Thursday, September 1, 2011


Land Ho! My psychiatrist told me this morning that I'll likely be inpatient for 3 more ECT treatments--tomorrow, next Tuesday and Wednesday--and then I will most likely be discharged, to continue ECT as an outpatient. While I know the assembly-line service is necessary to accomodate all the patients who need ECT in this hospital, the sardine-line-up is disconcerting; it feels closer to some sort of nefarious medical experiment testing the resiliency of one-brain-after-another to different pulses of electricity. I miss the chumminess of my treatments at Millcreek, with Dr. B. who surprised me with an all-staff-particpatory pedicure (the time I went into ECT with black toenails, and woke up with them peachy pink), the staff who knew me by name, who knew my husband, who knew which vein was best for the IV.

Now I feel like one of those life-vests statshed under an airplane seat; you know, the kind that have two little cords that you pull to inflate. That's me. A PICC line dangling from my upper-arm, easrier all around for the nurses to insert IV's into my tricky veins. Somehow, though, I feel that if I yank the lines hard enough, not only will the tube slide out of the newtwork of vein the professionals have threaded it through to reach the Vena Cava, but I will also, unceremoniously deflate. I suppose it wouldn't take all that much these days to enact that sleight-of-hand: just like a venetian mini-blind, just pull on my dangling cords, and my body--filled mostly with air as it is, would certainly just collapse and fold in on itself.

Like a fan I once had as a child, when I was obsessed with history, with knowing (or feigning to know) the hisory of antique objects. I was obsessed, and even at ten, read my father's Smithsonian Guide to American Antiquities cover-to-cover. The mystery of possession combined with the magnificence of a prior story that could etch itself into wood and metal and fabric and stone. One afternoon, I wandered into a pseudo-antique junk shop, and picked up a purple, velvet bag; I unloosened the string and shook out a white, bone, ivory fan, with intricately carved patterns, and its panels held together by several ivory-satin ribbons woven throughout the lattice-work. I imagined the woman who last held it, perhaps a girl not much older than I was, dressed in some taffeta bustled gown, flicking the fan open (when admirable suitors bowed before her) and shut (when oafish, unmannered suitors begged for a dance).

The shopowner saw how taken I was with the fan. "It's yours," he said. "It belongs with you."

My parents had their own antique "finds"--they'd gone to an estate sale one summer out on Shelter Island, and spied these 2 horrid, leather-covered wing-back chairs. They thought they'd simply recover them with some more pleasing fabric. However, when they pried off the hundreds of brass grommets that kept the red leather wedged tight around the chairs' skeletons, what they unconvered were two magnificent Queen and King Chairs, their backs carved in elaborate, regal wooden roses and turrets and sceptors; their seats covered in meticulous, painstaking needpoint covers.

But why this sudden sharp turn into antique reminiscences? Part of me wonders what sort of material legacy I will leave behind. How will my children and grandchildren and their children come to know me intimateoly, that is, beyond the staunch name on the family tree, beyond the hushed whispers explaining my sad mental predicatment and the unrelenting attacks by the various illnesses and diseases attached to "that which shall remain unnamed."

There are the obvious objects: my books and essays and scratch-filled notebooks and journals. Surely, this is the easiest, albeit messiest stepping into my life, my past. But what about the tangible objects? What is meaningful to me now?

Bits and pieces of expensive or quirky jewelry. Recipes haphazardly photocopied or torn from magazines and stuffed in the manila folder simply labelled: Food for Thought. Italian pottery. The watercoloury-mermaid bowl carried back from Chios, Greece. The fishbowl stacked with the husks of sea urchins, their delicate, spiky shells carefully balanced on each other, forming an almost impossible ziggurat.

The bits and pieces of myself that I will leave behind that MATTER; the bits and pieces that I am already leaving behind that MATTER. Yesterday, the kids had their first day of school: Alexander in kindergarten, Sophia in 4th grade. I couldn't see them off, couldn't brugh their hair, couldn't help pick out their clothes, couldn't kiss their soft cheeks goodbye or grip their hands in one last MAY-THE-FORCE-BE-WITH-YOU shake, no kiss goodbye at their classroom doors.

Nothing. Because I am locked away in a hospital in Pittsburgh and they are happily walking to school a few blocks from our home in Meadville. So what did I do? I wrote them each secret notes--love and kisses--and absolute pride--and had Christopher secret them in their lunchboxes. Both kids were surprised and ecstatic, though later, on the phone, Sophia confessed, "It made me really happy to get that note from you, Momma. But I also started crying. I just miss you so much. I just wish you could have been hiding in my lunchbox."

Good, necessary encouragement to keep my shit together in the next week, to keep my fingers crossed that the ECT treatments will kick in and level me out, that I can come to some sort of compromise in regards to the Eating Disorder--remember food isn't merely about calories in and calories out, but it is about pleasure and love taken in, swirled around the mouth, immersed in the abundant flavors, and then swallowed down--all that lovely beauty and taste now part of my whole. A whole with love to spare, a whole with tentative stability, a whole that also needs its necessary parts: Christopher, Sophia, and Alexander.