Tales from the Psych Ward or…The Summer Camp Experience I Never Had

Another old essay…

A scene at work today sparked a memory in my brain of the week I spent in South Oaks. My LI friends will know South Oaks as that hospital in Amityville…

One day in group therapy…(all good stories start with that line, don’t they?) we had to pass these pieces of paper around the room. You wrote your name at the top of yours and then something nice about yourself that started with an “A” and then gave it to the patient to your right so that they can write something nice about you starting with a “B” while simultaneously accepting the paper coming from your left. The coordination of all the paper passing should have in and of itself earned us all a smoke break. Nonetheless, I participated, holding my breath to see what the patient 6 seats down, whom I had know for 2 days, would say about me starting with a “G”. After all, my sense of self and well-being depended on this…

I had had enough of a patient named…um…Typhani. Typhani had Borderline Personality Disorder and had really been pissing me off for 2 days straight. She talked and talked about herself – cutting off everyone else, being louder and more obnoxious than all the other mentally ill folks, trying to be the best of the best, goals are important in recovery.

OK, so I’m annoyed at Typhani, I was hungry and bored and passing papers around that, I swear, had the alphabet written across the top in case you forgot

I received Typhani’s paper on letter “G” and decided to be wicked. I wrote “Garrulous” on her paper. And she was too, but I was smug and confident she wouldn’t know what it meant. 

And she didn’t because when she got her paper back she stood up and started ranting “Gorilla! Who called me a gorilla?” She yelled for a bit, threatening all sorts of things. There was no way I was going to cop to it (because I am a coward and couldn’t remember what drugs she was on). The poor girl had to be led out of the room…

Vivian, the therapist, later pulled me aside for a chat about being passive-agressive and hindering others’ progess in therapy. I was secretly proud that she knew it was me but in retrospect I bet she just counted backwards alphabetically.

And I wonder why Robbie can be a real dick sometimes. 

Anger and an Ugly Past

9/24/07

I was unaware that life came with a “cower in the parking lot” option. I was under the impression that when bad shit happens, you put on your big girl underpants and got down to it.  When life fell to shit, I wore a suit of wool and needles daily and I questioned everything I knew, someone had to make breakfast. It never occurred to me to cower. It never occurred to me that I could retreat and re-create a world that fell in line with my reality. I had to grow up and deal with it and that’s what makes me so angry right now. 

When is the existential safe going to fall on a head? When is karma going to catch up and kick ass? 

I’ve argued with myself that it already has. Isn’t being deserted and alone punishment enough? Isn’t knowing you’ve lost almost all of your friends enough, even if you pretend you haven’t? Well, not today it’s not. And that’s why I’m not a nice person today. Today I am God and I want to mete out the suffering until I see that a lesson has been learned. Retreat and cowering into a cloak of righteousness aren’t going to cut it for me today.  

If I only had a lightening bolt

Life as a Vestigial Human

9/27/07

It would not be an exaggeration to say that my heart broke today although it’s probably overdramatic. It’s more realistic to say that my spirit broke today. It wasn’t the first time in the last 6 months, but it was the loudest, sharpest pain I have felt in memory. The initial pain in the Spring was dull, numbed by incredulity and I awoke from it slowly so it was a drawn out awakening and I had time to adjust. Let’s call that one a really slow, ripping off of the fingernails. Today , there was a barrage of words, a loud crack and realization hit me. Hard. And it hurts.

Jack -2007

Jack would not wear his new sneakers this morning. When I asked him why he said that they hurt him. I asked him where they hurt him, were they too tight? He said no, and then said, “You know the wrist of your arm? They hurt the wrist of my foot.”

Not Quite Ready for PETA

I found this in my Live Journal Archive from 6 years ago…

Sunday I drove up to Long Island and spent three hours in the car with my cherubic darlings. They are big fans of hypothetical questions and I need to remember that they can hear NPR in the back seat just as easily as I hear it in the front seat, which is how I ended up explaining the Emmit Till lynching to Rob when he was 5.

Jack was quiet for a really long period (a little toooo long) and then he says, 

“Mom, you know who I hate?”  
“Umm, no Jack, who?”
“People who kill aminals for food and clothes. I hate them.”

1. Jack needs to lay off watching “Bindi the Jungle Girl” and 2. I could have stopped the conversation here and agreed with him but 8 years of child rearing still hasn’t taught me to quit while I’m ahead so I said…

“Well, you know that the chicken nuggets you love come from chicken right? Chickens have to die for nuggets.”
“Oh.”

Then he’s quiet for a good 45 seconds.

“Mom, I don’t much care about chickens.”

Then he continued composing his new do-wop tune about dolphins.

I should add here that when you read all conversations between Jack and I, remember that he can’t say the letter “R” and that he actually pronounces it “Aminals”.

The People In Between

I usually spend a lot of time September 11th thinking about Khami Singh who sat next to me at the Windows on the World new employee orientation and who died while I didn’t. I also can’t see a bottle of Fuji water and not think of Jay Magazine who told me that since the bottles are square he would freeze them to use as an ice pack for his kids’ lunches.

Mostly I think about the people in our lives who we regularly see in passing but who impact our lives in small ways. If “Congenial Donut Guy”, “Lady who shares books with you,” or “person who taught me how the office ‘really’ runs” were suddenly gone, how would your life be different? What would you carry with you?

We all have our good friends and family and we all have the people we try to avoid in our lives and we assume that those are our influencers, the drivers of our behavior and experiences. The fact is – there are more of the people in between love and hate than we realize and they matter.

No Kick the Dog

I have the cutest dog in the world but sometimes he acts like a 6 year old who knows the boundaries of my patience and is designing a study to test them. I did often think that the boys were just cute enough to avoid being killed as babies but I had no idea dogs had the same protective features.
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Abnormal Psychology and Deviance

Sometimes you kick and flail, frustrated and fighting against your circumstances. You are clearly at the edge of the wheel making pbpbpbpbpbpb noises with your mouth caught in the spokes. Effort is made and the trudging continues with considerable whining (especially if you are a verbal processor). Then, one day, you are within a situation and things become smooth. You are in rhythm with the universe and all your dogged trudging comes to fruition. Be grateful for that moment. Be grateful for the help that is offered gladly and the ease and lightening you feel. You will soon slip back out from the center of the wheel where things are calm to the ragged edge and you will be back to getting beat in the head. Hang on to this feeling, remember that it will come again and that the universe is operating as it should be. Whine a little less, kick a little less and be open and aware for the time when you again slide to the center.