He was a friend of mine

He wore a straw hat, and this, I was told, was the way I would identify him, should I see him around. I looked for many months, but I never quite met up with him, though I knew the meeting place well.  However, one day, I was with my friend in her vehicle, driving down La Rambla and we spotted him. She offered him a ride. Then, we sat and spoke for a long time at lunch. I told him I’d find him again, and I did, many mornings at the coffee place. We sat outside together for hours, talking about just about anything.

He taught me many new notions about the soul and auras. I had assumed this was a spiritual matter, but my friend saw it as science. He told me that one could see an aura, or some people could, and he said there was scientific proof of its existence in each of us. I accepted this, since it made sense, the way he explained it. There was so much  more, too, many things we spoke about.

He told me he’d been a sculptor but had to stop, due to having pulled a muscle. I was unclear about how long ago this was. He got the pain checked out a number of times. He told me, “Maybe it’s psychosomatic, maybe all in my head.” I told him that certainly no doctor should turn him away claiming “all in your head,” that to do that was certainly not okay. He told me he felt low, that maybe it was “depression.” I responded by asking that if he felt pain bad enough to stop doing his wonderful art, then surely, wouldn’t that cause anyone to become depressed? We spoke at length about the need for passion in ones life. I told him I wanted nothing more than to see him regain that passion.

A mutual friend took him to get some tests, to see what the matter was.  I ran into our mutual friend in town. He said the whole experience was rather “surreal.” Then he told me. My friend has cancer.

I didn’t realize how far along that cancer was. Not until just last night.

Another friend took him to the hospital. They kept him two months. I ran into that friend at a party a week or so ago. He explained, “I had no idea why he called, why he chose me in particular. He reached out to me and said the pain was so bad he could not sit or stand.”

During the two months, many people visited. He was loved by many here. We tried to get things to him that he might need. However, as it is in any hospital, it’s not too safe keeping valuables around. He told me he felt frustrated that bills and other affairs were piling up at home. I sure know that “limbo” feeling, when you are in a hospital and these practicalities pile up.

I had to travel to the city Monday. I told him ahead of time and tried to estimate my time of arrival. It must have been around 4pm that I got to his bedside.

He  looked small, I mean, really small, like he was sunken into his bed. He was cross and grumpy at first, but then, cheered up, and we began to joke around as we often did. The whole time, he didn’t once sit up. He explained that he was in too much pain. I knew he’d be discharged the next day, and there was talk of surgery to relieve the pain from a pinched nerve. I asked myself how he would manage on his own, if he was so immobilized by pain. I knew he very much wanted to get home.

We spoke of the future. He told me he planned to turn his life around. He wanted to be more social, inviting guests over regularly. He told me he looked forward to my visit. Me and Puzzle. I told him that he was good at saving money, but maybe too good, maybe he shouldn’t be too much of a penny-pincher at the expense of personal comfort. He said he was hiring his neighbor a few times a week to cook and clean for him. “I don’t know how to cook,” he confessed. He was excited about his decision. He said he would live like royalty.

Shouldn’t we all? We are sacred. All of us. We need to honor ourselves, not deny, nor, conversely, indulge in greed, but to be respectful of ourselves.

He was set to be released Tuesday. This, indeed occurred. He tried to call me Tuesday night but I didn’t find out till the next morning, that is, yesterday. I came as soon as I could for breakfast, which turned out to be a rather late lunch. I laugh now, because he had me pick up a kilo of bacon on the way over. When I asked for this at the mercado, the women behind the counter asked me to repeat back. “Si, uno kilo,” I responded, shrugging. I explained that this was what my friend has asked for. I responded “Si” when they asked if I wanted the bacon sliced. I knew he was feeling hopeful and wanted to entertain many guests. But a kilo of bacon is one helluva lot.

I walked to his place, thinking I’d like to know the way before making the trip by bus. I couldn’t bring Puzzle, because it was too hot to take her that far.  It wasn’t hard to find his house, with the sign out front declaring the home’s name. Our homes all have names, much like one would name a pet or new baby. El Refugio. That I know of, he’s not the only expat to give his home this name. What a beautiful land here, and its people so kind and caring!

It was so good to see him. His neighbor cleaned for a while, taking out the old rug and mopping the floor. We sat outdoors with coffee. Then, we came inside. The day was ending. Now, night.

I picked up groceries for him so we could have a meal. He needed many things at the house, including dish detergent.  Then, I cooked supper for him. He lay in bed while eating, trying to get in as much as he could. I was concerned that he couldn’t walk well on his own. I was afraid that if he were alone, he could fall while walking even a short distance from the bed to the chair, or to the bathroom. I suggested that I spend the night. I knew this was going to be more than just one night. I told myself I’d stay as long as he needed or wanted me.  I took a cab back home, grabbed whatever I could think of, including Puzzle and her stuff, and then, cabbed back. He was asleep when I arrived, at 10:10 I figure.

I tried to be quiet. I brought Puzzle in, and she sniffed around. She barked a few times. I wasn’t sure why. She was clearly upset about something. I know why now. He was dying.

Last night, I didn’t sleep, or barely. I wondered if this was because I wasn’t accustomed to having anyone else around at night. I slept in an adjacent room. He stirred many times. I had no clue how he usually slept. I wondered why I heard no evidence of smoking in his breathing. No, it was something else I heard, and Puzzle heard it first. Puzzle is most always a sound and silent sleeper. Last night, she, too, stirred many times.

I slipped out in the morning, not wanting to wake him. I gathered twigs around the neighborhood. I came back and built a fire. A fire is sacred. It felt, somehow, like a rite. Later, I left again, figuring the local store was just opening. I managed to pick up many cleaning supplies for him and also more food. It was so late when I arrived back. Was it usual for him to sleep this late? I was putting groceries away and told myself I’d call a mutual friend and ask if he felt I should wake him or not.

Just then, the neighbor came knocking. She had a question but my Spanish wasn’t good enough for me to answer. She tried to wake my friend to ask him. We couldn’t rouse him. I knew then. This was beyond what either of us was equipped to handle. I phoned 911. I handed her my phone and she handed it to me. They had questions, which I answered. They were on their way.

When the police arrived, Puzzle seemed to accept their presence without any fuss. Two cops had arrived in one cop car. I had called our friend who came even before the cops. I tried to catch him up on what had happened. The police got a sheet around him, but he screamed in pain. I told them, “Dolor,” meaning paid. So instead, they gently lifted up the mattress under him, cradling him in the mattress so he’d feel less pain. Our friend followed the ambulance and met up with him. I stayed at his place, figuring that someone should be here. I knew that if anyone with bad intentions saw the ambulance leaving, they’d loot his home if they knew it was vacant. The neighbors were well familiar with this scenario.  The same thing happened to me in Watertown once when I was taken by ambulance, but when they tried my door, I was already home! I assured everyone that Puzzle was a good watchdog but I didn’t want to leave her there alone.

I got a call not long after. They’d taken him to a local clinic. He was dehydrated. I knew he had been making a point of drinking plenty of fluids. Perhaps he didn’t take in enough. They were going to give him an IV, then send him home. Our mutual friend said two or three hours. I stayed put, waiting to hear if there was any more news.

I knew then, that staying with him had fallen into my hands. I was fine with that. Our friend called, saying the hospital personnel were saying there wasn’t much hope. He was coming home. I told myself I’d stay with him. I’d do what I could. I love this man, and this, I supposed, was how things were going to be for a while. It would all be okay.

In a way, it was. I took a nap with Puzzle. I awoke minutes before they arrived.  I was outside, standing there with untied shoes and Puzzle.  It wasn’t just our mutual friend, but two other expats as well. I cannot recall who it was that told me maybe I should put Puzzle inside. Then, I knew.

He had died. My dear friend, dead.

They wanted a towel. Why? To cover him, they said. Why was he in the car? Finally, someone explained. He had died en route. My friend had been holding his hand, assuring him. “You will be home soon.” She knew he understood, acknowledging her. That’s when he died.

I stood there, at the steps, holding Puzzle. They were telling me the cops would arrive soon. It took a while, then, they came, asking a few questions. I found his ID and handed it to them. I wanted to walk Puzzle. I asked one of our friends if he’d like to accompany me. I felt that perhaps he needed a breather, maybe just to chat and let out whatever would come out. The police had more questions. Then, I walked Puzzle for a bit so she could go to the bathroom. We were by ourselves.

I came back. The police were finished, but they said my friend’s body would need to be taken back so he could be officially pronounced dead. Before they left, I asked to see him. Why? Because the body is sacred.

I held Puzzle in one arm. She was calm. She placed her paw on his hand as I held it. I stroked him for a while. My friend.

I came back inside. I’m here now. It’s so silent here. His desktop computer is the loudest sound. A whir. White noise.

He’d told me earlier that he had papers for me. I was confused as to why he wanted me to have them. He said he’d had them on the table but the neighbor had moved them when she cleaned. He wanted me to find them. They were for me. About me, he said, though I wonder now why he said that.  I haven’t looked too hard. I see several piles. I saw a file of bills and sales slips, another pile of more recent bills, that appeared to be stamped and paid.

I found photos. His sculptures. I’d never seen these before.  One of his dreams was to teach someone his sculpting technique. To pass it on.  I left the photos where I’d found them. On his table was a notebook, just a listing of when he’d had various medical appointments and a few other notes. A separate paper notated a few events that had occurred while he was hospitalized. These weren’t too detailed. The cancer had started in his lungs. “It doesn’t look good,” he had written. So it was.

He was my friend. Why it was that I felt obligated to tell this story at this time, I don’t know, except that we are all stories, our lives, our deaths. Our stories are sacred, and I take stories seriously. I believe my friend did, too.

List of the year in numbers, Q & A 2014, and why I left the USA

Here’s my list, folks:

In 2014, I….

How many friends did you lose in 2014?

Let’s see. It’s hard to count them all. Some deliberately slipped away, hoping I wouldn’t notice. I do know of one person who due to tech glitch thought I didn’t want to be her friend anymore. Luckily, that got cleared up and I explained no way was that deliberate on my part.
I’ve counted four friends lost. And no, five. Okay, thought of one other. Oh no, two more. Eight? Probably far more than that.

How many jobs did you apply for but get turned down in 2014?

I applied for one job but got turned down due to not having a good internet connection. Fair enough. I have a very good internet connection now, but they never contacted me. I didn’t apply for very many jobs, knowing I am unemployable due to having no work history. I need to lie next time. Sadly, that’s the only way to get by.

How many housing situations did you get turned down from in 2014?

Oh my god so many. I tried my darndest. I applied to a lot of places. I remember the letters pouring in. “We aren’t putting any more people on our waiting list.” Or turned away at the door from low income housing cuz my income was TOO low. I finally got an application in to a place in Boston. Inner city. I was told the wait was two to three years when I applied, but a year later when I called to see where I was on the list, they said seven years.

Then there was the gal in Kansas City who seemed so nice and told me I could come live with her, stay a week, then by then I’d have found a place. This whole thing was so sinister and I never should have trusted her. I was starting to look into how I’d get Puzzle and me to Kansas City. Then she said she was going to be near my home in Massachusetts soon, so she’d bring me back. This was a complete stranger, someone in the Movement.

But…Just cuz they are in the movement doesn’t mean they are well-intentioned. What happened was that she did a nasty Facebook trick to get me to open up about the extent of my eating disorder. She introduced me to a pal of hers who had had an ED. We messaged privately, but this was still a three-way conversation. I didn’t even know what would happen. I opened up to the gal who had ED, grateful for some opportunity to communicate because I had so little. Then, the Kansas City gal said she was going to read this messaging to learn about ED.

I never heard from her again. She dropped contact immediately. No ride to Kansas City. Not one word, completely dropped contact.  Okay, discrimination, right? I’ll never know cuz I never heard from her again. I didn’t want to speak to her after that and I felt that what she’d done was awfully cruel. I didn’t want to tell anyone. I felt ashamed.

I tried at random calling housing places all over the country. None were within my price range. I ended up telling them I’d contact them when I was getting ready to move. I was too embarrassed to say I had so little money. I remember pleading on Facebook for ideas, where to go, where on earth could I turn? That was so humiliating.

Must have been a few months ago I saw friends on Facebook offering housing to their friends. I didn’t get any offers like that. I felt so rejected. People knew I was in dire straits. I knew most couldn’t take a person in, even for a very short time. But I had like 300 friends. I felt like Oliver Twist. No place to go. It felt horrible. Wow, I was really cornered until I came here.

How many groups or clubs kicked you out in 2014?

Oh, church. They made it look like they weren’t kicking me out, but they were. They’ll deny, but that’s what happened. Why? Because after I was abused in a hospital they decided that taking legal action against the hospital was some sort of crime.

I tried to join a few groups. I was told I wasn’t wanted. For a group for people with eating problems, anorexics weren’t allowed. What did they have, weigh-ins for membership?

I tried to get speaking engagements but was turned down. I remember two occasions. I was getting sick of being told “No.”

How many times were you bullied in 2014?

Oh my goodness, that must be over 50. At least. No, over 100.

How many times were you rudely insulted in 2014? This doesn’t include perceived insults, but outright put-downs.

I’d say several hundred times, back in the USA, and continuing online even though I took off.

Out of nearly 365 days, how many of those days did you shed tears?

Until after I moved here, I cried every day.

In 2014, how many times did you attempt suicide?

Not once.

In 2014, how many times did you have a passing thought about killing yourself?

A few times, usually after someone insulted me, but this was only a passing thought. I never seriously considered it. I knew  back in Boston the medical people were denying me care and this neglect was causing my slow death. I’m so happy I got away.

Compared to last year, how depressed were you?

Far less. I was very sad after I was abused in 2013, but that has improved now that I have gotten away from shrinkage. Leaving that therapy mentality really helps!

Did you try to kill yourself in 2013?

No. I suffered from anorexia nervosa. I never made an attempt on my life in 2013. I’ve been treated so badly in my life, that you’d think I’d have killed myself  by now, but no, I haven’t.  In summer 2013 I got so starved that my kidneys were failing I wasn’t capable of getting myself to eat anymore. I begged for help to get out of the cycle and was flat out denied. Actually, this is documented. Anorexia isn’t the same as actively killing yourself. Many with anorexia do commit suicide, most likely because of bad treatment or neglect.

My kidneys began to fail, as I figure, July 1, 2013. That’s when the whole world started feeling like I was on a ship on a rocky ocean. It never stopped nor gave me a break. July 10 I saw my own psychiatrist, Dr. Kimberly Pearson, and terminated with her because she had threatened me and yelled at me in her office more than once. I told her I’d arranged follow-up care at Harvard Vanguard. I sweet-talked my way through the appointment, but inside, I was seething. I hated that woman who cared about her money far more than she cared about us patients.

July 18, 2013, I saw Linda Simon at Harvard Vanguard. I was desperate for help. She obviously had never treated anyone with severe anorexia before and had no clue of the seriousness of my situation. She took a phone call during our session. No, this wasn’t an emergency or family member in some crisis. This was a casual call. She stayed on the phone, chatting away while I sat there. I told myself this lady wasn’t for me. She asked where I’d last been hospitalized and I told her Walden, July 2012. She had never heard of Walden. Wow, then I really knew. Surely, if she knew what she was doing and had experience with eating disorders, she would have heard of Walden. Right in front of me, she opened their website and took a peek, then demanded I sign a paper allowing her to get my records from Walden. I told her, “Why don’t you believe me, instead of believing other practitioners?” But no, Linda was so demanding, threatening me in her office. I told her the doctor and staff at Walden never listened to me that July, never even cared. So why should this Linda rely on unreliable records? Afterward, I phoned Harvard Vanguard to retract my paperwork, refusing to allow records-sharing. She phoned me up and threatened me, raising her voice.

I phoned my primary care physician at Harvard Vanguard. I told her what had happened. She said no way should I see Linda Simon again. She arranged for me to see this other guy, a psychologist, Dr. Bauman. My appointment was the 23rd of July.

Dr. Bauman immediately told me he didn’t treat eating disorders and knew nothing about anorexia. I was glad he told me the truth. But I begged him for help anyway. He refused. He referred me to a lady in Harvard Vanguard’s Cambridge office.

Puzzle had a vet appointment. I was so scared because I could barely stand up. I knew it was getting harder and harder to make sense when I spoke, due to starvation. I asked if there was anyone at church who could go with me. Nope. Everyone was “too busy” or “on vacation.” Oh, they probably were. Isn’t church a place where you find community? Nope. Not for skinny me. They were all off enjoying their wonderful vacations, and I was starving to death all alone.

I called the Harvard Vanguard office and made an appointment with Fatima Munion. The appointment was August 6. Wow, what a joke. We spent the whole session, paid for by insurance, on demographics. She said she felt sorry for me. My next appointment was not for another month, in fact, it was in late September. She said, “Talk to your social worker.” I left, terribly discouraged. I remember I fell when I was trying to get off the bus. I was that weak. Then I realized I didn’t have a social worker. I had a CBFS lady but she was unreliable (they all are), was in love with her cell phone, and knew nothing of ED. I felt unloved and lost.

I had been trying to hook up at the Women’s Center, and met someone there via e-mail.  It took like six e-mails before she even told me her first name. It was like pulling teeth, she was so cagey. I never managed to schedule a meeting with her and apparently the Center wouldn’t give out phone numbers. I felt like giving up.  I told myself no one gave a shit. I truly believe I was right, very few did.

I tried a few times to reach out on Facebook. I remember I wrote private messages to a few people and got NO RESPONSE! What the fuck are friends for? I was too starved to feel pissed off.

What happened to me wasn’t a suicide attempt. Far from it. I was dying, and begging for help. I never got it. That was very sad, but I’m sure glad I am alive.

I had a few friends who stuck around. One wonderful woman who called me every day when I was in the hospital. Another who visited me, but the following year, 2014, he dumped me over a stupid argument. I have another one who called me occasionally while I was inpatient, but for whatever reason, every time I talk to her now, I feel like she doesn’t even believe that I was abused. I think she assumes “perceived abuse.” It wasn’t perceived, it really happened, but you can’t force people to believe you. I think she assumes I have some disorder that causes me to “feel persecuted.”

Could thousands of people, rapidly growing in numbers in the antipsychiatry movement “perceive” similar abuse? We are gaining in solidarity, numbers, and strength. I know I am not alone.

So my answer is no, I never attempted suicide in 2013. Sadly, everything that happened at Mount Auburn was based on lies, not based on the picture I honestly presented to them.

After the abuse, I felt I had no reason to live. I knew the hospitalization could have gone otherwise, but didn’t. I wasn’t treated with respect. Had I been respected there and treated like I was a human being, things would have been far different for me when I left the hospital. Had my community welcomed me back and given me leads for finding legal help, my life would have been different, too.

I cried every day. I felt that Mount Auburn had ruined me. I had no in-person companionship except Puzzle. I cried and cried, asking God, or anyone, Why did they abuse me? I wasn’t suicidal, but many in my situation would have killed themselves had they been abused like that. I knew if I killed myself, the shrinks would have absolved themselves of all responsibility, convincing the authorities that the abuse was imagined. They would claim my refusing “treatment” was why I killed myself. I sure didn’t want to die misinterpreted. I hung on, hoping that things would get better.

I had to hang on a long time. Finding Mad in America was key, actually, going to the Justina Pelletier protests and meeting others.

I might have stayed in the Boston area if I’d even had a voice there. But I didn’t. I’d show up at places, try to contribute, and was told to shut up. I had no clue I was valued at all by anyone. I saw other survivors in the movement getting published, being invited to speaking engagements, and being honored. I wasn’t. I only got rejected over and over.  Where was love? I felt like Oliver Twist without a home. I needed to find my place. I knew the answer was not Mental Health Care. Nor was I being accepted in Boston among the activists there.  It was something else.

 

I had to create my own place in the world. You won’t find it in any “help” organization. You won’t find it in a hospital nor in therapy. You won’t find it in another person. You have to create it on your own. No one will build that place for you.

You must try hard. Find that place. God isn’t in a church. God isn’t in the sky.  God is in your soul. That’s the holiest place of all.  Some say God is everywhere but please don’t rely on some church cuz they mostly lie. If you have no answers to life’s problems, create your own answers. Then, you are blessed with inner knowledge that no one can take away.

Where are you now? How has life changed?

I guess for years I’ve wanted a coffee companion. I’m very happy now to have one. We meet every morning. Others stop by at our table to chat, in English and Spanish. I feel so blessed.

We have all kinds of ideas. I know a guy who cured his own cancer. I know many who speak out against what’s happening in the USA. Many who were booted out just like I was. You know when you HAVE to leave. And many won’t reveal what, exactly, drove them out of the USA. Often, it was bullying. People who are aware, who tell the truth, get bullied cuz no one wants to hear what they are saying. The general public  back in TV-land USA would rather be cozy with the feel-good brainwashing. Those of us here in exile refuse to believe it nor go along with it.

Some expats see the coming of mass extinction. Others see a total rebuilding of social structures. Many are writing books. Many enjoy self-sufficiency and farming the land. We are survivors, and each has a story to tell.

Many don’t attend the gatherings. I’d say those that show up represent a minority of those that have settled here. We are growing in numbers, folks that know what’s happening and are trying to change things on a global value.

I’d say I feel valued here. I’d say I have a place. People believe what I say and here, I am NEVER told “It didn’t happen.” Nothing like that. I’m never called crazy or paranoid. I don’t think it even crosses anyone’s mind here. Not even close.  In fact, I am seen as a person who is aware, that is, who has woken up to the reality of the way things are. People ask me for help or advice. This is thrilling to me. I am so happy to help out and contribute my knowledge, education, and experience.

I never thought, after the rejection in Boston, that the accusations and bullying would ever stop. But it does. Please, please please get away from oppression so you can live your life freely as an adult. Find your place. It’s well worth the wait.