An elegy from “The Woman With Three Elbows” coming soon from Rachael Ikins

Of Angels and Salvation

Misdiagnosed with two mental illnesses-pigeonholed by psychiatrists-at 35, I weighed 200 lbs. My hair was falling out memories erased by a decade: 1990s, while taking over 21 antipsychotics, tranquilizers, combinations of supplements. Four-five drugs simultaneously, four times daily, my brain reeling.  Destiny: a locked ward or death, I couldn’t write any more.

We adopted two kittens. When the tiny female clawed her way up my clothes to nestle under my hair, I thought, “I’ve been chosen.”What power cared for my wretched life to choose me?

My husband was overwhelmed by my decline; his heart disease and cancer. We’d been each other’s rocks. Now our life dashed apart on the rocks it became. Family, friends faded away, eager to believe the horrible diagnoses, angry at me rather than challenge the practitioners.

Meanwhile, this kitten named Nestlé moved into my shirt. Sometimes, just a bathing suit, she dug her way in. I called her my little joey. Aware that the drugs damaged my heart, psychiatrists ignored my voiced concerns. Nestlé laid over it every night. Though I tossed and turned, she rode me like a leaf on a wave.     

The night I flushed final meds down the toilet after a year’s slow reductions, I began seizing. Drifted in and out of consciousness; yet, my husband didn’t call 911. If I went to the hospital, I’d end up back on “all that shit” as he put it. He’d saved shelves full of bottles in the basement.

Nestlé guarded my heart. Washed my face, dug claws into my skin, just enough to stimulate me to breathe. When I look back on that endless darkness, a pink light shone. I hung onto it. I realized later,  that light was Nestlé .

Withdrawal syndrome never left. You can’t drug someone that way for a decade without consequences. Debt incurred largely by therapist’s greed, which took our house. Then Nestlé died. I carried her body in my shirt for twelve hours before goodbye.

Online I found a kitten, with a birthdate that was two days from Nestle’s. Miraculously, Katie was Nestle’s great-great-granddaughter. My grief eased; she was still with me. Katie climbed into my clothes and covers. Washed my face, laid on my chest in the bathtub, tail trailing in the water. The worst insomniac months, when no psychiatrist  would give me anything to help me sleep. For the horrible sensations of pain-tingling, itching and pulsations, a cardiologist wrote a prescription for Ambien. Night after sleepless night, I left my cat in bed while I sat in the lightless bathroom holding the bottle, ready to swallow the entire  contents. Only the love for that cat stopped me. Often she wandered into the bathroom to sit at my feet. I’d put the bottle back.

Through the loss of my husband, our house, a disastrous move, coming out at age 54  and a failed second marriage; my mother’s death, my aching loneliness in an apartment, where I was left to sort the past’s wreckage and build a new life through the making life poetry and art, she was there. Chirping, playing, sitting on the keyboard when she’d had enough of me working, rustling in art papers, curling on my bare arm in summer heat.

When she died in 2016, I wanted to follow her. However, I couldn’t leave my other animal family. I searched for a house. Months later House and I found each other. I named it “Katie.”

Nestle’s and Katie’s ashes rest in a locket over my heart. I never take it off. I put down roots and true healing began. I owe my life to that angel, a soul that shared two bodies, who walked beside me for 22 years. Came into my life in the only form I would’ve responded to, humans having proven too dangerous and untrustworthy, she saved me.

 At age 58, after testing and discussion with my family practice doctor, who is a big fan of my artwork, I learned that I am on the Asperger’s spectrum. None of those other experts caught it. They were so eager to slot me into a pigeonhole and forget me. A little cat refused to let me go, and for that priceless love, I will always be grateful.

Wolfpack Contributor: Rachael Ikins

A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Rachael Ikins

Poems by Rachael Ikins

By davidlonan1

David writes poetry, short stories, and writings that'll make you think or laugh, provoking you to examine images in your mind. To submit poetry, photography, art, please send to Twitter: @davidLOnan1 + @feversof Facebook: DavidLONan1


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