Thursday, April 06, 2006

You Want Me To Eat What?

"Insanity is my only means of relaxation."


One day I was driving south on Hwy 80, on my way to the Bay Bridge, when I saw this car. I thought it was the neatest thing. He is probably one of the many enthusiasts of one of our favorite days to party, here in Berkeley, "How Berkeley Can You Be? Day." :) That is the day, we folks of Berkeley, celebrate the unusual, the eccentric, and the wild side of life. For me it is a time to go out into the world, and just, sans it's inhibitions. You know, that inner voice that says you must be proper, follow all the rules, and be normal to be accepted. Now, I believe in being on one's best behavior, treating others they way I would want to be treated, remembering that manners is a GOOD thing, and so on, but every once in a while I like to just go and enjoy, and see and be a part of life less routine.

Maybe it is because one day, a few years ago, there came a terrible day in the universe, a day which in effect changed my life, and how I live it, and it wasn't necessarily for the least not right away. See, everything crashed in on this one day, and be the late afternoon of that day...I had lost my ability to speak. I didn't know what to say. People kept asking me," what is wrong?" "How can I help you?" All perfectly good questions, but I had no words to tell them. It was like, for a brief time, I had lost the English language. I had gone eccentric.

So, off I went on a brief adventure to, "The Home For What-The Hell Happened." LOL. Now THAT is a place where one should really have a digital camera with them. Nah, it is actually a place of many things, sadness, loneliness, but in a strange way, it is also a place of hope, when you realize that you are not alone, in having a day that changes your life. So, there is I was, on my own, in a very strange environment, Alan had just left, and I wasn't really sure what was going to happen next. I had no real feeling at this point, I was just going on faith I think, and I was just along for the ride.

What came next was a series of tests. The usual ones. Ink sqigglies on white cardboard, Where's Waldo? And my personal favorite...Free Expression drawing...with Crayons. LOL. It was a bit overwhelming, and it was a bit funky, and like it or not...there I was. So, I did all the tests, and passed all of them fabulously, but still, NO words could be spoken. The doctor, a nice man 5 or 6 years younger then I was, UGG, didn't prescribe me any medication, because he wasn't sure what was going on with me. I think that was a good idea, I have never been one for weird stuff like that. Now there were folks who had clearly been diagnosed, all around me, because when it came time for medication time, the nurse brought a HUGE cart of drugs onto the floor where I was, and I am pretty sure it contained more then Valium.

About an hour after med time, came the dinner hour. Now this was an event. A tiny little nurse of about 4 ft tall called all of us to line up so we could, "attend the dining hour." Oh my goodness, was it dinner already? No, as it turns out I was a bit confused, it was time for breakfast! I guess I got my hours backwards, when I lost my ability to form words. It didn't matter, I was just going along with the flow anyway, so off i went to have breakfast. Funny thing...I still didn't care about where I was heading to. It could have been Denny's for a "Grand Slam," or the IHOP for a, "Rooty Tooty Fresh & Fruity." It was all good...or was it all bad? Whatever.

So, we all lined up, and went into the elevator, and down to the diningroom we went. I had the tune, Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It's Off To Work We Go," in my head, thank goodness I wasn't speaking at that point, or I may have burst into song! LOL. As the others each took a tray, I was whisked away by the hospital Laison, which is another doctor who basically sits with you, to help you feel more comfortable. My person was a nice little lady of about 50, who was wonderful. She didn't talk down to me, she didn't speak in hushed tones, she just spoke to me like I was normal. "Carly, since this is your first morning with us, I am going to prepare your breakfast tray, then every day from now on you can go through the line yourself." "Ok," I thought silently to myself..."Whatever."

When the nice doctor came back to the table, she had a 16 oz. glass of orange juice for me, and a juice box for her, she then excused herself and said my meal was on it's way. I looked around, and suddenly I became VERY aware of those around me, and what they were eating. It was huge. All the platters were piled high with food. "It must be an all you can eat," I reasoned. Shrug. That must be nice. :) As it turns out, it wasn't an, "All you can eat," it was, "this is what we want you eat." It all sunk in as my liaison put my tray in front of me.

It contained, 12 scrambled eggs, 2 Lg Blueberry muffins in a cute little basket, 4 slices of toast, a Lg. fruit cup, 8 pieces of crispy bacon, and 4 sm. Buttermilk pancakes. Ugg. Huh? LOL. Ugg again. "Carly, I know it looks like a lot, but we need to keep your strength up, and get plenty of all the right nutrition in you. So eat up. I sat there, began to cry, began to laugh, felt completely lost, and all at once, suddenly I felt found. I began to eat. I picked up my fork, set it back down, and looked at my liaison and asked of her, "You want me to eat what?" Sigh :)

She looked at me, and gave me the biggest smile. "So, the cat doesn't have your tongue." "No, I guess not," I said smiling through my tears. I hadn't spoken a word in 24 hours, I kinda thought maybe I wouldn't speak again, but here I was...speaking, because somewhere in me, I thought it would be rude to not say why I couldn't possibly eat this meal. LOL. As it turned out, I wouldn't have had to eat all that anyway. That meal is given, on a very limited basis, to those who have been prescribed some of the more serious medications, usually in higher doses. It helps them to have a lot of proteins and other nutrients to help with digesting their food properly. The next words out of my mouth were, "can I have a toothbrush?" This made the doctor smile as well. If I cared enough to ask for a toothbrush, then I would be ok to go home. And I was released a couple hours later. Slowly over the next few months, I got back up on my feet and regained my ability to express myself. :) Therapy is a good thing.

We humans should never think we have to handle life alone. I get so frustrated with people who think the hard work Princess Diana, in trying to bring awareness about mental illness out of the shadows and into the light, was a waste of time. She was one of the first of the big celebrities to have the courage to stand up and share her problems, to provide hope for depressed individuals, and those suffering from eating disorders. It takes courage to do that, especially given her life, and how appearances seem to be what matters in certain circles. Therapy is hard, painful work, but so worthwhile. Here I am, years later, and while I really feel that somehow my vocabulary was affected by my momentary snap, I feel emotion again. I can enjoy days like, "How Berkeley Can You Be?" While it may not be for everyone, it is a day to shun the inhibitions that hold us back from sharing ourselves...our true, eccentric, free, selves. We all have joy and fun in us, but if we don't use it once in a while, we stand a good chance of losing it. ;)

Go somewhere today and be silly! Make a child laugh! Make yourself laugh, and give yourself a, "How Me Can I Be Day." :)

How Berkeley Can You Be Day? (2005)

"Baby, You Can Drive My Car"
Berkeley, California
Spring, 2005
Early Afternoon


Karen Funk Blocher said...

Upon my trout, I love this. - K.

Gaboatman said...

Had I been presented with a giant platter of food like that, I might never have talked again just to keep getting the big helpings, LOL! Seriously, though, thanks for sharing this with us. It enables one to put a little pertspective on that ill defined state we call normal. I'm sure these words of yours will help others who read them. Now I've gotta run, I'm off to have a "How Me Can I Be Day!"

V said...

Carly, thanks for sharing this personal reminiscence. It`s beautifully expressed.

Charley said...

I'm all for therapy and I agree - with it those of us who are troubled at times by something can benefit greatly from its help.

Of course, I think coming to work every day is also insane and against my better judgement, so I think I have a Berkeley day every day :)


DesLily said...

I had a similar car once.. when i was married we had a station wagon.. on one whole side we painted a florida scene with herons and such.. on the hood was a painted eagle.. on the tailgate was the painted desert and on the other side a design!!.. we were practicing because my X and i painted murals on motorcycles and felt silly and painted our car!!..

good thing the cat got her tongue back or you might have blown up eating all that food!!!!.. glad you are better.