Category Archives: OneinFour

“We are left with the prisons of our own minds and that is heavy enough.” J Cioffa #MentalIllness #Treatment 

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One in Four. No, not Really. 

The very real, gut-wrenching mental illness statistics remain not far off from fifty years ago when pyschiatric institutions were the solution, lock them away.

As long as my beautiful chaotic mind and the words don’t betray me, I use my voice.

I am Three in Four even Four in Four, hit the mentally ill genetic jackpot. The reality is I could snap at any moment, I pray won’t.

Please, don’t judge. Don’t judge the ‘crazy,’ the insane, the unfit, the unwell, the lunatic that is me. Help us instead.

We are left with the prisons of our own minds and that is heavy enough.

From the Washington Post, “A shocking number of mentally ill Americans end up in prison instead of treatment.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2015/04/30/a-shocking-number-of-mentally-ill-americans-end-up-in-prisons-instead-of-psychiatric-hospitals/

I Am Adam Lanza

By Jacqueline Cioffa

A decade ago I lived a frivolous, spoiled, privileged life. An International fashion model, I worked in more countries than I can count. Freedom was something I took for granted, until the earth fell from under me and my whole world shattered. My first psychotic breakdown took away everything I knew to be true and buried me whole.

The paranoia, delusions of grandeur, mania, the irrational and out of control behavior. I wanted to die, too exhausted by the fragile, broken mind. I wanted to let go of the rage, the fear, the despair, I wanted to end my life. The slicing of the wrists, my escape and a way out. Dancing in the streets, in stores, I was too out of my mind to be ashamed, by my behavior. The shame and isolation would come later, as thick and heavy as a steel beam, freight train crushing my soul. I lived with my brother, exasperated, helpless, not knowing what more he could do, he put me on a bus back home to my mother. My Irish, stubborn, loyal, family first, capable mother. She had experience dealing with Mental Illness; my family had been plagued by the unlucky 1 in 4 gene pool.

My sick, wracked mind betrayed me, no longer mine to control. The whole and intact me, I used to know now gone forever. The carefree, compassionate, strong, independent person is living her worst nightmare. Even on the hard, horrific days, the dark evil thoughts dominating my brain, I fight desperately to regain control. If you have not been exposed to Mental Illness, please do not talk to me about it. You are out of your league, cannot begin to comprehend the exhausting toll it takes. On a family, friends, that is if you are lucky enough to have any left. Mostly, you are left with isolation and shame, your own.

My second breakdown brought black days, numbness, and a shell of a person. The depression and anxiety, so crippling I was forced to leave the big city, retreat back home to the safety of familiar surroundings. The pain so deep, so heavy, the fear immense, death seemed my only option. A welcome release from the demons, the evil lurking in the corners of a tortured mind. I work hard to beat the beast daily, as soon as my feet hit the floor, shaking. I take the psych drugs, Lithium, Xanax, Valium, the shock treatments and practice alternative medicine. I do yoga, eat healthy, exercise and live simple. I try to avoid the triggers, terrified of the next episode.

I never know when the outbursts will come, when paranoia will convince me the man in the park wants to kill me. In my heart and my soul, I know this is completely irrational. But, the mind plays tricks. I have to fight, every minute, every second to control the grappling Illness I must live with. Day after day, in constant fear of what I might do next. I don’t own a gun, I would be afraid to have one in close proximity. I hate violence, I find it abhorrent, but I do not trust the beast.

There is no concrete help for the Mentally Disabled; there is half hour, once a month consults with the overworked, underpaid psychiatrist, who spends your time glancing at a clock. There are no solutions, into the mysteries of a broken mind, they throw pills at you. Pills that may very well be your undoing, send you deeper into depression, trigger manic episodes or worse an acute psychotic episode, and the killing of innocent souls. Those are the worst breaks, the psychosis, and the hardest to come back from. I have visited them firsthand.

I watched, helpless as my beautiful, brilliant, Yale educated, compassionate cousin ended her own life. She was a Dr., the smartest person I know and she could not find a way out of the Mental Illness that plagued her. My own father, who endured 17 years of Mental Illness, endless pills that made him worse, psychiatric hospital visits, a dementia ridden mind at the end. My mother, who fought every battle with him, and for him when he couldn’t. His daughter who would always be in my memory, his adored, precocious, funny face, happy and intact child. He died not knowing my name. Although, in my heart and my spirit, I know exactly what I meant to him. His last breath I was beside him, holding his hand and on his heart. I felt the unbearable pain and destroyed mind, set free as he floated up to heaven. He was a good man, the kindest, most selfless I know.

I am a good person, who doesn’t deserve this fate. I am not a violent person, but I am Adam Lanza. He may have committed a horrific, unspeakable EVIL, act. Did he start out evil? He must have been an innocent, child himself at some point. When did his broken mind take over, when did he lose all rational, self-control? It’s too hard to grasp, too big to think about without immeasurable faith.

When are we, as an empathetic society, going to care about the Mentally Ill? Fight for them; stick up for them, as eagerly as we fight against gun control. When will we do something about the fact that there is no place for ‘us’, when the evil, mind disease takes hold? They send you to the ER, push a pill, perhaps a 72 hour hold to the Psych Ward. There is nowhere a parent with a disturbed, sick child can turn. We are in trouble, as a society. Take the guns off the streets, a mentally disturbed individual will find another way to kill. Help us fix them, with more research, better facilities, more culpability from the Government and its people, for the Mentally Ill.

I weep for those children, the families, the unimaginable depths of pain and sorrow. I rejoice in my youth, safe, happy and healthy. I’m grateful for that. I expose myself, sharing my story. Perhaps it can help bring insight and perspective. I don’t believe human beings are evil, I believe they are defective and commit violent, unspeakable acts.

Mental Illness has afflicted me, but it could’ve been you or a loved one. One in four is not great odds. I am alone, completely and utterly alone with my Illness, even while surrounded by an empathic family. I am not a child; I am an adult, who’s better equipped to manage this bastard disease.

Please, don’t judge me. Don’t judge the Adam Lanza’s. Don’t judge the ‘crazy,’ the insane, the unfit, the unwell, the lunatic that is me.

Help us instead.

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Something That Precious

I dreamt of you last night. It was so nice to see your beautiful face. You were laughing, tan, skin luminescent, summer blond silky hair straightened blowing in the breeze. You wore a hideous, teal colored poof dress and you were ridiculously happy.

Seven, almost eight years have passed. I wrote this when you left trying to make sense of the shock, grief, numbness and non-sensical. I held onto it until today. It’s time to share your story. You’d want me to help in anyway. Anyone out there suffering, struggling with Mental Illness, you’d help them no matter the cost. So, I use my voice and do my best for the both of us. It’s not nearly enough missing you, but it’ll have to do.

I write with my heart full of you, L.B.H.

#WorldBipolarDay, ironic.

The label neither one of us asked for. It’s what we got.

Red Velveteen Curtain Call

By Jacqueline Cioffa

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Act One

Life doesn’t need movie star quality, reality TV, dramatic, sweeping cinematography.

It can be lived full, on an empty stage, in between the crooked walls, cracks and crevices.  On the stage, the story is alive, tingling with possibility. It builds, moves, unfolds organically, the tale takes precedent and the words take hold.  The spectator breathes it in, feels the emotion, the characters, mesmerized by the modern day theatrics.

Listen closely, and get swept away by this modern day drama. Come with me as I paint a picture of a boisterous three year old, wearing a pixie cut and overalls on the kitchen floor, my legs crossed atop my baby cousin’s. We’re laughing and eating brownie mix directly out of a big glass bowl.  I’m smirking at her with the most devilish grin that is all my own. She has curly, blond ringlets, a pink bow, a spatula in her mouth and brownie mix smeared down her chin.  I love this baby girl deeply, for she would grow into the most glorious, courageous of women.  She is the gypsy, a curious, starlit firefly, direct from the Gods and the underbelly. She is perfect in all her impossible glory.

She would travel the far ends of the earth and help people around the globe.

She would live in Africa and take care of the sick. She would call a submarine home, and the scientist in her would search for depth and meaning. She would honor truth, and walk to the beat of her own drum.  She would go to Princeton, and Yale, becoming a Dr. of Medicine. But, to me she was so much more.  She was a mystic, a guru, healer of the heart and mender of the soul.  She was always the mender of my sometimes-damaged heart and filled my disheartened soul with more light, laughter, happiness and song than one could ever hope for.

Her hair a la grown up was long, curly, and golden, much like the ancient temptresses of Mythology.  She never lost her luster, spark, or electric personality, even while drowning in psychosis, dark worlds and foreboding, mind oceans that were not her own. She was unable to find her way back home. We would watch Happy Feet, she would laugh and waddle-like a penguin for her own entertainment.  She never judged my many messy attempts at becoming an adult; instead she celebrated my quirks and eccentricities.  She was smart; actually she was brilliant, yet she never made me feel stupid.  She made me feel bold. We would sing Karaoke at Christmas, loud and off – key, howling with every missed beat of a tune.  She would visit, crawl into bed and tickle me, even though she knew I hated physical displays of emotion.  She made me feel safe, proud, precious and loved. For her I was more important than any film, way better than any big time production. For me, she was all the beauty that is the stage and its majestic quality. She was grand, spectacular, much like the house lights, the beautiful, antique wooden chairs and ornate ceilings, theaters from a forgotten time. She was regal like La Scala in Milan and brighter than any red carpet dream in Hollywood.

And then, she wasn’t. When I close my eyes, tears stream silently down my face and snot runs from my nose. I shudder to think of her in the cold damp earth. A box she would never want to call home. I close my eyes tight and fear the black and the dark and the depths of her pain. I want to mend her. I want to make it better, but as I sob like that little girl with brownie mix smeared on her face I know that I can’t. So I sob a little more and imagine her beautiful face, spectacular self and realize my humanistic dreams seem silly. They pale in comparison to her life and how she touched mine. I imagine the impulsivity and courage it took to climb the rail, how scared she must have been. How out of her mind hopeless she must have felt. Then, I wonder was she scared at all?  Maybe she felt release finally free to be the gypsy again to come and go without the hefty weight of living. The firefly eternal in flight, lighting up the sky with white and gold flames.

There had been too many hospital visits and failed drugs to mention. Hers was a life she would never have wanted. The bastard tricks of Bipolarity and my cursing at God bring little solace. I want to gather her, rock her in my arms keep her safe and warm. I want to kiss her cheek and tell her I love her and thank her for even one day in her company. I want to find the courage, fortitude and will to live my final act better. I want to make her proud. As brightly as her star shined in this world, so it shall in the next. For when I look up to the heavens and think of her I see the Aurora Borealis hues and colors bolder than ever imagined. There are far too many colors in her rainbow to fade out. Her spirit envelops me with goodness, truth, warmth, and endless golden curls and locks of love.

Life as I knew it was gone. I was left with a gorge in my heart. I was left with deep sorrow and sadness. Selfishly, I want her back. My brain tells me stop. I know better, I too have been cursed with the tortured, bipolar theatrics. I decide to halt my tears, and put on my most fabulous dress and high sparkly heels. I drown my sorrow in a rock song belting it out loud, way louder than I should. Fuck it, no one’s listening. I dance alone with thoughts of her dripping golden light all around me. I rejoice in freedom and abandon. Fireflies flicker for a brief, fleeting moment and then they are gone disappearing back into the night.

Something that precious must burn out, well before its time. Leaving us to bask in its wake, of wonder, beauty, love and twinkling light.

Curtain Falls.  Intermission

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#EndtheStigma

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