It’s a drizzling day in April. It’s two am. It’s five pm. It doesn’t matter in the darkness and nobody knows.
I’m inside, of course. I’m always inside. Things are happening again. My days are lived in shreds and scraps, like this one: shrouded in a ripped quilt, I sink into myself, the visceral terror cinching my chest into a raw thing that twists and warps and crushes my breaths to ragged whimpers. My pantry is in shambles, as it has been since Tuesday, when I tore it apart to find the cameras that have been surveying my every move. Books open and facedown on the floor. A poster hanging lopsided from one piece of sticky tack. I don’t give a shit about cameras right now. I’ve realized that the demons are outside again. I can hear their sickening shrieks. Long claws scrabble at the door, and my blanket sanctuary will not hold.
You’re wrong. You’ve never been good at this.
My eyes move to the wall, but I’m not in charge. People are controlling me. Light. Wall. Light. My stuffed giraffe, in a cocoon I made him out of tissue paper.
Why did you make it so grey?
He’s not here.
It’s another day, I think, but distantly, because I don’t care. My mom is working in her backyard, forty-five miles away. I don’t know how I know this. Maybe she told me. Maybe someone else did. Things are hidden in the shadows cast by the scattered belongings I haven’t touched in weeks. My mom is in danger. Why is she outside? Hasn’t she figured it out? I want to call her but I’m not permitted to speak on the phone, and anyway, they’re listening. My communications have been monitored for a while now. I look red and frightened, probably, in the light of my computer screen. Don’t go outside again, I’m typing. I write and erase, write and erase, trying to figure out a way to phrase an email that will keep mom safe without further provoking the CIA. I encode what my cornered, humming mind judges secure, and I mouth delirious prayers about the rest. I’d like to see you when I can but obviously might be a while due to problems on the shell and otherwise. My face is swollen from sobbing. There are spiders in the yard, giant eight-fingered hands grasping at roots and overturning rocks. In the churning heart of fear, I know I can’t visit my parents again for a long time. I am being hunted. We’re all being hunted like animals.
This is my dawn, this is my afternoon. This is my April, this is my May, this is my June. This is the spring of my psychosis.
I don’t know what to say about those days, really. Things are so fragmented and unreal; it feels, looking back, like a ragged patchwork or something out of another person’s life. I’m scrolling through old messages now, as I write this. There are the pathetically transparent emails to my mom trying to convince her that I’m doing well: I am fine, I wrote her, day after day, for a while, as flowers were blossoming into summer outside. I am fine. Everything is fine. Do Not Worry. Things are fine. I love you. There are the texts with my friend Drew, messy webs of word salad with madness flowing strong and corrosive through them: microphones, horn music – the pizza delivery girl is trying to collect my DNA. There is a naked man, wet-looking and slouching around my apartment waiting to gouge out my eyes with scissors. Then there are the call logs, name after name.
This, as you can see, is not my typical blog entry.
I can’t let this sit without looking at it. It’s only been a few months since things were bad, truly bad, but I have this idea that, as they say, all I remember from life will be forever divided into the Before This and the After This. Everyone has turning points, I guess. Mine came at age 28. It came slowly and built to a terrifying crescendo. Fall held echoes and whispers, the winter a dark confusion. In all honesty, I don’t know how long the fierce sickness lasted, when it began, or why it subsided. Let’s talk casualties: dignity, relationships, confidence, trust, a degree of sovereignty. I live in a group home now, a five-bed residence intended as early intervention for people experiencing extreme mental states. Let’s talk also about what endures: my job is intact, my parents reach out often (I’ll write again, my mom has been ending her emails for months). Jessica is still here, my closest friend.
I’ve become mesmerized by madness.
This started out as a travel blog. I wanted to write about foreign things, about language, politics, images as simple as red simit carts framing the Bosphorus. Psychosis is all of that: it is leaving home. It is the most alien thing I’ve experienced; I felt as though I traveled deep to the molten core of all things and back, somehow, on a road strewn with loss and revelation. Dramatic? Maybe. It seemed that way.
Things are serene now. I spend my quiet days in a yellow house. I sip fresh coffee and I keep my windows open. There are ripples in the pond from time to time: voices and noises, paranoia crawling into my days like a stain, an uninvited guest slipping through the back door, spilled wine seeping across a tablecloth. Mostly, though, all is calm below the surface. I surround myself with books: Robert Whitaker, Allen Frances, Paris Williams, Bessel Van Der Kolk. My notebooks are filled with rushed scribbling and the margins with bolded exclamations. This is my new fascination: insanity, lunacy, madness, sickness, senselessness, sense, awakening, perception, the fathomless and hidden wells of the human mind.
Jessica is here with me, from the opposite coast of the country. We wake up early and we plan our exploration through these often-traveled but imperfectly-charted waters. We like projects and prose, the things that surface. Here, now, this is the start: Leaving Home is slated to be a five-part series about our story. It’s a trip we’re taking together on a cobblestone path that’s still being built.
Stay tuned. Let’s find out what happens.
Cover image by Le Luxographe