Everyone’s in a tizzy at work over our co-worker but I’m not surprised. I text my friend, yo girl, haven’t seen you for a while. She replies, what a doozy of a week— District Psych Ward —phone use supervised. I think, doesn’t this happen to everyone eventually? When you can’t shake off that moment of existential doom? A forced rest from commitments and self-imposed perfection. 1 in 13 experience a psychotic episode.
“In some degree, a loss of contact with reality.”
My mother was first committed when I was seven years old in a fit of scathing anger. Her kill shots target rationality, and narcissism hits the bullseye every time. Eras of my life remembered in hammocks strung between her posts of involuntary restraint and locked bedroom doors. I’d find her at the bottom of the bathtub or dancing naked on the kitchen table. PTSD creates hazed home life. Manic sends you to the straightjacket. Depressive leaves your kids avoiding eye contact. Average onset age for bipolar disorder is 25.
“Disruptions in thought processes, perceptions, and emotional responsiveness”
At seventeen I called the cops on my first ex-boyfriend. It was over but he hung around like a raccoon you purposely leave the cat food out for. In August heat, he snipped up a bud and we blazed a joint with my mother. Puff puff and before the pass, he snaps, drops the joint, snatches the scissors and her shoulders, slides the blades up to her eyeball. They both freeze, statued and sweating, like I’d caught them in some perverse act. I reach for him, her lips vibrate, speechless. A release witnessed. Later, shackled in the cruiser, I see the dark mask of his surrendered feral pain. After his six weeks bound to a hospital floor, I learn marijuana and crack cocaine liberate Schizophrenia. For high risk youth, 80% chance to predict diagnosis.
“A deviation from the expectations of an individual’s culture”
Once, my in-law entwined his life with a woman met online. Her profile revealed her body but not her Borderline mind. Within a month, she was welcomed into his house and his fragile sanity. The tiptoe required around the fringe of her outbursts bound them to recluse. In the blackout of every bottle, he found the white flag of peace. It took two years of collective pain, but he checked himself for a break. At the hospital I waited on the public side of the glass partition for the psych doctor to fetch him. He never really made it back over the line.
17% of all men meet the requirements of alcoholism.
“It’s ritualized compulsive comfort seeking.”
This is our hurt; this is reality; emotions respond to toxic culture; seek comfort; sort sanity.
Laura Stephenson is a fourth-year Writing and Philosophy major at the University of Victoria. When not studying, she's kept busy with gender-violence advocacy work and accessibility awareness in her community. Laura is lucky to live on Vancouver Island in Canada with her husband and wild sons.