Greetings From the Loony Bin

November 3, 2016 — 108 Comments

When my therapist advised me to check into a treatment center for a month, all I could think of was how wonderful it would be to go somewhere restful and sleep abundantly.

It’s exhausting fighting for every second of your life.

“Treatment center” is therapist jargon for “mental hospital.” I prefer the romance of “loony bin.” It comes from the word “lunatic,” derived from “luna.”

There’s something comforting in the antiquated notion that I, like vampires and werewolves, am simply the victim of changing phases of the moon.

I have an ongoing fantasy of electroshock treatments cauterizing the endless loop of negative voices in my brain. A high voltage solution to cleanse myself of stockpiled pain, almost primitive in its simplicity.

Insert rubber mouth guard, flip a switch, incinerate the past.

I long to spend a month in bland, sterile surroundings which provide no distractions. There, I can knit together all the holes poked into my psyche by the circumstances of my life, and the even bigger ones torn raggedly by the self-destructive ways in which I coped with those circumstances.

But life relentlessly beckons. I am not able to take a month off from the very same daily minutiae that I find crippling.

Instead, I’m doing intensive outpatient therapy, four times a week. Two individual sessions and two groups.

The course of treatment is two months; maybe longer.

Yesterday, despite it being November 2, I wore my Harley Quinn costume for a third day, including to group. As I entered the building, I wondered if the need I had to wear it three days; to the gym, supermarket, work; constituted being crazy.

Yes. Probably longer than two months…

I didn’t expect my new therapist to be so adamant regarding my diagnosis, and even more so about how much treatment I needed to address it. Our first session she told me I was PTSD embodied in human form. She was surprised I don’t short-circuit even more than I do and lobbied strenuously in favor of checking me into the loony bin.

My therapist listed for me the major causes of PTSD, aside from active duty in the armed forces – childhood abuse and neglect, rape and sexual assault, violent death of a loved one, terrorist attacks, natural disasters, domestic violence, premature loss of immediate family members…

On paper it scared me to see how many I was able to cross off an anti-bucket list of things I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

Before finding her, I did the responsible thing and typed my symptoms into WebMD. I either had PTSD or systemic yeast overgrowth. I went with PTSD. I located a support group through an online network.

This is how I found myself, one Saturday morning, in a smoky room filled with grizzled war veterans. It was as if Pippi Longstocking had mistakenly stumbled onto the set of “Platoon.”

I told the story of how I lost my oldest brother, the gentle soul who raised me, to a brutal murder two decades ago; his brains and blood splattered all over his LA apartment.

As I spoke the room grew eerily silent, the kind of silence that only happens when people aren’t shifting in their seats or even breathing. These men, who had seen all manner of atrocities, were still not prepared for a story like this. The stoic faces around the room softened with the one thing I cannot tolerate – pity.

Afterwards I fled, never returning.

Last fall, my mother and a different brother died the same week.

I imagine I will die alone, since I am opposed to marriage. But I hope not to die alone surrounded by uncaring strangers in a bustling airport; clutching at my chest and dead before I hit the ground.

It was in this way that my brother died; ironically, on the way to my mother’s funeral. He was my best friend for decades, and his death was so viciously unexpected that I went into rigorous denial. I invented exotic stories to explain his absence.

He was on an archeological dig in Papua, New Guinea. He was hiking the Peruvian Andes. I eventually floated so far away from the truth that I no longer felt connected to my own body.

One day I watched my disembodied hands typing at the keyboard and spilled a little of my hot tea over the right one, charring it. It burned angrily but I was relieved to feel.

When I was younger, I self-harmed because my world view was derived from a damaged foundation. I’m renovating it, and it becomes sturdier all the time. But occasionally, the faulty misalignment at the base of my existence wavers, and I weave precariously out of control.

Now I go to therapy four times a week to somehow make sense of what cannot be made sense of.

I have a steel cage around my heart.

My closest friends don’t know my real name.

I dare not hope for love for fear of being deeply, painfully disappointed. I date many rather than loving one. I ricochet giddily off one date onto another.

I am no longer the ugly bucktooth kid she left to rot in a group home. I’m not that desperately lonely teenage misfit. I’m the motherfucking prom queen.

I slip out of their houses in the wee hours to avoid the harsh reality of morning in the presence of another.

I am tough as nails. I learned early in life how to withstand punches and beatings.
I am helpless as a kitten. If you forget to call me my brain misfires and I panic. You must be dead. I must be dead. The world is ending. I become someone I don’t recognize, desperate until I hear your voice again.

Sometimes I need someone to hold me so badly I think I might die.

My fear of abandonment is like a bomb suspended in the forever right before it detonates. I build walls to keep people out, convinced that once in, they will only leave, and days I am the cheeriest are usually the ones I feel most dead inside.

And thus I dream of the sizzle and snap of electricity rearranging twisted neurons and giving me a start as fresh as a child’s.

We are but specks in the infinite universe, finite and limited, but every action we take is to somehow create meaning despite our own brokenness.

This world was not meant for perfection. It is broken dishes; shards of glass. Fractured memories coated in shame and smoke and soot. Shattered life.

Despair and hope are yin and yang. One cannot exist without the other. Hope without despair is hollow and dishonest. Despair without hope is bleaker still.

And so I stumble forward.

Talk to me. I’m listening. 

Come hang out with me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, so I can have friends without leaving the house. 

108 responses to Greetings From the Loony Bin


    I just want to bundle you up and cuddle you until you are better. You are a motherfucking bad ass, my friend. You are. xoxoxoxoxo


    Felt this in my bones. Phantoms from the past torment me as well, therapy sucked ass and meds help me with the ups and downs, but still . . . I stay behind my wall more than I should, sometimes tunneling beneath it and burying myself below. It’s dark down there though, thank God I am given the strength to crawl back out into the light of day before I forget what the sun feels like. Your raw and real words make me think I should write of these things more, I’m not certain why I don’t. Here’s to stumbling forward ~


    *hugs* I have nothing more to say than that you matter, and you write awesomely well πŸ™‚


    Damn girl. Wish I was better at thinking of good things to say when people have huge piles of shit to deal with. But I’m not. But I think saying something is better than saying nothing. You are fierce, and amazing. Sending you waves of ongoing good thoughts xxx


    Am the many things you are, remember you are loved as well.


    Yep, we are broken but manage to stumble forward. PTSD is a tricky one and affects more people than one might think.


    As someone who took PTSD and all the reasons for on and came out the otherside, I have a lot respect for what you are going through. Unfortunately, the only way out is through.


    You are such an amazing woman, brilliant, bold and brave. I have simultaneous impulses to give you a huge hug and also a good firm spanking. All my love, M


    I don’t have the right or adequate words to respond to this as it deserves. In this room I sit silently in, reading this post, I fell ever more silent. I want to wrap my arms around you, and not say a word.


    Therapy is kind of like AA. Keep coming back, it works if you work it! You just never know when all that work will be done. I’m thinking, for those suffering from PTSD, it might be a good idea to keep in mind the serenity prayer. That mantra may be easier said than done, but I think it can keep us all on the road to sanity. Good luck and stay with it.


    Wow. Just, wow. As Tara said, I don’t have the right or adequate words. Try to be good to yourself. *Hugs*


    I love you so much. I’m so sorry I’ve been MIA.


      Um, hello, didn’t you have a wedding and a honeymoon??
      You have NOT been MIA. I love getting your texts and we’ll speak on the phone very soon. I miss your voice.


    Damn! I’ll try to explain later! I can’t find the words right now!


    “I long to spend a month in sterile, homogeneous surroundings which provide no distractions.” — There is a peace to this, as we’ve discussed, but I really wouldn’t recommend it if it’s avoidable at all. πŸ˜‰

    Also, I think we dress so that we can show on the outside something important happening on our insides. I take out the trash bins in my dinosaur suit. I’ve decided I’m going to marry someone, and soon, so I never have to take out trash bins again. But for now, if I must, I will do so as a dinosaur. That’s what I thought about when you took pictures of your HQ outfit all day. If you Must, you Will, but you Will in the way you chose.

    Also, also, and most importantly,
    I love you.


      Move in with me, and we can do ALL household chores in costume!!

      I love you too, immensely. I can’t wait for an epic many-hour phone call with you this weekend!!!


    So many virtual hugs to you that you might kindly ask me to stop.


    I so wish I could take your hand right now and tell you that it’s all going to be ok, and that I know you can do this, and that there is another way, an additional way to get better because I’ve been there and done that (energy healing). But those are my wishes. Yes, wishes for you. But I know that you are the one putting one foot in front of the other (as you can), and you are the one having to deal with your reality every moment of the day.

    I wish my healing experiences could be everyone’s but I know that we each have our own path to walk. If you want to explore what’s helped a fellow blogger crawl out of the shit and begin to shine like a freaking LED headlight, I write about my healing experiences (I use hypnotherapy mostly these days, although have explored several other healing modalities). I did have one therapist about 14 years ago who was helpful. But since then, it’s been alternative methods all the way. Not everyone is open to trying things that are different and seem like they would never do anything (that was my first opinion of energy healing). I was made a believer and have never looked back.

    Sending big hugs and Reiki to you. BTW, ya gotta do something about that wall around your heart. It’s preventing love from coming to you. (Check out Bradley Nelson and heart wall- I’m serious).


    Wow. What you have written is so beautiful, which is a really odd adjective to use in this situation and yet that is exactly what it is. We have similar stories of trauma and the remodel. Hugs.


    Would you believe that this makes the third time I’ve used this quote in a comment in the last 24 hours? I wonder what that cold mean. It does seem to relate to that part about hope and despair as a yin and yang. Here’s to lots of healing with all that therapy and all these friends who’ve commented here.

    “Life will bring you pain all by itself. Your responsibility is to create joy.”
    Milton H. Erickson


      That’s beautiful! I try to create joy daily, hourly sometimes. Life is too short and precious to wallow in sadness, even though life beats the crap out of us. There’s still joy. Sometimes it’s an effort, but so are most things worth having.


    Reblogged this on cabbagesandkings524 and commented:
    Samara has a lot to say about a lot of healing work to do.


    This would be too much for nearly anyone to manage, Samara. Thank you for sharing your pain, and I wish you well on your journey. Please know, you don’t have to ‘get over’ anything, ever. Pain and longing are just as much a part of you as happiness and love. It’s all you. Don’t change anything you don’t want to, unless it’s self-destructive. Only then. All the feelings you have are you, and that’s okay.


      I’ll probably always have intense feelings. I’d just like to live a balanced, happy life, despite past trauma. I believe it’s possible.


        I’m happy you have a positive outlook, and hope. There is nothing wrong with intense feelings. They can be good, at times. I agree, balance and tranquility is important.


    So much beauty here, in the writing, yes, but also in the soul and the strength (which is shown when we are feeling so much weaker- why is that?)
    “…to somehow create meaning despite our own limitations and brokenness.” I will carry this one with me for awhile like a stone.
    Shine on, lovely.


    I would like to hold you.
    That is an awful lot of tragedy for one person to take. And yet, here you are. So much love to you.


    I think it’s wonderful that you’re getting such intensive treatment. I’d love to have access to real psychiatry. Intensive treatment at Kaiser San Francisco means a ‘group’ based on a ‘positive’ affirmation followed by a discussion of how ‘changing’ my thoughts will make all the ‘self inflicted’ damage go away. All if have to do is stop ‘clinging’ to the negative.


      Well, it’s a lot of talking, that’s for sure. And much of the healing really depends on what I do in the moments I am triggered. They provide techniques and guidelines for those moments.

      There’s some experimental treatment for PTSD using the drug Ecstasy, but that brings up a whole other set of issues for me.

      Thanks for reading, and reblogging.


    Reblogged this on Art by Rob Goldstein and commented:
    Great post!


    The other night I was looking at the screen reading a post when I questioned my ability to understand written language and intermediately for a few seconds everything on the screen looked like gibberish. I then realized one of my “anti-bucket” list (love your expression) is not being able to express what’s inside my head. To fall into such madness and confusion I wouldn’t be able to express it. You my dear lady possess the ability to express in such clear and powerful way what goes on inside your head and that is what I call a gift. The world is full of broken people, being sane can be overrated anyways. Peace


    I am sorry you have had so many horrible things happen to you. You know you deserve better. May you find peace and fun. Virtual, and of course non-creepy, hugs coming through the wires to you from me. And, as usual, very well written post on your part.


    Oh Samara, I read this last night before going to bed – different time zone- and badly wanted to comment but my back was completely out and couldn’t raise myself to type something. As, I was fading to sleep, I was like that is not something you just read and be on your way. Thank you for sharing so much with us and allowing us to take some steps into your world. I wish that I could do something to help, but I know we all have to take our own steps towards healing. Thank you for allowing us to at least witness the process, and we of course are always rooting for you.


      It’s such a huge help to have people read and comment. Especially when it takes the kind of effort you described.

      Hope your back is on the mend, Sreejit. I so appreciate your commenting here. xo


    Thank you for this amazing posting. I am in tears now. Because of you. And because of myself.


    Reblogged this on saywhatumean2say and commented:
    Lunatic is an informal term referring to a person who is considered mentally ill, dangerous, foolish or unpredictable, conditions once attributed to lunacy. The term may be considered insulting in serious contexts in modern times, but is now more likely to be used in friendly jest. The word derives from lunaticus meaning “of the moon” or “moonstruck”. The term was once commonly used in law. source: Wikipedia



    LISTEN TO ME, I’M TALKING. ~~dru~~


    I saw this piece of ceramic tile art once. It was a beautifully rendered image of a whitewashed house with a terracotta roof, like something you’d see in a Frda Kahlo painting, archetypal. It was quite small, probably 7 or 8 centimeters square. The artist had done something to the tile that made the house look like it’d been through an earthquake or some such cataclysm. The caption underneath it said, ‘damaged, but unbroken’.
    If it helps, I offer those words to you. πŸ™‚


    You are so, so loved, Precious. I wish that made the difference ❀


    Thank you for sharing your heart with us. You are love. xoxo


    Incredible truth-telling, Samara. You cut to the quick in every way. So brave and so vulnerable. Thinking of you. -HM.


    Wordless. But sending love. xo


    You say there’s a steel cage around your heart and yet you’ve scattered your broken bits for strangers to behold, which takes a lot of faith, courage, and love. It is also brave, not only because it is revealing something deeply personal and tragic, but because it is honest and true, which is a gift of wisdom – a rarity in the times we are living. We all have those places within ourselves that are broken, where we are exposed and raw, but few are willing to be so forthright in sharing their struggles. The way life can at times eviscerate a soul with tragedies and horrors we could never imagine in our worst nightmares is what binds us all as human beings. It is heartbreaking how so many of us are steeped in denial or stoicism about how these experiences are really affecting us on the inside. The choice to share your pain is liberating for others who falter for the demons they are trying to avoid. It is an act of love to reveal our authentic human side, not just the good, but also the not-so-good, because it allows the rest of us to see ourselves for who we really are – no better, no worse than anyone else – and to forgive ourselves for the way we suffer for our own humanity at times, just as others do. I too find the daily minutiae crippling, and it’s a little less oppressive to know I’m not alone.

    Thanks for sharing. Hopefully someday you’ll find a way to defuse that bomb.


    Wish you best as you do your eight months of intensive treatment. Powerful post. Loved: “Life is not for the perfect. I am broken dishes; a shattered life; imperfectly perfect.”


    Beautifully stated and far-reaching. Hold your head high, warrior!


    Wow, I’m so sorry. You’ve had more than your share of heartache. I believe you’re taking the right steps in getting all this out. It shows how the struggles of others are something we rarely see, unless they’re brave unless to tell us.


    Yeow! I remember when I went through my divorce and had been on this emotional roller coaster ride, how nice it was to just chill and shut the world out, even if it meant admitting yourself into a loony bin. There’s something to that I think. It felt wonderful. I’ve not needed to do that since, but I do remember that feeling. Two weeks of bliss… and arts and crafts. I still have my heart key holder. LOL


    I have it since 2005, was diagnosed in ’07, & you are not alone, love. Although this shit can have a way of making it seem that way. It has a way of putting us in permanent fight or flight mode. ❀


    Hey Samara. Just now catching up on blogging and reading. I’m in your corner and rooting for you. Stay strong and you will come out of this for the better. Big hugs.

    Losing my job, family health problems, and other stress had me putting the blog thing off for a while. I just had to put up a positive post the other day and now move forward myself.


    I hope that all is well with you, Samara. So many of the bloggers that I follow seem to be silent any more. (As if I ever write) Be well, stay well.


    I’m reading this book called The Body Keeps The Score. Gosh it’s helping me understand myself. Trauma is a giant, ugly sucker and I hate it. It runs the show every day of my life. I totally empathize with you.



    Congratulations on BlogHer! You have a serious strength to hold it all together and it’s very inspiring.



    Im not sure…how this came about…but i miss the fuck out of you dear Samara.

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