Self image: A Letter

Well tomorrow’s the big day. I was just playing my bass. The song I wound up with was “Yours Is No Disgrace,” an oldie by Yes from their third album. Now I’d like to listen to that one again soon… I thought last night that I’ve been under a great deal of pressure and stress since this year began. I agreed to do a lot of things that I probably should have refused to do, so it wouldn’t turn into a runaway train. From the start with Misty I got talked into stuff I didn’t really want to be involved in. For some reason I couldn’t say no to her. I spent the last weekend feeling pretty miserable, remembering the way I drank 18 packs in 2017. That was the year I finally quit drinking. I’m not sure what triggered these memories, unless it was just being stressed out.

You know, with the schizophrenia and everything, sometimes my life just seems hopeless and not worthwhile.

I think I’ll go take a nap right now and write more to you a bit later.

I’m quite certain that I feel so lousy due to having been manipulated and forced into this situation. Maybe I shouldn’t blame myself but rather Laurel Hill and all these government organizations that steamroll right over your human rights, shoving their version of what’s appropriate down your throat. And of course I feel mad and resentful about all that. So maybe the thoughts I had about drinking 18 packs were a desperate attempt to rebel and feel free. The same is true for reading Native Son. Underneath it all, I have very strong libertarian feelings traceable to my teens and twenties.

Perhaps I’m just a divided person? There’s the Robert before schizophrenia and after schizophrenia, but I want to believe in the continuity of my identity throughout my life.

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. 

A Place Between

Seven o’clock.

Dawn is rising. Sky looks clear. Last night I considered psychology and religious ideas, but still I hesitate. I’ve seen what can be done with them in treatment programs. It was a nightmare for me. Today I perceive the whole industry as a racket. Maybe I’m just undecided on DDA meetings at the agency? I want Misty to be happy, but not at the expense of my beliefs. I’ve had good results with cognitive therapy, so why should I confuse myself with another approach? I don’t think I like the agency or its agenda, and I wonder how I ever got involved in this huge mess. I feel like my free will has been taken away from me. Fortunately my annual review is in mid October, and then I can speak my mind. It seems like every organization wants to sell you their opinions. If you don’t buy, then they will do a hostile takeover.

Eight twenty five. When I allow myself to feel very much I get paranoid. There must be a place in between realistic and romantic, but I haven’t found it yet. The rows of purple clouds on blue morning sky were very pretty as I trudged west on the sidewalk. My dad died 22 years ago today, but now I’m thinking more about my mother, or really a fusion of both parents. My dog Aesop waits very patiently for his breakfast while my heart plays “Mosaic” by Mark Egan. Exquisite. What would the world be like without music? There would be no worship… The squirrels in my backyard always seem so happy and playful, even when they work, caching acorns and apples for the winter. I have two trees that turn colors in the autumn: the maple goes gold and the oak a dark red like burgundy. I think my mother appreciated these things more than I can, but I’ll try harder though it gives me pain… Before long the neighborhood will be looking kind of like Sleepy Hollow. There are unfathomed depths to the soul that I’d forgotten about. This fall will be interesting to see. 

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.