Quote of the day

Yet, despite my learning, I had many moments of secret shame….I remember vividly the feeling of being wrong in my clothes….I believed that the low quality of my clothing confirmed an indelible quality that was in me….Like a shoddily made, ill-fitting piece of clothing, illness strengthens any idea you may have that you are unworthy.  All your waking hours, every feeling, sensation, thought, is filtered through a body that feels wrong to you….You walk as in a second skin, one that marks you, at least in your own mind, as less than others, damaged material.


            –Susan Griffin

                        from What Her Body Thought: A Journey into the Shadows


Cool blog!

Check out this blog!  Cool poetry!  Piper labeled some of her works as prose but I saw them as poetry or prose-poems.  A prose-poem is sort of like half prose and half poem.  You’ll see.  Prose-poem or poetry, Piper’s stuff is amazing.


Piper Davenport is writing her first book, Ghetto Streets(1984), which is a collection of short stories that take place in and around Detroit.   She sometimes writes under the pen name of Charly Forneigh.

In her blog entry dated March 5, Piper did a write-up on Paisley Rekdal, my advisor at Goddard!

My therapist, Goldie, said to me the other day, “You mean, her name is Paisley?  That’s her name?”

I said, “Yep.”

“Well, then, you’ll probably pass.”

Only kidding.

Yet more on illness



            My whole family has this weird idea about illness: that if you’re sick, or injured even, that it’s because you did something wrong.   If you catch a cold, it’s because you didn’t eat your vegetables.  Maybe you missed a doctor’s appointment.  Or maybe didn’t take your Vitamin C.  Perhaps you kissed someone with a cold or forgot to wash your hands. Or forgot to spray the telephone receiver with Lysol after someone with a cold used it.  You spent too much time with sick people.  Maybe you picked your nose, bit your nails.  Maybe you smoked.  Maybe you drank, or hung out with the wrong crowd.  Maybe you watched too much TV, or not enough TV, read the wrong books, didn’t get exercise, had too much sex, worked too hard, slept too much.  It gets worse.  It becomes a moral issue.  You don’t have the right attitude.  You don’t know how to take proper care of yourself.  You aren’t optimistic enough.  You don’t have a youthful spirit.  You’re not aging well.  You’re not mature.  You don’t believe in God.  You’re a religious fanatic.  You’re a homosexual.  You’re weird.  You’re weak in character.  You’re uncomfortable with yourself.  You just don’t have it together.  You’re insecure.  You’re a sinner, a liar, a cheater, a beggar, a wimp, a whore, a thief, a murderess.  That’s about how it went in my family–when you got sick, it was your fault; you were asking for it.  But don’t for a moment think that this attitude is only found within the confines of my own family!  All of our society blames the ill for their illness.  And so, when I became mentally ill, I did what I was trained to do; I blamed myself.  I shamed myself.  I told no one.

I told no one, and tried to cure myself on my own, in secret.  It was all my fault.  I had gotten myself into the mess I was in, so I would get myself out of it.  I was too fat (I was so thin that I no longer menstruated), Martians were trying to run my life, I was terrified of other humans, and about twice a week I stuffed myself with whatever I could eat–sometimes it wasn’t even food–until I was so full I passed out on my bed, still clothed, until morning.  And I was deeply depressed.  And I was lonely in a weird way: I was afraid of humans yet craved companionship; it was a catch-22 that I still deal with even today.  I tried every diet I could think of, including restricting myself to 300 calories a day.  I restricted myself in all sorts of ways, for instance, drastically limiting monetary spending and telephone use, to rid myself of the Martians, but none of these methods worked.  No one knew.  Only a handful of people commented that I had lost too much weight, but nothing came of it.

So when word got out in my family that I was “having problems,” I was sorely blamed for these “problems” I’d gotten myself into.  I was weak, I didn’t have the right attitude, I didn’t like myself, I wasn’t likeable anyway, I didn’t wear a bra, didn’t stay in touch with the family enough, didn’t have enough goddamned respect.  This “problem” wasn’t referred to as “illness” until well after I was hospitalized, three years later, and in the meantime, we’d had some family therapy, during which the therapists tried to blame my parents for my “problems” (the therapists, too, avoided “illness”–how could it happen to a Bennington College high achiever whose parents were paying fifty dollars a day for her to come to their program?).  My parents later joined NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) where they learned that mental illness was a physical problem, that they were off the hook and I was back on the hook for having a brain disorder.  I picked my nose, smoked, hung out with scummy people, watched the wrong TV shows, didn’t read books, didn’t exercise, had too much sex, was lazy, slept too much, and yes, it’s a moral issue–I didn’t have the right attitude, couldn’t take proper care of myself, was a pessimist, shaky, immature, weird, weak, a sinner, liar, cheater, wimp, a filthy, pimply, smoking, coffee-drinking, diseased whore. 

Today’s society both hates and glorifies the ill.  We hate the guy on the bus who smells and talks to himself but we love the learning-disabled boy who, against all odds, is able to complete his high school education.  We hate the welfare mother of six who begs on the street every day for money to heat her home but we love the paralyzed child who overcomes her disability and learns to walk again.  Disabilities generally aren’t overcome.  They are endured.  I take seventeen pills a day (not including vitamins).  That’s the easy part.  I deal with Evil Beings sometimes.  I deal with depression sometimes; sometimes I have to put up with side effects of my medication.  I have a plethora of physical complaints from having the illness itself and taking medications long-term.  But the toughest part is the shame.  Crazy.  Off her rocker.  Bonkers.  Lights on, nobody home.  Whacked.  Psycho.

            Society loves those disabled people who achieve in spite of their disabilities, not along with their disabilities.  But I am lucky.  I am achieving because I am writing about my illness, using it to express myself; I am using writing and writing about my illness to reach other people.  I am writing about what has consumed my life for the past 28 years.  I feel that I know it very, very well.  I no longer blame myself for it.  It is not anyone’s fault that I became ill and that I still am ill.  It simply is so.

Aimee Liu on eating disorders

Aimee Liu, who is on the faculty at Goddard College, recently came out with another book about her eating disorder, called Gaining, which is about life after eating disorders.  On Wednesday, she and her book were featured on The Today Show:


Although I have never met Aimee, she is very special to me.  In 1981, when I was 23, I wandered into a bookstore and found Aimee’s book, Solitaire, which she wrote when she was 26, about her experience with anorexia nervosa.  I had never heard of anorexia.  I had been wondering what was wrong with me over the past year, and now, I knew….

I still have my copy of Solitaire, though it is yellowed and the pages are brittle.  Aimee is on leave this term, promoting her new book, but when she returns next term I will be right there, asking her to sign my old copy of Solitaire, the book that opened my eyes.

Another piece on Thorazine

            Today I purchased a quart bottle of flavored seltzer, and brought it home.  Here is one of life’s little treats I enjoy every now and then that isn’t expensive but tastes as though it is, and is available at any supermarket.  I refrigerated the seltzer for a time, then decided I would drink some of it, because I was thirsty; my medication certainly more thirsty than I was without medication, when I could endure entire days without even a sip of water; in fact, in those days I didn’t drink water at all–I drank milk and OJ in the morning, maybe a glass of diet soda at night, but now I drink water literally by the gallon.  And here I was with my luxury: flavored Seltzer.  Cold.  Fizzy.  To be opened with care, I remembered.  And it’s a good thing I remembered, because seltzer, of all beverages, packs a wallop if opened carelessly.  One can even sustain injury from such mishaps.  A bottle of selzer is potential unrealized.  There’s a lot locked up in it that hasn’t come out.  So I opened it.  Carefully.  One crack at a time.  One iota.  A little more.  A little more.  A little more–as the bubbles gradually rose and exited to the surface of the water like a caged, screaming fetus finally allowed out of the womb–until finally, I was able to unscrew the cap and remove it–and drink, right out of the bottle.  Thorazine is like that; it acts as a buffer.  It slows down the release so there won’t be an explosion of fizz.  It ensures that there won’t be any dangerous messes.  It cradles the bubbles gently and gradually, so I can drink, drink, drink.  Without Thorazine, I’d have seltzer on the floor, as disorganized as my mind, and an empty bottle, without life, without hope.


I’ve been meaning to post this photo for a while.  When Puzzle and I were finally reunited after my trip, she was so overjoyed to see me that first she licked my face a kazillion times, and then, quite without warning, she swatted my face with her paw.  She has sharp nails, as you can see.
injured by Pz

Have a nice day!

QB revisited

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about QB lately, wanting to write about him and how the situation I was in with him related to my issues with mental illness.


June 27, 2006
“Daddy, doggie, doggie!” A young child pointed to QB and ran toward us. Closer, closer. Panic. So close I could see a drop of saliva on her pointing finger.

“No!” I tightened my grip on QB’s leash. He lunged forward. I held on tight. It often surprised me just how much power a 28-pound Sheltie could have. I held out my hand to stop the little girl. Dear God, don’t let her get any closer. “This dog isn’t friendly. Please–” my hands shook uncontrollably– “don’t come near. Please.” I turned to the child’s father, whose hands were clasped in front of him as if he were offering condolences. I took a step back. “My dog isn’t used to kids.”

“But he looks like Lassie!” shouted the child. “Lassie!”

QB leapt up a foot into the air on his little Sheltie legs and came down, then leapt up again and again. His puppy kindergarten teacher had told me, quite some time ago, that his extensive jumping would injure his knees, which, considering his age, was the least of my worries. This jumping was one peculiarity that got me suspecting he had something wrong in his brain. My neighbors called QB “Jumping Jack,” or, “Jumping Fool,” and several had said to me, “I’ll bet you wouldn’t have gotten him, if you’d known he was a jumper, all hyper, the way he is.”

The child shouted again, “Lassie!”

“Is he a show dog? Why does he do that?” asked the father. Show dog. Holy shit. QB would tear the show apart.

The father–he lived nearby, I realized, and was named Livingston–moved his daughter away.

Four teenagers, two boys and two girls, passed on the opposite side of the street, one girl talking on a cell phone. QB barked and jumped.

“Hey, there’s that dog again,” said one girl, blowing out billows of smoke from her cigarette. “He jumps. Look.”

“You’re a bitch, Shelley,” said one of the boys. “C’mon.”

I said to Livingston, “I–I have to go. He has to pee.” I ushered QB along the sidewalk.

Many of the tricks I’d tried to improve QB’s behavior hadn’t worked. I had tried different kinds of collars and harnesses, bringing a spray bottle of water along with me on walks, using a sound device, and making him sit during walks. Yelling at him certainly did no good. Sometimes I grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and forced him to look me at me, and all I saw in his eyes was hostility and defiance.

We rounded a corner. At the end of the block several girls were playing with a basketball. Immediately, QB strained on the leash, snarling and barking in the direction of the girls, foaming at the mouth. I rushed him across the street. I knew he hated basketballs, for some reason. He hated balls of all sorts–baseballs, balloons, pumpkins, inflatable balls–these and many other stimuli would send him into curdles of aggression.

Coming back into my building, I said a quick “hello” to those of my neighbors that we saw in the lobby.

“How is it out there?” asked my neighbor June.

I held QB tightly to make sure he didn’t jump on her. “Nice, “ I replied. “Pleasant.”

“It’s okay if he jumps on me.”

“He’s got awfully muddy paws.” QB leapt up again.

June chuckled. “Look at that fool!”

“Yes, he’s a fool all right.” Luckily, no one else accompanied QB and me in the elevator on our way up to the fifth floor, but when the door opened, my neighbor Nicky entered. QB immediately pounced on him. “No!” I pulled QB back. “Sorry,” I said to Nicky. “I didn’t see you there.”

“That’s okay. It’s okay. Really. I don’t mind.” I could tell he was fibbing.

QB was as relieved as I was to be home. As I refilled his water dish, thoughts ran through my mind: Was I a bad dog owner? What had I done wrong? The Beings had been threatening since QB was a tiny puppy to take him away from me, was this their way of carrying out that threat? And–what was wrong with QB? Was he mentally ill? Some of his behaviors were normal results of poor training, but others….My dog was becoming a source of deep concern to me–and embarrassment.

And then I thought of my mother. Had she felt similarly when I became ill? Did she question her parenting? Was she embarrassed by me? Once, I overheard her say to my father–and yes, I knew she was talking about me–“Alan, she gives me the creeps.”

On my table, the Yellow Pages were open to the page I wanted. I knew I could no longer put it off. I picked up the phone, and called the veterinary behavior specialty center recommended by QB’s vet, and made an appointment.

Thorazine, Part 2

Thorazine 2


Thorazine has been a more faithful friend to me over the past 25 years than most humans have been.  Thorazine has never lied to me or used me, or stolen from me or abused me or deceived me.  Thorazine does not say bad things about me behind my back or borrow things from me without returning them.  What Thorazine does do is rather remarkable and no human friend can match its abilities.  My first dose had me convinced, because the drug silenced the roaring in my head.

And because of this sudden silence, I was able to speak again, and hear my own voice, and respond to others without a huge chaos of echoes in my head.  It was like being brought up from a deep well, having been drowning in it for so long, in a very narrow, soggy place, now out in the open, free, and able to move about–and speak!  I could ask for what I needed: a toothbrush, a pen, a spoon.

It is odd that I needed silence to speak, thereby producing noise, almost as odd as the expression my ADHD mother uses, “It’s so loud in here, I can’t hear myself think!”

Abilify Pioneer

I went to see Dr. P Friday, and we decided that I would increase my Abilify from 30 mgs every morning to 40 mgs.  I don’t know anyone who takes over 30 mgs, so I am an Abilify pioneer.

So far, I am experiencing one of the side effects that I experienced when I first started Abilify two years ago: agitation.  It’s not too bad because I’m aware that Abilify can do that to a person.  It’s like I want to tear my hair out but I’m aware that I want to tear my hair out, so I can laugh at myself.  Maybe I should buy a wig so that I can tear the hair out of the wig and my real hair won’t be damaged.

So lotsa little things are getting on my nerves: the whimpering puppy, the toilet overflowing, misplaced bills.  I ended up taking Thorazine to calm myself down yesterday, which is kind of defeating the purpose.  The increase in Abilify is supposed to help me reduce the amount of Thorazine I need and thereby reduce sleepiness–get it?  Today I split a Thorazine tablet in half and took it.  And in the end, the puppy fell asleep, the toilet got fixed, and, most unfortunately, I found the bill.