At last the mood of the day is mellowing out as I relax and kind of coast the rest of it. I haven’t thought anything very deep today, and my feelings were up hill and down dale, peaks and troughs from the time I got up this morning. I believe there’s something wrong with this situation, and maybe what began as schizophrenia has changed to a mood disorder like bipolar or schizoaffective disorder. I think it’s true that everything is in constant flux, even if we need something eternal and immutable to keep ourselves grounded and stable: the one necessitates the other. To be honest, I don’t feel so intelligent lately and can’t offer any wisdom; and besides that, I was never all that smart to begin with. It’s the first of the month and Pastor retires on the 25th, so as a result I feel kind of rudderless and lost when there’s nothing to respond to anymore. The biggest shock of all is finding that my delusions have mostly gone away. My life today is not like life 15 years ago. The present is inevitably the present; and probably every attempt to box up the facts of life or sandwich them in the covers of a book will ultimately fall short. The only thing like a true almanac is the body of work by Waldo Emerson, or more like a Declaration of Independence for American writers and thinkers. He was the pioneer, and everything else has been a postscript or appendix to the main messages of self reliance and firsthand experience.
The third day of not taking the Vraylar is beginning to tell on me. In my journal during the wee hours I wrote some very strange gobbledygook ideas on religion that assumed the Bible is historical and true, God is real, and a lot of stuff that doesn’t sound like me at all. So I’m going to take the drug again starting in a few minutes. Later I have to call my sister but I hate to do it because she’s a devout Christian and this aggravates my illness so badly.
Now I’ve fed the dog and taken the Vraylar. I remember a person many years ago at my workplace whose name was Uriah and whose parents were religious fanatics from what we could determine. A coworker swore within his earshot, “Holy mother of God,” and that was the breaking point where he decided not to work for us. On the wall of our cubicle hung a little figure of a devil which, Sandy told me, had frightened another day laborer for our area. There are lots of examples like this, but you see such things in the workplace everywhere, and most people just shrug and are insensitive to them. Of course, the times two decades ago were very different from today, when the spiritual life was booming, to the detriment of the mentally ill people just trying to live. And that’s how I feel whenever I have to call my sister for a conversation each week. As for having joined a church, it was a mistake based on a misunderstanding about recovery from alcoholism. It seemed like the only game in town other than AA.
It always seems I’m between the frying pan and the fire, a sea monster and a whirlpool. Sometimes it’s good to let it go and look at tangible things alone: simple matter.
For twenty years I’ve been a political and religious shuttlecock and by now I’m really sick of it. My brother has alcohol and drug problems, but I don’t want to believe it’s due to his ideas on religion and morality. When I was a kid, he was the coolest guy, and very funny and fun to be around… Well anyway, this afternoon is going pretty good for me and I don’t plan on church in the morning. If I wanted Dark Age thinking then I’d ride a time machine back to the 17th Century and watch them burn witches. I don’t want to be jerked around anymore, and those who do the jerking have no excuse. As usual I’ll probably get a poor sleep tonight. In the end, something’s gotta give, and we either move forward or we completely tube it and revert to barbarism for the rest of our existence. I doubt if we can have it both ways. Or at least, I can’t do that.
It’ll be light outside until eight o’clock. It reminds you that the planet we’re on is not static, but moves in space, and things are not totally stable. It’s hard to hold this view when I was indoctrinated so thoroughly with religion after my mother passed away. It’s as though I’d done some crime that deserved punishment. It was never fair. And I guess it never will be fair, no matter how we protest it. Our solution to things like madness and alcoholism is to “church” those people, for the lack of a more scientific and humane treatment. We throw a bible at what we don’t understand rationally— a practice that is itself irrational. It only shows the extent of human ignorance and how far we have to go.
I’m a huge advocate of psychiatry, by the way; but even this has a long way to go to reach the goal of understanding and humane care of people with behavioral health issues.
I imagine we’re all doing what we can. It’d be nice if we could go just a bit faster.
(Never mind me. I’m full of crap.)
Seven thirty five.
The sun through the window is right in my face, a strident blast of golden star-shine. It was very cold for my travel to the store; I finally got wise and wore a pair of gloves against the 20 degree snap. At least it was dry and not slippery. My business at the market was routine except for the Snapple for Gloria, since she is coming this morning. My mind has been all over the map lately, quite scattered and perhaps incoherent, but hopefully it’ll coalesce into something like organic sense and system. Then again, usually life itself resists organization. But my dog definitely knows it’s breakfast time when eight o’clock comes around. He has a sense of structure probably better than mine, which keeps us both on track. Funny but I used to operate like a clock at work, a total creature of habit and ritual. How quickly a routine becomes a treadmill that can destroy you.
Quarter after eight.
I have no idea what the day might bring me today. It’s kind of an exciting prospect. The sun meanwhile is indomitable and cheering to see. Sometimes I think I have total recall of the events of my life: blessing or curse? And every new day is different from the last one. Sometimes it seems like anything can happen, like some quark of the constellations, or a scene from a Thomas Hardy novel. A real artist of fate is at work in our daily lives, and we’d be none the wiser to it. To us spontaneous, to the gods it’s a fait accompli… Outside, the sparrows make jerky movements like little automatons wound up at the beginning of time. All this time, an old tune like a circus ditty plays crazily in my head. But for this, the design would be perfect.
“God doesn’t make junk.” A sign on the wall of Harmony House long ago. My mood suddenly swings down as I pity myself a little. The sun and the birds are indifferent, even the mourning dove that coos for no one in particular.
Two ten PM.
An interruption in my cocktail of meds has thrown off my ability to think very clearly. The state I’m in brings back old memories of therapy from four to five years ago. Life wasn’t very happy then, I admit. It was hard to tell who my friends really were and I wound up being abused on several fronts. Afterwards I perpetuated the grief by flogging myself with the same stuff. It was awful to be so vulnerable and weak, so now my sympathy goes out to others in a similar situation today— especially as the holidays approach and I know so many people will be alone for them, or among strangers for a public dinner or some other function. The most wonderful time of the year can actually be the most depressing for the ones dispossessed and disowned by their families. Some families are just plain dysfunctional and fail to come through for the members. It is not the individuals that fail the family but just the reverse.
These are my thoughts at this juncture. I hope other people are mindful and have an open heart and an open hand as we near the holiday season.
My case manager is coming to see me tomorrow for an appointment. Since thinking about it, I’ve decided I’m going to request a different person for the job. What had been elusive to me is now quite clear: C— treats me like a moron. I may be psychotic but I’m not an idiot. There’s nothing wrong with my IQ, so why does he condescend to me like some kind of fool? My guess is that he doesn’t have his own mental health issues, so he’s kind of clueless on how to relate to clients. Unfortunately it comes across quite offensive to me, even insulting. There’s a phrase in Ulysses that I remember: “Hooray for the goddamned idiot!” It stuck with me and I said to my professor, “I’m not stupid.” He looked surprised and said, “I don’t think you’re stupid at all!” It was before my diagnosis with the illness, yet it’s still true that, with the right medication, my mind is very clear and sharp.
Eight o five.
I haven’t been very well lately but at least I can spot it. The big tangerine in the sky has cleared the horizon as I try to relax my mind. Sometimes it seems to collapse on itself, or explode like the splitting of the atom. When I think I’m critiquing culture, it’s really just the tissue of my existence. The best I can do is avoid the church and religion and focus outward on ordinary objects. I feel like a shapeless glob of gelatin, like a jellyfish or something. Today is a lot like how I felt five years ago, though it’s not very pleasant to remember it. Back then I lived on a tub of ice cream and a loaf of bread every day… This is something different: Aesop isn’t hungry for breakfast yet today. Somewhere there must be an eclipse or sunspots; a supernova or some cataclysm. A long lost comet coming around. Asteroids.
Today I read 13 pages of The Magic Mountain; I’m not even sure what drew me to it. It’s one of the books that I dabble in and then put aside for long periods. Jeez, I must have started it 22 years ago! I blow hot and cold on the book. I also played my bass again, but I noticed how my chops are slower than they used to be, and I’m kind of sloppy technically. Another observation is the impact on me of the antipsychotic medication. It makes me feel very realistic even to the exclusion of experiencing anything mystical or romantic. Thomas Mann writes of romantic love in a magical kind of way, though with tongue in cheek humor. But I think my medication puts the skids on a lot of things that make life worth living. Thus it’s a tricky balance to maintain between imagination and reality. It seems that even Eros contains a share of mystic sentiment. When you love a person, it’s like taking a potion, and you idealize the object of your desire. This is the magic I mentioned. But a realistic mood ruins the effect of the love potion. It knocks Cupid’s arrows off course. I know it sounds silly but I’m serious.
But I have no choice but to keep taking the medication. The imagination thing is feast or famine, or all or nothing. As it is today, I have to live with the famine side of the equation. So although I’m feeling sane and rational, I’m not having any fun with my life. I think that sooner or later, something somewhere is going to break. Something’s got to give, or it’s all for nothing.
Quarter of eleven.
The best I can do is be honest with everyone and me too. I’m really struggling to stay sober, and it has nothing to do with externals at all; it’s on its own autonomous time clock like a bomb waiting to go off. I wish there was a better way to control it, though I think it’s controlling me instead. A counselor said I’d be rich if I could explain why some people recover and others don’t. I believe it’s a matter of biology and can’t be argued with from the outside. Like necessity, it does what it’s going to do: like the awe you feel from experiencing Greek tragedy, where fate and free will operate simultaneously on different levels, but fate is always borne out. Go ask Tiresias. Go consult the Oracle at Delphi. What happens in the end happens all the same.
Four fifty AM.
I awoke 90 minutes ago, my sleeping stint spent, and read a sampling of Whitman. I don’t know what accounts for the crap day I had yesterday; I only know I felt small and helpless and my case manager pissed me off. When I got home, I waxed delusional towards late afternoon: not a happy camper. Perhaps the passing of today will give some perspective so I can see what happened to me. And maybe the outdoor smoke will clear up before Wednesday. Between the smoke and the fog, life has been a study in obscurity for a week both outside and within.
C— is coming to pick me up at noon, so then we’ll go to Black Rock to have our appointment. It isn’t much fun growing older; I notice how my body is changing with age and I want to turn the hourglass over to start another lifetime. I remember a song called “Visine.” It talks about “the torture of growing old / You must stand there / You must agree…” You just have to accept aging and eventual death, however you deal with it: with belief in heaven or whatever helps. I was playing my new bass when I realized I had rubbed a silly blister on my left thumb. I can’t get away with the things I used to… The air is incredibly smoky today from regional wildfires, yet despite this, C— still plans on our rendezvous. I’m a little nervous but I’m trying mind over matter and the rational side of psychology. This is more black and white than the full color of emotional thinking; rather flat or two dimensional, but it helps me control the tendency to panic and paranoia. It’s very good for people with severe mental illness or simple anxiety or depression. Imagination can be my worst foe sometimes. It makes a catastrophe out of something small, fanning the flames to a conflagration… Most people swear by emotional therapies. However, fighting imagination with more imagination is illogical and infeasible in my case. How does a belief in “karma” help someone with paranoid delusions, for instance. It only makes them worse…
Quarter after one.
My appointment is done. I didn’t enjoy it very much; I felt I was in the hot seat, under scrutiny or inquisition, a severe test: almost as if I’d done something wrong. So, maybe I had good reason to dread this meeting. Or maybe I just wasn’t in the mood today. But it’s over with now, while the air outside gets still smokier and less breathable, and my thumb smarts for lack of a bandaid.