mask

she is so perfectly agreeable

with her fading eyes and lost smile

they only see her bravery

looking past her hollow words, her slowing breaths

how she longs to not be so perfectly agreeable 

yearns to not care 

get lost in her own storm 

twirl, get tangled up with the wind

and prove you wrong

cause remember, you think she’s so strong

but if you listen, you’ll hear the subtle quake to her voice

the whispery sound of her words

she’s had lots of time to practice not being heard

cause it ends so badly, her being around

so she glides around the house

without making a sound

and she’s fed up, did you notice that?

she is so perfectly agreeable

as her antsy soul waits and waits to be born

but she wants to get lost like her smile and fading eyes

till she is no more 

gracefully, forcibly

yet unnoticeably slip away, but even in that

she would be so perfectly agreeable

the year

The day he turned 15, she was attacked by wolves in the parking lot of her son’s therapist.  The drive had been long, and when she looked in her rearview mirror, she found her son staring out the window, holding his hands praying.  She stepped out of her car when the wolves overtook her son.  Men were fixing tires and changing the oil in the nearby lot, but they couldn’t hear her cries over their noise.  A woman waited in her car but didn’t appear to want to help.  People were ordering their lunch in the McDonald’s drive-thru but didn’t seem to see.  

The biggest wolf, the one with the pale eyes, came from behind her and snagged her shirt while the other two clawed at her arms till she bled.  She danced around the lot for what seemed to be forever, but they had just wanted to play with her, they were bored.  Or maybe one had heard a voice and convinced the others of its scheme.  Perhaps they just had their usual bad thoughts.  

She walked into the therapist’s office holding her bleeding arms.  Her face collapsed into her trembling hands, and she cried out of exhaustion.  She left forty-five minutes later and drove north to eat crap food while her son sat next to her and turned 15.  The year where most young blossoms are getting permits and going to movies with friends.  The year of growth and possibilities.  But she sat grieving as he turned another year older yet seemed to stay the same.   

The year he turned 15 – every sound hurt her ears.  The lawn mowers, the closing of doors, that chip bag, her spoon against the bowl slurping up Rice Chex.  Even the gorgeous birds had a way of gnawing at her brain.  Some of the bird calls would make her wince and moan.  One day she chased blue jays out of the coconut palms; their territorial sounds stabbed at her eardrums.  She watched them soar up to the clouds with their excited calls.   Good riddance.  Then she’d go back to her hell to make her coffee and there she could even hear the sound of her forming tears. 

The year he turned 15 – they made it a habit of keeping shoes by their back door for sudden escapes.  Run quick, they did.  The neighbors probably thought they were playing chase, but they were running from his frenzy, his fury, his fuming, his fists.  Those fists that always landed on her arms.  Arms that became swollen and purple mixed with an odd charcoal gray.  But she had stopped reaching for the ice.  It was the year where toasters flew off the counters and where doors were torn off hinges as if by Hulk himself. 

She’d listen attentively and say all the right things, but she’d still get new marks by the end of the day.   What was wrong with her?  Would she ever get it right, this business of raising her complicated, miserable, yet beautiful son?  She still loved him though, and on a good day, she would play with the back of his hair.  Golden, wispy, slightly curled up hair.  She’d think.  Why is it dread instead of joy, looking at this man that’s still a boy?  And wonder.  Is love even enough?

And then mid-way through the year, he came after her with such rage, her arms abandoned her.  They were tired of the pain, so they just simply ran away.  It wasn’t her choice, of course, she had loved her arms.  It was all those desperate words and his sheer brute-force.  So she stood around with no arms, and when he went ballistic, he had no choice but to go for her face.  And by this point – she wished she was far out in outer space, floating about only hearing the sound of her heartbeat.  It would be a familiar sound.  

That year, she went half dead and was almost unrecognizable.  She stopped marveling at the black butterflies that slowly fluttered past.  And when the swans tried to drown each other, she didn’t interfere; she didn’t shed a tear.  She stopped buying orchids; they just didn’t take her breath away as they had.  She lost her spark – the whole damn world made her mad.  She chose to swim with the sharks than heed the lifeguard’s warnings.  Watch its shadow cruise past then place her broken hand on its fin and tell it to swim.  Look up to the blazing sun, be amazed and give everything up to Him.

 

 

hidden

there’s a suitcase in the far corner of my closet

the older one with the worn brown

checkerboard pattern and a faded luggage tag

can’t make out the name any longer

not going anywhere anyway

and if I pretend

the flattened leather handle still feels warm

probably from when you used it last

back when life was happy and our souls were stronger

sometimes when things get loud

I want to place a blanket in that suitcase,

in the far corner of my closet,

crawl inside, zip it up and lie

quietly, silently

will he find me

I want to say aloud

but I don’t dare make a sound

these days, these long days

after the first door slam, I want to bolt

run far before the terror takes hold

but no

I have to stand there and take it

stand there and stand there

stand there and fake it

place my trembling hands in my pockets

ignore my heart pounding in my ears

taste the rapid beats, choke them down

why is it getting so difficult

I’ve been doing this for years

every time I enter my closet

I give that suitcase an extra glance

maybe one day I could do it

run quick when I have the chance

when I’m first warned

place a blanket inside, make it cozy and warm

crawl inside, zip it up

lie quietly, silently battered and worn

momentary

Do you remember the seashore?  Do you remember the water?  How it cooled us, held us, renewed us that day on the shore.

That day where we escaped what we’re going through and just focused on the crests of foam breaking down as it came in twos, chasing each other; only to be crushed by the bigger waves that almost always followed.  It always seems to follow.  But for those few hours – we pretended that it would not.  We closed our eyes and felt the sun soothe us, we calmed our trembling brains.  We breathed in the salt air – tasted it on our lips.  Breathed it in again and held our breath.  Is this what peace feels like?  Stillness.  Roaring in our ears.

Opposite of  being lost in the fire where our whispers turn to shouts.  Remembering all the battles, but the scars we’ve lost count.  Fleeing from the panicked, pale creature with the crazed blue eyes and drowning out the threats to die, his sighs, the cries.

Perhaps that is why I liked it there,  I’m nothing compared to that vast place.  In that place, I was only between the sand and the sun;  I wasn’t an emotional stress ball for my autistic son.

That day, I reclined and watched you play in the water.  The sun sprayed off your back and you looked happy.  The possibilities were endless and you sang with the mermaids in my dreams that night.  I watched the seagulls choreograph a flight to the violins that played in my head.  Those beautiful violins.  Is this what mercy feels like?  Those moments, that place.

 

 

madness

 Does it mean I love you any less,

 if I want to keep the best of you,

 but want to change the rest?    

 

I don’t know why I’m feeling the way I do.  The way I was last night, it wasn’t me, it wasn’t right.  But he started up again; wanting this, wanting that.  Throwing this, throwing that.  He took my phone and jammed it into his wall.  The glass is shattered, I can barely make a call.  I tried to keep him in his room as you were moving his wooden toy toaster and his broom.  Removing scissors, long objects, and most anything that he could turn into a weapon.  We, unfortunately, know that part too well.  I kept him in his room as long as I could, but I let him run out, thinking that it would help calm him.  He said he was calmer anyway.  What a good storyteller he is.  Off to the sitting room he went, to put holes in the walls.  I tried for ten minutes, but I wasn’t able to block them all.  Out he ran, he said his blood sugar felt low – 

Ok, I’ll test you – let’s calm down, let’s go…”

He tried to go into your room – to put holes in the wall…he said. 

My voice got louder, my face burned with confusion, exhaustion –

Please calm down.  Please go to your room and calm down.”  Please, over and over again.

He punched my arms harder.  I grabbed his arms just to stop the pain, and you thought I took it too far. 

Mom, give him space – let’s have space!”  You repeated yourself louder and he felt more rage.  I ignored you, concentrating on your brother, but I saw his wrath boil into a crimson fury.  He was on fire and he kicked four new holes into our walls – big ones too, it was what I didn’t want him to do.  I felt warmth escape my ears – I thought…

Why does it seem nobody can hear?”

I collapsed to the ground and grabbed my head with my trembling hands and I wailed a scream I didn’t know I had.  I became primal for about five seconds.  I lost my sense for a fraction of time, I lost my wit – I witnessed my soul escape and enter again.  My vocal chords instantly felt ripped apart; very fitting, they matched my heart.  Something happened, something clicked.  I’m one step closer to feeling insane.  One step closer to losing my mind.  It’s all so very unfortunate.  

This above incident happened August 10, 2017, and it left me at odds with my youngest daughter for about two days.  I felt decimated – perhaps even betrayed a little.  I got over it – but I guess that’s what mental illness can do.  It can turn loved ones against each other in the swirls of madness, in the twisting of insanity.  Prompt loved ones to turn into frozen statues paralyzed with fear to only thaw out long enough to survive.  That’s what we’re doing now, surviving.

These past two years have been really trying but something about these past few months have been especially sinister.  His punches are harder, the damage is greater, and his thoughts are more tortuous.  Is it the Abilify?  Is it the antidepressant?  Is it too much Abilify?  Does he need a new seizure med?  Who knows anymore.

I remember when a trial of Seroquel turned him into a demonic giant with powers that terrorized us day and night.  Night and day.  Two weeks of pure hell and the games got sicker when I had to increase it.

We need more time to see if it will work,”  the doctors would say.

I would nervously laugh, and think, “I pray we have more time.”  It was just my youngest daughter, about 16 at the time, and I during five days of the roughest part of the med trial. My oldest daughter and husband were on a school trip to Paris.  My Mom, who was staying with us at the time, went back to Missouri to help out my sister and her family.

My daughter and I would wake up to battles and the ritualistic dismantling of our house.  I would stand at his doorway during an event to lessen most of his tornadic activity that could happen to the main part of the house.  But most of his torment landed on various areas of my already bruised body.  I would put on an old winter jacket that my husband used to wear and put on heavy utility gloves, but it offered only a bit of protection.  I became the guard and he became the beast – with foam dripping out of his mouth, and my brain would have to recover from all the horrific words he shouted.

The longest event on one particular bad day lasted a little over an hour.  It was one of the five or six events per day he would have during this Seroquel trial.  My heart raced and I would feel like I ran a marathon after each event.  Between episodes I would put ice packs on my arms and maybe even my face, rest, and pop Motrin like candy.  My daughter would ask if I was okay, but her eyes had already been stained with his violence.  There’d be no turning back.

We’d have a little reprieve where he’d act more “normal” and we’d take a walk or play a game, but we didn’t venture out during this time.  We’d eat our meals between violent events and act as if nothing had ever happened.  He’d say he loved me and I’d respond back with an, “I love you too.”  Most always an event would happen before bedtime and then he’d collapse into bed, praise the Lord.  Once he was asleep, we would assess the damage of the day and clean up accordingly.  Put home decor back on their resting shelves, move end tables, and place remotes back to their original, eager location.

During this time, when he was asleep, the house was unnaturally quiet and appeared unshaken.  My daughter and I would get our pajamas on, fix a snack, and fall on the couch.  After a console session and a good cry, we’d  put on a movie and zone out.  Escape to a different world where we weren’t hurt, bullied, or terrorized.

Around midnight, we’d say goodnight, crawl into our beds, and pray for a better day to be waiting for us.  We’d close our eyes and let the stillness lead us into calm waters.  We would either dream of old ladies whispering hush or bloody mouthed wolves that chased.  There was no in-between.  It was madness.