A student, a mentally ill person, and a cat

Stories and poems from a Dutch student in Belgium who has five mental disorders, but isn’t that crazy.

Right before my last hospitalization in a mental hospital 1,5 years ago, someone told me that “I would probably be the most normal person there”. I didn’t really know what to respond to that, so I didn’t. Someone I know from group therapy freaked out during a telephone conversation once, and the person on the other end told her that “there wasn’t anything she could do about that, you know, she was just mentally ill”. She didn’t really know what to respond to that, so she didn’t. When I told my housemate that I have Borderline personality disorder, he responded that, right, he had heard of that, Borderline means that you are always angry (I’d known him for some six months, he’d never seen me angry). I didn’t really know what to respond to that, so I didn’t. A therapist once told me that she hoped that everyone with Borderline would just kill themselves, because all we did was ruin other people’s lives. I didn’t really know what to respond to that, so I didn’t.
Some examples from our dichotomy between “ill” and “normal” that is still very much alive. But what if you combine both? When I am “normal” people tend to forget I was ever “ill”, and when I fall ill people tend to forget that I am still also normal. Yet, I, and all my mentally ill friends; we are very, very much both. Here, I’ll try to convey both crazy and normal, both ill and healthy, and perhaps make the stigmas a little tiny less smaller.

In a world that doesn’t seem to get any less complex and chaotic, I feel increasingly uncomfortable keeping silent. In my (again increasingly, lately) chaotic and complex self, too, I feel how I need to do another attempt to speak up. So here’s my two cents; one for you, one for me. 🙂 I’ve always very much admired people who manage to not abandon their blogs because, as of yet, I’m not one of those people. But you’ll never know until you try, perhaps this one will be my little victory.

PS. To round up the title, I also have a cat (who is not mine, actually, but she has made it her life mission to stalk my room, so there you are).

I feel empty

Such a typical Borderline thing. Sometimes my moods just plummet through the floor, deeper; all I can do is watch. Or, is it a mood if all I can think of to describe it is: the absence of mood. I cannot pinpoint a specific reason. I am a hollow shell. I am non-existent. I am a human phantom.

I want to go away.

I am none of these things but I feel: I feel the whole world I feel nothing.

My emotions feel like seas in which to float or almost drown. Intertwine and move away again. Now I wander through dried-up plains, non-moving. I can shape the water but I cannot shape the drought.

My moods creeps through the cracks of my skull until they are everywhere. Fill me with absence. I drip invisibly out of myself; I am worthless, I am no one.

But: I am, I feel

And: If my destiny is written in the stars, I will draw my universe.

How recovery feels for me

Summary: I’m recovering, it takes forever, I thought it would be Grand but it isn’t, it’s very weird, pretty fascinating, and also quite boring.

When my mind finally collapsed on me, I didn’t believe that things would (or could) ever get better. I saw ‘recovery’ as some blissful turning point after which all my Issues would be Dealt With, and then I would collect my Certificate of Normalcy and go on my merry way, being Recovered for the rest of my life. I didn’t ever see that happening. Now, some nine years later, well, that didn’t happen indeed. Something else has happened though, something that comes a little bit closer to the actual meaning of recovery:

It’s kinda frightening and kinda exciting and very strange. I used to dance and dangle on the edge of death having to do all kinds of stuff merely to stay alive. It was very grand and very exhausting. I never had to think – and so I never thought – about why I was there because I was always very busy simply staying there, not falling of. Now I’m just, I don’t know, in some field. I still have no idea why I’m here or what I’m doing, but I’m just rolling with it I suppose. Something that I find pretty hard to come to terms with: it’s kinda boring. Being alive is just my state of being now (which, incidentally, is also what being alive means, I might add). In general, I think, people dislike and mostly try to avoid boredom because it makes them feel things; recovery is some kind of existential boredom that makes me feel all these feelings (pleasant and not) that is life, and it can no longer be avoided. Nothing happens when I let go. Sometimes I let go expecting some Grand Epic Scene to ensue, and there I am. In my field. Well, then.

The constant adrenaline of growing up in a disruptive environment and/or of spending your time in your own exciting little life-and-death world is addicting, and it feels very empty when that falls away. I felt as if there was nothing left of me, as if I was evaporating into thin air. Of course, 1,5 years later, I am still here, which is to say that there was, in fact, something left of me. I just didn’t feel it. Life, when you just let it happen, is pretty mundane, and so recovery is too. It’s a process during which your symptoms just gradually diminish. There is no nice, wrapped-up ending to which one can point and say, ‘There, all better now’. To me, now, recovering feels more like a journey of learning – or trying to learn – to know and understand myself, my actions, my wishes and longings, my fears; the world and my place in it, how to deal with its crippling injustice, my cumbersome powerlessness therein; the why’s and how’s of life – in other words, something that everyone is (or should be) engaged in, some more than others. Your wrestle yourself free from whatever monsters were living in your mind and then suddenly you are stuck with these never-ending existential questions, and finding your way feels even harder than before. My mental illness has never been a solely internal discomfort; it and I are irrevocably tied to the state of our world, and it’s not a small thing that we are running from. But that’s life, and I’m tired of running.

Recovering is both the hardest and the most mundane thing I have ever engaged myself in. It’s like a place in between places. I feel as if I’ve grown up in a different world, and now I’m in this place where nothing makes sense to me, nothing is predictable and everything just does whatever the hell it wants. I can still see that other world, whenever I look in the mirror, whenever my hand makes its old-familiar way along my collarbones, whenever my gaze brushes over the blueish-white strokes on my lower left arm. Sometimes I feel a homesickness for it so overwhelming I can barely breathe. Every day, still, I have to be careful not to step back into that other world, where everything is safely organized and deadly bright. It’s getting easier, though; never easy, but easier as I slowly find my way along.  And getting used to the lack of adrenaline, it’s also getting less boring. There are a lot of small, beautiful things in my field. I just had to learn how to look.

Aletheia (poem)

My thoughts sharpen, drop entangled
to the floor and shatter
A hushed snap ringing in my ears for days
I collect fortresses of subconscious lies
to keep me warm, protect me
I do not need to feel you near me
And sometimes my poems grow so loud
I drown in their sound – but now it’s quiet,
borderline silent, and all I hear is
the wish-wash of my blood
I do not need

Today tip-toes to its nest,
to roll on its back and sleep
Mind darkens as the sun recedes
My life-long hooded companion,
divert your hollow eyes, don’t stir
I fell for you as if you were home
but you are not even you, no body
covered in black – I can’t live to believe
there is you welcoming me in death
Even when I feel your embrace

Quiet mind mumbles, covered in silence
Motion stutters and slows, suspended
I’m afraid, life: I’ll take your hand
And trust you

…with my own eyes I saw her, at Cumae,
hanging up in a jar; and whenever
the boys would say to her
‘Sibyl, Sibyl, what would you?’
she would answer, ‘I would die.’

(Petronius’ Satyricon)

Dream fragment

Howl page 46

– wading through the waters of sleep in this medial place

and time, thinking I am lucid feeling everything in reverse,

inhaling bubbles of air and absence and exhaling

everything but the words I need the most, falling through

the cracks and wrong turns I imagined and executed myself,

tumbling deformed hallways of ghosts and don’t leave me’s

and dreams are only dreams but if that is common knowledge

why don’t I feel you anymore since you left me in the night.

 
*illustration from Allen Ginsberg & Eric Drooker’s Howl

Older song travels (poem)

Now, let me travel inwards instead
Flow through waves and waves of
unrecognized feeling, cords of words,
weave through without fading like I do now
Soft melodies from buried days, far away
through blinding rays, cinematic memories
in my mind to play, to float away
amid this – eternal – nightfall

Somehow I went back in time but differently, waves
of colors I felt before, but I don’t recognize –

See a girl, conquering a snowstorm even though
it was summer and the wind had already left me,
nothing I can do or say –

Another place, only similar, different faces and
different voices, enough to remind me but –
Somehow all it does, is remind me of
what I lost

They told me to give everything its place,
Don’t drop your sadness, or it’ll chase you,
Pack my moments below my chest, with feeling,
I said goodbye the best that I could –
Then, doctor, why did I walk,
from sadness to madness?

I met me but without the body,
Asked for the way but I was evaporating,
Turned into the moon and, eclipsed
And the road curls up to the sun and starts raining
puddles into puddles into puddles into puddles
into –
How else could I create life again?

Loving my life was the greatest gift I ever got
Pandora opened her jar, but I have an
ocean to feel, memories come in waves
of notes that haven’t changed
And I breathe through the cracks
of time, being there still –

Older songs, uncover
Travel carefully, back
through memories
almost real
enough
in my dreams

Borderline: bad days

And to know the fundamentals of being alive,
Am I?
Zack Hemsey

Wake up. Check my surroundings, check my body, check my brain. No one has left, nothing’s gone missing; yet I feel as if, somewhere during the night, everything I know has shriveled and died.
Clench the day into my cramped hands; drop it anyway.

It’s just the way it is sometimes. I think that there’s the difference between sadness and illness, the intensity of it. Sometimes I go outside and the streets I’ve known for years have slightly shifted, changed meaning. The outside world was real and here yesterday, but who can say about today? Pop-up houses, paper trees, on the translucent ground in a cellophane sky. My eyes are separate beings and they might be lying. I woke up in an unknown world on a different planet. Visual illusions, my heart aches for home without being sure it’s truly gone. How can we know that what we see is what is there? If I cannot feel the ground, myself?

There’s a glass wall between me and everyone. I can’t destroy it, I can’t get out. Now, more than when I am alone, do I feel the shattering sadness of isolation.

I am untouchable. Flesh is all that separates my mind from existence. My body is a prison and I can’t breathe. Do you know the full meaning of claustrophobia? I need to cut it open so that I can escape.

A movie reel of atrocities plays behind my eyes. Colors darken, dissolve in a bloody red. My body is the victim and executor of a million violent deaths.

My brain can’t grasp my mental pain and turns it into something physical. An aura of phantom pains surrounds my chest; someone put knives in my lungs.

I hope my thoughts mean that I’m crazy because if I am crazy, my fears have not come true.

These are the bad days. Sometimes I wake up and they’re just there. Some time during the night, in a dream, perhaps, or a slumbering forgotten thought, something just went awry. I wake up and the world has shattered, and I can’t remember what it felt like before. This is a far cry better than once upon a time, when everything was disordered, and the bad days were just days. They’re a shadow, now, from what they were before, they come less often and farther in between; and I am concrete, touchable, both body and mind. But you don’t forget insanity, even though, some moments, I come very close. I wear “before” on my arm, “before” is weaved through my disintegrated memories, reminding me not to turn back. I’m starting to believe that I can do it; but some days, still, the ground shifts, I stumble, almost cross over. I live on the borderline of existence; I think too much; I’m never sure if I am alive.

Am I?