Peak Day

Eleven thirty.

Yesterday was a crap day for me, probably because of something said in my therapy session Thursday. I don’t handle criticism very well; often my reaction is to rebel and go the opposite way. I have a lot of my dad in my personality, and my mother’s intelligence… plus her lunacy. The word “lunacy” brings up a poem by Baudelaire: “The Sorrows of the Moon,” which I barely understood for the French vocabulary, but I’d like to translate it myself. Last night I noticed something while lying in bed. I could hear voices from the noise made by the furnace. I can usually weed out auditory hallucinations, but this time they bothered me because I was already feeling irritable. So far, today is going better. It’s Saturday, a peak day for me, according to pseudoscience. Amazing how old astrology is, and I get a dig in at psychology when I compare it to phrenology. This was the divination of character by reading the bumps on a person’s head, often mocked by Twain.

The construction guys putting in the crosswalk on Maxwell Road had the day off, so my route to the market was hassle free. Heather remarked that I was late today. Deb was busy in back counting bottle returns. She started working there in the fall of 2004, when I also had a job. I was so profligate with spare change. I gave a lot of it away to Deb for her Hawaiian vacation. Nowadays I don’t carry cash at all. Currency evokes alcohol to my mind. Numbers in general suggest limits, as I understand them, as well as greed for more and more. I never really learned the value of money, which some people view as a fault. To them, money = the wages of hard labor. Money is time. But I grew tired of survival mode a long time ago, and rats can keep the race. 

Conformity

Quarter of five.

Pastor himself is going to give me a ride to church tonight for our music rehearsal after the service. I’m feeling nervous and anxious about it for some reason. I don’t know what I was thinking earlier today, but it wasn’t very rational. I think maybe the therapist is driving me kind of nuts. He has devolved into my taskmaster, and there isn’t really any psychological stuff involved. He just gives me orders. Eventually I’ll probably rebel against him and do what I want to do with my life. Isn’t that what most people do?… So it’s actually the agency that’s making me crazy from all the criticism they dish out. My natural reaction is to feel anger and resentment at my accusers and, perversely, do just the opposite of what they expect from me. They try to force people into a mold with a shoehorn in uniform precision, but of course this doesn’t work very well. “Remembering games and daisy chains and laughs / Got to keep the loonies on the path.” It’s easy for someone to say you have to do XYZ, but even easier for me to ask for one good reason why. And if a group of lemmings follows the leader over a cliff, I’d be expected to do the same. Who’s the crazy one now? And why should everyone conform? 

Exile

Quarter after ten.

Life is hard. Kim’s husband started drinking again after being sober for 16 years, so a person in recovery is never really safe. Today I feel like a humbug. I wish the holiday season would all just go away. Since Sunday morning I’ve morphed back to my normal self more or less. People can be very persuasive, but only if you allow them to be… I passed Willie and his dog Rosie on the street. He’s the guy with a booth at Saturday Market, a happy old hippie. He made a comment about smiling under a mask: how can you tell when someone does that?… Michelle said she was aggravated by the customer who had just left the store. He always gives her a hard time. Then she told me that she and her husband got talked into hosting a Christmas party at their house. She was far from enthusiastic. Sometimes people only want to relax and get away from everything. It’s unfortunate that society doesn’t give us any reprieves. If you do choose to opt out, you’ll probably be alone— which may not be so bad. Though I haven’t read Frankenstein in many years, I always remember the image of the monster fleeing across the arctic wastes to go and live in utter solitude. This is kind of like life with a mental illness. 

Monday, Monday

Quarter after eight.

I’ve had my little trip to the store this morning and seen some people. Kat said good morning as I trudged past her house on the corner. She was getting ready to go someplace in her black Dodge Caravan. When I reached the sidewalk to Maxwell Road, cars whizzed by me while I stopped to adjust my bandanna. I crossed paths with a bearded man who stared straight ahead and didn’t acknowledge my presence at all. Then, inside the market, Michelle told me about her weekend. Her son was released from jail, but she had mixed feelings because he isn’t very stable right now. I hear about a lot of people with problems who don’t take their meds and do what they’re supposed to. I wonder why that is? Maybe it’s because they fear the side effects or whatever. Michelle also complained that the weekend staff hadn’t done any of the chores around the store. So I felt I was being a sympathetic ear for her. Finally, on my return trip, the woman who lives in the green house went by and waved through the driver’s side window. I wonder if she lives alone in that house? We’ve never met each other formally. She might be kind of nice. And as I walked up my driveway, Diana said good morning. Right now, the sky is a solid white. I have a Telehealth visit with a new therapist very soon today. I’m hoping it goes well. 

Birthright

Quarter after nine.

Black Friday is like any other day to me. The neighborhood seems rather quiet today. Last night it rained and then quit by the time I got up. My financial situation is pretty tight right now, so it’s lucky that I don’t do anything for Christmas. I don’t know if I’m supposed to call my sister today or not, but I’m feeling kind of disinclined to do that. My family wrote me off for the holidays starting in 2007 because I refused to sell my house as my sister wished. She wanted me to bury the past with my parents and become one of her own family, but this would have meant sacrificing my education— as if that were even possible. Short of brain damage, the knowledge we learn is irreversible. My sister has this illogical quirk of wishing to undo what is done and go back to when things were peachier, as she sees it. It’s impossible to turn back clock and calendar without a time machine or such a delusion when you get drunk or wasted on some drug. As for my house, there was no good reason to sell it. Polly just had some weird sentimental motives regarding it, really not taking my interests into account. Instead, she was thinking of herself. No surprise at all. And so I chose to keep my house, and forget ever celebrating the holidays with family after that. All families have strange dynamics, but it’s worse when a relative is seriously mentally ill. I consider it no great loss to spend Thanksgiving away from the family. It was worth it to keep a roof over my head and not be at the mercy of someone’s bad judgment. 

An Easier Life

Six thirty.

Can a person be driven mad by Modernism? My old psychiatrist said no. Introspection doesn’t cause psychosis, and my illness would have happened anyway. A few hours ago I sat and read two chapters of Connecticut Yankee. I’m past the halfway mark into the book. Consistently it debunks superstition, and also it advocates democracy and deplores injustice and oppression… I just heard Bonnie Rose leave in her truck, probably for work today. Those neighbors are very unsociable with me. Diana seems to trust only Cherie from up the street. There’s a hint of the light of dawn, purple gray. My mind is racked between Romantic primitivism and a realistic society, or between psychosis and sanity. It pulls my head apart when I try to sleep at night. But the thing to do is accept myself and forgive my weaknesses. Mostly I agree with Twain’s disapproval of magic and other nonsense, yet it’s only because of the medication I take. Without it, I might be susceptible to miraculous thinking like a lot of people. I feel cold in this room right now. I can see through the front window that it’s foggy out. Aesop rolls onto his back and stretches himself. His life is easier than mine. He never heard of the pandemic or climate change, and his belief system is marrow snacks. 

Stigmata

Quarter of two in the morning.

Another night as black as coal. This simile recalls an old U2 song, “The Unforgettable Fire,” for me. The day I bought that record I took my SAT test in preparation for college, and I scored very low on both parts because I didn’t apply myself. If I felt that way, I suppose I shouldn’t have been in AP English that year. The truth is that I knew there was something wrong with me, though it defied definition for another seven years. Well, whatever. The important thing is the here and now and what you do with it.

When I left my psychiatrist’s services, I chose to be out of the closet with schizophrenia, to just take my chances, because deception felt wrong to me. I wasn’t even sure of what I was doing, but I wanted to be honest with people. Now, I don’t believe I sabotaged myself. Someone has to do something to change the stigma attached to the illness and it might as well be me.

Schizophrenic people are no more violent than any other population, according to a person I knew with a degree from Boston University. And Fuller Torrey writes that the majority of them are remarkably nonviolent. Speaking for myself, I have never been in a single fistfight. People with schizophrenia are usually more harmful to themselves than to others. The intelligence and temperament of people are separate issues from the disease of schizophrenia. It’s very unfortunate when the media spreads bad publicity of a schizophrenic person who committed a crime. A therapist told me that another 80 years would have to pass before the public would be accepting of the mentally ill. Until then I contribute what I can to that cause. 

A Forecast

Quarter of eight.

The weekend has arrived at last, which means no appointments or phone calls. The skyline looks a bit like Neapolitan ice cream. I wonder what kind of Friday night other people had? Yesterday I wrote maybe ten pages in my journal, trying to get to the bottom of my feelings. Often my thoughts and behaviors are mysterious to me until I analyze them for the motives. Sometimes, it’s resentment that drives a course of thinking; it’s a reaction against someone for what they said. I can hold a grudge for a very long time, but perhaps this doesn’t produce the best ideas. It could be better to clean my slate and start from scratch. Now the view outside is blue and vanilla, the clouds whipped and fluffy. My red oak has littered the backyard with brown leaves. The air has a bite of chill to it, but there’s no rain this morning.

I speculate on my brother, and I question if my sister tells me everything she knows in our talks. Family dynamics and politics are always weird, and even worse when someone has schizophrenia or bipolar. I forecast another Thanksgiving spent alone or with my church. It’s okay, I’m used to that. I don’t even know my relatives anymore, except for my sister. The effect of mental illness on a family is like an atom bomb, but the one who suffers the most is the sick person. The holidays can be the worst time of year for us. By the way, I think the theories of Carl Jung by this time are very outdated. He didn’t really know anything about how to treat psychosis, so why do we still read his stuff? Meanwhile, there’s a box set of Richard Wright I might like to have. He was the Black American author who wrote Native Son. Too many Americans have heads in the sand about the plight of people of color. But fixing this situation is probably a long time coming. 

Poem





Clothed in Heavenly Light,

Neil Peart appeared to me

In a half waking dream

And taught me the meaning

Of his song “Heresy”

On the Rush disc of thirty years ago.

It was important to me

Not only because of the Berlin Wall

But it was the year I fell ill

With this dreaded disease

That changed the whole course

Of my life,

Giving it a purpose 

Unguessed by the living,

But to Mr Peart

It makes perfect sense

In the unfathomed ways

Of the Other Side. 

Temporary

Ten o’clock.

I’ve been out of the house and seen several people this morning. It was late enough that Cathy was just starting her shift today and helped me at checkout. One of the card sliders had a problem, so I used the one that worked. For Aesop I bought a couple of dollars’ worth of chicken strips. I had to have my Snapple tea and something to eat for today. Coming back home, I stopped and said hi to Karen and Jessica at the salon. Karen announced that Jessica would be leaving in three weeks to go live with her family in a small Oregon town. Now it’ll just be Karen and Kim every week, and Kim works only part time. Home again, I read my mail: my primary care provider has left the practice “for personal reasons.” I had him for only one year and now I have to pick a new physician. People in autumn are often on the move, plus with Covid, they seem to leave their jobs at the drop of a hat. Also, Bi Mart is closing its pharmacy the first week in November, moving most customers to Walgreens up the road in Santa Clara. The only thing that stays the same is change itself. It is wet outside; the rain will probably start again at around eleven o’clock. I used to have a memory that operated in cycles, but with my Vraylar, the present time is what it is without the undertones of the past. Still, I can abstract a few general ideas of events that are happening right now, and it seems that people pass through turnstiles, connecting with each other only temporarily. But one thing that doesn’t go away is the persistence of mental illness. And hunger never goes out of style.