Monthly Archives: October 2013

Stars in her Hair




The Stress is my parasite, slowly consuming my body and mind.
My mind has become the victim of a hostile take over.  The Stress crowds my thoughts.  Just last week It killed off my concentration.    My resting heart rate has bounced from 75 to 90– and caffeine is not to blame.  These days I barely drink caffeine because the Stress keeps me wide awake.
The Parasite, the Stress, consumes my body.  Down 25 lbs since January, the last five have slipped off just these last two weeks.  The Stress eats my appetite,  kills my desire for food, and sabotages my ability to choke down even my unhealthiest favorites.  Now I’m 10 lbs skinnier than I was during the height of my drug bender days, those days when I’d go weekends without eating, subsisting on drugs, juice, and the occasional skittle.
Skinny, this kind of skinny, does not look good on me.  Naturally tall and thin, I didn’t need to lose those 25 lbs.  Now I imagine I look like a spider– long spindly limbs attached to an increasingly smaller body.  My angular nose has sharpened and narrowed.  My cheekbones, never prominent in the past, have started to jut out and add to the sharpness of my face.  My pale skin is taking on an unhealthy yellow undertone and the circles under my eyes are only getting darker.
No one likes to hear someone complain about getting skinny.   But skinny can be ugly.  A flat stomach’s not so glorious when it’s accented by bony, protruding hip bones.  Boobs start to shrink and the butt deflates.  The clothes that were flattering start to hang off, baggy and ugly.  A healthy weight is beautiful.  But no one looks better when they drop below that line and sink into the stagnant and shallow waters of the Underweight.
The Stress is an unwelcome and voracious parasite.  It slowly started feeding on me the moment I got the letter from the Bar Committee in late August.  It got bigger, uglier and gained power when they told me I had to do 90 days in rehab.  But It burst into Its current ugly, blood heavy weight when I learned that my insurance wouldn’t cover a single part of rehab’s overwhelming $40,000 price tag.
Already terrified that I have to spend 90 days locked away, the unbearable financial burden has dragged me to the edge of a cliff. I teeter uneasily as I vainly strive for balance.
My resources are tapped and escape seems nearly impossible.  Sober and staying that way, I can’t use my old crutches to escape from the Stress.  But the weight of the Stress strains my sobriety and pushes me towards relapse.  This ugly Parasite doesn’t want me to succeed.  Greedily, It feeds on my mind and body.  It laughs as I waste away and is ready to torture a new host.
But the Stress hasn’t killed me, not yet.  I’m slowing trying to poison it, to get it off my back and out of my system.  I’m fighting take back control.  The damage It’s done is not irreparable: my body can be taken back and my mind can be reclaimed.  I haven’t let It claim my sleep.  Trazadone is my armor, protecting me from the final ravages of the Stress– the deprivation of sleep that so often pulls you into madness.  The Stress is no match for Trazadone and every hour I spend asleep is an hour I get stronger.  The Stress is bending me but I refuse to break, to surrender to Its power, to lose all that I’ve fought for.
Soon I’ll be doing battle with the Bar, and a victory in that war would  surely kill the parasitic Stress.  I’ve got to fight for that moment– plugging my ears to the seductive call of the drugs, wrestling my mind from the Stress and concentrating on the moment I’m in, forcing down food to keep from wasting away, and allowing Trazadone to fight the battle for sleep for me.
I may be teetering on the edge but I will not fall.  I’ll fight for the balance that will weaken the Stress. I’ll reclaim my body and my mind.  I’ll prepare for the fight that’s coming.  And I’ll throw that Parasite, the Stress, from my back.  Because this is what I have to do, if I want to survive.
And that’s why I’m fighting, to survive.

The Exit Interview

I.  The Nurse

“Do you know how much longer he’ll be?”
The Patient had come to the nursing station to check on the Psychologist.  The Nurse knew that the man was already 15 minutes late for his appointment with the Patient and that it would be at least another 20 before he arrived.
“I’m sorry baby, he’s running late.  Sometimes it takes him awhile to get from the Evaluation Center back here to the Women’s Center.   I’ll come get you when he arrives.  Where are you waiting?”
“I’m in the Day Room. “
The girl seemed anxious and the Nurse wanted to tell her not to worry.  She’d spent three days with the Patient during her evaluation and, in her opinion, the girl had nothing to worry about.  The Patient had been warm and open with the other girls at the Women’s Center.  The girls who came in for evaluations were usually mad at the world and kept to themselves.  They never made friends with the other girls who were there for treatment.  And treatment was expensive!  $40,000 for three months of rehab was a lot to pay, but the Nurse knew that the kinds of girls that came to the Women’s Center could afford it.
The Nurse had been working at the Women’s Center for a few years now, and she thought she could tell who needed help and who didn’t.  And this Patient just didn’t seem like a girl who needed help.  She’d talked to the girl herself and, in her opinion, the girl’s five months of unassisted sobriety should speak for itself.
The Nurses got to see how the evaluation patients interacted with the residents of the Women’s Center, how– and if– they followed the rules, what they were like at meal times, and whether they were engaged in the activities they had to participate in.  And the Nurse had watched this girl.
The Psychologist finally arrived.  “She’ll be fine,” she thought to herself as she went to fetch the Patient.  “She’s got nothing to worry about.”
II.  The Director
She greeted the Psychologist, late as usual, as he met her in her office.  He’d asked her to sit in on the exit interview with the Patient, the interview he was more than thirty minutes late for.
The Director made a comment to the Psychologist as they walked past the entrance to the Day Room, which she thought was empty.
“Bringing those prescriptions here was a red flag for me.”  
The Patient had brought prescription bottles of three controlled substances to the Evaluation, which was only three days long.  The Patient explained that although she knew that she wouldn’t be allowed to take the prescriptions during her stay at the Women’s Center for the Evaluation, she had brought them in case the Evaluators needed proof that she was taking the narcotics pursuant to a valid prescription.  
The Psychologist nodded and murmured in agreement.  He had spent the most time with the Patient and was confident that his recommendation was warranted.  Even though he had only spoken to one out of the five references the Patient had listed, he told the Director that he didn’t think that hearing from the others would change his mind anyway.
The Nurse brought the Patient in.  The Director wondered if the Patient had been waiting in the Day Room.
“I wonder if she overheard my comment to the Psychologist.  If I had known that she was in there I would have been more careful, or at least more quiet, about what I said to the Psychologist,” the Director thought to herself.
The Director noted that the Patient looked anxious.  “As she should be,” she thought.  The Director knew what the Psychologist was going to say and was attending the meeting as a silent symbol of her support of the Psychologist’s recommendation.
She watched the girl as the Psychologist rifled through his papers, preparing to read his recommendation.  She was sure that the Psychologist’s recommendation was warranted.  She hadn’t reviewed the file but, in her mind, the fact that the Patient couldn’t even go three days without narcotics was proof enough that the girl needed treatment.  Wasn’t that why she brought the prescriptions with her?
“I’m sure she was full of excuses,” she continued to muse.  She kept her eyes on the girl, who was fidgeting nervously as the Psychologist straightened out his papers and prepared to read the recommendation.  “She should know what to expect,” she thought to herself.  “The past speaks for itself.”
III.  The Patient
The Psychologist was late and I was overdue for my exit interview.  I was beyond anxious as I waited in the Day Room of the Women’s Center.  I had brought my sketch pad and doodles to try to distract myself but as the minutes ticked by– 2, 4, 16, 20, 26, 31– my anxiety overwhelmed my ability to distract myself.  
By the time the Psychologist finally bothered to show up, nearly 35 minutes had passed since our appointment was supposed to begin.  I sat in the Day Room, too anxious to draw, ears peeled for any cue that he had finally arrived.
“…bringing those prescriptions here was a red flag for me….”
Her voice wasn’t far away.  She was probably in the hall, a few feet away from the entrance to the Day Room.  Her voice was familiar but I knew I’d never met her.  I pegged her for the Director of the Women’s Program, and I could hear the Psychologist speaking behind her.  They didn’t know I was in that room and they didn’t know I could hear them talking.  Talking about me.
The Nurse called me into the room and the Director introduced herself to me.  She had decided to attend my exit interview with the Psychologist.  I did not think this was a good sign.  Her presence and the comment I had overheard made me fear for the worst. I was not getting good news.
Going into the evaluation, I had been confident that I would leave with a favorable report.  I’d been clean for five months and was obviously stable. In my mind, this was all that mattered.
But as I sat through endless meetings with different doctors, nurses, therapists, and psychologists I began to feel the tide turning, and I did not like where it was carrying me.  No one wanted to hear about my progress, about how long I’d been clean, about why I stopped doing drugs.  
The Evaluators were interested in the past to the exclusion of the present.  I rehashed my drug history ad nauseum, telling the same stories over and over. And I got tired of telling those same stupid stories.  I started to fear that Evaluators were only listening to those stories and were ignoring my description of the present.   
“We’re recommending that you enter a 90 day residential rehab treatment program.”
My heart stopped, my stomach dropped, my neck and face got hot, and I immediately had to fight back tears.  
I had been wrong about everything.  My months of sobriety were discounted and waved away– I hadn’t gone to treatment to get clean so my sobriety didn’t count.  The controlled substances I took pursuant to valid and legal prescriptions– those were a problem, they were addictive, and I shouldn’t be taking them.  The glass of wine I had a few times a week– not allowed, I was an alcoholic. 
I sat in the room with the Director as the Psychologist read off the rest of his report, tears streaming silently down my face.  I’d been sentenced to 90 days.

Mermaid Alone


The Fallout

I was released from an inpatient commitment at the psych hospital three days before my 25th birthday.  And after I got out of the hospital things didn’t get better. They got worse.  

After calling an ambulance, my roommate called my parents to tell them that I’d OD’d on my prescription medication and was back in the crazy house.  And from this, they inferred that I had tried to kill myself.  Not the case.  In spite of my explanation to the contrary, my mother insisted on driving 16 hours to spend my birthday with me.

And thank god she came up.  After I got out of the hospital I witnessed the mass exodus of my friends.  My roommate moved out.  Two of my closest friends– friends who had taken care of me and checked me into the hospital that first time, friends who I’d taken care of during their rough patches, friends who I thought would never leave me– left me.

Some left me because they “just couldn’t handle” me anymore. This was a line that became all too familiar to me but never lost its cutting edge.  There’s nothing like being told you’re a burden when you need support the most.  The things they said still hurt with the distance of five months.  And there are some lost friends that I still miss, whose abandonment of me I will never understand.

My birthday table was remarkably empty.  Usually filled with 12 chairs or more, this time we needed only a few.  Two good friends and my mother joined me for my birthday dinner.  No one else showed up.

In the end, I was grateful that my mother, who I had a history of not getting along with, made the long drive to come see me.  She sat beside me at my birthday dinner, drank champagne with me in my lonely apartment, and was surprisingly and amazingly supportive of me.  Famous for her righteous indignation, this time she channeled it towards my fight.  There was someone on my side.

This was the beginning of the fallout– the loss of good friends, an empty birthday table, and a lonely apartment– all of these were the beginning of some bad times.  Those days, the ugly ones, are still a part of me, attached to my ankle like a ball and chain, a bitter weight that I carry with me as I go.  I’ve learned that you can think you’ve hit rock bottom, only to discover that you’ve still got a ways to fall.  And that fall fucking hurts.  

This is the fallout.

La Medusa in Chains

My most recent painting– art is one of my stress outlets.





I passed the bar exam, hooray!!!!

Now on to rehab (and other hoops) before I get certified…..

Who Cares About the Present, Let’s Live in the Past! Part I

Part I        The Committee of Bar Examiners, a Meeting.

“Hem haw, Hem haw, now let’s come to order. Yes, yes. Quite, quite.”

“Hem, hem. Welcome everyone.”

“Well, we’re here to discuss the file of Genevieve Mercier, a bar applicant of gravest concern.”

“Ah yes. Hem, hem.  How is it that her file was passed along to our most glorious and upright office?”

“If I may, it appears that it was her answer to Question 25 on the glorious Character and Fitness Application, an application which is mandatory to complete in order to apply to sit for the bar exam.”

“And what was the question?”

“The question asks the applicant: “Within the past 5 years, have you been diagnosed with or have you been treated for bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, paranoia, or any other psychotic disorder?””

“And what was her answer?”

“She disclosed that she has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.”

“Oh my.”

“Quite upsetting.”

“You know, I hear those people can be very unstable.”

“Hem haw, quite quite!”

“Well, upon her disclosure of this information she was required to fill out Forms 7 and 8.”

“And what do those forms require?”

“Form 7 is an Authorization to Release Medical Information.  Form 8 is a Description of Mental Health or Substance Abuse Condition or Impairment.”

“And she promptly signed and returned these forms?”

“No she did not.  She initiallly refused to sign the forms, making some silly argument about doctor/patient confidentiality.  We threatened her and told her she couldn’t sit for the bar until she signed them.  So she eventually complied.”

“But this initial noncompliance was a red flag to us.”

“As it should be!  Everyone should be willing to disclose confidential medical and mental health information to the powers that be!”

“Quite right!”

“Hem, hem!”

“Well, after her initial refusal to sign the releases, we decided further investigation into her diagnosis was warranted.”

“So what did you do?”

“We sent her a letter informing her of our current investigation and requiring her to produce all psychiatric medical records from the past five years and any hospitilzation records from the past ten.”

“Did she comply?”

“Oh she did.  And let me tell you, those records were juicy.”

“Oh my, how scandalous, do tell!”

“Well, she’s had two psychiatric hospitalizations in the past year, she’s seen 5 different doctors, half of which diagnosed her with poly substance abuse.  It appears that she was doing quite a lot of partying during law school.”

“Doesn’t she know better than to be honest with doctors about those kinds of things?  I mean, didn’t we all do quite a lot of partying in law school?”

“I sure did. I just was just lucky it never ended up in any medical record– I know better than to tell the truth to doctors.”

“Well I bet she’s learned her lesson now!”

“Hem, hem, quite, quite!”

“Well now what do we do with her?  Her records show a bipolar and polysubstance abuse diagnosis, cocaine dependency, opiate dependency, a benzodiazepine overdose, chronic marajuana use, and cough syrup abuse.  Not to mention her inpatient admission for depression last fall.”

“Wait, what’s this?”

“It looks like a letter from her therapist, a recent one.”

“What does it say?”

“Oh nothing useful.  Just talks about how much progress she’s made, how she’s gotten clean, how capable and competent she is and ends with an opinion that she’ll make a great attorney.”

“Well who cares about that, that’s the PRESENT, not the PAST.”

“Yeah, and we live in the PAST here, fuck any progress she’s made!  She’s a bipolar drug addict, it’s the past that counts!”

“And do we really want someone like her, a bipolar chick, practicing law here in this great and backwards state?”

“Well I don’t know what to do with her.”

“Let’s kick her to Lawyer’s Assistance and see what they have to say.”

Part II                Lawyer’s Assistance Program, a brief exchange

“Hey did you see that new file?”

“Yeah, the drug addict bipolar chick?”

“That’s the one! What do you want to do about her?”

“Eh, let’s just send her to one of those expensive evals.  They’ll know what to do with her.”

“And if she can’t pay we don’t want her as an attorney in this state anyway.”

“Hahaha! So very true.  Ship her on down.”

To be continued……


Perdition: (noun) A state of eternal punishment and damnation into which a sinful and unpenitent person passes after death.

I’m not dead– not yet– but maybe this is where I am, perdition. 

After all, I’m unrepentant.  I refuse to acknowledge that I have a problem.  Did I have a problem in the past? Probably.  But that past is not the present.  And now, with the clarity of five clean months, I think not. My bender days are long over.  DXM is a greedy little thing of my past.  I’ve even bid adieu to my good friend Mary Jane.   And morphine is no more than a dream from another time, another era, another me.  A me that I’ve buried.

I’m a new me.  A clean me.  A me who gets up in the morning, who goes to work, and who comes home at night.  And that’s it.  But the ghosts of my past haunt me in the most inconvenient and cumbersome of ways.

Maybe it’s because I’m unpenitent.  I refuse to call myself an addict.  I won’t look back on my drug doing days with shame and ugly remorse.  Sometimes I miss them.  But most of the time, I just accept that those days as part of my past. Those days aren’t a part of my present.

Maybe it’s because I’m sinful.  And I’ve certainly been sinful.  After all, it’s nearly impossible to manage a 48 hour ecstasy bender without engaging in some kind of sin.  And sure, I broke the law.  And I had fun doing it. But ‘had’ is the operative word, it signifies the past, not the present.  And it’s the present that rules the day.

In spite of this, I feel like I’m in a state of perdition.  I can’t catch a break.  I’m drowning in the past and the powers that be– the Committee of Bar Examiners– are pushing my head down, deep underwater.  They’re holding me down there, down with my past, waiting for the fight to go out of me.  Waiting for me to turn blue.  Waiting for me to drown.

Maybe I’ve walked this road to perdition.   I’ve taken some steps off the straight and narrow– is this where those steps lead?

No, I haven’t walked this road.  I haven’t even taken the path less traveled.  Because I am not an anomaly, an abomination, an attorney unfit for practice.

I’m a person.  A person with resolve.  Enough resolve to get off morphine without methadone and a 12 step.  A person with enough clarity to realize when the party’s over.   A person with enough strength to let go of the past and accept a new present.  

I don’t deserve this perdition and I refuse to accept it.  I refuse to stop swimming, I refuse to let them push my head under the waters of my past, I refuse to stop screaming.  Screaming my truth.  

And here’s my truth: I don’t belong here, in some state of eternal damnation.  My sin is in the past and I won’t offer penitence for a sin already atoned.  

I’m a person.  

And I don’t deserve perdition.


I played the inpatient game.  

I got up for breakfast, stayed for group, refused the temptation to nap and pretended not to hate every moment that passed.  I stayed friendly with the nurses and avoided tantrums.  I took my meds with a smile and feigned interaction with the other patients.  I was on 72 hour psych hold and I knew what I had to do to get out.  

I had been committed. 

And I wanted out.  

I patiently let the days pass.  I didn’t make any phone calls– there was no one to call.  Everyone was tired of me.  The overdose, the 55 Ativan (aka lorazepam), just bolstered their position– I was out of control and needed help.  And they were tired of helping.

This time I had no visitors.  Long gone was the popularity I enjoyed during my first hospitalization, a mere seven months earlier.  Back then, I had so many visitors that they had to sit outside the visitation area, awaiting their turn to chat with me for 30 short minutes.  

This time I expected no one.  When visiting hours rolled around I kept my head down and focused on my doodling, trying not to cry.  Trying not to remember why no one wanted to see me.  Trying not to think about the paucity of support that awaited me on the other side. 

I waited my 72 hours without complaint.  The food was just as bad as the first time.  I was just as bored during the days.  I was just as lonely during the nights.

In spite of my protests, I had once again been assigned to Dr. X.  After my third night on the psych ward, and upon the expiration of the 72 hour hold, I met with Dr. X to discuss the possibility of my discharge.

I was more than apprehensive– I was terrified.  Terrified that he wouldn’t release me.  Terrified of the power he had over me.  Terrified of what he knew about me.

We sat down.  

We talked.  

I explained how I managed to land myself in the psych hospital again after swearing that he would never see me return.  I was prepared for the worst.  This was the man who told me that I’d never be able to quit doing drugs, and that no matter how smart I thought I was “the drugs would always have an IQ ten points higher.”  I wasn’t optimistic about our meeting.

“Well Genevieve, I believe that if you had wanted to kill yourself, you wouldn’t have done this.”

I was shocked.  Dr. X was never in my corner.  He always thought the worst of me and took any and every opportunity to remind me that I was a drug addict.  I was prepared to go to war to get him to release me.  But this time I didn’t have to.

And he was right.  I would have done something besides choke down those 55 Ativan if I had wanted to end it all.   An opiate OD, wrists slit in the bathtub, poison injestion– all of these were stronger candidates.  

Because if I had wanted to kill myself I would have chosen something strong enough to get the job done.  And for some reason, Dr. X knew this about me.

So he let me go.  

The game was over.


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