I cry when it gets too confusing. Or I bang my head against the countertop. Sometimes I do both. It seems a viable solution in a room full of mirrors.
The tears are not wet, they are trails of ideas about hollowness, echoes, and thirst. Black and blue are only colors, and make the canvas art. Otherwise, it’s whole cloth.
There is no drama, no need for affect. My tears flow with no value attached. The ache is merely fever. These are brief panaceæ, cloud breaks in a hurricane. There is no more a cure for loneliness than for gravitational pull.
I dream of a world where I live in the present with a past and a future and a friend. A life where I know the person beside me, the one beside them, and the next. We are connected like pearls named a new thing: necklace, treasure, pride.
A quarter-inch of skull separates my experience of you from yours of me, but schizophrenia insists that there is no difference. It holds me ransom for fortunes undiscovered. Artless, I agree to pay. No guy-wire, no safety net, an ill-fated Fool tripping into the firmament.
The riddle of the slideshow lies in my immediate memories: they are all I have to chart my course, and they’ve gone missing. I have lost the first image before the second one shines through. The blunt force of emotional trauma, like the countertop meeting the face, upends the slide tray and leaves the projector indifferent, revealing nothing. There is only now, and I am the only one here. That is the single piece of evidence defining this landscape of loss.
I am learning about this machine called my mind, how it keeps time colder than shadows. How the gearwheels and teeth and hammers and grease bring emptiness to life. Was there something here before? Was there someone in this room? Was a table set in anticipation of hands and hearts and joy?
The scrip sits idle on the bathroom shelf like dormant sea monkeys awaiting baptism. Ironic only in that a clumsy jump would award them grace and bless their evolutionary crawl. From sink to stomach, pills to Plath, beanstalks to giants, perchance to dream. I cannot feel my loneliness the way I feel touch. I am free falling faithless and afraid to land.
But there is hope. There is always hope. At least that’s what they say. I am not sure that I understand hope, or what it looks like in its natural state, but I imagine it feels a little like a mystery gift in the hands of a child. It is not on my map, but I’m willing to explore. I need to know more about who I am, what drives my illness to create this void. There was something here before. There was someone in this room. There was prayer, devotion, supplication – a time to dance and a time to sing.
I remember those days. They wrench me back away from the table, to a time when there was no place called home. When the meals were scraps from a stranger’s plate. Impersonating a waiter I could bus the dishes, eating what the diners left behind. In my darkest moments, when benediction held no sway, there were always garbage cans. I would tell myself that wasn’t me pawing through them looking for food. That it was a play, and I was Oliver twisted a tiny Gollum, seeking shelter from the rain under eaves in the alley. Precious like pearls, not alone and discarded.
I have hit myself and burned myself. I have cut my skin. I’ve starved myself. None of which has ever helped me manage the terror and confusion. Treatment has lit a ray of optimism, but I may have come too late to the table. A candle in the shadow of a sunspot is a flashlight on the dark side of the moon. Still, I am indebted for every person that has offered their help. Without them I would be institutionalized, homeless, or dead. Proof that kindness works miracles.
Conversation is the appetizer, action is the entree. Healing is the banquet, gratitude the fullness of spirit. I am thankful that my blankets which were once old coats are now cotton and not cardboard. I rest my head on a feather pillow rather than a sack full of papers. I dream of a world where I live connected, without discrimination and stigma.
Schizophrenia has taken me to places which, thankfully, few will ever have to know. I tell my story that others might be encouraged to share their own. And somehow, in a way I don’t yet fully understand, I find myself thankful for the loneliness which teaches me daily the values of humanity and love.