Saturday, August 24, 2013

Marinwood to Vallejo: From Milky White to Many-Hued, Part One

I have never been so frustrated in my desire, my need, to communicate with the outside world.  This desire has been aggravated for many months. I've been working with an outdated stack of Lenovo laptops, and there's always something brutally wrong with most of them. I am not innocent of stepping on my poor router, or spilling water on my best of the bunch, or of innumerable viruses brought on by stepping on a link that looked harmless and wasn't. As I write this, I begin to think I was the main offender! Fortunately I have had the ungrudging assistance of my friend Pete, who has conquered every wretched virus I have brought to him.

How? I asked him for his secrets; he looked at me blankly. "Your ability to fix these damned computers!" said I. His response: "I just push buttons until it works." This man is the epitome of a friend. He's got a girlfriend now, and I try to take less of his time. Hence the long absence which has driven me insane -- whoa, wait a minute  -- I already was!

So this, coupled with utter poverty, has hampered my ability to communicate from my new perch in the world.  Funny that I have landed in Vallejo, CA, the one place in California that I have had (though never actually exploring it) NO desire to live in, never, ever, ever.  The very name gave me the creeps. The very thought repelled me. And now here am I, having an extraordinarily good time in this, the most diverse town in the nation. Also a town ridden with hard drugs, predators, poverty and is one of the places that most people just don't want to go near.

Although it has been a matter of nine months, only until recently have I understood that I was undergoing a long-desired mutating process.  My former home, Marinwood, CA, is a typically suburban part of pricey Marin County, though in a more humble area than Mill Valley, for example. Property values have decreased dramatically -- at a certain point, my home was valued at about $1 million. Ha!

Until the town pulled together the Marinwood Community Farmer's Market, led by the extraordinary Kelly Smith, there was no place to mingle among one's neighbors. I'd lived there for 29 years, and barely knew the people next door, more's the pity. My point is that suburbia tends to be sterile and isolating. In our neighborhood people live in their boxy little houses on virtually treeless streets. When walking around the neighborhood there is little, if any, eye contact or greeting. I stayed at home pretty much all the time except when I had things to do outside as I felt like a freak of nature. Even my mate tells me I am oddly regarded by people and am vastly eccentric. Hell, I don't know.

Fortunately, for the last few years I experienced the joy of participating, with said mate Patrick, in the Community Farmers Market, which drew a relatively few people out of their homes. It was still fun, though, as I was finally meeting people. I couldn't actually work (spinal issues) but I could talk to my neighbors for the first time ever.They were all a fine bunch of folks and I felt much less freakish after a while. Being genuinely fond of people, I enjoyed helping to cultivate a sense of neighborhood.

We all found it odd that few came down for the finest fresh food in town, and joked, because the population was becoming more elderly, that we should start doing body counts. I do not people were many, if ANY, people of color there. And you know what that means: that there was no soul in that town, ah no, baby, no soul at all. That the only bit of spice in town is a Saturday farmers' market with great live music (I'm talking to you, handsome Bill Hansell)!) is a sad sort of affairs.

And then my life changed, utterly and forever. To be continued ...

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

When the whip Comes down *

Time to report in again as I want to discipline myself re this writing thing, even it is just an occasional "woe is me, alas and alack!!"
I've been living in  the San Francisco Bay Area for longer than I can remember.  There are those who know me who will laugh uproariously and say: "you never remember anything!"  Ha. Ha. Get off my back, you little punks!  I've got a trained attack cat; she admittedly is too sleepy to take the job seriously.  But she's here and helps keep me cheerful, which is a really good thing for a person with a basketful of brain disorders and not enough money to go around.

God, why me?  Eternal answer: Why not?  Somebody's gotta do it.  Somebody's got to "cheerfully" pick up the mantle of the deranged and wear it for a lifetime, leaving the others in one's life in a state of confusion, annoyance, fear and  irritation. The qualities that one exhibits unconsciously can leave one's child or children, as well as one's partner, damaged for life. Or, the worst that can happen will happen: they will go, and all those voices in your gut all those years that said: "you don't love me" will have been true.  We fail to see our own responsibility in that little dance.

The problem with that, from a selfish point of view, is that after a while people get tired of you and want to be around more cheerful people.  Then the "shame cycle" sets in, the worthlessness, the feeling of being a burden, and the incredible desire to slip this mortal coil.

There's not necessarily any sympathy in the circle of one's friends for all of this.  First of all, in so many cases (such as my own) the diagnosis comes rather late in life in terms of raw suffering.  Second, when my doctor, the late, esteemed Dr. Peter Forsham of the University of California in San Francisco, gave me his first diagnosis, it horrified me so much I eventually threw it away and unfortunately don't recall what it contained.

Denial in cases of mental illness is a common thing, as VERY FEW of us would choose a lifetime struggle with the demons in one's brain -- who would?  When I saw the doctor again, he presented me with  a diagnosis "for the layman" which I didn't really understand at the time. The simple diagnosis was "familial bipolar disorder with occasional psychotic breaks."

"Aha! (loose quotation!) thought I -- "at least it's nothing serious like manic depression!"  As many of you know, manic depression is precisely what it was, and the meds they had in the late 80 's were not much good for depressed, suicidal me. As a mom, I had to be responsible for my babies at a certain point on my own, having divorced their father at an age when those tender little beings could not understand what was happening, obviously even less than I did.

At that point I had NO comprehension of what a "psychotic break" was, and I'm still not sure that I do.  I've had times of "counter-irritation" -- banging one's head against a wall to make the interior pain go away  -- actions like that are certainly not normal, and hard on the head and wall as well.  Not to be recommended.  I have since found out that I also am plagued with "Borderline Personality Disorder" -- a condition that tends to drive people away from one's circle, as the afflicted run hot and cold.                              

I don't know if my relationship with my children's father would have held up  if I had been "normal", but a lot of other things might have.  I've made so many bad choices that I have literally gone from relatively very well off into the land of Food Stamps, Medi-Cal, free psychiatric help and other benefits.  When I was well off, I NEVER could have afforded a $550/hour psychiatrist.  Zowie, the incredible benefits of landing on the wrong side of a huge, brutal National financial crisis.  Yep, you betcha. I can "afford" a remarkably kind doctor who actually seems to like me, and oh yes, it matters.

I have very little ability to concentrate, but concentrate I must as I go off to apply for food stamps online, which terrifies me for some reason.  I got thrown out of the "Hope Team" they'd called together in nearby Marin for people with severe brain disorders because I am 20 miles away from the county line, and I have, as a result, not gotten it all together.  I can not concentrate.

I tell these tales and reveal these wounds so that others of our tribe will know they are not alone.  Someday perhaps my story will be brighter.

May the sun shine upon you.  May all those wounded find peace,


* Tip o' the hat to the Rolling Stones ...


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Post Short Sale

Well, hello strangers -- what a looong strange trip it definitely has been.  Since I've last seen you, the ax has fallen, the guillotine too, and every other symbol of a sudden violent ending of one life.  There is renewal available, I hear, and deep and real happiness. Or so I've been told.  I've been writing the occasional, actual article over at, so come on over and see me.

However, I've found that I need someplace wherein to mumble and groan just a bit, for the times they are a changing, and I don't much like what I see.  I need a place for informality,where it is understood that if I use all CAPS it really DOES mean I am shouting.  I get angry these days, and must find some way of expressing that! In the world of "real" journalism that sort of thing matters, but in my own special world I shall do as I please.

Paradox, pair o' ducks, what difference does it make?  Sooo I think I'm coming back to the Wood (this blog) though I've been kicked out of it by the Bank.  "It furthers one to cross the Great Water" (I Ching) and I think it furthers one to cross the small water too. And so we have.

In the new American tradition of robbing the poor to prop up the rich, my family has been taken advantage of, and 2 people with a basketful of flaming mental illnesses burgled.  "America, America, God Sheds His Grace on Thee, and Crowns Thy Good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea."

Yes, indeedy.  Then why do the ranks of our people swell with toothless, decaying, poor folk who suddenly don't have a chance?  I've unexpectedly joined them, and it is something else. If we want to buy anything, we have to think about it.  2 phones?  Impossible.  Movies?  No.  A new computer to replace this poor thing I've banged to death?  Nope.  Well. Sadly I know there are so many worse off than me.  I've seen so many teenagers homeless in freezing weather, bundled against the cold, walking through the nights in packs together.  Aieeee, America, what have you done to your children?

I've been wanting to chat over here since I started Allvoices, so here I come, beginning with a muted hello, as the cats and husband have collapsed into sleepy land, and they are luring me too; it is literally impossible to resist.

Lots o' love, 
Julie Bryant