Polly called me up just after I got out of bed and we talked for an hour. Then, during a lull in the rain, I shuffled off to the market in a dismal mood. I told myself I would just take my time even if it started to rain. Having made it to the store, Michelle was particularly nice today, commenting about my dog, whose food I didn’t need to buy this time. The radio played an old pop song from the seventies, “Oh What a Night.” Yesterday she wore a rose Tom & Jerry sweatshirt, but today the pattern was more ordinary… I just received some awesome news from a healthcare network in Portland. This social worker named Lenora said I am eligible for a personal care assistant, and she’s getting the process moving. Apparently my case manager at Laurel Hill did great in faxing off my paperwork. Usually it’s such an uphill battle to obtain services of this kind, so I’m surprised at my luck.
Ten forty. The afternoon yesterday was clear and sunny for the first time in many weeks. I thought of going out in it, over to the store for something sweet to eat, but I panned the idea because there was nothing I really needed. For the wee hours this morning I struggled with Mallarme’s French, seeking the answer but not knowing the question. In the book I ran across some strange mathematical signs and figures, suggesting to me that he was interested in semiotics. I found his poem about the flying flaming hair, but where a title should be there was a pentagram. I imagine that the early scores of the music of Penderecki were similarly impressionistic and difficult to grasp. I’m sort of wondering why they can’t be more direct and literal. Is this just my American naïveté?
Band practice yesterday afternoon went very well. Mike bought us an ambient microphone for smartphone so now we can record our sessions. It works great. Listening again to our opening jam in D minor, I thought to myself that the bass alone wouldn’t sound like much, but in the context of the drums and keyboards it makes sense… At three thirty I left the house with my kit bass in my grip. It was 48 degrees outside so I didn’t wear a jacket. I tried to clear my mental windscreen and just go and play music with the fellas. I encountered a few neighbors on the street, but kept on walking. When I got to B— Lane, Mike passed me in his truck and offered me a lift, but it was only a few minutes to his house so I declined…
Most of the clutter in my mind stems from guilt received from my case manager at Laurel Hill. It does me a lot more harm than good to feel so burdened by health professionals who do nothing but criticize me. It takes all the joy out of life to be browbeaten. I think I’ll start looking for an alternative to the agency because quite frankly I despise it. I only need someone to prescribe my medication— that’s all. They can keep their stupid advice.
I stayed in bed a bit longer this morning, then fed Aesop at nine thirty. Roger said hi while I was looking in my mailbox, but more than that would have been awkward. Michelle was wearing a gray T-shirt with the logo, “Not today Satan.” Supposedly this would ward off evil in her day. Kind of bizarre, I thought. But then I run into superstition everywhere in this community, and it shows no sign of retreating. Some organizations get rich by pandering to people’s weakness for spooks. I guess I have to just turtle my way through it. My case manager at Laurel Hill is going to call me tomorrow at two o’clock. This agency hasn’t changed much since the time I was employed there. I think those with schizophrenia and bipolar ought to have more alternatives than the crap we’re stuck with. Of course it matters what belief systems we are fed, and fighting delusions with religion doesn’t work. But when you’re at the poverty level, this is the kind of nonsense you have to deal with. I’ll be glad when the appointment is over with.
Eleven twenty. No band rehearsal this weekend because Mike has to work. I’ll go to church tomorrow night just to have company. I’m beginning to think what’s the use in blogging anymore; what am I trying to achieve by making posts? I realize I won’t be persuading anyone to my personal point of view. I reckon it’s about putting stuff out there for me and not so much for others. Maybe I’m merely burned out on blogging.
Michelle was sweet this morning, as usual. Yesterday she wore her Snoopy sweatshirt and I said I liked it. She said it was the last clean shirt on the rack. I left for the store a bit earlier because Aesop needed canned food for his breakfast at nine o’clock. The fog was dense and I met no one on my way there. Coming back, I ran into the old man with his walking stick who lives on the next street down from mine. He was dressed in blue denim with a baseball cap. I was hearing “Sanctuary” by John McLaughlin in my head, a slow dirge in 3/4, definitely dissonant. Right now the sun is burning through the remains of the fog…
I feel a nebulous sense of past things and people from when Obama was president. Eight years was a long stretch. I used to walk Aesop around the neighborhood when he was a puppy. I made myself tea in the morning, then in the afternoon I’d go get a 12 pack of cheap beer. On a soaring drunk I would put The Beatles on the pc speakers and lose touch with reality.
Quarter after eleven. Today I wonder why I drank so heavily. Was there something about my life that I couldn’t accept? I had a psychiatrist who always nagged me for not “doing something.” He had an extreme work ethic and tried to instill this in his clients. He used electro convulsive therapy as a means to “motivate” his severely depressed patients. Interestingly, it was the month after I fired him that I began my sobriety, and this time I succeeded. I’d never made this connection before.
Noon hour. I remember when I received the letter that terminated his services. It was dated August 1, 2017. At last, after twenty five years of torture, I was free. Toward the end of my sessions with him, I dreaded going to every appointment— and I told him so in a phone conversation. He couldn’t say much to that.
Quarter of two. I believe that subconsciously I still rebel against the old psychiatrist. Whatever thing he wished of me, I gave him the opposite. This went on for years. I perceived him as a kind of slave driver. Nothing I did was good enough for him. He became like an authoritarian parent to me. After a length of time I’d had enough of being unfairly bossed around. He used verbal abuse on me as well, and that was the end of the rope. I learned by an accident that I had rights as a client, so I got brave and did what I had to do.
Noon thirty. I just finished reading Oedipus the King. It makes me wonder about compliance with gods and higher powers, and how human pride can interfere with justice. And again I consider the example of Mr T—, this unaccountable “narcissist.” Maybe life is supposed to have a certain flow to it, in conformity with the will of the gods, proportionate and rational. This would be the Greek way. Any excess, anything immoderate, is a pollution that throws off the balance. Pastor is planning a big Christmas whingding to usher out this “crazy” year, but I don’t think this is the answer. I’m quite a dissident to this idea. Rather than participate in church, I’d like to stay home and keep quiet until January.
Four thirty in the morning. I was just considering the implications of my post, “Where Have All the Schizos Gone?” A cabbie declared to me that the incumbent is “mentally ill,” and I replied that he may have a personality disorder. If this is true, then the time is propitious to take psychiatry seriously again, but do it with compassion and expertise. I also maintain that religion is ineffectual in treating people with mental illness, so that science in general needs a revival for the common good. Personally, I’m sick of the Church. People scratch their heads and call the incumbent “crazy,” but the clinical truth will be more specific and more fair. I’m no diagnostician myself, but I think Mr T— can be helped.
Quarter after five. Thomas Mann assumes that sickness has moral underpinnings. I’ve always struggled with that opinion, but there’s such a consensus that agrees with him. What we don’t understand we treat with religion. I’m not even sure how to define mental illness anymore, having heard so many perspectives, and none of them superior to another. When was the last time I heard the DSM5 referred to? At least in America, talk therapy has monopolized the field of behavioral health. I never hear anything about psychiatry anymore, maybe because mental illness is too expensive for society to afford. While this is going on, people with schizophrenia and bipolar still self medicate with illicit drugs on the street. Some of them even refuse medication, and we tell them that’s okay. Honestly, I haven’t spoken with another person who has schizophrenia in many months. It’s as though they were running around undiagnosed and unmedicated. Mental illness has become a big gray area, and all because we’ve done away with psychiatry and diagnostic labels. Or is this only my own experience in the past three years? What do we do with our severely mentally ill people these days? Where have they gone? Why don’t I see them anymore? Perhaps they’re all homeless and sleeping under the Washington Jefferson Street Bridge? They seem to have been assimilated into the mainstream, their symptoms ignored and untreated. Is this a good thing or a terrible miscarriage of justice? I only think of the suffering of people with psychosis who don’t get the relief they deserve. There’s something wrong with this picture. But of course, I would have to see some statistics on recovery rates to really know what is happening…
It’s been an inauspicious day for my writing today. It was a dud. Well I had my one liter of Coke and suffered no ill effects except for a little hypertension. Okay, and a twinge of conscience for being reckless. I did enjoy the taste of the Coke, but was it worth the self scourging? Probably I was flirting with disaster, knowing as I do that my motive for having a Coke was submerged alcoholism. Tomorrow I’ll have a decision to make: repeat this behavior or force myself to leave it. Before long I could be addicted to caffeine again. The way this works is quite mysterious, but everybody with an addictive personality understands it. My brother has been addicted to Vicodin at least twice and kicked it, but he always returns to alcohol. My sister had a good start on quitting smoking when all of her teeth were pulled— and went back to it again. The thing about alcohol that makes it so maligned by culture is the way it alters behavior. I don’t believe that God and Satan have anything to do with it, although I’ve been indoctrinated with this nonsense so that I know it far too well. But the real mechanism of addiction is poorly understood, and whoever solves the puzzle will be a very rich individual. It is because no one understands it that people resort to religion for treatment of it. My sincere hope is that, someday, reason and science can expose the workings of addiction to the light of day, bringing us out of the Dark Ages and ending the blame and shame that addicts unfortunately have to go through. It was never a fair situation for people with this problem to browbeat them with a guilty conscience. Some healthcare professionals are downright sadistic toward alcoholics. I’ve witnessed this at the emergency room and even been a firsthand victim of it. I despise PeaceHealth and the RiverBend hospital for demeaning people with alcoholism. They also suck at helping people with schizophrenia. And as I write about this and ponder it, I think there must be something I can do to improve these conditions. The days of chaining schizophrenic people in dungeons are not over, yet in the name of decency they ought to be. The dungeons just have been given a facelift. Strangely, where healthcare professionals have failed, I find that a random cross section of people can be quite progressive and accepting of the mentally ill and addicts. So that all hope is not lost for humanity as far as keeping an open mind.
Three forty. Aesop and I are both suffering from the heat, and I’m afraid of how the Vraylar interferes with my ability to breathe. I imagine it could kill me. Well, with schizophrenia, it’s been kind of a crappy life. Vicki is not much older than I, and she may have bad news to face regarding her brain tumor. I can only say that life has never gone the way I expected it to. Now I look back on the church and wonder if I did the right things. But I fought with the decision for a whole year before finally leaving. A year is a long time. It had to be a thorough process. Every time I think of Jesus, I think no way. A pantheistic god might be possible but not a human god. My reason likes a Unitarian god but not trinitarian. It is simpler and more parsimonious than the Trinity. And any soul that we possess is probably born with us and not given when we are baptized. This means preexistence and reincarnation rather than heaven and hell. Clearly I have thought these things through… I don’t know if I will be welcome to volunteer anymore or not. We’ll see what happens…
Last night I thought of the addiction group I attended two and a half years ago. It was a good one. I was a mere shadow of myself then, however. The upstairs room we met in had a high ceiling and large windows, out of which I could see the sky with birds and planes and things while we had session. It’s kind of interesting to remember now. The group expanded suddenly from being three people to more like fifteen. And then I graduated. All at once I lost my med prescriber and I was stuck with two bad professionals, and then I went to another place only slightly better. It was all a nightmare before I went back to Laurel Hill. It’s tempting now to believe that I did something wrong for the whole world to go so awry. But it’s only a delusion of grandeur. It couldn’t possibly be my fault. China is a long way from Oregon. And I don’t believe in magic, or in being a jinx. It doesn’t make sense.
Nine o’clock 🕘. Aesop has been panting and wheezing in the heat, so we got up again. Tomorrow I will buy some ice 🧊 in the bags they have at the market, or buy a couple of trays for making my own ice in the freezer. It only occurs to me today that I have none… I am quite thrilled with the Ayn Rand books I received this morning, but why did I get three copies of the same title? I wanted to solidify the story for myself, making it more real. But this behavior is compulsive, as Bonnie understood when I described it to her. She wanted to diagnose me with OCD on top of schizophrenia, but I left her care and things were rather unresolved. To be honest, her own behavior had become very strange and forced for some reason. She was under pressure from her supervisor not to just visit with me anymore, but instead carry out a structured program. It was a lot of bureaucratic red tape. Looking back, I feel bad for Bonnie now. The organization she worked for was very weird. It treated Iris badly as well, and who knows who the people were in charge. Anyway, Bonnie’s assessment was probably on the right track if she’d been allowed to be human in her job. Bureaucracy is a crappy thing when it distorts people out of human shape, constraining them against their will and their beliefs. Maybe someday P—Health will get it together, but it will require a lawsuit against them first. They really need to treat their employees better so they can care for their clients better. My impression of the organization was always right, and now I’ve put my finger on the problem a bit more. Everyone who worked there was a robot 🤖 except for Iris, and they moved her to a different department, a sort of demotion from being a private psychiatrist. It was just awful. Now I’m a total dissident of P—Health. They control two of the hospitals in the area, but I hope I can be admitted to the third one the next time I need help. I fired my PCP with this bureau and last December started seeing a new one somewhere unrelated. I hold out hope that the more independent organizations can thrive and maintain a semblance of humanity in doing their work.
Three o’clock. I gazed through the collected poems of Mallarme and remembered how Kate and I analyzed a couple of them together one night. It would be about eight years ago. I was stinking drunk as always, so this poetry was perfect for the occasion. Life was so lustful when I was just a bit younger, aided by alcohol. Without it now, life is the undiscovered country. I may never know myself this way, nor where I’m going. Part of me longs to regress to the old drunkenness, but I don’t because it has no future. I couldn’t function as an alcoholic; that’s simply me.
A doctor told me I had looked like I wouldn’t live much longer on booze. I used to get edema in my lower legs because my liver was malfunctioning. The phlebotomy nurse pointed it out to me. She tried to give me the benefit of the doubt and say it was the summer heat, but she knew better. Joann was very sympathetic, but I ran into many professionals who were not. The worst worked at the hospital. Some were downright sadistic toward alcoholic people. For that reason I wouldn’t want to drink again. I saw how they treated another drunkard one night. They humiliated him and made an example of him. My own bad experience happened on Labor Day of 2017, at the RiverBend emergency room. Now it seems like something that happened to another person. Anyhow, I lost all desire to drink after that ordeal. No more hospital trips for me.