Category Archives: Mental Health

Perception. Not In That Way.

I read Stick, a book from Andrew Smith. It’s incredibly powerful and relevant. So much so that I felt compelled to email him, tell him how much the book and its characters meant to me. I haven’t felt that way about a book in quite some time. Not since Janice Galloway’s The Trick is to Keep Breathing. Not since Wilson Rawls’ Where The Red Fern Grows (Andrew, I am so with you on this. I’ve read this book at least a dozen times).

The book brought up all sorts of different emotions and memories. But there is one particular memory. One having to do with what my sister and I had to wear for church growing up. It wasn’t just that we had to wear nicer clothing than the typical garb, but that we had to wear it a certain way.

To him, we had to show the others at church that we were dressed up. They had to see it. And a t-shirt or a pair of shorts spoke of carelessness and non-conformity and being not too serious about the reasons for being at church.

To him, it was about the image we presented–to friends, to acquaintances, to strangers.

We had to (were often forced to) look like a tight-knit, well-oiled machine; perfectly happy and cohesive and strong.

And I think we were in certain ways. Certain, and small, yet meaningful ways. But not in the way he wanted it.

Not in that way.

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I Want For Safety

I want for safety, but in the violence of its self-preservation, I find only the eggshells and the discomfort of a foreign mania.

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Investments in Anguish, In Hope

There have been times I have wondered if I would’ve been better off without him. If things would have been easier, or happier. If the lack of anger would have calmed the household. If the lack of money would have kept us on the ranch, or in the house with the bars on the windows. If I would have found myself between combative enemies, or if, quite simply, I would have existed without a father.

I wonder if the scars, once healed, will stop itching. I wonder if the itch will remain as long as he exists, on some levels, as “part” of my life. I wonder if I need to curb the itch, put an end to it – to find a more thoroughly calming peace.

“It’s not about you,” a friend once said. I remember being annoyed by this, and asked her: “how can it not be?” I was living it. Invested to the extent that I wished for my mother to live a life with some semblance of peace and joy. Invested to the extent that I yearned for my father to recognize the pain he had caused.

I was invested in anguish, in heartache, and in the hopeful consequent newness  that just wouldn’t come.

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Alasdair’s First Taste: An Excerpt

My first demon I found the first time I heard about my father’s adultery. And then, even though, at the time, I wasn’t entirely aware of it, at the bottom of a bottle of warm chardonnay. Thirteen at the time, a journey commenced into after school binges, slurping tepid reds and whites atop our roof, and in the woods behind our house; dabbling in the gateway which- as they, the government and all the other collective thinking types, say- led me to branch out into those smelly mushrooms and, on a few occasions, tripping the light fantastic with Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. Those latter activities were more or less short-lived dead ends. Alcohol was my drug of choice.

And choose it I did. Without a care in the world, and I thought of my father with another woman. I take gulps of Stoli and try to blank it out, an eraser to some crinkled notepad scribbled in permanent ink. But I cannot. It will always be. I thought it then, and I think it now- this demon will either bring me to the door that leads to another path- a path detached, untainted, anew- or it will destroy me.

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Alasdair’s Maroon Mush – An Excerpt

Outside, mariachi music plays on some boom box, emanating along with the early afternoon warmth of a summer in Burbank. Must be Saturday. Those family lovin’ folk, treating each weekend day like it was a new vacation, never to return to the banalities of what the work week represented. I think, reminisce, I wish I had that. The knitted family. The carefree. The homemade cuisine I was forced out of long ago.

Grabbing the can opener from the drawer beside the sing, I plunge its metal teeth into the soft circular kidney bean frame. Maroon mush. And then tuna, packed below watery oil spotted film. With a dab of Dijon, I toss the vacuum-packed melange into a bowl and spoon complacent nourishment into my mouth.

The mariachi is still going and I take a swig of Stoli. Take with vodka, the label reads.

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The Day I Stopped Eating – Volume Five

As I alluded to in Volume Four, I am better for having experienced it. The attempts to mediate the marriage, the depression, the weight loss and near death – these are experiences I’ve gleaned much from. The marriage, regardless of my irrational attempts to save it, was heading for the drain. And I ask myself if I would have changed it or done it differently – or not at all – if I had a chance to do it over.

Perhaps.

For a moment I’d like to put aside the underlying martyrdom or pseudo masochism in that  statement, and focus instead upon the practical consequences if I hadn’t tried anything.

To preface, I will say that I am fully aware that my attempts were all for naught. Even when they had to work together to figure out how to keep their son from dying, and while they shared in their general desire to keep me alive, they differed in their respective assessments and approaches.

So I think about the practical consequences if I hadn’t tried anything, if I sat idly by. Would I be the same person I am today? I can’t be sure. I do know that the things I had gleaned and learned make up a great deal of my philosophical take on the life one lives, the inter-relational dynamics they experience and build upon, the religious understandings they abide by, the social constructs they fall into, and the like.

I wonder if I had been more removed from the madness of it all, if I would have a different view of my father. Of my mother; if I would be less a critic of my dad, or less a default (often to a fault) supporter of my mom; if I would feel differently about adultery and its impact on the family; if I would think differently about Christianity, about God; if I didn’t give off the impression that I am the resident relationship guru; if I would be less patient, less guarded; if I would fear less the colloquial understanding that kids take after, and often become, their parents.

So I wonder, and I ponder, and I muse about it all.

I am happy. And if that experience had something to do, on any level (which I am certain it had), with my state of happiness, I am grateful. Because, at the end of the day, it’s really all about how one learns, how one gleans, how one assesses and reacts to the people, the experiences and the world around us.

See previous installments with Volume 1, 2, 3 and 4.

You See? I Am Happy. Happy With Leg Kicks and Beaches and Adorable Dogs.


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Mimi and Eunice: Defense Mechanisms

I thought of Jessica when I read “my excessive laughing is a defense mechanism.” And then I think, perhaps not a defensive mechanism, but a way for others to feel comfortable around her. I think it’s adorable. If you haven’t seen/heard her laugh, you should give it a try. It’s wonderful.

Courtesy of Mimi and Eunice by Nina Paley

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The Day I Stopped Eating – Volume Four

It isn’t sufficient to say that my parent’s marriage, the lack thereof, had been the reason I had stopped eating. Nor is it entirely accurate. The impetus may have been the dichotomy between the two of them, but I was the one managing and propelling and exacerbating my own mental deficiencies.

Surely I couldn’t have contributed anything of considerable weight or importance. Surely this was the delusion that I convinced myself of.

The marriage, the deterioration of, was running on its own steam. It’s only in retrospect (in fact, and quite frankly, all of this is in retrospect; could you see me trying to save it with the sound rationale to no better? I think not) I realize this. Which is to say, the success and the failure of their bond was wholly within their power, within their choosing.

No amount of worry, or desperation, or hand holding, or screaming, or crying was going to change its direction. No amount of heartache, or withering, or destitution was going to help.

I had to realize this. But I couldn’t. The desire to throw myself into the fire was immeasurably powerful. I had to do it, or so I thought.

And I think back on this; I think back to the comforting, warming, health instilling fat that abandoned my frame with such expediency, the result of which dressed me in aching joints and bones, wherein the ligaments of my knees slipped from side to side, like a rubber band rolling back and forth against a smooth river stone.

My knees seemed to ache at a constant, as though the bones were grinding themselves into the pumice stone that was my kneecap. My heart wasn’t any better off, it seemed. I remember, quite distinctly, something my mother had said. In regards to the healthy layer of fat I had lost, “it went to protect your heart.”

I also remember thinking what that would look like. If, for instance, Warriors of Fat, those little opaque blobs of goo, swung their tiny little misshapen bodies around in defense of the last vestige, the vital organ of a dying boy. In this make-believe world of mine, the Warriors of Fat fought bravely against the Stress Monsters, those harbingers of death, and acquaintances of such wicked beings as the Doomsayers of Depression-dom and the Assholes of Atrophy.

In the end, as I realize today, the effort was perhaps mildly courageous, but ultimately flawed, childish, irresponsible. And there really isn’t much sense in wondering about the what ifs. The end result, that of divorce, would have been the same regardless of my tampering.

But I would be remiss if I did not put aside my cynicism, and say that I am better for having experienced it.

After all, experience, if used aptly, can lead to gained perspective, insight into oneself, knowledge and wisdom.

See earlier entries in the series (Volume One, Two and Three)

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