A Life of Madness

the maelstrom of living with bipolar disorder

And your very flesh shall be a great poem


He came into my life one month and 13 days ago at this very hour. Unable to hold his head up, he watched me nervously with eyes forced upward. Now, he lies spread diagonally across my bed, snoring complacently – solid muscle and scars that never allow me to forget what he endured.

I rescue animals – without a plan, often without money, without selection. I bring them into my home and I call them family. I’ve taken part in countless freedom rides, though each and every one I recall vividly. There is something within a dog that understands what a freedom ride is – that the pain is going to end, that the cage has been left behind, that life is going to change and that these people, whomever they may be, care deeply and endlessly about that matted bulk of fur and fear harnessed into the back seat.

I cried silently in the passenger seat during his freedom ride. He attempted endlessly to break into a bag of dog food because he was starving, but too weak to penetrate the bag. I carried him into my home because he was too weak to walk. I counted the bleeding wounds on him – 23. The healed over scars – 47. The scabs – 15. I held him in the shower and sobbed because I had never had anything so fragile, so close to a corpse, in my arms before. I was terrified of breaking him. Through bouts of vomit from anxiety I kept telling myself that this was my calling, this was why I was here, at the right place at the right time.

My knees shook as I squatted down in front of his sad eyes. “I love you already, I’ll love you forever. The hard part is over. I will clean your wounds, I will ease your pain, I will hold you close. Food will always be available, cold will never last long, my bed is now yours, too, no one will ever hurt you again. I will always love you – unconditionally.” This was my promise to him.

I watch him now, as he sleeps so soundly. He knows he is safe, he knows he is loved. He knows I will always bandage and re-bandage his wounds that are still slowly healing. I can no longer count his ribs or see his cheek bones. His eyes are no longer filled with sadness. They twinkle again. They are filled with love, with hope, with forgiveness.

There is no reason this dog should love me. There is no reason he should trust me. Humans beat him, broke him, starved him, neglected him. And yet, he crawls on top of me every night because he wants to be close to me. He lays against me on the outside of the bed when I have a seizure so I don’t fall. He follows me throughout the house and rides shotgun in my car with his shoulder leaning against mine. He does all that I ask of him – even when that means quivering in ‘sit’ with a treat balanced on his snout.

He has taught me what forgiveness is. He has taught me that the ‘good guys’ aren’t always so good. He has taught me that dogs are so much better put together than humans are. He has taught me about resilience, survival, endurance and the unabashed, unwavering will to live. He has taught me that there is always, forever hope. As I run my palm over his gorgeous brindle coat, dotted with scars like a minefield, I can’t help but thing of what it means to overcome, to endure, to live. He has lived through hell, he has seen it first-hand, and yet he fights every day to live, why should I not do the same?

His name means oak tree in Hebrew -
when we long for life without difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong
in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure.

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“Here, read this.”


Sometimes, other people think they know best what you need.

Last night a guy I called an asshole called the cops because he thought I was going to die by my own hand. He said his legs and hands were shaking he was so upset. I said “I’m sure.”

The cops, when they showed up at my door, asked me to call him and have him come stay with me so I wouldn’t be alone. I did. 15 minutes later I heard the radio call explaining how he wasn’t coming over. So I stopped waiting with bated breath.

I sat in the armchair in the dining room staring blankly at the officers, my wrist bleeding through my sleeve. And all I could think about was how you’re dead. Maybe if I had called on you, you’d still be here. Maybe if I had reacted the way he did I would still have you here. Maybe he isn’t an asshole after all. 

The cops were telling me about how I shouldn’t do anything stupid because I have a family and I gave a nod as I thought about your family – what your mom said to me at your funeral – how I punched her in the face. I tried to remember your face but no matter how hard you try, your memory picks and chooses and the image I ended up with was of you dangling from the basement ceiling. They told me about people must care about me and all I could think of was how much I cared for you and how that still wasn’t enough. Sometimes it isn’t enough. I thought about how I should offer them something hot to drink because it was so windy outside and they were having to deal with catastrophes like me during this atrocious weather. I tried to imagine what your face would look like now, but that was impossible. I entered in and out of their conversation with me as if I were only the peanut gallery, making comments as a passerby.

“Is there anything we can do for you tonight?”

“Make my therapists stop dumping me. I’ve been through three now. The third just left me. It feels personal every time. I know that isn’t logical.”

I kept sweeping my bangs out of my face and remembering that I was staring blankly at them and that I should say something. I’ve never been at such a loss for words. I thought about telling them about you. I didn’t.

“Died in his home.” That’s what your obituary read. I still have it. Tucked away in my pants pocket to remind me that I need to live my life to the fullest because you’ll never have a chance. That place was not your home. My roof where you spent most nights beaten and bloody was more your home than that shop of horrors where you served as someone else’s punching bag.

I came back to reality only to find the two cops still sitting there, waiting for the answer to their question that had fallen on deaf ears and a sick mind, “Yes, I promise.”

“Promise what?”

“I won’t hurt myself tonight. I won’t hurt myself anymore tonight.” Don’t emphasize the tonight.

What I wanted to say was, “I rescued a dog from a police department and he pulls the squeakers out of all the toys I own. I have a collection of disemboweled squeakers that I take away from him one-by-one because I’m afraid he’ll choke on them. I don’t sleep at night because I can’t turn off my brain and I lie in bed thinking about how to save the world. Journalists aren’t all that bad, we’re just people. We’re kind of like cops, we have a bad reputation but not all of us are pricks. I don’t believe you when you say that that guy who called you must care about me because he’s trying to teach me a lesson instead of coming over to check on me. Please make the same psychiatrist keep seeing me. I need help. My best friend killed himself and therein lies the problem. I expect everyone to act like him. I expect all my friends to be as attentive as he was. I expect this because I can’t remember what his face looked like. I can only remember all the freckles and how they too turned gray after he died. I expect this because I have PTSD and have not been able to fully move on from his suicide. I replay his suicide in my head every single day trying to figure out where I went wrong, where I missed it, how I let it happen. I act out because sometimes I get so overwhelmed by the thought that he will never sleep next to me again that I desperately need someone to sleep next to me so that I can close my eyes and pretend that person is him. I haven’t been able to play hangman in 7 years, 6 months, and 11 days. I haven’t been able to love anyone in 7 years, 6 months, and 11 days. I haven’t slept a full night through, despite my sleeping pills, in 7 years, 6 months, and 11 days. My insomnia makes your tossing and turning look like afternoon hiccups. I haven’t been able to do anything but stare in 7 years, 6 months, and 11 days! Do you know how fucking awful it is to be inside my head?!”

But I didn’t say any of that. Because I had to coax them out of my house without allowing them to take me with them. And that’s why I’m lucky I have such a pretty smile. Flash that thing, throw my voice in a reassuring manner, promise whatever the hell they want, and flash the smile again. Perfect, “Goodnight officers. Thank you for coming.”

As if they were guests who came to check on me.

“Here, read this and tell me how I can possibly ever ‘be okay’ when I let the only person I ever truly loved kill himself.”

Rescue dogs saved by Caring-Learning-Connecting Rescue and Rehabilitation

The faces of rescue dogs

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Your daily inspiration, day 2

Your daily inspiration, day 1


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So I can’t post every day because I do about a million things during each 24 hours that passes but I figured I could give y’all at least a little daily inspiration on my especially busy days. May the blue, healing light surround each of you beautiful souls.

Life will strip you, dance the pole for it


frazetta

“My next post is called ‘Life will strip you, dance the pole for it.'”

“Ha! Why?”

“Because life will take everything you have except for your words. Instead of wallowing  in all you feel you’ve surrendered, dance the pole for it. It’s all about perspective.”

“That’s awesome.”

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You sit on my bed telling me about how schizophrenia has taken it all from you. My mind wanders. I imagine schizophrenia as a person, taking each of your things one by one as you surrender yourself to it. I imagine you standing there naked, stripped of all you’ve ever had. Except your words, stored deep inside you. How do I make you understand that you still have them despite the puddle of tears you walk through as you pace my room now. My mind wanders. I imagine you dancing instead of pacing. Dancing to the strange, underground music of your soul. The tune without the words because you’ve forgotten you still have those. How do I make you remember them? How do I help you speak them, write them again?

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This is how it is with mental illness, with schizophrenia. It’s that simple, and it’s that complicated. Your psychiatrist tells me you can’t talk or write this out because you have a thought disorder. I want to scream at her: “She has a mind, a beautiful, incredible mind! She can talk this out, she can write this out!” But all the studies say I’m wrong. All their experiments tell me I’m wrong about you. They’ve given up on you, but I haven’t. I watch you sit down, stand up, roll up one sleeve, roll it back down, stand up, pace in a circle, sit back down, stare at something I am not able to see, and rock back and forth. Forward, backward, forward, backward, forward, backward. The movement of dance. Sashay around that pole. Wrap your legs around it and throw yourself upside down, your muscles so strong you’re able to defy the earth’s gravitational pull. And if you can defy that, you can defy this. Despite what they say.

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We slide onto our knees when told we have mental illness. Like cheap whores we do whatever it tells us to. We try to get ahead of it, we try to gain the knowledge that will carry us to a better place but inevitably we find ourself back on our knees or flat on our backs waiting for it to fuck us yet again. The stigma says we’re insane, unstable, irrational, incapable. The doctors tell us pills every day forever, if you feel like hurting yourself call someone paid to care, if you feel like hurting someone else get yourself thrown in jail. Our parents tells us they love us anyway, we’re normal, nothing is going to change. The researchers tell us about this new anti-depressant and oh! this brand-spankin’ new anti-psychotic, psychopharmacology is a science, they tell us, read the warning labels they tell us, if it causes suicidal thoughts discontinue use, they tell us. The pharmacists tell us $200 deductible, $50 copay, 30 minute wait in line, wait one minute I have to run your information through this government system. So how could your knees not buckle? How could you not give in to this? This is the true madness. They are the madness.

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So get up. Get up and enjoy your beautiful, naked, bruised body and pace circles around that pole. Dance to the music that’s held onto you, deep inside your soul where the disease cannot take it. Scream the words off key, but in tune and wrap your legs around that pole of insanity. Strip for them. Let the researchers, the doctors, the pharmacists, the shaman — let them take all that you hide behind. And then stand there naked and holy before them, grinning that grin that only the mad have. The pole is your scepter. Hold on to it. Deliver your sermon to them. After all, they are the ones who think your nakedness is shameful and your madness is something that makes you broken.

Play crack the sky


surfing

“I have to tell you something.”

“Okay, what?”

“A lot of days I don’t want to live.”

I’m not sure which words to string together to explain that some days, some days when my heart has just barely skinned its knees it feels like the bottom has fallen out and I want to give up. Even now, to admit that to you, it’s amazing how uncomfortable it makes me feel. I wish I could tell you that you’re what keeps me going. I wish I could tell you that it’s hope that things will get better that keeps me going.

“How do you feel today?”

“Swollen.”

“I mean, do you want to live?”

“Yeah, for now.”

Suicide scares people. There are few things that make people more uncomfortable than coming face-to-face when a person who doesn’t want to live. Suicide scares the shit out of people. But I find it perfectly acceptable to feel suicidal sometimes. Some days just suck. Today doesn’t. Today I’m powerful. I can feel positive, creative energy surging through my veins. But there are days where that feeling feels so foreign to me and I play crack the sky with death. I’ve been public about my attempts at suicide. It feels more shameful to hide it than to admit it.

Before your stomach finishes tightening that knot, know that this is just a feeling. And it’s okay to feel this way from time-to-time. I don’t believe the person who says they’ve never felt so lost that the thought hasn’t fluttered across their mind. It’s pervasive. It’s insistent.

But right now, I’m not. And even when I am, I have these dogs who love and need me. Rescue dogs rescued me. They get all the credit. They hold my life inside their beautiful souls. They are my life line.

Never forget you have that someone or something that cannot live without you. In your darkest moments remember that the quality of the life of someone or something depends on your life. Your beautiful and devastating life.

Need to talk? 1-800-273-8255 – National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Need inspiration to live? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DtZp7MQE2ZM
Need to know it gets better? http://www.itgetsbetter.org/pages/about-it-gets-better-project/
Need anything else? Email me, I’m here for you – oharecak@yahoo.com

Life lines part two


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This is how he came to me. December 6th. I’ll remember it forever. He was being held at the police department two towns over from mine. I got the message about him Thursday night, “He’s set to be PTS Monday.” He needed me. There was no hesitation, “Let’s go. Tomorrow. I’ll take him. I’ll foster him and buy him more time.”

I had no idea he would look like this. They didn’t know if he was male or female. They thought he might be some kind of pit-mix. They’d had him for six months. Six months. I walked into the shelter, comprised of cement floors, open dogs runs with snow drifts making their way into the kennel, cement walls, no food or water in sight, no blankets — nothing. My heart broke before I even saw him.

The officer opened the kennel door and with what strength he had he leapt into my arms. He knew. He knew that hell was over. I was there for him. I would guard him with the ferocity of a mother bear until his last breath. My eyes surveyed his sores, his cuts, his shredded ears. I wrapped my arms gingerly around him. Never before had I held something so fragile in my arms. I could run my hand over his body and count his bones the way I count my piano keys. I choked back the tears, the hate for mankind, the vomit rising in my throat. He was what mattered now. I had to keep him safe.

I thanked the officer and loaded this fragile animal into the Jeep where I promptly ‘lost my shit.’

I got him home and into my basement where he drank so much water I thought it was going to kill him. The small portion of boiled organic chicken and rice that I fed him that night was sucked down like a shop-vac. He lie on a plush, cedar-filled bed with two heaters pointed at him. I lie on the basement floor next to him.

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“I promise I will lie here with you every single night while you sleep. You will forget what loneliness is like. I promise you that the hard part is over. I promise you I will love you unconditionally with every ounce of my being. I promise you that cold will never last long. I promise you that food will always be coming. I promise you that you can shred every $10 toy I buy and I won’t bat an eye while I clean up all the stuffing. I promise you that you will never lay on concrete again. Sleep tight.”

This Friday marks three weeks that I’ve had him. I had no idea what he would come to mean to me. But that night I talked to the rescue that facilitated the pull from the police department and explained that I couldn’t just foster him, that I could never leave his side.

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December 14 he was able to come upstairs for his first xmas tree which I bought specifically for him (despite the fact that I’m Jewish). His sores are still healing. Some have completely been covered in scar tissue. I don’t believe he’ll ever grow hair in those places but I’m not worried about that. It pales in comparison to my fears of him not surviving the first night, or the first week, with me.

Two nights ago I had a seizure, which I’m prone to because of the lesions on my brain caused by M.S. He knew it was coming before i did. He laid on top of me immediately. Somehow, someway he knew that laying on me could injure me and so he ran for help instead then he came back to me and laid against my body, using his strength to keep me from falling off my bed while I thrashed and jerked violently. He even insisted on riding to the hospital with me. He heard my promise to him — that I would never leave his side and he vowed to do the same for me.

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His name is Alon. It’s Hebrew for ‘oak tree’ because when we long for life without difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure.

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