More Prop Than Person

I got the last word , the most genuine thing I could say out loud and not get kicked out of the rotation . What I wanted to say was that most of the patients are restlessly meandering , drooling , sleeping , or loitering around the nurses ’ station all day long . I wanted to comment on how they’re hunched over in a lobotomized line for a cupful of pills or a tray of food and look more like bizarre props than people. I wanted to tell him to forget the medication and give them something meaningful to do. But I didn’t say any of that.

Manic Kingdom: A True Story of Breakdown and Breakthrough by Dr. Erin Stair

Expert Destruction

I’m in disbelief . The tension between Jamal and Dr . Patel is rising . Their cultures are relentlessly clashing right in front of my eyes , like a sword fight between wealthy India and West Philadelphia . My honest impression of Jamal is that he’s bright , sane and doesn’t need medication . If anyone sounds crazy , his mother does . Some part of me will not allow me to remain silent . Jamal’s young and smart , he has a future . He doesn’t need big – gun medications , and I’m overwhelmed with an urge to save him .

“ Dr . Patel , ” I respectfully say . “ When Jamal says he spits in the mirror , it means he’s rapping . He’s a rapper and that’s how he practices . ”

Dr . Patel stares at me blankly . Nothing registers . I’m a stupid , white girl. “But he hears voices . Why else would he talk to himself ? ” Dr . Patel asks.

“No , he spits . He raps . He’s not hearing voices . He’s practicing to be a musician,” I explain. The conversation continues in this relentlessly circular fashion . Nothing is sinking in . I give up and excuse myself to the bathroom. Let the “expert” seal the young man’s fate .

Manic Kingdom: A True Story of Breakdown and Breakthrough by Dr. Erin Stair

Tattoo Relief

Tory continues to work while I mentally command my body to adjust to the pain and discomfort . The needle spills color under my skin. Tory doesn’t say a word . I break out in chills . My pain tolerance is high, but each time the needle hits, I feel a new, excruciating sting. It hurts but part of me loves it. All I can think about is the growling device marking my back, and not the morbid sentences in my pathology book. The physicality is a relief .

Manic Kingdom: A True Story of Breakdown and Breakthrough by Dr. Erin Stair

Perspectives on Film

On the way to Winchell’s I thought of my father’s and Theresa’s different reactions to horror stories. My father was secure in the fact that horror films were made up Hollywood productions created for spine-tingling entertainment, and Theresa’s take on the genre couldn’t have been more different. She believed that the cast and production team put themselves psychically in harm’s way when they created scenes about evil spirits and ghosts. The making of a horror movie, she had told me, attracted dark entities and put everyone at risk of possession or unfortunate accidents for participating; furthermore, she said that the essence of fear that the films provoked in an audience created a weakness in people’s auras, allowing entities of the lower realm to invade. She had warned that it was best to stay away from unenlightened films.

Synanon Kid Grows Up by C.A. Wittman

Death of a Mind

I leave the books behind and go to my room. I cry, as if Chase recently died and isn’t brooding in the room next door. I almost wish he’d die. Seeing him lose his mind feels more painful. At least if he died, I wouldn’t have to be teased by seeing his physical body, because the Chase I adore doesn’t exist anymore. His body is a house that is falling apart, and his mind is a prisoner in the upstairs attic. I have no hope. Still, sometimes, a glimpse of his malnourished body makes me want to violently shake him until the chains holding his mind captive fall free. As if that would work.

Manic Kingdom: A True Story of Breakdown and Breakthrough by Dr. Erin Stair

He Was a Fool

Satanism, however, is far more than a movie set and a red robe. Practicing the black arts leads to what lives within the shadows, and you never know what you are going to attract by dabbling in such things. Often times, those who argue that black magic doesn’t work haven’t personally practiced it. Having experienced it directly, I am one who believes that some doors are meant to remain shut, but fools rush in where angels fear to tread, and if anything could be said of my father it was that he was a fool.

Rabbit Hole: A Satanic Ritual Abuse Survivor’s Story by David Shurter

Army of Dolls

Dr . Jonas is a psychologist . She’s petite with short grey hair , wears thin glasses , and dresses like a nun . I heard about her through a friend who told me she’s not only good , but sees students at a discounted rate . I’m like a desperate whore these days when it comes to therapists . I’m willing to give anyone a go. She’s currently on the phone.

While I wait across the desk from her, I glance around her peculiar office . It’s actually a spare room in her house , and that makes me uncomfortable. The walls and floor are a pale pink . Numerous old – fashioned dolls in Victorian dresses and doll houses are scattered throughout the room . It reminds me of a five year – old girl’s playroom . I hate dolls . They’re creepy, plastic , miniature humans who probably come alive at night and kill people…The label doesn’t feel right to me, like an ill – fitting jacket . She’s the expert , so there’s no convincing her, but it can’t be right. I squirm in my chair. I want to tell her every single person on earth exhibits some traits of mental disorder, but I don’t want to start a fight . It’s not like she’d believe me . She’s the doctor and I’m the patient, even though seeing patients among an army of dolls hints of her own mental issues . I look up , straight into the eyes of a beautiful doll with long locks of golden curls. I want to smash its porcelain face .

Manic Kingdom: A True Story of Breakdown and Breakthrough by Dr. Erin Stair

Being Irish in America

Steve held close to his heart his family’s connection to Ireland. It is an interesting aspect of the Irish in America that Steve, like others of his generation who were several generations removed from Ireland, felt that being Irish defined who they were. Possibly, it had to do with the identity it gave them. Saying that you were Irish was comparable to claiming membership in a distinct fraternity with a common tradition, secret rituals, and assured friendships wherever you found a fellow member of the Irish diaspora. The Irish gloried in their family, their neighborhood, and their love of the language. For Steve, it granted him entrée into the big leagues, where many young men of Irish descent were entering the American mainstream.

Steve Hannagan: Prince of the Press Agents and Titan of Modern Public Relations by Michael K. Townsley

 

By the Book and According to Protocol

She nods but looks dissatisfied. Her expression betrays that she already knows the root of my problem and wants me to provide her with supporting evidence. I don’t think she’s going to change what she’s decided , even if our conversations don’t support her theory. I sigh . She’s one of those people who goes by the books . The medical rule books, that is . The books are the rules that shrinks and therapists follow, full of guidance and expert opinions, the Bibles quoted by professionals when their judgment is questioned. Deviating from the books is too risky , both emotionally and legally , too intimate , and too involved . No one has the time or the energy to deviate from the books , and no one wants to get sued . It’s tough to get sued if you follow the rule books exactly .

The problem is , I don’t feel like my mind fits an exact diagnosis . My mind , like everyone’s mind , is a mysterious , vast world that’s barely been explored . How could it fit under one confining category? Whenever I see a shrink or a therapist, it seems as if they purposefully tweak and manipulate my mind till it does fit, or until I believe the label I’m given. The goal is a nice clean classification, and since I despise labels, I despise the books.

Again , Jessica interrupts my internal monologue and asks me a few more questions . I stay pleasant and answer as best I can . She hands me a few forms to fill out , mostly surveys , and excuses herself . She is back in a few minutes and hands me a script along with a sample of pills .

“I want you to try these,” she says , handing them to me . A psychiatrist , who oversees the Eating Disorder clinic, has prescribed them . I haven’t met him and probably never will . The drugs are given to me almost like protocol.

Manic Kingdom: A True Story of Breakdown and Breakthrough by Dr. Erin Stair

The Kid with the Backpack and the Books

There were the skinheads and the punks, boys and girls sporting brightly colored Mohawks, nose rings, tattoos, and clothing held together by safety pins, with giant crosses dangling from their earlobes and from around their necks. Then, of course, the prevalent surf culture, one and the same with the skateboarding culture, made up the foundation of Santa Cruz youth. The heavy metal crowd mostly inhabited the logging towns of Boulder Creek, Ben Lomond, and Felton. Heavy smokers and dedicated tobacco chewers, the boys sported long hair, short and spiky on top, and wore t-shirts that advertised their favorite bands, while many of the girls with their heavy makeup, big hair, skin-tight clothes, and black pumps looked more like they were setting off for work in a strip club than going to school. There were the preppies, including many of the Scotts Valley kids, and the mods with their dark clothes and brooding looks. And there was me, usually sitting off to the side, reading a book or writing a story. I carried a backpack with me everywhere, even when I wasn’t in school, packed with notebooks full of my creative writings and novels. I rarely did homework, but I read and wrote every day.

Synanon Kid Grows Up by C.A. Wittman