My son’s guitar teacher was freaking out the other day over the impending arrival of his first child. Beyond a healthy birth, he was consumed with anxiety over the care and feeding of an infant, all the way up through guiding his teen. So I told him the secret of parenting, what makes the sacrifice not only tolerable but wildly enjoyable, and he calmed, and smiled, allowed excitement to peek through.
It’s never talked about—that intense, profoundly magnificent feeling a parent gets the moment their child is born, and forever forward. It’s expected we love our kids, and therefore taken for granted, which is a shame, because the intensity of that feeling is so spectacular and unique.
I’d listen to my contemporaries talk about their children before I had kids. They spoke of the long nights with crying, colic infants, “the terrible two’s,” “the f***ing four’s,” surviving the teen years. Sometimes they’d comment their Kylie had made the honor role, or that Jordan had just got first chair for his violin, and their entire countenance would light up. But those moments were rare compared to the complaints.
Like most women, I simply assumed I’d have children. I planned to have two kids in my early to mid-30s after I’d established my career and proven my own greatness. But it wasn’t until I was almost 40 that I became pregnant with my son, my first baby to survive after six miscarriages.
Nine and a half months of pregnancy, connected to the infant growing inside, and everyday was fraught with wonder, and fear. Five days of labor, and the moment I held my son for the first time, minutes after delivery, his tiny warm body on mine, a tsunami of humbling awe so overwhelmingly powerful swept through me it literally took my breath away. And as I kissed his downy head, his hands, each finger, I realized the joyful contentment, the sense of energized completeness, that electric connection I felt to him, for him— was love.
Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine the intensity of love that could be attained until having children. I’ve been lucky and had loving parents, a few dear friends, the love I now feel for my husband, passionate and true. But it doesn’t touch the intensity of the love I feel for my kids. Virtually every time I am with my children, snuggle with them, kiss them goodnight, or just see them across a room, I feel that all encompassing love fill me up and consume me with tenderness, compassion and humility. Now 9 and 7, and they still takes my breath away. Everyday.
People who never have children, or don’t devote their life to raising them— as with adoption— will never know this level of love. In their lifetime, they will never understand the feeling that we call ‘love’ can be this intense. I’ve heard many of my contemporaries say with conviction that they’ve never wanted, and will never have kids, with rationalizations like “I’m just selfish, I guess.” But the truth is they’re only robbing themselves.
Life’s greatest gift is our ability to feel. We all experience pain and sorrow, happiness and joy to varying degrees. The unspoken gift of parenting is getting to feel the fulfillment and richness of that intense love integrated into every aspect of our lives, motivating us to be positive examples, and challenging us to consider others, and the future beyond ourselves.
The price of living with this intensity of love is the amorphic fear of losing it, which is why parents worry so much. Through the tantrums and the tears, the joy and the fears in sharing life with kids, the ultimate reward in parenting is the privilege of loving our children.
I was 17 weeks pregnant, with my first baby, when the results of an amnio told me that the wanted child I was carrying was not healthy. I have always been pro-choice, and never considered it a moral dilemma to terminate a fetus with severe Down’s Syndrome, or other life threatening, or debilitating abnormalities. Although I was aware that my advanced age of 39 increased my risk of potential problems, I was totally unprepared for the results from this technology, and the choice I would have to make.
We received the news on a gray Thursday afternoon in late December that the baby girl inside of me had an extra X chromosome, also known as Trisomy 47,XXX. While waiting for clarification from a genetic counselor on the following Monday, I spent the next three days searching for information. I sat in the old, stone library crying uncontrollably with each line I read from a Psychology Today article on XXX. “Severe learning disabilities.” “Severe emotional disabilities.” “Slow motor development.” “Shy.” “Withdrawn.” I rubbed my swollen belly, trying to feel my daughter inside of me, fear welling up and gathering momentum. My stoic husband sat next to me, silently reading along. On the way home we talked, we cried, we argued about what to do next. We decided to wait to make any decisions until we could get more information, except there was little out there, and everyone we spoke with had some kind of agenda.
The genetic counselor insisted that the information we had gathered over the weekend was outdated and biased. A few minutes later she called in a staff OB/GYN who showed us a picture of a beautiful 8-month old XXX baby, swinging in her electric swing on a whitewashed, sun drenched porch, smiling happily for the camera. The doctor then asked us if we would be willing to participate in her study if we decided to “keep our daughter.” During the following week, we spoke with doctors from around the world with any knowledge of XXX, who gave us a positive or negative spin depending on their personal views on abortion. We spoke with a social worker that dealt with the parents of handicapped children, who was subtly but clearly for termination.
I solicited advice from my parents. My father (who never changed a diaper in his life) told me to keep her. My mother said not to. We spoke with parents of XXX children. All of the children had suffered learning disabilities, delayed motor skills, were withdrawn, and had required special education. But all the parents loved their daughters.
A decision had to be made quickly, before I felt her moving inside me. I knew if I felt her I could never give her up. To a certain degree, she was still an abstraction, even though on ultrasound I had seen her entire body, each vertebrae of her backbone, the two hemispheres of her brain, her tiny feet and hands moving about. “The ghost in the machine,” my husband had called her. I held my belly and begged my daughter to tell me what she wanted me to do, knowing the decision would be mine, feeling the weight of that decision ripping apart the fabric of my tightly woven self-image.
What kind of person was I that I would kill my daughter because she wasn’t perfect? Faced with the probability of a slow child, I realized my expectations for [and from] my children were more than I had considered. Maybe too much.
It occurred to me that most of us go through life thinking we are generally good, honest, caring people because this view is rarely challenged, as most of our actions aren’t based on critical, pivotal, character-defining decisions. From the moment I got the amnio results, I knew my life would never be the same again. Technology had given me insight and now forced me to make a choice.
Probably the hardest decision of our married life, but it was ours to make in a state where abortion is still legal. Only we, the parents of the pregnancy, could decide what we felt capable of providing our child. If we lived in Texas, the state could force us to give birth to an ill baby, spend everything we make on drugs, specialize schools and care, and damn us to the unbearable torture of watching her struggle daily, likely for the rest of our lives.
Doubting our own abilities to provide for a sick child pushed us into the decision that to this day, 20 yrs later, I find shame in. But I honestly don’t know how the other decision would have played out. One of the mothers of an emotionally and physically disabled XXX 8 year old told me that if she had known that her daughter had the anomaly before she gave birth, she doubts she would have chosen to keep her. I guess when we make a decision with no good choices, the decision we make will never be okay.
The trick is, finding a way to live with that choice.
I’m lying on the nurse’s exam table, legs spread in stirrups while she takes a vaginal sample for a pap smear. I’m there for an annual checkup, new to the area, and her practice. As I describe some minor chest pains, she asks me if I’ve gotten the Covid vaccine.
I say, yes, of course, five months back, soon after it was available for my age range. I’d unmasked in her small office when entering because she was not wearing one, nor her two assistants, and I’d just assumed anyone working in a women’s health clinic, especially a medical facility servicing an upscale suburb of Seattle, was vaccinated.
I’m naked and unmasked on her table while she tells me with certainty that my chest pains are likely caused by the vaccine. She then goes on a rant, telling me I would not believe what she sees daily—how her vaccinated patients are getting sick, women are becoming sterile, or losing their babies, and that the vaccine is killing more people than it’s helping.
I don’t believe that, I say. What possible reason would the govt have for killing its citizens?
She has no answer for this. She just keeps on about how hard it is to report side-effects to the CDC, how the paperwork is “this thick,” the distance between her thumb and forefinger as wide as she can spread them, indicating how difficult it seemingly is for medical professionals to report complications from the vaccine.
My skin is crawling as she rants. She tells me that she had Covid two weeks ago, and not only were the symptoms “not bad, like a minor cold,” but she is, “chock-full of antibodies now.” She assures me that there has not been enough research on the Covid vaccines, and regardless of any mandates, she will not get it.
She now has her fingers inside of me, checking for lumps or abnormalities, so I don’t feel in any position to argue with her. I ask her how she thinks we can shut down Covid without vaccinations. She says, “We can’t. People will die. The strong will survive, and that’s the way it is.”
She finally finishes her exam and moves back so I can get up. The room is maybe 10 x 12 ft, so we are face-to-face, unmasked, but she continues. She tells me that the vaccine misinformation is like the “fake election results.” There is no stopping Covid, which is why her clinic is “vaccine-free,” and she laughs, in my face, at this announcement. She just had Covid and is not vaccinated. Nor is the young assistant who took my blood sample. Nor is the front desk woman who checked me in. And the Moderna vaccine I had in March is losing effectiveness. The Delta variant is rampant. And ‘break-through’ Covid cases among vaccinated adults is becoming more common.
I put my mask on before we leave the small exam room. I can’t wait to get out of there.
It has been over a month since this encounter. I’ve been debating whether to share my story about this event with my neighbors through the app NextDoor, but I do not want to start a flame war online, or hurt this nurse’s practice. Besides the rant, she was professional and did her job efficiently. I am also afraid of some conservative nut job coming to my home and hurting my family because we believe in getting the Covid vaccine—for ourselves, our kids, our community, and our world. We’ve done the research and the data shows us with enough people vaccinated, humanity can shut this virus down, and stop it from prematurely killing more people.
Vaccination hesitancy is valid, real, and needs to be constantly addressed with scientific proof to thwart the fake news pushed out by conservatives groups looking to get Trump reelected in 2024. In fact, we do not know a lot about the long-term effects of the vaccine we’ve created, however, we are watching our family, friends and neighbors die, suffocate to death in droves every day for the last year and a half. This is also science fact, and we must shut this reality down now.
We’ve been administering vaccines since the mid 1960s. I remember getting the sugar cube with the polio vaccine. The only long term side effect of that vaccine was to eliminate polio globally. Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccines were introduced in the early to mid 1960s, and my mom got us vaccinated immediately after the pediatrician’s recommendation. There were no “anti-vaccination” people back then. We were all just so grateful for the opportunity to wipe out horribly debilitating, and often deadly diseases.
The anti-vaccination ‘movement’ began with a discredited study from one arrogant, [proven] corrupt doctor, Andrew Wakefield. He was disbarred from practicing medicine and struck off the UK medical registry after publishing his 1998 paper falsely claiming a link between the MMR vaccines and autism. Full of contempt for being fired, he moved to the U.S. where he megaphoned his [proven] false findings across media, garnering followers who then repeated the fake findings in Wakefield’s corrupt ‘study,’ collecting more advocates to proselytize his lies.
Polio to flu vaccines have proven to prevent these illnesses with no long term side effects for over 70 years. We’ve been testing RNA vaccines on animals and humans for decades. Moderna and Pfizer are mRNA vaccines. They’d both been tested on tens of thousands of people well before released to the public. Now, billions across the globe are proving the side effects of a Covid19 vaccine are minimal, mild at best for most of us, and don’t last long. Unfortunately, we are also finding the safeguards afforded the fully-vaccinated against getting Covid aren’t lasting too long either.
So, if you’re still afraid there are long term side effects from the vaccine, and since it doesn’t even last, why bother getting vaccinated?
If 70% of the U.S. Population got vaccinated as soon as it was available for them to do so, we could have shut this virus down by now. Yet, our Republican representatives have used this pandemic to increase our nation’s political divide in hopes of securing reelection. They don’t seem to care that pushing ‘No Mask’ mandates are killing people. Using Facebook, Instagram, Google and YouTube, they go after ignorant religious conservatives—devout Christians, Catholics, Muslims, Jews, because these people are prone to blind belief if the message is delivered by a preacher, or powerful speaker.
An anti-vaxxer marks the nurse at the women’s health clinic as a likely Republican. She has clearly bought into the political crap served to her mobile, her computers, her TV daily, from Recommendation algorithms that track her every move, analyze her posts, texts…etc., and pushes online content she’ll respond to. She has clearly not researched the science behind these vaccines, and without facts, she likely doesn’t realize these ads are scamming her to ignite her ire. Hitler ignited Germany’s ire, and then was elected their Chancellor. And while this nurse survived Covid, if she had it at all, its mutations, like the Delta variant, don’t care who you are or what you believe in to infect, and quite possibly kill you, or someone you love.*
United and vaccinated we beat this virus. Divided we spread Covid19, and die.
*Over 630,000 deaths from Covid19 are documented in the U.S. as of 8/24/21. The real figure of Covid deaths in the U.S. is estimated to be closer to a million or more—deaths that went unreported as Covid19 related.
This is the SCIENCE, the FACTS about how and why the TARGETED mRNA vaccines work to kill Covid without hurting any other part of your body:
You bet! So is most everyone else, even people with partners, so no reason for you to be jealous of what they have that you don’t, since they likely don’t have the fulfilling romance you imagine they do.
Of course! Lonely is depressing!
Anxious these days? Or any days navigating our modern world?
Yup. As if the cascading effects of Covid aren’t enough, there’s always our divisive politics, global warming, the growing wealth gap, care and feeding of ourselves and our kids, and all the digital crap we are bombarded with daily.
“If you’re dealing with depression or anxiety, now may be the time to talk to a licensed therapist,” Michael Phelps, the Olympic gold medalist says to camera, like he’s talking directly to YOU.
Mr. Phelps is selling online therapy, which has exploded in popularity with the isolation of the Covid19 pandemic. Before Michael got on board as their official spokesman, online therapy was slowly, quietly growing. As more celebs put their mental health in the spotlight, as Phelps has done with his own emotional struggles, the more acceptable seeking “mental help” becomes [for those who can afford it].
“It’ just as easy as joining a video call, or texting with a friend,” Phelps continues. “Except it’s with a licensed professional therapist trained to listen and offer support, all from the comfort of your home.”
So, instead of calling a friend, for free, who will likely listen and be supportive, (as this is the very definition of a friend), you can PAY someone you don’t know, who does not know you, starting at $150 for a 50 minute online chat.
I get that many people don’t have ‘friends’ they can call up and talk about what matters to them. If this is you, the question is WHY?
If you choose to pay for a therapist than deal with the work and compromise that comes with real relationships, well, it’s no wonder you’re lonely. And I won’t apologize for telling the truth. For most of us, there’s no real reason to be lonely. It is your choice to cultivate relationships with people who share common interests, both in-person and online, instead of paying someone to stoke your ego 50 min once a week for $150+, as this is what therapists are trained to do.
The best explanation on the value of modern therapy I’ve ever heard was from a friend who’d recently graduated from a prestigious university with his Doctorate in Psychology:
“Going to therapy is like getting a mental massage.”
Marriage and Family Counselors to doctorate-level psychologists are trained to be your advocate. It is their job to build trust between you. If they were constantly giving you real, hard truths about yourself, you wouldn’t want to keep paying them to hold you accountable for all your choices. Most therapists are schooled in “understanding.” They’re taught to be an empathetic listener, more sympathetic than action driven. Just listening to you whine, or, as they profess: “helping you figure it out for yourself,” makes it easier for them to care less about you actually fixing your issues than you continuing to pay them week upon week, month over month, year after year.
There is a fundamental conflict of interest at the core of the therapeutic process. It is easier to keep a client than get a new one! Anyone in business will tell ya this adage is the truth. And therapy is a business, and a profitable one at that if the therapist can get and retain clients. They are hoping for a long-term relationship, where you feel as if you have a friend in them over the years, maybe at times, the only true friend you feel you have. But this is likely a lie you tell yourself instead of working at the relationships in your life, and doing the work of changing to obtain the life you’d like, or like to keep.
Psychology 101: PEOPLE LIE. To ourselves, and to each other. We rationalize, justify, and flat out lie to get what we want, or to look smarter, moral, wise. And if you are telling yourself you do not lie, you are in fact lying to yourself. (On rationalizations: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X9FJiDFVoOo).
There are many more fatal flaws working with therapists online or in-person. The entire process of one-on-one therapy is fatally flawed.
The therapist is only hearing one point of view—the client’s. They have no idea what the real truth is compared to what they are being told. And as I’ve established, PEOPLE LIE. Since the therapist can not see your actions outside their office, and has no contact or interest in your life beyond that same office, they have no idea what is actually happening for you, only what you choose to tell them. And we all paint a bias picture to resist changing.
Transference is not a one way trip. Psychoanalysis describes the term as a client expressing feelings toward the therapist that appear to be based on the patient’s past feelings about someone else. But therapists are humans too. They often project their personal feelings onto their client.
Age 13 forward I’ve intermittently seen approx 15+ different “therapists” when my life felt too sad for too long. Some I kept paying for several years. Clearly they weren’t helping me to feel any happier, or I’d have learned how to have more joy in my life, therefore eliminating the need to continuing paying them. A marriage counselor I saw first on my own, then brought my husband in, and we saw her separately at times as well, nearly had us divorcing. We came to her to help us preserve our marriage. She was an advocate for me when I saw her, and my husband’s advocate when he saw her, essentially pitting us against each other. Sessions with my husband were all about working out our fiery righteous indignation that she’d sparked. We saw her weekly, sometimes more for 3 years, and finally quit her, instead of each other.
Every therapist I’ve seen I’ve asked for the same feedback—to show me the point of view I am not seeing; to consistently point out when I’m wrong, and help me find a path to change destructive behaviors leading me to outcomes I do not want and will not make me happy. They’ve all been very understanding, sympathetic in the extreme when I explain any given event, what I felt and why I reacted as I did, but most of them have failed to give me insight I’ve yet to consider, or found particularly useful when applied in real life.
How many reading this blog have been in therapy for years at a stretch, spending thousands, possibly tens of thousands annually?
I had a meltdown about writing—the process of—this morning. Simultaneously, my son, a recent BS degree graduate, did too—about job hunting.
His email to me while I’m melting down:
“I’m applying for jobs and contacting these people but when absolutely no one contacts me back I feel like I’m just sinking. I’m just looking through meetups thinking that no one will ever want to continue a relationship. I just feel like a fucking failure.”
I emailed him back:
“The only thing i know that works for me to shed these feelings is WRITING them to dad, or myself. i am doing that now. literally. i had meltdown this morning so i’m journaling. i will for a page or so, then get on with watching youtubers gaming to educate myself before i continue writing the power trip—which is what i melted down on this morning. from my journal:”
The absolute hardest part about writing fiction is shutting out the voices in my head that tell me I am not good enough to write this:
I’ll never get this right.
It’s too complex.
It’ll take too much research.
I’m too fragmented.
I’m not focused enough.
The subject won’t be topical if it takes too long to write.
I can’t DO this.
I keep losing the string.
I can’t hear the characters even after profiling them.
I get too wrapped up in superfluous details.
I don’t get to the point quick enough.
I don’t make it exciting, engaging out of the gate.
I’m too heady.
Too too too…
Give it up.
Too much work you’ll never finish anyway.
This is stupid to pursue.
You are wasting your time, not living your best life.
You’ve been working at this too long and are still nowhere…
His email back:
“This is exactly what I freak out about as well. Just replace writing with coding.”
“thing is, you have to combat the bullshit voices in your head.”
they are half-truths. not lies, cuz there IS truth in our fears, but only HALF truths. i can counter every one of the voices i just wrote in my journal…
“But there’s always these looming feelings that I’ve accomplished nothing, done nothing. Am nothing.”
“it’s not true. that’s fear—like you are a failure—because you’re scared you will be. And while the fear is valid, real, true, because there is a vague possibility you won’t find a job you want, the WHOLE TRUTH is you are virtually 100% guaranteed to find a job if you keep looking for one, and likely a coding job you’ll like.
Another truth is you’ve proven you can code as a straight As graduate with a CS degree, which was your primary goal the last 4 years. and you did it. Well!”
I seem to be unable to compartmentalize my feelings.
this is LEARNING, em, applying for your first real job that isn’t a part-time gig. you WILL get this. guaranteed, IF you keep working at it!! just like i’ll get the power trip written. see, i’ve already proven i can write with 7 books out, with mostly good reviews. and still i hear the voices of doubt as i write the lines to you above:
yeah, you’ve written 7, but they were all crap.
and the good reviews, well, they were just being nice.
the bad reviews are the truth about your writing.
so GIVE IT UP, BITCH. you will always fail at this.
and so on…
but again, em, i can COUNTER ALL OF THEM.
yeah, you’ve written 7, but they were all crap. BULLSHIT. MANY PEOPLE GAVE MY BOOKS REALLY GOOD REVIEWS.
and the good reviews, well, they were just being nice. BULLSHIT. JUST BULLSHIT CUZ THIS IS SUCH A STUPID THOUGHT.
bad reviews are the truth about your writing. NOPE. THEY ARE HALF THE TRUTH. OR A PERCENTAGE, BUT GOOD REVIEWS ARE THE OTHER PERCENTAGE AND IN MOST CASES THE GREATER PERCENTAGE ARE POSITIVE.
so give it up, bitch. you will always fail at this. FUCK OFF BITCH OF DOUBT.
I imagine when all is black that I’ll write something brilliant that justifies the darkness within. But when I’m black like this, all I usually produce are rants.
Not this time. But it’s not going to be brilliant, either. This post is simply on depression, living with it in a world that wears masks, puts on facades online and in-person, because we’re not allowed to feel bad, or at least show it. We’re allowed to feel frustrated, annoyed, disappointed, in moments, but they better not last too long, or be too intense, like when feeling mad translates into yelling. Even in anger, we’re supposed to retain our composure.
I suck at pretending. I can’t pull off that I’m OK Buddy, when I’m not. Most of you reading this are much better at wearing faces. Most people are. But depression, that feeling there is something stuck in your throat that you just can’t swallow, that with every breath it feels as if you’re sighing— trying to shed the weight in your chest— makes putting on a mask particularly difficult because you’re spending so much energy just trying to breathe.
Commercials for drugs to combat depression are all over the media. They come with a list like: Use this product and you may get dizzy; nauseous; stop breathing; feel even more depressed; become suicidal even if you didn’t feel that way before the drug; die. Wow. Thanks, but no thanks. I don’t really need to take Lexapro to help motivate me to kill myself.
I’ve tried Prozac, a long time ago. I was allergic. It almost killed me. I’ve tried Xanex, which is by far the most popular drug for depression. All it did was make me sleepy. I’m already tired all the time.
Therapists like to talk, or for me to talk. And talk. And talk. Business 101— you make more money with continuing clients than having to find new ones. I want ACTIONABLE things to do, other than taking drugs or talking to a shrink 3 times a week, making me poorer, which makes me even more depressed.
What is “depression,” anyway? I mean, everyone gets depressed occasionally, regardless of the masks we wear. Technically, and absurdly simply, depression lies in our chemistry—dopamine, serotonin…etc, not supplying the pleasure centers of our brain adequately. It is commonly accepted that some are born with inadequate levels of these hormones, or there is a problem with their release inside the brain. Manic depression apparently has a genetic component, but this has yet to be proven as hard fact.
Episodes of depression effect most people when events in our life hurt us. For most, the length and severity of feeling sad is usually consummate with the event itself. Losing a loved one, or loosing the lottery generally solicits dramatically different responses. As it should. Most let their feelings of sadness dissipate, often forget them entirely over time. I’ve spent a lifetime envying these folks.
Those of us suffering from depression internalize pain. It resides in us, like a cut, or injury that just won’t heal. We hang on to our hurts, from minor slights to major loss. And whether born with an imbalance, or too many painful life events, when sadness sticks, builds up and gets thick, every day feels like wading through molasses. If depression festers long enough it will eventually kill you. It strips us of the single motivating factor that keeps us all alive through dark times… hope.
Curing clinical depression for those who experience it, and those who have to live with people who do, is paramount. Over 90% of those who attempt or commit suicide are clinically depressed. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death worldwide, which is a shame, because so often emotionally wired people are the creators, writers, artists, builders of thriving societies. It is believed Abraham Lincoln suffered from Depression.
The only way to help reverse, or at least halt the chemical cascade into darkness is to actualize pleasure. I realize that an effect of depression is finding no joy in anything, but that’s not true, and those of you reading this that are living with that weight in your chest with most every breath, KNOW it’s not true. It is that ugly voice in our heads meant to perpetuate depression, and a LIE. A rainbow is still beautiful. A double-rainbow extraordinary. The taste of your favorite foods; a hug when we’re scared, or lonely; backrubs; creating something—these things are still good. The Pacific cresting at 40ft is still awe striking; a field of blooming flowers still visually stunning…etc..;-}.
Living, existing as human, is all about FEELING. The good, the bad, the ugly, the wonderous, the awesome, the magnificant empowerment of feeling loved, respected, valued. The charge that comes with creation. The suffocating black hole with loss.
Are you living with Depression?
If so, SEEK and FIND JOY, not self-destructive behavior, like drinking or using cuz it’s fun, as this will increase depression. Do things, stuff that turns you on, makes you feel—if not good—at least glad you get to see it, taste it, experience it—without regret later!! ACCOMPLISHING TASKS also lights up your brain’s pleasure centers. String enough joy and accomplishments together, even simple things, and, over time, continually reminding your brain why you are choosing to live will reinforce your desire to do so.
This piece is a composite. Though written in first person, it is a true story about a friend…
I haven’t always been mentally ill. I’ve always been on the fringe of the norm, the glass wall between me and humanity kind of thing, but I didn’t feel myself start to fragment until my mid-twenties.
The first time it happened I was working as a bank teller. It was closing and I was counting out the cash drawer and doing my balance sheet. I got this idea to close my checking account, take the $5000 I had to my name, and use it as a down payment for a Mercedes. I knew it was a bad idea. I could hardly afford rent. My job, like most of my others was tenuous at best.
And then I separated.
I stood outside myself and watched me clear out my account.
At the dealership I tried to tell the other me not to sign the purchase agreement, but I did anyway. I gave the guy my five grand and drove off in a new midnight-blue SL450 convertible. The other me sat in the passenger seat, her head thrown back, her short hair blowing around. She laughed and laughed. And I let myself get sucked into her lightness.
Two days later I was stuck in traffic on the 101 and it hit me what a stupid idea it had been to buy the Mercedes. I couldn’t return it and get my money back. It wasn’t a pair of jeans. I couldn’t afford it either. I got so depressed about it I got out of the car, left it on the freeway and walked away.
The car was never found. I’d let my insurance lapse so they wouldn’t compensate me, even with my documented tale of someone carjacking me. I was $50,000 in the hole for a car I didn’t have anymore and no way to pay it back.
And I separated again.
I started taking money from the bank. The customers actually. I’d take a little off the top of deposits over a grand.
I didn’t. The other me did.
Again I stood outside myself watching this other me steal. I tried to stop her with moral and value judgments. She came back at me with justifications.
You get paid shit. You get treated like garbage- bottom of the rung lackey.
I told her I was afraid of getting caught.
She laughed me off. No one will notice. Nobody keeps tight track of their money these days.
But I knew the bank did. Sooner than later they’d discover what I was doing. Three weeks into stealing, and both sides of me finally came together, now joined by raw, unrelenting fear. So I ran away. Two days before the end of the month audits I left the bank at closing and never went back. I walked away from my life with $17,000 in cash in my pocket and became the other side of me—the wild side, for the next month.
There are only brief, fleeting images of that month. The first thing I remember clearly is my mom standing next to my hospital bed staring down at me, her face tear streaked and gaunt. She started crying again the moment our eyes meet, and I got how hurt and scared she was. I wanted to hug her but I couldn’t. I was strapped down.
I spent three days at UCLA Medical Center Psych ward. I was diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder, given Thorazine and sent home with my mother.
No cure. No hope for a cure. Manageable only with medication—side affects to be expected.
And though the array of antidepressants I now take does keep both sides of me together, it reinforces the glass wall separating me from the rest of the world. I walk around in this thinly veiled haze, which I suppose is okay, given the alterative. But I wonder if sanity is really worth the price. It gets harder and harder to justify feeling sick and tired all the time.