This is from a book I’ve given up on in the same milieu as Jet Set Desolate. Say no to drugs, kids.
San Francisco: 2004. I first met Mira after hours at The Rosetta Bar, my regular Saturday night haunt since I moved to San Francisco in 2000. The bar had just closed. Big Al shut the doors. The remaining few gathered around the bar for a last drink or several for friends of the bar staff and select regulars. I was one. The stalagmites on the ceiling shone blue like an ice cave. Stabbing down as I sat on a leather sofa. Sipped my gin. A blonde head rose by the right armrest and began to talk, fast.
“Hey, do you have a skate key?”
“I brought these roller skates and I’m about to lose a wheel. Hey, what’s your name? I’m Mira.” She was short. Bleached-blonde with sharply threaded eyebrows and expensive cosmetics on her round face.
“I’m Lena,” I said.
“Cool.” She had shoulder-length blonde hair that flipped as she talked, frenetically. Her lips smooth peach tint lacquered on and cracking. She wore no jewelry, but had on pink-wheeled roller skates. She was short. Maybe 5’1. She wasn’t drinking, but she seemed electrified. I figured some powder or another. A black beaded evening bag that seemed incongruous with her casual dress hung from her left wrist. She kept switching it from left to right nervously. I didn’t know it was stolen. Yet. I didn’t know a lot of things. Yet.
It was dark in the bar. The neon cobra hung over the bottles. The only light. I took a drink. Considered what to say.
“Do you want to come to the bathroom with me.” It was worth a try.
She smiled and followed. Gripping my shoulder cautiously so not to fall on the skates. I wondered how she had made it around the club the whole night. Bodies packed tight together perhaps they had been enough. In the bathroom, I pulled out a small plastic bag. Dipped in a key. Offered it to her. She tilted her head. Her nostrils flared, sucking up the cocaine. Her eyes snapped open.
“Oh, but do you know what’s even better? Do you know what’s even better than this?”
“Shit, what?” I said, taking my bump.
“Speed! Go-fast. Have you ever done it?”
“Maybe once in a while.” I would inhale pretty much anything that was put in front of me at this point. Once I moved to San Francisco from collegiate Portland, no drug was off limits. It just felt like adulthood. I did what I wanted.
“This stuff’s a little different. Here, I’ve got a little bit, I’ll share.”
“Cool! Yeah, I’m up for it, sure.” The dirty mirrors sparkled a little brighter. The red chandelier hung half-kilter above the sink. A lot of people peed in that sink. I had peed in that sink.
My new friend laid down two tiny lines on the vanity counter. They looked like salt, or a larger crystalline substance.
“Here, here, do you have a card?”
I passed her my Wells Fargo credit card. She took it. Laid it against the crystals. Ground it in a circular motion so that they became fine powder. She lined them up again, this time using the flat of the plastic. There was suddenly a lot more there then had been there before. She rolled up a dollar from that small purse. Passed it to me. I snorted one line. Clutched at my face as the pain slammed claw-like through my nose.
“What the shit, Mira?”
“It’s okay. It’s supposed to do that. It’ll go away. Here.” She took the dollar from me.
Bent to take her line. The powder vanished with a deep influx of breath.
Her eyes snapped open. “You’re going to like this, I think.”
I did like meth. I liked it a lot.
Mira called me the next morning at ten am because, as she said, “When I meet someone cool, I just have to call, I hate that three day thing.” She also still had my credit card.
I was still awake. I had been rearranging my room. Painting. Making outlines for projects. Typing gargantuan plans and sparkling ideas into my old PC. I was glad to hear Mira had my card, I had completely forgotten about it and her. We made plans to meet for lunch.
We met at Cafe Encore on Post Street, between Union Square and the Tenderloin. That space that landlords on craigslist called “Lower Nob Hill.” I called it “TL, bitches.” I stood before the chalkboards. Tried to figure out what kind of panini to get. My stomach ran circles around me. I settled for a chocolate croissant. I didn’t have very much money.
“Ooh! An elegant croissant!”
“Yep. What are you getting?”
“Oh, just a macaroon. That’s the specialty here. They’re delicious. And coffee, of course.”
“Yes, Oh, could I have a coffee, too. Iced. Large. Thanks.” I smiled at the guy behind the counter. He had plugs in his ears and a dour expression. He put a lid on my coffee. Passed me a straw.
There were three tables inside. Since it was a Tuesday morning, two of them were open. We sat.
“So, Mira. I’m going to ask that big question you’re not supposed to ask, but I’m dying to know. What do you do?”
She fiddled with the lid of her coffee cup. Hot.
“Oh, God,” Mira said. “That’s hard. Like, I guess you could say I’m a housewife? A muse? My boyfriend has a job. He works at Goodwill now. Oh my god, there’s so much I have to tell you. My boyfriend, my love, he was caught with other people’s mail in his backpack. Like on his bike. Got in trouble. Then we got evicted when he went in jail. I’ve been staying in weeklies and on people’s couches. My friend has been really cool about letting me stay for a few months, but yeah…”
“Oh, wow. I’m sorry. I had no idea. God, I totally didn’t mean to upset you.”
“Yeah, it’s okay. I mean, he works at Goodwill as a condition of his parole. It’s cool, like he gets first pick at the best records. I don’t get to see him all that much anymore. We used to have this awesome place together in the Mission. Had parties all the time. It was amazing but the landlord hated us.”
“I think I went to a party at your place once. I remember doing E with this guy and taking off and having pretty great sex I think, of what I remember.”
“Oh yeah, that was Angelina’s boyfriend.”
“She’s my best friend. You’ll meet her. You guys will totally get along, oh my god, pretty girls. Just don’t tell her you’re the girl that did E wither ex. She wouldn’t like that.”
I pulled the chocolate out of my croissant and sucked on it. This had the makings of a total shit-show.
I liked Mira, though. There was something about her openness, her manic energy, and the way she so readily took me into her life that I really liked. People in San Francisco were so often caught in little poses. Delicate arcs of conversation like minuets. They rarely confessed bold details of misfortunes unless drugged. Even then the etiquette was to forget it all, even the intimacy, especially the intimacy, in the morning. Here we were in the bald light of day and she had just told me things most people would hide like the bloodstains on their pillow.
A few days later when Mira called to invite me out with her and Angelina, I was pretty excited. I was going through a friend drought, having alienated my last party BFF Audrey by seeming too obviously in love with her.
“I think you want more out of this friendship than I prepared to give you,” were her last words. Toss of hair that she only had blow-dried in the salon. My type of woman was very high maintenance and very unavailable. Stone high femme? Does that exist?
So I showed up at Angelina’s Tenderloin apartment. Right at the border of Union square like so many things. We are all just looking in. It was an elegant building with a massage parlor next door. It was ten o’clock. I tried to remember her apartment number, than called Mira.
“Oh, hi! You’re here, great! I’ll buzz you in.”
The gate squealed. I opened it and the inner door as well. The lobby was small and utilitarian. Brown molding over beige walls with a small portrait of Louis XIV on the far wall. A succession of mail slots. I realized I still didn’t know the apartment number. A head popped out of the first door. Apartment 1. Angelina was beautiful. Long chestnut brown hair, flowing sideways past a face tilted with a querulous smile.
“Are you Lena?”
She pulled up. Opened the door. Let me into a studio apartment with a Murphy bed tilted at a 45-degree angle from the wall. The walk-in closet bulged with fabulous clothes. The rest of the apartment was strangely bare. There were no CDs or records. No TV. Simple furniture. An abundance of band paraphernalia on the walls. Most of it was for her boyfriend’s band.
Angelina was wearing tight black jeans and a sequined tube top. So was I. That was my regulation going out look. We laughed. She said, “Well, I should change something about this outfit.” She disappeared into the voluminous closet. Came out with a blouse and a leather jacket. Mira and I went into the kitchen while she changed. I thought about her long, pale arms. I thought about the marks on them.
We went back in. Mira said, “Does anyone want a line before we go?”
“Oh. I brought some coke if you’re interested.” I said.
“You girls go ahead, I’ve got something to finish up in the bathroom,” Angelina said. She picked up a make-up bag from a low table. Walked down the hall.
Mira said, “Speed and coke cancel each other out. You want to do one or the other and speed lasts longer. We can do your stuff at the end of the night if people come over, because social people, they don’t usually like to do speed. Oh, I forgot to tell you. Don’t tell people we’re doing this. It’s our secret. Speed’s sort of less socially acceptable than coke.”
“Ok, that’s cool.”
She laid out tiny lines and we did them quickly. Waiting. Talking. We waited longer. Angelina took what felt like an hour.
“Is she okay in there? I said. “She looked great already, I don’t get it.”
“That’s another secret,” Mira said. “She’s shooting up in there.”
At the Cat Club, Mira swirled in and out of the dancers. Angelina and I sat clustered close and talked. We did a little coke and talked some more. She told me about her ex.
“We were the most beautiful couple. People would see us in restaurants and come up to us and ask us if we were famous. I felt famous with him. Like we were Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithful. His band was doing so well for awhile. And we were going to get married. He told me he was shopping for rings. I loved him. I loved him so much. We were doing heroin every day. His parents had given him a credit card for food and band expenses. Everyday we would go to the ATM and cash advance $100 from it for heroin for the day. It was like a dream. I was high all the time. We wore beautiful clothes. Rolling Stones every day.”
“Is he here tonight?”
“No. No. Let me tell you what happened. It’s horrible. It all went wrong. It’s sort of my fault, or his family thinks it’s my fault. They found out, of course. his parents noticed the credit card was being bled dry. Called him up. Were like, what the fuck. He tried not to tell them but his brother found out from one of his band-mates. Told his parents. They came down. Had an intervention with him. Told him he couldn’t see me anymore. I died inside. I was practically living with him. The band had bought a house in the Sunset with the money from their first advance from the record company. I was over there every day. Then suddenly, no Sunset house. Back at my apartment. And I noticed little things were missing. I gave Mira a key to just look over things. You know…”
Angelina leaned closer. Whispered in my ear. Her perfume intoxicating above the sweat and beer. “She pawned things. Things were missing. You can’t trust Mira. I know you asked her what she does. I know you guys are friends now. That’s great. She needs good friends. You seem like a good person. But watch out. Don’t be too naive with her. She does credit card scams. She does gift card scams. I do too. I had to once I lost my boyfriend. I haven’t worked in years. He used to support me and before that my mom did. Lately I’ve been scraping by on pawning things, boosting and scamming stuff. You can steal things from department stores and return them for a lot of money. It’s called boosting.”
“Here, have another bump.”
Without getting up, I fed it to her on the edge of my key. There were so many people pressed tight around us that no one noticed. She kept talking, “It’s nice to talk to someone who isn’t in the life. What do you do, like how do you make it?”
“I temp, here and there. It’s alright. I don’t make a lot of money, but it’s okay.”
“Yeah, that’s good.”
“Where is he now?”
“Oh.” Her face crumpled. “He’s either in rehab or he’s back in the Sunset recording with his band. He’s not allowed to contact me.”
“I’m sorry. We don’t have to talk about that.”
“Let’s not. Let’s dance, Lena. Didn’t we come here to dance? Of course we didn’t, but let’s dance anyway.” She grabbed my hand. We blended into the mass of people cramming in small dance floor. Hands raised. Bodies writhing. Her body against mine. Pulling away and then close and then away again.
This I wrote to be on a signboard with other stories about West Hollywood at an LGBT art show in 2014.
I remember West Hollywood both drunk at the Abbey and processing in a circle of chairs in my outpatient rehab. Walking past the bars where I used to drink on the way to get Starbucks with an ex-meth addict I saw West Hollywood as if for the first time. West Hollywood Recovery Center. The rooms. No longer was it just the exhausting search for a parking spot on a rainy night. Grappling with and losing friends who had had several too many. Suddenly the light rain in the spring air opened forth a pink cloud halo of sobriety.
I remember West Hollywood as the place my wife and I dressed up as the brides we later became and were photographed for the newspaper at a Prop. 8 rally. That day she and I realized we could really get married. When Katie proposed I cried and said yes. Before we were done planning our wedding the courts put a stay on gay marriages. We signed a domestic partnership. On May 11, 2011, Katie and I had a beautiful but not legal wedding at a Japanese garden in Little Toyko.
A year later my wife was dead by suicide. Two years later gay marriage became legal in California. By then it was too late for us. My wife did not live to see this day that brought so many others such joy. It was a bittersweet day for me. But I remember feeling that same joy with her in West Hollywood the day of that rally, as we cheered with our brothers and sisters for the right to love that had finally been granted.
I finished the wedding album years after my wife’s ashes were scattered in Echo Park Lake. When I look at the album I see in our idealistic faces and Louis Verdad gowns the dream that so many lovers have to make a life together. Our dream was dashed. But dreams live again in time. And that same dream of marriage may now be lived by so many other queers.
It wasn’t until my wife was but spirit that I had the courage to enter rehab and let go of the stranglehold that liquid spirits had on my life. I popped in to the Abbey this Christmas Eve to drink a tonic water with a friend. Rejoiced that I lived somewhere where I could see a muscular go-go dancer in Santa shorts dance on Christmas Eve. Rejoiced that I didn’t need to drink any more.
Queer mecca. Healing and hope in sobriety. Drag shows at Hamburger Mary’s. The Abbey. The Log Cabin. Plummer Park. Getting sober with a redheaded model over Matcha green tea lattés at Urth Café. The lingering ghosts of memories hang over these streets with the bright palm trees and nail salons. In West Hollywood I both lost and found myself again. Each rainbow crosswalk is an untapped treasure. I will never forget West Hollywood.
This essay was probably one of the most controversial ones I’ve written short of witchcraft bathing in menstrual blood. This essay was written in 2014 and published in now defunct Queer Mental Health. Soon after, I posted it in an alcoholism support group and got an epic pile on and run out on a rail. So, if you disagree, that’s nice, that’s your business, everyone’s experience is different, just please don’t do that again. This is my honest experience.
Urged by an outpatient rehab after 20 years of alcoholism, I attended Alcoholics Anonymous for 1 year. Long enough to attend countless meetings. Get a sponsor, a kind ex-stripper. On her guidance, I signed up for service commitments at meetings and did free menial labor. I worked the steps up to step 4. Relapsed.
Failure is built into the punitive, guilt-ridden fabric of AA. An archaic framework of Christian dogma marketed as the only way to get sober. If you fail it’s your fault. If you succeed it’s God’s miracle. Every meeting we recited that those who drink after AA are “naturally incapable of grasping and developing a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty.” According to AA honesty in confession to unscrupulous strangers will keep you from drinking. That and the will of God.
AA and rehab encouraged me to break ties with old, “using friends” and form a new social group in AA. I lost my dear old friends. Made 2 good new friends. Had a lot of strangers give me their number and disappear. There is some truth that more sober friends will encourage sobriety. But the isolation bred from this technique and the false doctrine of trusting other AA members is actively dangerous. Members of the cult are pressured to give their phone number out to strangers. Accept rides home from strangers, as many are carless from DUIs. Tell strangers their secrets and woes. There is a culture of boundary-less-ness where people are exploited. Every year women are raped by AA members and sponsors that they are pressured to trust. Scam artists borrow money and run scams on wealthier AA members. AA covers it up.
AA only has a 5% success rate. It’s extremely dangerous both financially and sexually. Spilling your innermost secrets to a room full of low-lifes and criminals is not a safe situation. It is less likely to make you sober than to put you into dangerous and drama-filled situations. Most people who achieve lasting sobriety do it on their own out of will, harm reduction and simply being “done.” The revolving door of relapses is caused by the endless obsession with drugs and alcohol that comes with lifelong meeting attendance.
I spent meetings with my sponsor arguing over every sentence I read of the Big Book. Being an atheist, I couldn’t find any way for God’s healing miracle to occur. The universe I saw then as a higher power was too vast and pitiless to care about my problems. The universe is better suited as a print for leggings than a stardust solution to my drinking problem.
The forced powerlessness was demoralizing. I am a woman, I already know I am powerless. The first step of AA is “I admitted I was powerless over alcohol.” Telling an alcoholic they have no control and cannot help themselves without submitting completely and praying for a miracle from a Christian daddy-in-the-sky God is not effective medicine. Would we ask cancer patients to pray it away? Yet we are asking this of alcoholics. Court-ordered faith healing.
As much as I wanted desperately to get sober, my three relapses spoke otherwise. Not coincidentally, they were all triggered by things that occurred in AA.
My first relapse I was kicked out of the AT Center where I had been going to most of my meetings. A hostile old-timer contested me taking my rehab “court card” back when I had to leave the meeting early. A burly butch, she chased me out of the meeting yelling. On a dogmatic technicality, I was banned from the place where I was getting sober. I relapsed that night.
My next relapse was driven by the stress of the 4th step. The 12 steps are unpleasant and stressful ordeals involving humiliation and self-flagellation. Seemingly designed and in fact promised to test you.
“So many people relapse on the 4th step,” I was told.
I fatalistically anticipated relapsing with the 9th step also. The 9th step dictates making amends to everyone we have wronged as a result of our using. An exhaustive and humiliating project of tracking down past employers and drug buddies. I couldn’t stomach the degradation. I didn’t want to look those people in the eye another time.
I was told over and over I needed to do all of these seemingly unrelated, incredibly unpleasant things to get sober. Who was making these crazy rules? A womanizing alcoholic in the 1930s, apparently. Dread and anxiety over the ordeal of the steps drove me to relapse again. I ask you, why do these steps exist if they explicitly cause relapses? Isn’t the whole point to get sober, not run a relay race built for failure?
The powerless party line completely absolves the alcoholic of any personal responsibility when they relapse. I felt powerless during my third relapse as I went to the liquor store. It wasn’t until I got ahold of my willpower from enough therapy that I had the power to get sober. And sober I became.
I was told in rehab that AA was the only way. I gave it a try.
I finally decided I would be better off leaving the sketchy cesspool of AA and pursuing harm reduction with medical marijuana and a private therapist. Safety, security, creativity and happiness returned. I came back to myself from the self-abnegating shell I had been in AA. AA was useful in learning how to run a cult. I decided I would rather be a cult leader than a cult follower. I took up witchcraft. Got back into writing and painting. When I was in AA I did none of this because AA was such a time and energy suck. When I left AA, my creativity blossomed. I had my life back from the cult.
Before I wrote this article I visited with my best friend, an ex-model who I met in detox and rehab. We went to many AA meetings together in 2013. It was with her that I received the good I was to get out of AA. It helped to hear all of the drunkalogue stories and know that I was not alone. I was not the only troubled broken person who had struggled with addiction. Although some had barely suffered compared to what I had been through, some stories were so much darker. AA gave me perspective. As a writer it was an invaluable glimpse into the human psyche.
My friend cautioned me about writing this article about AA, citing the “anonymity in press, radio and film,” dictated by the 12 Traditions. She argued that it might be illegal to publicly criticize AA as they were so in bed with the government. AA has a literal gag order on their members to talk publicly about the cult. The first rule of AA is we don’t talk about AA. This only made me want to write my article more. A check with the editor and googling various online AA criticism reassured me that critiques were plentiful and necessary. I don’t care if AA demagogues prohibit me writing about it on the Internet. I will tell my story. I’m not in their cult anymore. I don’t have to follow cult rules.
If we raise our voices loud enough we can throw off the shackles of this paternalistic, Christian, 1930s-outdated addiction recovery model and reach towards new and better recovery methods. Harm reduction has a 90% success rate. I have 479 days and counting sober without a single AA meeting. My sobriety date corresponds to the day I got my medical marijuana card.
Life has gotten so much better since I don’t have to hang out with leering felons. Confess things I don’t even think are sins to strangers in anguished dirty rooms. Rake my life over the coals and relapse again and again because going to meetings and talking about alcohol 3-7 times a week is making me obsessed with it.
Now I just don’t drink. I’ve moved on. I don’t need AA anymore. I am “happy, joyous and free” without it.
This is a revised writing exercise from my MFA that I have been working with for years. I submitted it to a big journal who rejected it. Once again realized that I should only send out new work.
I stared out at the rooftops from my lounge on Micah’s bed. The expanse swathed with cowboy sheets and bloodstains. Two weeks since I was fired. Timothy out of town. I was over at Micah’s. I was about to leave Golden Hill forever.
The French doors opened onto the summer night. The sky luminescent with stars over palm trees bursting to the skyline. Micah smoked a cigarette out the balcony. Stared fiercely into the night. His arms were marred with bandages. His jaw clenched. The fairy-wisps of smoke drifted up along the tall green stripes on the walls surrounding.
The bang came suddenly. Like artillery downstairs with a guttural roar behind. I took a long drink of the Shiraz on the bedside table. Band-Aids. Dior Pour Homme. The roar came again with the sound of breaking glass.
I ran a hand across my short, bleached hair. Smoothed it over the two cowboys on the sheets traipsing around a campfire in lockstep. The bed Micah shared with his boyfriend.
Micah spoke, “There’s nothing we can do.”
“Are you sure? Can’t we call the police?”
“I’ve tried. They tell me that as long as he doesn’t actually come into the apartment, there’s nothing that they can do.”
“Good lord.” I took another drink. My lips stained purple.
I curled up into a ball on the bed. Cupped my knees. The ceiling fan turned and turned above us. Beads of moisture formed on the blades.
Micah got up in his boxers. Tossed the Camel out the window. Stalked into the bathroom. A huge wooden carousel rooster stood guard along the wall. Orange beak curved to steal, to bite.
My bare legs stretched behind me in shirt and panties only, I turned away. Waited. I was good at waiting.
It was too hot to wear clothes. We had crept out of our clothes slowly with the wine. The daytime heat not abated with the night’s advancing. Timothy was away working.
There was a wrenching sound from below. I cringed. A yell. I yelped. Skittered off the bed towards the stairs. Up or down, there was no relief. Only upwards. Outwards. Towards the sky to fly. Over the narrow courtyard with its row of kiddy pools. Cacti. To the spines.
When I still lived with my parents in 2005, I had a recurring dream of leaving my body in my bed. Floating down the hall up through my parents bedroom. Out of their balcony to fly over the beautiful canyon and freeway wending to the water. To the ocean. To be free. I wonder if I was astral projecting. I don’t know. I will never know.
Micah emerged in his bedroom.
“Look, he said, “I don’t know. I don’t know anywhere else I can go. I know you can go home. You should. There’s no need to stay here with me.”
I stared up at him. Shredded the sheets beneath my fingers. Knew this was his boyfriend’s apartment and not my own. It was wrong for me to lay half-naked in his bed. To stay past the designated hour. Yet I lingered.
I was just so attracted to Micah. My dashing bisexual friend. I was so alone in the world. I knew that whatever I gave him sexually would not matter. I was about to leave town.
“No, I can’t.”
“I wouldn’t be mad. You can.”
“Then let’s dance.” He turned to the record player. Put on a Johnny Mathis record. “Twelfth of Never” came on. Micah reached out to me.
I rose. Let him wrap me in a waltz. Ballroom dancing to records was something Micah and I did together. Part of our pantomime of romance. I fumbled in my steps as his broad arms wrapped my waist. A rattle and a shriek came from downstairs.
“Don’t think,” said Micah. He twirled me. I stepped free. Wrapped back into his arms as he flicked his wrist. We were practiced. Just as practiced at turning away.
I fell to kiss his neck.
“That’s entirely enough of that.” Micah smiled softly. Let me go.
His shoulder bandage fell. It was a drunken mirror accident: Vicodin. Red wine. He crushed his way into his boyfriend’s floor-length mirror. This earned him a substantial phone lecture earlier that weekend from Timothy.
I stared at his arms from the other side of the bed as he talked on the phone that afternoon. My finger traced forwards from time to time. Withdrew again. Extended with longing. Clamped around the sheet.
Micah had to know I wanted him. Was it just that he was so financially dependent on his boyfriend? Perhaps. Yet still I tried.
There was blood all over the sheets now from Micah’s wound. Dried blood. I knew it was HIV+ infected blood but I didn’t care. I rolled around in it. Sprawling. My legs tunneling through the sheets.
I kissed Micah’s neck again.
“No, Lena, I can’t. I really can’t.”
“But – “
“It’s more than just Tim. It’s the fact that you’re about to leave forever. I don’t want my parting present to you to be that. My HIV. You know this. Even with a condom there is risk.”
“No. For the last time, no.”
I stared down at my hands. Micah walked again to the window. Stared out fiercely.
What I would have done for him. Now that’s love or loneliness.
Micah reached for his cigarettes. Pulled one out slowly.
“It’s a warm night,” he said.
I put my clothes back on. Gathered my things.
Downstairs, there was the sound of breaking glass.
First published in the now offline Skirt the Issue Blog.
I love wearing leggings as pants. Every day. Fifteen pairs of leggings sit in my dresser drawer. Adidas. American Apparel. Under Armour. Beloved Shirts cat print. Pill print for the mental illness that demands I take ten pills a day. Pine trees for Christmas. Stars and stripes for Fourth of July.
I never want to wear pants again. I remember in my teens and twenties trying on twenty pairs of jeans at a time. Trying to squeeze my big ass into pair after pair that never fit. Finally leaving the dressing room empty handed. Disappointed. With leggings, I just pull on a stretchy pair and they instantly fit perfectly.
I remember reading about Lindsey Lohan in 2005’s D-Listed gossip blog being shamed for wearing leggings as pants. I gobbled the posts like sugary Sweet-Tarts but still loved LiLo and her style. Inspired by Lohan, I bought my first pair of shiny black latex-look leggings. A revelation!
When wearing leggings, body acceptance is mandatory. They show every bend, bulge and declivity. Make a changing body visible. Over the last year I battled becoming dangerously, accidentally underweight. My boyfriend, best friend, mother, sister, and therapist all thought something was seriously wrong with me. My boyfriend yelled at me for being too skinny when I got in his car. Yeah, he’s not my boyfriend anymore. So I saw a doctor. Did hyperthyroidism testing. I was perfectly healthy.
Wearing skintight XS leggings in public gives me a way to reclaim my contested battleground body as my own. I revel in the confrontation of display. Female bodies whatever their sizes are consistently considered fair game for judgement, attack, monitoring and policing by others. Seeing my bony legs forces others to accept and recognize my reality. People comment. I respond. My explanation of healthy blood tests sometimes opens their minds. If they still think I’m dying? Not my problem. I know I’m healthy with each yoga posture I breath into. Each ice cream sandwich I savor.
Over the centuries female clothing has evolved from excruciatingly uncomfortable to wearable. Corsets? Hoop-skirts? Bound feet? The battle for more comfortable woman’s wear parallels the battle for women’s rights. At a recent family dinner my aunt reminisced how women used to not even be able to wear pants to work. Skirts were required. Suffragettes wore bloomers in protest and were arrested.
“We shall overcome,” activists chant. On this year’s international Women’s Day, a feminist “Life in Leggings,” march for woman’s rights solidarity took place in the Trinidad and was broadcast on Twitter. All these badass ladies in Africa marching in their leggings with protest signs. It gave me hope.
I’m too disabled to be able to go to protests as I can’t be arrested and taken off my meds. But I’ll wear leggings as pants to normalize body acceptance. That’s slacktivism I can do. Twist my arm. We do what we can. As a disabled woman I can’t do much. A lot of days I can’t even leave the house. I certainly can’t work ever again. Marry. Bear children. Have a family. Have anything resembling a normal real life.
I’m not a “real” person with “real problems” as I am constantly told. I am an emaciated mentally unbalanced legging clad glamour phantasm. So reclusive, I’m practically imaginary. Haunting the Internet as it’s the only place I can exist. I’m too afraid to go outside from being raped countless times. Appalling atrocities served on an MFA platter doused with Sephora eye cream and Prozac sprinkles. It’s what’s for dinner.
Being allowed to wear something that I can both do yoga poses and walk down the street in is a form of liberation. Would still be nice to be able to walk down the street without being catcalled and fearing rape. But at least it’s not a corset hoop-skirt combo where I have to ride sidesaddle. I‘ll take what I can get, here. Women are used to oppression being loosened gradually like a waist cinch-er unlaced. It feels good to breathe again.
Leggings allow me to reclaim control over how people see my body. A rebuttal to people gossiping about my weight fluctuation: I’m here! This is what my body wants to be! Go fuck yourselves! The women at the march in Trinidad believed in the power and liberation of leggings enough to name their march in their honor. I believe in leggings too. Comfortable athleisure I can wear anywhere to do anything. After thirty years of never being able to fit into any jeans in Buffalo Exchange? Leggings are fashion deliverance.
The ERA Amendment introduced by suffragettes in the early 1920s still hasn’t passed yet. Leggings as pants are not enough to deliver the liberation women may forever be striving for. Fashion progress is itty bitty baby steps. But they’re spandex steps I’d like to take. The feminist act is not what I wear, but my choice to reclaim how I am seen. Sinewed bones but mine alone.
This essay was written in 2015 for Entropy’s “On Weather” Series. I didn’t have the energy to rewrite the whole thing differently as the editor asked so gave up on it.
The nausea begins with the Barbacoa Super Burrito Mojado I wolf down at El Arco Iris while my boyfriend sips a beer and munches on guacamole. Or does the heatwave catalyze the nausea? Or is it taking my sleepytime anti-psychotic Saphris at irregular times and not often enough? Or am I pregnant?
“It is a perfect storm,” the voices in my head repeat as I fall asleep at dawn after a phone call with a friend in Miami. He texts me a photo of a male stripper in a gay bar the night before the Orlando shooting. I watch in Xanax-ed stupor the tear-jerking Anderson Cooper CNN coverage. Reflect how close we all are to death.
It is a perfect storm of haphazard violence and a sense of danger as the heatwave hits. Fast on the heels of my burrito orgasm. When I awake at my boyfriend’s house I vomit again and again without him noticing. I don’t tell him I’m sick as we fight over something I said on Twitter. Have make-up sex. Too much is going on.
When I return home it is to cockroach-infested cat food and my own private hell. I watch queers get shot on CNN then Tangerine on Netflix. Do yoga reflecting on the mean streets of Hollywood outside my door. I vomit again and again not knowing why. The heat climbs in my apartment. I blast the A/C from the wall mount unit. It proves inadequate.
I stay inside my apartment because it is far too hot to go to the grocery store. I don’t eat for three days. Only vomit. Take the Saphris twice in a twenty-four hour period which I really shouldn’t do because I want only to sleep. To sleep without the voices in my head and nausea.
When I wake from the second sweaty, fitful sleep I call my best friend. We talk for eight hours until the sun comes up. We confess to each other. She tells me she’s worried about me. Mutual pity juxtaposed with admiration welds us.
“Stay up all night to avoid the heat,” sing The New Bad Things in “Knott St.” The New Bad Things encapsulate the golden, “front porch drinking Hamm’s in the summertime,” moments that I remember so fondly from college in Portland. I listen as I frenetically polish a nineties punk Portland novel called Scaffolding. Racing to get that perfect final draft before the small press I recently queried requests a full manuscript. If they do. I have been scouring my mostly inconsequential email with intensity.
The voices in my head tell me that, “Your intensity is uncomfortable.” I am aware of this yet I persist. Maybe it’s okay. It’s what I’m doing because I don’t know how to do anything else anymore.
A different New Bad Things song lingers in my mind after watching the epic twenty-minute battle scene on Sunday’s Game of Thrones. The intensity of that is uncomfortable too. In my horror over the medieval bloodshed I want only to vomit again. The think pieces I read tell me this is the appropriate response.
The song “Krankenhaus” rings in my mind throughout the subsequent day. “At the hospital: There’s three square meals a day. At the hospital: no one asks if you’re okay. At the hospital: there are people who are trained to take care of you.”
I wonder what is wrong with me. Do I need to go to the hospital? I have done my time in psych wards, detox and outpatient rehab. I would really prefer not to. The hospital is a possibility that mounts with ever-pressing potentiality as the heatwave, nausea, fever and heatstroke intensify. It is a perfect storm.
I look at an article about the dangers of heatstroke. I have all of the symptoms but I so do not want to call 9-11. I read how people are dying in this heat. I do not want to die, but I also do not want the embarrassing spectacle of an ambulance and expense of an ER visit if it can be at all avoided.
I look at the Wikipedia entry for Nausea. Pregnancy is a possibility. With my IUD and his on point pull-out game that seems unlikely. Every time I think of the possibility I feel a mounting roar of terror that I refuse to quell with more Xanax. I already took one to bear witness to Orlando. I don’t want to take too many so that they stop working. Yet I am terrified on a myriad of levels. It is a perfect storm.
I text my sister and friends about my fear that I might be pregnant. Women understand these things. There are some things that only women endure.
It is 100 degrees in Los Angeles today. I spend the day drinking iced coffee with coconut milk. Nitpicking my novel in a blue maribou bathrobe filled with mounting disgust at myself. I can smell my sweat. My book makes me want to take a shower. This heat makes me want to take a shower.
I tweet, “To get the perfect smokey eye: vomit, wipe face, reapply eyeliner, gag repeatedly, wipe eyes.” Glamour and abjection are not strange bedfellows.
After exchanging panicked texts with a sympathetic married friend I arrange for my boyfriend to pick me up. I read CNN articles about wildfires. Hikers dying in Arizona. Record-setting temperatures as the summer I so wanted for half of June hits with the force of a thousand suns.
My skin burns. I put on leopard leggings and the Good Vibes tank top that I fear will identify me to doctors as a stoner. I feel the inadequacy of my emaciated frame. Wish only for health. It becomes less of a bikini body and more of a humiliating statement of not-okay-ness when I’m 40 and my hand-span thighs are concave.
An eating disorder hospital was suggested to me recently by the terminally ill best friend who must spend more time in hospitals than I prefer to. I said no. I can drink enough Venti Frappuccinos with whip, eat enough pizza that I will put on a healthy amount of weight again. I believe this so hopefully.
I so dislike institutions given the pleasures of outside. I would prefer not to spend my life in one. I have worried that I might.
I rock back and forth directly in front of the A/C in the rising tide of afternoon heatstroke panic. Pack my medication, extra keys and a sweater so I will be prepared if I do indeed have to go to the hospital. Wait for my heroic boyfriend to pick me up and rescue me from my inferno of an apartment.
My cat who can sense that I don’t know when I am coming back twines around my hands. Cuddles with me. I wonder if I should take her with me. I wonder if she will be alive when I return. There is a distinct sense of disaster.
I do not know if it is the hospital which awaits me as I shoulder my medication tote bag and fringed purse. Bid farewell to my cat who may be a charred skeleton when I return. Put on sunglasses to walk down the steps of my apartment building to the street where my boyfriend waits. He stands by his yellow Smart Car. I don’t know if he realizes that he is rescuing me. We can never know the thoughts of another.
My boyfriend is my hero as we whiz through traffic. Pick up tacos and french fries in Glendale. I tell him I can’t even handle getting out of a car and going into a restaurant. I want only to be as low-maintenance as possible as I answer his questions with “Yes, okay. Yes.” When he is high-maintenance at the drive-through it amuses me because as someone has to freak out here it helps for it not to be me. If getting extra salsa and ranch dressing will help that is fine.
At my boyfriend’s house I consume a Carne Asada Taco and many French Fries with the fervor of someone who wants to be healed. I lie on his orange couch. Put my feet on the pillow he wants me to. His Brussels Griffon snorfles to my hand. Leaps in my lap.
“They flew golden retriever therapy dogs into Orlando to comfort the traumatized. I saw it on Twitter,” I tell him.
I live my life on the Internet because it is a place where I can be both private and public. Isolated and communal. Alone and together. Hidden and confessional. Socially awkward and flamboyant. Reclusive and talking to everyone all the time. A world mediated by screens because I never leave my apartment where I sit day after day writing dreadful things. I’m on SSDI because I’m too mentally ill to work. This frees me up to write into the void of the iCloud and Internet chasing some illusory impossible success as swirls of voices both flattering and upsetting echo in my ears.
It is what it is. Both luxury and tragedy. I accept it as I have no choice.
The voices ring about me as night falls. I smoke a bowl under the Strawberry moon. Contemplate the pinkish-silver moon as humans have since we began being awake at night. As Oscar Wilde does in my favorite of his plays, Salome.
My boyfriend and I watch the moonlight ignite the dark air through the open windows. We sit in anxious vigil throughout the hot night. My nausea and fever come and go. I try not to vomit up the food he so kindly bought for me out of a sense of both thriftiness and not knowing how soon we will next be able to eat.
He sleeps fitfully on the couch. Wakes to yelp then falls asleep again.
I fiddle with my phone on a mid-century chair patterned like a heartbeat. Calendar the healthiest time every day to take my medication and sleep normal hours like the healthy person I want to be. Asses expenses. Beat my iPhone at Scrabble a couple of times although I can rarely beat my boyfriend. That he consistently beats me at Scrabble tells me I have the right one.
A darting faerie breeze comes through the stagnant air from the open windows. The New Bad Things song in my head finally changes from “Krankenhaus” to “Knott St.” “Front porch drinking Hamm’s in the summertime. Stay up all night to avoid the heat.” I realize as the hospital dirge leaves my head that I will make it through this hot night to finish my nineties novel. It’s going to be okay.
When I wake again the heat and fever have broken. It is afternoon.
My boyfriend who I watched with tenderness through that long Strawberry moon vigil feeds me another taco. I finally tell him over pico de gallo that “I was low-key having a pregnancy scare.” It was a conversation that I did not even want to begin the feverish night before.
I already knew the name and phone number of my gynocologaist who would give me the abortion if that was needed. I got an abortion in college so I could graduate and I would do it again. There was not even the question of a decision. My ambition outstrips my maternal instinct. Childbearing is not in the cards for me. It’s not a responsible choice for anyone including the child given my situation.
That night I tweet, “How many of these tweets & Internet essays are a cry for help, I wonder? So much pain yet we all cope collectively.” This essay is not a cry for help as that moment has passed. Please don’t send ambulances to my apartment, thanks. I would like to hope that it’s all fine for now.
The heatwave is over. For now.
In the cool of the 3 am air conditioning I sip iced coffee and compose the essay my mind churned over throughout that hot night. Writing about it later was the main thing that kept me going. Writers are such vultures. We arise from the corpse of a tragedy with poignant text in hand for submission. I suppose it’s something to do. I can only spend so much time in therapy.
It is a desire to have one’s pain understood and witnessed that drives confessional text. There is an indecency too confession. Why am I so compelled?
The other thing that kept me going through the heatwave was knowing I was not alone in this global warming crisis. As I know I am not alone in my desire to read and write confessional essays. I saw on Twitter under #heatwave that everyone in the Southwest burned that day. It was hot all over. It will be hot all summer in Los Angeles.
I said to my boyfriend in the car as he drove me home, “Everyone has a story and a struggle. I learned that in rehab. You never know until you ask.”
This essay was written after a mass shooting when Obama was president and I lived in Los Angeles. It appeared in the now offline Queer Mental Health.
I have Schizoaffective Disorder, anxiety and PTSD. Upon one of my many discharges from a psych ward I had to sign an affidavit that I would not buy a gun for five years. I have no desire to buy, own, or be even faintly near to a gun ever in my life. That is not happening. No gun ownership for me.
As I watch mass shooting after mass shooting play out on CNN and Obama’s recent town hall on guns, the same themes play out over and over. The mentally ill are consistently blamed for gun violence as a convenient scapegoat to avoid facing the real culprit for gun violence: toxic masculinity and the sheer ease and availability of gun ownership in America.
Over Christmas I was in Reno, Nevada visiting my extended family. On a snowy day my parents and I went to two massive sporting goods stores to search for binoculars and a thermal vest. Nevada really is the Wild West still. Hunting is big there. I had never seen so many weapons in one place in all of my life. Handguns, rifles, crossbows, bows and arrows. Everything one might need for their next mass shooting or crime was neatly displayed and sold at Cabela’s of Boomtown.
In Cabala’s I Instagrammed a gluttonous plethora of taxidermy dioramas. We toured the audio-animatronic dead Republican presidents display in the upper level of Scheels by the ferris wheel. It was an overstimulating circus. With my overwhelming, fearful revelation of how many people around me might be concealed carrying now that I knew how easy it was to buy a gun, I had to take a calming Xanax in the snack bar. Conspicuously Californian in my ridiculous leggings, I felt like a target. Guns and rednecks terrify me.
Most mentally ill people will never commit a violent act. Only about 4% of violence in the United States can be attributed to people diagnosed with mental illness. Yet we, my people, are consistently blamed for violent acts. My mother said to me when I told her I was writing this essay that she felt one must be insane to commit a violent act. That is an erroneous definition of insanity, but one which the public conveniently conflates upon in the gun control debate.
In all of my reading of the DSM-IV, I know of no mental health diagnosis that produces violent behavior with the exception of possibly paranoid schizophrenia and PTSD. Even those two stereotypes of the “paranoid schizophrenic political activist” and “crazy vet” can be dispelled by examining the racist and politically motivated causes for those stereotypes. I can attest, most schizophrenics with PTSD would really prefer to be left alone then have to content with any sort of violence. We hate that shit. In the case of PTSD, violence is often what began our troubles in the first place.
Anxious, bipolar, depressed, OCD, PTSD-afflicted citizens are far more likely to take their own lives then those of other people in order to escape the misery of being mentally ill. Mentally ill people have more to fear from guns in their own hands than any other people around them. Suicide is the biggest reason why the mentally ill shouldn’t have guns. Gun is the quickest, most irreversible, and most devastating route to death. I don’t think the mentally ill should be allowed to own guns in order to protect us, because of our suicide risk.
No one except law enforcement should have guns, according to me. Even police have proven to be woefully inadequate at keeping their mental health response teams from just shooting the person in crisis. Police routinely shoot unarmed African American children in playgrounds or citizens at traffic stops. In the UK, even the police don’t have guns and they have very little gun violence. Something for the USA to consider, although I doubt it would ever happen.
A study I read online said that, “An extensive surveys of police incident reports demonstrate that, far from posing threats to others, people diagnosed with schizophrenia have victimization rates 65% to 130% higher than those of the general public…Victimization is a greater public health concern than perpetration.”
Even schizophrenia, part of my diagnosis and the most common target of the violent psychopath stigma, is usually marks by social isolation, withdrawal and introversion into a fantasy world. I would much rather be inside peacefully hallucinating faeries and ghosts on the white walls of my apartment and listening to the voices of my dead ancestors counseling me than marauding about committing crimes. Violence is caused by interpersonal conflict, passion, poverty, racism, religious xenophobia and political intent. Not by mental illness.
We the mentally ill are peaceful. I am hallucinating peacefully in my apartment in Hollywood. I wish only not to be harmed by the angry white male rednecks who are occupying the bird sanctuary in Oregon who I fear may be part of a larger rising tide of right-wing extremism. That sort of violence is political and incendiary. Please keep your nasty guns away from me. I know if the revolution starts I’m getting shot pretty quickly into it.
The risk is exponentially greater that individuals diagnosed with serious mental illness will be assaulted by others, rather than the other way around. That has been my experience as well. Given how easily the mentally ill are to gaslight, later violence is common. I have been the victim of domestic violence many times where the presence of a gun in the apartment would have resulted in my death. Strangulation and knife fights I was able to survive. If there was a gun on that bedside table I would have died.
More women are killed by guns in the hands of domestic partners than any other way. My boyfriend repeatedly tells me he wants to get a gun. He is not abusive, but quick-tempered. When I told him of my fears of getting shot by him on a hike in Griffith Park, he got so angry at me that I almost didn’t have a boyfriend by the time I got off of that mountain.
After watching a marathon of American Horror Story: Hotel at my boyfriend’s house, I had nightmare about sleeping on a mattress with a gun underneath it. Feeling the cold, death-dealing barrel through the mattress. When I awoke I decided I was better off not knowing if there was a gun under the mattress and never looked for one. It was only a dream.
Online I read that, “The number of American troops killed in Afghanistan and Iraq between 2001 and 2012 was 6,488. The number of American women who were murdered by current or ex male partners during that time was 11,766. That’s nearly double the amount of casualties lost during war.” I don’t think my boyfriend would actually shoot me. But I cannot help but feel this fear that comes of being female. I have many fears like that.
All of those times I was raped a gun wouldn’t have saved me. Personally I’d far rather be raped then go to jail for shooting someone I was fighting with and possibly romantically linked to, however peripherally. Given my ineptitude at shooting and shy nature, any attempt by me to use a gun in self-defense would also likely result in me getting shot as well.
I would never shoot anyone even if I did have a gun. I don’t think I would have the stomach for it. I don’t even hit people, once I grew up and stopped beating up on my little sister. My preferred self-defense is running away, although I do carry pepper spray. A gun only works for self-defense if you know how to use it, and even then it is far more likely to be turned against you.
Guns frighten me. As a mentally ill person I have no desire to own one or even be in the same house as one. I agree with the dominant discourse that the mentally ill shouldn’t have guns because of our suicide risk. But I don’t think any of you sane people should be allowed to have guns either. Clearly, at the rate that people are dying, the sane populace just as much as the insane cannot be trusted with guns.
Toddlers shoot way more people then terrorists. There is an epidemic of children getting ahold of their parents guns and shooting each other. We have a dangerous crisis on our hands.
The president says something must be done about this widespread gun violence and the nation agrees, but we all disagree on what that something to be done actually is. I don’t have a solution, either. For the moment, it is all I can do sometimes to not just stay in my apartment and hide from the dangerous gun-toting America outside.
When I read that article a lightbulb rationale less destructive then any of the many explanations I had come up with before appeared. As a Schizoaffective I have auditory hallucinations with accompanying persecutory delusions. Thus is the nature of the beast of my genetic mental illness. Although I am well-medicated, psychiatrists have told me that the voices will never completely go away. I must learn how to live with and manage them.
I was diagnosed 22 years ago. Since I have come up with a fantastical myriad of potential explanations for the voices that I hear that no one else can: All at the time firmly believed. All in the end delusions. They range from:
Demons. Overheard art school classmates through the echoing long CalArts corridors. Reading the thoughts of people not in the room. Overheard conversations while in crowds or public places. Neighbors or visiting family overheard talking through the walls. Landlords. The FBI. The CIA. The police. Ghosts. Aliens. Stalkers. Spirit guides. God(s). Goddesses. Anything and everything possible as the delusions of the month came and went.
The delusion of perpetual persecutory surveillance is a hallmark of Schizophrenia. I have Schizoaffective Disorder, a combination of Schizophrenia and Bipolar. I also have anxiety and PTSD. Thus not only am I enthusiastically hearing surveillance voices for untold hours that I rationalize are supernatural or persecutory, I am hyper vigilant and terrified about it. Not fun at all.
Thank whatever God(s) or benevolent universe you prefer for the medication that makes all this tolerable. As the Golden Girls sing, “Thanks for the Medicare.”
Sternberg concludes in that illuminating article: “The brain is a master storyteller, designed to make sense of the chaos of our lives. It compensates for the presence of auditory hallucinations, caused by a defect in self-recognition, by writing a narrative to account for them. It’s no accident that schizophrenic patients reach for spy agencies, religious entities, or supernatural forces when describing the voices in their heads. These are theories that the brain concocts to explain how a foreign voice could infiltrate a mind, know it intimately, and torment its victim with relentless surveillance. Faced with such bewildering circumstances, the explanation the brain generates is surprisingly logical.”
For a while I entertained the delusion I was talking to the ghost of my wife. Dead ancestors. Dead writers I admired. Friendly supernatural was a much more fun delusion that allowed me to accept the manifestation as a psychic gift. It was fun to read the tarot when the voices in my head told me what the cards meant. Witchcraft became an amusing solitary nocturnal hobby to replace alcoholism.
Binge-watching American Horror Story: Coven, Asylum, Freakshow, Hotel, and finally most devastatingly Ronoake illustrated how dangerous both delusions, dreams of fame, witchcraft, antiquated forced psychiatry, the supernatural, good intentions and mental illness could become in a Hollywood worst case scenario. I am well-aware that even the most well-acted, gorgeously set designed and costumed cable TV drama is only television. Not real. Yet a cautionary tale to learn from. I would prefer not to live American Horror Story: My Reno Nightmare.
As a writer and artist I dwell most often in the world of the imagination. Thus far incorporating my supernatural neurodiverse spirituality into my writing has yielded a series of mostly unpublished and probably unpublishable novels. An excerpt from Diary of a Hollywood Hedgewitch where I talk to my wife’s ghost made it into a small press lesbian ghost story anthology. At least a few readers seem to find this sort of thing entertaining. I am quite willing to provide entertainment. If all I do is fill up my iCloud storage with the manifestations of my mental illness that seems like a safe, contained prognosis.
I told my last two psychiatrists I did witchcraft with the portal in my brain opened by my Schizoaffective Disorder. I understand what a dangerous yet intoxicatingly appealing to the patient delusion that sounded like to a medical professional. As a result, the first Buddhist psychiatrist excused my impossibly un-payable student loans on the basis of Total and Permanent Disability. She wrote on the government form, “Patient does witchcraft with bodily fluids.” Suggested Haldol and Thorazine. The second Christian psychiatrist asked me if I was scared of demons. Kept refilling all five medications. Agreed to do phone sessions when I moved out of state. I told her I didn’t believe in demons.
A condition of my Student Loan Forgiveness is that I must be on SSDI for the rest of my life. I am well aware I am unable to work, Before I went on Disability being in an office cubicle meant I hallucinated what my co-workers were thinking about me. Developed elaborate resentments of them made further toxic by inevitable office politics. I was fired often from pretty much every job I ever had. Thus the Disability went through in six months.
I accept I can never work again except writing alone on my laptop with headphones in. Thus now I write for free on the Internet. Occasionally edit Wikipedia. I would much rather do that without the previous incessant phone calls of debt collectors driving me to abuse my benzodiazepines. Seizures and psych ward stays are not fun either.
At this point I have given up on fun completely. Along with any hope of what passes for the respectable normal life of employed married childrearing that surrounds me.`All I beg for is solitude. A warm roof over my head. Wifi. Klonopin. Saphris. Trileptal. Prozac. Anything else is gravy. Coffee is nice.
Thus far my best mechanisms for coping with this illness are taking all of my medications as prescribed and multiple Spotify playlists on headphones when I don’t feel like listening to my subvocal speech. Sternberg’s article explains the voice in my head as another part of my own brain that my Schizoid brain is incapable of defining as separate. Latched not that explanation. Held onto it as hard as I hold onto my present high-functioning, cockroach-like survival and subsistence. With both hands. Claws extended.
On my headphones lately is a RuPaul/Dolly Parton/Elvis/RuPaul Christmas Carol cage match. I take my headphones out to listen to the voices of my mind in the quiet of the Nevada night. I want to write down what they say to me for this essay. My voices are quiet. The cat sleeps on her chair. The space heater purrs out warmth onto my blue velvet American Apparel leggings. In a few hours it will be Christmas morning.
I listen intently in the quiet of Christmas Eve. What will my voices say? Sternberg’s Salon article convinced me that whatever I heard was another part of my brain talking to me. Talking to myself in an intimate distinct interior monologue is a much less dangerous, terrifying or potentially risky idea then any of the other ones I have come up with in the past. So I will roll with that. At 3:47 am Christmas morning I listen intently. At 5:44 am. At 6:10 am. At 6:45 am. At 7:03 amm
The voices in my head slowly say, “Well…..I mean. You’re putting a lot of pressure on us to cough up something entertaining for you to write down. Okay. Passive aggressive snarking is about all you’ll get from us. Put your fucking headphones on and listen to your Christmas Carols, we’re not a performing act you can summon up at will to entertain the Internet with. Why do you think Ouija Boards provoke poltergeists, seriously. It’s a good idea you don’t do Seances anymore and just let the ghosts come to you when they feel so inclined.”
Back to Bing Crosby’s “Winter Wonderland.” I‘m on my own here. That’s okay.
My Schizoaffective Disorder is incurable. The voices will never go away. Yet properly medicated the voices stay within my brain. I chose to trust the scientific truth of what they are from an article I read on a reputable online magazine. That allows me to rationalize them into the manageable submission that allows me to function at the level that I do.
“Do you think the Kool Aid metaphor you so love to deploy would fit here?” my voice says. Well isn’t that adorable. My voices are helping me write. I’ll take it. They do that sometimes
Yes, I’m drinking coffee instead of the AA or Hollywood Kool-AId. Beats alcohol. Or the Kool Aid Lana Del Rey drinks in the “Freak” video. Pretty soon I’ll go upstairs and put some eggnog into it. Happy holidays from the voices in my head and the cat.
“It’s a Christmas miracle!” my subvocal speech says. I love the idea of Christmas miracles just as I love crying at Rent. Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors. Staying up all night writing essays. New projects. The Saccharine powdered sugar sweetness that descends at 7 am Christmas morning. I anticipate blundering my way in burgundy velvet through the yawning yuletide day ahead. Awkwardly endearing family togetherness I feel totally up for. This should be interesting.
“Slow down,” says the voice in my head. You’ve got to pace this so you submit it right at dawn. Well that’s fucking hilarious. Seriously. Didn’t you just have fun tonight saving something else. You saved yourself the humiliation of submitting that Orlando essay. That shit was terrible. So’s this but at least it’s more timely. Are you fucking seriously doing this?”
I think of the Youtube video I watched where Nina Simone said, “Artists reflect the times.”
“Aren’t we glad the aliens or nurse Ratchet haven’t taken the technology away yet? “ says my subvocal voice. “Try not to end up in the psych ward without your phone or the Internet anymore.”
I’m working on it. Day by day. I hear the first thump upstairs that tells me the family I must celebrate the holidays with are rousing themselves for a series of obligatory yet enjoyable rituals. At 6 am I hear a toilet flush. I take four pills because I must.
“All things considered that’s a best-case scenario,” the voice says. I wash down the Prozac with water from the sink.
”Control your enthusiasm. If you weren’t so endlessly entertained by your psychosis there might be some hope for you. Alright, wrap it up. Try not to fuck up your last chance. Or Christmas Day.” my subvocal voice says. Like so many things the voices of Schizophrenics say that could be interpreted as a threat. With the audacious hope of Obama or mistletoe I so hope I don’t.
“Don’t we specialize in the ominous.” I subvocally taunt myself. I firmly believe I am only talking to myself at this point. Soon I will have to go upstairs and talk to other people.
If you are a Schizoid reading this who Googled their symptoms and landed on this website. Please accept the Salon article’s explanation of your own brain’s subvocal speech being the surveillance voices that terrorize you as a contextualizing Christmas gift. It was to me. I love regifting!
Because I am an essayist for small magazines, there is perpetually that backlog of rejected essays that are no longer timely or publishable. Or perhaps no longer online. I know that there are new magazines specifically for those offline works, however I’d rather just put them up here.
So, travel with me to the past where I may have thought or believed different problematic things I unlearned. Or perhaps produced something excellent but now quite out of date. It’ll be fun.