God's Daughter.

By Carroll Ann Susco.

Every day I drove back to my apartment to feed the cats until I forgot where I parked. Then, I sat in the hotel room and ate junk food and drank iced tea, getting crazier and crazier, wondering what my next move should be. I was angry. This was no way to treat God’s daughter, gatekeeper to earth, making her find a way to get money while not working because she was doing God’s work instead.

Keys to her Heart by Maya Jimsheleishvili.

I put a piece of paper over the picture and trace the lines. I remember shapes, shadows. The lines are everything. Some are shaky or blurry, but usually they make something I can understand, something that triggers a memory. Case in point: I remember it was 1996, but it could have been 1997. I was in my early 30s and had my first episode as an adult. Being discharged from the mental hospital, I remember the doctor’s anger at me. I had asked what was wrong with me. She said I had, “A thinking disorder.” What is that? I may never know because psychiatrists keep secrets, and I don’t know why. I think I should have been told I was Bipolar Schizoaffective type, that I would need the meds the rest of my life and been given a therapist. They cared nothing for what I remembered, even though it was a roadmap of my psyche. They only cared that I rated my mood from one to ten, and then they sent me off to cope somehow someway somewhere. I took the bus home from the hospital and found my cat who had been living on mice while I was away. It would take a year to recover. And then, finally, in March, the voices and depression were gone. I didn’t know then I got manic in March and was still sick.

So, oblivious to the ramifications, I stopped taking the blue pill and the white one and the oblong one in 1997, or was it 1998? Four months later, I was in Ocean City, Maryland, living off my credit cards. I had this notion that if I paid the minimum, which I could get as a cash advance, I could live that way for years. It didn’t take long for that plan to fall through. I worked one day before the voices carried me off, down the boardwalk and back again to the year-round carnival. I tried to sell my car, and my parents found out (the title was in their names) and took it to their house.

I drove rental cars up and down the main drag, back and forth across the peninsula, until I stopped and settled at one motel. Every day I drove back to my apartment to feed the cats until I forgot where I parked. Then, I sat in the hotel room and ate junk food and drank iced tea, getting crazier and crazier, wondering what my next move should be. I was angry. This was no way to treat God’s daughter, gatekeeper to earth, making her find a way to get money while not working because she was doing God’s work instead. Delusions are rarely practical.

So, instead of paying for the day’s stay, I marched over to the concierge and yelled, “I shouldn’t have to pay for my room. I’m God’s daughter.” I was proud of myself. I had done the right thing. Now I would find out what power I really had on this planet and what the options were as God’s daughter. The concierge didn’t say anything. I yelled a few more related things and walked back to my room, turned on the TV and got comfortable on the bed.

It took the cops 10 minutes to find my hotel room. They pounded on the door. Adrenaline pumped. Something was wrong. I jumped from the bed and opened the door. I didn’t have time to ask them what they wanted. They started yelling at me and grabbed me, threw me to the ground, and jerked my hands behind my back, cuffed them, which I never knew hurts quite a bit. They shoved my head down and pushed me into a cop car, driving me somewhere I hadn’t been and could never find again. Oddly, they put me in the front seat of the cop car. Didn’t they know I’d seen movies where the arrested person head butts the driver, the car rolls into a ravine, and the prisoner makes his escape? But honestly, I’m no head butter, and my question of how the world sees God’s daughter was being answered. So, I listened.

When we got to the hospital, the police and the attendant brought me into a small room and put me in a gown and a straightjacket. Anxiety and claustrophobia kicked in. I started screaming. They asked me my name. Of course, God’s daughter, insulted to this level, wouldn’t answer. They got mad. They wanted cooperation, too. Next, they’d want me to follow their Satan laws. I asked to go to the bathroom. The male attendant pulled down my underwear and put a plastic bowl under me. 

And then they left me there, with my panties down, while I could hear the police and the attendant laughing somewhere close by.

They put me in solitary confinement. Sometime in the night, they took off the straight jacket, and I had learned my lesson. Being God’s daughter doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. Act normal despite the voices, and that would be my last mental hospital. The next time I had a psychotic break, I ended up in jail. (I yelled at my mother and she called the police.) But that’s another story, or the same one only different actors, still police, the drive to a place I have never been. That one was more painful though, something about the way they all saw me.

But in the hospital, after a couple of weeks, back on my meds, I knew something was up. They hadn’t talked about releasing me. I didn’t know they planned to send me to a halfway house. They simply just did not tell me. They, too, participated in the conspiracy of silence. Whatever it was going to be, I wanted some control. So, I called my mother and stepfather. They were relieved. I would stay with them. They immediately went to pick up my cats who were still in the apartment I rented. Apparently, the landlord was feeding them. And, I had left the window open.

When I got out of the hospital, I wanted to get the cat who had escaped my parents’ clutches. They relented and agreed to drive me there. I got out of the car and said, “Okay, if I am psychic, I’ll head in the right direction.” I did. I walked right up to my cat hiding amid the outdoor washing machines. But I was unsure what I was still, psychic, maybe, crazy, seemingly, but I was back on my meds and headed for the safety of my parents’ house, and my cats were okay.

My stepfather saw me talking to the voices all day and smoking cigarettes. It didn’t take him long to get to work saving me. He joined the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill. He taught people about schizophrenia and how to help loved ones. He got me on disability. He paid for my bankruptcy lawyer. He slowly got me to talk and do yardwork and walk. I still talked to the voices, but I called them voices. We made a shade garden in the front yard. It was from him that I learned we’re all sons and daughters of the most-high God. I did some reading and found out I didn’t have an inflated ego, but the opposite. Grandiose gestures are the psyches’ way of repairing the wound, the fractured rupture in thinking.

I’d be lying if I didn’t say I still believed I am different and serve God in a special way. I do, often. It gives me purpose and keeps me going, gives a reason for the voices. And it’s true, my ego is in tatters, and so is my life. I trace the lines on a piece of paper, putting the pieces together, writing them down, and my hope is that someday I find love all around me. I have to believe in that. And I have to believe God loves me even if I don’t do something important for him. When I meditate, I see that line of thinking. I see myself fading, going under the blanket, being nothing at all, gloriously nothing and no one. The pressure is gone, and I learn to just be.

The Blood Pudding – September 27, 2021

Carroll Ann Susco has an MFA in fiction from the University of Pittsburgh and numerous publications such as The Sun Magazine. She has a nonfiction chapbook about her journey through mental illness, Bean Spiller, which will be published by Variant Literature in February 2022.

Artwork: Maya Jimsheleishvili was born in 1979 in Tbilisi, Georgia. In 2003, she graduated from Tbilisi State Academy of Arts. Her art has been exhibited in private collections in Georgia, New York, Monaco and Estonia. You can find her work here.