Month: June 2014

Drifting

She gently placed three electrodes on my chest.  Sinus rhythm, minimal tachy she assures me as I lay in anticipation of drugs that will float me in tingles to worlds I know not.

What is that symbol on your necklace, she asks?

“It is the symbol of the Baha’i Faith…”

 

This piece is in response to a WordPress prompt to tell a story spawning from a source of inspiration, found in any form and told in any fashion.

Weekly Writing Challenge: Fifty-Word Inspiration

Cloying Inevitability

Baked sweets, but

Sticky in nature

Cloyingly sweet

The bad kind

Mouth in twists and tangles

Intertwined strings

Dancing for freedom

Cruelty stealthily hiding

In muddied winter snow

 

Oh renewer of life

You sneaky little fellow

Creeping in with

A tease, offering a

Foreboding glance projected

On the increasingly

Rising waters where

Dormant hopes percolate

Catapult to the

Surface with tendrils

Eager to dance

Lightning bugs praying

Ardent requests for

Release from dormancy

And yes, their prayers

Shall be answered

With the swiftness

In which cream churns

To butter

 

The tease offered by

Spring brought forth the

Promised land

Surely no disappointment

Nor discontent

Honey flows forth in

Amounts previously unfathomable

What a wondrous

Sacred occurrence

A blessing and double-edged sword

Be careful

Even the docile dogs bite

Laughter, unregulated

Gushing forth with the speed

Of blood from a gaping wound

Which you shall heal,

You promised?

 

Surprise, young child, as

You will find the decomposition of

Peaches and souls

As the tides shift and

The weather vanes

Begin to rotate

Darkness circumambulates

Slowly diminishing souls

Provider of demise and protection

May you be the decider

Time

Ever-swiftly and ever-so-slowly

Reaches out with cloyingly

Sweet hands, gently

Drawing existence back to the

Stickiness of poorly baked sweets

Hopes for an offering

Just a tease,

A glimpse of what

Light can bring.

 

© 2014 Alexandra Shall

More to the Picture

For much of my treatment career – yes, I am indeed calling the taming of the beast these years have evolved into a “career” – I have painted a two dimensional piece, whether it be a Monet, a Picasso, or an unintelligible charcoal-smeared creation.  The point is, these pictures are flat.  For the last eleven or twelve years, I have relied oh-so-heavily on the powers of psychiatric medication.  I was once again recently hospitalized for bipolar symptoms, and during a visit with my mother following a highly frustrating and disappointing meeting with my inpatient psychiatrist, we made a list of the treatment options I had tried thus far.  First came the list of medications – lithium, depakote, risperdal, lamictal, clozapine, haldol, trilafon, thorazine – the list is endless, and nearly so.  We calculated an approximate trial of 20 to 25 different medications I had endured over the past years.  Next we tracked treatments I had undergone, including naturopathy, acupuncture, electroconvulsive therapy, and twelve inpatient hospital stays.  Is it time to paint a Van Gogh?

The use of psychiatric medication has drastically altered my life.  In fact, I can confidently say it has saved my life.  But then, what is left over?  There is only so much a psychotropic drug can do in the recovery of a person with mental illness.  It propels the car down the interstate, but there must be another driving force to push pass the border.  There must be more to the picture.  Effective coping skills.  Do not undermine the power of the mind to alter a mood state, thought pattern, or to deescalate a crisis through the implementation of learned skills and behavior modifications.  My greatest experience with learning and engaging in coping skills has been through Dialectical Behavior Therapy practice.  I have had much interaction with DBT, mostly beginning with the three week completion of an intensive outpatient program.  For three weeks – three weeks! – I ate, breathed, and slept DBT.  Yet I did not implement the principles into my life – mindfulness, acknowledgment and acceptance of painful emotions, distress tolerance, emotion regulation.  The invaluable things I learned in this program could have served to begin to possibly alter my art into three-dimensional pieces, had I been doubly persistent.

I also received intensive DBT exposure and training in the four hospitalizations I have experienced in this past hospital.  Our days were centered upon groups led explicitly in the informative and practical application of DBT principles.  Yet, I come home and once again fail to implement them into my life.  A few days ago, I came upon my medical records of my hospital stays at UCLA and documentation with the Department of Mental Health in Los Angeles.  I was shocked, disturbed, and distressed reading through the records, realizing how long and arduous a road this has been.  Medication after medication, unsustained improvement.  I suddenly realized that these medications are getting me only so far.  I must begin to exercise my inherent powers to alter my life, use my mind, thought processes, and cognitive abilities to effect change.  It is the only way I will cross the border and enter the adjoining state without disregarding or disparaging the gas the psych medications have fed me.  There is a possibility to work to control my neuroses and obsessions, to combat my suicidal urges, and to attack and smack down the thoughts of self harm and punishment that often plague my mind.

I am slowly working through the practice of these skills.  It is a process – an extremely slow process – to effectively learn and implement them, but I believe they are as valuable as my psych medications.  Perhaps in the future I will be able to exclaim the power of my mind and thought processes in their imperative role in the dismantling of the current and historical blockade inhibiting my path to recovery and the rescuing of my life.  No more Renoir.  Shall I try a Michelangelo?