Poems start at around minute 9…If you need or want to skip over my reading of the essay. (!)
Poems start at around minute 9…If you need or want to skip over my reading of the essay. (!)
This poem is in my new book, LEARNING TO SEE IN THREE DIMENSIONS. Alas this final version did not get there as i had misplaced it and did not find it till after the publication date!
(pour ma jumelle)
Sometimes when you’ve spent hours rushing somewhere
and just as many hours rushing back
you ought to make yourself stop ten minutes from home
ten minutes short of where you think
you can put your feet up
finally, and get out at the road’s edge
and ask yourself where you are
going and where have you been and why
are you hurrying just to get it over with, or is there no point
to this day but in the ending of it?
Ten minutes, this pause
wrenched out of the rush by the roadside
getting the kinks out, lets you hear the sudden quiet
of your own thoughts
as the out-of-doors pours in and gives you pause.
What have you been doing all day
racing, rushing, wasting your time all day
for what, to get what over with?
Better to have rested more along the way,
to have seen, to have been, to have watched, listened
to have paid attention
than to have beeped and swerved so much
sped and sweated in bottlenecks
and cursed the traffic for what could neither be avoided
nor its fault, being its nature.
Where had you been all day
in your hurrying to get home, but on your way
along the only way there was: yours.
Oh, but you should have known better–
how all homes are but temporary shelters:
a roadside shack or leafy park bench,
a ramshackle timber lean-to —
each a place to rest as good as any mansion
ten minutes away. Ten mere minutes from home
the roadside beckoned with saffron mustard sprigs,
brave bouncing bet. But you had no time
to pay attention, so nearly home to rest and relax.
Oh, but you should have known better—
The day scattered like dry leaves
and ended without you.
Now you pay with the rest of your life.
SPIRO, Marian Wagner, 89, of Madison, CT and Amherst, MA died on June 18, 2017 at the Hospice of the Fisher Home after a lengthy illness. Marian was born in Fall River, MA on February 16, 1928 to Oliver and Carolyn Wagner. She was raised in Fall River during the Depression and graduated from BMC Durfee High School. She then earned a two-year degree from Vermont Junior College that enabled her to work as a lab technician. It was at a lab at Harvard Medical School that she met her husband Howard Spiro. They were married in 1951, made a home in New Haven, CT and quickly had four children: Pammy, Lynnie, Martha, and Philip. In the meantime, she returned to school, received her undergraduate degree and in 1970 began a twenty-year career as a renowned teacher of science and math at The Foote School in New Haven. She introduced computers to her students long before they ended up in their back pockets and once built a solar-heated oven to bake the Thanksgiving turkey. She helped to revive the school newspaper, which was later renamed the “SPI” in her honor. Her dogs were frequent guests in her classroom, and when she wasn’t helping to train her friends’ dogs or hosting canine pool parties in her backyard, Marian was taking her own retrievers to local hospitals or mental health facilities to hang out with patients. Throughout her life, she was known for expert woodworking skills, her intuitive ability at navigating a sailboat, her competitiveness on the tennis court or in a game of bridge or scrabble, her love of golden retrievers, her lasting friendships, and her deep devotion to her family. She never let the social conventions of her day block her dreams: she embarked on a lifetime avocation of woodworking despite being told it was not for girls, she became a teacher of science before most scientists would accept women as their peers, and she even made the phone call to Howard for a date that led to their eventual marriage. She will be sorely missed by her four children: Pamela Spiro Wagner, Carolyn Spiro Silvestri, Philip Spiro and Martha Spiro; her six grandchildren: Allison Spiro-Winn, Jeremy Spiro-Winn, Hannah Spiro, Claire Spiro, Oliver Spiro and Adriane Spiro; and her many friends and students. She follows the passing of her parents Oliver and Carolyn, her husband Howard of 61 years, her sister Barbara, and her brother Oliver. A memorial service will be scheduled at a later time. In lieu of flowers donations may be made to the Marian W. Spiro Fund for Science Enrichment at The Foote School in New Haven, CT or the Hospice of the Fisher Home in Amherst, MA.
The obituary above was written by my wonderful “cousin in law,” Jere Nash, who is Holly Wagner’s husband, my uncle’s daughter (who was my mother’s late brother, Oliver who died many years ago of malignant melanoma).
All that follows is my interpretation of things, as all observation is of course but in my case you have to understand that I speak largely as an outsider, not knowing very much since I was not “in” the family for so many years…
Although I lost many years with my mother as an adult, due to my father’s “exxing” me out of the family in anger and a profound lack of understanding of “mental illness” and what was going on for me at the time, I still remember her in my childhood, how when there were still trolleys in New Haven Connecticut (oh, how young I must have been then!) she would either bravely or completely nonchalantly wear jeans to go shopping downtown at Malleys or whatever the stores were there at the time. For anyone else this would have been extremely difficult, disregarding all the social mores of the 50s dictating that women had to wear skirts and heels and make-up to go out presentably in public. I do not know how my mom felt about it, only that she did it and did not seem to care what others thought. She cared only that she was more comfortable in pants, and low- heeled “girl scout” shoes, the same kind I wear to this day, and she saw no sense in getting all dressed up just to bring 2 very young children out to go on a stressful shopping expedition. As for that, my mother to my knowledge never wore more make-up in her life than a dash of lipstick, though I do remember her applying that with care every morning and blotting her red lips on a fold of toilet paper, thinking both how beautiful she looked (though she never in her life agreed with me or anyone else on this, even though when she was younger — when we lived in England — my friends thought she looked like a “movie star”) and how I never wanted to have to put “that stuff” on my own lips.
Unlike her children, who suffered from oily skin and troublesome largely untreated acne as adolescents, my mother’s bane of existence was her dry skin and its tendency to wrinkle so her one vanity, if you could call it that, was moisturizers and trying to deal with skin that aged earlier than she might have wished. She was also a outdoors lover, a sailor and a tennis player in the days well before the publicized benefits of sun screen, which may or may not have played a role in this (I am not completely convinced of the safety of sunscreens with their nano chemicals nonetheless)…Whatever is the case, it seemed true that her skin did show the effects of being out in the weather early on, but this to me only gave her face character and the true beauty of an older woman…though I know that as I was growing up it may have caused her more regret than I knew.
We are all of us subject to society’s images and social pressures, and my mother was not immune to these, no matter how iconoclastic and “her own person” she may have been in so many ways. For example, as a result of having been a self-described “chunky athletic tomboy with a tiny petite older sister” — and feeling rejected for this all her life, she fought a poor self-image, body hatred, and deep conflict on that account, such that I have always felt that in some sense while she loved food and eating, she also never took a single bite that she did not simultaneously regret and chide herself for. This was painfully obvious to us children, I think, at least it was to me, and it continued throughout her life. Even after nearly forty years of not seeing her, I would go out to lunch with her when she was in her 80s, and hear her criticize herself about what she was eating. How I wished she could simply enjoy food for once, without the concomitant agonies of needing to punish herself for it.
Maybe she got some peace at some point, perhaps dementia granted it to her, but at what a terrible price.
I think that for my mother, one of the sad consequences of being married to a man like my father was that she never felt that he took her intellect or her creativity seriously or even consequentially. True, he got her to go back to college and finish a four-year degree, and take up teaching, but he never truly treated her with the same esteem he granted an equal, and we all felt it and knew it, and what is more, she did too. No doubt this was largely behind all her words of abuse and rage in later years when she could scarcely speak to him civilly even when he had himself ceased to be abusive. It was hard to listen to her snark and scorn him, when he was trying his best…But by then it was much to late to undo the damage his lack of care and cold abusiveness had wrought for so many years beforehand. It seemed to me that she just could not forgive him, especially not for “changing” on her so unaccountably in his latter decades…
This is the rather in-expert poem I wrote for my mother’s birthday in 2007 about all that she gave us growing up…
You push the wood under the saw,
the sawdust scent is sharp and familiar.
First time in months, you’re in the woodshop;
at the end of the day, you’re sorry to stop.
It’s mid-February, the pale wintry light
has long ago left. You look up. It’s night
and you haven’t appeased yet your hands’ appetite,
their urge to create. I know as I write
that hunger of hands to handle and make,
your children all feel it, the pleasure, the ache.
You taught us love, gave us skills that you knew
copper enameling, pen and ink, too,
the weaving of baskets and papier maché
antiquing desks and working with clay,
sand casting, knitting (you couldn’t crochet).
You fired up a hunger that’s better than food
a hunger that drives us, the right attitude
to make things of beauty, for need and for use.
With paper pulp, wood, fabric, clay, we produce
unique objets d’art not entirely planned.
We make them with care and the love they demand
and when they are finished, we give them away.
(The joy’s in creating; they’re not meant to stay.).
You gave us the spirit, this need and the drive
this hunger, this feeling of being alive.
I don’t know if knowing, you planted the seed
but the plant it grew gives us all that we need.
(A mother like you is so rare you’re worth pay,
which conveniently rhymes with this:
My drawing of my mother, Marian Wagner Spiro, suffering from the effects of dementia, wearing the iPod and headphones I gave her. (from a photo taken by my sister, Martha, in the last weeks of mom’s life…)
There is so much to say, and so little that I find myself capable of saying at this time. The loss of one’s mother, no matter how fraught the relationship, is always incalculable, quite literally unable to be calculated. Because of the divorce from much of my family, included the extended network of cousins and so forth, imposed by my father for nearly forty years, I lost many years and many memories I might have made with my mother, and needless to say with the rest of my native family. However, because of this, along the way I learned the value of friendship, not just the emotional support and love from some one significant other, since I had none, but the kind of friendship about which it has been written: Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. I learned what true friends are, and that they can love a person and care about a person perhaps with deeper love and kinder regard even than one’s family of origin.
This is not to say that I do not love and care about my family, of course, but it is my friends to whom I dedicated my newest book of poems and art, my friends both old and new. And they know who they are, I am sure they do. Because I feel it and I know it.
But that much said, I loved my mother, and what is more, I know she loved me and would have wanted me to have these loving friends in my life, especially once she understood that having a nuclear family of my own was not in the picture for me. I do not believe that she cared about whether I ever became a doctor or even a successful poet or artist, but only that I found contentment and love in my life, somewhere, somehow, and that she would be proud of me now, not for my achievements but for all these wonderful friends whom I love and who I know love me in return ( and in return for nothing except being me).
I love you, Mom, and I wish you well on your journey, wherever that takes you…Be at peace and know that all is well.
I wrote this poem, or started it the night of my last visit to my mother, after weeks of not being able to put pen or pencil to paper. My younger sister, Martha and I had been splitting up the time and watch at the Hospice, though Martha had done the lion’s share of everything, living as it were just around the corner, while I needed a driver to get me first to Agawam and then to from Vermont to Amherst each day. In any event, just as I was finishing it, Martha called me with tears in her voice telling me that mom had passed away more suddenly than expected, no time to call me to come down to the hospice to be with her at the end.
In the snapshot I take, you are almost not there,
barely stitched to your body by broken breathing,
those strands of beads upon which none of us pray
to keep you here, still here, still here…
the seeming years of days and nights
of your going having frayed the long wick of your life
till it seems impossible your heart pulses and breath
still clings to the flesh that clings to your bones.
In the stillness like stopped breath,
as the clock duties our days, from your morphine remove,
you can’t know how we mark a terrible time
while we wait for what is to come,
the inexorable exit-gong sounding: It is done.
All the same, they say life starts over, Mother,
if there is ever any life on earth without you,
as if we believed this day would come, or any other,
as if anything without you can ever be the same.
Zentangled easter eggs!
The first picture is of Danielle a staff member who was the first person to meet me when I was transferred to the state hospital from Central Vermont Medical Center. The black and white drawing is of Erin, who also spent much time with me, as I was on 1:1 and 2:1 the entire time I was there. The last picture is of a potato beetle I found in a national geographic magazine on the unit.
Sorry. Sorry! mea culpa!!! i meant to introduce this post with this: “David” wrote me with the following essay about his experience,which I promised to post for him on my blog. It follows:
” I saw Lady Quixote’s story printed out at the Hearing Voices meeting in San Francisco.
“What struck me was how similar was the story she told to my story. When I was a small child I did self hypnosis as a hobby. Later as a young teen I met a senior citizen from the Unity Church who provided me a lot of books about new-age psychic topics. She talked with me about automatic writing and spirits. I did many of these things in hopes of becoming psychic.
“Through my high-school years I continued to be interested in these things but only when the college experience overwhelmed me did I become preoccupied with the voices in my head. I would look for guidance in things as simple as where to walk. Since walking to class was a prerequisite to attending class, if I was guided instead to walk in the woods, I failed at college.
“In addition, throughout my psychic explorations there were instances where there were definite connections between my mind and the rest of the world. Although the number of true experiences were far less frequent than the imagined ones, they reinforced my beliefs.
“After I returned to my parents’ home I had the typical delusional experience of believing that there was a direct connection between the universe and what I was thinking and hearing in my head. Unfortunately what I was hearing was based on what I thought abut myself and as I spiraled downward, I was told that I had to kill myself.
“After getting out of the hospital and the halfway house with a diagnosis of schizophrenia, I returned to my parents’ home. A few years went by with little change but I began to doubt the veracity of my voices and found that I could dismiss or ignore them. They eventually faded away into the benign parade of inner thoughts.
“The thing that struck me after thinking about Lady Quixote and me is that there are some states of mind called schizophrenia that would better be described as suggestibility. In the old days folks like us were seen as having been possessed by demons, and perhaps the exorcisms actually worked when the people believed strongly enough in prayer and calling on Jesus to drive the demons out.
“I think that it is a shame that this type of diagnosis has not been made by treaters because it would be helpful to folks to understand that they can be liberated from their troubles in a much more straightforward way, as Lady Quixote was.
“Because, like her, I had some actual experiences that could be classified as psychic, having a diagnosis that labeled my inner thoughts as strictly delusional confounded matters. The psychiatric community does not acknowledge that some of us have to deal with both real experiences and our overactive imaginations. They are trained in the practice of science, which is opposed to the various phenomena we call metaphysics.
“I am happy that my inexplicable experiences usually involve rather mild, not very intrusive thoughts, as opposed to noisy voices. I try to practice good mental hygiene to keep the inner critic mostly at bay and avoid overstressing myself. It has been about 40 years since I was troubled with my inner voices.
I would put my entire New Britain General Hospital chart online except that i only have access at this time to a small portion of my MAY–JUNE 2014 record as they decided that 1000 pages was too many to send to my psychiatrist the first time around. She requested the entire chart, but lazily they sent the discharge summary and the ED chart. In the meantime we have put in an immediate request for the rest and they said they are sending those ASAP.
Interestingly, the first page of the ED report states that availability of Advance Directive is “unknown.” Nevertheless, the ED triage notes state, with apparent disapproval and resentment, that “pt presents with details instructions [sic] on how to provide her care..” ie the advance directive (which it seems was immediately disregarded as an insult to their knowledge)…
ED Nurses note by “Seneilya… RN Assumed care of patient. Patient arrived via EMS after VNA called for increased anxiety. EMS reports patient refused to speak but wrote down, “Sunglasses block hate. I don’t want to hurt anybody.” On admissions patient refused to speak to this RN. Patient pointed at her head when asked why she was here. Patient nodded “yes” when asked if she was hearing voices but refused to answer other questions. …(next sentence indecipherable)
Report given to Beth RN who assumed care of patient…
At 15:19 Beth RN wrote the following:
“Pt not responding verbally to this nurse, this nurse looked through her art book and placed it back on her stretcher then pt picked it up and slammed it down on the stretcher and pointed her finger at the book. Unable to get pt to communicate. Pt pulled sheets over her head. Pt still in street clothes, will pt [sic] as is until examined by MD.”
What is not said here is that this nurse, “Beth” never asked me whether she might look at my artbook. She simply took it as her right to look at it, and then did so. She refused to allow me any means of communication, however, but demanded that I speak to her. When I was unable to do this, she did not inquire in any fashion as to why I was not speaking nor apparently make any inquiries from anyone else as to why this was so. If she had provided me with means to write I might have been able to tell her what had happened in the previous two weeks at home. Instead, she was so furious at my lack of speech that she belligerently refused to permit any other mode of communication but made assumptions that were extremely detrimental.
I was later given a hospital gown and told to dress myself or I would be forcibly assisted in doing so.
This is what Beth RN records what happened after I was provided with a meal that I could not eat because it was not vegetarian. Note that before this, I had begged gesturally for a means to communicate and all such implements had been outright refused me. This had led to my slamming the artbook on the stretcher in frustration and pulling the sheets over my eyes, effectively silenced.
Now with my meal, I at last had a means to write.
“Pt ate nothing,” Beth RN reports, “[but she] wrote messages with ketchup and French fries, ‘I need a crayon.” This nurse told pt she needs to speak because she can, pt threw everything on her table on the floor, food juice, etc. Pt then picked up fries from the floor and started eating them and gathered more and putting them in the bed with her and kicked the other food away in the OBS area.”
“Pt went to the BR, seen coming from the BR with paper towels then pt observed writing with her finger on a paper towel with something, first thinking it must be ketchup, then maybe jelly, then this nurse go up to check and pt found to be writing with her own feces, some paper was able to be removed, other paper with large piece of BM pt through at this nurse. Pt moved to room 42 [seclusion] then pt got OOB and snuck around corner and tried to attack this nurse from behind, public safety was able to get to pt first, pt to be medicated and restrained. Pt licking feces off fingers, would not let nurse wash her hands…”
Now I want to tell my side of this story because they invented this story out of whole cloth. Yes, parts of it are true, but out of order and not the way Beth related it. This is important because the way she wrote it makes me seem like I spontaneously attacked her out of the blue, which never happened. However, I was also privy to a conversation by the so called Public Safety officers, AKA Guards, who in front of me decided to create this story in order to justify restraining me, because they simply wanted an excuse.
What really happened was that due to my needing to communicate, I wrote my needs with ketchup on the paper box the meal came in, but that was taken away from me, and Beth, rather than telling/asking me to speak came up to me with a NOTE she had written to me (the irony of this is beyond belief except that it is true!) saying, “I will not speak to you or give you anything to write with until you start speaking to me…” Oh GOD! It was incredible. At this point, I was livid and also desperate to write so I had no choice but to use my own feces, which didn’t strike me as awful as it might have…What other choices did I have???? None at all.
So I did as she wrote and I tried to write journal entries about what was happening to me on paper towels with my own fecal material. This of course did not go over too well. However, I never snuck up behind Beth and tried to assault her. What happened was what I wrote in the second rap song. She snuck up on me and simply SNATCHED my artwork book out from under me and raced away with it, holding it up in triumph. I was so furious, without even a thought as to any possible consequences, that I raced behind her intending only to snatch it back. That was all. I never assaulted her, I never so much as touched her. I only grabbed for the book that she had not asked for from me. PERIOD.
That was when they dragged me to “Room 42” and when the guards, holding me down, decided they wanted an excuse to restrain me, and though one of them cautioned that they really had no reason to do so, the other told him not to worry, “we’ll find a reason.” And as I learned shortly thereafter from accusations made by Dr Balkunas, they did so.
But an accusation made isn’t necessarily true, as we all know, and just because Dr Balkunas accused me of LYING or of making up a story doesn’t mean that was true either. He never asked me what did happen. He never tried to find out the real events of that evening, he simply designated me as manipulative and “volitional” essentially a prime-time liar…Which meant that this started a snowball of a disaster in the making. Because by the time he finally saw me on the W-1 Psych Unit the next day, he had already made the decision not to let me communicate by writing and therefore he meant not to let me tell him what was going on from the first. He had decided not to recognize the extreme state of desperation and frustration this induced, but to see only violence and willfulness and to deal with this by punishing me with torture. PERIOD.
But I am getting ahead of myself. Michael E Balkunas, MD , the self- proclaimed god of W-1, claimed to have been there when this happened, when the guards said that I just shot up off the gurney and attacked Beth, the nurse, from behind. But the record does not bear this out. In fact, he never saw me at all until the next day and all the orders were written by other physicians. Dr Balkunas’s name is not even mentioned until the afternoon of May 13 when it says only that he was at my bedside to evaluate me. Even then, from what I recall, I was so sedated after multiple forced meds that I was unable to answer any question. I was unable to speak in any event, so given the face that he refused me the tools to write with, this was as unproductive an evaluation as possible.
I was to be admitted to W-1 on the basis of his snap judgments from that evaluation,: from which he drew the diagnosis that I had a probable “borderline personality disorder.”
How could he possibly diagnose a personality disorder, something that takes time to discern in a person, after seeing me after such an extremely traumatic circumstance, for less than three minutes? In point of fact, what likely happened was that he took an immediate disliking to me, and decided to diagnose me with something that in his mind justified his egregious treatment of me as well as his immediately not allowing me to write instead of speaking. I cannot otherwise explain his behavior . Nor can I understand his apparent surprise at mine when I did not respond to him as he expected. Why did he think I would respond positively when he refused to speak to me unless I was verbal? Why did he think that coercion would bring about a positive reaction? Did he truly think this would be helpful and restorative? I doubt it. I think he just didn’t like me and so he opted as most men do to abuse and punishe me out of rage. Because he was fed up, he lost his temper with me from the get-go…
I recall thinking about the rage in his voice and how out of control he sounded as he sent me to “Seclusion! Seclusion! “ He actually screamed this directive to the guards as they deliberately grabbed my torn rotator cuff which they had been told about in the emergency room (so they would use it to their advantage) propelling me headlong down the hallway. “Restraints! Restraints!” he shouted in a shrill and angry voice.This was retributive and nothing else. He was furious and I was going to learn not to fuck with Michael Edward Balkunas, head of the W-I general psychiatry unit in the Hospital of Central Connecticut in New Britain or he would know the reason why!
But don’t let me put words in Dr. Michael Edward Balkunas’s mouth. Here is what he wrote, in his words. He wrote, surprise, surprise that “while in seclusion I would often scream” . Yet he states with apparent resentment that I had brought items with me “such as a large advanced directive” The nursing notes repeat this as if this is an evil thing, and proceed to disregard every item on it with relish. Not only that but Balkunas from the first accuses me of behaving with “volition” although he does not actually adduce any facts or observations to back up this thinking, except that I brought with me the large advance directive and a published book of the art work I had done.
This artbook, by the way, was was kept from me the entire time I was on the unit on the pretext that it would be very harmful for the other patients if they were to see it.I was led to believe that the mere glimpse of my artwork would hurt them. This was emphasized to me so many times that I felt guilty not only for having brought it with me, but for having drawn the pictures at all. The RNs seemed to enjoy my feeling so bad about it….
Balkunas further claims that he “asked if I would like to speak to him, PLEASE” but what he fails to note is that he refused to permit me any mode of communication other than verbally and that he peremptorily walked out on me when I could not utter a word. He notes that, Yes, I did throw my bed-clothes at him, but does not mention that he would not even look at my gestures in response.. Instead, he stood up in disgust and turned on his heels and strode out.
I admit that having already been so abused in the ED I was hideously upset at being unable to make him stay, unable even to make him HEAR me, that I did the only thing I could do to MAKE ANY NOISE at all, WHICH WAS TO THROW THINGS…
Both my brother and my psychiatrist claim that they told him pointblank not to draw baseless and dangerous conclusions from my traumatized behavior, that he would be making a mistake and would injure me badly if he did so. But he was of course the superman that all in-hospital psychiatrists are, the MR RIGHT that can finally fuck* you and get it right. SO he took one look at me and said, THAT IS OBVIOUSLY A CASE OF BPD if ever I saw one… Of course! And NATURALLY Michael E Balkunas is MR RIGHT, The one who fucks* you and you finally thank him for it, OF COURSE!
So THANK YOU Michael E Balkunas, You FUCKED* me OVER royally and you must have enjoyed it, because you fucked* me up the ass too. And I had to thank you in the end, didn’t I? Thanking you for fucking* me was the only I could earn my way to discharge, You forced* me to bend over and beg you to fuck* me up the ass and then Thank you again for abusing me just like any asshole who abuses women. You murdered* me, and halfway through slicing* my throat you made me beg you to fuck* me, and I did because it was the only hope I had that you might let me off with my life…Finally, with my throat half sliced* and my asshole fucked* wide open, you said, OKAY, now you can leave, you are free, you can go home now. I have had my way with you so go away…
So THANK YOU FOR FUCKING* WITH ME MICHAEL EDWARD BALKUNAS MD, GOD, THANK YOU FOR LETTING ME GO….I owe you my life, because you let me go and you didn’t in fact murder my body, I am still alive, though barely, you only tortured me and you only fucked* me and murdered my soul. You killed my spirit but you did leave my body somewhat intact so I could walk out of there and for that I had to pretend to be grateful and to thank you every day for a week, so I mouthed the words, Thank you Michael Balkunas for fucking* me and letting me leave stll alive….
But I wish you had killed me dead. Instead, you manipulated me into thanking you, for fucking* me over. You didn’t kill me quite. You made me thank you and thank you and thank you…and so now what do I do, you asshole- fucker*, but live with the torture you inflicted and wish you would crawl into your early grave somewhere and explode into a ball of maggotry.
*metaphorically, of course, but in a very real way nonetheless…So I feel it every day and wish I were dead! Note that in every other instance where an * is missing I usually mean my words literally and without any sense of metaphor whatsoever.
NOTE that this is the link to my GOOGLE + review that I posted shortly after my stay at New Britain General Hospital..I think I was rather measured in my appraisal, after all was said and done.
I figured this out while living alone. I would panic when I felt myself choking. It works like a miracle, because it is usually a spasm in the upper throat, near your mouth, and not a closed off pharynx that causes coking sensationss. You just have to understand that you CAN still breathe through your nose and that will end the panic. Once the panicky feelings are over, everything is easier to deal with and you can usually spit out the food or even find a way to swallow it. But at least you realize that you are not imminently going to die, which is a good thing to know.
Hope this advice helps someone. If it does, I would love some feedback. I have offered it to friends, and they have loved it, found it useful too, so I know it works.
Best wishes to all,
ON NOT SPEAKING
When I went temporarily mute at age sixty,
it sparked no visual wonders.
After decades schooled by dictionaries,
vocabulary categorized the world:
“precipice,” “acrid,” “blanch;”
words even defined my senses.
But one can fall into
speechlessness for reasons
though these may not seem reasonable
to people who believe that only talking things out
or about them makes sense.
Speaking or not, I knew
when silence was less insane
than trying to be heard
by those who would rather hurt me
than pay attention.
But if, as they say, silence is so eloquent,
why couldn’t anyone hear
what I so desperately didn’t say?
As my time here comes to an end, I will miss it and my neighbors terribly., I don’t know what I will do without them, and Lydia my wonderful companion. Returning to Connecticut with its horrible hospitals and indifferent treatment just feels like a disaster waiting to happen. I want to move to Vermont but I don’t know how I can make that happen. I have felt amongst friends everywhere here, but isolated completely for years in CT, despite my lovely dear friends there, I wish I could bring them all up to VT with me!
Not sure what to make of this painting, but I enjoyed doing it…What do you think? It is 8 by 12 inches, approximately, in gouache on Ampersand board (essentially gessoed masonite).
I was told by Marc and Steffie, with whom I am staying, that the sea or water represents the unconscious in some schools of thought. Which certainly makes sense to me, given how I titled this very small painting. I painted the blackbird in the stormy sky last, and can see that as a sort of link between the world of life and death, like Van Gogh’s black birds in the fields in his final paintings. But also the notion that the rocking chair can calm the stormy waters, indeed the raging tidal wave of waters outside the room, so that they become only waves but not so disturbing inside, seems to me significant. So, two questions for the pychologically or analytically minded: Why is the room red, one, and why is the chair empty? (I am serious. If you have any ideas or suggestions, I would be curious and eager for your and any interpretation. No need, just interested.)
In any event, in my sleeplessness last niight, I panicked, because I “knew” I couldn’t paint. so I put aside my decent ampersand boards, coated this bit of matboard with black to “ruin” it first, then just went to town, painting the first thing that came to mind. The chair was in the living room, but the rest was purely my imagination. If I knew what I was doing, I confess I would have painted the chair last, ON TOP of the background, but of course, I had no idea what I was doing, so I had to paint it and repaint it as ideas came to me…Hence the messiness! Hope you enjoy!
© Max Ehrmann 1927 ?
Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be,
“Desiderata” defined means things wanted or needed. A partial version of the poem hangs on the wall of the place where I will be staying for a while and while the piece is well-known, and indeed I have seen it before, the painted version here caught my eye and moved me. For some reason, however, I suspected that this particular version was a quotation only in part, so I looked up the entire poem. What I found struck me to tears.
Well, let me explain.
There are important lines that are missing in the poem on the wall here (important to me):
“You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”
Also this stanza is followed by the critical word, “Therefore…be at peace with God…” whereas on the wall, the “therefore” has been taken out. But what a difference it makes to keep it in.
The important thing to me in reading the poem in its entirety is that I do not feel I have a right to be here, do not feel I am in any sense “a child of the universe.” I feel instead that I have ruined the universe, and that if I had not been born the world would have been better off by far. That is one critical thing.
The other salient point the poet makes, which made me weep, was his belief, stated well before anyone thought about global warming, but presumably he would have said the same thing even so, if he truly had the courage of his convictions that “no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”
TO the contrary, it feels to me completely tragic that the world should be ending in our geologic time, that we should be living in the end days, not something that was meant to be or unfolding as it should. ( I say “end times” without any religious intention to those words, only the sense that we have brought about the end of the living world upon ourselves by over-consumption and massively pig-headed over-population.) Of course, the “universe” is much bigger than humanity or even generally speaking the living blue planet called earth, but as a human living on it I have no other way to feel or see but from my puny human perspective. To lose Life on earth, all or most of it at any rate, to global warming feels utterly devastating. Who or what gave humans the right to destroy what might have been the tiniest fraction of a chance at existence, life itself, to throw it all away through the over-consumption of fossil fuel (in the brief span of 2 centuries) and making too many babies, and eating too many cows?
It sickens me that I am so much at fault, that I ought not to have existed at all, that much of this could have been avoided by my never having been born. But it also sickens me that as a species, humans have collectively, since my birth, ignored all the consequences of our “eating the earth” and now we have no earth for our children’s children to inherit…
Vis a vis another line in the poem, I cannot “be gentle” with myself. I do not deserve gentleness! That way disaster lies!
“With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.” Maybe… But the world is fast losing its beauty and sometimes i think it is only beautiful to those wealthy enough to be able to willfully blind themselves to all the ugliness and injustice around them: blinding themselves to the dying oceans and all the starving homeless people…to name just two out of many.
Nevertheless, the poem is still a miracle of inspiration and remains so after nearly a century. Though not really new to me, it newly struck a chord, though I am sure that people in the know would call it an “old chestnut” of a poem, nearly hackneyed and familiar as that other O.C., “Invictus”by William Ernest Henley, though I suggest Desiderata has always been far better written than Henley’s “chest-beater” of a poem (for all that it is a favorite of many thousands..).
CLick to enlarge
1)Intense fear of abandonment, real or imaginary.
I do not fear abandonment. Many friends have passed through my life on their ways to distant ports of call in their lives’s journeys and I have always said, Well that is fine, we will simply continue to be friends on paper. I love letter writing and these days,what with email and skyping it is easier than ever to stay in touch. I still have a friend I met at folk dancing in 1972 who lives in Arizona, and we still talk occasionally and even meet every ten years or so. The thing is, we still consider ourselves friends. When my surrogate mother Lynn Levine died, I admit I cried, it was a very sad day and we had grown closer than ever over the two years of her dying. I was sad that she was gone, but not fearful that she was abandoning me. (Dr Mary B O’Malley, in her insane need to brand me with the BPD diagnosis, before she removed it altogether in a letter to Dr Angela, unbeknownst to me, insisted angrily to me in a session that my tears were symptomatic, right then and there of my “intense fear of abandonment.” Rather than understandable grief than a lovely woman had stood in for my own mother during the years when she, my mother, had largely abandoned me due to my real mental illness of schizophrenia. (About this Dr Mary B O’Malley said nothing, zilch…Why say anything about a real abandonment that i had handled as well as anyone could?)
Having intense relationships with lots of conflict, and seeing the other person as “all-good” or “all bad.”
I have one friend who has dominated me for many years, and she may indeed have borderline personality disorder and suffers from it greatly. She demands that I not have other friends, despite the fact that I have many. And she bad mouths the ones Ido. She wants my narcolepsy drugs because they are stimulants and she believes these drugs are the only things in the world that make her “happy” but in fact NOTHING makes her happy. With all my other friends — my 60 birthday party was filled with 16 good personal friends who came to celebrate, not boyfriends and wives to fill in the space, but just my own friends. And they loved each other, though they had rarely met. I do not have conflict with any of my friends, and they would be appalled to have anyone insist that our relationships were filled with such extremes. They all tell me they love me dearly and that the biggest problem is that I do not love myself.
If the below is true about BPD, count me out. I do not feel empty. I feel too full of ideas of things to do and think about. I feel sad about the environment and the world, which I feel is dying due to humanity;s lack of caring and concern. But I definitely do not feel EMPTY. Hardly. I wake each morning feeling ready to start the day and having much to do and excited to do it.
The behaviors in this next paragraph mean NOTHING to me. I hav never done anything impulsive, except when driven to flinging shit in hospitals, because of their extreme trauma behavior. Engaging in impulsive “pain management” behaviors, such as going on spending sprees, having promiscuous sex, driving recklessly, abusing drugs or alcohol, binge eating, breaking the law, threatening suicide or making attempts, and engaging in self-harm — NONE have ever occurred to me. (When I harm myself it is exclusively in response to voices i hear telling me to do so, or when I hear people telling me to that I mistake for real people instead of understanding they are the voices.
I take Topomax, a seizure control drug, for a SEIZURE disorder and NOT for a mood disorder, despite what Michael Balkunas wrote on my discharge summary. I have never taken a seizure drug for mood stabilization. ONLY for temporal lobe epilepsy.
I have indeed been date raped under very unfortunate situations three times in my 20s when I was extremely innocent and did not understand that I had a right to be rescued by the security guards who asked me, and had any right to say No.
I have also been extremely traumatized and abused by caregivers and major people in my life whom I trusted and gave myself into their care. I should not have,. They were therapists and doctors. but I did not know better and suffered greatly. Now, I suffer under the ministrations of abusive doctors like Michael Balkunas who reads my PAD and decides to abrogate every single part of it because he KNOWS ME BETTER THAN I KNOW MYSELF.
To his dismay, I became loud and combative and fought his “help” every step of the way. So to take revenge, he added the BPD to my diagnosis. But it is a lie. He knows nothing about me, no more than any other abusive in hospital doctor who have read what Mary O Malley Md PhD wrote in her discharge summaries when she was playing the nurses’ game at Norwalk Hospital and decided to let them treat me, who did not, even in her opinion, have BPD, with extreme behavioral protocols and seclusion and restraints. and dismissive ignoring of everything I said. Even today it resounds in my care. I feel it, I know it. Nothing is fair because of what she did, but she got a way with it…and I cannot litigate what she did more than a decade ago, lethal or nearly lethal though it was. But some day I will write her a letter and let her know the consequences of her actions.I do not believe she will care. People like her do not have consciences. Not even the Rev Dr Mary B O’Malley. She got away with it, She even wrote Dr Angela a letter denying it. But I have the records, I know she was lying, or trying to color things in a different way.
Thank god I am out of HOCC, and I hope that the blog post about Michael Balkunas has had some success at reaching them on the unit, I hope he and Jessica have had a chance to read it. Dismiss it though they certainly will, I want them to read it! Fuck them, I have something to say and they need to know what that is.
HOLY SHITE AND URINE TEAM
Her cool wordless RN face expresses nothing
as she scoops the ice cream turd and quickly disinfects.
But I think for her, thinking, knowing this:
“Asshole, shithead, you think
your shit don’t stink…” While I have no working sense of smell,
I know I’m an unofficial pain in the ass here
because no one can be officially PIA
on a psychiatric ward, not even I, the wild shit smearer
who knows no disgust first hand
for not smelling it.
What I know well and sadly is
the consequences of disgusting others,
the distancing, the shunning,
how killing the ultimate loneliness is, double-locked away
in a soundproof seclusion cell.
Shackled naked into leather 4-point restraints, I shriek my soul away,
from the bottom of my lungs for 20 minutes straight.
The illegally silenced intercom remains dumb.
Even the 1:1 monitor positioned behind the door.
peering lazily through the judas-eye of a small plexi-port-hole,
doesn’t really pay attention. Why bother, the shit smearer
gets what she deserves.
Oh, I know I disgust them, what with my out of control turd throwing
and my illegible scribbling with my feces on the wall
but they refuse me so much as a marker and board,
and they won’t sit down to listen when I speak.
Mute for 16 days, I will be heard now, one way or another.
But this is no way to think, and i think without thinking, just do with do do, mindlessly, enraged by trauma.
I foul myself because no one cares,
because their disgust is threaded, even so heat-felted with hatred
they have long forgotten I’m just another patient
with problems bigger than the shit I fling.
Instead, cucumber skinned nurses sneer their disgust,
Bad dog! Bad, bad dog!
But I know dog is just God spelled backwards.
And God created the living world
from dust and mud and excrement.
I am no god, I am Live backwards to Evil:
I create chaos from utter chaos within.
There are always turds to form and fling.
And in the end all they can do is kill me.
Fuck me! Do me a favor you turds, kill me!
But first, you have to silence the hate on your faces,
clean the smeared walls,
and pretend I am nothing to you.
When you came in to take me down,
restrain me for any excuse, even for just wanting a blanket.
you had to breath in my shit, that fear,
and knew what it could do to you.
You’d heard the stories, deadly E-coli, C diff.
Something in me might kill you,
I don’t know what scared you more, my wildyelling
or my excrement.
That was always the struggle. Shit stinks. I stank.
You hated me for my smell. You feared me for what I did.
I know your fear. It was: what would happen if you
lost control of yourself.
Would you, control freaks,
too dance naked in dung?
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