Here it comes. I can hear it approaching deep inside my skull. It has long, thin fingers - no, not fingers, but tentacles, turning and twisting and squeezing through to the tiniest cavities.
It starts from my stomach. It always starts from there, stirring it up, heating it until I feel the burn. From there it climbs to my throat. It strangles me ever so slightly, like to remind me that it could tighten its hold any time to make sure not a single sound escapes through anymore. When it reaches my lungs, forcing me to breath more than I need, I know I've lost the struggle that I hardly even started yet. Soon it is hammering my every muscle, making me shake violently like the fragile leaf that I am.
The world around me grows small. I'm trapped inside a small hole with hazy edges. Outside everything is dark and misty. Inside, where I'm soundlessly screaming, everything is too much: it's too bright, too many confusing colours, and loud, so very loud even though no vibrating air is reaching my eardrums. It drowns me, threatens to drag me down and imprison me in the depths forever. I feel like I have already been forever in a hell where time means nothing.
I want to vomit it out. My mouth gets filled with saliva, my stomach cramps trying to force out the evil that is disrupting its calm existence. But the cord around my throat squeezes tighter and it screams straight into my brain “NO!” That's the one thing I cannot do. It tells me that vomiting would not make me feel better but instead it would make everything worse, it would be the most horrifying thing I've ever experienced. I might think, it tells me, that this hell where I'm in is bad, but actually I'm only at the door. If I'd let the reflex through, if I even tried to purge it away, I would open the doors to a real hell where all hope is lost.
I give in and let it have its way with me. It shakes me so bad that I would fall off a chair if I wasn't on the cold floor already. I get a few tears out from between my tightly squeezed eyelids. I struggle for air even though I'm gulping huge amounts of it by panting with shaky breaths. I'm locked here for all eternity unable to think of anything else but this hell and this moment.
Finally it has grown tired of playing with me. It withdraws its disgusting tentacles that have little thorns on them that scrape me as they slither over me. It takes a while for my body to come to halt. My throat has been burned, my muscles still twitch with aftershocks, and my teeth don't dare to make a gap between my jaws yet. Ever so slowly the noise quiets down, the lights reach the outside world again, and time resumes its stroll with shaky legs. It's gone and I'm still here, painfully aware that it's never far away. It will come again.
In Time to Meet
Our fate has brought us here in time to meet.
Two travelers upon a lonely trail,
the raging river churning past our feet.
The misty air replaces summer’s heat
while turning both our faces slightly pale;
our fate has brought us here in time to meet.
Her eyes reflecting mine are kind and sweet;
She turns away, to hide from me her tale,
the raging river churning past our feet.
Some other time and place, another street…
But no! Such thoughts will pave the way to fail,
and fate has brought us here in time to meet!
Together, with no chance for a retreat,
we’re now a team, ever destined to sail
the raging river churning past our feet
Her tear streaked smile makes my soul feel complete
As hand-in-hand we climb over the rail.
Our fate has brought us here in time to meet
the raging river churning past our feet.
(c) 2017 - dustygrein
** The villanelle has often been used to capture emotional glory, but I found it apt this time to capture tragedy, an all-too real outcome of depression for some poor souls.
A Leaf in the Ocean
March 21, 1980, I was diagnosed with manic-depression, it was the best day of my life. As a woman, the illness came on a couple of years before manifesting as depression. The antidepressants, tri-cyclic Tofranil at the time, threw me from my long-running depressive state into mania in a way everyone loved. I was funny, spontaneous, sexual, quick-witted and generally a much better time from my depressed stay-in bed self.
But it didn't stop there. Everyone was entitled to my opinion, I stayed up all night, slept with all my co-workers, dazzled with brilliance so fast I couldn't write them down and then, one day, it stopped. My magic was gone. I was human with a path of inescapable destruction and debt. So I took all the pills in the bottle and my husband said to sleep it off when the ambulance came but I wouldn't get in.
Clear headed, and now without a job, I considered ways out from what I had become. No one understood that something had taken control on both sides of my fence. Depression like a heavy unmovable cloud that sat on my chest crushing my soul. No one got it that when the cloud lifted, I felt not answerable to anyone or anything, just free and powerful to act at will. And then there was me. A puppet to them both.
So everything was unraveling including my marriage. We went into counseling and it was My husband who broke into the discussion about my long depression and said,"What about the times she wakes up at night and needs to move the landscaping around?"
An innocent enough question, but one that flashed in the therapists eyes, "You are manic-depressive, not just depressed. Do you have relatives with this?" And I told her of a cousin my age who had just injected an overdose into his penis, the needle still hanging there when his brother came to identify the body. And the uncle who wrote a note, "Say hi to the folks" before calmly dragged a living room chair down to the basement and shooting off his face with a shot gun. And my aunt, who called us overtaking fast and in rhyme telling us the FBI was hiding in the corn field gunning for her. And that I could go on.
That sent me to my first psychiatrist and then to small-town psych ward where they administered Thorazine like M&Ms and put me on lithium, 900 mg. a day. I didn't want to go. I packed the car, strapping my childhood toys to the roof to drive away from it all, but it got to be noon and the back was closed and I had no money, so I gave in.
It was a crazy dumping ground where they kept you until you stabilized, me and 17 others all with different problems: junkies, teens, criminals, the senile, retarded, damaged, abused, angry, suicidal. We painted ceramics. I, the art major, worked to make mine the best. JoAnne, who wasn't born right painted them fast and in one color: red, green, yellow and black. Sally's father abused her, she smashed her rabbits and ground the white powder they had become into the tiles. Ben's girlfriend dumped him, he painted her name the tables. Vi just sat. Joe cursed and spat, asking when he would get his next cigarette. Don was hiding out after his wife caught him in bed with a secretary who worked where I used to paced. My roommate Tammy, a teen on a high dose of Haldol, snored into her cut-up arms her folded pillow.
Not a perfect system, and yet I woke up the fifth day, and for the first time in memory felt clear. As if I had been trying to land a 747 my whole life but this time, I taxied in firm and solid, like I knew how my whole life.
And that was the cure lithium, Thorazine and once a week with my psychiatrist Dr. Kaderadski, a thick tongued German unflinching. I had a big time mental illness required to take once week blood tests to ensure I didn't skip a pill. But I would not have, as for the first time in my life I felt well, in control. And I did well. Too well. Friends and family came around and whispered,"You were never sick. You don't need drug. You are fine. Get off them."
And I listened. I quit the meds, quite seeing the expensive doctor and the power came back in spades. I was exceptionally quick, bright, funny, sexy. I rose quickly to a position in state politics, met a lawyer who was running for state office, we became lovers, I campaigned with him as his wife shaking the hands of farmers smiling, left my husband, bought a house in one hour, drank a bottle of wine each night to slow the world down but not enough to sleep, I baby sat for the governor, I was so beautiful, powerful, the patterns of the universe appeared when I shut my eyes, I heard the voice of god. This is where I belonged.
It was a fabulous run. I'm glad it happened. No one can take the memories of it away. But then I crashed, suddenly. The day of atonement had come for me. I was the lamb in the thicket, I had to bleed. So I punched my hand through the glass door of my new house. Too slow and painful, I gulped every pill I had and dying for real limped to the car and drove tony husband, barely able to say,"I'm sick. Very sick."
He took me back to the hospital. I awoke with leather straps on my bandaged hands.
A nurse came with a tiny plastic cup with familiar pills and I took them and have been taking then since for thirty-five years.
Maybe I'm a sell-out to the system. Maybe I sold-out my art to a career in Marketing Communications, writing and designing my way to the top, unimpaired.
Now they call the illness bipolar and I did an eight year stint working with those who had the same illness, trying to tell them there is a way out episode-free for a lifetime, but had few takers. The world turned and those with the illness didn't try to hide it but wore bipolar t-shirts and felt their illness gave them the right to be ill-tempered forever and never be responsible. I worked hard to talk people off the ledge but never saved a one.
For many, bipolar gave them an identity. They are someone, damaged, irrational, giving up years of their life they conniver get back but someone. For them, I can only pray they scare themselves straight by coming face-to-face with death. Waking up having lost it all in a gutter choking on their own vomit. Most stay just far enough away from this place that they play both sides of reality and love it. You can't talk someone out of love, especially if it's a tremendous fuck and trust me, nothing compares to a drunken one-nighter on bipolar.
So March 21, 1980 was the best day of my life. The day I was given a name for the monsters inside me. Monsters wrapped in fine furs, elaborate tapestries, and the best in psychedelic fantasy, demanding only the surrender of self to reap their boundless rewards. So seductive but monsters just the same because it was them not me acting out. I had to rise and fall as me only without the magic at my fingertips, because I also learned that no matter what, I was held 130% responsible for the results anyway, good, bad or normal.
Bipolar is for life. One manic episode brands you. It can never be erased, even after decades of without episode. The tides, seasons, and equinox still pull in a tangible way. They whisper of the magic. Magic I remember so I don't need to go there to bring it back. A mental illness with positives for sure, but as long as it controls you, you can't be your own self, just a leaf in the ocean waves.
I am losing my will to live.
My elderly Mom is dying . . . we so LOVE each other.
Please, God, don’t let her suffer!
I am powerless.
My daughter is destroying herself and those around her . . .
She LOATHES me, thinks I am EVIL.
I am not allowed to make contact . . . and am never to know my grandchildren.
They, too, will learn to loathe me and come to see me as evil.
I have outlived two husbands.
My late husband was the casualty of addiction and personality disorder.
My ex-husband died last Christmas . . . he was the man, who had my heart.
I am losing my will to live.
There is no one left for me to love and share my life with.
Very few are looking to form a family with an ancient, overweight, woman . . .
. . . living close to poverty in the middle of the desert.
I am old.
I am lonely.
I am losing my will to live.
Smile more, they say
Attitude makes all the difference
My numb mouth stretches into a curve
Authentic as a thumbnail print
Hanging beneath two black dots
In a bright yellow circle
Drawn by a child's blunt stub of crayon
Change your outlook
Choose to be happy, they say
I gather my blessings
Counting them like shiny coins
I barely feel the weight of them
In my slow and clumsy hands
Behind my ribs hangs an old muscle
Exhausted and riddled with holes
It can hold onto nothing
Except the clots of darkness
That cling with minuscule claws
You don't need pills, you need
Sunshine and rainbows, they say
Can a sunny attitude
Reknit broken bones?
Maybe if you practice gratitude
Your cancer will go away
I guess I'm just a grump
It must be my fault
If I keep turning my frown upside down
Will I start wanting
To wake up in the morning?
I must have chosen
To live in this glass box
Where no warmth can touch me
Get out more, they used to say
Force yourself to have some fun
Be with your loved ones
But by now
They've stopped calling
Do they suspect it's terminal
I perform my own autopsy
Slicing open chilled flesh
Sorting through tangles
Of black ribbons
Of meat and tendon
Trying to find the place
Where sorrow hides
If the sadness could be revived
At least it would mean I cared
That I felt something
I didn't mean
To bring you down
I cant write about it. I try and try but it is the monster grabbing my ankles and pulling me back from what I want. I can't talk about it because it's always on my shoulder like Kronk's little devil telling me that no one will listen. I can't move forward because it's in my head hitting pause, replay. Pause, replay. Pause. Replay. How many times will it replay? How many times can I watch life pass me by and be stuck in a 60" screen making a face from when I was nine. I slap the mask on every day to go to school because it keeps saying...
No he's not staring. Shut up. I know I'm crazy. I'm crazy because of you. Ever thought of that? No, no you're just an inconsider- Wait, I know this scene. It's from The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy when Mandy punches Billy so hard that his nose falls off. Ha. That's my favorite. What was I saying? Get rid of you? Why would I get rid of you? We're friends aren't we? Then don't ask such dumb questions. Honestly, sometimes I think you're-
You're doing it again! Get out! Get out of my head! Why are you making me suffer? What did I do to deserve you? I didn't do anything wring. I don't hate you. I don't say bad things about your mother. I just try to ho exist and you just waltz in here changing my channels, pushing me around, playing me like your damn fiddle. Well, I'm no instrument and you're an asshole for implying it! Get out! I'll get medication. I'll go to therapy! I'll get rid of you, you here me! I'll get rid of you
Miss so-and-so, are you okay?
Yes Mrs. Turner.
Good. What's the answer to number seven?
I got B.
Very good. Now class, turn to the next page.
Why do you always embarrass me in public? I try to be good but you're just always here... Why can't you just go away?
We live in the spectrum.
Extremes stand out.
Some act with decorum.
While others shout.
An effort made to speak
with one of us
may help you to defeat
your lack of trust.
Do you have the courage?
It's about you.
Hate - there is no shortage.
Love - starts with you.
I'm drowning. Yet I'm no where near water.
I'm falling. Yet my legs are firmly on the ground.
I'm alone. Yet surrounded by people.
My heart pounds loudly in my chest as if I've ran a marathon, my palms slick with sweat as I watch everyone around me going about normally. Can't they hear it?Can't they hear the loud thudding of my heart? Do they not feel that same suffocating need to leave the room?
Scratching the soft area above my collarbone I nod at something someone said all the while I feel as if the world was tilting. Swallowing past the lump in my throat I look past the heads that gathered before me and over to the front door.
My palms itched to escape the nonsense chatter, to crawl back into the safety of my apartment where it was dark and quiet. Where no one was waiting to judge my clothing or comment on my lack of contribution to the conversation. To where no one would ask why I keep a rubber band around my wrist or why I rarely smile.
My chest tightens as I spare a glance at the clock. Ten minutes?! I've only been at this party for ten minutes?! I can feel the walls closing in on me as the faces surrounding me blur. My chest rises and falls with the breath I'm struggling to take.
How do I breathe again? My trembling fingers glide over my wrist in search for the beige rubber band. Lowering my hands from view I tug on the elastic band and flinch as it snaps against the inside of my wrist.
The sharp pain slams into me, momentarily distracting me from the dizzying thoughts that had consumed me. Desperate to feel anything other then this suffocating fear I pull on the elastic again and again. Careful not to attract attention I continue to pull on the rubber band as the tension in my body dims a bit. My skin is red and stings but I welcome the pain like an old friend.
Over the years I've discovered the pain helped chase the anxiety away, it feeds the darkness within me and reminds me that I can feel something other than this miserable numbness. That I'm not quite dead on the inside. The pain is a reminder that I'm still fighting my demons.
A small smile tugs at the corner of my lips. Are they considered your demons when they are you're only companions? When they are the only ones who sit along side you in the dark as you cry? The only real beings that have stuck around you? The same demons that wake up with you as you face another day, another challenge.
Yet they are also the same demons that lurk in the darkest part of your mind, awaiting the moment they can creep up on you. At your most vulnerable moments they will step into the light promising relief but only delivering pain.
Closing my eyes I take a deep breath and remind myself to take this one moment at a time. One foot in front of the other and slowly reopen my eyes.
The crowd of unfamiliar faces erupt into laughter and I follow in suit hoping it didn't sound as hallow and fake as I felt.
Ups and Downs of a Gentleman’s Wife.
Why sometimes do I want it hard
And other times it hurts?
It's not your fault.
You didn't ask
To live inside my curse.
I'm sexually bipolar
Took some time to figure out.
Sometimes I do
Sometimes I want
Sometimes it's what I need.
Indulge me love
Be gentle but
Be manly when you're freed.
Anxiety still sucks
Anxiety is like being sucked into a massive black whole that is trying to suck everything down into it, including you. You fight to get away from it but its winds are to strong. You back up, you try to stand, you even try to run, but the vortex is to strong. Inch by inch your getting sucked into this whole and there is no escaping it. Eventually you get tired and let go. You land at the bottom and realize thats its dark, cold, and your all alone.
I deal with axiety and depression. I struggle to make basic decisions. I have horrible self doubt, and I never feel good enough. I'm terrified to be seen as a failure, most the time I won't even try unless I know it's a sure success. I very seldom leave my house without my husband.
One of the worst thing I hate is when you talk to someone about depression or you tell them your depressed and they think you are "just sad." It is so much more than feeling blue or down.
Please don't ever feel bad for getting help or being on meds. I thought if I got meds than I was truly crazy. If anyone ever needs to talk I'm always good at listening.