I had nicked my arm with a razor blade earlier in the season, and thought at the time that it would suffice. Just a little cut above the crux of the elbow, no more than an inch long, though deep enough to leave a scar among all the other crisscross of scars. It worked, for a while. Pain in the arm makes sense, unlike the ache in the mind that leaves no scars, except, perhaps, in the eyes of your loved ones.
I’m getting ahead of myself.
The psychotic breaks are seasonal. They happen in the spring, when I get way too manic for anybody’s good. But winter is the killing season.
I’m sick. Very sick. It’s the first week in January. My break from your reality happened on Christmas morning. But things had begun to fall apart weeks earlier, when I took the razor to my arm.
Usually I manage to keep the shadows from taking me over until the first of December. I stay busy with teaching, writing, being a father and husband. For decades I said, every winter, You’ll do better this year. Somehow I could fight this thing that began thirty-eight years ago, when I was a junior in high school.
All through December I rattled. Sudden flare-ups of anger, paranoia, with the thing under my skin bristling, ready to tear out of me. Then Christmas morning, too much.
The moment becomes a scene out of a B movie: a man in a half-open robe shoves himself into a corner of the kitchen. His jaw drops. Strings of spit stretch between the O of his lips. He howls. It is a long scream. My four children, all adults now; my mother, ninety years old; my wife Michelle—they are around me, hovering over me. I moan out what all of us already know, about the family illness, about violence that happened long ago, but they are not at all long ago. They are Now, as though the razor cut through history and that past barreled at me once again.
My family is well trained. They considered the psyche ward, remembered my last trip and how poorly it had gone, and turned the house into an asylum for one. They watched over me like soldiers taking shifts, as I lay in bed for hours, dragged myself from one room to another, picking up books, trying to read them, dropping them onto a table. They are well-educated in the ways of this madness.
But they are not paid nurses, nor are they the guards who stand at the psyche ward’s front doors to stop those inside from running out of the hospital and onto the 101 Freeway. They are my children, my mother, my wife. They don’t wear hospital garb or carry Tasers, and yet they have to hear what those paid employees can hear and leave behind at the end of a shift, such as a man in his fifties who, after so many of decades of attacks, says, in the throes of the horror, something new, I don’t know how long I can keep this up.
I’ll need to take this slowly, if I’m going to write about it. I’ve never written about this before. I was told long ago not to. But, I need to. Either the attacks are worsening, or I’m getting older and don’t have the same mettle as before. I have to use every tool in reach to get me back to a sense of homeostasis, that necessary, surviving calm. So for now, I’ll use this blog.