April 16, 2010
I had to let that all out and put it away to rest forever.
I will never forget it, but I have put the pain, the anger, and the confusion into something concrete.
And now I can put it away.
Many bad things happened, but some good things as well. I met people I will never forget. Learned lessons I couldn’t learn any other way. Lost part of myself, but found parts of myself I didn’t know existed.
Ultimately, I grew from these experiences.
I’ll take the good, and leave the bad.
I’ll never forget the friends I made.
I still pray for them.
I will always remember what they taught me about love, about life, about myself.
And that’s what I will keep.
“They were not perfect, but they were my friends. Some I’ve seen… Some, never again. But there isn’t a day my heart doesn’t find them.” ~Susanna, Girl Interrupted
WARNING: This series of blogs is going to be very blunt. A bit gutsy. A little angry. Extremely cathartic. Possibly offensive to some, as I don’t plan to censor any language. I apologize ahead of time.
“I’ve wasted a year of my life. And maybe everyone out there is a liar. And maybe the whole world is stupid and ignorant. But I’d rather be in it. I’d rather be fucking in it than down here with you.” ~Girl, Interrupted
My “Patient’s Journal” lies open next to me. The handwriting is tiny, almost impossible to read, as I didn’t want anyone possibly peeking at it behind my back to be given any kind of advantage. It is from my first “incarceration” in a psych ward, from which I was submitted involuntarily and released after five days on account of good behavior. I am typing this it just how it reads, with minor changes made only for clarity or anonymity. Here goes.
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2009
I’m sitting here on my bed at the mental hospital. Wondering “Why am I here? How did I get to this place?” My roommate just opened her big, blue eyes and said “My name is Christy.” I said, “My name is Edde. Nice to meet you.” “Nice to meet you.” Her eyes close. I’ve been her roommate nearly 24 hours. I arrived here at approximately 2PM Monday, November 16, 2009. I am here because I drank a whole bottle of Nyquil and cut my arms and neck. I don’t know who I am anymore. I change one day to the next. “Severe depression.” “Borderline Personality Disorder.” What? Not me. Surely not me. There are two people inside me. The one that got me here and the one that is amazing. The two don’t get along very well. Who do I think I am? So many people so much sicker, having suffered so much more. Where do I get off being depressed and suicidal?
Time has seemed to stop, even turn back. I keep feeling it is 2003 and I am 16 years old. This is where I was at 16, then 19, then 21, and now. Over and over. I don’t even know the real reasons, and when I think I’ve found the answer and life is good, I crash again. And now, I don’t feel anything but confused. Tired. Apathetic. Angry with myself for being so stupid. I used to watch over girls like me, and now I’m one of them. [I worked for six months at a residential treatment center for teenage girls with severe emotional issues.] I used to study people like me, and I’ve become one. Or maybe I’ve been this all along. Two people. One happy, one sad. One energetic, one tired. One caring, one apathetic. One cynical, one hopeful.
I shouldn’t be here at all. These people are crazy. I just have self-loathing. Christy is so thin, when I first saw her in bed all I could see was a head and sheets. She sleeps all day and all night. There are strange bottles and rags above her bed. She seems about 45, but her demeanor is that of a shy child.
I myself am behaving strangely in this place. When I first arrived I wouldn’t talk to anyone, and avoided eye contact. I knew from the moment the medics rolled me into the lobby that this was not the place for me. I sat in the hallway in a rolling chair in nothing but a hospital gown which barely covered my back. I sat there for 15 minutes alone while they scrambled to figure out what to do with me. Try to ask me more than basic questions and I say “I don’t know.” I just don’t want to talk. I’m still dizzy and groggy from the Nyquil. I want to see my family. I don’t understand why I did this. I didn’t even feel at my lowest. I didn’t feel ANYTHING but “Ok. This is the plan.” It was the same lack of feeling I had when I drove to San Francisco last summer [The main event precipitating my hypomanic episode followed by the suicidal crash that brought me here].
Christy is a skeleton. I’m so tired. My head hurts. The kind South African man came in to give me my meds. I used to give people meds. Selexa for depression and Ativan for anxiety. I wonder if it will make me feel any different. Prozac made me feel like a zombie.
What kind of person OD’s and cuts herself? Is this a huge joke I’m playing on myself? Did I think that because I cut myself once, I should do it again and again? That downing Nyquil was safe? Why wasn’t I sleeping? Or eating? All that coffee? What is real and what’s not? Am I really depressed or am I playing some kind of part? What the hell is wrong with me?
That man just looked in my room. Saied. He scares me. Last night he came into the day room where I was reading and started talking to me, low and fast in some Middle Eastern language. It was awful how he looked at me. I got up and moved away, slipping out the door before he cornered me. The old lady with the dark glasses and walker with tennis balls yelled, “Leave the poor girl alone. Look, you made her run away.” “She wants it, she wants it,” he said. I hovered by the front desk and watched him skulk back to his room. He made obscene comments to me this morning. Derek sits by me to make me feel better.
Derek is my favorite person here. He doesn’t belong here either. He’s not crazy. He is a little taller than me. Slight. Blue eyes, small features. Light brown shaggy hair and a goatee. I met him last night. “Are you Edde?” “Yes.” “I’m Derek. You didn’t eat dinner either?” “No.” I hadn’t eaten all day and when they made me come to the day room to eat, I threw away the lunch box and went back to bed. “I OD’d, that’s why I’m here. Is that why you’re here?” he asked, pointing to my arms. I nodded, “Partly.” Later, after visiting hours, when they wouldn’t give me the clothes my parents brought me, he gave me a pair of shorts, a T-shirt, and a sweater. He is very kind. Sad that such a nice person would have to be here, and would almost kill himself with drugs. But I understand how that goes.
BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER?????
No wonder I had such a hard time working at S___. Deep down I always felt like the blind leading the blind, the student teaching the student, the 4 year old taking care of the 3 year old.
Saied just became violent. I heard a lot of banging and screams and everyone was sent to their rooms. What am I doing here??? (And why am I writing so small?) They gave me a red band. I’ve graduated. Whoopee freakin doo. Can I go home yet? “Doesn’t take much to set him off.” I could’ve told you that, retards.
Mike (South African man) says to me, “Don’t let nobody take your joy. Take your weakness, make it your strength. Use it. Have your cry. And use it. Be a phenomenal woman like Maya Angelou. Don’t let nobody steal your joy.”
Enter Christine AKA “Crazy Cassandra.” She is tough, streetsmart, fast-talking. “Blah blah blah” syndrome she calls it. She is thin and worn, but pretty. She’s a year younger but decades older than me. I find her rough yet gentle demeanor attractive. I can tell she has a good heart. I want to be near her and here her talk. She has that charm about her, and stories to tell. She offers me a job as an “escort”/stripper. “You don’t do the dirty. It’s just like a date.” “I’ll think about it,” I say. Right. Later when they told me I was moving from Unit B to Unit C she said “You want my number, you give me your number, or is this just goodbye?” with a smile. I hesitated and grinned, “Just goodbye.” Later I wrote on a piece of paper with my name and number and “Let me know how things work out for you” and went back in the day room to give it to her, but she was gone. I handed it to Michelle, quiet and sweet, and asked if she could give it to her. I’m sure she did. But I didn’t get to say goodbye to Derek, the boy who gave me clothes to wear. Or the old lady with the glasses who told me to eat and yelled at Saied. I miss them.
Here, there is Theresa, who OD’d on coke and has “anger problems.” She wears an orange jacket. She is pretty and nice in her own way. Her group called me over to chat with them, but then tried to get me to talk about why I cut myself and proceeded to discuss some creepy guy who left yesterday who would try to get girls in his room. Great. Thanks.
There is a thin lady with long, blonde hair who must have been very beautiful once. She is talkative and has the air of “I’m queen of this place!” She takes charge of groups and handing out food when staff are less than enthusiastic. She dances for herself in front of her reflection in the day room window, and sings show tunes in a loud, warbling voice. She’s like an old, crazy actress or ballerina from like the 1930s. What’s the word? She’s… Anachronistic? I need to work on my vocabulary. My bank of words is not doing this place justice.
No peace or privacy anywhere. I can’t sleep for the constant commotion. I think I’m having night terrors. My jaw hurts from clenching. It’s cold and my bed and pillow are hard as rocks. I thought I saw someone crawl in my room, up to my bed, making snarling noises. I tried to move but was paralyzed. Finally I sit up and whatever it was, was gone – if it was even there in the first place.
Everyone keeps telling me I didn’t cope right. I don’t know why I cut myself. Or drank the Nyquil. Surely there were better options, and I knew it. I didn’t have to go to San Francisco thereby driving a knife in my boyfriend’s heart. I didn’t have to run away from home and do things I knew were wrong. I didn’t have to drink. Or smoke pot. Or get violent. Or run off in the middle of the night in the ghetto. But I did. Why? I don’t know.
Crazy lady wouldn’t stop talking to me last night. She followed me into the day room. 4AM and she is pacing the halls looking for the next victim of her incessant ranting and babbling. “You can’t trust anyone. They’ll steal from you. They’ll rape you. Don’t trust me unless you can see a halo. Can you see my halo? Then don’t trust me.” I got tired of it and went back to bed.
Theresa doesn’t like me for some reason. Either that or she likes Joweli better. Whenever I sit by her she moves, and didn’t want to sit at my table during lunch. I can’t figure her out. She has self-proclaimed anger issues. Perhaps she’s angry at me.
Steve is here because of something that happened with his 15 year old daughter. He has a lot of regret and says this is a wake up call. He would definitely rather be home than here – it’s more depressing here. I heartily agree!
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 2009
Best quotes of the day:
“People don’t realize that Farah Fawcett died the same day as Michael Jackson and people don’t remember that C.S. Lewis died the same day JFK got shot. But his books live on. Pig poop. It’s the wave of the future. Swine flu? BAHAHAHAH!!” ~Heather the Feather (blonde dancer lady).
“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound.” ~Shelly, the angelic Asian girl who paces the halls singing.
Had an incident with an unruly staff member or two today. First asshole, Larry, comes in my room with the nerve to ask me why I’m so quiet and why I cut myself. “Your boyfriend break up with you or something?” Don’t mock me you douchebag. Then there was Archie. I asked for my belongings and he blew up at me, then chastised me for crying. “You’ll be here longer if you cry!” Which of course just made me angry and cry even more. Then I got pulled into the office with the doctor who tells me that he’s going to keep me here 2-3 more days. So I went to my room and bawled, totally breaking the rules by doing so. Oh my. Imagine a depressed person crying! Unthinkable. Let’s not be human, ok? My whole problem is the robot syndrome – put on a happy face no matter how I’m feeling inside. Smile for everybody. Pretend. Didn’t think I had to do that here, but apparently, it’s expected.
April 15, 2010
It’s one of those movies that I relate to so strongly that watching it is cathartic, almost a passive way of acting out my inner conflicts. And yes, I suppose it is an avenue through which I relive the past – not in a way that is harmful, but reflective. Susanna Kayson, the character portrayed by Winona Ryder, reminds me so much of myself it’s a bit uncanny. I’ve already written a blog post about the ambivalence towards life that we share. Here are some other examples of things we have in common that stand out the most…
“Sometimes it’s hard for me to stay in one place.”
~Her understanding of what it feels like to want to hurt yourself:
“I’ll never know what it’s like to be her. But I know what it’s like to wanna die. How it hurts to smile. How you try to fit in, but you can’t. How you hurt yourself on the outside to try to kill the thing on the inside.”
~Her confusion about her BPD diagnosis and the stigma surrounding it:
“Borderline WHAT? Borderline between WHAT and WHAT?”
Susanna, reading from a book: “Borderline Personality Disorder. An instability of self-image, relationships and mood…uncertain about goals, impulsive in activities that are self-damaging…Social contrariness and a generally pessimistic attitude are often observed. Well, that’s me.”
Lisa: “That’s everybody.”
~Her need to express herself through writing.
Susanna: “How am I supposed to recover when I don’t even understand my disease?”
Valerie: “But you do understand it. You spoke very clearly about it a second ago. But I think what you’ve got to do is put it down. Put it away. Put it in your notebook. But get it out of yourself. Away – So you can’t curl up with it anymore. Do not drop anchor here, understand?”
~Her dream of being a writer and her inability to live up the others’ expectations.
“What are your plans for the future?” “I’m going to be a writer.” “Yes, but… What do you plan to DO?” “I plan to WRITE.”
~Her persistent denial of her own illness until someone told her otherwise. :
“I didn’t try to kill myself. I had a headache.”
Later in the movie…
Toby: “Look Susanna, you don’t need to be here.”
“I tried to kill myself Toby.”
~Her phases of morbid fascination with death and suicide:
“See, once it’s in your head though, you become this strange, new breed. A life form that loves to fantasize about its own demise… I don’t wanna die. I was just talking.”
~Feeling just barely “normal” enough (or perceived by others as such) to feel like she needed some kind of excuse for being sent to a mental institution.
Cab driver: “What did you do? You look normal.”
Cab driver: “Well, everyone’s sad.”
Susanna: “I… see things.”
~Her depression, confusion, and impulsiveness.
~Her mixed feelings and doubts about herself and whether or not she really is “crazy.”
“Declared healthy and sent back into the world. My final diagnosis: A recovered borderline. What that means, I still don’t know. Was I ever crazy? Maybe. Or maybe life is.”
“Crazy isn’t being broken, or swallowing a dark secret. It’s you or me, amplified. If you ever told a lie, and enjoyed it. If you ever wished you could be a child forever. “
Her experiences in the mental institution bring back memories of my own confinements. Sitting next to my computer is thin, bound notebook with “Patient’s Journal” on the cover. It was given to me during my first stay in the mental hospital. I am a little nervous about opening it. I’ve wanted to write about my experiences for a while now, but haven’t had the courage to revisit those times. There is so much inside me unsaid, and I feel a burning need to tell my stories. However, I am leaving that rather daunting task until tomorrow – hopefully I will be able to focus better, as today my attention is scattered several places. Until then.
April 9, 2010
Have you ever confused a dream with life? Or stolen something when you have the cash? Have you ever been blue? Or thought your train was moving while sitting still? Maybe I was just crazy. Maybe it was the ‘60’s. Or maybe I was just a girl…interrupted. ~Susanna Kayson (Girl, Interrupted)
There is a scene in the movie, Girl, Interrupted (which I watched for the first time a few days ago) that really hit home with me. Almost to the point where it hurt. The main character, Susanna Kayson (diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder), is meeting with the insightful Dr. Wick, her psychiatrist at the mental institution in which she is staying. Dr. Wick asks Susanna if she is disappointed that she has come to a plateau in her recovery…
Susannah (S): I’m ambivalent. In fact, that’s my new favorite word.
Dr. Wick (DW): Do you know what that means, ambivalence?
S: I don’t care. It means, “I don’t care.”
DW: On the contrary, Susanna. Ambivalence suggests strong feelings in opposition. The prefix, as in ambidextrous, means “both.” The rest of it, in Latin, means “vigor.” The word suggests that you are torn between two opposing courses of action. Will I stay or will I go? Am I sane or am I crazy?
S: Those aren’t courses of action.
DW: They can be dear, for some. What world is this? What kingdom? What shores of what worlds? It’s a very big question you’re faced with, Susanna. The choice of your life. How much will you indulge in your flaws? What are your flaws? Are they flaws? If you embrace them, will you commit yourself to hospital for life? Big questions, big decisions. Not surprising you profess carelessness about them.
This near-perfectly expresses the dichotomy of thought I struggle with myself. These questions of who am I, really? Am I crazy? Sane? Normal? Strange? What is the real me? The girl that can function in society, is responsible, respectful, dutiful, thoughtful, hard-working, productive, even at some level… healthy? Or the girl that is careless, reckless, anti-establishment, flippant, I-don’t-give-a-crap-what-you-think, spontaneous, quirky, rebellious against authority, even downright deviant? The girl who holds doors open for people behind her, smiles, says please and thank you, crosses her t’s and dots her i’s, looks nice and neat, and keeps her room tidy? Or the girl who walks around with a “don’t-mess-with-me-if-you-want-to-live” sign on her forehead, inky black hair and black nailpolish, studded jewelry, speaking her mind loudly, scribbling lines of poetry in permanent ink on public buildings and restroom walls (ya, that’s pretty much as “delinquent” as I got), pretending not to care what others think but really caring very deeply to the point of changing her personality several times a day, with a “leave me alone” vibe and a complete disregard for societal mores? The girl who goes to work, to school, to church, spends time with family, and basks in the beauty of the sunlight? Or the girl who is only alive at night and a mere zombie during the day, is in and out of mental institutions, skips out of therapy sessions, and listens to angry music? The girl who eats her vegetables and exercises moderately, cares for her body, and respects herself? Or the girl who pours toxins into her body, abuses laxatives and diuretics, refuses to eat, or eats to the point of throwing up, exercises two hours a day, cuts, overdoses on meds, and does everything she can think of to destroy herself? Am I crazy? Or am I sane?
What about my personality traits and activities that don’t fit neatly into either category, that don’t lend themselves to the labels of “good” or “bad,” “healthy” or “unhealthy?” And by these I mean… Creativity that ebbs and flows with my ever-changing moods. Late nights of writing poetry under the covers with a flashlight. Unconventional ways of seeing the world. Unique quirks and habits. Random bursts of energy and spontaneity. Ability to know who people are and what their lives are like upon merely glancing at them. The gift of seeing people’s auras. Knowing that every person on earth has their own musical chord that uniquely expresses the color of their soul. The ability to feel immense pain, but also breathtaking joy. Melancholy brooding or, on the flip side, a vivid awareness of my surroundings, both giving birth to new ideas, new expressions, even new worlds. An acute musical sensitivity. Any of these things I can use for good or for ill. To use to inspire, to lift, to bring light into the world and to others. To create beauty. Or… To manipulate, to gain power over others, to plunge myself into the depths of darkness. With them I can soar through the pristine heavens, or delve into the murkiness of the underworld.
Now this, this is the challenge. To identify the flaws. Are they flaws? And shall I indulge them? Would doing so condemn me to a life in and out of hospitals, on endless combinations of medications? To an emaciated body covered with scars? A broken life of guilt and shame? Ever sliding down and further down that slippery slope leading to complete insanity?
Identify. Challenge. Root out. Think. Discover. Dig down. Understand. Enlighten. Flaws… those things that hurt myself and others. Healthy behaviors… those things that preserve my dignity and my physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual well-being while respecting the rights and feelings of others. And those things that don’t necessarily fit into either category? Those neutral gifts and attributes that can be used to help or hinder, heal or hurt? Creative flow, artistic passion, intuitiveness, quirkiness, originality, even some measure of oddness? These things are part of me… And will never go away…. I hope.
I asked my therapist about this today. My concern that becoming “healthy” would in some way rob me of the ability to feel deeply, to experience passion… That it would take away my vibrant imagination, my creativity, my ability to escape into a world all my own, my susceptibility to flashes of inspiration. I told her that I am most creative when I am depressed or “brooding,” or when I feel strangely “outside myself.” My pain – and sometimes, even my fits of elation – give birth to novel combinations of words and fantastic mental images, to a world of ghosts and of strangeness, of dreams and of nightmares, a world where the line between fantasy and reality is blurred. “I don’t want to give that up,” I said. “It’s part of me. Sometimes it’s all I’ve got.”
She told me that I already had the answer. “It’s part of me.” Those things that make me unique – that sometimes mingle, sometimes clash, to create my own complex personality and style of thinking, of expressing, of living – are essential aspects of who I am and will remain whether I am emotionally/ psychologically/ physically healthy or not. “You will just have to search to find that same inspiration from a different source other than your pain and depression, but the artist in you will never die.” She asked if she could read some of my poems. I can’t wait to show them to her next week. Of all the therapists I’ve had, she is the first to ever express such interest in my writing and my music. I’ve had doctors and therapists be interested in my I.Q., in my acting experience, even in my childhood imaginary friends… but never this. I left today feeling validated and important. I felt like a person. Not just a sick little girl.
“Big questions. Big decisions.” Yes, yes they are. Am I finding the answers? Slowly. Carefully. Painfully. Line upon line. Precept upon precept. Here a little. There a little.
Ambivalent still? A bit. Less ambivalent than I used to be? Much so.
Will I ever be truly “normal”? I don’t know. I don’t know if I want to be.
But then… is anyone?
April 7, 2010
I know I promised to write about “Girl, Interrupted” today, but once I started free-writing about all of the thoughts,memories, and feelings the movie inspired in me, I realized that I had taken on something much bigger and much more important than could be contained in just one blog post. It may take a couple of days to process everything. The movie inspired me to write about my own experiences in various mental hospitals, with doctors and nurses, with fellow patients, and with the ongoing war I have waged against myself. My thoughts and feelings concerning the mental health system, my diagnosis, medication, and my personal experience with BPD and depression run very deep. Expressing such complex ideas in words is a challenge. This is especially true for those things that are still tucked safely away in the dark corners of my mind. It’s time they were dusted off and brought into the light. Stay tuned.
Now for the mundane. I got my last disability check today. Which means I need to reopen my file with the unemployment office so I can get by until I secure a job. I am paying over $300 a month for Cobra insurance (which I won’t have for much longer), in addition to my phone bill, car insurance, therapy (which my insurance won’t cover anymore), copays for visits to the psychiatrist, gas, food, and medical bills. Plus I’m responsible for about half the cost of my prescriptions, neither of which are cheap. Needless to say, I’m a little stressed. Especially since I just found out that my insurance denied one of my stays at the hospital. I have already paid $3,000 and I will be responsible for an additional $4,000. I am clueless as to what to do at this point. I simply do not have the money. I’m praying everything will work out somehow.
Besides all of that, I’m doing alright. I’ve felt pretty stable and low-key the last few days. No major downs, no major ups either. I’m looking forward to the day when I can just relax and stop worrying about the future. I used to be highly adverse to the idea of “settling down,” mistakenly believing that life would be most fulfilling if it were full of constant change and excitement, with nothing and no one “holding you down” or keeping you in one place. I don’t feel that way anymore. Sure, I like change. I like adventure and spontaneity. But I don’t want to push away people and throw off all restraints in pursuit of a false freedom. I want to get to the point where I don’t have to run away from home, from people, from myself. To be comfortable enough with myself to enjoy staying in one place for a while, with one person, doing what I love the most – writing and music. Now that is freedom – loving, being loved, living for someone else than just yourself, devoted to your passion, enjoying whatever life brings you.