Hertie, an older, religious, gum-chewing woman of vicious jealousy, asked, “Do you want to be like them? D’ya? D’ya?”
Looking wistfully at university students – shredded, determined, doing their utmost and more to scale the vertical wall after three-mile triathlon – I thought, “Hell, yeah!”
But I was a mental out-patient attending the Day Care Program at the campus Hospital. I was as much at the bottom rung of any ladder as I could be, never mind the academic ladder…Things weren’t looking too bright…
I spent a good eight months in that rehabilitation facility, learning to re-enter everyday life after the madness and meds had wiped my brain clean like a wretched, formatted hard-drive. It took a lot of tolerance and patience, both of which I eventually ran out. The final straw was when Hertie jealously goaded me in my soaking in campus life, and I thought, “One day, Veek, one day…”
Hertie finally claimed at one group session that she had joined the Franciscan order, while still sucking on her never-ending bag of high-quality hum-bugs. I left the facility with the excuse that I was going back to school. College, I thought, was the cheapest and easiest way to get reconditioned. The nurse on duty one night did say that life from now on will be retraining the neuron pathways to achieve the same goal. She got me to cross my arms the way I usually do. “OK, now cross them the other way. OK! Took a bit of thinking, but you did it.”
It took me eight years, eight bloody, long years, to get my BA. I majored in English and came out with a “B”average. (Same as good ol’ high school, a “B” student, as always I ever was.) That was a hard path though. Closer to the end, I had a near-breakdown. I wanted out. My mother, however, wouldn’t let me quit. “Even if you must do it one course at a time, daughter, you must do it. If you take a break from school, you might as well say bye-bye to your diploma.” She was right. I took it one course at a time, and with my framed diploma proudly in place on the wall behind me, I am a person with mental illness who went through her own obstacle course of sorts, finally scaling that wall until I, too, became, analogously, a bona fide “Ironman”.
I am now constantly readjusting like that. With the frontal lobes not working properly, I’ve had to use everything from objective logic to spatial/kinetic learning to solve problems. I do pray; I believe in most of the religious stuff that Hertie believes in. But, she was limited because the amount of damage and lack of proper therapy that the years had done to her. For her, the illness was more unkind. Only, I guess, that when you get sick over and over from going off meds, the brain doesn’t have the same elasticity as it had when in the previous state before quitting medicinal treatment once again. I am only surmising what might have happened in her case. I mean, she was emotionally intelligent enough to sense that I admired the students, and that I silently wished I was one of them. But in terms of wanting more, she was happy with her expensive bon-bons and didn’t want me to have anything better than her. My conceivable success was her discontent. However, I do not take kindly to mental bullying. Mindfuck me once, and I’ll have a word with you. Do it again, and I’ll ghost you. There won’t be a third time.
One thing that university taught me was the value of perseverance in all things. It’s almost like you throw all the years of coddling and pampering at its implacable and immobile coat-of-arms, and it deflects those years with the constant reminder that it’s all about what you make of it. It is as simple as that. You get out of things what you put into it. There are no shortcuts. I’ve said this before, I’m sure. But, it bears repeating for my own sake, mainly, even if you think it isn’t for yours. ~V
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