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Archive for the ‘mental illness’ Category

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*written July 2013
I did something amazing. I was in Boston to meet a friend and I went home. I went back to the place it all started, where I experienced so much pain. I knew I was ready. I knew I needed to do it alone. I’ve struggled so much to retrieve memories of my youth that were not traumatic – I couldn’t find images, feelings, laughter from so many years while I felt imprisoned behind the gated doors and windows. I was scared to meet up with that sad little girl crying on the stoop, but I went. I marched right up the street from the station. I took a picture of my old school and remembered Molly asking my why Malik always looked up my skirt in the coat room in Kindergarten (I replied, “I think it’s because I can read.”) I remembered running down the street to Caroline’s house where her mom made cookies and we were allowed to lick the bowl. I remembered roller skating the day Ronald Reagan was shot. I took a picture of the Mackie school yard where I smoked my first cigarette behind a dumpster. I got a little scared as I approached the block my old house was on – I walked on the far side of the street and pondered it from there for a few minutes. I knew I was strong enough. I knew I was ready. That little girl wasn’t crying anymore. Alison Meridith can go f*ck herself – I *do* have friends. People *do* like me. I’m happy. I’m healing. I’m intact. I’m integrated. I’m healthier than I’ve ever been… so why was I so scared of an old brick house with bars on the door and windows?

I took a deep breath and wandered down the block. I realized just how busy the street was where I used to run across four lanes of traffic to get my mother’s newspaper three blocks down. I don’t remember how old I was, but I know the Sunday Globe was almost too heavy for me to carry. I remember it was scary. Nearly as scary as crossing the same street to catch the T to school in first grade – my mother never got up in the morning, so I usually missed the school bus and had to get there on the city bus. Those places were so big… I used to be so small. There was a lovely little shop on the corner – a building I remember burning in an apparent arson when I was a girl – so I thought I’d find something to mark the occasion. I discovered a sweet card intended for a newborn, and I realized that is what this day was – a rebirth. I decided to mark the occasion with a gift to myself and bought the card and a cheap bangle bracelet. I steeled myself for the next step and walked back up the block to my old house.

The magnolia my mother planted the year I was born has grown almost to the third floor. The bars were still there but there was the sweetest little dog asleep in the dining room window who perked right up as I stood there to take a picture. I was weeping the most cleansing tears. The little girl wasn’t there anymore. She’s happy now. She’s healing. She’s whole. I felt like an honest to god grownup, ready to move on and live life without that sad little girl hanging off my skirt. I scanned the house looking for traces of my old world when a young man came out of the house to smoke on the stoop. I had a lovely conversation with him about the house that belongs to his family now. I don’t know if he noticed the tears behind my glasses and sweat.

I called my boyfriend and texted my therapist to let them know what I had done. It felt amazing. I was released. I was liberated. I am free.

I wept all the way back to Copley Square then proceeded to recount the experience to a dear friend I spent the day with. We went into my old church and chatted with the receptionist before going into the sanctuary to say a prayer of thanks. I’m not really a praying kind of girl, but this day was extraordinary, and that church was as much my home as any other place – I found real sanctuary there for many years. My gratitude fills me. My liberation is like this incredible gift I never dreamed I’d receive although I write that with the knowledge that this is no gift. This was hard-fought and hard-won. I busted my ass to get this far. I worked like a beast to battle demons and ghosts, misunderstanding, sanctimony, judgement, rejection, loss… I won.

I know I’m not done yet. I have plenty of work left to do and there will be ups and downs for sure, but I’ve made tremendous strides and I’m pretty freaking proud of how far I’ve come.

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My heart aches, bleeds with grief for the senseless loss of life and innocence. I’ve been reeling all day, torn between wanting to avoid the horror of the news and wanting to be prepared to discuss it with my own children. And then there’s that magnetic draw to become engulfed in the news, to try to glean some sense from the madness… because it is all about madness, right? That’s where I get mad.

First they trot out the reporters with half-confirmed fact-like information, then come the psychologists to talk about the crazy. If the massacre happens abroad it’s a terrorist, but if it happens here in the US it must be a crazy person. There must be some diagnosis to explain this horrific crime. Except when there isn’t. Or when the mental illness is a result of trauma, abuse, bullying or just lousy parenting. Or when a human being perfectly capable of making choices makes some terrible, terrible choices.

Choice. Ay, there’s the rub. Mentally ill people make safe choices every day. Victims of child abuse choose not to abuse their own children. Children exposed to domestic violence grow up to choose not to abuse their own spouse.

It burns my ass when the media wants to paint the picture of a killer as someone who is mentally ill, because whether that person is or is not mentally ill should not paint the mentally ill as killers.

The vast majority of mass murderers in the USA are young, white men of privilege, yet the vast majority of young, white men of privilege live a lifetime without killing anyone.

Sigh. My heart aches. Sad times.

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Will I ever stop chasing the little girl I was? I wish I could stop her from feeling all the hurt, change her path so she might find an easier way. I guess it isn’t up to me. All I can do is work to heal the woman she has become.

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My therapist was freaked out about my son setting a fire.  She challenged me not to minimize it and take it very seriously.  I thought I was taking it seriously, but she’s very concerned that this is a demonstration of his anger and that it could get worse if I don’t do something.  Problem is, I’m just not sure what to do.  I talk.  I talk about everything, all the time, way too much.  He doesn’t talk.  He has no interest in talking, he doesn’t want to talk, he can’t be bothered to talk.  Talking annoys him.  All the time.

I was driving him home from a track meet last night and asked him about the fire and being angry.  He said he was angry about being grounded.  He said he just really wanted to see the model house he built burn.  He said that he was in control the whole time and had a plan to be safe – I’m not sure I agree with that.  I explained to him why I was worried and he thinks I worry too much – that it isn’t a big deal.  I asked him if he could promise me that he wouldn’t start a fire again without it being in the stove or outside with a permit in controlled circumstances.  He said no.  He said he’s trying to be honest with me, and the reality is that at some point, he’s probably going to set something on fire, so he can’t make a promise he can’t keep.

I’m torn between freaking out and lauding his pragmatic honesty.  I pushed him to explain to me what kind of circumstances he might light something on fire – he said a piece of paper, he likes to roll up a piece of paper and watch it burn in the snow, that he’s done it plenty of times.  He really likes to watch things burn.  He says he’s not going to be a serial killer just because he like to burn stuff.

Part (most) of me wants to normalize this.  We live in the country – we have wood stoves, we make bonfires, we burn yard debris, we have fires on the beach…  There is a wood stove in the garage that he is very responsible with, using it in the winter to keep warm when he’s playing pool or darts.

Then there is part of me that is freaking out.  He’s angry because he has so much responsibility and so little control.  He hates having a crazy mother, being poor, living in a messy house.  He’s lashing out because he doesn’t have anyone to talk to – or wouldn’t talk to anyone anyway.  He’s acting out because I am doing better and he finally feels like he can be a kid.

I don’t know.  I just don’t know.  Teenagers are hard.

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I hate bureaucracy…  People can be such monumental assholes and be so utterly insensitive.  I’m wiped out after 35 minutes on the phone with Edgar and Wally at the USDA Centralized Servicing Center that manages my mortgage.  I had to get them to explain to me why they wouldn’t accept my money for my overdue mortgage… apparently, I owe them money, so they can’t take my money…  Yes, folks, our tax dollars hard at work.  I know I’m in foreclosure, assholes… that’s why I sent you $3,500 to get OUT of it.  Nope.  It took me too long to send the check.   Why did it take you so long to send the check, maam?  Um… let’s see… because you told me to send a cashier’s check and that took me a month to get to the bank to get it another month to find the address and a few days to find a stamp and envelope.  Because I have trouble with organization on a MASSIVE scale.  Because I am mentally ill.  That’s why I’m on disability and can’t AFFORD my mortgage because I’m living on pennies a day…  I don’t want to talk about all the ways I fucked up.  I don’t want a lecture on how I need a fucking positive attitude when I talk to the foreclosure department if I want them to help me and I sure as hell don’t need you threatening to hang up on me because you already have me in tears.  Just tell me how to get you people to take the fucking check I had to go through an act of congress to get ahold of and get my damn mortgage paid!  Oh, what’s that?  Mail it again?  Gee.  Okay.

Now I have to find another fucking stamp.

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