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There is a lot of shame that comes from being psychotic. The bizarre things you say and do, and for someone who lived “undercover” for twenty years, it was almost impossible to explain away the hallucinations and delusions. Shame isn’t the only thing that periodic episodes of psychosis have left me with.

Psychosis has stolen my keepsakes. When I am psychotic, for whatever reason (some irrational delusion, or a voice tells me to) I throw away all the things I have been keeping that are sentimental.  I have thrown away all my baby pictures, all the pictures of my grandparents, all my former writing, artwork that friends made for me, etc.

It is heartbreaking. I try not to think about it. The regrets from a mental illness already stack up like a Lego tower, and I don’t want to add more heartache to that tower for fear it will one day tip over and take me with it.

The things I have missed most are the pictures and my early writing.

Before I was diagnosed with a mental illness I was becoming a successful poet.  After I was diagnosed, the medication dulled all of my creativity. I stopped writing completely for many years. The loss of the ability to write was one of the most painful losses I have experienced in my life.  After twenty years, and the correct medication, I can write again, but I am still not even close to having the level of creativity I had in my twenties, pre-diagnosis.

Yesterday, a package arrived from a friend I have known for over twenty years.

When I opened the package, the tears started immediately. Inside, was some of my writing from 1993.  I read through it immediately.

Wow, I miss that young woman. Wow, that young woman had guts, and hope, and ideas.  Wow, that young woman was truly an artist and activist.

Here are a few things that young woman, who was smashed in her prime, had to say before the chemicals in her mind went in all different directions due to genes and medication:

“I don’t have a label for her. Maybe, that is why I love her. There is no container to keep her confined.”

Then there is this poem:

He is my everything, my all, my more (never less),

my hope, my dream, my soar to the sky,

my crash to the earth,

my tongue all tied,

his ears always open.

Our throats deep with the syrup we do drink

from one another.

And a very short poem:

Just Say Sleep

A little nap

a few Z’s

go to bed early…

wake up late.

Life’s internal way to cope.

Sleep is the dope,

I use too much.

There is much more.  Mental illness is a thief. If had spent the last twenty two years building on her writing…twenty two years is a long time to grieve the loss of a young woman in her prime.  I got a glimpse of her again through her writing.  I missed her today, more than usual.