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  • This is a story I listened to in therapy. Names and places are changed to keep the individual anonimous:

    "I am Manuela from Merida in the Yucatan. I think I was always different from other kids, quieter, slower. As a child I was taken to psychologists who said yes, I had a learning disability. It took a lot of work, but I finished secondary school. I often felt alone, but I did have some friends. My mother has always been very loving with me. My dad loves me too, but for long periods of time, he had other women. He also had other children with them, but he always came back to us. Today we all live together: my Mom, my dad and me. My brother is studying in France on a scholarship. He‘s smart and handsome, and I admire and love him a lot.

    In time, I had a boy friend, and we hang out a lot in bars. We pierced our bodies everywhere and got tattoos. I was never actually fat, I guess, but I gegan to feel fat. I went on the Internet and found sites explaining how to fast, how to not eat to get really, really skinny. I tried all that. My mother went out of her mind and scolded me and cried and screamed, but I didn’t listen, I hardly at e. I guess I was anorexic. The Internet led me to other pages ~ of dark rites and rituals. I read about demons and devils. It was all a lot like what you hear from the Mayans here. It wasn’t so far–fetched for me. I could relate to what I read.

    I dressed all black and wore make up to resemble a vampire. Today, I wonder if I did that to create some sense of power within myself, some control. I wanted to feel powerful. I wanted people to look at me.

    But then this darkness arose in me. I became afraid of normal people walking in the street. I wouldn’t leave the house and then, I wouldn’t leave my room and finally, not my bed. I thought there were demons everywhere and became obsessed that they would find, strike and kill me. But even though I stayed safe in my bed, they were there. They rose up inside me with their horrible faces. The spoke to me about raped women and abandoned children, about torture and all the suffering in this world. I heard screams, and I just couldn’t sleep. I feared the Chinese. I do not know why, but yes, I had this tremendous fear, especially of the Chinese.

    My mother yelled at me; my father talked to me; nothing helped. They dragged me to massage therapists. I tried all kinds of natural medicines, Reiki and I don’t know what all. I didn’t get any better. I was desperate. I fought with my inner demons, and I screamed and yelled even when I was home alone. Once my screaming frightened the neighbors, and they came and knocked at our door. I took all the oranges in our fruit bowl and threw them at their garden window.

    I must have been a terrible sight. I never bathed, my hair had become tangled and unkempt, I’d gotten very thin – and then my wild animal screams!

    I just wanted to sleep and escape this life. But I couldn’t sleep. So, I smoked marihuana which calmed me down for a while. My boy friend had long left, and my girl friends did not come to see me anymore.

    One day my mother, through her tears, announced, “This is it. Either you come with me to a psychiatrist or I’m leaving.”

    So, I went. I too was sick and tired of my horrific life. The psychiatrist said I am schizophrenic. He prescribed medication, and now I can sleep. I shower every two days, and I get dressed in the morning and help my mother in the house. My father is a carpenter. Sometimes I assist him. I like to touch the wood.

    You might think I’m still very skinny, but I’m eating now though I don’t know if I’m happy. I still feel like a huge sack of rocks. It takes all my energy to drag myself out of bed and do all the little things we have to do every day. There is a huge sadness inside me. How could I have done all those terrible things to myself? How could I have hurt myself so much? How could I have lost so many years of my life?

    My friends are all married and have children. They have a life. I don’t. I’m angry at myself for that. I feel such guilt! People tell me all the time, schizophrenia is an illness. It’s not something you do to yourself! But, I continue to feel as though it is something I have done to myself, and I cannot forgive me.

    I see a psychotherapist once a week. At first my mother had to accompany me and pick me up. The first time I tried to go to an appointment without her, I became so scared being on the streets, that I never made it and returned home. The second time I did it, but I nearly fainted in the therapist’s office. Now I can have a session without ill effects. And I go other places. I take courses -- in meditation, dancing and cooking.

    I long to have a normal life, but I don’t know if I ever will. I experience very little happiness, and then there is the deep sadness. I am so sad about not being able to be happy. The monsters are gone. With medication, the panic is gone, but happiness has not come. I do not know if it ever will, and that uncertainty brings on the sadness.

    I feel better, but I don’t trust my health. I have been with the demons, the darkness. I have had the excruciating sensation of suddenly hearing a voice, shrill inside my skull, screaming, “You are what you are! You only imagine that you are getting better.” That was when I just wanted to drop dead.

    The other day I took a taxi home. I was afraid to walk the dark streets, and I had some extra money for a cab from selling some jewelry my father had made. As soon as I sat down in the back seat, the driver said to me, “Laughter is the best medicine.”

    I merely nodded. I am shy with strangers. And I do not laugh often.

    The driver continued, in a most serious voice. ”I had an absolutely terrible childhood. When I was two, my father abandoned us. We never saw anything of him again, and my mother, siblings and I lived in deep poverty. Then my mother found another man. He was awful; he tortured me whenever he could. When I was nine, he told me I had to drop out of school and go to work. I loved school! I wanted to study. I was so upset that I ran to the suspension bridge which crossed the river near our house. I tore off my clothes and was ready to throw myself into the raging water below when I saw a huge white angel behind me! The angel spoke reassuringly, saying, ‘I am always with you.’ And with those words, my desperation vanished.

    “I worked as a shoeshine boy and soon started drinking and doing drugs. When I was fifteen, my mother threw me out of the house. I again decided to take my life. But in the decisive moment, the angel once again appeared and saved me. Still, I could not kick the alcohol and drugs. All my money was spent on them. I married, became a father, took a lover and kept drinking and sniffing. I was in a deep, black hole.

    “One day I found a Bible. I opened it and my eyes fell on a psalm which read, ‘Even if your father and mother abandon you, I am always with you.’

    “I must have read that at just the right moment. The psalm’s message went straight into my heart and soul, which I believe were finally ready to assimilate the message. I then experienced a miracle. The words broke down the destructive forces within me. I cried and I cried for hours. And when I stopped sobbing, I knew exactly what I had to do.

    “I haven’t touched booze or drugs again. That was seven years ago. I let my lover go. I hope that I am now a good husband and father. I laugh as often as I can. I play with my children and enjoy every moment of my life, even though I drive the taxi sixteen hours a day. But I enjoy my work, like talking to you now. I know that God is with me.”

    We arrived at the house, and I gave him a huge tip. He smiled broadly.

    I do not know if I believe his story, but I admit the man seemed very happy from the inside out.

    “Do you know what I do ever since that evening?

    “I have always liked to paint but a lot of my paintings were black squares and abstract forms that did not connect with each other. Now, every day I paint angels. Small angelitos and huge ones, in many colors. The simple act of painting the r an angel gives me joy. I don’t know if I believe in angels, but imagining and painting them does me good. While I paint, the shrill voice inside my headis silent. But I feel so much joy painting, I think that even if I were to hear the shrillness, it would not bother me.

    The other night I went to a group meeting where we talked about our problems. A man was there who had been an active alcoholic; he had tried to kill himself. He said he had seen the devil in the eyes of a cat in Africa. You could tell he is a very proud man, that he believed he was speaking the truth. He would not tolerate disagreement of what he’d seen from anyone.

    When he said he’d seen the devil in a cat, stating it simply and as pure fact, I felt my heart trembling for a split second. I felt the eyes of the therapist leading the group on me, and I knew he was concerned for me and the mention of the devil. But you know what? I went home after group and painted a gorgeous, happy,, golden angel. carrying a cat in his arms. The man in the group is cuckoo, not me. I believe in cats and angels and my brushes. I have decided to fly with them. If he should return t the group, I will invite him to fly with us ~ me, the cat and the golden angel. But he is so proud. He is the kind of man who believes he knows everything.

    He might well think, this girl is out of her mind! Still, I will offer him a ride….."

    Artwork by Kiki Suarez

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