Quarter of four in the morning.
Since yesterday evening it’s been both warm and rainy, which makes an effect like a sauna or a watery hell. I got as much sleep as I could, with my mind on this ambivalence regarding a label such as schizophrenia: is it a useful thing or not? I could assume an attitude like Ayn Rand and be intrepid, saying no one gets a free ride in this society, no matter who you are. And maybe for a high functioning schizophrenic person this would be okay… but then I think of the others who aren’t so fortunate; the ones who don’t have insight into their symptoms, or are lower functioning— and I feel a profound sense of injustice rendered by the Ayn Rand policy. In this case, I want to fight the conservatives and advocate for the mentally ill people who don’t have a chance. But it’s hard to know what’s right in this situation. It may be all right to encourage people with mental illness to “better themselves,” but what if they can’t do that? The worst thing we could do is take away their safety net when they are incapable of working and supporting themselves… I think bitterly of my family that gives me the cold shoulder for being different from them. It’s a lucky thing that I don’t have to depend on them for anything. My parents were quite prescient of this scenario.
Quarter of five. Still the rain comes down like my thoughts from thought clouds. There’s a poem by Anne Sexton about a rain of dolls. And there’s a Grimm’s fairytale of money that falls from heaven. Also a newspaper article concerning a rain of fish in the book by Charles Fort. A plague of frogs in the Old Testament. Ecclesiastes said there is no new thing under the sun, and to a great degree this is the changeless truth.
I had my appointment with Misty this afternoon and we decided to keep me pretty much on the same course as before regarding having a PCA. I think I’ll be okay with that. It was just hard for me to accept that I have schizophrenia and that I need the help from somebody. And you know, my blog is sort of a place where I present a persona to readers and say this is my not schizophrenic life. I think I’ve been in denial about my diagnosis and wanted to be known as a person, not a schizophrenic. The truth is that I am both… While I was at the agency I ran into Patty who lives on N. Park in my neighborhood. She also has schizophrenia. Today her ride home was very late and I offered her the use of my cell phone. So we called Ridesource and got it sorted out. They sent an Oregon Taxi cab shortly and I saw her get in. Patty doesn’t have a cell phone or a computer at home; just a landline phone. The only way she can go online is by using public computers at Laurel Hill or wherever. She said her husband has a cell phone. And she said she can’t afford a phone or a computer. I should tell her about the computer recycling place in town, and there’s also a program that gives free computers to people with disabilities. I’ll probably see her again out and about, at the market or someplace in the area… It’s really odd how attitudes change towards all kinds of things, including mental illness and behavioral health. And it’s even more complex because my own attitudes change too, so which is doing which? Right now, it’s going back from phenomenology to psychiatry, or from psychology to a biological perspective. I used to think maybe there was no such thing as schizophrenia as a diagnosable thing, but now it’s doing a 180 turnabout. In some ways this is a good thing because people can get services that they couldn’t under the other policy. A diagnosis can qualify you for a lot of helpful free stuff. I dunno: it’s making my head swim, it’s happening so fast. And I strongly suspect that the Democratic government has a lot to do with the change— though I can’t prove anything. All in all it’s very interesting to watch as it unfolds.
Well now the wind is blowing quite fiercely and it’s cloudy this afternoon. There’s a chance of rain over the weekend, probably light showers. I just got done playing my bass guitar, the homemade one, for over an hour and it felt great to me. A lot of fun, and on Sunday we’re going to have a band practice. Pastor Dan gave me a call this morning regarding my sister’s unfortunate attitudes about gay people. He understood about her fundamentalism and of course he didn’t agree with it. He is still in Michigan to visit his brother who just had heart surgery. Meanwhile I avoided calling Polly today just to avoid feeling upset 😢 by another abusive speech. So maybe I’ll go to church this weekend. And tomorrow I have nothing planned. Aesop will be glad 😃 if I stay home for a day.
Currently it’s 78 degrees inside the house, and it has affected the way I think somewhat, actually in a beneficial way. I don’t feel quite as depressed as I did yesterday. While I was writing in my blank book rather prolifically my mood did an about face from melancholy to much more optimistic. Certain possibilities I hadn’t considered before made themselves known to me. Usually my self concept is pretty low and crummy, never giving myself the benefit of the doubt. I’m just a lousy schizophrenic person that nobody loves. But how do I know this to be true? I could be more appreciated than I realize, and I think being sober should be a big plus in my favor.
I also did some thinking on the nature of my psychosis, particularly the initial episode 30 years ago. Somehow I compared it to the adventures of Don Quixote, which show an ambition to be free and independent in a rather radical way. Wasn’t Cervantes in prison when he wrote most of the novel? Yet his imagination was unbound… Anyway, another fact of my case is that my brain has no structural abnormalities, such as enlarged ventricles. Anatomically it’s a normal study, and just my brain chemistry has been wrong. I don’t know what causes that. Oh— and to answer your question a while ago, yes, the predisposition for schizophrenia can be hereditary, but the onset of the illness depends on environmental stressors. It is one theory, anyway, and called the diathesis stress model… But the idea that was kind of blowing my mind came from the Sartre book I received the other week. Considering this plus the story of Don Quixote, I asked myself, What if madness is simply a desperate attempt to be free?
In this situation, what appears to be sheer lunacy may really be methodical and sane, just on a different level of consciousness, or of interpretation.
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.
Nine twenty five. I feel kind of lousy right now. I didn’t sleep well, either. Walking back from the market I ran into Patty, and she got my name right this time… I feel that my life is being encroached upon by those who think they know what’s best for me, when I would prefer to live my life in peace with no interference. Just set me free and let me be. I can tell Misty about these feelings at the agency this afternoon. I really hate being told what to do, and this situation has gotten out of my control… With a PCA, I’ll be hiring someone to prod me about my shortcomings, and as I consider this, it doesn’t seem very logical to me. Plus I know that I’d really resent being browbeaten. I hate feeling guilty or ashamed for what I am; it only leads to depression and likely a relapse to alcoholism. There are so many catch-22s in life, but the worst thing is when your freedom is denied you, and life feels like an exercise in obedience and conformity. But I refuse to feel ashamed of myself. Pride and dignity are so important to the wellbeing of any human being. Plenty of people will try to take this away from you. So don’t assist them in doing that. Otherwise it’s very difficult to reclaim your power.
Midnight hour. I confessed to my friend how confused I am lately, mostly with regard to our political milieu, the sociological scene. I guess all I want to do is play my bass, because my mouth is full of gravel. I have nothing important to say anymore. Life en masse is going more or less my way, so no complaints… What is the purpose of a personal blog, anyway? The Marxists used to say that all writing is intended to empower people, to exert influence on the reader. Whatever happened to those thinkers? But what they said contains a grain of truth.
The only thing left to say concerns the situation of the mentally ill, and how I might raise consciousness for their benefit. Those other issues— politics, religion, racial justice, and etc— can go on the back burner, especially since I learned them from the church. My personal main business is the plight of mentally ill people in this country and in the world. The ignorance I encounter among people on WordPress regarding mental illness is rather staggering. They don’t even know what a hallucination is, or a delusion, or anything that people with schizophrenia experience… So my project now has been defined: to educate people about mental illness in order to improve their quality of life.
Still another clear and beautiful day. I bought Aesop’s wet dog food an hour ago, ground beef and chicken. I got myself an extra Snapple tea to take to practice this afternoon. It should fit in my gig bag with my bass. Sort of by accident, I was wearing both a Duck T-shirt and a Duck mask to the store, but then Melissa also wore a Duck sweatshirt. As I was reading a few pages of Symposium last night, I realized how alcoholic the university lifestyle was, a tradition that started with the Greeks. First they would have dinner and then would proceed to get wasted on wine while they talked philosophy. It seems such an artificial mode of existence to depend on alcohol for any kind of feeling and profound thinking. And when you become addicted to it, your life goes down the tubes and you lose everything you had. On the flip side, if you stop drinking in time, your life will be restored to you. Despite Plato, I still love philosophy, especially the modern tradition begun by Descartes in the 17th Century. College was a lot of fun, and yet I got there rather unintentionally. At 18 years of age, I couldn’t make my own decisions on what I wanted to be. But I don’t think I would change my past even if I could. The real derailment was my illness at 24 years old. And I just realized that it was 30 years ago when I became sick. I stuck with the same psychiatrist for 26 years and never seemed to get anywhere. I took a medication that didn’t work very well. But now, on the new one, and minus the alcohol, I feel as though I had rejoined with who I was in 1991 or maybe a little earlier.
Every day when the sun shines, it appears brighter to me than ever before, which suggests how I am healing from the illness. As far as the idea of free will, sometimes adversities hit us that are out of our control. With me it’s been a very long waiting game for this new drug called Vraylar; though I wonder if the change in my fortunes can be entirely attributed to the medication. My big decision to quit drinking happened a year before I actually did that. Maybe there’s simply a time for everything, nor could it be otherwise; like a kind of necessity, another word for fate. In two parallel worlds, fate and free will both hold true at the same time. Whatever the truth is, the process of living is fascinating to observe in action.
Ten o’clock. I just had my phone appointment with Rebecca, my worker in Salem. We talked a bit about disclosure of my diagnosis through the process of hiring a personal care attendant. She said it’s up to me. There’s still a lot of ignorance and stigma regarding schizophrenia. People don’t know what is involved in the illness, and they often get the wrong idea from the media. Even my brother believes the television before he believes the real thing. I used to think he was a smart guy. Why is it that we can be immersed in a real situation and still refute it because we saw a certain movie or tv show? The real evidence is right in front of us, but we judge it based on the media… Funny but I feel like such a vampire, a nonhuman phantom on the fringe of reality, only because of a poem I read the other day. There are a thousand ways to dramatize an ordinary phenomenon like mental illness, to glorify it or execrate it. Either way would be inaccurate. My blood is red just like yours, and my figure casts a shadow on the wall and a reflection in the mirror. The sun shines on me as it does on everybody.
At midnight last night I spent an hour listening to Tchaikovsky’s ballet suites. I love the way he throws a chromatic step into a sweeping melody in the strings. If these pieces were not so famous, the jarring effect would be a surprise. The waltz scene in Sleeping Beauty provides an example.
Eleven thirty. It’s another clear day. This afternoon I might return to the store for a second Snapple. Maybe I’ll get two of them.
Slept poorly again, but I thought of something quite important that I’d been missing: the experience of pleasure must outweigh my daily pain, or else life becomes onerous. At the store I need to get an anti inflammatory drug for my backache, which is worse now than ever before. And for fun I might buy a two liter of Coke to try to restore my spirits. Yesterday I longed to fly over the rainbow to escape from these unhappy times, this ride for which we’re all along. Everybody needs a diversion today, or as soon as possible. I might play my guitar later today, though it’s hard when nobody else wants to join me in having fun with music… There will be church tomorrow morning. I’m staying home because of the peer pressure and the denial of what the future will truly be. I guess I’ve grown a bit cynical of how organized religion operates, and I don’t want to make any more donations… I’m embarrassed to say that I had a hallucination last night. I heard the voice of a master of ceremonies somewhere nearby; I kept expecting a band to start playing. After twenty minutes the auditory illusion disappeared.
Eight forty. I bought the way overdue ibuprofen for my back pain and took one when I got home. The sun came out temporarily and now the sky is turning dark gray. The forecast calls for rain… Away from the clinical terminology, sometimes the experience of schizophrenia can be rather poetic. And to ponder the origins of the illusions is always baffling and mysterious. Even Descartes wondered if he could be deceived by an evil genius while writing his Meditations… Feeding the dog was difficult for me, and now the pain reliever makes me woozy. I want to escape with a good book for a while over the rainbow or through the looking glass to a better place than this. The trouble with escape is that you always have to come back. Often it’s with a hangover, depending on your method.
Another possibility: how do you tell the difference between real and fantasy?
Since talking with Polly yesterday morning I’ve felt rather confused. According to her, some Christians believe that we’ve already seen the Antichrist, and a lot of other biblical prophecies are coming true. I don’t know what to do with this information. Maybe the safe thing is to file it away and not totally dispose of it. The leap to metaphysics is very hard for me to accept because it defies logic. A neighbor once opined to me that people with schizophrenia are possessed by the devil, and my reaction was to think how ignorant he was, and how mean and insensitive. If everyone believed his way, we schizophrenic people would still be chained in dungeons as in the Dark Ages. Think now: is that any way to treat a human being? This neighbor was a Catholic and a complete dunce, and I was thankful when his family moved away. I don’t know how to feel about religion, except I’ve seen how it can marginalize certain people, even force them into ghettos. It depends on the extremity of the belief.
I think the common denominator ought to be our humanity. The philosophy that makes the most sense to me is utilitarianism, the greatest happiness principle of John Stuart Mill. We should minimize pain for each other and maximize happiness, and all other issues are on the side.