I wake in the Queen Anne four poster bed. Bed of our madness. My Schizophrenic grandfather and abused grandmother slept here. Grandpa dug out a basement for a relative with only a shovel for the money to buy this bedroom set. A very long time ago.
This bed my domestic partner committed suicide on. I found her pants-less corpse next to me. The next morning. With no warning. All my empty pill bottles scattered around her head. Between epigenetic trauma, genetic mental illness, and real life hard knocks, no wonder my PTSD is dialed up to 666. Prazosin helps. So does therapy.
I sleep my antipsychotic Saphris-induced twenty-hour sleeps. On this bed. At irregular intervals. Unless I crash out on the green velvet couch. With nap intentions. Often a day or night passes.
Time loses meaning when you’ve been on SSDI for ten years. Deemed Totally and Permanently Disabled. Checked permanently out of society. I am no longer a real person. Powerful writers I respect tell me they have “real problems,” and I don’t. I’m not a real person. Am I imaginary? Perhaps. Ephemeral as a ghost to the real world.
Hidden away in my House of the Rising Sun I am real. My heart beats. Blood flows. I sleep. Breathe. Wake. Eat. Shit. I am still alive. My problems are all in my head. But they are painfully, hair-raisingly real.
I know no one can see my Schizophrenia. Or hear the voice of the imaginary friend part of my brain who whispers to me. Or the ancestral ghosts who talk to me inside my mind. See the iridescent mandalas that appear of the white walls and ceiling.
I know no one can see my Bipolar Disorder. Only the crystal dish in my pink bathroom heaped with Sephora palettes. The glittery paintings lining my walls from insomniac manic painting nights. The huge stash of pill bottles behind that mirrored medicine cabinet. Vanity bulbs light a blue plastic pillbox I fill twice weekly.
No one can see my anxiety. Only my face screwing up in pain when I go into a grocery store. Showing my ID at CVS Pharmacy every month. To get my benzodiazepines. So I can still go outside every once in a while. Not have seizures.
No one can see my PTSD. Only the strict avoidance of the outside world and non-familial relationships. The sleepless nights of traumasomnia. Empty eighths of cannabis, my best medicine.
Empty pill bottles gradually, slowly accrue. I used to save this detritus of my pain for art. Like alchemy. Then the cockroaches came. Now I just throw pill bottles away when they’re empty.
The irregular fits and starts of my amateur hobbyist creativity will never be good enough to be a job. Because artist is not a job that exists in this capitalist society. I only hang onto what stability I have thanks to my benevolent family and Social Security charity. All of which I am endlessly thankful for. Grovelingly.
I am painfully aware that I am a parasite. Many people think disabled people should just all die. Instead of sucking leech-like off of the system to survive. I don’t want to die. My domestic partner committed suicide over her mental illness. All of my grandparents are dead of old age. I want to live a long life until my wife comes for me in a black veil and takes me away to the other side. To haunt this house, perhaps.
I pray to be permitted to live. Free-range. Outside of an institution. I protectively recluse out, knowing this world isn’t safe for people like me.
“Cry me a river.” “Don’t you know how many people have it worse?” Of course I know all of that. I’ve been around the block and under the train tracks. I thought I would die there. I’m paralyzed to do anything about massive societal structural inequalities because I’m dealing with all the above mentioned shit already.
Don’t cry for me, Argentina. Don’t cry for me, Hollywood. Don’t cry for me, Nevada. All I ask is your eyes. For a time. Just read my voice on this screen. Feel my pain for a moment. Feel lucky you aren’t me. Feel better about your own life.
Isn’t that my place? As a Disabled woman? Inspiration or schaudenfreude? I know my place.
Andrea Lambert wrote Jet Set Desolate, Lorazepam & the Valley of Skin: Extrapolations on Los Angeles, and the chapbook, G(u)ilt. Her chapbook, Lexapro Diary, was recently released from Moonchaps. Her food essay series, “Dining with a Cursed Bloodline,” appears monthly in Entropy. Writing in Luna Luna, OCCULUM, Grimoire, and elsewhere. Anthologies: Golden State 2017, Haunting Muses, Writing the Walls Down, The L.A. Telephone Book and elsewhere. CalArts MFA. Website: andreaklambert.com. Twitter: @AndreaLamber.