It rained this morning, not heavily. Enough to be heard indoors a few times. I walked to the store before daylight, taking care not to slip or trip on the wet street. Visibility was pretty bad and I relied upon the streetlights to see where I was stepping. But it wasn’t raining during the trip. At almost nine o’clock I called Polly to get that out of the way and we talked for about ninety minutes. She’s getting braver about her religious talk, so I’m more inclined to avoid her after this. I don’t know if I encouraged her or not. I just said I’d gone to church last Sunday and that opened the door for her. Frankly I’m quite confused on the whole thing, and it confuses others when I vacillate from one position to the other. I don’t think I’m well. I can’t choose a side and adhere to it— and there’s even the delusion that Armageddon is coming upon us, the ultimate battle of good and evil before the last judgment by Jesus Christ. But just regarding my family, I believe that Polly may end up alone with her religion unless she finds herself a church to participate in. I feel that unfair demands are being made on me by Polly. This is very hard on me. What she understands as her reality is what I experience as a delusion. It’s hard to tell how much is her and how much is myself. I can’t separate out Polly from what I am when we discuss Christianity. If I told her the content of my psychosis she would believe it was real. It’s entirely possible that she is just as loony as I am.
Even though Cognitive Therapy is not used very much anymore, there are times when I have to administer it to myself for the sake of being stable. The most common distortions I catch myself doing are personalization and mind reading. Old fashioned psychoanalysis is useless for schizophrenia yet we don’t get rid of it; we keep going back to it like a curse of history. I’m just tired of feeling miserable from this disease and wish for progress in the methods and techniques we use to treat it— short of a permanent cure. It’s weird the way humanity boomerangs back and forth between the Enlightenment and Romanticism. We can make great strides with science and then we’ll scratch it out with a return to religion or rank superstition. Why is this? It’s true historically as well as clinically: the Church always tried to shut down the progress of universities on the verge of a breakthrough discovery. Politically, we bounce between liberal and conservative, between progress and regression, when it would benefit us to simply move forward. Why can’t we do this? What are we afraid of? We keep returning to the primordial slime and worshiping gods with the heads of beasts. We feel comfortable this way, like the animal that won’t leave its cage when the door is thrown open. We cling to the bars and stay where we are.
Quarter of eight.
The rising sun is muted by what is probably wildfire smoke. Yesterday’s high temperature was 97 degrees… My informal research into Tolkien on one hand and Edgar Rice Burroughs on the other concerning attitudes towards “power” led me back to Machiavelli and his condemnation by the Church. The things I found kind of overran my circuits and pitched me into psychosis, though they had a valid basis in the history of ideas. It’s just that no one wants to know the theological nuts and bolts of these old notions of power and self-will. And the truth is rather ugly. But my brain has been baking too long in the summer heat and a respite is called for. I think I’ll stay away from every church of Christianity. I’ve heard enough sermons. We are after all merely human beings and biological organisms, and the religious stuff is secondary. It isn’t true that in the beginning was the word, or else everything is upside down. The Age of Reptiles is older than the time of Moses, but we get this backwards and make the Bible logically prior to natural history.
Here we go again. I’d better leave off while I still can.
Nine forty at night.
I had some wild sexual dreams that may or may not have any relevance to real life. The desire can be strong but the opportunities will be scarce for a person like me. My old psychiatrist appeared in the beginning of the dream, with a sweaty suggestion of homosexuality for me, but the dream was transformed to something more to my liking. Even so, I never really did the deed with anybody. And why should a theory a hundred years old be taken seriously to explain schizophrenia? The friend of a woman from church a few years ago said her son was “a schizophrenic and a homosexual” with a bit of a sneer. But it doesn’t mean there’s a correlation between the illness and the sexual practice. Since I quit drinking, I’ve been subjected to a lot of opinions on my mental illness that can’t all be true. I believed I was doing an independent thing by embarking on my recovery, but the waters on my voyage have been quite choppy. I guess no one ever guaranteed me the sailing would be smooth. At some point there should be some discoveries on the way, else it’ll all be in vain. One thing I know is that the truth cannot be dictated to me by previous cartographers. Every individual draws their own map of their journey.
As I said in my post today, I didn’t enjoy church this morning, but the whole day wasn’t a loss. My books came by the mail and I got to flap through them. And yes I did get a CBT workbook. I looked at that one first and wasn’t really impressed. However, the Tarzan book is very nice. I skimmed four or five chapters in the middle of it, read the whole introduction, and glanced at the afterword. I was 12 years old when I first read Tarzan of the Apes, so it’s amazing to remember my experience upon reading it again now. Gore Vidal is right to say that Tarzan is a daydream of power and domination of your habitat and to refer to Alfred Adler, not so much Freud. I think it’s an individual’s answer to feelings of oppression by an over civilized society: this and over organized. At some point this morning I also thought of 1984 by George Orwell, about the dystopian future, though I’ve never read the book yet.
The other book doesn’t address cognitive therapy as much as it does behavioral therapy, but it cost only ten bucks and I might still use it somehow.
I think a lot of my feelings nowadays resemble the theories of Adler, who in turn is a bit like Nietzsche. I feel the need for empowerment, for control over my life. And when you have a disability like schizophrenia and its stigma, these feelings make good sense. The opposite of this, Christian abnegation, doesn’t have the same appeal and doesn’t really compute for me in my situation. I don’t know if you’re following my argument or not but I’ll keep writing about it.
I’ve got a couple of books of Adlerian psychology that I can examine. I doubt if a contemporary therapist could understand or help me with my puzzle. I’m trying to be my own therapist, as inadequate as I may prove to be.
Quarter of nine at night.
There’s still twilight outside that I can see from my position. This afternoon I caught myself doing too much second guessing of other people’s thoughts on everything. The fact is that no one is clairvoyant enough to do that: telepathy doesn’t exist in real human experience. So I began to ponder what ever happened to cognitive therapy, since it was pretty big four years ago and very effective because it was realistic and based on evidence. People are less depressed when they are disabused of their distorted thinking. And, mind reading is an example of a cognitive distortion. First you catch yourself doing it, then you counter the distorted thought with a more rational one, one that is more realistic.
I hate to see a good method abandoned in favor of much older and less effective ones; yet this is the debate of reason versus romance that has gone on for more than three centuries. I’ve never seen a homeopathic remedy be very useful, especially against a disorder like schizophrenia: it makes no sense to fight delusions with more delusions. I guess it depends on the place of imagination, its meaning and its utility. I struggle when I pick up an author like Samuel Taylor Coleridge: I get vertigo from being lost in a misty fantasy of unnecessary abstraction, so I’m better off to avoid this stuff. The romance tends to sneak its way into even what we call science. It keeps us human and organic to use our imaginations, so probably the solution is a state of balance.
Schizophrenia is an extreme wherein imagination exceeds the boundaries of reality. But I don’t see much of that around me anymore. I remember when the streets at night were like rivers in hell, shrouded in fog that stank of brimstone. With age and with drug therapy, those things have sort of vanished in thin air. I’ve also grown callous to them over time.
I got some sleep tonight but my dreams are a turmoil of political thoughts and controversy. The idea is like gravity, things being held down and together in coherence and sense and how this is lost. The contradiction is mostly internal, all within me. How do I feel about having a PCA to take care of me twice a week, and the answer is ambivalence, a perfect split down the middle. I feel both ways. However, I see the truth that, without help, my life is disorganized. And my resentment of the powers that be is actually irrational. Still, it’s hard to shake this feeling of having hooks in me, pulling me this way and that like some kind of puppet fish… At some point they will reel me in and bonk me over the head: game over. In the meantime it’s awfully difficult to sleep at night with these mixed paranoid feelings, the kindness of the government that can kill. Is there a difference between the government and a god? Victor Hugo believed so, with a different morality for each one. But the analysis of this is very complex and wearisome. It could be that I’ve won the lottery but I’m crushed under a huge burden of guilt. And as ever, guilt is my Achilles’ Heel.
Quarter after nine at night.
Apparently some people do get something for nothing in a political system that takes care of the old, sick, and weak. Who am I to disagree or complain, since I benefit from this state of affairs? And who else is going to condemn me or the system for this reality? I should think that my good fortune is the justice of a Higher Power, so I’m going to kiss away the unjust attitudes of the people who don’t see it that way. I say this on behalf of myself and all the seniors and people with disabilities in this country. There’s no blame or shame for getting what we deserve. It’s a failed system where justice is miscarried. For once, it seems to be working okay.
Nine thirty five.
It’s raining and ugly again today. I’m getting really sick of this crap but no one can control the weather. At least, not at a finger snap. But I tell myself it’s okay to feel lousy occasionally. Otherwise you’re putting on a happy face. Some people prefer a façade to the real thing if the real thing is unattractive. Well whatever. I offer no apologies for my moods. I have to get ready for my taxi pretty soon to go see Todd at the agency. I don’t feel stressed, though I do feel gloomy and even kind of mad about something. I feel irritable.
Quarter of one.
Something has knocked down my self confidence today so that I feel like just another person with schizophrenia. I wasn’t keen on my trip to the agency but I got it done. Usually it only reminds me that I have a mental illness all over again. It’s just not a very cheerful place to go. At least I’m back home to be with my dog and chill out the rest of the day. One of these days I will finish reading Native Son; I had about 90 pages to go. It’s a good read for anyone who feels disempowered and marginalized in society, not just Black people but everyone of color or disability that suffers discrimination and neglect. And while I’m thinking about that, the weather continues gray and gloomy in this part of Oregon. One good thing happened on my cab ride home: the radio played an old pop tune by The Bangles, stimulating thoughts of my sophomore year in college, back when life was better. Is there a reason why it can’t be good again? I think it’s up to you and me to change our attitude and reverse the tailspin we’re in. Maybe someday we’ll be dancing in the streets. It’s worth working for.