Expatriate

Eight forty.

I can’t believe the people who think the devil exists in reality. It makes me want to get on a Concorde and fly to the United Kingdom. But short of that, I can at least skip church tomorrow. It’s for the sake of my health. If I believed that we live on an entirely Christian planet, I would probably commit suicide. It’s just not worth it anymore, having this disease that nobody understands, and which everything religious aggravates five times as bad. Somewhere in the world there must be a little nook without Christmas… It’s a very drab cloudy morning with hardly any signs of life, and not a prayer of intelligent life anywhere. With a little money in my pocket I would do a Henry James and expatriate myself. Alas that I’m so poor and unprivileged… Yet things can only get better after the holidays are over. Speed the time when that happens. I’m just having a very bad month. 

Feeling Unwell

Six thirty.

I finally figured out that I’m not well right now. The holidays are triggering my psychosis and wreaking havoc with my sanity. I’ll have to tell Pastor that I can’t come to Christmas Eve service this year. For my health I’m going to stay away from church for the rest of the month. And if I’m wise I should avoid church indefinitely. It’s just not the place for a schizophrenic person. 

What’s the Use?

Two forty.

I tried playing the bass but my confidence was blown away by the therapy visit I’d had this morning. I usually put on blinders to the ugly things I don’t want to see, like a form of extreme introversion or maybe selective denial of reality. This began when I had a Nissan truck and the interior was always a big mess. My brother said, “You don’t see it, but other people do.” He meant himself of course. Since that time the messiness has spread to my house, and I don’t know why. It’s a problem that has gotten progressively worse in about ten years’ time. It seems like there’s nothing I can do to fix it. Maybe underlying it all is a subconscious motive, perhaps an attitude of devil may care; maybe I need a good reason to keep things clean. Otherwise I figure it’s not worth the effort if it’s only me. Underneath it all I think it’s due to a feeling of despair and futility. It’s a voice saying what’s the use. Or it could be from a sense of rebellion and reckless independence, like defiance and perversity. It could be any or all of these things at a submerged level. Possibly I have anger issues directed somewhere. No one else has been able to figure it out yet.

And then maybe no amount of psychologizing will ever expose the reasons for my behavior. It’s just a schizophrenic brain glitch. 

Critique of Vraylar

Quarter of eleven at night.

It finally occurs to me that the Vraylar I take is very powerful and acts on me like a sedative, rendering me a lot less sensitive to some of the essential experiences of human life, such as spirituality, sexuality, and other things. Vraylar raises the threshold for the stuff that makes you feel alive in perhaps a primitive way, which I find to be regrettable to an extent. It was having a large Coca-Cola today that gave me this self awareness regarding the antipsychotic. Directly or indirectly the drug is costing me my membership in the church; but on the other hand it helps me avoid alcohol for the purpose of minimizing my delusions and hallucinations. It makes me wonder just what is the nature of schizophrenia: could it be just a matter of extreme sensitivity of the nervous system? In that case, maybe the psychosis is truer to reality than anyone had believed. Or perhaps the excitability of the nerves is like a tale by Edgar Allan Poe, an experience of darkness and terror and phantasmagoria not without its own peculiar kind of beauty… The best part about the Vraylar is how it saves me from alcohol abuse by abolishing psychosis; but the pitfall is mostly the way it deprives me of some of the quintessential feelings of human experience, the sheer primitive energy that makes us alive and gives us happiness as well as pain. It banishes the emotional roller coaster of life— which is why it is prescribed for bipolar disorder in addition to schizophrenia. In sum, it pushes down everything for better and for worse. 

Stigmata

Quarter of two in the morning.

Another night as black as coal. This simile recalls an old U2 song, “The Unforgettable Fire,” for me. The day I bought that record I took my SAT test in preparation for college, and I scored very low on both parts because I didn’t apply myself. If I felt that way, I suppose I shouldn’t have been in AP English that year. The truth is that I knew there was something wrong with me, though it defied definition for another seven years. Well, whatever. The important thing is the here and now and what you do with it.

When I left my psychiatrist’s services, I chose to be out of the closet with schizophrenia, to just take my chances, because deception felt wrong to me. I wasn’t even sure of what I was doing, but I wanted to be honest with people. Now, I don’t believe I sabotaged myself. Someone has to do something to change the stigma attached to the illness and it might as well be me.

Schizophrenic people are no more violent than any other population, according to a person I knew with a degree from Boston University. And Fuller Torrey writes that the majority of them are remarkably nonviolent. Speaking for myself, I have never been in a single fistfight. People with schizophrenia are usually more harmful to themselves than to others. The intelligence and temperament of people are separate issues from the disease of schizophrenia. It’s very unfortunate when the media spreads bad publicity of a schizophrenic person who committed a crime. A therapist told me that another 80 years would have to pass before the public would be accepting of the mentally ill. Until then I contribute what I can to that cause. 

“Josh Halliwick”

Quarter after ten at night.

I don’t know why I’ve been reading Mark Twain lately, except for how his message of freedom inspires me to inspire others. This afternoon I drank in thirty pages of Connecticut Yankee as if it were the first time for me. Then I consider my derailment at such a young age and wonder why this illness ever happens to people… I suddenly remembered a little book of another schizophrenic’s struggles, titled Josh Halliwick’s Madness, coauthored by the cousin of my friend who played guitar. This book was published seven years before I ever started my own blog. I can recommend it for its accurate descriptions of psychotic episodes and the ruin that they can make of a person’s life. Since I’m on a medication that works pretty well, I often forget what the “positive symptoms” of schizophrenia were really like. Only 11 years ago I still had crippling delusions of hell and the devil and could hardly play music with my friends. My mind on Vraylar is a far cry from when I was a drunken madman. I say this with compassion for myself and for everyone who has ever suffered from schizophrenia. Unfortunately, religious people don’t understand the difference between psychosis and faith, and Christianity is a big thing nowadays. The fact remains that schizophrenia is a disease, not a spiritual state or anything like that. The delusions are bizarre and absurd and mustn’t be taken for a revelation. It’s a very unlucky situation when people mistake lunacy for legitimate belief. 

Bedrock

Eleven o’clock.

I’ve ordered two new CDs of Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, I’m not sure why. There’s probably a reason I’m doing this at this particular time, and a little insight might reveal it to me. What happens in October? How many past Octobers can I recall, like the concentric rings of a tree trunk or layers of ivory in a whale’s tooth? Thirty years ago I was diagnosed with schizophrenia, at the end of the initial psychotic episode. At some point during that time I reviewed the music of my childhood, and Alpert was a big part of that. I don’t remember what the purpose of the regression was; I think I wanted to reach the bedrock of my soul, in order to know who I truly was. But instead, the revelations deteriorated to bizarre delusions about religion and mythology, as if I was living a waking dream or a fairytale. Ultimately I believed that I was Jesus Christ on a quest for his mother, the Virgin Mary… My psychiatrist at the time later asked me if he could have said anything to make the delusions go away; was it possible to talk me out of them? And I told him that I doubted it. Only by taking the medication could this be done. The most absurd thing is the idea of two schizophrenic people meeting each other, both claiming to be Jesus Christ. At the same time, why is Christ the most archetypal hero a person can imagine, existing at such a profound level of the psyche, and how real is this image? Also, the same for the Virgin Mary as the ultimate mother. Where do these ideas come from? I wasn’t even raised religious. 

Azure

One forty.

Last night I raised the dose of my medication to 3 mg, as I was supposed to do, but as a consequence I got up feeling terrible, with the blackest of thoughts. The only logical thing to do is reduce the dose down to 2 mg again at bedtime tonight. If I still feel this lousy by this weekend then I’ll stay home from volunteering and from worship on Sunday. At best, I’ll do only one and not the other. Schizophrenia is a frustrating mess. I hope tomorrow is a better day than this. I’ve got my eye on the sky out of my window: it’s still white instead of azure, the celestial blue that it ought to be. I guess sometimes you have to look upon the world with blue colored glasses when the reality falls short of perfect. 

Raising Consciousness: a Letter

Also this afternoon I started reading the Theodore Sturgeon novel. It begins right away with content about insanity and terrible violence, so I don’t know if I’ll read further. It upset me because of its ignorance of mental illness and autism. To Sturgeon, psychopathology is just a blanket field for insanity and idiocy. The story was written in the fifties, when I suppose very little was known about mental health problems, especially among the general public. It was people like him who were guilty of spreading misinformation about “insane” people, and who made it something to be afraid of. My mind went from there to thinking about my brother, who still believes everything he sees on television, having grown up during the tv generation. Frankly I can’t stand people who believe television before they accept reality that is right in front of their noses. My brother’s attitude totally sucks, but no amount of talking to him can change his mind. For him, Alfred Hitchcock is reality, and he’s scared to death of mental illness; which means he’s also afraid of me.

I believe that people should unplug not only their tv but also avoid the movies, or at least watch them with a discriminating eye. Trust experience of immediate reality rather than a lying media.

So that was my little stint with “light reading” today. And the rest of the day I spent mostly napping.

I do think that consciousness is slowly being raised for the phenomenon of mental illness, but the progress is painful and laborious because of the myths we have to bust. Our worst enemy, as in everything, is fear of the unknown. People generally fear what they don’t understand, and misunderstand what they fear.

The Collar

Wee hours.

Still I have difficulty sleeping. I think it’s from the cholesterol medication. For now I’m not going to worry about it. In a sort of delirium a minute ago I thought of D.H. Lawrence again, that he was thrown in jail for obscenity or something that wasn’t accurate, and why did I have to study him at the university if he was such a degenerate? 

I don’t think anyone really knows anything in these times. But we have to believe somebody and maintain optimism, a faith that things will work out okay. People as a rule are not the nasty brutes that Hobbes described in Leviathan. The other day I made an observation in my journal on the priest’s white collar and what it might symbolize from a psychological perspective. The collar seems to sever the head from the body, or rather rationality from feeling. If hell is everything below the neck, then heaven is what is above it. I wonder what happens when the collar is removed, and head and body are allowed to communicate? The result is not chaos, but instead experience in full color and wholeness. The thoughts you only cogitated become convictions you feel with your whole body. And what I’ve just illustrated is an aspect of schizophrenia, originally conceived as the split between reason and feeling. But what I find interesting is how this condition applies not just to me, but to a lot of people in some capacity.