Thursday, December 30, 2010

Verbally Constipated

I loved the book Catch-22 for the way it spins out the ridiculous contradictions of war.  People today say the phrase 'Catch-22' in reference to a no-win situation, but this use leaves out its absurd dimension.

I feel like shit.  Again.  Stuck in the hole where my life has no meaning because I can't work, because the only thing I seem to be able to do, art, is incredibly competitive and involves regularly putting my Self up for review and often rejection.

Sometimes I can write, sometimes I can't.  Right now I feel verbally constipated.  Stuck inside myself.  Too many feelings, thoughts, fears, frustrations, overfilling the balloon that is my head, and I can't find a channel OUT.
 Not being able to express myself at all well traps me in solitary confinement.

That other post I just made?  I wrote it weeks ago.

I have been having a really hard time lately with my father.  Again.  Been having a hard time again.
We go around these circles, sometimes coasting but more often scraping against one another like pieces of dull metal that don't fit together, shrieking, grinding, wearing one another down.  Some people say we clash because we're so much alike.  I don't know, I just know it's painful.
  I hope someday to be able to write about our relationship and see some humorous absurdity in it.  Maybe like a Catch-22.  Someday.

Compulsive Vehicular Slumber

the car/train/bus starts moving
it finds its rhythm and velocity
my head loses its own
some neuro-psycho-bio trigger connection
motor movement = danger
danger I can't control
tragedy I can't stop
so I
is this my reptile brain reaction?
can't control it, can't stop it, so play
in this dimension I fall asleep
I fall
photo by Manuela Bernasconi

each time I jerk awake it's a
new accident
new impact
new lost
new trauma

photo by Manuela Bernasconi

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I am not my friend Christiana Figueres

I met Christiana Figueres when I was about 22 years old.  She was just starting to work on climate change, as was I.  She was struggling to found a non-profit, the Center for Sustainable Development in the Americas, and I was working on the US pilot program for carbon offsets at the US Department of Energy.  I remember she and her partner in the venture were maxing out their credit cards to cover costs.

Her brother, Jose Maria Figueres, was then the President of Costa Rica, and he announced wanted to start a constructive collaboration with the US government on climate change.  My friend Aimee Christensen and I, both young and wonderfully naive, sat down and decided to write a bilateral agreement.  Since we weren't lawyers and had never written an agreement before, we looked at previous agreements for language hints.
"Look, each paragraph starts with whereas.  Let's start each paragraph with whereas."
From this inauspicious beginning we drafted a statement of intent that was eventually signed by President Figueres and then-Vice President Al Gore, at the White House.

A couple of years later Christiana and I were both in Chile for a conference we had organized for the pilot carbon offsets program.
It was also my birthday, and Christiana took me to her favorite Chilean fortune-teller.  My Spanish still wasn't good enough for me to really understand her, but I SO appreciated Christiana's intention to share something special with me.  She also gave me a small stone box with a dove carved on the front that I still use to hold earrings.

I liked Christiana because she was real.  You could feel that she was real.  She had passion and also compassion.

I thought we would be working together, one way or another, for years.   I thought we would both do Big Things.

If you've read any of this blog, you know this was not to be.

Christiana is now the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which means she is in charge of the ENTIRE international negotiations process.  WOW.

I have been working to accept that I am not like Christiana, that I am not doing, nor will I be doing, Big Things on the same scale.  Or in the same way.  I cry sometimes, I want so badly to still be part of that world.  I wish we were colleagues still.  I miss it.

Today I cried because SHE cried, while talking to a group of young women activists at the negotiations in Cancun.  I can't believe what a hard job she has, and I'm so thankful she is doing it.  Regardless of the outcome, over which she has little control, I am thankful she is there.  Someone who can still cry for what our leaders are unwilling to do.

The blog wonkroom reported on the meeting.  Here is what Christiana said:

"It’s you. It’s the next generation. Look: We’re doing this but this has nothing to do with us. It’s all about you. It’s all about you. We’re the ones that have caused the problem but you’re the ones that are going to have to pay for it, right? The fact is, I’m the mother of two women about your age, and I realized many years ago that I had inherited a planet that was a diminished planet. And that if I didn’t do something about it, my daughters would grow up in a planet that had been severely diminished by what we’re doing. And I just can’t look at my daughters in the eyes and not do whatever I can.
So, it’s you. It’s about the kind of planet that you’re going to have. It’s honestly not my planet. It’s yours, okay? We borrowed it from you for a few minutes. But you will take it over very soon, because it’s yours. And you’re going to have to give it over to your children.
Honestly, there’s no perfect job here, okay? Nothing that we are going to do in Cancun is going to be perfect. Don’t expect perfection. Nothing is going to be highly ambitious. Nothing. Everything here is going to be one step, and everything is going to be insufficient. But it is the best that this group of people in these circumstances, with these political constraints, in this economic environment, can do for the time being. And as soon as this finishes we have to start pushing for the next step. And so it goes. But each one of us that is here has the moral responsibility to do the absolute best that we can at that moment under those circumstances. So what inspires me? It’s you."

Gratitude is healthy

One of my best friends, Yael Flusberg, recently posted some potent wisdom about gratitude on her blog.  She writes about her daily practice of making a list of things for which she is grateful.  And, as she notes, not in a cheesy way.  Even the messy stuff:

“I did not curse out so-and-so when she suggested I do XYZ, although internally I wanted to go ballistic on her.”

Yael is also an amazing poet, as you will discover when you read her post.

She inspired me to make my own list this morning:

12/7/10 9:29 AM

·      I am grateful for:

  • ·      Coffee, even when it’s not the best coffee
  • ·      A warm butane heater on a cold Barcelona morning
  • ·      Desiree and Axel, who have become my friends during the two weeks they’ve opened their home to us.  For the funny videos we've made, and all the laughter we've shared.
  • ·      Having sufficient traction and stability to totter and then right myself when stressful situations arise.  As opposed to falling over and getting sucked under for days.
  • ·      Finding a studio to rent yesterday.  It has a big window, a wood floor, and open space with lots of other artists in the building, but not on top of me.  It’s in a fun neighborhood, not too hard to get to from our (hopefully) new house. And it’s cheap, by Barcelona standards.  I have a place to work!!!
  • ·      Yael, who makes a daily gratitude list and who intervened helpfully in a stupid, repetitive Hirst family pattern (in which I am also a guilty party)
  •    And if I'm going to be honest, I'm also grateful that, with the ongoing email help of my psychiatrist, I've been able to achieve a modicum of psycho-chemical balance in my brain.  I know all the subtle and dramatic signs that I'm doing better - 
    •    that I am even capable of being somewhat social, 
    •    that I'm sufficiently relaxed to let the lighter parts of me show. 
    •      That I am sleeping OK most of the time.  
    •    That I'm thinking about living, not dying.  
    •    That I feel confident enough to start making plans, and 
    •        that I'm stable enough to follow through on most of them.  
    •     That I can be more gentle with myself when I still can't        do or be everything I wish for. 
    •        I don't give all the credit to the pills, but without them I lack the traction to do the work.  I may hate this fact, pero es lo que hay - that's how it is.

   Thank you Yael, for this exercise.  It sounds so obvious, but it made me realize how much time I spend focussing on the negative.  And how much energy I get from at least acknowledging the positive.
what my dog Benedicto is grateful for... illustration by Raquel

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Te Gusta o No Te Gusta / Take It or Leave It (like it or not) Y/AND Es Lo Que Hay / That's All There Is To It

Time for some bastard linguistic anthropology with Palmer Fishman.

It all started when I wanted to be sure the plug-in heaters were sufficient to warm a potential apartment.
    the agent said, 
       "I can go turn them on first thing in the morning, then you come by before my lunch
          (which lasts a standard 3 hours by the way) 
and take a feel."

The next morning was sunny and unseasonably warm, so we had no idea of the heaters' effectiveness.  When I mentioned this to our agent, she, sensing where I was going with this, cut me off.

"Te gusta, o no te gusta el piso?"
Literally this translates to
    "The apartment - do you like it, or do you not like it?"

What she means to say is something akin to our expression,
      take it or leave it.
As in,
 if you like the apartment, 
    rent it, and if not
         don't, but do 
              not bother me with all your complications regarding heat or light or whether the fridge smells bad or what time of day the sun comes in.

Otto and I realized we now had the key to understanding so much of Spanish (or at least Catalan) culture that had so far confused us.  I should emphasize that this is not a question of language per se, but of different uses of the same Spanish language in different cultures.  These expressions don't exist in Central America, at least not in the same form.

When a restaurant manager seemed very put out that I asked him to stop drilling holes next to our table until we were done eating, his expression said
te gusta, o no te gusta, i.e.
if you don't like it, get out of my restaurant.

When the people who sold me a faulty cell phone the day prior don't understand why I'm upset that they won't exchange it?
Te gusta, o no te gusta.
You don't like your phone?  Buy a new one.  (they really said this to me)

When the organizers of a performance festival did 
while an artist with a lit cigarette deliberately 
blew smoke as he chased my friend with respiratory problems around an enclosed space, and I complained, what was their response?
Te gusta, o no te gusta. 
The name of his piece was Toxico, what else do you expect?  It's part of his concept to harass and provoke his audience, in some cases to the point of vomiting.

Understanding te gusta o no te gusta also helps explain why Spanish housing prices cannot be explained by classic 'Western' economics.  It also helps explain why classic Western economics doesn't really work, period.

from the Wall Street Journal, November 26, a comment on the article "A Home Price Puzzle in Spain":

"You have to understand Spanish thinking and logic. 
My house is worth 500,000 euros and it matters 
not that the identical house next door just sold for 
      350,000 euros.
 If anyone wants to buy my house they pay 
      500,000 euros and 
that is the price and 
therefore the valuation. "

Te guste o no te guste.

the commenter adds:
"My bar is doing no business so I put up the price of beer. I kid you not."

Today we discovered a corollary, or perhaps an underlying axiom would be more accurate:

Es lo que hay.

It's what there is. 

 That's all there is to it. (translation according to Yahoo! Answers)

This expression is generally uttered at the end of a lengthy complaint about one's job, spouse, car, house, phone service, dinner, or sex life.
It means, things really suck, but
     what can you do?  
      That's what there is.  
              There is nothing else.  
                    Nothing better.  

Es lo que hay.  So we deal with it.

Otto commented that this is a fatalistic perspective in which the person does not have agency to change the situation.  He further noted that it is a secular version of Latin America's lo que Dios quiere, it's what God wants.

So, to conclude, if

Es lo que hay / this is what there is

then your options are

te gusta o  / you like it or
no te gusta  / you don't like it

but either way, don't complain to me.

Friday, November 26, 2010


I haven't written because we've been house-less.  Not homeless, to be sure, but still uncomfortable.  We're staying with some dear friends and enjoying one another's company, but we feel very unsettled.  Unsettled mentally and physically.  
Otto and I have been fighting more because we're stressed.  We almost broke up over something I can't recall right now.  Neither of us has space to work, and as if in cahoots with the demons my computer is also breaking down.

House hunting in Catalunya continues to be an adventure.  People are very bathroom-centric compared to the Americas, always wanting to show off their bidets or fancy sinks.
As I noted in my piece Toilets of Catalunya, online real estate listings always feature the bathroom prominently, often to the exclusion of any other room of the house.

In the US we generally think of Spain as at an equivalent level of 'development' in terms of everyday lifestyle.  Equivalent leaves a lot of room for variation.  Many many houses and apartments here lack central heating, and despite what you may have heard about the Mediterranean climate, it is in the 40s. 
Heater with butane tank

 It is COLD.  So you have to check and double-check that a house has heat.  I think Franco liked it cold.

Interior Bedroom
Interior Rooms 
 I'm not sure if US building codes require all inhabited rooms to have windows.  But in Spain, they don't.  So a 3-bedroom apartment may have 2 bedrooms with no windows whatsoever, and the third with a small window to an interior air-shaft.  We stayed one night in an interior bedroom in a hostel and I felt like I was going to suffocate.

Beautiful view of mountain with freeway in foreground
Message?  Nothing's perfect, we are used to being extremely comfortable in the US, and not having a stable home can ruin a relationship fast.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

dance fever

I used to dance a lot.  I used to teach b-girl basics.  I lost interest in pretty dance and became intrigued with uncomfortable movements.  I moved to Nicaragua.  Now I'm in Spain, where I've been watching amazing videos by yak films and their Oakland-based dance form, Turfin.  The dance is beautiful, strong and graceful, and the film-making is refreshingly artistic and non-commercial.

 They made me want to dance again.

I wanted to show the funny conglomeration of the different movement languages that combine in my moving body:  b-girl, hip hop, modern, and my own special brand of deliberate awkwardness.  Having technical problems related to the music I laid over the movement, so here's a low-fi version just to give you a giggle:

Outside the US you can still see a better-quality version from YouTube (I hope):

Reflections on a Sacred Killing / Eid al Adha

An introduction 
Eid – celebration, or festival (in Arabic)
Eid al-Adha / Solemn fesitval of Abraham/Ibrahim
In this case, the celebration of God allowing Abraham to keep his son for another day.

I remember this story from Hebrew Sunday School and
in my childish way
the Sunday School version made me angry

“ya know what?  You seem to like your son a fair bit.
I don’t really need him.  I just wanted to
Test your faith, see how
Far you would go for me.

Kinda like gang initiation rituals, except I’m
God so
It’s kosher.
To prove I’m not such a bad guy to follow for all eternity,  I’ll
Let you keep Isaac (Ismael) around
And to show your devotion,
Give me a sheep
I’m hungry.

for the first time I am posting words and images from the same event.  I took a lot of photos of the entire process, including the severed heads and the butchering process.  It's real life, a lot more real than buying meat in the supermarket.  It was done respectfully in this case.  I left the graphic images out of the blog in deference to those who may squirm, but I myself have spend a lot of time with them.  

The main part
This sheep is lying here in the grass,
in the sunshine 
at the foot of the mountain
I can see his sides rise and fall
He seems calm
With three of his legs tied together so he
Can’t run away
Resigned, I can still see his
Nostrils flare

since the accident I have been
with the quickness of death, the
fineness of the line between
waiting at the bus stop to go to work and being

here today I am given the opportunity to be
with death
in the moment it happens, but this time as
an observer
but this time
a planned death, a sacred death, a ritual killing
some of the others are unnerved, uncomfortable and
can't watch

I think of the Thich Nhat Hanh meditation on one's own death and I 
with the sheep

I can feel how different this is
the men are saying prayers
the slaughter is quick and humane
the animal is calm, there is no panic, no struggle

I am calm with the animal

Although he was immediately unconscious
when they slit his throat
the breath is still leaving the body
the blood is draining out, creating
steam and then the muscles
contract and the
now untied legs
move as though still alive
when they remove the intestines I can see they are also
still contracting
it takes 24 hours for life to leave the meat,
the men say.

this is not television, where I've seen countless
human animals 'killed'
this is how death happens in real life, after a
sacred slaughter

this is not my car accident
this was planned, this has been repeated for
thousands of years, since
this is a celebration, not a tragedy
I can sit with this body and be calm
this is so different

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sleep! Revisited!

Last night I relived the sheer joy of falling into bed,
exhausted, and
falling asleep almost
immediately, with just a few
glorious minutes of nestling into the covers
under my brand-spanking-new handmade
Palmer Fishman bedspread
  (yes, it's WAY COOL and you MUST HAVE ONE of your
      very own)

I slept all night!
Well, no, not really.
But when I woke up at 4:30am my
   legs weren't twitching, which in itself is
The Neurontin (gapapentina in Spain) made me
  run into the wall and
  stagger down the stairs to the bathroom but
   walking like a drunk is an improvement over my
   previous situation

[on a side note, I like the Spanish drug warning labels much better.  There's only
one, and it's a picture of a car with a warning triangle around it.  Gets right to the point]

[This post is in direct response to a concerned reader's comment that my blog is mostly sad and negative. I wanted to make sure I include my triumphs as well, no matter how small]

diplomatic? and other unintended consequences of US foreign policy

Diplomatic - and other consequences of US foreign policy

         You're special,
   the staff at the US Consulate told me 
        Every other American 
        Ever involved in a similar accident or case 
  (ie, that involved someone else dying)
        has been sent to 'preventative prison' until the case is resolved,
   which can take days, weeks or months
        (by preventative they mean preventing you from fleeing Nicaraguan justice)

I was the first (in their experience) to be given 
      unsupervised house arrest after only 
           2 days in the local jail.  
They didn't officially know how it happened, but 
they thought my whole case was 
        marked by the 
        humility and genuine sadness I and my family expressed. 

I laughed.
But surely everyone is humble and sad
  in this situation 
(of having accidentally ended the life of one of the people they 
      supposedly came to serve)?'
 All the expats I know here work in NGOs, aid agencies, or as missionaries

No, actually not.  
Other Americans have been perceived as arrogant and demanding 
of special treatment.  The Nicaraguan police, courts, and 
press don’t like that. 
Right after the accident happened the media assumed 
you would be the same, and there were  media reports of a 
frivolous, reckless gringa who cared nothing for Nicaraguans.   

                                          The reports changed tone after my first day in court, when I was so distraught and horrified that I kept a 
sheet over my head, sobbing and banging my head against the table. 

How else could I feel, trapped in a nightmare-turned-reality in which my car had somehow ended the lives of two women, gruesomely, who were just waiting to catch the bus to work?
 I can’t imagine anyone else feeling any less torn apart.  
                   But apparently such is the reputation and stereotype of Americans here
 that people assumed I was and would be 
unrepentant, uncaring, and refusing to take any responsibility for the situation. 

I wanted to throw up when the Consul General said the Embasssy wanted to learn from my case to help them deal with the next one.  
Next one, he said, 
accepting these accidents as just another
 inconvenience of living in Nicaragua.
speed bumps in Spain

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Weight-Lifting and the Flu - next in a series of Palmer Fishman's Mixed Mental Health Metaphors

Weight-Lifting, Flu and Chemo 
more Mixed Mental Health Metaphors from Palmer Fishman
(now with illustrations!)

You have to try harder
Get out there and do it
Just make yourself get out of bed
Nobody else wants to get up early for work,
        but they do
You're lazy
You're making excuses
You're weak
You think you're special

Even people who love me
people who supposedly understand the nature of major depression
Say these things to me,
sometimes wrapped in prettier packages

This is what I tell them:
Go bench-press 500 pounds.  Now.
Too much?  How about 100?
OK, you could do that on a good day,
after being healthy and in training for awhile
with a spotter?
But this week you have the flu
and the weight falls on your chest.
Nobody blames you or
calls you a weakling
you have a fever and you're vomiting and
can barely walk
It's understandable.

But if I have no desire to be alive
which is a damn sight more serious than a fever and I
can't force myself to get out of bed
even to eat or go to the bathroom
Why do you think I should
be able to bench-press 100 pounds?
Or go to work?
Or make it to a meeting?
Or answer the phone, for that matter?

What if someone you know is fighting cancer
They're in chemo and
can't keep food down and
generally feel miserable and everyone's
worried they might not make it through
You don't call them lazy because they can't
maintain their usual hectic schedule

But say you have major recurrent depression and you're
always worried you won't make it, you're not even sure what 'making it'
means anymore.
You think you might feel better if you don't 'make it'.
You can't enjoy or desire
Even your favorite things.

Yet your coworkers call you a slacker or
your friends give you advice from another world, like
'when I feel a down I go to yoga and it really helps' or
'you just have to chill the fuck out'
Completely missing that this is not just
a little down
This is on the same scale of 'bad' as cancer treatment.

So please don't think I'm lazy
I'm trying as hard as I can
I need the equivalent of chemo, and if
I'm on serious drugs or had ECT, believe me that
the side effects also suck the life-force out of me and I am indeed
fighting for survival
I 'just' can't bench-press anything
today.  or maybe this whole month

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Dread Attack (Dosage)

I had a dread attack yesterday.
 It's different from a panic attack.
With a panic attack you have great uncertainty and great anxiety.  
With dread you have great anxiety because you are certain that things are going to suck.

Thanks to the average half-lives and known times-to-stable-blood-level for Prozac, I can be pretty sure that it will take at least a week from when I change my dose to when the shit hits the fan, for better or for worse.

The last few weeks,
ever since I stopped having visions of offing myself,
I've had mini-explosions going off in my legs whenever I sit still or lie down.
         ( I can't explain why I don't get them when I'm working online...
                             it's very suspicious.)
Having the sensation of bugs running around inside your thighs is
               not fun, whatever Timothy Leary says.

Especially if it means you never get a good night's sleep.
The word of the middle-of-the-night is.... side effects!
So I lowered my Prozac dose, first from
             20mg to 15mg, then down to
             10 a little over a week ago.

Yesterday I got creeping dread, this feeling of hurtling toward another major fucking depression
   (depression being a hole in the ground) and
               not being able to slow

Not yet completely depressed,
                but feeling it coming, and knowing that even if I
                        increase the dose again it won't help for at least
a week.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Trigger (back to trauma)

I have read about soldiers with PTSD being triggered by loud
  noises and sudden
     movements that put them
   in the war zone

My trigger isn't as obviously scary as
   explosions or gunfire

It's the sun
The sun in my eyes
the sun in my eyes while I'm riding in a car or
   worse, driving

The sun was in my eyes that morning,
from around 7:30 to 8am,
coming up the Southern Highway from Managua center

Otto says the sun in one's eyes makes
  sleepy, not just me but since

I can't remember the accident, and I
   remember feeling sleepy with the
 sun in my eyes,
I am terrified that my body somehow
  gave in and
  lost control and
  let the Pathfinder plow into two sisters waiting for the bus
      to go to work

Yesterday we were on a winding road,
  coming back from the monestary at Montserrat,
           (near Barcelona,
   a sacred place and home of the Black Madonna
    but that's another story)

I was in the back seat
There's nothing wrong with falling asleep in the back seat, right?
and yet
   when my lids grew heavy from the
sun in my eyes, it was

That awful half-awake-yet- dreaming-state took over
I fell
   backward off the edge of control
  into my nightmarish imagined trajectory of an accident in which I
somehow, horrifically,

unwillingly relax my body and
get dragged back to wakefulness by
airbags and carnage.
Trauma flashback from an
           unreliable source

I no one knows if this is how the accident
really happened

the police concluded I had "excessive velocity" which
makes sense only if my foot had become lead with sleep
     or by unholy possession
I always drove slowly up that hill
I was the one who still slowed down even after the
     government removed the
         life-saving speed bumps in the name of
               improving fuel economy

I had been the one writing letters to the police about
    basic traffic safety issues
and Nissan had issued a warning to mechanics
      that the airbags were detonating spontaneously
        a warning that apparently did not reach Nicaragua, or went
              unheeded in a country where airbags are the exception
   not the norm

Given all the above, nevertheless,
Because the last thing I remember was feeling sleepy and the
first thing I remember is being
by the airbags,
feeling sleepy
    in a moving vehicle
         facing the sun is my

Friday, November 5, 2010

Andrew Solomon's Comment on Impact

Once again it is before 5AM and I'm unwillingly awake, lids heavy but legs and hands fluttering madly.

As I was unable to change the settings so that Andrew Solomon's comment on my post about him ("Productive Lives? Awards!) appears unfolded automatically, I am re-posting it on its own, with my response below.

Andrew Solomon is an award-winning journalist, novelist, and sufferer of depression, author of The Noonday Demon, An Atlas of Depression, which I remember reading over several days when I could not force myself to leave my bedroom.

Andrew Solomon said...
I am the winner of that award, so I just thought I'd reach out to you and say that I'm sorry if it's made you angry for us to receive these kudos.
 I agree with much of what you say--that most people with mental illnesses can't have productive lives, and that it's dangerous to suggest that everyone can.
 But I also know that I couldn't have had one if I'd lived 30 years ago, and that I couldn't have one now without the work of those NARSAD scientists, and I saw this as an opportunity to say to a roomful of scientists that their research is making a huge difference in actual lives, that it's not just some abstract intellectual exercise, and that those of us who have been able to get good lives out of their work are grateful. 
But I did also take it as an occasion to say how much more work is needed, and how relatively few people are helped by medication to a sufficient degree to be really productive.
 I just wanted to tell you that I hear you.
 And also to say that I did have a whole lot of unproductive years before I pulled through, and that when I get sick again, as happens every couple of years, I am right back in that place of darkness and unable to function. 
I hope you'll find some hope, but even if you don't, you're not invisible. 
Best, Andrew
Jessica Hirst / Palmer Fishman said...
Hi Andrew, Wow! What a pleasant surprise to hear from you. 
Truly, both pleasant and a surprise. I appreciate your hearing me and understanding my points. I am not angry for you and the others to receive kudos – it’s fantastic.
 As I mentioned to some of my friends, I think it’s more that I’m envious.
 I thought I was going to have a life of accomplishment, and it hasn’t turned out at all the way I expected during my first 25 years. Like you, I did very well academically, graduating Phi Beta Kappa from Stanford. I had straight A’s all the way from first grade until I started Prozac in my third year of university. 
My first job was in the Clinton White House, where I worked on international climate change policy and drafted a bilateral agreement signed by then-Vice President Al Gore and the President of Costa Rica, Jose Maria Figueres.
 I thought it was only the beginning of a great career. I started medication and therapy at age 15, and I thought it was working. 
Then around age 25 I came unwound in a series of breakdowns, half-recoveries, and new breakdowns. I reinvented myself as a hi- hop dance teacher and choreographer. That worked out for a few years, but my inconsistency and inability to function or even communicate on some mornings eventually terminated my employment. I too am grateful for medication. I am quite sure that without it I would have committed suicide already, and I am glad to be alive, despite how I feel some days. I am extremely grateful for your comments to the NARSAD scientists. 
My current psychiatrist is the best I’ve ever had, and I think so because she 
freely admits the limits of current medical knowledge. 
She acknowledges that we (she, I, and the drug companies) are still experimenting on my brain, and that it’s not easy. I appreciate intensely being heard by you. I enjoyed Noonday Demon, and your amazing ability to express yourself. 
I think society, at least US society, would benefit from understanding that 
even you still have days when you do not function well, and how much the 
world would miss out if you were 
dismissed from consideration 
because of that.
Knowing that I am not employable has been liberating in some ways. 
I have learned that I can only work with people who are willing to negotiate openly my disability, who are willing to make some accommodations in order for our joint venture to be successful. It is not easy, but it is what I have to do.
 I will keep working with what I have: my performance art, my text and images, the family foundation I serve, and my voice. 
I am more hopeful today than yesterday that it will be heard. Thank you, Jessica Hirst