Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge: There Is No Exit

madnessSeclusion

Based on true events.

I stand and look down at my bare feet. I see the scar from my youth creeping up from my toe to ankle, like a meandering snake.

My ankles. They are swollen from the restraints. The restraints they put me in when I was in the hospital. The restraints they found necessary when in my mania I said I wasn’t bound by their rules.

“Let me out!” I scream into the yellowness. This yellow room, reminds me of Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper quite literally. In the walls I imagine the women, creeping around in eternal madness like me.

“PLEASE!” I scream. Scratching at my arms, I beg for release. I can’t escape. The room is locked. Four padded walls and a thick metal door with a narrow window are all I have for company.

Walking up to the window, I plead with the Indian woman at the computer on the other side of the door to listen to me.

“Please look at me! Let me out!” I scream into the window. “Let me out!”

She doesn’t see me. I’m invisible.

I am desperate.

“Let me out! Let me out! Let me out!” I slap my face. Hit my head with my hands. I claw at my arms, seeking freedom from my own skin, trying to let my very essence break free from its corporeal restraints.

She looks at me. “You are a good girl.” She smiles at me.

Hope.

She makes me feel hope.

“Please,” I cry. “Just let me out.”

She speaks soothing things to me. Through the window. My hope grows like a welcome, warm fire.

She hears me. I’m a human to her.

We’re interrupted. Another woman enters the antechamber wearing disdain like a regal robe.

“Stop talking to her.” She says. “She’s just trying to get your attention, she’s probably borderline and just wants sympathy. You need to ignore her.”

“No!” I am crying. “Please!”

The Indian woman, the woman who called me a “good girl,” the woman saying comforting things through the window, turns away from me. She pulls her computer back away from the door.

So she doesn’t have to see me.

No!

She is gone. I am alone again with four yellow walls and two cameras. One in each corner of the room.

I scream. I don’t know for how long but I scream.

I sit on the only object in the room, a mat with a symbolic picture of a man on a bed. It looks like the Tarot card of The Hanged Man.

The Hanged Man.

Submit.

“No!” I scream. “LET ME OUT!”

I start banging on the door. I feel my hands and wrists buckle under the weight of my body as I throw myself against the door.

This is madness. They are making me mad. They want me to be a madwoman.

I don’t know for how long I do this.

Eventually I get tired.

I sit on the mat in cobbler’s pose. I look at my feet, folded open like a book. A book. They ripped a book out of my hands when they put me in here.

The Poisonwood Bible.

They would never return it.

Staring at my feet, my vision grows sharp. I’ve never seen so clearly in my life. Even though they tore the glasses from my face when the security guards were piled on me before entering this hell, I see.

Leaning forward, I rest my head on my feet.

I breathe.

I can do this.

I stand again, and do yoga poses.

I’m not sure what happens next. Flashes of mania and flashes of awareness overtake me.

At one point, I scream at the camera and make obscene gestures.

“Fuck you, Mark Zuckerberg!” I shout a manifesto against Facebook. It seems appropriate.

“My brother is watching all of you! You all are fucked!” And I believe my brother is. He works for the government after all. In my heart I believe he is there, with me, telling me everything is going to be OK. Watching me. But most of all, he’s watching them.

He’ll make them pay.

“There is nothing wrong with me!” I scream at the cameras. “There is nothing wrong with me! I’m a human! I’m who I am and that doesn’t make me any less than you! You have me locked in here but it is YOU who are not free. My mind is free. I AM FREE.”

For a while I sing. I sing songs from Les Misérables at the cameras. I sing I’m Proud to Be an American.

Do you hear the people sing?”

I make the performance of my life.

At some point in the turmoil of events, I remove my scrubs.

I’m naked now.

As I piss myself, the warmth of fresh urine covers my legs and feet.

I don’t remember leaving the room, but at some point I do.

They don’t get a doctor to evaluate me or the bruises inflicted on me by staff. But they put me back in my room with a camera, so they can keep watching me.

Eventually they tell me I was in there for four hours.

That’s not a long time to liberate my mind.

-LH

This story was written for Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge “There Is No Exit.”

 

We forget you Queen Mab!

I have a lot of great people in my life. Supportive friends and family who were there for me when I was at my worst.

I love my therapist. I will continue to see her every week and will continue to process my trauma with EMDR and CBT therapy for a long time. I don’t want to give the impression from my last post that I’m not currently receiving treatment. I still am.

I’m just getting better and more autonomous with the help I’m receiving, so much so that soon my healthcare providers will no longer have me see the psych nurse at the outpatient clinic. When we receive the right kind of treatment using scientifically backed methods, we get better. And that’s the hope that I’d like to share with others.

I have been officially diagnosed with PTSD, major depression, and generalized anxiety. I know that this will be something I will have to work with for the rest of my life. And that’s ok. Mental illness is something that should be treated and talked about. I don’t feel ashamed to have this illness in the same way someone with cancer or heart disease shouldn’t feel ashamed to have their illnesses. If anyone feels ashamed of their illness, or overly defensive about what people might think of them for having said illness, that is something they should probably talk about with their therapist.

There are healthy coping mechanisms and healthy methods of therapy and treatment from the medical establishment that are (sadly) ignored or shunned. I’m a huge advocate for scientifically proven methods of treatment.

The abusive treatment I received from an unlicensed mental health practitioner in the BDSM community was not at all helpful and not backed by science. My husband has known me for 11 years now. He saw first-hand what happened to me.

Before last year, I had never had a psychotic break in my life. It was triggered when someone accessed repressed memories of my past trauma in a careless and arrogant way. I have always struggled with depression and anxiety, but not psychosis. Cause and effect. Not a difficult concept to understand. This person used hypnosis/BDSM on me and age-regression like therapy to access repressed trauma from my childhood and boom. Psychosis and hospitalization in a mental health unit.

“Many things can cause temporary psychosis. Environmental triggers, such as losing a loved one, are known to contribute, as may excessive stress,[2] or the interaction of strong social demands with a pre-existing vulnerability of self.[3]

Other causes that have been identified include lack of sleep, fever, brain damage, and even hypnosis.[4]””(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychotic_break)

The person who hurt me literally boasted after his “therapy” that he had basically done what a regular therapist would have taken years to do in accessing repressed memories. He also bragged that he could “start a cult” if he wanted to. This was witnessed by myself and my husband.

My current therapist, who I have been seeing for about 8 months now, and who I will continue to see, told me why what he did was dangerous. She told me that hypnotherapists have a lot of professional training and need to be held accountable for their practice with licensing standards.

She told me that traumatic childhood memories are repressed FOR A REASON:

To protect the brain.

Repressed trauma and old memories that could be difficult to process should never be just pulled from the subconscious mind to the conscious mind without a stable treatment plan already in place, and without the individual having developed coping mechanisms to address the traumas.

What happened to me was dangerous. My whole family was put at risk. I could choose to be bitter and angry about what happened. I lost a year of my life thanks to an induced mental breakdown. But I made it through, I choose life and living now.

I’d also like to mention that my current therapist is BDSM/kink friendly and sex positive. She explained to me how what happened in my case was not at all kosher. Being manipulated or bullied into a lifestyle is not ok. I had an interest in BDSM before I was abused, for sure. That’s what got me into the situation. But now I just associate it with trauma because that was the pretense for my abuse.

Calling someone a “worthless piece of shit” and then telling the person that they liked to be called a worthless piece of shit because of the way they were raised is abusive. Telling me that my husband needed to “stop being a pussy” and “get with the program” by being a full-time dom is abusive. Trying to forcibly indoctrinate me and my spouse with fake religious beliefs involving “chakras” and “energy” is abusive. Acting as a self appointed mental health guru and accessing repressed trauma via hypnosis and BDSM without a license or accountability is abusive and a con game.

I strongly recommend this article to people in the kink community. It addresses my concerns with nuance and level-headedness and it’s written by someone with a lot of experience in the community:

“Out of context, kink can look like abuse or domestic violence to the outsider, which it decidedly is not. But members of the kink community also aren’t very good at policing our own, and what I see happening again and again is victims of predators being swept under the rug, forced to leave communities that have become intolerable while the predators remain to prey upon the next batch of innocent newbies.”

This whole episode has been very hard for my family. We lost friends. My kids had a broken mom for a while. I have had to give the vague reason of “we had a disagreement” to my child when she wondered why we no longer visit certain people. Of course I would never tell her why, at least not now, because it’s inappropriate to emotionally dump on a child or encourage them to perform an armchair diagnosis on a person. Maybe someday we will have a long conversation about this as grown ups.

I have made mistakes. There are things I did and said when I was unstable that I wish I hadn’t. But my mental breakdown was literally caused by someone who exacerbated my mental illness with his “therapy.” That wasn’t my fault. And I know that. When it comes to this specific issue, I’m self aware, which means I can’t be gaslit by these folks anymore.

I’d also like to talk about my references to cults. Of course, I know that BDSM itself is not a cult. But it is very possible for cult-like dynamics to establish in kink “families.” People in cults don’t know they are in a cult. Otherwise they wouldn’t be in it! When I was a Mormon, I was terrified of apostates (people who’ve renounced belief in the church and its leaders). I thought they were dangerous and scary people who might hurt me and my family. How could they accuse church leaders of being abusive? How could they say that the system isn’t perfect?! There must be something wrong with them.

I don’t blame Mormons for that. I don’t blame fundamentalists for that either. Rigid belief systems are hard to challenge. Cognitive dissonance is scary. It’s much easier to just label people who leave as unstable or crazy or dangerous than to critically address why a person had to leave the group.

As a penultimate point, I’d like to talk about the KonMari method.  It has changed my life in so many positive ways. I’d strongly recommend this book to anyone looking to make their home into a zen clutter-free sanctuary. It basically advocates only keeping things which “spark joy.” I have applied that to my home and I’ve noticed this philosophy has started to creep into other areas of my life.

From now on, I refuse to read or seek out anything that I know will make me feel bad or hurt me (that’s the opposite of KonMari!). I talked with a friend about it today, and she made me laugh. She told me it’s human nature to poke something that hurts and say “Ouch! That hurt!” But it’s just smart and common sense to stop poking at it altogether when you realize no good will come from it.

And so I won’t “poke it” anymore. 🙂

Lastly, I’d like to end with a scene from Merlin. It’s one of my favorite scenes of all time. The mythology of the story here is that old gods fade out of existence when people forget them. And so Merlin defeats the evil faerie Queen Mab by turning his back on her at the end of the film and saying “We forget you Queen Mab!” I love the meaning here. It’s worth a watch! (Start at the 2 min 30 second mark.)

Best wishes, and farewell.