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Chronic movement: Last relapse in Jersey

A note - Blogging isn't free. Right now I provide gifts to my writers as a way of thanking people for writing. I would like to be able to afford to give them some sort of renumeration, even if it is small, for making this blog what it is. I'm in talks with a friend who may be able to help connect this blog, which has been in existence for one year now, with more religious communities dedicated to interfaith dialogue. Your donation will do a lot toward making that happen.

This is Sharon's second piece she did for me. Sharon told me that she's going to be spreading the word about Radical Second Things in her psychiatric survivor groups. Having Sharon on board is very important to me - while she is obviously a different person, her writing is in the same sphere as Jennifer's and her memorial was able to provide an intellectual appreciation while Richard and I provided a personal one. Keep on, Sharon. This blog is your home.

By Sharon Cretsinger

Here are aspects of being silenced.  Aspects of being alive.  Confessions of  multiple

suicide attempt, multiple overdose and multiple diagnoses survivors.  Confessions of

the Chronic.  Not the trendy kind that end with the protagonist posing with the governor

of some god forsaken southern faction receiving his or her peer certification certificate

and extolling the virtues of the (insert 12 step program or trendy, monetized thought

control mechanism here) that saved him or her from a certain death. 

Being a suicide survivor has become even trendy of late.  I don’t mean the kind of

suicide survivor who has lost a dear family member or friend to a completed suicide--the

kind of hits you get on the first twelve google links when you search “suicide survivor”.  I

mean person who has attempted to complete suicide, and survived...individuals for

whom an incomplete suicide is as simple as their many other incomplete life

events...relationships, careers and degrees.  It is as simply gone as the missing pieces

of their swiss cheese psyches. 

Not all suicide survivors are grateful.  Not all of us have “recovery”.  No, we have not

found any kind of religion in middle age; and, we have not lost the extra weight from the

Zyprexa and become a yoga instructors, although we have tried.  Our last suicide

attempts are not in the memorial place of our roaring twenties.  Our attempts were,

perhaps, last week.  We are not in recovery from drugs, prescription or street.  We are

firmly in relapse.  The last time we woke up, surprised to have our feet still firmly planted

on Earth, was in a leaky, cheap motel room somewhere in the Northwest, or the South,

or South America, or India.  It was early this year, or late last Fall, or on a perfectly

beautiful day, July 16, 2010, a Friday, when it seemed the whole world might be grateful

for the release of a temperate weekend.

Some of us were, understandably, looking for attention, just as you have accused us of

doing in so many cliches, and now memes.  Why not?  Many of our families have

abandoned us.  We have lacked the boundaries to keep our lovers and rapists from

using our bodies in such indiscriminate ways that it is necessary, finally, to affirm that

our bodies are ours to dispose of as we see fit.  We pretend a great deal that our

suicide attempts, our overdoses, our fits of cutting rage do not happen.  We pretend that 

New York City is the same thirteen years post nine eleven; but, we know she is begging

for a relapse.  The Lincoln tunnel into the seediest part of Jersey is a mistake, of course. 

We never intended to use the syringe secretly stolen from a diabetic friend, and planned

to stay at the Holiday Inn on the last of our bad credit.  The Maplewood Motel, with its

pink walls and electric blue carpet and $30 rate for three hours during the day is another

foible, naturally, brought on by the fatigue of a drive through Manhattan at rush hour,

along with the general lack of life, recovery and planning skills for which we have been

berated over the years.  That bag of Heroin, boldly purchased from a stranger at a

nearby Shell station?  It does not exist.  We are out of practice, hit a nerve, and bleed

profusely on the dirty sheets.  

We do not meditate, we do not WRAP, our emotions do not respond to CPR and our

peers mostly sell us out for the $10 an hour jobs offered by the system in exchange for

their truths.  In more cliches and more memes, they tell us we do not try hard enough. 

Just one more wellness plan, one more meeting, one more shot at a community college

that promises to somehow materialize for us jobs just above the subsistence level.  It

would be a lucky thing for us to get these jobs, we of the tribe of spoiled identities.  For

these institutions, we are a sure thing.  Our student loans are manifest destiny, with or

without the nebulous kind-of-sort-of-pretty-decent job we are supposed to get.  Hell’s

bells, it is easier and cheaper to become a Certified Peer Specialist and live at the same

socioeconomic status, or a little better without the never-ending loan payments.  There

is a little more money for the Chronic. 

Chronic does not happen overnight.  We may begin our Chronic Journey with hope for

relief from the voices we know we are not supposed to hear, and definitely are not

supposed to use.  If only we remember to take the lavender pill in the morning and the

green and white one at night, the voices will stop clanging in our metal skulls with the

traffic noise and the screams of the children we aborted for fear of the sins of the

mothers‘ lavender pills, and green and white pills, being visited on the children. 

We go complacently, initially, into institutions that promise to monitor our crisis behavior

and label it with something that looks like the Target logo.  Then the treatment begins,

and it never ends.  It is not so much treatment as it is throwing shit at the Target

marquee and hoping some of it sticks.

We are copiously mourned by our sisters turned therapists.  These sisters hope to

minister to the Chronics, but soon burn out on being mere adjunct supports to a

powerful system that holds our Chronic brothers and sisters in a vise of inadequacy and

shame.  Let’s start with the little pill, but wait, it is not working.  Here is a bigger handful

of pills.  We can have the whole can of generic Diet Ginger Ale to get them down if need

be.  Still no change?  Still Chronic?  Treatment resistant, perhaps?  We will sedate you

for the brain shocks you so desperately need.  The nurse will put the needle in.  She is

not out of practice, but she may hit a nerve on purpose.  We are not people, not even

patients.  We are the chronically ill, the unrepentant insane, and we deserve a little

wake up call for needing so many services and still not being able to get our shit


Some of us are lucky enough to make it to middle age before our capacity to perform an

almost good enough dog and pony show goes completely out of the twenty-seventh

story window, like those poor souls in the twin towers who had the choice to burn or

jump.  A few of us jump.  More of us burn.  Many identify an earlier time when we wish

that we would have jumped.  It is somewhat unclear why we feel the time has passed,

but we struggle on anyway, on fire with the pain in our heads and bodies, looking for

another open window.  It seems so hard to find.

Many of us are dead already, cremated by families that didn’t want us and shut up

forever in the $40 cardboard urns.  We burned, we hurt, we listened to the clanging and

the screaming until we gave up on the lavender pill, the blue and green pill, the nurse

with the needle and the therapy group where we are told, again, often by our peers, how

desperately we failed to meet their acceptable standards.  Whenever and however I die,

cremate me, but don’t put me in the $40 urn.  Roll me up with some blue Kush.  Then,

let the chronic speak.


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About Radical Second Things

Michael Orion is a blogger, writer, artist and photographer based in the Bay Area. Besides his maintenance and promotion of Radical Second Things, he contributes to the San Francisco newspaper SF Western Edition, where he writes about local non-profit organizations.

Mark Cappetta is a practicing Catholic and active LGBT activist. He has been instrumental in keeping Radical Second Things and updates the Facebook account almost daily.

Eva Gnostiquette is an artist, programmer, "future scientist," bi-trans girl and graphic designer. She voluntarily helped to create the first print issue Radical Second Things and designed our beautiful banners. Thanks so much, Eva!

Jordan Denato is a professional artist based out of Iowa. He took the initiative to illustrate both Jennifer Reimer's story and Michael Orion's Oscar Romero work. He has his own art studio, Tar and Feather Studios, and is a critical part of Radical Second Things.

Radical Second Things is a liberation theology themed blog that has clear cut goals - we see the structural decline of the United States and much of the west and hope to present alternatives that will offer "a preferential option for the poor" as more become vulnerable.

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