The Pattern of a Breakdown

As chaotic as madness is, there is a pattern to it. This latest episode, for instance: it really began in November, when we set the clocks back and lost an hour of sunlight. Even in Los Angeles, as we approach winter solstice, it turns dark before five o’clock. Each day in December, with its lessening of light, is like an eye that slowly closes, an eye that will not open again.

Sunset brings on the terror. I fear an attack from behind, from below, and especially from above, from the one who hovers over me, has hovered over me since age five. The medications lose their hold. The psychosomatic rhumba begins: There’s a tiny chain saw in my right ear, a buzzing caveat born in words Don’t ever tell. My head jerks to the right and turns upward, to find an upper corner of the room, where I placed a shred of myself long ago.

Once the attack kicks into gear, I growl like a dog whose rabies is just starting to show. I snarl at my loved ones. They say my eyes turn demonic. That’s rage, rising from the earthquake shift of emotions. My lungs constrict. I pant. The room shimmers. The thing expands in my mind and I wish my skull would explode and let the evil loose. Paranoia floods the brain: My children no longer love me and my wife wishes I were dead and my college will fire me for speaking out too much. And now there’s this new symptom: my heart aches. Not my chest muscles. It is my heart. Something, a hot, steel claw the size of a man’s open hand, pushes up through my guts and grips the entire organ. It squeezes. Its metal talons bite into the muscle. I feel it now, as I write. I’m going to scream now.

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