Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Doughterty's, after the voices

I go for a cool pint after my time at the VA.
I drink my first one quickly. The Afghani smiles at me. It's been a long time! I say.
He brings me another, on the house.
A man comes in. He cannot sit at the bar because of his stomach.
He sits near me. I am in the corner at my favorite table.
He orders a "Genesis" and looks at me to share in our mutual love of that black beer before continuing with a food order.
The waitress interrupts, "Oh, Guinness?"
"Yes, of course. What was I saying. Genesis, ugh."
I can't stand how embarrassed he is. It hurts me. He wanted to talk to me, about our choice in beer, and now he can't. Oh, it's terrible and it's a relief.
I continue to read, pretending I didn't see or hear anything.
He doesn't talk to anyone.
I finish, I leave.

Friday, October 9, 2009

VA and other things... doh!

I have been craving potatoes.

I think I should adopt an American bulldog to wear around my shoulders. It will be better than paying for a massage to push down the shoulders that want to creep up when I'm stressed. The bulldog will not allow such creeping. Yes?

Yesterday I heard that I was the one. The only one, the chosen one. I also heard that I was filthy, that everyone could smell me, that I was a pig. I heard a heart beat, whispering. I heard laughter, muffled screaming. Sometimes I heard all of this at once; all the while I was being processed at the "ER" by a disgruntled, abrupt intake nurse that couldn't understand why I was having a hard time counting backwards by seven. I then took a cognitive skills test in the "ER" while a TV blared. I had to read a passage in a short amount of time and then answer questions about it from memory. Whew. I could then take off my headphones.

It was a very effective demonstration of how difficult it is for someone with schizophrenia to function in our loud, fast world. It complete sensory overload for me. I was listening to the "voices" instead of the instructions from the nurse, I was trying to figure out what the whispering was saying, or just trying to make sense of all the noise. The most difficult part of the experience was trying to explain what the saying, "People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones," meant. I was better with concrete information, like the names of the last four presidents.

It did make me realize that I have to slow down and repeat things for the people that I interview. It also made me question the questions that we ask people in the ER. Counting backwards from seven would be difficult for me no matter what. What does that say about me? What do they want that to prove?

I learned that when someone is hearing voices, the same part of their brain lights up as when they are having a conversation with someone outside of their head. The voices are as "real" as they can get.

Baltimore City police officers took this training.

The VA is an interesting place. I had no idea what a self-contained environment it is. You get your drugs, your eyeglasses, your own ER, doctors, benefits, from the same place. The sixth floor houses all the mental health services. In the elevator no one wants to be seen pushing the button for 6. Military stigma (about mental illness) is the toughest stigma to overcome. Only 23% of those displaying symptoms get treatment. And then they have to battle stigma in the elevator. Intense.

Mom's surgery is on the 23rd of October. They are taking her whole thyroid. She might take a radioactive iodine pill. Radiation the cause and the cure?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Tomorrow I'm going to attend an all day training at the VA. Part of the training will require that I wear headphones that will play voices talking to me while I attend the seminars and lunch. It's supposed to simulate what it's like for someone with schizophrenia. I'm nervous about this, but I know that I'm lucky I can take off the headphones.

Monday, October 5, 2009


Mike Young of NOO (that's pronounced "new" but I don't know how to make the accent mark over the second o) is taking Gelatin. I'm going to be in print! Very exciting news.

Mom and I went to the movies yesterday. We watched Whip It. Drew Barrymore did an incredible job with this film. It has the sweetest, sexiest, silliest pool scene that I've ever seen. The couple in front of us at the theater said, "white people are weird," after the scene was over.

Oh, I was driving across the Delaware Memorial and I saw a bumper sticker that said, "God is Pro-life." I had to laugh. Then I imagined a hand coming out of the sky and flicking my car into the Delaware River. Exactly.

We are meeting with the surgeon later today. I've had a lot of coffee this morning.

I talked with Cole Swensen! She approached me before the i.e. reading. She wanted to know about my salt water tattoo. She thought of taffy. Most people do. That's very curious to me. I recited the Dinesen quote for her and then I asked her about the American Hybrid project. She said it took about five years to put together and that the process of compiling the book went against her thesis! I was surprised she was open about that. The thesis-- that there aren't schools of poetry anymore-- is so well argued in the introduction. She and the other poet that put the book together had different tastes and wanted different things from the book. I'm glad that I was early to the show because I never would have had the courage to talk to her. Her reading was incredible. I believe her last line was something like this:

an army of children clothed only in rage walking on their hands across the sea


The other two poets were incredible as well. It was a great night for Baltimore. I went home immediately after, though, because I had ridden thirty miles on my bike that morning(on the b&a trail) and needed sleep.

I woke up this morning to the scrabble of starlings in the flashing.