Sunday, June 20, 2010

Highlight of Youth

Last night I was talking to my friend Rocki on the telephone. She reminded me of a dress I made out of a lot of decks of playing cards. I must have been about 24 or 25 years old. My costume won first place at a Halloween ball held at The Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford Connecticut, which is the nations first and oldest continuously running art museum. After the party ended I cut the bottom off my dress, made a short skirt to dance in, and went to a bar where I won a second place prize for best costume which was a $50 gift certificate to a restaurant. At the museum I won a classy glass vase, hand blown, which several months later my cat knocked off my kitchen table. A grievous loss.

But I remembered the glory of making a costume. The fun, the anticipation, the spot light being on you as you stepped out into a crowd of strangers.

Today my step-daughter is coming over to my home to work on a costume she wants to wear to an anime convention. I don't quite understand the allure of her design. She wants to be a robot from a famous anime cartoon. There is quite a lot of cardboard involved and foam. What she wants her father's help with is retractable wings. They are going to have to invent a pulley system and skeleton to rest on her back. The robot will be so large that it can't fit through a doorway, it has to be assembled in the room that it is meant to be seen in. Convention centers are large anyway. She has visions of simply standing still and everyone taking her picture. One of the design problems the father-daughter team has to figure out is how to make her robot walk. Her boots don't really move at the ankle. In pictures of the robot it is red, with a gold face, and a lot of spikes coming out from it all over.

I wish her well and hope she can make an imposing costume. But as I remember, with snug satisfaction, was that my costume was a sexy costume. I had a bustier bra that I sewed the playing cards onto. I made a skirt out of cards that were connected to each other with little bits of wire. I made a hat rise high above my head, it was a house of cards, all delicately stacked, and glued together. The house of cards was created on a platform that I then pinned to a wig. The wig sat snugly on my head. When I tilted my head the house of cards tilted but didn't fall off.

I would love to make another card dress for this year's Halloween. It is a nonsense activity, fun for the sake of having fun, and something I feel is sorely missing from my life.

I arrange my life around writing my book. I try to leave my mornings free so that I can do this activity. It requires peace of mind and determination. Usually, before I write, I don't want to write. It is work, it is not fun (well, it is fun sometimes when I get going) but for the most part it is a serious endeavor that when it is done well, it leaves me exhausted and drained. If I've written well I usually need time to recover before going on to any other sort of activity.

Last night Rocki told me that in her head she has the plot lines for four novels. But will her novels ever get written? She has been working on one particular one for over twenty years. She says that when she works on writing, she gets distracted by other pursuits. She wants to read a book. She wants to practice the guitar. She wants to do some stretching and karate practice. And then there is the problem that working at the computer is uncomfortable and makes her body ache. Bad chair is my guess.

So I tell Rocki that she has to make a plan and stick with it every day. Every day my number one concern is writing. I wake up, and to shake the effects of the medication that I've taken the night before I need an hour to an hour and a half. During this time I skim around the internet, taking in news stories, both the serious on the BBC and the silly on gossip sites. I read favorite blogs and answer emails. I drink coffee constantly to help me clear my mind from sleep and the drugs. And then, when I've got energy and focus, I turn away from the allure of the internet and I get down to business. I write. And I time myself. The least that I write for is one hour. The most is five hours. I write until I can't stand it. I am exhausted quicker than most would think. After all, I have a mental illness that affects brain function. I don't have mental endurance like people have mental endurance who aren't mentally ill. I've met mentally ill people who have much more endurance than I have. There are schizophrenic people who can work an eight hour work day. When I got sick my mind became very weak. This is different from having a weak personality. A weak mind gets fatigued and can't think straight after a while. Cognitive functions don't function. You turn into a ghost. I can go as far as to lose the ability to talk and move. Oh cognitive functions are very important. Losing them means disability. Losing a lot of them means gross disability.

For instance, having a weak mind was why I couldn't go to art school for more than one semester. This is what I learned about myself while I was at art school.

I was undeniably creative. In order to get into art school I made drawings, every day, for several months. This is like starting from zero. I had no drawings made in high school, I had no drawings made for my own pleasure - I had never really drawn for fun since I was a four feet high midget in kindergarten. My whole life as a child and a teen I had been undeniably academic in my pursuits. Reading, writing, and arithmetic. But then after I got out of the Institute for Living (the psychiatric hospital) I had this job at the Wadsworth Atheneum, and there I looked at art and lectured about art and learned about art history and became, as a whole, jealous of artists who created art. So when I went into my interview with the associate dean of the University of Hartford School of Art I asked her if a person who had as little experience as I did making art (I showed her my drawings - she called them primitive), could ever hope for admittance into the school. What I did not foresee was that during our discussion about art and working at the museum I showed a passion for art that was rare amongst the students that she had interviewed. Most of the students had been making art their whole lives, but did they know how to talk about art? "You will make a wonderful conceptual artist" the associate dean of the art school told me. And then, on the spot, not only did she accept my portfolio of drawings, but she accepted me into the art school, and incredibly, she discussed potential places I could go for my master's degree in art. When I walked out of that interview, in the car parking lot, I was suddenly overcome with dizziness. In my wildest dreams I could not have foreseen the outcome of the innocent interview, my testing of the waters.

For my first semester I signed up for a course in art history (slides shown in the dark with the teacher talking while you took notes - critical papers written at home), an introductory course in graphic design, a course in art theory, and beginning drawing from life. All the courses except for the drawing course were classroom courses well under two hours in length where maybe a little bit of work was done in class, but mostly, class time was made up of discussion and you did your artwork as homework outside of class. We brought finished projects into class and everyone had something new and different to show off. Then we had critiques of one another, discussion, and an elaboration of instruction by the teacher as to what the next project would be. Classes that were under two hours long seemed to be the perfect length for me. And I liked doing work at home and surprising the other students and my teachers with my creations. I was innovative, I always got top grades. Part of my secret to working at home; I liked to create art in my underwear, partially or fully nude. I had never done homework before undressed, but something about art school freed me up. And ever since art school I have made art with my clothing on. But as a student nudity was inexplicably a part of the process of doing my homework.

The drawing course was a studio course and was about three hours long, with a five or ten minute break in-between. In the studio course everything artistic was done on the premises, the students were arranged in a circle around the object that we were to draw and the teacher watched and commented while you drew. Students looked at what other students did. But most of all, during the class on drawing, you concentrated on the object in front of you. You studied its lines, its positive and negative space, and you tried hard to reproduce what you saw with your eyes on your paper. In this class, my weak brain failed me. I could not match the intensity of my fellow students, who all had brains without major illness. I could not concentrate on an object, or series of objects for a three hour or more block of time. And when I forced myself to do so, to stick with it and get the drawings done come Hell or High Water, I became suicidal. That was my brain's default setting for being overworked. Inevitably, every time I left the drawing class I wanted to go kill myself. I am not a glutton for punishment. I saw what trying to draw constantly for three hours was doing to me, and while I was pissed off for being so flawed a human being, a tiny part of me was scared. It doesn't feel nice to be suicidal. It was ludicrous but it was obvious to me what was happening - the simple cause and effect phenomena. The teacher would have never believed me if I told him the way it was. So I dropped the class with no explanation. I had to save myself, as much as possible, from the experience of feeling suicidal. And in the shuffling of paperwork, nobody from the school wanted to know why I dropped the class.

But what I understood, with foresight, was that in order to graduate from art school there were many mandatory studio classes that an enrolled student had to take. Painting, drawing, sculpture, printmaking, and ceramics were all classes that I must dabble in and I must have the experience of making the different types of artwork in a studio class. But I judged, in advance, that because of my illness I would prove again and again to be unfit to take these long in length classes. I did not have the focus that came more naturally to the other students. And if I forced my focus my brain gave me the sick reality of what it feels like when one is at the end of their rope. Doing homework at home, in little fits of starts and stops, I could accomplish. Maybe the more relaxed environment of being by myself, away from the critical eye of the teacher and other students aided me as well. But it was clear that in art school there were two types of classes, and one type of class I could not preform in. It took me one semester of art school to realize that I could never finish art school. I refused to put myself in a position where I might take the threat of suicide too far, after becoming perhaps, too exhausted.

I left art school with all A's. I switched to the University's English department where all classes were no more than two hours in length. And for those rare classes that were longer, you could cheat with your focus, and withdraw it, all the while being physically present. I could be a body in a chair and nothing more. In art school you could never get away with such inactivity.

When I write now-a-days I am somewhat careful not to empty myself out mentally. I stop before the well runs dry. I stop when I could have gone on. And I think that by doing so, I manage to save myself. Suicide still is the default option on my brain when it has been worked too long and too hard. I push myself but rarely, if ever, do I push myself to such discomfort. But it is a strange way to work knowing that if you give it your all, you will be punished and the punishment will be severe.

Lightness comes from doing simple things like coloring my toenails and fingernails. Lightness is watching a movie. Lightness is sitting on a couch and staring out a window. It isn't laziness. It is what I do after I have been very serious with myself and strained my brain, usually either by socializing (which is work - it can be fun but it drains me) or by writing.

I would like to bring the lightness into my life by planning a Halloween costume. It is frivolous. It is silly. It is childish. June is almost used up and there is left July, August, September and October. Four months to make a costume. I was my step-daughter's age when I made my playing card dress. That was almost twenty years ago. I'm tempted to re-live my youth.

My husband is learning the saxophone at the age of 51. I heard him practicing today. His goal is to practice half an hour every day, like when he was a child learning the clarinet. He has a beginner's book and has learned 5 notes. He only practices these 5 notes. Part of me thinks it is a waste of time. But he was so happy, so satisfied to day when he finished practicing. I told him once he learns all his notes and goes through the beginner's book we can get him saxophone lessons.

My life is a never ending pattern of effort, then relax. Effort, relax. Effort, relax. I try to make everything I do have a point to it, or a gain to it. The grown-up woman thinks that making a Halloween costume is a waste of time. Just like I sneered, inside, when my husband bought his saxophone in the antique shop. "You don't know anything about saxophones, it is probably broken" I said. And it was. But we fixed it and now he is playing it. Part of me honestly believes, with utter brutality, that making music is a waste of time because there is no profit in it.

I must try to relax a little more.

Friday, June 18, 2010

My Book

I saw the movie "The Hours". Rented it from the library. It was very good. I sensed a strong theme of suicide. You wonder who is going to die. After I watched it I toyed with the idea of letting one of my main characters survive his suicide attempt. The up side of letting him live was having a conversation with him after he tries to die. He can explain himself. Anyway, how long can you morn for the death of someone you know? A couple of pages? That alone is a long time of mourning for the written word.

My other main character, Rachael, doesn't really explain her suicide attempt. I can hold back so that there is no explanation from her - she doesn't want to talk about it. Until, that is, her friend tries to kill himself in the hospital. So it takes a while until she examines what she has done. The end of the book can be her taking responsibility for what she has done. Usually you think, "poor little suicide victim, so sick". And oh yes, you think too "You bastard, what have you done?" What would it mean for a failed suicide to take up with life again? This is my main worry with the end of my book. How do I make someone who has given up on life embrace life again. How do you show that she is out of danger for trying to kill herself again? What is a life affirming act?

I so wanted to kill off my character Andrew Woodward, but this might have been for personal reasons. He is based on a person I got to know through the book they wrote. It is funny knowing a person through their writing but never having met them. They can infuriate you, even when you've never seen their face. For me, in part, I am jealous of this other author. He seems to be better than me, both in terms of talent and opportunity. He swims through social currents with ease. He writes with ease. Professional accolades come to him with ease. He has many friends he can call. Oh, he wrote a lot about himself in his book. And he's become a symbol of everything I'm not, but that I once aspired to. Probably I fell in love with him a little while reading his book. Just as I hope my readers will fall a little in love with Andrew Woodward. My main character Rachael is besotted with Andrew Woodward. But she knows they have no future friendship outside of the hospital. She couldn't bare it. He is beyond her, in terms of charisma, in terms of swimming through the currents of the world. She is of interest because he is bored and he is locked up in a psychiatric hospital. They don't carry the same diagnosis. His prognosis is better than hers. It can be awfully tough liking yourself for who you are when you meet someone who has vastly more charm and capability than you do.

I know Andy Warhol was mighty jealous of other artists. So if he has this flaw, it is o.k. for me to have the same flaw. I've been so jealous of contemporary writers that I've refused to read anything written by a living author. I only read dead authors, with the exception of non-fiction in the magazine The New Yorker. My therapist at the time pointed out to me that I was only reading dead authors. It must be a sign of my healing that I read living authors now.

With living authors I get a feeling of the vastness of their lives. I get a feeling of travel and self-sufficiency. Usually I peer into a mind that is more capable and flexible than my own.

Last weekend I went to a disastrous church picnic. Didn't have anyone to talk to, and the people I was sitting with I didn't know what to say to. My husband felt the same way - shy. There was this lawyer sitting with us who has just traveled to Bhutan with his wife. It was interesting the place that he was describing. Nice fellow. I asked his wife if she bought any jewelry there and she said no, it was chunky, she likes delicate, and it was expensive. Then she took her plate and moved to another table. I was dismissed as uninteresting. I guess you are base and crass if you think jewelry is the point of travel. It felt like a slap in the face. She went and sat with the head of Sunday school for the children, a saintly woman if there ever was one. And someone who probably thinks of loftier things than jewelry. They seemed to have an eager, long, and happy conversation. When her husband was asked why he went to Bhutan he said it was merely a place that his wife had always wanted to see. She and him apparently traveled widely before the birth of their children. Her parents looked after the children as a birthday present for her 40th birthday while they were on the trip. The lawyer asked my husband if he has ever traveled around China. He said no, just traveled around Europe. I stayed quiet. I thought, "I don't travel". And immediately I felt inferior to the lawyer and his wife. I felt both miserable and angry at the same time.

Funny thing about the lawyer's wife - she never smiles. Now I know she likes to travel. I'm curious, what does she get out of travel? Do people travel when they are weary of life? When everything ordinary is bland and dull? I sometimes don't walk my dog around to the front of the house for her to go to the bathroom because it is too far and too exposed. It takes a little bit of courage for me to walk around the the front of the house. This woman travels to Bhutan for zest and I travel to the front of my house for zest. My husband and I walk the same route every day for exercise. I don't know if I would have the courage to walk this route alone if I didn't have the company of my husband. Last week it took a lot of courage for me to walk to the bank while my husband was at work. I do feel like I could travel anywhere if I only had my husband for company. But not even he could make me feel safe. I would still feel fear.

I think the next big trip we should have planned is a trip to the Boston Museum of Fine Art. That is one state over, in the middle of a big city. But I can research the route. I am looking forward to buying art magnets to go on our refrigerator. Art magnets are magnets of famous works of art, miniaturized. We already have a nice collection. The last museum we visited we spent over $30 alone on art magnets. This is something I think we ought to do to celebrate the anniversary of our first date, October 31st. My husband had suggested a hotel and Halloween dance party in Salem Massachusetts, but all I would do is spend eons worrying over my costume and then get mildly drunk. I would rather a civilized outing at the art museum. Lunch included. It is a fine choice to make, debauchery or high art? I am also afraid that we would spend a lot on costumes and that in the end, the Art Museum is a cheaper date. But then again, we would probably spend in the gift shop. So it is spending, whatever you do. I am trying hard, right now, not to spend.

I should savor the fact that I have hours of isolation every day and that I'm writing a book. This should make me feel a little like a person of notice and substance. Only, writing a book that has no promise of ever getting published makes you feel a bit silly. Sometimes I feel like I'm writing for the glory of God - and nobody else. I suppose it all comes down to how seriously you take yourself. I dare not take myself too seriously or else the rejection from the people reading my book might hurt terribly.

Today is particularly splendid because when I write tomorrow I know what I'm going to write about. A patient is going to hit her parent during visiting hours and get taken down and put in isolation. This is of course based on what I saw when I was in the hospital. A man punched his mother and got taken down so fast by psychiatric staff that when he hit the ground, with his chest, he vomited. I had once had a conversation with him where he said that hitting children was a good way to bring them up. He said that he was hit, and that it did him good. I thought, "and you wound up in a psychiatric hospital". So hitting was epidemic in his family. Of course hitting in the hospital gets you in a lot of trouble. And I've seen a patient kick their parent, just as the parent was leaving. This was more along the lines of "I'm so frustrated that you are going" kick, I know it doesn't make sense, but there you have it.

Monday, June 14, 2010

God Visits

What is too personal for a blog?

Menstrual cramps. Blow jobs. The cost of your new piece of jewelry. Things you stole. The rape of someone close to you - it isn't nice to point the finger and name the victim. I've learned that rape is a crime you are supposed to sweep under the rug. The box name of the hair dye you dye your hair with. The size of your underwear. Some of the last words of your grandmother.

And maybe, a visit from God?

It is hard to describe such a thing. It didn't happen to me. It happened to my husband. The day after he had to deal with me being suicidal.

It was night. Before my husband goes to sleep. So it was dark in the room. I was snuggled against his side in bed and describing to him what I had written that day in my blog. The cat was lying on his stomach. I was telling him about my therapist's attempts to get me to believe that my life has purpose and meaning. My husband never reads my blog, but I keep him pretty informed. Its nice, because I can edit information, play loose with the truth, but usually, I always come clean.

I don't remember the sequence of events, and my husband says that his memory is pretty vague too. But I do remember my husband saying that he didn't care what my therapist said, for me to hush, that the Goddess had a message for me. That she wanted me to know that my life had purpose and meaning. And my husband began to cry. He kept saying that it felt so wonderful, but that if any more of the spirit entered him he would have a heart attack. And he said that I must know that the Goddess felt strongly about her prophesy, or else, why would she pay such an intense visit?

I know that he is used to his Goddess visiting him a little during ritual, but this clearly was something else. He was being visited powerfully and completely. The next day he would say that now he understands what early Christians say when they felt like when they were filled with the Holy Spirit. But that night, everything was a bit confused, and my husband was worried about the most ordinary thing in the midst of his religious experience; how would he get to bed and to sleep because he had to get up early in the morning and go to work? I told him to roll over and I would scratch his back. That usually relaxes him. And thankfully, swiftly, his Goddess released him and let him get to sleep.

I was left awake wondering what had just happened. A message intended for me? That my life definitely had meaning and purpose? And euphoria accompanying the message? Now I had someone I could pester any time, and ask for comfort, not because it was his opinion, but because it was the opinion of his God handed down to him. I could ask, "And what did she say to you?" And receive that same answer again and again. "Your life has meaning and purpose". Not because my husband loves me. Not because my therapist thinks that meaning and purpose is your birthright, given to you like you are given a kidney or liver,- so solid, so real and so unarguable. Now my meaning and purpose was wrapped up in a mystery. The mystery of a religious experience.

There was some doubt about the timing. The day after I was suicidal. Couldn't the experience have unhinged my husband? Was I just witnessing the expression of unconscious forces, bidden forth, by stress and trauma? Such an idea would meet with resistance from my husband. He is a true believer. And what he got was a visit. There was an I/Thou relationship going on. He received a message, he doesn't believe he concocted one.

It is always an adventure being his wife. One day, while we were on the street, and a couple passed us holding hands, a middle aged man and woman. I thought, "they look like tourists. I like her short, blond hair, it looks bleached. And wouldn't it be nice to be as thin as her in my middle age?" But my husband said out loud, "she is dying and she knows it. But she seems happy." He deduced all this from her aura, which he said was thready and see-through transparent, almost, as it was ready to disappear from this life with her.

I must admit that in the days following my husband's telling me that he was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesizing about my meaning and purpose, I had a little more respect for him. Not that I don't always respect him, it was just that I had to wonder about him as a phenomena, a force in this world unlike any other. He is goofy. He is enthusiastic. He is creative. He is a humble worker-bee in his job. And I am sometimes grumpy and annoyed at him, but I usually do manage to hold my tongue, because really I know, he doesn't deserve any ill will from me. But for several days I was in addition to being his true-blue companion, somewhat amazed by him. He had an authentic moment of wonder and awe that I witnessed. Through it all he seemed blessedly human. Small in form being eclipsed by forces that were beyond him, and just trying, to hang on. And that silly worry on the heels of something important - "I must sleep because I have to get up early in the morning". What happened to him never happens to me. I don't get the same kind of visits and inside information. I certainly don't see people's auras. God whispers to me, he never shouts.

The worry that dodged me all last week, and partly encouraged my suicidal mood, has been taken care of. The bill for over one thousand dollars from my medication nurse has been reduced to $186.40, something that we can more easily manage. It took a phone call from my therapist asking what was going on before I got the phone call from the company's receptionist telling me that the bill had been adjusted. My medication nurse agreed to wipe out everything except from the date January 2009 forward. This manages to avoid debt for the hour long "therapy" sessions I had with her, which I would have never devised, if I had known that insurance and medicare wouldn't be enough to cover them. Now I am seeing my medication nurse once every three months, the leanest time I have ever scheduled a visit. But I seem to be pretty solid, with of course, the occasional suicidal fantasy tripping me up. But really, what heals me the most is seeing my therapist every Friday. What we discuss is usually central to my existence. He says I keep him on his toes, he has to be in top shape with me. And rather than being depressed by the challenge, I think it invigorates him.

When my morning is free, and my mind is sound, I manage to write for about an hour on my book. I'm still at the point where the story is in rough draft form. I'm writing with a ball point pen in a note book. When I come to the end of this chapter (a day in the life of my main character) I'll put her to sleep, with what final thoughts I do not know, and reach back with my notebook as reference, to the point where my computer draft ended. I ended on my computer with a group therapy session. In the notebook is everything that happens next. I counted it and as of today I have 73 notebook handwritten pages. This might condense when it is typed. It will certainly be altered as it is typed, a second draft.

The labor of a first, notebook draft and a second computer written draft are very different. In the notebook usually I do not know where I am going. Once the trail has been laid, the work changes. On the computer I'll usually write for several hours. It seems so much harder when everything is new. When everything is retold I'm more artistic, even, more visionary. It isn't true that what is fresh is the best. I do get the feeling that so much is being written, that eventually, things must be severely chopped. But I don't mind overwriting, because I hope that when all is distilled, every note will be new and different, as if my writing were notes in a song that surprised you with every turn.

I recently watched, cringing, the movie "The Color Purple". I rented it from the library. And what made me cringe was the brutality in the movie. Sure, it has a happy ending. I guess that is what saves the movie. Because there are some really dark themes going on. Incest. Beatings. Racism. Insanity. So I watched the movie, at times wondering whether I could bear it any more, and I thought to myself, "since I am writing a dark book, with the central theme of mental illness and suicide, this movie gives me hope. Darkness can be celebrated. But note to myself, you better pour on the honey at the end if you are going to hit the reader over the head with despair."

Some mentally ill bloggers get awards. "Mental health" award. "I choose life" award. I'm never going to win one of those awards. I'm not happy enough. I'm not positive enough. My brother and sister used to read my blog, but no longer. Just last week my therapist said that he is going to stop reading my blog because "it sounds like you are talking to your friend and I'm over hearing the conversation". It feels like I failed, losing his readership. But I know, he isn't getting paid to read my blog. It was something he was doing on his own time, and who am I to say what he should be doing on his own time? I made a joke once with my husband. While he was driving the car I said, nonchalantly, "My therapist called me today." He in fact had, to change the time of our meeting because he had a doctor's appointment. But what I told my husband was "He said he called just because he was thinking of me." There was several beats of silence in the car. Then my husband said, like a slow talking cowboy, "Now that's a scary thought." I started laughing and confessed that what I said wasn't true. But you know what they say about jokes. You sometimes joke about what you wish was true.

I read blogs of other mentally ill persons and I am instructed. I am instructed in attitude, in forms of insanity, and in recovery propaganda. Everything I read influences me. I must follow at least seven blogs by mentally ill persons who all have a form of schizophrenia. I don't understand why I write about feeling suicidal and suddenly I loose the readership of my therapist. I feel as low as someone who has described their rape. I feel like by detailing the dark, I've done something that trespassed against social graces. I feel like a fumbling idiot for writing what was true.

My muse holds a sword. And she cuts all who follow her.

I've been suicidal once, twice, maybe a hundred times. And given my illness, I'll be suicidal again. I don't like the pain. But doing ordinary things, having ordinary pressures and stresses causes me to get sick. It happens again and again because I go out into the world again and again. Even when I don't go out into the world, it comes into my home to meet me, and there is no escape.

But at this particular moment, I'm at peace. I've worked on my book today (an hour of writing) and I've finished a blog post today, and the weather looks promising for a long walk this evening. To my right, on the floor the dog is curled asleep. To my left, on the bed, the cat is curled asleep. And in my chest, the illness is curled asleep. All is well.

Monday, June 7, 2010


It was rather pathetic. I sat with a noose around my neck. My husband sat in a chair on the other side of the room, a book in his hand, I don't know whether or not he was reading it.

I looked up to the plant hook in the ceiling. The plant that it holds is rather large. My husband told me that the plant hook would not hold my weight, and that the computer cord that I had tied around my neck would not hold my weight either. I had not yet removed the plant. I would have to do that before I hooked the noose around my neck to the hook in the ceiling. I did not believe my husband about the noose cord or the plant hook not holding my weight. I thought I could strangle myself just fine. But I did think about how much pain I would have to go through before I lost consciousness and the fear of the pain stopped me.

There were a lot of pills in the kitchen. I wondered how many pills I could swallow before my husband took them away. And then I thought about the consequences. I could swallow just enough so that my stomach would probably have to be pumped at the hospital. There would be no real danger, they would do it as a precaution. And if I swallowed the pills I might be hospitalized on a psychiatric unit. They would try to change my medication, maybe by adding some sort of anti-depressant or mood stabilizer that would certainly have an unforeseen side effect. The stay in the hospital did not worry me, it was how they would monkey with my medication that worried me. I haven't been suicidal for six months, but they might try to medicate me strongly just to avoid another relapse. I don't want to live over medicated.

I didn't feel sad when I thought about killing myself. I felt at the end of my rope. I felt no love of live, no passion, no plans, no future, no love of self, no caring for anyone in my family. I just wanted to leave it all behind. Mostly, I felt like I was a failure. I certainly did not feel like my life had any meaning or purpose. I was also certainly in an altered state of mind. It was very close to being psychotic. I was not at all feeling like myself. Life was a dream, that was why it was so easy it seemed to end it. Nothing was real. So when my husband suggested that I take a dose of the antipsychotic drug trilifon, I said yes, knowing that it would alter my point of view. Because it takes about 45 minutes to work I added a small dose of klonopin. The klonopin would have the effect of relaxing me.

I knew the trilifon had started to work when, a little later on, I thought of a news story I had read on the BBC that I wanted to tell my husband about. In Iran they had just hung a 16 year old unmarried girl for promiscuity. The 51 year old man she said had raped her three times got a few lashes. And then, a little later on from that, I started to cry and say that I was so scared, scared about everything. That I could feel scared and fragile was a big step forward. It meant a return to me of a wide range of emotions. When I was suicidal I was emotionless.

This day had all the makings of a catastrophe. The night before I had fallen asleep at 7:30 pm and then woke at 3am. I could not get back to sleep and get the 10 to 12 hours that I usually must have on my particular combination of medication. Then I went to church. I went to church for about 3 hours. First I went to an education group, then the worship service, then the social coffee hour afterwords. I could not leave early because my husband was committed to take photographs of the members during coffee hour. People had been phone called at home, they were counting on us being in church and being useful. I had to stay and I had to act "normal" and socially outgoing. I laughed and smiled and made small talk when I felt like I had nothing left in me. I milked myself dry. And when I came home, in the back of my mind was the worry that the next day I had to talk to my prescription nurse about a bill totaling over a thousand dollars that came in the mail. They are trying to bill me going back to 2006 and because I have never received a single bill from them for her before, I had assumed that the combination of my insurance and medicare money that they were receiving was sufficient. This amount had been sufficient for the therapist who is part of their office that I used a while ago. If I had known that there would be extra bills from my medication nurse I would have never used her so frequently and for such long sessions. But the worst problem, before I became suicidal, was not lack of sleep and not social stress and not worry over a large bill that stinks of being unethical. It was that my period, for whatever reason, is late this month. My tubes are tied so I doubt that I am pregnant. I am going through prolonged PMS and I wonder how out of whack my hormones are.

In my last session with my therapist he said that on day one, when I walked through his door, he knew that my life had meaning and purpose. It sounded really nice and special until I asked him if he told all his patients this. And yes, he believes that every life has meaning and purpose. I bet that there are very few patients who are canny enough to ask him, "do you tell everyone this uplifting news?" Instead, they think that he sees something invisible in them, some quality that they do not know they possess, that somehow elevates them and separates them from the rest of humanity. If you are told your life has meaning and purpose, and that the person telling you this can see it, you think "ah, I must be doing something right". At least, when he first told me, that was my initial reaction.

I told the therapist that believing every life had meaning and purpose was a religious point of view. He said that he did not consider himself an especially religious person. He said that even atheists feel this way. Otherwise, there would be many people like Hitler or a Stalin sending people off to the gas chambers. I told him what I heard that the agnostic author H.G. Wells wrote, that in the heart of every atheist is an empty space in the shape of God. He said he would have to Google that quote.

That Friday evening after my therapy session I discussed this idea that every life has meaning and purpose with my husband and he said that this is indeed a religious concept, because to believe it, you have to have faith. And as he said this, I wondered about that word, faith. If a life is miserable, and the person is paralyzed and sickened horribly by their mental illness, to say that their life has meaning and purpose is not to look at the dry, social facts. That they are utterly dependent on social services, that they are not producing anything, and that they are experiencing intense suffering. They may not have even one person in this world who truly loves them, except maybe, for the strangers who practice compassion and love towards others as a way of life. Life can be hard. It would be understandable that such a person in this condition would have a difficult time believing that their life had meaning and purpose. It would take an outside pair of eyes, one that had faith in the future, and faith in the sacredness of life, to try to convince someone who was so down and out that their life was not as it may feel internally. The fact that life has merit even when we severely doubt ourselves and we are doubted by the people around us has to often, be taken, on faith. And this faith feels to me to be a cornerstone of many religions.

In Andrew Solomon's excellent book on depression, "Noonday Demon" he meets an institutionalized, partially paralyzed, mentally ill person who Andrew thinks is a possible candidate for euthanasia. The patient says that he is so miserable and helpless that he would like to die except that he cannot physically take his own life. It was clear to me that Andrew, while feeling compassion towards this lonely man, could not see in front of him a life with "meaning and purpose". Andrew has been clearly taught, in his experience with sickness and suffering, that there is a point where suicide is a reasonable option. In fact, Andrew keeps a bottle of pills just so he can one day have an out, should he decide he ever needs one. From my point of view, Andrews life is full of meaning and purpose - he can write. Boy, can he write well. His prose is effortless and beautiful. But he sees a wall that others may not see. He believes that you can know only so much pain and then life is not worth living. Beyond this wall life has no meaning and purpose, and he wonders, after meeting the unhappy institutionalized patient whether this man's back is up against he wall.

It was rather chilling for me to be inside of the head of man who looks at another man and thinks, "you would be better off dead". Andrew believes he is looking at a life that has no redeeming value. The coldness of a wish to murder is hidden in the midst of his warm compassion for the other man's suffering. Perhaps Andrew puts himself in the other man's shoes, and thinks, "I could not stand living such a life, therefore, such a life is meaningless." After all, Andrew did say that he avoided a hospitalization in a psychiatric ward by instead going on a sailing ship in the Mediterranean with a few friends. Andrew is used to a certain quality of life, we get that from the book. He is used to a certain level of productivity and professional respectability. And oh, we get the information that Andrew has a lot of friends.

Most certainly Andrew has been persuaded by his interview with the man in the institution that there is no hope for the future. The patient has no hope, and so, Andrew has no hope either. Faith in the sacredness of life is defeated by simple argument and showmanship. Because the man says, my life is not sacred and worthy of being saved, Andrew is persuaded, into thinking, this life is not sacred and worthy of being saved.

Andrew is not, in my view, a religious man, although I would say that he is a spiritual man. He has much compassion and writes with a broad range of emotion. You can't help but say to yourself, "this author has life and spirit, and he knows it". But at times he lacks faith and hope. Andrew never discusses his religious views in his writing. But clearly he sees places where the presence of a loving God is absent. And where a loving God is absent, the conclusion Andrew seems to draw, is that death has a right to be present. I would say that Andrew has a tenuous relationship with God, at best.

Andrew has so much going for him, despite also having a mental illness (the author of a book about depression has experience with depression) that from my point of view his life is full of meaning and purpose. His mental illness is less disabling then my own, although not less painful. And his intellect is far superior to my own (schooling at Yale and Oxford). But I know, that in the midst of his depression, probably Andrew can feel like his life lacks meaning and purpose. (That is why he keeps his bottle of pills). It would take a leap of faith to convince a seriously depressed and suicidal person otherwise. When he feels well Andrew can easily make the leap of faith and see, especially in a social sense, that his life has meaning and purpose. But when he is mentally ill this may be hard to do. That is why it is important to tell mentally ill people that their lives have meaning and purpose, because it may not be clear to them from their point of view. My therapist has stumbled upon this phenomena. But he cannot say that the meaning and purpose isn't grounded in faith and religion.

There are certainly humble lives that may have no other saving grace socially other than that they are spiritual and religious lives. Monks and nuns that retreat from society to pray and meditate are left alone by society, we don't say, their lives aren't filled with meaning and purpose because we respect that they are spending their time strengthening a connection to God. But they aren't having babies, and they aren't producing goods, and they aren't educating themselves in a conventional sense, and they aren't improving the world, other than perhaps, taking care of those that society thinks have no meaning and purpose. The homeless. The poor. The criminal. The whores.

For the lowest of the low, monks and nuns never give up on the fact that these lives have meaning and purpose. People whose lives are seeped in religion see meaning and purpose everywhere. For that partially paralyzed mentally ill person in the institution that Andrew interviewed, and so pitied, they would see a soul and a life with meaning and purpose. Monks and nuns would not expect him to contribute to society or become famous or rich. They would expect him to simply live and enjoy life. And they would tell him the secret that they have learned that lifts them up from suffering, that all life has meaning and purpose to a higher power. Perhaps they would say that all life is seeped in that higher power, life is sacred, and to know this and to see it all around you is to be lifted automatically from suffering.

It is impossible to feel that the sick mentally ill person's life has meaning and purpose without the fact that someone loves them, and that their life is valuable to someone. Whether that someone is God (and you are relying more on faith than fact), or a sister or brother or mother or father, it does not matter. You are conferred meaning and purpose, it is given to you either from a notion deep inside, which is faith driven (something along the lines that "I am sacred"), or it is socially driven, when there are authors who write books about you (while you are alive or while you are dead) which all suggest "this life has meaning and purpose". I just finished a second biography on Abraham Lincoln, and boy, did I get knocked in the head that this life was full of meaning and purpose. Irony is, that Lincoln was suicidal at least twice, and many times considered himself a failure. He must have wrestled with the idea that his life had meaning and purpose because he wanted so bad, for exactly that, to be true. He wanted to do something for his fellow mankind. History is great for choosing whose life has meaning and purpose, and whose life has none. There is no other force that is so merciless.

I know that when I was suicidal and very depressed yesterday I did not internally feel it, but now that my normal emotional senses are back I realize that I am stuck like a fly in a web of a social network, I have people all around me who rely on me being alive. They would all say, because they love me, "Your life has meaning and purpose to Me".

When I was so sick yesterday my husband stuck to my side like glue. I remember being in the hospital and having a nurse assigned to me "one on one". It is what they do when they think the threat is great for you to commit suicide. They will let you shower but the door to the bathroom has to be open and they are standing there outside. I don't remember what happens when you pee, but they can be relentless. Probably the door is not shut all the way and they listen to you pee. There is usually no conversation. You are usually too depressed for that. But you feel the presence of a human body sticking to you like glue and it really puts a dent in your fantasies of suicide. It is hard to fantasize about suicide when there is someone there who you know will stop you. Maybe it is comforting to know that there is someone there to stop you. Frustrating, but comforting. Someone is telling you, through their stark body language mirroring you wherever you go "your life has meaning and purpose". You are so valued that I am going to stick to you like glue.

After I took my extra medication my husband said, "Let me give you tickles". So I stripped down and he scratched my back. It was not at all erotic, but it felt ever so nice. My husband believes that he has found a hidden pathway in the brain that can be used to combat depression. Back rubs. A strong form of physical touch. You can be depressed, but can you deny the pleasure? And once there is the pleasure, does this break through a little of the depression? I don't know why, in all psychiatric hospitals, they don't give therapeutic massages. My brother is a "massage therapist". He mostly does trophy wives. But wouldn't it be great if his title was really put to the test, and he gave therapy to people who are at the end of their rope? (Which, unfortunately, some trophy wives are.)

I felt very weak and fragile today. The medication nurse told me about payment plans, that nobody expects you to pay $1000 all at once, and that she personally has a three thousand dollar medical bill, but also, that being billed back to 2006 after being never billed at all was "crazy" and that she would look into it. Mixed messages. I had trouble talking to her during our session. I talked very slowly and had trouble finding my words. She said that I had been "traumatized". But she made no promises to trim the bill. I know from working with a therapist in that agency that it is entirely within their power to accept the medicare and insurance payments as whole. They do control the billing, it doesn't control them. So we shall see. Depending on her behavior, I may not continue working with her. It is too bad, as she is competent and we get along fine. My therapist however had one telephone conversation with her and can't stand her. He may be more sensitive than me. He may be a better judge of character.

I saw my mother today and helped her pick out handles for her new cabinets in her new kitchen in her new cottage on the Maine coast. I went to a website that sold glass ones. She picked clear green glass. Very pretty and very expensive.

The more time I put between me and the suicidal trouble I had yesterday the better I will be. But like my medication nurse said to me today, I have a bad mental illness and there will be rough times. She admires my use of medications to get me through crises. She predicted that I won't know smooth sailing.

Me, I'm still thinking about "meaning and purpose". I am an awful lot happier when I do think that my life has meaning and purpose. It is scary how easily I can lose my grasp on this concept.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Zyprexa and Dependency

There is a schizophrenic woman, who I admire very much, who has blogged that she won't take Zyprexa. She has just come out of a six week stay in the hospital. Now they have her on what is probably the newest antipsychotic, Saphris, a drug that I've never heard of before. It is interfering with her ability to be creative. So she is not happy. She wants to go back to either Abilify or Geodone, which have worked for her in the past, but which are naturally not as strong as Zyprexa. Her clinicians seem to be saying that because of her hospitalization, there is proof that Abilify and Geodone really don't really work for her. She had a period of time when they were good and she was stable, but now for whatever reason, she has become unstable.

I saw a picture of her while she was taking Zyprexa. She was dressed in a tent like mu-mu and had double chins. When she switched to Geodone she lost all the weight she wanted. It simply dropped off of her. She ended up looking like a completely different person. It was her experience that led me to ask my medication nurse to change me from Seroquil, which was working perfectly well at the time, to Geodone. Geodone does not work nearly as well as Seroquil, so I have to be at maximum dose, where as on Seroquil, I got by with very little. Also my ability to be creative visually took a hit while on Geodone, the quality of my paintings slipped a little bit. This is the opinion of my husband and I agree with him. But Geodone keeps me out of the hospital, and while the weight did not "drop" off like it did with the other woman, at least I was able to diet and stick with a diet for about a year. I have, to date, gone from a size 20 to a size 12 and have hopes to eventually make it to my target of being a size 10. Less than that would be a dream. But I'm afraid, because of the fact that I take a medically appropriate dose of an anti-psychotic, I have to live a sedentary life. My metabolism is slower because of the drug and I have less energy. Plus, being a writer, I don't move around a lot.

What did I do with all my larger sized clothes? I have a chance to sell some of the nice stuff, there is a second hand clothing store right down the street that will buy quality clothing. In the past I have donated clothing I don't wear to the Salvation Army. But this time I was wary. I packed all my clothing in huge plastic tubs, added ceder chips to keep away the moths, and put it in the barn. I fear the day that Geodone stops working and I might have to go back to Seroquil. I fear gaining back the weight that I lost. So I keep my old clothing, thinking, that I am at the mercy of biological agents that work in a mysterious, and unpredictable, way. Already Prozac has stopped working for me after 18 years on it. And then there is this; I could suffer a second breakdown or a worsening of my illness and need to go on weight producing medication to stay out of the hospital. I know Lamictal works for me, it evens and elevates my mood, even as it causes me to gain weight and takes away my creative drive. Yes, Lamictal makes me into a happy person, and so does Zyprexa. Zyprexa or its cousin Seroquil also makes me into a very creative person. I think, for the woman above, her creativity is also strong on Zyprexa. But I know in my case, I was willing to be a little less creative, and a normal size.

There are people who have no choice but to be on weight gaining drugs. I know a bipolar mom of two who is on a weight gaining mood stabilizer, and she will do whatever she has to, to stay out of the hospital. She has the responsibility of two little lives. Her children are 2 and 4 and absolutely dependent upon having a mother. Before the onset of her illness, (rather recently) she was a tiny size 2. There were several hospitalizations and general increasing again and again of her medication to keep the mania at bay. She gained, over the course of these hospitalizations, about 80 pounds. Now I do not know what size she is, but she is plump. I like her and think her pretty. She is pleasingly plump. But I know her husband does not view her this way. He would much prefer the tiny size 2. He is not at all supportive or nurturing.

My husband did not read my last blog entry, but I described all of it to him. Including the parts where I say he has trouble 1) facing reality and 2) forecasting negative consequences. He told me last night that he thought about my hypothesis all day while at work, and he has concluded, that I am correct. He says that he knows he is smart, and that he has relied greatly on his wits, because it always seems, he makes the wrong choices. He has had disastrous marriages for making the wrong choices. He has lost jobs for making the wrong choices. Being fundamentally a happy person, has perversely, led him to to much pain, and even, the condition of being homeless. Now he said to me last night, he knows, he needs me to guide him and look out for him. When he was a young man, he used to be frustrated because other people were able to go from A to B to C but he could never figure out how to get ahead. All the stability that he possesses now he feels is due to my foresight. He pressed my hand while he was explaining this to me. "I need you" he said.

I would take medication, in order to stay out of the hospital, that would lead to obesity. I don't want to be obese, but I have another person, like the plump mother of two, who is dependent upon me being sane and in control. All is not lost if I am obese. I love clothing and I have learned that if you really look for it, you can find pretty clothing in larger sizes. And I have a husband who likes me at any size. When I am large, all he can notice is that I have large breasts. That keeps him happy. In fact, he is rather fearful that I should loose too much weight, and look too pretty. He is afraid that if I were too attractive I might leave him for another man. This is a ridiculous fear, for I have already left one man for another man, and now, have no stomach for such intrigue. And besides, I have a dawning awareness that a life is dependent upon me. His life is dependent upon me.

It flips my stomach upside-down knowing that someone is dependent upon me. Having someone love me is an old sensation. I've been lucky to have had several wonderful boyfriends and two good husbands. You can easily be in love and not be dependent. Not on a deep level. Love is the silliest thing; it is the most joyful and the most ephemeral, ethereal force I have ever encountered. I can love and hate at the same time, I can love in different directions different people at the same time, and I can forget about my love even as I am experiencing it. I am no romantic; I know love cannot save me from wishing to take my own life. There are forces stronger than love on this planet, no matter what inspired poets say. And one of those strong forces, that is so very binding and grounding is having someone who is dependent upon you. Once, my sister told me, that a thought that kept her from taking her own life when she was depressed was what her death would do to other members of the family. She felt inter-dependency. It fostered in her a healthy regard for her own life. Any excuse not to suicide is a good excuse.

I know that there are many people who despise having a person be dependent upon them. Dependency for some people interferes with their ability to love. There are tired, sleep deprived parents who can't wait for their children to grow up so they will not be so dependent upon them. There are old people who hate the sickness and infirmities that come with old age and make their spouses physically dependent upon them. They want to be lovers, not nursemaids. There are passionless marriages that exist not because of love, but because of financial interdependency. They can't sell their house so they can't go their separate ways. Or else, if they went separate ways they could not live as well, lacking a combined income.

In America freedom is celebrated at all levels, not only the legal and the religious but the personal as well. In America freedom is seen as a quality that you need in order to be happy, and we are a country that is founded on belief in the pursuit of happiness. Most taxpayers hate the dependency of the poor on systems of financial relief. "If I had more money I would be more free" most people think. And too, "If I didn't have this person dependent on me I would be more happy." Culturally, to us, freedom and happiness co-exist. Too much dependency is viewed as a form of sickness and oppression.

Well, I despise spending even one night away from my husband. It makes me feel depressed. Do I have not enough sense of self? Am I not independent enough? I feel independent from my husband when I am with him. I certainly feel the mental freedom to quarrel with him any day, at any time. But when I am put to the test, and my mother takes me away to her cottage in Maine, despite the beautiful scenery, I pine. In a very old fashioned sense I pine for the company of my husband. Is there something I need him to do for me? No, I can do everything myself or with the help of my mother. Is there something I need to hear him say? No, I can talk to him on the phone and we say whatever is on our minds. He usually is so happy to hear me on the phone that he is outrageously silly. I've got control, I've got voice contact, and yet, I need him physically present or else I feel very dark and depressed. While in Maine I feel steady panic - I've got to get back to home and my husband. This presses upon my mind constantly.

I read that when Linda McCartney died of breast cancer, during her entire marriage to Paul McCartney they had only spent three nights apart. To me, this story is inspiring.

It was nice, last night to hear my husband confess he needs me. Because I need him too, very much.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Depression and Lies

Last Friday my therapist said this;

"I hate depression because it is a bunch of lies."

He was very passionate when he spoke.

I thought about what he said and remembered what I thought of myself when I was depressed and suicidal and came to him for the first time. I thought this way as recently as last November. Six months ago.

1. I am no good
2. I am a failure
3. The future is dark
4. The future cannot be changed
5. I am stuck
6. The suffering is more than I can bear
7. I am broken and cannot be fixed

In our sessions I have accused my therapist of brainwashing me and telling me lies. He was very disturbed to viewed as a brainwasher. In fact, he looked this word up in the dictionary. It is a habit of his to look up all words that he is uncertain of (I think my vocabulary exceeds his) or that the patient insists on using that might have a negative connotation. He reads out loud the dictionary's definition of the word and you must determine, right there and then, whether it is a word that you wish to continue to flout in his presence, or else, you must take it back as being inaccurate. This way he closely examines the truth or fallacy of what comes out of your mouth. As a medical doctor looks up information on the medication he prescribes, my therapist looks up additional information about the words that come out of your mouth. It is clever. It is eccentric. The dictionary is ever close at hand, on the floor, by his feet.

The official definition of brainwashing was so, may I say evil, that I no longer use the word in my therapist's presence. Oh, he has thrown it back on me, having been wounded by it he doesn't forget the insult, but I hold my peace. If he does not like to see himself in this light I will not press the matter. As I said last Friday to my therapist "I have the desire to tease you, but not the desire to disrespect you." This includes not wishing to hurt his feelings.

However, the essence of my claim is still true. I am being influenced by him and guided by him. I am impressionable; this is a fault and a strength. It is a fault in that I can be mislead when I think that an authority figure is telling me some truth. I bow to authority. I love to be in awe of people, especially people in power. When, twenty years ago, a doctor told me that a patient "was perfectly happy being locked up in isolation, he has made for himself a little nest and adapted to it" I believed this to be true. When a fellow patient in the hospital protested that the continuing isolation in a tiny locked room was inhumane and cruel, and lobbied to free the poor soul and let him mingle for several hours every day with his fellow patients, I realized the error of my ways and was astonished how easily I trusted in the doctors. I had been a sap, a follower, and had little in my bones of a revolutionary nature. Then years later, when I was told that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and a leader who was prone to use them, I let this political lie be the reason to support going to war. Again, I did not question the wisdom of those in power. What little space I have in my head that allows me to think for myself is precious to me, because, it is such little space.

But my impressionability is a strength in that I am open to the world around me and allow change to happen. Just yesterday, I visited Wal-Mart and twice I saw people that made me say the small prayer, "But for the grace of God there go I". There was a lady with a beard, shaved of course, but obvious in its disfigurement of her looks, and a lady being pushed in a wheelchair. My looks, while not beautiful, at least do not gather pitying or curious looks. And although I am having some difficulty with my knee, at least, I am not confined to a wheelchair. There is great hope that something in my knee will heal or be fixed, and I will walk with ease once again. I saw two people with disabilities that I am glad I do not have.

I was happy that the lady in the wheelchair, who was young, was being pushed by a handsome man, and I imagined, that the two knew domestic bliss. I was also happy to see an interracial couple pushing a carriage with a baby in it. The man was dark chocolate brown, and the girl was fair. The baby was obviously their own, having a complexion that favored the mother, but hair that was very kinky, and showing in texture, that it was a mix of both African and Caucasian blood. I thought about the social obsticals that this couple must occasionally face, and I cheered them on, hoping that they had a love that makes them persevere, even though, they look so very different on the outside. Now they have a baby that really cements them together. If it weren't for my impressionability, such scenes would pass me by without internal remark. I would be more blind to the world and more hard in considering it, if I weren't so impressionable. I know I can be a fool, but occasionally, the world does give me visions.

Knowing that I am impressionable, when I first came to see my therapist, where I saw tragedy of a mental illness, he saw courage in the midst of a mental illness. And he has steadily been working, hard, to change my point of view. He has succeeded in altering me slightly. For instance, I now notice that in my peer support group I elaborate on a participant's "courage" and say that I view the little steps that a sick person makes to link himself to the world at large as being "victorious"over the illness. It is all well and good to be supportive of others who are down, and yet, I am confused. I know signs of illness and disability, and yet, here I am, chirping positive feedback instead of feeling the depths of despair over situations that are far from normal or healthy. It is like I have been granted double vision. I see the hell of things but find myself voicing affirmations. The clown is crying even as he stands on his head, balances a little dog on one foot, and makes you smile and laugh.

I know that my therapist is not depressed, although I do not know if he experiences sadness. To my perception he is a very happy person. It seems like he is a Peter Pan, a boy who has never grown up and who flies through the air. He certainly has the point of view that a happy person has who is wedded to his joy - depression "lies". And I know that I am no longer depressed, my mood is somewhat elevated, and that I no longer usually think the gloomy thoughts that in the beginning of this post I made a list of. But I have not completely turned my back on my list and in it I can see the glimmers of truth. Depression does not teach lies. Depression is truth without hope. And I've just read, in a book, scientific evidence that supports my belief.

I am reading "Lincoln's Melancholy" and on page 135 is a scientific investigation that supports the notion that I am not crazy, but in fact, it may be my therapist who is crazy.

"Previously, depressed people were believed to be drawing conclusions about themselves and their experiences that were unrealistically distorted towards the negative. Yet as this research suggests, one cognitive symptom of depression may be the loss of optimistic, self-enhancing biases that normally protect healthy people against assaults to their self-esteem. In many instances, depressives my simply be judging themselves and the world much more accurately than non-depressed people, and finding it not a pretty place." Abramson and Alloy termed the benefit that depressed people showed in the experiment the "Depressive Realism" or the "Sadder but Wiser" effect.............."We have a tendency to regard people in their ordinary moods as rational information processors, relatively free of systematic bias and distorted judgments.........(while in fact) much research suggests that when they are not depressed people are highly vulnerable to illusions, including unrealistic optimism, overestimation of themselves, and an exaggerated sense of their capacity to control events. The same research indicates that depressed people's perceptions and judgments are often less biased." The psychologist Richard Bentall has taken this research to its extreme conclusion, humorously proposing to classify happiness as a psychiatric disorder - "major affective disorder (pleasant type)."

So I don't know what to believe. A person who is very joyful, and who I know intimately, is my husband. And I know this one fact - he is terrified of 1) facing reality and 2) projecting consequences that are negative into the future. Here is a sample of a conversation I had with my husband several months ago. Obviously I do all the banking in my household and I pay all the bills. He earns all the money, but he wishes for me to do all the management. My words are italicized, his words are bold.

"I want to tell you how much we have in our savings account."

"I don't want to know how much we having in our savings account."

"But you should know."

"I don't care."

"I promise, if I tell you, it isn't as bad as you think. We are doing better than last year."

"I still do not want to know how much we have in our savings account."

Finally I did not care what shock it did to my husband's system, I blurted out the amount to him of how much stood between us and utter poverty. It didn't seem fair that I should shoulder the cares and worries while he floated oblivious.

Just an hour ago I got a phone call from my husband. He called to tell me that he is working overtime every day of this week. He was happy about this fact because, it means, that there will be more money to put into our "Ireland" account. Now overtime to him is all about taking some future dream vacation. It used to be about saving for a car when our car is worn out. Which is the more sensible concern? And yet, I want him to be happy about having to do overtime work. I don't want him going to work with dread for the long hours he will have to put in. And so I'm going to leave the bait and tease alone and not veto the "Ireland" account.

When I think about us going to Ireland, I think about giving him memories that might keep him happy when he goes blind. Yes, he is slowly going blind. And you know what? I have to mix his eye vitamins with my medication because he has proven, that on his own, he neglects to take them. When I take my medication I give him his medication. The one thing that can prevent his eyesight from deteriorating further he will not do without my interference. This little dance with medication occurs because I am thinking about the future, and he will not project negative consequences into the future.

My husband is happy, blissfully happy. But in our relationship I am definitely the realist. So I must ask my therapist, next time I see him, what exactly are the lies that depression tells people, and then judge, whether or not to join him in his fantasy.