Saturday, December 31, 2011

Maine Christmas

I went to Maine for Christmas. On Christmas day we took a walk while it was snowing. You can't see the falling snow in this picture, but some of the ghostly atmosphere is due to falling snow. To the center right is a white light way off in the distance, that is a lighthouse.

My mom had put in a wood burning stove in the space that we slept in. And goodness, she had put up a large real Christmas tree, with lights and ornaments. We pulled out the sofa bed and I would sit in it, try to draw, and lazily watch the fire dance behind the glass of the wood stove. My concentration wasn't good for drawing so I know that the travel (seven hours to get to the fishing village at the end of a peninsula) and the change of place affected me subtly.

One evening I couldn't keep my eyes open during dinner, I was having trouble concentrating and was shutting down, so my mother gently asked if I was sick, and I said yes, which is so much more astute than people assuming that I am tired. I was not tired, I was having difficulty concentrating. So I left the table and got into that sofa bed and watched the fire which felt really nice. My husband and mom could sociably finish dinner fine without me. One thing I hate is that when I start to become noticeably symptomatic my father says in a sing-song voice, "oh, Karen is going sleepytime". It feels demeaning. I am suffering when I am with family and I have to withdraw. Schizophrenia is painful. Being sleepy is not painful.

Yesterday I had some more trouble concentrating while I was painting. I would think of what I wanted to paint but then I wouldn't have the willpower to lift my brush and apply the paint. So I sat and stared at my painting. Since I was getting nowhere, I left the room, brushed my teeth, made some tea, and then when I returned I had the power to make those brush strokes that I had wished to make so badly. But after about 15 minutes of work I was back to staring at my painting, thinking about things to paint but having no power over my body to move into action and carry out my thought.

One of my New Year's resolution is to do more making art. When I first met my husband I used to make art in the morning and evening. Nowadays we watch t.v. in the evening. I think I want to try to make art more and watch t.v. less. Sometimes watching t.v is a result of being exhausted, and I certainly can't make art in that condition. But somehow, there must be a way to engineer my days so that I can squeeze a little more productivity out of myself. It is a big New Year's resolution to make art, if I can, twice a day rather than once a day.

This morning I had a dreadful time waking up. I think this was my illness again, as yesterday was emotionally exhausting with rushing about doing this and that after my morning of forced painting. I pay for extending myself, usually with the absence of the ability to move my body. I was awake, but so numb in the brain that I couldn't even get out of bed to get a cup of coffee. I had a therapy appointment and that finally got me moving.

Discussed getting a new medication provider with my therapist. He got out a phone book and I said no, I wanted a person that came with a recommendation. I found him with another patient's recommendation, and I would like HIS recommendation of someone he has heard good things about. So he said to give him a week and he'll give me several phone numbers.

I am coming down on my Geodone January 1st. I'll still be within therapeutic range as told to me by my medication provider. What I didn't like the most about her, that makes me wish to quit her, is how she characterized me off medication, while having never seen me off medication. I've been off all medication and I was a docent providing art history tours at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford Connecticut. I also worked at the information desk at this little world class art museum. So I've been confident, capable, and oh so very rational off medication. But the picture my meds nurse painted was of someone who was paranoid and incompetent and irrational, what she's perhaps seen in other people. But she never gave me a chance, only forcasted gloom and doom.

My therapist today said that I've been doing very well for a good time now. I said to him that the only thing that's changed is that I lowered my medication in October.

When my husband was going to date me he was given advice by his co-workers not to. "You don't know what she's like off medication, she could be a monster." Yes, his co-worker really used the word monster. And that fellow was a mental health professional, beloved by some mentally ill people I knew. I don't need to work with mental health professionals who are scared of people off medication. My therapist while studying for his licensing exam knew that he would be asked "what do you do if a patient wishes to stop medication?" The correct answer was to drop the patient. This made my therapist furious. He told me today that no other country in the world medicates people as much on psychiatric drugs as the United States.

Had a phone conversation with a good friend who is schizophrenic. She is impressed that I have tangible things to show for my time. I told her that she should write music more, which is her creative outlet. But she replied with a story of the difficulties of getting her songs copywritten. It is a big thing with her that if she writes a story someone will steal it. It also is a big thing with her, I think, that she wants her songs to lead to money and fame. I said that this is not the reason I create. It was at one time, I had these big dreams, but now I am trying to live in the moment, and create for the sake of creating. Of having a purpose. Of having work to do every day. I'm afraid that my friend, although her talent is real, lacks discipline. I think that one aspect of schizophrenia is a general sort of disorganization.

But then again, with the arts, even with people who have no sort of mental illness, they can't stick with the discipline that is behind accomplishing creative work. I had a psychiatrist who went to medical school after trying to become a writer. She found that she could go to classes and study for tests, but left on her own, she couldn't be a productive writer, she didn't have the internal discipline. I also knew an artist who while at Wesleyan College, was told he was a creative genius at print making. He went on to graduate school for designing museum installations. When it came down to the moment of having to create, to draw, he didn't have the discipline to do it. To be alone, isolated, in charge, the master, the audience, the critic, the primary mover, the channeling of impulse - he didn't have discipline over his innate talent. Talent was there but it had to be in an institutional setting to thrive. Like the doctor, he needed others to structure his time for him.

I had an older female artist once tell me that being isolated with your artwork gets easier the older you get. I find this to be alarmingly true. I care less about having friends. I meet good people, but let things drift so that we don't really connect. I'm lucky that I have a husband to provide me with all the companionship that I really need.

As I grow older I care less and less for the society of others. Went to two parties this Holiday season and while both were fun, and successful, and there was great affection and good time had by all, I didn't need to go to them. I didn't need them in my life. I realize how lucky I was to have them to go to. I'm lucky that I have options and things to do with my time. But more and more I resent things that take away from my focus on making art. I remember being a teenager and absolutely needing something social to do on a Friday night. Now that I'm almost 44 I no longer have that drive to spend my energy in conversation with others.

I'm still liking people, and nice to people, but this is at war with the need to isolate and create art.

I predict that as I drop my medication dose I will become more symptomatic and more dysfunctional in respects to how others function in society. But I think too I'll become more creative.

A real schizophrenic artist. Not a wantabe normal person, pushing to be included in society by means of drugging oneself. The drugging brings people into states of normalicy.

Already, like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, I've left Kansas. That is what you feel like when you can't even function at the dinner table. I'm not going to drug myself so that I can make polite dinner time conversation. Or have a job and make money. If I make less art on less medication then I'll go back on a larger dose. But I've got my priorities, and I know what drives me.

Its funny, but I don't care too much either what happens to a painting after its done.

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