Italy [heart emoji]

The mayor of Rome put this banner on a balcony at city hall (overlooking one of the most beautiful squares in Rome): “Andrà tutto bene.” “Everything will be okay.”

Thank you mayor.



Over the months I have gotten sicker

I leave bed only to bathe fetch bottles of green water

they tell me, Have hope

where in my body?

where in my mind?

I tell Kate, One day at a time

me, I can’t find a leaf to hang on

Painting by Marianne Hendriks.


Patient’s lament

1. Analyst A said

2. You don’t need to work so hard

3. Please ease up

4. Take breaks

5. Happy sessions are okay

6. Analyst B says

7. We don’t blast through defenses

8. Defenses are there for a reason, we respect them

9. But I say

10. How can I not work

11. Hard

12. How can I not want to be thrown into

13. The deep end of the mucky pool

14. When

15. Flames are licking my heels

16. The ground underneath is splitting open

17. I see nothing in the next hour but

18. My extinction

Painting by Peggy Lee (detail)


Analysis is a scary place

1. Fear is a feeling among feelings, and like all feelings sometimes you just can’t tell where it comes from.

2. You live with it, as best you can.

3. Phobias and obsessions are fears attached to arbitrary or symbolic objects.

4. Maybe.

5 I don’t know anything.

6. The fear that has been gripping me is ebbing, but I so wish it gone.

7. I have to say, though: it is preferable to rage.

8. Maybe this fear is rage turned inward, so no one gets hurt but me.

9. I am infinitely disposable. I can take the pain and anguish of the world. Please let no one be hurt but me.

10. The omnipotent child is an absolutely, cosmically terrified child. Air hurts her body, her throat, the cavity of her chest. She is cold. She waits for death like a mercy and her just deserts.

11. Maybe fear is what happens when you trust your analyst with your baby self.

12. Maybe fear is what happens when you don’t trust her enough.

13. This is not to be solved by thinking. This is to be solved by living.

14. Analysis is a very scary place.

15. There are very few answers.

16. This is why it’s beautiful.

Painting by Elizabeth Lennie.

art psychoanalysis

All walls crumble

Photograph Matthew Grandanson

Let’s meet at the corner shop

1. Analyst A and I had an ongoing, entirely therapeutic (I mean this) conversation about the best song ever written.

2. At the time I was pretty solid on the idea that Stevie Nicks’ “Landslide” was the best song ever written.

3. Analyst A smiled and said, “That’s a damn fine song.”

4. Her pick was “Send in the Clowns” sung by Judy Collins.

5. I listened to it once.

6. Analyst A was older then me by maybe 10 years.

7. Analyst B is younger than me by 10 years and we have few cultural reference in common.

8. She is not a reader of novels (she claims she was and will be again) or poetry, nor a watcher of films or TV. She is American. She likes art but does not know a lot of it, I don’t think. And i don’t know her generation’s music (I wasn’t in the US during her music-taste-shaping years).

9. Analyst B is not a theoretician or a philosopher or if she is she keeps it to herself.

10. It’s hard for me that I have few cultural references in common with my analyst.

11. She’s been making a fine, fine mom these last few months though, and that has been beautiful.

Painting by Doortje Hannig.



1. I thought I might start listing things that are absolutely incontrovertibly horrible yet for some reason my mind is not lighting up in full red alert terror that they might happen to me.

2. Also things that don’t cause me to feel empathy so disregulated that it’s as if they were happening to me.

3. And just to be clear, empathy, concern, and opprobrium are good responses. Abject terror, despair, and a sense that the world is ending, well, they don’t help anyone.

4. And now I feel ashamed to list them so they’ll stay forever in my mind.

5. But here’s an exercise: find the things that do not terrify you, then wonder if the things that do terrify you are not so dissimilar. And if they are not, why do similar things fall on different sides of the terror spectrum? What else is going on?

6. And maybe just maybe that other thing that is going on? Maybe that can heal.

Painting by Sanders Stein



1. You can talk of any bad thing that happened to you except

2. That first hospitalization

3. When your sense of what was safe and what wasn’t safe in the world

4. Was broken and

5. Never reassembled, so that

6. Now

7. Nothing is safe in the world

8. No one is looking out for you

9. You can’t escape

10. Danger



1. You are traumatized because when you were little no one looked after your well being and safety and you had to look after them yourself.

2. You are traumatized because you had to rely on capricious and sadistic adults who were unable or unwilling to connect with you as a child.

3. You are traumatized by every encounter you had with arbitrary, sadistic, petty authoritarianism.

4. You are traumatized by a country that is authoritarian, sadistic, and petty toward so many, systemically, and has been so since its inception.

5. You are traumatized by sadism.

6. Your body body and mind feel unsafe to you.

7. You don’t know what feels safe to you.

8. Precious little feels safe to you right now.

9. Elizabeth Warren felt safe to you and now she’s gone.

10. How much un-safety can you feel and continue living?

11. Death was built into your idea of safety.

12. Death is for you infinitely preferable to the experience of sadism.

13. Our current administration is terrifying to you.


Totalitarian fear

1. Talking about the terror with my analyst is like dissolving a large stone stuck at the top of my esophagus.

2. Terror put into words and heard by another is less terrifying.

3. Terror festers in the isolated mind.

4. We revisit early places.

5. We tread the same dark floors and now she is with me.

6. She tells me it’s okay to lose my shit with her. She tells me I don’t have to be stoic or brave.

7. She tells me the bodies of children.

8. She says “children.”

9. She says I see you.

10. I am scared of this country.

11. It took few months of me even being here for the mental health center of my university to take a restraining order against me.

12. Never been violent a day in my life.

13. Never thought of myself as anything but kind.

14. It took them a year to lock me up in a psych unit for the sin of being in pain.

15. I expected help.

16. They promised me help.

17. At my intake interview the nurse was icy. I knew, then.

18. At my second interview I smiled and the person said, icily, it’s not funny.

19. My third interview was at 3 AM. The psychiatrist banged hard on my door and said Let’s go.

20. That was the last time I slept.

21. Can you survive five days of absolute terror and no food or sleep?

22. They told me they would help me.

23. My friends said, Trust the doctor.

24. I had never been so misjudged, so disbelieved, so humiliated and summarily abused before.

25. By everyone.

26. I counted for nothing.

27. I was a nuisance.

28. No one helps anyone here.

29. They violate you they tie you up they punish you and your sin is you were in pain.

30. I hurt no one.

31. I did nothing bad I swear.

32. A poet calls her time in the psych hospital “totalitarian fear.”

33. I didn’t grow up here. I know this is not normal. I know this happens nowhere else. I know there are places where those with power are humans like you. I know it’s the majority of places.

34. This country is founded in blood and the tying up of brown, black, occasionally white bodies.

35. Lynchings and picnics.

36. Lynchings and families.

37. Nowhere else my friend.