Ella and the Backpack

Everyday for over six years, my backpack has lived on a chair in the back of the kitchen. Sometimes, I keep a pair of shoes tucked underneath, and one or more of my purses hangs off the back. It’s “my chair,” and no one else is allowed to mess with it.

About a week ago, when all of my family was arriving at my house, my dad removed my backpack so people could sit in the chair. It was a totally reasonable request–I’m not heading back to school in the fall, and I don’t have anything hefty that I need to regularly carry around on my back–but it made me really angry. That was MY chair he was messing with. It was MY territory with MY sacred things, and I might have well stuck “Keep Out” and “If You Touch This You Will Suffer a Painful Doom” stickers all over it, the way I did with Post-It Notes on my dresser when I was nine.

I suppose I’m angry about moving that backpack because removing it would feel like the final admittance that everyone is leaving. As long as my backpack stays on that chair, it just looks like I’m home on break and that soon it’ll be time to go back to school and catch up with everyone about what they did over the summer. All my binders are exactly the way I left them on the last day of school. I haven’t touched a single paper. I’ve raided the pencil pouch a few times, but I always put everything back the way it was because it still feels like I’m going to need it for class later.

I say that I’ll deal with everything in the backpack when my parents buy me a file cabinet–I need some place to put all the paper, because those 250-word reactions I wrote about democracy quotes are going to be really important to have at some point. But I don’t know if even then, when everything is all set up, if I’ll have the heart to do it.

I don’t want to let go of high school quite yet, no matter how much life tended to suck while I was in it. I was always surrounded by such lovely, lovely people who made me so happy; I got to see my friends everyday; I had really great teachers and fun classes; I got to be a part of amazing clubs with awesome people; and I had finally become friends with every secretary in the school, guaranteeing me preferential treatment in every office. Things were wonderful when I wasn’t dealing with mental illness.

And now all of that’s gone. Some people have already left for college and by the end of the month it will be everyone. Even if I still keep my backpack on that kitchen chair, my sham will be utterly destroyed.

My lie to myself becomes more and more obvious as time wears on, and I find myself become more and more withdrawn. I spend even more time than usual on the internet reading. My research of various topics becomes more and more intense, and I’ve begun to let my room get messy. I owe Cecelia a bunch of letters. I talk to the cats more, and one of my favorite parts of the day is when the AC starts blowing. But I will not move that bag, no matter how ridiculous it’s getting.

Tunes for a Very Special Road Trip

Greetings Blogizens —

It’s Mr. Ella’s Dad, substitute blogging again. Ella is out spending the night with her friends before tomorrow’s very special day. Since I’m bracing for a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth in the months ahead, I thought I’d pull together a playlist to ease the journey. Enjoy listening to this rapturous collection; feel free to add your own suggestions.

Blondie – Rapture

Norman Greenbaum – Spirit in the Sky

REM – It’s the End of the World as We Know It

U2 — Until The End Of The World

Guns ‘n’ Roses -Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door

The Pixies — Monkey Gone to Heaven

The Cure – (Feels like) Heaven

Cracker – Can I take my Gun to Heaven?

Mazzy Star – Be My Angel

Sly and the Family Stone – I Want to Take You Higher

Jimi Hendrix – Angel

Led Zeppelin – Stairway to Heaven

“Nothing Gold Will Stay”

I have never been a big fan of growing up. I was so distraught on my fifth birthday that I spent around twenty minutes standing at the top of the basement stairs with my face pressed into the corner as I sobbed. Unfortunately, I seem unable to rid myself of this habit, and the panic of maturation strikes me around once a month.

While I do enjoy looking at how my analytical skills have improved and how much more knowledge I now possess, I cannot get over my peers’ and my progressive loss of innocence.

I was in the shower a few days ago, thinking about books, and I suddenly remembered reading The Outsiders in seventh grade. I wasn’t a huge fan of it–the gangs and disobedience held no appeal and upset me quite a bit–but it does one redeeming quality. At some point, Johnny is talking to Ponyboy and he recites the Robert Frost poem, Nothing Gold Can Stay as “an analogy for the fleeting innocence of youth”. Now, I like modern poetry quite a bit, and I really like Frost, so I memorized the end of it and repeat it to myself from time to time whenever I think about growing up.

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

I try to preserve that gold for as long as I can. It’s a foolish effort and almost always brings me a lot of grief. I get so wrapped up in the securities of my past that I almost never accept change with grace. When the boys started cursing on the playground in sixth grade, I cried. It was clear that childhood was coming to a close, and adolescence would be soon begin. Later, at thirteen, I remember picking up one of my dolls and feeling like I didn’t know what to do with them anymore. I was entirely at a loss and went off to read the New York Times. I still keep three of my dolls in my room, weirdly hopeful that maybe it was all a fluke and that I’ll suddenly be able to play with them again.

I’ve dragged my feet through every milestone event (with the exception of getting my ears pierced when I was ten), and the fact that I’ll be a legal adult in less than three weeks is terrifying. I mean voting is nice and all, but I’d still like to think that stupid is a dirty, dirty word and that using “bathroom talk” will get you a time-out.

Though, truth be told, I am excited to become an adult and have capital R Responsibilities. I just want to think about it as a event that’s going to happen far, far in the future. Something that I can imagine and speculate about and not something to begin planning for. And while I do want to leave behind the emotional pain of my childhood and adolescence, I just want it to happen now with out any significant maturation.

But the thoughts that I’ve written here aren’t constant. Somedays, I’m desperate to grow up and love how mature I’ve become. People my age are so much more interesting than before, and they’re only going to continue to get that way. Besides, I would never want to be seventeen forever.

In Which I Badly Write Notes and Cecelia Decides to Change my Future

Today when I opened my binder to start studying some Supreme Court cases for a quiz I have tomorrow, I found some notes that I had been passing back and forth with people in class. The best one was with Cecelia.

I must have gotten very bored because the note is full of simplistic, oddly spaced, and very poorly written musings.

One day, I will live in a house in D.C., Boston, or on the Cape and write. It will be lovely.

I will also have cats, and you will be welcome to visit.

I will eat lots of tofu and lentils. There will also be chocolate cheesecake.

There will always be orange juice in the refrigerator, and I will have a place to sit outside without bees.

And despite the fact that the note is very bad, it is a pretty accurate reflection of some of my wishes. I take a great deal of comfort in being hopeful about the future.

Then, because Cecelia is Cecelia, she ripped the paper out of my hands and modified it. It now reads:

One day, I will live in a housemilk carton in D.C.Mumbai, BostonBirmingham, or on the CapeGanges and write. It will be lovely.

I will also have catsducks, and you will be welcome to visitroast them.

I will eat lots of tofubeef and lentilswurst. There will also be chocolate liver cheesecake.

There will always be orange juiceblood in the refrigerator, and I will have a place to sit outside without beessunshine.

It’s things like this that make me feel so blessed to have friends. After all, not anyone will turn your future plans into a version of Mad-Libs, be patient with your morning shenanigans the way Tal does, answer your strange questions the way Audrey does, sing your name whenever you walk into the room the way Clara does, or make you smile when you’re crying the way Lily does. (I really could go on and on.)

In related news, when I was picking out a dress to wear this morning, I remembered that Alice and I have two identical dresses that we each purchased independently. I think this is a sign that we have very good taste in fashion. Well, either that or we’re very slowly going to morph into the same person.

On Boating, Mirrors, and Victory

Today was another day of feeling dizzy and off. The odd sensations of floating/boating haven’t ceased. I felt like I was paddling a canoe through first period. Second period, I floated around in an inner tube. Third, I spent in a row boat. By forth, I left for a very long sail for Nantucket with lots of breaks for dead man floats. I haven’t yet returned, and as of right now, it doesn’t appear that a return ticket was booked.

So by the time I got home, I was done. Really, really, really, really done. But rather than letting myself slid over into freak out mode, I decided to get creative. Whenever I get freaked out by side effects, I have a panic attack, and that panic attack is almost always the result of disassociation. To fix that I parked myself in front of the huge mirror on the wall at the foot of the stairs. I could sit on the stairs and see my whole body and behind me. That way I would know that it was me. I grabbed some yellow rice and chicken from the fridge, made popcorn, and poured myself some juice into this awesome cup that I made when I was five.

 

I have two observations about this mug. One: I clearly have excellent potential to become an artist and Two: I have never been good at accurately depicting my body.

Then, I turned on my iPod and just sat there and watched myself eat. I still felt like was the model of buoyancy and that I was gaining pounds by the mouthful, but I wasn’t panicking. I was just sitting there, eating food and waiting it all out. It’s the first time a long time that coping skills have been an hundred percent effective in the face of side effects. Maybe it was my Rainy Tuesday playlist or yellow rice that did it, but I’d like to think that it was me, that I did something entirely right for once, and that I can overcome my challenges all by myself.

Victories like that one twenty minutes ago are never as loud as my failures (Crying in English, crying at lunch, crying in French, etc.). Mostly, they go unrecognized. I write them off as flukes and tell no one or the people around me don’t notice. But I am going to tell you, whoever is reading this blog, about this one. I’m going to make sure that you know about it. And in doing that, I am going to make sure that I am not going to let it slip by the wayside either. I’ll build on what just happened today. I’ll force it to become a pattern. I’ll make it so that I never panic about side effects again. I will. Just watch me.

On a completely unrelated note, I have suddenly been forced into the position of hand-washing police in my house because people around here apparently haven’t passed pre-school health.

Cecelia’s Triumph

On Wednesday of last week, Cecelia was accepted into Yale. Naturally, I saved her text, jumped up and down, and practically (okay, literally) leapt on her when she arrived at Foreign Language Night twenty minutes later.

Now, I’ve been told that I am not allowed to make a really huge deal about this, but I really can’t help myself. It’s Yale. It’s one the best universities in the country. My parents went there; her mother went there; most of my parents’ friends went there. (And, well, George Bush went there, but I try to forget about that and how many soldiers lives he ended by sending them into useless combat.) Her grandfather even taught there. In my mind, it’s the university to end all universities and the loveliest academic place in the world.

Every late night that Cecelia spent doing homework, the many weekends that she gave up to do work, all the times she pulled all-nighters, and the immense stress has created something. Something beautiful and tangible. She’s reached the goal that everyone has been working towards since sixth grade. Seven years of hard work has paid off. She did it. Cecelia really, really did it.

Many would argue, and I would agree, that the American educational system has devolved into one that simply focuses on the outcome of tests and getting into the “right” college. Creativity is stunted, and those who don’t fit the norm are left on the wayside. But the problems with education shouldn’t mask the magnitude of Cecelia’s triumph. The failures of our educational system can’t be changed overnight, and there is victory in surviving something that’s broken and reaching its objective.

Maybe I’m foolish for feeling dizzy and joyous–she’s much externally calmer about this than I am–but the prospect is immense. It’s very rare that you accomplish something that you’ve dreamed about for years, and it should be celebrated until the party hats lose their elastic, and the balloons stop floating and become wrinkly. So until I get yelled at to shut up, I will be blowing party horns and playing Pin the Tail on the Donkey. I highly encourage you to join me.

One More from the Old Man

Ella’s still off at model congress so here’s another post from Mr. Ella’s father.  This’ll be short, as I’m leaving tomorrow morning for 10 days in California.  As always, I’ll depart with mixed emotions.  I genuinely enjoy many aspects of business travel — seeing new places, meeting new people.  My work requires me to spend a lot of time talking to college professors about teaching and learning. It beats flipping burgers.  American higher education is in rough shape, but it’s still something that’s done better here than most anywhere else in the world.  You can’t say that about too many fields.  And there’s always a certain positive energy on college campuses — thousands of people working toward a better future for themselves and others.  Sure, there are the slackers, the greek brats, the spoiled kids.  But despite all of that, the dominant mojo on your average campus comes from people working on getting better at something, and helping others improve.  How many other environments feel like that?

So why the mixed feelings?  I’m leaving my family behind.   Regular readers of this blog know that Ella needs a lot of support.  That’s harder to give from 3000 miles away. When Ms. Ella’s mom is parenting solo, she gets worn down, and everyone has a rougher time of it.  I hate being the cause of more hardship and friction, even when I have to be off doing what I do.  Ella will be coming home tomorrow from a major expedition and I won’t be here to hear about it.  And I’ll be even farther out of touch with Pippa than I am already.

So I think I’ll take my cue from our cats, who have commandeered Ella’s bed during her absence.  I can relax and take this in stride, trusting I can handle whatever tomorrow brings.  Or I can peer nervously forward, dreading whatever may be headed my way. I’m thinking Max and Zelda have the right idea.

one bed; three cats

On an Eight-Year-Old’s Prophesy

I first learned about anorexia when I was eight. I was sitting in my first “proper” health class in the school library, and as always, I was fidgeting like crazy. Starving yourself to death? I thought, as the nurse explained the symptoms, How horrible. Who would ever do that? But despite that initial revulsion, a part of me kept whispering, It’s going to be you. It’s going to be you. It’s going to be you. I swung my legs back and forth and chewed my cuticles to bits as anxiety rushed over me. But even after my index finger had started to bleed, the voice wouldn’t shut up. You just know that it’s going to be you.

Eight-year-old me was right about a lot of unfortunate things, and sadly, this turned out to be one of them. By the time I was twelve, being “fat” had become an obsession. In gym class, we were told that if we could “pinch an inch” of skin on our hipbone, then we were overweight. I would grab my skin over and over, pulling on it, and holding a ruler up to it to check if it was over an inch. It always was. I know now that the test was completely bogus, but when a teacher tells you something, and the fifty kids in the room follow suit, it is hard to believe that it isn’t as certain as gravity or the First Law of Thermodynamics.

Starting in the winter of seventh grade, we had to make “fitness profiles” on an aging computer in the corner of the gym. As I balanced on an old scale, peering down to try to read the numbers, I thought, If I am over 90 pounds, there are going to be serious problems. Well, I was over 90 pounds, but I was also five-foot-two. But that didn’t matter to me. I just panicked. When we ran the mile, I pushed myself to go faster and faster. If I couldn’t do it in under eight minutes, then I would have to do extra sit-ups later and skip my dessert. It was minor, really, but the numbers were real and frightening.

Everyday, when I would walk down to lunch, trailing along in a line of excited students, I would feel the overwhelming urge to dump all of my food into the trash the moment that I sat down. It was scary, but deliciously so. It was like play with matches outdoors at camp: you’re on the precipice of creating something that you can’t control, flirting with it, but always stamping them out just in time.  Only I didn’t like fire, I just hated food. But I stuck it out and laughed with friends as I ate my yogurt and cereal. At home, I would eat a little bowl of ice cream every afternoon while lounging in the sun and reading, and I despised myself for it. The fear of getting fat was becoming all-consuming.

As my time wore on, my insecurities grew, and I started to stand in front of the mirror and judge my body. I’d hold my clothing taught around my torso and look at my stomach, sucking it in all the way and wishing that I could look like that all the time. My stomach was too big. I was too fat. I was too ugly.

I turned thirteen, and the anxiety got worse. Finally, I began to complain to my mother about it, pulling up my shirt to show her that I could “pinch an inch.” Ever logical and comforting, she would say, “No, you’re not fat. You’re just where you need to be.” But I couldn’t believe her.

On Saturdays, I’d shyly drag my mother into my therapy session to tell the psychologist how I felt. Saying it myself felt too scary, and I was petrified that she would think that I was shallow for being focused my body image. Talking about it in therapy never helped, though. We were too focused on my “bigger problems.”

Eighth grade passed, and it was more of the same. To a certain extent, being uncomfortable in your body is especially typical of a middle schooler, but my fears went beyond the norm. I started giving bits of my lunch away. Here, have my cookie. Here, have my drink. By the time graduation rolled around, I was convinced that I was a flat chest-ed butterball, when in actuality I was just around 95 pounds.

In high school, most of people start to shed their former insecurities. Girls emerged from sweatshirts, and boys began to wash their hair more frequently. My clothing choices improved, and I lost my boring haircut, but my weight concerns intensified. At lunch, I’d hand over my yogurt to a friend and only eat my carrots. I cried quietly in my room when I outgrew old clothing. I spent more time staring in the mirror.

Sophomore year, it got a little better. School was going well. I was involved in a million clubs. I had straight A’s. I had a monstrous crush on a guy. I spent hours doing fun things with friends. It felt like people really liked me, and I started to forget about being fat. By the end of the year, I was five-foot-four and 113 pounds. And that’s when things really started to go downhill.

Stepping back from the scale and hearing the school nurse announce my weight to anyone in the general vicinity was a slap across the face, a reminder of all of the worries that had been plaguing me for years, and it stung. It stung with the force of a hundred angry, angry bees. That summer I started to play what I called “my little game.” Everyday, I would see how long I could go without eating. Liquid was allowed. Making it to three o’clock was an okay day. Five was optimal. When I finally couldn’t wait any longer, I’d go outside and eat a yogurt, savoring it and making it last for half an hour. Sometimes, I’d eat an Italian ice, but only if I had done some exercise.

I felt so powerful, skipping meals. Once you restricted for a few days, the pangs of hunger entirely disappear, and it became easy. If I could rebel against my body’s need for food, I could do anything. August became September, and school started. I took three AP classes, stayed up to all hours to balance homework and extra circulars, and used the privacy of school to hide food from my parents. Once tight pants were now baggy, shirts hung on me weirdly, and my bras became too big, and I had to resort to wearing ones from middle school. I took pictures of myself each week, as my ribs began to stick out, and my collarbone made sharp angles on my chest. At night, I’d flip through the photographs, intoxicated with my “progress.” It was wonderful. But it didn’t last long. These things never do.

I left school and went to a treatment center for other emotional problems, and spent all of my time sleeping or freaking out. I hardly ate. In desperation, my parents tried feeding me three pieces of bacon and a bagel for breakfast everyday. Mostly, I balled it up in tissues and put in the trash. I don’t know how much I weighed then, and I really don’t want to know. It was probably in the nineties.

But my restriction wasn’t as secretive as I thought, and soon enough I was sitting in a doctor’s office and hearing the words, “anorexia nervosa.” In my head, I heard echoes of eight-year-old me whispering, it’s going to be you, and it was me, and I knew it. It reverberated all through my body, and if I had been alone, I would have laughed. I quickly got evaluated for an eating disorder treatment program, but other problems overshadowed the anorexia, and I stayed in another rehab facility. In February, I went the hospital. I was exactly a hundred pounds, a marked improvement.

But things got better. The world is never entirely cruel. My friends and family rallied behind me, pushing me down the path to recovery even when I was kicking and screaming. I began to work with a nutritionist. My goal was 2400 calories a day, and I had to will myself to eat, because eating was good, no matter what I thought. I started to see a new psychologist to begin Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, which supposedly is the best type of therapy for someone trying to recover from an eating disorder. And supposedly became really, and I gained weight. I wrote a pamphlet about anorexia for health class, and smiled as I did it, because I felt like I was coming out on the other side. By the summer, I was 110 pounds. Amazing.

The end of the summer was hard, and I dropped seven pounds. But just like before, I pulled it back up in a few months. I had my head above the water, and though I was swimming for dear life, I wasn’t drowning anymore. I’ve been mostly stable since then. Of course, the obsession with being thin hasn’t disappeared, but it’s waned. I know now that skeletal is just as unattractive as obese.

Living with an eating disorder is difficult. Incredibly difficult. I can tell you the amount of protein and the number of calories in a disturbingly large number of foods. I can explain to you in detail how many infections I got as the result of malnutrition. I can show you pictures from when my feet and hands were perpetually red and purple. But I can also tell you this story. The story of my descent into the valley and how I’m climbing back up again. It’s a good story. One full of promise and hope and a somewhat happy ending.

Euphoria on an Island

I thought that instead of writing about medication for the umpteenth time, I’d tell a story.

Instead of going to Junior Prom last year, I went to Audrey’s summer house. That trip was the best two days of 2010.

I begged my parents for weeks to let me go. I had only just gotten back to school, but I was stable and done with my outpatient program. Everyday was sunny, and I loved being surrounded by classmates again. It all seemed too perfect to be real.

After a half day at school (which actually I didn’t attend due to a doctor’s appointment), we were off.  We had to ride on two trains and take a ferry to get there, and the farther I got from home, the more excited and happier I got. The whole way there I imagined exactly what it would be like, adjusting my mental image as we got closer and closer. On the ferry ride, our hair flew all over the place, and I tried to reassure myself that the ferry wouldn’t sink or flip over.

Once were on the island, we walked to Audrey’s house. I could feel little grains of sand under my feet, making scratching noises against the concrete path.  The houses were raised a few feet off the ground and were low structures made out of wood. Finally, we rounded a corner and walked down a small street that ended at the beach.

Audrey’s house was lovely. The kitchen, dining room, and living room all ran into each other and felt both spacious and cozy at the same time. After setting down our bags and changing, we immediately headed down to the beach. I slapped myself in the face when no one was looking to verify that this was all really happening. I felt happy the way that I do when I’m hypomanic, but this time I was entirely in control.

Audrey wore my shorts that say “COCKS” that were purchased at University of South Carolina, home of the Fighting Gamecocks. I find them amusing, especially when I combine them with tee shirts from church. On the beach, I watched Cecelia and Audrey dash in and out of the waves while Alexandra and Grace ran around on shore. I took pictures and laughed.

Sometimes, there would be a huge wave that would wash all the way up and stop a few yards away from my towels. I watched the pieces of foam it left behind. It felt springy underfoot.

Grace and I drew huge patterns in the sand.

We went back to the house once everyone was worn out and hungry, and Cecelia and I cooked dinner. Sitting around a table on her back deck, I thought to myself, all those months out of school and the week in the hospital were worth it if it means that I am going to have more and more days like this.

We walked all the way back to the landing where the ferry had docked and watched the sunset. I held my glass bottle of Ginger Ale and let my feet dangle over the side. We played on a playground, and I thought about how ironic it is that I hate heights, but I love swing sets. I watched Cecelia clown around, and then we headed back. I tried walking toe, heel, toe, heel.

Back at the house, we did the dishes, eight hands scrubbing, rinsing, drying, and putting away. Water spilled down our fronts. In the living room, we curled up on the couch, watched episodes of The Office, and ate ice cream. I didn’t look at the nutrition facts.

And at midnight, I turned 17. Sadie called to wish me a happy birthday, and I unwrapped a beautiful white tank top from Audrey. It was perfect and wonderful and lovely. Later, when I was lying in bed, I couldn’t sleep for about an hour; I was too happy to relax.

The next morning, we packed up, I made lunch for the road, and we took the ferry and two trains home. Cecelia and Audrey went to my house to get ready to leave for my beach house that evening. But that Memorial Day weekend story is something separate and special and a tale for another day.

When things get difficult, I have to remember these moments of euphoria. I need to cling onto them tightly, hold them close, and drape them around me. I must remember how I felt in this picture.


With my dress billowing out behind me, I ran, full of hope, happiness, and optimism. For that day and a half, nothing was wrong with the world.

Ella the Oversized Lab Rat

I missed school today after having attended for nine straight days. Last night, I had another really bad, vivid dream from the Geodon that woke me up at four a.m., and by the time for getting up to go to school rolled around, I became convinced that if I got anywhere near the train tracks, I would be hit and killed. After a minor freak out, I went back to sleep. To continue this series of unfortunate events, I woke up in a panic at nine, thinking that I was about to drown in the ocean and that I was in trouble for not protecting a little kid well enough.

This morning wasn’t my finest moment.

However, I was able to climb out of bed and get a lot of work done. I finished my homework on Shakespeare’s sonnets (five pages!) and spent some more time outlining my thesis. Hopefully, “Kate Chopin: Feminist or Liberationist?” is going to be a work to rival the Iliad and Grapes of Wrath. At the very least, it’ll be as good as The Baby-Sitter’s Club: Kristy’s Great Idea (a book I’ve never read, but I feel that I can accurately assume it’s worth). I’ve already got a legal pad full of notes, a binder with around twenty marked-up critical essays, and six pages of pre-writing.

Sadly, things weren’t exactly looking up. I started a new medication called Oxcarbazepine/Trileptal on Friday, and it’s been making me feel funny. Funny in a I-really-don’t-feel-normal-or-like-myself sort of way. It’s not enjoyable and led to a near full-blown panic attack on Saturday. Thankfully, my Dad put on my favorite movie, Miracle, and I calmed down.

On days like today, I just feel like an oversized lab rat. Every time I go to the psychiatrist my medication changes, as we continue in our quest to find the perfect chemical cocktail. Let’s see how Ella’s liver metabolizes this! Let’s see how her brain reacts to that! We accidentally sedated her? Whoops!

During therapy, we worked on a plan for me to be “my own best advocate” and to “own my body” (which totally sounds like it belongs on a NOW campaign poster for women’s empowerment) when speaking to the psychiatrist about my adverse reactions. Unfortunately, I know that if I can’t tolerate this medication, then electric shock therapy is left uncomfortably close to the top of the list. And no matter how intimidated I am by diplomas from medical school and dislike this new medication, I’d take it any day over ECT.

In the car home, I tried to broach the subject with my mother. That discussion did not go well, and I was told, “You just need to be patient. It’ll improve.” I sat in the car and cried while she and Pippa went into the grocery store to pick up seltzer. I just want my head back. I want my thoughts to be solely mine. I want to know that when I look down at my body that I am the one controlling it.

It’s evening now, and I’m sitting on my bed, surrounded by cats, full of hope that things will improve. Because things have to. I refuse to believe that the world is a cruel place.