Mental Illness? or - Salvation                                                               Copyright ©2014 Hazel Gay

Hazel Gay's To Heal the Broken-Hearted (Chronicle of a woman's 18 year journey through "mental illness" to healing, wholeness and transformation.)
Chapter 13 All quotes used with written permission.

        I left Oregon in October, without disability.  The man I had allowed to move back in with me wanted to go back to Las Vegas. I spent the next two years there, most of the time wandering in the desert, alone, finding peace.  When I started playing slot machines I realized I had never had an “escape.”  Though I sang a little I really didn’t push;  I just existed. 
        I did sing in three “black” churches. As I watched all those expressive people letting their feelings out, I discovered I was probably more comfortable there than any church I’d ever been in! 

Las Vegas 
June 8, 1981

       A life on ice for 20 years can sometimes build a big fire from 
       the holding back and storing up of songs that don’t get sung in 
       the day to day survival. The shoes I wore just never quite fit 
       Did I know it at the time?  Did I have time to know it? 
       It wasn’t choice that cast my lot for, quite early, 
       the heavy hand of fate had bought and sold me. 
       Then one day comes when suddenly there is no voice demanding 
       there’s no one left to tell me who I am and who I’m not 
       I ricochet off all four walls 
       before the mirror gives me a clear reflection. 
       I’ve come to know my owner a little better now I feel 
       and I didn’t know how but I know somehow, through that, 
       I’ve come to know me 

       Sometimes when my mind goes out of bounds 
       that’s where I find me. 


        There are some who seem to go through life 
       always grasping, reaching out for love 
       always testing, never quite sure it’s real when it comes 
       for we were hurt too soon 
       our souls were pierced, invisibly it’s true 
       but left us bearing guilt at being born to cause such pain. 
       We feel somehow it’s quite a feat to get someone to love us. 
       All the words and all the talk 
       from all the experts through all the years 
       we grasp at once with the head 
       but words never quite make that quantum leap 
       across the rift to where the heart is. 


While working on a song, a whole different song “came to me:” 

       When I was a young girl I believed in special things              
       I tried chasing rainbows, catching brass rings 
       wished on a star, one I made my very own 
       tried to capture the wind just to make my own song. 
       I dreamed every dream, saw castles in the clouds,   
       ran in fields where for me daisies all bowed 
       while deep inside me I knew from the start 
       Love from beyond came to stay in my heart. 
       I still follow rainbows wherever they go 
       I still have to catch one before the story folds 
       That same young girl hides there escaped from each mold. 
       She’s chased many rainbows and still not grown old. 

       She’s gathered some moonbeams, smelled the morning sun 
       She’s flown with the eagles, been a lonely one 
       Always she calls me outside of time’s flow 
       Now all she wants is to taste a rainbow. 

        If you would like to hear the song click here : Rainbows ©1981 Hazel Gay

(I wrote this before the Jello commercial.) 

August 1981
        I made a 45 rpm record for the annual homecoming event in my hometown.  While in Oklahoma for that, I went out of my way to get a postmark from “Loco, Oklahoma” on one I sent Jess. 
       I become aware of having dreams that “foretell” inconsequential events. 
       I started working on a song for my friend, Dottie, who had died in Portland under a bush in the Park blocks. I started out to write a sad tale of her life but as I worked on it something happened. I was overcome with something that’s very hard to name, a gnawing suffering and the song changed itself to a more upbeat style, the only time I’ve ever had an experience like that.  I thought “Dottie didn’t want a sad song.” 

If you are interested in hearing it click here:  Dottie’s Song ©1981 Hazel Gay

August 1982
       My two and a half year relationship had run its course.  A visit with my son in Oklahoma, about 15 miles from where I had been born, became a lengthy stay. 
       Working in the woods with my son and daughter, cutting wood, I  began feeling like I was “finding” myself.  My son enjoyed working in the woods and as we spent long hours out in that postoak and blackjack, I began to sense something of my father in my son, his “manner,” the way he carried himself, something…(It may have been during the next year when we all visited my mother she saw my son walking away and said my son walked like my father.) 
        While I was staying there, I brought my mother from the nursing home for a few days visit. I guess I had told her about my writing. She wanted to read some. I very selectively picked out a few pages for her to read. She was quiet for a while after reading. Finally, she started to talk. 
        “That might as well have been quack, quack for no more than I understood. You need an educated man. I don’t mean a half way educated man. I mean a well educated man. 
        She didn’t ask to read any more. 

       I wrote a plot for a short story the winter of ’82-’83 while we were working in the woods. It begins with a woman driving a very expensive car down the coast in Oregon, dressed expensively, goes to exclusive resort that has scattered cottages in the forest. Establish that she’s a writer working on a book. While going for a walk in the woods she hears a man’s voice, a beautiful, haunting voice, singing…She can’t find him. This happens for a few days as she continues to look for him in vain. Finally one day she sees him through the mist. Don’t know yet what strange thing has brought this strange man with the hauntingly beautiful voice to live almost like a hermit in these trees, hiding from the world….They talk and talk, that’s all. She hears him sing one more time in the woods, not seeing him; song he sings has emphatic message…he’s a a ghost, he’s a memory, he’s haunting…She wonders if she really saw and heard him or just imagined or dreamed it. She leaves the next day, goes back to city, takes car to rental agency on Monday and goes back to her job as a secretary. She’s been on vacation for two weeks; she lives a fantasy for two weeks every year. 

November 10, 1982
       I parked pick-up truck loaded with wood by street and left – became afraid someone would steal wood.  Seems almost flew, pulled by a rope or grapevine, in straight line to northwest, not all the way to pick-up, stopped this side of street.  A man, stranger, I tell to buzz off, very assertively.  I get key from little black box up high on something like a tall bookcase, like “master key,” not only to pick-up but to “whole operation”  whatever that is;  I put it in my pocket.  (“Little black box up high on something” also in dream in ’75.  In that dream, feeling was like “Touch it at the risk of death.”)

         That fall I did most of the pen and ink drawings used in this book, wrote some songs and finished the one I’d started the day I wrote “Rainbows.” 


       He was still quite a young man when she came into his life 
       with her funny way of talking 
       that brought an easy laughter to his eyes. 
       He was young enough to still believe 
       old enough to recognize reality 
       strong enough to be himself, real enough to wonder 
       what this life was all about. 
                He took her hand and he was led 
                down a road he’d never known was there before 
                He looked into her eyes and he saw magic worlds 
                still waiting, that dared to be explored. 
                He didn’t know the road would go a million miles 
                and then some more 
                that mountains could be so high or valleys, oh, so low 
                the mariners’ lesson he learned late 
                and when their paths did separate 
                he was changed. 
       Fate had fastened on his destiny 
       and brought him to this place, this time 
       He heard the words and the silences 
       that captured his heart and teased his mind. 
       He had come to see her soul with clarity 
       but had to back away to save his sanity 
       trying not to lose himself 
       Gone were all the answers 
       still there were no regrets 
                He took her hand….. 

       Confronting my mother about the rumors she had so generously spread about me being an alcoholic I asked, “WHY did you think that?” 
       I was shocked at her reply.  When she visited in ’78, I had been extremely tense, with habitual nervous facial tics and unconscious tensing of facial muscles.  When my mother asked about it, I had laughed and told her, my brother and sister-in-law point blank, “Lack of sex,” since it had been over two years since I’d had a satisfactory sexual relationship.  My brother had smiled. Without hesitation, my mother had flatly stated, “I don’t believe that!” 
       “I thought you needed a drink,” she said. 

Winter, ’82-’83    Dreams 
       I rented a house, neighbors are a man and woman. I sit on curb at night looking at sky, thinking. Man and woman are “crooks” or “spies.”  Cops come, detectives, catch them.  I have seen woman hide something in my apartment, little round thing.  A squirrel found it.  I tell detective maybe the squirrel put it in hollow in the fork in tree, like it had something else already.  There’s a write up in (Portland?) newspaper;  I’m key witness. 
I kind of like ‘WAKE UP.’  I ask what city I’m in – I’m in Dallas – I’m OK again, happy, alive, awake. 


FALL 1982
(I would draw one more version of this fall ’85 in which the 

deciduous tree on the right is less angular, more graceful.) 

Winter, ’82 -’83
       My daughter and I went out one night to a place called Arbuckle Ballroom.  It was straight country music, with 2-step, cotton-eyed Joe etc. It was a lot of fun. But I kept thinking to myself, “I can’t believe I’m at the Arbuckle Ballroom!” I told my daughter that was a good line for a song and she said,”You can’t write a song about that!”   
        “Oh, yeah?” I responded.   This was the result.   Arbuckle Ballroom 

                   It’s ten’clock in Vegas and I know the lights are bright 
                   cause I spent two years there with you singing every night 
                   But I told you long ago when it came time for me to go 
                   I’d go back to Portland, maybe Seattle 
                   but now I look around at where I’m at 
                   And I can’t believe I’m in the heart of Oklahoma
                   at the Arbuckle Ballroom 

                   dancin’ two-step with a cowboy in a Stetson hat 
                   Learnin’ cotton-eyed Joe as around and around we go 
                   Dancin’ the night away, I want to dance till the break of day 
                   I wanna dance in the heart of the USA 
                   The lights of Albuquerque called to me to stay a while 
                   But I went on to Amarillo where they called me Texas style 
                   Tho my heart’s in New York City and my mind’s still in L.A. 
                   I was on my way to Nashville, maybe Atlanta 
                   When I stopped to see a friend along the way 
                   And I can’t believe I’m in the heart of Oklahoma
                   at the Arbuckle Ballroom 

                   dancin’ two-step with a cowboy in a Stetson hat 
                   Learnin’ cotton-eyed Joe as around and around we go 
                   Dancin the night away, I want to dance till the break of day 
                   I wanna dance in the heart of the USA. 

If you would like to hear this song click here: Arbuckle Ballroom ©1982 Hazel Gay 

January 1983
       Want to tell you about my R.N. cousin, a year younger than me, who’s seeing a psychiatrist at OKC who’s head of part of the psychiatric department at OU Med School.  She told him about my family, that I was writing about everything and he wants to read it. (He was the first person to encourage me to publish.)   Med Schools are where I wanted it but never dreamed I’d be led to the front door of one.  She said something one day that hit me right below my diaphragm;  something in my mind changed, became more real, less of a mental game.  We were discussing the possibility you had had difficulty maintaining a “professional objectivity” and her first statement was that you should have stopped seeing me.  Then she added, “But I could see why he couldn’t have stopped seeing you because of the REJECTION implied in that and he didn’t know how you would handle it.”  If that was the case, I want to thank you.   I guess it never occurred to me it might hurt some to be like the Mississippi River or the Rock of Gibraltar. 
       Our relationship may or may not have been by the book but I know it was the right one for ME.  If you were dealing with machines, yes, go by the book, there’s only so many possibilities.  But we’re dealing with possibly the most complex apparatus around.  A machine does not have FEELINGS about it when you start tinkering with its carburetor.  There I go again!  This whole thing is to try to tell you that it’s OK.  No, you didn’t perform any miraculous cure on me by the world’s standards but to me it is a miracle of sorts to see my reflection.  No, I didn’t go out and become stable, productive, don’t rock the boat #0000 citizen;  I don’t know for sure whether you really wanted to see me being more of me – or to do a little more conforming to society’s expectations – personal growth, as long as it falls within what you think it ought to be. 
       My mother came to visit and you should have heard her when she saw my Japanese Black Pine tree. 
        “What’s THAT?” 
       “A Japanese Black Pine,” I answered. 
       “A pine tree!  That doesn’t look like any pine tree!  Why don’t you cut all those ugly branches off down there, tie it to a stake so it’ll grow straight!  A pine tree’s supposed to look like a pine tree!” she said, in her best mother fashion. 
       And I loved my Japanese Black Pine just BECAUSE it was contorted and irregular. I knew there wasn’t another one in the world just like it. 
       Perhaps this is all in fact just one little way of patting you on the back and saying, “Hey, Jess, it’s OK.”  And I find myself staring out the window at an oak tree, wondering if all these pages of scribbling even come close to saying what I want to express… 
       It was strange, the feeling I got after I talked to your dad last June when he told me you were working on your dissertation and interning.  I was so proud of you!  It was like, “Jess is doing it; I can do it, too,” whatever that “IT” is for me. 
       Perhaps another reason I felt a necessity to write this is my feeling of responsibility for my writing.  We’ve had a type of professional relationship in which I was open and you received. I wrote and I quoted from our sessions.  We’ve talked very little about YOUR feelings about what I wrote, and not even that since 1979;  if you felt threatened, if you saw any necessity for it;  if it embarrassed you;  how you’d feel if other professionals read it.  I don’t know.  I decided for it to be of any value I had to tell it like it was.  If nothing else, it would be a study in what not to do.  I’ve assumed consent by your silence.  If you have serious objections, speak up.  I’m going to take it as far as I can.  I’ll haunt you through eternity if you raise objections, later, when it’s too late. 
       I’m a dreamer, always have been, don’t see me stopping soon.  I’ve had to do some wondering the last few months.  If I had a choice, would I become callous, cold and cynical, insensitive, uncaring?  I don’t know if I could by choice, even knowing that it might insulate me from pain.  If I were cold, callous and unfeeling, how would I know I was alive? 
       My youngest daughter is 18 now, graduated in May and still doing some writing.  She recently wrote a song and asked me to put it to music, a song about me she said.  The chorus is: 
               And she’ll sing of mountains and streams 
               daisy chains and rain 
               She’ll dance among the trees and in the sun 
               erasing all of life’s useless pain. 

       (She already knew more about what was going on during my altered states than the psychiatrists.) 

       She’s written another song about me and one about growing up and daring to be herself. I’m so proud of her writing.  You know better than anyone how much I needed it.  It tells me that in spite of everything I might have done something right.  You remember the poem I showed you that she wrote when she was about 12. 

               I tried to show you my life 
               you turned and said you would not understand         
               I think you did not want to understand 
               you had had your share of life already. 

               I tried to sing you my song 
               you turned and said you recall hearing it before 
               I thought you just did not want to hear it 
               you had had your share of songs. 

               I tried to tell you my poem 
               you turned and said 
                that you have heard poems before 
                I think you did not want to hear my poem. 

               I tried to tell you what kind of beer I had 
               then you sat down and opened your ears. 
               Now maybe I can show you my life 
               sing you my song 
               and tell you my poem 
               NOW THAT YOU’RE DRUNK!             

       Last year she wrote a term paper on schizophrenia and I was surprised and impressed at the effort she put out doing her research.  I’m well aware I’m dealing with a young person who is probably never far from the nagging fear of “I may be next…” 
        My cousin had been surprised when I told her, “My mother NEVER, even once, complimented me on ANYTHING, never once told me she liked anything I did.” 
       “That’s certainly not how she was when you weren’t around.  All I ever heard was, ‘Hazel can do this;  Hazel can do that;  Hazel can do anything.'”  Making a gesture of obeisance with her hands, she continued, “Hazel is the blessed one.'” 
       It was my turn to be surprised when she remembered a “dream” (or intellectual fantasy) I’d had for the future. 
       “You were maybe 15 or 16 when you told me about it.  You said someday you would sit at the head of a table, with fine linen, silver, crystal, candles.  Doctors would be among the people sitting around the table, your table.  It would be your party.” 
       I wrote another letter to you that I’ll not mail, it’s not necessary now, elaborating on rumors circulating about me in the family.  My cousin is the only one with the audacity to confront me with what she’s heard.  Was I in for a shock!  My mother’s idea that I was an alcoholic was not even a drop in the bucket!   
       I don’t have TIME to try to change their minds and besides all that, Jess, I don’t think I COULD change their minds.  Their minds are congealed.  They will never be able to see the real me.  They would simply think I might have CHANGED.  I have more important things to do, mainly getting on with the business of being the real me.  I like to remember one statement from the Bible, “A prophet is not without honor save in his own country.” 
       One of the reasons I no longer have to mail the letter is a song I wrote.  I’m enclosing the lyrics. 

         Her Sister Says 

         The other day I heard a singer someone I hadn’t seen for years 
         An escapee from the Bible Belt I knew her family well 
         And as I listened to the songs she sang I heard a message she slowly wove 
         The voice that echoed other worlds let me look into an artist’s soul 
               She came to me and we talked a while about the folks back home 
         Then I said I hear its hard out here 
         That they’ll stab you in the back and steal your lines 
         That there’s too much temptation and too much sin 
         That you can’t trust one soul you can’t find one friend 
         And that all these wicked strangers will do 
         is break your heart and bring you pain 
         Well, a smile played across her lips but her eyes had a story to tell 
         She said, “It’s not easy out here but let me tell you about those who care 

         My sister says I sell my body 
         My brother says that I mistreat my kids 
         My mother says that I’m an alcoholic 
         And the last thing I heard was 
         I’ve been into drugs for many years” 

         The time had come for her to go and as she rose from her chair 
         She said my message they will never hear tho they listen a thousand years 
         For they’re too busy hanging on real tight
         Their illusions they must maintain 
         Not only do they think they know so much about me 
         But they know I’ll never change 
         But you see the only thing I’m guilty of is not doing things their way 
         And like my mother said 3 years ago I just don’t act my age 

         And as she sang her latest song that night 
         I knew the story well I found 
         For I was there a long, long time ago when her 
         little girl world came crashing down 
         They were oblivious to the broken heart 
         That tried for years to mend in vain 
         They never saw all the anger there as the voice of one lonely pain. 
         And so little do they know she’d give her life for her friends 
         And little do they care what she’s seen or where she’s really been 
         For that just does not fit into the image they all made 
         They had her labeled from the start and will have right on past the grave 

         Her sister says….. 

       You’ve seen me take one step forward and two steps back sometimes.  You’re the one who’s seen my writing evolve over my ambivalence, my hesitation.  You’re the one who’s withstood the onslaught (or is it assault?).  You’re the one who knows when I took what was for me a giant step – and when I was afraid.  Just as the ghetto youth finds it so difficult to get out, I’ve found it quite difficult to (I have to use the word) escape my background and dare to do or be or think something different. 
        I remember the day I was talking about my feelings with you and I said, “Jess, you know real people in real life don’t sit around talking about things like this.” And you said, “Except writers.” 
       I no longer know if I’m still incorporating my want, my thesis, my idea of purpose into my core or if it’s the other way around now.  Sometimes it’s almost as if IT has become a separate entity inside me that has me in its grasp and won’t turn me loose.  No matter where I go or what I do, IT reminds me of its existence.  I have to wonder if I really took this PURPOSE from totally outside me and put it inside, making room by pushing other things out of the way OR if, teleologically, I was born with a space there marked PURPOSE, that waited for me to find or be led to it and recognize it.  It would certainly explain that poem I wrote summer of ‘7l, the meaning of which I had absolutely no idea at the time. 

       Can I walk it out in the sand 
       Can I sit it out by the fire 
       Can I wash it out with vodka 
       Can I drive it out under the wheel

       Who are you? What are you 
       that you torment me so 
       always beckoning 
       yet keeping to the shadows 
       so I’ve yet to see you clearly 
       to see the demon face to face 
       to meet my possessor  

       I could probably write a book about why I think our relationship had to be what it was. Perhaps I am. 
       I met a little man from Nigeria once, a member of a dying tribe of only two thousand; he was the only survivor of 13 children in his family.  He told me, “Until my cousin came to America I had no one to talk to in my native tongue except God.” 


        While I was in Las Vegas I did some typing for a 78-year old astrologer. (Who’d been an “advisor” to FDR and had known Einstein according to him.) He told me starting last September that the next three years would mark an epoch in my life things would go so well; that if there was anything I wanted, this would be the time to ask for it.  

        A few days before New Year’s I met Lindy, a retired Lieutenant Colonel, 13 years older than me.  We thought we were total strangers till a few months later I discovered an entry in my diary when I was 16 “… and Lindy took me home.”  Neither of us had any recollection of it.  He’d managed the skating rink where I had skated all time, the only thing I remembered being the car he had. 
       Lindy loved taking me places, buying things for me, something no man had ever done.  He did little things, like the solicitous way he had of putting Band-aids on the blisters on my feet after we went roller skating. No one had ever done anything like that for me before, not even my mother!  I started watching for the first time as a man with whom I was personally involved moved quite assertively in society. 
       He was patient;  he knew how to touch me;  there was something regal in the way he rode a horse. 
       Though I recognized deep personality problems in Lindy and we developed problems in the relationship, I stayed. 
       Still working for an oil company, Lindy got called out to a lease at 1:00 a.m. and I went along.  Lightning had knocked out some equipment he had to put back into operation.  We got the company pick-up;  the lease was on a hill where he said some strange things had happened as far as lightning.  He used the truck headlights and portable light to work as I sat in the pick-up listening to the radio. 
       At one point I got out of the pick-up and Lindy yelled,  “What’d you do to the lights?” I looked around and the headlights were going off and on at irregular intervals.  Lindy came and jiggled every knob;  it wasn’t on the regular interval of signals, flasher or anything;  it kept on – 4 seconds, l second, 3 seconds, half a second, 5 seconds.  He tried to hurry his work.  The lights were flashing off and on – on Lindy.  As I sat there watching, a thought flashed through my mind, “This is a communication from my father.”  The very instant I finished thinking that, the lights stayed on!  They never blinked again!  I interpreted it as my father “warning” me since I knew I was walking on thin ice in that relationship with a very deep potential for violence, that interpretation causing me to back off a few times from what I anticipated as an emotional encounter. 
       I visited the solitary male friend of my mother from 1945 to sometime in the 70’s, when she stopped the relationship saying, “If he can’t accept Jesus Christ and be saved, I won’t have any more to do with him.”  When I was still in high school he had wanted to get married but my mother refused.  He had not been allowed to open his mouth about anything pertaining to us. He lived across the street with his mother and was always just “in the picture.”  Before I left Las Vegas he had attempted suicide after the death of his only brother followed closely by the death of his mother who’d lived with him since 1945 when he came home from the war. (He had been engaged when he went to the army and received a “Dear John” letter while he was overseas.)  He’d never been married or had children and now was in a VA center in Ardmore.  During this time I felt I became closer to him than I’d ever been.  I still had the roller skates, the little cedar box and the birthstone ring he’d given me when I was a teen.  He had reached his 70’s and was all alone.  I knew he was as close to a father as I’d ever have and I was as close to a daughter as he’d ever have. 

Fall 1983
       My son had married a girl who has FSH muscular dystrophy, is blind in one eye, deaf and had a condition we were to learn was scoliosis with a 68 degree curvature.  Though the scoliosis had first appeared when she was about 13, no one had taken measures to alleviate it. She had not been under a doctor’s care for many years, even for the MD so I took it upon myself to take her to specialists at the OU Med School at Oklahoma City.  After about a year of gathering information, the orthopedic surgeon decided to do surgery on her back in an attempt to correct the scoliosis. 
       The doctor showed us X rays of her new Herrington and Leuge rods and where she had extensive lower spinal fusion as she was going to recovery.  I stayed with her in the hospital, interpreting.