Tag Archives: mental health

Self-Portrait: Mid-Winter

share_temporary1100710481.jpg

Self-portrait, oil on canvas paper, Jessica Lakis  (WIP)

I have to light a fire. Every morning I must clean and light a wood stove. Sweeping before and after fire-making.  I empty the soot and ash into a black metal can with a handle and shovel. (Is this what is called a “scuttle?”) I will empty the ash on the compost. I let the dog out with me while I gather the tinder and wood from under the kitchen porch over the basement entrance, where Stan has stacked it.  Hauling the wood up the curving basement stairs, all the stairs curve here, I trip a lot. It’s been below zero C for weeks. I detest the cold. I curse a good deal. Sometimes it’s my Father’s voice mixed with Walter White. “Jessie! Your mind isn’t on what you’re doing.” Fair enough.

After earning the Tom Hanks moment of achieving the early human magic of fire, tea or coffee may now be had. And that’s how about every day has begun for weeks. I place humidifiers and air cleaners to protect my assaulted sinuses and lungs. I long to open the windows. But still I must clean. I have finally begun to realize and actually do what I need to survive this bleak, blear of holidays and the long nothing afterwards.

For weeks I waited for Star Wars. Stan and I made a date of  seeing the new Star Wars: The Last Jedi, which I adore. I even like Rose. She seems closer to me. I tingled to the new connection between Rey and Ben Solo (I suppose that’s what everyone calls Kylo Ren now). It’s unexpected and gorgeous. But a dark and heart-gutting story. Leia’s key role underlines how much I miss her, and will. My champion on screen and off, she’s gone forever. Nevertheless, my bright spot of December unleashes sobbing. I feel as though Star Wars has caught up with current events and the current mood. And I think of what Yoda tells Luke: failure the best teacher is.

Although I am back in therapy, my mood drops. I still had two weeks until Stan’s vacation. I begin to feel lonely and sad. I cry everyday, and every Sunday night sends me into a terror facing the loneliness of the next week when Stan goes back to work. All through the freezing weather and short days. I am tired of telling others that I don’t have the money for presents, so please don’t get me one. Even though Stan and I have permanently sworn off Christmas because we are both unbaptized nonbelievers, and we don’t have children, I am still sad. Like the O’Henry story, but neither of us has hair to sell or an expensive old watch to pawn. We instead spend our gift cards on gifts for each other. Trips to Michael’s! See Star Wars again. We are very happy.

I start recovering myself by doing more. I decide cheese sandwiches is not a healthy diet, and begin working on vegetarian cooking. Cooking in general. And Stan roasts a pork loin and eats it with my cabbage, potatoes and beans the week of the New Year. I shoot the old shithouse on the hill with a 20 gauge on New Year’s eve. I am ashamed that no one had shot the shithouse with a shotgun before. Stan throws M80s. It was dangerous, and fun.

Having found myself utterly without words to express what is happening to me, so I draw. My mother buys me a portable easel with a large, partitioned drawer. She’s also added a large tube of Titanium White, medium, and turpentine. So I begin to oil-paint. And without having used oils or drawn the human form for ages, I obviously attempt a self-portrait. I cannot correct the fractured skull I under-painted.

I start again. I suddenly realize that, better than the small makeup mirror, are selfies I take under the light I want. I suppose I never thought of it because I’m old. I began painting for an hour in the morning and one in the evening, to let the paint dry. The under-painting worked. Suddenly I’m doing classical thin to fat oil. What I learned in college and from my father over years rush back. Every piece of advice. Every admonition. Suddenly, a passable painting emerges from the cheap canvas paper. In the background I paint the design of the carpet at The Overlook Hotel from The Shining. It seems appropriate. I am proud, even seeing the flaws. Soon the crying drops away, and I just paint.

I become a happy hermit again. Oblivious to the problems outside my door. I chuckle at the ridiculous headlines of “like, really smart” and “a very stable genius,” which pops up as Breaking News from the NYT to my inbox. “President Trump declares self “very stable genius.” tee-hee-hee! The anxiety is a bit harder to ditch, but somehow I manage. Black box pinot noir contain four bottles of wine, and cost 22$. I add seltzer, and let myself have one or two in the evenings.  My tongue loosens with Stan, and we communicate and assist each other with each others’ “goals” for the New Year. We play games and “art” together. Talk about improvements to the house.

I lose some of my cool when my Mom texts me, at an inopportune moment, with several times and dates to choose from to see my sister’s show.  I feel hassled and annoyed. And again someone wants to pay for the tickets I cannot afford. The internal drama and stress family issues cause me ensues. Does my sister still hold a grudge over me? Is she simply the same little sister who tortured me between play? My younger sister who convinced me to clean her room for her. Made me feel guilty unless I slept in her bed. And would wait at the top of the steps for me, then jump out and scare me. I was certain I’d find my end at the foot of those long wooden stairs. I get the distinct feeling that I’m someone she calls on a schedule, like a grandmom. I wonder if it’s possible to love without liking. Perhaps I am to her a childhood playmate from whom she has moved on, but calls on birthdays. But she never speaks of it to me, so I don’t know. My Mother wants to keep us together as a family.

That drama still ongoing, I have fitful desires to go outside because the temperature is just above freezing. I enjoy being the local hermit again. I race Abbey down the lane because it’s too cold to walk. And then there’s my four sets of curving stairs. One second floor bathroom. I suppose I’m exercising. I still dance in the morning or whenever I really feel the urge. I stretch to the rhythm of The Smiths. My body commanded to move as though I were leisurely yodeling, or growling and gargling over a sharp, embarrassing and private pain. I add The Pogues. Angrier displaced Irishmen. Infinitely unhappy, but determined to live while they can.

At last, I find myself able to write and paint at once. Something I haven’t done since high school. So, I suppose I’m managing myself better. Perhaps in a few months Scatman Crothers will have to save either Stan or myself. Save us both!

In the meantime, I have a fire to tend.

 

While you’re here:  Check out my Instagram! There are pictures of stuff I like and hate. 😊

While there: check out my BFF’s Instagram and share some love.

Got a comment? Click below! I love the feedback. If you like what you’ve read, tap Like and Share on Facebook! Follow and share on Twitter.

 


Much Ado About My Last Post

morrissey-cereal

I adore watching Morrissey toss his Fruit Loops at a skinhead in the Alma Matters video. It feeds my soul.

I really need to thank all the folks who responded with encouragement to my last blog.  I had reached that “I just ran out of bullshit” moment from Network, that proceeds the more famous line, “I’M MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GONNA TAKE IT ANYMORE!” And yeah I proceeded to reach that moment, and a lot of the reason was down to the equal amount of flak I took for my last post.

In my last post, I questioned my very right to ask questions, have feelings that are uncomfortable yet are still legitimate, such as anger from feeling as though I had been wronged in some fashion. Even though I have mental health issues. I decided I did have a right, just like everybody else does.

Let’s posit a purely hypothetical scenario in which my attempt have a phone call returned somehow became just stupid crazy. In fact, in this scenario, the call that eventually resulted not in an apology or explanation from the individuals involved. It came from an an unrelated person I’d be soft for, calling to ask whether I was considering suing their organization (just weird), and whether I wouldn’t mind taking down last week’s blog. (Hell naw! And you gotta earn those Google stars, baby.)

But, we’ll say, I did reach out to people and organizations that could help give me answers, encouragement, and advice. How happy I am for hypothetical people like that. And the support from my family was and remains beyond anything I had hoped for. So, I’d like to thank all of the good folks as well. The people who did agree that I had a right to be upset, and to be treated better than I had been.

I only feel bad that the earful I had to give to the only person who called me from the other side of this hypothetical scenario, was completely innocent of the bullshit I had called out. But, hey man, I hadn’t even showered or brushed my teeth by whenever near noonish it was.  I was spending the day in bed breaking down Hamlet’s soliloquy into modern language, and wondering whether anything in my life is worth enduring the pain I’ve been feeling. So, I don’t feel that bad that the right message went to the wrong person.

One thing I have certainly learned, in this purely mental exercise, is that there are people and organizations that can help advocate for my rights, that I do still retain. The woman  from NAMI was interested in my hypothetical tale, and she gave me a bit of advice and kind words. You know, treat me with the dignity and respect I deserve, just like everybody does.

 

*I also want to thank my oh-so patient Stan, and my dear friend Nicole, for insisting that I fix my hair color yesterday, get a shower, and have something to look forward to. *smooch* And thank my parents for calling me Ralph Nader all my life! 😁

 

While you’re here:  Check out my Instagram! There are pictures of crazy stuff I like and hate! 😊

While there: check out my BFF’s Instagram and share some love.

Got a comment? Click below! I love the feedback. If you like what you’ve read, tap Like and Share on Facebook! Follow and share on Twitter.

 


Just Like Everybody Else Does

 

 

“I am human and I need to be loved, just like everybody else does.”               – Morrissey

Invalid feelings and desires. That’s how I feel when I express myself as someone suffering from mental illness. It’s as though — once I’ve come out and said, “Yes, I suffer from Depression, Anxiety, PTSD, fill the blank” — that even the others who I’d expect to understand, write off every feeling or thought I have because I’m crazy.

It’s soul crushing. Admitting to having mental health issues demotes me from the status of human being to somewhere between a dog and a chimpanzee. Like maybe I can qualify for “personhood” and humans can’t use me for inhumane cosmetics testing, but other than that, my feelings and rights don’t count.

A man kills a church-full of people, and suddenly the talking heads are on about “mental illness.” Because, crazy people! People with mental illness are 10 times more likely to be a victim of violent crime than the general populace, and no more or less inclined towards violence, but so what? It’s much easier to discard a human being’s rights than the NRA’s cash. It doesn’t matter how you feel about the 2nd Amendment, the pattern of dehumanization is there. Crazy people check your rights at the door, maybe we’ll treat you as well as a dog.

And that’s just one issue in the public sphere that has me pissed again. But do I have the right to be pissed? I mean, seriously, if I’m crazy then you don’t have to listen to my crazy thoughts and feelings, right? I must be having “a bad day,” or be “overreacting due to past traumatic stimuli.” My thoughts and feelings are invalid. Perhaps my family has changed from using the term “dramatic” to “sensitive,” but I still feel limitations.

But, family, eh? What are you going to do? What about when it’s my therapist or psychiatrist? Then what? When the very institution I’ve given myself over for treatment for the past five years, suddenly makes it glaringly obvious that my questions are not welcome. I can follow all the damned rules, but why can I not question my psychiatrist’s “discomfort” with helping me through something? Is there “a no questions” rule for crazy folks as well?

I use Pennsylvania Counseling. I’ve been receiving my therapy and psychiatric visits with them since 2013, when I moved from Philly. In Philadelphia, I worked with Thomas Jefferson’s various outpatient clinics since I was 19. I am committed to my treatment. I spent 2009 until 2013 with Dr. Serota at Jefferson. And before the Obamacare federal expansion, he’d help me renew my Medical Assistance every year. He’d fill out the “Health Sustaining Medications” form. And he’d mark me as disabled, so I could still work if I could and get Medicaid. More than that, he was a kind and gentle man. And he liked to talk about film and literature with me. He made me feel like a human being. I wasn’t just “good girl.” *pant pant pant*

I always feared, when I moved to the Susquehanna Valley, I’d get some friggin Mennonite with a stick so far up their asses it kept their bonnet on. And wouldn’t you know it! Bingo! 

If Pennsylvania lost the Medicaid expansion, I’d be shit out of luck. Forget how long I’ve been receiving treatment at my current facility.

This place won’t touch a thing that would help me get services I need. And I’m a compliant patient. I go to my therapy, when I remind PA Counseling that my therapist has been out since Labor Day, and I’m in a bad way and get a damned appointment.

With a few exceptions, I have not generally experienced that Germanic, Prussian tendency to “just follow orders” and expect everyone else to goosestep in line that I expected here. Although I’ve had my share of nightmares in which I’m in a re-education camp though. And some printed dress down to the ankles wearing, post-stroke Nurse Ratched, Sarah Huckabee Sanders bitch wants to usher me to the gas chambers. Usually because I didn’t take Jesus into my heart.

Pennsylvania Counseling won’t just won’t return my calls. Or they call at 4:59, leave a message then bugger off. Talk about treating the mentally ill in crisis with dignity and respect, and generally making me feel as though I don’t matter.

But now, having experienced it, all I know is I have very limited options for care in my area. And no one cares because I’m crazy. And definitely not a human being with the right to a question, feeling, or opinion of my own, just like everybody else does.
“Sit crazy girl! Sit! Good crazy girl.”
Rough! Ruff!

 

While you’re here:  Check out my Instagram! There are pictures of crazy stuff I like and hate! 😊

While there: check out my BFF’s Instagram and share some love.

Got a comment? Click below! I love the feedback. If you like what you’ve read, tap Like and Share on Facebook! Follow and share on Twitter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


The Soil Falling Over My Head

“I know it’s over, and still I cling. I don’t know where else I can go.” – Morrissey

Last few weeks were so bad. How bad were they? I’m glad you asked. So bad that I tried to watch a David Attenborough nature program, and my mind over-dubbed his narration with Werner Herzog. “The screams of the infant monkey will not bring back its dead mother. But merely fall silent on the pitiless jungle of life, bent on meaningless slaughter and overwhelming murder.” Morrissey was too cheerful to listen to, even when safely in my bed. So, we’ll go with “very bad.”

I felt, and still do to a point, as though I was slowly being buried. And each good thing that brings me joy was like a gasp of air, but each gasp seemed shorter and shorter, and provided less air for less time. Eventually I was buried under. Nothing meant anything, even my life. Even my life.

My mind is my favorite organ. And it just could not work.  I started being more flighty than usual, then forgetting dates in history, people’s names, what day it was, what time it was. I began losing things, too. And I don’t lose things! I just don’t. So when I do, I feel like I’m losing my mind, and I — tentatively using the past-tense — was. I had days lost in bed in silence. I didn’t want any sound or light, just to fall back to sleep. I was staying in my pajamas, not showering. And I simply could not handle anything anyone else said, or communicated in any fashion. There was no room or ability to pay attention, or listen, or just have others’ thoughts in my head. I didn’t even eat.

I considered entering inpatient psychiatric care. I got this bad for many reasons, some of which I can control, and others that are completely out of my sphere. And part of it that I could fix came down to my therapist. She has been absent since just before Labor Day, and she was helping me with some difficult issues. But after some naturing over the weekend with friends, and a desperate visit to my psychiatrist, I was finally given a new therapist. And she’s great. She has an extremely positive vibe, but manages to not be punchable because of her tremendous empathy and inner beauty.  So, I’ve climbed off the literal and figurative ledge for now. But it’s not as though I’m raring to freakin’ go this week. Poco a poco.

I still feel the need to constantly excuse myself to my family and loved ones for asking for anything.  I fear over-taxing them and that my crazy is contagious. But I’ve found all the people that truly love me are happy to help me be happy. And I want more than anything for them to feel good too.

To accomplish this, I took the unprecedented step of looking for good things in my life. And stuff I enjoy. It began with my dog, Abbey, the go-go Border Collie who keeps me outside and moving despite the weather or how I’m feeling. She also gives excellent morning cuddles. And then there’s Mr. Puddems, my fancy kitten man, who is a world-class lap-warmer. The Stan-man, of course. Our home. And going to friends’ houses. And golly-gee but I started taking showers, dressing nicely, dressing in general. Coloring, and I even started an oil-sketch. Gosh darnnit, I even cooked and cleaned in the same day. I honestly have to stop all this or people might get the idea that I’m a capable human being, and like *gasp* expect stuff from me. I may have to go to family meals! They may expect me to be on time!

But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. I’m back to taking a lot of emotional strength and capacity to live and love from Mozzy and The Smiths. Some folks might mistake this as indulging in depression. But it’s not so. Morrissey is just on my level. All the right amounts of passion, aggression, gentleness, strength, weakness, frustration, and joy however fleeting, just suits me fine. And keeps me going. He still is. So, everyone just deal with my love of Morrissey. It’s difficult, I know, but I’m not going to desert the music that’s gotten me through my teenage years, and through many troubles in between then and now. I’m more sorry about asking others’ to accept this than for most anything else.

And then there’s this blog. I started it over a week ago. And I’ve written maybe a paragraph or two a day. I used to be able to do these in one afternoon. But it’s been rough to communicate at all, nevermind attempting to explain these feelings to others. I feel extremely vulnerable, and of course sorry for anyone reading this, and sorry for perhaps upsetting them. Some habits are harder to break or reinstate. But, hey, at least I can write this much again.

What I hope is two-fold. Firstly, I want my friends and family to know why I’ve just not been present for a while. Why I may not be liking your blog, or Instagram, or even engaging in the Book of Faces. Secondly, I thought my story might help both people living with a depressed person to see what goes on in their brains. And all of the people living with depression to see that they are not alone, and that, as Morrissey croons: “there is a light that never goes out.”

I’m still working through this extreme debilitation of my mind, I have a lot of work yet to do. I’m happy to have found a new therapist to help. I’m also glad that when it came to it, I grabbed the tool-kit I worked on in therapy, and not some rather more dangerous object.  I’m not gonna lie though, the Mueller indictments and that one guilty plea really helped. 😀

 

While you’re here:  Check out my Instagram! There are pictures of crazy stuff I like and hate! 😊

While there: check out my BFF’s Instagram and share some love.

Got a comment? Click below! I love the feedback. If you like what you’ve read, tap Like and Share on Facebook! Follow and share on Twitter.


All the Lonely People: Mentally Ill in America

 

mental-illness

“No, really. I’m fine.”

I’m a white girl from a good family, I have a college education, I have a life and loved ones, and I’ve been in treatment for mental illness since I was nineteen.  I’m lucky. But everytime I see a homeless person, hear of a suicide, see someone lost to drugs or alcohol, or working on a non-violent criminal record, I think: There but for the Grace of the Force go I.

But just because I’m crazy, doesn’t mean I don’t have every right to be extremely pissed at this particular moment in time. While the Congress debates precisely how much cruelty is acceptable in the US healthcare system, we clearly have a President whose clinical diagnosis is “Crazy-pants w/ nuclear codes.”

Crazy is classist. The brilliant film The Ruling Class (1972, starring Peter O’Toole) savagely explores the old saw that the poor are “crazy.” The rich are “eccentric.” Sometimes “unpredictable,” but definitely a member of the club. And they can get away with anything, including shooting a guy in the face in Times Square, as Trump eloquently expressed the principle. But you can also observe it at work in talk shows praising the “courageous” celebrity who admits to seeking treatment, and explores their “struggle.”

The rest of us who live with mental illness don’t get the same press or privilege. Whether we deal with abuse, genetic predisposition, addiction, or life experience — and it’s usually a complex of some or all — mental illness is a lonely slog. For families with mental illness and/or dysfunction — again, usually both — the family generally falls into camps. The “get over it and move ons” and the silent and suffering. And those camps often overlap. But the punishment for breaking silence can be severe for those brave enough to admit there is a problem.

Although I have found that adopting an attitude of “Yep. I’m cray-cray. But I’m not hurting anyone. So deal with it.” has been helpful to me, it took me two decades of continuous treatment to get to that point. It is liberating, but even so, telling someone you have a specific mental illness, doesn’t mean suddenly they will “get you.” It certainly won’t help in a job interview. Depression or Anxiety may be abstract ideas that exist in people’s heads, but when you behave like a person who suffers from those disorders, few understand.

While informing friends and family that you have cancer is a thing my father could not even do, cancer is something that people understand will come with a certain set of painful difficulties. They will often research it to see what to expect. Doesn’t work that way with mental illness.

If you tell a family member or loved one, “I suffer from mood disorders,” you might as well have said, “Hey, I’ve gotten really into day trading.” Their eyes kind of glaze over, and they sure as hell aren’t going to Google “what is day trading?” Or, “what to expect when a loved one is day trading?” But get ready to witness all manner and degree of expressions of shock, dismay, anger, and shame when you behave like someone with a mood disorder. Or when your needs and/or limitations get in the way of their life and plans. That’s why the most common thing a mentally ill person says is “I’m fine.” Especially if we’re not.

When most people think of mental illness these days, they think of school or church shooters. Violent killers, all of them “mentally disturbed.” But, even among schizophrenics, violence and mental illness don’t go hand in hand.  I have to watch idly by as people discuss forcibly registering people as mentally ill who want to purchase a shotgun for their home. That’s two Constitutional rights, if you’re counting. (The Fourth Amendment Right to Privacy is the other one.) “Mentally ill” is a stigma, and a silencer.

If I went to Senator Pat “I don’t ever listen to my phone messages” Toomey’s office to protest, all you would see is a white girl with a sign and an attitude. And if I were hauled off by the police, you’d probably think “Crazy chick!” You can’t see by looking at me that I have serious health problems. I “present well.” I appear “normal” and “fine.” But if you did discover you were right about me being crazy, you could discount my opinion completely, right? And I have been told too many times to not even follow the news. Apparently, I cannot even handle being informed on issues that affect me.

The mentally ill have no political voice or capital. No one is courting our votes. Should crazy people even be allowed to vote anyhow? We are not only socially marginalized and stigmatized, we have no say in policy or our care, if we can get it.

Do you know what the wait times are to begin treatment if you have Medicaid? At least a month. That goes for drug and alcohol, and dual diagnosis treatment as well. And if you have private insurance, how many therapy sessions does it cover?  Can you fit therapy into your work schedule? Do your medications impact your ability to work? How many hours in six months before therapy starts coming out of your pocket? What about the prescriptions? Do you just go to your family doctor and get some random “happy pill”? Get sent on your way with no therapy or guidance? Do you know what the side effects may be? Do you understand how to take it? Most importantly: can you afford it?

Now that opioid dependence is an EPIDEMIC thanks to white people. Except for Attorney General (for the moment) Sessions, more people in power are realizing that criminalizing is no substitute for immediate, accessible, free treatment. Perhaps mental illness can ride addiction’s coat tails into some public opinion and  policy? After all, if we can get past of the stigma of “junkie” perhaps we could get past “crazy.”

Most importantly though, when it comes to it, doesn’t it just make more sense to at least make sure that those who suffer from mental illness receive care and treatment to ease their suffering? Nevermind free those who are treatable to live productive and even happy, “normal” lives?  Ease suffering, make more functioning citizens? Am I making any sense? More sense than the latest Tweet or speech by President Trump? Or do I sound crazy? If only I had money.

 

While you’re here:  Check out my Instagram! There are pictures of crazy stuff I like and hate! 😊

While there: check out my BFF’s Instagram and share some love.

Got a comment? Click below! I love the feedback. If you like what you’ve read, tap Like and Share on Facebook! Follow and share on Twitter.

 


%d bloggers like this: