I started writing this book, Portrait of a Mental Illness, in September of 2005. It is a chronological journal of what I experienced living with Seasonal Affective Disorder.
May is National Mental Health Awareness Month. I'd like to share a bit of the book I've been working on since 2005.
(Part 1 of 2 posts): 'For him, life is a struggle within and without. Bryan (not his real name) described his frequent nightmares: "I'm walking down a long path, lined with flaming torches that lead to a door. I'm not afraid to open the door, but once I do, there is a roller coaster. I'm deathly afraid of roller coasters!" I envision the dizzying heights and the terrifying depths, the convoluted path of twists and turns, the total lack of control over where he is going, and when he will arrive there. He lives with bipolar disorder.
"All around the roller coaster are my greatest fears: the sinister memories torture me! They are terrifyingly real. I relive them constantly!" Described with frightening clarity, he is hurled toward them, at breakneck speed. "I'm forced to see them from every angle. It's a torture chamber!" He travels through space and time in that Machiavellian machine. "It's a ride that never ends..." '
(--excerpts from "Portrait of a Mental Illness," copyright 2017.
(Part 2 of 2 posts): Bryan (not his real name) has told me: ' "On more than one occasion, I've locked my door and tied myself to my bed, afraid of what I might do to myself or someone else." Bryan is immersed in past traumas, writhing in overwhelming anguish. "Suicide seems like the perfect solution," he says. "If I can get past that, and I survive, I'm dreading--and hoping--at the same time, that my next experience like this will be my last."
Survival is not a victory; it merely marks the end of another battle in this endless war.'
(--excerpts from "Portrait of a Mental Illness," c. 2017. Dixie-Lee Weber
His voice was odd; I'd heard it when he ordered food at Burger King, and observed him later sitting alone. Now he knocked on my door. Yesterday, I'd taken him and our other neighbor, Dave, to the Salvation Army, so we could all get food. "Here," he said, "you might as well have this loaf of bread. Dave and I are leaving today, and we won't be able to take it along. But, could you make me a couple pieces of toast and butter them?" I thought, what?? But my friend John had bought the butter for me, and my electric bill wasn't going to go up if I made two pieces of toast.
I offered him my hospitality, asking him to sit down. We talked about how we (and many others) were struggling with life--with finances, a place to live, just "fitting in" in the community. Neither one of us said "mental illness." The more Dan talked, the less strange his voice seemed. I could understand his speech better; it was more distinct. He said, "People are afraid of me because of my voice. Nobody seems to want to be near me. Some people hate me, and they don't even know me!" With tears welling up in his eyes, he said,"I don't understand why they can't see that I'm a person, too! And there's no need to be afraid of me-- I'd like to be friends." I cried with him."
September 27th, 2005. " . . . this physical disarray mirrors the tangled mess in my mind. Like a ball of yarn that is hopelessly knotted and twisted . . . all I can think of is how frustrating it is to untangle things. I was never good at that. I usually (and quickly) gave up in frustration, and searched for the scissors. Cut! Just cut! Cut anywhere! It didn’t matter if I had to throw a bunch of yarn away. I didn’t have the time or the patience to carefully remove the knots and . . .entanglements. Cutting leaves loose ends hanging, as connections are severed abruptly, and there is no chance to repair these. I cannot make them (or myself) whole again. I can't be part of that whole." --excerpt from "Portrait of a Mental Illness" c. 2017. Dixie Weber
"October 26, 2005. 8:30am. Lying in bed, I feel like a pancake—flat, as if I had been run over by one of those cement rollers you use when you glue down vinyl flooring. Or, like I’d been through the wringer of my mother’s old wringer washing machine. The clothes would come through, almost unrecognizable, like flexible surfboards. As they touched the clear, cool water in that big tin rinse tub, they blossomed back into what they were before. I wish I could do that. I wish I had a magic pool such as that—one that would wash away this flatness, and wash away all the pressures that have flattened me, and allow me to feel more than one-dimensional again, to feel human again."--excerpt from Portrait of a Mental Illness, c. 2017 Dixie Weber
Saturday morning, December 3rd, 2005. "I called my mother last night, and at least...she...was willing to listen to me.Thank God that SHE is still alive. I think about that with my own kids--that they'll need me--maybe more in the future than they do now. I never thought I would need my own mother so desperately, as I approach 49, in just a few weeks. She can't do anything, but she always listens, and says, "Love You!" at the end of every conversation, and I acknowledge that incredible gift by providing the counterpart: "Love you, too!" If she only knew how much those two words mean to me now! Just two words, delivered convincingly, and meant sincerely. Those two words: accepted graciously, believed humbly. My simple, but potent response, mirrors hers in semantics. It carries an intensity that cannot be shown, except perhaps in mathematical terms that represent a numeral raised to the power of infinity..
My own children and I use this ritual as well, although in these relationships, I am the Mother, the Giver: "Love You!" I say, then wait for their response. They know just what to say, as if programmed, And, I guess, in a way, they are. The continual giving of that love back to the source- readied for them to accept--connecting our hearts together in an unending circle." (excerpt from "Portrait of a Mental Illness, Copyright 2017. Dixie-Lee Weber.)
"December 8, 2005. 8 pm. I color my hair, and plaster my face with Queen Helene Mint Julep Facial Mask. I resemble the lady in a recent movie preview, who sticks her towel-wrapped head out of the bathroom doorway, wearing a ratty bathrobe, and some "beauty cream," and yells to her husband..."There better be some beer left for Christmas morning!"
I laugh hysterically at this! Then I recall I enjoyed several Miller Lites last Christmas, while waiting for my kids to come over and spend time with me. When my son arrived, we rented a movie. Ironically, the movie started out with a guy who was sitting home on Christmas, with his son, having a few beers, and watching a movie. My son and I stared at the TV screen, looked at the beer in our hands, looked at each other, and laughed.
So, art imitates life, and life imitates art, and thereby each reinforces the legitimacy of the other." --excerpt from "Portrait of a Mental Illness," c. 2017. Dixie Weber
"December 12, 2005.
I feel sick inside—actually nauseous—because of the despair that is welling up inside me. Do I tell someone? Do I suffer in silence? Do I end it all? Well, in that case, the more I write, the more “evidence” I’ll have to support that decision. So, I guess I can’t stop now; I’m not sure if I made my case yet. Of course, there is always the option of a plea deal…whatever that looks like." --Portrait of a Mental Illness c. 2017 Dixie Weber