Quarter of nine at night.
I had a series of bad dreams of being persecuted, but why is harder to nail down. It was because of my inquiring intellect that a man was trying to poison me. He believed that I was not a team player but some sort of traitor. The setting for the dream resembled the shipping and lab areas at my old workplace long ago. Was I really guilty of a crime, or was it just my presence or existence that raised the alarm?
After my nightmare, I got up and checked the thermostat, whose clock said “21:11.” Then I made a little discovery. The cover to the last Rush CD shows a clock that indicates “9:12,” or in military time, 21:12. Either by chance or by design, the birthdate of my sobriety was September 12, or 9/12 of 2017. I guess I should listen to Clockwork Angels. As it stands, I’ve got the CD still in the plastic for a kind of time capsule. And maybe I should save it for later.
Nine thirty five.
Now I’m thinking that I’ve been through the mill with this illness and for a long time, with alcohol. No one knows exactly what causes schizophrenia: it runs in families, but also they guess it has something to do with immune system problems. Its onset is triggered by stress. All I know is it’s a pain in the derrière. Sometimes in my sleep I remember the hospital stays in 2016 for alcohol withdrawals and other health complications, like arrhythmia as a side effect of antipsychotic medication. I lost track of how many times I’d been in the hospital for these issues and suicidal ideation; it blurred together in one big nightmare. But luckily I never went to jail and by a fluke I’m still alive and able to write this. Only a couple of times did I lose my coherence: my facility for language mostly stayed intact, even through the looniest experiences. Thus the light of language is by far my greatest blessing, because without communication a schizophrenic is really screwed.
Six fifty five morning.
Outside is black as ink but I went out in it anyway. At four thirty I could no longer sleep so I got up; besides, my dreams were rather unpleasant. The music I hear is archaic for me, some Three Dog Night from my grade school years. My family was closer knit in those days, or so it seemed, maybe because all the adults drank, while today, the drinkers make a minority.
I remember a birthday breakfast I had with my sister nine years ago at Burrito Boy on River Road to the south of here. A strange rendezvous, because she called me to say the battery in her van was dead and she wanted to cancel. However, I suggested picking her up in my truck, and that’s what we ended up doing. Distinctly I recall telling her at our table that I thought I was a nicer person when I was drinking, which in hindsight was a load of crap. But in my defense, I drank for self medication of the illness, so it wasn’t entirely illicit. The drug I take for psychosis now wasn’t on the market until the following year. Up till then I squeaked by on a drug developed in the Fifties, a “first generation” antipsychotic that barely sufficed to keep me feeling okay… There had been a controversy over whether talk therapy could take the place of medication for schizophrenia. I don’t know what the current thinking is on that, but it seems very dubious to me, especially when psychologists can’t agree on what causes schizophrenia, if it’s even an experiential thing.
I think psychiatry is to thank for us being out of hospitals, not to mention out of medieval dungeons, chained up in darkness.
I did just a little reading in philosophy for the afternoon and, among other things, I encountered the word “sobriety” associated with Enlightenment attitudes. I had also found “sober” in the book by Morton White. Naturally I came to ponder the definition of sobriety in a literal and figurative sense, and now I compare it to the beliefs and practices of certain organizations for alcoholism. How sober is it to think that a god will personally intervene and take over your life?
I once had a delusion during a psychotic drive to the coast. I actually stopped the car on my way to Florence, in the stretch with the railroad on the left, before you get to the Siuslaw River. I got out and went around to the passenger side, got in and sat down, and asked god to drive the rest of the way to the coast. So I sat there for a few minutes expectantly. But nothing happened, and the car remained where it stood. There was also a moment when I stood at the roadside and stared directly at the sun, waiting for it to turn to blood like the moon in Revelation. Again nothing happened. These are the things of madness. But it’s funny how, in describing them, I seem to be building a stronger case for the religious imagination. Where do the delusions come from and why do they so stubbornly persist? What is real and what is imaginary, and can they overlap?
Sanity and sobriety are the stuff of realism and rationality, but it’s unrealistic for a human being to be other than human.
I need a vacation from my mind. I’m driving myself crazy and need to get away from it all. I know it’s not normal to speculate on the devil and so forth: it’s my illness talking, not me. I hate this disease.
I think I’ll go buy a Coke from the store around the corner. Anything to get out of the house. To extravert my mind if only for a half hour.
Today I read 13 pages of The Magic Mountain; I’m not even sure what drew me to it. It’s one of the books that I dabble in and then put aside for long periods. Jeez, I must have started it 22 years ago! I blow hot and cold on the book. I also played my bass again, but I noticed how my chops are slower than they used to be, and I’m kind of sloppy technically. Another observation is the impact on me of the antipsychotic medication. It makes me feel very realistic even to the exclusion of experiencing anything mystical or romantic. Thomas Mann writes of romantic love in a magical kind of way, though with tongue in cheek humor. But I think my medication puts the skids on a lot of things that make life worth living. Thus it’s a tricky balance to maintain between imagination and reality. It seems that even Eros contains a share of mystic sentiment. When you love a person, it’s like taking a potion, and you idealize the object of your desire. This is the magic I mentioned. But a realistic mood ruins the effect of the love potion. It knocks Cupid’s arrows off course. I know it sounds silly but I’m serious.
But I have no choice but to keep taking the medication. The imagination thing is feast or famine, or all or nothing. As it is today, I have to live with the famine side of the equation. So although I’m feeling sane and rational, I’m not having any fun with my life. I think that sooner or later, something somewhere is going to break. Something’s got to give, or it’s all for nothing.
Finally this evening I realize the possibility that my mental health has been declining since last month. I don’t know how or why it’s happening; maybe the medication is less effective than it was for a few years. I also don’t know how it can be fixed. I believe I’m in for a bumpy ride ahead at least temporarily, so I hope readers will bear with me while adjustments are made to get me back on track.
Or could it be that I’m imagining all of this?
I’ve picked up Sense and Sensibility where I left off some time ago. It really hits the spot. Austen definitely favors Elinor over Marianne, and she is the rational figure of the two. It again makes me wonder why the original cognitive therapy has been abandoned by our therapists today. For schizophrenia, there’s no better treatment than something rational and realistic, since the illness is imagination run amok. It never made sense to treat it with religion, as homeopathic remedies don’t work. And there’s nothing wrong with the patient’s character or morals. It is a terribly superstitious way to try to help a person. Not enough is known about schizophrenia, but it ought to be the jurisdiction of science and medicine and not of religion and psychology, as I keep saying.
I was misguided when I joined the church, but then my psychiatrist had his own problems, so it’s just as well I left his care. Now I have a lot of people for support rather than just one or two people. I’m thankful to them and also I think it’s indispensable to advocate for yourself.
One word I think characterizes Austen more than anything else: she is the embodiment of prudence.
It rained this morning, not heavily. Enough to be heard indoors a few times. I walked to the store before daylight, taking care not to slip or trip on the wet street. Visibility was pretty bad and I relied upon the streetlights to see where I was stepping. But it wasn’t raining during the trip. At almost nine o’clock I called Polly to get that out of the way and we talked for about ninety minutes. She’s getting braver about her religious talk, so I’m more inclined to avoid her after this. I don’t know if I encouraged her or not. I just said I’d gone to church last Sunday and that opened the door for her. Frankly I’m quite confused on the whole thing, and it confuses others when I vacillate from one position to the other. I don’t think I’m well. I can’t choose a side and adhere to it— and there’s even the delusion that Armageddon is coming upon us, the ultimate battle of good and evil before the last judgment by Jesus Christ. But just regarding my family, I believe that Polly may end up alone with her religion unless she finds herself a church to participate in. I feel that unfair demands are being made on me by Polly. This is very hard on me. What she understands as her reality is what I experience as a delusion. It’s hard to tell how much is her and how much is myself. I can’t separate out Polly from what I am when we discuss Christianity. If I told her the content of my psychosis she would believe it was real. It’s entirely possible that she is just as loony as I am.
I think it’s good that you took the day off from reading today… I just got back from the store, where I bought a Coke and Aesop’s favorite treat of chicken jerky. I looked around at the sky and it was blue with a lot of white from clouds or maybe smoke. It’s 90 degrees. You know, what you’ve been saying is right. The fact is that I really like my Edgar Rice stuff. Why should I let anyone ruin it for me? It takes me back to a happy time in my life. In 79 I was 12 years old and just finding some things that I really loved. I read my pulp novels and drew pictures to illustrate what I’d read. I had a wonderful time. I didn’t really hit the wall until I started high school and caught mononucleosis. There’s evidence now of a possible correlation between schizophrenia and the virus that causes mono. In my case, this makes good sense. My battle with mono in high school was awful and depressing. At the end of my senior year, my doctor did some work on my blood and determined that I had a low level of immunoglobulin type A, which may also turn out to be related to the schizophrenia. But I’m only guessing, and the research on this stuff is going very slowly. Anyway, I was terribly sick during high school, and the schizophrenia happened to me in college.
A problem with my ex psychiatrist was that he never believed anything his patients said until there was a consensus, a considerable body of evidence. It always drove me kind of crazy to have him pooh pooh my observations or complaints about something with my illness or a medication I was on. He had to see it in JAMA or whatever before he would believe it. He didn’t credit us with any intelligence, sometimes even humanity. His patients were beneath him. Ick! He was an autocrat.
The Coke tastes really good this afternoon. I’m resolved to read my Edgar Rice and enjoy it.
Quarter of eight.
The rising sun is muted by what is probably wildfire smoke. Yesterday’s high temperature was 97 degrees… My informal research into Tolkien on one hand and Edgar Rice Burroughs on the other concerning attitudes towards “power” led me back to Machiavelli and his condemnation by the Church. The things I found kind of overran my circuits and pitched me into psychosis, though they had a valid basis in the history of ideas. It’s just that no one wants to know the theological nuts and bolts of these old notions of power and self-will. And the truth is rather ugly. But my brain has been baking too long in the summer heat and a respite is called for. I think I’ll stay away from every church of Christianity. I’ve heard enough sermons. We are after all merely human beings and biological organisms, and the religious stuff is secondary. It isn’t true that in the beginning was the word, or else everything is upside down. The Age of Reptiles is older than the time of Moses, but we get this backwards and make the Bible logically prior to natural history.
Here we go again. I’d better leave off while I still can.