Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Bombardiers & Birdhouses

I blaze with a deep southern magic. The bombardiers taxi at noon. There is screaming and grief in the mansions and the moon is a heron on fire. Man wonders but God decides When to kill the Prince of Tides...... (Pat Conroy, "The Prince of Tides")
I remember that in my first posting to this blog that I had quoted part of Pat Conroy's poem-- and that I had promised to tell you some other day what happens when "the bombardiers taxi at noon".
And I guess now is a good time to tell... But FIRST and foremost, I need to tell you that words just absolutely cannot express my humble gratitude and thankfulness to you, my readers-- each and every one of you--for your wonderful support and prayers. Simply saying "thank you" seems so inadequate for the magnitude and depth of how grateful I am for your support-- and how overwhelmed with joy I felt when I finally got released from the psychiatric hospital and was able to read your comments--which I read over and over, every one of them (and I bawled like a baby.)

You kind and generous people were constantly in my thoughts while I was there--and those thoughts of you sustained me in my darkest hours. And they gave me a flicker of hope... Because hope is something that dies a slow, painful death in many an alcoholic who is trying to stay sober when they, again, take that drink--knowing that they are poisoning not only their body but their very soul.

You are angels on earth--and please know that I love you with all my heart. In my ongoing efforts to stay sober you, too, will be in my daily prayers. I not only thank God daily for you-- but I will pray, too, that you may also gain relief from your own troubles in daily life.

Yes, troubles in life....

I came out of the hospital with my usual attitude--which is that I tend to hide my misery by trying to laugh about circumstances. Because if I wasn't able to laugh about something bad, I'd be crying....

And let me tell you, it was a real stretch this time to find a way to laugh....

But like good ole Douglas MacArthur, I went in saying "I shall return"--and by golly I did return.

Although there's an old saying that "every cloud has a silver lining", it's pretty difficult to see any silver linings when they haul you into a looney bin. And yes, they put me into the psychotic ward first. They took away all my belongings, especially sharp objects, and handed me back just a few pairs of sweatpants and shirts, with the explanation that they didn't want me to "have anything I could hurt myself with". They even took away my shoelaces. Now, what I wanted to know was this-- how in the hell could I hurt myself with stupid shoelaces? They aren't long enough to hang yourself with......

dang me, dang me.... (Oh no no no!!! Not the Dang Me song again! Good Lord, I thought, had it been a premonition?!! Let me change the subject quickly.....) Anyway, once in the psychotic ward of the looney bin I immediately thought "somebody get me out of here!" Of all the wards to put me on, I mean, couldn't they have put me on the mood disorder ward where the patients are being treated for depression? I am not ridiculing psychotic mental disease by any means-- but I felt that I was certainly coherent and not hallucinating or anything. So why in the Sam Hill did they put me on the psychotic ward? I wasn't hallucinating....I swear.....

Okay, may possibly have been related to the fact that I kept closing my eyes tightly and clicking my heels together, chanting over and over:

there's no place like home there's no place like home......

But it didn't work. After several unsuccessful tries I opened my eyes-- and upon finding myself still in the psychotic ward I stated to the startled doctor who was trying to examine me: "Dang it, I'm still here. It must not work with sneakers. Where is Glenda The Good Witch when you need her? Sheesh."

So there I found myself, in a ward with some very psychotic people. I felt like I was in the bizarro world of Pee-Wee Herman's Playhouse-- only there was no nice Chairy nor any good-looking Cowboys to look at. In fact, the day room's benches were rather uncomfortable and the only cowboy I noticed was an old man wearing cowboy boots who wouldn't talk but would constantly make the Woody Woodpecker noise:

"Uh uh uh UH UH,
uh uh uh UH UH,

God, there were times when I thought that if he made that Woody Woodpecker noise ONE MORE TIME that I WOULD become psychotic.... I began to mill around the day room like the others, wandering around waiting to see the doctor, waiting for meal time, waiting to get my blood drawn, waiting for anything to break the monotony, boredom, and the misery of detoxing from alcohol. Detoxing from alcohol addiction is no picnic--let me tell you that the medicines that they give you for the withdrawal may save you from the risk of seizures and the worst of the DT's, but it still doesn't take away the miserable symptoms of feeling like you're going to crawl right out of your skin and run screaming down the street like a madwoman.

But soon enough, I simply accepted my surroundings and began to think of the day room's plastic benches as nice Chairy's that I could talk to. (They had no choice--they HAD to listen.) And I found that if I squinted in just the right way while looking at the male patients, I could almost imagine them looking like Pee-Wee Herman's Playhouse Cowboy (as long as they didn't make the Woody Woodpecker noise....)

there's no place like home there's no place like home.....

Most of the other patients were actively psychotic, saying the most off-the-wall things you can imagine. One girl kept asking me if I was "trying to kill her".

I repeatedly told her that I was definitely NOT trying to kill her. She replied: "Yes you are or I wouldn't still be here."

I replied: "Guess you didn't have any Ruby Slippers either."

And she said: "Nope, just some old Hushpuppies."

When they finally moved me to the mood disorder ward, I was actually sorry to go. I had begun to like my buddies on the psychotic ward. They accepted me completely. They never once looked at me strangely or questioned my sanity--which happens a lot in my "real life" outside the hospital! (Hmmm.......)

When I got to the mood disorder ward I was allowed to go to the therapy groups. I read the schedule they gave me and was gratified to see that there was an "Arts & Crafts" therapy group, thank God. Being a knitter, you can imagine that anything remotely related to creating anything with color would definitely be appealing. Especially when most of your day is spent wandering aimlessly in the halls of your ward or else going to "serious" groups and listening to counselors beating your alcoholic sins into your head.

Because the "serious" therapy groups were rough. The first day, I went to one where we had to go around the room and introduce ourselves and tell everybody else "why we were there". I felt very shameful and humble when I mumbled my own introduction: "Um...yes...I'm Bohemian Knitter and I'm here to withdraw from alcohol addiction."

Then the guy next to me said: "I'm Mr. So-and-So and I'm here because I murdered my neighbor."


there's no place like home there's no place like home.....

Finally, I was allowed to go to the Arts & Crafts therapy group. Now, let me just tell you an aside here: I have been in alcohol treatment centers and psychiatric hospitals many times before in my life. And I have always made it a habit to give the stuff I make in Arts & Crafts group to my mother.

I mean, being a knitter, I tend to like to give away the things I make, be it a knitted garment or something from the Arts & Crafts group from the looney bin. And let me tell you-- as many times as I've been in treatment centers or psychiatric hospitals--I could decorate an ENTIRE house with the things I've made. You name it, I've made it in an Arts & Crafts therapy group...

So finally I got to line up with everybody else to go to the Arts & Crafts room. .

just follow the Yellow-Brick Road

just follow the Yellow-Brick Road....

Once there, the counselor informed us that we would be making "bead bracelets and necklaces".

Being the smart-aleck that I am, I could not RESIST asking: "Why in the hell is it okay to string beads onto a leather necklace here but yet I cannot have my stupid shoelaces? What if someone hangs themself on their beaded necklace, huh? Did you ever think about that? Huh? I mean, the logic here just doesn't make sense..."

I would have continued this soliloquy but she interrupted me, looked at me evenly and replied: "Will you please sit down and cooperate or you will not be allowed to come to Arts & Crafts Therapy anymore."

I sat down and shutted up.

She started passing out the beading supplies and I couldn't help myself--I had to say something again. Although I did change my verbalization to a more polite tone, I figured that if my hard-earned insurance dollars were paying about two zillion dollars a day for this then I wanted to have SOME choices for my money's worth!

"I'm sorry," I told her, "No can do. I have already made my mother about 1,000 beaded necklaces and bracelets when I was in other looney bins. Could I please have something else to make--something I haven't already made for her?"

The counselor sighed and rolled her eyes, replying: "Alright. How about painting these little mosaic plaques?" I looked at what she was pointing at. They were little plastic plaques with pictures of giraffes or dragon-flies on them--they were supposed to resemble stained glass once you got them painted. Hardly! I thought.

"Nope," I stated evenly. "My mother is a bonafide artist--and she works with REAL mosaics and stained glass--and she'd rather die a thousand deaths than hang up a fake plastic one. Please, isn't there something else?"

Now the counselor was starting to get a little exasperated with me. I was clearly upsetting her desired order of things in her Arts & Crafts group and I'm sure she was about to throw me out altogether.

Sighing pointedly, she exclaimed: "Now listen here. It's not like we're Hobby Lobby here! The only other thing I've got is these little wooden birdhouses that you could put together and paint."

"Yes!" I cried exuberantly, "That's perfect! My mother COLLECTS birdhouses! Lemme make one of those!"

And so I did. I made my mother a birdhouse.

For days I worked on this dumb little birdhouse. But it's hard to do when you're on medication which makes you see double and the psychotic patient next to you keeps reaching for something, accidentally brushing against your freshly-painted birdhouse, smearing your paint job. But dang it, I made that stupid birdhouse.

Now, I wouldn't call it "high art" but it's a birdhouse, okay? And since there's not much excitement when you're in a looney bin, I was rather pleased that I had actually "made something".

As I sat there admiring my finished birdhouse, the patient sitting next to me remarked: "You should have made a belfry."

But I had a quick retort. "For your information," I replied acidly, leveling what I thought was a "steely cold glare" at the wise-en-heimer, "but my mother does NOT collect belfries."

He couldn't think of a good reply and kept silent. Hah, I thought. Fixed his little red wagon.

* * * * * *


"People say I'm the life of the party

Because I tell a joke or two,

Although I might be laughing loud and hearty

Deep inside I'm blue...

So take a good look at my face--

You'll see my smile looks out of place--

If you look closer, it's easy to trace

the tracks of my tears........"

(Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, "The Tracks of My Tears")


Anonymous said...

Hey girl!!!! Good to see you :) As I said in my previous comment I know nothing about all what you've been going through (except for the depression although mine was very mild). I didn't realise that you would get out so fast again. Will you now go on a 12-step program or is that only something from the movies?

Your birdhouse looks very nice :)
Cheers Eva

Anonymous said...

Welcome back, and thank heaven you can still find something funny about looney bins! Because that's the #1 sign of sanity for sure ...

I'll bet it feels good to hold those needles again, though ...

Brewgal said...

Welcome back!

Teri.p said...

Good to have you back!

I can sure sympathize with you on the looney bin issues. I spent some time at the nut hatch in Tucson, in addition to my shoelaces, they took the paperclips out of my purse. and there was no showerhead - just squirted out a hole in the ceiling. And yeah, I made beaded necklaces and keyrings.

Anonymous said...

Good luck. I've been sober for 20.5 years and I've always known I was one drink away from being a drunk again. You're on the right track again. Don't drink, go to meetings, and you'll be fine. Hang in there and don't let those who don't understand your situation get you down. (Some of the best things I ever learned in 12 step meetings came from people who used humor to talk about it.)

Alana said...

Glad to see you back! I kinda like that birdhouse. Much better than a beaded necklace or a plastic mosaic.
I've not dealt with alcoholism or depression (at least not my own) but have had my own demons. Finding the humor in things like you do helps bring you through. Keep it up!

Anonymous said...

You're a hoot and I'm thrilled you are out and writing about it! Your birdhouse needs to go on the wall just to the left of the white one (in the photo) at your Mom's. Proudly. A trophy. Also, find yourself some ruby slippers (no shoelaces). Girl, you need some for sure. Hey, I'm 22 years sober and it's way easier than drinking. Lot less crazy and painful. Your good brain will lead the way....

Anonymous said...

Best damn birdhouse in Texas!! So glad that you are back in your own world. Wishing you a good day, every day in every way. All the very best ~Sheila in NC

Anonymous said...

Bless you, your recovery and your humor! I don't have the alcohol addiction; I have a food addiction and currently managed depression. I was allowed supervised knitting in the Mental Health Center, thank all gods everywhere - it helped. I salute you - your honesty is refreshing and I wish you the best of life, the universe and everything! aka Macy L.

Anonymous said...

Just found your blog and loved reading, I am so glad you are back home!
I used to suffer from depression, and spent some time in a "looney bin". It was not fun. I remember walking toward the wall phone while following a man wearing a diaper! I could hear it rustling as he walked!
Your bird house is beautiful. I made one of those ugly plastic painted fake stained glass window things. I left it in a wastebasket when I went home.
Stay well! Your writing is wonderful, you are important on this planet!
My best advice is to drink lots of WATER with a pinch of sea salt in it. It helps everything, I kid you not.

Otter said...

There is an old English Ballad that pulled me through some tough times. I would give you the details, but can't find it right now. But can give you the most important part....
I will lay me down and bleed a while.
Though I am wounded, I am not slain.
I shall rise and fight again.

Anonymous said...

It's SOOOOOO Good to see your back and safe and funny. My mom, who suffered from mental illnes a good portion of her adult life, always used to tell me that if you smile long enough - it becomes a habit, and that's better than no smile at all. I thought she was nuts at the time, and while it was true, she was, she was also right. But I didn't figure that part out for many years - until I had troubles of my own.

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