Words of Wisdom

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Creative non fiction about hospitalization and detox from heroin with a darkly humorous twist on family dysfunction

Submitted: July 14, 2018

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Submitted: July 14, 2018



Words of Wisdom

I am fucking drowning, but there is no lifesaver in sight. I guess the medication, therapists and doctors are the lifeguards that keep me breathing. It is difficult to plan a life while waiting to fall into the hell of mental disorder. I use the word disorder because all my memories and emotions are in disarray and disordered like a weird fun house maze without an exit. Think of a messy bedroom with dirty underwear hanging from the door knob, piles of dirty clothes in disarray among the books and papers your should be reading or writing, fast food containers in another corner. It’s the chaos of your mind spinning like dryer without an off switch banging with old tennis shoes. I was once told, “Your room is a reflection of your mind.” If only my mind was as organized as my room. If that were true, I could paint it, wallpaper it, hang new pictures, and lay new carpet. You can do a makeover of your room, but how do you do a makeover your mind?

I stand leaning into the window frame reflecting on my current predicament. Gazing out the window that takes up half the wall, I feel captivated by the American flag lit by spotlights billowing in the stormy night. It’s been six sober weeks without any significant sleep. I feel as if I’m being tortured as they raise my dose of atypical antipsychotics a bit here and bit there, but I still can’t sleep. I tell Dr. Solomon, “I have started to see things, but at least I know I’m seeing things. This is like the Meth trip from hell.” He quips back, “Well, at least you didn’t have to pay for it.” You gotta love the man, his sense of humor never fails to amuse me.

A knock on the door draws my attention away from the storm outside, while my inner turmoil has my emotions splattered like a Jackson Pollack painting in my mind. Josh, the charge nurse for the evening, looks in. There is something about Josh that makes the most despondent person smile. He is tall and lean, kind of lanky with a perpetual tan and a bald head that he shaves with a goatee. When I first arrived, I had an abscess from skin popping heroin. Josh was the only one who could change the dressing without causing pain. He gives these great priestly hugs, the kind where the lower half of the body doesn’t touch. He reminds me of my older brother. “Hey, Honey Bunny” Josh calls, “Your favorite person is here to see you, Dr. Nadell.” He tells me this with teasing sarcasm and a bit of glee in his voice. “Oh, you mean Dr. Nadell, the doctor from hell,” I respond deadpan. “Who paged him?”

I grab my tattered journal; its pages are black paper written with metallic gold ink. It started in January with the title, “Diary of a Junkie.” January is detox month in my mind. Whatever misery and chaos I courted during the previous year is wiped from my memory like an erased blackboard. Keeping my black beanie and sunglasses on, I make the short shuffle to the small interview room that feels more like a prison cell. I slouch sullenly into the chair opposite ‘Herr Doktor,’ I feel my hatred rising at the very thought of having to be in the same room, breathing the same air with this man. I am pissed that I even have to look at this asshole. Fuck, if I was violently inclined, I’d like to slap that arrogant, superior attitude off his damn face.

Most psychiatrists spend a few intense minutes with you, and are gone quicker than you can complete a coherent sentence. The doctors understand the game, 72 hours and out the door unless you clearly make a verbal threat of being a danger to yourself or others. Unfortunately, this one likes to do sadistic talk therapy and I am several days past that particular hold. In my opinion, Dr. Nadell is an elitist prick, who hates addicts. Wearing glasses with heavy dark designer frames that emphasized his brooding eyes, his dark curly hair frames his face. He has a narrow Anglo Saxon nose and almost non-existent lips that look more like a crease in his face. His expression appears somewhat pinched, as if he finds the world distasteful, or maybe it’s just me.

He’s wearing an expensive suit, with the requisite Italian leather loafers with tassels and silk socks. I am sure his entire ensemble cost more than everything I possess. The heavy Rolex on his left arm is an obvious status symbol of the value he places on his time. In one of our nightly sessions, Dr. Nadell asks, “Why are you wearing overalls, they’re not very attractive on you?” I respond with best fuck you attitude that I can manage, “I am sitting in the fuckin’ psych ward, not trying to win a fashion contest.” Next…”What is that hanging out of your journal?” He sneers with disdain. I think it quite obvious and a rather stupid question to answer. It’s a rosary, the cheap plastic kind with purple beads. My roommate over in detox gave it to me. I feel the anger gripping at my mind. Silently, I repeat my mantra, “Let it be.”

Numbers have ceased making sense; hours no longer measure days and days no longer measure weeks. It had all become a blur. My mind is consumed with thoughts and memories that I can’t escape; I feel like a cracked vase with my emotions bleeding out. I swing like a pendulum between rage, despair and laughter. I feel as raw as a burn victim; everything hurts. The boundaries between myself and others have disappeared. Their emotions have become my emotions. I am an emotional sponge sucking up the emotional milieu of those around me and vomiting it up again. My thoughts, memories and emotions are colliding together like the steel ball on an old-fashioned pinball machine. I try to talk myself into sleep. I tell myself to breath and let go. I am exhausted and I know I need to sleep, but I cannot convince my brain chemistry to obey; sleep is nowhere in sight. As a friend said, “Without your keys you can’t get in, without your mind you can’t get out.” Yeah, that about sums it up, I can’t escape my mind or the psychiatric ward.

As the nightly game of verbal combat is about to commence, the chicken and the egg argument is hashed out once more. Which came first, the mental illness which twists up my mind like a hot pretzel or the addiction? In my mind, if these doctors could get my mental health in order, the addiction would be easy. I try to explain my despair, “You just don’t get it. I wouldn’t be a drug addict if I didn’t get depressed.” ‘Herr Doktor’ tells me in a voice of frustration, “I don’t care if you see Dr. Freud himself, you will never get better as long as you continue to use drugs.” End of discussion. The next time I see the doctor from hell, he tells me in his annoying voice, “If you kill your mother, you’ll get the death penalty.” My quick hard core ghetto girl response, “I’ll help them insert the needle.” Death has never been a problem, I reflect, it is living that I have a problem with. “Stay out of institutions. They aren’t good for you” he concludes. What is that line from Narcotics Anonymous, “Jails, institutions and death,” maybe he has a point.

My passage across the hall to the Psychiatric Ward from Chemical Dependency was precipitated by my conflicted desire to kill my Mother. I often tell people, “If my Mother was a dog, she would have been put down years ago.” These feelings were precipitated by my Mother giving my classic 1968 VW Bug to Chris. He wants to fix my car. Of course he does, that’s what Tweekers do. He knows nothing about being a mechanic, what is my bitch of a Mother thinking. I am more likely to get my car back in pieces than fixed. The truth of the matter is he is a Meth addict and thief that has done time in Pelican Bay for robbing houses to support his drug habit. Additionally, he stole my classic comic book collection, the only remnant of my pathetic childhood. This is perfectly acceptable to my Mother because he hasn’t stolen anything of hers, as far as she knows. She has so much shit, she probably wouldn’t even notice.

While he was awaiting trial on burglary charges, she made the trip down to the Redwood City County Jail to visit and put money on his books. What the fuck, I am the daughter that has been kissing her ass for years. She has never even come to see me in the hospital. Yes, if I could kill her and get away with it and still live with myself, it would be a done deal. I always sympathize with teenagers that kill their parents. Fortunately, I didn’t know anyone with a gun willing to do the deed when I was that age. My solution was running away from home at 13. I knew the streets had to be better than living with her. It seems like I have spent my entire life trying to escape my Mother. In spite of my verbal bravado, these homicidal fantasies disturb me. I question my ability to carry out such a brutal act without emotional destruction following me like a specter. It’s more just the need to proclaim these desires. I am exhausted, the lingering effects of detox and lack of sleep have my mind far south of reason or common sense. My mouth silently forms the words, “Let It Be.” Please let this obsession with these thoughts about my Mother be. The words from the Beatles song, “Let It Be” flood my brain.

“When I find myself in times of trouble,

Mother Mary comes to me,

Speaking words of wisdom, Let it be…”

Let It Be, let it be, let it be…How many times can you listen to the same song I wonder, as I gazed through my sunglasses? It must be kind of like the question, “How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?” “And in my hour of darkness, She is standing right in front of me, Speaking words of wisdom, Let it be…”

I find the most interesting people in psych and detox wards. Everyone has a story. I’m a story keeper. People tell me the damndest things. Luckily I write this crap down or it would vanish from my memory like San Francisco fog during a brisk afternoon wind. I am having the time of my life being certifiably crazy. During Occupation Therapy, we play a game where we need a team name, “5150” I shout out, citing the penal code for “Danger to self or others;” it’s a fitting name I think considering our present place of confinement. When I’m on my game, I am on like a sports stadium spot light.

During Art Therapy we are asked to draw a picture of ourselves. I have been drawing the same picture for years. I draw a picture of two faces in profile facing each other with their eyes closed. There my two selves linger, the person who wasn’t given up for adoption and the one that is sitting here looking at her. I can’t help but remember the picture of me that showed up on Facebook. I didn’t even recognize her. She is a happy four year old jumping on the bed with her best friend, her first friend. There my other self is full of smiles and giggles with blonde hair and blue eyes full of joy, hope and promise. I can’t help but wonder what happened to my “what if girl” I lost her somewhere along the way. I have become someone that doesn’t know how to be in her own skin, someone who knows they don’t fit. I know I belong somewhere, but here is definitely not it. Maybe being is more about the moment unshackled from the past of what might have been or could have been. Sort of like an echo of Marlon Brando shouting his mantra, “I coulda been a contender.” I coulda been, I coulda been, I coulda been. Could have been what? I think my “what if girl?” is hanging out somewhere, but I am not sure where. She is not easy to find these days.

This morning Jenny is doing leg lunges up and down the long hallway to work off the few calories she managed for dinner last night. Sometimes I join her while she does her exercise routine. The corridor is so wide you can pretend it’s a mini track, up the right side, down the left in a circle. Sometimes we have speed walking races. This is always popular with the nurses. We have our own version of Nurse Ratchet of “One Flew over the Cuckoo Nest” fame. She repeatedly tells us to stop. We are agitating the other patients. In my opinion, a little agitation would be a good thing compared to the medicated shuffle and the vacant half lost stares of the Electric Convulsive Therapy patients who actually need their names taped to the door so they don’t go into the wrong room.

At night they turn the heat on the unit down to an absolutely frigid temperature to encourage the patients to remain in their rooms. I can tell by the nurses’ demeanor that they are not happy to see me up. When my mind won’t rest all I can do is talk incessantly, pace and write. The rest of the time, I am firmly entrenched in the smoking room. It is glass on two sides, so the staff can make sure were not setting ourselves or someone else on fire. The only way to get a light is to stick the cigarette into something similar to a car lighter mounted on the wall and suck. There with my allies in madness, we swap stories of failed suicide attempts and other adventures into the realm of insanity. My friend, Alyssa and I come up with the top ten ways to kill yourself. My favorite is the “Thelma and Louise” option. We drive the car off the cliff at Devil’s Slide. There is something very poetic about killing yourself at a place called Devil’s Slide because madness always has an element of evil to it. I am laughing so hard that I pop the button on my pants and fall off the chair.

When I was finally able to reach my therapist, they announce group. The nurse tells me to get off the phone. I ignore her and continue my conversation. The next thing I know, I’m surrounded by security, threatening me if I don’t get off the phone. I start screaming at these assholes, “I know my fuckin’ rights. I am talking to my therapist. Back the fuck up.” On the other end of the phone, Bill my therapist, futilely tries to calm me down, assuring me that he will get back me, but this is a violation of my civil rights the wanna be lawyer in my head screams.

Later that afternoon, Jenny finds me at the end of the corridor lying on my back with my legs propped up against the wall. I have my headphones and sunglasses on, with “The Beatle’s One,” CD pounding away at the mania. Music is one of the few things that can sooth my disquiet mind. I can’t hear what Jenny is saying as she pushes a tiny Valentine’s Day Conversation Heart into my hand. I almost have the tiny green heart in my mouth, when Jenny starts jumping up and down and waving her arms, like she attempting to ward off oncoming traffic. I yank the headphones off, and Jenny screams, “Read It!” Three tiny word in pink candy ink read, “Let it be.” We look at each other and start laughing; those deep belly laughs that make your stomach ache. I remark, “Who the hell has ever seen a Conversation Heart with the words “Let It Be,” printed on it.” Jenny smiles at me, “It was the first one out of the box. I knew it was meant for you

.” And when the night is cloudy

There is still a light that shines on me,

Shine until tomorrow, Let it be…”


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