Today’s Art Journal Pages:West Farms Mall: You are Here…PLUS

Near the Apple Store, sketching all day at West Farms Mall, West Hartford CT.
Near the Apple Store, sketching all day at West Farms Mall, West Hartford CT.

 

Sketch after Mary Frances Berry Phd. Ballpoint and Colored pencil (from television image)
Sketch after Mary Frances Berry Phd. Ballpoint and Colored pencil (from television image) 
Otheriwse Known as Pammy but trying to be known as Miss Wagner, so the boundaries remain professional, even if they never stay firm and strong.
Otheriwse Known as Pammy but trying to be known as Miss Wagner, so the boundaries remain professional, even if they never stay firm and strong.

 

Despite the MALFUNCTION picture above, there was nothing at all wrong with my ipad…I simply didnt understand the three finger tap function. But once i did, all was  well. And the geniuses at the Genius bar were blessed again. I left to do the drawing of the West Farms Mall, rather than waste the 25 minute drive it had taken me to get over there.

 

That said, I need to add that I did one thing this weekend that Martha, my youngest sister picked up on immediately and knew at once was the wrong call, so to speak. She is an emotional genius of the highest order, and I dunno how, but somehow wrote me a text message that gave me permission to solve the problem…

 

To make the story clear, let me explain that it has LONG been part of my ethic that if I treasure something, especially a THING, I make a practice indeed a habit of giving it away. This is in part so I do not get attached to things, and so that I am not ” allowed to have any particular beloved items” that I need too much or covet too much. A form and practice of self-denial that runs very deep and started when I was remarkably young. I won’t go longer into this practice now except to add that as I wrote in my art journal on one page, one summer a few years ago, I took my very first vacation that was not a “hospital vacation” but was instead a planned stay at a Arts and craft camp called Snow Farm up in Florence, Massachusetts, where I signed up for a metal jewelry course. I already knew how to do the basics, but what this course promised was to teach sawing and riveting and soldering of metals, something I could not do at home.

Martha, who is five years younger than I, lives very close to Snow Farm, and without her support I never would have survived my weeklong stay. Partly because it turned out that I was much too paranoid to eat in the dining room, so she supplied me with enough food to make do with “canned” that is to say mostly fresh and decent food in my single room in the sleeping quarters. Late at night I would creep down to the emptied dining room and make myself a large PB sandwich to supplement these as well, from the supplies that were left out at all hours. But except for the one time the APRN who was then the manager of Snow Farm actually came and got me for supper and the other time that Martha also went with me to eat, I made do alone…

An equal hardship, one I am less able to explain, is that during the entire weeklong course, no one in the class of mostly women, more or less my age, spoke to me. They were a chatty bunch and talked a lot among themselves, but not a person said a thing to me, except I  think one woman, towards the end of the week, offered the use of her tools or something, which became the occasion of a final breakthrough. But for the most part it was a lonely awful time.If it hadn’t been for the teacher herself, Abigail, who spent time with me (she knew my background from my application). I’d have withered from sheer isolation, both self- and other-imposed.

The final hardship was that I was very thin at the time, and using a metal saw required that one hold it against the chest wall while tightening any replacement saw bands and at other times as well. For some reason, I kept breaking my saws, which were delicate enough that if you twisted it while sawing a copper sheet, it could snap in a second. But holding the saw in a vise against my chest wall was simply impossible: It caused me exquisite physical pain, and I could not withstand the pain long enough to replace a single blade. So I had to give up learning to saw, and thus never learned to rivet either. Anything that involved the saw was simply beyond me. Either nobody observed the problem, or all decided that it was not worth coming to my aid. In any event, I was left with no alternative but to do the only thing I was able to finally do: to solder silver rings.

 

Yes, when it turned out that I could with ease hammer silver half-round sterling into a ring shape and  solder it together into a permanent ring, and no one placed a limit on how many I made (since we paid for silver materials as we went along) I simply made silver rings for the rest of the week. Then the one woman who was semi-friendly with me gave me a few sterling silver pre-made bezel cups that would hold a 3 mm cabochon, were I to obtain them. And the teacher showed me how to solder the bezel cup onto a couple of my rings finally as well, (I could never learn to make my own bezel cups because that involved sawing…)

I left Snow Farm with about ten rings, two of which had soldered-on bezel cups. Some were big enough for men, the others were varying women’s sizes, but all were 100% sterling silver. None were anything mind you but amateurish, but that mattered little to me or anyone I gave one to. No one knew the difference, and if I did, it ceased to matter. I ordered little cabochons of grade A lapis lazuli, the lovely blue stone that is so famous, and managed to secure two of them into the two rings with bezel cups on them in a fairly decent if untutored manner (no adhesive used, that much I was proud of).

 

But of course, one of these lapis lazuli rings was in due course given away to a friend who was on and off not a friend. and who verbally abused me in such fashion that it was from her that I learned the awful language and names that I called the nurses and aides at Natchaug and Yale. (I hate the fact that I even have the c__nt word in my working vocabulary. I never did before this friend who is no friend of mine used it on me…But once heard as an name-calling term of verbal abuse, it became “valid,” it became part of my language…much as I wish it had never. And now I confess that when enraged at the people at the hospital, but ONLY then, I call them c––nts and variants on the terms rather freely, because I know what a terribly word it is and what effect it will have on them. (Chip my brother roared with laughter when I told him I called the single nurse restrained me for walking away from the quiet room at the IOL a “snarky little c––nt” and praised me for being able to laugh too. but in truth  I wish I did not even have the word in my working vocabulary at all. I would prefer a lack of insults to use on people to being able to hurt anyone with this word…)

 

Now this “friend” is out of my life and I have the single ring left,..my single remaining treasure from that troublesome perfect vacation.

 

But what happened at the end of that vacation? Well, the last night, we were told to make something for the camp auction and so I brought earring making equipment and starting making a slew of those, and that, plus the fact that I’d brought over  a copy of DIVIDED MINDS, finally just to introduce myself (I think the woman who had given me the bezel cups had asked me a question and elicited the fact that I had written two books…wanted to see them). Well, this was what finally broke the ice. And it did it in a major way. People were really interested, and curious. And they now asked me questions and seemed less scared to talk with me, as if the book’s subject matter somehow explained “everything.” I dunno…Maybe it did and maybe it didn’t. But the last day there , with the auction and the final dinner went fine. and I would say that I “love Snow Farm” despite everything.

 

Which is why I treasure that one remaining lapis  lazuli ring. It means that I actually made something from a situation that could have been unmitigated disaster. I made lemonade from lemons, and I survived a vacation all on my own. SO when I managed to practically beg Martha, my compassionate genius of a younger sister to take this ring from my finger…she was dubious to begin with. For one thing, she has her own two important rings. One is her own gift to herself for surviving Breast Cancer…and it is her most important ring. But I practically made her take my ring from me. I think I have done this to her before…And she didn’t want to take it then either….She KNOWS things, this wonderful sister of mine, and either it is in part that she has these other rings of her own, or that she has inklings about my propensity to give my treasures away to others (I love)  she is not and has not been a willing taker of my ring  on either occasion.

 

What a good egg, This night I received an email from her saying she wanted to “trade it back to me” or at least have each of us wear it so she wasn’t taking it from me…But she knew, she knew. I dunno how, but something told her that it was not just ANY ring I made. God knows I have made her things,  and she had accepted them. So she isn’t just refusing to take anything I made. no. I made the papier mache hummingbird JUST FOR MARTHA after all. And in point of fact she knew that I didnt want to part with Christobelle or the Using Klimt collages, but felt okay about taking them as long as she paid me the full price that I was asking…. (Actually I feel like shit, not just giving the collages to her! But that is another story.)

 

But the ring, oh the ring is so different. HOW DID SHE KNOW that the ring was different? It is not that my offer was false. I wanted her to have my treasure. I did. I loved giving it to her. It is just that I also know that I missed the ring, and wanted also to have it too. And in that sense alone I regretted my impulsivity. And the need to impoverish myself and deprive myself just because i had to. WHY? WHy am I not allowed to keep my ring, symbol of so much? Would it kill me to keep it? Would it be such a terrible mortal sin to allow me to keep my ONE treasure? It isn’t that precious, after all. The solder seam is visible on the bottom  not under the bezel and it is a pretty shoddy piece of handmade jewelry. Not worth a nickle to anyone, in reality. Even the lapis cost me all of a dollar or two. So why does it cost me so much emotionally to keep it??????

 

Martha gets it, though. She really did and does. She KNOWS. She knows the real value of the ring is not the monetary value, but what it means to me. And that is why she is uncomfortable keeping it. The ring aint worth shit, not qua ring. It is only worth something as memory and as symbol and then only to me…and to Martha by extension and because of her depth of understanding.

Martha, if you read this, i hope I understood you correctly.  You certainly got me on the dime. Thank you from the depths of even my impoverished dried up little heart for understanding. You deserve a ring far better than any crappy lapis ring I could ever make…You are a sister beyond dreams. Thank you…I really love you more than I can say.

 

 

Two Pages from my Art Journal: pain and mess are facts of my life

Piriformis, the muscle you never heard of, can be a real pain in the butt...literally, but at least the problem is neuromuscular, and not in the bones. It turns out to be related to all the forced Haldol injections they gave me at Yale, and something as well to do with this deep piriformis muscle and the sciatic nerve...Dont understand it all, but it all adds up to a huge amount of excruciating Pain with a capital P!
Piriformis, the muscle you never heard of, can be a real pain in the butt…literally, but at least the problem is neuromuscular, and not in the bones. It turns out to be related to all the forced Haldol injections they gave me at Yale, and something as well to do with this deep piriformis muscle and the sciatic nerve…Dont understand it all, but it all adds up to a huge amount of excruciating Pain with a capital P!

I ended up at the local non-hartford ER on Monday/Tuesday morning, in the very wee hours, in so much exquisite agony i could not move off the chair i sleep on.

 

What do you expect? I sleep in the same chair i eat and read and draw in mostly...and now i am imprisioned in it in pain, why shouldnt i live in filth?  It isnt actually the dirt or not that bothers me, but the constant chaos...i would prefer orderliness, but cannot keep things in any state resembling it, so chaos reigns!  I do not worship the great god Chaos, but no one could guess that from the constant state of affairs chez moi...the drawing i did in my journal doesnt even begin to depict the truth. In fact, i dont know how to do so. It is incredibly difficult to draw the mess and chaos and disorganization of my room. One must define something toi draw it, so by necessity you bring an order to the room in culling it of unnecessaries that it does not have in the realness of my unbeautified life. Pretty as a picture my room is not!
What do you expect? I sleep in the same chair i eat and read and draw in mostly…and now i am imprisoned in it in pain, why shouldnt i live in filth? It isnt actually the dirt or not that bothers me, but the constant chaos…i would prefer orderliness, but cannot keep things in any state resembling it, so chaos reigns! I do not worship the great god Chaos, but no one could guess that from the constant state of affairs chez moi…the drawing i did in my journal doesnt even begin to depict the truth. In fact, i dont know how to do so. It is incredibly difficult to draw the mess and chaos and disorganization of my room. One must define something to draw it, so by necessity you bring an order to the room in culling it of unnecessaries that it does not have in the realness of my unbeautified life. Pretty as a picture my room is not!

 

One thing you notice in this definitely unprofessional picture is the presence of a single crutch. I hated being at the ER but if I hadn’t called 911 (after pulling my emergency cord and wondering if anyone would ever come to my door…and finding out that someone had actually called 911 for me after the loud buzzer over my door had sounded for at least 1/2 hour…). When I hear someone’s emergency buzzer, I always knock and try to go to the person, find out if I can help them in any way. i dunno who called 911, but why they couldn’t at least let me know they were doing so I dunno. i felt so alone all night, and then at the ER. it was almost worse, because of course I  was treated like an hysterical psychiatric patient largely, and ignored. Truth to tell, my hip pain was not going to kill me, and apparently the testicular pain of the young man in the other part of the cubicle, could have killed him (so says Dr C, but according to her it would kill via “shock” so she means because of the degree of pain…So I am skeptical. I think the reason he was getting so much attention was because “Everyone knows” that testicle pain is horrendously awful and  shockingly painful…”everyone” because of course MEN have experineced it and let us all know how bad it is. Women have experienced childbirth tearing them literally apart for eons but no one goes on and on about how that pain needs to be attended to at all costs. No we just let them scream…SO, ditto me versus the young man with a testicle that did not apparentlhy need surgery but who was, I admit, the subject of a sadistic surgeon’s ministrations, and manipulations, even as the man denied that the young man needed his help. I mean, why stand there, holding a guy’s twisted ball in your hand, manipulating it in such a fashion that you kmow you are causing breathtaking agony, everyone who hears the sucked-in choked-off breaths of the patient knows it, why do that, what are you odoing? when you then in the next breath announce that this testicle is FINE, nothing that needs YOUR attention as a surgeon, in fact, you cannot understand why it is still causing the man so much apparent pain. But it is…The young man is nearly comatose with pain, and the surgeon doesnt’ even apologize. Only says, Well, you are fine, nothing here that needs me. I will check in with you later, but you are not a surgical candidate as far as I am concerned so you are none of my business.

 

But what I was saying was, sympathetic as I may have been with respects to the  doctor’s sadism and disregard for all human feeeling. Nevertheless, it was apparent that the entire ER had sympathy for testicle pain, and youth, little to none for hip agony in a 60 year old bag of a woman with scars on her legs and arms and face…It was a matter of appearance and what and who was appealing, and I was nothing of the sort. Who did they want to root for or give a damn about? I was just a title 19 patient with nothing to offer, and since I had brought nothing but a key to get back into my aprt with  me, I could not prove otherwise. Could I? Nothing to tell them I was worth anything but scorn and disgust, which they gave freely.

 

I knew in the end, that is., after 12 hours and very little had been done past a CT scan that showed piriformis inflammation, that I had to prove that I could function well enough to be discharged from the ER. I knew it would involved exquisite agony but it had to be done or they would keep me in the hospital because they would claim I could not function independently. SOMEHOW I had to prove I could get my own jeans back on, and dress myself. I knew that if I could do that they could not keep me, and I was desperate not to have to stay there any longer than I had to…which meant in practice that I wanted to leave ASAP.

It cost me more pain that I can ever express. I literally had to suck in my breath and flrce myself to “break my own hip” or feel as if I were doing so” in order to put my leg inside the pants and then manage to pull them up and zip the zipper. But I did it. SOmehow I did it. It felt as if I were literally stabbing myself in the abdomen each time I forced myself to do any abrupt movement like putting my right foot into the pants leg and pulling them up. But it would do not good to go slowly. A slow agony would never do and would only prolong something I could never tolerate. So I did the “white hot poker routine” of forcing myself to make abrupt changes in position and get things over with. And I managed to get dressed and eventually I was discharged and my dear friend Josephine agreed to come pick me up after she was through with her last housecleaning job, which was just then…

 

But where am I going with all this? Piriformis Syndrome, you can look that up. It is all very mysterious and not very common. But curable or at least temporary usually and treatable. So I am not dying and not even very ill, though the pain is mentionable! All I have been writing about, basically, is the pain, the dismissive attitude, and this, what finally transpired: I saw my doctor’s office’s APRN, Sara, who is very wonderful and while young doesn’t make me feel old and despised. She put me on a difficult drug to take but one that promises quick pain relief, if I can tolerate it: prednisone. And Soma for a muscle relaxant, which may or may not work. I will start the former tomorrow morning and try the latter as soon as I finish this blog post and can justify inducing sleepiness. She did not minimize anything, and I felt taken at my word and seriously. Neither as if things were being exaggerated for my benefit nor dismissed for the same reason.

 

I apologize that this blog post has been so boring. I am halfblind with sleepiness, because i have been up since 2:30AM, one, and two, the hospital lost my two pairs of glasses with prisms in them so I am using glasses that do not prevent double vision at the moment. Trying simply to see the screen and the keyboard is an effort that defeats me more often than not. You can imagine the effort to be eloquent or anything else is beyond the beyond.

 

But mostly I think I am just plain overtired, which makes it triply difficult to focus my eyes on any one object, let only make doubled images fuse into a single image. So I will stop for now. Take the Soma and go to bed. Thanks for your forebearance. If I promised an email to anyone, I will try to get to to. Remind me if you want to. I meet with my siblings Martha and Philip tomorrow so I may be busy for ao while but I hope to be in less pain and more able to get back to people who have written me about things.

 

Ciao! Cheers! Shalom!

The Voices in my head: Collage art made At Yale Psychiatric hospital 2013

 

But in truth I screamed all three weeks and never stopped. I am still hoarse!
But in truth I screamed all three weeks and never stopped. I am still hoarse!

I just was released from the Yale New Haven Psychiatric Hospital and i regret to say that it was far from the kind and gentle “soft place to land” in a crisis that i remembered. Partly this was my fault, for wanting to not take the meds that i already knew would be forced on me, quite despite Dr Milstein’s assurance to my outside psychiatrist that he would never force meds or Zyprexa on me as “it doesnt work.”

No, I did not know that meds would be FORCED on me…Not until Robert Ostroff MD took over my care and made it clear he did not give a damn how I felt. He decided to punish me with massive doses of Haldol when I refused Zyprexa, and I know he is of an age to understand what he was doing. One, he is a Yale Physician, so he knew of the hearings in Congress back in the 70s where the Russian dissidents were complaining of TORTURE by Haldol injection, and where Congress actually decreed that the drug was in fact an instrument of torture when use on Russian citizens…He KNEW what he was doing to me, PUNISHING me. He just had the power to do it and could. So he did. He NEVER saw me to talk to me, NOT once. No, he just oversaw torture, and while Robert Milstein, MD (basically a good guy, if deluded into believing that psych meds are good for people) was supposedly on vacation, he too was available and did nothing to stop this. For that I do not forgive him…Or, I forgive him, but will never trust him to treat me again. No, I will never go back there.

In fact, I’m here to say that no hospital psychiatrist can be trusted when they promise not to force you to take drugs…that is what they are paid to do and are largely paid to believe in. It did me little good to try NOT to sound like i was ranting and raving esp when attempting to persuade either doctor or social worker in hospital to read Robert Whitaker’s ANATOMY OF AN EPIDEMIC or even borrow my copy of his MAD IN AMERICA, both books i find life and mind changing in a major way, even a year after i started reading them for the first time.

I dunno what to do though, in terms of meds. I function fine in between times in hospital, mostly. And so are the Abilify and Geodon helping or simply not Not preventing a relapse when it comes? There is reason to think that Geodon may be damaging my heart, slowly but surely. My EKG said something Dr Milstein refused to explain about a “probable infarct” but was that me, my heart or some general info on the EKG sheet? I wasnt allowed to look at it long enough and NO ONE answered my questions about it. Probably fearing i would stop taking the offending medication, which was true and i did anyway so they ought to have talked to me honestly.

But honesty is not a general policy in brutal psychiatric units where they restrain you, holding you down and bruise you to give you injections of Stat meds that are really ordered only because someone with the power to order them got angry and resentful…

I cannot sugarcoat my own demeanor during this stay. I was not a pleasant patient to anyone most of the time. And at the worst times i was likely considered horrendous. I screamed daily at the top of my lungs, i resisted their treatments physically and violently, i defecated on the floor of my room and even put handsful of shit across the walls, and apparently i even threw a cup of coffee at someone…though i do not remember doing this and the report may have been distorted by second hand information about me, coming back to me. But i was a horrible patient and one aide even called me, every chance he got, a dog, a pig, a swine….in covert secret ways, audible and openly but when no one else was around to hear him except the other aide who would back up his story that it never happened.

On the other hand, there were a few kind and compassionate understanding people who did not throw my smearing shit in my face or even take my calling them horrible names (bestowed on my vocabulary by a former friend who called me them) personally.

I need to enlist just such people for private duty help for the next relapse, if it should happen…but how? Ads on hospital cafeteria walls? How to vet the sign-uppers, so i do not get attendants that will abuse me in my own home? How to trust, and when, what they or references tell me? So many references are positive and therefore lies that they are tantamount to useless unless secretly negative!

Decisions decisions….must be made well before anyone is needed to help me at home….one to one, constant observation-plus!

Well, i am still recuperating, and worried about deep hip pain though seemingly improving is scary, reminding me of the avascular necrosis bout i had about five years ago. Was it meds induced? possibly because it healed magically in a month post radiographic dx, with a stay in psych hospital and change in those meds. But if i dont withdraw abruptly from, say, topamax or geodon, but slowly, will the hip pain continue, or evolve into worse than just, say, pain, but real bone destruction ans disability? Can i take any risks at all at age 60 with drugs that have no proven track record research wise, and seem to help me but may only being doing harm?