Grappling

Wee hours.

I feel like some kind of alien; as if my head resembled an elephant’s. I’m not feeling understood by many folks, and this gives me a sense of my loneliness. Does everyone maybe feel the way I do?

I’ve finished reading the little Whitman volume. Next, it might be interesting to dip into Montaigne or Camus, if I can get onto his style of aphorism. Each of Camus’ phrases seems disjointed and apart from the others, so it’s difficult to follow his argument as a whole… My memory of past psychotic episodes has become hazy, though I know it involved ideas of hell and Satan a lot, and the experience felt very real to me. The more I verse myself in Western culture, the better I can grapple with those ideas. Probably the fear of an infernal afterlife keeps most people from doing what they might otherwise do. Years ago I saw Camus’ remarks on Tirso de Molina, so I actually read The Seducer of Seville, the drama of Don Juan and his fate of going to hell for his amatory crimes. What a strange story. It was the year following my mother’s death, and I read whatever I wanted when I wasn’t busy drinking… At this stage, I’d like to put the psychosis out of its misery for good and live without fear. Life on earth is hellish enough without expecting a hell in the hereafter. Perhaps it’s all just a dream, and all dreams are by definition unreal.

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Medicine

Six fifty five morning.

Outside is black as ink but I went out in it anyway. At four thirty I could no longer sleep so I got up; besides, my dreams were rather unpleasant. The music I hear is archaic for me, some Three Dog Night from my grade school years. My family was closer knit in those days, or so it seemed, maybe because all the adults drank, while today, the drinkers make a minority.

I remember a birthday breakfast I had with my sister nine years ago at Burrito Boy on River Road to the south of here. A strange rendezvous, because she called me to say the battery in her van was dead and she wanted to cancel. However, I suggested picking her up in my truck, and that’s what we ended up doing. Distinctly I recall telling her at our table that I thought I was a nicer person when I was drinking, which in hindsight was a load of crap. But in my defense, I drank for self medication of the illness, so it wasn’t entirely illicit. The drug I take for psychosis now wasn’t on the market until the following year. Up till then I squeaked by on a drug developed in the Fifties, a “first generation” antipsychotic that barely sufficed to keep me feeling okay… There had been a controversy over whether talk therapy could take the place of medication for schizophrenia. I don’t know what the current thinking is on that, but it seems very dubious to me, especially when psychologists can’t agree on what causes schizophrenia, if it’s even an experiential thing.

I think psychiatry is to thank for us being out of hospitals, not to mention out of medieval dungeons, chained up in darkness.

Eclipse

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.

Medication: A Complaint

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.

Jane Austen & Cognitive Therapy

I’ve picked up Sense and Sensibility where I left off some time ago. It really hits the spot. Austen definitely favors Elinor over Marianne, and she is the rational figure of the two. It again makes me wonder why the original cognitive therapy has been abandoned by our therapists today. For schizophrenia, there’s no better treatment than something rational and realistic, since the illness is imagination run amok. It never made sense to treat it with religion, as homeopathic remedies don’t work. And there’s nothing wrong with the patient’s character or morals. It is a terribly superstitious way to try to help a person. Not enough is known about schizophrenia, but it ought to be the jurisdiction of science and medicine and not of religion and psychology, as I keep saying.

I was misguided when I joined the church, but then my psychiatrist had his own problems, so it’s just as well I left his care. Now I have a lot of people for support rather than just one or two people. I’m thankful to them and also I think it’s indispensable to advocate for yourself.

One word I think characterizes Austen more than anything else: she is the embodiment of prudence.

Enough! Or Too Much!

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.

Bounce

Wee hours.

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. 

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.

Thoughts of a Dry Brain

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.

Yourself the Captain

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.