White Spaces

The space between
faith and falling—as thin
as my grandmother’s sheets

my mother told me that before you died
you used to go to the church
when it was empty at 6 a.m.
and pray for me

she whispered to blessed wombs
I mouthed the words to myself:
“don’t die”

in the hospital I imagined you

Me & Grams

on your knees in the pew,
fingering the sacred beads
your whisper, your serious face–
like when you had
inspected my wounds over the years,
that serious look you had
when you healed things you could heal,
your hands starting to gnarl from arthritis,
working out the sliver

her repetition of deliverance to
painted saints chipping off the walls
as I plea further to nothing but
my own will and hospital sheets:
“don’t die”

the focus in your eyes—intent
on faith healing wounds you
couldn’t touch;
the focus in mine—the
machinery of my mind,
synaptic failure between
iron gears closing their teeth Read More

A Space to Fill

It’s the coldest January I’ve known
the white light coming in
through the protective glass–
white, I think, like my grandmother’s
white sheets she’d hang in June.

The white light coming in
takes me for a turn and
I think for a moment–
is it color? Or space? Like
the space we can never fill

and then I remember where I am
and why I am here.
Emptiness leaks out of me.
It’s hard when you learn
there is no God.
Now there’s the girl that weeps in my ears
but I can never find her.
At home I searched the house
for a crying child
until I realized it was in my head.

Out in the common area
I crouch over my puce tray
and take anti-psychotics,
mood stabilizers, speed,
and a mysterious one that
keeps the flashbacks mild. -er.
Patients ask me where I’m from,
do I have a home, if I want my
pudding, if I cut myself.
The drive in the old red Chevy
is a quiet one, nothing but
white headlights
through the haze of cigarette
smoke, my stepfather
watching the road and
my thigh.
We are
outside of town
where the mental ward
sits back behind the snowy pines.

The sky is the only thing I see.
The only thing I don’t
have to think of.
It’s a place I’m already
falling towards.
I stare up at the stars
where I’m beginning to
recognize myself–everything means nothing.
My Catholic grandmother, June.
Even then I knew it was okay
to be lost when you’re
how small you are, how little
your voice is.
Flashback. I nod
at Nurse Jo and she follows me
to my room. I lay on the
cot and tell her it’s coming.
She gives me a warm
blanket to squeeze and it begins.
The crying–an impression
of the child in my head.
Then I’m there–he’s
video taping me and
my step-siblings, and we
are not dressed; cajoled, his
soothing voice; encouragement.
There is water.
There is a blindfold on my
face and blood.
My mother comes outside
into the November air in a robe
and slippers, shuffling next
to my stepfather, crying.
My sisters and I keep our
distance, believing
that she wants us to.
She turns away into his shoulder
and I turned and stared
into the sky.
I thought about God,
about how the earth was really
just this round ball he had
in a box and for our nights, he
put a lid on that box and
punched holes in it for stars.
In my mind, God was a giant
old man forcing us to love
each other in a darkness
we could never fill.

Nurse Jo asks me
to tell her what happened
when I come out of it.
I tell her about it,
and that I do not remember
too much more except
for the most chilling part–their faces.
My step brother and step sister
looked like dead children,
and I imagine I did, too.


I believed
he was the only one I could ever
answer to, the only power.
This is love.
He was a giant man forcing
us to love each other in a space
I’d never get back.

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Curious Things

Readers I Have Questions,

I see my psychologist friday but I wanted your insights. Aside from a lot of dissociating (not severe) and hearing voices when I am stressed out, I want to talk about something that has been going on for a very long time–and it's getting stronger and stronger and happening more often: When I am falling asleep I see people in my room and I can feel that they're there, and sometimes I look for them after I'm awake. When I am waking up I see them and I feel that they're there but oonce I'm totally awake they're gone. Sometimes I wake myself up talking to them. Any ideas? Curious….

Powerful Beyond Measure

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”

This is where I’m teetering–between believing in my greatness and believing that I’m no good.

Rocky Balboa:

“But somewhere along the line you changed, you stopped being you. You let people stick a finger in your face and tell you you’re no good, and when things got hard, you started looking for something to blame, like a big shadow. Let me tell you something you already know–the world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows–it’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life, but it ain’t about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward–how much you can take and keep moving forward–that’s how winning is done. And if you wanna go through all the battling you gotta go through to get to where you wanna get, whose got the right to stop you? Maybe you got something you never finished, something you really wanna do, something you never said to somebody–something! And you’re told no, even after you pay your dues, whose got the right to tell you that, who? Nobody. It’s your right to listen to your gut it ain’t nobody’s right to say no after you earned the right to be what you wanna be and do what you wanna do. Now if you know what you’re worth, go out and get what you’re worth–but you gotta be willing to take the hits and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody–cowards do that and that ain’t you! You’re better than that!”

Damn that part of the movie is incredible. I’m reaching a point where I can’t entirely blame my perpetrators (I hate that word) and I can’t blame myself either. It’s time to step up, and I’m proud to say I have been. I push myself in therapy, I do things that make me happy, I keep up on my meds, the only shitty part is the loneliness. I don’t have that old support team anymore (no matter how much they say they are here for me–cha) the only person I talk to about this shit is my psychologist.
So, after many tears, I’m learning to do it myself along with my therapist. I’ve never been so tested. It’s a battle for your life, and it’s hard yet it feels good–good that I’m fighting by working through it.
I’m half angry because others put me here but moreso I’m angry because I also put myself here. Whether it be my chemistry, behaviors, whatever. I’m angry for letting myself believe from others that I’m no good. I am better than that, and a small kernel inside me knows that, which is why I’m still here, I just gotta learn to hold onto that. This is all like “baptism under fire.” I am becoming and becoming and it’s exciting yet scary–scary because what if I’m a phony? What if I can’t hack it. Eh, fuck that yes I will be able to–I’m not capable now but I will be. Right now I feel all these open wounds–all these mirrors around me and I’m forced to look this time and I’m so sad by what I see. I do know I have the key to my recovery. I do know deep down I am strong.
More later, folks. Thanks for reading.

Fragile Things


At some point everything becomes clear. That doesn’t necessarily mean a good clear, but fact is preferred over fiction when you’re locked up in a mental ward. Again. And it’s snowing out–and worse–it’s New Year’s Eve and you’re thirtieth birthday is coming and you’re little girl must be looking for you. It’s all you can do to decipher the shell-shocked woman looking back at you in the tin mirror bolted to the wall above your sink. Here you get your own sink because this time, this trip into the bin, they knew it was much more serious than they had originally thought, and your “security” is upgraded. You have a thought you would usually have–that the upgrade only makes you feel more nuts–but at this point, you don’t feel nuts. You are nuts. I say to myself ‘I’m clinically insane’ and for a moment I believe it’s something to smile about. When the leading psychiatrist told me on New Year’s Day morning that I was clinically psychotic and suffering from complex PTSD, I thought about my mind–clearly–for a second, and I imagined a blue and orange brain-scan image showing clouds of lesions.  Then I slipped back into the room , in and out of dissociating, and the yellow walls were much too close and I could Read More

Check Out Turtle Way: an Online Arts Journal on Mental Illness

I wanted to share with you all that I was fortunate enough to be published in Turtle Way, a literary art journal in support of those with mental illness.  My essay published in it (“The Silent Army”) can be found here.  Thanks, Turtle Way! The magazine is wonderful–real, raw emotion; a real glimpse into mental illness.  Well done.  (I’m quite taken with Bryan William Myers‘ poem “Unease“ and Doug Metz‘s “breakdown“–both taking my breath away, reminding me of those long days, those long, wretched nights, the dead dreams.  Beautiful.

Paper Girl

Listen to Modest Mouse:

Well I’m sorry I haven’t written in so long. I and my docs experimented with new meds, which involved getting off what had been lifelines for me for so long–abilify and seroquel. And we tried Latuda, which was amazing at first–got rid of my auditory hallucinations (yeah I hear a little girl crying CONSTANTLY throughout the day if I’m not medicated or “my time” is coming), but unfortunatley the amazing med made me sicker than a dog. I was a useless wreck, tapered off, then went somewhat crazed and terrified for lack of meds in my system, and now we’re trying Lamictal. I also had during this Bronchitis and a seriously infected tooth. Sure I’m complaining, but really I just wanted to tell you why I’ve been gone so long.

I am disappointed in my mental reaction to being off most, maybe all, my meds. The abilify was just about out of my system when I momentarily “cracked”, the Latuda I quit for three days to stop the nausea, and the Seroquel was well out of my system. My, I guess, “reaction” or “state” was extreme anxiety ( I was certain I was going to lose it again and be back in the bin), I thought flashbacks were coming liking a train and I was this amebic blog that was pissed that I hadn’t managed to develop my own, personal defenses and strategies strongly enough; I was sort of in that floating stage where nothing seems quite real,

where you’re on the ledge of a very big drop and vacancy into outer space, that godless place. I called all my favorite numbers and was, thankfully, able to reach my psychiatrist who was on call and he prescribed me some benzos (not my favorite things but they helped). I actually called the hotline, bawling like an idiot, and said I needed a shot of Abilify in the ass before it was too late. 🙂 Yes I said that. “Too late? For what? Are you going to hurt yourself? Are you in danger?” Ummmmmmmm…trying to figure that out when you’re off your rocker is a tough one. What if you feel like there’s this count down happening in your system and at zero you’re going to lose total control and you may hurt yourself or worse, someone around you. Yet you always get like that when it’s bad, and you never hit zero. Ever. Must just be a fear. But how can you not be scared when you hear crying and you run for the door, thinking it’s your child or a neighbor girl in serious trouble, in pain and sorrow, only to find nothing there. And why did a med for schizophrenia work SO WELL for me, aside from the nausea? I felt better on that (before I got sick) than I’ve ever, ever felt in my life. Now there, I suppose I’m fearing labels. And that’s ridiculous.

I was driving the other day, waiting at a stop sign, when something wretched occurred to me: What if I’m not the best thing for my daughter? What if I’m not the best thing for her? My head tells me I’m not good for her, look at the bipolar (tho it’s mild and I still think it’s mistaken for borderline personality disorder), adhd, complex ptsd, psychotic features (though they don’t effect her, are not even seen by her, and mainly occur during PMS), unable to work (i’ve tried so many times and I’m going to again dammit), can’t finish my chapbooks or even start the memoir–what kind of example am I setting? Then my heart kicks in and it’s like this–the way I love her is my example to her. I love her good and I know I do. Our relationship–our connection–is beautiful. I realize I wouldn’t want a child to grow up in a “normal” “perfect”, conforming environment, but I want her to know she is so lovable and is loved, and to believe in herself, to have faith in her body and mind, but to eventually teach her that that body and mind can trick you, and then you have to rely on a strong heart and a faith based on your instincts and secret moments. I want her to have faith in every step she takes, accepting mistakes and learning her lessons. She’s got such a huge heart, always looking out for the feelings of others, and I want to be sure she doesn’t forget herself. Like her mother. I guess I feel like she doesn’t have a sick mother, she has a mama that learned a lot through some wretched experiences that I will never let her go through (unless she has chemical, biological mental illnesses), and I’m still learning. I see, I see more and more about this life and who I am and how I want to not live it but just be for now (it’s all I can handle), and how my family taught me about love when I was mad and lost and given up in the hospital or in the prison of my rooms, faithless and empty and scared. But they loved me in all kinds of ways that kept my sick head afloat, like they held out a rope to me and said to the shell of what I was “we promise, we promise, just keep swimming.” And eventually, when I came out of it, they were there, in tears, waiting and believing and knowing I’d come out somehow. It shocks the hell out of me when someone proves that they believe in me,. It shocks the hell out of me that I was worth drudging through all the shit with, that I was worth anything at all. I still find that hard to believe. “Just stick to your mother role” my T always told me. I miss her, after ten years, yet she just wasn’t letting me be me. Or of course it could be me and not the educated psychotherapist–I just couldn’t, in the end, breathe with her, I wasn’t me shining, I was becoming this paper girl who acted as directed. Paper Girl. I’ve always felt like a paper girl, but when I’m with my girl or my sisters or cousins, it disappears. In small ways I’m becoming whole, fractions are filling in, and I just have to keep taking the shit in stride.

On an end note I was extremely happy with myself a few weeks ago–I started dissociating and instead of panicking like usual, I faced it, I accepted my depersonalized body and no mind, and actually was able to shut off my mind (no mind!) and let it just happen. And the fear vanished and suddenly I was in control of losing control, it was amazing, so the fear never came and it ended sooner than usual. Sweet, eh? More later, Amy Jo.

Radiohead and Cat Stevens and Awolnation–my music choices of the month.