It’s Puzzle’s birthday today, and I’m thinking of my dad, who believed in me

I’ll be 56 in a couple of months.  I developed anorexia nervosa in 1980, which was three years before singer Karen Carpenter died.  There are so few of us still alive that are my age! We died off!  Or got absorbed into the System and misdiagnosed with “other” mental disorders, as I was.  I never even came close to having the various mental disorders I was diagnosed with.  Many of us still left are stuck in nursing homes, misdiagnosed with Alzheimer’s. 

I look around me now and I so much care about these young starving kids, and I see that many of them are  where I was 30 years ago, and they will do anything to get well.  I feel protective of them as if they were my kids or even grandkids and to me, these kids are family, cuz I was robbed of my own bio family.  As a figurative parent, I don’t want my kids to make the same mistakes I’ve made, but sometimes, you just gotta let go, I guess.

My dad died in 1997.    He withered away from cancer.  He told me, before he died, that he really never understood what I was going through for all the years after I’d entered the mental health system.   However, after the three final years of his life, his cancer had wrecked his body, and he came to a point of insight into my life. 

He told me the following: that he understood what it felt like to have absolutely no control over what happened to you.

Cancer sucks.  My dad was an engineer.  His company hired him to be a master control person of radars.  So he perfected these devices and worked with complex math formulas to make all kinds of fancy machines work perfectly.  When the cancer got to my dad, he could no longer be a master controller.  The machines didn’t work.  No matter how perfectly he did things, no matter how hard he worked, no matter how good he was, the rules no longer applied and that cancer spread. 

So my dad told me to stay strong.  And he told me he believed in me, and that someday I would make something great of myself.  He told me that he knew I didn’t have much faith in myself at that moment, but that he, himself did have that faith.

Today, November 26, 2013, is my dog Puzzle’s seventh birthday.  Traditionally, every year on Puzzle’s birthday, we go for a five-mile walk.  This is my gift to her.

Afternoon came, but I was exhausted.  I told myself I wasn’t going to guilt-trip myself over skipping her birthday walk.  Puzzle didn’t know it was her birthday.  I lay down in my bed.  Puzzle hopped in and snuggled up close.  I told her, “I love you, Puzzle,” and we fell asleep together.

My dad and Puzzle never met of course, but my dad always knew I always had a special bond with my dogs.   In 1987, not long after I had moved into my first apartment in Watertown, I ended up on a mental ward and meanwhile, my parents were minding my dog, Hoofy, while I was there.  Hoofy was ten years old in 1987.  He took sick and my parents brought him to the vet.  This was the wonderful dog that had gone hitch-hiking with me back in 1979.

So I was there on the mental ward and I got a call from my dad.  It was July.  He told me Hoofy was very, very sick. 

I ended up getting a pass from the mental ward to see Hoofy one last time.  The next day, my parents brought him to the vet.  My dad called me at the mental ward and told me, “Please, call the vet yourself.”  He gave me the number and I wrote it down.  And he added, “Be brave.”  Hoofy had cancer.

I phoned the vet shortly afterward from the unit hallway pay phone.  I stood alone with the phone in my hand while the vet put me on hold for a minute.  “Wait a sec,” he said, “They have Hoofy now.  They’re working on him.”  There were sounds in the background I couldn’t make out.

Moments later, the vet told me that Hoofy’s EKG was flat, and that he had passed away.

I guess that’s something I wanted to share with you all now.  I stood at that phone and knew I was on that mental ward and right then, something had happened that was entirely not within my control, or within anyone’s control, anywhere.

The mental ward had pool tables.  Back then, mental wards were different.  We had pool tables and even pool cues and balls, fun games which nowadays would be considered far too dangerous to be kept in such places and would be replaced with rubber kindergarten toys.  I said to myself, “I loved my dog, and no one is even listening to me.”  And with that, I grabbed the Number Ten pool ball, and pocketed it.  After all, Hoofy was ten years old when he died, so I figured swiping this ball was a good enough symbol of defiance.

It stayed in my pocket.  It went out of that hospital.  It stayed with me all these years.  Just now, I went into the box where I keep a few bits memorabilia. Here’s a photo of that pool ball that I swiped back in 1987, in my 55-year-old hand today:

IMG_20131126_201111

I haven’t given up.

Happy Birthday, Puzzle.

 

Feelgood therapy

Why do they give us therapy and support groups?  This is to make us “accept” the abuse. Why? So they can keep doing it and so it will be “accepted” as our lot in life. So the government will continue to give us the bare minimum and we will continue to “accept” that this is normal and okay and right.  So we are treated in hospitals and in their offices with disrespect, and we are told, “let it go, it was nothing,” and to “forget the past,” and they give us drugs and tell us “this will make you feel better” and we are sick and they did nothing wrong.

No, we don’t need this therapy.  We need JUSTICE.  We need to change the system.  Do you see what I am saying?  These “doctors,” “therapists,” and people in positions of power who are wronging us are sick and need to stop doing these crimes before more people are harmed and before more people die.

It’s my parents’ anniversary today

They got married on Thanksgiving.  They were introduced to each other by an aunt of my mom’s.  This was an aunt by marriage.  I guess the aunt had married my mom’s youngest sibling.

His name was Sam.  Guess what?  I had loads and loads of uncles named Sam.  When I was a kid I used to say I had an Uncle Sam.  My teachers would laugh at me about this. What?  An Uncle Sam?  Who are you, little Jewish girl?  But I found out most Jewish kids had loads of Uncle Sams.  If you had them, you aren’t alone.

So go ahead, asshole teachers, laugh at me. Most of them are dead now anyway I’ll bet.

 

The best thing I’ve written recently

I love what I put up on Facebook today so I thought I’d share it here.

“Hey God up there, you hoo, if what people are saying about me is true, and if You made me if Your image, then You must be one hell of an ugly fucker.”

That’s essentially what shrinks say to their patients when they give them a “diagnosis” and say, “You will have this for the rest of your life and will need to take medications to control it.  You will need to attend regular therapy sessions and be monitored and controlled, and from now on, your life will be limited and your social life is going to be limited to only people within the system.  We’re going to make you feel good about your situation by giving you more drugs and support groups to make you feel that it’s all justified.  We’ll bill you regularly.  I’m only able to do this because you have the right insurance.  If you didn’t, I wouldn’t be so lucky and I wouldn’t have a job doing this.

It’s a lie.  Don’t believe it.  Keep the assholes out of work.  Let’s organize.  Join organizations that are out there doing good work to fight psychiatry and its lies and keep up the fight.

If he were God himself

I was at the post office on Friday when it happened again.  I saw someone I knew and he saw me, but  when I smiled at him and said a cheery hello as I passed by, he didn’t acknowledge me or say a word to me.  He stood there stone-faced and cold.

You might think he was talking on a cell phone.  But no, no cell phone.  Yes, I looked for a microphone or one of those little ear thingies.  Nope.  He’d been standing in that long post office line for a while.

Folks, I ask you, what has happened to this town and the people in it and their hateful attitude?  I tell myself I’m going through some kind of Stepford Wives nightmare.  Only this is like some The Anorexic Comes Home From the Hospital and Gets What She Deserved nightmare.  Yep, that’s why this town hates me. Word does get around.

So, I tell myself, this guy represents God, and I want to tell God right now,

God, you suck.  I hate my life and I hate the way society turned its back on me.  Humans are not loving and kind and whoever said they are is full of baloney. Whoever said humans are honest and won’t lie to you lied themselves. You turned your back on me.  Whoever said God speaks to you was hearing voices and needs to be medicated and needs to experience what it feels like to be the laughed at and mimicked by doctors cuz your legs are so restless and all you do is pace all day like a schizophrenic.

ID not necessary

12:50 or so.

I was relieved to get the chubbiest salesperson at Dunkin Donuts.  I figured the round-faced young man with pink cheeks would at least understand.  How old was he?  Barely out of high school. Was this his first job?

You don’t know me, kid.  I am tired.  I am worn out.  I long debated, while walking over on this freezing cold night, what “bullshit lines” I was going to use at the checkout counter to make it look like I absolutely wasn’t buying these for myself.  “Um, I need something I can split in two.”  That sure would sound convincing.  See, I have an eating disorder, kid.  I’ve been dealing with checkout lines in the wee hours for three and a half decades. What’s your story?

I have anorexia nervosa.  You don’t know me, kid.  You’ll probably spend Thanksgiving with your family, whoever they are.  I’m spending Thanksgiving alone.  I think I’ve spent the past ten Thanksgivings alone. Don’t bullshit me about being a do-gooder and volunteering at a soup kitchen and how grateful I should be.  Try living a few days in my life and say that all over again, maybe you’ll think twice.

So, I order whatever.  I know I’m going to hate this.  It’s all gonna suck.  I watch the kid ring up everything and watch the bill rise, telling myself, “Wait, don’t I get a discount for a certain quantity of these? Don’t I get, like, bulk order discount?  Why is he ringing these up individually?  He must be very new.  Should I point this out?  Or has their pricing changed?”

But I’m hearing others now have entered the store.  I’ve got my ears on high alert.  Cops?  No.  Phew.  I hate the cops.  Not that I have any reason to worry, I just don’t like them.  I don’t want them or anyone that has anything to do with ambulances near me after they carted me away last summer.  I’ll be 56 years old next January if I make it that far.

You don’t know me, kid.  You don’t know how many times I have come close to death, or how starvation strips your livelihood from you, and robs you of a social life.

I take out my wallet.  The round-faced, chubby kid says to me, “Wait a minute.”  He plugs some buttons on the machine.  It makes a few clicks, and I watch the total go down significantly.

On the register I see the words, “Senior Citizen Discount.”

I pay the money and I’m out of there. I love that kid.

I’m not sure what to think, though.  Walking down the street, minutes later.  This is my first time getting that Senior Discount.  I wasn’t carded for it and I hadn’t asked.  I know last summer’s little starvation incident put years on me.  I nibbled on a few bites of “whatever” on my way home, but mostly, I was in a rush to get out of the cold.

Must have been only a couple of hours later, I awoke with searing pain in my legs.  It was those muscle cramps again.  I kicked Puzzle out of bed and screamed. Not long after, I found myself pigging out on more “whatever,” telling Puzzle she might as well eat the crumbs that fell.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Great way to fend off jerks who ask you how to lose weight

Pardon me, I’m going to go all out here.  I’m sure if you have an eating disorder maybe you’ve had this experience…or maybe not.  Someone comes up to you and asks you for your diet secrets.  Even someone nice might ask you that.  What do you say?

Never mind the nice ones. This is what you say to the assholes:

You tell them you have a Big Secret.  You have DIET PILLS no one knows about.

You bring them into your crap apartment.  Cuz we know that the truth is, most of us folks with ED aren’t exactly rich anymore after spending all our dough on ripoff “treatment” that didn’t work, therapy and hospitals and stuff and never mind all the added expenses.  So we don’t live in mansions.

The person says, “You live here?  This is a dive, man.  Don’t they keep this place up?”

You say, “Yeah, but this is all I can afford.”

“The place is barely big enough to put a bed in.”

“Yeah, but I fit into it, ha ha.”

The person looks you up and down.  You know, that “look” that says you are skinny.  Then, you get The Pills.  Absolutely don’t show them the bottle, though.  Make sure they don’t see the label.  Simply empty the bottle into anything else, a plastic bag or something.

Then you say, “These are diet pills.  They make you lose weight.  The latest thing I got.  But you can have them.”

“What are they called?”

“Oh, I can’t pronounce it.  Don’t worry about it.  Take a few.  Good luck.”

Say goodbye to your asshole buddy….he or she ain’t gonna lose weight on those antipsychotics.

I’ll bet that had indeed happened.  I’m sure it has.

Plenty of strange things have happened in this world.  Not that I’m encouraging lying or drug dealing or stopping antipsychotics cold turkey or poisoning someone you hate.  All I did was write fiction, and demonstrate to you all that the pen is mightier than psychiatry.

Welcome to my life, Facebook

One thing I intensely hate about Facebook, where my posts here cross-post, is the “popularity contest” aspect of it, the constant reminder that I have to fight to be “liked” in this world.  I am always reminded that so many people that used to be in my life now are making certain that they don’t read my posts by “hiding” them.  They make sure that the Negative Complainers who do nothing but Bitch and Moan about how Rotten their circumstances are don’t show up on their Facebook pages.  So there are people who might have, say, 500 friends, but really, only the “good” ones, the ones who have the “smart” things to say show up on their home pages.  Or so I’m guessing.

I don’t hide anyone.  When I first got on Facebook, I once hid someone because they were simply posting far too frequently, like once an hour, about dumb things like “I’m going for a walk now” and it got on my nerves, but I quickly unhid that person as time went on and I realized that everyone did that.  I “comment” on random things and sometimes, I’m not on there for weeks.  Now that my WordPress account cross-posts, it’s kinda unavoidable.  And the cell phone’s hooked up, too.  We’re all wired in, folks.  Jeez.  What a world.

And yet…it’s a tool.  It can be used.  It’s like e-mail vs snail mail, know what I mean?  We can think of it that way, sort of a different way to e-mail people, a web-like e-mail.  You can use it for networking.  You can use it for empowerment.  And you can use it to gather people together to make real changes in the world, such as changing laws or helping people get out of prisons and mental hospitals or better yet,

Let’s get rid of the mental hospitals and prisons altogether, okay? But get me talking about that, and god forbid, folks on Facebook will start “hiding” me.  After all, it’s Thanksgiving and we only want happy families and cheer and nonstop gratefulness.

Check out this Facebook page: Save Anika’s mind from psychiatric abuse

If you have a Facebook account, check out this Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/SaveAnikaAhmed

I don’t think it’s possible to access the page without a Facebook account, but honestly, I don’t know.  If you don’t have an account, you can give it a try anyway.

I can’t believe the creator of the page and Anika are not being allowed to visit together in privacy.  Here in Massachusetts it is the law that patients are allowed privacy while spending time with visitors.  Staff cannot “listen in” to conversations or “monitor” these visits.  Nor can staff “monitor” phone calls between patients and ANYONE they choose to call. The only way that any such monitoring is allowed is via a doctor’s order here in Massachusetts, that is, there has to be a MEDICAL reason for such monitoring, a damn good reason.  I have no clue what the laws are in California that protect patients.  Here, we have the Five Fundamental Rights. Unfortunately, the laws are rarely followed!  The hospital staff in both psych wards and on medical floors have very little awareness of these laws and have no respect for them.  They have very little respect for patients who have any sort of “psychiatric” anything on their records, no matter what it is, period, whether it’s a “diagnosis” or even if you’ve ever taken a psych med for any reason.

 

Two parallel stories: My mom and me and appetite gone wild in adolescence: the anorexia gene…I hope this story helps others afflicted with similar circumstances

I’m telling you this story in hopes that it helps others who have experienced similar problems with eating or so-called “eating disorders” or have ever experienced anything as I am about to describe.  I am also reaching out to any of my blood relatives or anyone who might have interest in my mom’s side of the family, although out of respect for privacy I choose not to call my mom’s mom and dad and her various family members, as I recount her story, by full name.  If you are a family member out there, you know who they are because you know who I am.

Much of what I am now telling is, of course, speculation on my part.  I am not a historian or researcher. I am a writer and I also have a wild imagination that I enjoy using.  I enjoy entertaining.  I’m not a fiction writer, though.  I write memoir. So while I plan to tell you the truth, I’m going to try to put myself into my mom’s shoes.  I’m going to ask myself, “Hey, if I were Mom, what would it have felt like to be her in such circumstances?” and then go from there.  Can we agree on this?

You have to realize the unique position I’m in.  My mom passed on a trait to me and didn’t even know it, that is, a genetic trait.  No, she didn’t do this deliberately. Does a mom pass on hair color or eye color?  Sure she does, but not on purpose, as one would give a Chanukah gift.  I’m sure all would agree that these things are far from parental control, and aren’t predictable.  In fact, we regard these as mysteries as part of the beauty of having kids, that we never really know.  We are certainly surprised when lo and behold, a child is the only leftie, or can run unusually fast, or is allergic to peanuts when no one else has ever had this allergy.  These are examples out of the top of my head.  See, I can be as creative as I want.

The genes my mom passed on combined with the genes my dad passed on and made my genetic makeup, and made my brothers’ genetic makeup, too, and I can’t speak for my brothers right now, but I can speak about what I went through cuz I felt it myself and I remember it and much of it was recorded in my journals over the years.

It’s amazing, when I look back now, how little we knew about my mom. There’s a reason for this. First of all, you’ve got to understand that my dad was in the US Navy in WWII, so my parents were of that era.  My mom is going to be 88 this next year, so you figure my dad would be turning 90 in the spring, if he were alive.  I hope I’m doing my math right.  Parents didn’t share much.  Emotional sharing between parents and kids wasn’t the usual, accepted parenting style of that time.  Maybe it had to do with the War and the Depression.  Not only that, when you got to know my mom, you’d notice that emotional sharing was something she didn’t do often or feel comfortable with.  My dad was by far the warmer, more easy-going of the two, but he, too, had a tendency to hold back compared to many of today’s parents who seem to be far more open with their kids.  So this is the reason I never really knew much about her past.  Even little details seemed a big mystery to me while I was growing up.  I had to fill in the details using “what if?” questions and my own imagination, putting myself in her shoes, just as I’m doing for you right now.  However, I didn’t have the insight I have at this moment, or, rather, hindsight.

My mom and I look alike.  She’s short.  I’m short.  We both ended up nearsighted.  We both have brown hair and blue eyes and we are naturally teensy people that can fit into small places.  It’s handy.  My mom once admitted to me it was one heck of a lot cheaper shopping in the kids’ department for clothes.  You get the idea.  I’ve overheard people saying about her, “What a cute little old lady.”  I thought that was stereotyping a bit, but I didn’t say anything. She took advantage of being labeled “cute” and got all the discounts.  I used to laugh at that one.

But of course, my mom had to endure childhood way back when.  I can only imagine. I’m not sure if the gigantic home where I and my brothers and my parents traveled to for Passover each year was the home where my mom grew up. This place was amazing.  You’ve never seen anything like it.  I’m not sure how many floors it had.  Three?  Four?  Naw, three with a basement.  Secret corridors, I’m sure.  Was it haunted?  Servants’ quarters, too.  And all sorts of hidden staircases and creepy-crawly places to hide.  Some floors looked like marble checkerboards.  If I recall correctly, the dining room where our Seders were held had such a floor.  Here, there was a long table where all the cousins and aunts and uncles sat.  In one room, my grandpa had a funny tree called a money tree and we weren’t allowed to touch it.  My grandma had all kinds of expensive plants and she really did have maids, too. I knew them both and they stayed with her for a long time. One worked more hours than the other.  My grandma had fancy soap in the bathroom.  I was scared to wash my hands with it because maybe, the fanciness would wash off the soap and my grandma would yell at me.

That was the thing.  My grandma yelled a lot.  My parents yelled a lot, but you should have heard my grandma.  Wow.  No wonder my mom yelled…she picked it up from her own parents.  Or so my little kid mind figured it all out.  I never realized, though, till I was an adult, till I was completely grown…but I’ll be honest: My mom’s parents didn’t like kids.  Plain and simple.

It was kinda obvious.  My grandpa avoided kids whenever he could.  Got away every chance he could get, saying he was doing stocks and bonds, making excuses, saying he had to “study” or “use his breathing machine,” a big emphysema machine he had, or whatever disease it was. He’d hide out and say he didn’t want the kids around. Now, I realize why.  He wasn’t into it.  What was it like for my mom to live with her dad?

Her mom was a tyrant.  She was bossy and mean.  I remember my grandma yelling at me once saying that she liked my cousins more than she liked me, simply because my uncle was more strict than my dad.  So she said my cousins could stay with her for an entire month and make fancy soap, and she would never, ever allow me, a bad girl, to make fancy soap, and I was a bad girl to allow “those blonde boys who look like Dutch boys” to exist in our Jewish family. And what was I doing associating with non-Jewish friends and why did I not act more Jewish?  On and on.  My grandma was on a tirade and she wouldn’t stop.  The old aunts lectured me, too, about “being more Jewish,” and they guilt-tripped me about everything you could imagine.  One told me she would spare my brothers this lecture because of their blonde hair.  I was quite relieved because I told myself they were too young to have to endure something this horrible. But I can only imagine my mom must have gone through all this, and ten times worse!

However, my mom was blessed with one, or, rather two wonderful things: sisters.  I don’t know this for sure, but my guess is that this was what saved her from completely tearing her hair out.  My mom was the middle child. Her older sister had amazing musical talent and her younger sister was, as my mom still says, “the jock.”  So my unfortunate mom was the “sandwiched in the middle” girl and my guess is that my grandma was ruthless, but the two sisters were buffer.  Yes, my mom was a dancer.  No, not ballet.  She shocked everyone. Modern dance.  Oh yes.  Pure rebellion.  Consider the era.

Now if my mom was born in 1926, I figure in 1936 she was ten, so in 1942 she was 16.  Or maybe it happened at 14 in 1940.  I can only guess.  It’s what happened to me around the time I was turning 22 in 1980, but I’m sure our experiences were the same, if not biologically identical other than our ages being different and of course it was an entirely different era.

Let’s call it “appetite gone haywire.”

No, not binge eating.  Not yet.  This certainly wasn’t something that was within the normal scope of “normal” that a teen experiences.  It was a genetic glitch.  Somewhere, something controlling appetite snapped inside her, and she went wild.  Perhaps this was something she only felt, but didn’t act upon, or acted upon momentarily, or maybe she did indeed overeat, but when you feel this, it’s like the eruption of a huge volcano inside you.  It’s terrifying.

What could she do?  She couldn’t go to her mom or dad and tell them she felt “out of control.”  Horrors!  She’d get chastised.  From what I know, the words she used, she’d been “chubby” as a teen and went on a “diet.”

My mom’s anorexia was her way of controlling the volcano.  The thing was, she was very good at dieting.  So this volcano, the “appetite gone wild” in adolescence (herself as a teen, me at 22) she passed on, and she also genetically passed on to me the ability to be unusually good at dieting.  She confided in me that she didn’t have her periods for two entire years due to “losing too much weight too fast.”  So she told me.  Once.  Folks, I’m positive she had anorexia nervosa, as it is now called, however, she and the people around her certainly didn’t call it that.  It was a set of physical traits, or perhaps we could call it appetite and eating traits that can be passed on genetically.

I do know that my mom couldn’t skip a meal.  It was “crazy mom” every Yom Kippur till finally, her doc said “no more fasting” and she was relieved of that duty.  I believe that a switch was turned on in her when she didn’t eat.  She refused to drive on an empty stomach, saying for sure, she’d get into an accident, and also, she’d say she “couldn’t think straight” if she didn’t eat.  Don’t tell me this means nothing.  I know what starvation high is.  That’s why us folks who become anorexic are so good at dieting. We love being hungry.  It feels good.  This trait is passed on genetically.

I’m also very proud of her that she overcame it on her own.  She never had “therapy” and no one called her “mentally ill.”  She simply decided it was “unhealthy” and stopped.  Eating disorders, which aren’t really disorders, but simply genetic traits or mutations, aren’t mental illness.  They aren’t germs, of course, or sicknesses, or maladies.  The reason she “got better” was because no one ever complicated the matter by giving her a mental illness label and forcing all kinds of “other diagnoses” on her that she didn’t even have.

Actually, had she known what I know now, she would have even been spared having to do the diet thing and having to go through all the fearfulness and the secrecy and missing her periods for two years and the risks she took.   If I knew what I knew now, I would surely have spared myself three-and-a-half decades of immersion into the mental health system and all the bogus mental health diagnoses they gave me.  If I’d only known that my “problem” had nothing to do with “mental health.”  It’s not “psychological” at all.  My mom knew that all along.  If you asked her, she sure would have told you that it had to do with eating and appetite.  Guess I didn’t ask.  Or she didn’t tell.