In line with my policy of publishing relevant Guest Posts, I am delighted to share the following piece with you. Tova – who writes under pseudonym (or pen name) of ‘Shoshana Stein’ submitted it to us as a way of highlighting just what mania can be like for those who experience it. And I am extremely grateful to her for doing so. As a writer myself I enjoy reading other writer’s work – especially when it so clearly makes the point that it is seeking to make. Which I am sure you will agree Tova’s (or Shoshana’s) piece does. I am therefore delighted to share with this with you…
Mania: A Hat, a 55-lb Rabbit, and Dr. Rosen
I was careening down Rt. 579 at 85 miles an hour in 7 AM rush hour traffic. I was bebopping to a radio that wasn’t even on and had a $250.00 salad I made at 2 AM between my knees. This was going to be the adventure of a lifetime. I had purchased my one-way first class British Airways ticket to London at 3 AM and I was raring to go. “London, here I come!” I shouted out the window at every truck driver who blared his horn at me. WOW, I thought, cranky people out driving this rush hour.
I had my itinerary all planned. My first stop was Buckingham Palace. I had received a personal note from the Queen letting me know that there would be a hat waiting for me when I arrived at the gate. I was hoping for her canary yellow one, but the rose-colored one would be ok in a pinch. I have always loved the Queen’s hats. If being Queen meant wearing awesome hats every day, surely, I was meant to be royalty. The second leg of my adventure, after picking up my hat, was a limousine ride to South Sussex. There, Ralph, the world’s largest bunny, resided in splendor. Ralph, I was certain, knew I was coming and I needed to bring him a spectacular gift. At midnight, I scoured the organic produce section of our 24-hour grocery store. I bought everything from artichokes to cilantro in quadruplicate. When the cashier enquired why my shopping cart was only filled with organic vegetables, I shrieked with excitement, “Ralph the Bunny is hungry and I’m making him a snack.” The cashier, avoiding my gaze, checked me out as quickly as she could. Meeting Ralph was a dream of a lifetime. I wanted to impress him.
Why the obsession with Ralph? Nothing brightens my day more than to see a cluster of cotton-tails at dusk or dawn nibbling on some dandelions. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer and needed a mastectomy, I was fixated on finding the cutest bunny slippers possible for my hospital stay. I told a friend, “No one should be without bunny slippers when having a mastectomy.” She looked at me peculiarly, but I paid no heed.
I have a fascination for the little fluffy creatures. The reason is really simple. As a child growing up with schizophrenic caregivers, I avoided walking into their house for as long as I possibly could. It just so happened that the next-door neighbors bred rabbits. Every day after school I would run to the hutches and stick my tiny finger through the mesh, hoping to touch an ear or a wiggly nose. Mr. Richards caught me one day. I was sure he was going to yell at me to leave the bunnies alone. Instead he said, “Shoshana, bunnies, especially baby bunnies, need to be held a lot so they make good pets. Would you like to play with the bunnies every day after school? It’s good for them and you’d be helping me a lot.” I gave Mr. Richards a giant hug and squeal only a delighted six-year old girl could make.
I loved those bunnies. I gave every one of them names. They were my friends when I had no friends. They were soft and gentle when my world was violent and cruel. Every time I see a bunny in the present I return to those rare comforting moments in my childhood. Ralph, as soon as I discovered him in an online search, was a must-visit. He was 55 pounds of all fluff and ears. I was in love…and manic.
I was approaching the exit for the international airport. Only a few more miles and I’d have a hat from the Queen and a hug from Ralph. I was euphoric. Then…my cell phone rang. It was 7:30 AM and no phone call is good that early in the morning. This morning was no exception. It was Dr. Rosen, my psychiatrist. He said casually, “Shoshana, where are you?” I proceeded to blurt out my entire planned adventure to him, thinking he’s be excited for me. It didn’t work out that way. In his very stern clinical voice he said, “Shoshana, I want you to return home, now.” I pleaded with him that Ralph was waiting and a hat from the Queen was waiting, and I had this magnificent all-organic salad. He repeated, “Shoshana, I want you to return home.” “NO” I shouted back, “I want a hat and Ralph.” Dr. Rosen lowered his voice and I could almost picture the facial expression that accompanies that voice, “Shoshana, if you go to the airport, there will be consequences.” I was stuck in a terrible dilemma. Ralph and the hat or Dr. Rosen’s “consequences”. Dr. Rosen’s consequences never work out too well for me. They always involve hospital stays and medications that make me feel underwater. I could hear Dr. Rosen on the phone. “What have you decided, Shoshana?” I started yelling at him, “This isn’t fair.” Dr. Rosen responded, “You are right, this isn’t fair. Are you going home?” I sighed and with resignation responded, “Yes, I’m going home.” Dr. Rosen instructed me to call his office when I returned to my house and he’d call me right back. Then he said, “I’m proud of you Shoshana, this was hard.”
[Editor’s Note: In her introduction to this piece Tova shared the following with me, “By day I’m a scientist, by night I’m an author, and all the time I’m a woman who lives with the bipolar 1 disorder with psychosis and PTSD with psychosis. My journey from a state psychiatrist hospital to cancer researcher and author is the promise that even people with devastating mental illnesses who have been thrown away by “experts” can transform and thrive.” And that is clearly true.
Tova has a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, graduate work in toxicology and biochemistry. She is the author of the manuscript “Finding My Voice: a 20-Year Psychiatrist-Patient Odyssey”. And is also the author of numerous essays including “My Unlikely Allies Against Bipolar Depression: the Liberal Professor and the Orthodox Rabbi” and “So, Your Psychotherapist Just Invited You to Her Son’s Birthday Party, Should You Go?”
I am very grateful to Tova for sharing her work with us here and I hope that you will look out for other pieces written by her. You can sample more of Tova or Shoshana’s writings by visiting either her blog by clicking here, or by visiting her Facebook Author Page by clicking here. And I have absolutely no reservation in encouraging you to do so.]