Search for a Cause

One forty. The quote I ascribed to Montaigne was really Erasmus, found in Google Books, a biography of Martin Luther. It must have been a source I used for my term paper in fall 1989. Kind of amazing how I remembered the passage all this time. It isn’t clear that Erasmus actually said that; there were no quotation marks around the sentence. I would guess that Rousseau was the first to seriously proclaim the wisdom of children, and later Wordsworth took up the torch and elaborated on it. So I guess Google does know everything…

Two forty. The year 1989 is significant for me somehow. That was the last period when I fully possessed my faculties before the onset of the illness. My Vraylar has restored me to my old sanity at age 22. So my life now begins again from that point, it seems to me. I hear more songs by Pat Metheny. My parents sold their manufactured home in Florence in the summer of the same year because Mom couldn’t afford two houses. I feel sick about that. My brother helped them sell the property to a Californian who had the lot next door. It was such a defeat for poor Mom, who had wanted to retire in luxury. I recall the day when they brought home their purchase of a motor home. Unfortunately it turned out to be a lemon. Something was wrong with the battery. So, their retirement plans came to nothing, and they got rid of the lemon as well. What happened to my mental health after that I don’t know. I fell into a depression at first, and then I partially lost my ability to concentrate on schoolwork. Eventually I didn’t register for fall term 1991, and continued seeing a psychologist. Finally in November I began to have bizarre delusions, culminating in a full blown episode and the diagnosis in December. But the question is why, and was there a situational reason for the breakdown? 

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… 

Wildfires

Two thirty. I wonder if I should fire up my P Bass and rock out for a little while?

Three fifty five. I kicked out the jams on my white bass. Sounded pretty cool. This is something I couldn’t have done four years ago, when I was drunk all the time and had no time and no money for my hobby. I’d like to buy some Rotosound stainless steel strings for my other P Bass and just rock the house. Someday I’d like to run into my old friend Dave and tell him what he can do. He was so ungrateful to me after I helped him on his way. Or perhaps I just felt ashamed of my own alcoholism as it took over my life. I couldn’t stop drinking yet I didn’t know why. I believed that I was defying someone, but really I was only destroying myself. Alcohol gave me a false sense of power, a feeling that I could do anything. It made me feel evil, but also I felt safe and comfortable. Actually, I think I was in a lot of emotional pain from losing my mother. I had no other way to cope. It took me at least ten years to get over her death. But Mom was not a well adjusted person. She had huge problems and never sought help with them. As I look back, maybe my college years weren’t so happy after all. I received a thoroughly secular education that makes little sense to me now. Was there any truth to what I learned at the university? And by now, the old canon has collapsed anyway. 

Mentally, I seem to be having a bad day. The squirrels skitter across my rooftop and gather acorns in the backyard. Aesop is resting on the floor at my feet. And I am doing just one thing: staying sober. Sometimes that’s all I can manage to do, get through the day without drinking. My mind can do whatever it wants, but the point is not to drink, no matter what. I guess Polly won’t be calling me today. Maybe tomorrow. The smoke outside is still bad, and firefighters are still working night and day to control the wildfires. In a similar way, I work to put out the wildfires of my mind. But it’s really just a matter of waiting and watching as the thoughts pass by like clouds of smoke. And they do pass. 

Insight

I just remembered a young man in group counseling for addiction, J— by name. He was a natural egoist, but wasn’t familiar with the term. He always argued for self interest in any situation. I tried to teach him and the group the concepts of egoism and altruism. The explanation went nowhere, but J— kept on twisting arguments to benefit the self. I wonder if such attitudes are innate in people? Back then, from November 2017 to April 2018, my mind was in poor shape. But the crux of my problem was exactly the split between egoism and altruism. Going with the first was to be hellbent, the other, saved. Eventually I started doing things out of self interest again. My mother had implanted in my brain the idea that selfishness was horribly wrong. It was ridiculous. My experience with AA was much the same. Thankfully, my therapist conceded that it is impossible not to do some things out of self interest.

Six thirty five. It finally occurs to me that I was doing better on the maximum dose of the medication than I am now. The buzzing sound in my ears is a hallucination. But I guess the gabapentin will be helpful in keeping me calm. I hope my mental balance will be restored again soon.

Goodnight

Eight o’clock. I felt myself get really pissed off for a little while. Better now. My brother is very cocksure in his science mind, and Polly in her religious life… so where does that leave me? But when I raise the question of morality, then I see it differently. The old-fashioned word for psychological was moral, and for consciousness, conscience. Morality and the good life have been around since the Greeks. I don’t know if moral necessarily entails spiritual, as many people maintain, but it definitely relates to psychology, for psychology grew out of morality… This discussion is getting kind of weird, and I suspect that I need a dose of medication. The tinnitus seems to happen either way. Anxious to hear what Todd has to say tomorrow. Until then, I’m going to take my Vraylar one more time. Signing off for the night.

Under the Weather

Ten o’clock.

I went to the church and explained to Pastor that I didn’t feel well due to my medication. He said it was okay for me to go home, so I did. It rained on me, but my umbrella kept most of it off. Pastor still doesn’t understand about schizophrenia. He takes a human and moral approach to knowing people. This doesn’t always work for a person with a chemical imbalance, a brain disease. So I feel kind of sad. I probably should have stayed with my psychiatrist. I don’t think it was Jesus who intervened in my alcoholism. Nobody did, except for me. “All through the years, in the end it appears there was never really anyone but me.” “Take care of those you call your own and keep good company.” Brian May with Queen, “Good Company,” from A Night at the Opera, 1975… I’ve witnessed quite a lot from the phenomenological side of mental health, and now I feel it’s time to move on. I want to know what’s up in the psychiatry world. It might be good to talk to other people with schizophrenia and bipolar. The tinnitus side effect is still with me today. Maybe Todd will switch my medication from Vraylar to Abilify or something I wouldn’t have thought of. But I have to wait until Monday morning to get ahold of him… I’m going to take it easy and stroll over to the market.

Am I Bipolar?

Eight o’clock.

My head is full of doubt that I’m doing the right things. What I’ve done is to dismiss the church in favor of rock and roll, basically. Two different mentalities. Rock music is about rebellion, to some extent. But also it’s about progress. I shouldn’t analyze it too much. It has to do with experience in the world, the secular, and less with the sacred. I’ll be ok as long as I don’t drink. My imagination can make more of it than is really there. I just thought of the apostle Paul’s opinion on the things people do by night, such as drinking, fornication, and music. Better known as sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Instinctively, I am giving up the church to do the other. I suppose it needn’t be a dichotomy, but I just feel that way. Nor would I want to play Christian rock music necessarily… It’s a sunny morning, and so cold that Aesop didn’t want to go out. It could be another bad day with delusions. It doesn’t help that my sister thinks rock music is satanic. She’s like Oprah that way. But she’s not here. It’s only my own mind I have to deal with. I’m remembering a lot of past experiences with music and my sister. It isn’t fair. My brother has no respect for music either. So I’m beginning to doubt myself. It’s hard to have faith in myself when I have to do music without family support. I guess I can channel my parents, especially Mom. I feel like I’m dying. I want a Coke…

Ten o’clock. I thought of Emerson and Jung on my way to the market, and the former made me feel better. I put on a second sweater against the cold. I bought a Coke and two burritos. Aesop had his breakfast, but I feel that I just hate myself for having problems. The word miserable came to mind. Maybe I should give myself a break. Nobody’s perfect. Schizophrenia is tough to live with, so it’s ok to be imperfect. I still have much to offer to others who suffer from mental illness and poverty. I don’t have to hold myself up to my family and judge myself. My brother was terrible to me. I won’t talk to him again. An impulse in me says I’m my own worst critic, and CBT would agree with that. How are other people ok with themselves? What gives them the confidence to be who they are without guilt? And why do I have religious delusions about music? I’m just not happy today… and that’s ok too. Accept the depression for what it is. If I can’t change it, then live with it until it passes. Todd thinks I have bipolar, and it’s beginning to be more plausible to me. The sunshine is beautiful and there’s the whole day ahead. My biggest fan has four legs and is lying at my feet.

2020s

I’m watching the blue and pink sunrise through my front window, there behind the tree line. The dawn of a promising new decade. I’m only playing life by ear these days. I’m gathering all the information I can, just putting myself out there and observing the ripple effects. Scoring for schizophrenic people. We shall overcome the stigma and disabuse the public of the lies they were fed by the media. Only a few mentally ill people give the rest of us a bad name. There are many good people with severe disorders. Judge us not by our diagnosis but by the good things we do. Appreciate the human beings we are. There are no good or bad people, only good or bad behavior.

Jaco Pastorius

I woke up with my mind on how I used to be a Jaco imitator in 1989. I always did a lot of alcohol, but not enough to impair myself. My favorite axe was a pewter Jazz Bass Special crafted in Japan. I put more mileage on that bass than on any other. The reason I idolized Jaco was probably his bipolar disorder, though at the time no one in Eugene seemed to know much about that. Years later I read his biography where his diagnosis was documented, along with his addictions to alcohol and cocaine. The music community is still a little unenlightened regarding bipolar, and if anything, they eschew the mentally ill rather than help us out. It’s unfortunate because musical talent and mental illness sometimes coincide. But I wouldn’t trade my circumstances today with those before Vraylar. I was too unstable. Speaking of medication, Dominic told me that many participants refuse it out of suspicion and fear of side effects. My gut reaction to this was to say how silly it was. But the law goes that they cannot be forced to take meds, and that sounds right. At the same time, however, they do themselves a disservice not to be medicated… Jaco was a great musician. The best compliment I ever read paid him was by Sting’s bassist about thirty years ago. She said, “Jaco was a musician who happened to play bass” as opposed to a mere bass player.

Not for Wimps

Almost four o’clock. Charlie has left for the day and will be back in the morning. It’s been a good day, with sunshine and good vibes from people and a little music. I hazarded showing Dominic two of my blog posts. He looked rather stunned, and commented on their insightfulness. Said they touched him emotionally, and he envied me my ability. As we walked back to the agency from the hotel across the street, he seemed a little dazed. I spotted my taxi in the parking lot and knew I had to get going. Eric the cabbie was waiting for me in the lobby, but he said no sweat. We heard an obscure Rush track off of his cell phone on the way home: “Ghost of a Chance,” from 1991. Also a comparatively recent Bob Dylan song called “Trust Yourself.” On arrival at my house, Charlie was already working outside. He told me that my dog had been silent, and he feared that Aesop had escaped. But I checked and all good. I emailed my friend from where I sat on the loveseat with a view of the sunshine through the glass door. The temperature outside rose to above 50 degrees after a morning that had felt bitter cold. I guess I started the day off right with a liter of Coca-Cola. Dominic grew thoughtful after I told him I had resolved to be out of the closet with the schizophrenia. He thought I was being contrary with Dr T—, who had demanded secrecy about it. Said it was human nature to rebel. In truth, I believe it was more than that. I’ve never been good at keeping secrets, plus I wanted to score a few goals for people with mental illness; to show the world what we can do in spite of the curse and the terrible stigma of schizophrenia, bipolar, obsessive compulsive disorder, and so on. Mental illness is no place for wimps. So now Dominic has more to think about, as do you, dear reader.