Writer’s Block

I can’t think of a more doggish feeling than needing to write but being unable to. Pacing, canine. Rabid. An unyielding reminder pounding at the back of my head: write, write, write. But no words present. Only a rushing of blood, muscles tensing and untensing, a too fast heartbeat. Only humanity forms at the tips of my fingers but not a single letter. Nothing to show for my sentience. The one thing I was born to do, is something beyond my control. Words coming and going as they please. Presenting themselves only when they feel it’s best. I don’t get to decide on those words. When they come they are almost always unexpected. At midnight, at work, in the shower covered water. Forming from brain fog into firmness. Always inconvenient. Always when no pen is near. Arriving in pieces which I am later able to stitch together.

The rest of the time I listen to the voices, making up stories and lies until they arrive at some truth.

This is my bane as a Schizophrenic writer. My essays born of illness, while important to me, are never my decision to write. Perhaps I am more a vessel than a captain. After all, Schizoaffective Disorder is like sailing your ship through the roughest waters, without ever knowing what the water really is.   



Depression is like Blindness



Maybe I wanted to die. Wanted to die for real. Collapsed on the dorm room floor. The jar of pills rolling from the edge of my desk and scattering across the floor like candy. In what would’ve been my last moments, regret would’ve filled my body like the pills filled my stomach. Like cement. In those last moments, I would’ve had the will to live but not the strength to pick up the phone and dial 9-1-1.

Luckily, I had both. Coming back from the edge and learning to see again.

That’s how depression works. It’s much like blindness. For it’s not darkness you feel even in your darkest moments, it’s nothingness. As huge and heavy as the entire ocean in your chest, and as silent and empty as a room with only a whirring fan at its center.

It’s soft and quiet and filling and hypothesizing. It’s exhausting like nothing else you’ve ever felt. And before you know it it’s got you and all you want to do is close your eyes and die.

And eventually, you might try. And it will be up to you in that moment to decide whether you really want it. And you will either pick up the phone and call for help or you won’t. That will be up to you, and I hope you make the choice. It will either be the last decision you make or the first one on the path of change. That’s your call, quite literally.

Don’t give up if you can help it. Because somewhere, someone or something is going to teach you how to swim in that ocean that fills your body. And if you want it, you’re going to get better.

Will My Illnesses Ceasefire?

I did a stupid thing and I got a part time job. A basic 9-5 type of job. A cashier/bagger combination down at a local grocery store in the next town over. I haven’t held a job in over two years. Not since the wheelchair, the Schizoaffective Disorder, the seizures, and the chronic pain, and the suicide attempt. It’s only about fifteen hours a week, barely part time.

I did a stupid thing and I got a part time job.

I told my boss I have to take meds three times a day and can’t work past three in the afternoon. Because I still need time to go home and cry at how bad my body hurts. Time to come home and electrocute myself into numbness with my tens unit. Time to choke down too many ibuprofen. Time to spend too long in the shower. Time to do my therapy prescribed stretches. Time to come down off the high of hearing derogatory voices all day. Even after staying faithful to my antipsychotic for almost two years, I still hear voices constantly. A droning noise of voices. A sinister John Carpenter amalgam of sound. Every time I try to do something good for myself the voices are always right there. Always reminding me that I’m going to fail.

Can I even handle a job?

I’d much prefer to stay home and stare out the big bay window at the apple trees. 50/50 it will rain or shine but I can always feel the rain in my head regardless. Psychosis pulling my soft brain apart like sticky cobwebs.

You might ask what it’s like to live with chronic mental and physical illnesses. I’ll let you know what it’s like. It’s like your body and mind are fighting a war against the one thing meant to keep them alive. It feels like you were born to be destroyed.

I did a stupid thing and I got a part time job. Will my illnesses ceasefire? I doubt it. Chronic illness waits for no healing. A ravaging train with no breaks.  It’s an unwelcome guest in a body I didn’t even get a chance to learn to love.



The Hardest Lesson I ever Learned

It happened right in the middle of sex, the most terrifying event of my life. It started like an ache at the back of my mouth that stopped me in what I was doing. I’d never felt a pain like it in my life. And then my tongue contracted and in only a few seconds I couldn’t talk.

I sat up fast. The pain moving down my neck. I struggled into my clothes.

“Something’s wrong,” I gasped, managing somehow to get words past my cramped up tongue.

My fiance looked at me, not unjustly confused, “What is it?” An honest note of concern in his voice. He looked me over, “What is it?” He repeated.

“It. Hurts. I don’t. Know.” But this time when I spoke it came out garbled and unintelligible. It had barely been two minutes and already I couldn’t open my jaw. Then my neck contracted in what was close to the worst pain I’d ever felt. My head seemingly pulled back like an arrow on a bow, only no release, just mounting pain.

My joints all suddenly felt strung together by tight twine with no give. My muscles had turned to rocks.

I remember slowly arranging myself with my neck resting on the edge of our mattress. Attempting in a feeble way to prop my neck up to relieve the pain.

Then it rushed through my body, my hands curled up burning paper and my legs, bent at the knees, wouldn’t be unbent.

Time seemed to come apart, dissolving like salt in the intensity of my own fear. Was I having a stroke? I qualmed at the thought, surely I was too young to have a stroke. But I thought for sure I was going to die. Right on the wooden floor of my first apartment, curled inside of myself, a rigid skeleton. I hadn’t said goodbye to anyone. On my obituary, all it would say was: her death was certainly unexpected.

I think I waited like that for about an hour. And for that hour I was in the worst pain I’d ever experienced. Sweat gathering on my brow, fear like gauze wrapped around my ribcage. Breath coming too fast, and heart beating too quickly. Every part of my body, all my bones, and muscles and tendons, and vertebrae and hips, my feet and even the tongue my mouth and the brain in my skull, ached so terribly it made my eyes hot and I cried. I was going to die. Holy shit, I thought, this is it. And had I died right there, with my fiance crying in the other room afraid to show how scared he was too. With his mom speeding down the main road too fast trying to reach us. With my body exploding in protest to my immobility, I would’ve been thankful. That’s’ how horrible the pain was.

It’s crazy to think this traumatic event was all to blame on a doctor. One doctor in the emergency room who did a half-assed job and later wouldn’t take responsibility for it. The hardest lesson I ever learned was if the doctor had to give you Haloperidol, you’d better make damn sure they’re giving you a side of Cogentin to go with it.

When his mom showed up with his brother in tow I was whisked up from the floor and put in the front seat of her old green truck.

It was the fastest twelve miles I’d ever traveled. When we arrived at the emergency department she took me up in her own arms and carried me through the double sliding doors. Then she yelled something like, “We need some help here!”

I was so hot from all the pain I remember how nice the air felt on my face. I remember thinking I was happy that it would be one of the last things I ever got to feel. The cool autumn-in-Maine air, laced with distant wood-smoke and water.

They raced me to an examination room. Doctors poked and prodded me. Trying to figure out what was wrong. Then, then you’ll never guess what happened. In walks the same irresponsible doctor from the previous night. The guy who treated my psychotic episode with one huge shot of Haldol and had sent me home just hours later.

He said matter of factly, “She’s catatonic. Schizophrenic. Get her an antipsychotic and some Ativan. IV nurse.” Then he turned to me and said, a little too close,”If you keep coming back here we’re gonna have to hospitalize you. Do you want to go back to the hospital?”

I shook my head no. I was beyond frightened. My tongue at this point protruding from my mouth. And my limbs pulled completely, and involuntarily, inward. I was not unlike Gregor from Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, transformed into some huge bug. All my limbs turned in and dead-like, just the same as a bug with its insect appendages pulled across its chest.

Then the doctor left the room and my fiance and his brother finally met up with us. We waited for hours for me to come down from what was actually a dystonic reaction to Haldol. Something that patients experience when not given a Central Muscarinic Antagonist at the time of admission. My psychiatrist apologized later, even though it wasn’t her fault. I still have nightmares about that night and now fill out Haldol on my list of allergies. I’ve actually been too scared to go back to any ER for psychiatric emergencies. Which is a shame because if doctors treated people with chronic and mental illnesses like they treated everyone else, maybe they’d find us worth paying attention to.



The Long Wait for a Crisis Worker

Once I was in the back of a cop car. Hands cuffed at the wrists and my right elbow knocking against the car door like a brass doorknob. My hot faced pressed against the cool glass window, twelve miles between my college dorm and the emergency room of the local hospital. There is a metal gate in front of me, knitted together like a blanket, but harder. The gate separates me from the police officer.

By looking at the cop it’s hard to tell if he actually thinks I’m dangerous. His poor posture leaving him bent over the steering wheel. His, I’m sure, creaking back silent. In fact, the entire car is silent. Save perhaps my anxiety whistling like a tea pot inside my chest and the white noise of an inactive police scanner.

I hadn’t done anything wrong. (Well, expect being born Schizophrenic. That was a mistake for sure.) But certainly, of all the things done wrong in my life, none required handcuffing me like this.

After miles of wet pavement and passing cars, I’m escorted from the back seat to a triage nurse. The automatic sliding doors open like fat arms. My chest is tight under the bright lights of the ambulance car park.

The cop has one hand on my arm and the other on my backpack and all I can think to say is, “Please don’t lose it.”

“Lose what?” The cop asked, speaking over the whirring hospital sounds that met us as we moved through the double door. The murmuring concerned voices and hospital electricity sounded like the wings of insects beating together. 

I said, “My backpack,” as the nurse taped a little bracelet on my wrist, “It’s got all my stuff in it.” I allowed myself a glance at the overused bag. Zippers only able to come together tiredly now, worn fabric on the outside, straps tied off instead of adjusted. It certainly wasn’t overfull. I didn’t have much for a twenty-something-year-old kid. It made coming and going easier. It made unexpected removal less unexpected. I looked at the green piece of ribbed tied to one other zipper. The mental health awareness ribbon had, with time, become just a ribbon tied in a knot, formless.

The ribbon was where it belonged: tied to the backpack of the Schizophrenic who was handcuffed in the backseat of a cop car.

The cop looked at me as I was ushered through to a room, “You come here a lot.” He said.

“Yeah,” I said in a tiny voice at the back of my throat, louder than a whisper but just barely.

“Some advice,” he said as he moved to set the backpack on a blue chair by the hospital bed, “cut it out or they’re gonna lock you up.”

My heart stopped and there was a hitching my chest, like ebb of panic attack beginning, “what?” I asked smaller than I had intended.

“I was told last time you were here you tried to hang yourself with a curtain right in the hospital room.” A beat, a breath, angry eye contact between the two of us, “They’ll lock you up for good for stuff like that,” he said and the finished on his way out the door, “they did it to my cousin.” 

Sometime later, after being stripped of my clothes and shoes and all of my belongings checked, I laid as still as possible. Voices, like burned book pages, floated ashy at the back of my head. Hallucinations, of spiders pouring out from the corners of my room where the wall met the ceiling, troubled me. A shot of Haldol made its way through my veins like syrup. Longing and sweet and thick.

Tiredly I blinked through psychosis soup as I waited to be seen as by a crisis worker. It would be a long wait, there was a strong chance I wouldn’t even see one until morning.

I laid stiller, catatonia slithering its way across my body. Psychosis, like boa,  kept me tight and scared. Hardly breathing. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.

Somewhere a baby cried, sick with a fever. The trauma room down the hall was prepped for some horrible emergency. Further down an elderly person sputtered on the fence between living and dying, hands shaking too badly to lift a cup of ice water to their mouth. The emergency room was always a whirlwind of pain. I laid still, refused to eat, and moaned in my own pitiful way about the voices as they dripped on me like water.

Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.