Tuesday, June 12, 2012

"Writing is making sense of life."

(Nadine Gordimer)

When I was in college, Nadine Gordimer won a literary prize. My friends, who knew that I liked books, bought me her book, in hardcover. I never read it. I don't even have it anymore. The thing is, I have always liked children's books better. Where life is still within the provinces of parents and siblings and there isn't all the complexity of romance broken up, adultery, dysfunction. Yes, Maurice Sendak brought out the demons, the Wild Things, but he still placed them in a child's world. And there are plenty of children's books with dysfunctional families. Those are the ones I tend to avoid.

My dad had a newspaper route in Bergen County, NJ, when he was a kid. He saw people go off to jail for being in the Mafia, he got great tips from those still in. He didn't understand a lot of it until later. When people ask him, "Did you see the movie the Godfather?" he says, I saw the play.

I was never abused as a child. I didn't live in squalor. But I knew people who had been abused, though I didn't piece it together until later. And I saw many people living in squalor. And my mother wanted more children. She had miscarriages and then two angel babies, children that were so premature they never left the hospital. The doctors at Georgetown let my parents hold Joy Cherene as she died. When Peter died, we got a phone call from the hospital. And I said, "Oh, rats." I was in second grade.

We all have pain. We all have sorrow. I always got mad at people who said, "I haven't suffered enough." Well, as the saying goes, "Everyone either just had a crisis, is in a crisis, or is about to have one." The happy moments are in between. The happy moments are what make the suffering have meaning. Only focusing on the squalor helps no one. But only focusing on the beauty misses the point. And there isn't really enough beauty to focus on it all the time, anyways.

A friend asked me, in follow up to an earlier post, how I got help after my mania took over. Was I hospitalized? Did my family help? I was one of the lucky ones. I did spend an afternoon in the ER, waiting for a psych evaluation. But then I was sent home, because I wasn't a danger to myself or others. I was a "rule out" for bipolar, because at that time my only symptom was depression. I started a day program that met half days. I saw people there who had it so much worse than I did, and I thought, I don't belong here! Eventually, I quit the program and my dad came to get me to take me home for Easter. This all happened before my mania (see Stanley Cup Fever, sort of.) I went home to Virginia and Easter was nothing to me. I felt nothing. The term used in psychiatric circles is "flat." It's a good descriptor, as everything had one dimension, my complete disengagement.

In Virginia, I started meeting with a psychiatrist and a psychologist. We started to work towards getting me back to myself, and ultimately, the goal was to get me back to Pittsburgh. Which happened. But when I got back to Pittsburgh, I had a bad experience with the psychiatrist that had been chosen. He didn't have me in his appointment book, I waited for hours in a dark hall, and the first thing he asked me was a question that I thought was not at all appropriate or germane to my mental health. That experience was a trigger, and coupled with the new drug cocktail I was on, I cycled into mania. Which brings you up to date with my former post.

(to be continued...)

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