BlackFish

I finally sat down to watch Blackfish, the much acclaimed film about captive Orcas and SeaWorld. It was sobering and moving. Back in the 70’s my father was called north to British Columbia to treat a juvenile Orca that was found riddled with bullet holes and dying alone in Mences Bay. It took many months but Miracle, as she was to be named, came around. She survived and was flown to SeaLand, in Victoria. She would become one of these performing animals that put on a show for tourists. But all was not well with the now young adult whale. The behaviorist noted that she would repeatedly strike her head against the dock. It would go on for hours. Miracle had no family, no comfort. She was miserable. She didn’t last two years before she drowned in the nets that contained her. Sealand argued that activists had cut a hole in the net, others said the nets were a death trap and that the slack during low tide is what tangled the whale. Regardless, she died. Sealand tried to regroup, as shown in Blackfish they started “protecting” their orcas by keeping them in steel shipping containers overnight rather than risk them getting tangled in the nets. Tillikum (the orca the documentary was about) spent his early life like that. It was, as some think, what formed the behavior issues that later claimed the lives of so many different people. It was a chain of events set in motion by the saving of Miracle. Her time and subsequent death at Sealand all started a terrible ball rolling. I had no idea I would come face to face with that reality. It left me adrift and sad. Not because of the orcas, and all the trainers dying. It isn’t about whales. It is about losing my dad. It is about not having much if any communication with him anymore. Jmiraclecolor_edited-1

It comes down to losing touch and figuring out a way onward without this larger than life man and all the incredible things he did. He taught me to love and respect animals and my life today would not remotely resemble what it is without that influence. I wonder what he thought of this movie, if only I could just pick up the phone and ask him. if only.

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The “P” Word

There is no better word to get me worked up as this one. For years it could stop a session cold in its tracks. Usually ending in a pissed off defensive silence.

Provocative: serving or tending to provoke, excite, or stimulate
— provocative noun
— pro·voc·a·tive·ly adverb
— pro·voc·a·tive·ness noun

I was rather surprised with myself today. Instead of shutting down and withdrawing into silence I met it head on. It is an interesting shift. It gave Beatrice an opportunity to see where I was coming from. So innocent a word. Relatively benign, though of course, overused. Unless you stray into the land of Psychiatry/ psychology and social work. I had never thought much about it. It was like any other word in the English language that was until I hit 20. Once I had a label slapped on me. I quickly came to understand that in that context there was nothing good about provocative. It became synonymous with pathological. That is very much where it remains today nearly 20 years later. Where did this incredible power come from? When did such an innocent word become so mind bendingly haunting? I guess I’d have to go back to where this story starts and look there. I don’t like to revisit, and surely do not want to now, but I saw today the raw-ness of a wound inflicted so long ago. It truly was a wounding. I was just a naive kid. I knew nothing of this world I was about to descend into. Yes, it really was a descent down a rabbit hole of sorts. Prior to that I had no idea what went on behind high brick walls that stood on that hill. I was your average 20-year-old college student. I liked to party. I liked to live impulsively, just as so many around me did. I drove too fast, smoked too many cigarettes and did too many drugs. I had sex. Rough sex. Sure, I liked kink. That was me at 20. What set me apart from my fellow wild ones was the dark sadness that visited far too often. My highs were not long-lived. I chased them when the darkness descended. I was hot-tempered and angry much of the time. I was in so far over my head and didn’t see a way out of that. It didn’t take long for me to end up in a hospital. Universities like Cornell don’t like it when students jump to their deaths- they intervene fast and hard. There are no buts, no ifs and no waits. So there I found myself staring at an unfamiliar scary place. What was so difficult to take was the locked door. That alone surpasses so much of my early experiences. I can still tell you exactly what it sounded like, just as to this day I can tell you what every lock in every hospital sounded like. They are etched there in my head to replay over and over like an old phonograph. Initially I hid and kept to myself. I wanted nothing more than to flee. I didn’t trust anyone around me unless they wore scrubs or a white coat. How little I knew back then. I told myself they would protect me and that they would fix everything. I would be back at school in no time. But days wore on, I broke down and started getting to know those around me. I learned you couldn’t trust the staff. I was caught in this strange place not knowing who to believe and who to trust. Was I crazy like all these people I found myself locked in with? Was it all a mistake? In short order they started with the meds. I knew little. I numbly took them all the while wondering if it was the right choice. To take the meds was just accepting the truth about who I had become and how far I had fallen. To me it was just another failure on my part. Me not pulling my weight and getting shit done. I was falling apart. The longer I wandered those bland beige halls accompanied by the background noise of shrieking and crying the more I became convinced that this was my fate. I told myself I belonged there. But I was conflicted and angry. Rageful. The worse the side effects the more angry I became. I was trapped and sick without anyone listening. I was just another number, just another patient. Shifts changed and staff came and went. Nobody explaining what was happening to me. The fear was immense. I could not get away. The anger and fear joined into this mass that was unbearable to me. I did what I had always done when I didn’t get my way. I became impulsive and stupid. I acted without any benefit of reason. I chose death over life in that place flanked by miserable sick souls and the faceless uncaring individuals that “cared” for us. It was as if someone had unleashed an inner demon. As I have written before the following week was hellish. There is no good reason why I am still here. In the final day I listened as the doctor stood in the hall speaking with my family. I was being written off as hopeless, not treatable. I was given the choice of a state hospital or the facility my family had begged to get me a bed at. Somehow in that thick skull of mine I made a rational decision. But it was a decision that would set the path I am still on today and left the scars that still sting 20 years later.
Despite my experience upstate there was nothing that could have prepared me for the next 6 months. In terms of scale alone it was staggering in its scope. From a tiny county hospital unit I arrived at a massive campus of brick buildings. If I wasn’t so angry and sick I might have considered it beautiful much like a university, well except for all heavy mesh screens on the windows and locks on the doors. The intake was exhaustive and tough. I answered question after question. Most of the time repeating what I had told the previous person. I didn’t trust anyone though a part of me still wanted someone to just snap their fingers and return me to my cozy little room back at Cornell. I was so tired and scared. I still clearly remember the long walk to the unit. Looking up at the towering ceilings and the old furniture. It was as if I had stepped back into the Victorian Era. It did nothing but unsettle me further. Yet another locked door. Yet another sound etched there in my head. It was bright in that hallway. I remember that well. Maybe white? or pale colored walls. Tall windows. A lot of people. Too many. Far too frightening. I kept myself close to the wall as we walked. I wanted nothing more than to disappear completely. My skin crawled as so many eyes picked me out and sized me up. I sat on my little bed and tried to wrap my head around the week that led up to my finding myself in this foreign land. I tried not to meet eyes with the person sitting watch at the end of my room. I went nowhere without my shadow. All the sedatives I had been living on had been discontinued and it didn’t take long before I got sick. It is bad enough coming off those drugs, but with someone watching it is without description. I have written a bit about my experience on that unit and my late night encounter with Stewart. I was farther adrift and terrified by the time the rapid change of units was made. This new unit was different. for all the noise and disorder of the acute unit this one was quiet and almost homey. In a strange way. Instead of 20+ mixed individuals this was just a group of youngish women. They all seemed pretty normal at first glance. I thought to myself this might be safe, least safer than the last mess I had found myself in. It didn’t take long to get to know my roomies. I knew not to stare, but found myself unable to look away from the many visible scars. I couldn’t figure out why they seemed okay, but their bodies told a very different tale. I didn’t yet know what I was. Didn’t know till I was told via a small black and white printed pamphlet boldly printed with the heading BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER. I had taken psych classes and this wasn’t ringing any bells. I was trying to make sense of what I was reading. Was that me? Were all the bulleted lists of characteristics me? Impulsive? Yep. Spends Money? Yep. I stopped reading and sat looking around me. I’m crazy. All these things I do when I’m upset they are on this list. I’m one of them. and so began my life with a group of women that touched my heart in so many ways. They became my family. No matter what happened we stuck together. I heard the most devastating recollections of abuse. Abuse so brutal it could turn your stomach and scramble your brain all at the same time. It defied logic that these women were still alive. But was this alive? Was brutalizing one’s own body in an attempt to feel beyond the hollow confines of your bones living? Was creating psychological mayhem all around in an attempt to gain control living? It may well have looked homey at first glance but what went on on that unit was anything but home. Within hours I was to become acquainted with the rules and the bible by which with place ran. There were no ifs, ands or buts. This was it. Not that anyone seemed to like it. Yet that was how it was. Some doctor out in Seattle had figured out a way to treat Borderline Personality Disorder and the unit I found myself on operated under the guidelines of this manual. And yes, there was a manual. We lived and breathed it 24/7. Well, unless we were outside chain-smoking and bitching about the manual. It was rigid and seemingly inflexible, least that is how I experienced it. If X than Y. There was a lot of that. X behavior was to be met with Y response from staff. Though it probably wasn’t meant to be it came off as punitive and harsh to us. Nothing we did or said seemed to be the right thing. I was somewhat lost and confused. This was how I had lived for 20 years. This was how I survived all the crap I had endured thus far. Suddenly it was wrong. It was in the book. The behaviors were pathological. I needed to be fixed! What? Fixed? I didn’t know I was broken. I had survived till then hadn’t I? It didn’t matter what it was. I felt like I was screwed up beyond repair like all those around me. I know that sounds harsh and very judgemental but there were women there that I know are not still with us today. There was no help for them, not even the miracle cure of Linehan’s. Nobody endures torture like that and lives. Those that were in double digits for suicide attempts, or those that had run out of flesh on their bodies to burn or cut. that isn’t cured. sorry, but it isn’t. I sat amongst them learning and absorbing what it was to be a borderline. In those months I honed my skills of manipulation and splitting. I gained a new skill set. I learned my version of impulsive didn’t hold a candle to the zero to sixty these ladies could perform. I didn’t get better in that hospital. I got better at being sick. It made me what I would become. It was the very worst thing that could have happened to me. there was no returning to Cornell. It wasn’t even discussed. No, it was all about residential living/ halfway houses since I was too sick to return to any normal life. It was in those months that I learned my label, but worse yet I bought it. At each cross roads I found myself more angry and frustrated. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I had no skills to cope so I mirrored the mayhem I saw around me. I became what they told me I was. I became sick and personality disordered. I became that Borderline. I was like all the rest. My behaviors were impulsive and sometimes quite extreme. I was locked in this battle of us against them. The more power they imposed the more angry and frustrated we became. The unit was unsettled. It was no longer homey. The population had changed a bit and it had become more charged and felt strained at best. I wanted nothing but to be free of the locks and the rules. The endless behavioral analysis reports we wrote for any and all behaviors the staff felt were pathological. They sat behind glass and watched us watching them. It bordered on the absurd. In my dreams I saw us hurling feces at our zoo keepers. I didn’t seem to matter what I did. If I drew a horse skeleton, which was all I ever drew, it was provocative. Let’s say Provocative with a capital P. My life was under the microscope. As was all of ours. I was not alone in my experience. I started to question everything about myself. who I was, what I did, who I loved. Didn’t matter what it was. I started to wonder. In time wonder became conviction. I looked at myself and saw nothing but a seriously ill, incurable failure. I was sick and I would make everyone around me miserable enough that they would leave me. Borderlines couldn’t have normal loving relationships. They drove everyone nuts until they finally gave up and left. It was hopeless. I didn’t see the women around me getting better. I saw then forcing round pegs into square holes all the while we were powerless to change it. Any complaint or resistance was met with yet another round of “you’re not seeing clearly, you need to accept what we are telling you. Write another behavioral analysis so we can show you how off you are and how right we are”. Day after day, week after week, month after month. Linehan’s system works because it breaks you down. It convinces you you’ll die if you don’t submit to the information and learn the skills. We were all fed that. One after the next we fell in line. the spark left, all that set us apart from one another faded to the background. We ingested the koolaid and fell in line. Sick or well, there was no difference. We were all the same. All those square pegs were round when they finished with us. I hesitated and wondered silently before doing anything if it was the “right” way, or of it was another “sick” behavior or mine. As time passed I grew angry and resentful of what I was seeing and experiencing. I hated it. I hated everything about what was happening. Some part of me knew it wasn’t right. I wasn’t a round peg. I wasn’t going to ever fit in that hole I was being forced into. I became more angry. It was met with more of the same. I was resisting because of how sick I was. I wasn’t going to get any better if I didn’t try harder and work harder at getting better. But I’m not sick! some small part of me would think to myself. I would get even more frustrated. This is how it went. Over time that piece of me that held out faith in my sanity became smaller and fainter till one day it wasn’t there anymore. Sure I was rageful and frustrated as ever but I had completely internalized the label. I AM SICK. I HAVE NO OPTIONS BUT THOSE SET FORTH BY THE PEOPLE AROUND ME. MY ANGER IS JUST A SIGN OF HOW SICK I AM. I AM CRAZY LIKE ALL THOSE AROUND ME. MY ONLY HOPE AT A NORMAL LIFE IS IN THIS MANUAL. I AM A ROUND PEG JUST LIKE ALL THE OTHERS. It took a while but I ended up there. To this day I live with that label. It sits with me all the time, in the best of times and the worst of times. When I think about what I can be it is always hedged in parenthesis followed by the–> there is no way you can do it, you’re crazy, remember? It is ever-present. They visit me in my dreams you know. All those square pegs that ended up worn down like me. I dream of them fiery and impulsive, so full of life. So full of sickness. You see in the healing it all got thrown out, the baby and the bath water. Nobody seemed to care since they were so busy following their bible. We were people, individuals, souls. We were not our diagnoses. We, so full of life and love, stood before you, but you didn’t see us. You saw only what we had to be when you finished with us. There was no bend, no accounting for us as individuals. There was no room for anything but the outcome you seeked. We were to be the proof that this manual worked, no care for how it was attained. Within the confines of those hallways and rooms both staff and patients suffered beneath this burden. To be sure, it shaped what was to become our experience. I cannot tell you how many times I have wished I never set foot on that unit, though I often catch myself remembering someone, or an exchange amongst patients that brings a smile to my face. I learned so much about resilience and how much suffering a person can endure. I saw what true survival was. I saw what survival skills were, and no they were not in the book. In the darkest of lives these individuals still shined. Struggling mightily they walked on. They defied odds, and defied logic, yet there they were. But it wasn’t enough. They weren’t done being manipulated and harmed. In the name of healing we all submitted and each of us bore one more scar in the end.

I know many might disagree with me, and that what I have written above is just a product of my illness at the time. That may well be true, but a scar is a scar whether you get it while sick or healthy. I don’t know if I can ever be free from this one. I’m not sure I can be. I know I feel so deeply about this label that it is tattooed on the back of my neck. I had it put there, where it will go with me into the hereafter. That is how firmly intrenched it is in my soul. If that isn’t harm I don’t really know what is. At the end of this long post I find myself wondering if this is ungrateful, do these words cast judgment on a book that may well have helped me. I don’t know. I just know the guilt I feel as I finish this. It is amazing. I cannot even recount my experience without doubt creeping in about what is right or wrong. I can only shake my head and wonder where it all went so sideways.

Decisions

There is an interesting op ed piece in the Times about decision making. Much of what she is writing about is very much true, and I know because it has been my own experience. When faced with decisions we can be easily swayed especially when being led by an expert, or a doctor. When faced with difficult decisions that may determine our continued suffering, or relief, we can lose our good sense. We lose our ability to problem solve effectively. Instead we stop listening as our anxiety distorts what we are hearing.
I learned that one first hand during my first mammogram/ ultrasound exams. When I walked out of that office I couldn’t even remember what breast they were talking about. That is the most basic and important piece of information. Remarkable. Thankfully I did not need to make any life or death decisions. It was fine I couldn’t remember what that doctor was saying. It did however teach me a lot, about myself and about what sets off that anxiety. I had never experienced anything in my years of various ailments that could actually kill me (I’m talking physical ailments. I am well aware of the bipolar risks and statistics). I was facing a doctor that had information. It was out of the blue terror that took over while I sat waiting for her. Not the typical boredom I face when waiting in doctor’s offices. It wasn’t a broken thumb that I was waiting for a cast and the bad news of how long before I could climb back on a horse. It wasn’t waiting to be told how much of which drug I should take so the bone chilling depression would lift. This was entirely different. This was the waiting to hear if I had cancer or not. I don’t know of anyone that would not be scared in the same situation. Cancer is all around us, day in and day out we are bombarded by the battle against cancer. It is the media, on the internet and in our families. It is seemingly everywhere. In that moment it was my turn to find out if it was in my life. I was lucky. The news I got that day was okay. I did however learn about that tunnel vision, and the utter failure of one’s faculties when in that type of pressure cooker. Guess I will see if I learned anything, since I have my 6 month follow up in a few weeks.
There have been other times that decisions have been made in the worst of conditions. As I have written here in this blog there are times when the decisions were coerced and made under pressure. Of all the places you see this the hospital stands out. Time and again I see it. It makes me sick to even think about it. There is no second opinion, or questioning the doctors. Their decision is what is to be. Granted there is a treatment team, but still, are they always right? is the choice the correct one? How is one to know when there is no backup, or true oversight? I have had doctors along the way make some interesting decisions when it came to medication. In the beginning I knew nothing and blindly followed along. I was sick and they knew best. I took the drugs no matter how awful they were or how sick they made me. It was just how it worked. But years passed and I became smarter about the system, and more educated about the medications. I believe my decisions became far more informed, not always from the dr. but from my own reading. I knew this would always be so I muddles through the PDR, and any studies I could find. I taught myself what I needed to know. At least I feel I have some ledge to sit on when faced with decisions. It is never easy. I have left behind the person that could be swayed or pushed easily by a doctor. I want to know the risks and the possible benefits. I want to be the one to weight that in my mind. It is one of the things I really like about the psychopharm doctor at Columbia. He works his way through the meds and begins to narrow down the options (and yeah it is pretty narrow already). In the end it is a decision on my part which way we are going. I know the good, the bad and the ugly of each. I control where I am going. That doesn’t happen in the hospital. A very good reason not to visit. In that world it is all about just how fast they can get you out the door. there is no let’s try this and if it doesn’t work we can go to plan B, or plan C. There is take this, done. But the far more awful was how they got me to consent to ECT. Sadly I have no recollection of the weeks prior, or the meetings. I have the testimony of my partner about what was said and done. I walked blindly into that one. I was so desperate to be free of that depression I would have done anything. How is there any informed consent under those circumstances? I could barely think straight to begin with when I was told this was what would work. I made one of the worst decisions of my life under the dusty grey helmet of depression. My intelligence and will played no part that day. All that was left was a sick person that wanted to be well. It happens every day the world over. In doctor’s offices, hospitals, and the back rooms of third world clinics. Decisions are made under terrible conditions by the most intelligent of people what leave others shaking their heads. It isn’t smart, but there is always someone selling snake oil and there is always a buyer. In every branch of medicine there are treatments that border or stray beyond the margin of conventional. The takers are the ones that have exhausted their possibilities within the conventional. They step foot over that line and look for answers, cures and wellbeing. Maybe for some they find their cure. The vast majority find nothing but more pain and suffering.

I think I have spent much time in the land of medical decision-making. Enough to find the Op ed piece close to home. It never gets any easier. If anything it has grown far more difficult since I’ve been burned a few too many times.

One year- 1000 Miles

Hard to believe it has been almost exactly a year since I seriously started tracking my running. 1000 miles later it feels pretty damn good. And I sure could use that today. Session was a good one but deeply moving and painful. It hung on me driving home and I couldn’t shake it. Thankfully it was a beautiful day. I rode in the sunshine. When that didn’t work I got on the bike and rode amongst the golden hues of mowed hay fields. I knew I was closing in on 1000, but it still a nice surprise.

So what of those long minutes contemplating life and fate this morning? I think there is a place for those conversations. It is important to explore the very real and painful reality that it is hard to keep looking around at the growth I have found without looking back, looking sideways, looking up, looking anywhere but where I am now. It is too easy to get lost in those searches for any evidence that this isn’t what it seems. that this isn’t really me. I can go long stretches these days where I pretend that this can just go on indefinitely. But those stretches don’t ever last. They are replaced by the worry. The what ifs. The what now. What next. It becomes a loop. I find solace and comfort in that loop. My partner bitches about my endless worrying, but what she doesn’t realize is it is just a distraction. A distraction from the real elephant in the room. I know that bone crushing depression will come back. Don’t know when and that may be the hardest thing of all. It isn’t fate it is reality. But yes, in the long run it is indeed my path. There is no getting off this ride. There is a part of me that accepts completely that I will die. It is indeed inevitable. I have spent much of the last 20 years convinced that death would be at my hand. Am I still convinced? That is a difficult question. But as Beatrice saw today it leaves me sad and conflicted as I step onward on this path of healing and growth while still clinging to an old soothing touchstone.

When is home not really home

I’ve been in a lot of houses. As a kid we moved a bit. 6 different ones before I was a teenager. Don’t remember enough of my childhood to know if any of them felt like home. Some I remember glimmers of in a fond manner, others I get a more cold feeling when I try to capture any fleeting memories of them. As I grew up I have stepped foot in a lot of different places. Two different property searches unlocked a lot of doors, all accompanied by a smiling and babbling real estate agent. It never ceased to amaze me how fast my gut reacted to each. At face value there was always the curb appeal, though that isn’t really what I am talking about. This is more of an instinctual response to a property. Did it feel “right”? or did it feel “wrong”. Much like you know instantly if you accidentally put your foot in the wrong shoe. You don’t have to look at the shoe to know that information. Your foot tells your brain it doesn’t fit and that the shoe is really destined to be on the opposite limb. It is very much the same when it comes to houses. We live in this rambling old farm house now and despite 10 years of occupation and much work it still isn’t home. Not on that deep connected level. I didn’t have a great reaction to this house. From the very first moment. The property is lovely, but there was that piece that was missing. By the time we closed on this farm we had seen maybe 15 to 20 other properties. I was always polite and did a walk thru (or maybe that is my curious side). I never refused outright and drove away. I let the broker carry on and point out the painfully obvious while brushing over the faults. I happen to love architecture and old homes. Yes, a glutton for punishment since old houses truly are trying. I love to see the bones of an old home. Sadly most have been butchered along the way in the name of enlarging the space. It is often a mess, and rarely involved the thought of keeping the house’s integrity intact. Our home is very much in that category, as was our last one. Add a wing here, a roof there, and odd size window or two and you come to see what the house is today. It takes a hard look to see what remains of the old skeleton that came to life in the 1800’s. Our last home was an enormous old colonial revival. The front dressed in massive windows that went from nearly the hardwood floor to the hand pulled plaster crown molding. It was exquisite once. Even with the additions added on each side, and the rear. But they kept some sense of balance and it did still look lovely. The first day we saw the house it was winter. It stood vacant in the grey harsh light and cold drizzle. Those beautiful windows half open and water pooled on the floors beneath the skylights. I knew it the moment I saw it. I loved it. From the toile black and white print wallpaper sporting naked women that adorned the kitchen to the avocado green linoleum counters circa 1970. It was as if someone had dressed up the grand old dame in the worst drag they could find, but her bones were refined. I could see beyond the costume. I saw what she would become. I saw it there on the walls next to the pink trim and teal walls. They became invisible to my eyes. I saw the 16′ ceilings, and the crown moulding. I saw the fireplace tucked beneath a 1900 mantle. Thus began my love affair with that house. She would never become what she could have been. I did not control the money. She came close though. It was blood, sweat and tears. All the demo work was done with our hands. I lay the tile when the contractor didn’t show up. That house gave us so many tools that we needed for this farm. I didn’t know it back then. On the day we closed and I said goodbye to that majestic colonial I cried. I don’t mean a tear or two. I broke down sobbing as if I lost a family member. I still think of her. Not as much as I once did, but I do miss her. It is different now. I never fell for this house, or this property. Doesn’t matter how much trim from Lowe’s we adorn it in, or what color the siding and shutters are. It doesn’t matter what color the walls are, or how lovely and bright my studio is. No, none of that matters because there was no spark. No attraction. It isn’t home in the same way the last house was.
As Beatrice and I sat talking about homes I thought about my path here. Where I lost my way. I gave in and said yes, when in reality I could have just waited for another property to come along. But I gave in, as I often did when my father made a decision. And so started the life that has been here. It was as if the house knew I did not love it. It put up a fight. From the very first day. The move was a disaster. As if on cue every major system broke, from septic to well to roof. It was epic. Didn’t help me like it anymore when the kitchen sink was spewing sewage, or the power went out for 7 days due to a leak into the electrical panel from the outside wall. I was out of sorts, lost up here. I had nothing to ground me and it started a shift that went from bad to worse. I can vividly remember standing on the deck of the house with Virgil at the other end of the line. Clear as day I can see that. I think I had left her a message on her machine. Something I don’t often do. I knew I was in trouble and I think she knew it too. I can’t blame it all on this house. A move is stressful and difficult even if you love where you are going. I just think it was compounded by the realities of this place.

It really is amazing though how we know when it is right. I remember years ago, before we bought the last house. We were on the hunt. Well into it actually. I believe we had seen 15 or 16 houses that point. Our broker was a lovely older lady who was happy to just keep wandering with us. We drove out of Nyack along the river toward Piermont. It is a winding road flanked by steep hill on one side and a drop to the river on the other side. Midway between the two towns we followed the broker up a very steep wooded driveway. It suddenly opened to lawn and swept around in front of a colonial with a wide porch and columns. She looked a bit threadbare in her old faded and chipping paint but my god she was beautiful. We parked and started toward the side entrance. It was almost comical since there was not even a staircase left to the side door. Inside it was an open floor plan. A single huge old Garland range was all that remained of the kitchen. A table with some mismatched chairs. Now mind you people actually lived there. The saying land rich and cash poor truly applied. As we wandered thru the massive house with wallpaper hanging off the walls in pooling strips I fell in love. But it was the moment I stepped out that front door onto the porch with foot wide chestnut planks that it became something bordering on smitten. I sat down on the steps and stared down at the blue Hudson river thousands of feet below it just clicked. I do believe in past lives, and man was this house speaking to me. I think I sat on that porch long enough to make both the poor residents and our laid back broker quite uncomfortable. I won’t ever forget that home. She was magnificent even with the shabby unkempt dress on. In a way I am glad we chose wisely and walked away from that one. It was well beyond our means, especially considering it was nothing more than a shell of a house and a prime piece of acreage. I doubt it still stands. The land it sat on was worth so much more than those old bones of a house. I can only hope someone came along and loved it enough to rebuild her.

Ah enough about old houses. Guess I’m feeling a bit sentimental today. 39 years old today. What a journey it has been houses and all. Maybe another blog post later since this really isn’t exactly a birthday post.

Homeland and…

wow. Not really quite sure where to start. What an intense start to the season. It is really uncanny watching Claire Danes ride the bipolar roller coaster. It begs the question, is she acting? Guess it is probably something we will never know, but she sure captures it. Once you see it, experience it, live it, it becomes truly easy to spot. That being said the last episode stood the hairs on the back of my neck up. Think it was the image of the restraints and her struggling that did me in. Thankfully they fucked up the IV thorazine. Never seen anyone given IV thorazine. So I went from my oh my god moment, to a what the fuck- why didn’t they get that right. Gave me a breather and I got myself grounded. Least she wasn’t sitting in a puddle of drool when Saul showed up. I think that might have done me in. I still can’t even believe he showed up. Have to wonder what the long-term scheme is in his head. My only guess would be he just let her off the CIA leash. Once out she can track Brody alone and he can follow unbeknownst to her. Hmmm. Really makes me wonder.

Ok, back to that reaction. I don’t like restraints. Not to see them. Can’t imagine my reaction were I back in them. They make my stomach turn and my skin crawl. Sure I’m not alone in that reaction. Plenty of people the world over, crazy and not, that have the same response. For years hollywood has liberally assaulted us with them in movies, TV. Any time they need to put that stamp of “OUT OF CONTROL” on an individual in a scene they find their way into the shot. Guess that is the reality of them. At the very base level. They don’t use them unless that line has been crossed and they have no other options. I think there was a time when their use was very much common. That has changed to some degree. There are other options to bring to the table first. But sadly, I didn’t have those options when I met restraints the first time. It was an automatic response. By wrote. They followed their protocol. There was no talking me down from that ledge. no, no medicating me first. But I must admit I was pretty much batshit and did barricade myself into the bathroom. I crossed that line. I do wish I had never met restraints. Never experienced first hand the bite of those leather and felt cuffs. When I see them on the screen I FEEL THEM. I SMELL THEM. The little hairs on my arms stand up expectantly waiting for that brush with them. I cannot turn that off. It is like breathing. My body reacts. The act of strapping a person down against their will is a violation like no other. To say it is done for their own good is meaningless. In that moment, that second, in those screaming- bucking- cursing minutes, it is anything but good. It is terror. Those leather coils trapping ones flesh only further the panic and rage. This primal response to be free tears across your mind. But there is no freedom. There is only the welts as the felt rubs your skin raw. Only the hoarseness of your throat from screams unheard. They don’t give. That is their purpose. By holding tight till the panic ceases they create safety. But at what cost? I will never again see a restraint and not recoil. I doubt I could be bound and enjoy it, as I once did. I have felt the helplessness as it chases hard on the tails of frenzy and mayhem. The noise and chaos departing into silence and chill. My nakedness beneath those pieces of leather. As my racing mind finally gave up and gave in. To shiver, wet with urine, trapped. No sense of time or place as drugs cloud the mind. sleep pulls hard. Time spins on. There is no tether to when, where , why? why? Why did I end up here like this? When did I go from responsible college student to this insane person tied down. There are no answers, not within the grip of medications used to subdue. The fear only grows within that petri dish of confusion and stupor. Without waypoints or a compass it just becomes more terrifying. More sinister, more horrifying. I could not answer my questions. I could not figure out what went wrong, so fast and so hard. There was no guide in my lost hours spent strapped down in a stark white room. Nothing but my lost scrambled thoughts. I learned what it was to truly be alone and afraid. To lose control completely. not in the sense of behavior, but in terms of one’s ability to control their environment. To be able to wipe the snot and tears off my face, or to pull a sheet over my goosebumped flesh. I could do nothing but shiver and slide into and out of sleep. I could not sit up, or even shift myself much. I was tied there. Before that day I had never given any thought to the images of restraints in the movies. They just passed by unnoticed, unimportant. I never gave a thought to what it felt like to be that person strapped down and shrieking to be free. Not once. I can never be that naive person again. I cannot tame the thump of my heart in my chest unleashed by just the sight of restraints. I can never undo, or un live those days. They are carved deeply within my soul. I know, every cell in my body knows what that is. One can rattle on about PTSD, and the trauma of restraints. They can tell you all the good and bad they can do. From an intellectual standpoint I understand all of that. I do. But tell that to my heart. Tell that to my mind. Tell that to my soul. Ask them about the day they learned what it felt like to be stripped down to nothing. Absolute nothingness. Ask them what it felt like to watch someone take pleasure in tying another person down. How it felt when they walked out of the little white room and the door latch slid home with an echo. How it feels to have six people holding your limbs tight enough to leave bruises while another sticks a needle in you. How it feels to have your heart beating clear out of your chest until the drugs come calling and the haze descends. How the room tilts and all your effort is useless because your muscles just don’t even listen. It was in those moments that I came to be the person I am today. The one that can’t not react when Homeland depicts scenes of much the same happening to Carrie. Restraints changed me. They taught me so much. None of it good. I will never be free of the countless hours spent in their grip. It was my awakening to the terror and the reality of being a mental patient and it will forever haunt me.

not much to say

Seems I haven’t much to say these days. Could be that it is endless work here, or maybe it is something else. A break might be what I needed after 380 or so posts. I know I have a lot more to say just that I’m not in the right spot in my head to write. It feels strange. I’m sure I’ll be back writing…just a matter of time.