The Monkey Dance Summer


Voices tormented me the summer of 2001.  They were unrelenting, a cacophonous echo inside my skull,  like primates mimicking, mocking, making me desperate for relief.

On top of trying  to silence the monkey mayhem–I felt utterly and completely alone, suspected no one could help me—that there was no way out, no way my mood would ever even out—no way to ever grab hold of reality, something concrete and tangible—nothing to anchor me in the here and now, the then and there.

I decided I needed treatment the community mental health system could not provide.  My therapist there was pathetically inept.  Though I was sure of very little, of this I was absolutely certain.

However, I knew I could not afford the Medicare co-pay to see someone in private practice as long as I had to pay the open-market cost of rent, what I’d been doing since moving home to Kentucky from Texas in 1999.  It was in this context that I decided to return to government housing, hoping a rent based on my income would afford me the funds to pay a therapist.

I plan to do an additional post about this return to public housing, one that happened just days before 9/11.  Today, however, I would like to share my effort, on August 22, 2001, to transcribe the voices I was hearing, as I was packing and preparing for that move.

One voice, in particular, said this:

We want to know if you can hear the music.  You don’t know the way of the spheres.  You listen and listen and hear only chaos, when we are in fact making harmony.

We do not think the way you think.  We do not feel as you feel.  The way to us is not straight—neither is it winding.  The way to us is the “un” way—the way to us is beside the dark river, near the weeping willow.

You do not hear us—you do not listen.

The way is dark.  The way is light.  The way is not the way.

You must turn your mind inside out and do the monkey dance.

Please tell me what you would think, what you would do, were you to hear something like this.  What would you make of this Zen-like exhortation?  Would you consider it the voice of God, the voice of primate madness?

Can you imagine why I might have been confused and floundering?

And consider the context—my apartment piled high with boxes as I attempted to pack—planned to move in less than a week, hoping a new apartment would afford me the funds to get the help I needed, if only I could navigate the craziness enough to make the move itself!

Do the monkey dance, indeed!

33 thoughts on “The Monkey Dance Summer

    • Exorcism… I done it! Turns out Baptists in TN think a 6-year-old who doesn’t like to sleep is a sure sign of Hell Fire. Kathy, just your description of those voices was enough to hit my head spinning. I can’t imagine what that dizzying chaos must have been to live through.

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      • OMG–the Baptist intervention is very real and terrifying. How might that make a child feel? Sorry, but their solution is what seems evil to me!

        And, yes, it was frightening–and my head often did spin. This all often literally left me feeling dizzy! You have hit the mark here, my friend!

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  1. This blows me away. I’ve read it several times now. First off, it makes me feel like I am in your head. It’s rivetting. I believe that anyone’s interpretation would be based on their come-froms. Religious people might see a religious message. Others might see hope or despair or a combination of the two. Fighting madness, and hearing this–I don’t know how I would have interpreted it. I know the brain is so complex, and it makes far more unconscious associations than conscious. For me, from my current come-from, the message is positive: the healthy you inside, speaking to the damaged you. We all crave order. We all wish to be whole. We all strive to hear the music. The way of the speres, indeed.

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    • Gosh, Renee, thank you so much! I can’t even begin to tell you how much your response means to me! It’s always so diffiuclt to know what communicates and what doesn’t with something like this. I’m enormously relieved–even exicted–as this is exactly what I would have hoped for! You have made my day!

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  2. I think if I were to hear those voices, I would do as you did: I’d write them down, try to contain them on my own, and then seek outside help if my own efforts didn’t work. So…I think I’d do exactly what you did.

    It breaks my heart that you had to give up the housing you were accustomed to in order to seek (hopefully better) medical attention. I’m interested in reading the forthcoming write-up of the shift from your own apartment to public housing…I wonder if that helped or made it even more difficult for you.

    I’m with Renee–her interpretation of those words resonated with me, too. It indicates your confusion with your perspective on the world around you, on yourself, on your interaction with others. It demonstrates that really maybe not one of us has it completely right. But I do think above all that you were trying desperately to help yourself control the chaos.

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    • Thanks so much for this response, Amanda! I’m so excited that you want to read more about this move, as I actually think it was a huge turning point for–a turn toward the positive. I think folks will be surprised to know how much I liked–even loved–the place I lived–moved to. I know it’s sad I had to move in order to get treatment–a sad commentary of the mental health care system in this country–but it turned out for the best. Even I find this part of the story fascinating–which is weird–to be intriued by your own story!

      How wonderful to have you read today! I know how busy you are with your dissertation–but I hadn’t realized how much I missed your wonderful comments! They always make me think in new ways. Thank you!

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  3. This is so eerie! I wouldn’t make a religious connection, personally. I think that diminishes the complexity of what was clearly happening in you. What I find so interesting is that not only were you hearing these voices and words, you were making them.
    I think it’s incredibly brave that you transcribed and listened seriously to what you heard. I can tell you my impulse would be to avoid listening.
    So much of what you say about being crazy, to use your word, during this time amazes me because a lot of shows the strength of your mind. The fact that you were so present in the effort to heal yourself is fascinating. It’s like some part of you had a hold on sanity even among all of this. I love reading this!

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    • Wow–what a great comment, Sarah! I agree this was a healthy voice–a spiritual part of myself speaking. I’m so thankful that I hung on and fought for health, because look how wonderful my life is now! I don’t kow how it happened, or why it happened, but I did indeed turn toward healing and health! I am amazed myself. This really is a story about grace and growth. Thanks for reading, my friend! Hugs to you!

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  4. I am impressed with your ability to hang onto a sense of logic and reason even in the midst of the chaos in your mind. You truly are a fighter, Kathy. You didn’t let the illness get the best of you.

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    • True–I refused to let this thing win! But, you’re right I hung on to some sense of logic to help me navigate–though I don’t know that “logic” is the word–more like hope maybe. I navigated as if what I most hoped to be true was indeed real–if that makes any sense. Thanks so much for reading, Terri! It’s so great to hear from you. Hope your new graduate is doing well!

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  5. This particular voice sounds like transcripts from people who have “channelled” other-worldly entities. Very cosmic, very “enlightened.” I could have co-existed with this voice, I think. It’s the ones that tell you to kill yourself or smear poop on the wall that would freak me out.

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    • I know–that’s what i found so confusing! If I had heard something telling me to smear feces I would have know that was nuts–this I didn’t know what to do with. If you come from the kind of conservative Christian background I did–this sounds borderline demonic.

      Then again–maybe I have missed my calling and channelling is in my future. No wonder I thought I was crazy–I was trying to channell having come out of Oral Roberts University! Lord have mercy!

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  6. Good morning, Kathy –
    I want to share with you that when I become very tired or overwhelmed, my brain begins to count numbers beginning with one to whatever. For example – if I take a step, I count every step until I stop. If I go through a drawer looking for a spoon, I count everything I pick up until I get the spoon. On and on, the process does not stop until I go to sleep. This has been happening for as long as I can remember. Further, my mind is pretty much unable to process anything other than numbers when I get to this place.

    What drives this mind response? Is it the brain shutting down against all stimuli other than the specific action I am taking, such as searching for a spoon, until it can reboot through rest and sleep? I don’t know, but do plan on asking my therapist about it today.

    I do think there may bew an analogy here about the monkeys talking to you in nonsense. Perhaps your wonderfully creative and writerly brain simply composed characters and verse to block out all stimuli as you were preparing to make yet, another, difficult move forward? Our minds are wonderfully adept at protecting themselves….

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    • Wow, Mindy, this is fascinating! I would expect maybe it has to do with the language part of your brain being too depleted to operate and so you slip over into a part that manages numbers. The mind is so wonderfully creative and adaptive, and we really understand so little about how it operates. I also agree that sleep is often the rebooting mechanism–at least it was/is for me. I can’t wait to hear how your therapist explains this! Utterly fascinating, my friend!

      And I can’t wait to see you on Sunday!

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    • Wow, Mindy, this is fascinating! I would expect maybe it has to do with the language part of your brain being too depleted to operate and so you slip over into a part that manages numbers. The mind is so wonderfully creative and adaptive, and we really understand so little about how it operates. I also agree that sleep is often the rebooting mechanism–at least it was/is for me. I can’t wait to hear how your therapist explains this! Utterly fascinating, my friend!

      And I can’t wait to see you on Sunday!

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    • It was scary for sure, but more bizarre, almost. Interesting that you ask about dreams, though, as they have always been incredibly important to me. I have journals full of dreams I’ve recorded. I don’t know that I dream more than most, but when I remember them, I sure write them down more than most. Don’t think I have actual recurring dreams–only kinds of dreams that repeat. I do talk in my sleep–a lot–and Sara says I curse in my sleep. How’s that for weird! How about you?

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  7. I’m joining the conversation late, so don’t have much to add. I think that you have a clearer understanding of the voices in your head than most people. We just don’t know how to listen and miss so much. The monkeys in my head chatter, and I never understand.

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    • Ah, yes, this is true, Lisa. Few of us really know how to listen, especially to those voices inside that tell us in our gut what’s right. Maybe there is some thin line somewhere between insanity and super-sanity–if that makes any sense at all. Great to hear from you today, my friend!

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  8. Okay so, this is freaky. Not your voices but that video? I don’t know whether to laugh or cry!! Too too surreal… or something. 😦 🙂
    The voices do seem to be trying to tell you something “…the way to us is beside the dark river, near the weeping willow” What flows in a river and drips from the willow – water? words? maybe the way to understand is through your words. Was this some ‘psychic vision’ of your future writing? Sorry, not much help I think (too much)!

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  9. Moving is stressful enough for any person, at any time. I can’t imagine doing it under those circumstances. Looking forward to the next part of the story…

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