Tag Archives: Loneliness

A Poem for My Aging Mother

My poor mother is suffering from dementia at 87 and it is very sad and difficult to watch her decline. I will write more if I can at some later time about it but for now I want just to post a poem I wrote for her years ago and then rewrote completely recently.

 

Over the years we have had some troubled times. Because my father disowned me for some thirty-five years, she had to make a choice between him and me, essentially, and the one she made was obvious. I was out of the house by then and I am not sure it ever really occurred to her to make any other choice, but who knows? I do not. In any event, I bear her no bad feelings for this, I do not think. Though had I been “her son” with schizophrenia i believe the outcome and her choices might well have been very different, as they always were when it came to my brother.

 

But that is water under the bridge. The choice was made and I was sacrificed. That said, perhaps it is a good thing, I dunno. If she had given up her life for me,  I might never have developed any independence at all, or written the poems and books I have.  I might never have discovered my art abilities. Who knows? No one knows, of course, what their “alternate futures” might have  held. We can only work with what we have and the cards we are dealt. We can’t make others choose on our behalf. Much as we might wish them to.

 

I never wanted my mother to give up her life for me. I felt guilty enough, just for being the way I was. The worst thing in the world would have been for her to make any sacrifice for me at all. For anyone to have done so would have been damaging to me. So I am glad that everyone went on their way, because otherwise I would have had to kill myself in apology.

 

I could say much more but I am sleepy so without further fanfare, the poem:

 

PHONE CALL TO MY MOTHER AT SIXTY

 

I have not thought of you all day.

A March wind rattles the wires,

wishing you a belated happy birthday.

You are sixty, my grandfather ninety,

my younger sister thirty,

but if there is significance in that,

a syzygy, some conjunction in the heavens

I have yet to figure it out.

Your husband answers, my father,

aligned against me north-north,

between us implacable silence.

So we sidestep confidences,

suspecting he is listening in

until in the distance the line clicks

like a playing card in the spokes.

But even so, how carefully we speak,

expelling words of fragile allegiance

each of us pretending not to know

what the other is thinking.

 

Suddenly you confide, you feel old:

the baby is thirty, you don’t like

your new job, you miss teaching,

the exuberant children, their bright

and lazy charm. There is so much to do,

so little time. Before it is too late

 

you want to captain a boat to the Azores,

learn cabinet-making — you have the tools,

a lathe, a power saw, inherited from your deaf father

who never heard you speak

but built you a fabulous dollhouse

and taught you, at ten, to sink the eight ball.

 

Could I ever confide that I, too, feel old? At thirty-five

you had a husband, four children,

a career in the wings. Older by a decade, I rent

a single room and have no prospects

beyond the next day’s waking.

Instead I carefully quote Joseph Campbell’s

advice: follow your bliss.

And I remind you Aquarians always step

to a different drum’s thunder.

You like these clichés,

and laugh, repeating them, then you say

with a sudden spontaneous sincerity

that moves me how good it is to talk with me.

I think of all the times we have not spoken,

how at sixty it would be nice

to have a daughter to talk with

instead of friends wakened in the night,

reaching over husbands or wives,

to answer the phone, “Hello? Hello?”

their wary voices expecting

death or disaster.

 

You are tired, you say now,

you have an early appointment.

We promise each other a date for lunch.

But I will not call for a long time.

Or perhaps I will call the next day.

Before you hang up, you let slip

it’s your wedding anniversary, one

marked by some mundane substance —

stone, carbon, foil, rope.

Should I congratulate you, I wonder,

or console you? Finally, we say good-bye.

Across the wires I think I hear

your voice crack, but it could be the wind

or a bad connection.

New Poem: About Mutism

Bird in Cage - Papier mach by Pamwagg
Standish Bird in Cage – Papier mache by Pamwagg

PHILOMELA* edited after months of mutism

I haven’t spoken out loud in several weeks

bullied into a frightened by myself silence.

Though what does “speechless” mean

in these days of text-to-speech software,

with its choice of Vikki or Samantha or Victoria voices,

Or when I’m possessed of a blogging platform

and writing fluency enough to speak my mind to my heart’s content?

Still, being mute is not a manner of speaking.

i tell you I could speak, I can talk. Nothing physical impedes

my tongue, or locks my lips,

except my brain’s hallucinated snarls, like Jerry Mahoney

and Charlie McCarthy thrown into surrounding shadows

ordering up this stoppage, blockage, blockade.

Now, like that fire-fangled bird at the end of the mind

feathered unlucky, tarred, locked in golden cage

my voice remains only a memento

of everything that I wanted
to say, but couldn’t get out, I couldn’t get out, I couldn’t get it out…

*In the Greek myth, Philomela is raped and has her tongue cut out by Tereus, the husband of her sister Procne. Rendered mute, Philomela weaves a tapestry detailing the crime to inform her sister, who, enraged, takes revenge on Tereus. At the end of the story, both Procne and Philomela are transformed into birds.  Some versions have Philomela become a nightingale, the female of which does not sing. In other versions she becomes a swallow, which is a non-singing bird.

Depressed, Disconsolate and Distressed…Why??? With updates

The Scream by Pamwagg © pamela spiro wagner All rights reserved
The Scream by Pamwagg © pamela spiro wagner All rights reserved

 

I feel like screaming, I am a human being, you effers, treat me like one! But of course, that is what I would say only to one group of people, the hospital personnel who so tortured me, and not everyone does that. Though I get this sense that a lot of people treat me like I am my diagnosis and not a real HB…if you know what I mean. As soon as they know you carry some sort of MI Dx, and I do not blab about that, but they find out, esp if they know the meds I take, then they suddenly do not trust me any longer, trust that I live a life that even remotely resembles theirs. Suddenly they seem to believe that I am not like them in anything that they could possibly begin to believe in. Or worse that they cannot “get into my mind” and therefore they assume that I live in some world that they cannot possibly comprehend either…

Weirdly enough, I live assuming the precise opposite, that our worlds are pretty much the same, that what I think, they pretty much think. I assume that whatever differences there may be, they are very small when it comes right down to it, and that they are miniscule in the larger plan. So it hauls me up short when I realize that they believe they cannot understand me. And are afraid of me and do not want to try to get to know me, because of that fear. And it makes me feel VERY MUCH ALONE.

 

You who are married or have relationships or have had them in the past, you do not know how lucky you are. I never have. I have never loved anyone, nor felt that I was safe with someone and not going to be abused or taken advantage or or simply that I was with a person I loved and was loved by and was their first priority. Not someone who was my peer. Yes, for 7 years I was, I think, my father’s priority, maybe his first priority, I dunno. I felt cared about and loved. But he was my father and he owed that to me. I ought to have felt that way all my life. All children should feel loved and cared for by their parents…no matter what.

 

I feel so alone, so alone. I do not know who to turn to or who to talk to. I do not know what to do or how to stop this juggernaut from sliding down into the abyss, taking me with it . It started with the headache all week, which went away yesterday but came back with a vengeance again today! I feel like no one in my family cares about me or even likes me except perhaps my brother, and he may do so on sufferance, I dunno. I do not trust anyone…

 

How can I? I have been so broken by people who said they cared about me and wanted to help me and then tortured me (hospitals) or abandoned me (my father) that I have no reason to trust or love…I do love my family, mind you. I even like them all. But it doesn’t even matter to them whether I love or like them, my like and love are meaningless to them, worse they are burdensome to them.

 

I sense that this is often the case, and it is why I have never bestowed my love on anyone: people do not want my love, not my real undying love. They would fear it and hate it. It would be a huge burden on them. So I haven’t burdened anyone in the world with my love ever. Because I would never do anything so evil to anyone, not even my worst enemy…though I do try to practice love thy enemy, as I have said, and I try to make my enemies my best friends. Nevertheless, I would not in fact give my enemy the worst burden of all, the loathsomeness of my heart. Who could stand it, who could tolerate it? I would rather die than think that I had so oppressed any person with something so intolerable.

 

But oh, how I cry to think that I am so loathsome, and why is it? Who and what am I that I am so disgusting? Why did I turn out this way? I always tried to do good, and to do it secretly so no one would be embarrassed or have to thank me…and now what am I but a disgusting turd who only oppresses the world with her presence. Whose love and heart would only horrify the person to whom she gave it…Not that I would dare do so, but that is because I understand the horror of such a gift-curse.

 

How did this happen? What happened? It will never change, I know that. It is a fact of my existence, of Existence itself. My father cared about me, but he also know how burdensome I was…He was glad to die and leave me, I think. Or perhaps he could handle my loathsomeness because he didn’t have to deal with me much…Who knows. All I know is that I am alone, alone, alone…and I will never be anything but alone. How can I go on, knowing that? Oh, I will. I will go on. But how do you? Faking it, always, pretending to people that all is fine and dandy, because no one wants to know how awful things are, NO ONE. If they did, it would only be another intolerable burden…

So you fake it and smile and go on…That is all anyone can do, right? Stiff lower lip and square your shoulders and pretend it is okay. Because you have to have people like you, or smile at you…or you will die. And unless you want to die and you do not, you need those fake smiles back at you for food to relieve the loneliness that nothing and no one will ever fill.

____________________________________

Sorry about this post, but i had to write it. I had to get it off my chest or I would have cried all evening. I promise I am working on the Liebster Aware, slowly but surely. I still need to get all the 11 blogs in order, and the questions written, but I plan to do that on the train to NC on Wed. Perhaps I will have it all done by the time i am back on the 17th. My apologies for the self-pity in this post. I try not to sit there, but I cannot always keep my head above water, or my arse off that pot. I’ll try to do better. But if I cannot be honest here, then I won’t continue to write. It isn’t worth it to lie here and have to lie about how I feel everywhere else as well. Okay?

 

Thank you for listening, if you did. Thank you from the bottom of my impoverished, dried up, lonely old heart.

 

Pam W

I wanted to add certain comments that were particularly to the point. Here is one or two from Lady Quixote:Dear Pam,
I liked this post, although I hate that you are in such pain, I like the honesty, I applaud the bravery, very very much. And oh yes I do understand, I relate with all my being, to virtually every word you wrote in this post, and in these your comments, too. Both comments.

As I’ve told you, I am writing a memoir about my similar history. I’ve changed the working title on my book a few times: From Here To Insanity, Healing From Broken, Growing Up Crazy, and some others. The working title I have now is my favorite. I’m now calling my book GOING CRAZY, a memoir of horror, hope, and healing.

The pain, the loneliness, the “shame” and isolation of having a been labeled Mentally Ill…. the label is a curse that hurts as much, if not more, than the disorder itself.

Here are the words I have on the cover of my memoir-in-progress, words that echo this post to the marrow of my bones. I have this on the front cover:
Mental illness seems to run in my family. (So does Protestantism and the tendency to vote Republican.) What causes mental illness: nature, nurture, or a combination of things? After a series of traumatic events, I had a “breakdown” at age 14 and was put in an insane asylum for 2 years. For the past 4 decades I have tried to forget my allegedly schizophrenic episode. But when I learned—in the midst of a family crises—that my first great-grandchild was on the way, I embarked on a Madness Marathon in search of answers.

And this is on my back cover:
Was I Cured of Schizophrenia? Do I Have “Complex” Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

MY MIND WAS BROKEN—DOES THE “LABEL” MATTER?

The extreme childhood trauma that caused my mind to shatter was painful. Being diagnosed with schizophrenia at age fourteen and placed in a state insane asylum for almost two years was even more painful.

But my most damaging experience by far has been the shame and isolation I’ve lived with for over forty years, caused by the demoralizing stigma of having been labeled “mentally ill.”

For most of my life I’ve tried to hide my history. Now I’m telling my story to help transform the hurtful prejudice borne of ignorance, into the healing mindset of understanding and compassion. Having recently become a great-grandmother, I feel compelled to write my memoir as a legacy of truth and enlightenment for my adult children and grandchildren, who have suffered so unfairly as a result of my emotional wounds. I am also sharing my story for anyone with a background similar to mine, to let you know you’re not alone.
………………………..
I’m sending you love and hugs and compassion in my heart and mind right now. I hear you. Loud and clear. I have stopped communicating with a sister who refused to honor my request to please stop passing messages on the me from our mother, particularly the “tell Lynda I love her” messages. NO, my mother does not love me. Her actions have proven it over and over and over again. I told my youngest sister: “I’m not asking you to agree with me or believe me, I’m not asking you to take sides. We can agree to disagree about whether or not our mother loves me, that’s OK with me. All I ask is that you please stop telling me that she does.” My sister said nothing, no response of any kind to my request. Then a few weeks later she posted right on my Facebook wall, on Christmas Eve of 2012: “Merry Christmas Big Sis, and Mom says to tell you how much she loves you.” I deleted that message off my wall, and my sister then deleted her account… so I deleted my account, for over a year, only coming back to FB a couple of months ago to keep up with my grandchildren.

I think we know when we are not loved, when we are not wanted, considered an embarrassment and a burden. I have grown nieces who do not know me, but they would post rude things on Facebook about me because I was locked up in an institution and diagnosed with schizophrenia 46 years ago. I was released from that place 44 years ago. I have had numerous doctors and therapists over the years tell me that I was misdiagnosed, I had PTSD or something else. But in my family of origin’s eyes, all but a couple of my relatives still treat me like the embarrassing crazy lady…. it HURTS. Yes it does. It EFFING HURTS. Worse than the pain and horror of “going crazy” in the first place. You SEE it in their eyes, you HEAR it in their words, their tone of voice, you DISCERN it in their body language, that “jumpiness” that 99% of the people get when you tell them, or they otherwise find out, about your MI Dx. It’s like a mask comes down over their face…. and you feel that ARCTIC CHILL, the deep-freeze of being frozen out.

Also, Pam, in a marriage the loneliness and the judgments, the raised eyebrows, the rolled eyes, the heavy sighs, the thoughtless comments, such as my now EX husband made to the intake nurse at Johns Hopkins University Hospital Psychiatric unit, where I had gone voluntarily hoping for HELP with my then-intractable depression. In describing the harrowing traffic in the streets of Baltimore as he had driven me to the hospital that day, my now EX quipped: “The traffic was so bad, I thought *I* was going to go crazy, HAHAHA.”

NOW I am lucky, NOW I am married to a man with severe chronic PTSD from Vietnam combat, a man who has spent time as a patient on a psych ward, so he UNDERSTANDS and does not hold himself above me or apart from me.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again and again and again until I die: The CURE for all types of mental illness labels must begin with CARE: Compassion, Acceptance, Respect, and Encouragement. Everything that is the opposite of the shunning, the subtle cold shoulder, the jumpiness that we can SEE and FEEL and HEAR because, yes, dammit, we may have a screw loose here or there, but we are not stupid, deaf, or blind.

And this:
Oh no, I just went back and reread my comment, and it’s full of typos. So sorry, I was writing in my emotional part of my brain, not in the editing part. Also I put that the message that made me go off FB for over a year was posted Christmas Eve of 2012. Obviously that’s wrong, it was 2011.

Brenda, I wanted to tell you that I appreciate the things you wrote, too, particularly the part about our need to be kind and loving to ourselves. So true. It’s also very true, what you said about hospitals being an unnatural setting, and that we cannot read minds, and there may be times when we are mistaken in thinking that certain people do not really like or love us. I do believe that is also true. However, that jumpy feeling you so honestly said you feel when you discover that someone has an MI Dx,,,, thank you for being so honest, and yes, that is an all-too-typical response, and it is THAT RESPONSE, that involuntary attitude of the general public toward people with certain mental illness diagnosis, that jumpy reaction is very easy to discern. And it may be involuntary and unintentional and even understandable, thanks in large part to how the media portrays people with serious MI labels, BUT.IT.HURTS, when YOU are the one being looked at and talked to like you are a freak, the boogie man, a strange and unpredictable creature from another dimension.

I am lucky to finally have my “certifiable” husband, whom I did not meet and marry until we were both in our 50s, and our sweet fur-baby Cattle Dog, who doesn’t know a thing about Mental Illnesses and couldn’t care less, so long as we feed and water and walk her and give her lots of back rubs. I worry about you, Pam, feeling so alone. Loneliness is a soul killer. I know, for I have spent the vast majority of my life feelings just as alone as you describe in this post, yes, even when I was married. In my experience, there is nothing more lonely than being married to someone who talks down to you and treats you like the worst of the personnel in the psych hospitals treated you. I don’t know why a man who looks down on the mentally ill would even want to marry me in the first place, when I had not ever hidden that part of my history from a potential husband. I can only surmise, based on how I was treated, that a man like that is looking for a woman he can control and verbally and even sometimes physically abuse, cheat on her and do whatever the heck he wants when he wants, and feel all justified about it and superior to her because, after all, his wife is “crazy.” I would rather live all alone under a bridge and eat out of garbage cans, to ever be in a marriage like that again!

Note to Lynda from pam: i looked and looked but just could not find any typos to correct for you…sorry. The date part i let you correct in your note, but the spelling typos just do not exist so far as i know or even that spellcheck can see. I know that there could be homonyms that were misspelled, but i did not detect any of those either. So there! 8) thanks for your brilliant addendum!