Welcome to my Country

I may or may not be in this book… Which somehow makes me feel cool?!


Also, I just finished reading WELCOME TO MY COUNTRY by Lauren Slater. A beautifully-written book I’d recommend to anyone who has experience with a mental illness, or a particular interest in the FEEL and experience of mental illness. Some of my favorite quotes:

Crazy or sane, we al know the desire for skin touching skin, or brain rubbing brain as minds meet.

Food is fuel, the weakness that makes us want it our greatest strength.

Depression, I thought to myself then. It’s a psychiatric disorder suffered by one in ten Americans and, despite the severe pain an all-out bout can inflict—lack of appetite, dwindled sex drive, crying jags that last for hours—it’s still remarkably banal, as common as the common cold. At its best, I viewed depression as a bronchitis of the brain, undeniably difficult but not nearly as exciting as the holy lights and purple pumpkins conjured up by my psychotic patients.

Depression is a death within, a knowledge—terrifying—that you cannot resurrect yourself. Depression is loss of the vision that lets leaves breathe and fall, that lets the air smell of seed and soil. And there must be rage, yes I think there is rage toward such a severing, such a ragged-deep rupture with the world.

But I think I set aspects of my own life down not so much to revel in their gothic qualities, but to tell you this: that with many of my patients I feel intimacy, I feel love. To say I believe time is fluid, and so are the boundaries between human beings, the border separating helper from the one who hurts always blurry. Wounds, I think, are never confined to a single skin but reach out to rasp us all.

I am not that girl any longer. I tell that to myself as I ride up the hospital’s elevator. I found some sort of way into recovery. But I know, have always known, that I could go back. Mysterious neurons collide and break. The brain bruises. Memories you thought were buried rise up.

For I have learned how to soothe the hot spots, how to salve the soreness on my skin. I can do it so no one notices, can do it while I teach a class if I need to, or lead a seminar on psychodiagnosis. I can do it while I talk to you in the evenest of tones. “Shhhh,” I whisper to the hurting part, hidden here. You can call her borderline—call me borderline—or multiple, or heaped with posttraumatic stress—but strip away the language and you find something simple. You find me, part healthy as a horse and part still suffering, as are we all. What sets me apart from Kayla or Linda or my other patients like Oscar, Marie, Moxi—what sets me apart from these “sick” ones—is simply a learned ability to manage the blades of deep pain with a little bit of dexterity. Mental health doesn’t mean making the pains go away. I don’t believe they ever go away. I do believe that nearly every person sitting at this oval table now has the same warped impulses, the same scarlet id, as the wobbliest of borderlines, the most florid of psychotics. Only the muscles to hold things in check—to channel and funnel—are stronger. I have not healed so much as learned to sit still and wait while pain does its dancing work, trying not to panic or twist in ways that make the blades tear deeper, finally infecting the wounds.

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