The Raven

The Raven

Monday, February 21, 2011

Home for the Holidays (part 10 of brother's story)

Our aunt had told him that she wanted him to get well and home; she wanted to hear his beautiful music at the Thanksgiving dinner.
It was November, before Thanksgiving time that my brother came home. He had spent about 4 weeks in Ancora. After further testing and observation, the doctors re- diagnosed him as bi-polar and put him on a mood stabilizer and sent him home. He was again medicated and frustrated. He couldn't play; he couldn't control his hands. It was weird, scary, yet familiar to have him home. He was actually acting like how I had known him. My parents said never again, about sending him to Ancora. (a couple years after this, there was talk about shutting the place down). Maybe I was loosing my mind, but I asked if he could come along on a trip to New York City with my Amnesty group. We were going to a seminar hosted by Amnesty to discuss the human rights abuses of Native American women. I wanted my brother to hear this, expose him to other cultures, ideas. I talked it over with my psychology professor. She said as long as he signed the waiver, as we all did, he could go. i felt sorry for him and what he had been through. He agreed to go. He was witty and charming in the van. He got a little arrogant at times, and I cringed since they had never met him, and my professors were a bit uncertain of taking him to begin with. But he really hit it off with one student. They had us laughing and I felt more at ease. However, as soon as we stopped for food at an enchanting, colonial restaurant, grey stone, slick and glimmering in the pouring rain, I had myself a Jameson. He and I wondered around the little museum upstairs and learned that Washington's teeth were actually made of ground up human and animal teeth.
At the seminar, I cringed again when I saw him taking samples of wine that were offered to the guests. I thought he would trip up again. I told him to be careful, especially with the meds. He ended up being okay. It was the two jackass girls who had never even been to a meeting, but somehow kissed up and got in, that got wasted and embarrassing, but I digress. There were a couple eerie coincidences... the obvious one to me, that I had started campaigning for Native American women, as he was obsessed with the Cherokee Spirit, and while walking through New York, we passed a lane where a sign hung over a cafe door that read Ancora. I don't know exactly what his journey was all about, but I know it is more significant than the human mind can comprehend. I think that's why there are mental disorders; some people are closer to the higher planes of knowledge, more in tune with the astral, metaphysical energies- like a third eye or 6th sense.

We had a normal Thanksgiving in Greenwich, at my aunt and uncle's, just as we always had since children. That same month, just before Thanksgiving, my brother got a job as janitor at Shoprite, our local grocery store. As time went on, he weaned himself off his meds, as well as from his assigned case manager, who weekly would stop by, and who also helped him get his job.
As more time went on, he began to open up about his experience at Ancora. He said that many times he was left to watch the patients, since he was the most sane among them. He saw a patient shitting himself and throwing it at a nurse as she cowered against the wall and sobbed afterwards. I think a lot of it he keeps inside. He says he has a whole new philosophy about life now, after being locked up in a mental hospital.
To this day, February 21, 2011, he is still at Shoprite, now an apprentice to a butcher, working full time and making Union wages. He is off all meds. He drinks and smokes a lot, but maintains himself. It has been four years of normalcy. When stoned or drinking, he gets a bit of the glaze over his eyes and he talks like he did while under psychosis, playing with words, and believing he has all the knowledge of the world inside him, but he doesn't separate himself from the common, understood reality. For the past 2-3 years, his moods have been stable, mellow. He has a steady girlfriend who he met at work. They have been together for just about as long as he's been out of the hospital; she knows his history and his temper. Sometimes, now, I am the one who is paranoid. He always talked about the Cherokee Spirit. She is Native American, and sometimes I wonder if she is part of his mental game, a self-fulfilling prophecy he is trying to create. Many times, especially after the two of us have been drinking and philosophizing together, and I get upset and start yelling and arguing, I have nightmares about him. Many things I ask or talk about when he was going through all this, he says he doesn't remember, which is understandable. Now, we even laugh about a lot of what happened. We have a lot of thoughts in common. He tells me we're like the same person, yet we are the opposite sex version of it. He also uses logic, with a grin and says, or it's because we're brother and sister!

It is 2011, and he keeps the philosophies in his pocket, and plays the game like a good boy. For, when you speak what's in your head, they shut you up, lock you up and drug you up so that you become a twitching zombie, a vessel for the pharmaceutical corporation... I must wonder, therefore, who is the one with devils dancing in their head?
Not a big fan of this picture but dont I look like John Lennon in his later years?!

It's All in Your Head (part 9 of brother's story)

I had heard that what causes schizophrenia is a gap between the hemispheres of the brain. Haunting that gap are voices, taunting are they to the body controlled by the brain. This gap in the brain creates a chasm between the schizophrenic and the family. They are on opposite sides, so far from their loved one. All they can do is watch them on the other side- you can see them, but there is an impenetrable glass wall between you- glassy eyes, glazed, staring, taunting that they know more than you do- completely unaware of how far from you they are.

I have learned that many people confuse schizophrenia with multiple personality disorder. Schizophrenics do not have split personalities, or multiple ones; they suffer from delusional beliefs, such as believing they are God or on a secret mission; they are very occupied with themselves, usually having high intelligence and an inflated feeling of self importance. They see the world- faces - distorted and freighting. They hear commanding voices in their head and they are real, coming from some greater source. They suffer from visions such as things climbing through electrical outlets, or see faces coming out of the T.V. They believe food to be poisoned; they have a hard time trusting anything. Nothing comforts them. Medication makes them exhausted, twitch, grimace, and feel like a shell of a human with the voices still echoing through their hollow innards. Many do not leave their homes. Unless they are among the ranting homeless- maybe their family let them go. Maybe they ran away. Maybe they have no family left.
It had a name now. My brother was a schizophrenic. He was certifiable.
Our mother was trying to connect how he got this way. She said he family was never diagnosed with anything, yet it could have been masked by alcoholism. Not much is known about the mental health of our father's side, and again alcoholism was rampant in his family as well.
He would call our house, angry, wanting us to get him out. I explained to him one day that he had to bring his mental level down a bit for them to let him out. I used the analogy of how musicians create music- how not everyone hears the inspiration, or can tune by ear, but musicians can tune it and make it understandable to the common ear. He thanked me for explaining this to him, with a bit of bitterness lingering somewhere behind him. He said it as if no one had tried to tell him anything, even though we had exhausted ourselves trying to. Yet, he still called, not as much as he could when he was at Bridgeton Crisis Center, as if I hadn't said anything to him. He had to win the game to earn the get out of jail free card. We used to play Monopoly all the time. He always won.

Red Ink (8th post of my brother's story)

Lambasting my mind was all the things I had heard and seen my brother do:
As he sat on his bed in the hospital he angrily said to my parents, "Why are you making those faces at me!"
"I hear Uncle Mike laughing at me."
He wrote all the time about noise in his head. But he spelled it Noiz, saying it was Zion spelled backwards. He heard our father yelling at at him in his head.
As he was strapped down to a gurney, he said, "C'mon Dad, give me the key."
He told me while at work one day, in the warehouse, he saw a face with sharp teeth and claws swatting at him.
People were worshiping him
He took pills, whatever was placed in his hand, just like Jim Morrison.
We are living in the Garden of Eden. I shouldn't stay a virgin. I should wear tampons to get used to "that feeling"
His temper compelled him to stab walls and smash things. His mind compelled him to resurrect Beethoven, Bach, Vaughn and Mozart from his electric keyboard. He strummed strings as he got inspiration from the symphony of his mind.
When he was a child I found him in his room tying his little Lego men to weights and dropping them in water. When I asked why, he said that he had been throwing them into his fan and he was afraid that during the night they would take their revenge on him.
His love for family brought him to tea at our aunt's and all holiday dinners. Sometimes, he would play music for us, after much begging from me, and laugh along at our conversations. He valued the wisdom of our elders- I could tell the way he listened and responded. When he was very little, about 4, he was in the tub as I stood hugging a towel around me, and told our mother that he wanted to be a cow when he grew up and became very upset when she told him he couldn't because he is a human. I remember waiting for the school bus, he was about 6. The collar of his coat, that our Dad had brought home from work (he worked a sewing plant), was standing up. Mom said he looked like Dracula. He said in his best Transylvania accent looking up at Mom, "Bend down, let me have your neck." We all laughed. For a moment I forgot my school jitters and anxiety.

My brother had been given a very sweet social worker who talked to my mom often over the phone about Sean. She said for the most part he was good, but often he would make sexual remarks to the nurses. He was moved to Lurch because of hugging a female patient (Sean later told me this) I'm not sure if this is the whole story or not. Somehow he was able to keep his Cross necklace. He had added a circle charm and once he motioned a sexual act by moving the Cross in and out of the circle at a female nurse.
Today was the most dreadful call. My mom sat at the dining room table talking to the social worker- her notebooks full of Sean's behaviour, medications, jumbo calendar marked all up with pen, pencil and marker with appointments and records of hospital admittances, releases. She had a red pen in her hand. I heard her say with fear, "Oh please no, Kelly..." I walked into the room and looked down at the page she was writing on; she was scribbling down "paranoid schizophrenic" she had written the word descending down the lined paper trying to figure how to spell it right. I turned and stared out our patio door- a sunny autumn day- you'd never know we had just gotten this kind of devastating news.

He's better off dead than a schizophrenic

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Ancora (7th post of my brother's story)

Sean was further away, physically, now. Ancora Psychiatric hospital was about a 30-40 minute drive, instead of 10. The hospital was not set up for visitors. My uncle took me there my first time. It was dark. There was a guard post we had to drive through; after we stated our business we were let through. There was little lighting. I remember little amber colored lights and lots of shadows and open fields all around. We walked up to what seemed to be the main building. The doors were locked. There was sign that said that we should use the phone to call in. Doctors and receptionists whizzed by as we peered in the glass doors.
"What phone?" my uncle said.
We looked around and I saw a dented metal box in a dark spot off the the right. We walked down the steps and I picked up the phone. Nothing. We went back up to the door and pressed a buzzer we found. No one came. Finally, an orderly saw us standing there and let us in.
I walked up to the desk and said that I was here to see Sean Buccos.
A woman coming up the hall heard and said, "Sean Buccos? He was moved this afternoon to the Lurch building."
"Where's that?" I asked.
A nurse said you have to walk all the way around."
"All the way around what?" my uncle asked, kinda laughing nervously, "all around this building or the perimeter?"
"The building," a nurse asked not cracking a smile. They're overworked.
We began to walk in the creepy, dark building. We were passing a prison yard. Far away I saw men in orange jumpsuits gathered, smoking, getting some air I imagined. I moved closer to my uncle. There was a soft misty rain and fog lingering in an aura around the amber lighting.
We were not finding the building.
"Let's drive around," my uncle said as we heard the prisoners calling and hollering.
We saw a building in the distance. With trouble, we found the drive path to get to it. The headlights illuminated a tiny sign that said Lurch and there was an arrow pointing left.
We parked the car. We wandered around to find the entrance. It was like a bad dream. All sides of the building were sewn shut, no way in, therefore no way out and my brother is in there.
We passed a chain link fence and inside were patients. One smoking, one, wearing a cowboy hat, rocking back and forth on a bench and another slumped over walking along the fence, like Egor, staring at me. They reminded me of sick cattle waiting for the slaughter. And my brother is in there. I took my uncle's arm.
We saw a guy walking up the path at us- no way to know if he was a patient or employee. We asked him how to get in and he told us where to find the door. It was like a zombie apocalypse and any one you met on the path might sink its teeth into your flesh.
I remember there was a fir, or cedar tree and a bird called from it. The distance was a dim, misty field and for a moment I pretended it was a mansion in England or Ireland we were going to explore.

We got inside. All the nurses here knew who Sean was. They said he was very smart and funny.
My brother had told me that we are all living in the Garden of Eden. The paleness and unfamiliar halls made me nauseous. It was dim down here, outside a nurses office. It looked like a school with bulletin boards and art, but not making me anymore cheerful. I trembled. We were taken to an elevator and up to where the floor Sean was.

We we shown into a room with bars on all the windows, inky black with night, linoleum floor and cafeteria tables. We sat at a round one by the tall barred window. they told us they would bring Sean in. Visiting hours would soon be over, an orderly told us.
My brother was escorted in. He sat at the table with us. We had stopped at a Chinese place to get him General Tso's Chicken- by his request. We stopped at the Chinese restaurant Sean and I nearly every Friday went to with our Dad. He would get his Chinese food, Sean and I would get fortune cookies from the man behind the counter. Then, we'd hop up in the giant green Ford truck, the three of us smushed on the bench seat, no seatbelts, and ride off to McDonalds or the pizza place to get our dinner. Then we'd go home and Sean, me, Mom and Dad would watch a movie as we ate dinner.
I remember smiling and talking to my uncle as we walked up to the restaurant , our breath like the fog around the lights floated for a moment in the rain. The puddled pavement crumbling like Oreos at my feet. It was happy moment; the food was so pretty and lively and smelled... now as the foam platter lays open on the cold table, it looks sickly under this light in here. How can eat? This place knots my stomach. He sits, eats and talks to my uncle about Christianity and about his mission here. My uncle challenged him by telling him that he cannot be certain of the gospels unless he learned the ancient languages and read all the original Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, etc... texts for himself. I didn't really say much. I don't remember my brother really even taking notice of my presence; he was intently engaged in what he had to say.
Soon, the orderly or nurse or whatever he was who sat in the corner texting on his phone, stood and told us visiting hours were over. We said our goodbyes, I hugged Sean and my uncle and I began walking to the door. Just as a familiar habit, Sean was talking and following us to the elevator. The man from the room roughly said, "You. This way."
Sean got a oh yeah smile about his face and turned toward the giant steel door, gas chamber of the holocaust, the ovens... i wanted to smash this guy. I wanted to cry. I could see the back of his head- this long hair- the goldenness of it dulled by the sickly lights.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Third Time's Not So Charming (6th post of story)

I walked down that God-awful hall. I saw my brother wearing two hospital gowns, holding the Bible in one hand and preaching to a guy next to him. I approached Sean. He turned to me and said, "Isn't it fitting they gave me robes?" He had a cross drawn on his forehead.
He had written on the inside covers of his Bible- people's names he met there, significant numbers, 9= man, 11= woman, "eve[ning]" he had written out just like that. He drew in marker a star symbol. He rewrote his name as Sean Michael John Buccos.
While I sat crying in the kitchen room, my mom next to me, my brother asked me, "Have you ever been sexually attracted to me?"
He completed another stay and came home, still preaching. We let him wander. He didn't sleep. He would toss Bible's at us while we sat at the table.
One night I was up in his room and he told me that he was the second coming of Christ and that he felt like people were worshiping him.
"Where are they?" I asked.
"I dunno. I just want them to worship God not me... "
The weather was getting colder and continued to let him wander where ever. It was coming up to the town's Harvest Festival. He never missed a year.

It was early morning, maybe 6.00am. I was sitting with my knees bent up to my chin, staring at the TV, Sean madly flipping through the channels, calling Steven Spielberg a Jew, "Shut up, Jew," he said.
He then angrily said to me, "You know, you don't have to stay a virgin!"
He called our mother a bitch and said he was going out to find some girls. Our mom called dad who came home and said, "Get in the truck."
Sean stood and just before going out the door, he turned to our mother and said, "I'll pray to God to get you for this."
There was now talk of sending him to Ancora. We were terrified of that. A state mental hospital. My brother who was usually soft spoken, easy going, was becoming a belligerent prick thinking he knew God personally and therefore could dictate to us. I came to hate him. I felt relief when he left.
The night before he left for Ancora my youngest cousin, Samuel, and I went to see him.
We sat, the three of us, as we had around our aunt's table, Sam's mom, over tea and Scateragories laughing and quoting movies. Sean got up and got a small red and white carton of milk. he banged it on his palm like it was a pack of cigarettes and said, "These are my Red 20s," meaning Marlboro. He sat with us and we talked. He took us over to a table where a guy showed my cousin and I some magic card tricks. It brought amused smiles to our faces. If Sean weren't being taken to Ancora tonight, this would actually have been a pleasant visit. I sat and talked to a few patients and they all said Sean was a good kid, a smart kid with a good heart. This smart good-hearted kid is on his way to the fucking insane asylum and I don't know if he is insane. But they tell us the doctors there will be better to diagnose and treat him.
Sean, Samuel and I went to his room. Just before we got there, a nurse stood waiting to get in the kitchen-room with 2 pitchers of water on a tray. Sean smiled and pretend he was going to knock it out of her hands.
She said pleasantly, "You better not..."
He smiled and shook his head. In his room, he put his things into clear bags to be taken with him. He was in a good mood, almost happy. He showed me how he liked the lighting of the room, like he had just gotten a new place of his own. He went over to the bathroom, turned on the light, and closed the door a little, so that only a beam of light lit the space between the beds. He said he couldn't keep it on because he roommate didn't like it.
Soon, they came to get him. He said, "Do you guys have straight jackets?"
I couldn't believe him! He was never going to be released at this rate! When he first went in, I wanted him out so bad. I planned how we could break him out if we had to. But now, I didn't know what I wanted.
I hugged him goodbye. He was wearing the coat I had bought him last Christmas. Samuel and I walked out into the cold, dark street and parking lot. I wanted to cry so bad.

Devils Dance in Circles (5th post of story)

I couldn't focus in school. I was so happy I had a little part time job at the college library. It was a quiet, productive time in my day. Even though I spent most of my time taking books from the shelves about mental disorders, scaring myself and reading of the horrors of old mental institutions and treatments, but it was a safe place for me. I loved to linger in the Arts section and let my eyes wander around paintings from France and Italy and then I could go over and relive history, the biographies of Lenin and Stalin, writings of Marx and Trotsky- imagining if I was part of the Bolshevik revolution, or in the Easter Rising in Dublin in 1916; I could read of secrets of Freemasonry and creation myths... I was in wonderland here, all up in my own head.
By day, I tried to keep busy in school and on weekends at work, another mental institution, hahaha, and at night visiting the body of what I knew as my brother, but now...

"Sean!" I whispered a little surprised, "Where'd you get that pencil?"
He made a face like why, what's the problem? Then he said in a funny voice, mocking the rules, "What, I'm not allowed to have pointy things?" and with a smile gently jabbed it toward me.

A nurse had told my mom that the robe and clothes she brought for him he put down the laundry shoot and they couldn't find them. He thought this was funny.
The nurses said he was charming and funny and did devilish little things like that. He had switched around the patient name tags that were on a panel outside each door- I kinda thought that was funny, too. The nurses also said that he was not sleeping.
We had asked if we could bring his guitar in. They allowed us to. He was o happy to see it, and to hold it. He looked right again. He sat on his bed and played. Patients and nurses gathered around to listen. Every one loved him there. This was a good visit.

At night, they were giving him doses of meds that could knock out a 300lb man, Sean was 5'9" and about 140-150 lbs. He would ghost the halls and go into other patients rooms while they were sleeping. He would sit up at the nurse's table while they did there work while the patients slept. The one younger nurse liked him. She said to me, "Yeah, your brother keeps me company at night."
He told me later, "They give me heroin in here."
Sean was not improving, i.e. coming back to reality- I could tell since he liked being there. A doctor allowed him to stay for another week.
This second week, was not as trippy for him. The phone rang one day. "Where the hell are you guys?" He sounded angry. We tried to explain to him and he would say, "Just get me the fuck out of here." Every hour it seemed of every day he was calling home asking why he was there and when he was coming home. I hated to hear the phone ring. My stomach would get sick and no one wanted to answer it, but we always did. He said he didn't want us to come there unless we were taking him with us.
One night, we had a meeting with a doctor who had a strong accent; he was from some country in Africa. Sean sat up on his bed; the soft lamp light behind him, the only light in the room. I sat at the foot of his bed and my parents sat in chairs across from me. The doctor explained that Sean was allergic to marijuana and that was why he flipped. I liked this doctor; he was friendly and took his time with us and seemed to like Sean. Sean stared at the bed, scowling,hating this man, slightly shaking his head, disagreeing with the diagnosis ands prognosis- no more weed.
Around St. Patrick's Day, Sean came home. Heavily medicated on Depakote and Abilify. It was hellish having him back home. His first night. He sat up like a child in bed, not wanting our mother to leave his side. He said that a guy from work was coming to get him. Mom spoke to him like he was 6 again. "No one's going to get you. The house is all locked up. Dad won't let anyone hurt you."
His eyes were serious, "No. Not even Dad can stop him. He'll come in my window."
T.V. frightened him. We put PBS on, we thought was a safe channel. It was late at night and there was an ad for a play in Philly. They flashed a face with a slightly deformed face mask, a mask that maybe one would wear if playing the Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Sean's fear heightened.
"Why do they have to show things like that!"
Our mom said answered, "Sean... it's just a mask. You can see it's just a guy dressed up."
"It scares me!"
We changed to the game show channel, this one seemed safer. I sat on his floor doing a crossword to keep my mom company as she sat up with him. As I got too tired to stay awake, she said, "Go downstairs..." She slept in the reclining chair next to his bed.
It went on like this for a while. He would lay on the couch during the day, and his face would twitch and grimace involuntarily, his hands trembled.
At night, he couldn't sleep. He said he couldn't stop adding the numbers of the clock. He was near tears saying he felt he was going to be tortured. He kept flashing back to the catheter. He said he felt like he was tied down. Soon, he was prescribed Seroquel, along with his other meds.
After a while, we believed he stopped taking his meds. He would stand in the kitchen with a tall glass of milk, pop in his pill, drink some milk and walk away with the glass, maybe spitting the pill into the glass, and going up to his room. He would throw up after his meds. He said they made him sick, so he wasn't getting them then for sure. It was torture for him to be on a med schedule. At the hospital, once I found a pill on the floor, under his bed. I don't know if it was his or not.
My mom suggested he play his guitar, to keep his mind off things. He angrily replied he couldn't control his hands, how was he supposed to play.
My mom and I took many walks as Spring was approaching. It was how we kept sane- thank God winter was over!

As it got even warmer and greener out, I took Sean outside and tried to teach him some Yoga relaxation. He couldn't keep focused on it and went back inside. Sometime during the spring and into summer months he weaned himself of his meds and began to feel better, back to normal. That September he even got a job at a place my best friend was working at.
He began going to church every Sunday. He was excelling at his new job. He got baptized and made a beautiful speech before the congregation that got people crying. We though he back from his detour and on the right road.

On a summer spirited day in September, I came home from school and Sean was wandering around our yard drinking from a thermos I had never seen. Sweating. I found out he had been sitting outside his new job, took his shoes and socks off and wandered off. He had wandered in a yard and asked for water when a lady who answered his knock on a door. He had spent his money on a devil's mask that he hung on a public phone booth, he had tossed his wallet on the side of the street before wandering off. He was eventually picked up by the cops.
It was going to be another 7-10 days at the Crisis Center. This time he wasn't there to revive the music, he was there to spread the Gospel. He was back to spinning stories in dizzying, manic logic.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Doors (4th post of brother's story)

Last night, I had found a copy of Alice in Wonderland. Sean had told me he wanted to give it to our cousin, Alena. He had written something to her in it. The next day Alena and I went to the hospital to see Sean. I brought the book with me. When we walked in the emergency room waiting area, my parents were there. Sean hadn't been moved to a room yet. He was still in a tiny room, sedated, in the E.R. We weren't able to go in to see him yet, so my cousin and I went down to the cafeteria and ate, well, I tried to. I got some tea and a cherry vanilla yogurt; I hadn't been eating much and as I started eating it I discovered how hungry I was.

The room had a large glass window. The nurses' station was right outside it. A nurse let us in and locked the door behind us.
My brother was lying in a relaxed fetal position; his glasses on the bed, that looked more like an operating table, beside him. He wore a hospital gown and was breathing evenly. My cousin and I looked at him. In here, I gave her the book. I told her Sean had wanted to give it to her.
"Oh... thanks," she seemed uncomfortable receiving it.

"Is there writing on the wall?" Alena asked after a while. It looked like someone had written with their finger in the dust or wet their finger and wrote on the wall, since they were not allowed anything pointed.
"I dunno... He has been writing on almost everything at home."
I didn't get to talk to Sean. I left him a note saying we had been there to see him, but he had been sleeping. I don't know if he got it.

The next evening, my visit with him, after he got upstairs to the Adult Mental Health Unit, was more... lively.
My parents were alway at the hospital. Over the phone my mom had told me how to get to the unit. I was told the security guard would let me through the doors after I told him who I was here to see. As I approached him, he stood. I told him my business there and he walked me over to the big, heavy doors. They opened and I entered, alone, a pale linoleum hall. To my sides were dimly lit, almost living room-like empty rooms that were comforting to me, the TVs on, lamps lit, soft chairs... but no one in them. The Simpsons were on one TV. Sean and I watched the Simpsons religiously and my family and I quoted than all the time over dinner. Maybe this iis a sign, maybe this all isn't so bad.
My heart banged when I saw the elevators, two muted steel doors, emotionally cold and tired, thinking that was the only way up. Since this hospital has been mostly shut down, do they service these regularly and well? But, then how else do the nurses and doctors get around... As that logical thought entered my head, I saw the sign for the stairs. Relieved, I headed for them and gladly treaded the 4 small flights of them. Maybe, I also wanted to delay seeing my brother. Through the slim glass panel of the last door I saw the overhead sign "Adult Mental Health Unit." As I opened the door, I noticed the waiting hall was very dim, an overhead light had gone out. It made me feel like all hope had been lost- like a scene from a horror movie, when everything seems to go wrong, no light to comfort me, just sit and wait in a dark hall before you enter the Cuckoo Nest.
I approached the Nurse's window. I told them I was here to see Sean Buccos.
"Okay. Your parents are in there now. You'll have to wait till one comes out, only 2 visitors at a time...Do you have any matches or sharp objects on you or in your purse?"
I shook my head and said, "No."
"Do you have a cell phone with you?"
Again, I shook my head and said, "No."
I sat back in the brown shady dark. I remember my brother telling me of a nightmare that terrified him; he was about maybe 8. In it, there was a painting, or sketch all in brown, of men in suits rapidly switching chairs around and it terrified him.
Soon, my Dad came out and I was able to go in. This door was monstrous steel. I had to wait till a little light on it turned green. Then I could turn the handle and get in.
My brother was in the kitchen-like room. It had banquet tables and metal chairs, a sink, refrigerator and microwave on one side and on the other a couch and a TV. There were bulletin boards with patient's art and some colorful cutouts, flowers and such, the kind you'd see in an elementary school, placed by the nurses probably.
My brother ginning, points to a black guy sitting awkwardly, silently in a chair across the room and he says, "That's Jimi Hendrix over there... Don't 'e look like Jimi Hendrix? I swear, man, he is Jimi Hendrix." I look at the guy, who look nothing like Jimi Hendrix and nod.
As I pace the hall with him, he showing me all the rooms and telling me that he is here to resurrect the spirit of music. He said that The Beatles were there too. He showed me books he had written on. He kept talking about "the doors of perception." He told me as he waked with his palms open and out, "I walked down the street like this, Jim Morrison did that and took what ever pills people put in them."
"Sean, did you really do that?"
"Open the doors... Get it," raising his eyes brows and a huge grin taking over his face, The Doors... the Cherokee Spirit, the doors of perception? I'm Jim Morrison reincarnated... That's why I'm here. They need me here to bring back the music."
"Alena was here earlier to see you."
He looked stoned and surprised, "Yeah? Imma 'bout to call her... She, she still with that John?" Nodding as he says, "He, he's alright... just tell him with consent, John, with consent."
He walked over to the phone booth and sat down in the bench. I sat next to him.
"Here's her number."
He began to dial and said, "Na, there's more numbers than that..." And he began pressing other numbers, pressing them down longer than any sober person would, that must have meant something to him. He put the phone to his ear and after he got nothing, he gave the phone to me and said, "Well, I'm about to go play some cards with The Beatles. Did you know they were here? I see George..."
"Are you okay here?"
He replied, smiling all over, "Yeah, man, I'm with my people."
I watched him walk away, he had a strut to him, as if he were walking down a city street, with a tune in his head, going to meet a friend. I looked around at the cement walls painted white, hearing gurgling coming from one of the patients lying in the dark room next to me. Watching a woman, slumped over pull herself along in a wheel chair with her mangled feet, talking and crying to herself. I became scared and glad I could leave. I saw Sean intermingling with the other patients in the kitchen room at the end of the hall. He was the most lively, friendly one there.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Cherokee Spirit (3rd post of brother's story)

"The Cherokee Spirit is still among us."

My brother had gotten a painting from a man he had been visiting often from church. It was a dusk scene of Native Americans; they and their horses were all black like shadows. He propped the painting up on our couch; it was very important to him. He said that the Cherokee Spirit was among us, making us do things. Through his bouts of psychosis, my brother talked greatly of a connection with Native Americans. He collected fallen turkey feathers from our yard and stuck them in anything that would hold them, like hummingbird feeders, abandoner till late spring.

He wasn't sleeping or eating. He had a constant stoned, shit-faced looked about him. He rambled and barely acknowledged anyone else. Just getting more than a few words from him was unusual; he was always very laconic and reserved. His sudden rapid, frequent speech and double-talk stunned us. After a few days of him wandering in the woods, not sleeping or eating, my Dad took him to a counselor that was available through his work, like a family support program. Before they left, my Dad told him that he wanted to take him to talk to someone. My brother said he had to go to the bathroom first. He ended up locking himself in. My Dad talked to him through the door, loosing patience, saying they had to go, the counselor was waiting. My brother said, okay, but remained in the bathroom. We heard water running most of the time he was in there. Soon, my Dad threatened to take the door off the hinges. My brother again said, okay, and still stayed in the bathroom. He eventually came out, no shoes or socks on. He had a shampoo caddy that came with our Dove shampoo around his hand; he said it was his symbol.

"C'mon, Sean, get your shoes on," my Dad told him, getting more frustrated. Sean swaggered and sat on the couch, bending toward the floor to put on his socks; his long hair moved like someone quickly pulling a curtain closed over the sides of his glasses, and put a sock on. He took up his other sock and began to put it over the other one.

"Sean, you're putting it over your other sock," our mom said.

He replied in an irritated voice without looking up, "You're confusing him."

It was the first anger I detected in him since he began acting different. He had been mellow, spacey and philosophical up until now.

Our mother ended up helping him put his shoes on because he couldn't seem to do it.
Sean and our father left. Mom and I stayed behind talking nervously about what could be up with him.

When they got back, Sean wandered up to his room and the three of us talked in the kitchen.
"He said Sean's completely out of touch with reality... He was asking him what day it was, what year, and he wouldn't give him any relevant answers... He suggested the crisis center for drug testing." Sean was strumming his guitar now. The three of looking at the floor, absorbing all the information.

Our father had been working for the same company for about 30 years. To stay open the company had declared bankruptcy and rescinded employee health benefits. My Dad paid his employer for his health benefits now, yet it was too expensive to put a spouse and or child on, so my 19 year old brother was about to become a charity case.

My parents went upstairs to talk to him. They came down sometime later with him following. He calmly went out the door with him and to the truck. They were taking him to the crisis center at the old hospital that had closed down years ago after the county decided to have a regional center hospital for all surrounding cities, and close the hospitals in the cities themselves. This one hospital, closest to us, still had the emergency room and crisis center operating.

The house was now ringingly silent, and I paced. I tried to do some homework, watch Turner Classic Movies channel, talk to my dog and cats for comfort.

I went up into his room. The computer had been left on and there were IMs between him and his childhood friend, almost brother, on the screen. They were both born on the same day and year. They always celebrated their birthdays together.

"Are you okay, man? You were acting weird the other night"

That must have been the night he came home saying he was feeling anxious. My mom and I had been in the living room watching TV when he came in, trembling. Sean and I ended up sleeping in the living room together. I on one couch and he on the other. I talked to him about my anxiety/panic disorder and he said that he might be getting it too. We put on a comforting movie to help ease his mind to sleep.

"Everyman needs a heroine," he replied to his friend.
"Are you trying to tell me you did heroine? You know my cousin died of that stuff."

I don't remember all the rest of the conversation, but I know my brother rambled and his friend ended up saying something to the effect of, "I don't really understand you right now... I gotta go, man, I hope you're okay."

I looked around his room for any signs of drugs he may have done that could help the doctors figure things out. I could hear haunts of The Fur Elise and Greensleeves, songs he had taught himself and mastered on the keyboard, now covered in dust. Deep cerulean colored sky was at the window; the bare tree branches were like ink or black paint running up paper. As children, Sean and I used to drop a little paint on paper, take a straw and blow the paint and watch it move upwards like tiny rivers. I look at the wall next to the window at all the papers - funny, yet very artistic, doodles he did for his classmates, while they should have been working, very detailed scaled dragons and grim reapers neatly pinned to the wall all around his window. An old keyboard lies in disassembled pieces on his art desk. His heavy wooden computer desk, very organized and the drawers labeled with the contents. There are a few holes in the walls behind posters, remnants of his temper. Since he began smoking pot, his anger hadn't been as violent. On his bed are a few sentimental stuffed animals, a faded, patched up Mickey Mouse he clung to as a toddler as he sucked on his fingers, not talking with his silent, blueberry colored eyes, (he didn't talk till he was 3) and a pillow an old girlfriend had sewn or him. He was a normal kid. He loved dinosaurs, Legos, Batman and drawing. He was funny and charming, loved his mom and dad... and video games, especially The Lion King! He and our cousin used to pretended all day that they were Simba and Nala. They would disappear into the woods for hours on "Pride Rock"- a fallen tree.

Some mental disorders don't show up until later in life
What if he's schizophrenic?
There was a local schizophrenic who murdered his family with a shot gun because he thought they were zombies.

On my way down the stairs, there was a gruesome drawing one of his friends had done taped to the back of his door. It was done with green marker, a giant ghost-looking skull person loomed over two naked people, resembling Bart Simpson a bit, blowing sick looking bubbles. Under that drawing was another one in red and blue marker and looked blurry, like they had help the blue and red and drawn the images together. It was of a shaggy haired guy and it looked like you needed 3-D glasses to see it straight. It read, Fuck Off.

I found a guitar pick of his and took it to keep; my throat knotting, missing him, missing him play the guitar, asking me to listen and tell me what I thought.

Hours passed; being in a warmly lit house surrounded by wintry, bare darkness outside comforted me. I had talked a few times to my mom from the hospital- a lot of waiting. She said they were going to do some drug testing, get some blood and urine samples.

The phone rings again; it's my mom.
I can hear she's upset. She tells me my brother has been sedated, held down by guards.
She told me they couldn't get a urine sample from him willingly. He was in the bathroom there. He completely undressed himself and was playing in the toilet water. My Dad went in there to talk to him.
"If you don't give them urine, they're going to take it."
"Should I be scared?"
"Yeah, they'll put a catheter up your penis."

My mom told me, nearing tears now, they had to take the urine from him... They made us leave the room and he was screaming, MOM! Help Me! They're hurting me! She said she lost all composure.

He shoved around tables, acted like an unpredictable, wild animal. He threated a nurse:
Are you scared?
Should I be?
Yeah, 'cause I'm gonna kill you.

"They sedated him... Breanne, when I saw the look on his face, when the guards took him from the bathroom, it wasn't Sean. If he had a knife, I think he would have put in the guard's back."
"Did they find anything in him?"
"Only marijuana... they didn't test for all drugs, I'm not sure exactly what all they tested for, but I know heroine wasn't one."
"I don't know... they seem to think he did wet marijuana- marijuana soaked in formaldehyde."
We talked awhile and after I hung up, I felt a panic attack coming on. I hadn't had one since I began Paxil 2 years before, but I'll never forget the symptoms. I walked around the living room and kitchen- walled back to back- in circles, frantically talking to myself.

He's schizophrenic! He's schizophrenic! He's better off dead than schizophrenic. I had learned about a lot of mental disorders from school. The meds for that disorder are intense and do so much bodily damage. You don;t know what's worse, all the chattering voices or the twitching spasms and numbness; the feeling of feeling dead inside, still with the taunting voices echoing.

I called some of Sean's friends to see if they could tell me anything. They said they had noticed a change, but they didn't know anything else.

I called my uncle, who was always good at calming me down. I cried over the phone to him that they didn't find anything abnormal in him. He tried to calm me down over the phone as I paced. I told him I was scared to be alone, that something might happen to me. I was feeling sick, dizzy and scared. I begged him to come over.

He did. When I saw him turning in the yard, I ran out to meet him, no coat in the cold. He opened his coat to me and I nestled into it.

Inside the house, he pulled out a 1/2 pint of Jack Daniels from his inner coat pocket. I got us some glasses and we sat in the living room watching Keeping Up Appearances and talked. The whiskey flowing through my blood warmed me and eased my shakes.

Around midnight, as I was dozing on the couch, my uncle sitting in the chair across from me, it was as if I had been in a therapy session, my parents came home without Sean.
They told us that the center could keep him for 7 days.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

February Made Me Shiver (2nd post of brother's story)

The sky and waters were reflections of each other. It was February. It began as one of those blustery, bright days where the thick grey globs of clouds move across the sun like the ice chunks across the bay.

(actual names are not used in these writings)
I was readying myself to drive to Greenwich to study with my uncle; he had recently re-enrolled himself back to community college, to pick up from where he had left off 30 years ago. Since then, he had made his living and raised a family being a journeymen, union carpenter. At age nearly 60, he decided he was getting too old to do the grunt work and wanted to get a degree so he could use his experience still in the trade, but in a less labor-intensive way. I loved the relashionship between us. He hadn't been to school since 1969 and I was kinda like his guide to the 21st century campus; we were both nervous because we had to complete a public speaking class, and a computer class, so we decided to trudge through it together.
My brother had been acting strange the past few days. He had walked off his new job at a local gas/ convenient store that morning. He came home around 6-7 am and said it was the right thing to do and that they accused him of taking $40 from the register.

Later that afternoon, my Dad said to me, "Sean's going with you?"
"Not that I know of... Why would he want to go?"
"Well, he said he told uncle Gabriel when he called here that you two were going there at 3."
I immediately went to his steps and called up for an explanation.
He leaned over the banister at me, grinning. "I told him that we'd be over at three. Three is a sacred number."
"Why didn't you tell me he called?"
"I did."
I yelled, "No, you didn't."
"By telling Dad, I told the whole family," he replied.
I became angry and scared I guess at his newly odd manners. I began yelling, but I don't remember what, and he told me that because I am a woman I need to raise my voice for him to understand.
I replied to him, "I have been a woman all my life, what do you know about being a woman!?"

Hours later, we were both in the car and he played with my radio, blasting it and singing loudly. "Turn that down," I told him.
He replied, seeming to have no conception of being in a car with ear-splittingly loud music thumping the windows, and my chest like a second heartbeat.
"Oh, sorry," and turned it down.

We arrived at my uncle's. My brother came in the door behind me and the first thing my uncle said to me as my brother walked up the 3 steps from the kitchen that lead to the rest of the house, (it is eerie, 3 steps), we tread upon and swung over, holding onto the banister, as children, "Last time I saw someone act like that, they were on Acid."
"You think maybe that's what he did?"
"I dunno... Veronica said maybe his dealer is here in Greenwich and that's why he wanted to come with you today."
"That makes sense."
"Well, lets just do what we gotta do," he said.
I nodded and we went up the 3 steps and into the living room.
We opened our books while my brother relaxed on the sofa, casually picking up our uncle's Masonic ritual book and rifling through it.
Our uncle made look at 'em gesture at me, then glancing to him, smiling. I made a disappointed, apologetic face at my uncle after looking at my brother, now laughing at a picture of a man in a fedora, another piece of Masonic literature my brother had picked up from the coffee table before him. My uncle smiling at me, shook his head, telling me, don't worry about it. We studied and quizzed each other. As he asked me questions my brother interjected unrelated answers from the couch, the back of his head facing us. My uncle and I tried to ignore him. But we talked a bit to him in between our quizzing.

Soon, my brother got up and went outside. We let him go. I actually felt relief with his lack of presence. My uncle and I continued on. A few moments later, my aunt, his wife, came in and asked, "When did Sean start smoking?"
I replied, "I didn't know he had started."
"Well, there 'e goes..." she said, staring out the window. I looked and saw my brother sauntering down the long driveway toward the road... If he went left, he would wander down the dirt, gravel and eventually paved lane, where swamp fragmitees loomed over on both sides and where eerie croaks of hundreds of frogs made you swear they were talking about you, and mysterious rustles unsettled your heart and breathing... If he turned right, he would wander down farm preserved lanes eventually hitting the main street, a historic lane of 18th century houses, where maybe a car or two passed, it would be more fitting if a horse and carriage came through.
I said, "Let him go."
My aunt eventually said that she was leaving to go to the store. My uncle and I continued our studies for the next hour.
We braked for an early dinner. I, of course, couldn't stop talking about my brother, looking out the window for him, my stomach twisted with anxiety. My uncle listened patiently as he made us some soup and I sat at the table. I told him what he had said to me, about being a woman and my uncle said to me, "How old is he?"
"19" I replied.
"Right. And, excuse my language, but what the fuck does he know about women?"
I smiled. "That's basically what i said to him."
"Well, you're right... I've never been a woman, so as old as I am, I won't know what it's like to be a woman." I loved when he said logical, vindicating things like that.
The clock above the fridge said 4.00. "If he's not back within the hour, we'll go look for him... He took my cigarettes," my uncle said.
"I'm sorry I brought him."
He could read my face, worry all over it. He hugged me and said, "You're shoulders are too small to carry the world on them."
We sat and ate our soup.
My brother never showed up. So, we got in his car and drove around. First we went to the bay. I was almost expecting to find him floating in there; that's just what image flashed in my mind. But, when we got out of the car, in the wind, the ice in the grey water glided past and nowhere was my brother. By now, the grey clouds had completely taken over the sky. Before, the only thing that separated the sky from the water was the color; the sky was blue between the clouds and now it was all grey. I actually prefer grey, so I felt comforted and creatively stimulated under these skies.
We got back in the car and drove through the fragmitees and went down the other road that led to town.
"We should try John's house. Maybe he's there and with Alena." Alena was my other cousin. And John was her boyfriend who had caused some family turmoil; he was over 30 years her senior and a pretty shady character. She had recently moved in with him. Sean seemed to take a shining to him, and Alena was Sean's favorite cousin.
We went to his house and knocked on the door.
John answered the door wearing dark sunglasses. I asked, "Have you seen my brother?"
"No, I haven't..." I don't remember all that was said, but he said that he'd tell my cousin when she got home from work that we were looking for him.
We left his house and went back to my uncle's. We sat in the cold kitchen, me nearly in tears. Soon, a white pickup truck stopped at the end of the driveway. I saw my brother in his black, tapered coat from the Gap that I had bought him for Christmas, (all he needed was a paper boy's cap and he could say lovely day, govna... people said often he looked like John Lennon) hop off the back of the bed of the truck. We watched him walk up to the door. When he came in, his ears were red and he was shaking all over. My uncle took him to sit down in the living room. He came back to the kitchen as I was ladeling out some soup into a bowl. My uncle came over and said, "Here, I'll show you a trick... He won't hold a spoon, but he'll sip from a cup."He poured the soup into a big coffee cup and brought it to my brother. Sean held it in both hands, sipping a few times, rocking back and forth muttering, "He took forty dollars from the register."

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Up the Stairs (1st post of my brother's story)

Have you ever looked into the eyes of a psychotic person? They look past you, eerily grinning on their own, guarding a mind that taunts everyone that it knows more than you do. The pace of a psychotic- very leisurely, body is stiff, as if something grips the spine, and arms hang, unmoving the sides; sometimes they appear to be floating. Outsiders are left watching in hopeless horror, their loved one wandering in a walking coma.

Symphonic numbers are being played on the piano upstairs- The Fur Elise, Moonlight Sonata, Greensleeves. Strings are strummed over the hollow guitar. No one talk to him. He is focused, in tune with the music. Music books are stacked in the corner. He read them all, learned the notes from the piano and applied them to the guitar. His fingers manipulated the strings into prodigious sound that I could hear as I sat outside, under a bare tree, studying the sway and romantic, poetic forms of the black trees against the deep cerulean evening sky. There was always a glow from the upstairs window, usually all night. Day and night, the mind of the house was always full of music- strings, beats and the delicate, childlike clinking and thunderous pounding of piano keys.

Four years ago, I wasn't sure if my brother was loosing his mind, or just gaining it. I didn't know what voice to listen to- the voice of Reason that told me it was drug related, or worse, he was schizophrenic, or the voice of spiritualism, telling me my brother is on a journey.

He spoke ambiguously, as if he were trying to fool us; he loved to play with words, such as heroine. We asked what drug he took and he said, "Every man needs a heroine." There were no traces of the drug in his system. He spoke like a stoned,double-speaking, drunk poet reading a rap song. He told me things like he felt people were worshiping him, that he was the second coming of God. He felt impelled to preach what was swirling in his head. Many times I raged, believing his ideas were not of God, they were delusional, conceited and warped by the many drugs he was dabbling in.But he was certain God was leading him on a journey, TV symbols, such as the H for History Channel, street signs dotted the path of the map God had laid out for him; these symbols were created just for him. He never slept. He would wander the streets trying to find people to preach to. He told me I read too much and not enough of the Bible, yet at one point he told me that I had written the Bible. And he said unholy, disgusting and sexist things to me that made me want to destroy what ever had possessed him.

I was still trying to finish a two-year degree at my local community college; I found myself staying there all day, just because I didn't want to be home. I drank a lot more, because I felt more on his level when I was drunk. I felt I could debate him and not be as scared. However, I slept behind locked a locked door. We hid knives and our dog became scared of him. The whole house felt like it had a ticking bomb hidden somewhere; the tingling energy made the walls cringe.

Even though he spoke of Biblical things, and wore a cross, I felt something sordid had taken over his brain- sniveling little demons were pulling nerves like puppet strings, rewiring it and making him grin all the time under glazed, dilated eyes.

"Demons dance circles in our head," I found this at one point in one of his writings. Even in his arrogance that I hated, i felt sympathy for him; he said he was frustrated because people don't understand what he says; I know that feeling all too well. He is very mechanical, as well as philosophical. It was as if he was discovering the mechanics of the Universe in a way, which I know can drive one to insanity. But is it a drug altered mind from which he is seeing the mechanics or a natural mind? I guess I hate that he thinks he has figured the Universe out, when I think I have! I am a woman and I guess I thought that we have a strong connection to the Earth and Moon, and can feel energies from the Universe since we are much like the orbs that suspend in it.

He lifted the curtain for the show- a terrifying show I didn’t want to see. It was if his whole life his eyelids had been closed and he had just now opened them, but instead of him seeing out, his eyes showed what was within.