Tag Archives: mental illness

The Apology

“I’m sorry I made you bipolar.”

Wait, what? My mother stood in the kitchen stoically wiping a dish that was already dry. “I know I made you this way.” I was stunned, and at quite a loss for words. I was already uncomfortable in this scene even without the abrupt confession.

My mother’s house was so her: beautiful and unwelcoming. She had always lived in that damned yellow kitchen. Lemon and white striped wallpaper, stiff and perfect, topped with an elaborate wrap-around border painted with fruits and vegetables. I remember when she picked out the wallpaper. She loved that border so much but it was about two inches too wide to fit over the top the doorways in the room. Instead of picking a slimmer one, she made the interior designer hand-trim the extra two inches of white border off the bottom, cutting around each leaf and stem of that intricate pattern until it blended with seeming effortlessness into the stripes below, just passing above the impeding doorways. That was my mother.

I was wedged awkwardly into one of her prickly wicker side chairs; staring blankly at the back of her head as Fox News was droning on in the background. “I don’t think that’s the way it works, Mom.” I didn’t want to let her off the hook. There were so many other things she needed to apologize for. This just wasn’t one of them.

I was just grateful that she finally acknowledged something went wrong with the way she raised me. While she was misguided in her apology, I appreciated the effort. In many ways I’ve made peace with it all. Maybe I’ve just become skilled at compartmentalizing over the years. There’s the adult version of me who sees a tiny, increasingly frail woman inching slowly and tragically toward dementia. It’s difficult to harbor rage for such a helpless creature. But child me? Child me is pissed.

Standing Ovation

Back off Death.

The better part of my ego wins today.


I still have hilarious stories to tell.

Painful and complicated and hilarious stories.


I still have unlikely colors to mix.

Brilliant and elusive and unlikely colors.


I still have fantastic people to meet.

Unreachable and stubborn and fantastic people.


I still have dangerous places to visit.

Vibrant and undiscovered and dangerous places.


I still have impossible shit to do.

Enormous and bewildering and impossible shit.


Pardon me for not having time for you today.

If I’m going, I’m going out to a standing ovation.


And the performance hasn’t ended yet.

So back the fuck off.

Vincent’s Lament (a rewrite)

(apologies for the redundant post, but I like this version better and wanted to share it)

You, rich off the back of

my frenzied labor. Auctioning me off

like those whores I painted.

At least they were up for an honest day’s work.


Wildflowers should be wild, you know.

Not withering on dorm room walls under

plastic pushpins and double-sided tape.


Where were you when I suffered?

Without a cent to pinch. No one to remove

the monstrous veil blurring my sanity.

But not even Theo. Nor Christ himself

could save me. The green faery

only taking me deeper into Hell.

The ringing in my brain. Relentless thoughts.

Blinding colors. Dizzying motion.

Visceral. Urgent. Competing their way

to the surface ‘till I could no longer breathe.


I was the slave of creation.

A little death in each stroke.

My pain, now your beauty. Enjoy it.

Vincent’s Retort


I see you,

Littering the earth with my constellations.

Yes, MY my dancing stars, not yours to hang

On tacky dorm room walls

With push-pins and double-sided tape.


And you,

Rich off the back of my frenzied labor.

Wildflowers should be wild you know,

Basking in the compassionate sun.

Not withering within your dank, pretentious walls.


You don’t know me.

With all your analysis,

And your theories,

And your feigned sympathy

For the cliché’d “tortured artist”.

You are so proud of yourselves.


But you have no idea.

I had nothing but the ringing in my brain.

The relentless thoughts,

The blinding colors,

The dizzying motion,

The visceral urgency,

All competing their way to the surface

‘Till I could no longer breathe.


I was the slave of creation,

A little death in each stroke.

My pain is now your beauty,

You’d better enjoy it.


The black musty stench of it like decaying leaves

Left forgotten to rot on the forest floor

Bombards my senses yet again.


It is a pockmarked road,

Littered here and there with sharp obstacles

Like broken bricks just below the sinking surface.


I trudge through it slowly, barefoot,

Feeling its acrid slime rise up between my toes,

Sticking like tar and just as hard to remove.


Above me the sky is black to match the ground,

Blinding me in both directions.

Another day, another darkness.


Trapped in a body broken

Betrayed by a brain unwired

Stifling fears unspoken

Pondering sins transpired


Trapped in a cage of my making

Betrayed by my own two hands

In the corner cowered and shaking

Dreaming of travel to freer lands


Trapped in an anxious sand pit

Betrayed by the ones I trust

Looking for an ounce of respite

Stomping my dreams to dust


Trapped in this place of delusion

Betrayed by my perception black

For I failed to see in the confusion

There’s an exit there in the back

Just Breathe (and Paint a Horse)


So a couple of weeks ago I quit my new job. It was scary. I’m not one to diagnose others but I would bet big money that my boss was in the midst of a major manic episode and I just could not be around her. She was spinning me into such a place of unbridled anxiety that I up and quit without another job in place. I know this was a huge financial risk but in this case I prioritized my mental health over all other factors. I’m still convinced it was the right thing to do. While I was in the process of taking financial risks I decided to spend the last 11 days at Miraval Resort in Tuscon. This wasn’t for the purposes of taking a “vacation”, although it’s a lovely resort, it was more about learning skills, (meditation, etc.) that will help me better manage my anxiety in ways that enhance my drug therapies. Don’t panic, I’m not giving up any of my meds, they just aren’t always enough.

Miraval has lots of super interesting classes. Everything from sound healing to meditation while swinging in a silk hammock to painting on horses (yes, ON the horse. I did it twice.) That may sound off the wall, and it was to an extent, but as a form of art therapy it’s pretty genius. You are supposed to “paint your story” on the horse, accept the imperfections created by having a moving canvas, and cooperate with another living being. Then when you are done you tell your “story” to the other participants (this is the part where everyone cries, except for me, I’m weird that way) and then you literally wash your story away as a symbol of letting go. The picture attached to this post is a visual representation of the poem “Desert Birth”

I also learned ironic tricks like “having your anxiety but not being anxious about it” That one may take some practice. And the most important and simplest of all…..JUST BREATHE. Granted, there were cheaper ways to learn that one but practicing it daily, in different styles and with the discipline required for it to really work, was worth all the money spent. Assuming I maintain it.

I was also advised to write and create, which I’ve already been doing here, so expect my tone and subject matter to be more on the zen side than before. At least I hope. The poem “Meditation” was written after I did a meditation walk of their famous labyrinth. I had to take a full breath with every step. It was excruciatingly hard to keep focus and it took forever and that’s when I realized all of this was not as easy as it looked.

None of this will be easy. Change is hard, ambiguity is hard, acknowledging  when something is wrong to the extent that every cell in your being is screaming is hard. But the decision to make the change seemed clear and obvious. I don’t know what lies ahead but rest assured I will continue breathing in the meantime.