November 11, 2017 § Leave a comment

i remember the way limbs would twitch

while falling asleep

from the time before

on lithium. not my limbs or

my bloodstream or my

bipolar this time but

those of the one

i sleep beside / and what does it mean

does it make a difference

whether he calls me girlfriend

or partner or wife,


is how he introduced me this time

to the PA at the appointment

at the office where i went

for awhile

after the hospital

but stopped

because you never saw

the actual doctor, only

the PA–why? and where

i had to be

just a little bit

of a bitch, i had to go to

bat, be all

so have you heard

of such and such research

on light therapy–is that an option?

and, i know latuda

is good for bipolar depression

specifically, and three years ago

it wasn’t generic yet; is it now?


i hate it when doctors

don’t explain the shit

they really should, when

they lack imagination

to suggest other options,

new things you might not

have thought of yourself

when suicidally depressed.

i hate it when doctors

don’t ask you the questions

you might not have known

to ask yourself

because you cannot

advocate for yourself or even

take yourself to the doctor

when it’s actually

an emergency,

you have to be dragged there

against a brain screaming constantly

for death–

not my brain this time, no,

by the grace of god but how

do you think

i would know otherwise

what a doctor should be asking

but isn’t

The Luxury of Commitment

October 14, 2017 § Leave a comment

Right now G is outside on the porch scrolling through his phone–I can see the light from the screen through the dark of the window from where I sit inside, typing on the bed. He’s been more depressed this year, more frequently and worse, than in the two years prior, since his last major break. It’s not as extreme as it was then, but it’s worse than it has been for awhile. It started at the turn of the year and it’s autumn now, as indicated today by first real cool front. Got real bad during the summer, after a three-week school program in Ecuador that allowed him to imagine himself a different person, doing different things in a different place. Then back home to real life and the reality of being a person with bipolar, with depression–in part, I discovered, because he’d been taking just half his mood stabilizer after he got mad at his last psychiatrist and neglected to refill his prescription. He’d been making do with half doses while in Ecuador, high on the intensity of studying abroad, high on everything new, on the fantasy of a new self.

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today i

December 14, 2014 § 2 Comments

got up early

drank water

cleaned the house

cleaned the car

vacuumed the car

did the laundry

swept the porch

front and back

swept the path

washed the dishes

ate my cereal

took my morning


for once.

Today i

worked on report

responded to email

went for a run

started blog entry

gave a ride

went to a meeting

went to my parents’

ate my dinner

took a bath

and all my evening pills

for once.

And after all that

i still yearned

to be loved

and understood

and longing

still churned

and thundered

in my chest

like doom.

Today i

finished my entry

took his call

heard the distance

in his voice

heard him not know

heard him not say

i love you

listened to dharma

and cried

and cried

and sat with the pain

and said things like:

may i let it be okay

and may i be free

and i am grateful

for this chance

to be useful today.

and only then

did i make contact

with what doing

would not let be

only then did i touch

the cheek of my longing

with tenderness

only then did i stroke

the back of my grief

only then did i feel loved

only then understood.


December 12, 2014 § Leave a comment

talked to g last night over text, sitting in my car outside the al-anon meeting. he’s not a drinker–anymore–but my therapist said i should go because our problems are similar. me needing him to do certain things to stay healthy and him not doing those things. me trying to control the outcome, me accommodating to stay in the relationship.

i liked the meeting. i felt in good company. some of was a little hokey and…borderline cultish? the almost mechanical chanting of the slogans and something called Council Approved Al-Anon Literature. but the principles crystallized in those slogans are actually helpful and make me feel better. and the stories people shared were raw and authentic. it was good to realize so many people go through the same stuff, that it’s not the end of the world. it’s felt so hard moving through the world feeling like i’m having this experience that is absolutely incomprehensible to others. that feels absolutely impossible to articulate to others, at least others who seem to have their shit together.

but something i’ve been thinking about is how common it is for people not to have their shit together. how common and human to love too much, to accommodate, to get wrapped up in your own internal dramas, to struggle with addiction or trauma or self-injuring impulses. to rage and act out (or act in) because you’re not doing what you need to do to stay well. to create chaos in one’s own life or someone else’s. to deal with situations that are much harder than this one. the normality of crisis. how common, how inevitable, how human, to struggle with hardship and loss and grief. to have to make a way outta what feels like no way.

how otherwise could aimee mann have produced the masterpiece that is The Forgotten Arm?

this morning i was thinking about my two closest friends from grad school. we all ended up marrying (well, i am not married but it’s that kind of arrangement) white dudes with mental illness. i’m the only one of the three who also lives with significant mental illness. but friend 1 just married a recovered heroin addict (dios mio) and friend 2 an alcoholic who still drinks (dios mio!). he’s not supposed to but he does–she finds bottles buried in the trash from time to time–and when he gets really drunk he gets crazy. once broke his neck falling down some stairs. more than once tore up the house, once when she was 9 months pregnant.

the first time it happened i was like, A: you have to leave now. this is abuse. it was easy for me to say, easy for me to shake my head when she decided to stay and work through it. he quit drinking, mostly. they went to counseling. he went to AA. i didn’t understand then how hard you can love someone. but, more importantly, i didn’t understand how, while the other person’s illness is never a choice, a person does actually have a choice in how they manage it. and it can be okay to stay with a person who is taking responsibility for managing their illness.

at the al-anon meeting the first thing they said was that most people first come to meetings for the ill person. they hope that by coming to the meetings the person will get help. it’s another way of trying to control the person’s behaviours, control the outcome. but the meetings are for YOU, the facilitator said. it’s YOUR illness and YOUR program. it works if you work it. i liked the positivity. there is always something we can do, but we have to decide we want to do it.

the meeting was really small. three other women. i didn’t have any particular expectations of who would be there, but i was struck by how unlike san antonio’s overall demographics it was. i’m used to being in all or mostly brown spaces, but the facilitator sounded like she came from brooklyn or jersey and the other two women sounded eastern european and middle eastern. the venue for the meeting was interesting, too. it’s at a place called Club 12–for the 12 steps, i guess–and it had a kind of raucous atmosphere. even before i stepped inside, a guy sucking on a cigarette stopped me at the door with, You AA or Al-Anon? Al-Anon, i whispered, looking down. Yeah, cause if you was AA I was gonna ask if you wanted to sell some tickets for our holiday festival. But most of the Al-Anons, they don’t really want to be around no cork popping! he held the door as i passed through, bewildered, into a common space bouncing with AA guys yukking it up.

the al-anon meeting room was at the back of the building, behind a closed door. it was semi-dark and smelled like old cigarettes from decades past. the walls were covered with posters and murals bearing the Al-Anon principles: one day at a time. progress, not perfection. you didn’t CAUSE it, you can’t CURE it, and you can’t CONTROL it.

during the meeting i felt my phone vibrate in my pocket, but i ignored it, probably because i was telling my story and crying about how i should not have acted so hastily–the brooklyn lady distractedly shuffling the collection baskets around like so what’s new, sweetie?–and anyway you’re not supposed to be on your phones during the meetings. but it’s a good thing i didn’t check or even register the text, because when i got to my car it caught me completely off guard. and because i was in a completely different frame of mind after the meeting, so that i was able to respond with love without abandoning myself. how could you do this to me when i’m sick? his text cried. i hope you never find out what that feels like. 

i want you to come home, i texted back. if we can do the things we need to do to help you/us. 

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December 10, 2014 § Leave a comment

even though

we were born

into these

imperfect minds

and bodies,

our traumas

hooking us into

each other

like gear teeth


even so

our love has

always shone through

mortal carapace

as white bright


as wash

of sunlight

as real and rooted

as quiet earth.


July 27, 2014 § Leave a comment

i told my dad: so just leave now. or maybe: when that day comes, go ahead and go. but i’ll cut off the relationship. and i’ll be very angry. and i won’t want to stay in touch. when he said that after my mom died, he would rejoin the seminary and renounce his earthly family.

i know i am dreaming about g. i try not to stand in the way when waves of grief overtake me. i cry in public, sitting in my car in the bank teller line or on the bench as x plays on the jungle gym. it’ll pass if i just let it happen. grief like he’s dying. it feels like he’s dying.he’s not going to get better. it’s too hard, and there’s nothing that works. i know that’s the story spun by his illness. my story, triggered by his illness, is this: i’ll always be left. if i love someone, that person will leave. if i love someone, that love will make the person leave. it is my love itself that will make the beloved withdraw, ambivalent. my love is disgusting in its excess. my love is painful to experience, as the imminence and inevitability of abandonment. this is the story. this is the story. as soon as i type it out i feel my chest constrict into panic, my eyes burning.

so i try to change the story. i sit in front of my altar where i have placed the candles i once bought for myself when i moved to the little house in west sacramento, finally alone, finally on my own. there is the clay sculpture of the dark skinned ocean goddess, her skirts flowing with jellyfish, her arms bearing coral. there is the ceramic box cradling two origami swans that my friend sat folding without thinking at a meeting once. the requisite virgen vela. a streamlined wooden figurine of mother mary–different from la virgen–with eyes downcast and hands folded in prayer. a gift from my mentor, my surrogate grandmother. i light incense and work on changing the story.


of course he wants to die; he’s depressed

many people face this situation–disability, unemployment

there are always things we can do to get better

i believe in the possibility that things can get better

and so i pray:


may i be fearless in the face of loss

may i be courageous

may i be curious

may i be kind to myself

may i stay open and tender

may this suffering awaken



and when you are gone

i still have my writing

i still have my daughter

my family

my work in the community

i have a chance to breathe

and not to worry

until you return.


it doesn’t make the grief go away

it doesn’t change the reality of loss

but it changes my relationship to it.

it doesn’t make the fear go away

yet it cultivates a fearlessness.

a friendliness that greets and bows

and says, yes, please come in,

i know you.

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March 15, 2014 § Leave a comment

mostly rent

(the play)

makes me groan

but when they sing

will i lose my dignity


i can’t control my destiny/

no day but today

i think they know something

you and i know

(that i know

anyway, the grace

of the dying, the grace

of loving in spite:

that you are still

struggling to learn,

like roger)

like when

on a day

i know you are sick

by the way your mouth turns

and trembles

even though the sun is out

at last

and we sit in short sleeves

on the courtyard

where the food makes me happy

where a man comes walking

past–we hear him before

we see him, streaming curses


homeless. crazy.

here comes a schizophrenic man

you say softly

or something

i murmur

both of us knowing

it is our brother come walking


are you doing the things you know you need to do?

March 6, 2014 § 1 Comment

today i wake up not wanting to go to work because i have been going at it so hard that i deserve time off. don’t i? no, today i wake up vowing that i’ll go in early but i’ll leave early. this time. past two days i have been working compulsively, unable to go home, unable to turn off, when i get the internal signal that i’ve should–or even when i’ve made very deliberate decisions for myself that i need to leave at a certain time. my overall goal is to work at something less than full capacity, and much less than over capacity, so that i have something on reserve. so that i am not always rushing, frantic, manic, driven, taken over, swept away. today, today is the day when i leave at 4:30 or 4 instead of 5:30 or 6 or 6:30 or 6:45 like yesterday. g was supposed to call 5:30 from ft worth to check in, to make sure i was out of work like i wanted…but he has been sick with depression and texted saying he did not want to talk, that as company he was no good. to punish myself, to punish him for abandoning me, i worked too much when i’m already at a deficit; i didn’t bother to leave 5:30 as intended. if no one cares about me, if no one is around to object, then why should i bother caring for myself. of course i know that doesn’t work, is self violence and subtle terrorism, but it is so much easier somehow to run roughshod over my own boundaries than to listen to my body and follow through. than to open the wound of, i was depending on you. i needed you. where were you.

today i wake up turning over in my mind a dream i had in the early morning hours, of almost vomiting from the smell of raw chicken that i had stashed beneath the rickety particleboard floorboards of a garage apartment i had inherited from miguel. trying to clean the space, not knowing where to begin. and then floorboards began to buckle and cave and collaspe, revealing a plastic container with rotting raw chicken from a year earlier stinking in a soup of rainwater. i found a plastic bag, i dumped chicken and water into the bag and tied if off to throw away, but caught a whiff unexpectedly and gagged. i sat in the doorway of the garage, struggling with the spasms seizing my throat and gut, tasting the contents of my stomach at the back of my throat. finally it passed and i kept cleaning. but that was the dream, so real and intense it felt like really vomiting. and when i wake i have a sense of dread because of it, as though it is premonitory, and i google “vomiting dream” to read the standard stuff, return of the repressed and etc. something i didn’t want to deal with or discard properly suddenly revealed, returned to me in a neglected form that was repulsive. there are only two anxiety dreams that i have recurrently–that i am watching others vomit, that i am vomiting–so this was one of them.

the lingering question for me though: why is it we cannot do the things we know we need to do? from where comes an impulse to self-jeopardize that is so strong it cannot be resisted? i know i know i know i need to do certain things to stay healthy and stable: i need to not work at full capacity. i need to allow time for meditation and exercise and just time to do nothing in particular, to have an ordinary evening where i just come home. i need to have enough time to take the supplements i need to take as replacement for SSRI. i need to i need to i need to but i don’t. and i witness others doing the same. are you going to the gym like you said, are you going for bike rides, meditating? if not, why not, when you know that these things keep you stable?

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