My mental illnesses in concert

by | Feb 4, 2023

I shoulder open a heavy oak door without a handle. In almost the center of the door, but slightly askew, a misshapen piece of beveled glass sits- not quite purple not quite black, almost blue but not exactly. If the shade had a name on a paint chip sample, maybe it would be haunting surreality.

When I enter the room, no one looks at me. The now me.

They’re all sitting around my mom’s kitchen table. Well, anxiety is pacing around it. I find depression laying under the birch wood oscillating between wailing and silence. The way they’re laying looks uncomfortable. I wish I had brought them my weighted blanket. I see myself, sixteen, timid and hardly recognizable but painfully familiar. Sixteen me is trying hard to make eye contact with my mother, telling her that I think I need to see a therapist. My mother is scoffing and then blaming which, of course, makes depression sob louder. Sixteen me is less emotional than I remember. Anxiety bites their nails and starts to pick the threaded tassels off a throw blanket, one piece of thread at a time. OCD picks each one up and tosses them out. It takes me four of my mother’s sighs to recognize PMDD, slumped in their chair staring off into a maybe nothing, a maybe something. OCD moves on to rearranging the spice cabinet. Rearrange is a generous term. Really they’re moving each bottle the tiniest bit just to feel some semblance of control. Anorexia isn’t there, but I feel her, for the first time in over ten years the moment I step back in that room. I guess it makes sense she wouldn’t be in the kitchen.

I notice the moment my mom says, “what did I do wrong?” and sixteen me tries to say, “nothing- that’s not how it works. And now me thinks, “This. This moment is a perfect example of a big chunk of how we got here. Believe your daughter when they tell you things. Don’t shame your children.” I say nothing. I hear my mother sobbing while sixteen me is parentified, feels needful to console someone who is breaking their heart. I go to shout. To tell sixteen me it should never have been like this. To tell my mom I’m sorry you didn’t have the opportunity to go to therapy but I do. I do. Noise doesn’t escape my mouth. Just a breeze.

I realize I am the wind.

The door I entered isn’t even a door I know. The birch. The sighing. The shame. These are things I know well. Too well.

Sixteen me’s hair and my mom’s hair move ever so slightly. That’s now me- feeling something and trying so hard to reach back to the hurt and say, “look, look what I know now.” At once, the heavy oak door with the off-center glass reappears. This time, the purple-black-blue glass is centered. A matching handle on the left side, I grasp and make my exit.


  1. Dominique Christina

    Ah. I really like how you exited. The way more is available to the speaker in the present. The door’s glass adornments centered now where it wasn’t before. The clarity and depth perception we find with distance and time and maturity. And the subtle suggestion that we can go back to the scene of the crime and rescue ourselves. Yeah. I appreciate that. Thank you for writing this.

  2. Meg Tuite

    You have to push your way in to the scene and after moving through all of this emotional upheaval and taking control by going to therapy and that mom’s shit is mom’s shit and you are now ‘THE WIND’ ‘ “look, look what I know now.” And finally the glass is centered and there’s a matching handle to make your smooth exit. WOW! A gorgeous way to describe how one has to power through and fight for their voice! LOVE THIS! Suggestion: to tighten up the 16 year old self and the mother throughout so there’s no confusion! LOVE ‘parentified’! OUTSTANDING!

  3. Len Kuntz

    Hi Cyn.

    Being someone who has grappled with many of the things you tackle here, had me hooked. You employ such a clever way of giving each condition a specific personality (and location) of it’ own. There’s a lot of pathos here, but no overwrought melodrama. I love the ending, how everything comes full circle.

  4. Robert Vaughan

    Hi Cyn, love how much you pack into such brevity and the layers of construction here are magnificent. Our voices are all modified, shut down, reconstructed by elders, by teachers, by others. This is revelatory, especially given the ending. BRAVO!

  5. jennifer vanderheyden

    What a clever metaphoric opening with the symmetry at the end. It seems this household should logically have a heavy oak door with no handle. I, too love the naming and personification of each trait, and I also feel the pain of the 16 yr old’s not being heard.

  6. Koss (No Last Name)

    Love what you did here with the personified DSMs (it makes for a sort of dissassociative feel), and how you become WIND. And the exit. Perfect.

Submit a Comment

Pin It on Pinterest