I Need Advice!

Quarter of nine.

The early days of my recovery have returned to my memory due to the fifth anniversary of the same. I even remember being on a different medication before Vraylar, a sublingual that didn’t work very well for me… I confess that I’m all confused and I don’t make much sense lately. I need to stay sober, but I also have to maintain sanity and proportion. I hear it raining now, at last. The sound of it is soothing, a simple thing for tranquility and peace of mind. I’ve been so scared of relapse because the five year milestone seems so big and important. But no one else has control over it: it’s only me with that power. For this reason, should I be afraid of what might happen? I think I should trust myself to do what’s good for me.

Nine fifty five.

The recovery rates reported by AA are astonishingly low, and they go down as more time goes by…

Quarter of eleven.

I feel bloated after an early lunch and the second Snapple tea. I left a message for my sister on her voicemail. Now there’s an opening in the cloud cover for the sun to peek through. I don’t see the point in much of anything. Writing keeps my mind and my hands occupied so I won’t be tempted to drink. Yesterday I played my bass but I wasn’t satisfied with my sound or the way it went. When you don’t have a car, how can you hope to play in a band? The world has moved on and left me behind. Even my sobriety doesn’t seem like such a big deal. Supposedly all these good things will drop in your lap when you don’t drink, as if a god took care of you. Still I persist at my life and wait for something good to come my way. And that’s probably what I’m doing wrong. I think what I need is some good advice from a person who is shrewd and realistic, kind of like how my old psychiatrist was, because my life is going nowhere! 

Another Letter

I think it’s good that you took the day off from reading today… I just got back from the store, where I bought a Coke and Aesop’s favorite treat of chicken jerky. I looked around at the sky and it was blue with a lot of white from clouds or maybe smoke. It’s 90 degrees. You know, what you’ve been saying is right. The fact is that I really like my Edgar Rice stuff. Why should I let anyone ruin it for me? It takes me back to a happy time in my life. In 79 I was 12 years old and just finding some things that I really loved. I read my pulp novels and drew pictures to illustrate what I’d read. I had a wonderful time. I didn’t really hit the wall until I started high school and caught mononucleosis. There’s evidence now of a possible correlation between schizophrenia and the virus that causes mono. In my case, this makes good sense. My battle with mono in high school was awful and depressing. At the end of my senior year, my doctor did some work on my blood and determined that I had a low level of immunoglobulin type A, which may also turn out to be related to the schizophrenia. But I’m only guessing, and the research on this stuff is going very slowly. Anyway, I was terribly sick during high school, and the schizophrenia happened to me in college.
A problem with my ex psychiatrist was that he never believed anything his patients said until there was a consensus, a considerable body of evidence. It always drove me kind of crazy to have him pooh pooh my observations or complaints about something with my illness or a medication I was on. He had to see it in JAMA or whatever before he would believe it. He didn’t credit us with any intelligence, sometimes even humanity. His patients were beneath him. Ick! He was an autocrat.
The Coke tastes really good this afternoon. I’m resolved to read my Edgar Rice and enjoy it.

Privacy of Experience

Eight o’clock.

It’s a Gloria day. I’ve just gone to the store for the basic daily stuff and a Snapple tea for her. The sun is out and there are no clouds. Aesop heard a cat screech and went ballistic for a minute. I’m kind of pondering the nature of introversion just now. I wonder if it’s related to how assertive a person is, or unassertive as the case may be. I was thinking that Coleridge used his imagination and constant talk as a defense for a scared and nervous person inside. My old psychiatrist was very righteous about being an extrovert but it’s not for everybody, depending on how natural it is for people to be shy and withdrawn. Probably we’ll never know the truth of this… My mind hears music by Debussy from Images for Orchestra, taking me back to my birthday in 1995. My dad took me to Fifth and Pearl Shops downtown where I got a couple of new CDs. After that he drove me to the top of Skinner Butte for a look around at the city… I think that in my case, introversion has been a matter of having toxic parents; and yet how can I say this when I have positive memories of my dad since I became sick? Nothing is ever very simple. I guess that’s the thing to keep in mind. Also it’s so hard for people to communicate with each other: our minds are inevitably private and personal, like when you read Virginia Woolf. If it were not for language, we’d never know anything about each other’s thoughts. It is naive to say that everyone’s experience is the same. My psychiatrist was wrong at least on this point. And the Debussy keeps playing in my head, inaudible to anyone but me. 

Matter Matters

Quarter of one.

I have nothing to report today except to say that my poor brain is all screwed up, or so it seems to me. Tomorrow I’ll start a new antidepressant to complement the Vraylar, so hopefully I’ll feel better after that. I did an all-nighter with a big Coca-Cola last night and it actually felt pretty good to me. I think I’ve been struggling with depression for a few months, and when you can’t fix the problem through the interior, you must resort to biology for the remedy. And who would be dumb enough to deny biology any validity; although I’ve heard some people say they reject evolution, especially where it affects human beings. This is such a Victorian attitude; I remember a poem Tennyson wrote about being descended from the brutes. He couldn’t accept this idea from Darwin. But Maryann Evans was a Darwinist in her fiction including Middlemarch (another book I should get around to reading)… The proof of materialism is that you take the psychotropic medication and your mental state changes. This also happens with alcohol and anything else you put in your body. As for indeterminism and the idea of freedom, the proof of these things is an uphill battle, and ultimately a crazy making endeavor. I think I’ve learned my lesson and I’ll just embrace the world of sanity and limits; of cause and effect. 

What’s the Use?

Two forty.

I tried playing the bass but my confidence was blown away by the therapy visit I’d had this morning. I usually put on blinders to the ugly things I don’t want to see, like a form of extreme introversion or maybe selective denial of reality. This began when I had a Nissan truck and the interior was always a big mess. My brother said, “You don’t see it, but other people do.” He meant himself of course. Since that time the messiness has spread to my house, and I don’t know why. It’s a problem that has gotten progressively worse in about ten years’ time. It seems like there’s nothing I can do to fix it. Maybe underlying it all is a subconscious motive, perhaps an attitude of devil may care; maybe I need a good reason to keep things clean. Otherwise I figure it’s not worth the effort if it’s only me. Underneath it all I think it’s due to a feeling of despair and futility. It’s a voice saying what’s the use. Or it could be from a sense of rebellion and reckless independence, like defiance and perversity. It could be any or all of these things at a submerged level. Possibly I have anger issues directed somewhere. No one else has been able to figure it out yet.

And then maybe no amount of psychologizing will ever expose the reasons for my behavior. It’s just a schizophrenic brain glitch. 

Cheap Friday

Nine ten.

My mind always tends to dichotomize, I don’t know why. It could be schizophrenia or my college training. But I’m okay as long as I don’t think. I’ve just gone to the store, a bit later than normal. Michelle was worried about a customer who was wasted on some drug and loitering by the storefront. For a change I bought an Arizona tea, raspberry flavor. Only a dollar. Funny but I didn’t see any women customers in the market today. Aesop’s mood is better this morning than a few days ago. I partly regret that I left the band with Mike and Ron, yet I know my reasons were good. In fact I was dreaming about that this morning. Mike had said, very reasonably, that he did music to have fun. But it’s not very fun when the drugs get in the way of making music… The air outside is still very smoky and gross. The sun that comes through is amber colored. After a while I think I’ll dig out my hybrid SX bass and mess around with it. I bought it ten years ago from Rondo Music for dirt cheap. It reminds me of better times for the world… and for rock and roll.

Ten forty. And yet a lot of that was an illusion, facilitated by alcoholism. I remember a ride I took to see my psychiatrist in February 2014. There was snow on the ground, snow in the parking lot. Seems like a billion years ago. Visits with him were getting tense, and I dreaded going. Orchestrated versions of The Beatles in the waiting room. I stared out the windows, thinking of my parents who were gone and wondering what my doctor really expected of me. Was it realistic? Would he have accepted that I was doing the best I could?

On second thought, I might retire the old SX bass. 

Orpheus IV

Quarter after eleven. I feel rather tired and anxious about our practice today. I’ve had lunch already and turned on the air conditioner. I don’t know if I’m going to church tomorrow or not. If I do, then I really don’t want to be lector for the service. I guess I won’t go. I don’t like having to sing hymns anymore because my voice doesn’t sound good to me… Before long we’ll be having our rehearsal at Mike’s place. I’m going to walk over there, passing through the parking lot for the convenience store. I also have to go by the salon on my way… Funny but I don’t think like a Freudian these days, with his ideas about dreams and slips and so forth. I used to go far astray using his methods to understand human behavior. It was entirely inaccurate…

Quarter after noon. I’m leaving in a half hour. Aesop is not happy about it… I suspect that Freud was wrong about a lot of things, like the cause of schizophrenia. Was Jung any closer to being right? Psychotherapy just seems useless against severe mental illness, so I won’t worry about it anymore. I’ll be my own judge and live my life my way.

Eleven thirty.

Another rehearsal came and went this afternoon. It was rather disappointing to me for a couple of reasons. I think we’ll have to scrap “Peter Gunn” because our performance of it is just not acceptable. Meanwhile, “Jersey,” an original by Ron, turned out pretty good except you couldn’t hear my bass in the mix unless it was my dissonant notes. But that’s okay; I only have to use a different instrument and also change my strategy a little bit to minimize blue tones and bring out the harmonic ones. I told Mike that if we could get airplay on KWVA, the university station, then I’d be impressed with our little band. Now I want to encourage Ron to write more songs to add to our repertoire, or maybe I could make a few of them too… I gave him my copy of The Dream Songs, and to Mike I gave up my cd of Discipline by King Crimson. I believe we need to get inspired and get the creativity flowing. Then a few hours ago I popped the plastic on the selection of poems by John Berryman I bought recently. It’s a beautiful little book with a nice representation from his corpus, though I don’t yet have a feel for where he’s coming from spiritually or otherwise. Also I’m not sure what Ron finds so appealing about his poetry unless it’s a matter of sheer style, of form more than content. I guess that in addition to learning about John Berryman, I’m trying to get a better sense of my band mates in terms of mentality and focus. Where have they been, and where are we going to? But I believe KWVA is a good and realistic goal for us. 

Perspectives on Schizophrenia

I did some research: the prevailing opinion on the etiology of schizophrenia leans toward biology rather than childhood trauma. But I still wonder how I could be so high functioning and have this illness. The interesting thing is how attitudes seem to have changed a bit in the past year or so. My experience for a long time suggested that schizophrenia was treatable by psychotherapy almost to the exclusion of psychiatry. And now it has swung back to biology. I don’t know; it depends on the source of information you consult. For most of my life since my diagnosis I believed in the biological factors.

Another possibility is that the change came from myself alone when I fired my psychiatrist and joined the church four years ago. And this course of action influenced everything that happened to me ever since that decision. I remember thinking that maybe schizophrenia could be explained in terms of my interior experience, another way of saying phenomenology. I thought it might be treated from the inside out rather than the opposite way.

So now I can’t tell where this change in attitude started; was it just me, or was there a general movement in behavioral health away from psychiatry and toward psychology?

Probably there are sociological variables involved, but it’s very difficult to sort them out.

The Red Pill

One forty. Campbell or Carnap: which way do I go in my reading? Either way, I couldn’t stay in that mode forever. I had a friend who was so literal that she couldn’t understand figurative language, especially metaphor. I indulged her for six years and finally I rebelled against her anti poetry and embraced transcendence. Liberating myself this way, I could contemplate sobriety and imponderable things like God. Now I don’t know how much sobriety hinges on the supernatural, but I think it helped me get started. Probably in May 2018 I was very optimistic for the poet’s union with the sublime, deeming that Mallarme was the best path to revelation. Was I merely deluded? I don’t feel the same today that I did three years ago. The medication eliminates metaphysics as easily as cognitive therapy or logical analysis. More so: you only have to swallow a pill to make faerie go away. It’s similar to the red pill in The Matrix. This raises the question, Do we choose the reality we want to live in? Red pill or the blue?

However, this gives people the wrong idea about schizophrenia…

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.