Poonamalie Road…

It was time to leave childhood toys behind and move on with my life. Easing into an early marriage at the young age of nineteen I abruptly fell into motherhood.

There was a time when staying at home to raise your kids was acceptable. The women who decided to have a career instead of opting for diapers and formula were frowned upon. For me it was a “call to duty,” pretending to be supermom. For the first time in my life I felt fulfilled, those were rewarding times.

Life was simple. Every morning I was up and had the kids dressed and fed before the familiar bus rattled down the road. I would watch through the living room window as they scuttled along toting their brown paper bag lunches, very unconcerned that the bus driver was holding things up for them. I felt content in those days, it was where I belonged. Gradually time progressed and me along with it. As my two responsibilities departed every morning on the eight o’clock bus, it left me free until their return at four.

Over time I began to feel restless, something was missing. Time was catching up with me and I was soon to discover that the one I’d been searching for was also seeking me. It was then that my paper bag friend appeared consistently, every day, to join me in my madness, on this I could depend. No sooner were the kids out of sight that it reared its ugly head, this paper bag friend. My precious potion, hid beneath the cellar stairs had managed its way into another day. Together we would plot to fix the world, certain it was coming to an end. No need to venture outside myself; I liked being alone with these thoughts and this toxic seeking friend.

Seizing what offered relief; I sought its solace more and more, a fix to numb the pain. My secret confidant who soothed me, comforted me, and listened to me, whose only desire was to make me happy. It was all I would ever need and it wasn’t long before it became the focus of my life. As the days began to melt into weeks and the weeks into months the effect was nothing short of magical. A love affair so all consuming and all powerful, my world was put on hold.

I was an alcoholic long before I was diagnosed manic-depressive. The descent had been mercifully swift. It began when I discovered a lump in my neck and out of fear I quickly sought medical attention. I did not sleep much the night before my appointment and rising early I rushed out the door. My hope was to claim it as a false alarm and free myself of this shock, a blessed relief. Still, I felt foolish about going and worried that the doctor might think me a waste of time. Regardless, I sensed there was something wrong and so I continued as planned.

The waiting room was packed. Feeling anxious I wondered what his policy was on being punctual but quickly withdrew these thoughts, doctors were sacred in my world. With time to spare, the outdated magazines didn’t hold my interest. Checking my whereabouts I quickly scanned the room. Looking up I saw a very foreboding cathedral ceiling with a giant round skylight that was splattered with bird dung. The walls were black and white fashioned in a diagonal pattern, unimpressive and badly in need of an up-date refurbishing.

Restless and feeling more and more foolish I had a sudden urge to leave. It was silly to be here in the first place, my internal clock ticked on. Just as I was about to cancel, my name was called. Ushered into one of the many cubicles, the doctor made his entrance and greeted me warmly. Self-consciously I told him of the lump, already embarrassed for seeking attention. When he made the shift into serious I knew I was in trouble. Hodgkin’s disease, he said was the cause of the malfunction, a form of cancer. A biopsy was ordered immediately; there was no fooling around with this. Stunned, I heard two things, cancer and death. Stumbling over my words, daring not to make eye contact, I managed to find the exit and in shock found my way to the car.

The drive home was chaotic; a constant string of obsessive thoughts held me captive. All too soon a torrent of fear rushed in, the fear of death I thought I’d let go of was still burned into my flesh, such ponderous weight it carried. To look upon such brokenness left me empty, would I ever tire of creating such a mess?

My only hope was a second opinion but what was the use? I’d already made my mind up that it was cancer. The next day another source revealed a misdiagnosis. Instant relief was abruptly followed by a gnawing sense of fear. The news had come too late, I’d crossed the line. With each foot in a different world a door opened and I was abruptly led into what turned out to be my own private hell.

I’d given up believing in God ages ago. I found it much easier to accept the fallacy that it was only the desperate souls in need of relief that would seek Him out before the end, plunked upon deaths doorstep. I was now one of those desperate souls. The faith of a mustard seed had been offered but ungraciously declined. The journey I was about to take would prove something very different. Unbeknownst to me Something greater was being put into motion. I knew I’d not chosen wisely, if only I’d wished upon that star. This power was bigger than me; I would sacrifice nothing in the end.

The nights were the worst. My inability to sleep was one of the first symptoms signaling the onset of clinical depression. As my bizarre thoughts took over, I longed to turn my head off and escape, lost to a world where I no longer fit in. While my desire to live slowly slipped away, so did a skeletal image mirror back to me someone I did not know. My condition deteriorated so rapidly that hospitalization became imperative and a blessed relief for everyone. Believing in the wonder of such institutions I thought, “I’m certain to get well there.”

Not recognizing my detour into insanity, maybe I’d been there all along and didn’t even know it. From an early religious upbringing I’d quickly discovered the wrath of God. Being the good student that I was, I’d learned my lessons well and adopted this fear as my truth. The church, forever warning of the demonic influence of “new age” and its impending doom was certain admittance into hell. Over time, carrying this cross of false beliefs literally drove me out of my mind. Battered by my sense of unworthiness I was crippled to the point of suicide. Cautioned by the church that suicide was a definite hell fire, I was trapped in two worlds; kill myself and go to hell or stay in this world of hell I’d created.

Numerous times in a desperate attempt to be “saved” I would seek out a variety of religious people and recite the “sinner’s prayer.” This prayer, they claimed, was the only way to get into Heaven and must be said by everyone or it was a definite doomsday. This did nothing to relieve my terror. The little faith that I did have slowly began to drain away as I questioned, “How could a loving God set such standards?” I could find no comfort in this belief and so I found myself bouncing in and out of mental institutions an outcast, shunned and pitied. Just reward from a punishing God who’d given up on me years ago. Yes, this was eternity…get used to it!

Staring out the window; lost in thought; no God, no prayers to repeat, no petitions for help. There was no way out, the silence never failed to remind me. I could not eat; there was no escape in sleep, only remnants of a life unlived.

Overwrought, I slowly sank to the bottom. In desperation I begged this illusive God for help only to find He had turned away in disgust. Humbled, no…I groveled… I’d never felt such darkness. How could I keep faith with a God who would leave me in such a place, I could not conceive of such a thing.

My mind sought escape in false delusions as fanciful visions crowded out all thought. Behind wooden doors stood shoes laced up as if still worn, shadows of a fearful world still intact. Reality began to fade as graven images took shape. My imagination had found shelter in this secret realm of thought.

Unexpectedly, the day arrived when I could not distinguish one from the other.

And so began a last ditch attempt to find a way out. Beneath layers of hopelessness something stirred. Weak from the struggle to simply draw breath, a soft voice slowly began to penetrate my hardened shell. Here was a witness to my worth and a love which, oblivious to me, had come to save me from myself.

So many voices,

silence gets louder,

words in slow motion I wasn’t to hear,

anger projected,

energy rising,

thoughts destination disguising as fear.

***