Dis-ease in America

£5.00  £0.00

By Katharine May Cunningham

ISBN: 978-1-84991-464-2
Published: 2011
Pages: 93
Key Themes: fiction, pervasive developmental disorder, depression, mania


Anne-Marie is bipolar, but she’s coping well… in her opinion, anyway. She is more productive than ever before and finds new ways to do outrageous things. She’s too busy… even to take her pills. But she doesn’t need them… outside stimulation is more important.

Suddenly, she’s very depressed. She can’t and won’t do anything. She’s in the mental hospital, but she won’t let them cure her happy side… just the depressed side. Mania isn’t a bad thing… it doesn’t need changing. Why cure her of HAPPINESS?

The mental hospital is stress enough without the depression. People’s rights get violated and people are disruptive toward her. The doctor is crazy and wants to zap her brains! Is she going to have to fake her way out?

About the Author

Katharine May Cunningham was born in 1988 in Canada. Suspected at a young age of having a pervasive developmental disorder (NOT delay, disease, disability or defect), she was eventually diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder—Not Otherwise Specified, along with Bipolar I Disorder. Katharine is now a part of the autistic rights movement, where the goals are understanding and acceptance rather than pity or a “cure”, as PDDs are not any more bad than they are good… just different. Katharine has a son in Texas (born in 2008) and plans to become a psychiatric technician there.

Book Extract

So I ask her to dinner with me. Just a girls’ night out, where we can chat. Maybe later on we can go shopping together too. I wonder if she has stuff hidden somewhere. I wonder how many outfits she has, if she even has enough to make a load of laundry. I wonder if all her outfits are as cool and interesting as the one she’s wearing right now. Her hair is fluorescent yellow and fluorescent green and fluorescent pink, her shirt black with a white biohazard symbol, her belt made of split rings, her skirt a black and white zebra skin pattern, and over a pair of fluorescent orange leggings that go right down to a pair of black hiking boots that have “loser” and “antisocial” and “nutjob” and “shithead” and “bum” and “freeloader” and “below average IQ” written on them in white fabric paint. Her neon green sweatshirt is tied around her waist, but I can still see the split-ring belt, which, now that I can see better, I can see has, dangling from it, a few soda can pull tabs, plastic rings that are part of the seal you break when you turn the lid on a new jug of milk, nails, a coil of gray metal wire, a few padlocks and their keys, and a combination lock that she probably used in school before she ran away. It’s the same lock I used in high school, shaped like a ball, advertised in teen magazines, only hers is bright blue and mine is bright purple. Good… an excuse to make conversation and meet her.

“Hey, I had that lock in school, only mine was purple!” There; it’s out of my mouth. No time to contemplate whether that sounded weird or not. You did your best.

The girl grunts. Continues to look up and down the street for someone to run to with her empty margarine container.

I said, “You don’t have to do that.”

“Look, I’m not selling my ass. If you’re recruiting me for the brothel, just get out of here.”

“No; I’m not from the brothel; I just want to take you for something to—'' She turns, stops rattling her bowl of coins at people, finally looks me straight in the face. She says, “What do you want?”

“I want to help you, because you’re homeless and probably hungry.” I know better than to try to smile or offer a fake one. I just look at her with my charming genuine innocence, with my expression that says I’m happy and would be even happier if I could help this girl.

She looks embarrassed now. She probably prefers to just stand here collecting pennies and nickels and dimes and the odd quarter from people who will never see her again, people she doesn’t have to worry about being embarrassed around. But I’m one of those people that wants to be her friend, and she doesn’t want a friend who’s richer than her, superior to her. She wants friends who are homeless like her, someone she can feel comfortable talking to about how crappy life is.

“You can tell me anything at all,” I say, and I can’t believe I’m actually saying this. I can’t believe I’m not just turning around and running home. I can’t believe that I believe I can do this, and therefore, I can’t believe I can do it.

She seems to be wondering what to do. She’s squirming and trying to hide it by standing stiller than one would normally stand. She doesn’t want to show she’s nervous, because being nervous is impolite. It’s like you’re showing you’re scared of someone who wants to help you. I recognize my social anxiety traits in her. And I’m flattered that she’s actually feeling intimidated by me. And I’m relieved that she’s got social anxiety, because someone who doesn’t and feels and knows they’re the one in control scares me shitless. But I feel bad that she has to feel this way to protect her feelings, locking them away in a lock box. It’s not exactly a comfortable or shame-free way to live. She needs some firm action, some solid proof that I can be her friend and that she can talk to me like she talks to her street friends. So I grab her by the arm and pull, nodding in the direction of the nicest, most expensive-looking restaurant I can see on this street, hoping to God that she doesn’t knife me or something but then thinking if I died now at least I would die doing a good deed. “I want to hear about your life on the street,” I say. “Maybe I’ll write an article about it.”

And she comes with me.

She actually comes with me.

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This product was added to our catalog on Thursday 21 April, 2011.