Last night at Nell’s Story Play class I told a story about madness. My madness. I’ll try to put it in narrative form.
Lots of stuff happened. It rode up my back and swirled through my brain to wreak havoc on my frontal lobe so that in 2003 I was faced with being institutionalized. It’s a family trait. I’d spent years with screaming voices in my head and my fingers clinging onto the edge of a cliff of sanity and it all got out of control. After counseling with some of the members of my tribe, I decided to check myself into the Asylum for Crazy People. But I promised myself:
“I am only in this for as long as I want to be in this.”
In the hospital I was given a diagnosis that sort of made sense and achieved the nirvana of a silent brain with the help of Klonopin. I came up with a treatment plan and was eventually released.
Years passed. The stories I could tell. Those will wait for another class. Let’s pull it forward almost a decade, an almost-decade of anxiety and crippling depression and grey dissociation and strugglestrugglestruggle.
Mornings are the worst. In the in the in the mornings my in the mornings my in the mornings my thoughts repeat in the morning my thoughts in the morning my thoughts repeat in bits in the mornings in the mornings my thoughts repeat repeat repeat in bits in the bits in the mornings repeat bits so it echoes echoes echoes. Total chaos. Sometimes I just lie in bed and scream. Other times I force myself up to take my meds and drink some milk. That starts to slow the train. Sometimes.
This was a morning like any other morning. I finally got my ass out of bed and drooped to the bathroom. But when I looked in the mirror everything was suddenly…clear. Quiet. Silent. And in that silence was a statement: “I think I’m done.” I gazed into my eyes. “You sure?” I asked internally. “I think I’m done,” I said out loud. And the clarity continued. Silence. Surety. Safety.
I have a plan for suicide and it will take several days to execute (bad pun but I won’t apologize). When I saw my psychiatrist during our regularly scheduled appointment that day, I told her about my decision. She kept her cool and asked if I would wait a day—if I would just come back tomorrow and talk. Still clear, I agreed. I didn’t need to buy the gun that day.
The afternoon passed and it was time for me to see my therapist. I was no longer clear. I was starting to slip. She was alarmed. She tried to reach me but I was going non-verbal. She moved to her files to get the number of the hospital and I came hissing and spitting out of myself. No way was I going back.
“Who are you?” she asked. “What year is it?” Trying to determine if I were grounded in consensual reality.
There was a glass pumpkin suspended in the air in front of my eyes, and each section of it contained a year. I could see “2011” on one slice but it was going to take so much effort to get to that piece. I floundered and spun and reached so hard when suddenly I felt a “snap” like a rubberband whacking you around your wrist and I just let go.
“It’s 1939. I’m 29 years old and I’m on a bus. I’m a secretary. I’m on my way home from work.” I could see the cloth coat I was wearing, feel the bus jostle me as I stood in the aisle, holding onto the back of a seat. A shaft of sunlight shone in the window to my right and warmed my hand. I wore a hat and a dress and I had a handbag. The air had a bit of a chill. It was late September.
My therapist asked me to look at my hands but hands were not the be-ringed gnarled crone hands of Cairril Adaire, they were the hands of this other me, this 1939 secretary me on her way home from work.
When I have these “episodes” (which are either psychotic phenomena or DID projections), they last for a few hours. Sometimes I have convulsions. I usually end up silent on the floor, totally incapable of communication, lost in a silent fog. I stare until my contacts pop out when I blink. After time, some time, who knows how much time, I get up. I put my contacts away. I brush my teeth. I go to bed. Next morning, it’s like it never happened. I hit the reset button by going to sleep. And all I have to do is keep it together through the screaming until the next one strikes.
Needless to say, I didn’t buy a gun that day. With my reset, I was back in the fight.