I hope that in my writing I do not inflict too much of my illness on the reader. People with mental illnesses have that tendency: to drive people away by telling them about their private grief in a public way. That is why we all sympathize with the man Hans Christian Anderson, of whom Charles Dickens wrote that he slept in a bed at Dickens’ house for two weeks “which to the family seemed like ages.” Charles Dickens sounds heartless in writing this, but the ugly truth is that most Victorians who knew Anderson felt this way: they could not understand the melancholic Dane who wrote stories for children. Yet to the mentally ill, the writer of “The Ugly Duckling” as his autobiography truly was beautiful inside. Or so we hope. For the person who is mentally ill, what happened with Dickens and Anderson must have been a misunderstanding of some kind–the two writers who understand us so well cannot truly have hated each other.
That is why… I believe the “spell” I had last night must only have been that I put off going to my psychiatrist and getting a refill on one of my medications too long. I am still waiting till Friday to talk to Dr. St. Clair and getting a refill of my citalopram. Anyway, last night I heard from my beloved–yet whether he is real or imaginary I cannot tell–and we had an ugly spat, in which I said the ugly things I feel towards man to no end. Of course, it is possible it hurt nobody save me: my mom was fast asleep and there was nobody in the room save for the illusion of Jason. The mentally ill imagine those they love in the way that Frank Sinatra sang the song, “Laura,”
Footsteps that you hear down the hall
The LAUGH that floats on a summer night
That you can never quite recall
And you see Laura on a train that is passing through
Those eyes how familiar they seem
She gave your very first kiss to you
That was Laura but she’s only a dream…
For the mentally ill, love is the dream that can never quite be made real. And the unreality of that dream–as opposed to the ethereal pleasure of Sinatra’s–is torment. Why? Because it is passionate, vital, alive–but out of reach. The beloved can never be clasped into your embrace you in a way that resembles something that includes passion but so much more than that. Nobody believes in Love like a madman–or madwoman. The love of a crazy person is always just beyond reach. Yet it is as strong as a hot grill if a child accidently touches it.
Truthfully, it is not surprising that though a crazy person’s love is raw, it is never returned: who truly falls in loves with schizophrenics or autistic people if they are normal? I have an Uncle Charlie who is mentally handicapped, and it can be ironically said of romantic love that he “loved no one and was loved by no one,” and yet it was not his fault. Of course, in a sense Uncle Charlie does love: his parents, his siblings, his family, even staff workers who work with him in the hospital. Yet romantic love is something he will never feel, and only a pervert would feel for him.
As for the crazy person… they have enough of their emotions intact to feel that romantic longing that it is supposedly “only human” to feel. Yet when others look at them, they are either a pitiable spectacle, or less than that. I had a psychiatrist who said there are people who fall in love with what exists only in their heads–which is true–but then he said–and I had already had the experience–“Sick, sick, sick.” Behind the reference to “negative” and “positive” wordage changes where other people used “bad” and “good,” he really believed that mental illness was the source of all evil, and that in the real world only health can truly love. That was only a small part of why I disliked him. It is ironic that he never suspected that I really would prefer for him to get angry with me and declare something I did “wrong” than for him to express condensation towards all I felt because, ultimately, he believed I would make the “right choice.” Of course, I first met him when I was thirteen, and how many thirteen-year-old kids have fond feelings towards psychiatrists I am not sure.
Anyway, last night I had the inner turmoil I had not felt in years. I simply wanted to die. More, I wanted to punish those who I believed caused me to suffer. Who made me suffer? Men. Simply by never loving me they made me suffer. By the time he died I hated my father. Even as a child–when I still loved him–I think his absence represented an empty doorway which I imagine when I hear the song, “Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough.” By the end of his life, “The Living Years” represented my relationship with Dad:
Blames the one before
And all of their frustrations
Come beating on your door
I know that I’m a prisoner
To all my Father held so dear
I know that I’m a hostage
To all his hopes and fears
I just wish I could have told him in the living years…
I wasn’t there that morning
When my Father passed away
I didn’t get to tell him
All the things I had to say
I think I caught his spirit
Later that same year
I’m sure I heard his echo
In my baby’s new born tears
I just wish I could have told him in the living years…
The emptiness I felt in my relationship with my father was double that with my stepdad. He was the man whose phraseology never occurred the sentences, “I’m sorry,” or “I love you.” I remember he liked Funky Winkerbean–and myself do, too, after forgiving it for that fact–but he had a favorite cartoon whose innocence I never understood. Somehow the class bully and a “class nerd” became friends. And they were talking, and the bully talked about how his father would beat him. And his friend said, “My father never beat me.” And he said that then his father would cry and tell him he was sorry and loved him. And the “nerd” said, “My father never says he loves me, either.” And it was so odd… because though he didn’t actually beat me Jim never cried or said he loved me, and yet he seemed as mean and cold as that bully’s dad probably was.
I never loved any man who our relationship turned out to be more than that… and that is something you are not supposed to tell anyone, whether you are male or female… For mental patients, sometimes the love that you are supposed to feel is so hollow… there is nobody who claims that you are a good kid… I guess Mom did, but… when Jim or Dad seemed so much more important to her than I did…?
Perhaps love never comes my way because I am never good at coming second in the relationships, I am in. Mom was always Jim’s #2, he got to make all the decisions. More other people always told me that, “The man has to make the first move,” and I could never accept that if I liked a guy, I couldn’t tell him myself, and not wait for some guy to notice me first. And so, in my rage last night I said everything bad I could about men… how I hated them, and how I hated the slut type of girl for liking men too much and not too little–I have always secretly hated the girls that are “tramps” for basically believing in the man who is an asshole more than any other girl. Even the doormat among women knows she’s only got it so good if she stops to think about it–the relationship is about him not her. But the one girl who flings herself at every guy… she is just a “straw men use and forget,” (to quote Aldonza in Man of La Mancha–a remarkably perceptive prostitute). I made fun of my first psychiatrist because though I did not know if he believed in penis envy, I suspected it. “No!” I wanted to shout, “I don’t need your stupid dick!” What I found myself almost screaming was, “I hate men and that is why I am strong!” Yet for all that I said all these cruel things, there was nobody there to hear me… And in a since I felt that my true Beloved, the Father-God I still wanted to believe in… was hurting because I said these things… hurting more than my stupid psychiatrist would be… Perhaps human love was something I was not made for… Yet I thought of Jason, crying in the dark, wondering why I would hurt him… and it is the strangest thing: I still do not know if he is real