The First Five Minutes

by Allie Burke

My two cats are the first thing in view when I open my eyes. My boyfriend is sleeping gently next to me. He has to go to work soon. I’m groggy and broken. As the anti-inflammatory pill I took last night wears, the pain in my feet is like needles on fire. The fact that I promised myself I would stay in bed all day today doesn’t make it any better. I have shit to do.

I pick up my phone before my mod. I know it’s terrible. Your first five minutes of the day are the most important – I’ve read the studies – but I can’t stop. My life is in my phone.

There’s a photo in my Facebook feed that Marni shared. #PrayforOrlando it says under a line of different colored hearts.

Oh for fuck’s sake. What now?

Fifty people died, Google says. Eight hours before a madman went to a gay club and opened fire. The images of text messages and videos of police opening fire make my brain Pulse.

I can’t find the words to do justice to the most deadly shooting in America’s history. I say post nothing. I don’t cry. Why? Is my American mind numb to these events now?

Coffee. Coffee is out there. I drag my tendinitis with me to the kitchen. My roommate is in the living room asking Kona what is wrong with the world. He does not respond. Kona is a dog.

I read to her over my coffee steaming from my Wall-E cup from another article. A man was arrested in Santa Monica. There was an arsenal of weapons in his car. He told police he was on his way to Pride.

He was on his way to Pride.

I call my little brother. He is twenty-two years old. No answer.

My boyfriend posts on Facebook to tell his friends going to the LA Pride parade to be careful because he has a gut feeling that the man with the arsenal in his car was a small distraction for the big thing that’s going to happen there.

I text my brother, and watch the screen obsessively like I couldn’t possibly think of anything better to do in life.

The article says authorities considered shutting it down but decided to beef up security and undercover detail.

I snap him. He never answers a call or a text message, but will never ignore Snapchat.

You little shit, get out of there. NOW. And call me. PLEASE.

Nicole calls me. I haven’t talked to her in ages.

“Tell me what to do.”

“I’m okay,” I promise.

“Just tell me what to do, Allie.”

“I don’t…there’s nothing you can do. Or I, for that matter.”

“Is he there?”

“Yes. He told me he was going.”

“I know there’s nothing I can do from way up here but if you need anything, I’m here. I’m sorry I didn’t call earlier.  I love you.”

“I love you too. Thank you.”

He finally snaps me back.

I know, I’m the worst gay guy ever. I didn’t go to Pride because I don’t want to party anymore.

I breathe, and I can feel it in my Achilles. It burns.

Good. It’s not safe.

Oppression, right?


I feel gross. I don’t take the (other) meds again all day but I still feel sick. I fall asleep at 9:30 and wake up the next day to my alarm, wondering if homelessness is really that bad. The only reason I actually get up is because there are fifty people in Florida that don’t get to get up at all today. Or ever again.

The day goes quickly because I’ve been out of focus lately, and I need to play catch up. Story of my life.

It is cool outside on my last break and I read an angry post about mental illness. I remember telling my boyfriend that the shooting that happened at UCLA would end in mental illness, but I didn’t tell him this time.

My brain buzzes with electricity again. I find the article that claims the shooter’s ex-wife told police he was bipolar.

I start laughing. It’s terrible; why am I laughing, anyone would ask. The claim that this man has bipolar disorder is about a hundred times more ridiculous than he is schizophrenic, which is what they usually say, and I’m tired of saying it. I’m tired of saying that I have schizophrenia and I have a full time job and a place to live and two cats who are fed; I’m tired of saying that there are three schizophrenics in my family who have never hurt anyone. He’s bipolar? Really? Have you people ever met anyone bipolar?

Anyone in my position would laugh. It’s laughable, the whole thing. I can’t talk to these people. Do they even listen to anything we say? Or do they really just think we are all crazy? They must. They don’t give a shit about us.


Allie Burke was an author before she told her readers she had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. The admission led her to write hundreds of publications on the subject, some of which have been published in Refinery 29, Vice Magazine, and Women’s Health. She now hosts a writing workshop called The 557 Block to give back to the mental health community by teaching, coaching, and still learning about the art of the written word. She has written ten novels.

Allie is the founder of The OCH Literary Society.


7 thoughts on “The First Five Minutes”

  1. Allie, so often this week (and its only Tuesday, Damn) the “Like” button feels not quite right in some way, but it still denotes a thanks for the sharing and of support. I fully agree that those who expound and speculate about the mental illness of mass shooters and such are damagingly ignorant. In the wake of these events I hear varieties of madness so much greater and more pervasive than Bipolar or Schizophrenia – the whole horrible collection of “[fill in the blank]phobia” and hate/fear toward the perpetrator and his perceived identity group and the victims, and the blame for not predicting the unpredictable. — Oh, and sympathy for the Tendonitis, Bursitis sucks too. Glad your brother is OK. As for what’s wrong with the world, a dog might give as good and answer as any, and for sure a better palliative than most humans.


  2. Thanks for sharing your morning (found you via Robert – thanks Robert!) and your thoughts. I hope your feet feel better soon. I hope your heart feels better soon. I hope your soul feels less tired soon.

    You’re doing a good thing here, sharing like this.


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