" ... I always let [Susan the voice in the back of my head] have the last word on Friday afternoon. Friday afternoon, the eighth grade at St. Anthony’s Catholic school had science. And the voice in the back of my head never talked during science class. Sister Ruthann was talking about my new favorite thing: molecules.At some point the détente between me and Susan ended. I realized that I was afraid to go outside because I was no longer sure I could control my actions. I was in my early forties - the age, according to my friend who was a psychiatric social worker, that it is typical for psychotics to be diagnosed. It took me so long to get diagnosed, that by the time my high functioning smokescreen was threadbare, manic depression had turned into bipolar disorder.
Sister Ruthann: A molecule is a “stable configuration of atomic nuclei and electrons bound together by electrostatic and electromagnetic forces--the smallest particle that displays the characteristics of a compound.” Are you writing this down?
I was the most timid kid in Kansas. But finding out about molecules had given me actual opinions. Even though the dictionary said “stable configuration” and “bound together,” I thought those were just figures of speech or symbolic. How could anything be solid or stable if the universe is made up of particles that are inextricably connected by invisible threads--you know, the electrostatic and electromagnetic forces? I was sure form and shape are manufactured by our own imaginations; and nothing we think we see is real.
But it was too hard to keep explaining it to myself all the time. And besides, if I kept it inside my head, eventually the voice in the back of my head would know everything I knew. And she’d figure out how to make me feel guilty about science and molecules like she made me feel guilty about everything else. ..." (Excerpt from my solo play, Finding the Golden Thread, 1990-1993).
It was hot. It was Friday at 5 p.m. I was at my point. Waiting for a downtown train, waiting for the train to go home to Hoboken--underground, in the cave that ought to be cool like caves are supposed to be instead of hot like subways always are. I was even standing at the end of the platform--which you’re not supposed to do because the end of the platform is where the rats and muggers hang out--but I was standing there because I was in that mood where I hate all the rest of humanity. That mood when I want to scream until my insides fall out.
When I was 18, my best friend and I were taking a lunch break downtown after freshman English class, when all of a sudden, she started screaming. They took her away and I never saw her again. From that time on, I knew if I felt like screaming in public, I better do it inside my head.
This particular Friday, I’d had to try really hard to control myself--which means I scarcely talked to anybody at work; and I bought my lunch at a deli where the people behind the counter growled at the customers. Maybe I chose that particular deli not so much because I didn’t want to talk to anybody; but because on that particular day, I strongly identified with people who I knew would throw my sandwich at me and call me Nigger if I said thank you.I wrote my anxiety about my illness out of my system by 2007. I felt that I had nothing more to say about it and I was glad to be done. I rarely had depression lasting longer than a few weeks any more. I had learned that my up episodes pretty much come like clockwork starting anywhere from February to May and ending about the first week of August; and flare up briefly again in October and December. I had learned to simplify and restrict my activity out in the world, depending how "up" the episode was. I really thought I had learned to live with my illness like I had learned to accept that sometimes 3 weeks of rain in San Francisco is normal.
I was so afraid I’d yell at somebody; which I almost did every time anybody asked me why I was in a bad mood. Shit! I hate that question. It wasn’t a mood; it was like holding in an explosion. But, I’d stayed in control all day long. Instead of saying “Why the fuck do you care about my mood?”--which is what I wanted to say--I said, “Oh, you know. New York gets on my nerves sometimes.” (Excerpt from my monologue, Do You Want to Buy My Brain?, 1995).
And then in the middle of one night this past summer, I heard my homeless neighbor, George, screaming at someone named Robert to leave him alone and I was about to call the police when I realized that Robert was a Susan - an auditory hallucination. And in an instant, I understood "she," Susan, is still inside my head; and that the sound like screaming I typically hear inside my head for most of May and June (and in October and December if I get too worked up about anything, go to a lot of social events or catch the flu), the sound I habitually ignore "because it always goes away, eventually" is Susan, still there though inarticulate and of course, like my mania, more pronounced because of the season. It was like a bubble I didn't know I was trapped in burst and suddenly I was free. I finally told my husband that I hear another voice, a male radio voice that is just a voice and not at all malevolent, several times a year especially late spring and early summer. It was a relief. And I began experimenting on camera with me and my voice as characters.