Work in progress, but unfinished…
MichelAngelo’s Moses without the horns…
Flying Goose, Eye in Eggshell, Blue-spotted Frog, and Face/Eye Abstract
All of these “trading cards”, 2.5 inches by 3.5 inches. Many were done at Natchaug Hospital and are original one of a kind art. They are for sale. Tell me which one(s) you would like. We can work it out. (Payment is always in art supplies equivalences, by the way. No “cash” or other monetary payments accepted.)
Purple Cone flowers, Best in Show, No Exit from the Bin, and Mighty Manfred Makes an Entrance
Biohard Balloons; Blue Flipflops; cartoon nude; vivid abstract
Blue cup and Saucer; Man in Flower; Woman in ruffles with earrings
Okay, this is for the boys!
Some sad news that I only feel able to share now, is that I had to put my beloved cat of 17 years to sleep on Friday last…and it was truly awful. I didn’t understand that it would be so fast. The vet injected something in Eemie’s vein, and she lifted her head as if in curiosity — then put it down — I asked how long it would take, and the vet said softly, “She’s gone…” I burst into tears, having had no understanding that in fact she wasn’t curious, she had been taking her long last breath. Oh god, I miss her so. I keep wondering where she is when I get up in the morning, and when I get home from wherever I have gone out to, I feel that someone is missing, that I need to feed her, and find her… and then I realize I don’t have a companion any longer, that Eemie is no longer…I am tearful even as I write this, and I wish I could post the video that a friend made of us a week or two before she became seriously disabled. She was ill, yes, but you couldn’t really tell on the video since we just cuddle. I am so glad that the friend had the foresight to encourage it. Because now I have that to remember Eemie by. I know it wouldn’t mean much to anyone else. But like any doting grieving mother, I would post it because I still feel the grief and feel somehow that everyone else would want to see it too. (Which of course would be silly but the grieving do silly things. I know that.)
To lose Eemie on top of my father, Leo, and Joe too just exactly one year ago April 27th feels like really too many losses piled on top of one another. But one gets through or breaks and I cannot let that happen. I do believe that I am strong enough in general to get through it, and while I did take Haldol for a few days it had more to do with the Middlesex stress (yes, a little to do with Eemie I admit) than anything else…Okay, it did have to do with Eemie, but I think without Middlesex coming up I might have weathered Eemie better.
But I got through it and I stopped taking Haldol on Monday, haven’t needed it since then, or have slogged through without it. Did the car picture since then, so things could not have been too too bad. Artwork is always good therapy anyway. Better than drugs if I can get myself out of bed and organized enough to do it.
By the way, my art show is up and on exhibit at the WETHERSFIELD LIBRARY right now. I have work on three walls, plus the display case, for those of you who live near enough to Wethersfield or Hartford to stop by and see it. If not, you can always check out Photobucket and see what is there, though you lose a great deal by not seeing things “in person” of course. It cannot be helped, naturally!
Enough for now. I hope last night’s post was not too negative, not too mean-spirited and revengeful. I was very angry, and very upset. The very idea that the director of the Middlesex Hospital psychiatric unit said anything at all, rather than simply remaining silence just incensed me. I think that was a grave mistake, and he likely regretted it afterwards. I suspect that the CEO probably told him that it was not something he should have indulged in…But what he said is said, and it only retraumatized me if anything. The notion that he, who wasn’t even there during the episode, and ought to have been appalled, simply took the side of my torturers was to me itself disgusting and appalling. But he will get his comeuppance, one can only hope, and I won’t have to do anything about it, since presumably the Joint Commission and the DOJ will do it all.
Enough of that. I am really tired and need to eat something. Ta ta for now.
Things really are stressful, not least because this lovely 17 year old cat refuses to eat and barely drinks…
It is too late to write much and I am much too tired, but suffice it to say that I am overwhelmed with sadness for, well, my father, my dying cat, and the stress of a face to face mediation that has been scheduled between me and the people who tortured me at that certain hospital about which I am always writing. You would think I would be happy to be getting somewhere but no, I feel only worn out and sad beyond belief. I wish I could look forward to it, somehow. But I just feel guilty, because I did not do anything to prevent their abuse. I should have refused to lie down on that restraint bed! I should not have gone like a lamb to the slaughter just because I was afraid…I should have just stood there and made them carry me over. Not fought or resisted just done passive non-violence…I feel so slimed that I actually went to that bed and lay down on it, naked (covered with part of a sheet, that they moved away to restrain my limbs so cruelly as to cause me exquisite physical pain…) I feel so guilty and so terribly sad. WHy didn’t I resist? Why did I do what they said to? I had always resisted up until then? Why did I let the fear of their assaulting me again get the better of me?! I cannot forget that, I cannot forgive MYSELF for it. I feel more degraded by that than by almost anything… I feel dirty and scummy and like a disgusting piece of garbage…
Although most of this post was written and posted back in 2011, I have both edited it and written an addendum, especially for the students in Holly C’s course, with whom I will be doing a Skype class on Monday. If others do not want to reread the post and wish to skip to the end where I have placed the addendum, feel free.
First though, please be aware that descriptions and names of places and so forth have been changed back to their originals except for the names of some people involved, such as my doctors. Those names are somewhat similar, but still disguised. In Divided Minds, we were forced by the publishers to completely disguise everyone, including their physical descriptions, and to make amalgams in some cases, taking two doctors and blending them into one. In Blacklight, by contrast, I am determined that my descriptions of people, previously altered in order to “protect them,” will be honest and forthright, rewritten so that while their names may be changed, their descriptions are as aboveboard as memory makes possible. After all, I write nothing but the truth as I remember it. I wrote a fair amount in my journals at the time and I referred back to my notes there in writing this. What is more, I intend no libel and in fact, I want only to be fair and to bend over backwards in giving as much credit as possible where it is due.
I am delivered like a piece of mail to the Hospital of St Raphael’s, on a stretcher, bound up in brown wool blankets like a padded envelope. It’s the only way the ambulance will transfer me between Norwalk Hospital and this one. The attendants disgorge me into a single room where de-cocooned, I climb down and sit on the bed. All my bags have been left at the nurses’ station for searching; this is standard procedure but I hope they don’t confiscate too much. An aide follows me in to take my BP and pulse, and bustles out, telling me someone will be back shortly. I sit quietly for a half an hour, listening to the constant complaint of the voices, which never leave me, sometimes entertaining me, most of the time ranting and carping and demanding. A thin, 30-something woman with curly blonde hair, rimless glasses and residual acne scars that give her a kind of “I’ve suffered too” look of understanding, knocks on the door-frame..
“May I come in?” she asks politely.
“I can’t stop you.” My usual. Don’t want to seem too obliging or cooperative at first.
“Well, I do need to take a history, but I can come back when you’re feeling more disposed…”
“Nah, might as well get it over with.” Then, nicer, I explain, “I was just being ornery on principle.”
“What principle is that?”
“If you’re ornery they won’t see you sweat.”
“And they won’t expect you to be medication-compliant right off the bat.” I shrug my shoulders but grin, I want to think, devilishly.
“I see you have a sense of humor.”
“You should see me…”
“I’m sure we all will. A sense of humor is very healthy. But it worries me that you already plan not to take your meds.”
“I’ll only refuse the antipsychotic. Look at the blimp it’s turned me into.” I haul my extra-large tee-shirt away from my chest to demonstrate. Fatso, Lardass! Someone snipes. She doesn’t know it but you really believe you’re thin. Ha ha, you’re a house! Look at yourself! LOOK at yourself! Ha ha ha ha! The voices are telling the truth: I know the number of pounds I weigh is high, outrageously high for me, having been thin all my life, but I haven’t lost my self-image as a skinny shrimp, so I can’t get used to being what others see. The voices love to remind me how fat I really am. Only the mirror, or better, a photograph, reminds me of the honest to god truth, and I avoid those. I avert my eyes, or search the concrete for fossils, when approaching a glass door. Anything not to be shocked by what I’ve become. Pig! Glutton! It seems they don’t want to stop tonight…
I realize suddenly that I’ve lost track of the conversation.
“I don’t think they’ll allow you to do that for long.”
“Don’t you remember what we were talking about? Were your voices distracting you?”
“Just thoughts, you know, plus some added insults.”
“You’ll have to take all your meds eventually.”
“Then they’ll have to switch me to a different pill, even if it’s less effective.”
She sucks the top of her pen and looked down at her clipboard. “So,” she starts the formal intake. “What brings you here to St Raphael’s?”
The voices break in there, again, confusing me. When I can get my bearings I tell her what made me transfer from Norwalk Hospital and why I opted for shock treatments. She takes a closer look at the mark of Cain I’ve burned into my forehead, writes something, then corrects me.
“We like to refer to them as ECT here. ‘Shock treatments’ brings to mind the terrible procedures of the past. These days you feel nothing, you just go to sleep and wake up gently. I know. I assist at the ECT clinic.
“Oh, I know, I know. I’ve had ECT before. I know what it’s like and it’s a snap. I asked for this transfer because I hope it will help again.”
We talk some more about why I’m here and what I’ve been through and the voices keep to a minimum so there’s not too much interference. She says she’s going to be my primary nurse and that she thinks we’ll work well together. I nod, thinking she’s pretty okay, for a nurse.
I’ve arrived after lunch, which is served at 11:30am so someone brings me a tray and I pick at it in my room. People come in and out of my room but only speak to me a second or two before they leave, a doctor does a cursory physical, someone takes me down the hall to weigh and measure me. I return to my room, too scared to do otherwise, constrained by the Rules of the voices. The first break in the afternoon is medications in the late afternoon, when someone tells me to line up in front of a little window near the nurse’s station. When it’s my turn, I look at the pills in my cup. Ugh, 20mg of Zyprexa, an increase, plus a host of other pills I can’t remember the names of. I hand the pill back to the med nurse. I’m not taking this, it makes me fat, I say. Give me Geodon. at least I don’t put on weight with Geodon.
“Sorry, Dr Kroeder has ordered this one. We can’t just go around changing doctor’s orders. You either take it or you refuse.”
I was in a quandary. I hadn’t even met the doctor and already I was fighting with her? Should I take it and argue with her later? But then I’ll eat my whole dinner tray and more. Better to start off with my principles intact, so she knows what I’ll take and what I won’t take. I hand the pill back. ”Sorry, I won’t take it.”
“If you decompensate further we will have to give you a shot, you know that, don’t you?”
“I’ll be fine.” I do a little dance step.
“Yeah, and look what you’ve done to your face. Come closer.”
Wondering what she wants, I lean in gingerly, fearing her touch, but she only takes a tongue depressor and smears some ointment on the big oozing sore.
“You’re done.Go eat some supper.”
At 4:30? That’s pretty early. I can’t cross the threshold of the dining room, the Rules the voices make forbid it. I cannot enter the milling crowd, suffering little electric shocks every time my body makes contact with another. Instead I retreat to my room. Sitting on the edge of my bed again, I wonder what to do. How can I get supper, or any meal, if the voices won’t let me go into the dining room?
Just then, the thin blonde nurse with the glasses, what’s her name, leans into my room. “Aren’t you hungry? There’s a tray for you waiting outside the dining room.”
“They made a rule I can’t eat with other people, and I can’t get in the dining room…So I can’t eat.” I read her name tag. “Prisca.”
She smiles and glances down at the tag on her chest. ”Oh, just call me Prissy, everyone else does. I hate it, but what can you do? What are you talking about? There’s no such rule. For now, I guess I’ll let you eat in your room, but that is against the rules and we’ll have to get you into the dining room eventually, whatever the voices tell you.
She brings in the tray: white bread with two slices of bologna and a slice of cheese tossed on top, a packet of mayonnaise, a small green salad in a separate bowl, with a plastic slip of French dressing, and a packaged Hostess brownie for dessert. I didn’t eat lunch, though they brought it in, so even this impoverished repast looks good to me and I eat everything, despite not having taking the hated Zyprexa. I curse myself for it, of course, and do some leg lifts and crunches for exercise afterwards. Ever since I’ve been refusing the drug, I have lost weight. Now I am down to 155 lbs from 170 the last time I weighed myself and I intend to get much thinner, since I started at 95 before medications over the years slowly put weight on me.
After supper the voices start in again, louder and louder, telling me how fat I am, how disgusting and terrible I am. I notice the clock hanging on the wall, which ticks audibly punctuating each sentence. The voices were carping, now they are threatening, and demanding…Finally, their all too familiar sequence segues into telling me I’m the most evil thing, and they don’t say person, on the planet. I’m the Ogre that ate Manhattan, I’m Satan, I’m a mass murderer, I killed Kennedy and deserve to die, die, die!
I’m wearing a heavy pair of clogs with wooden soles and almost before I can think about it, I know what to do. I heave one up at the clock, hitting it dead center. It crashes to the floor. Scrambling to grab a shard of the clear plastic cover before the staff comes running in, I lunge towards where I saw the largest piece fall, one with a long jagged point. I have my hand closed around it when someone tackles me from behind. He’s not very big and I can feel him struggling to keep me pinned. I almost succeed in stabbing myself, but he manages to engulf my hand with his two and press them closed against the flat sides of the shard.
Other people crowd into the room now and they pry the shard from me and grab my arms and legs so I’m completely immobilized. Then at a word murmured by one of the male aides who have materialized out of nowhere, they swing me up onto the bed, like pitching a sand bag onto a levee. I scream but they ignore me and strap my ankles and wrists into leather cuffs which have been rapidly attached to the bed frame: four point restraints.
I continue to scream and scream, but nobody pays attention. A nurse comes at me with a needle, saying it is Haldol and Ativan and proceeds to inject me. Although I am still crying that I want to die, that I’m Satan, the Ogre that ate Manhattan, that I killed Kennedy, I’m the evil one, the room then empties, except for a heavy-set café-au-lait sitter, who hollers louder than I do that her name is Caledonia. She pulls up a chair in the doorway, pulls out a cosmetics bag and proceeds to do her nails in spite of me.
I am told by Prissy that I scream most of the evening and keep the whole unit awake until given a sleeping pill and another shot. All I remember is restless twilight sleep coming at last, broken when a short sandy-haired woman, dressed in a sweater set and skirt, comes in and takes my pulse. I’m groggy with medication but she speaks to me nonetheless.
“I’m , Dr Kroeder, your doctor. You’ve had a bad night I see. Well, perhaps tomorrow we’ll get a chance to talk.”
“Get me out of these things!” I mumble angrily. I can’t sleep like this!”
“”Not yet. You’re not ready. But try your best to sleep now. We’ll re-evaluate things in the morning.”
Then she turns and is gone.
As I get to know her, I will like Dr Kroeder for her kindness, toughness and honesty, but I will hate her too for opposite reasons and it will be a long time before I know whether the liking or the hating or something else entirely wins out.
The first thing that makes me know ECT is going to be different at St Raphael’s than where I had it before is that we all have to get there on under own steam rather than travel in wheelchairs, the way I’ve known since childhood all hospital patients must travel. We walk there, all of us, down interminable corridors, around several corners, through doors to more of the same. In short by the time we get there I have no idea where we are. I said it was a snap when I had it before, but now I feel like a prisoner going to the hangman, a “dead man walking.” Something about our going there in a group voluntarily, by choice and yet somehow not totally by choice, makes it feel like punishment, like having to cut your own switch, not a medical procedure at all. This sets my nerves on edge. When we finally get to the rooms clearly marked “ECT Suite,” instead of the doctor being ready for us, no time to anticipate or fear what is ahead, we have to wait and wait and wait. We’re told the outpatients have to be “finished up” first. My apprehension grows. I’m used to getting to the ECT rooms and immediately climbing up on the table and getting it over with. Waiting and having time to think about it brings me close to tears.
Finally four in-patients are to be taken. I think the nurse calling us in senses I am too anxious to wait any longer, for she makes sure I’m with the first group. I clamber up on the table, and see Dr Kroeder looking down at me, smiling. I notice how white her teeth are and the little gap in her shirt across her chest as she bends over me, strapping something over my forehead as Prissy puts a needle into the heplock already in my arm. I feel my arms and legs quickly cuffed down by others in the team, a mask clamps down over my face and I’m told to breathe, breathe in deeply and I breathe and breathe and a chasm in hell opens and the demons reach out and scream as I plummet past into a terrible inky blackness…
I wake up a second later and immediately vomit into a kidney basin hastily held out by a nurse. “Why didn’t you do it?” I cry out, confused. “Why didn’t you do it, why did you made me wait? I can’t go through this again!”
Strangely, Dr Kroeder has disappeared, and so have Prissy and the nurses that had surrounded me just an instant before. Instead a plump, baby-faced older nurse smiles as she takes away the kidney basin and says, kindly, “You’ve been sleeping soundly for an hour. They did the treatment already and you’re waking up. How about trying to sit up now?” Slowly, I push myself to a sitting position and swing my legs over the edge of the table. No dizziness, no more nausea. I feel okay, except for a slight headache. So I slide off the table and ask where to go. Surely they won’t make me stay a long while this time. The nurse leads me to a wheelchair and asks an aide to take me back to the unit. Ah, a chair at last. At least I’m not expected to walk on my own after that ordeal.
ECT Takes place on Monday, Wednesday and Friday each week and though I vomit many times upon waking up, that is the least of it. What I dread most is the anesthesia, how I plunge from perfect alertness into the dark pit and feel like I wake a second later, sick and confused. I grow more and more afraid until, at the end of a series of 8 sessions, I refuse to go on to a second series. I thwart this by grabbing something to eat every morning, which is forbidden as you cannot have ECT if you have eaten or drunk anything within 12 hours of hte procedure. Because my symptoms are still severe and Caledonia comes to sit with me one to one more often than not, Dr Kroeder tries to persuade me, but I am adamant. I am not depressed (quite despite what she tries to convince me of). ECT hasn’t helped my obsessive intrusive thoughts/hallucinations this time so no more of it. No more! Then she threatens to have the next series court-ordered and to add insult to injury, she says she will force me to take Zyprexa as well, the drug I so hate. I explode.
“What! You f—ing can’t do that! I’m a free citizen, I’m not a danger to myself or anyone else.”
“In fact, I can do it, and I am going to do it, whether you like it or not. You need more ECT and unfortunately you refuse the only drug that is effective for you. Pam, look, how can you say you’re not a danger to yourself? Look at your forehead! That’s not the mark of I it’s just self-mutilation. Look at where you carved that mark into your hand when we weren’t watching you carefully enough. Isn’t that danger enough?”
“But I’m NOT going to kill myself. I don’t want to die. I just want to be disfigured so no one will want to be around me and they’ll stay safe and uncontaminated.”
Dr Kroeder’s eyes suddenly glitter and she has to blink a couple of times. “Well, I’m not going to let you continue to do what you want. Period.”
She was standing at the foot of my bed, one foot on a lower rung, casually holding a clipboard. But she moves closer to me, standing to one side, the clipboard clasped business-like across her chest. Gazing intently at me, she shakes her head in what appears to be sadness. I’m not sad, I know what I have to do. I don’t understand why she feels this is so terrible, but I know enough to remain quiet. Finally, she turns and quietly slips out of the room.
This alarms me; it shocks me. I know she means what she says. Worst of all, Dr O’Maloney, my outpatient psychiatrist, has signed off on it well, agreeing it is the only thing left to do, that already I’ve been in the hospital two months and little has changed, that the situation is desperate. Their only problem is that to get a court order they have to get me a conservator who will agree to it. They want to appoint my twin sister and they discuss with her whether or not she’ll agree to forcing more ECT on me, in addition to Zyprexa. Despite fearing that I’ll hate her, she too is convinced there are no other options.
So Dr Kroeder wins and I endure eight more ECT sessions. Finally I’m discharged a month later, much improved, so everyone says. As a condition of my release, I promise that I’ll continue to take Zyprexa. Forced to, I do promise, even though my history clearly suggests that I will not. I’m also supposed to return once every two weeks for maintenance ECT treatments and Dr Kroeder threatens me with a police escort if I don’t comply. But this time I thumb my nose at her. So, she’s going to get both the Hartford and the New Haven police involved? She thinks they are going to bother to arrest me just to drive me down to the hospital for ECT, something they themselves probably consider barbaric? J’en doute fort. I doubt that big time! In fact, after a call to the Legal Rights Project, I learn that any conservatorship was dissolved the moment I was discharged from St Raphael’ s and that the doctor has no power over me at all now, zilch. So I write Dr Kroeder a nice apologetic letter — sorry, doc, but no more of your ECT for me. Ever.
Several months later, hearing command hallucinations, I pour lighter fluid over my left leg and set it on fire. So much for the restorative powers of shock torture, excuse me, electro- convulsive therapy.
The first time I had ECT was in 2003 at John Dempsey Hospital, which is connected to the University of Connecticut’s medical school. There, in desperation, because of an “obsession” — and I say that advisedly, because I was not so much obsessed as consumed — with the face that I saw in the biohazard sign (which we called the biohazmat man in DIVIDED MINDS) as well as a little red figure I saw running through it, I asked whether something like ECT might help me. The head psychiatrist of the unit wasn’t certain, it wasn’t commonly used for that. But he was willing to try it nonetheless. It took some doing. I was very scared, and the procedure scared me even more, as it turned out that a “heplock” had to be placed in your arm hours beforehand, so a needle could be easily inserted and anesthesia given later during the procedure. But this frightened me and I balked. I also balked at signing various papers. I almost backed out, and rescinded permission at least once. But finally I went through with it.
The actual ECT was near torture, both because of my terror of anestheisa and also because at Dempsey Hospital absolutely no attention was given to the comfort of in-patients, so that we were made to wait until afternoon before our treatments, meaning that we could eat neither breakfast nor lunch on those days. Or at least we could not eat until the treatments were given. Since meals in-hospital loom large in importance, especially when there is little else to do and one’s medications induce hunger, this was a huge problem, particularly when I was already very apprehensive. I never did understand the rationale behind this. It seemed to be particularly bad planning to have any ECT patient have to have treatment so late in the day, given that fasting was essential. But hey, who was I but a mere mental patient? I had no rights, I just had to do what I was told!
Anyhow, I suffered the agonies of hell, but I went through with it, hating each session, until, after I’d undergone five of them, I began to complain that my memory was being affected. I decided to stop, but I noted at the same time, strangely enough, that the biohazmat man had also disappeared from my radar. Weird! It seemed to have worked, ECT had broken the back of what had been consuming me. In point of fact, ECT at that time worked so well that the biohazard sign has never bothered me again in such a fashion. Which is close to a miracle in my book.
Caveat Lector or Warning to the Reader:
Although it is only 10:30pm, I seem to be falling into dreamtalk as I write this…I must be sleepier than I know, and half asleep or falling asleep every so often as I write. I say this because I came to a couple of times already, only to find a paragraph of weird gobbledygook on my post. If this happens again, and I do not recognize it until tomorrow, forgive me for sleeping and writing this with the consciousness of a bad dream only. I plan to proofread this entire thing tomorrow, just to vet what I did write.
The subject of this post says it all. I have been exposing myself to “the problem” ruthlessly for months now, and to no avail. I still suffer from the same symptoms of what would be PTSD (had not the good doctors redefined the word “trauma”) and I cannot in truth say that they are any better. Yes, I do remember a little bit of what happened, more than I did before (for those who do not understand the reference, see my Oct 7, 2011 post titled “Psychiatry and Authority: Restraints Update”). At least it can be recalled to me by other means and I can assent to it with some sense of Yes, I do remember that happening…But as to the tears and trembling and heart racing etc I see no improvement, and if no- improvement after these many months of self-treatment is less than to be expected, then I would say that not only has exposure therapy not helped me, it has made things worse. Rather than being literally therapy, it has only added “insult to injury” or as I put it, laid salt on the wound.
I do not know what to do about this. I find myself irritable, even irascible, especially with family members who I believe did not care enough to rescue me from the clutches of malignancy when they knew it was going on. Indeed, they in fact did not either care or do so. But that is the same old story and I can beat myself over the head with their inadequacies as family members, or I can simply wave them away as inadequate in such matters and go on…Ah, but how to go on? How do I continue to live despite these horrendous feelings and constant on-the-verge tears? Even Dr C seems at a loss, though I am not sure why. Surely she must have dealt with trauma — or “trauma-like situations” (since this wasn’t Katrina or the tsunami, so by definition it wasn’t trauma…) before now. Surely she ought to know what to do about this situation. Why then does she seem so helplessly unable to tell me what to do or to help me get over this? Why won’t she give me any advice or help? I can barely go on some days and yet she never offers anything but a mirror to myself, to what I might think or feel. I tell you, I can hear the professional technique in her voice sometimes, even as I fall for it.
Yet I really like her and I don’t know why. Is it because she does NOT order me around the way Dr O did? Is it because she is NOT authoritarian and directive the way Mary was? I dunno I just know that she listens to me and takes me seriously, does not consign every idea I have to the dustbin of delusion as Dr O (Mary) did.
Nevertheless, I still do not know what to do or how to get over this problem, and even though the OPA has decided in my favor and is sending my case on to the the Dept of Public Health for further action, even that doesn’t relieve me or help my anxiety and anguish abate. Why should it? What is done is done, and the consequences are as they are. My problem is how to go on, how to survive, how to deal with the result and get on with life. But so far I have not figured out how. Despite my talk of forgiveness and acceptance, I have not reached that state yet, not perfectly, not even adequately. If I had I would not be so torn apart. I believe in forgiveness as the healer of all, but when push comes to shove, I cannot seem to take my own advice any more than most other people can.
Yet I see that I resent so very much and it does not all have to do with the restraints issue. Some of it is much larger and concerns a general anger or resentment towards how certain people and family members have treated me over these past decades, issues that have not even yet been resolved. This — my anger — doesn’t endear me to anyone, and it solves nothing to go there, to decide and then rage against whoever did “this” to me.
I do go there, of course, or I wouldn’t be complaining of how they tortured me. I torture myself with these things. And I get irate and start sobbing and write angry emails that likely no one understands the genesis of, though I make the assumptions that they will be obvious to the person on the receiving end. Yet the grievances are real. It is just that it is useless to bring them up, not so much with others as for me. What good does it do to cry over what happened twenty or thirty years ago, even if it continues to happen now with the same person? I ought to have learned something over those intervening years and that is that the person is not going to change and that their injurious nature, their manner of hurting me is going to continue no matter what I do or say to them. Either they do not care or they simply have no idea or understanding of the impact of what they do or say (or do not do or say) has on me. But in the end it is I who must continue, must soldier on, and I should have learned to do so without their support or confidence.
I have, I have. It is just that a little improvement in things fooled me yet again into expecting real change, a real difference, a genuine affection and positive behavior towards me. Instead, in both cases, I get the same old, same old, just dressed up in affability and pretend benevolence until I cross them. In one case, it is egregious, and the reaction is fury, the greater the truth I point out, the more massive the indignation and rage. In the other case, the sheer oblivion to the hurt caused is cause for massive hurt itself. And both people continue to pang me today, either on purpose or because they cannot help it. In the one case, I believe it is in fact deliberate. In the other, perhaps not so, but from personal weakness. I can try to forgive the latter, but the former is just too galling and it behooves me to stay the hell away from that person…as that is the best I seem to be able to do to protect myself at this point.
Well, without respect to the above discussion, which was vague in the extreme because I do not believe I have real privacy here and you never know who might linger around to read, despite all that, I want to show you a new piece of art I did over the last two days. As art it is nothing, though it is the first time I have attempted a scene with multiple “characters” actively engaged in physical activity, so in that sense it was st least personally challenging. But the scene itself may be instructive, if horrifying to some people.
I am only going to post the initial sketch and the final version, plus some details from the drawing as it is good to get a closer look at parts of it that a monitor-size photo cannot give you. The original is at least 24″ by 17″ so it is reasonably large and has room for more details than my usual 11″ by 14″ drawings.
Just had to erase a paragraph of complete “dreamtalk” here, and fearing that I may descend to such incomprehensible language again, I will hereby cease and desist in the verbal production department and just upload the two photos. First the sketch and then the final colored pencil product. Both are very closely connected with the trauma that I wrote of at the outset and the drawing was part of my next attempt to “expose” it out of me. Whether it did or did not, I will find out on Jan 6 -9, 2012, when i go back to Wisdom House to write for the weekend. If I cannot do more than continue in this vein, then I will have an idea of how little I managed to help myself. But I am hopeful that this will finally prove to be a working solution — to draw what happened on paper but then to write about dealing with my anger and resentment and other feelings, which is really what is important at this point, not with the “mere” facts of what happened. If it is, I will be very proud of resolving at least part of the problem on my own.
First of all, I’ll post the sketch, as it will print out above the text as follows.
A picture in graphite and later in colored pencil depicting with absolutely accuracy the sort of thing that a “take-down” by a hospital goon squad can entail before they force a person into four-point restraints. The nearly naked person in this depiction is, of course, me at a certain hospital…I am afraid that as I look at this version (correctable) the smile has turned into a grimace on the face of the white woman in the foreground. THat needs to be tweaked a bit…I also note that there are NO SHADOWS… But this is almost more of an illustration than a real drawing, so I will forgive that lapse. Next to come I hope will be a painting.
Enough for now. I need to wake up and then I want to discuss the book, ANATOMY OF AN EPIDEMIC. Perhaps in my next post.
You should know that what follows is just a tiny scribble of what I have written, and it might not even make the final cut once I finish writing the book. But I put it here as a little enticement for readers, a tempting snack to “grow the appetite for more” when it comes out. That said, I must warn that in addition to alerting you that the passage below might end up on the cutting floor, if it does not, it still may not start the book. But here I am hemming and hawing and making excuses. Nothing wrong with posting what I have for now, for the nonce, even though I may remove it later on. Comments on subtitle would be greatly appreciated. If you have suggestions for improving it — the subtitle, i mean — so much the better.
Blacksoup, tarstew, coffeecombs – submerged in the darkness of things I cannot face by light, inky, skeletal, reaching-out things that pinch and grasp and touch, I fight to swim away, even though away means into a blinding headache. I am sucked down again and then again, until through pounding surf, someone calls my name, almost too faint to hear. Desperate, I thrash upward, cracking the surface of the day and open my eyes. It’s well after dawn yet all the lamps in the room burn brightly.
“Pam, wake up. Unlock the door. I’m here,” someone shouts. The door thunders on.
What time is it? What day is it? I must have plunged into sleep the night before without awareness, for all I know is that I break into daylight like a common mole nosing into what feels like leaf litter and detritus, the remains of an old picnic. Popcorn is strewn across my lap and chair in a white rash. Resting on its side halfway off the night table, a cup of coffee, now empty, its contents on the carpet. I hoist myself off the recliner with a groan, trying to shake off my shoulders the gargoyles of nightmare. I sleep in my clothes but I never go barefoot –too liable to be bitten by the inanimate fang of a tack or discarded fork– so it takes me a minute before I can home in on my flip-flops.
“Sorry, sorry, sorry,” Wrenching the deadbolt, I yank the door open. “I didn’t hear you. You’re early today.”
“It’s 8:30. No earlier than usual.” Elissa, her dark hair pulled back from her face, carries her big nursing bag and tablet computer. She wears slim, tight jeans and a ruched tee shirt that make her look thirty-five at most, not the forty-something she rarely admits to. She assesses me quickly before coming in and asking, “How did you sleep? And did you eat last night?”
Almost every morning begins this way, not with the bleep, blurt or blare of an alarm, on which I can mash the snooze button. Not even with the sweet sun-rising tones of my favorites song on iTunes, no, my morning begins with this won’t-take-no-for-an-answer Thor at the door. It’s not Elissa’s fault. Sometimes I leave my door unlocked before I cliff-fall into sleep so she can come in on her own the next morning and gently wake me. But not always, and then what can she do but hammer at the doorway of Oneiros, because nothing else will rouse me.
Elissa has been my primary visiting nurse for more than 10 years and she is the one who checks on me every morning, rain or shine, snow or hailstorm. She can read me by now the way a farmer reads the sky, and just one look or something in the tone of my voice tells her when things are copacetic and when they are not. She has seen me well and she’s seen me precariously ill and she’s the first to recognize when I’m somewhere in-between, headed in the wrong direction. Her main job is to keep track of and make sure I take my medications, but when paranoid, I have yelled at her or been snappy and high strung and irritable. She has never taken it personally. I no doubt have driven her nearly to distraction but she flicks all away as no big deal. I must say though that even though I wouldn’t admit it at the time, she has in more than one instance saved my life.
She keeps returning with a smile nevertheless and now instead of telling her how glad I am to see her, I turn away, mumbling that I had a lousy night. It’s true, but I feel like a lout for saying so. Or at least for saying so first thing.
Argh, now all I can see are the faults, but I will leave it as is, and not panic or take it down at once. I have learned that there is no terrible tragedy is letting people see rough drafts or the work-in-progress, though it be only that, a rough draft, not the polished version. If nothing else, it proves that I too am a human being who must write and make mistakes before editing and rewriting my copy. In fact, I rewrite a zillion times before I am happy with what I have written. Each poem takes at least 20 rewrites, at a minimum, and most take at least 50 while some over 100. As for prose, well, I cannot even begin to estimate how often I rewrite or revise each passage. but needless to say it is well over 50-100!
Not only is there no shame in revision, I take great pride in how much rewriting and revision I do. It is a point of honor with me that I take this much time with my writing and do not hurry it — ever. People who believe that the first words that come out of their pen or mouth or computer are sacrosanct are likely to not be real writers, only dilettantes who play at writing, but never take it seriously. Who want to write, but who never really do so, except for in the pages of a journal or doggerel between friends and family.
Do not get me wrong, I do not disparage this sort of writing. In a sense ALL writing counts as writing. And all writing is good for a person. But not all writing is publishable or suitable for the public consumption, and that is what I mean by writing done by a “real writer.” Someone for whom writing is what life is all about. Someone for whom life would not be worth while if she could not continue to write. Someone who knows the value of editing and revising and rewriting and who knows that a good editor can a writer’s best friend.
This celebration of the arts combines art of all types and presents it to the community. For a full weekend in November, artists open their studios to the public or show in Hartford locations. Their wish is to inspire the community, make others aware of their work, and sell their art. Visitors enjoy the opportunity to meet local artists at studios, galleries and creative spaces in and around Hartford to browse and buy locally created art. The public also experiences live artistic entertainment at some locations!
2011 Opening Reception & Kick-off
Thursday, November 3rd, 6pm – 8pm
ArtSpace Gallery, 555 Asylum Street, Hartford, CT 06105
This year’s theme is “Double Digits”.
Parking: Park at Union Station, discounted rate provided by the Greater Hartford Transit District
The reception, featuring live music, will be produced by Artists in Real Time, Inc. and sponsored by local restaurants.
22nd Annual Open Studio Weekend in Hartford
Saturday & Sunday, November 12 & 13, 11 AM -5 PM
A self-guided tour of creative spaces that has taken place annually for 22 years, Open Studio Weekend is a creative showcase for local artists, produced by the nonprofit 501(c)3 organization, Artists in Real Time, Inc. Locations are open around the city and greater Hartford Region; thousands of attendees are expected.
Parking: Park at Union Station, discounted rate provided by the Greater Hartford Transit District
Needless to say, I think, I will be exhibiting my artwork here, some of it about schizophrenia, some of it from schizophrenia, and a great deal of it about and in recovery. If you are able to attend, look for me on the 4th floor of ArtSpace, Hartford. Hope to see some of you there!
I wanted to write a bit about the artworks that I posted yesterday without any explanation. The first one was the only one I planned in any sense of the word, and even then I cannot say I really knew what I was going to do when I started it. My process in these drawings is to simply start with an image, say, in the first one, I started by drawing an eye, and then to see where my subconscious takes me. Once I have established enough images – just a few usually — that are coherently related to one another on the paper (or not) then I look to see what is in the “negative” spaces, which fill up with images too. You can see this most clearly in the middle and third works. I know how the pictures were made, since I drew them, but in looking at them objectively now, I can see that an observer might not see anything conspicuously “unintended.” And of course, what does “unintended” mean when it comes to the subconscious?
But in the picture I will post below, this “technique” if you will, predominates. (You either like it or you hate it) I hesitate to call it a technique because that sounds like something consciously adopted, where I feel it simply reflects an unconscious change, something that happened co-incidental with Joe’s final days and then took on a life of its own after the trauma of his death. But let me post the picture I am talking about, the one that I started on the very day they took him off the ventilator, and then I will continue.
All I can say about this is that a person here is cutting the cord that is connected to a heart and a pot and is not plugged in…and the person with the scissors is a little excited by this in a way that implies pleasure…I am saying no more, except to reiterate that I drew it, or started it the day Joe died or more accurately was killed.
After that, I started doing more and more “honest” pictures, pictures where I did not try to please anyone, but was simply drawing and painting what I felt like. The next one after this one was the Beauty SLeeping with Bugs one, which was in the post yesterday. And then the self-portrait series, which began with the earlier Dead Meat one, Goon Squad: First Responders. In that notebook, I endeavor to draw only “self-portraits” though not likenesses. I am not sure what to call them, conceptual self-portraits perhaps? The second one is a very loosely drawn portrait of me as an animal, done in a different sketchy style (I haven’t photographed it or I would post it.) The third is Pam as Ornament, which I will post below, and once again I had nothing in mind when I started it, except the concept. The Santas came out of nowhere, esp the one that is only a head on a tray!
I guess I have nothing more to add for now.
I have been working on my memoir, which I have tentatively titled “BlackLight: a Memoir of Madness and One Woman’s Struggle for Recovery” — so far after only about 5 days work I have 27 pages done (more, really, just not organized and polished). Would be happy to hear any comments or suggestions for a better title (which I believe is a request I have made previously).
Here is a colored pencil nighttime interior, wholly imagined and done without model objects to work from except that the red chair happens to be one that “lives” in my room. You may not be able to tell, but the large mirror on the table reflects one that is meant to be implicit behind the person drawing (the hand in the foreground) which in turn reflects the one on the table, and that reflects it, and so on…). Also, on the table is a photo that purports also to be, and is in fact, one of the artist — me — drawing as well. So you see there are a lot of tricks involved, though I do not think the picture is very expert. The perspective was not meant to be accurate, by the way. It is sorta folky…I simply am trying things I have never done before, like furniture and scenes. After all, you have to start somewhere.
I am also working on learning “realistic pencil portrait drawing” which is equally difficult but in a different way as it involves minute observation and challenges my eyesight too, at least at the moment. In fact, learning both skills are good for me.
I wrote a new poem two nights ago, but alas, I cannot share it here yet as then I could not submit it to a journal. I can only advise those interested in my poetry who have not read it and who have not seen my book WE MAD CLIMB SHAKY LADDERS, to check out the page I have set up (see above) with a number of poems taken from it. I you like those you may also be interested enough to perhaps purchase a copy (and make me a wealthy — hah! — woman in the process). I am hoping eventually to find a publisher for LEARNING TO SEE IN THREE DIMENSIONS, but I admit that I haven’t really tried. In fact, I have been so busy that I haven’t tried at all! I just keep writing and adding to it.
Anyhow, I do not know how many of you know of my best friend, Joe C, (the old blog readers did) but he is dying of ALS, Lou Gehrig’s Disease, after 4 years, 3.5 of them approximately, on a ventilator ( that is to say breathing by means of a tracheostomy tube attached to a mechanical respirator). I do not know how long he has, though the situation is really dire in a way that is difficult to talk about. He refuses to agree to a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order, though there is nothing they will be able to do for him except torture him if he does not…Oh god, he is in such awful straits, yet so wants to live! It is so tragic… The only good thing right now is that Dr O, that wonderful woman and my former psychiatrist, who was so kind and helpful to him, and of course was to me for so many years, was ordained a minister after she moved away from CT and she is going to visit him tomorrow, if she can…and see if she can help him.
You know, my absolutely biggest fear for Joe is not his dying, but of his being afraid, and that is where I think she can talk to him in a way that he will profit from, because he listens to her, and always has, in a way that he never has listened to me.
Joe basically responds best to female authority figures, which is strange given that he has a terrible relationship, really none at this point, with his mother. I no longer mind this, I am used to his not taking what I say as having any merit. But if Dr O is able to help, I just want him to get to that place where he can accept his approaching death and is not scared…
All this is by way of saying that if I am silent here for a while, please think of Joe and of me, and send him your prayers? Thank you, all of you.
I am putting up a photo Joe and me just after he was diagnosed, when we were at the Lahey Clinic for one of his appointments there, and then one of the few that I have with him at the hospital where he currently lives. One when he was still able to smile. You will be able to see the extreme changes in him, but to me, I have always only seen the “same ole Joe!”
Books, papers and blogs by Joanna Moncrieff
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A book of essays, as published on Medscape.com
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