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Five Year Cycle Part Three

January 18th, 2010

Part One Here
Part Two Here

Part Three

By Muriel Lipke

After returning to San Francisco in 2007, I was great, for about a year… Then I had another episode which landed me in a doctor’s office.

The difference was that I had done my reading since that first breakthrough episode in 2007 about serotonin and what it does to one’s brain. I knew enough to advocate for myself at this point and so when the general practitioner I had been seeing told me that my list of symptoms I’d compiled following the more recent episode were “all in my head” I fired him and went in search of a doctor who would listen to me.

Which was when I found in Dr. Amatti. The first time I saw her I ran down a lengthy list of about 200 symptoms I had regularly experienced and asked her if she could figure out what was wrong with me. She listened carefully and said that she wanted to run blood work and other tests on me to see what could possibly be in common with my diverse symptoms.

All my life I’ve been particularly sickly. Well – not all my life – I first started noticing that I got sick a lot when I was in my teens. I had been treated for allergies, phantom physical pain, insomnia, night sweats, repeated strep throat and bronchitis, stomach cramps, irritable bowel syndrome, shaking hands, ringing ears, “female troubles,” asthma, random fevers, etc… PLUS depression and anxiety. I was regularly told that I was a flippin’ hypochondriac. So much so that I believed it a little. I didn’t think all those symptoms could be connected — but, after working with Dr. Amatti I learned that they are.

See the thing is my brain doesn’t make enough serotonin for healthy bodily functions. Serotonin doesn’t only control moods – it facilitates the central nervous system! My levels of serotonin were so dangerously low my doctor told me that had I not seen someone when I did that I possibly could have died – either by my own hand – (because I’ll freely admit that I’d contemplated suicide because I felt like such crap,) or because of organ failure.

I was really really sick.

Though, I immediately began to feel a little better as soon as I knew what was wrong with me. My body didn’t make enough serotonin and because I’d gone so long living without healthy levels of it in my body, I’d sustained some minor brain damage. The best the doctors could figure out, I’d become immune to the SSRIs my doctor had put me on the year before, because I was taking a high daily dose over an extended period of time. It happens. I guess.

What they have not figured out is how I got this. Dr. Amatti thinks it’s genetic. Mental illness runs in my family. I think it’s a combination of genetics and trauma from abuse. My therapist agrees with me. All I know is that in the fall of 2008 I was diagnosed conclusively with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Major Depression, Anxiety and a dysfunction that they haven’t come up with a name for yet (I keep suggesting mine) where the brain has been permanently damaged due to lack of neurotransmitters over an extended period of time.

I was placed on an aggressive drug therapy. It’s taken me a year to really get back to feeling better at all – but, I’m glad to say that I now do. At the encouragement of my friends and family I got back into therapy. It’s been nice to have someone non-partial to talk things through with, and I think it’s really helped me a lot, at least in feeling like I’m not alone.

I remember asking my therapist shortly after beginning to work with her why it was that I could go for years and years and years without experiencing any symptoms of my mental illness, only to think I was “cured,” and then break down again?

She told me that she thinks that much like I’m going to have to be on drugs for my whole life to deal with the chemical part of my illness, the traumatic events that lead up to my breakthrough episodes are going to be with me my whole life, too. Just that perhaps I will only have to deal with them every so often, in a cycle, usually when there is a trigger to bring it all back up to the surface. I think that’s true because I have noted that every five years or so something seems to happen which has caused me to need to revisit my abuse and deal with issues from it. I work really hard to get through those periods (I’m going through one now) and deal with shit so I can be as normal as possible.

I’m really thankful that I have good doctors now and a family and close friends who understand my illness and support me. Recently I started talking about getting back together with my boyfriend (the love of my life, the one from the start of the story) which has made me feel even more protected than normal. He knows all the dirty details of my trauma and I have been at my absolute worst around him — he loves me regardless. And, really, dealing with mental illness is so much easier when you have people to help you.

There are a lot of people out there – fake friends and such – who enable my bad behavior when I’m going through it or cut me down or make me feel awful about my disease (like I’m making it up or something) that I have had to learn to tune them out in the past couple of years. That’s a hard lesson. I want to be friends with everyone and it took me 35 years to understand that some people are just toxic.

I suppose that’s a lesson for everyone, not just someone struggling with what I’m struggling with.

However, now that I have done that AND gotten on the right medication AND found a therapist who I am comfortable talking to AND developed my support network around myself so that if I fall again there are people there to catch me… I finally feel like me. The me I knew I always was. And, it’s so liberating… to be able to just enjoy my life… it’s freedom from those events which shaped and informed who I became as an adult that I never anticipated having.

Having it makes me grateful.

ADHD and Me, My Wicked Little Friend

April 13th, 2009

From Mommy of Mayhem and also drunkenlore.

Thursday, June, 26, 2008

You can blame this one on the hormones that accompany my “this means you’re not pregnant even though I don’t need you to tell me that because I know it for various other reasons” friend that is visiting this week. All my LAYYYdies….you feel me? (That last line SHOULD have been read using the sing song voice in your head, so if you didn’t, try again. Thank you.)

I am here today to talk about my one and only flaw, which is my inability to have one single day, with one single organized thought in it. I have two reasons for writing about this. I was growing a bit tired of all of you thinking that I am perfect ALL the time, but most importantly, I needed to capture the topic in writing before a certain best friend of mine beat me to it via a blog entry based on her visit to my circus house of horrors yesterday. (Love ya GUUURRRL!) I am mildly exaggerating. VERY mildly. I was diagnosed with adult ADHD at the age of 28. This diagnosis came after several attempts to name “it” something different. There were doctors who treated my symptoms of ADHD as the main issue. By products of this, such as depression, impulsive behavior, aggression and anger were thought, by several, to be my “sickness”, when in fact, they occurred as a direct result of the as of yet undiagnosed ADHD. In an attempt to combat any and all of the above mentioned issues, doctors doused me with drugs left and right, adding and subtracting like bad mathematics when yet another failed to do it’s job.

Antidepressants left me feeling soul-less. Instead of extreme highs or amazingly extreme lows packed with crying and long periods in bed, I felt nothing. I cannot imagine I could have continued that way for very long. I never discussed it with my parents, and I still haven’t to this day. This is partially because I believe this condition, or variations of it, run in my family.

Around the age of 13, I remember us driving home from Sunday lunch in order to make ready the house for my grandmother’s visit later that afternoon. As we pulled into the drive, the entire family was surprised to see my grandmother crouched over on the front steps of our house, silver head bowed, sobbing into her Sunday dress . Thinking that something was terribly wrong, my mother rushed to her. I will recall her words for the rest of my life. “I thought you all were never coming back. What would I do if you never came home again?” She was 3 hours early.

My brother and I had a lovely childhood, given almost anything we wished for. I know that we were both loved (and still are) deeply by my parents. The only sadness I can really recall came from my mother, and usually from the front seat of our car as my brother and I sat, not so quietly, on the drive back from church. We would cross a bridge that arched over the cemetery where my grandfather had been buried over 20 years before. I soon came to silently accept the tears that ran down my mother’s cheeks each time we made that journey, though we weren’t exactly sure what they meant. I now think she was weeping for the childhood that ended when her father and grandmother died in an automobile accident when she was only 13. My mother was in the car. This could also explain why my grandmother lived the rest of her life afraid that people she loved so much might never come home.

This knowledge leaves me wondering if I was born unable to accomplish ordinary tasks that come so easily and naturally to others, or if I learned it (or didn’t) due to the fact that the women in my childhood did not model those behaviors for me because they themselves were too busy suffering. Whatever the reason, “it” has plagued me for as long as I can remember. I didn’t know how to explain the frustration, simply because it had always been the way I “worked”; I just thought everyone operated on the same level. I liken my brain to a television that is continuously on, though changing channels at a maddening pace. Sometimes I am paying attention to things that I don’t even care to pay attention to, all while ignoring something or someone very important, right in front of me. I do not do it on purpose, though I sometimes come across as snobbish or unconcerned. I often interrupt others in conversation with a seemingly unrelated comment or topic, though in my mind it has relevance and should be shared immediately.

I have had to learn how to think about how my actions impact not just myself, but everyone around me. Note: it is not a good idea to take credit card to MAC cosmetics counter. My organizational skills are non-existent. If I do not make a list before going to the grocery store, I may come back with two packs of vacuum cleaner bags and no milk, or peanut butter and not jelly, though they’re right beside each other, and we’ve been out of jelly for 2 months. I know that people forget things at the grocery, or buy two of one and none of another, but this is an every time sort of deal. I have not mastered the “I know what goes in everything I cook, so I don’t need a list, let’s go shopping with a purpose” method. Without a list I will spend $800 on food that looks cool. Truffle butter and frozen ostrich burgers, anyone?

My mother didn’t raise me with “instructions” on how to do household chores. OR, maybe she did and I just missed it. I don’t see a natural order in how one’s house should be or look, and I can spend an entire day trying to clean one room. The majority of this surfaced when Leonidas and I (bless his big heart) first started dating. We lived together before we married, and he would “bring to my attention” the fact that, should I start trying to help clean our apartment around 11am (before kids wake up time), at 6 pm, things just looked “moved around”, due to my inability to focus on anything for longer than 2 minutes. Start laundry in one room, walk to another to put away said laundry, spray Lysol on bathroom counter. Go begin another load of laundry (that I will remember and have to rewash tomorrow) then decide to clean out the pantry as I walk past… get it? He wasn’t complaining, just commentating. He is a master laundry doer.

My frustration at knowing I was a fairly intelligent individual (I always did well in school without ever having to study) who was incapable of completing everyday tasks finally led me to seek help from a psychiatrist. After diagnosis, I was put on Adderall for the attention deficit, Valium to lessen the aggression that resulted from the Adderall, and a couple of other drugs whose names I don’t remember anymore. After starting the Adderall, I could focus SO well that I was up at 3 a.m. scrubbing the baseboards of my house with a toothbrush. I folded my underwear. One might say I became obsessive. At 5’9, I went from 170 lbs. to 109 lbs. in 5 months. I was happy to be shopping in the pre-teen section of stores for the first time in my life. I would move my food around on my plate during meals to disguise the fact that I wasn’t eating it. My heart raced each time I stepped onto the scale, only to find I had dropped yet another pound. I argued and resisted every time Leonidas suggested I may need to stop taking this medicine, or at least get a 33rd opinion from a different doctor, one not so willing to dole out drugs to a walking skeleton every month for my $20 co-pay. I avoided my parents and brother, who were all, at the time, still in South Carolina.

Then I cracked. One day, irritated that my toddler wouldn’t sit still and my infant would not stop crying, (go figure), I put them safely in their cribs, walked to the kitchen and proceeded to remove all of my plates from the cupboards. I carried them to the enclosed patio out back and methodically smashed them into the concrete floor. I then took a pair of kitchen scissors out of the drawer, walked to the bathroom, climbed into the sink, and began cutting my hair off, bit by bit, until I felt I could breathe again. I believe that fate intervened at that point, in the form of a phone call from my father. I calmly told him what was happening, at which point he instructed me to stay put. They were four hours away, so he called my husband who was home in what seemed to be under 3 minutes. After checking on the babies, he swept up the glass, brushed my hair, and put me to bed. My parents and brother arrived not long after. I underwent a quickie intervention and unwilling detox, thanks to my husband and family. My brother took me home where he and his wife force fed me for a week, allowed me to paint, draw, write, go for walks in the woods and be silent. When he told me one day that he was afraid I was dying, I told him I was. I hope that he knows his love saved my life.

A week later, my husband held my hand and brought me home. With clear eyes I looked at my children for the first time. It was at that moment I decided, that no matter what I had to deal with in regards to ADHD, I would do it drug free. I have managed this condition with humor, tears, and lots and lots of support. In a selfless gesture of love, my parents sold their dream home and moved to North Carolina to be with me and to help with the babies. My family has made sacrifices that I will be forever grateful, and alive, for. I make lists that I never complete, but at least I have a starting point. I still leave my coffee somewhere until it’s cold, then reheat it in the microwave only to forget where I put it. I bake muffins for my children and forget they’re in the oven until the tops are burnt because I forget to set the timer sometimes….like this morning. But now, instead of smashing things, I cut the tops off and add sugar free whipped cream and berries. Now, I can laugh. And I do.

Originally published here.

It’s Not Always About You (Me)

February 3rd, 2009

Dear Me,

I know you’ve spent many years perfecting your sick and crazy-making thinking patterns. I know you come by it honestly and that it’s hard for you to stop and think things through sometimes. I get it.

But, maybe now is a good time to talk about some things currently happening that you might be fooled into thinking are about you. For example –

1. When your husband comes home, tired and a little cranky, it is because he had a really long day at work and then a two hour commute in traffic. It’s not because you didn’t fold his Tshirts the ‘right’ way or do the dishes by five or because you look ugly. It’s not about you.

2. When you run out of milk over night and there is none for cereal in the morning, it’s because PEOPLE DRINK IT and then it goes away. See how that works? It’s not because you are a terrible wife/mother. Also? Other people are perfectly able to purchase milk and bring it home. You are not the only one that has, you know, arms and legs.

3. When you hear that friends in another state got together and you weren’t invited, it’s probably because you don’t live on the east coast in the same city as them. It’s not because you suck and they hate you and think you’re ugly and stupid. Seriously. It’s not about you. Feel free to make your own friend get-togethers where you live.

4. When someone you are very close to, that you love immensely, that you would die for, tells you something about a horrifying experience that happened a few years ago, they are upset because of what happened to them. They are not mad at you. They are not telling you it is your fault. They aren’t even asking you to fix it. Seriously, can you think of anything more self-centered than taking someone’s hellish situation and making it all about you? No, you can’t. So, sit there and listen and empathize and bear witness to the horror and love them as much as you can. Don’t turn it on yourself make it an excuse to self-medicate or self-harm. Be smart and strong. It’s not about you.

5. When the weather turns ugly and it rains and stays cloudy for days, it is not because the entire universe is conspiring to keep you down. It’s because that is WHAT WEATHER DOES sometimes. So, throw on a sweater and your comfy slippers with a good cup of coffee and try to enjoy a little snuggle time.

I hope this has been helpful and that you keep it close by in case you need an easy reference sheet for upcoming situations. I have faith in you. I believe you can do it.

Lots of love,

PS. You aren’t ugly and stupid. Next time we’ll discuss how negative thinking can influence your day.

Cross posted from

I am becoming redundant redundant redundant

September 10th, 2008

I fear that no one wants to read my blog anymore.  I am not scared of losing traffic, well, I guess I am afraid of losing readers because I need them.  Right now, I need them.  I decided to cross post a version of a post I had on my “regular” blog post because I don’t think people know what to comment or say to me anymore.  I feel like a car accident, where people crane there heads to see, but don’t stop to help.  I hope this is ok

——-> snip

I am kind of anti-social.  I know, those who have met me are calling bullshit, but really I am.  It certainly became more so when I left my office job where there were lots of people.  Worse after baby (when I left said office), worse as time wore on during the horrible winter when I had a newborn, more and more, retreating into the interwebs, which hasn’t been a bad thing.  Bipolar diagnosis, depression, hypomania, sleeping more, hiding from peoples.  Or at least hiding from people I know.

I manage to come out to BlogHer, and visit people, sometimes not all that successfully as I believe I have fucked up a couple of relationships there too.  Perhaps better I stay in this house, choosing a new bed (we have no bed), deciding to put up curtains (to make the bedroom darker), finally putting some fucking pictures on the wall.  I also really need to transplant those hostas before the snow.

I dunno, this is all to tell you that going off of Effexor and on to Cymbalta prompted a little hypomania episode to be followed by a most excellent depressive one, which I am enjoying right now.  Hypomania sounds all fun to some people, and in some literature.  It isn’t.  There are brief moments of chatty cathy and HAPPY but then irritability, impatience, anxiety, then, finally dull depression.  Hopefully for not too long.  I don’t know if the new drug will quell some of the anxiety and sit on the depression a bit, but fuck this gets old.  You know?  Since I have been 18, 20 years of medication changes, disorder changes, diagnosis changes, constantly altering.  Occasionally feeling really optimistic about new drug(s), then let down and hopeless I will ever feel anything other than THIS.  Ever be anyone other than THIS.  Ever be anyone who doesn’t talk about THIS or THAT.  Tedious, for me and you and friends and family.  Where my spouse is afraid to take a small trip and leave me alone, it breaks my heart.  Sure this is crap for me, but I want to hold my tongue more, especially amongst family and friends I encounter frequently.  I feel like you all like me no matter what.  Perhaps YOU ALL are nuts too.  :-)

Credit card bills are coming in from the hypomania, even though I insisted to my shrink I shop ALL the time, not just when I AM! SO! UP! -ish.  Right now all I can think of it going to bed.  Nursing my head and my recently buggered knee (again), something else wrong.  Icing my knee and drinking diet pepsi for my brain?  Trying to avoid graze-binge, trying to avoid being such a problem child, now adult.  But avoiding.  Phone calls, emails, you know.  The cat judges me in more silence than I judge myself.  Even when he puked on the rug an hour ago, it wasn’t because he thinks I am crazy.

Seeking Psychological Wellness In Order To Avoid Doing More Laundry

August 14th, 2008

I have to be honest with you: times are tough.

I have not known what to write over the last while, because I have been in alternating cycles of depression and anxiety that have pretty much crippled my creativity and ability to perform even simple tasks. I have been here before but not to this extent in a few years, and, to be honest, I am both shocked and not in the least surprised to be here again.

I am shocked, because I have been able to push through some truly trying times over the past few years with little more than my strong will to survive and the occasional use of pharmaceuticals from different doctors at as many different walk-in clinics when I found myself falling into old patterns of paranoia and circular thinking. I am not the kind of person who finds it at all easy to ask for help, and I have done my best to avoid it and won.

Won what, though? I’ve won more of the same with ever increasing regularity, which is also why I am not in the least surprised. I look back at the last ten years of my life, and I see a person who has never been able to stop struggling. I have never found truly stable ground. I have been able to hang on, push through, manage a regular working life to some extent, be more or less functional, but I have never had an entire week in which I did not have to talk myself out of bed or force myself into social situations just to get out of the house.

I have become used to a barely functional existence. It has become my norm. I have actually convinced myself that I am doing well despite the amount of time I spend curled up in a chair paralyzed against constructive action. It is so wrong that my barometer for measuring my psychological wellness is based on whether or not I have joined the shuffling herd of people from the local psych ward who yell I am the Easter Bunny! at me when I go to buy toothpaste.

I have spent the last week-and-a-half basically immobile but for when I get up to refill my coffee mug or go to the bathroom. Bathing happens only when absolutely necessary and eating only when my hands start shaking. Part of this is due to the fact that my medication was upped last week, and so I have not only had to deal with my original depression and anxiety but also a powerful round of nervous jitters, an electrified feeling that numbs my fingertips, insomnia, nausea, headaches, and excessive sweating.

If anything, I am learning the great reaches of the Palinode‘s patience. He has been nothing but supportive, and it is because of him that I have been able to do as well as I have.

Tomorrow afternoon, I have an appointment with a family doctor who will refer me to a psychiatrist. I have not taken the steps toward psychiatric help since fifteen years ago when three different psychiatrists diagnosed me with three different psychological conditions and fed me as many drugs that did more to complicate than ease my problems.

Making this appointment was fucking hard to do. When I walked into the clinic three days ago to make the appointment, I could barely force my voice above a whisper.

What doctor would you like to see? the receptionist asked.

Dr. P, I choked out.

What? she asked.

Dr. P. I want to see Dr. P, I repeated, my voice barely carrying over the counter.

I am crossing my fingers that my experience with psychiatry all those years ago was just a bad run, because I have to stop spending so much of my day in bed, and soon. When you spend twelve to sixteen hours a day in bed, you end up having to launder your bedding a lot more frequently, and I really hate doing laundry.

(Originally published at Schmutzie’s Milkmoney Or Not, Here I Come)

Opening the fiddle case

June 3rd, 2008

In December, the lovely Diva wrote me a guest post that snagged a mention on Five Star Friday and also caused some controversy with some of the Internets because of its sexual nature. The controversy was focused on the issue of whether my blog is pornographic or merely risqué.

I found this question intriguing, because over the past year, sex has started seeping into my writing, and yes, at times, it is a bit risqué. However, you may be interested to know that in the early days of my blog, sex was never mentioned. (You can check the archives if you want, but consider yourself warned: nothing racy going on there.)

The reason it wasn’t mentioned is I felt uncomfortable typing anything remotely suggestive on the screen. I’ve always been a very sexual person, but for many years, I struggled with how to express that side of myself. I felt trapped in the middle of the virgin/whore dichotomy, full of ambivalence about my sexuality. I flipped between wanting to be seen as “the good girl” and acting like “the naughty girl.” Somehow, I wanted them both. But how do you walk that line?

My relationship with my sexuality is made even more complicated by the fact that I was sexually abused at a very young age. Sexual abuse changes who you are. It changes the way you experience your body in every possible way: the way you see yourself in the mirror, the way you feel inside your skin, the way you relate to other people, personally and sexually.

And if that weren’t enough, I was also raised by an overprotective religious fundamentalist mother. We never spoke about sex in our home. When my brother and I asked where babies came from, we were given a long talk about the female menstrual cycle and how the sperm and egg came together to make a baby. If we asked how the sperm and egg got together, the lecture was repeated once more with no further details.

To make things even more uncomfortable and unhelpful, from the time I was 10 years old on, every time I left the house, my mother called out, “Keep yourself pure.”

Because that shit is not going to fuck you up. At all.

Yeah. Good times.

The message I got from my mother, literally on a daily basis, was sexuality is evil, unless you’re married. So, until then, it might as well not exist, unless you want to burn in hell for eternity. Combine that with a lack of sexual education, and you end up with a very confused and anxiety-ridden adolescent gal.

I remember the first time I masturbated. It was completely unintentional, since I had no idea what masturbation was or how my body worked. I was 12 years old and I was having problems falling asleep one night, so I just started touching myself out of boredom. Hmmm…haven’t really touched that before. Next thing I knew, there was this explosion of light and my body was convulsing, out of control. I was terrified. Something was horribly wrong with me. Why was my body doing this?

But it felt kinda cool, so I did it again, and again, and again. At 12, I became a compulsive masturbator, taking extra time in the bathroom, sneaking off to my room to “read”, and making sure that there was always a blanket on top of me when I was watching TV with my family. (Oh, yeah, I totally did it with other people in the room. That’s how hooked I was. They had no clue.)

Sounds like typical pre-teen sexual behaviour, yes? Well, the difference is each time I did it, I felt immense guilt and was convinced that God hated me and I was going straight to hell. Afterward, I would bargain with God, beg forgiveness and promise I would never, ever do it again. Until the next time I felt powerless to resist the urges. Whenever anything bad happened, I was sure God was punishing me for my horrible, horrible sin. This continued throughout my teens.

Some women who were sexually abused and/or raised by religious fundamentalists turn into real rebels. Others withdraw and comply with their parents’ religious beliefs. I fell somewhere in the middle. Part of me was afraid – in fact, I went through a phase (years, really) where I saw penises as weapons – and part of me was very sexual and just wanted to cut loose and be free.

I have always felt pulled between those two extremes – fighting against the repression of my childhood and struggling with others’ perceptions and judgements when I express myself.

A few years ago, I found this quote in a Katherine Mansfield story that has become a sort of mantra for me: “Why be given a body if you have to keep it shut up in a case like a rare, rare fiddle?”

Now that I’m in my 30s, now that I’ve found an amazing man that I trust and love, it feels like it’s time to open the case and play that fiddle. I don’t want to be ashamed anymore. I don’t want to be afraid anymore. I just want to be.

And while some people may not be comfortable with it, this is who I am. This is how I write on my blog. I am neither a virgin nor a whore.

I’m just Savia.

Originally posted as a guest post on I Am the Diva on May 30, 2008.

Permanent Lessons, a poem by Eric Anderson

February 12th, 2008

Today, I am sharing a poem that I first read in the Sun Magazine. From their website, “Founded in 1974, The Sun is a non-profit, ad-free monthly magazine that publishes an eclectic mix of personal essays, fiction, interviews, poetry, and photographs.”

I’ve been reading the Sun for about four years and it’s never failed to inspire me. I’ve loved many of the stories, essays, poems and interviews. This poem in particular knocked me off my cosmic post.

I emailed the magazine, they forwarded my email to Eric and I am happy to say that I am publishing it here with Eric’s permission. Not only is Eric a richly talented person, but a very kind soul with lots of supporters in his corner.

Real Mental is a very special place, my hope is that all who traverse around here can find the exceptional beauty and comfort in Eric’s poem that I have.

Never mind the mistakes Mother and Father made;
the first of them may have been the decision
to make you, to bring out of Eternity’s
Waiting Room
that thing you’ve been calling your soul,
plucked like some plush toy in the Big
Claw Game of their love.
O, how they dressed you in miniature
clothes, fed you human food,
brushed your hair, mussed it up, held you
in their hands like a bright souvenir.

And during those moments
of raw anger — when they channeled their lousy
childhoods through you and railed against
all the things they never had — they cursed you

with their wish for better lives, and you could
answer their inconsolable wanting only
with your tears, until at last
they spoke with tenderness,
or something like it,
and maybe didn’t completely regret
the few lustful thrusts
that launched you into your body.

Or so you thought

until the teenage years, when you
examined every incomprehensible gift
under the sterile spotlight of what you felt you deserved
and discovered not only
did they not know you,
but you could never know them, and so you left

as soon as possible, for a bus station, a campus, minimum
wage, the first available spouse, and it’s only now, after
some time spent before the blank stares of your own
little ungratefuls,

that you remember your mother and father and
how no one else ever stood on the front porch
and called your name into the dark.