At one point in his memoir, Daudet describes staying at a sanatorium, one of those places where everyone understands what everyone else is going through. He talks about the strange pleasure of searching for the patient whose experience of illness is most like his own. Today’s version of the sanatorium is the Internet, where you find a vaporous world of fellow-sufferers, companions in isolation and fear and frustration, as well as practitioners who have made it their life’s work to understand why a segment of the population always feels unwell. I fell into the rabbit hole, and emerged in another world, online.
“But as for the meaning of the poem as a whole, it is not exhausted by explanation, for the meaning is what the poem means to different sensitive readers.”
I’m fighting with what I want and what is logical, reasonable, rational, appropriate, and all of those other words we put in the way of something we want.
All people have a comfort zone and a safety zone. What they fail to realize is, they aren’t the same.
I open my mouth,
put in comfort.
(As if sadness could be satiated).
The first moment of pleasure,
This is the repeat addiction.
I am weak,
I have no control,
Cede to the pleasure.
What have I done?
It’s too late.
Mouth quickly filled.
I take it all,
A frenzied banquet,
I put more inside,
deny the discomfort.
I’m nearing the end of
this hidden humiliation.
I am weak.
It is almost time
To regain control.
Assume the position.
My finger strokes my palate.
Moment of breached regurgitation, and then,
Mouth quickly fills.
I find success in sinuses burning
with unmasticated food acid.
Conjunctival vessels rupture.
Brief pause as I gasp.
then again taste two vomit coated fingers.
Striving for the mark of culmination.
Blood, green bile, then nothing.
I’ve done it.
I am weak, no,
I am in control.
Euphoric emptiness lifts my humiliation.
My sadness satiated.
Closing my eyes, I fall
far from reality.
Slipping between parallel universes,
But you can still see my body.
Words come out of my mouth like
Charlie Brown’s teacher.
Silent instructions move
My plastic body.
The act of person reaches
An unobtainable threshold.
Severe concentration deficit,
Food burning on stove.
Only a matter of time.
Viscous water resistance,
My head disappears beneath the Hudson
Held by the invisible attacker
I say to me, stop!
But my body has become
The marionette of my dark soul.
Death is a human construct. Animals don’t fear or crave it. They just kill and they just die. Of course they mourn, but they don’t lament their own death. Dream of it. Fear it.
We created death. We gave it to the devil and said, death is evil, we want to live forever. This is the curse of self awareness.
My dog always lives in the moment.
I always live in one of three, past, present, future.
She is happy, or sad or sleeping. She is not fearing her death. Fearing the future. She is not in pain. She has cancer.
When I got the news I was not upset. I love her but I said “ok.” Because death is not the devil, death is a human construct.
So is my heart cold because I am not sad? Because I am not afraid of a future without her? No, my heart is full. Tell me my dog will die in the future and I will say, “well I already knew that.” But here she is and here I am, and that has still not changed. She is happy napping and running in her sleep, and I feel the gentle breeze.
Where does dying start and living end? The reality is, we are all dying and living at the same time. They exist not one at a time, but simultaneously.
Tell me I am dying and I will say “yes, and living, and when I am dead I will be dead.” And she is dying, and so are you, and she is living, and so are you. We are all living and dying until we are dead, and then there is no more dying to be done.
Starter sentence prompt:
“She stood barefoot on the linoleum kitchen floor, staring at an envelope she held in her hands. ”
She stood barefoot on the linoleum kitchen floor, staring at an envelope she held in her hands. She dropped the electricity bill as she screamed. She had been gone three years.
She stood barefoot on the linoleum kitchen floor, staring at an envelope in her hands. It was the first time she had ever been barefoot. She loved this sensation. She forgot why she was holding an envelope, so she put it down. Her feet had never made contact with the floor before. Ever since she was an infant, her mother always covered her feet with socks. Even while in the shower, or out swimming in the lake nearby, she was forced to wear socks. But now, at last, she was able to remove the cotton barrier between her body and the world. As she turned to gaze at the violent scene behind her, she giggled and said, “bye mommy.”
She stood barefoot on the linoleum kitchen floor, staring at an envelope she held in her hands. She couldn’t remember what was inside. No matter how many times we told her. Occasionally she would open it, remove the contents, meticulously going over every word and item contained within. When finished she would carefully return the contents from where they came. Taking great care to put everything back in its original state before carefully placing it back upon the fridge.
Days, weeks, months went by. Repeating the ritual with great care. In the moments between she would ask about the large fedex envelope and its contents. Continually reminded of the sadness which it contained. Tears formed in the corner of her eyes giving way to a semi forced smile. Moments later the feels would float away as she forgot the conversation as her mind grasped for fragments of other memories.
The sound of bare feet shuffling across the linoleum floor came to an end. The envelop was no longer white, but grey from a thick coating of dust. Time past as the long forgotten bubble wrap sleeve sit in its place, no longer perturbed on a daily basis.
Eventually the sound of young flesh on linoleum returned to the kitchen. Soon he would be able to stand on a chair and reach the envelope his mother cared for so deeply. Shortly after he would begin the daily ritual of pouring over the contents sent by the military. The last earthly remains of a hero lost much too soon.
She stood barefoot on the linoleum kitchen floor, staring at an envelope she held in her hands. She opened it. Seemingly harmless check out paperwork from her psychiatrist. He wrote F42 on her slip today in addition to the reliable F31.81. Knowing intuitively what it coded for on the ICD, she did a quick internet search anyway.
F42 Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
F31.81 Bipolar II Disorder
F31.81 was old news. OCD had been discussed many times, but this is the first time its incriminating scrawl had stared her in the face. It was as if to say “I’m here! I’m real!”
The first time he said she was obsessive, she didn’t believe it. “Is my brain so different than everyone else’s?” she had thought. But as time went on it became apparent. She was the pure O, he had said. Pure obsessive.
It was true. Obsessions haunted her in a way that was, at times, disabling. But she had been able to hide this from her friends and family. Now here is was, evidence staring at her, written on paper.
She let her mind wander; “Is this what makes it real? To write a billing code, to make it a diagnosis? Me on paper, my name birthday and F31.81, F42.”
She wondered if this made her more of a real person, or not much of a person at all. She was F42F31.81 now. They could check her number like a barcode for financial gain. Her secret number, her secret non person attribute. “Fuck this!” She said aloud, destroying it in the paper shredder.
“This week I will not be a number, I have a whole week to be more than F42F31.81.” The receipt of her mind would just drive her even more insane if she kept it around anyway. Her obsessive thoughts would go around and around, like they always do. She had more energy than usual anyway. At least until next week, when she sees him again. He will give her a mark, a grade, a price to quantify her mind.
She stood barefoot on the linoleum kitchen floor, staring at an envelope she held in her hands. Due Tuesday. Tuesday the 6th.
What day was today? The day-by-day calendar on the counter said Saturday, but it also said it was the 18th of June, which had come and gone months ago. She glanced out the window at the snow powdered across the porch, sky darkening into evening – which was deceptive, really; the snow came early this year and it was actually only September, or so she thought, as she dug into her pocket and thumbed her phone on. It buzzed loudly and lit up with new emails – spam, for sure – which she ignored in search of the date.
Saturday was right, after all. Saturday, September 3rd. Had to be a weekend. She didn’t work.
Then again, she hadn’t worked the past few weeks, anyway.
She placed her palms on the counter and pressed into them, breathing out with a solid whoosh of heavy air. Her shoulders tightened and she thought of calling to Jamie in his little apartment mirroring hers, ask him for his opinion, maybe invite herself to his place for dinner and a drink, but she didn’t want to show him the now-crumpled letter residing under her clammy hand on the counter because she knew if she did things could get emotional and Lord Knows she did not want him seeing that mess.
But still, she thought, misery needs company – or something along those lines, right? – and she through the cramped living room to the door and swung it open just in time to catch Jamie on his way into the opposing room, a lady on his arm with those dilated pupils and lips slightly opened in a cool smile that indicated a night of sweating bodies.
She crossed her arms and leaned into her door frame. “Jamie,” she huffed, “can we talk?”
He glanced over his shoulder, cheeks bright and shoulders raised in a shrug. “Uh, just getting home for a date, you know, maybe we can talk later?”
“Dinner?” she asked, ignoring the girl’s giggling presence. She wasn’t going to be outdone by this dandy little lady in a sleek black dress – she stretched her shoulders back and set her jaw in a way that she knew caused all of the right bones and muscles to protrude. Even in her lounge clothes and messy braid, she knew she was a match for Miss Dandy.
Jamie paused to look down at the girl on his arm, then looked up to the sky and swallowed hard. “Jesus, Angela, can’t it wait?”
“Jesus, Jamie, it pretty clearly cannot. It’s due Tuesday.”
The air froze and Jamie looked back towards her, eyebrows low enough to crease his nose. “You don’t need money again, do you? Rent was due two days ago-”
“No. This is different.” She pushed hard on her chest, forcing bile and tears back. She wouldn’t cry. Wouldn’t puke. Would be fine. If only Miss Dandy would leave. Angela glared at her with such force that the young lady felt it and began fussing with her dress, trying to solve the problem that way. “Lady, you’ve gotta go,” Angela smirked.
Jamie looked up to the ceiling and closed his eyes. The keys were still in the doorknob, chains dangling loosely and clanking against the door as he raised that hand to his forehead and pressed in hard circles. “Jen, if we could postpone this date, I’d really appreciate it,” he finally mumbled. The woman gave them both dirty looks – a look that said, Are you fucking kidding me, I didn’t realize you were so involved here or I wouldn’t have gone out with you, you wasted my time and my money, I look great how do you want that instead… but she wisely held her tongue and graciously dipped out with little more than a goodbye thrown Jamie’s way. He would never hear from her again.
Angela was in Jamie’s apartment pressing the letter firmly into his hand before he even had time to remove his shoes or coat. “What’s this?” he asked, inspecting it. He flattened it against the wall and read, in fancy font befitting some royal occasion:
“You are cordially invited to the union of Miss Kennedy Johns and Miss Olivia Stretton, November 1st, 2016. Please RSVP by Tuesday, September 6th.”
The signature at the bottom, handwritten, unforgettable. O. Stretton.
“Your ex-girlfriend is inviting you to her wedding?”
“Ex-fiancée,” Angela corrected, “and a real bitch at that.” She pounded her chest once more, a last ditch effort to hold back the tears, but they came anyways and Jamie was holding her in his arms in an instant.
“Due Tuesday,” she hiccuped between sobs. “I have to respond by Tuesday.”
Unpaid bills? Expected. A loan for some fancy new video game? Expected. This? No. This was new to him. He’d been there when she moved into this complex, a time when she was obviously spinning out of control. She’d lost job after job. Quit some of them. Abused anxiety meds. Had avoided deep stuff, thank God, he’d helped her out of loads of messes and heard tidbits about her relationship gone sour, but this was new. Holding her in his arms was new. Hearing her cry was new.
He liked the way she sunk into his body. He liked the way her hair smelled, clean but tangled in that ever-present braid. He liked how he could feel the sobs well up in her body and be there when they came out, wretched and disgusting and slobbery and natural.
“What do I do? I didn’t even know she was engaged.” The hysterics were over, but she was holding onto him tighter than ever. He patted her back and smiled into her hair, thinking. Thinking. Thinking.
“You go,” he said, hugging her tight. She froze in that position, waiting for more. “You go, you take me as your plus one, we sit at a table and make fun of her all night, just between you and me, then we drink some and dance some and we have a great time at a free party. Good food. Liquor. Music. What more could you ask for?”
The sobbing stopped and she contemplated this before pulling away from him, splotchy red face and faucet nose. She hiccuped once. Twice. Then the giggles began. She looked at Jamie and couldn’t hold them in. Her neighbour – her friend – of a year, suggesting such an awfully delightful idea as going on a date to her ex-fiancée’s wedding with the sole purpose of gourging on tasty food and making a mockery of the fine bitch.
“Jamie,” she said, placing her hands onto his chest and pressing to feel that heartbeat, to feel that human soul, that presence. It had been over a year since she was this close to someone last, and that someone was her bitch of a bitch. She grinned at Jamie and spoke through that grin, suddenly shyer than ever. “I like that idea.”
Miss Dandy was somewhere at a bar, not wanting to waste her flawless makeup and cute dress on a date that ended too soon. Across the state, two women watched a movie, nestled lovingly in each other’s arms, matching diamond rings shining. And in an apartment above the street, in the kitchen with the linoleum floor, two bodies with nowhere else to go intertwined, brought together by an ex-fiancée, a letter, due Tuesday.
-by members of bipolardisordered
translucent orange bottles,
No one has to know
They will tell me I do not need them.
Internal suffering hidden behind socially acceptable facial expressions.
Tell them how many activities you did,
how little rest you got,
you want to appear strong.
The answer to “how are you?” Is always “good!”
Dulled senses. Silence more enjoyable than music. Pleasure is a distant memory.
If functionality continues, your thoughts are inconsequential.
push the boundaries of your mind until it is so uncomfortable you can hardly bear it.
But do it with a smile.
There! Now you are doing it right!
The fallacy of society: strength is someone who suffers, does not take the “easy” way out.
I hide. I do not let them see. My arms and legs leaden. A parched mouth and cracking lips tolerated.
Too great is the energy expenditure required to reach a glass of water .
Don’t take the pills! They say UV rays and endorphin release is the cure. Wouldn’t want them to know you needed more.
No longer able to mask the suffering with a smile, I do the polite thing of shielding myself from society.
Soothing thoughts of death come in flux,
harmless by virtue of depression’s immobility.
Apparently I once felt happiness, But looking at the masses of society
smiling at laughing babies, I wonder what it is to experience emotion
I bathe once in awhile because I am supposed to. Pretend to have a “real” illness, Sin of sloth, don’t let them see your indulgence
It’s about quantity of years, not quality. Suffer and live a long life, you are strong.
An hour is easily identified, when fog inexplicably lifts..
Electric waves to fingertips. hear more, see more, feel more, do more. Urgent creativity. make up for lost time.
Now we can shout about all the tasks completed with so little sleep.
amorously, joyfully, vibrantly, spiritually, sexually
manic laughter is contagious.
Heightened senses, fabric grating on skin, sounds are too loud, will someone please turn off that radio?
Nothing is simple.
Impulsivity takes over, suppression of urges is key to staying alive.
Imminent danger, don’t let them see.
With irritability Amorous feelings transform to disgust. Hatred.
I don’t want to die!
Kill yourself! Hang yourself! Jump off that bridge!
I don’t want to die!
Laterally, you know how to make the incision, I think there is a rope nearby
I don’t want to die!
These other emotions are cut up and labeled as separate diagnoses.
Suicidal obsession, pure O type OCD. Break me to bits, define me.
Safety is found in pills, off white, distinct rattle.
Ability to don socially acceptable smile with ease regained. Easy now.
They can’t understand that nothing is a void and all is like King Midas.
The pharmacy gives white bags to hide translucent orange bottles, it’s polite, because OCD has become a mockery, and Bipolar too big of a pill to swallow.
The fullness makes her feel grotesque. They say she should gain more weight than most since she started so thin. She cannot see her toothpick arms, her sullen eyes are trained for swelling. No calories today, she lies and says she has eaten. Strangers touch her bulging abdomen at the market, and recoil when they see her skeletal hands. She has not felt movement lately.
Soon her oblivious husband guides her to the sterile room. She ingests Valium. Just some pressure they say, as they increase the size of the dilators, just some cramping they say as they curettage her uterine lining, almost done they say, as the vacuum is turned on. The redness and pulp sucks into clear jars. She grins as she looks upon them, a great loss of weight. The pain and emptiness makes her feel beautiful.