Category Archives: Mental Glue

Yet another Adjustment

There is a beginning to these things and this beginning is a type of back story or an ethic if you prefer.   At its heart it the idea of a great quest.  A Great Quest is a concept one might encounter in a common novel of the fantasy variety.  I an sure that it occurs in other places as well but I have no examples that stand out in the front of my mind.

A great quest can be as simple as a journey through dangerous country or saving the princesses from a band of highwaymen and it can be very complicated like building an empire, discovering some long lost artifact or rediscovering some bit of knowledge that has been long lost. All of these are similar themes that run through many a story but the idea itself is not that foreign to our daily lives in a non fantastic context.  It is important to note that the Great Quest is not limited to fiction.  There are Great Quests that happen here and now in our shared reality, maybe not as glamorous as rescuing the princess but great none the less.

For instance, going for a higher education beyond a Bachelors for the sole purpose of gaining insight into a thing that is otherwise incomprehensible to you.  This could take a life time and odds are their isn’t a weekly paycheck in it for you, not that you can’t turn that knowledge into cold hard cash its just that the process is different.  A cashless journey to a far distant land and staying for a year, a life time or somewhere in between, even raising a family and keeping said family together is a Great Quest.  For myself the Great quest was knowledge, it was the world I wanted to understand, the human condition and why reality was the way that it was.  This great quest had two lines of attack, one the hard sciences and the second, the occult and mysticism.

Now that I think of it that probably should have been my first warning there that odd combination of seemingly incompatible fields of study.  To me though it made perfect sense as I had extrapolated them from a quote attributed to Carl Gustave Jung, “Psychology and physics are facets of the same concept.”  To me it seemed only natural to infer that Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, the Occult and Mysticism were all facets of the same concept, in this case human consciousness or humanity itself if you like.  Of course there will be time management issues but I felt as I slept very little that I should be able to manage.  I had contingency plans if something got derailed or if funding dried up or even if I needed to transfer schools in mid stream.  What I didn’t have contingency plans for was failure.

It has been said, by my Action Theory Professor that one cannot plan to fail.  One might argue that a contingency plan is a way of dealing with failure but I think these plans are for foreseeable obstacles and away of planning to succeed.  The Great quest is very much like a horse pulling a load.  Horses in this case often wear blinders.  These are used to keep the horse from being spooked by the various happenings around he or she.  People on the great quest also wear blinders in this case allowing them to concentrate full energy on the goal before them.  The down side to this is that when an event comes out of left field you don’t see it until just a fraction of a second before it makes contact.  This spells disaster and that disaster, in my case, was a mental breakdown.

I distinctly remember the sensation that all of that knowledge in Calculus, Wave Mechanics, Differential equations and Organic Chemistry stood like a house of cards built on shifting sands and when it collapsed it took a great deal more with it.  I was aware that I wasn’t going to be able to proceed into the Masters program right away, that I would need experience so that I might reinforce and strengthen the shaky knowledge I already had but at no point did I think I was crazy.  The thought never crossed my mind.  I entered the work force with out my degree thinking that in time I could go back and finish, the thought of collapse still hadn’t crossed my mind.  The hardest thing was the realization that the goal I had been working on since the age of 12 was now unobtainable.  That all that time and effort had made little or no difference and that not all problems could be overcome or goals achieved through nothing more than hard work.  Reaching this realization though would take some years.  I just couldn’t keep from continuing the act of pounding my head against the wall.  I think it was those blinders that kept me from grasping the reality of the situation more quickly.  In a weird way it was like suddenly finding yourself in prison, through no fault of your own and in this case the bars of the prison were your own mind.

What to do?

Everything had changed.

Rage was beginning to build.

I could plop down in front of a television and booze it up until I died.  Lots of people do that or something a kin to this each year in these days of late.  This is not new, people have been drinking themselves to death forever it seems, now its prescription drugs.  The difference is just the age.  I had to redefine myself.  I had to give up the great quest and turn it it into a hobby of sorts, something of a passing fancy I could dip into on rare occasion.  But that was only part of the solution, I also had to find something to do with myself, something I enjoyed.  This was very difficult.

In reality it comes down to how we define ourselves.  Many of us define our self by the Great Quest, or possibly a job description and even that we are a parent or wife or husband, when we lose this key definition, an idea so deeply entrenched in our minds and for so long that we aren’t even aware it is there.  It is a large part of who we are.  When this is gone it puts us at a loss.  We have a definition of ourselves that has been removed from our existence.  Finding a new direction is practically impossible without first realizing that underlying definition.

I can’t tell anyone how to do this, I don’t think there is an expert out there that can.  This is one of those instances where our individuality is most apparent.  We are peculiar beings.  In the end all I can do is point out that it needs to be done but I have no idea where the guideposts are or what they say.

To anyone going through something like this all I can do is wish you God Speed.  The only advice is introspection and perseverance.  The only wish…

Have a better than average day.

Another Adjustment

The next big adjustment I want to try and discuss is getting use to the idea that I couldn’t trust my senses, principally seeing and hearing but to a much lesser degree sense of smell and touch.

When a Mental Health Professional states to some one like myself that what they are seeing or feeling is not real, they, the Professional, don’t seem to understand what a profound task they are asking us to undertake.  People don’t generally question their senses.  As the old statement goes, seeing is believing.  Many of the Schizophrenics I have been able to talk to on the subject have made it clear to me that eventually they learn to play a long.  Imagine for a moment that some one told you that your family was not real, that they were a hallucination and, just for the sake of argument, you love your family, they were a vital part of your life, how would you react?  I am beginning to think that this contributes to the problem of medication compliance.  The is something about the hallucinations and the world they help the sufferer to create that is seductive.  Chronic sufferers have a hard time reentering the mainstream simply because they lack a certain social understanding leaving them feeling awkward.  Suddenly they crave that world they knew so well.  The regular world is an alien land and they are way behind the curve.

The second issue with the problem of accepting that one cannot trust their own senses is that a hallucination is so much more than just an image or a sound.  There is a complex set of other physical sensations that go along with them.  I remember digging out my Abnormal Psych text book to look up physiological phenomena that accompany mental illness.  Top of the list was Hypertension, somewhere else on the list I found Diabetes but no where did I find a discussion of these other sensations.  If the sufferer perceives a thing that is terrifying then their heart rate increases, the respiration increases, muscles tense and a liberal dose of adrenaline is dumped into their blood stream.  For people who lack any real awareness of their body this may result in nothing other than a panic attack.  On the other hand if they perceive a thing that is loved and is believed to love back they’ll get a very different set of feelings almost opposite of the last description.  They may even be a scent involved or a very rare touch.  In both cases these reactions are either instinctive, emotional or both.

I had a strange advantage, again I must pay tribute at least in word to abnormal Psych which I took my sophomore year.  I was already in a state of doubting my senses, particularly eyes, ears and touch.  I don’t think this was good for me in the long run as my Major at the time was Physics and Chemistry.  I think it might have promoted the eventual breakdown.  On the other hand it might have given me the tools to deal with this very issue.  The whole thing sounds crazy.  I could tell when I was Hallucinating and when I wasn’t.  I remember describing it to Meta like this:

Imagine that you are looking at a movie screen.  There are two movies playing on that single screen at the same time.  One film is black and white and it is a comedy/mystery and the other film is science fiction and in color.  Both sound tracks are playing at the same time and at the same volume.  One film is reality and the other film is not.  In time, a human with enough concentration and patience will be able to tell one from the other, in parts.

The weird thing about this is even though I could tell and know that a thing I was experiencing was not real my body still reacted as though it was.  This has taken a toll on me.

Also when I am away from familiar surroundings I must spend extra energy reality testing, some thing that Meta often helps me with, but often I carry out a silent survey of the area.  This is an effort to catch anything unreal before it creeps into the world.  Visual experiences creep into the viewers world generally from the side of the eye or the corners of the room and sneak up on you, at least that has been my experience.  If I catch the experience early I can’t circumvent the worst of the physical reactions.  Plus I don’t always see the people I am interacting with true. This requires a certain level of concentration and at the same time a social awareness to void appearing “creepy.”  The whole exercise is quite exhausting.

I have been trying to discuss this with the various individuals I work with through the clinic but they don’t seem much interested.  I can assume that their are many different reasons for this most of which are not unkind nor untoward.  For some reason I feel that it needs to be out in the world so I write it here.  Maybe some one can get some use out of it or maybe I am just crazy.

Either way, have a better than average day.

8/25/2017

Looks like today is going to be one of those days.

Our mental doctor passed just a little while ago an we are currently waiting for a new one.  This in its self isn’t a problem.

The problem we are dealing with today is a medication screw up.  Our old Doctor, Doctor Lee, still trying to adapt to the computer made a mistake with Meta’s prescription.  I’m not faulting him, stuff happens.  The mistake was a simple one that slipped by us.  He shorted Meta 15 pills on her Amoxapine which means she is currently out.  The problem is getting enough medication to last her until the beginning of next month.  This kind of a process with meds close to out and taking fewer meds so that she does go completely off her nut is nerve wracking.  She is trying to sort this out right now.  Her Medication situation just got away from her.

We, she and I, understand that this is the way the system down here works.  She and I are coping, generally, with our conditions better than most in the system.  In other words we are wheels that don’t squeak.  In simple terms it takes time for the staff, stretched so very thin, to get all their ducks in a row.  I can feel my own nerves starting to jingle as I am some how ties to her.

I wanted to get something up today and this is the best I can do.  Just thought somebody might be curious.

It will all work out.

Have a better than average day.

Comments Inspired by the Last Post

Art is about the process, they say.

I suppose that this is true.

When I mess around with visual art.  Old fashion Art which is mixed media on board or paper, generally, the idea of the process seems obvious, to me.  It is a struggle to get a image, a thing, from my mind’s eye onto paper.  It is a struggle between the mind which can be crisp and clear to the hand which, in my case, is far less certain.  What comes out at the end, whether I like it or not, is the result of this process or struggle.  Sometimes I surprise myself, not to say that I am particularly good at it, just to say that the end product is both pleasing to my mind’s eye and it comes with a sense of accomplishment.

Growing up and through into my late twenties I also had a love affair with the written word.  In this case reading it for leisure or escape.  I was always interested in the act of writing.  It was a thing that I was passionate about.  Well as passionate as I can be.  I was just never very good at it.  It seems that English wasn’t my strongest suit so when I wrote it was simply for the love of the act, the process.  I think that it is this love that keeps me working on a thing in which I fully realize I lack real talent.  In the case of writing, skill counts as well, but skill takes time.  It has been a serious education.

Here is the strange thing.

After I washed out of college and the work force I found that I had nothing but time.  I certainly didn’t want to spend my days sitting in front of a television set or later a computer monitor.  So I continued messing around with drawing, mixed media and writing.  From my experience, for what ever that is worth, schizophrenia, I think, is an ailment that in part effects that way one thinks.  We like terms like chemical imbalance or genetic defect and we avoid idea about states of consciousness and the power of world view.  World view in this case being about how thoughts are ordered, logic and the underlying assumptions that structure that logic.  I used to like and think that being schizophrenic was like having a waking dream.

It took time to get my head together well enough after breakdown to begin to tinker with words again.  I think it took several years before I started to put pen to paper with any regularity.  It was a challenge that I enjoyed and over time I could see my words and their use improve.  The better my writing became the clearer my thoughts grew.  I don’t want to undervalue medication in my case, but medication alone is not enough.  Meds aside, the decades that I have been working on writing whatever thoughts I may have on my mind, mostly fiction, have led to a certain state of clarity.  Not to say that I am as clear as a person free of Schizophrenia, simply that I am far clearer than when this whole hootenanny started.  I have reached a point where all of the people I knew personally with this diagnosis are now passed, the last being Meta’s sister.  That makes me the last person standing.  This leaves me with a weird feeling.

I can’t say that this path will work for anyone else.  My conclusions are drawn from purely anecdotal evidence.  Instead I forced to admit that I am lucky.  This is so because of my interests, studies, experiences and college course work before my breakdown and my relationship with Meta after Breakdown.  Change any one thing in that mix and I may not have survived to 30 much less 50 something.

It is times like these that leave me wide eyed with wonder at the staggering complexity of any individual life.  That every life has something nearly unique about its existence.  This is not a question of God or not God, but rather the wonder we each should struggle to maintain so that we may get the most out of each life.  It is a way for baffling the mundane, the bad days, the less than adequate work, short comings and failures we are all confronted by.

I hope you have a better than average day.

The Art of Adjustment

I have a hazy recollection of the day I was finally diagnosed as a schizophrenic.  I remember the intense sensation of relief.  As far as the date goes, I am far less certain.  That question I always answer as late spring early summer of 1989.  I want to say 1990 but I moved in with Meta around December 6th 1989.  That occurred after I was instructed that I had to stop working.

I had no idea how I was about to eat and put a roof over my head with out work but the alternative was institutionalization.  I can say I was the most not cooperative client the clinic had on this issue, but I was fully well aware that there was no real way I could resist if such a decision was made so I acquiesced.

I am pretty sure that I have talked about this before.

The label, Schizophrenic, like anything else, is a double edged sword.  One of the hardest things to cope with as the moment the sense of relief wore off was shame.  Wu live in a culture that has an individual-centric meaning with which every good thing that comes our way is the direct result of our individual merit and every bad thing that comes our way is also the direct result of our lack merit.  This is true it the very least in the working class and the lower middle class where I formed the basis of my world view.  This is a hard thing to cope with and it took many years, decades to be fair, to work passed this.  The most important step in this adjustment was resignation.  I mean this in the sense that Kierkegaard discusses in his work Fear and Trembling. 

I am getting a head of myself.

The first big adjustment that most people like me have to make, if we want to live, is medication.  I had taken a few Psych courses while I was at the university one being abnormal psychology and I had a distinct recollection of the subject matter the day I received my diagnosis.  That was “The number one problem with the treatment of schizophrenia is medication noncompliance.”  I remember saying to the Doc that day.  One of the big problem with Meds is side effects.  These are often hard to describe other than dry mouth, stiffness of the joints and one of the stranger effects for me was vivid dreaming and the sudden sensitivity to sunlight.  Now once a doctor has chosen a med for a client, such as myself, they generally don’t like to change it right away.  They want to give the medication a chance to work.  Often the recourse is to increase Meds if the desired effect hasn’t been achieved.  This causes side effects to intensify.  This will lead to other Medication being prescribed to deal with side effects.  I like to call this the Medication Pyramid.  I am a medication minimalist.   It best to learn to trust the Doctors.  When some one feels both vulnerable and powerless this is a lot to ask.  I remember the feeling of being threatened.  It was an intense experience and it took a couple of years and a change of doctors before I could make the least little bit of head way in this respect.

It was a tiny, tiny bit of head way.

When an individual is vulnerable and powerless the act of trusting requires a leap of faith.  This is a very difficult thing to accomplish.  The first few times it is a gut wrenching experience.  It isn’t like a great leap you might see in various action type films for the leap of faith is taken in an environment where you can not see the other side.  You have no real idea how the doctor, in this case, is going to react.  We like to paint doctors as great humanitarians but they are still human beings like you and me…well maybe not that much like me.  They have their own problems to deal with.

In my experience just being real with a person I barely know requires this leap.  There are repercussions to being mentally ill, especially schizophrenic. in a social and economic sense.  These are unpredictable.

I guess that I am writing this to get across one idea.  As a persons moorings give and they find themselves falling uncontrollably into a new unknown world where they don’t know the rules or how to work the system they will find that they too may have to take this fated leap.  I hope this provides some help.

The Searcher

I search

in the eyes

of those who pass

for something unproven

a thing rumored

a hope

peace

I am paranoid

they say

you know how they are

and they are mistaken

I am aware of my surroundings

Am I or I am, I think

I search

for a softer trait

but, the all too human darkness

hides in shadow

what is kind

in our kindred

even faith succumbs

and still

I search

Silent Thunder

I remember that we would get together, during the long warm or hot summer’s afternoon to listen to the rain.  It seems in my memory that this happened many times, everyday.  This could just be an illusion of memory.  It likes those type of jokes as it has a sense of humor all its own.

It would be with the first rumble of distant thunder, the skies just beginning to change to that soft grey.  We would gather on the front porch on a side street near the downtown each of us taking one of the many chairs trying to find the spot we thought would best keep us dry.  Dad would have his highball glass freshly filled with bourbon and water poured over an excess of ice and the remains of a long cold cigar stuck in the corner of his mouth.  On occasion these storms could be a bit hostile.  The thunder grew loud and angry either coughing racking cracks, loud or some times rolling like falling bowling pins.  The pale grey could get dark as though a blanket had been pulled over the sky.  It never got like night but it did sometimes turn to a slate grey green.

The wind would whip passed us and we would only leave the porch if it was impossible to stay some what dry, a little wet was to be expected.

When the sky was at its darkest on these summer afternoons would be the time that the lightening would show itself most brightly flashing wildly.  I know that the loud thunder and bright electric gripped me hard with cold tingling fear,  I don’t know about my brothers or mother.  What chatter there was between us would cease when those explosions of thunder occurred around the bright flashes of lightening.  Dad would laugh.  Maybe fear grabbed him too and laughter was just his way of dealing with it.

It was a summer tradition.

In time I would laugh too, when the fear that accompanied nature’s fireworks was at it worst.  This type of weather is like scotch, an acquired taste.  My memory shows me and tells me that both my brothers, brother number four was still a life time away, would laugh as well, the youngest being the last to begin the practice.

In time the laughter faded and we just sat, immersed in the moment.

Over time soda pop became beer and brother and I added tobacco, all at a legal age.  Mom fades from the picture in my head as well as the youngest brother.  We just sat in silence during those summer storms, in the moment until I had become to busy and I fade from the picture as well.

I don’t know how often mom joined us for those events or even the youngest brother but that may have nothing to do with the actual event.  It could be a trick of memory.  Maybe my mothers death back in 1988 at the age of 49 changed the way of where and when I remember her.  Youngest brother ceased any real participation in my life back in the early 1990s.  It could be the same type of phenomena.  It might be that the whole family gathered on that big front porch covered with a thick sturdy roof to watch the summer storms often and the events after the fact changed the way I remembered this.

I’ve noticed over the years, Meta and I had talked about it, that memory is quite strange.  Sometimes I see myself in my own memories, sometimes I do not.  Stranger yet I see the memory from strange angles, like a corner near the ceiling of the room of the event that I am remembering takes place.

The recollections of those summer storms seems like they came from a whole other life time.  My Mom would die a few years after these memories and my mental collapse came on the heels of that particular event, no big surprise in retrospect.  So when I look back from now I am not the same person as I was when the event I am recalling takes place.

Remembering is the the act of taking the pieces of a thing that has been dismembered and trying to put it back together.  That definition comes from the back of the cassette This Winters Night by the neopagan music group, MOTHER”S TONGUE.  Whenever I think about this I get the feeling that the thing dismembered has lost an indeterminate number of pieces.  That the reassembly is a difficult task.

I have spent time in my own memory making serious effort to avoid blame shifting and just trying to understand what’s has happened and why.  It is a task that will never be completed as memory is an imperfect thing.

Rather than remembering the dismembered it strikes me that memory is more like echos from some type of alien environment.  They are mix of known and unknowable some times in a language we recognize and sometimes in a tongue foreign to our ear and under the worst of circumstances a series of sounds not recognizable as a language at all.

Trying to remember anything with any form of relative accuracy is extremely difficult when I find my mind awash in hot sharp emotion.  It is possible to learn from such a thing and I have learned one important idea.

You can never know what is in the mind or heart of another person.

Its best not to assume otherwise.