Tuesday, February 28, 2012

He Kissed My Hand!

Visit went well with therapist. It was really weird to see my husband in action with my therapist. My therapist got a mild shock when my husband said he's seen mentally ill people come on and off medication all the time and swing in their moods and behavior - I guess my therapist forgot that my husband really did work with the mentally ill as a health care provider. At first my therapist said "you mean you've seen Karen come off and on medication" and my husband corrected him. My husband told a little story about a person who didn't know that they were behaving differently off medication, but that it was clear to him that the fellow was quite a different man.

My therapist said that the main reason he wanted the visit was because I said I would lie to my medication provider and do whatever I wished with my medication. This worried him and made him think that I should have a new medication provider, one I trusted more and had better communication with. And my husband laughed and said, "I know Karen. She might go intending to lie, but once she was in the room, she would tell the truth. Karen is incapable of lying."

Do you know what a thrill it is for someone to have so much confidence in you? In your moral nature?

And then to top it off, my husband took my hand, kissed the back of it, and put it on his knee, covering it with his own hand.

Inside I was like, my God, he's so gallant! And he's saying to my therapist piss off, the lady is mine!

The therapist did not, for whatever reason, want a long visit. In further conversation my husband said that I was bold, a fact he realized when I was willing to leave my last abusive husband for him (not in my eyes a bold move, simple self preservation) and this lead to a discussion on divorce and lawyers, and my therapist was practically ready to leap out of his chair, he wanted the visit to terminate. But my husband said, "before we go, do you want to hear a good lawyer joke?" And then he told a funny joke I had not heard before and we all laughed. It seemed rather clear to me that the strongest personality in the room was my husband's. And he seemed too to be the healthiest of the lot of us.

On the way home I commented on my therapist' lack of interest in keeping us in the room. My husband's take was that it was painful for him to see us together. "He's probably a little in love with you" my husband said.

I think my therapist just wanted to go have lunch or meet up with some friends, it was a Saturday after all, and he wasn't planning on charging us for the visit, so he saw he was wasting his time. One, my husband was just as experienced and knowledgeable about medication changes as he was, and two my husband said I was incapable of lying to my medication provider! My husband characterized my medication provider as a cranky grandmotherly type.

Actually, I think he's right one thing. I couldn't lie to her, even if I said so. And in fact, I had steeled myself to tell her the truth a long while back, and it was in a moment of willful obstinacy that I threw out the idea about lying. Not something that is really memorable to me.

Painting again. Background grass which is really boring, but necessary. I should listen to music while I'm doing the boring bits. Just bought at Wal-Mart the best of the Rolling Stones and haven't opened it yet, am drooling to listen to it.

How come the Rolling Stone's music makes me feel like a sexy woman?

Friday, February 24, 2012

All The Creatures Fear Me

My therapist said something interesting today. He got it from a book. He apparently falls asleep at night reading books. Books are littered all round the floor of his bed. In his office too, books are littered around the floor.

The book posits that the soul of a child knows what is in store for it in life. The book gave examples. A famous bull fighter as a child hid behind his mother's apron. This is because (and of course it takes a psychologist, maybe a new age one to see it) the child's soul knows that the boy will grow up to be a famous bullfighter and die in the ring, gored by a bull. Winston Churchill stuttered as a small child, and this is because he knew he grew up to become the voice for his country of freedom against a Nazi enemy that was evil. And me? They used to in kindergarten spit out the windows of the bus on my hair. I was ostracized and signaled out as different. In kindergarten, for whatever reason, the school sent me to see a school psychologist. In kindergarten I felt different from the other children and alone.

So my therapist said that maybe I knew I would grow up to have this feared illness called schizophrenia. And he said people really do fear schizophrenia. In the past he and I have talked about health care workers that fear schizophrenia and ostracize the patients they work with. He said an example was the health care workers who warned my husband not to get romantically involved with me. One of them said I would be a "monster" off of my medication. This from a very popular health care worker, some of my mentally ill peers really adored him! Another example I am currently experiencing from my medication provider, who predicted incompetency, irrationality, and paranoia on lower doses of medication. She made me feel like without my medication I was a poor excuse for a human being - that the medication humanized me. And then my therapist said never mind about the time I was institutionalized as a teen, that was in his eyes too terrible to even discuss again.

We had begun the session talking about my vision for a new painting. Its a self portrait. I've always wanted to do a self portrait, but never had a theme or vision for it. What am I wearing? Is my hair up or down? Are there angels whispering in my ear? Or lions in the background goring each other? I adore Frida Kahlo self portraits, it seems to me she portrays herself as a goddess, sometimes wounded goddess. She's very glamorous. I even bought a necklace once that I thought I would wear in a self portrait. Frida wears exotic jewelry in hers. So what do I finally, in a burst of inspiration, get for the theme of a self portrait?

I am standing in the center. And the canvas is perfectly square, so the center is obvious. And there are animals and angels and strange sort of creatures, and they are all running, in all directions, north, east, south, and west, in terror, trying to get away from me. I look ordinary, a self portrait working from a photograph, but to the sensitivities of all these living things I am a monster and they try to get away from me. They use flying machines, they use boats and carts pulled by horses, they trip over themselves and tumble, they are afraid, they are moving fast with their legs extended, and they all wish to get away from me!

My therapist said that the idea for the painting was a delusion. Not a psychotic delusion, but one of the ordinary sort that ordinary people have. I said it was more a myth, a story that contains a seed of truth, and I said I feel this way in my heart, its a feeling that is very close to the bone. And it started in Kindergarten, no, I think in pre-school, way before mental illness and school, the feeling that I was rejected by the world.

Every session I make certain I bring cheese bits for my therapist's dog. Today, even though I was running late, I shoved cheese bits into my pocket before leaving home. Usually I have the time to put them in a plastic bag. So I feed his sweet black lab husky mix, and then she jumped up on the couch, curled up next to me, and went to sleep. My therapist said look at the dog, she does not do this with everyone, she is not a creature that is rejecting you, instead she likes you.

And we discussed a walk I took several nights ago with my husband and our dog. I was tired on the walk and let my husband do the work of leading the dog and training her on our walk. At the end of the walk was a park that my husband likes to let the dog play with sticks in. He asked me if I wanted to play with him and the dog in the park. I said no, I wanted to go home. So we parted ways, me continuing on the sidewalk and him going onto the grass of the park. I heard a shout behind me. I turned and saw my dog pulling the leash hard in my direction. "She doesn't want to be parted from you" said my husband, and that was that, no play time, we all went directly home. But evidently I have some place in my dog's heart that I did not fully realize. Because until that incident, I worried that I was not very important to my dog.

Our last training session with a professional dog trainer the trainer talked about my "energy" and that my homework for the week was to play more and have fun with my dog. What can you do when your dog knows that life is a struggle for you, more a fact of survival than fun, and picks up on your negative energy? In class my dog plodded along when she walked next to me. When she walked next to my husband she bounced and leaped a bit. The trainer showed me how, by simply changing his energy, he could change the way she walked. What happens when you feel that your dog rejects you? I wept bitterly after the class. The next day the vision of the self portrait came to me. I felt that my dog was one of the multitude of living creatures that ran from me.

I haven't done my homework for dog training class yet. I haven't gone outside and played with my dog. I will try this weekend. I have been so sad. It isn't depression really. It me feeling like I'm a freak and a failure.

Haven't painted for several days. Unfortunately this does nothing to bolster my self esteem. Spent all day yesterday in bed watching comedy DVD's of the television show "The Office". My back hurt by the end of the day for spending so much time immobile. Will not paint tomorrow. Tomorrow supposed to see my therapist with my husband, my therapist wants to try to convince us to change medication providers. And I think, in general, he wants feedback in how I've been doing on the lower dose of medication. If my husband needs to vent, this gives him the opportunity to vent. Then we go to a special clinic and for $10 get a rabies shot for my dog. THEN I WILL SUMMON UP HAPPY ENERGY AND PLAY WITH MY DOG. Probably go to the woods.

But the day after I will paint.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Adam and Eve Drawing

It was tricky trying to get this drawing to reproduce. It sized 20 x 24 inches, the dimensions of the canvas that is is going to be painted on. I'll walk you through the picture.

Eve is on the left and she has just bitten into the forbidden fruit. Her hand is over her mouth and she is dropping the fruit. Her hair is what the whole painting is really about. It is elaborately braided and held up by two birds. In the tree of life is a bird's nest with a parent and two chicks. The stripes that make up the sky background all are adjusted so that Eve's hair is for the most part, clear to comprehend. The first stripe I laid down was on a piece of tracing paper so that I could see how it would affect the drawing of Eve's hair underneath.

The tree of life is central, with two angels in hiding in the trunk. Wrapped around the trunk are garlands of different shaped leaves and little ribbons with bow ties. The crown of the tree of life takes the word pattern to an extreme. Repeating are the round forbidden fruit with distinctive leaves, and then there are leaves that I tried, with my imagination, to make as diverse as possible, both from nature and each other. I would say that there are seven or eight different "types" - everything from a four leaf clover to what looks like the emanations of a snail, and it was a challenge to get them all fitted in together making a seamless repeating whole.

In the center of the tree of life sits the devil. She is female, wearing a hat and heels, and a dress that comes from the archives of the style giant Dior. Lets just say that in contrast to the naked Adam and Eve, the devil knows that it is civilized to be wearing clothes - she has no innocence. Her gloved hand points to one of the forbidden fruit growing in the tree. Two horns puncture her hat.

On the right hand side is Adam and like Eve, he has just bitten into the forbidden fruit but his reaction is somewhat different from his mate's. His body had dropped to the ground and is going into convulsions. Like Eve his hair is braided in a design crowning his head, and to emphasize his masculinity, he has a curling mustash above his lips and goatee on his chin.

Again, its hard to see the details, but on the grass with Adam and Eve are different types of flowering plants.

In my mind's eye the forbidden fruit is bright red, and the leaves are shades of green, the sky shades of blue, and the Dior an ensemble of white and Black. And of course, Adam and Even are peach nude.

I can't describe the exhilaration I felt when I finally finished the drawing yesterday. And a small part of me felt afraid of what I had done. It looked, well, mad. So much energy. So much design. So over the top. I don't think I could have made this design on a greater dose of medication. At least that's my fantasy. That less medication is more Karen. And Karen is unbound by the rules of most mental convictions. I suppose that this could be a definition of simple creativity and not mental illness and schizoprhenia - Having a loose, unconventional mind is a typical artistic type. Or is my Adam and Eve more conventional than I realize? I don't know, its always a problem to me to compare myself to other artists. I start seeing categories of better or worse - dangerous to my tattered ego. I have a strong ego with deep cracks, that's the problem.

I was discussing the most recent book by Mark Vonnegut with my therapist several months ago. Mark is the son of the famous author Kirk Vonnegut and has had some battles with mental illness. However, he is mostly a successful pediatrician. Most of his book was not about mental illness but instead about being a doctor. Mark is also a firm believer in being creative to maintain mental health, and he paints. Images of his paintings are printed through-out the book. I said with pride that I was a better painter than Mark. My therapist shot back that Mark was a better doctor than I. Score one for the therapist!

Last session with my therapist disturbed me for several days, and then I put it out of my mind. My therapist said that he saw signs of eccentricity in me on the lower dose of medication, but at our current meeting there was no doubt in his head - I was flat out eccentric. He was concerned my medication provider, who I see in March and who did not exactly approve a lower dose of meds - she wanted to do it more slowly and in the distant future - would reject me. He thinks she and I are not a good match and wants to avoid the pain of me being rejected for being me! The message I got is that HE will accept me as eccentric, but he has doubts that SHE will. And to discuss I don't know what else, he wants a meeting with my husband and I on this Saturday.

My therapist was keenly interested (as he hasn't met my husband yet) how my husband perceived the effect that less medication had on me. I only know of one comment. My husband said that I can't lie to my medication provider and tell her I'm on the same dose because she will immediately be able to tell that I'm at a lower dose. He said nothing critical or rejecting - just, you are different and it shows. Oh yes, he said I was more fragile. But that never got much explanation either. He said that everything I needed to get done, got done. Art, showering, training and walking the dog, being his companion, all the important ingredients to a good life are still present. And no psychosis, no suicidal thoughts.

I asked my husband what he thought my therapist meant when he said I was eccentric and my husband was baffled. Yeah! My husband doesn't think that I'm eccentric. I mean, he really does think I'm normal. Or if I'm different, he loves what is different about me.

On some days I will admit I feel crazy. But there is no psychotic thought, nothing but this anxiety that I'm going out of my mind. Is like a mood, the idea that I'm crazy comes and goes. I do nothing crazy, I say and think nothing much crazy, but I feel crazy. I told my husband that it is like an energy in my head, pushing my head apart.

He said when you feel like that it might be a good idea to walk the dog.

But I prefer lying in bed and shutting my eyes. Eventually I feel as bored as hell. And yes, eventually the craziness passes.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Is Crazy Bad?

I had two paintings that were both wet, taking up space on my two easels. When this happens, and you can't paint because you are waiting for paint to dry, the good thing to do is to start planning your next painting. I go through a planning stage that involves a detailed drawing. So when it isn't possible for me to paint, I draw. Starting out with a new vision on virgin white paper is a mighty challenge.

I have a nice art library. One of the books I hadn't cracked in several years had the title "Angels". I opened it and after fifteen pages realized that the author intended to go through the bible and represent angels in art as they appeared in stories from the religious text. It was funny, the editor must have been a fundamentalist Christian because he or she kept on showing art and detailing how the angels depicted pictorially differed from the scripture - artists will invent of course, and the editor thought it was important to spell out how this or that was not a "proper" type of angel! As far as I got the first night with "Angels" - Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. I was thrilled because here was a story that I could make the central theme of my painting. Early in the process of creation I need to grasp onto a direction, and with lower medication it seems even more important to my mind that I depict some sort of story.

This drawing was especially important because I've been telling everyone that I'm intimate with that on a lower dose of meds, I feel more creative. Problem is, all my drying paintings were started on a higher dose of meds, and don't really represent what I consider now my full potential. The drawing of Adam and Eve would be a test - am I more creative, different, or are my enhanced powers a product of a deluded mind? Would the images flow to me with vibrant and swift energy or would I have to drift, root around, and pull and pull things tediously and slowly out of my imagination?

When I first started making art seriously I was on a very low dose of antipsychotic medication. That was over twelve years ago. Many times I've had a vague sensation that my first work was my best work. I can mature as an artist, but nothing came close to the energy of work done on low medication. I've made good art on medication - but it was art that looked like it was done by a serious, mainstream artist. Words like "quaint" "odd" "energetic" and "primitive" no longer applied. And the work no longer had the otherworldliness of the best of outsider art.

Its been a little over a week and I'm still working on the drawing for Adam and Eve. After working on it for two days I realized that I had imitated a hairstyle for Eve that originated in a self portrait of Frida Kahlo, (about six months ago I read a book that was illustrated with her paintings) and I had to ask myself a serious question; do I want to reference other artist's work or go for the gold, invent completely new visuals for myself? Do I want to copy? Hell no! I wracked my brains and while eating salad in a restaurant with my husband a new head of hair for Eve popped into my mind. Problem was that it involved two birds, and to fit those two birds into the composition, everything had to be erased, figures moved, start over again with a blank page. Grr, arg, it was a hard decision. But now I'm really glad that I did it. The painting will be better because it was started over again. And it will be all a Karen Original.

So now what I'm doing is details of leaves and flowers - what is the garden of Eden without plant life? Its hard work, to make everything look flowing and balanced, but its more a case of composition and less creativity. Still, the drawing requires intense concentration. I can only do a little every day. Of course when the drawing is finished I'll take a picture of it and post it on my blog.

But this morning I felt flat out crazy. A little confession, since I lowered my meds I've been spending more money on clothes and jewelry. A little bit of self control has been abandoned. I keep on telling myself, this is it, the last purchase for a good long while! Last night I cannot begin to describe the amount of mental fixation I had on a necklace I saw online. The picture had burned itself into my head and I wanted it like a thirsty man wants water. I honestly don't know what I thought this necklace would do for me, make me a more beautiful woman I guess. So this morning my will was battling whether or not to take money out of savings for this necklace. (And a dress too to go with the necklace!) Of course I would do it without my husband's knowledge. And that is really what was making me feel crazy. I wanted, I lusted, I needed, but I was going to do something immoral to obtain the object of my fixation. Money matters are usually discussed between my husband and I. I know in my heart he would not approve of the amount of money I've spent this last month on myself, since January 1st when I went down on my meds. In fact he would be shocked. It would cause an enormous fight. We have heating bills to pay, car repairs, dog vet bills, new eyeglasses - all these things that are necessary and that it would be prudent to save for. I've acted like an ass. I was so ashamed for the money I've spent that I wanted to get drunk. I mean, at 11am, knowing that I was going to go to the bank and move our money around so that I could get my necklace, knowing that I couldn't stop myself, I simply wanted to get drunk to escape the shame and trepidation and stress. My behavior is putting our very household's survival at risk.

It was no surprise to me that the way I obsessed about Eve's hair was completely similar to the way I obsessed about this necklace. I've got a friend who is schizophrenic who is not taking any antipsychotic medication at this time. He noticed that the desire to drink (he is alcoholic) was diminished during past times when he took medication for his schizophrenia. So as it appears for both of us, medication makes us more responsible adults, more in control of our impulses. My imagination is my best friend and my worst enemy.

I don't want to be reckless. I don't want to cheat financially on my husband. I want to be moral. I want to be in control. But I like my creativity the way it is. I don't want less medication, yet neither do I want to go back up on medication. I like my drawing of Adam and Eve, even though, and here is another confession, it is wearing me down, the intensity and seriousness I feel towards this project. On more medication life was more of a dream. My attitude toward making art was at times robotic. Repetitive. Hive worker drone like. Now, almost, its like I'm at the edge of a life or death situation. Is this what it means living with passion? I'm not yet at the point where I'm burning myself out but clearly I'm getting into a wee bit of trouble.

Welcome schizophrenic girl to the human race. Many, many sane people find, because of their impulses, that they are in hot water and their life is out of balance.

I'm going to see my therapist tomorrow and I'm not going to draw tomorrow. From here on out, for a good long while, I'm not going to amuse myself by browsing online stores. Like an alcoholic, I've got to not step foot in the bar.

Rembrandt the painter died pretty poor. It wasn't that his work wasn't appreciated or that he didn't have patrons. Its just that he had a wee bit of trouble controlling his spending habits.