Sunday, January 10, 2010

Recovery Prognosis

I recently read a short New York Times article about an artist living in New York City who has paranoid schizophrenia. He's been homeless. He's attempted suicide. He hears voices. The article ends in this way;

But Mr. Smith, who continues to receive counseling from FEGS, understands the future he faces.

“You have to come to the realization that this is the way you’re going to be for the rest of your life,” he said. “I never met one schizophrenic go back to their regular life. It doesn’t exist. That person is dead. This is a new person in there. I will never again be the person that I was.”

His voice grew softer. “That’s the sad reality that I live in,” he said, looking away. The voice became a whisper.

“That’s the way it is.”

One doctor predicted to my family that I would make a full recovery. I don't know if this was when they gave me the diagnosis of "depressive with psychotic traits" or after they changed the diagnosis to "schizoaffective". This is like going from mild to serious. The doctor who told my family the optimistic forecast liked me a lot. Did he think "she's got guts, she'll tough it out?" Idiot. As if my drive, my motivation, my character could compete with a brain disease. Many days the brain disease wins.

Yesterday was such a day. Consciousness simply wasn't that strong. I woke with a headache from sleeping over 12 hours. I do this if I don't set my alarm clock. My medication makes me sleep 10 to 12 hours every night, but some nights, this is physically too much and I wake with a headache. I try with my alarm clock to cut short my sleeping. Consciousness is groggy and doesn't feel good, but at least, I'm awake. Drugged consciousness is not fun or psychedelic or cool. Its horrible. To have a mind but to be unable to use it fully. Its like having a penis that is impotent. Its like having a car that will only drive 20 miles an hour. Its like having a pet dog that always growls at you. Its like visiting friends knowing that your hair is oily and your face is covered with pimples.

Let me make myself clear. I love the power of the mind. I love books that have been written and art that has been painted by people with glorious minds. I think that the power of the mind is the most fascinating, enchanting, sparkling power in the universe. Sometimes I feel I have it. Sometimes I don't. And when I don't, I mourn. Oh, how sad I am when I am symptomatic. Sad and angry.

Yesterday I woke but I woke from sleeping too long and I couldn't attain clear consciousness. I think maybe I did too much the day before. I had a good day Friday, was proud of what I wrote. Had fun visiting my therapist. Had fun going grocery shopping with my husband. Watched a movie and then watched old episodes of "The Office". The show made me laugh. I suppose that in many ways on Friday I did not rest, I did not pace myself - I just flat out lived. Used my mind up living. Normal people don't use their mind up living. They simply get tired. Me, if I use my mind up living I get symptomatic.

Yesterday I "coped" with my altered and abnormal consciousness by eating chocolate and other foods. I sedated myself with food. Bad strategy. I'm supposed to be on a diet. But large amounts of food takes the strain off the brain. Excess food floods your brain with feel good chemicals. I've never seen a paper written about coping with a schizophrenic illness by eating too much. I've seen research that drugs for schizophrenia will cause out-of-control hunger and craving for poorly nutritious foods. But what about the schizophrenic that uses eating as a drug? Bulimics use eating as a drug. Some morbidly obese people must use eating as a drug.

Went to see a movie in the movie theaters "Sherlock Holmes" - the new movie with Robert Downey Jr. directed by Guy Ritchie. Kept on closing my eyes near the end of the movie. Was I bored because of the movie or was I symptomatic? Don't know.

Came home and tried to read. Kept putting the book down and closing my eyes. Reading Jane Austen, "Sense and Sensibility". Not her best book. Written in an old english style of prose, what I suppose most people would find boring. Was I bored? I don't know. I know that I had trouble concentrating. Nearly finished with the book, so I guess my tolerance for boring old literature is high. Sleep found me early, before my evening medication hit.

The day only had one bright spot, wrote several pages of rough draft for my book. I suppose the only real moments during the day that I had clear, clean consciousness. It was a character study. What did the character of Sue Gerber look like, talk like, act like. Will continue over the next several days doing character studies. This is all leading up to a scene in the book where there is group therapy going on in a psychiatric ward in a hospital. Writing group therapy is a bit like writing a party scene - many people taking turns talking. I want to know about each patient in group therapy. I'm curious about their looks, their diagnosis, their peculiarities and their back story. It helps to have these details before I put them together in a room and have them interact. Must not forget the nurse and the social worker. The "sane" people in the group who steer the conversation.

Oh yes, speaking of sane people. Talked to my paranoid schizophrenic friend R. yesterday. She doesn't think that sane people exist. She thinks that all people are in emotional pain and they are desperately trying to hide it. Most people, in her opinion, are wearing masks, pretending to be happy and sane. I told her that I have met sane people. That most people are sane. She didn't believe me. For some reason she likes believing that all people are flawed and mentally in pain. It seems to be one step away from describing a world view where most people are mentally ill yet somehow superior to her in hiding it. She is like a fish in a fish bowl that thinks the whole universe exists of other fish. She can't think outside her water. The water of a paranoid schizophrenic.

To back up her assumption that most people aren't sane she gave me several examples from television. For instance, the model whose boyfriend threw a cup of acid at her face. After much reconstructive surgery the woman is happy, looks like her old self when she smiles, and is a model of recovery for us all. But, the television investigative journalism tells us, there were dark days when the model thought of suicide. Happily therapy helped her through this. My friend's conclusion - therapy has to be widely used. There is an urgent need for it because so many people are in pain. My skeptical question - how many beautiful people have acid thrown in their face? My friend is getting her reality from television and the Evangelical church she attends. Something about a steady diet of television and talk of the devil will make people believe that suffering is the common condition. And of course, being paranoid schizophrenic and hearing voices telling her that people want to beat her up and that she is a whore, makes, perhaps, suffering the common condition of her life.

No comments:

Post a Comment

In order to keep a neat and orderly blog, I am initiating comment moderation. Thank you.