Yes, I’ve wanted to give up. Who hasn’t? She was my vision of possibility without disgrace.
Nearly, fifteen years ago, she had her first psychotic break, that we witnessed together. Of course, there had been many previous times…gone from this world, unto and onto, another. Those are moments in time, that I could only have hoped to be there for her. As a child, as a teen, as a young adult, her struggles with a multitude of angry and deviant voices…had been her penance. A breach in the lining of the fabric that so many of us…take for granted. In these times, within the halls, stained mattresses, climatic group therapy sessions; my heroine, my wife, Megan, lived a life of solace. Alone in deviled conversations among perceived (in her mind) beings who were out to kill, disfigure and harm.
As my spouse, lover and best friend, Megan, is diagnosed with schizophrenia. A conclusion that her therapy, teams, did not come to until…fairly recently.
She has undergone;
four point restraints
various medical regimes
A variety of schemes were designed to keep her under wraps. Where she refused to wear a dress! She was forced to wear a plastic hospital gown (made for state funded clinics). Designed for lack of comfort and…constriction. Though she tore at the dress/gown, threw up on it, fouled upon it; the medical staff kept her dressed in it. For 72 hours. A bizarre performance by the mental health staff. To reprimand Megan for behavior that was not socially acceptable.
The first psychotic break I bore witness to; Megan’s innocent, brown eyes, rolled back into her head. She spoke to walls that appeared to speak back. Voices encouraging her to harm herself. Being to fearful to fight back. Megan, adhered to the voices, and over dosed.
I could not speak to her. I could not bring her back. I could only sit in a stark room with a strange mural of waterfalls, on the far wall.
I had been encouraged by a woman who was unaware of Megan’s past, voices, medications; To not remind my lover of our home, our pets, our love.
Bringing up our history, as a couple, the nurse stated:
‘Would only upset me more! And, accomplish nothing, as far as, encouraging, Megan, was involved.’
My wife has grown since those days. The breaks from what society calls, reality, happen very rarely. She is a strong woman. Fighting demons…I would cower from.
I encourage anyone…with a lover, friend..to educate themselves on the stigma of mental health and it’s disorders. Further, as Megan has shown me; If you find yourself avoiding the reach; The hand out of the darkness that is trustworthy and understanding…offering you a reprieve. Do not recess back in shame. The hand? Please take it. Trust it. I have learned from the guidance of my wife, my own mental health issues… And, on occasion I need a person to a friend in which to…win the fight. The fight against mental health disorders…and, their stigmas.
“Schizophrenia cannot be understood without understanding despair.”
It had been a hot, sultry and intoxicating, beautiful New Hampshire July day, 2004. Megan had sat on the edge of the lake. Half into an easy discomfort and half out. The beach had been empty other than Megan, her lover and their unruly dread-lock poodle named, Sawyer.
As is typical, the days without the need for several layers of clothing are few and far between, therefore, the couple had jumped at the opportunity to enjoy a quietly benign day.
“My life seems too long. Seems like there’s very little point in going on!”
A hush spread over the country setting like tears drops miraculously falling from an other wise clear day.
The contemplation had been there the whole hour since the couples arrival. A distant unspoken sadness the neither person approached with words but with little communication instead. With schizophrenia, years, years and more years can go by with very little in the way of communication between the owner and their voices. Those years can turn into a wonderful moment in which you embrace every single day…as though it may be your last time spent with sanity.
Yet, doubt, often has a way of approaching a loved one with this insidious illness. Doubt that they are not strong enough to pull through the haze of horrible speeches with hate dotted upon every word. Speeches they know to be real. Chatter a loved one can only stand by and watch in awe, as though, they are awaiting a ship to come back to sea.
“I think I’ll come back tomorrow…swim to the middle and just let go…Or, maybe, I’ll climb to the steeple of that ancient church and jump…You know how much I like heights!”
What does a loved one say? How to books tend to avoid subjects such as these. And, for the most part, there is never any talking down of someone who sits in wait of a psychotic break.
“This is what we’ll do…next week, exactly seven days from now. We will come back. If you are feeling the same way. I will help you break into the chapel. I will find a way to end your suffering for you!”
Question was? Will this doubt pass?
She sat quietly behind the row of the last seat in the very end of the hall. Nearly out into the woman’s bathroom. Vicki sat in the very same iron maiden metal chair for six months of sobriety chips. She held very gray eyes that cut through the recipient, like cancer when she dare look at you. However, Vicki, never really looked at anyone…she always looked down. Down and off to the side. Sitting in a Victorian stance with a babushka over hear head. Vicki always came to the meetings alone…other than the police issued ankle braclet.
Vicki very rarely told her story. The tale we all tell when we reach the ‘halls’. How did we hit rock bottom? Who saved us? What is our plan now?
All any of her home group knew were the basics and the basics were enough. Vicki didn’t plan on being a drunk. Matter of fact, it wasn’t until her retirement party, where she really let loose, that the over the top indulgence began.
And, began it did! From a sip a day drinker to a half a gallon of vodka before five boozer in a matter of six short months.
Vicki breaks down at this stage, crying uncontrollably. Asking the ceiling for forgiveness. Begging whatever Higher Powers that be to…as she puts it, let her go!
So, in five short sentences, Vicki’s story, never mind her life as a mother, grandmother and secretary…begins and ends.
“I got into my car for a quick ride to the liquor store. I had already had too much. It was only nine in the morning. The little girl came out of nowhere…and no nowhere is where she has gone. I killed her in an instant.”
Vicki’s doubt was plain as the stoic look she always wore. A look of self hatred mixed with a need to leave. She has received her sentence, two years in the county jail. Her self imposed sentence has lasted much longer than that. Vicki had very serious doubts as to why she still was alive.
I sat in a poorly designed living room wrapped in that fake wood paneling. Darkness shred through the sunniest of days…As it did most days when the only thing that would stop my hands from shaking was a half a cup of rum in the morning coffee.
It had got itself to the point…the drinking, that is, where I wrote down every detail of the night before…in case the questioning began.
“Who were you with last night? Did you drive the kids drunk again? Where did that huge dent come from on the car?”
For once, my very dark living room shone with North Carolina light. Bright enough that even the morning’s typical vomiting, heaving and leg cramps, seemed less troublesome. Nothing a hit off the pipe or a shot of Vodka wouldn’t cure.
With a cardboard box of wine nearby and the Carpenter’s crying their way into my depression…I had my doubts on that Thursday morning nearly twenty years ago.
Doubts about continuing on my way as a drunk an addict.
Like a child’s Dixie cup in need of water. Empty and paper thin. I had my fears.
In the program (Alcoholic’s Anonymous) they say that fear and faith cannot live within the same house. Yet, in all honesty, doubt and faith must live together in order for anyone’s spiritual survival.
From time to time, when different epidemics come and go. Heroin on the rise. The new date rape drug, Molly, seeking victims. Meth labs with nursing mothers running the show. I get to wondering about doubt.
Doubt lingers in the air when in the clutches of spiritual misgivings. I look around me to these women who have had their doubts. Did it help them to question their faith? Did life’s splendors elude them…due to too much doubt?
Fourteen plus years away from the last hit of acid, the last drop of Devil’s Spring 150 proof Vodka..I still have my doubts.
We look around to ‘bad things happening to good people’ and we doubt our Higher Power and/or whatever we choose to call God.
Yet, I am certain it is those who doubt that will change this world. Those who doubt that addiction is the last stop for them. Or, those who doubt that they will ever feel what it feels like to be ‘normal’…ever!
These doubts harvested with foundation and love allow us to see the world for what it is. They shape us and taint us, and push us, to perceive of something better.
Vicki died shortly before this post originated. She died…because she doubted with certainty…that she would never be able to live as a human-being..again!
Megan went back to the faithful beach a week later. She spoke openly about her doubts the whole week leading up to the return. Doubts that she was strong enough to battle the voices. Doubts that medication and sobriety maybe the only way out. She was however, doubtful enough in letting evil prevail, that it was worth the fight to keep on keeping on.
I, fortunately, count everyday, a lucky day. I doubt my faith. I don’t doubt that I will always be one step behind Buddhism and it’s teachings. I doubt that I will never give up trying.
To doubt, is to question, is to grow and to change the things we have the courage to change.