Winds of Change

I had my appointment with Misty this afternoon and we decided to keep me pretty much on the same course as before regarding having a PCA. I think I’ll be okay with that. It was just hard for me to accept that I have schizophrenia and that I need the help from somebody. And you know, my blog is sort of a place where I present a persona to readers and say this is my not schizophrenic life. I think I’ve been in denial about my diagnosis and wanted to be known as a person, not a schizophrenic. The truth is that I am both… While I was at the agency I ran into Patty who lives on N. Park in my neighborhood. She also has schizophrenia. Today her ride home was very late and I offered her the use of my cell phone. So we called Ridesource and got it sorted out. They sent an Oregon Taxi cab shortly and I saw her get in. Patty doesn’t have a cell phone or a computer at home; just a landline phone. The only way she can go online is by using public computers at Laurel Hill or wherever. She said her husband has a cell phone. And she said she can’t afford a phone or a computer. I should tell her about the computer recycling place in town, and there’s also a program that gives free computers to people with disabilities. I’ll probably see her again out and about, at the market or someplace in the area… It’s really odd how attitudes change towards all kinds of things, including mental illness and behavioral health. And it’s even more complex because my own attitudes change too, so which is doing which? Right now, it’s going back from phenomenology to psychiatry, or from psychology to a biological perspective. I used to think maybe there was no such thing as schizophrenia as a diagnosable thing, but now it’s doing a 180 turnabout. In some ways this is a good thing because people can get services that they couldn’t under the other policy. A diagnosis can qualify you for a lot of helpful free stuff. I dunno: it’s making my head swim, it’s happening so fast. And I strongly suspect that the Democratic government has a lot to do with the change— though I can’t prove anything. All in all it’s very interesting to watch as it unfolds.

Well now the wind is blowing quite fiercely and it’s cloudy this afternoon. There’s a chance of rain over the weekend, probably light showers. I just got done playing my bass guitar, the homemade one, for over an hour and it felt great to me. A lot of fun, and on Sunday we’re going to have a band practice. Pastor Dan gave me a call this morning regarding my sister’s unfortunate attitudes about gay people. He understood about her fundamentalism and of course he didn’t agree with it. He is still in Michigan to visit his brother who just had heart surgery. Meanwhile I avoided calling Polly today just to avoid feeling upset 😢 by another abusive speech. So maybe I’ll go to church this weekend. And tomorrow I have nothing planned. Aesop will be glad 😃 if I stay home for a day.

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. 

Thor’s Day

Nine forty.

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? 

Advice or Abuse?

Wee hours.

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.

Thursday

Ten twenty.

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. 

Out of the Fog

Ten o’clock.

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. 

Awareness

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. 

Where Have All the Schizos Gone?

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… 

Mental Healthcare: a Letter

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.

Afternoon Again

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.