Underdog’s Gamble

Noonish.

I’m having a rather rough day, though the rainfall is a kind of consolation, like sympathetic tears. Dunno; I’m just unhappy with my role as a person with this illness. The inside of my house is a dirty and cluttered wreck, and likewise is my mind sometimes. The two posts I published this morning I trashed; they were just inconsistent with my usual beliefs and attitudes. I guess I’m okay with the open door policy regarding church, the flexibility to come and go as needed. Today I feel like no kind of existential hero, but even the underdog will have his day. All I really want to do is empower people like me with mental illness by means of this blog, and to show you what we’re capable of in spite of a diagnostic label. And if you get some entertainment along the way, so much the better… Right now feels like sort of a trap, a lot of closed doors and windows, and every road leads me back to either church or the agency. The dice I was given are loaded and always land on snake eyes. If only I got just a fighting chance in the real world, the outcome would be fruitful. In the meantime there’s this blog to be my domain, a place for being simply myself. I will do what I can to get myself together in time for the New Year. 

Critique of Vraylar

Quarter of eleven at night.

It finally occurs to me that the Vraylar I take is very powerful and acts on me like a sedative, rendering me a lot less sensitive to some of the essential experiences of human life, such as spirituality, sexuality, and other things. Vraylar raises the threshold for the stuff that makes you feel alive in perhaps a primitive way, which I find to be regrettable to an extent. It was having a large Coca-Cola today that gave me this self awareness regarding the antipsychotic. Directly or indirectly the drug is costing me my membership in the church; but on the other hand it helps me avoid alcohol for the purpose of minimizing my delusions and hallucinations. It makes me wonder just what is the nature of schizophrenia: could it be just a matter of extreme sensitivity of the nervous system? In that case, maybe the psychosis is truer to reality than anyone had believed. Or perhaps the excitability of the nerves is like a tale by Edgar Allan Poe, an experience of darkness and terror and phantasmagoria not without its own peculiar kind of beauty… The best part about the Vraylar is how it saves me from alcohol abuse by abolishing psychosis; but the pitfall is mostly the way it deprives me of some of the quintessential feelings of human experience, the sheer primitive energy that makes us alive and gives us happiness as well as pain. It banishes the emotional roller coaster of life— which is why it is prescribed for bipolar disorder in addition to schizophrenia. In sum, it pushes down everything for better and for worse. 

Stigmata

Quarter of two in the morning.

Another night as black as coal. This simile recalls an old U2 song, “The Unforgettable Fire,” for me. The day I bought that record I took my SAT test in preparation for college, and I scored very low on both parts because I didn’t apply myself. If I felt that way, I suppose I shouldn’t have been in AP English that year. The truth is that I knew there was something wrong with me, though it defied definition for another seven years. Well, whatever. The important thing is the here and now and what you do with it.

When I left my psychiatrist’s services, I chose to be out of the closet with schizophrenia, to just take my chances, because deception felt wrong to me. I wasn’t even sure of what I was doing, but I wanted to be honest with people. Now, I don’t believe I sabotaged myself. Someone has to do something to change the stigma attached to the illness and it might as well be me.

Schizophrenic people are no more violent than any other population, according to a person I knew with a degree from Boston University. And Fuller Torrey writes that the majority of them are remarkably nonviolent. Speaking for myself, I have never been in a single fistfight. People with schizophrenia are usually more harmful to themselves than to others. The intelligence and temperament of people are separate issues from the disease of schizophrenia. It’s very unfortunate when the media spreads bad publicity of a schizophrenic person who committed a crime. A therapist told me that another 80 years would have to pass before the public would be accepting of the mentally ill. Until then I contribute what I can to that cause. 

Antipsychotic

Quarter after nine.

I’m being picked up for church in a half hour. Feeling skeptical about it, as I usually do. I guess I’m skeptical about a lot of things. This is normal for me.

Three o’clock.

And so I went to church like I was supposed to, but the medication desensitized me to everything spiritual and religious. This is what I told Pastor when we talked for a minute after service, and I know it’s the truth. We sang a dark sounding kyrie hymn but I didn’t feel particularly moved by the music. I can’t experience either the light or dark side of religious faith anymore due to the Vraylar. My mindset is wholly realistic today, with nothing at all fantastic or metaphysical going on. But what am I supposed to do? I can’t stop taking my medication just to have a religious life. Frankly I feel quite comfortable on Vraylar at this dose and I’d rather not change it. There’s nothing really wrong with the way I think or process information. If anything, maybe the church pastor and parish have a screw loose… The rain restarted at about two thirty this afternoon and will keep on until six o’clock. I feel just fine. I may have to resign from the church, depending on how it goes after today. I understand that resignation is something that can be done. Probably it’s for the best if I do so, but I’ll give it another try next weekend. 

“Josh Halliwick”

Quarter after ten at night.

I don’t know why I’ve been reading Mark Twain lately, except for how his message of freedom inspires me to inspire others. This afternoon I drank in thirty pages of Connecticut Yankee as if it were the first time for me. Then I consider my derailment at such a young age and wonder why this illness ever happens to people… I suddenly remembered a little book of another schizophrenic’s struggles, titled Josh Halliwick’s Madness, coauthored by the cousin of my friend who played guitar. This book was published seven years before I ever started my own blog. I can recommend it for its accurate descriptions of psychotic episodes and the ruin that they can make of a person’s life. Since I’m on a medication that works pretty well, I often forget what the “positive symptoms” of schizophrenia were really like. Only 11 years ago I still had crippling delusions of hell and the devil and could hardly play music with my friends. My mind on Vraylar is a far cry from when I was a drunken madman. I say this with compassion for myself and for everyone who has ever suffered from schizophrenia. Unfortunately, religious people don’t understand the difference between psychosis and faith, and Christianity is a big thing nowadays. The fact remains that schizophrenia is a disease, not a spiritual state or anything like that. The delusions are bizarre and absurd and mustn’t be taken for a revelation. It’s a very unlucky situation when people mistake lunacy for legitimate belief. 

Telepathy

Five twenty.

I awoke at four o’clock and knew I was done sleeping for the night, so I got up and listened to Herb Alpert. I noticed that the bass, an old Fender with flat wound strings, sounded close to an acoustic upright bass, but then I heard the frets. The tone was incredible and the player was very good. He was very loud in the mix for the first three tracks, which I liked. The album is called Warm, and the Tijuana Brass recorded it after they re banded around 1970. All of the instruments are real, nothing is synthetic, and that means the musicians had to work much harder. Alpert actually sings on two songs: “Without Her” and “To Wait for Love.” Usually he plays trumpet, feeling every beat, every note that goes by…

I must be a weirdo, having music playing in my head all the time like a human tape recorder. People ask me if the music I hear is at least good and not annoying, and I don’t have a good answer for them. It’s something I’ve had to live with all my life. And sometimes, wouldn’t it be nice if we really could show our “nerves in patterns on a screen” to know exactly how each other feels and thinks, to share our interior experience with the world? Maybe someday we’ll possess the technology to do that, if anyone cares to know. 

Bedrock

Eleven o’clock.

I’ve ordered two new CDs of Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, I’m not sure why. There’s probably a reason I’m doing this at this particular time, and a little insight might reveal it to me. What happens in October? How many past Octobers can I recall, like the concentric rings of a tree trunk or layers of ivory in a whale’s tooth? Thirty years ago I was diagnosed with schizophrenia, at the end of the initial psychotic episode. At some point during that time I reviewed the music of my childhood, and Alpert was a big part of that. I don’t remember what the purpose of the regression was; I think I wanted to reach the bedrock of my soul, in order to know who I truly was. But instead, the revelations deteriorated to bizarre delusions about religion and mythology, as if I was living a waking dream or a fairytale. Ultimately I believed that I was Jesus Christ on a quest for his mother, the Virgin Mary… My psychiatrist at the time later asked me if he could have said anything to make the delusions go away; was it possible to talk me out of them? And I told him that I doubted it. Only by taking the medication could this be done. The most absurd thing is the idea of two schizophrenic people meeting each other, both claiming to be Jesus Christ. At the same time, why is Christ the most archetypal hero a person can imagine, existing at such a profound level of the psyche, and how real is this image? Also, the same for the Virgin Mary as the ultimate mother. Where do these ideas come from? I wasn’t even raised religious. 

Through the Cracks

Quarter after eight.

The guilt and self criticism were getting me down yesterday, and still hard to fight off today. I don’t know what’s doing this to me. It’s sunny this morning. Michelle complained to me about a customer who was difficult, so I told her about an old joke that she also remembered… I feel very vulnerable and depressed, perhaps because of my relationship with the church. I really don’t want to go back again. Every day I feel less superstitious from taking the Vraylar so that the notion of metaphysics is implausible to my mind. I’ve totally lost my faith. I feel more like I did when I was younger.

Nine o’clock. I guess blind faith is taking another person’s testimony for something miraculous. But some thinkers like Emerson advocate judging for yourself. Dare to know and use your own reason. I’ve never seen a miracle… I thought my visit with Todd yesterday went poorly, but I felt terrible and had no defense from my own accusations. Yet I’ve been saying all this time that I don’t care for the agency. It’s not a comfortable place to go to. I am extremely tired of being treated badly because of my diagnosis, as if I were a second class subhuman. Thus I resolve to keep blogging and raising awareness for mental illness. We keep getting the shit end of the stick. If you fall through the cracks then you’re destined to stay there, hoping for a miracle. I’ve never seen a miracle. 

Depth Psychology

Nine o five.

Just when I think I’ve succeeded in being independent and free, I rediscover the truths of psychoanalysis. I read somewhere in Joseph Campbell that higher education is like a nurturing mother on which some students try to depend forever. Taking a step further, my obsession with books suggests a very similar thing: dependence on the mother. Now I wonder why this is. Could it be that my real mother was an inadequate parent, leaving me still needy and unprepared for life in the world? This situation can conceivably produce both schizophrenia and alcoholism in a grownup child. But psychoanalysis doesn’t indicate a prognosis and course of treatment other than mass doses of psychotherapy. It seems to me that a person who has the illness, if she is insightful, must undertake her own healing process and not rely on healthcare professionals. I guess that’s what journaling is for… I once had a copy of Symbols of Transformation by Jung, his first really independent study, marking his break with Freud. Sometimes I feel that my life experience lacks depth and quality of feeling. I’m actually torn between two directions, to climb higher or to dive deeper. This is the condition of the Capricorn sea goat, if I put any faith in the zodiac. The danger of depth psychology is getting the bends and not knowing up from down.

Ten twenty. I’m just enough of a weirdo to buy a new copy of the Jung book. As if in reply, the same smoke detector just started pipping at me again in the hallway… I’m looking into Jung because I want to, not because I was forced. Probably I shunned him for so long due to forcible indoctrination, but that’s over with and now I’m coming back around. 

Too Much

Quarter of nine.

My day is getting off to a lousy start. I look around at my house and see schizophrenia everywhere: dirt and disorganization. Pure chaos. And I can’t find anyone to help me out with housework. It’s never happened before and I doubt it will ever happen. But I’ll try to see something positive in my life today. The autumn change in weather feels nice to me. Damien said he’d be here this afternoon to do some work. There has to be hope somewhere in this picture. If I had a couple of grand, I’d hire a janitorial service to come clean my house. Maybe I could just put it on my credit card and owe the bank forever. I can ask Damien about getting some help. I’m not a hoarder, just a person with schizophrenia, and I feel pretty terrible.

Nine forty. It might cheer me up to read Henry James… Maybe I need to get out of this place. I don’t care for this neighborhood at all. How nice if I could just pack up and go live in Victoria indefinitely! Anywhere but here. Utopia is a state of mind, I guess. I wish someone would send a little happiness my way today. Too many people want to piss on your campfire… Song: “Dream a Little Dream of Me.” A version by Roger Williams, a long long time ago. I think my dad gave me that LP; he came home for lunch and handed it to me when I was three. I don’t remember exactly the last time I cried, but the next time could be today. And that wouldn’t be a bad thing.