An excerpt from the memoir I’m writing, while my state is in lockdown again

I think we can all agree that 2020 has been a very hard year. Here in New Mexico, the covid-19 cases are spiking and we have been ordered to shelter in place once again.

Throughout this year I have written at least a few words in my memoir every day. I am writing about events that happened more than fifty years ago, when I had a post-traumatic breakdown and my abusers put me in a state mental institution. They did this when I was 14 years old, against my doctor’s advice.

I feel like I need to write this story, both for my own peace of mind and for the many hundreds of others who had a similar story, but were never given the chance to tell it.

Sometimes I feel like I’m time traveling, from one crazy year to another. I am so thankful for my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, which gives me a deep, abiding peace, regardless of my current circumstances. Without Him, I doubt if I could write this story, especially now, in the middle of a worsening pandemic and another lockdown.

I am posting here below, the 460 words that I wrote in my memoir today. Be warned, this story is sad. It involves a death. Not violent or gory, but still sad. Please don’t read this if you believe it may be a trauma trigger for you.

In almost all of my memoir I am changing everyone’s name, for the sake of privacy. But in this story, I will use what I believe was my fellow patient’s real first name, as a memorial to her.

My book has not been published yet, as I am still writing the first draft. I designed this cover on my computer graphics design program. However — thanks to my ‘slight’ OCD tendencies — the cover is subject to change.

* * *

Margaret. She was skin and bone when I first saw her. Tall and lanky, with wispy gray hair. She had the haunted eyes that so many of my fellow patients had, dark and hollow.

She wore threadbare dresses and scuffed slippers, shuffling around the hallways like a silent ghost. I never heard her speak. Occasionally, Margaret would smack herself in the head with the heel of her hand. But she never did it hard enough to incite the ire of the ward attendants.

I noticed when she stopped eating and drinking, because it was my duty, at that time, to clear away the dishes after every meal and help wash them. Margaret’s plate and glass were always left full and untouched.

Every day, for each of our three meals, Margaret obediently moved with the crowd to the dining room, limping down the hall in her scuffed gray slippers, sitting in silence at her customary seat, staring at nothing, while everyone around her ate and drank with abandon. She sat in front of the door at the first table when you entered the dining hall, so it was impossible not to notice her sitting there like a frozen statue, staring into the distance, never taking a bite or a swallow of her food or drink.

I wondered why someone so skinny did not want to eat. During those two years between my mom’s two marriages, when we rarely had food in the house and I never had money for school lunches, with my stomach constantly growling and the other kids making fun of me for being so thin, I would have been thrilled to have this much food to eat, three times a day, every day of the week.

There was always at least one nurse attendant with us in the dining hall. Did any of them ever notice that Margaret was not eating?

It never occurred to me to say anything to the nurses about it. Margaret was at least my parents’ age. Surely she would start eating and drinking again, when she got hungry and thirsty enough.

I was walking out of my dorm room, a few feet behind Margaret, when I saw her collapse. She didn’t appear to be breathing. Just a moment ago she was alive, like me, like all the rest of us, shuffling down the hall of the state mental institution, going nowhere. But now, looking down at her colorless, sunken face, I knew she was dead.

A nurse checked for a pulse, then ran to the office phone. Two men dressed in white came and carried her lifeless body off the ward.

Margaret. She lived a sad life and died a sad death. And I saw it happen, when I was fifteen years old.

Anxiety, PTSD, Covid-19, Violence, Riots, and now… a Nationwide Cell Phone Outage?

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UPDATE: Our cell phones are now working. I hope everyone else has cell phone service, too! ❀❀

It’s hard to believe I wrote my first post about the coronavirus pandemic less than three months ago. So much has happened since then: horrific murders caught on video and broadcast all over the news, followed by peaceful protests rightfully demanding justice, followed by rioting, arson, increasing violence, and calls to defund ALL of the police.

Meanwhile, as the counts of positive covid-19 cases continue to rise, with the economy tanking and unemployment skyrocketing, many states here in the U.S. are trying to go back to business as usual. Which brings up a whole new set of issues: Stay home, or go out? Wear a mask, or don’t wear a mask? Keep social distancing, or not?

Then you have the folks who shame other people for wearing a mask and practicing social distancing, as if doing these things is an indication that you don’t have enough faith. I want to ask them: Do you wear a seat belt in your car? Do you lock the doors of your house at night, and when you go out? Yes? Well, where’s YOUR faith?

For the past several weeks I have been trying to write a post to address these various issues, but for some reason the words just would not come. I can’t exactly call this a writer’s block, because I am still writing in my memoir every single day. But my memoir is a story about how I survived and healed from horrific events that happened in my life a long time ago. I can write about those things, because they are over and done and YAAY!! I Survived!!Β  But the things that are happening now — I feel like it’s taking all of my energy, just trying to figure out how to stay safe and sane through this very strange time. I can’t write about it the way I want to, because I’m still living it.

On top of everything else, I have jury duty. The New Mexico supreme court put a hold on jury trials for a period of about two months, for which I am grateful. But that hold has expired and a new trial is scheduled for July 1. Everyone will be required to wear a mask in the courtroom, although the judge may remove his mask to speak from the bench, if he chooses to do so. I very much enjoyed the camaraderie of my fellow jurors during the trial we were on back in March, and after all this time at home, I’m looking forward to seeing my fellow jurors again. But I am also… just a little bit… apprehensive.

Which may be another reason why my blog writing has come to a standstill. For someone like me, diagnosed with developmental, complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, the insanity of everything that’s happening in the world today feels very familiar. Too familiar! This actually feels a lot like the childhood I grew up in, over half a century ago. The unpredictable nature of every day life. The hypervigilance needed to keep yourself safe. The constant threat of harm, of random violence, and even the threat of imminent death. Truly, I grew up like this!

Despite all the insanity in the world, I am staying *mostly* peaceful and calm, by counting my blessings every day. When I stop and think about it, I really do have a lot to be thankful for! I am especially grateful that my granddaughter and her husband have fully recovered, after testing positive for covid-19 in April. I am grateful that my other children and grandchildren are still healthy, my husband is healthy, I am healthy, our friends are all still healthy, and our two sweet rescue dogs are healthy too, and always at our sides. I am grateful we have a roof over our heads, grateful we have air conditioning in this brutal New Mexico heat, grateful we have food (including dog food!), and I’m grateful we haven’t run out of toilet paper, soap, or hand sanitizer, even without having the foresight to hoard any of those things. πŸ˜€

I am also grateful that we live just a few feet away from a Sheriff who is definitely one of the Good Guys — protective, conscientious, and a good neighbor. I saw him in his yard when I was working in our yard a couple of days ago, and he appeared to be doing well, too, although he looked a little sunburned.

Most of all, I am grateful for my faith in the Lord Jesus, that keeps me going through thick and thin. During my agnostic atheist years, I was one miserable, hurting MESS! But now — well, I will let you read what I wrote back in March, because this explains how my combat veteran husband and I have been getting through these unsettling days, despite the fact that we BOTH have PTSD. Here is my March 21 post, in case you missed it: Anxiety, PTSD, and the Novel Covid-19 Coronavirus Pandemic.

Thank you so much for stopping by. I would love for you to leave a comment below about how you’re getting through this very strange time. While I was writing this post, I discovered that we are having a nationwide cell phone outage. Several of the major carriers are affected, including the one we use. Our cell phones have been a lifeline during this time of social distancing. We got rid of our landline phone years ago. What will we do if our cell phone service doesn’t come back? Whew! Dare I wonder — what’s next?

Here’s a safe social distancing grandma ((HUG)) if you want one. God bless. ❀❀❀

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About the pictures: I took the above photo of our old Red Heeler Cattle Dog, Lady, about ten years ago. I miss that good old girl. I took the picture at the top of this post on December 8, 2019, when life was still normal. It’s a view of the sunrise from our back porch. I have never in my life seen a sunrise like that! I wondered at the time if it was a portent of stormy weather, like the old adage that says ‘Red sky at morning, Sailors take warning.’ We didn’t have any storms on that day, but now — we’ve got a whole new kind of storm going on. Even so, like the old hymn says, It is well with my soul. I pray that it is well with your soul, too.

Copyright 2020 by Linda Lee Adams @LadyQuixote. All rights reserved.