Twelve years and however many months, I sat across from the very together, all business woman shrink, who handed me a ‘life sentence.’ I looked at my mother, and burst into tears. No, no, no please god. I could not believe it, yet I already knew. Hallucinations, ghosts, talking way too fast, dancing in Radio Shack (mortifying), writing furiously on stacks and stacks of paper on a cardboard box. Brain zaps, months with no sleep, sobbing in fetal position, alternating between Nascar velocity and black, nothingness. The me, the traveler, the unafraid mouth, unpredictable was gone. I should have known, seen it coming. My father was lying home, fighting his own battle with the insidious, genetic mad mind disease. His eyes recognized me, his mind did not, stealing the best parts of him. Fast forward today, the present. It takes between one and two hours for me to wake, take the required psych drugs, supplements, to quash the anxiety, numbness, physical pain, tremors, the thousand questions flying through the diseased brain that betrays me. I look to her, my mother for grounding, keeping me here, asking her fifty times over the course of a day, “do you think I’m going to make it. Am I strong enough?” She nods, “of course.” Even her empathy, understanding, patience, waivering. She is tired, it has been a long, thankless journey and I am exhausted. Triggers. There are triggers, so many triggers I cannot rationalize, wish away. There is no control, no choice, there is only fear and the will to fight. I dig deep, some days the Marianna Trenches aren’t deep enough. I can not win. The crickets chirping sound like an air missile strike, I fight because that’s what I’m told to do. Twelve years, ECT, pills that don’t work, the invisible pain only I see. Only I feel, without reasoning, rational answers. Do I think Robin Williams ‘chose,’ to die? No way, I fucking don’t. That’s absurd, his exhausted, beautiful, chaotic brain did. He chose to live a rich, empathic life, sharing his genius with the world, passionate, to keep on loving, giving for as long and well as he could. He chose to ignore the voices, squash them under layer upon layer in his ‘mad’ mind. He didn’t give up, give in to suicide, he didn’t quit. Nor did the rest of the millions afflicted by the brutal, incessant war that is Mental Illness. So, fuck you. Fuck them. Fuck everyone who has voiced their uneducated opinion on the why, how, the particulars, mob mentality spectators. None of us are smarter than the intangible, invisible mystery that is the mind. I keep the one piece of control I have, a mental note zipped in my back pocket with the words, exit strategy. Realistic, I’ve read all the statistics, had my heart shredded watching loved ones lose the battle. I’ve done everything ‘right.’ And still I know, there is the very real possibility, that someday for no apparent reason, I may whip it out. So if you see me and think, she’s doing great. I’m not. No, not really. I’m not at all. Don’t make assumptions, because a person smiles, laughs on the outside. Know that I am working very, very hard to make you, less uncomfortable.