After my first visit to the psychiatric hospital, how I remember things is a blur. You’d think that might be due to the mixture of medications they had me on that intended to and successfully produced a zombie state. But I never stayed on them for very long. I started working as an art model because holding down a steady job was as impossible as staying sober. Manic Depressive, drunk, high, and crazy as hell. But apparently I was good at staying still, on command, for long periods of time. I’d model for classes at the local universities and art schools. Being nude pays good. On the days that I could make it, that is. There was one day that an instructor came to pick me up (my car was still abandoned in somebody’s driveway) and I sunk into the couch and put the blanket over my head. The doorbell rang and rang and rang and then my phone rang. A normal person would either get up and go, like they said they would, or answer the phone and inform the person on the other end of the line that they would not be coming. I was incapable of either. I just held my breath and pretended that I wasn’t there until he went away.
Somewhere around that time I started going to AA. It didn’t last long. I knew I had a problem drinking but I didn’t think it was the problem. It was the same with my mental illness. I knew my brain was fucked but it was the extent of fucked that I could not comprehend. I instantly hated everyone at AA. I didn’t identify with them at all because I couldn’t hear anything except for ticking in my head. No one understood. In retrospect, my perception was all very mellow dramatic. When I was little my mother used to always tell me to stop being so dramatic and I hated her for that. I never gave anyone a chance to understand. You were supposed to automatically know how fucked up I am and come save me. And when you didn’t I took every pill that there was in the house and ended up back in the psychiatric unit.
Well, it didn’t go quite like that. What actually happened was I was at a bar next to my old restaurant one afternoon, just hanging out there, but trying not to drink (great idea.) I’m not sure if I succumbed and actually had a drink or not but I know that my brain felt like a million gears were inside my head and all smashing and grinding against each other. Sitting next to me was a Carny (person that worked Carnivals) that I would see around town. He ran the Carnival circuit and off season he holed up at the Cadillac Hotel with the rest of the crackheads. He looked over at me and said “do you smoke?” “Smoke what? Pot or Crack” I responded. I knew what he was talking about. “Crack” he said. I answered yes and off we went. I had never smoked crack at that point and besides the bar downstairs I had never actually been inside of the Cadillac Hotel. When we walked in it was as shady as I had imagined it would be. In the lobby was an old cigarette machine, with the silver pull levers, but in it were things like condoms and razors. We went up a couple of flights of stairs and when we got into his room he told me that he had to go up and buy the stuff from a guy up one floor. As soon as he left the room, it was like a bomb hit me and I woke up. What the fuck are you doing here?! blasted through my head. I bolted out of there, down two flights of stairs and through a fire exit that said “Do Not Enter – Alarm Will Sound.” I opened the door. The alarm sounded. And I continued to run about a mile to the AA clubhouse with my heart beating outside of my chest. When I got there I told someone what had happened and they brushed it off like dandruff on their shoulder. I went into the meeting and attempted to listen but all I could think about was why I was continuing to live my life. It really seemed ridiculously pointless and way too painful. So I went into the clubhouse bathroom and swallowed a bottle of sleeping pills and a bottle of lithium and left. When I got back to my house I rampaged through the cabinets and took every other pill or liquid medicine that I could find. Aspirin, Nyquil, old prescriptions, whatever. I thought that was it. No one was supposed to be coming home that night. I woke up a few days later in the psychiatric ward. This time they only kept me for a couple of days after I came to. When they let me go I changed back into what I was wearing when I arrived, leather pants and tank top, and walked about five miles home. They gave me a token for the bus but I couldn’t find the stop and had too much anxiety to ask anyone where it was. It was mid Summer and blistering hot. My pants were stuck to my legs and I was pissed off. I didn’t question myself, waking up in the psych ward again, what had just happened, what was wrong with me. None of it. I was just hot and mad.
It is clear to any outsider that what was happening in my life was not a picture of health and wellness. I might still ask, what the hell is that? At any point in time there is always something wrong with all of us. That is the nature of being human. I am well today and I guess the difference between then and now is that when I start to go crazy I am aware that it is happening. I don’t just randomly wake up in institutions. That awareness is something that I didn’t have most of my life and without it living is just a continuum of insanity. The crazy can’t end if you don’t know it has started.
“Blessed are the cracked, for they shall let in the light.” Groucho Marx
Featured Photo Photo taken by Dawn Endico on the Tafoni Trail at El Corte de Madera Creek Open Space Preserve, January 8, 2006.