A Moment with Grams

My Grams w/ Emma
My Grams w/ Emma

It was a late Spring afternoon.  Mike and I sat across from grandma on the back porch in the shade, the hanging baskets of mixed pansies   fragrant on a gentle breeze.  I remember it so clear–she was wearing her light blue jeans and her pastel yellow, short-sleeved blouse with the white flower basket across the front, a lace collar.  We were enjoying the moment I remember, it was quiet between us–a gentle kind as sweet as Spring.  And then she said something to both of us that I’ll never forget.

lostinthevalleygrandma“I want you two to know something, what happened to you–it wasn’t your fault.  Neither of you.”

It was quiet.  I choked up.  She’d never brought it up before.  And I wanted her to hold me and say it again and again, yet the one time was enough for a lifetime.

Mike, my cousin and best friend my entire life, has Rheumatoid Arthritis.  Bad.  He’s 34 and has had his shoulders, knees, hips, and ankles replaced.  He’s a fighter.  He obviously cannot work and he fills his time with creation, and discovered he’s one hell of a sculptor–he is self-taught, and his work is incredible.  (Here’s his blog: Chicks Dig Scars).  If you’d like to read my essay all about Mike it’s HERE.  Ok, one more–my interview on him for his blog is HERE. Read More

Frail Branch

image

“Be a bird perched on a frail branch that she feels bending beneath her, still she sings all the same, knowing she has wings.”

Victor Hugo

the panic of peace

scattered prose

LISTEN & READ: 05 – 4am

 The Panic of Peace

Flat affect.  What a depersonalized symptom to give the hider.  Yes, let’s play, you seek.  You seek out your DSM and professional books among the cranberry-colored spines with gold writing, or solid, knowing, black fonts.  And inside pours out six.  Six disorders I have because I fit the criteria like a glove.  I was better off not knowing. Yet it was something, a list, I could point to, aim the finger away from me.   I wanted to say “of course I have flat affect, I’m fucking stunned that somebody with six disorders can hardly be funny anymore.”  No I’m not dissociating at these times.  I’m very real when I am angry or crossed or hurt or doubted.  It’s when I’m scared or set by a sound or smell or the mind spins manically in and out over itself, that I calm down to dissociate, where I sit so terrified that they say “flat affect” and I’m so scared I don’t know what’s on my face.  I dissociate when I panic that I am calm.  That’s how messed up this body is.  I’ve stowed away inside again, that’s what we do, us big kids.  We’re an army– an army given cheap guns, yet known to be armed to the teeth with devices that a soul shall never ever pass, and they never will.  Security lock down—it’s a brilliant defense, this dissociation, but it comes back for ya.  You have to pay for it. It comes back when you’re almost thirty and thinking about a diet and reading the classics and going to school to become to become to become.  And then, wham, shot down.  It’s the early-on, unknowing that is most terrifying.  I was sure I fucked myself up beyond repair, that back in the day, I’d done some irreparable damage and I was going to die.  I saw death.  I breathed my grandmother’s name and practically ran to mental health holding my head, to stop the black images popping up with red eyes.  To catch my short breath, and the taste in my mouth…it was coming…the flashback.  Blindfolds, blood, and sex.  I’m a five year-old in heels, smashing my makeup on the ground, crying in the corner, banging on the locked yellow door.

So that’s the beginning, or shall I say, my first day, of PTSD.  Drove my ass right to the bin.  It was my first time but I always figured that I’d show up there some day.  I don’t know why.  I’m not one to prod my weird thoughts.  That’s asking for mayhem.  They shot me in the ass with meds and I cried all night and day after day.  I remember thinking that this was it, that it wasn’t so bad, they’d fix me of course, and I’d never be back again.  That was the baby version of PTSD, when the “psychotic episodes” or flashbacks were so minute they barely counted and I always came out of it squeaky clean, like it was a bad, dirty dream.  Soon, after my stay there, these “episodes” began to creep into my mornings, I started dissociating more when the panic rose when triggers were set off, my legs went numb, I tasted rubber in my mouth.  The flashbacks or episodes were lasting forever, on and off, at a moment’s notice.  Strange, scared thoughts and ideas whipped me around on a fucking roller coaster and flung me out of its seats at the peak of the ride.  Nothing was real.  I called to my fiancé who seemed like an oil painting and we were all dissolving and he’d never reach me.  “Talk me down.  Help me.  Talk to me.”  I’d demand with my voice in total control.  I couldn’t let anyone see that helpless chaos on my face.  It was like seeing your own death.  Yet you believe death would be easier.  You don’t trust yourself in the tub with the pretty pink razor.  What?! You’re screaming what to yourself because now the suicidal thoughts listed in the “DSM” are scrolling off the page and into your ears.  Oh shit.  The book.  The stigma.  You think as you sink “I’m one of them”.  Depersonalization disorder, dissociative amnesia, panic disorder, PTSD…there’s one more (besides the bipolar) but I can’t remember.  At this brief interjection of a strange paragraph I’d like to say “Gee, thanks.  Thank you step-father.  I have seen the light; the dark; and now I can’t see anything but exist as this open wound because of your own tormented soul.  Thank you for the lesson, thanks for not beating this one into me.  My flesh could’ve handled it better than my head, but could you have known?” 

Anyways, death.  Death.  But what’s left?  It got worse.  They couldn’t help me.  I was seeing things, feeling things, things were lost, demanding their recapture, and I couldn’t see them.  I’m five years old, sitting in the crook of my fiancé’s arm, with flat affect.

What the printed, sacred documents of the doc’s don’t tell you is that there is something very key to survival…as they end their chapters in comorbidity and the morbid–suicide rates.  They fail to mention the elements of two things that will save you: hope and love.  Now why would a book about the mind involve such artificial, baseless tones to their story?  You gotta figure it out for yourself, because each persons’ fate is different.  These two elements cannot be captured, their purpose lays in secrecy as they fill us all with blessing.  Hope is that last shred of light you see; it’s that part of your brain that drives you to the hospital for help, instead of into the tub.  Hope makes you wake up and face another day, giving you clues and signs everywhere that there is more, so much more…to life.  And in those signs beams love.  The love of the fiancé who holds you to his chest and waits for you to get better, knowing more than you do that you’re going to make it.  The love of the mother who doesn’t even have to speak, but sits at your side until your episode is over and you can look her in the eye with gravity.  The love of the sisters, who allow you to wail out your fear and struggle through your belief that there is no future, just nothingness and death.  They cry too, and you feel love because you’re not breaking alone.  And the love of a friend, a long-ago best friend—agent of dreams—who tells you as you sit back in the bin again that you’re not alone, she said “tell her I am with her.”  And she was.  This intricate web of hope and love has shown me something not many people get to see—just how undeniably soulful it is to have each other, and to love each other—unconditionally.  There is a greater purpose that must be so simple we can’t see it, but sometimes get a taste of it.  It’s so simple that your heart becomes light and made of pink love that streams through your blessed body that heals; it’s so simple that the mind can find a moment where it is at rest and calm and knows peace.  It can’t really be written—the love I’ve seen.

My Virginia

I would have met you at the water if I

were then without a daughter; I would have

held your hand–I’ve known you before.

I would have decided on the hour–on

instinctual impulse–when the lower

haze of swaying moods send me down.

I would have called you I bet,

and the moon would’ve been full and

I would’ve ran barefoot in my nightgown

to meet you at the edge.

We would’ve known, I think, not to speak

about blue darkness and moon shafts shifting

across pale dandelions between our toes.

But chemistry comes in capsules now, Virginia,

and I dare say it’s like breathing under water

in a beautiful menagerie of imagination

where thoughts come with a reign and scale–

for weight, not matter.

But sometimes, like those nights we’d dive,

I fear my words are pebbles,

I risk giving them meaning and shape

and find shame from their sudden emptiness,

I fear it’s left me

until I think of you–my shared reflection

in the water, you with so much more grace,

but I can only build you up as a writer

and a fighter

and I drop a little stone to wrinkle you away

and I see my face, blurry and rippled,

brilliant in the moon.