Look and See

Eight twenty five.

I keep making the same mistake of trying to read people and situations, only to be proven way wrong as the evidence is available. As a tool for knowledge, imagination doesn’t work. If you want to know something, just look and see. To learn what a person is thinking, ask them to their face. Intuition and imagination are useless for gathering information.

It’s a cloudy morning. I’m committed to going to church today. Things are rather wobbly for me in a few ways, but I’ll persevere and come out stronger. It seems that my worst enemy is myself. When it’s sink or swim, I choose to keep swimming.

Recovery

Quarter of nine at night.

There’s still twilight outside that I can see from my position. This afternoon I caught myself doing too much second guessing of other people’s thoughts on everything. The fact is that no one is clairvoyant enough to do that: telepathy doesn’t exist in real human experience. So I began to ponder what ever happened to cognitive therapy, since it was pretty big four years ago and very effective because it was realistic and based on evidence. People are less depressed when they are disabused of their distorted thinking. And, mind reading is an example of a cognitive distortion. First you catch yourself doing it, then you counter the distorted thought with a more rational one, one that is more realistic.

I hate to see a good method abandoned in favor of much older and less effective ones; yet this is the debate of reason versus romance that has gone on for more than three centuries. I’ve never seen a homeopathic remedy be very useful, especially against a disorder like schizophrenia: it makes no sense to fight delusions with more delusions. I guess it depends on the place of imagination, its meaning and its utility. I struggle when I pick up an author like Samuel Taylor Coleridge: I get vertigo from being lost in a misty fantasy of unnecessary abstraction, so I’m better off to avoid this stuff. The romance tends to sneak its way into even what we call science. It keeps us human and organic to use our imaginations, so probably the solution is a state of balance.

Schizophrenia is an extreme wherein imagination exceeds the boundaries of reality. But I don’t see much of that around me anymore. I remember when the streets at night were like rivers in hell, shrouded in fog that stank of brimstone. With age and with drug therapy, those things have sort of vanished in thin air. I’ve also grown callous to them over time.

Proportion

Quarter of nine.

During the wee hours this morning I got up and read 15 pages of Richard Wright. He made an observation of freedom that was reminiscent of Sartre, except three years before the publication of Sartre’s big essay. Native Son is a gut wrenching read because Bigger gets himself into such trouble. Sometimes I have to take my reading in small doses… It rained on me on my trip to market today. Michelle had been worried about my reaction to the antidepressant. I’m feeling better gradually. I remember something a meter reader said to me a few years ago when I worried about the condition of my back gate. I stopped her and apologized for the situation. She looked at me like I was stupid and said, “I haven’t had a problem all day.” It only proves that you never know what other people are thinking. You might as well let yourself off the hook and stop feeling guilty. I wonder why people don’t use cognitive therapy anymore. It’s a very useful tool to parry the thoughts that cause depression. I think it’s a lot better than Jungian psychology and everything that overemphasizes religious ideas. Cognitive therapy is realistic and based on evidence, plus it really works for depression and even schizophrenia.

Quarter of ten. A good author for reinforcing cognitive therapy is actually Jane Austen, so maybe I’ll finish reading Sense and Sensibility, focusing on Elinor more than her sister. I could use a good infusion of proportion and sanity today. 

Mental Health

Quarter after eleven.

My visit with Todd went fine; I’m going back on the Vraylar starting tonight because I’ve felt so terrible on the other medication. My rides back and forth to my appointment were with senior citizens. Then I walked to the market at a later time than usual. Michelle told me what a crazy morning she’d had. Their Internet connection had been down for an hour and a half, so customers couldn’t pay with a credit card or even use the ATM. She thought they were pissed off when they had to go someplace else. I also saw Suk and said hi to Brandi, who has worked there for eleven years or longer. I remember when she was a new employee and was mentored by John. He left the business long ago due to illness. He said once that you choose to either drink or not drink— as simple as that. At the time, I disagreed with him, thinking that alcoholism was genetic and not a matter of free will. Now I can’t really say one way or the other: is alcohol use an issue of fate or do we have control over the behavior? Perhaps saying it’s fate is just rationalization, and what it comes down to is the desire to drink or not drink. So that what you end up doing is what you wanted to do. And this would make good sense…

Noon hour. Today is cloudy and overcast, and I felt a few drops of rain out walking a while ago; just isolated, random drops that don’t mean anything. Cherie was out walking her big puppy up the street and Roger worked on the fence shared with Lori’s property, telling everyone it was a project he didn’t want to do. Lori’s house reminds me of something that happened in December of 2010. It used to be owned by some older guy. One day his mail got delivered to my box by mistake, so I went to his door to return the letter to him. That same month, I kept getting free copies of the Junction City Tribune, which I put in the trash without delay. The articles in it were conservative Christian and not interesting to me at all. They demonstrated a lack of intelligence. I can remember how I struggled with personalization and paranoia about the neighbors, especially when someone moved away. I automatically believed it was my fault. This paranoia was just like my mother’s. Thank goodness for cognitive therapy, which is the antidote to the other therapies and programs that don’t work. 

Do unto Others…

Eight ten.

Something on the periphery of my mind is bugging me, and I think it’s a feeling of guilt, whether or not it’s appropriate. Also I’m a little worried about her because she hasn’t posted anything in a long time… It is another cloudy and temperate morning. The walk to the convenience store was uneventful except for something Heather said. She expected that I would razz her for the “open” sign not being turned on, but this time I hadn’t even looked at it. But it makes me think about what I’ve been doing with people lately, perhaps being too critical of them. No doubt I will make more of my own mistakes, and nobody’s perfect. It feels good when we can shine. It feels bad when we fall short. I tend to challenge the idea from cognitive therapy that no one causes others to feel a certain way. It strikes me as baloney. We have to take some responsibility for the feelings of other people, and try to encourage them rather than cut them down. This is simple common sense. It may be emotional caretaking but it is what it is.

Some people call it the Golden Rule. 

Mixed Blessings

Seven ten.

Clouds like fish scales have moved in overnight. I got two Snapples and a little peanut butter bone for Aesop. Saw a heavyset woman walking two small dogs, and I passed a skittish cat in front of Kat’s house. Now, my house is exceedingly quiet; the only noise is my tinnitus, a whine in my ears from too many music gigs… Maybe all the music was a waste of my time, because you can’t have the music without the culture. I consider myself a nice guy and probably unsuited for rock and roll, especially when I’m not drinking anymore. I feel myself split between so many polarities. Can we blame a philosopher like Kierkegaard for his either/or principle? Or perhaps Aristotle for the Law of Excluded Middle? Too much of life is forced into a scheme of black and white. Even Jesus Christ had a distaste for lukewarm people, saying you run either hot or cold. Dichotomous reasoning is embedded in our culture, but not necessarily in nature. Sometimes I want to shoot spit wads at Aristotle for being a clod.

Quarter after eight. Aesop doesn’t like his science diet food today. I spent thirty bucks for twelve cans of the stuff and he’s turning up his nose. But with all the things that are going wrong lately, I know that not everything is crap. Life is full of mixed blessings. Whatever else happens, I’m still sober. If the world is coming to an end, I’ll be clearheaded to witness it and write about it. 

Satisfaction

Quarter of eight.

For once, a cloudy morning. Mostly gray skies, with a small blue patch here and there. I paused on the sidewalk to have a look. The ambience feels more alive now than when it was so warm. I just saw two fox squirrels on the ground out back. I don’t know what to think about spiritual things; if they are real, then it’s a phenomenon like parallelism, and the experience is very human. I think everyone can understand energies of light and dark. They may be felt, seen, or heard, especially in works of art. I’ve satisfied my curiosity about the poetry of John Berryman and decided to put it aside… I was beginning to think I’d never see another cloud since the heatwave that hit Oregon and Washington. When I got to the store today, I encountered a long line of customers at checkout. So I went to the shelf with dog treats first, then crossed the floor for a Snapple and frozen pizzas. In the back of my mind, I can remember how the place used to look inside, and the item I used to always buy, but usually not in the morning. I had a wonderful time being an alcoholic while I could, but ultimately alcohol is a snake disguised as an old friend, a snake that often bites you… A lot of people still drink, which seems rather strange to me because I’m at a different place from them now. A song by Yes occurs to me: “To Be Over,” a very pretty piece from their 1974 album Relayer. I guess I’m just thinking, now that I don’t drink anymore, what’s next for me? And perhaps the rock band project won’t work out. Then what? It’s the journey and not the destination, it is said.

Nine o’clock. My pen pal is late in writing me today, so I don’t know what’s going on. We haven’t been on the same wavelength for a couple of months… I just got her email now: it’s never accurate to assume anything. Also I know I tend to over generalize and try to read people’s minds, but to no avail. But it’s frustrating when people don’t speak their feelings and thoughts. And on the other hand, some people talk too much. They say the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. I imagine it’s an art to be content with your current situation, to be mindful and centered in the immediate reality. As it is, I suppose I flunk the test for today because I have a lot of regrets and frustrations in life. Satisfaction seems so far away to the past or the future. What if, as Carly Simon sang, these are the good old days? 

Foolosophy

Quarter of seven.

I rose from bed to a cloudy morning and read the email from my pen pal. My band is going to practice this afternoon, so we’ll see how that goes. The one person who supports my music more than anyone is Pastor right now. I don’t know why my sister didn’t call me yesterday. Now I won’t hear from her until at least Monday because her son will be home, and he and I have never gotten along together. In fact, all of the guys in my family don’t like me very much, and Polly is the only relative who talks to me. The situation with my family used to embarrass me but I just expect it to be lousy now. Many people with serious mental illness are disowned by their families. But my family doesn’t have much to offer me anyway. I told my sister that I had deactivated my Facebook account a few years ago, so maybe she’s thinking about that; the whole family is on Facebook except for me. This is just my imagination trying to explain why she didn’t return my phone call yesterday. I can’t read her mind… I’ll be going to the store in a little bit. It’s Heather’s first day working by herself on weekends.

Quarter after eight. I was wrong; Michelle is still training her. I was thinking about trust as I came up to the front door of the market. My brother told me once that he doesn’t trust anybody. But it seems to me that you have to be able to trust somebody besides yourself. One truism from Shakespeare often occurs to me: honest people don’t expect others to be dishonest. “A credulous father and a brother noble, whose nature is so far from doing harms that he suspects none; on whose foolish honesty my practices ride easy.” But the converse of this is also true: dishonest people are the first ones to suspect foul play from other people… I’m probably not missing much in not having a family. If you can’t choose your family, then you can choose your friends. And these people are the ones you can likely trust.

Ten o’clock. Polly did call me this morning, a Saturday, to my surprise. So I was proven wrong again, and all my conjectures were for nothing. She got on the topic of the Bible for a while and I listened patiently. I know her religion is important to her.

Eleven twenty. I’m all out of wisdom, and even my sophistries turn out foolish. It’s sort of a sophomoric day today. I hope it gets better, but whatever may come, I’ll try to stay calm. 

Pushed and Pulled

Four twenty.

I kind of dread my appointment with Rebecca, though it’s not her fault. The problem stems from the other guys in the band, who wouldn’t understand why I need a personal care attendant to keep organized at home. The guys are a working class sort and probably want me to be one of them. The more I think it over, the more I see how this band is causing me grief. It started when I bought a new bass for myself, knowing that this was something my friends wouldn’t do, or approve of me doing. I suffered a great deal over my decision to buy this instrument. So now I’m beginning to think these guys are not worth the pain I go through on their account, yet it’s hard to know what to do. I realize that I’m taking responsibility for their feelings, which isn’t the right thing to do, according to cognitive therapy, although some philosophers disagree on this tenet. The point is for me to avoid depression and anxiety as a result of interaction with other people, thus the cognitive perspective is likely my best option. Of course I have the freedom to choose to leave the band if things get out of control. And then there is the issue of their substance abuse, while I’m trying to stay sober in their midst. Maybe the music profession is not what I might wish it to be. I feel myself being pulled apart by the attitudes of other people, their politics, and their personal opinions and backgrounds. It makes it very difficult just to be a person in this world, but there has to be a solution. 

Morning of My Covid Shot

Seven twenty. It is a fact that emotional reasoning doesn’t work for determining what is true. We can feel all kinds of things to be true, but when we check the evidence we are often contradicted. Most people are not liars, so usually you can take them at face value when you ask them what they are thinking. Sometimes I need a tuneup of cognitive therapy, and today might be one of those times… I wish more people would learn to be realistic in their interactions with others, but it’s difficult to teach old dogs new tricks. It’s entertaining to play with Romantic ideas, though it doesn’t reveal the truth of situations. But I suppose that people of a Romantic persuasion will always rebel against reason, and this pendulum has been swinging in history since at least the 18th Century. The thing is, the Romantic perspective is no help to those who live with mental illness. For this reason, I never could agree with Twelve Step programs, which aggravate psychosis if anything. Most people still can’t figure that out. It also doesn’t work to fight fire with fire, or use homeopathic remedies such as religion to treat psychosis.

Eight twenty five. I just want to be at peace with myself and the world, but the world makes it very hard to be somebody. However, I know that my opinion is the one that counts in my life. How can others be right when their opinions disagree with each other? All of us are hunters in the dark. No one really knows anything, so the arbiter of truth might as well be you.