Crazy for Life

Escapades of a bipolar princess.

New Beginnings 2.0: Recovery started with a Yoda-like smile

Can a naked psychotic episode be the start of something good?

New beginnings have a funny way of well…beginning. A pivotal reboot of mine occurred shortly after my most florid and rather charismatic (if I do say so myself) psychotic break. Oh – ‘episode’ I should say, according to one of my ex-shrinks. I like to call them breaks, psychotic breaks. "Ooooh," she said, "let's not call them breaks. Why don’t we say episode?” Why the hell not? It was a break for me. I got a free stay at an all-inclusive ‘resort’: meals, activities and drugs to boot. Episode? Episode sounds like I’m having a bout of diarrhea or a hissy fit or something.

I lost my best summer dress on that last psychotic break. Sorry: episode. Anyway, in a nutshell: I spiraled into a manic delusional psychosis, walked out of my house and down the street looking for God. Yup. Then about two and half blocks later, it dawned on me that he (or she) probably wants to meet me like he made me. So that’s a no-brainer; I dropped my dress, my undies and my bra right in front of the volunteer fire hall (from what I understand, there was an increase in applications for volunteers that summer). I then proceeded to, not walk, but run (butt naked remember) to the nearest ‘God station’ or where I thought God would be stationed: a stop sign at the corner of 12th & Trimble. I didn’t meet God, but I did meet a couple of very nice ambulance guys and a police officer.

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A short ambulance ride later and I’m having my alumni visit to the psych ward. I get shacked up with three other patients in a ‘nice’ south facing, horribly appointed hospital ‘suite’. This is my fourth stay in club medication and there is definitely nothin’ sweet about it.

9:00 pm. Lights out. I'm under my covers. Blue blankets. Soft but sad. I want something else to be happening. Ill…mentally unstable…fragile state of mind…on med-i-ca-tion… psychotic…EPISODES. I cry myself to sleep.

I jolt awake from the rattle of a dark inky dream. Faint ticking of the wall clock: midnight. And I realize I’m still in the hospital – my reoccurring nightmare. The never ending roller coaster psych ward ride. In. Out. In. Out. In… 5 years of my way, my tricks, my strategies and my results: NOTHING. Nothing is working.

So the next morning, before breakfast, before anything, before my shower on cold tiles even: find a new shrink. One who I like. One I can respect. One I can grow to trust. No "oh, he's O.K., I guess " kinda stuff. My terms…or no terms! I ask a nurse for the name of a psychiatrist who does psychotherapy and works with his patients like partners.

“Dr. Dillon. He doesn’t have visiting privileges, though."

 “Ooh a rebel! Just like I like ‘em.” I think 'no visiting privileges' means that he's been kicked out of the hospital.

“Nooo,” she explains, “that just means he’s chosen not to do rounds.”

Hospital discharge. Finally. Thursday next. Monday next. Three weeks later. Four weeks later…seven…twelve…eighteen…twenty-one weeks later. Appointment. 3pm. Doctor Dillon’s.

A head pokes out: "Victoria?"

Oh my god! He's old. Really old! He's got white hair, a Mr. Rogers’ cardigan and orthopaedic penny loafers! Gawd!! What was the nurse thinking?! Here we go again….back to hell.

“Come in.”

I sit. Survey. Scrutinize. Very traditional office furnishings and a noticeable lack of colour.

“So…you were in Lion's Gate hospital a while ago, hmmm?” He checks sheets. Turns paper. Ticks points.

“Yup.” Like there'd be any other reason I'd come to a shrink.

“And you're doing?…”

“Ok… I guess.” Tears bubble. My feet feel warm, wooly. Like slippers.

“You were meditating before all this, right?”

“Yeah…” I hold my breath. And wait. For the dismissive cough. The patronizing stare.

“Mmm…have you read any Ginsberg? Kerouac? Castaneda? You might like them.”

“Huh?” He's not supposed to know about guys like that - he's a…he’s a…a science geek for crying out loud.

“So…” Here's his kicker question…man if he says one word off kilter - I'm gone, done - forget it and forget him. “Are you still meditating?”

“Yeah...” I can see the handcuffs coming. It's all about stopping me from being me. “Yeah I'm still meditating.”

“And…is it working?”

“Uh…”

He smiles, Yoda-like. Leaning forward, neck stretched, hands clasped under his chin and grins.

“What do you mean ‘working’? Enlightenment isn't something you DO, it's something you ARE.”

“Well…” Here it comes…telling me I'm misguided. That searching for enlightenment is only a distraction from my real problems, my real issues. That I am DELUDED, CRAZY, BONKERS, SCREWED UP!

“Well…is it enough for you…to…to keep you healthy?” I say nothing. I can't. My jaw tightens, hands heat up. “Maybe we can talk about your fears…your hopes…your dreams…your parents. See if medication might work for you.” I look at him. “You can fire me anytime you want.” He pushes the box of Kleenex towards me.

I look away, pull a tissue, stare hard at him again. “Okay, I guess. But I'm a bloody tough boss.”

“I bet you are.”

We worked together for five years. He was my ‘meat and potatoes’ shrink; he helped me get back onto my feet, into a job and out of my parent’s house.

That was my new beginning, one of my most significant and one of many in this road of recovery. Starting to trust someone and trying an approach different than my own.

Today: I take medication, go to counseling, practice Chi Kung, exercise, meditate and one part of me always watches for unusual darkness or too much light. Not putting on make-up when I normally would. Always wearing track pants. Buying fistfuls of scratch n’ wins with my credit card. Watching infomercials of the famous ‘Sham-Wow!’, the ‘Be-dazzler’ (check out the video) and of course the special edition Barak Obama ‘Chia-pet’ ‘til the wee hours of the morning. Or bingeing on Dairy Queen's Peanut Buster Parfaits day after day after day. I've memorized these signs. Likely, it means something's coming.

So, I change course, head it off at the pass, so to speak. The adjustments don't always stop the swings but can lessen their blow. I see my doctor, check my meds, have that shower, put on jeans, breathe, pray. Practice mindfulness. Practice compassion. And I remember the words of my Chi Kung teacher, Denise Richard “doesn't matter how many times we have tried, succeeded or failed, each breath is a new beginning."(1)

© 2013 Victoria Maxwell For info about my shows & workshops please visit www.victoriamaxwell.com

 Photo Credit

1. Richard, Denise; Love & Impasse: Revealing opportunities that lead us to realize our spiritual potential; 2012; page 103 www.firesofcompassion.com

Victoria Maxwell is a playwright, actor, and lecturer on her 'lived' experiences of bipolar disorder, anxiety, psychosis and recovery.

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