mental health

Shopping at Goodwill

I peruse shelves of knick knacks
teddy bears ears worn ragged
chewed bitten
wet with saliva speaking
love

and lollipops sit at the register
you know they’re liked you
can see tears
running down sloping sides

and you know this is a place
of love

and you know this is a place
where amity never runs dry

but I seem not to care

with my tongue I lick dust
from upper shelves
and crack the glass and squelch
the flames
of candles lighting the way

the local school children folded
cranes to heal and
I take more than I fold

and slowly drain the bucket
which I hold

I cast a sharp word an icy glance
and bite the hand that feeds me

and yet I wonder
where has goodwill gone when
I sit in solitaire biting not
but air

and rusting into immovability
unable to reach to grasp
fingertips that once
stretched back.

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The Hornets Nest

The hornets nest hovers
stings poised to strike
needles stable, calculated
veins athirst.
Don’t kick the hornets nest,
don’t kick me where
it will hurt.

Rather hitch me upon
a star,
a far distanced entity
that brings the broken
closer
to the fabric to which
the earnest cling,
for nothingness is a plight
empty and without grasp.

To know is to be free,
yet knowledge begs the
presence of pain;
sensation breeds it.

Hitch me to unadulterated
knowledge,
kick the hornets nest and
let me feel
nerves nudged,
for nothingness is a plight
empty and without grasp.

Why Such Hesitancy, Part 2

My skin is crawling.  I am awake.  No, my mind rests in sleep.  My body will not be still; it yearns to move, convulses in response to the defibrillation rocking my body, rocking on waves.  The electric system in my brain falters and sparks, electrical cords encasing me in a womb of wires spitting images.  Do I cut the red or the green to escape?  I contemplate, and then there is darkness.

Drenched in sweat, I jolt from sleep, my heart racing, my skin still crawling.  The nightmares are increasing in frequency.  I warm the shower, strip to nakedness, and step over the edge of the tub into its basin.  The water drenches my hair and washes away the salty residue upon my skin.  The shower head holds pressure upon my scalp.  Pressure.  My head held in place. I taste the saltiness of the sweat clothing my body and gag.  I gag and gag as the shower continues to run, the contents of my stomach threatening mutiny.  Finally the gagging subsides, and I allow the water to flow, to carry away the saltiness and cleanse. Pruned fingertips turn the nob to off and the water ceases to flow.

Trauma poses a challenge to intellectual capacity, and a greater challenge to the brain’s propensity for emotional understanding.  Post traumatic stress disorder.  Seeing the letters strung into words on my after visit summary posed a challenge to my psyche.  I carry an intellectual understanding of trauma.  An event happened that has triggered a litany of effects.  But emotionally, I am swimming in the deep blue.

My eyeballs betray me.  Stop showing me those images, I warned you.  I did not pay the admission fee.  The anxiety and angst swell and crest as waves in my empty stomach.  I claw at my eyeballs, scratching the retinas.  The pictures stop with the swiftness in which they appeared.  With equal swiftness, the monster appears.  Watch out, for none are spared.

There is a diagnosis of acute PTSD, meaning it may resolve, and also chronic PTSD, which lingers indefinitely, my psychiatrist explained to me.  My right hand extended and contracted around a plastic squishy toy I had bought at the Dollar Tree to relieve stress.  Extend and contract. Extend and contract.  I agreed to return in a month.

The empty bucket has made home in my gut, and I cannot seem to fill it, despite earnest attempts to add substance to an emptiness seemingly interminable.  I throw in long-depleted cartons of milk, egg shells, empty oatmeal boxes, a half-drunk canister of orange juice, but nothing amasses to the amount necessary to ease the pain.  I pick garbage from the street, go to parks and dig through bushes, finding cans of beer and bottles of soda pop.  Despite quantity, insufficiency prevails.

I ask myself, why such hesitancy?  I divulged the revelation of my newfound cognizance of my empty attempts to fill the naggingly hollow bucket.  I am doing it wrong, I told her.  Why such hesitancy?  I have been inhaling with a stutter.  I smoothed a honey lavender balm on the back of my throat so maybe I will breathe with ease.  Why have I hesitated to act in the direction of my wellness?

Daily I pick the garbage from my bucket.  I try to not litter inside the receptacle, but cluttered littering is inevitable.  As I discard trash, I remind myself, hesitancy will not heal, but only hinder health.

Breve

Coffee beans ground finely, roasted into a toasty but stringent espresso.  Over the darkness two poles are poured, milk and cream, the pauper and the prince.  The elements combine to form the color of life, discernible and livable, clouds and shadows swirling on the gentle landscape.

I had called the psychiatric emergency crisis line two nights in a row.  The therapist on the other end could feel the tickling tentacles of my demons reaching through the airwaves and requested I come into the emergency department to be evaluated.  The air in the ED was thick, heavy, and populous, yet there was not enough to sustain a single breath.  The tentacles were misbehaving, spreading to great reaches and tapping shoulders of others.  I had not eaten in close to twelve hours, my receptacle empty and my reserves slim.

The evaluating therapist tamed the tentacles long enough for me to get my story out.  The illustrations were old comic book style, bold colors and patterns, but little shading.  Little bits and pieces of our conversation stick on the post-it note covered wall of my brain.  Central nervous system suppression.  Trauma.  Maladaptive coping mechanisms and behaviors.  Apparently my story was publishable, earning a coveted spot with the exclusive board of directors at the hospital, the individuals who were the news and who told the news.

Being on the board of directors was quite interesting.  My tenure was short-lived, only six days.  Sometimes the overseers allowed respite from rigidity of the duties of formulating and planning, and the board members could dance in unadulterated bliss to the beats of Uptown Funk and shake booty to popular rap songs.

The tentacles were retreating and retracting, and the smog in my brain lifting.  Puppet strings pulled the corners of my mouth upward, an action foreign to the nerves firing to my facial muscles.  I left the board of directors well respected and soared with a proper farewell.

The darkness of the depths of the brain, where depression and the evils reside, becomes mitigated by the paupers and princes of life, the poor and rich experiences that serve to draw color to the darkness.  Through acceptance of the dialectic existence of the poor and the rich, darkness lightens.  Last week I experienced my thirteenth hospitalization.  Acceptance has the capacity to color my espresso differently and to alter the fabric of existence upon which I reside.  

Moving Train

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 moving while sitting still? — Susanna Kaysen, Girl, Interrupted.

I am gripping the steering wheel of my 2006 bright red Toyota Prius, my left hand poised around 7:00 to 8:00, cycling through contractions and releases as I navigate.  It is four days post incident, yet the numbness and waves of nausea-heart pounding in chest-hard to breath episodes still percolate to the surface, defiantly bubbling over the lid I have firmly secured to withhold intrusion.  Bubbles in my chai with espresso.  I cringe, but I swallow and move on.

The truck to the left of me accelerates in the far right hand lane, making way for my merge onto I-5.  Drop an ice cube on the back of my neck, and I promise you I will not feel it.  Stub your cigarette butt on my forearm, and no, I will not feel it.  The numbness has rolled in with the stealth of fog, and I breathe.  I expect the air to be thick, but it slides down my trachea smoothly like butter.  I am grounded to the seat of my car, my nerves registering the feel of weathering fabric ten years loved.  My body is still, but around me, my train moves.

But I know, movement is an illusion, stillness the reality.  I must not float in the stagnant pond; rather, body surf in the rising tide.  As humans, we become hinged to things of the nether annals of the world.  I hold my tweezers, and as I write, I sit here picking thread by thread, cutting each string with sewing scissors, slowly allowing movement to manifest as reality once again, a dream awakening to the world with the curiosity and determination of a baby’s first breath.

Yes.

Two years ago.

It’s cold.  So cold, cold enough to cause tissue necrosis on the very tip of my nose where the cold bites, and I say okay.  My toes move little, my mouth less.  I am slow, my tongue drawling, words dripping like molasses.  I pull on my woolen socks, then a second pair.  Long underwear.  Snow pants.  Boots.  Mittens, a hat, and three scarves.  Readying myself for a day which I will never be ready for.

One year ago.

It’s still cold, roads plowed and salted.  I can taste the salt on my tongue, strange as it may be.  Taste is foreign; I cannot remember the last time the world tickled the little bumps on my tongue.  The cold still bites, and, wrinkling my nose in burgeoning annoyance, I mutter okay.  Just one pair of wool socks today.  I toss the other pair across the carpet.  Long underwear.  The snow pants dance a jig as I retire them for the first time in over ten years.  Jeans today.  Mittens, a scarf.  Maybe no hat.  I can take the bite; I can take it.  

Six months ago.

The ice covering tears captured by frost has melted.  They flow.  An escape.  I do not call the warden.  Let them flow.  I wipe the smudged tears from my face and notice a wetness on my body, a collection of small droplets within my creases, my underarms.  Sweat.  I had not noticed the change in weather.  The sun’s stealth and deception amuse me.  I chuckle.  I pull on a light pair of khakis and a cashmere sweater, deeming myself presentable for the day.

One month ago.

The sun is shining.  My lips reach out to kiss it.  Chuckles raise to symphonic laughter.  The sun is shining, and I cannot believe it.  I pull on some shorts and a cotton shirt and skip my way down the mossy path.  

One day ago.

A cloudless sky.  The sun tints my nose, and I say yes.  My clothes lay in a heap on the bedroom floor.  

The Defective Domino

The knots which had been steadily looping and tightening within me suddenly pulled mercilessly.  The knives stabbed my chest, my heart, I knew.  My innards wished to be decorative feathered boas draped across my clammy torso.  The bugs crawled across my skin, but I could not catch them.  I could not squash them.  I looked across the room.  The windows of the fifteenth floor apartment were open.  Jump, I heard whispered.  In fear, I sought refuge on the street.  The train was approaching.  Jump, I heard whispered.  The scissors snipped, and I floated away.

My mind and mood cycle rapidly.  Up to down, down to up, up and down together, defying the laws of gravity and any semblance of common sense.  I was slowly stacking dominoes.  A bachelors degree from college.  Enrollment in a certificate program for paralegal studies.  A wonderful, fulfilling, healthy relationship.  Then, the first domino tipped.  I am unsure what force with requisite pressure caused the first fall in a chain reaction.  Paranoia, depression, obsessive-compulsiveness, and anxiety began to take nest.  As the dominoes fell harder and faster, I feared this was the end, that I would finally come to know intimately the last domino in my chain.  Interventions were utilized.  The Klonopin we abruptly stopped, we started again.  We added Cymbalta, and added some more.  Medications were failing to drain the tub in which I was slowly drowning.

This morning, I awoke.  To awaken was not inherently unusual, but rather the circumstances under which I awoke were of peculiarity.  There was a strange dissipation anxiety and depression.  The air in the room hung uneasily, as if a being of large mass had just exited and there existed a void where he had stood.  I recognized with certainty the miracle of the defective domino.  Something in my life, in my mind, triggered a domino to default, to miss.  The train of dominoes ceased to fall, stopped in their tracks as if frozen.

I have never reached the last domino.  Perhaps there is a protective device operating within me, or externally of me, that renders a domino defective.  God, the love of my partner and my family, the wonders of therapy and pharmaceutical intervention.  I continue to fight because I know, without a doubt, that there is always a faulty domino in the pack.