Avici Is the hellish area where dead sinners are reborn.
I get given a writing residency called And Also Presents in Brunswick for two months and its so exciting.
And Also Presents develops and supports creative and social equity projects led by female, gender non-conforming and non-binary makers and doers. Our curated program includes residencies, events and performances. We are based at Siteworks – 33 Saxon Street, Brunswick. Our space is accessible by wheelchair and has accessible bathrooms. And Also Presents is based on the unceded land of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nations. We pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. This always was and always will be Aboriginal Land.
I have a concrete project to focus on. I have a meeting with my dramaturge mentor Mark about the play I think would make a good play to write. There are giant pieces of butcher paper and sweet smelling markers that we use to write big ideas and concepts onto the paper. We fill two huge pieces of paper with bright orange writing. I think these sorts of things are called mind maps. I only know this now because i posted a pictire of my writing space with the giant paper filled with writing and someone excitedly said how into my use of mind mapping she was.
These mind maps and my lap top get taken to my writing space that has a desk made by hand by someone who has access to a metal works shop. The desl has sharp edges and i love it. My first day there a dog wandered into my writing room and sat there in the centre of the room looking at me for a few moments. The dog then got on its belly and slid across the carpet as if it was trying to swim. The dog belonged to the person who managed the front desk that I had a door connecting to. What ore could you want from a writing space? Dog, desk and peace and quiet.
Most days in April I go to this space and start the scary process of trying to write a play based on my own experiences of being sick in hospital for so long. I read plays and become obsessed with the American play write Suzan Lori-Parks. I read her plays and watch her give lectures on youtube. In one lecture she tells of how in high school she had an english teacher who gave spelling tests every week. Every week Suzan would fail these spelling tests. Just as I would always fail mine.Suzan’s english teacher believed there was a strong correlation between being a great speller and a great thinker. When this teacher asked Suzan what she hoped to do at the end of her last year in high school, Suzan said shyly she hoped to study writing. This teacher got out her mark book and found Suzan’s over all progress through the year regarding her spelling tests. ”Thats an interesting choice.” This teacher said. ”Since you are such a terrible speller and probably would not make a very good writer.” Suzan Lori-Parks went on to win the 2002 Pulitzer prize for play writing for her play Top Dog. She wrote 365 plays in a year and got them performed all over for free to make theatre available to all.
It was fun and hard and scary trying to create a cohesive story for the stage which is something I have never done before. But for the month of April there was a sense of creative routine and process towards something tangible and great. I was happy.
Then I simply wasn’t.
As I sit in a private hospital room with a too big hospital gown on I pick at a loose bit of nail on my right big toes. I pull it free and let it fall to the floor. A nurse brings in a sandwich and a cup of tea and the kindness makes me cry.
Of course I am taken to the kidney ward and get blood tests and urine checked because that is always the first and most salient thing about me here at this hospital. They find nothing wrong with me physically after an overnight stay. When the doctors come in the morning they ask if I feel any better. ”No.” I say. ”Im just so so sad and dont know why.” I am met with blank looks. Telling nephrologist specialists that you are sad or depressed is not within the confines of their expertise. They say I should go see my GP and one of the doctors makes me an appointment for that very day. I feel like the floor is pulling me towards it as I exit the hospital. All I want to do is lay down and never get up. My appointment is in two hours and so i kill time by sitting in a cafe and watching the people pass by the windows as they walk in the sunshine. I hate the sunshine, this is not a result of depression its just one of my general hates. Depression does add some vitriol.
It is May and I think wistfully of my writing space being unused. The guilt crushes me as I sip at my coffee. Im so stupid and weak for fucking this up. How the hell could I fuck this up so brilliantly? Is that all Im good at? Maybe its for the best Im not writing anything. Its not like anyone cares anyway. It only gets me in trouble and alienates me from my family and will probably get me sent to hell. Though thats not a new concept considering my life choices since age 19 or so.
When I see my lovely GP She shows the amount of concern I was hoping for as I am worried I maybe making mountains out of mosquito bites. ”You can barely sit up or crack a smile.” She says. ”I want you to be seen by the CAT team.” She writes me a referral letter and asks me if Im up to going back to emergency. This time to be seen by mental health professionals.
I say I will do it and take the letter with gratitude. She talks about getting me into see a psychatrist but they are expensive and I not wealthy. It almost strikes me as funny that I can get a kidney transplant for free but my mental health seems to be available at a much higher price.
The emergency waiting area is not so crowded. There are a group of young men listening to something on thier phones without ear bids in their ears and it makes me want to do something violent. But that would require effort. When I call my partner about why I am here I am they are surprised to the point of shock. How can I have been this bad and they not know? I’m the strong one after all.
When I get seen I get taken to a bed and am so relieved that I get to lay down again. There is another bed next to mine separated by a curtain. I can hear the person watching television. Home And Away is on. The nurse tells me that here you can watch TV for free unlike in the wards. This is exciting for a few seconds until I realize how much I hate free to air TV. I check my phone and see how much other people have achieved while I have been being a lazy baby with no prospects. No job and no vocation. No awards or publishing deals. My face is burning but the rest of me is freezing. I snuggle under the blankets of the bed and eaves drop on terrible TV. Commercial TV sure gives a lot of space to white men, they are almost exclusively what I hear as I lay there.
A psych nurse leads me into a private room where she asks me a bunch of questions about my feelings. Am I suicidal? This is the most important question as it is the difference between seeing the CAT team and being admitted into the psych ward and not. I am not suicidal. I simply hurt and wake up hurting everyday and I have no idea and so many ideas at the same time as to why. She brings me back to my bed and goes to call my partner. This worries me greatly. What will they say about me? I wont let him come get me in his car. I will get the tram like an independent woman, dammit. Im so tired. I imagine how I would leave. How I would disconnect from him and simply go my own way so Im free to be sad and disgusting without annoying or inconveniencing him. The last time I let my facade slip like this the person didn’t like it. They left.
Then he is there at the foot of my bed. He kisses my head and I ask if his hands are cold. He says they are and I ask him to press them on my cheeks. He does so and the cold air from outside on my burning cheeks is exquisite.
I am given some numbers to call on a piece of paper if things get worse. Which they will. Before I leave the psych nurse says that it is very good that I am so adept at articulating my emotions. I want to retort with something like ”I have been good at that my whole life and I am still doing it and I am tired and sick of it I fake a smile in gratitude. She is only doing what the system allows. It is not her fault.
On the drive home PBS plays a sequence of songs so perfect it feels like the woman is sending a mix tape through the air waves just for me. The songs that get played are: The Divinyls Boys In Town, The Ramones I Wanna Be sedated and Polly Styrene Identity. As Polly sings about identity I let the cold night air rush around me. It is cold and I know my person is probably freezing but not saying anything as I like the ice cold air. It feels like the song was written for this moment and for me in particular at this moment. Also for anyone who is overlooked by society be they black or any form of person of colour, disabled, transgender, chronically ill, in need of affordable psychiatric help…I could be wrong though. I often am.
Do you see yourself on the tv screen?
Do you see yourself in the magazine
When you see yourself, does it make you scream?
When we finally get home I have a bath with candles lit and no sound but the wind outside and my person getting my meds together for me. This is a rare thing and so decadent to not have to get the stupid things myself. Not stupid important and required.
If there was a zombie apocalypse, I think as I lay in the hot water infused with rose hip oil and epsom salts, or Australia turned into the dystopia of The Handmaids Tale I know how long a person like me would last. With my legally blind eyes, important for survival post transplant anti rejection meds and anti depressants ( would you need anti depressants in a zombie apocalypse?) and inability to have children for rich men and women. I would be considered inconsequential and disposed of early on in the film or book or life.
As I lay in bed all clean and being held tight I realize that its three weeks until I am left alone for six weeks. I was excited about this I had plans of being so prolific in my writing. But all I can think selfishly as I finally fall asleep is Please don’t go and leave me here all by myself. I wont eat right without you around.
Also before my depression leapt up into my every inch of my heart I wrote fifty pages of my very first rough draft of my play. Not a complete wast?