Tag Archives: coping

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.

Meta Mumbles on about a family pet named Chico.

While I was in grade school my grandparents had a rhesus monkey – there were times that they entertained the monkey, Chico, by sitting up a card table in the center of their living room and putting out on it a Sears and Roebuck catalog.  They would leave it there with the pages open.  That was a time when all sorts of things were for sale in their Big Book.

We would all sit around the room talking and watching the monkey browse through the pages.  He would turn each page and then carefully spread it out flat.  Then he would sit with his hands folded behind his back while exploring all of the photographs before him.  He would slowly look first at the left page from top to bottom and then the right, while chattering the whole time.

When Chico would come to the part where various breeds of dogs were pictured, he would get so excited that he sometimes flipped over backwards while he seemed to laugh – out – loud.  Then he would point to the family dog, Beau, sleeping at the feet of my grandfather.  Beau would quickly respond and go to the edge of the card  table poking his nose up by the monkey.  Chico would start pointing to a photo of one of the dogs, the breed would not matter, then point directly at Beau – back and forth his finger would go – apparently he recognized that they were all dogs – while laughing the entire time.  Beau would get excited and it seemed obvious to us, at the time, that they were communicating in humor.

And we want to think that we are the only ones that can make our thoughts known to each other.

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.