10 Books to Surive Alone

I spent a lot of time alone as a child. Here are some books that helped me through that time and helped shape the person I am today. Read books, and visit your local library!

Love, Carly

Book 1/10 that influenced my life, in no particular order.

The_Valley_of_the_Horses_cover

I read Clan of the Cave Bear in middle school, and quickly moved on to the other books in the series. The 2nd book, The Valley of Horses, has always been my favorite. It centers on the time that Ayla was separated from her tribe, and before Jondalar discovers her, for the most part, although it introduces him and their love.

My favorite part of this book is the detail that Auel put into everything. I loved envisioning her living in the cave with her horse, weaving her baskets, using her sling. Ayla was truly one of my childhood heroines.

Book 2/10

neverwhere

Neverwhere: I love this book, and it was the first novel of Neil Gaiman’s that I read after finishing the Sandman series in high school. Neverwhere is one of those books that I have read over and over again. I have a signed copy, just one of several signed Gaiman’s, but to me Neverwhere is special. It will always be my favorite. As a character, Door is someone I identified with very much and wanted to be more like. I loved the dark fantasy, the mix of mundane and magic, and the narrative itself. Following Neil Gaiman and his career has led me on so many wonderful quests in this life, from flying to Comic-Con at 16 and meeting Neil himself, Yoshitaka Amano’s panel, Amanda Palmer shows… I consider myself lucky to live at the same time as one of my heroes.

 

Book 3/10

islandkeeper

The Island Keeper, by Harry Mazer

I read this book at least a dozen times in my youth. It’s about a girl that runs away from home and has to survive on an island all alone, honing her survival skills, for months. If you enjoyed Hatchet but haven’t read The Island Keeper, I highly recommend it. It got me through some very dark times when I was a kid, and I am now itching for a re-read.

 

Book 4/10

maniacmagee

Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli is another one that I read when I was young. It’s about an orphan boy looking for a home, and how extraordinary he is. It was published in 1990, when I was 9 years old, and I think I must have gotten it at a Scholastic Book Fair that year. It’s another one I read over and over.

 

Book 5/10

interview

Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice.

I read this book in the early 1990s, and it pretty much started my gothness. I tore through all the Vampire Chronicles, and later on, the Mayfair Witch series. I also read the AN Roquelaure Sleeping Beauty trilogy. I was a huge fan. Over the years, I’ve waffled on being a huge Anne Rice fan, as she delved into Christianity and such, but her books had a major affect on my life. When I lived in New Orleans with Jase, we lived on St. Charles Avenue, right around the corner from Anne Rice’s mansion in the Garden District. She used to have a large stuffed dog on her balcony, and it was pretty creepy. I never saw her, though. Now I live in San Diego, and frequent a coffee shop named Lestat’s. Life is funny.

 

Book 6/10

darktower

Today’s book is the first book of the Dark Tower series by Stephen King, The Gunslinger. I started reading Stephen King probably too young, with books like Skeleton Crew in the beginning, and pretty much everything else he wrote until the 2000s. After that, I only kept up with the Dark Tower series. It’s so great. I was pretty disappointed in the movie, but that is par for the course in trying to make King’s worlds come to life in film. Song of Susannah is probably my favorite of the whole series, but The Gunslinger will always hold a special place in my heart. I have made so many friends through a shared love of these books.

 

Book 7/10

annegreengables

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery. I have such fond memories of the whole series ofbooks, and really identified with the time Anne tried to dye her beautiful red hair black and it didn’t turn out properly. There are so many whimsical elements and I always love a female protagonist.

These books, I got from my “other grandma” Pat, she was Marshall (my former stepdad)’s mom. Pat lived around the corner from my grandparents in Spring Branch. When I spent summers in Houston growing up, she would take me to the library every weekend and let me get all kinds of books, from Pecos Bill to biographies and histories. She volunteered at the police station and loved a good crime book, too. Her favorites were “The Cat Who…” books by Lilian Jackson Braun. Pat really inspired my love of libraries at an early age, and I lost her far too early in my life.

 

Book 8/10

littleprincess

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett is a book I read over and over growing up. I identified with the loneliness of the protagonist, feeling like an outsider. There is a theme of most of my childhood favorites, one of isolation and neglect. These stories really spoke to me in my youth. I can’t remember who gave me this book, but it will always have a special place in my heart.

Book 9/10

spiraldance

I left church at 14. Almost immediately, I fell into pagan practices, found ritual to be of solace, practiced at a coven gathering here and there, but mostly was a solo practitioner. Most of that started from this book, Spiral Dance by Starhawk.

I picked it up at a crystal shop in Los Gatos, CA. I will never forget the day I brought it home and devoured it. From there, I moved on to Drawing Down the Moon, and all the magical sorts of books I could get my hands on. More recently, I added shamanism to the mix.

Somehow, in the midst of my mental breakdown in 2013, my desire to keep up these practices fled. I still use tools to ground, to tune in, to meditate, but barely. I consider myself a pretty hardline atheist these days, with a touch of mysticism. Mostly, because when I was reading tarot cards it became an obsessive thing. Nothing was helping me, and nothing would – because I needed medication. Now that I’ve been stable for 5 years, I mostly look on my flights into spirituality as an offshoot of what had me leave the church to begin with.

There’s a lot of bullshit out there, hypocrites, people who would be in power over other people, friends that abandon you – in all these communities. That’s just life. I had the honor of attending the PantheaCon with Shelly and Dawn a few years ago when I had to go up north for court. It was really energizing seeing so many rituals come together. So I wouldn’t say I’m completely out. But my bullshit detector has been honed. Anyway, I was really grateful for this book for a long time and if you have no experience with Goddess lore or Starhawk, it’s a good read.

Book 10/10
bluedolphins
I loved Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell. Another story of an isolated youth, of survival, another book I read to tatters. This book always meant the world to me, and I was so happy to purchase a new copy recently for Molly. She is thoroughly enchanted by the story. I’ve always wanted to spend some time alone on an island, swim with manta rays, and just exist out in nature. The vacation I took to Abaco, Bahamas by myself in the early 2000s was very close to this. I had a boat, and a cottage, and a lot of beautiful water and beach to explore. There were chickens, and cats, and everyone was so friendly and welcoming. It was the best vacation of my life, and on that trip I read 10 books, which I think contributed to the bliss.
 
Read more about Juana Maria of San Nicolas here: https://daily.jstor.org/juana-maria-blue-dolphins/
 
 
 A Footnote on Problematic Books:

One of the books I wanted to include in my list was the Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. I won’t, though, because she sexually abused children. It’s impossible for me to separate the art from the artist in times like these, with #MeToo rising up and naming abusers. Some people are too vile to include.

(More: https://electricliterature.com/the-book-that-made-me-a-feminist-was-written-by-an-abuser-4c6891f548cf )

In high school, I was lucky enough to take a Sci-Fi/Fantasy English class my Junior year. I didn’t jive with the regular English Honors instructor and managed to switch classes a few weeks in and take the Sci-Fi/Fantasy class. That’s where I read the Mists of Avalon, Ender’s Game, and many other inspiring books. At the time, MZB had not been accused. OSC had not been spouting strange homophobic and Mormon-related things on the internet. It seems like a simpler time, but it doesn’t change who these authors are.

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Scholarship Award Night

Last night I accepted the Agnes Hammond Library Technology and Follett Education Group scholarships at Palomar College. It was overwhelming and wonderful and I’m so glad I attended! I am so grateful.
Going alone last night was really tough for me, but Carley met me after she got off work, so I was only there alone for about an hour. It went by really quickly! First, I found my Follett Education Group table and met the manager of the college bookstore. We chit-chatted and I got my certificate and picture taken with them.
 
Another recipient of that particular scholarship was at the table with her daughter, and I wish Molly had been with me. Her daughter showed me where my name came up in the program and adored my sun kachina necklace.
 
I got a plate of food and had set it down at the table, FULLY planning on stuffing my face since I hadn’t eaten all day. But, first, the picture. Schmoozing. Then, I was supposed to go greet the other table that had awarded me a scholarship – the librarians! So I LEFT my food at Table #1 and went over to say hi to the Agnes Hammond table.
 
My Intro to Library Svcs professor, Professor Forney, was there! And another librarian turned library science professor who will teach future classes I have yet to take was sitting next to me! I felt quite at home at the library table and totally didn’t get a chance to run back to Table #1 for my food before the ceremony started.
 
So, I never saw the bookstore people again because it started and I didn’t want to be rude and stand up and move seats when I’d only been at the library table for about 5 minutes. And I never got my food back.
 
The format of the evening was nice, they had several guest speakers and mostly, they read off the name of the scholarship donors and introduced each donor, then all the scholarship recipients would stand up and everyone would clap.
 
The best speaker, in my opinion, was my friend from Table #1, Lisa! She wracked up like 5 scholarships last night and when she told her story I understood why. She had a baby at 16, was asked to leave her high school because she was pregnant, joined the workforce, had another baby. Got married to a military man who came home without both his legs and part of his brain, then her father committed suicide. Through all this, she acted as caretaker to her husband and put both of her own children through college. Now she has a solid 4.0 GPA and wants to get a PhD in Psychology and spread suicide awareness. What a fucking rock star.
 
Carley showed up and joined me at Table #2. I got to stand up twice for my scholarships and get some pictures. The president of Palomar was there, who I met at the honor society induction. It made me so much more calm to know that I had someone coming to join me. Thank you, roomie!
 
I really hope this Speech class this summer helps me with some of my social anxiety. I want to be able to share my story in front of people without losing it or saying UMMM or just choking entirely. Gosh. We shall see.
 
I am super grateful, enjoying school, and excited for what the future holds.
 

Five Years Later

I am a different person than I was five years ago, when my world fell apart, when I deleted all of my writing, when I stopped writing entirely. When I lost my mind, and myself. In some ways, I am the same. The need to write has always pursued me, relentless in its demand to be heard. Maybe that is why I feel called to write again now.

My life has changed so much in the five years since my mental breakdown. I experienced a severely dysphoric manic episode with psychosis in 2013, during which I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder Type 1. I started medication then and have maintained it daily for the past five years. Every morning, I take a pill that keeps my mood stabilized, my psychosis and paranoia at bay.

I now know how lucky I am. A lot of people with mental illness have the police called on them when they have breakdowns, with varying and at times disastrous results. When my nervous breakdown began, my now ex-husband was very patient with me. I now have compassion for how scared he must have been. At the time, I just saw him as trying to stifle me, or keep my daughter from me, and other symptoms of my illness. He was characterized as the villain in my mind, and my brain did everything it could to convince me that I was sane and that he was the crazy one.

I had just started a new job at a chiropractic office in Mission Valley. I’m a massage therapist. It was perfect. Close to my apartment in Normal Heights, the chiropractor at the office was young and motivated and kind. I was the only therapist. I was set up to be in a great position. I had only been working there for a few weeks when the voices started. I would hear things, and think other people were talking about me. I could her murmurs and whispers. Then I started thinking hackers were trying to get into my phone, and my computer. I began to get very paranoid, thinking I was being watched all the time, that there were hidden cameras and microphones everywhere. I felt like I was on display for the world, my own private Truman Show. Only it was hell.

I met a nice man on Adams Avenue at Lestat’s and burst into tears. He became very worried and asked what was wrong, telling me his name was Amin. He was an older gentleman that owned a home furnishing shop on Adams. He tried to take care of me that day, and had my truck looked at by his mechanic, and paid me for a massage. A very kind man indeed. I was starting to fray around the edges, but I had no idea. When this man took me out for coffee, I felt like everyone was staring at me. I was constantly onstage. I was having delusions. I started to feel like the man was stalking me. I told my boss at my new job that I felt like I had a stalker and hackers, and I’m sure he knew then that I was crazy, and he regretted hiring me, I’d only been at the job about six weeks.

That night I was sure my stalker would be waiting for me after work, so I asked my boss to wait until I was finished with my last client for the day and walk me out. I was so sure that he would help and protect me. When I was done with work, my boss was gone. The walk from the office to my car was terrifying, as I was certain that my stalker was waiting for me in a car outside, ready to whisk me off somewhere. I ran to my truck, I got into it, and I fled. I could hear voices telling me that I needed to go. The radio was giving me special signs that it was time to go. As in, I literally would hear a song on the radio and the lyrics would say something along the lines of “time to go” and it instilled a deep fear in me. The radio was right. The whole world was telling me to GO. So, I ran away. I drove all night, past Los Angeles, all the way to San Leandro, when all of a sudden, in an unfamiliar residential neighborhood, my truck broke down. In a way, I am lucky it did, because I would have kept driving all the way to Canada. By the time I arrived in San Leandro, the voices and the radio had convinced me that I was some sort of whistleblower, and I was aiming to get out of the country. It was all I could think about.

I started to freak out. I was in an unfamiliar part of the Bay Area. I had not-a-lot of money. My truck was broken down. The voices were telling me that something was after my ex and my daughter, and I started looking for them everywhere. I walked into a restaurant, a coffee shop. I asked employees where my husband and daughter were, and if they had seen them. Nothing made any sense. I knew I was missing my shift at my new job, so I texted the receptionist that I thought I was having a nervous breakdown, and when she didn’t respond, I threw my cell phone into a trash can. It wasn’t even my original phone. I had no way to get ahold of anyone I knew. It was a terrible position to be in, since I had no telephone numbers memorized.

A few days before I fled San Diego, I had what I consider to be one of the worst nights of my life. It was Halloween 2013, and I thought my husband was trying to have me committed. In a way, he was, but I didn’t know that I was having a mental breakdown, so since we were separated, I thought it was a ploy to get custody of our daughter. It was awful. I called a friend to come to my house, who dropped everything and came to rescue me on Halloween night, costume and all. My ex was being very confrontational, and he had taken my daughter elsewhere to keep her safe while he confronted me. I was so confused, we were missing trick-or-treating. What was going on? My friend came and got me, and when we got to her house, I was so concerned that my cell phone was bugged and tracking me, that I shattered it and buried it in her yard. She then knew something was really wrong with me. I spent the night there, and the next morning went to work as though nothing had happened, but everything was getting so bad. Nobody knew what to do.

All I had was a temporary cell phone with a few phone numbers in it when I disappeared, and I changed phones several times during my “missing week”. I didn’t know it, but my daughter’s father had rallied my friends back in San Diego, and everyone was looking for me. Friends from all over the country shared a MISSING post, and my absence was reported to the police. The San Diego Police Department was looking for me, but now I was in Northern California, and nobody even knew that yet. I encountered the police several times in the Bay Area and not a single one of them ever realized I was a missing person that they had found. One cop gave me a ride when he saw me walking on the side of a highway sans shoes. Another one dropped me off at a homeless shelter. Yet another one let me go after someone called the police because I was hanging out on a residential street walking up and down it very slowly. All these times I encountered the police, and they were nice, but really didn’t help me. The homeless problem in the Bay Area is so bad, there is nowhere for people to go. I started riding BART all throughout San Francisco and the surrounding areas, randomly getting off and on, trying to lose the people I was certain were after me.

The absolute worst night, I got off a train late at night in Hayward and jumped into a cab that was waiting in the parking lot for a fare. The cabbie thought I was on drugs and told me to get out, but I showed him I had money, just nowhere to go, and he took me to a 24-hour diner and left me there. I ordered pie and coffee, but a few minutes later I freaked out and yelled at no one in particular and ran out of the diner. Actually, what I said was, “YOU DON’T ALL HAVE TO BE SUCH ASSHOLES ALL THE TIME!” because the voices were telling me that the people at the tables behind me were talking about me. Look at her, they said. What is she wearing? She obviously hasn’t showered in days. She smells. It was the biggest mistake I made the whole time I was missing.

It was after midnight in Hayward, and I jumped on a bus that had stopped at a stop close to the diner. I took it a few stops, then hopped off when a man did. I started talking to him. We walked awhile, to the train station, smoking cigarettes and chatting. I never felt like I was in any danger. He took me to a house and pulled out a strange set of keys. I was too out of it to realize it, but it was a set of master skeleton keys. He intended to rob the house, with me inside with him! I was in great danger, but I followed him inside. The occupants were asleep in their bedroom, and he acted like he lived there. He made me a fucking Hot Pocket in their microwave. After awhile he seemed to get bored, didn’t see anything worth taking, and we went back outside. He was getting frustrated with me. He must have assumed I lived nearby and would invite him over to my place to hang out.

We talked for maybe an hour, near the train station, then he said, “Hey, I know a great place to smoke.” He lured me away from the cameras at the train station, then all of a sudden, he hit me in the face. He broke my nose and I fell to the ground. I was so scared I peed my pants, and he grabbed my pants and told me to show him my “lady parts”. I was sure he was going to rape, and then kill me. He had hit me so hard. Blood was running all over my face and hands as I tried to figure out what was wrong with my nose. I didn’t even scream or try to get away. He could have killed me, and I would have just sat there and let him. I always thought I would be brave in the face of danger, and I wasn’t. Not at all. I thought I would die right there, in my embarrassment and by his hand.

But he didn’t. He took my money out of my wallet, then told me to run away. I stumbled off and tried to find help, unsuccessfully. I ran into three people that night, all of which turned away and ignored me. Two were outside a closed restaurant, the cleaning staff, sweeping out front. They just looked at me and shook their heads. I looked homeless at this point. I was covered in blood and not a single person helped me. I had no phone at that point to call the police, so I laid down in a canyon behind an apartment building and fell asleep there. When I woke up, a huge raccoon was staring at me and it scared the living shit out of me. At this point I was talking to myself, and scared. I stole a bundle of newspapers from out in front of the apartment building and used them as a prop as I walked down the street, looking like I was placing newspapers. I knocked on the door of a nearby house, and a shocked family there gave me some ice for my nose. It was around 6am. I told them I fell down. I don’t know why I lied, but they didn’t call the police, just let me clean the blood off my face in their bathroom and made up a little Ziploc of ice for my nose and sent me on my way.

I was really lucky that although it was November in the Bay Area, the weather was very mild. It had almost been nice sleeping outside, or would have been, if I hadn’t been so afraid. What had seemed like a fun adventure only a day ago now suddenly felt like a nightmare. I was scared of everyone and started thinking certain people I met were Evil while others were Good. It wasn’t the best mindset to be in while wandering streets full of strangers. Their faces seemed to change as I looked at them. My mind began to play the Angel or Demon game. I was full-on cuckoo, and STILL didn’t know it.

During my week on the streets, I had started calling myself Rose and identifying myself as such to some people. So, when I walked into the RV place, that’s how I introduced myself. I had been walking around in San Mateo and just gotten asked to leave an English Pub that I had wandered into that morning. I was looking around in the closed area and the bartender asked what I was doing, so I panicked and fled. Across the street was an RV rental place, and it suddenly occurred to me that I could rent somewhere to sleep that was also a way to get back to my daughter in San Diego, which I was desperate to do at that point. So, I said my name was Rose, which of course, did not match my ID. Which didn’t matter anyway, because I gave them an old expired ID I had kicking around in my purse. None of it made any sense. I had my real ID on me, I had enough money in my bank account to rent the RV, everything could have been fine. But it wasn’t.

Instead of renting the RV to me, they turned me away. I guess they actually thought I was trying to commit fraud. It must have been a very confusing experience for them. I left. I walked outside and although I do not remember what happened exactly at that point, the end result was that I noticed a set of keys dangling from the door of the RV. Something in my delusion told me that it was FOR me, so I just hopped in and drove off the lot. I truly believed in that moment that the RV was mine, it was there for me, and I went with it.

Almost immediately a man from the lot started following me. I took the on-ramp to the freeway that led from San Mateo to Half Moon Bay. If you aren’t familiar with the road, it is pretty narrow and twisty and can be dangerous even in a low-profile vehicle. The man kept gesturing at me to pull over, but in my mind, he was AFTER me and was one of the people that had been “chasing” me the whole time I was missing. I was terrified of him. Suddenly there were several police cars behind me, too.

Red and blue lights were flashing, and I felt like I was leading a parade. I didn’t exactly speed, but I did start passing cars on the freeway (using my turn signals!) When the freeway ended in Half Moon Bay, I again used my turn signals through the neighborhood until I found a good place to pull over. I passed a police officer on the street and flashed him the peace sign. Now I was grinning and laughing, like it was all a big joke.

Of course, I pulled over, and immediately I was terrified again because I had what felt like a dozen guns in my face as they threw the door to the RV open. I know how lucky I am. One officer undid my seatbelt and dragged me from the vehicle, leaving a burn down my arm from the seatbelt. Still, feeling lucky. As I hit the ground I peed my pants AGAIN for the second time in two days. If I ever thought I was some kind of cool-headed hero in the face of stress, I have learned I am the exact opposite. I am the quivering Jello-person that just stares and pees themselves.

The police asked me a lot of questions and I told them about the guy that had mugged me. They asked me if I was drunk, if I was on meth. I was 100% sober sadly, but they didn’t believe me.

I had a really nice officer drive me back to the police station in San Mateo. I remember him asking if this was my Thelma & Louise moment. He even pulled out my state massage license from my wallet and asked how this girl got to be in the back of his car. He calmed me down a lot with his chatter and I KNOW you’re not supposed to talk to the police, but I did anyway. We talked the whole way back. He was the one that realized I was a Missing Person when we got back to the station.

A woman cop inspected me and took my clothes, saying she would have them washed for me. (I was SO embarrassed.) I’m pretty sure the police thought I was drunk at this point, because they threw me in a cell with another lady for many hours. During this time, I figured out how to call my husband collect on the phone and got through to him, ending the big question of WHERE THE FUCK IS CARLY? Carly was somewhere she had never been before. Carly was in jail.

Finally, after many hours, they brought in a psychiatrist to see me, who spent a few hours asking me if I was on meth, like everyone else had. I kept self-massaging my arms, pacing around, randomly doing yoga. I was a mess. I was in a deeply set, full-blown manic episode. Nobody knew what to do with me.

The first night, they drove me over to the county jail and tried to put me in with the general population, which basically broke me. I don’t remember much about it, except thinking the other women had microphones and things in their ears, but I was scared. They couldn’t drive me back to Medical that night, so they let me sleep on the floor of the commissary office, away from the other women.

The next morning, I was sent back to Medical. I had my own room for a few days, and they took away my bed and made me wear suicide-proof clothes. I had hallucinations and delusions and it was a miserable time. I remember hitting the suicide button the first night in there because I had missed all the meals so had had no food for two days. Everyone laughed at me when I said I was hungry, and the guard was pissed. But she did eventually bring me some cereal. After awhile I started thinking the police were poisoning me, so even though I was starving, I would eat then throw all the food back up into the toilet. I even tried flooding the room by stuffing the toilet full of toilet paper. Anything to try and get someone’s attention, but nothing worked.

Actually, back at Medical everyone started treating me with kid gloves. I had nearly wandered off the first night at county (I did not stay in my seat when told to. Don’t do this in jail.) so whenever I was moved anywhere I had to have my arms and legs shackled. After 2-3 days (I can’t remember or tell anymore) in my solo apartment in Medical, I got moved into a shared space in the medical wing.

They were trying to give me medication, but I kept thinking they were trying to poison me. After a few days I calmed down and I let them give me Lithium, and almost instantly started getting a little better. I was really giving the police kind of a hard time. I remember hitting an emergency call button (you know, one of those big red buttons that you DO NOT PUSH unless there’s a riot or some shit.) The female police officer kept her cool and didn’t tase me, which was nice.

For as big of a pain in the ass as I was being, I can’t complain about my treatment while I was in custody.

It was “nice” being in the shared space in Medical. I had gotten very bored in my solo room as I calmed down. I had a roommate, and a common room, and there were four other women in two other rooms off the common room. We watched and sang along to The Voice. We drew pictures and talked about our lives.

One of the women was elderly and her boyfriend died while she was in jail and they wouldn’t let her out to attend his funeral. It was sad. One of the ladies had murdered a cabbie and was being sent “off to Napa”, which I took to be the criminally insane place. I was very scared that I was going to be sent there. While we were there, she was on the front page of the newspaper and we decided not to show her the article. It was almost like camp. We had all the coffee we could drink and a hot water kettle that plugged in.

At some point during this first week, Neil, my ex, came to see me. I refused to see him, and I don’t even remember why. I was suspicious of him for some reason, maybe still thinking he was trying to keep my daughter from me. My other friends, Devin and Val, had been tirelessly keeping everyone up to date with everything that was going on with me, and came to see me as well. They lived in San Mateo and everything had gone down right by their house. Had I managed to find their house, a lot of sad things would probably have been avoided.

My mom had used a lawyer in San Francisco before, Cindy Diamond, and that’s who she contacted to represent me. We totally didn’t have the money for a lawyer, but my mom managed to get some money out of the estate in Texas from my family to pay for it, and I became Cindy’s ‘special project’. Thank the gods. I don’t know what would have happened to me if I hadn’t had a lawyer. Cindy was smart and tough and instantly got me to work writing down the things that had happened in order and getting notes together for an outside psychiatrist. She wanted an official diagnosis for me as soon as possible.

After a few days in the shared Medical room, the police decided I could go back to county jail. I was transported to the San Mateo County Jail, where I spent two weeks. Please note that at this time, I was completely confused as to why nobody had bailed me out of jail. I assumed it was because they couldn’t afford it, that my bail was set too high or something similar. It turns out everyone just thought that was the safest place for me to “calm down”.

It hurt, and I cried for days wondering why nobody was bailing me out of jail. I didn’t have ANY phone numbers, plus I needed an address to go to upon release, which I didn’t have because Neil had said I couldn’t stay with him and my daughter while I was so messed up. I honestly felt like I would be in jail forever. I spent Thanksgiving 2013 in jail, and while I should be grateful they gave us pumpkin pie, I will say it was the worst pumpkin pie I have ever had in my life. I will never forget the taste of that terrible pie. I will note, however, that Thanksgiving-in-jail did NOT rate as the worst Thanksgiving I’ve ever had. It was almost a celebration, all of us being each other’s family. The guards were almost jovial.

I kept myself busy as I could to pass the time. There was one exercise bike to share among the 40ish women that were in our big room, so when I could get on it I used that. I took as many showers as I could get away with, since the water was lukewarm at least and felt pretty nice. Except the one time I took a shower when we were not apparently supposed to be taking showers. The CO whipped open the shower curtain on me and scared the shit out of me. In trouble again.

I got in trouble a few times during the general population stay. There was a “cold room” they would throw us in when we acted up. I spent a few hours in the cold room for cutting in line one time, and for something else that I don’t remember. It was miserable in there. It was just an empty room with a toilet and the AC cranked up really high.

The other girls were mostly young, a lot were moms, and almost all of them were nice. The stories they told me broke my heart over and over again. We compared pictures of our kids and how we wound up there. One showed me how to take the elastic thread out of a sock and use it to thread eyebrows. Another girl I traded some stamps to in exchange for her to braid the front of my hair out of my face. But none of us could forget that we were there, contained, away from our families.

Coffee. They sold instant coffee at the commissary that we had to make with lukewarm water from the sink. There was no nice hot kettle in gen pop.  It was still so good. Awful instant coffee with a wee pinch of sugar and dehydrated creamer and it was SO GOOD! It was like the only altering substance anyone was allowed, so they were all coffee junkies. We would be up until midnight sipping coffee and playing cards.

When mail call came, I was always the most popular person in the room. Everyone was curious how I got so much mail, especially since I was from So-Cal, but it was totally because of my friends rallying for me. I read them over and over again. Getting stuff from the commissary only happened once a week, and shit would sometimes just up and disappear. Jail.

I never did see the meth. Some girls got busted with meth in our room and got additional time added onto their sentences. Not sure how they got meth in jail, but hey, what the fuck. It was sad. Another girl had a seizure in the middle of the night, which was also scary. It took everyone yelling at the guards to get them to come check on her, as she lay spasming on the floor.

We were only allowed to go outside for a few minutes each day, and only if the whole room hadn’t gotten in trouble. We spent the whole weekend after the meth incident inside. When we did go outside, it was to some cement picnic tables with a high fence separating the tables from a vegetable garden, then the freeway. There was a cat that was sometimes in the garden, and I liked to just sit and watch the plants and the kitty. I started drawing a picture of the garden, and when I finally got out I gave it to the young deputy that was the nicest to me while I was there.

I was so manic. I wanted to stay in touch with everyone! I must have given my email address to a dozen women while I was in jail, though I never did hear from any of them afterwards. Finally, after over two weeks in jail, this one girl asked how much my bail was. I was like, well, I don’t know, I think it is pretty high. She said she had a bail bondsman that could get me out for less than anyone else. I wound up calling him and missing him because he came to get me out while we were eating dinner, then he wouldn’t come back for me.

But now I knew I could bail myself out. I called Aladdin Bail Bonds next and the guy offered to just bail me out sight unseen for $126 if I came straight to the office and paid it as soon as I got out. WHAT THE FUCK. I SPENT TWO WEEKS IN JAIL OVER $126?!?!!?

Now I was pissed. But it didn’t matter. The only thing that mattered was that I was finally getting out. I didn’t believe it. They said I had to be out before midnight, so at like 11:55pm they finally called my name to be transported back for release. The last two hours I was in jail was the longest two hours of my life so far. I kept thinking something was going to go wrong and I wasn’t going to get out. But it didn’t. They drove me back with a young prostitute that I hadn’t particularly gotten along with in jail but now that we were getting out buddies, we were friends. I am so grateful to the girl in jail that showed me how to bail myself out. I would never have known I could even do it.

Unfortunately, they only give you a bus or train token when you get out and since I got out after midnight, I had already missed the last train anywhere. As soon as I got out I devoured the chocolate bar that was in my purse and walked over to Aladdin to pay my bail. The dude was so nice! I totally recommend them if you ever wind up in jail. I wound up doing payments for like a year to them and never had a problem.

So, I was out, but I had nowhere to go. It was so late at night. I thought about walking to Saratoga, where my mom’s friend lived. I knew he would look out for me. But I couldn’t get ahold of him on the phone. My mom had written down some numbers for me in a letter, but I couldn’t get ahold of anyone. I walked around aimlessly for a few blocks, paranoid the whole time that I was going to get picked up and sent right back to jail.

Finally, I decided to spend the last of my money on a hotel room for the night and figure it out the next day. I wound up at an America’s Best Value Inn and it was the most luxurious experience of my life. The shower easily rivaled the post-Burning Man shower I had had once. Also, I was so THIN. I lost weight wandering the streets and in jail, and now that I had a full-length mirror I could really see it. I couldn’t remember the last time I was so thin.

They were supposed to release me with my medication, but they didn’t. I had to walk a mile the next morning to go pick up my meds, and the police officer I picked them up from was so rude to me, I cried on my walk back. But I cheered myself up by obtaining In-N-Out, which was the most delicious thing I had ever tasted after two weeks of jail food.

The next few weeks are a little blurry. I stayed in the Bay Area to hit a couple court dates, and to see the psychiatrist that my lawyer had lined up for me, Dr. Weiner. I talked to him for three hours and filled him in on most of my whole story. When all was said and done I finally had a diagnosis, Bipolar I. He wrote an extensive paper on me for the court.

I spent a few days with my friend’s mother in Half Moon Bay, who also has bipolar disorder. That time was very healing for me, being around someone that really understood. She also gave me some cash to help get me through, and I will always be grateful to her. I will also always be grateful to Devin and Val, who I spent more time with and who went so above and beyond in the friend realm the whole time I was missing.

This story has a happy ending. I successfully completed my court dates and wound up taking a plea deal which reduced my sentence to one joyriding misdemeanor. I was on probation for two years, which I also completed successfully. I obtained a divorce and 50/50 custody of my daughter, and I get to see her most days. It took me a long time to get stable again after my manic episode, and I will never forget the black depression that descended upon me once the mania faded. I struggle with depression and my bipolar disorder every day, but now I’m in college. I work, support myself and my daughter. I go to school. I take my medicine. One day, I will be a real writer, a real librarian, an upstanding contributing member of society. It’s been five years now, and I think I am already there.

Bipolar Disorder in Pregnant and Postpartum Women

Final Annotated Bibliography: Bipolar Disorder in Pregnant and Postpartum Women

Carly Janine

Questions: How does Bipolar Disorder affect women’s health through pregnancy and child-rearing? Should anti-psychotics, anti-depressants, and mood stabilizers be taken while pregnant? What options are there for pregnant women with bipolar disorder? Can bipolar disorder be properly treated while pregnant? In what ways can we support women with bipolar disorder who are going through pregnancy and child-rearing?

  1. Topic: I am trying to learn about bipolar disorder in pregnant women and postpartum outcomes and solutions
    • Question: because I want to find out whether current useful research is being done, what further research is needed
      • Significance: in order to help my reader understand how best to support women with bipolar disorder in pregnancy and to improve postpartum outcomes.

This subject is very near and dear to my heart. I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder Type 1 in 2013, at age 32. My sweet daughter was three years old at the time. Personally, having a diagnosis made things a lot easier for me and with medication, things became manageable. As I reflect upon my pregnancy and my mood swings at the time, I wonder how I could not have known, and if I had known, what I would have done. It made me curious what others do, as it seems there is often a lot of debate on the online bipolar community forums about whether we should have children, and if so, whether we should come off of our medications in order to do so.  Common misconceptions about people suffering from Bipolar Disorder include stereotyping them as irresponsible, sexually promiscuous, unstable.  Researching this topic has been both personally satisfying and frustrating for me, as I realize there is still so much more research to be done and support to be offered. I have done my best to offer up the most useful sources I could find relating to the topic of bipolar disorder in women, particularly women going through pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum depression and mania.

The criteria I used to evaluate my sources was a blend of several evaluation styles we learned in Week 3. I used the questions from the Curious Ways of Knowing, the checklist from Excelsior College, and the Rhetorical sheet although I relied heavily on the questions from the Curious Ways of Knowing for evaluating all of my sources.

 

Bodén, R., Lundgren, M., Brandt, L., Reutfors, J., Andersen, M., & Kieler, H. (2012, November 8). Risks of adverse pregnancy and birth outcomes in women treated or not treated with mood stabilisers for bipolar disorder: population based cohort study. The BMJ, 345(e7085). Doi:10.1136/bmj.e7085

(URL: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3493986/)

This article follows a study based in Sweden that determined women with Bipolar Disorder face increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes. The primary findings of this study state that treatment of Bipolar Disorder involves risk management. This study in particular adds that infants of women with Bipolar Disorder had increased risks of “preterm birth, irrespective of whether the mother had received mood stabilising drugs” and that “infants of women with untreated bipolar disorder had also increased risks of microcephaly and neonatal hypoglycaemia.”

I evaluated this scholarly source by using the Way of Curious Knowing questions primarily. I determined this to be a “Source by Scholars” and the methodology used in the study seemed to make sense. A group of women diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder were studied throughout their pregnancies and the outcomes of those pregnancies was recorded. Missing from this study is a comparison including drug use and Bipolar Disorder and pregnancy all together, which would be helpful in future charting. The study was funded by grants, and the authors include researchers, a psychiatrist, pediatrician, gynecologist, and a biostatician. The professional expertise of the authors, combined with their efforts to get this research funded, convinced me that they were a reputable source to include. It was published in 2012 by BMJ.

 

Cook, C. L., Flick, L. H., Homan, S. M., Campbell, C., McSweeney, M., & Gallagher, M. E. (2010). Psychiatric disorders and treatment in low-income pregnant women. Journal Of Women’s Health (15409996), 19(7), 1251-1262. Doi: 10.1089/jwh.2009.1854

(URL: https://login https://login.ezproxy.palomar.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=pbh&AN=51855369&site=ehost-live&scope=site.ezproxy.palomar.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=pbh&AN=51855369&site=ehost-live&scope=site)

This study, published in 2010, took place in the USA. 744 low-income women in Missouri were studied over the course of 12 months, of whom approximately 30% had mental illness. A shocking number of women were completely untreated for their mental illnesses during that year, and bipolar disorder was represented in about 5% of the women. This study found that there is a dire need for comprehensive mental health screening during pregnancy, as well as more treatment options and accessibility for low-income women.

All of the authors contributing to this study are PhDs. One of the limiting factors in this study is that they chose only to include applicants who can speak English. I would like to see a version of this study run again in which all eligible women could participate, perhaps with the aid of translators and really refine the research. However, overall, I was very impressed with the methodology displayed in this study and it is a primary research article based in the USA, which I appreciate. I would like to see more studies of this kind in more cities as this one is already eight years old. It was funded with research money from the National Institute of Mental Health.

 

Harwood, D. (2017). Birth of a new brain: Healing from postpartum bipolar disorder (pp.1-212). New York, NY: Post Hill Press.

 

This book, written by Dyane Harwood, details her experience firsthand with Postpartum Bipolar Disorder. It includes a wealth of information, including its own appendixes and recommended reading list. I was lucky enough to connect with this author on Twitter after posting about searching for sources on Postpartum Bipolar Disorder. Published in 2017, it is recent and all-encompassing as told by the patient’s point of view from postpartum onset and her diagnosis, to present day. Harwood was so excited to have someone studying what she had just written about that she sent me a copy of her book and I enjoyed it very much.

Dyane Harwood is a writer in Santa Cruz, CA. She has contributed to many mental health websites, magazines, and now has written a book detailing her experiences with Postpartum Bipolar Disorder. The strength of this source lies in it being firsthand experience, and it also included a foreword by Dr. Carol Henshaw, a psychiatrist familiar with Harwood’s case. Being a firsthand experience type of source, its weakness lies in that it is one person’s experience.

 

Miller, L. J., Ghadiali, N. Y., Larusso, E. M., Wahlen, K. J., Avni-Barron, O., Mittal, L., & Greene, J. A. (2015, April). Bipolar disorder in women. Health Care for Women International, 36(4), 475-498. Doi:10.1080/07399332.2014.962138

(URL:https://login.ezproxy.palomar.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=pbh&AN=101893096&site=ehost-live&scope=site)

This lengthy article on Bipolar Disorder in Women acts as a summary of research relating to the clinical care of these women. It includes a multitude of facts and statistics and boasts its own extensive bibliography of research for further study. It was interesting to see a collection of USA-based researchers after finding so many articles published in other countries. Despite not having conducted their own study, I found this research to be valuable and worth sharing.

The authors of this piece are seven psychiatric researchers from reputable schools, and their methodology in conducting their research seems spot-on to me. I was hesitant at first to include this source, despite it being scholarly and peer-reviewed, because they did not conduct their own study. However, I would be curious to know more about the statistics they used and to use their bibliography as a jumping point for future research. It is important to have current information, and I appreciate the efforts to get this paper out there in 2015, updating and making accessible a lot of research that was scattered around in databases. It was published by Health Care for Women International.

 

Minick, G., & Atlas, M. (2007, August). What’s the best strategy for bipolar disorder during pregnancy? [Electronic version]. Journal of Family Practice, 56(8), 665-668.

(URL:https://login.ezproxy.palomar.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=26344297&site=ehost-live&scope=site)

 

This medical article appeared in the Journal of Family Practice in 2007 and covers strategies for coping with and treating Bipolar Disorder in pregnant women. While abbreviated, I found the medical information to be valuable and Dr. Minick goes into the advantages and disadvantages of using lithium and other medications. “Onset of bipolar illness often occurs in the teens and twenties, which puts women with bipolar disorder at risk for having episodes requiring treatment during their childbearing years.”

This article was, interestingly enough, written by an MD and a Librarian. I found this to be an intriguing combination. I found the contributions of both to be somewhat evident, although the medical findings generally dominated the article – they were well-organized. It also included a table with information pertaining to medications and side effects/contraindications. I would like to see an updated version of this article with a study attached covering a population of women with Bipolar Disorder. I would also like to see more doctors involved with this type of research. This article was published in 2007 by the Journal of Family Practice, which seems to be a medical journal.

 

National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health, (2006). Bipolar disorder: The management of bipolar disorder in adults, children and adolescents, in primary and secondary care (pp. 1-596). England: British Psychological Society. Retrieved from PubMed Health (21796830)

(URL: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0015261/)

This seriously dense book is available in its entirety as a PDF on PubMed Health, and I noticed you can also purchase it on Amazon for under $100. It is a book in a series on psychological issues, and it includes vast amounts of information, including the treatment of pregnant and postpartum women with Bipolar Disorder. Overall treatment plans are included, as are trees advising whether the tapering of lithium or switching to antipsychotics is advised while the patient is pregnant or trying to become pregnant. I was so happy to find this source available for download.

Published in 2006, it would be great to see an updated version of this book. However, in searching for sources I found this one to be vetted. It includes pages and pages of references itself, and goes into treatment for children, as well, which is hard to find and very relevant to mothers that suffer from Bipolar Disorder, as there is a risk of their children being diagnosed with it as well. It was difficult to decipher the author of this book, as it seems to come from a group of people, the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health. Within the text, many authors are listed with varying credentials, all seeming to be professors, researchers, doctors, and similar.

 

Nguyen, T. N., Faulkner, D., Allen, S., Hauck, Y. L., Frayne, J., Rock, D., & Rampono, J. (2010). Managing pregnant women with serious mental illness: using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale as a marker of anxiety and depressive symptoms. Australian & New Zealand Journal Of Psychiatry, 44(11), 1036-1042. Doi: 10.3109/00048674.2010.503185

[URL:https://login.ezproxy.palomar.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=pbh&AN=54857144&site=ehost-live&scope=site]

In this study conducted in Western Australia, 48 women with serious mental illness were treated by a team of caregivers. “The clinic has a multidisciplinary team, which comprises a midwife, a general practitioner/obstetrician, a psychiatrist and a social worker, all with sessional capacity, who come together during the running of the weekly outpatient clinic.” Many of the women in the study suffered from Bipolar Disorder, and all women who participated in the study gave birth between 2007 and 2009. Their methods seem solid, in that they attempted to keep track of the anxiety experienced using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale and gestational outcomes using control groups and statistical analysis.

I was unable to find out much about the authors of this study, but the fact that it was published in a peer-reviewed journal gives me confidence in it as a source. I would have liked to have seen more information on medications and the use of mood stabilizers in a study like this, so I would enjoy seeing an updated version of this study for today with many more participants.

 

Rusner, M., Berg, M., & Begley, C. (2016). Bipolar disorder in pregnancy and childbirth: a systematic review of outcomes. BMC Pregnancy & Childbirth, 161-18. Doi:10.1186/s12884-016-1127-1

(URL:http://web.b.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.palomar.edu/ehost/detail/detail?vid=0&sid=8b7502dd-225e-4e79-ad46-c3c0a37f7db3%40sessionmgr101&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZSZzY29wZT1zaXRl#db=aph&AN=119196569)

This article focused on nine research articles on Bipolar Disorder and used a narrative style to convey the synthesis of research. It includes many tables and statistics. It shows that there is a clear negative impact of Bipolar Disorder on pregnancy outcomes, including increased risk of medical interventions during labor and increased rate of caesarean section. Due to the fact that only nine studies were deemed inclusion-worthy, there is a lack of research on the control group of women with Bipolar Disorder that are not on mood stabilizers. Another article out of Sweden, I found the material to be a little overwhelming but ultimately helpful.

I appreciated the systematic approach to the overload of information there is out there on Bipolar Disorder. Their initial searches yielded over 2,000 articles, narrowed down to nine. I found the authors’ methods to be engaging, as they used narration to convey information. This is a scholarly article, and although no study was conducted by the primary researchers, I found them to be credible. This article was published in 2016 by the BMC Pregnancy & Childbirth journal.

Scholarship Application

 

 

This morning I filled out a generic scholarship application so I could hopefully qualify for some general scholarships that are offered at Palomar. There were two short essay questions.

The first essay question was to be less than 300 words, and pertained to our choice of major/profession.

Response #1:

English is my passion. I have always been a writer, always wanted to write. When I initially graduated high school in Houston in 1999, I received a scholarship for Creative Writing at the University of Houston off of my college entrance essay. Sometimes it’s almost like the last 20 years never even happened. Writing is the only thing that I have always consistently loved. For a long time, I struggled with the idea of what I would do with an English degree. I don’t particularly want to teach, although I have a passion for knowledge and sharing information.

This love of information brought me to Library Science. Ultimately, what I would like to do is transfer to Cal State San Marcos and finish my undergraduate education in English. Once I have that, I would like to attend the San Jose State University online master’s program and receive a Master’s of Information and Library Science. I would love to become a librarian and work with the public.

I am impressed with Palomar’s Library Tech Program. Although I am focusing on the transfer credits I need for my English degree, I have concurrently been taking classes in Library Science to feel out the field and perhaps finish the certificate program in addition to my English degree. What I really lack so far is actual library experience, as I work and raise my daughter as well. To that end, I am seeking volunteer opportunities within local libraries and perhaps a part-time job at a bookstore, as entry-level library jobs are hard to come by. I do have hope!

My ideal life would be filled with books, paper, laptops, and words. I want to create worlds for people to read, comment on society, and ultimately serve society by becoming a librarian.

The second essay question involved outlining any struggles we face in our academic journey, 300-500 words.

Response #2:

In late 2013, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder Type 1. It is an illness that I have apparently struggled with my entire life. It was a very hard year for me. I lost my apartment when I could no longer afford the rent and had to move back in with my estranged husband. I had a nervous breakdown and lost my job and disappeared, fled town, for over a week. I was eventually found in San Francisco, and was arrested due to my conduct during my breakdown. It turns out the breakdown was a dysphoric mania episode with psychosis. I was hearing voices, terribly paranoid, I kept throwing away my cell phone and purchasing new burner phones, but I had nobody’s phone numbers, nobody to help me. My family had no choice but to leave me in jail for two weeks until I was sane enough to figure out how to bail myself out. They could not find a psych bed for me.

All’s well that ends well, but it took many psychiatric appointments and medication changes to find stability. I was on probation for two years, which I completed successfully. I returned to my career as a massage therapist and have been working steadily ever since.

In addition to my struggles with my mental health, which is thankfully well-managed these days, I also have a beautiful, perfect daughter named Molly. She is 7 years old now and in the second grade. Her father and I divorced after my breakdown, and while we have joint custody, she is primarily with me. I pick her up from school every day and we have grand adventures.

I figure if I work hard and continue my steady pace and getting good grades at school, I should finish my Master’s degree around the time she finishes high school. There is nothing I would enjoy more than being totally free to pursue a job as my daughter goes off to start her life.

I am poor. I am mentally ill. I am a single mom. I try not to tie my identity to these things, but they are a part of who I am. Being poor is something I can change, and while I know librarians are not rich, the idea of having a career that includes such things as pensions and benefits is amazingly appealing. I will work hard to make that future happen for myself, and for her.

***

It was difficult writing such short and important responses, but I hope I did alright, and maybe this year will be a little easier if I can snag some scholarship money. Wish me luck!

Home Front USA: San Diego, California (World War Z Fan-Fiction)

Carly Janine

Professor Craig Thompson

English 203

12/11/17

Home Front USA – San Diego, California

[Chandra Poole is a white woman in her mid-30s. She is wearing crisp scrubs, and we are sitting on a bench in San Diego, California.]

I had just finished seeing a client, I was a massage therapist back in those days, before the great panic set in. I worked on the coast in Bird Rock, which is part of San Diego between La Jolla and Pacific Beach, on the coast. It’s a sleepy little town, most of the time, although it does get overrun with tourists regularly, hoping to climb down the cliffs to surf, or sipping coffee at the Bird Rock Coffee Roasters. We were just across the street from them, at the Bird Rock Massage Studio. Our place was tiny, just three treatment rooms, and very serene. I was off early in the day, as usual. What was unusual is that it was a Tuesday, and normally there are three of us on, but that day I was the only one that showed up to work.

This had me slightly concerned, but I figured something was going around or it was just the way things had fallen that day, maybe a sick child or bad traffic had gotten to my coworkers. I certainly wasn’t scared. So, I wandered across the street to the La Shore Deli and got my usual Crazy Chicken sandwich. It was always a beautiful sandwich, with avocado and bacon and sliced chicken. My favorite. The things we used to take for granted, right?

[I nod. She continues.]

Now, you’ve got to understand that San Diego was a heavily militarized city. We all felt safe. We had the Marines at Camp Pendleton. We had Miramar, 32nd Street, fucking Navy Seals in Coronado! Who would ever take out San Diego? Nobody. We always figured if we were ever a strategic target, we would be okay. There was heavy surveillance everywhere. There was desalinization, disaster preparedness of the general population was pretty high due to the regular fires and earthquakes. Complacency is what took out San Diego. We were so goddamn smug. There was an answer for everything. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me backtrack.

The funny thing is, the deli was still open that day. As I was saying, we felt safe. San Diego always had some under-the-radar military tests going on. We would hear strange booms in the night, or see lights in the sky. It was so common that people didn’t really question anything anymore. We also had a thriving homeless population, despite the lack of organized services to properly care for, process, rehouse and retrain them. Mental health services were scarce, and that was the year of the Hepatitis A outbreak. They were literally washing shit off the streets in an attempt to clean up America’s Finest City. That was our slogan, what a joke, right?

We had already heard some weird stories coming out of the Naval Hospital, stories of people flatlining then coming back to life, aggressive. Who would believe that crap? Not me, not any of us. It was outlandish and inconceivable. So, we kept going to work. People kept getting massages. Life was still rolling along. But the day I got my last Crazy Chicken sandwich, everything changed. I sat in my car, munching on my sandwich, sipping on an iced white mocha with soy. Another ridiculous luxury that I couldn’t afford even then, but I had them anyway. I turned on the radio, and was surprised that most of the stations I listened to were not playing music. 91x was only static. 94.9 and 105.3 still had people in the booth, and they sounded terrified. “Arm yourselves! Hunker down! You have to destroy the brain!” one was saying. Another was still trying to stay calm, telling people to get inside. I turned to NPR, who was already hosting calls from people encountering strange, undead creatures. What the FUCK?!

Where was your son?

He was with his dad. They were all together, my son, his father, his girlfriend, and her two-year-old daughter. They were in Normal Heights, and I was in La Jolla. All of my stuff was up at my place in Escondido, in a room I rented from a friend of mine. Everything was far. I tried to call, to text, but the cell lines were jammed from everyone simultaneously trying to do the same thing. I couldn’t get ahold of them.

[She looks off into the distance.]

I was really lucky. I had just gotten paid a few days before and had a full tank of gas. The panic was setting in, and the lines at all the gas stations were very long. It wasn’t long before the government took over all the radio stations, except NPR. I decided to try and get to my daughter first, before figuring out where to go. My GPS was still working, and the freeways were a nightmare. San Diego always had bad traffic, and now everyone was confused, and scared. I was trying to get away from the beach, while it seemed like everyone with any viable watercraft was trying to get to the shore. At first it wasn’t so bad, I took a circuitous route through Pacific Beach and although it was crowded, people were still being generally decent. When I got to the 8 outside of Ocean Beach, I decided to risk taking it. I was so close to Normal Heights at that point, just a few short miles East and up the hill out of Mission Valley, and I would be there.

Getting on the freeway was a mistake. Although it was still early in the outbreak, I heard reports of the hospitals being overrun. It was strange, losing the hospitals first. We couldn’t figure it out. It wasn’t until much later, of course, that we learned that people receiving organs from China and Mexico on the black market were becoming infected. Tijuana fell almost immediately into chaos, and our border was soon overrun with the living dead. Normal Heights was less than 20 minutes from the border, and I needed to get to my child and get out of there quickly. But the freeway wasn’t moving. Everyone was scrambling to get gas, to get home, to get supplies. It was a nightmare. I decided to exit and loop up to Presidio Park to see if I could see a clear path to get through. I thought perhaps the mission building would be both a great place to scout from, and easily defensible. Ha! As if I had a weapon. I didn’t even carry a taser or mace for self-defense in my car. It took me about an hour to go the meager distance on the freeway to get to the park. I tried not to look at other people in their cars. Whole families, tents, pets were crying, yelling at each other, driving like assholes. It was lucky that I was going East, because the traffic going West, to the ocean, was intense and snarled. People were getting out of their cars and starting to hike, or just sitting in their boats trying to wait it out. They were sitting ducks. People poured in from Arizona, Nevada, Central California, coming to our famous port to try and get on cruise ships, anything that would float.

Presidio Park sits on 40 acres and is on a high hill. The mission itself was built in 1769 to serve as protection from attacking Indians and was the first permanent European settlement on the Pacific Coast of the USA. It had been restored, and was therefore defensible. I had taken my son there for pictures and picnics when he was smaller, before he started school. It was a good memory, but as I crested the hill and really began to look around, I pushed it from my mind. There were other people in the park, that had had the same idea I did. It wasn’t surprising, given that the mission overlooked the 8 freeway and was very visible to all those below, stuck in traffic. Many had hiked up with their gear, hoping to camp in the park, with the fort as a back-up retreat position. Some of them had ham radios, and I listened in, desperate for any details coming out of San Diego.

From atop the hill, I could see great military ships pulling away. I could see our famous Coronado Bridge off in the distance, and wondered if the “suicide bridge” wasn’t perhaps a better option. I shook the suicidal thoughts and focused on getting to my son. I looked more closely and listened to the panicked voices on the radios. A small aircraft had crashed on the 163, snarling traffic in both directions. Always a pervasive threat, fires had broken out in both North and East County, while the dry Santa Ana winds teased and spread the flames. Fire season was always bad in San Diego, and this couldn’t have happened at a worse time. North of us, towards Del Mar, I saw a whole fleet of hot air balloons. They were flying low, heavy, and I was thankful I couldn’t see too closely the horrors of what was happening in that direction, that people were taking off in hot air balloons to escape.

I had just decided that the best way to get to where I needed to go was on foot, following the trails that the homeless had made up the steep incline of Mission Valley to the South, up into University Heights and from there, to Normal Heights, when I heard the explosions. We all looked, stunned, as a series of detonations blew the supports from beneath the Coronado Bridge. It swayed, cracked, and imploded, dumping hundreds of cars into the water below as it came down. “THEY BLEW THE CORONADO BRIDGE! WHY WOULD THEY DO THAT!” sobbed one hysterical man. “There were still people on it…” gasped another. And then echoing silence, before all the radios started squawking at once. None of us in my immediate area had even seen a zombie, but we had all seen them blow the bridge. Now reports were coming in that the Navy had quarantined Coronado. Did that mean that they were staying there? Were they helping us? What was going on? Nobody seemed to have a real answer. More news came in, and it wasn’t good. The North County fires had spread all the way from Bonsall to Oceanside, and begun to move both North AND South along the coast. The botanical gardens in Encinitas were ablaze, as was Legoland. All hospitals had issued orders to stay away, shuttering themselves with the horrors they had within. But of course, the undead were getting out, and some already WERE out, you know? But now we had fires burning uncontained, while a few brave firefighters stayed to try and stave off the worst of the spread. Inmates fought alongside them, battling both the blazes and the undead that were beginning to pop up.

I realized quickly that despite being in a good position, I had nothing. I had no supplies, no food, no idea what was going on with my son and my ex-husband and his family. People told me not to leave. We will share, they said. But I couldn’t stay, I needed to get out of there, for my own peace of mind.

So, you left? You were in arguably one of the best positions in San Diego at the time.

Yeah, since I was one of the few that managed to get my car to the park itself with a lot of gas in it, I decided to straight up trade it. It was a good trade, for me, I think. I got a backpack with some food, water, sunscreen, a hat, a handheld radio, and most importantly – I finally obtained a weapon of my own. It was one of those old school sturdy wooden shovels with a wicked end, you know, it wasn’t far off from being a rudimentary Lobo like those Marines created. It worked, anyway. I left the park on foot and made my way East and up the little jagged trails. I had to double back a lot since some of them ended in little encampments and the like. It was in one of these that I encountered my first zombie. It was getting close to dark, and although I was following the instructions others had given me (take a few steps, stop, listen, look, continue) I was still surprised. I stumbled into a little clearing and it lunged for me before I could even bring my shovel up. I had been using it as a walking stick. The zombie had obviously been one of our many homeless, wearing tattered clothing and it reeked of alcohol and piss more than decay. He had a long beard and was generally unkempt, and I could see the wound on his wrist – hell, his whole hand was hanging by a few ligaments and waggled at me as he lunged forward. He was bigger than me, and my stumble was lucky because I was off-balance, and I fell to the side. If I hadn’t stumbled, I’m sure he would’ve gotten me. While he was turning around, I brought the shovel up and jabbed it forward with everything I had towards his occiput, sending his head flying down the hill as his body crumpled next to me. I was panting, out of shape, scared, but victorious. That’s the closest a zombie’s ever come to taking me out.

I finally crested the hill into Old Trolley Barn Park in University Heights in full darkness. Many homeless lived in the canyons, but I had encountered few living things in the early evening. I took out two more zombies with my shovel as I entered the park, as quietly and quickly as possible. Everyone was saying it was safer to traverse the streets, especially if you were alone, despite the Armageddon that was unfolding all around me. I decided to avoid Adams Avenue, and took the alleys and side streets East until I reached Normal Heights. I could hear regular gunfire, and smell smoke. The radio told me that the trainers at Sea World had released all the creatures back into the wild, as had Scripps’ Birch Aquarium. I wondered what it was like to be in one of our sprawling amusement parks, or the mall, and shuddered. Balboa Park was a death zone, with the infected trapping people inside museums and the zoo, and I could hear their desperate pleas as I switched between different frequencies on the radio.

I could see our old apartment building up ahead, with its locked gate, and I thought of our tweaker neighbor with all of his weapons, and hoped. I had so much hope. It was stupid. They were dead, they had to be, but tears started streaming down my face and I ran the last few blocks, recklessly, loudly, with no thought to what I was doing. I had a train of zombies behind me when I finally stopped short outside the apartment. The windows on the ground floor were broken and had been boarded up, and there was a deep quiet coming from inside. I stopped and turned and started fighting them off. Ten, a dozen, I lost track. I recognized some of the zombies from runs to the corner store and Mariposa Ice Cream. I whirled and sliced, and felt nimble as they were so slow and clumsy. But hungry. Being overconfident was dangerous. I couldn’t make this kind of rookie mistake again. It was finally clear, and I used my key to get into the courtyard. All the apartments on the ground floor, including my exhusband’s, were abandoned. It was dark, and quiet, although in the distance I could hear screams. More gunfire.

The tweaker neighbor, Dennis, suddenly poked his head out of a window from one of the upstairs units. “Chandra, get up here!” he hissed. I bolted up the stairs and there were my old neighbors, huddled in a circle with a pile of weapons and some candles burning. They were mostly elderly and disabled. “Where are they?” I asked. “They waited for you, Chandra, as long as they could, but we heard the military is evacuating people out of Qualcomm Stadium. I haven’t heard anything official, but they waited for hours then hoped you would get the word, so they left. They took your son, all of them together in the Camry. They’re gone.”

Despair washed over me like a wave, threatening to tow me under, to take me back to the suicidal place. I sank to my knees and started sobbing. Why had I left the mission? This was a hopeless scenario, and now these people had nobody to protect them. Where was my son?

Did you ever see them? Did you find your family?

[Chandra ignores the question and continues.]

I felt so defeated right then. I had come all this way only to be denied my son, and now resented these people that suddenly needed protecting. What had they ever done for me? But that, too, was useless thinking. I was exhausted, and I slept then. I slept with my hands gripped around the handle of that shovel, and I let Dennis watch over the others for four hours. I woke up feeling much better, though somewhat unrested. Dennis filled me in on what I missed during my nap, which was the fall of Balboa Park and downtown. Everyone that had evacuated to Petco Park was gone, fallen to the homeless and hoard of zombies pressing northward and westward from Mexico and Arizona. Everyone was to stay clear of downtown, the freeways were now certain death, and the coast was choked with people trying to evacuate via boat. I briefly considered traveling back to Presidio Park, but just as quickly rejected that idea as going backwards. I don’t go backwards, I go forwards, always. I decided to press on to Qualcomm Stadium. I figured since the trolleys were no longer running, I could cut down Texas Street BACK into Mission Valley, and grab the trolley tracks near the Rio Vista station and walk along them to get to the stadium. Rumors were flying on the radio that they had everything there that we could need, food, supplies, helicopters and other people-moving aircraft sent down from Miramar. I would get to my son, or I would die trying. My neighbors begged me to stay, and I thought of how we could all go together, but I knew they would slow me down. I promised to return for them, and left Dennis in charge. We waited through most of the day without much incident, though we saw occasional packs of undead shamble through the streets. I failed at sleeping some more, and as the sun set, I left. I never saw them again.

What happened to them, did you ever find out?

No. All of North Park and Normal Heights was suffering. It looked like a war had already occurred. I got out of there. It took me a full night to reach the Rio Vista station, and when I got there, a trolley was sitting at the station, on fire, and full of zombies. They groaned and shuffled and stank as they burned. None of them pushed the buttons to open the doors, thankfully. I set out and walked through the dawn towards the stadium, on the tracks. Have I mentioned that I’m scared of heights? Do you know how high the tracks run to drop you off at the stadium? Well, it’s fucking high. It was hot, windy, and I was terrified. I was more scared of walking that distance on the tracks up above the city than I was of the zombies, at least in that moment I was. But arrive I did, and Qualcomm was a mess. I saw no helicopters. No people-movers. Only chaos. There were thousands of people there, and some infected, but there were a lot of guns. They kept going off, and bullets would rip through the soft flesh of the infected and tear through other people. There were doctors, nurses, medics from the military. One whole section was devoted to caring for those who had bullet wounds and other injuries from the quick downfall of society. I looked everywhere for my son, for his father. I checked the field, the bathrooms, walked every surface. When I didn’t find them I broke down, sobbing. People were arguing all around me some hopeful of imminent rescue while others sought to fortify, or venture out. It was overwhelming, and loud, and smelly. I hated it there.

Eventually, I pulled myself together and went over to the medical area to offer my services as a massage therapist. With my knowledge of anatomy, I was quickly assigned the task of helping to bandage the wounded, doing everything the stressed-out nurses and doctors could instruct me to do, often with their hands deep inside someone else, looking back over their shoulders with approval or corrections as I fumbled with the unfamiliar tasks. I was so slow, and so clumsy, but it was good to have something constructive to do and keep me occupied. Days passed in this manner, with us taking turns minding the wounded, taking out the occasional flatliner that turned, and sleeping in shifts. The rest of the stadium melted away for me, the rest of the world. I was completely absorbed in my tasks.

Is this how you became a doctor?

Yes, in a way that was the start of my apprenticeship. When we lost most of the doctors in the initial outbreaks within the hospitals, people were desperate. Even before they started the retraining and resettlement programs, there were these unofficial apprenticeships taking place. People banded together, became close, and naturally started sharing information. I basically started my medical training on day three of the great panic in San Diego. Things went to hell so quickly. The military was called off mostly to other locations, and those that refused to leave, those that didn’t defect for home, or Canada, stayed to help and protect us. There were bunkers, and the often-rumored FEMA camps, not to mention border patrol detention facilities and jails and prisons. But it seemed anywhere people were gathered together, someone would either smuggle in the infected, or a few people would get bit and start turning. These cases were easy enough to take out, at first, but later on, when we had writhing masses of zombies pouring in like ravenous snakes, it was not.

That was after we had established fire-watchers on Mt. Laguna and Palomar Mountain. It was dangerous up in the hills, but with the fires racing back and forth at the mercy of the wind, the best we could do was keep track of where they were and try to warn people. So many died in the fires, with the freeways blocked and the coast a mass of zombies and those fleeing them, or fighting, or the quislings that we didn’t have a name for at first, you know, the people that imitated zombies? They seemed to be a global phenomenon. We would see zombies suddenly set upon one of their own, then hear screams. It was terrible.

How long were you at Qualcomm Stadium?

A few weeks. Can you believe we managed to hold the stadium? Some evacuees and East County-born militia men with their seemingly endless supply of ammo. I mentioned though, that guns were not my favorite weapon due to the number of regular humans that were shot. I still use my shovel. It saved my life many times.

[It lay next to her, a gardening implement with a sharpened shovel-end, smooth of splinters and cracks, decorated with random bits of paint and marker.]

But what about your son?

I never found out what happened to them after they left in the Camry. I looked forever. I will never stop looking for my son. Some nights I lay awake and try to picture him out there. Has he become a feral child? Are the four of them still alive, hunkered down, waiting out the inevitable? Or did they die. I hope they died. I hope it was quick and painless and free from fear. I hope we can continue, all of us, but I don’t see it. Even now, with the farming and resettlement in progress in the western states, it feels hopeless. Everything does.

[Chandra grasps her shovel and stands up. The interview is over.]

The Two Mickey Wolfmanns

Carly Janine Gutierrez

Professor Craig Thompson

English 203

11/28/17

 

The Two Mickey Wolfmanns

In Inherent Vice, Thomas Pynchon follows the adventures of Doc as he tries to track down the elusive and mercurial Mickey Wolfmann, among other cases. A central figure, Mickey Wolfmann is a real estate developer who has a change of heart, or rather mind. He creates the Channel View Estates while at the top of his game, conning residents into moving into this atrocity that overlooks an ugly waterflow channel, and displacing the previous tenants of the neighborhood. Much like the mystical island of Lemuria, emerging from the sea, Mickey’s conscience breaks through and he has a change of heart. Mickey realizes that charging people for somewhere to live is wrong, and as a rebuttal he creates a newer, more beautiful property in the desert known as Arrepentimiento, which is Spanish for repentance. Mickey Wolfmann wants to atone for the pain he has caused by creating a sanctuary and charging no rent, and it is beautiful. Where Channel View Estates stands for capitalism, greed, and disconnection from the world around it, Arrepentimiento is the opposite. Representing free society, humanity, and connection, Arrepentimiento is a utopian dream. Not merely a housing development, it was to be its own entity, a city rising up naturally from the desert, supporting all those who would call it home. But Arrepentimiento was doomed, as was Mickey’s change of heart.

Wolfmann’s Channel View Estates is all about money. It does not blend into the environment, and has been called an eyesore and worse. When Doc inquires about Mickey Wolfmann’s whereabouts to his Aunt Reet, she responds, “…I’m told Mickey’s been spending time out at his latest assault on the environment – some chipboard horror known as Channel View Estates” (Pynchon, 8). The units in Channel View are definite, everything is laid out and completed, and rent is very expensive. This construction priced out the previous inhabitants of the neighborhood. Everything about the Channel View Estates reeks of capitalism and the void, a devotion to the mighty dollar and the physical items it can buy. The view isn’t even pretty. During a conversation with Crocker Fenway, Doc is told, “Sounds like you’ve been talking to His Holiness Mickey Wolfmann. You’ve been out to have a look at Channel View Estates? Some of us have moved heaven and earth, mostly earth, to keep that promise of urban blight from happening” (Pynchon, 347). Doc and Crocker Fenway both dislike the Channel View Estates, but for different reasons. Either way, it is a dark smear upon the neighborhood, garish, and without conscience.

Unlike the Channel View Estates, Arrepentimiento is built to be a free utopia. It blends into the landscape, a maze of “zomes” and rock. It is difficult to make out the individual units, and all the details surrounding the actual floorplans are hazy, fog-like, and obstructed. It isn’t a definite anything, more of a sprawling idea. As Doc and Tito arrive, “They came over a ridge, and there, down a long slope into a valley whose river might’ve vanished centuries ago, was Mickey Wolfmann’s dream, his penance for having once charged money for human shelter – Arrepentimiento” (Pynchon, 249). This dream of Wolfmann’s had some roots. At the Kismet, Fabian told Doc, “Mickey dated a lot of showgirls back in his day, loved the town, old Vegas dog from way back, built a house out by Red Rock. Also had this dream about putting up a whole city from scratch someday, out in the desert” (Pynchon, 240). Arrepentimiento was a genuine passion of Mickey Wolfmann’s, and the fact that it is now abandoned, incomplete, is sad. This awakening of Mickey Wolfmann’s was very important, a moment of clarity, a tremendous shift. Unfortunately, it was not to last. Much like Lemuria, Arrepentimiento is a utopia lost to the people.

Arrepentimiento and Lemuria are similar. Both represent an idea of utopia, equality, and commitment to humanity. Construction has ceased on Arrepentimiento, and Lemuria has been lost to the Pacific Ocean, perhaps forever. This shift shows an overall shift in the mindset of the citizens of the United States, and Southern California in particular. Even Doc is starting to change, realizing the amount of danger he is in. “Doc brought Denis along for, well maybe not muscle, but something like that, some kind of protection he hadn’t realized till lately he needed, a boost for his immunity against the shopping plazas of Southern California, for a desire not to desire, at least not what you found in the shopping malls” (Pynchon, 348). Not merely a bodyguard, Denis was a reminder to Doc to keep his perspective, to not fall prey to the desire to consume. Capitalism was beginning to crowd out the free-loving hippie lifestyle. No longer connecting, people were fragmenting, becoming sucked into their own worlds while believing they were staying informed. “He thought about Sortilege’s sunken continent, returning, surfacing this way in the lost heart of L.A., and wondered who’d notice it if it did. People in this town saw only what they’d all agreed to see, they believed what was on the tube or in the morning papers half of them read while they were driving to work on the freeway, and it was all their dream about being wised up, about the truth setting them free” (Pynchon, 315). A desire exists not to face reality, to disappear within their lives and agreed-upon perspectives, and to ignore the disappearance of such beautiful things as mythical utopias and hippie mindsets.

This tumultuous shift shows up in other places in the book. Doc and Bigfoot have an interesting dynamic, always influencing each other in strange ways and crossing paths, with Doc representing the hippies and Bigfoot the straights. Doc and Shasta have an undefined relationship that ties into the idea of return, and coming home. The Golden Fang itself is so many things that it cannot be defined in any quantifiable way. Through it all, there is Mickey Wolfmann, used to leading and winning, becoming a pawn in the hands of the FBI and the Golden Fang and the mob, allowing himself to become murky and undefined, if only for a little while. He is even described in such a way, when Doc spies Wolfmann at the Kismet, “The blurred glimpse Doc got was of Mickey in a white suit, wearing much the same look he had in his portrait back at his house in the L.A. hills – that game try at appearing visionary – passing right to left, borne onward, stately, tranquilized, as if being ferried between worlds, or at least bound for a bulletproof car you’d never get to see in through the windows of.” (Pynchon, 243). He is “blurred” and it is a “glimpse” and he appears “tranquilized” so for all we know, this is barely Mickey Wolfmann as he is in reality, at all.

We first hear of Mickey Wolfmann at the beginning of the novel from Shasta, and then Doc calls his Aunt Reet for some background information. She spouts off, “Westside Hochdeutsch mafia, biggest of the big, construction, savings and loans, untaxed billions stashed under an Alp someplace, technically Jewish but wants to be a Nazi, becomes exercised often to the point of violence at those who forget to spell his name with two n’s. What’s he to you?” (Pynchon, 7). He sounds like a violent and unpredictable but powerful man. Surrounding himself with the Aryan Brotherhood and arms, he is protected like a king piece in chess. Mickey Wolfmann is at war with himself, locked in an inner battle between the hippies and the straights. While Wolfmann is back to his old self at the end of the novel, it’s possible that in the future there could be more growth from him. After his experiences at Chryskylodon and out in the desert, time with Shasta, time with the Golden Fang, seeds have been planted for Mickey Wolfmann to become a better man and use his money for good. As Boris relayed, “What Mickey said was, ‘I wish I could undo what I did, I know I can’t, but I bet I can make the money start to flow a different direction’” (Pynchon, 150). The idea has been planted that he is in control of the flow of money, and it can be used as he sees fit to influence the world in good ways. Perhaps a more responsible Mickey Wolfmann lies ahead. Doc and Bigfoot are discussing Mickey and his change of heart, and Doc is bemoaning the fact that he is back to his old self again. Bigfoot responds, “Well, maybe not, Sportello. What goes around may come around, but it never ends up exactly the same place, you ever notice? Like a record on a turntable, all it takes is one groove’s difference and the universe can be on into a whole ‘nother song” (Pynchon, 334). Mickey Wolfmann is a complicated man, fighting against who he is inside, and his creations reflect his inner turmoil.