Wednesday, May 5, 2010


As far as colors go, brown ranks pretty low in terms of beauty.  It is drab.  It blends in.  It is a non-color.  It is certainly not in the rainbow.

Dead plants are brown.  Rotten bananas turn brown.  Brown is what comes of all the colors when they collide together.  Paper bags are brown.  And these bags are meant to disguise a secret.  An embarrassment.  The guy on the corner who drinks all day... he hides his bottle in a obviously discreet paper bag.

I carried a brown paper bag today.  It didn't contain my lunch.  And no, it didn't carry beer, wine, or liquor either.  It's the see-you-in-six-weeks kind of day.  The day where I go sit in my shrink's waiting room and pray that I don't look as crazy as I feel.  Today is the day that I rate my mental state by the bag I carry.  Am I carrying my favorite handbag or am I carrying a loud and awkward paper bag stuffed with meds?

My psychiatrist is a nice man.  He is fairly intelligent as well.  He is the first of his profession to treat me with kindness and respect.  It's refreshing.  I don't say a lot.  I smile at least once so I do not present flat.  I answer his questions with single words if at all possible.  I am not having a good time of it and that must show.  When he starts his shrink talk with "I'd like to talk to you today about..." I know that my meds are being tweaked or changed.  Yippee.

Thirty minutes later I've paid my bill and I walk the twenty five feet across the waiting room full of people and I'm holding that damn brown bag.  Any chance of appearing normal is wiped away when people see that crinkly bag full of she's-not-quite-right samples.

I skip the elevator to avoid riding in a closed space with someone who would clearly know they were confined, for a one floor descent, with a crazy girl.  I make it to my car and I dump the bag out and cram the samples into my black leather handbag.  Much more presentable because crazy people don't carry professional messenger bags, right?

The snarky humor is here but beneath that is my anger.  I'm angry that I have to do this charade every six weeks.  I'm angry that I'm a walking stigma.  I'm angry that I pay good money for appointments and medication to help me function and unfuck what they did to me.  I'm angry that I have side effects from the cocktail of meds that I take.  I'm angry that the medicated me is better than the can't-get-out-of-bed me. 

I'm still struggling over the events with my mother in law for reasons that some may not understand.  I will try to put that into words shortly because I need to find a way to express in words what is churning in my mind.  My husband's advice has been, "just be yourself", which I always inwardly smirk at because the thought of an un-medicated "me" attending a family dinner is something I'm almost certain he never wants to encounter.


Journal of Healing said...

Boy do i understand. I hate the stigma, I hate that I have a "group" of people that attend the psych office because if i don't she wants to put me on more we do our best to present as calm, not to flat, but please keep giving me what i need, just not too much. I hate the stigma i have to live in fear of people finding out about, i hate that my husband doesn't have any other words so he tells me i struggle with a mental disorder when they ask why he's having a tough time in our marriage.
I hate that i have had to set boundaries not just with my own damn family, but also with my husband's family this year. i live in fear that one of my trusted "few" will forget and share with someone my deepest and darkest secret: taht i was so fucked over in my past i am not shattered as well.

it just sucks! It really sucks and it's not fair.

Glad to see you back, guys. Glad to hear your anger, it's such an important part of getting better. Glad to hear your snarky humor popping through. i get it. I had to correct someone recently when i cracked a caustic joke at my own situation due to my past when they tried to label me as being too harsh with myself. Don't judge ME. Judge THEM THAT MADE ME THIS WAY...and then UNDERSTAND that i MUST make light...or curl up and die.

You guys hang in there...keep being connected to you this way. The invite is still open that we emailed about. that i get it, but glad that some kinda good is coming out of it all...


English Rider said...

So many points raised in one post. Is the psych profession really so empty of intelligence, kindness and respect? Another hurdle for a patient to overcome.
MIL is obviously lacking in those qualities as well. It is hard to battle an inferior opponent. I don't have any constructive ideas there.
The anger is justified at the injustice of your undeserved suffering. You have much to be angry at.
Stigma - you carry no stigma here.

Friko said...

You are angry, angry is good, angry is a step on the way to healing.
just hold on to the thought that you are healing. If you can.
Sod MIL, deal with her later. The others too, they're in the same boat as you, maybe getting comfort from seeing that they are not alone.

Meds are good too. They are your crutch. You know you need the crutch, accept them for now. Anybody who is sick, takes meds, Physical or mental sickness needs meds.

Good luck.

Ruth said...

Glad to see you, very glad. Paper bag or not.

Grace said...

Wow - can I relate to this post! I see my PDOC about every 6 weeks too- and I hate sitting in the lobby, and switching that switch by her name and waiting for her to come "greet" me (which she's always late) - and dang! I can totally relate to the brown paper bag!
I'd never thought of it like 'hiding' something...but yeah, it does feel like that!

Deborah said...

Jennifer, you've been much on my mind in the last weeks and I'm also very glad to see you back.
Your 'brown bag' metaphor made me wince a bit, all while admiring once again your talent for expressing the realities of your life.

I hope I'm not repeating myself when I recount the following story:
A rather wise older woman with whom I had the great good fortune to spend some time with a few years ago said to me, when I confided that my mind held thoughts I was ashamed of, 'My dear, if we could be jailed for what is in our heads, nobody would be walking free.'

This is not intended to trivialize what you contend with and suffer mightily from, but don't be making the mistake to think that you are somehow the 'crazy' one. You've had the intelligence, the will and the strength to get help, to carry on, to strive to heal and you can only be admired. Not condemned. Keep your head up.
And despite everything you write about, you still make me laugh. That last line was pretty black, but pretty funny.

Malefic said...

Fucking beautiful! Unfuck??? I'm stealing it. I will pass it off as my own. I wish I gave a fuck enough about anybody to put the effort in that you seem to. Where do you find the energy to give a shit enough to try? Sorry for being brutal... I'm drunk.

Just Be Real said...

Interesting post. Love the analogy of the color brown and what it represents. Sorry for your struggles with teh m-i-l issues. Blessings.

Anonymous said...

I fully understand your anger! Seems ridiculous that your work is to straighten out their mess. But I'm glad you're doing it, and that you have the capacity to do that work for yourself, you know? Conversely, I see that as a very sane thing to do - the getting of help. Not everybody does.

And sure, your husband and in-laws might not like the unmedicated you at dinner time. I am so sorry that your mother-in-law's betrayal is still bothering you. I hope you can find a little peace with that some time.

But you know what else is brown? Nutrient rich soil. Ripened seed pods on a tree just outside the window next to my writing desk. Beautiful wooden furniture, like my second or perhaps third hand writing desk, with it's carvings made by others once upon a time.

BTW, I've left you an award over at my blog.

Accept it or not (I usually don't play the awards game, but eh!). As you wish, it's up to you! :)

Char Brooks said...

This is my first time here and you are an incredible writer.

I just wanted you to know I get exactly what you're talking about. And whoever said we'd all be jailed for the thoughts in our head - that was brilliant too.

What you're doing here is nothing short of phenomenal - you are an amazing communicator. Communicating with shrinks is so very difficult - no time in the appointment, the facade that we wear when we're with them, not to mention the facade they are wearing.

And yet, I believe there is hope for clearly communicating our symptoms to them and making sure we make informed choices. That's what I help people with.

If you want more information Google Char Brooks The First Step.

I believe in you - am not familiar with your story - but anyone who has language for their experience like you do has the ability to enjoy their life (no matter how ridiculous that idea seems or how much I may have pissed you off right now - and apologies if I did) and deserves that!

Sending you hugs for your struggles too.

English Rider said...

Can you come back to us? We miss you.

Deborah said...

Yes, we do miss you, Jennifer. I hope you're all right.

Debbie said...

I think about you often and hope you're okay.

Journal of Healing said...

Thinking of you guys.

us from Journal of healing

Greg said...

I understand the feeling, the stigma, I liked the analogy of the brown paper bag, always hiding the truth about your mental illness. I carry the brown paper bag everyday, but somehow people know your carrying a brownpaper bag and never know what's in it. It hurts.

It's amazing that these Dr., think that if they give you a drug your all better, sorry it takes more than that and they for the most part treat you less than respectfully at times.

Good luck to you.

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