“There’s no time to lose, I heard her say. Catch your dreams before they slip away. Dying all the time, lose your dreams and you will lose your mind. Ain’t life unkind? Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday, who could hang a name on you when you change with every new day.” ~ Rolling Stones.
By the time I started Kindergarten, I knew my family was different from all other families in my neighborhood. The other families took vacations, celebrated Christmas, and held birthday parties, we did none of those. People came to visit my neighbors, we had no visitors. Most mother’s worked part-time or not at all. My mom was gone before we left for school and did not return until well after dark. We were poor the others were not.
My little friend, Terri, lived across the street and was the only house that had a built-in swimming pool. Honestly, that’s the only reason I liked her. One day after swimming her mother wanted to wash the chlorine from Terri’s now blonde/green hair. Her mom lifted Terri up and laid her across the kitchen counter-top and pulled her close to the edge of the sink where her head hung down. I stood there watching intently. Terri’s mom carefully wrapped a towel around her daughter’s neck and turned the sprayer on. As Terri’s mom ran her fingers through Terri’s hair, which was full of shampoo, she would suddenly stop. “Oh, my, what is this?” her mother asked with excitement. “Have you been eating chocolate? I see candy in your hair.” Terri giggled as her mom smiled. I stood there confused, did she really find chocolate in Terri’s hair? The game repeated with bubble gum, or a lollipop. The interaction between Terri and her mom was something I had never experienced with my mom. It was genuine love and affection. I have never forgotten that moment from my childhood.
Erected at the corner from my parent’s business were a stoplight and a cross walk made for pedestrians. I was about seven years old. There was a market across the street that sold giant dill pickles. Every time I had to cross the street and pass the cars that had stopped, I could not lift my eyes from the ground, I knew they were all looking at me, judging me. It was the most horrible experience I can remember. Although both of my older brothers were mean to me, the one older by a year was a budding psychopath. He delighted in torturing me. Once when I was six or so, he rolled me up in the living room rug and sat on top of me while I was trapped inside. I could not move an inch and screamed, “let me out!” He laughed as I struggled to breathe. Other times he would tackle me and use his knees to pin my arms to the floor and give me a pick belly by slapping my stomach until it turned pick. Next, he would commence with the Chinese water torture where he would repeatedly tap his finger between my eyes until I cried. Every doll my grandmother sent from New York he would dismember, cut off all its hair and throw it into the pond in the back yard where I would find it with a knife sticking out its torso or other parts. At some point in time, he learned how to ground himself with batteries. He would hide around a corner in the house, as I passed, he would grab hold of my arm and electricity would shoot through my body.
My eldest brother by four years lifted me up over his head in the front lawn and threw me down onto a bed of rocks that surrounded a small tree my mom had planted. I lay there in shock, I was around eight. My older brothers would take the rotary off the telephone making it impossible to call mom for help. That same night a parent from the neighborhood came knocking on our door. When my mom let her in the doorway, I was hidden close enough to listen to their verbal exchange. “The other parents in the neighborhood and I have discussed the neglect of your children. They need supervision when not in school. Today, a neighbor witnessed your daughter thrown to the ground from over your son’s head. If this continues we will report you to the proper authorities.” She said with condemnation. Unmoved, my mom replied, “Well if anything were to happen, I am assured my children can fend for themselves and will survive.”
Survive what, what was going to happen? My imagination went around the world with all the terrible things that my inexperienced mind could conjure. I thought my parents were going to die and from that day forward my mind was constantly on guard. Afterward, at least twice a month, I started breaking out in hives across my stomach and neck.
My mother was mentally ill. I knew it long ago but never gave it much thought. In my adulthood, she would think she was Queen Esther. She said there was cancer causing agents underneath the house. The police picked my mom up at 3:00 am walking in her pajamas three miles from the house. My father left my mother in a huge five-bedroom house that sat on three acres of land. We children had grown up, married, and did not pay mom much attention. I was the one left in Santa Barbara but became estranged from my mom by choice. When my son was born, my need for my mom resurfaced and we reconciled. Soon after, I realized how her mental illness had affected every aspect of her being. I took her to a psychiatrist who diagnosed her as bipolar and prescribed Lithium. Unfortunately, two years later diagnosed with terminal lung cancer my mom died.
I was 43, recently divorced, and drinking alcohol heavily. My psychiatrist called county mental health to assess my condition when I confessed I had made a list of people who I was going to kill. In the hospital, I believed I could pass through the locked door if I could reach maximum running speed down the long hallway. When I slammed head on into the door I flew back five feet through the air. They tied me four points to my bed, shot me up with drugs, and left me there for hours. The following years passed with many hospitalizations and psychotic episodes, or black outs I like to call them because I cannot remember anything during those days of not knowing I existed.
Not believing I have a mental illness other than depression now and then, I stopped taking my medication six months ago. These past months I realized I do not know who I am. My life feels as if caught in a rip tide, pulled into uncharted waters. I told my few friends they were using me and I deleted their phone numbers, blocked them from Messenger, and unfriended them from Facebook. My moods were like corn seeds in a popcorn maker heating up to explode. In contrast, everything was black and I had a plan worked out as to how I was going to commit suicide, the only thing that troubled me was what to do with my two dogs, should I take them with me?
Sometimes, I do not sleep for days and have so much energy my legs refuse to be still. Or I am very depressed and I drink all day, conjuring up all the woes in my life time accomplishing nothing but sinking deeper into despair and anxiety. I have been looking for the correct diagnosis for what might be my mental illness. I took an online test which read I needed to seek help immediately. I called the psychiatrist I buffed off and made an appointment.
Two days ago, I asked him for the first time in three years, what was my diagnosis. “schizoaffective disorder bipolar type II, your perception of events is often wrong or delusional.” was his answer. “What is this medication for?” I asked. “Schizophrenia.” He answered as doctor’s do with a monotone voice. I was speechless, delusions, I don’t have delusions, or do I? If so, who am I, how can I ever be if my perceptions of events often are wrong or delusional?
Someone was knocking at my door, it was my deleted friend. “You can’t get rid of me that easily, crazy woman.” She said laughing, I nearly cried.