of my nature, no longer fun or fun-loving, these soulful emotions had been replace with a dullness of spirit. It would seem that over-night I had gone from a youthful, determined mother of four, to an empty vessel. Old now in ways I never expected or wanted, dependent not on self because self had vanished, taken it’s beating and was left dragging it’s sick body through the streets of life. Now my dependence came from health professionals, who had never met me, and who often would forget they are dealing with the insane. These folks were my way back to the world I once knew.
I would eventually find myself, with their help. I would also remind them that the insane and mentally sick are humans who can demand respect and honesty and get it.
On the day my tests came back we did convene in a private room. I met for the first time a lady who would tiptoe into my life, but leave a huge footprint of kindness and friendship behind. She was introduced as my Psychologist; she stood up and shook my hand. She had short, wavy light brown hair and she wore a tan suit with two-toned shoes. She had a southern accent and a welcoming smile. There were others in the room that day, but I would not remember their faces nor their names.
The Doctor spoke first, tests revealed I was depressed, I was also an epileptic, with seizures ranging in intensity from petite mal to grand mal.
(Some of the known causes include brain injuries, infections that damage the brain, tumors, disturbances in blood circulation to the brain (such as stroke), high fevers, lead or other poisoning, and maternal injury). They would, of course continue to investigate the cause of my symptoms.
My depression is most likely the result of ongoing stress due to the fact that I am the primary caregiver of a severely handicapped child. Wait, wait a moment here! I am a what? An epileptic, I was having seizures? The word wasn’t new to me, I used to be respite care provider and had cared for two boys with epilepsy on occasion, but this was my world and this can’t be happening. I would be given Depakote, an anti-epileptic drug for the seizures, and an anti-depressant for the stress. I was in shock; I had been having missing moments in my day for quite some time now and would wake to find myself caught between the dresser and bed, or next to the washing machine. One time I was in the grocery store and took down a pyramid of sodas, only to wake with people starring at me with my urine mixed neatly in with the soda, flowing on all sides of me. I had been afraid; afraid my cancer had come back so I chose to ignore symptoms of something frightening. I walked out of the meeting stunned, not knowing how epilepsy would change my life. I was told to walk around the grounds and get to know where everything was. At first I stuck close to the walls like a hairy bug, panic flapping its wings madly inside my head.
The hospital was beautiful. It was done in a Colonial style with slate blue walls, huge plants and wallpaper. It resembled a fancy hotel rather than a hospital; there was a huge kitchen area that was well stocked and a TV room with volumes of books and magazines. I had seen a Baby Grand piano with beautiful chairs for others to sit and listen. There was an outdoor patio with ivy trailing over and around little alcoves of chairs and tables. One gal, who looked rather emaciated, was in a bikini sunbathing on a lounge chair and two younger men were playing chess at a nearby table, under a shade tree. I peaked into the room where a psychodrama was taking place and quickly made a mental note not to go there again. What a wacky bunch that was. There was also a group therapy class in session, and as I approached a thin man with a smiling face, motioned for me to come in, out of embarrassment I did. Oh, man I was not ready for this; I wanted to yell it seemed at everyone, I could feel anger just under the surface. When the class was over, thankfully within fifteen minutes, I silently made my way out and back to my bed.