Remembering with Laughter

Journal Entry December 30, 2012

I have forgotten so much.  The Del Ammo Psychiatric Hospital in Torrence, CA back in ’85, for instance.  I spent the better part of a year there.  A committed ‘inmate’ in a hospital reserved for the crazies, of which I was one of the worst.  Weighing 65 pounds and receiving ECT.  It is no wonder I don’t remember much of that black time.

But here I am, almost twenty years later, wishing I could go back.  I would be better able to do the therapy now.  Then, the battle was to keep me alive.  Therapy came second.  And I don’t remember any part of it.  I don’t remember what I did with Dr. S.  I don’t remember the countless sessions we had.  Daily.  I have little windows where I remember an event, or a person.  I remember leaving Calgary to get there, and my tumultuous first day.  I remember a few of the van rides when the psych counsellors took the ‘Young Adults’ on outings to introduce us back into a ‘normal’ world.  We were an intimate collection of people under the age of 25 who all were hospitalized in the Del Amo Psych Hospital.  There were recovering drug addicts, alcoholics, and people suffering from depression. I was the token anorexic. But we banded together and supported each other. I just wish I remembered how we did it.

Now I struggle just as much as ever. The blanket of darkness that has suffocated my soul for so many years has snuffed out most of my memories. The good and the bad. I sit here in a pool of despair with a blank mind. Why go forward? I will just forget my life as it unfolds before me. What’s the point of existence? What’s the point of MY existence?

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November 11, 2016

It is true my memory is not the greatest. Perhaps in some ways that is a blessing. But in other ways it is not. I do wish I remember the therapy I underwent. And although those times were bleak, remembering them helps me put today into perspective.

I do remember how I got to the hospital in 1985, though. One cold winter morning my mom deposited me at the Calgary International Airport. Apparently and according to her, she had been told by the South Bay Hospital in Redondo Beach, that she could not accompany me to LAX.  I had to sign a medical waiver before I boarded the plane that stated that if I died en route to LA, the airline would not be liable.  The agent gave me a pen.  He couldn’t take his eyes off my emaciated form.  I tried to hold onto the pen, but my hand shook uncontrollably because my electrolytes were so out of whack due to my starvation state.  I managed to scrawl something that barely resembled a signature and then I was assisted onto the plane.  Walking distances had become problematic for me.  My bones seemed to crunch and grind against each other when I moved, and the all too visible bones in my feet had no padding underneath to soften the blow of each forward step.

When I arrived in LA, I saw someone carrying a sign with my name emblazoned across it.  I remember feeling excruciatingly embarrassed because of the attention it awarded me.  When I got to South Bay, the eating disorders hospital, I was herded into a room and told I would be eating shortly with the other patients.  Anxiety rocketed through me as I thought about facing the arduous task of eating a meal.  A meal I would do anything to escape from eating.

I don’t remember how I got to the dining room, but when I did I nearly fainted.  The room was stuffed with severely obese people…men and women…and I felt engulfed in their presence.  I’m sure as upsetting as it was for me, it was for them, too!  I swayed in the doorway, not knowing what to do.  A nurse came over and escorted me to a seat around the large table.  I was sandwiched between two huge men, who kindly tried to shuffle their chairs over to afford me some room.  It was nigh impossible though, because everyone was squished together in order to fit, but I appreciated their effort just the same.

Little snatches of conversations began to bubble up between the patients.  I sat in a panicked silence, dreading the meal that awaited me.  Eventually, plates began being placed in front of the famished patrons.  Their plates were loaded with raw veggies, humus, undressed salad, and cottage cheese.  The amount of food on the generously sized plates made my sunken eyes bug out.  How would I manage eating that enormous plateful of food?!  I had limited myself to copious amounts of Hubba Bubba bubble gum and three pink or purple jellybeans at midnight as my daily staple for the last six months.  And now this?!  I quickly closed my eyes to try and stop the flood of tears that threatened to cascade down my face.

When I opened them again, I was faced with an even more horrific sight.  There, in front of me, on a ginormous platter-like plate, sat a mountainous slab of gooey, cheese topped lasagna, with what appeared to be an entire loaf of garlic cheese bread, and a plentiful serving bowl of caesar salad.  The croutons in the salad were the size of the giant cockroaches on the pavement outside!  This time I squeezed my eyes shut in disbelieve, praying desperately that I was suffering from some kind of delusional episode, and that what lay before me was a wicked apparition that my dwindling mind had created.  When I finally opened my eyes again, the abundant pile of disgusting food lay innocently before me.  I stared at it balefully, wishing the floor would open up and swallow me whole.  When I looked up from the food, I realized I was in considerable danger!  The contorted faces of my enraged fellow patients signified one thing, and one thing only.  Mutiny!  Weeks of enduring measured rations of rabbit food morning, noon, and night, had left them ravenous!  The sight and aroma of my veritable feast drove them to the breaking point.

It began with an eruption of cacophonous sound that could be likened to the multiple motors roaring in readiness before the Grand Prix begins.  Then people began standing up.  Chairs were abandoned and pushed away from the table with great force.  A couple of them even tipped over!  The man on my left grabbed the garlic toast!  He tried to make his way through the angry throng, but collectively they were too strong.  He went down, and so did the badly misshaped garlic cheese bread.

The man on my right grabbed the lasagna off of the plate with both hands and began to devour it as if it were a sandwich!  The ferocious mob became more frenzied at this unfortunate event, and they converged on the hapless lasagna man in one fell swoop!  I do not know the fate of the caesar salad, because at this point, I dove under the table in great haste.  The elephantine feet of the folk fighting for the food had all gathered at the end of the table where I had been sitting.  I crawled to the other end of the table and I slipped unnoticed out the door.  I headed back to my room, slightly dishevelled, but completely intact.  My heart began to pound less threateningly and I lay down on my bed with relief.  After a few moments, I began to smile just a little.  It had been an exhausting day.  But at its end I tasted real victory.  I was able to escape from eating another meal!

After five weeks of hell in this eating disorder hospital, sadly I cut my wrists and was taken to Del Amo Psychiatric Hospital and placed in the locked unit, where I stayed until the fall 0f 1986.  But it was there where my life was saved.  It was there where I began to recover.  And it was there where they taught me to laugh again.

I am laughing now as I recall that historic event.  How wonderful it is to be able to laugh at myself and the experiences I have had, knowing that I have grown and have benefited from those tough times.  How wonderful it is to be able to laugh at all!  As I am writing this, more memories of that troubled period have begun to surface.  I am glad I am remembering.  My past shaped my present, as my present shapes my future.  I have the power to make today one that I can remember with joy.  That power, coupled with abundant laughter, makes my present and future days worth living.

 

 

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Hopeless

Journal Entry December 29, 2012

Depression eats your soul and spits back shards too skimpy for even Barbie to wear.

I don’t do much of anything on any given day.  Or get anything done for that matter.  I am supposed to set a goal for the day and celebrate it when it is achieved.  I’m moving so slowly lately that just completing the goal exhausts me and then I don’t seem to have any reserve energy for the celebration part.  Not that I remember how to celebrate.  Believe me, my goals are myopically uninspiring and meagre in their make-up.  It feels dumb to applaud the fact that I got out of bed and maybe even got dressed, but that’s about the speed that I am operating at.  At least the course gets me going somewhere each weekday, difficult as it is for me to leave the house.

The hours of the weekend stretch endlessly before me and I become paralyzed from the anxiety of not knowing how to fill them, despite the plethora of chores there are to do around the house.  So back to bed or the couch it is for me.  When I am lucky I fall into a troubled slumber.  I don’t dream, or at least if I do I don’t remember any parts of the dreams themselves.  What I do have is an uneven collage of vignettes that cloud my brain and flash through my subconscious mind; present…past…future?  And that is an impossibility because at present I don’t believe in a future for me.  Heaven help me my present is nightmarish enough to hands down veto any possibility something worse may be awaiting me down the pike.  At least that is what my reality has been since 2007.  A steady downward spiral into the murky shadow of depression, which borders a crumbling precipice that leads to the brink of insanity and beyond.

When I don’t sleep I lay there and stare at the wall, or the bookcase packed full of junk that spills onto the floor by my bed.  Staring and thinking of what?  Nothing. Everything.  That is when it becomes unclear as to whether the voice I hear in my head belongs to me, or someone…something, else.

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October 22, 2016

I remember endless hours of lying awake, day and night, completely unable to motivate myself to do anything but lay there.  I lived in the prison of my mind, so completely incapacitated I was by anorexia and depression.  It seems so strange.  Now I am in constant motion.  A blur of activities constitutes each day, and it is hard to find time to slow down and cherish the moment as it passes.  But each moment must be valued as ultimately precious.  If I refrain from doing this, the fate that awaits me is one I have been all too familiar with.  The bleak and barren landscape of the arrested mind.  The imprisoned and censored existence of the tortured soul.  I choose now to be  grateful for the minutes in my day, even when there are times that challenge me and threaten to upset the balance I have worked so hard to achieve.  Each day that follows the next may not always be full of sunshine, but they can be full of hope, when I make that choice.

 

 

A Painful Time

Journal Entry December 27, 2012

I slept all through the 26th.  Another day completely gone.  Lost.  As lost as I am.  Whereas many would lament the fact that a day of their life was wasted in useless slumber, I celebrate it.  Sleep is the escape that promises a break from the endless pain that self-hate inflicts upon its hapless victim.  A chance to be free from the shackles that threaten to squeeze every ounce of life from my body.  I have so long endured the agony of this reality that I embrace sleep with open arms.

Today I managed to wake up and get myself to my group for the afternoon sessions.  I dragged myself out of bed around noon and realized I had missed my morning classes. It was tempting to crawl back into bed and stay there, shirking all responsibility, but I remembered I had promised my group therapist at my last session before Christmas break that I would attend every day for the rest of the duration of the six week program.  I’m not sure why I honoured that promise.  In the past, promisees have meant nothing to me.  Making them; breaking them.  But somehow today it was important that I force myself to go.

This six week program is a course on resiliency and self-care.  Why I am attending this group is beyond me.  I wish I was no longer on this planet, and here I am going to a group that focuses on developing skills that will keep me here.  The irony of the situation is not lost on me.  My doctor enrolled me, and being the good little anorexic that I am, I allowed myself AGAIN to be forced into doing something I do not want to do.

I want to die.  Why can’t I be walking somewhere and a car smashes into me, ending existence altogether?  Any why have I lost the nerve to take my own life?  Although my past attempts brought me close to the brink of death, they were obviously unsuccessful.  The desire to put an end to my life far outweighed the will to continue.  Now the desire is as strong as it ever has been, but I am unable to follow through.

Incompetent.  Ridiculously inept.  I am an inferior figure bungling my way through life; inadequate in every way.  Depression cloaks me in its suffocating folds, and within, an anger burns so white hot it bubbles treacherously under my skin, threatening to burst forth at any moment.  The world is sane and I struggle to keep from pummelling myself repeatedly.  Just as I beat my face up with a baseball so many years ago in the Toronto Hospital.  How could I stray so far away from regular society that I got lost in the desert of self-hate?  Who beats themselves up with a baseball?  A kaleidoscope of broken bits of time where my sole intent was to hurt myself roll before my eyes.  Moments of insanity.  A life distinguished by them.

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October 2, 2016

I copy these words and my heart is filled with sadness.  I was lost and alone in my pain at that time.  Pain is an odd thing.  In the moment of its inception, it sears through my body and electrocutes my brain so that it is all I know.  Day after day after endless day it fills my being with excruciating suffering.  Enduring it seems like an impossibility unto itself.  But it is the reality that presents itself at the time.

Time is also an odd thing.  When I am invested in myself and enjoying each day as it comes, Time whips by in an intoxicating frenzy.  When I have struggled to survive and get through one painful day at a time, it crawls across the landscape like a dying animal in the desert drags itself towards a shade that never comes.  But Time has a way of moving forward so that realities change inevitably.  And as that happens, memories of pain fade.

Until I reread this passage I penned I had forgotten the misery of those days.  Despite that fact that Pain was my constant companion back then, accompanying me wherever I went, Time had stepped in and erased the memory of its presence.  Of the sensation itself.  Much like how I forget the pain I experienced after having had major surgery, once I am fully recovered.

Time has been a friend to me.  My pain no longer harasses me on a daily basis.  Although I know pain can never be eradicated from my life completely, it no longer rules my existence.  I am able to stand on my own in a world I want to be a part of.  I am better able to combat adversity when it reaches me.  I know that whatever else comes my way, Time will take care of it…and of me.

Hate

Journal Entry December 24, 2012

Today when I woke up I did not immediately HATE the day.  Loath and dread, yes.  But not despise.  I knew I had a lot to accomplish…wrap the gifts (which in itself is not a massive chore, as I have such little money to afford anything special for anybody this year); finish making my sister’s bracelet; toast the almonds for the salad I am bringing for Christmas dinner…to me, this is an overwhelming amount of activity.  That doesn’t include bathing, or bathing, brushing, and trimming my wee doggie.

I don’t think I will go to Mom’s for Xmas eve dinner, movie and a sleepover tonight.  I know I won’t get everything I need to get done before their 6 PM supper commences.  I will spend the night at home with my pets.  I must NOT sleep until I am finished all that I have to do.  That will be the hardest part of my evening to accomplish, as the sofa calls to me, promising a safe haven from my internal storm.  At least temporarily.  Sleep.  An opportunity to escape.

My group is about to start.  I am in my fourth week of this six week program.  Please may I learn SOMETHING that I can apply to improve the condition of my sorry existence.

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In Community Group I learned today that in order to develop self-respect, self-love, and balance within my world I must make baby goals each step I take.  Then I must congratulate myself on the completion of each one.  One young guy gave the example of choosing one day in the week to read for half an hour.  Once he was done and had finished congratulating himself on his achievement, he then could reset that goal, extend it, or make a new goal.  For instance, he might now read for 45 minuets on a particular day; or read for half an hour on two prescheduled days.

I have never been one to make goals.  I have enough difficulties getting through one day alone, that setting goals for future plans is a moot point.  The Future is a black quagmire of swirling hurts and questions.  A place that exists to taunt me with a promise I do not deserve.  It is a place I have no desire to visit.

I have in the past, however, made lists.  Lists of things to buy; lists of chores to do.  My problem is that I write too many entries down, and then drown in my attempts to even accomplish one item.  Just this morning when I was looking for a notebook for group, I came across two that were dedicated entirely to ‘To Do’ lists.

The truth is, I loath the words ‘To Do’!  Just seeing them turns the insides of my stomach around.  It’s the same sick, helpless feeling I get when I look around my house and my bedroom and see all of the stacks of books, piles of papers, abandoned bags, and junk that threaten to devour all of the limited free space left within my house.  I want to vomit when I see that stuff, and yet I do nothing to alleviate the situation.  Instead I get a strangled sensation in my throat; my back and neck tense up until I can barely move my head; and my arms feel like they are going to flail out uncontrollably.  I want to wildly strike out at something.  At myself.  That is the better target.  I deserve to be flogged for the state in which I live.  I hate the condition my house is in.  I hate that I let myself exist in it.  I hate that I am unable to change.  Myself.  I hate myself.

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September 18, 2016

I transfer these words today and I am struck with the venom that infuses them.  “I hate myself.”  Not, “I hate myself and I want to change.”  There is hope in that statement.  A belief that my reality CAN change, and that I can be an advocate for change in myself.  “I hate myself” is a statement unto itself.  Period.  Yet it is one that commanded my consciousness and corrupted my unconscious moments from my earliest memories.  A statement that has imprisoned me and kept me from an existence based in self-respect and love for endless decades.

It is a statement I no longer embrace.  Although I have not yet achieved self love at this period in my life, I now know it is a possibility for me.  I feel like I am getting closer to it with every passing day.  It is just around the corner.  Occasionally showing itself to encourage me to stay on my new path.  It is almost within my reach.  I dedicate myself to discovering it with the knowledge that I DO deserve a fulfilling, rich life.  This is a goal I am determined to achieve!

A Place To Begin

Crying.  A life defined by a vale of tears.  But that is not so.  It has only been in the past three years that I have had access to my tears.  I shut my emotions down so effectively that I was unable to feel practically anything.  I was numb all over.  It was like my feelings were caged in a prison-like cell where the key hole was rusted and the key long forgotten as to where it was placed.  The numbness permeated my body until it became who I was.  The very essence of me.  Like a pinball on a table, I was buffeted by the paddle until I sank into the hole of despair, no longer able to play the game.  In that very hole, the depression would manifest itself until it took up my entire being.  The blackness in my soul was stifling and the Little White Guy, the me that was struggling to get out from under the massive weight of my self-hate, was all but obliterated.

Imagine a world without feelings.  No joy.  No excitement.  No curiosity.  No feelings of anticipation for upcoming events.  No anger expressed, although there was a multitude of it boiling under the surface of my being.  Not acknowledged.  Completely unaware of its presence.  Denied an outlet for expression for decades.

And then emotions did begin to burp into existence.  Sadness so profound it blanketed me in suffocating stillness.  It reached beyond my soul and paralyzed my limbs until movement became almost painful.  So still I would sit.  Statue-like amidst a world of perpetual motion.

And Fear.  An entity so gripping it squeezed whatever life was left in my skeletal frame and made a permanent home for itself with Sadness as its neighbor.  Fear and Sadness.  Sadness and Fear.

Then along came Guilt and Shame.  These two insidious friends intertwined with one another and snaked themselves in and out and in between the lots that Fear and Sadness neglected to occupy.  Guilt for being alive.  For taking up space on the planet.  Shame for who I was.  For all the exchanges I had with people in my world.  The numbness was replaced by four giant feelings that in turn became the entity I named, ‘The Beast’.

The Beast has had full range to commandeer my life.  The years of this occupation seem endless in their entirety.  Since the early eighties it took possession of my body, mind, and soul.  It ravaged me completely until the shreds of my dignity were all that remained.

But remain they did.  It is these remnants that bound together to make a fabric sturdy enough to withstand the continued lashings of The Beast.  With every slash endured, the binds in the fabric became stronger and it grew in width and length.  Today I stand victorious as the fabric waves in the wind; a victory flag of a battle fought and won.

Is the war over?  Have I successfully smothered The Beast in the materiel of my own creation?  I do not know.  Perhaps it is too early to tell.  In these past months I have made significant headway in regards to these questions.  As Time rolls forward, I will move with it.  I will no longer remain stuck in the negativity of my past, no matter how comfortable it is.  No matter how familiar.  I will not be seduced by the power of The Beast.  A power I gave it in the Dark Ages of my disease.

I now take the power back.  And with it comes the responsibility of choice.  I choose the new path I am forging over the old one I have known.  What awaits me down the road is a mystery.  One that only I can solve.  So on with the adventures I will discover along the way!  The Universe is with me, and I with it.

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The purpose of this blog is to document and reflect upon part of my journey, in the hopes that it may touch others afflicted in similar ways and let them know that they are not alone.