Saturday, February 27, 2010


Tried writing from a different point of view today. It was like doorways were opening up in my mind. The writing was fresh, took the story in a new direction. What I'm doing is all re-write, but to my amazement, there was so much new content pouring out of me. Don't really know what I've written until I review it again after some time has passed, but the feeling is like standing on the crest of a wave. I'm high above ground and moving with a brutal natural force beneath my feet.

For the first time I left the reality of my main character, Rachael, and added fiction. She was my look-alike, a personal twin, but now I've got freedom to make happen to her things that never happened to me. I'm not stepping out outrageously, there is still so much based on actual events.

I had Rachael write a suicide note. I've written a suicide note. Rachael's suicide note was not like mine. In spirit similar, but in the novel it is much more interesting. I had to substitute the word "ridiculous" for "psychotic". The note is borderline psychotic, how do you show such a thing but not use the technical word? Technical words are the death of writing. In my life, I cringe whenever my husband uses a word that I don't understand. Not that I'm insecure about my vocabulary, I've got a good vocabulary. But I hate the impulse not to be pure and simple in communication. Using big vocabulary gives one a sense of power; "oh look at me, I know something that you don't know". Spare me your delight. In my writing I am trying to be simple. I will go back and replace complexity, which seems to come naturally to me, with something more simple.

I had a college professor once give me a high mark on some homework. We were writing an interpretive essay of someone else's writing. It may have been Emily Dickinson poetry. I used big vocabulary and long sentences. He said he did not understand exactly what I was saying, but that it sounded good, and thus, the high mark. Although I benefited, I do not believe I deserved to do so. The college professor was wrong.

I think of the simple vocabulary of Susan Clark's novel "Johnathan Strange and Mr. Norrell" (just finished reading) and the simple vocabulary of Dostoevsky's classic "The Brother's Karamazov". I tell myself "use small words" and I hope this works. It boggles my mind that so much complexity can be conveyed using small words. If the revelation is true (in my case usually revealing interior memory and perception) then it can be said simply. Its when you are uncertain for what to say that you stretch and find big words to cover for your inadequacy of meaning.

Didn't write yesterday and tomorrow is Church, so don't plan to write tomorrow. Had some emotional difficulty yesterday, just felt low spirited. I fixed myself with sweets. Bought chocolate and a cheese danish. The sugar made me feel tired, stupid, and compliant with life. I wanted to live but it was a doped feeling. Felt secure. Felt safe. Felt comforted.

Had a session with Jim yesterday and it only seemed to make matters worse. He said to me "my homework for you is to have fun. Watch Comedy Central". I told him that the last fun thing I had done was to go bowling. He said, go bowling more often. I also reminded him that I don't have television, although I do have access to a lot of comedy movies. The reading of my Emily Dickinson biography is dull, the author is currently going through all of Emily's teachers and posing what effects they might have had on the girl. Inter-spaced are snippets of her writing at ages 11 and 12, that to the author's mind, show great promise and are impossible for most 11 and 12 years old to write. Me, being me, thought "goodness, I don't write prose like that, never have, never will - I am so dull compared to Emily Dickinson!" It is sometimes hard for me to read genius because I compare myself to it and come up short.

I sometimes wish dearly that I was genius. Plain different. On a whole different level. Obviously talented. Personally, I rate myself mediocre. I'm in the middle of a huge crowd of writers. I imagine that people read my blog and then break off and never read it again because I've failed to be interesting. Even people who love me, my brother and sister, I suspect fail to read my blog because it is boring. Can I manage to capture the human condition? Or will I write merely to exercise personal demons. My novel won't speak to anyone else but me. This is my fear.

Ah, I've titled this entry "Victory". How soon I experience defeat. And all at my own hand. There is no one who can injure me and reduce me to the smallest person other than myself. I started this writing with glee, and now and hour later I belittle myself. There is something wrong with me.

Yesterday Jim said, "The people who anger those who work in the hospital the most are the borderlines." I had just told him that my therapist in the Institute was exasperated and perplexed and yes, angry, that I wasn't getting better faster. Now, next week, I have to go back to Jim and ask him "Were you suggesting that I've got a borderline personality?" Perhaps I need him to explain to me what he thinks one is, but if he thinks I've got one, I'll be pissed off. I suffer from depression, not a personality disorder. I'm so violently against this diagnosis that I may wish to stop working with Jim if he thinks this is what is wrong with me. Oh I won't leave him, not really, I've got no place to go, but I will have to hold back from insulting his person. "Incompetent noodlehead" is the phrase that I imagine spitting out. And I will offer a letter from my past psychiatrist, seen for 12 years, denying this diagnosis. I will write to her.

In the meantime, I may do some research on the internet to determine that I don't suffer from a borderline personality disorder. I can diagnose myself perfectly well. Always have been able to, always will be able to.

My explanation for why my therapist at the Institute was pissed at me? She was evil. She was blaming the victim. I had no emotional rapport with her what-so-ever except for me to be a good patient and to answer any question she posed for me. I laid myself bare for her and I got thinly veiled impatience for an answer.

I will be standing in the middle of a cross-road if Jim gives me a diagnosis of borderline. I will be at a loss of how to work with him.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Plum Pudding

Just finished a chapter of my book. It is the scene where everyone participates in group therapy in the hospital. 51 pages of group therapy. Now I go back and re-write it changing the point of view from first person (my heroine Rachael) to third person omniscient. That is what my dream told me to do. I have never done this type of exercise before and I have no idea how difficult it may be. Once the chapter has been re-written I will show it to my husband to read. That is the real test I'm curious about; will the chapter sustain his interest or will it bore him? Don't want to think about the horror of boring him. It is the same as crashing failure. So far I've managed not to do this, even though, I'm writing the type of literature that my husband never reads. Oh once he characterized my writing as something like a book you get assigned to in school. It was both a compliment (good literature) and a complaint (boring literature).

We've been having snow, that at the current moment, has turned into rain. It is predicted more snow tomorrow. The dog is having problem with snow falling off the roof. I assume that from the dog's point of view it is like the sky is falling. She shakes, she whines, and she tries to get up into the bed with us sleeping in it.

It is of utmost importance that my husband every night get his 7 hours of sleep. He earns the paycheck that we both survive on. I have a memory that one night when he did not get enough sleep he called in sick to work. So lesson learned. I don't want him to lose pay - sick days are days of no pay. I try, in my wifely way, to give my husband no excuse not to go to work. And I honestly think that my husband's days of tireless energy are gone, both as a result of his mental breakdown eight years ago and simple old age. He is not the man he used to be. He has his limits, and sleep apparently, keeps him feeling sane.

So when the dog acts up I turn on the heat in the rest of the apartment and take the dog with me to sleep on the couch in the kitchen. Last time we did this I had to put a chair in front of the bedroom door. The dog was determined to get back into the bedroom where my husband was sleeping and get into bed with him or perhaps, crawl under the bed. The dog obsessively worked at tipping the chair over and getting at the bedroom door. When the chair tipped (this happened twice, and a dog never forgets when it has succeeded at something) I had to wake up (the chair would bang when it fell over) and pull the dog away from the door and put the chair back. That night I got 4 hours of sleep.

The next day, after my husband had left for work, I tried to go back to sleep to make up for what I had missed. This time I slept in the bed and let the dog hide under the bed. Eventually she heard some snow fall off the roof and woke me trying to get up on the bed. This time I let her. She would curl herself near my head, some part of her trembling, panting, body touching mine. It was too foreign a sensation, I couldn't sleep again. But I existed in near sleep, and I find, that there is something very romantic about having a big furry body so close. While sleep eluded me, I felt very tenderly toward my poor dog. Apparently I, and the bed, is a source of comfort in her mind.

Tomorrow night, while we are expecting a storm, we will try a new tactic. We will move Plum's kennel (a large wire cage) from the mud room which is unheated into the kitchen and cover it with blankets. We will create a large, snug cave for the dog and lock her in it. My husband reminded me that we have tried this before with success - it allowed me to sleep through the night on the sofa. Hopefully Plum slept in the kennel. That I am on the kitchen sofa and not in the bedroom with my husband is for the comfort of the dog, to give her some creature company.

I am currently reading a biography of the poet Emily Dickinson. I was pleased to read in the introduction, that the man writing the biography, finds some of her poems incomprehensible. So do I. But I had always assumed that this was simply because I was not smart enough to figure them out. The biographer seems to believe that she really did write for herself, a diary of her interior experience, and that incomprehensibility is a result of trying to record a subjective and very personal view point.

It further amazes me that incomprehensibility does not turn me off. I am intrigued by what I don't understand instead of bored. Some of Dickinson's poems are tantalizing, they are like the soft focus of an impressionist painting. I am content with half understanding. I am content with mystery. I can love a poem even not knowing exactly what it is about. This gives me a further hope - a long shot - that I may become a more spiritual person in the future.

The two most spiritual people I know, my mother and my husband, both possess a degree of certainty that I don't have. They simply know that there is a God and they feel the presence of God in their lives every day. From my perspective they are beyond having faith. They don't question, they don't seek, they don't fumble very much. They feel guided. They feel accompanied. They feel a whole range of emotions, and they do have their difficult times, but religion is not something that is on the table to be messed with. Other issues perplex them - not religion. To me this is like having a safety net. You can walk on the high wire of life and know that if you fall something will catch you. How much anxiety this would take away from me!

I am an avid collector of other people's religious experiences. I wonder at stories of wonder. I love near death stories, and psychic stories. I love what some would dismiss as the wanderings of an unconscious mind. I want to believe beyond Freud and beyond modern science. I want to break from the traditional narrow minded teachings of my doctor father and become a daughter who has moved into uncharted territory. I wish to leave childhood I was raised in behind and find a childhood of new thought to play in. I was once a believer, than an angry atheist, and now, am I a believer again? If I could be a believer I think I would not struggle so with painful thoughts of suicide. All clues point toward a relationship with God having as part of it a zest for life. I wish to choose life and choose God. It would be so much more easy for me if God came nearer to me and showed a little more of Himself to me. But until then (an it may never happen) I have to be satisfied with seeing God through the lens of others who He is immediate to.

Emily Dickinson was a very religious person. I hope her biographer goes into this part of her personality. So many of her poems are about life after death and celebrating life in Nature. Nature really tickled her fancy. I think Dickinson was primarily a positive person.

I believe that I have come to a position in life where I am surrounded by positive people. Many of these people come through church, although, some are in the sub-world of the mentally ill.

The most positive of them all though is my husband. It shows you how stubborn depression is when it is so difficult for his cheer to rub off on me. Although usually, eventually, it does. He does have the knack of eventually making me smile. Every day I am so eager for him to come home from work. When he comes home from work he breezes into my life and lifts me up with joy. Oh, how I watch the clock right before he comes home. Even as I write, I'm doing it right now. Calculating the time before I see him again!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Saints and the Thrift Store

Wrote for a good three hours today. Surprised I have any energy left to write this blog. But have been having the most peculiar sleeping patterns. I take my medication each night at 6 or 7pm. Yet last night feel asleep at 7:30pm, the night before at 3:30am. Needless to say, after falling asleep in the wee hours of morning I skipped church because it meant that I would have to get up at 9am, and on less then six hours of sleep, I would be very dopey. So instead of church I slept until almost 1pm. I loath being out in public and having an altered consciousness. Sick or sleepy or medicated I prefer all to endure in private. But this means two weeks in a row I have gone without attending church.

I have very mixed feelings about what I am writing about. I am literally making up a definition of what makes a Saint a Saint. I've finished writing about the types that make it into a mental institution. Point was to detail all the different kinds of people you can find, and yet, you won't find a saint in a mental institution. Will eventually have to go back and add quite a bit to the type that I belong to, namely, the broken, neglected and abused. I haven't been broken, neglected or abused in about 10 to 20 years, so it is a category that I fit into long, long ago. The problem with my description is that it is too short and it is too fantastical. The two paranoid schizophrenics I know both talk sense. They are both kind, dignified people. But perhaps when they were in the hospital they talked nonsense. The recovery that people can make after a hospitalization is enormous. Not in terms of regaining their former place in society though. Only in terms of living a happy life. Usually it has to be a widely simplified life from what they knew before.

I don't think Jim the therapist is going to like my definition of a Saint. He sees everything in terms of the unconscious mind. I say, what happens to a Saint occurs with outside intercession. It isn't the God within appearing, it is the God without conferring. I'm not saying that they (the Saints) are more human, I'm saying that they are less human, and that it is a good thing to be less human, because humans are, as a whole, a nasty and selfish lot. I believe I view myself as a nasty and selfish person. Oh, how I think about the crystal Swarovski brooch I bought for myself for a birthday gift in January, and how it cost, too much money - especially for something so rarely worn. I was selfish, pure and simple. My husband does not see me this way, but oh, I know myself and I am.

Money and how it is spent is on my mind lately because my husband's laptop computer seems to be broken. The screen died. My husband claims the computer itself is working perfectly, all we need do is buy a monitor. I'm thinking, just bite the bullet and buy a whole new thing instead of paying out piece by piece as they die off and need to be replaced. He's been telling me that the hard-drive has been making noise and might go any time. So after the monitor, is this the next thing that will need to be bought?

I think we need to buy him a new computer. We just calculated our tax return and it is twice what my husband estimated the first time he (incorrectly) filled out this year's taxes. Last night we both sat down at the table and I went over every single one of his numbers. I'm proud we could do the taxes ourselves, but let me tell you, it was a joint effort. He managed to get the right numbers in the end, but between, he was lousy. Used a lot of white out.

Thank goodness for the money that is coming in. My computer is working perfectly but then, how long do laptops usually last? I've had this one for three years. How long before I need a new laptop? Laptops are essential in this household, they get used every day. We do the creative work that best defines our very selves on laptops. I'm hoping that because I only use mine to surf the internet and do word processing that somehow I'm not stressing it like my husband stresses his doing visual work.

In the back of our mind we are always asking ourselves the question; are we saving up for a new car? Our car only has 52,000 miles on it, and we don't drive it much, but still, when we need to buy a new car, can we afford one? We aren't making the gains in our savings that we once predicted we would make. And this is mostly because of small spending. Myself, I need to switch to buying thrift store clothing again. I've gotten the worst habit of loving Banana Republic and Nordstrom clothing.

Yesterday I told my husband that all our car worries would be over if I could just sell a book. Estimates on how long its going to take to finish this book? Three years at a steady pace. Maybe five years to make it really excellent. And yet, in my heart, although I know it can get finished, I have no way of knowing if it is brilliant or trash. I've read my husband's great, 6 year novel and I pronounce that it is both brilliant and trash and unpublishable. So I know extremes of talent can be found within one book. And I know that you can write your heart out and still not get published.

Yesterday I despaired and said maybe I should stop church activities and instead concentrate on writing the book. My husband thought that doing this would mean a return of a wife that contemplated suicide too much. It is hard to know what supports one's existence or what gets in one's way. Funny that the two seem so similar. I needed church once, and now that I feel I no longer need it, is this because its working and that is why I feel so free to drop it? Do you start hunting around for a different husband just as soon as you are certain that you love and can't live without the one you have? In me is a struggle to preserve the preciousness of that I have become accustomed to. It seems that for me familiarity breeds contempt. For instance, lately we have been taking the dog on long walks. Do I need a second dog, as I dream of, (but know we can't afford) or do I just need to take better care of the one dog I have and brush her long coat before it snarls? In some ways I'm thankful that I'm a slave to this book, I definitely need to be subjugated and slowed down, walked all over, and thoroughly confounded. I know the truth of the matter in my heart. Nothing in my life need be changed. I just need to do everything with a grain more passion. Love my husband more. Love my dog more. Love my book more. Love my church more. And consume less. Return to the thrift store.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Follow the Leader

Yesterday was difficult. I was reading a lot of on line stories about Alexander McQueen and people who were interviewed talking about. This is what one socialite and writer said about him;

"I don't think success was easy for him," friend Plum Sykes wrote in the Sunday Telegraph this week. "He told me he was driven by his insecurities, and he believed that all successful people were."

There were details in the news articles that McQueen hung himself in a wardrobe and left a suicide note. It boggles my mind that someone so accomplished should throw life away. So it helped, a little, to hear someone speak of him as being insecure. My instinct tells me that he made a mistake. Suicide is a mistake. If he could have made it through his mother's funeral, cried himself into incoherence, then he would have lived and continued with his work.

One article mentioned the fashionista Isabella Blow and that she had been a friend of McQueen's and had committed suicide three years earlier. So I looked up Blow and read about her life and death.

Then it came time to take my morning medication. My pills are arranged in a little plastic box according to day. I can tell at a glance if I've taken my morning dose or forgotten it. I refill the box once a week. Last week I ran out of my narcotic Klonopin and had to order more from the pharmacy. I order a three month supply. That's 360 pills. I opened the new bottle yesterday, looked at what it contained, and immediately thought that it was enough to kill myself with. I couldn't shake the fantasy throughout the rest of the day. It became an obsession.

I thought, since McQueen killed himself, I should kill myself too. It felt like playing follow the leader. I was not particularly sad or depressed, at least, not more than usual. It just felt right that you should follow the example that someone you admires sets. I told my husband that it felt like McQueen was somehow closer to God than me. My husband pointed out that if you commit suicide you are probably feeling cut off from God.

In my work on the book I'm at a particularly difficult point. It is fun but it is very challenging. I'm trying to describe all the different types of people you find in a mental hospital. So far I've got the broken, the neglected, and the abused. I've got the posers and the pretenders. And I've got the petty criminals and the self-proclaimed victims. I'm naming the types because I'm trying to prove a thesis statement; that you don't find saints in a mental hospital. Haven't yet written about saints. These thoughts about who you might find in a mental hospital are all in the mind of a social worker who is incapable (she knows it) of loving strangers. Her eyes are judgmental and not kind.

I'm really lucky that the Catholic Church has never proclaimed a saint who spent time in a mental institution. Saints are definitely weird people, not like the rest of us. But because they aren't like the rest of us, they don't suffer craziness like the rest of us. They may be eccentric, and they may be protected by the Church, but they are more likely to be killed then to be medically treated.

I guess, while I was thinking about following McQueen, life felt unreal. I simply did not feel connected to the people in my life, like my husband and family, or the friends at the Church and peer support. I did feel connected to my writing, but the enormity of the project - that it will take several years, that it can be so difficult, - made me weary. I get world weary. I go through the motions of staying busy and try to keep my mind occupied. If my mind is occupied then I don't think about suicide. It is a life built around trying to stay alive and not think about suicide.

The night when thoughts of McQueen got really bad I put a movie on and watched it. Since his death I haven't been able to get on the tread mill. So this movie was watched in bed. It had no sex, no violence, and no special effects in it. It was "Pride and Prejudice" - a love story based on the book by Jane Austin. Oh, there was a final kissing scene at the very end, presumably after the heroes have gotten married. That is the final point to all her novels, getting married.

The movie helped me. It soothed me. It said, "Life is so you can have these little sweet experiences". McQueen is currently unable to. Every little sweet earthly experience is lost to McQueen forever. Even the tiniest.

This morning I brought my dog inside from her morning bathroom break outside. As I closed the outside door, the inner door opened, and for a brief moment both doors were open. The kitchen curtain fluttered. In my mind I imagined that the movement of the kitchen curtain was our gray cat sneaking outside. I did not, in that moment, know what was real or what was not. The cat should not be outside in the cold and snow. Once the cat left us for five weeks. The cat is not allowed anymore outside, but I know, she would like to go outside. I was relieved when, after taking off my coat and heating up a cup of coffee, I looked at the closed bedroom door and saw the cat and the dog sitting outside of it waiting to get inside. The bedroom is where we have an electric heater going all the time. The animals know that is where it is warm and on a winter day, we will, two cats, a dog and myself, all four of us, be inside enjoying the heat. The joy of our gathering is small. But it is real.

Choose life.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day

Last night went bowling. Hadn't been bowling since I was a young girl. I believe we went duck pin bowling for a birthday party when I was about 10 years old. Last night I most certainly made everything up as I went along. Didn't have a single notion as to what was proper to do with my body as I bowled. Had to be instructed how to fit my fingers in the bowling ball holes.

My husband said that I was throwing the ball and that someone was going to come and tell me to stop, I might ruin the wood on the bowling lane. But then the loud music started, and the lights dimmed, and the colored lights started spinning, and the bowling ally filled with laughing people, and he must have thought, "no one cares that Karen is throwing the ball".

I actually beat one of my husband's scores. That was when I bowled two strikes. My husband learned how to bowl in school. The kids got on the school bus and were bussed to a bowling lane for physical education. It was very amusing to watch him be so serious about his bowling form. Usually at the last minute, he put so much push on the ball, that his feet slipped from under him and he nearly toppled over. It happened again and again. He complained the lane was slippery.

I looked at his back, standing so still, considering the lane in front of him, all focus, and for once I saw him in a serious mood. It is not so often that I see my husband in a serious mood. He is very attractive when he is serious. He bowled about one game seriously trying to win, and then, he bought a beer. After the beer, when he stood and held his bowling ball and considered the lane in front of him his hips wiggled a little in time with the music and he danced while he bowled. Dancing was disastrous for his score. When he danced, and ignored the bowling form that he had learned in school as a child, he rolled gutter balls.

I said to my husband, "Don't dance when you bowl" but the woman we were there with (another couple) said, "he's having fun". And of course she was right. I was so mixed up as to whether or not to compete or to have fun that I prayed to God to just let me hit the pins and not throw gutter balls. I must have a competitive personality. Out of the four of us I didn't want to be the low score. I wanted the woman from the other couple to bowl the low score. And rotten me, when she bowled well, I was disappointed. I tried hard not to wish her ill luck. But there was a little devil in me speaking.

The bowling was one price for 9pm until 12am. The other couple we bowled with met us at a Friendly's restaurant at 8pm and we all had ice cream and coffee before we bowled.

I did not get to sleep until a little after 2am. But while my husband was snoring, I left the bedroom and set up on his computer his valentine gifts. There was the Tibetan prayer rug with two fishes which was the big surprise. It is small and there is a specific place for it. It fits on top of his pine witch box underneath his computer. I draped the prayer rug over the top of his computer so he would see it when he wakes. Then there was a heart shaped red candy box with a green dinosaur with googly eyes that moved that says "Valentine, you're Dino-mite!", a bag of Werther's candy that he likes to suck on, and a card. This year I went not for the big message card, but for the card with the best picture on it. It had a picture of two puppies asleep with their heads next to one another. Inside I wrote "You're my best buddy" and "Love you forever".

I received a stuffed toy puppy dog, very cute, and chocolates. A whole mess of different kinds of chocolates in a festive bag with pink tissue paper. I am currently, after one day of eating chocolates, dreaming of biting into an apple. A fresh, crisp, apple. And maybe eating a little bit of grilled chicken. There is such a thing as eating too much chocolate where you begin to dream of other foods.

About three weeks ago my husband and I bought a silver necklace in an antique store. This purchase was understood to be an early Valentine's Day gift. The necklace has spokes that fan out like rays of the sun. It is very substantial, a lot of silver, and I feel like Cleopatra when I wear it.

In honor of the holiday I changed the table cloth on the kitchen table to from one that is green to one that is red. On top is a fancy strip of embroidered black cloth, and on top of the cloth there is a fat red candle in a glass hurricane shaped container. Today I dashed to the grocery store to buy several red carnations to put in the small Waterford crystal rose bowl that my husband and I received from my father as a wedding gift. There were tons of flowers at the grocery store, but the prices they were charging! One carnation was $1.50 and one red rose was $3.99. Never mind how much a bouquet of flowers cost. I suppose for the man who wants to impress his woman price does not matter. On Valentine's Day the man is a little desperate. You are under the gun to prove your love. I really wanted flowers on my beautiful table so I bit the bullet and bought four carnations, all different shades of red. A carnation is a flower that lasts a long time.

When I was bowling I looked around at all the happy people and I thought to myself "I have a schizophrenic illness, but look, I am enjoying myself out in public! No one could ever guess at the secret I contain." And I felt pretty. I wore a designer cream cashmere sweater that I bought long ago when I had money from Neiman Marcus and light blue torn jeans. On the drive home my husband said to me that I looked like I was in my early thirties, tops. Truth is, I'm 42. But all of the dieting I have been doing paid off last night. I was not the thinnest girl there, but I had a normal figure. And when you have felt overweight for so long, being normal, feels like the sweetest high. My hair was long and fluffy because I had taken a shower just several hours before we left the house.

I think that I shall ask my husband to take all the left over chocolate with him tomorrow to work and distribute it to his co-workers, or save it for himself as a snack. I want to continue my diet tomorrow. The gift of candy was appreciated, as a gesture, but I really don't want to eat it all. My husband sought to overwhelm me, and this he did. From an economic point of view my husband may find it frustrating that all the candy is returned to him - he will feel like he wasted money - but my eye is on a prize.

I have a goal to fit into the next smaller size jeans by Easter. Easter will be celebrated by visiting with family, and I would like to show off a smaller size to them. I also will change the kitchen table again at Easter, putting on what type of table cloth I do not know yet. But there will most certainly be a new candle holder or stick that co-ordinates with the table cloth. I can always use something I already have, don't have to buy anything new. But I think I will look and plan.

I love having a pretty, decorated house. I would be devastated if my dwelling were destroyed by fire. The objects I own come from decades of patient collection. I think that I refused to try to sell the last two paintings I painted because I wanted them to decorate the kitchen walls. They mean more to me than money. A colorful, decorated living space is a joy to live in. I'm definitely not a minimalist. I would prefer to have someone else's beautiful paintings rather than my own hanging in my house. There is such a thing as being too surrounded by one's own ego. Seeing myself reflected back at myself is not my idea of comfort. I like other people's vision besides my own. But I like quality. I like to be impressed. And quality costs money. So until I can afford the quality of what I paint myself, I have to be satisfied with only myself.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Alexander McQueen

The truth will come out. One British tabloid said that he hung himself. My therapist thought that he died of a pill overdose. The death was not ruled as suspicious, so I believe, there was a suicide note left behind. The man was making unhappy remarks on Twitter. Anyone who uses Twitter will be prone to leave a suicide note. You will want to communicate with the world.

I've always wanted to own something by the fashion designer Alexander McQueen. I admire him oh so much. Last fall they were selling a hot pink sweater at Neimam Marcus for a little over $300. I saw it online. I knew I couldn't afford it, but I would have liked to have bought it. Later in a grocery store I saw the cover of Glamour magazine with the bleach blond singer Gwen Stefani wearing the sweater. The reason that the sweater was even remotely within my reach was that McQueen had started a second, mass marketed brand of clothing called McQ. Naturally I would never be able to own any of his couture clothing. But after the sale of a book, if I was flush with money, maybe I would be able to afford one item from the McQ brand.

I had done my writing for the day and I checked in at Yahoo news, see if I have any new email, what I always do before I fold up my computer and put it away. And this was when I saw that he was dead at 40. The news articles mentioned that he was upset over the recent death of his mother on February 2nd, and that he had left Twitter remarks like "life must go on!!!!!!!" and "if I can only make it through this week". He had fashion shows coming up. He must have been under pressure. One article said that there is a pressure on a genius to always come up with rave reviews. His last show received rave reviews.

A suicide means something different to everyone, but to someone who has attempted suicide it is a bit like looking in a mirror. I think "I've taken a forbidden path that not many people have taken" and then here is this man McQueen, who took my forbidden path, yet, followed it all the way to the end! There is a feeling that he succeeded where I failed. In a secret part of me, I am in love with death. The end to suffering. An escape from myself, a self that I at times despair over and loath. The girl who tried to kill herself in 1995 and the woman I am now are not quite the same. I have become a bit more accepting of my illness. I am involved in a relationship that puts no pressure on me to be more than who I am. But there is still the feeling that I am a failure at life, and that if I did not have this mental illness, I would not be a failure.

I always assumed, because of my experience, that at the heart of a suicide was a person who felt that they had failed at life. It is hard to imagine that McQueen felt like a failure. The people in the industry used words like "brilliant" and "genius" to describe him. The Queen of England gave him a medal in 2003. He has started learning his trade at the age of 16 so he always knew exactly what he wanted to do. And he was given by the owners of his label great creative latitude. New stores of his were being planned in the largest cities of different countries. He was on the rise.

Part of what binds me to this world is my creative work. I want to live because I want to see my book completed. I want to live because I want to solve this creative challenge I've made for myself. Also, as I write the story, I am curious to see what happens next. I have set a mountain in front of me and it is my task to climb it. The part of me that wants to live wants to stand on the summit and take a look at the view. How will I feel when I am closer to the clouds? When the book is finished, published or not, I will not feel like a failure. I can only assume, because I know myself, that once this mountain is climbed, I will begin to look around for another mountain to climb next. This is a healthy part of my personality that keeps me involved in the process of life.

It is hard to believe that a creative person who knew great success due to their creativity would want to end their life. There is much joy to life that simply being creative gives you. Sometimes I think how lucky I am to write every day. Some days it is not on the book, it is on the blog, and some days it is true I do not write at all, but the majority of the days I write. I am not dreaming about becoming a writer, I am doing it. I have met people who dream about writing a book. Not that they have written a book and hope to get it published, just that they dream about writing! It puzzles me, what is stopping them. Perhaps not wanting it enough. Their life is busy and they don't make the time to be creative. For the type of work that I do you need empty, very alone time to be creative. But perhaps there is fear about the act of creativity. The worry of "will I be good enough not to be laughed at" and "can I get what is in my head out of my head and onto......." whatever it is, paper or canvas.

So did McQueen feel like a failure? Or did he feel a lack of love in his life, especially with the death of his mother? I suppose that for a suicide life feels empty. I take note from McQueen's death - fame can feel empty. It is something I have had my suspicions about anyway. But this death confirms it. Fame will not automatically make your life feel worthy of being lived.

I have to believe that McQueen was depressed and grieving. I know a little bit about depression. Depression strips life of meaning. Depression severs ties to life. People outside of yourself no longer matter. Activities that had brought satisfaction no longer matter. In a deep depression nothing can touch you. And you can't see the future in a depression. Time compresses down to the moment, and the moment is black and empty. In that moment you have tunnel vision, there is one thing you see before you, and that is death. This is the depression of the suicide. I suppose that you can go toward death with feelings of adrenaline and a type of joy. It is joy without happiness. When you want death you want freedom from life. Committing suicide you act with purpose and there may be some relief that in the midst of so much emptiness, at last you have found a purpose. It is the purpose to go though with some act (involving a belt or a knife or pills); it is an act that will end life. The moment seems pregnant with meaning. You say to yourself "This act will end my life" - and it is exciting - thus the small jolt of adrenaline. So you can actually feel good about what you are doing. Not all suicides are crying buckets of sad tears when they commit suicide. Some feel very resolute and determined. The secret joy of a last act in life.

What I felt first, after I read the meager facts gathered right after McQueen's death, was not grief. Hours later I would feel grief and I cried a little bit. I turned very sad and morose. Distant from my husband when he came home from work. He tried to feed me chocolates. But all that came later. What I felt first was a shock and a thrill. It was not a happy thrill. But it was a high. It was excitement. A suicide of a personal hero! I looked into a dark mirror. I felt kinship. I felt close to death. Death not by car accident or plane accident. Death probably not from a heart attack because then the death would be investigated as suspicious and an autopsy would have to be preformed. No, the police knew exactly why McQueen had died, and this said to me the causes were not natural. This was death by choice. Death by his own hand. And a note to curtail the investigator's curiosity. I could look at a suicide but not touch it. And so, it was, morbidly exciting.

I have felt this odd excitement before when our country entered into war. There was a moment, in the first invasion of Iraq, when we were defending Kuwait, that the American people were told; we are now at war. Some invisible geographical line was crossed or the first shots were fired. And the news people were told; this is it. Diplomacy is at an end. Lives are being lost. We shoot with the intent to kill and in return, we are being shot at. Even as I write these words shivers are running down my arms as I remember where I was when I heard, over a loudspeaker in the library, "Ladies and Gentlemen, we are now at war." Horror spikes adrenaline. I'm not proud of my reaction. I wish the first reaction was pure grief. But I think that in the few split seconds before grief there is horror. Horror is a primitive emotion. You are shocked into stillness but you are restless. You are sad but you are ready to jump out of your skin. Horror fascinates.

My therapist Jim says that somewhere in Shakespeare there is the perfect suicide. This is how the perfect suicide should proceed.

A blind older man decides that he wishes to commit suicide. He summons his grown son and tells his son that he wishes to be led to the cliffs of Dover so that he can jump off. The son takes his father into a field. He tells his father that they are at the very edge of the cliffs of Dover. The father jumps. He jumps and then he falls flat onto the ground.

My therapist says that the old man got to live through his death. He experienced the intent, experienced the action, and then, I suppose, he was reborn. My therapist thinks that when you want to die, something inside of you wishes to die, a part of you needs to pass away so that there can be a rebirth of something new. The problems with suicides, according to my therapist, is that the body is mistaken to be the thing that needs to die. But always there is a mental existence that needs to be let go.

Jim says that when talking about the self, it is always best to say "the depression within me" or "the genius within me" - not "I am depressed" or "I am a genius". Thus you say not "I want to die" but rather, "Something inside of me wants to die".

I can clearly see the sanity of saying "The God within me" rather than "I am God". And my experience of writing, or drawing, is that I am channeling something. This is because the end product usually surprises me. I think, "I did that? No way!" And then there is curiosity. "Where did it come from? I'll have to try again tomorrow and see what new thing mysteriously appears." It is "the creativity within me". I would be a bit presumptuous, and inaccurate, to say "I am creative". Although, of course, this is the common way of speaking.

So now, because I have been working with Jim, when I feel the pain of being suicidal, I ask myself "What in me wishes to die?" Usually it is an expectation of something happening which did not happen. I feel disappointment and I want to die.

Last week, I suppose because I am mentally ill, I felt suicidal while waiting for the plummer. The plummer was supposed to come in the morning and I felt some mild anxiety about letting a stranger into my apartment and having a courteous conversation with him. When the hours went by, and he did not appear, I felt more and more anxious, until finally I was pricked with a feeling and thought that was familiar and yet like no other; I wanted to die.

I called my mother, who is the landlord, and told her that the plummer she ordered had not appeared. She told me, (being an experienced landlord), that often you must wait for plummers and electricians. She said that people in this trade do not know what they are going to find when they go on a job. It can be a monstrous problem or it can be a little one. They have a hard time defining how long a job is going to take because they don't know what the problem really is before they have arrived and investigated. I must be patient she said. The problem was not an emergency - an emergency would be a cascade of water falling from the ceiling which did not stop. This problem was a leak when the upstairs tenant used his shower. He had stopped using his shower. Thus the leak was dry. She said that she would call the plumming agency (I had tried and no one had answered) again and again until she spoke with someone. Eventually she did speak with someone and a new time was set for the next day. On that day the plummer arrived as planned. And as a matter-of-fact, I got along dandy with him. He was a genuinely sweet man.

Inside of me I had an expectation that was not being met. I had to let it go. My mother's voice was very soothing as she talked to me. It felt great. She assured me that she would take care of the problem, and that she would not stop until a solution was found. The burden was lifted off my shoulders and shared with my mother. The stress of the situation evaporated when it was looked at through a new perspective, that of my mother's. My perspective, whatever it was, was diseased and could be discarded once someone else gave me their opinion. I adopted my mother's view of plummers, and the suicidal pain disappeared.

I deeply believe that Alexander McQueen made a mistake. Whatever his anguished view, by talking with someone skilled, it could have been turned. If it was depression he was experiencing, that could have been lifted (not necessarily abolished though) with the aid of medication. That the man was deeply unhappy I don't doubt. But he had reasons to live, the first of which was the talent that lay hidden within his breast.

It is funny, but as I was grieving McQueen's death I said to my husband, "Am I next?" I meant, will life conspire to take away my reasons for living and cause me to take my own life? Or, will I act like a fool, in some moment of desperation, and do what he did?

Always suicide is a mistake. I believe this with all my heart. But believing doesn't set me free. If a missing plummer causes me to feel suicidal, I will feel it again. It seems to be a condition of my illness for my mind to turn, when it is stressed, in that direction.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Unconscious Speaks

I had a dream several nights ago. The dream's meaning was very clear to me. It concerns the direction of my book.

As I write the book it has occurred to me to go into the heads of several of the characters. I like to know what they are thinking. However I have been limited because the story is being told through the eyes of my main character, Rachael. Whatever Rachael sees, and interprets, about other people I can detail. She can see sadness, she can see craziness, she can see greatness, and of course, because the story is being told through her eyes, the reader can see all of her insides,- her memories, her fantasies, and her opinions are always very important. But to return to the exterior world, what is known about another character is always known through the lens of Rachael's eyes. The tendency was to make Rachael practically supernaturally intuitive. She just "knows" things about other people. I have thought, "my goodness, is Rachael a genius?"

My blog is being written through my eyes, the first person. I tell you, the reader, what is happening to me, all my thoughts, as thought happens. This is the way that Rachael narrates the book. The book begins with Rachael explaining to the reader the strangeness of her name (I haven't told you yet Rachael's last name) and then continues as she makes a drawing. Yes, Rachael is an artist. Being an artist myself it was very easy to write about the experience of making a drawing through the first person.

When I started this book, a decade ago, (my, my, that dating sounds horrible) my purpose was to write everything that was true. Everything that had happened to me as a result of having this mental illness. I stopped writing the book when my character entered the hospital. I found that my memories of the hospital are not too clear. This is because when I was in the hospital I was always in a desperate and weak state of mind. It rapidly became obvious to me that I would have to invent hospital experience. I would have to turn to fiction. And a decade ago I was not up to the task of writing fiction. So the work on the book stopped. And I turned all my creative energy to making art.

Now I have returned to writing my book and I am deep into writing about the hospital experience. I am writing fiction. There are many interesting characters I've invented that are in the hospital. Lately I find that I have to restrain myself to only see these characters through Rachael's eyes. And then I had this dream.

The dream was longer than what I remember. But I remember the message part of the dream.

In this dream I was an assistant to a famous movie director. This director was in the beginning stages of making a movie. He was at the stage where you draw scene after scene on a piece of paper. So he had in his hand a tablet of blank pages.

On a blank page he drew a rectangle. This is what the lens of the camera would see. In the rectangle he drew the capital letter "I". It meant that the main character would begin the movie as Rachael begins my book, saying "I" blah, blah, blah. The movie would be shot in the first person narrative. The movie would begin with a scene tightly focused on the face of the main character.

Then the director erased the "I". And in his rectangle he proceeded to draw a landscape. It was a lovely landscape. And as a picture on a piece of paper naturally it was much more rich and varied and interesting than the letter "I".

What the landscape meant is that the director was going to start the movie, not with the main character, but with a scene of a beautiful landscape. I believe it was a tropical island. The movie camera pulled back from its tight focus on an individual to instead take in a very wide view.

What I understood, was that by changing the drawing in the rectangle, the movie director was changing the narration of his movie. The narration of the movie changed from the first person, to the third person. The third person is what I call the "God" perspective. It is a perspective where everything can be seen and nothing is hidden as long as the narrator wants you to see it.

My interpretation of the dream is that it was telling me to write in the third person. In this form the narrator is allowed to enter into different people's minds, including of course Rachael's mind, and it is probably a much more interesting way of telling a story. The reader sees a far broader "landscape".

So I woke immediately knowing that the style of my book must change. My mind was telling me that there was a better choice to make than my original one. As the dream director of the movie changed his mind, so I must change my mind.

I really don't know the rules of this new perspective. But today, as I wrote, I went very deep into the mind of a social worker in the hospital. What do I know about the art of being a social worker? Ah, it was all invented. Risky business. I shall have social workers complaining that I know nothing about their talent. One can only hope that inspiration runs true.

Social workers of the world look out. I have invented someone who is either your best hope or your worst nightmare.

And my thanks to whomever, or whatever sends me my dreams.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Half-Step Prance

Walked to the library yesterday afternoon. Had to go through downtown where there are a lot of people and cars.

My husband was wearing his big, black leather duster, a coat that is about as long as he is tall, and a black leather cowboy hat. He looks impressive. I was wearing my rabbit fur Russian hat and a knit purple scarf over a blue wool coat. The coat is cut in a very strange style. It ties once, at the bottom. Thus around your neck and chest the coat can gape open. The big, purple scarf is then needed to fill the gap and keep your chest warm against the winter cold.

My husband was doing something funny with his feet. Every now and then he would prance. He would jump up, up into the air, and make a little half-step shuffle. I knew what he was doing. He had learned it in the army and I had learned it in drum corpse. It is what you do to change the order of your steps when you are marching out-of-line with your comrades. He wasn't sly when he did it. It seemed like some sort of complicated dance step.

My husband is 6 feet 2 inches and I am 5 feet 8 inches. There really is a difference between the lengths of our legs. We can't walk in synchronicity all the time. Yet my husband would like this to be so. As he holds my hand and we walk together he would like our steps to be landing on the sidewalk together. When they are not, he knows it, and it vexes him. He claims that when our feet fall at different times, with different feet hitting the sidewalk first, he can feel it and it feels off balance.

I am part of this hand holding, side-walk walking team. And it bothers me not in the least what our feet are doing. What does bother me it to see a gigantic man dressed fancy (because my love does look like an eccentric) doing funny things with his feet while he walks. The image is simply too much. He will attract attention, and the attention will not be kind. I prefer, when we walk together to attract less attention.

So we had a brief couple's quarrel. My husband expressed how good it feels to him when we are exactly in step with one another. Personally, I think the "goodness" is a quality that is mostly in his head - he likes the symbolism. A couple that is physically twins, must be, emotionally twins. I expressed not what I thought, that a tall man dressed mostly in leather prancing looks like a fool, instead, I said, if it doesn't bother me how our feet are landing it shouldn't bother you.

You can think, being a wife, that your husband is being foolish, but convincing the fool is hard because fools do what they do out of joy of life. My husband pranced with joy that he was twinning with his wife.

It is hard to be the realist in the relationship. It is hard headed to trample on someone else's glee. Isn't being in step with your best friend (who also happens to be your best girl) a childhood game, a childhood whimsy, a childhood triumph? My husband was being a boy at heart and there is a little dark spot in my soul because I said no, I will not play your game.

I am sad because I am so self-conscious and practice censorship. It would be a better world if people let people act out their odd little notions without saying, "you don't fit into society". I don't know if I am a bad wife for curbing my husband's new enthusiasm, or whether I helped him save face.

Last week I took a pair of tweezers and my husband lay down in bed. He shut his eyes. I studied his face and found the spots where wild hairs were growing within his eyebrows. Then I plucked. Apparently, at 50 years of age, he is becoming an old man and in some spots on his body the hair grows at an accelerated rate, and then, curls. I am helping my husband beat bushy eyebrows. On this homage to social norms we are in agreement. I assume that soon I will have to cut bushy hair that is growing out of his ears. But already, he tends to himself, and cuts the bushy hair that is growing out of his nose.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Leif Garret

Lief Garret is in the news for heroin possession. It is his second arrest in the last several years. It looks like his life is in the toilet.

I remember Leif Garret from the 1970's as a pretty poster boy with longish golden hair. My younger sister was in love with him. He was the classic heartthrob. Now he is a 48 year old man with a beard and balding, short cropped hair. Also seen in his mug shot; bloody scars around the top of his nose.

It is difficult to have a glorious past. This is not the way of how I want the flow of my life to go. I wish any glory to be in the future. It makes me ache in a sad way for child television stars, or pop stars who had fame years ago and now are scrambling to get things back the way they were. At least I assume they want the old days to return. Maybe they are glad fame has come and gone. Maybe there was no peace in the past.

One of the saddest stories I know about past achievement is the story of a watercolor artist.

I knew a couple who ran a bed and breakfast in Connecticut. I dated their son while they were starting the business. Their son would do carpentry jobs in their newly bought home as they renovated the estate to include the several elaborate bedrooms for their guests. I saw the house go from an empty shell with few furnishings to a warm, inviting, heavily decorated place with many antiques and works of art hanging on its walls.

In the entryway to the bed and breakfast, a little room off the front door, there were two large watercolor paintings of brightly colored flowers. The flowers were arraigned in bouquets in each of the paintings. It was some of the best art that they had to display. The artist was local and the owners of the bed and breakfast had cultivated a casual friendship with her.

At the time I was dating the bed and breakfast owner's son I was in Art School at the University of Hartford and had an interest in going out and seeing all types of art at museums and art galleries. It did not surprise me when I saw in a local art gallery the watercolor artist selling her works. I recognized her name and her style. Only the subject matter of her art had changed a bit. Instead of doing colorful flowers she was painting leaves. The painting I remember from the gallery looked slightly different from the paintings in the bed and breakfast. The colors were only green and brown. And instead of three dimensional space around blooming flowers I saw a flat, indistinct surface, as if I was looking down at leaves that had fallen on muddy soil. The painting in the art gallery did not impress me.

Then I learned that the owners of the bed and breakfast had been approached by the artist. She wanted to buy back the paintings that she had sold to them. Why? Because apparently she couldn't paint that way anymore. The owners of the bed and breakfast held onto their paintings and the artist went away disappointed.

I thought it horrible for an artist to loose skill. I thought that the way it worked in the world is that as you age, you gather and improve skill. But I had heard before, in an art history lesson, of an artist getting worse with age. I think the story goes like this - there was a situation where the artist as a young man painted mysterious surrealistic landscapes of the interior of cities, full of shadows from the buildings, strange statues, and hidden threat. He painted from his imagination and these imaginary cities were mostly empty of people. But in his older age he changed subject matter, changed how he handled the paint, and started painting nature - mostly outdoor landscapes. The landscapes were uninteresting. They tended to look all the same. The painter lost a psychological dimension to his art that had made it tense, poetic, and unique. The kind of art he produced when he aged until he died was uninspired, boring, and as far as the critics were concerned, limp. His art no longer stood out from other artists. His art moved from one style that was very successful into another style that was a flop. Nobody wanted to buy his landscapes, but his earlier surrealist interior city-scapes made their way into art museums.

In a way I have my own story of diminished ability. My husband claims that when I changed medication, from the powerful Seroquel to the less powerful Geodone my artwork became less interesting. In hindsight he is probably right. While I was painting this truth was too painful to hear - and I did not give his comments critical weight. But it is true that some of the most complex of my paintings were done while I was on Zyprexa and Seroquel. When I changed to Geodone my artwork may have suffered. I had a few good hits on Geodone, some art that stood out as very good, but the majority of the artwork was in fact simplified in style.

The change is best exemplified by my two versions of the Annunciation. One was done on Zyprexa and it is very complex (in terms of space and subject matter) and very delicately painted. The other was done on Geodone and looks rougher (more crudely drawn) and is less complex. Both are creative, but there is a refinement on Zyprexa that is lacking on Geodone. Geodone's space is flatter. On Geodone I did not walk down a long creative planning stage that resulted in a complicated stage space. My initial drawing on Geodone went quicker. Both paintings are creative and deviate from the norm, but I think the Zyprexa painting is more likely, in the future, to end up in a museum. My mother currently owns it. When she saw it, she felt like she had to own it, no matter the big price tag. My mother is a very thrifty woman. I was more likely to paint in a manner that elicited such a primal response from the audience (the "I've gotta have it") when I was on Zyprexa and Seroquil than when I was on Geodone.

It is painful to hear my husband's theory. I'm not painting right now, and thankfully, he does not see any difference in my writing between being on different drugs. I'm not saying that there isn't a difference, only, that my husband does not see it. He does not say, "you are less brilliant on Geodone." I have heard such words in association with my painting. If I heard this about my writing too I would loose heart. But so far, in my husband's opinion, I can be brilliant while writing on Geodone.

My husband's opinion of my creative work matters. He is my primary cheerleader. It is he who always sees the first draft or the first drawing. I can't create and say, "My husband's opinion be damned."

I'm hoping, with all my heart, for a new drug that gives me the creative power I had on Zyprexa and Seroquil without the weight gain I also had on those drugs. The weight gain is the only reason why I do not use them today. They are excellent drugs. I was happy with life while I was on them, only, very unhappy about being overweight. I simply could not control my craving for food. Even on Geodone it is sometimes difficult to control my eating. This may not be the drug's fault. I have always had difficulty with my weight. My parents have had trouble controlling their weight. At times I was over-weight in high school. But in college I really learned self-discipline and self-control and shed all my extra pounds. It was easier to do physical activity, in the form of jogging, when I was not taking any anti-psychotic medication. Now I have to take an anti-psychotic medication. I have determined that this is the only way to avoid repeated hospitalizations. Today Geodone is my anti-psychotic medication of choice. I'm just lucky that I can take what I chose, others are more or less forced to take a stronger anti-psychotic because of the severity of their illness.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Nefarious Character

I'm following an advocate for schizophrenia's blog. Her name is Christina Bruni. Her website states that she is a librarian and lives independently in New York City. Yesterday she published this;

I confessed to a friend tonight that it was shameful to me to think I would have to collect a government disability check the rest of my life. I realize I was entitled to that check because I paid into the system however when I got sick I received only $423 a month from the government. When I lived in the halfway house I existed on $100 personal allowance each month after the rent and staff fees were paid with my SSD and SSI checks. Not only was I ashamed to collect a check it would've meant I lived below the poverty line.

I wouldn't judge someone else for collecting a check because that is their choice and sometimes it's out of their hands and they have no choice because they can't work and are entitled to benefits.

Well living on $100 per month I decided wasn't acceptable to me. Now here I am writing this blog and doing a hundred other things like a woman on the edge of her life always pushing herself beyond her comfort zone. I think it is actually a yoga term to talk about going to your edge.

I think this woman, who is a schizophrenic herself, is out of touch with the realities of the disease. This disease is serious and disabling. Poverty is not a choice, it is the brutal hand of fate that many have been dealt. Bruni gives speeches as an advocate to the public in spots around NYC, and when she is out in public I doubt that she is listening to the stories of others who have this illness with an open mind and compassion. Typical for her, first on her mind, is that she makes a good impression with what she wears.

If her mind were open to others she would understand the disease better. She does not understand the disease. What she does understand is how far she has come in recovery and she is filled with self pride. She is blogging filled with admiration for her own successes in the workplace. She blogs about how well the medication works for her that it almost feels like a "cure". She does not understand that she dodged a bullet. There is no feeling in her, when she talks about schizophrenia, "But for the grace of God, there go I".

In my peer support group there are some very sick people who attend the group faithfully every week. All of them collect government disability. Although all of them have at some point worked, either before the onset of the illness or after the onset of the illness, none of them currently are working. I would never want one of the people in my group to feel humiliated because they need this disability. Feeling humiliated would not motivate them to succeed. Their illness is often too profound, and too mind altering, for the type of success that Bruni enjoys. Feeling humiliated because you have a mental illness leads, often, to thoughts of suicide. I know this. I've been down this road.

I believe that the heart of every suicide is a person who feels like a failure. Schizophrenia can so limit your abilities, by causing disability, that you feel like you are a failure. I don't know the statistics on suicide from people with schizoaffective or schizophrenic illnesses, but the numbers are there, the situations exist, the suicidal despair exists, especially in those who have tried to succeed, and failed.

In honor of Bruni I've decided to put her into my book. Not her as a person of course, but her attitude. Her phenomena. The accomplished mentally ill person who believe that she receives all credit for her accomplishment. Someone who medication works so well for that their lifestyle is indistinguishable from normal. Someone who has the razor thin emotion of contempt for others who cannot succeed like they have. To say, "I would never want to be 'x', and so because I willed it, I did not become 'x'."

My character shall be the queen of normal, the cheerful harbinger of good news, an eternal optimist, and, because I am a dark person, I will push the attitude of this character a little further, harden her heart a little more than Bruni's heart, and make her say, "The problem with disability is that it does not sufficiently motivate people to get off it" and "because I would be ashamed to be on disability, you should be ashamed to be on disability."

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Jim and Death

The mechanic heard the noise my husband and I complained of when he drove the car into the shop. Thank goodness. You don't want the mechanic thinking that the noise you are complaining about is a figment of your imagination. He showed me two bolts, one on either side of the car. One bolt was rusty, the other was not. The rusty bolt had rust coming out of the inside of it, meaning that it was probably rusted clear through. The mechanic suspects, though he cannot promise, that rusted bolt is the cause of the noise. The rest of the car on that side seems tight. This rusty bolt, if it comes off while you are driving, is very dangerous. It will cause the whole wheel to come off. So when he offered to fix it, not promising that he had absolutely found the cause of the noise, worrying that I would angrily come after him if the bumping noise continued, I said yes, replace the bolt. I like to drive a safe car.

My therapist Jim says that when I want to die, something inside of me wants to die. He says that feeling suicidal, is a reaction to when a part of my psyche, the inside me, needs to go through a death and then a rebirth. So thinking about suicide, is like taking a metaphor of the mind, too literally. When I hurt there is no need to kill myself, only, a need for some part of me inside to die and then be reborn. According to Jim people go through deaths and rebirths often - sometimes everyday - I suppose it is how people grow and change.

I said that I could understand hating my illness so much that I wanted to kill it. In the process of killing my illness I got caught up with killing my body. I do fight mental illness. Perhaps the fight has gone on for long enough.

I said to Jim that my mental illness is a part of me, so it does feel wrong (in a soul searching, sensitive moment) to hate that which is a part of me. It is like instigating warfare against the self. It is exhausting and self-defeating. You only end up wounded.

The idea to fight mental illness came from somewhere. It came from the psychiatric professionals I worked with in my first hospitalization who hated psychosis and hated depression and hated anything that deviated from the norm. They, and I, hated anything that prevented me from returning to the life I had before the onset of my illness. Mental illness is the enemy, I have never viewed it as any different from that.

I think that the mental health professionals wanted me galvanized and motivated. I know for a fact that for a while they said that I was choosing to be mentally ill as a ploy against taking responsibility for being an adult. They said I wanted to stay sick and dependent and a child. After a while, when I remained sick, they gave up on me and predicted only that I would be able to buy groceries for myself and cook my own meals. The change of plans they had for me was drastic. I was young and impressionable and listened to them. I despaired greatly for what the illness was doing to me. The mental illness was causing all my dreams and hopes to go down the drain. I glamorized being normal. I glamorized not having a mental illness. The fact was that I had become institutionalized. Too much hospitalization is not a good thing. I realized this once I started working at the art museum. I was more free, more myself, saner, happier, and competent, in my job.

When I am catatonic, and cannot move, my fury against my illness is all that I can feel. My fury against being powerless and having a brain that malfunctions leads easily into thoughts of killing myself. Rarely is suicide not accompanied by feelings of utter contempt, of total self-hatred. I hate my illness so much that nothing else matters but the hatred. And the illness. So much about life is completely forgotten and disregarded when you are suicidal.

I am not normal. I have normal ethics, normal emotions, and normal ways of interacting with other people. But I lose energy early, am fragile, and have periods of time, when to preserve myself, I have to disassociate a little from reality. I wonder what it would be like to accept this version of me. A gentler, less impressive, less effective, smaller person than I was before the onset of my illness. It would probably be a big relief.

What is most frustrating about being mentally ill is not being able to earn any money. Without much money, I find that there is uncertainty about the future. Having money makes you feel like you can meet any challenge and over come them. Not having much money makes you feel like you are a child of fate - adrift in a boat, destined to rock with the waves of the ocean - never quite being in control, always doomed to make the difficult decisions in a way that you can't be happy with.

The funny thing is, the difficult decisions haven't yet arrived. We have a car that has 56,000 miles on it and we don't drive it much. I have all my teeth and none of them hurt. I have my physical health and am working on becoming even more physically healthy. Today there is money in the bank to cover the costs of fixing the car. Hopefully this fix is a fix that will solve the problem. I have a long standing job to do tomorrow (return to work on my book) and a dog and two cats that fill the house with love and affection. I have a husband who is a best friend. A husband who, my sister says, adores me. My husband is good at his job and his boss knows it. The company he works for seems to be weathering the recession pretty well. We live in an apartment that is ours for the rest of my life. It is not quite the same as owning your own house, with all the mortgage paid off, but it is close to it. As long as I pay the rent, my mom won't kick me out. My parents love me and do not show any signs of wishing that I had turned out as a different kind of person than who I am. My brother and sister always treat me with the utmost respect. You kind of get used to this being the eldest. Being the eldest is a position in life that never goes away. And what is best of all, what I am currently very happy about, is that I haven't felt suicidal for over a month and a half.

Ever see the tee-shirt with the slogan, "Life is good"? This is how I feel. I was able to go to sleep at an early hour (quarter of 9) so that waking at 7am wasn't too difficult. I was able to arrive at the mechanic's at 8, talk to the mechanic without anxiety, and walk home. I waited for the phone call that the car was ready and typed this essay. I then walked again to the mechanic to pick up my car. On the ride home I heard not a thump or a bump from under the car. I believe fully that the problem is fixed. Since this is our only car, having it in good working order is necessary for peace of mind. We do not have so many friends that we can call to help us if we are in trouble. We must be self-reliant.

I have to believe that accomplishing this small chore of fixing the car is a great achievement. In my small life, it was needful and worrisome. For some other people it would be no big thing. But I can't imagine my life in terms of what it would mean for other people. I have to think about what things mean in terms of myself and my capabilities. I have to live at my own speed. I have to listen to the beat of my own drummer. The rhythm of my life is not the rhythm of other people's lives. On my terms, I was successful. And so, at this moment, I can honestly say, "Life is good."

Monday, February 1, 2010

Jim and the Moon

My therapist (whose name is Jim) said that he had a client who was, in his opinion, reading the Bible too much. This same client had another favorite read. He liked to read Playboy magazine. So the therapist told his client that he should read the Bible less, and Playboy magazine more.

Jim surprised himself by the advice he gave. But it was his gut instinct as to what was healthiest in the situation. My therapist said that he imagined that his parents were spinning in their graves for their son to have had given such advice.

My therapist's favorite hero is John Lennon. There is a framed print on his wall that he is very proud of. It is signed in the corner with a huge scrawl, "John". Whenever Jim talks about John Lennon he gets excited and waves in the general direction of his print. It is a pen line drawing by Lennon of the famous bed protest, where he and Yoko Ono stayed in bed, and gave interviews to journalists, to promote world peace.

I am certain that John Lennon would have given a troubled young man the same advice to read Playboy over the Bible.

My therapist is Jungian. That means that 1)he has read all of Jung's writings and agrees enthusiastically with them and 2)he practices an art form with his clients of analyzing dreams and fantasies. That this should be an "art form" is Jim's words. He feels that when he is practicing therapy he is creating art.

Jim is doing something right. All I know is that as long as I go see Jim once a week I am not bothered by suicidal thoughts. And I feel better about me being me.

Jim was mighty interested in why, when I was psychotic more than twenty years ago, I wanted to blow up the moon. Apparently Jung felt that the moon was an important symbol. As Jim explained it, the moon is a vehicle by which all souls get to the earth. By my removing the existence of the moon, I was saying that I could not get to the earth. Certainly being earthbound was something that I lacked while I was psychotic.

Immediately when Jim told me this I thought of Hieronymus Bosch's painting, "The Ship of Fools". I have an illustration of my painting in a book about art by the nun Sister Wendy Beckett. This is what Sister Wendy says about the painting;

In "The Ship of Fools" Bosch is imagining that the whole of mankind is voyaging through the seas of time on a ship, a small ship, that is representative of humanity. Sadly, every one of the representatives is a fool. This is how we live, says Bosch - we eat, drink, flirt, cheat, play silly games, pursue unattainable objects. Meanwhile our ship drifts aimlessly and we never reach the harbor. The fools are not irreligious, since prominent among them are a monk and a nun, but they are all those who live "in stupidity". Bosch laughs, and it is a sad laugh. Which one of us does not sail in the wretched discomfort of the ship of human folly? Eccentric and secret genius that he was, Bosch not only moved the heart, but scandalized it into full awareness. The sinister and monstrous things that he brought forth are the hidden creatures of our inward self-love; he externalizes the ugliness within, and so his misshapen demons have an effect beyond curiosity. We feel a hateful kinship with them. "The Ship of Fools" is not about other people. It is about us.

I have a dark view of mankind, to think of this painting when I think of souls bound, from the moon, to earth. Next therapy session I will bring Sister Wendy's book into my session and show the picture to Jim. Jim had never heard of the painter Hieronymus Bosch.

I know we can't really afford it, but I am thinking about buying a small prayer rug that my husband saw in a local shop. It is hand-made, new, and has a design with two fishes on it. It is only about 18" x 18". My husband thought he could put it on top of his witch box. The witch box serves currently as a table for his laptop computer. But the solid, varnished, pine box contains all of his religious implements he has collected over the years to use in his solitary rituals of worship, and thus, it is a sacred thing. I would like to buy this rug and give it as a surprise gift to my husband on Valentine's Day. My husband so rarely wants anything for himself. But I know, that if I buy this rug, it will be a foolish thing. We don't absolutely need it. But oh, what a surprise it would be! And my husband will know, absolutely with this gift, that he is loved.

Tomorrow I bring the car to a mechanic's shop to get fixed. We don't know what is wrong with it, but sometimes when you go over a bump, and more often when you simply make a tight turn, the car makes a thump under the front driver's side. My husband guesses that there is a bolt loose. I am afraid that something more serious is going on. The thumping has been going on for years. But we ignored it because it was so intermittent. Now it is more regular.

I have taken money out of savings and put some into the checking account specifically to pay the mechanic. Because we don't know what is wrong with the car, we don't know how much to transfer.

If the cost of fixing the car is little, then I'm definitely going to buy my husband the present. If it is a lot, then I should not buy the prayer rug.

I have to wake tomorrow at 7am to bring the car to the mechanic by the time the shop opens at 8am. The shop is a fifteen minute walk from my house, so I can walk home afterwords. Then I'll wait for a phone call, telling me hopefully that the car has been fixed and that I can pick it up. I will then walk back to the mechanic's shop. It sounds simple but this little duty is a source of anxiety for me. All I want is the lull of familiarity. To wake, cruise the internet for news, and put in two uninterrupted, concentrated hours of writing on my book. To wake, and to never dress, never leave my bed, for three to five hours.

The only trouble with my plan for tomorrow is that today I woke at 11am. I went to sleep last night at 10pm. That is 13 hours of sleep. This is because of my medication interaction. It is frustrating to be on the medication that I am on because the time that I am awake and conscious is diminished. Life lived is diminished.

I have to take my medication very early tonight and pray that I fall asleep early so that I can wake early. Of course I will have my alarm set, and will physically be awakened at 7am, only, I may be in a medicated stupor. The sleepy stupor, forcing your eyes to stay awake and your body to move, feels horrible. I am reading a book, a fantasy novel about magicians in England, that moves slowly and is a tad boring. Hopefully reading this book will help me fall asleep early tonight.