I spent most of my morning with my mom at Quest Labs waiting to have my blood drawn for the second time this week. Clozapine, the drug that is supposed to stitch the seams of my sanity back together, requires extensive blood work. It seems there is something wrong with my liver, most likely caused by Depakote, the mood stabilizer that sometimes makes me vomit because swallowing pills is hard and those pills in particular are about the size of my thumb.
My parents and I live down the street from each other, so when I’m in crisis, I can head to their house, which is what I did last night. Convinced I’d met God in the form of a sunshiny cat in my backyard, I was more than a little unnerved, so Mom cooked breakfast for supper, we lit the menorah for Hanukkah, Dad came home, and Rebecca’s shift at the nearby pizza joint where she works ended early, so she came over too.
Rebecca and I went out for ice cream before parting ways for the night, and I nervously glanced all around in Dairy Queen. I’ve recently become very afraid of the dark. Nighttime is, for lack of better words, trippy as fuck. Malicious creatures seem to hide around every corner, I see doubles and triples of lights (stoplights especially, which is why I avoid driving at night at all costs now), and it’s quiet enough that I can hear the thoughts that Someone is putting into my head with much more clarity.
“I met God today,” I told Rebecca offhandedly, my mouth full of triple truffle blizzard.
“Oh?” she said.
“Yeah. She’s a cat!” I grinned ear to ear. I’d been desperate to say those words for hours, since the moment I “met God,” but I knew they were entirely nonsensical–or were they? “We don’t have to talk about it,” I finally conceded.
In The Center Cannot Hold, Elyn Saks describes the ever-crumbling walls between her psychosis and reality. She vaguely understands that she cannot simply “gibber” (as she puts it) on and on about how she’s killed people with her thoughts, how there are creatures in the sky trying to kill her, or how she wants to kidnap her therapist
I understand this too. This morning at Quest, I thought the phlebotomist would be quite interested to know about my conclave with God/my neighbor’s cat. Not wanting to seem overtly “crazy,” I merely asked her if she was a vampire. She’s stealing my blood, I thought. She’s going to do horrible things with it. She’s stealing my whole body. I’ve had my blood drawn and donated blood enough times to know that this procedure never results in anything sinister, with the possible exception of a nice bruise if the phlebotomist isn’t too great or I’m dehydrated.
But there are times when I can’t keep the madness inside me. “Who is that man? Do we know him?” I asked my mom in the waiting room at the lab. I indicated a wrinkly, silver-haired man with a black mustache sitting across from me.
“No, I don’t think so,” my mom said. “Why?”
I hesitated. The man looked awfully threatening, and he’d been staring right at me. Then again, after being sexually abused at the hands of four different men/boys in my life, most men seem threatening to me. And maybe he wasn’t staring right at me. We were sitting directly across from each other, on opposite ends of the room, so I supposed it was entirely possible that he could have just been looking at the empty space on the wall above the limey green chair in which I was slouched. “Maybe he just looks like Myron,” I finally said.
“He does. A little bit,” Mom agreed.
We talked a little more about how Myron, our neighbor from the beach side neighborhood where we used to live, was moving somewhere up north to be near his children. We waited some more. I played Doodle Jump on my phone. I sniffled and coughed, still fighting this stupid head cold. I wondered if God/my neighbor’s cat would come visit me again, and how I could harness her energy, and if I’m really schizoaffective, or if I’m just gifted with special powers.
She really was a beautiful cat.
Tonight is Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest. I haven’t been to synagogue in a long time, but tonight I decided to go. I sat with my dad, my cousin, her husband and their two small children, and my aunt and uncle. It’s always a treat to get to see the little ones and my cousin, who has had her own struggles with mental health as well. The kids weren’t too excited about sitting through a Shabbat service, however short it may have been. The older one kept crying out, “I want challah!” and had no interest in playing with his plastic school bus. When Jubilation, a four-piece band my synagogue is blessed to have, began to play, the little boy’s face went slack with awe and he was still.
I used to feel the same way in the synagogue. Jewish services are often held in the evening, as all Jewish holidays start at sundown, and when I was small, I attended nearly every Friday night service with my dad. I would sit in his lap and fall asleep right around the song “Shalom Rav,” which is still one of my favorites to this day.
I was sixteen the first time I got serious about killing myself. Although I’ve never made an actual suicide attempt, I’ve been hospitalized for suicidal ideation more times than I can count. So, at sixteen, I was in juvenile psychiatric hospital because I told my mom that I felt like drinking rubbing alcohol.
In the hospital, my parents came to visit and I asked my dad if God hated me. Dad assured me that God did not hate me, but that, “God sees the forest, not the trees.”
I’ve known many people–including my younger brother–who have left rebellious or rambunctious ways behind in favor of religion. Although I once functioned as a Sunday school teacher at my temple, I’m not sure if religion will ever be for me. I love my Jewish community, the food, the music, the heritage. But my faith wavers. I am convinced that I am destined to become God, if only I can harness the sunshine cat’s energy. Or perhaps I am just evil. It is, after all, my fault that all the little girls in the world are being hurt–isn’t it?
I have recently become terrified of getting wet–I am an angel made of stardust, and I don’t want to melt. As a result, I only shower about once every three days, and reluctantly at that. I sleep in my clothes and wear pajamas all day. What’s a bra for, anyway? This is the reality of living with psychosis.
But it’s not all bad. For temple tonight, I was able to put on nice clothes, fix my hair and makeup, and I don’t think I even smelled too bad. (Just as an aside, I have to say, I probably smell much better now that I have quit smoking cigarettes and switched to a vape. I’m certainly breathing better!) People asked me how I was doing, and I said, “Just fine, thanks. You?”
I found a website called Unfuck Your Habitat and I’m trying to do just that. I spent about twenty minutes tidying up my bathroom counter this evening. I did a load of laundry so that I’ll actually have some clean clothes to wear. It does feel good to be clean, even if it takes so much effort that I feel like I’m running a marathon in stilettos. It’s embarrassing to have become so lax about taking care of myself. In high school, other girls used to ask me where I got my clothes, compliment me on my pixie cut, and I had a penchant for blue and black lipstick, which earned me a lot of praise for my uniqueness.
These days, I am not unique for the right reasons. I don’t want people noticing that my hair is stiff with dry shampoo, or (more likely) matted and greasy. I don’t want anybody to see the black stubble on my chin and neck from the hormonal imbalance caused by long term, high doses of Risperdal. I don’t want anyone except Rebecca, who is accustomed to my disastrous way of living, in my bedroom, where sheets have not graced the mattress in over a week.
Little by little, I am getting better. The sheets have finally been washed, and I will put them on the bed before getting in it tonight. Tomorrow I will brush my teeth for the second day in a row. This weekend I will consistently take my medications. I will be okay. It’s going to take a while to get there, but I have faith–perhaps more in my psychiatrist and less in a God or even the sunshine cat–that somehow I will make it through to the other side of the chaos in my head.