I’m realizing that yesterday’s public reading is the first I did in front of a live audience since the church talent show, which was Sunday, March 31 of this past year, 2013. Today is September 23, 2013…Monday. Where the heck have I been? Asleep?
I suppose. I’ve been through some gigantic changes. I’m not the same person I was. I suppose I went to bed and woke up different, just like that Kafka work or something you see in a weird comedy movie or in read in a kid’s book.
I spoken plenty about that anorexic nightmare of waking up one day and suddenly you’re double in size. Or half what you used to weigh. Or one day, stepping on the scale no matter what your size is, and the scale saying you weigh something ridiculous (such as what Puzzle weighs) and that being your nightmare from Hell. At best, the scale batteries need replacing. At worst, you’re dead. But if you are, we don’t hear from you I guess (although many, or most, would argue we do).
Of course, there are the other nightmares. You are topless. Or if you are a guy, bottomless. In public. The other day while napping I dreamed I was both dead and topless. I was in some basement with other cadavers. I had a jacket on, but under the jacket, just a very thin night shirt, which counts as nothing cuz it wasn’t something I’d wear in public. Someone respectful opened my jacket and then decided I might not want to be “exposed,” so they politely zipped the jacket back up. I woke up laughing my butt off.
Funny, I dream all the time that I’m dead. It’s getting so commonplace that now, I laugh at these dreams as soon as I wake up. The dreams themselves get more and more bizarre and elaborate in detail. I must be going through an amazing creative process while asleep, especially considering that I sleep so little as it is. So I figure this creative process is efficient, too. If I were money-hungry, I’d bag this energy and sell it.
Last summer when I dreamed I was dead I guess the dream was so vivid or convincing that instead of making me laugh, I was scared out of my mind. I woke up wondering if I was dead, and it took me quite some time to realize I wasn’t. I was scared to tell anyone for a long time because I thought if I did, I’d be locked up. Or someone might be scared that I had something going on that was making me die. That, in fact, was true. I was starving myself. I didn’t want anyone to know.
The Catch-22 was that it was obvious but not obvious, or not obvious in a way that anyone had any power to do anything about it. I am positive that I myself made sure of that, made sure I wasn’t “rescued.” I have lots of stuff written down in journals about escaping potential “rescue” over and over, how scared I was of “sectioning” and the like. I still have leftover fears about getting thrown into mental hospitals. This fear I guess stays with you if you are a mental patient for a long time, if you’ve ever been locked up in these places. It can’t be helped. They are such inhumane settings where you get punished for your actions and told you are a selfish, useless, incapable waste of a human. These are not places where you get “help.” I’ve generally gotten worse when I’ve been locked up and when I go home I have to recover from the trauma of lockup.
There were times, for instance, that I’d beat myself up for revealing too much to someone in an e-mail. Or for letting on to anyone (through clothing) how much weight I’d lost. In my journal, I’d promise myself not to tell anyone anything again. Sometimes I’d say too much in an e-mail, then right before pressing the “send” button, I’d edit the e-mail and take out the things that I believed admitted how much I was starving myself.
After a while, I had no clue what I was saying or doing anyway and couldn’t think straight. I was too starved. I was in bed a lot. I couldn’t keep track of time. I had no clue what day it was or what hour of day, or if it was night or day. I couldn’t dress myself or take care of my hair properly. These are simple things and it disturbed me that my brain was so messed up that it wouldn’t allow my body to perform these simple tasks.
So I’d walk outside with Puzzle and wonder if I even had clothes on. This rather shocked me. Many times I looked at my clothes and had no idea what to do with them or how to put them on.
One day I tried so many times to get my hair braided and couldn’t do it. I have no clue how long I stood there for with wet hair, trying over and over. It’s something I’ve done without thinking for over a decade every morning and it takes a minute to do, yet that morning and for several mornings (I guess it was morning) I was completely unable to do this.
I remember everything circling around me. The world running in circles and being unusually fuzzy all the time. I thought this was my life permanently, that my world would circle around like that forever. Also, I heard buzzing all the time, and a bass drum, or maybe it’s plucked viols. No, the booming wasn’t my heart. It was the First Symphony, First Movement of Johannes Brahms.
Do you know it took Brahms 20 years to write his First Symphony? I’ve known that since I was a kid composer. That little fact gets to me. Twenty years of tearing your hair out as a creative person. When the Symphony finally came out, critics said the work was full of chaos. The critics I suppose were putting the work down, but I personally say it is so full of angst that it gives me chills. I hear that booming often when I’m truly scared. I really do hear it. I’ve known this work of music for a very long time.
It scares me, too, that once a person gets into such a state, they don’t come out of it. I wasn’t psychotic. While it was caused by starvation, what was going on in my head was dementia-like (from what I recall) and not at all like psychosis. I have heard recordings and read writings done by folks in early enough stages of dementia where they can still make words come out. So they will describe this wall between themselves and the world, how they are fading and leaving others and about their feelings of isolation. I myself spoke of the wall in one of my You-Tubes. The thing was, I thought the wall was there permanently. I was convinced that because I had starved myself, the brain damage was permanent and I’d never come back.
Sadly, for folks with dementia, to my knowledge, it’s true, they really do have permanent brain damage, and it isn’t reversible. But I’ll bet this isn’t true in 100% of cases, and I’ll bet folks get diagnosed all the time with “dementia” and told they are hopelessly doomed when in fact, the diagnosis is incorrect and they aren’t at all doomed.
So when I did get rescued, in came psychiatry to muck things up. I got labeled “manic.” I got labeled “psychotic.” I got labeled “delusional.” I got labeled “danger to self.” Of course, my own shrink whom I’d been seeing for years, Dr. P, did nothing to help the situation as she hadn’t been listening and had no clue I’d been starving myself. It was so obvious but I guess she didn’t even have her eyes or ears open.
Sure, I hadn’t been feeding myself properly, but no way did I have any intention of overdosing, hanging myself, stabbing myself, cutting, or any of that nonsense. If I did have these intentions, it sure would have been easy to kill myself and there would have been nothing anyone could have done. I would have done the one thing in my power I could have done. I would have stopped eating. Yet right before their eyes, I was indeed eating like mad. Try to convince some doctor or abusive nurse of of what I was trying to say. It was literally impossible, especially since they’d ask me some question then turn their backs and walk out even before I’d answer it most of the time, completely uninterested.
The fact that I never had a chance to answer the multitude of questions was so frustrating. I’d try to get the doctor who’d asked the question to come back so I could at least finish my sentence, but they’d be off the floor in a flash and be immediately unreachable. It frustrated me further that I wasn’t mobile, meaning I couldn’t run after anyone and chase them down to finish what I was saying after they rudely walked off.
Later, when I was finally able to walk a little bit, I’d get yelled at for getting up and going anywhere. Why? Because this inconvenienced whatever sitters were watching me. They were told by the abusive nurses that I was a dangerous mental patient and I was suicidal so I needed to be eyeballed constantly and I should never leave their sight. How stupid! Many of the sitters intuitively knew I certainly wasn’t suicidal and there was no reason to stare me down. Other sitters got yelled at by the nurses so much that they had no choice but to do their job, so they stared at me nonstop. When I was finally strong enough to walk unassisted, it was their job to follow me wherever I went. If they were the type who wanted to sleep or sit with their cell phones or watch TV, of course when I got up they were annoyed that they, too, had to follow me. Some followed within a couple of feet of me. This irked me so much. Others were more polite. I joked (it was black humor) and called them “my shadow.” I hated it.
It took me over a week to do politics to get rid of the sitters, that were never medically needed in the first place. So when I did get rid of them, I got yelled at by the abusive nurses whenever I walked into the hall. It was this knee-jerk response. So I got into the habit of apologizing for ever walking into the hall, ever, or immediately giving explanation for why I was there, such as telling them I was headed to the kitchen to fill my water pitcher or get water for tea, or get something to eat. I’d get yelled at if I ever went to the nurses’ station for anything at all. Or I’d get belittled very badly, or even talked about right in front of me within earshot. They’d say what a nuisance I was. That was horrible. I avoided walking out there whenever possible cuz I hated the abuse. The day I left, I overheard them saying how glad they were and they were saying “Good riddance.”
Well, they abused me. I think I was right to complain. I had no clue whom to complain to. I think I didn’t bitch and moan enough, honestly, mainly cuz I figured if I opened my mouth, this would be reason for them to medicate me inappropriately even worse than they were trying to, or lock me up further, or give me rotten treatment that would traumatize me further.
I’ve been free a month now. I still cry over the abuse. I cry daily. I am so frustrated that it happened and I get mad when folks don’t believe me when I say that it happened, because dang, it did. I wasn’t delusional and I’m still not delusional.
I don’t need a pill for crying. I need and want to cry and crying is good. How stupid to take pills for crying. I can’t believe that patients cry in hospitals and the first thing nurses do is to shove pills to fix the crying and make the patient shut up.
So people learn that crying is bad, and they panic when they cry. They think something’s horribly wrong, and they run for pills and medicate themselves. Let yourself cry and heal yourself. It’s your body fixing itself.
Don’t shut yourself up with a pill, or allow anyone to shut you up. Make noise. We should all be making noise about abuse, not taking pills for it. Pills don’t fix the world. They just knock us out and shut our eyes and ears to the yuckiness around us. It that what anyone really wants?
No. People don’t want pills and a fake diagnosis. People want to speak and be heard. Like I was heard yesterday in front of maybe 200 people. I read something I wrote and I am a writer. It felt damn good to read aloud what I had written.
When I was a young girl, I saw kids not much older than I was marching in protest marches on campuses all over the US. The kids got arrested by cops, sometimes beaten or taken to jails. I heard that kids got killed in protests. Neil Young sang a famous song about a student protest on a campus in Kent, Ohio. Wow, do I ever recall…Four Dead in Ohio…ringing in my head over and over.
We gotta keep speaking out, writing, doing readings, going to protests, using all our talents, whatever we can do, to stop the madness from continuing. I feel empowered when I know I can contribute whatever I can do. I know I’m doing that right now when I write these words.
Never, ever shut up. I don’t, and I hope you don’t, either.