THE MENTAL HEALTH CONSPIRACY
20 years after my own 7 year period of altered realities and much research and working with others deemed mentally ill I offer the following article
The Mental Illness Conspiracy
Recent experience is causing me to question the whole Mental Illness paradigm which I recently described to a colleague as ” a complete mess.”
Let me take you back a few years to when I began to really understand that my own “awakening” was not a mental illness but a call to accept that I was a unique spark of consciousness having a human experience in a multidimensional universe. Doubtless repeating this in front of a DSM indoctrinated psychiatrist would get me labelled as Schizophrenic and were I to go on to explain that
“actually my here and now consciousness has activated an ability to time travel and I have accessed what others call “past lives” but which I see as merely another aspect of a multidimensional reality”
would have me being offered drugs to contain and stunt my psychotic tendencies.
So it was in 2004 I attended a course as an attendee Quaker at Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre in the UK and opened up my multidimensional experiences to a staff member who very wisely assured me that I was not psychotic or schizophrenic but that I was undergoing an awakening that would see me become a Bodhisattva and that I had
“arranged this on a higher level of awareness so that you can help awaken others and lessen their suffering.”
I was unsure about this at the time as I still did not feel healed or complete enough to help anyone else. I had not overcome the “trauma” of awakening to the realisation that the world is not as we perceive it to be.
I had travelled a lonely path for 7 years (this was from 1989 – 1996 and before the prolific usage and availability of the information highway of on-line internet) consequently my search for answers took me through books on Jungs Complete Works where I found some answers. This was followed by Robert Monroe’s Journeys out of the Body series of three books.
Through the conversation with the above Quaker colleague I learned about the work of Dr Stanislav Grof and then more recently Paul Levy’s work. I have omitted to cite much of the delusional spirituality I encountered on this journey as it is not worth mine or your time to discuss, believe me there is lots of it, it is the new way of packaging and selling spirituality and healing to the ignorant, delve into this world with extreme discernment lest ye get caught up into paying for spiritual tat.
O.K. so you have enough links there to take you through a 30 minute PHD in Metaphysics and Psychology:)
But the rabbit hole of the Mental Illness Conspiracy becomes a dark tunnel of a profit driven Pharmaceutical Industry manipulating human ignorance of a Multidimensional Universe, to persuade and cajole the psychiatric community to assert that those developing their multidimensional awareness are suffering from a
“chemical imbalance in the brain.”
Shaminism, Buddhism, Spiritual Emergence Networks, some schools of spirituality, Quantum Mechanics, myths and legends all speak of Multi-Universe of Consciousness so why are we collectively still in the dark ages of Mental Health and medicating folks whose awareness of other realms is causing them psychotic episodes?
In a multi-universe there are “many mansions” (John14.2) as a world prophet is quoted as saying, I don’t know I wasn’t there.
So let’s take a look at some examples. Many diagnosed schizophrenics go through a stage believing they are the Messiah/Jesus/God etc. What if during these events their consciousness has retreived memories of a pivotal historic period in history which their brain has no way of computing and therefore due to ignorance and being taught from cradle to grave that we are purely physical beings, believe they are the memories they are accessing?
Another example; hearing voices that tell a person to commit crimes etc. In a multi-Universe there are spiritual realms that are generally kept hidden from us the personality for our own safety and to maintain our Earth Reality. But what if a breach in the bubble has occured and frequencies have become distorted and so those hearing voices are being infiltrated by the spiritual realms, where all is not well?
Taking hallucinogen opens us up to multi realities. Alcoholics may attract spiritual entities that want to experience reality through a human because they are stuck and unable to move on into the light.
We really must cease to accept the current pharmaceutical driven psychiatric paradigm, without considering and undertaking research to find better ways of addressing and treating mental health issues than adopting labels and medicating which causes stigma and side effects.
There are some uncomfortable truths that even those suffering the stigma of mental illness are reluctant to address, because let’s just suppose you have been a resident in a mental institution for a number of years, you have been deemed ill and taken various medications and you have actually become sicker because all the experts deem that this is so. Would you be prepared to have all your beliefs about yourself fall down like a pack of cards? Wouldn’t it cause a serious disturbance of your reality to begin to question that perhaps all these so-called experts are working from ignorance and all the medications you are taking are causing shakes, weight gain and other unpleasant side effects and you are actually worse than you were before you became a patient. O.K. the psychic phenomena has abated but isn’t it replaced by a far more debilitating condition and rendering one a drug junkie?
If as is currently stated One in Four of us is suffering from some form of Mental Issue then is it not paramount that we take the time to research and consider all aspects of this phenomena, especially if we have a close relative or friend who we watch suffering?
There is a way through this rabbit hole but it requires an open minded and holistic approach with large amounts of discernment, and collaboration. Don’t work alone in this field, work with others who are beginning to ask questions, learn everything you can and as Barbara Marciniak said
“Knowledge is sacred and the choice to be informed or merely entertained in today’s world is a very revealing test of the times.”
After my release from the psych ward, my then-husband and I continued living together for six months. It was awful. During this time, I asked him if he’d educated himself about depression throughout our marriage. He said he looked it up once. Why’d that word, “once,” sound familiar? Oh, yes, “once” was how many times my dad took my sister to a therapist during her self-destructive teen years.
“Once” would explain the following moment between us one afternoon in our still-shared rancher. I was struck down with a despair and wish to die as heavy as one of the snow storms that slammed us that winter. Any number of things could’ve triggered it–I mean, I was living with a husband who hated me, was cheating on me, having all my teeth pulled, struggling with still untreated rheumatoid arthritis…pick one.
I hadn’t seen Peggy that long but she’d gifted me with strategies to combat these tornadoes in my head. That’s what they were–silent, charged atmosphere, charred black arm from the heavens rips the skin from the earth, screams of a million tortured souls, an icy vessel of apathy. All while a winter sun blinded eyes as it hit virgin snow. I scanned my list. Breathe. Read. Nap. Journal. Shovel snow (oh, yes, I’d down 4-5 Advil and shovel the hell out of that snow). Nothing worked. Music. Gave it a shot. Ear buds in, “shuffle” hit, volume up, I walked to the kitchen to prepare soft food to eat.
I thawed slowly, like starting your car on a frigid morning and hitting every defrost button. By the time my husband reached the top of the basement stairs to the kitchen, Pat Benatar was belting out one of her girl-power anthems. I sang along–aloud–’cause it made me feel something and I didn’t give a fuck anymore.
I didn’t give a fuck so much that I didn’t acknowledge him skulking by me. I gave so little of a fuck that I laughed when he slammed his hand against the wall heading out of the room. Oh, yes, I heard it over the music. I read his mind in an instant, that “I looked up depression once” mind: Look at her. Bitch. Perfectly fine. Lying bitch says she can’t move out, can’t do this, poor thing. Fucking bitch.
Every month should be Mental Health Awareness Month. Educate yourself on this subject, this disease that affects so many in so many horrific ways. Perhaps you, too. Check out http://www.nami.org for information and help. Let’s end the stigma of mental illness.
This kid in the psych ward with me–we were admitted the same day–after 3 days in a coma from a botched overdose, said none of the meds worked. He was tired of taking all these drugs that didn’t work. Smoked tons of weed while taking them, though, which lessens their efficacy. And he’d go off the drugs after 2 months, when many are just starting to work. Made me wonder if he wanted to get better.
And I know for some people suicide is the only happy option. Surviving family members feel their presence in dreams saying they’re finally at peace. I believe that.
He was an artist, drawing all the time with crayons ’cause we couldn’t have sharp objects. Movies always get that part wrong. His parents and brother came every night during visiting hours and sat with him among the rest of us. They loved him so much. Not embarrassed so that they’d rather sit back in the eating area like my ex and parents.
We didn’t really talk that week, but played some Uno with this cool girl in for a heroin OD. We got this broken bird– unresponsive, hearing voices, murmuring to them–to play with us. The heroin chick was so gentle with her, we all were, but she helped her pick which card to play. I’m crying here in public remembering it.
Anyway, this kid and I were being released the same morning after our “family meetings,” mine with the ex. We were the only two in the patient lounge and on opposite sides of the room, our bags at our feet. All of a sudden he said, “Are you scared?” “Yes. Are you?” “Yeah.” Then we just looked at each other until a nurse called my name. I think about him often. Wonder if he’s finally at peace.
by Jordan Dodd
I stare endlessly, restfully
up through the blue of the sky
Wondering, pondering, deciding,
Today, which disguise shall be mine?
As I know not my own self,
nor the world my eyes bring to shine.
My existence is a balancing act,
all I can do is to try and act kind
If you needed to know, is this real?
My thoughts would be useless,
my response, you would not feel,
Purely my surreal musings,
from my own private film reel
So I therefore must face my selves,
Read every book upon the shelves
Lest I fall into an existence of Hell,
Into a Fairy World
filled with gnomes and elves.
This is a world where my want does not belong,
but everyday I remind myself to stay strong.
So I can navigate each second,
no matter how it lingers, no matter how long,
So, for as long as my Will is mine to hold
I will never be gone
I will never say goodbye
My life is mine to control
Real or not, who is to decide?
Perhaps the truth is on my rollercoaster ride
DEPERSONALIZATION: THE LIE I TELL EVERY DAY
I wake up in the morning and I thank god that I have the gift of another day.
Life as I know it: my kids, my sisters, my mom, my students, my clients,
the things that makes me laugh, the things that makes me cry.
Life as I know it- is a series of events that I am accustom to,
I respond to, I partake in
and fulfill the expectations of.
Life is a series of responses that I give.
I smile, I laugh I respond to things that I am suppose to respond to;
if I don’t people may thing I’m crazy.
Maybe I am crazy;
crazy to believe that I can keep lying to myself and everyone around me.
Crazy to believe that no one will ever know the truth, no one but me.
I have depersonalization.
According to the encyclopedia of the this century Wikipedia ” depersonalization “is an anomaly of self-awareness. It consists of a feeling of watching oneself act, while having no control over a situation; Subjects feel they have changed, and the world has become vague, dreamlike, less real, or lacking in significance; It can be a disturbing experience, since many feel that, indeed, they are living in a “dream” ( WIKIPEDIA, 2012).
This is my life on a day to day basis; a vicious cycle of pretense
pretense of presence
of which no one knows the difference.
I suppose I should be grateful now that I have something to call myself besides crazy;
after all trying to explain that your entire existence feels like a permanent state of non existence
is not something you say when you have two masters degrees
and is considered to be very intelligent, insightful and profound
by colleagues and friends.
There simply is not enough room for truth,
so I continue to live the lie.
but I don’t,
but I’m not,
I am the truth
but I am also a lie
now whatever you think you now about me,
let me assure you it cant be true
I still am trying to put the pieces together
to know me.
I am a robot existing in a state of autonomy
and sometimes even premonitions
but so what?
I am simply random.
Am I the only one?
is this a case of the emperor’s new clothes
except I am the only one who realizes that I am naked?
I lie to myself,
I lie to my children, I Iie to those who think they know me
and those who think I know me.
If I could tell my truth
it would be:
I am merely a reflection of who you want me to be,
a reflection of who you see or assume that I am
because the real me is outside this body.
The real me is looking at what you see
wishing that I could see a true reflection.
Instead I am still left to wonder
who is that looking back at me in the mirror?
We share a body but not a space.
I don’t identify with what looks back at me,
I don’t feel her skin as my skin
or her eyes as my eyes
I see someone that looks at me
wondering who I am
when I search for my reflection.
My name is Heather. I was born in 1986 in a large city in Ontario, Canada. I was born into a wonderful family with nurturing, doting parents who already had two children before me, a boy and a girl. I came along several years later, unexpectedly, to spice things up. I had an early childhood that was blessed with adventure and vivid imagination. My family moved to a small town when I was three and I grew up in the country, exploring the forests beside my home and catching tadpoles at the river in my spare time.
When I was 6 years old, I started to develop tics, a mild form of Tourette Syndrome. I believe that I started to develop the tics as a result of my socialization with other children in my first year of schooling. Tics are a ‘nervous’ habit and I was a highly sensitive child, presumably affected by the overwhelming energy of a Kindergarten classroom. The other children at school began to notice and would ask me why I did the things I did. I would respond “I don’t know” and began to question my 6-year-old mind WHY I did such things. I did not want to be different. I just wanted to be like all the other ‘normal’ kids. Throughout elementary school, the tics turned from throat noises, to eye twitches, into other (more awkward) physical tics. They were very hard to control and I was made fun of on a daily basis by several classmates. I thought there was nothing I could do about my condition, so I accepted the victim role and began forming perceptions about myself based on my classmates views of me. I didn’t know I had any other option. I believed that the negative things they pointed out about me were the truth, and that I was flawed and defective right down to my very core. I then built my life on those misinformed beliefs.
Around grade 4, the bullying was getting to be too much. I would have classmates who lived on the same street as me follow me home and walk behind me, kicking me to walk faster until I would just run all the way home and cry to my parents. I told my mom when I was 8-years-old that if I died, no one would care. I felt very lonely and began turning to food for comfort. My dad was a Chef so there was always an over-abundance of food in our home. Unlike my older brother and sister, I took advantage of this fact and began sneaking food into my room to eat at night after everyone had gone to sleep. I would run from my bedroom to the kitchen, pull the step stool up to the snack cupboard and carry all the snacks back to my room that my little arms would hold. This was my secret, I thought that I had to hide who I was from the world, so I ate and binged in secrecy for the years to follow.
In high school, I floated around. I had a close group of several girl friends who had a blast together. I went to high school in a city an hour away from my hometown, and by that point, I had my tics under control. I had begun to figure out ways to get the urge out without people noticing. I would silently make a “clicking” sound in the back of my throat, and this was a great release for me that went under the radar of my high school classmates. However, I was still overweight and internally unhappy; it was a sad feeling that stayed with me for years.
In university, I had another small group of girl friends that I am still close friends with today. They would beg me to go out with them, and sometimes I would, if I was actively in the mood for going out into the world and getting judged. On nights we did go out, I would have to drink a lot of alcohol to have fun. Even then, the night would be ruined anytime a group of guys would come around and try to start dancing with us. I remember one time two guys came up behind us and started dancing behind me and one of my friends. I was drunk but I still heard the guy dancing with me say to his friend “Oh thanks, I got the fat one.” I turned around and yelled at him “I HEARD THAT!” and bolted the dance floor and club as fast as I could.
Comments/looks of disgust were what I came to expect on our nights out, so soon I stopped wanting to go out altogether. I would actually take advantage of the nights my roommates went out by using them to take my own secret trip to the corner store so I could go back home and eat in front of the TV in privacy all night, while my roommates were out being ‘normal’ college students.
I was trapped by my obsession with food, and I hated food so much for what it did to my body and my mind. Eating had become another form of a tic for me; another bully in my mind telling me what to do and how to live. I didn’t know how to escape my mind. I hit my highest weight in 2008, when I was 22-years-old and had just moved to a new city fresh out of university. The only job I could find was a front desk job at a cheap motel, and I didn’t understand why I never had any good opportunities come my way. I fell into a sad place that year, but the Universe had not forgotten about me. I just had to be patient.
After that, things started to slowly look up. One day I just got fed up with being so unhappy with myself, so I walked into a gym, signed up for a personal trainer, and over the next 9 months, got myself back down to a more healthy weight. I still had nights where I would overeat and guilt would consume my mind, and for the next 6 years my weight would yo-yo constantly between the same 30 pounds.
In 2010, I met my boyfriend. I could tell there was something different about him too, like maybe life hadn’t been so kind to him either. We immediately became attached at the hip and wanted to spend every moment with each other, day and night. I had never had a long-term relationship before, so this was all new to me. As I dove deeper and deeper into our relationship, I would hear the negative voice in my mind pipe up and say “You know, sooner or later he’s going to see how messed up you are.” I denied that voice for the first two years of our relationship, but in the end, my personal issues began to surface. I experienced deep, deep jealousy and issues of possessiveness, I would cause fights over nothing, I would let my mind drive me crazy and I would take it out on him. I told him he was the one causing my problems, which of course wasn’t the case.
One day, I finally had enough. I just wanted my mind to stop fighting with myself. I wanted my uncontrollable, racing thoughts to stop. I just wanted silence. It occurred to me out of the blue that I should try meditating. I didn’t even know where to start, so I literally went to Google and typed in “How to meditate”. I started reading more and more about it, and soon a new path for me was set in motion. Three months later, I had an out-of-body experience where I was in a room full of big screens. On the screens, memories from my current life were playing. I vividly remember watching one screen, which was replaying a real argument I had just had with a close friend. As my mind was in this room, I could feel the emotions from that memory running through my physical body. I remember looking at all the screens, and finally understanding the truth of who I was. I stood there and consciously remembered accepting this life. For one night, the universe gave my soul a reset button – and I was given the greatest gift of my life. I just wanted to stay there and bask in the pure love and bliss that I felt. When I came back down, I knew my life would be forever changed.
Since then, I have not stopped exploring the mysteries of the universe, my life and my purpose. On April 22, 2014, I consciously made the decision to stop fighting with myself and to finally take responsibility for the life I have created, and to begin learning how to truly love myself. I made a pact with the universe in that moment that I would release the guilt and fear that had created my life up until that moment, in favour of having a more loving force enter my mind to bring me back to love. In the next few days/weeks, I felt like I was on top of the world. Every moment, I was reminding myself how much I loved myself. Anytime a negative thought popped up, I’d instantly correct it with a positive, loving thought. I stopped feeling guilty or “bad” for the thoughts I was having or things I was doing, and just continued to tell myself I was loved. I now believe a miracle has been performed on my mind, but it was only my own conscious surrendering that gave room for the miracle to occur.
Today, I am on #Day261 of the #365DaysOfSelfLove Challenge, and I know I am onto something here. I only wish to share what I’ve learnt with other people to help give them comfort and for them to finally realize that this love and healing light is inside all of us, we just have to become aware of it.
I invite anyone reading this to join me on this journey to true self-love. It has my changed my life, and I know it will change yours too, if you give it a chance. Please feel free to read my earlier posts (starting on #Day1 of the challenge) by clicking on the link below:
Love & Light ♥ ☼
WHAT SOMEONE MIGHT NEED TO HEAR
You are not alone. Think those words with me right now, say them to yourself out loud if you need to. “I am not alone.”
Allow these words to hold you in that little room inside yourself where you feel most empty. In that hole where the last person you clung to disappeared.
Everybody goes away, I know. Sometimes even you do, and that’s a scary place to be. When something else takes over your mind, it is the most helpless state to be in. They say you’re the one place you can’t escape, and that became that much more real to me when I was diagnosed with clinical depression several months ago. I wasn’t really all that surprised because I had been experiencing symptoms for what felt like forever, but hearing the words from the mouth of a medical professional really scared me. What was wrong with me to force my head under the control of something else?
If you also struggle with depression, you understand how scary that cloud can be when it comes. Nobody else can understand, nobody else can hold you like the cloud can. It seizes you with its grip and strips every single piece of you away until you are left an empty, aching core of nothing. You begin to firmly believe that nobody could ever possibly want you, that your worth is tied solely to whatever the cloud just took away.
But listen to me, friends – it’s not. Your worth lies in the fact that you are currently breathing, existing. Do you feel that right now? Put your hand on your chest and feel that heart beating, that chest rising and falling. That is what makes you worth it. You don’t need to do anything to be loved, for you to be worth keeping alive.
Of course there have been times when i don’t believe that. Recently, there have been countless times when I decided to cut that heartbeat short and find a new harbor for my soul. But a soft whisper reminds me every time that somebody out there needs me, somebody I haven’t even met yet. And somebody needs you. No matter where you are in this life, where you live, what you do for a living, who you spend time with, I can tell you this for absolute fact: you are an artifact of the sky worth preserving. You belong to someone and you matter.
I know so many times you just need an ear to listen when the ghosts won’t stop shouting, and please believe me when I tell you there are open ears around you. I believe in you, even when you can’t believe in yourself.
PTSD – POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER
THERE ARE A FEW SPECIFIC MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES THAT I REALLY WANT TO SPEAK FOR AND HELP, BUT I HAVE CHOSEN ONE, OR IT HAS CHOSEN ME, THROUGH A RANDOM OR PLANNED SERIES OF EVENTS PUT ME IN A POSITION TO DIRECTLY CHANGE A MAJOR ******(THING)****** THAT IS GOING TO BENEFIT SO MANY PEOPLE THAT I HAVE AN OBLIGATION TO MAKE SURE THAT THE OPPORTUNITY I HAVE THROUGH A (TERRIBLE PERSONAL EXPERIENCE) HAS PLACED ME A POSITION THAT IS GOING TO “SHAKE THINGS UP.”
MAJORITY OF THE BENEFITS OF THIS WILL GO TO A FUND FOR (VETERANS/SERVICE/RESPONDERS) THAT HAVE PTSD AND ALSO SPECIFIC ATTENTION TO PROPERLY RE-EDUCATE AND CERTIFY PRACTITIONERS THAT WILL REQUIRE THAT THEY BE QUALIFIED TO TREAT THIS CONDITION.
THE DETAILS OF MY ******(THING)****** I’M NOT ABLE TO TALK ABOUT YET, I WISH I COULD……
BACK TO PTSD AND SPECIFICALLY VETERANS THAT RETURN AFTER ACTIVE DUTY ARE NOT EFFECTIVELY BEING PSYCHOLOGICALLY ATTENDED TO….
—-THERE SHOULD BE SOME MANDATORY DECOMPRESSION AND ANALYSIS OF ALL RETURNING ACTIVE SERVICE
—-ALSO PTSD IS NOT ANYWAY CLOSE TO WHAT THE EDUCATION FOR A PHD PSYCHOLOGY OR MD PSYCHIATRY PROGRAMS REQUIRE—– PTSD IS JUST ONE OF MANY MISUNDERSTOOD PSYCHOLOGICAL DISORDERS, BUT SEVERELY NEGLECTED RESULTING IN MANY SUFFERING IN SILENCE…
It’s a family friend’s annual Thanksgiving party in Potomac. I stand in her elegant and eclectic front hall and gaze at the photograph my stepmother has just taken. The screen of her digital camera shows a lovely girl, radiating joy and quiet confidence with her smile. This smile highlights the dimple on her right cheek, her straight, strong teeth, and warm hazel eyes. The amber lighting softens the bold red of the sleek, shoulder-length hair framing her slender, graceful neck. The black and tan ruffled top, cut low, exposes taut, shimmery skin. The inviting hollow at the base of her neck releases a delicate swirl of lavender and honey, her favorite scent, dotted there a few hours ago. I know this because I am the lovely girl beaming up at me, a lovely girl who entertains thoughts of death each day.
This doesn’t mean I think of killing myself each day, though, at times, suicidal thoughts batter down the chemical barrier built by precious pills. Musing on death, on being dead, brings with it a peace that smells of rich, moist soil and honeysuckle. When suicide cells sucker punch my chemical bouncers, all color bleeds away. Only black remains, bordering an empty space like a long forgotten page in a coloring book. I attempt to downplay it by imagining bits of my Major Depressive Disorder giggling mischievously, scurrying for cover as I swallow 150 milligrams of Effexor each morning and night. I concede, however, that my disorder deserves more respect. You see, the eleven-year-old me remains within. What she witnesses sets the stage for the starring role this disease plays in my life. The two of them intertwine like kudzu run amok. They distain any rosy blush of health and destroy green buds of promise like a late frost. Her penance involves keeping a record of my failures and playing it on a continuous loop, like a favorite song. She lingers, nurturing my enthusiasm for death, feeding the monstrous guilt for living.
Since December 2009, any strength and courage I possess in resisting their calls to desist comes from pills and weekly therapy sessions with Peggy. Pleasantly plump and comforting like a warm crescent roll, and hand picked to help after a talk with John on the suicide hotline, we fit together nicely. Nestled in the back corner of the practice’s suite, her office invites conversation and confession with a plush black leather sofa and Batik embroidered pillows in desert hues I embrace. The inherent problem in freeing grisly events and thoughts of the past and present to her, however, is that she knows me now. She reads and interprets me better than any one else. Like a mama bear, she senses when one of her cubs is in danger. She and I meet as I teeter on the precipice.
My older sister Jill and I live with Dad at the 1960’s ranch-style house in West Laurel after he and Mom divorce. Neither of them talks to us about their separation. Instead, they enlist our Presbyterian minister, Reverend Sonnenday, to break the news. It’s late summer and Jill and I play croquet in the front yard, the grass the color and texture of hay. It crunches under our bare feet. Out of nowhere, the Reverend approaches us and bending to our level, explains what’s happened. At age seven, his words and seriousness of the situation escape me. The only images I retain of my parents together are a hurried wedding day photograph and a recent Olan Mills portrait, the four of us in complementary shades of blue. Years later, I realize it’s a parting gift. Ten-year-old Jill understands, though. I believe her face ages at that moment. The first day of second grade, I raise my hand eagerly when my teacher, Mrs. Mumma, asks about our summer. “My parents are getting divorced.”
Peggy asks why Mom and Dad divorce. “She cheated on him. That’s why he got custody of us.” How do I know? “She told me.” I’m twenty-four, live in Towson, attending Towson State, my second attempt at a bachelor’s degree. Life glows tentatively with this upturn in independence: I pay for school and rent with my own savings. Mom and my stepfather, Hubert, live comfortably in suburbia. She drives up for a day of shopping. I notice the weight loss, the new outfit, and constant grin. Back at the townhouse I share with two roommates, she confides in me as we rummage through packages.
“I’m leaving Hubert.” “I’ve been in love with Ken since Geneseo (where she spent one year at college).” “We’ve seen each other through two marriages.” “He’s a wonderful man.” “For a second there, we thought you were his.” As my mind processes this heap of awfulness, I automatically say I’m glad for her and wish her much happiness. She giggles like a teenager. The sun through my window grows harsh, merciless.
Peggy asks how often I think of suicide. “Every day. As long as I can remember.” She lists numerous signs of major depression in a questioning way as I nod at each one: feeling helpless, hopeless, worthless, dread, fear, and self-loathing.
“Can you tell me why?”
The catalyst for my gradual decay occurs one evening of my eleventh year. Dad sits in his favorite chair: brown, orange, and ivory plaid that matches the long sofa in the living room. Trim and athletic from squash and volleyball, his short brown hair recedes but shows no sign of grey. He has hazel eyes and long eyelashes that I inherit. A tiny regiment of sewing needles stands at attention, stuck in to the left armrest. He grabs one and picks at the skin surrounding his fingernails. When he pulls enough flesh away, he tears it off with his teeth and spits it out onto the worn mustard carpet. He works his way diligently through all ten digits, leaving raw pink spots behind. I try it when he’s not around and it hurts.
At fourteen, my sister, Jill, exhibits more than the usual mood swings of teen girls. Too often, her thin, brown frame emits tremors of tension and anger like a rubber band stretched too tight. I sense a growing unease between her and Mom, who we see every other weekend and Wednesday nights after she and Dad divorce in 1976. Unaware of the scope of my sister’s suffering, she confuses and confounds me with her stubborn insistence to incur the wrath of Dad. I fear and love him in equal measure. One face slap and threats of “the belt” keep me cowering and quiet. He lashes out at Jill more often because she pushes and prods like a prosecutor, questioning his stance for refusing her requests, usually to stay out later with questionable friends.
I stand in the kitchen doorway as he denies her wish that night. In vain I will her to not press the issue, to back away, and return to her room. A raging fear fills my airways and my breath stills as it escalates, as Jill knows it will. Like a Shostakovich symphony, their voices become sharp and manic chords daggers thrown at each other, and then silence.
I hear the creak of Dad’s chair as he rises, his fists and feet making dull thuds and slapping sounds as they connect to Jill’s bony frame. His limbs take on a life of their own, finding exposed shins, arms, head, and inherited cheekbones. She totters backwards down the hall. It becomes a barbaric ballet. Without thinking, I pick up the phone receiver to call the police or Mrs. Green across the street. In the seconds it takes to decide Dad’s future, I turn my head and our hazel eyes meet. I don’t know if his look or voice says, “Hang up,” but I do. As the receiver clicks in place, I understand that, at age eleven, I have failed Jill.
The next day, I walk down the hallway and hear, “Hey,” as I pass our shared bathroom. I stop and turn. Jill leans against the anemic pink laminate countertop in her bra and underwear. A thin, tortoise-shell barrette holds her shiny brown hair away from her face. A wisp of lighter baby hair at her natural part escapes its grasp, framing a frank prettiness. Even at fourteen, she carries her beauty effortlessly, unconsciously. Her body bears angry red marks sparring with black and blue. Jill displays this nightmarish canvas with a neutral expression. No puffy eyes or tearstains compete with Dad’s brutal work of art. I blank on words spoken between us. Her eyes dig in to me as I memorize the chaos on her skin. I receive my just punishment with obedience, igniting the spark that causes chemicals in my brain to collide and clash.
A year later, Dad has married my stepmother, Faith, and decides Jill and I should live with Mom. He breaks the news to us just days before our scheduled move. Flooded with both relief and a sense of being tossed aside, I anticipate calmer waters in this new setting. Jill seethes with a new intensity. I strain to understand how she can miss a man who inflicts such pain. Her misery at being parted from him is palpable, though, as is the animosity she fosters for Mom.
One day I lie on the itchy beige and brown sofa in the stark white living room of her and Hubert’s new townhouse in Columbia. With pen and paper in hand, I scribble, “I want to die” on a torn piece and set it aside. My memory blurs as to whether I mean it, or want Mom to find it, but she does. In a hushed tone, she asks me if I feel that way. Fear hits me and I say no.
Silence reigns in this new place, interspersed with shouting matches and slammed doors when Mom and Jill collide. After an altercation outside, they enter the house with matching shiners. My sister attracts beautiful loser boyfriends with violent tendencies, too. Bruises outnumber hickies. Mom’s tiny frame is no match for such turmoil. She suffers hurtful breakdowns throughout my teen years. “I can’t take it anymore. I’m so sick of all of you. I’m leaving today. I hate you. I hate this life.” She aims this oft-repeated mantra at me like a backhanded slap. My bedroom, the loft, takes up the entire fourth floor, and offers a respite from the jagged air below. In my mind Jill should have this room. Hit after hit, and I remain mute. Still. Why am I rewarded for this?
Peggy asks if there is a history of depression in my family. Indeed, mental illness finds fertile ground in Mom, Jill, and me. Mom’s depression stems from a forced marriage to Dad in December of 1965, and Jill’s birth seven months’ later. High school sweethearts, she falls hard for Ken when Dad, a year older, leaves for college. Still, they sleep together sometime that fall, a mistake with steep consequences. July 1966 hands 19-year-old Mom a petal perfect, unwanted baby girl.
What I witness of my sister’s torturous upbringing sickens and shames, but relations’ whispers of abuse from Jill’s earliest days make my love for both parents traitorous. I remain ignorant of what she might have endured with Mom in the broiling tin box at Phister’s Trailer Park, while 23-year-old Dad worked and completed his Master’s Degree. I hear my paternal grandma’s tsk-tsk refrain: “Oh, Lisa, if you only knew what your mother did to Jill,” but refuse to contemplate injuries or neglect. It takes what little strength I have to hold in her son’s sins, compounding my own.
Mom discloses one long-ago visit to a therapist. She vaguely mentions the negative experience that keeps her from a second visit, or finding another therapist. It takes years for her to summon the courage to ask for antidepressants. Her primary care physician prescribes the lowest dosage to her, “no-kill pills,” she calls them, inadequate in strength and the absence of therapy. Repeated pleadings and the positive physical and emotional change she sees in me fail to move her to further action. She and Ken eventually marry and live in upstate New York. Romantic trysts differ greatly from day-to-day existence, however, and she slaps on a layer of veneer to cover the reality of a third unhappy union.
Jill and her most beautiful loser boyfriend, Danny, often hazy with booze and bong hits, conceive, again with steep consequences. At 16, failing at school, accepting casual beatings as her due, she balks at giving up her baby. Mom wears down this resolve in her oldest daughter, a rare, sound judgment. Jill acquiesces, but refuses to forgive Mom to this day. I cherish a grainy photograph of my sister holding her petal perfect baby girl. Her breasts bound painfully to prevent milk production, she offers a weak smile and tearstained cheeks to the camera lens as my niece holds tight to Jill’s finger. She hands over her daughter to new parents moments later.
It amazes me that one can exhibit such bravery and vulnerability at the same time. Jehovah’s Witnesses knock on Jill’s door one day, as if sniffing out the most gullible person in the neighborhood. They excel at selling her promises of an Eden-like paradise after death. Stoicism and resignation of life’s hardships will be amply rewarded to those whose faith in Jehovah remains steadfast. She grabs hold of this rope, her safety blanket. In time her devotion is deemed extreme to her fellow “brothers and sisters.” Even her Witness husband, Rick, who, stunned by the growing brilliance of Jill’s mental illness, follows the pathetic tradition of her family and ignores, denies, maintains silence. She embraces death like me, only as a means to eternal life in a Technicolor nirvana.
Peggy sits still while I sob and stammer, vomiting this bilious narrative. “Why?” I ask her. “Why am I here? It makes no sense. I make no sense.” She contends that my disease points the finger at me, insisting my departure is the answer. “Your medicine does sixty percent of the work. When it gets black, you need an arsenal of weapons to fight along side it. Who and what makes you happy?”
Nothing brings me joy. Listening to my beloved music causes numbness. I don’t deserve to enjoy, to feel all that my life’s soundtrack gives me. The sun grows too bright and it proves difficult to keep my eyes open. I stop driving. Years of residing with violence, hate, indifference, resentment, and silence results in a determination to fade from friends and family, then to nothing. Neglect becomes easy when you want to die. Neglect makes no sound. For years, it attracts no attention. When it causes physical pain, you carry it with pursed lips and perfect the response, “I’m fine,” with a shadow of sincerity that passes the test.
There comes a time, however, when the damage demands to be seen. Swelling fingers and feet turn painful, hot, and red, and a slight limp emerges. Occasional inquiries from family elicit the requisite, “I’m fine,” but the veneer begins to crack from wear. Teeth and gums ache and bleed when brushed. The limp grows pronounced and painful swelling travels to ankles, knees, and wrists. Teeth change position and loosen, jangly keys of an old piano. Gums ooze pus. The inquiries stop, replaced by silent looks of concern, disgust, or pity.
My first tooth falls out in my sleep November 23, 2009. Breathless about the inevitability of it, I remain calm when it happens. I spit it into a tissue, place it on the bedside table, and go back to sleep. I hobble behind Peggy to her office on the first of December.
One Tuesday morning, about two years into my therapy, Peggy reminds me of our first session when she asked me what I wished to achieve by working with her. She reads my response: “I just want some peace. I want to be the girl I used to be.” The latter couldn’t be farther from the truth. Eleven-year-old Lisa resides in me, still. Most of the time I want her wiped from the slate, though the violence of it frightens me. My hate for her, for us, has shrunk like a tumor from treatment, but Peggy and pills fall short of eradicating the wistful, powerful allure of a final sleep. She understands death remains my security blanket, my Plan B. What a relief to share this disappointment, this drug-resistant melancholy with her. I understand stronger measures may be taken to save me in the future. I know someone who’s undergone Electroconvulsive Therapy with mixed results. He regrets losing memories, the worst side effect of ECT.
I would, too. Peggy and my pills allow me to derive the utmost pleasure in my music again. I embrace it with the enthusiasm of a teenager. I find myself singing aloud at home or in my car, even with the windows open. My smile draws people to me—at work and at school, where I feel an addictive peace. Unlike my deathly peace, this one surrounds me with sound, color, and people. Friends and strangers compliment me on my beautiful smile. It showcases a wonderful set of dentures that replace my rotted teeth. Longer feminine hair replaces the boy-short style I wore to hide any errant sexual allure. It swings as I walk, and lifts and settles when I throw my head back in spontaneous laughter. Clothes cling and show more skin than anything I wore in my twenties.
I receive a diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis in January 2011. Chronic, degenerative, and painful, I learn to adjust my life to it effects. It adds another layer of depression to the stack I struggle to keep from toppling over. Instead of keeping it to myself, I discuss it, my mental illness, and teeth with a circle of friends who listen, support, take it in stride. A few take me aside and ask for Peggy’s phone number. Whenever the black creeps in, I recall these small acts of giving.
My most powerful defense is forgiveness–of Dad, Mom, and myself. Its duration varies. It’s habit-forming, though. The more I forgive, the more I desire life, although it still battles the longer-held habit that I can’t quit completely. I remember saying final goodbyes to close friends, parents, and Jill the week before my intended death. I apologize for hurts and slights aimed at them. Some invisible barrier breaks and apologies float my way. An unexpected dewy peace falls on me like a spring shower. The call of death reaches its zenith. I call the suicide hotline, unwittingly taking part in saving myself.
The images of my parents’ darkest moments remain. Jill receives a diagnosis of Pervasive Thought Disorder. Difficult to treat with a compliant patient, I accept I may lose her to this disease someday. I write her regularly, updating her on my health issues, reminding her of warm moments between us, sharing my love of school, books I’m reading, music I enjoy, and my fear of not finding someone who will love me despite my wear and tear. Recovery releases an abundance of love to share. She remains silent.
How to forgive Dad? I think back to when I slept on a mattress on the floor of the cheery yellow spare room as a kid. Jill joins me most nights after a half-hearted attempt to sleep in her cool lavender room. In unison, we call out, “Daddy, we’re ready!” In he comes, usually holding his grandfather’s set of Peter Rabbit books. He reads to us as I admire the glossy pages and watercolor illustrations once more. We sing “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” “On Top of Spaghetti,” and my favorite, “You are My Sunshine.” I devour books and music because of Dad. Mom passes down her pretty singing voice, love of writing, and remembering to always say, “thank you.” Besides Peggy and my pills, these gifts form battlements to beat back the black. Still…
I gaze often at the photograph of the lovely girl from the Thanksgiving party. Throughout the evening she walks up to people and introduces herself. She speaks with an easy confidence to professors, doctors, lawyers, and Ivy League students. She discusses the resurgence of college plagiarism and new favorite authors with an art professor, who confesses his fear of reading David Foster Wallace. She suggests, as it was suggested to her, that he begin with Wallace’s non-fiction before delving into his darker, denser fiction. She gushes about his work enough that the professor declares a renewed enthusiasm in tackling Wallace. He asks her what she’s studying in college. Writing, she says. She wants to write.
THE DEVASTATING EFFECTS OF OSTRICH PARENTS
We all want our children to be perfect but the honest truth is they’re not any more than anyone else is. For most children, ostrich parents who bury their heads in the sand and ignore problems are inept but not life threatening.
The same cannot be said for children developing mental health problems. Problems tend to become apparent during puberty. With so many changes going on mentally, emotionally and physically it is hardly surprising that the individual doesn’t understand that they are behaving in a way that is not socially acceptable.
Observant parents would hopefully take their child to a doctor, get a referral to a counsellor. Make steps to help their child deal with the mental challenges they face and help them move forward to a more positive future.
Ostrich parents unfortunately do not. They ignore abnormal behaviour, pass it off as teenage tantrums. Teens with mental health issues often spiral in to self medicating with drugs and alcohol. Both of which will lead to further disintegration of mental health. Or the more frightening areas of self harming and suicide.
Whatever issues facing your family please be proactive, take them to a doctor. Go to the counselling sessions, encourage them to talk. Mental health issues become far less frightening if they are taken out of the closet and brought in to the light.