Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Feeling Good, Feeling Crazy

I brought my drawing to the framers in town and they scratched "The Gift".  The man's thigh has a green border, the scratch was white through the green and then it moved into the middle of the flesh.  I told the framer than when I had brought the drawing in the thigh of the man had been smooth.  Now it was not.  The framer was very quiet.  Nervous I think.  Waiting for me to blow up like a volcano.  But I said I could fix it.  I didn't know if it would be hard or easy, but it was quite easy.  The framer's are really lucky that they damaged a piece that had been brought in by the artist that created it, and of course, that it was in a medium that could be fixed.  I brought back the drawing yesterday and immediately they put it in its frame.  It now looks really, really good.  It must be the framer's worst nightmare that they damage a customer's art.  Like lawsuit nightmare.  Plus, everyone in town says that they are expensive but that they do such a good job that they are worth it.  So they have a reputation to uphold.  The framer said that he was going to have to review the process by which artworks are handled.  And they gave me a $20 gift certificate.

My worst nightmare is getting a flat tire.  Which I did.  I was parking the car in front of my therapist's office and hit the curb.  The curb ripped the tire.  I had AAA.  So by the end of my therapy appointment a man had come and put on the spare.  They said they would be about an hour, which was perfect, I could have my therapy  while I waited.  After I had called AAA my therapist asked me how I was doing.  Of course I was highly nervous, after all my worst nightmare had just happened and a part of me wanted to be silly and cry, but I said reflexively that I was good.  He made much of this answer.  Apparently there have been lots of days in the past when I walked into my therapists a mess and could not, even offhandedly, say I was good.  He said that healing had occurred.  I think I just like life more on less meds.

My husband said that the number one difference in his eyes between me on this dose of medication and a much higher dose is that now I never say "I want to die".  Apparently this was an expression he said I would use (theatrically?) several times a week.  The worst that its ever gotten recently was the night before a dentist appointment when I said I couldn't see the future.  I didn't want to die but I felt like my life was going to end.  I was just really scared.  Because of the types of medications I take my dentist won't give me normal Novocaine.  She uses an alternate that numbs, but not as deeply.  I need multiple shots during the procedure, and she only knows to give me more AFTER I've cringed from pain. And too there is a limit of how much she can give.  So going to the dentist is a major source of anxiety.

I feel like I want to say to my therapist, "fix me, I'm too neurotic".  I worry so much.  I anticipate little things that are supposed to happen tomorrow with strong feelings of fear.  And usually its all for nothing, like with the flat tire.  Things go well.  Nighttime, after a busy day, is really bad.  I sometimes before bed tell my husband I feel crazy.  But there is nothing crazy about me other than that I'm super stressed and usually worried about something.  No psychosis. No suicidal thinking.  A perfect cure for the crazies is lying in bed with my head on my husband's stomach.  He strokes my hair or my back.  His touch soothes.  I feel safe.  I feel loved.

My husband repeated to me a scene from a play he saw ten years ago.  It was preformed at the psycho-social clubhouse where we first met.  The actors all had mental illness and had created the sketches that they performed themselves.  This sketch was about a guy who had gone off his meds.  He was lying on a couch.  He friend comes to visit and asks how he's doing.  "I'm feeling really creative" he replies.  "What did you create?" asks the friend.  "Well, nothing yet but I know something is coming because my thoughts are really good and really creative."  He friend says, well, why don't you come out with me and we'll do something.  "No" says the guy on the couch, "I don't feel like doing anything.  I'm just going to lay here."

The point of the sketch was that subjectively off meds a schizophrenic might feel good, and more creative, but objectively they have lost motivation, get little done, and live an inferior quality of life.

I ask my husband again and again if I seem normal.  And he says that I act normal.  But I swear, there are times when I feel as mad as a hatter.  Its all internal.  The worst that happens is I crawl into bed or tear up and complain.

Creatively I don't know how the med change has affected me, but I seem to have lost a little motivation.  Not much, but it is the negative symptoms.  Lack of will power.  Some household chores seem harder now to accomplish.  But I am happier, just, a little less effective. 

One big change on the lower dose of meds is that I don't sleep as much.  I sleep 6 to 8 hours a night rather than 10 to 12 hours.  This means that my days are longer and I have much more free time.  The amount that I can concentrate and work on art is about the same, three hours.  So I have a lot of extra time where I'm all alone wondering what to do, usually because my husband works the day and then an hour and a half overtime.  I feel more lonely on less meds. I really have no friends in town, other than some little old ladies from church.  How I would love an artist friend.

So I've started going downtown in the afternoons, (downtown is two blocks from my house) after making art and then some rest, and bringing a book to a coffeehouse.  I have a great library of art books.  I need to get out and be with people.  It kinda sucks that I'm not actually having a conversation with anyone, but it is some food for the soul just to be in human company.  I drink coffee and look at my art book.  Sneak peeks at people.  Its not an exciting life, but I've designed all my theatrics to center around art creation.  Isolation, craziness, and art.  And my husband and my animals.  My siblings and parents on the distant outside circles of my peculiar, mentally ill life.  I don't know if it is heaven or hell.  Sometimes it feels like one, sometimes like the other.  And it can flip flop in the course of three hours.

Since I made that last drawing I've been rather dry creatively.  It seems it took a lot out of me.  I've tried to start another drawing but all I can see is the imagery of what I've just completed.  Its like it is burned into my mind.  And I worry that I can't do better, or at least, equal.  It is really hard to give the drawing away, especially since I don't know if it will be liked or appreciated.  I want to keep it.  I have a spot in my bedroom where I can hang it.  So I think I should hurry up and send it away before I lose the battle to be generous.  Just this morning I was wondering if Van Gogh's famous painting of his doctor who treated him at the insane asylum was given to the doctor as a gift.  I was betting that Van Gogh didn't give it away freely, that he was hoping to sell it.  Maybe, I wondered, if he had given art away as gifts he would not have been lead down the path to despair and shot himself.  I think it mattered to him greatly that nobody in Paris was buying his art.  His art was on display, his brother was an art dealer.  Is there a lesson, that if you give work away when you can't sell it your chances of survival in this life are better?

I like to take myself seriously.  But I can see the merit in acting like a fool.  I think too much of my pain in life is a result of taking myself too seriously.         

1 comment:

  1. Dear Karen,

    I'm sorry your painting got scratched at the framers, but I'm glad that you could fix it and that the frame really sets it off. I hope whoever you are giving The Gift to that they appreciate it and you.

    I think it is a fantastic change that you no longer have suicidal thoughts. It's strange to me to think that more medications can increase them, but then I am on a high dose of Abilify and I'm pretty sure my problems with anxiety began around the time I began taking it several years ago. So now, instead of reducing the meds, I've increased an anti-anxiety med, Buspirone, which is not addictive and doesn't interfere with the other drugs I am taking. But you also say you worry a lot, which is also anxiety. I have had the same experience with worry, that usually I worry about stupid, small things and usually it works out fine. Congratulations on dealing well with your flat tire. In time you may be able to talk yourself out of worry. I find I can do that on occasion.

    You say that you are sleeping less each night. My sleep cycles seem to shift even on the medications. Lately I've been staying up till 3:30 am. I'm keeping an eye on it. It might have to do with drinking coffee to ward off depression, but I don't do that every day.

    I wish you could have an artist friend in your town, too! Have you ever thought of taking an art class? I know you've taken writing classes, but drawing and painting classes are quite a different experience. In some places there are gatherings with a nude model and everyone contributes $5 or so to pay the model, so it's very relaxed. I miss going to open sketch classes like that. What fun to see all the styles that get drawn from the one model in one position! It's very meditative. At first it's like going to that coffee house with a book and soaking up being around people, but there's more room to get to know others in a sketch class because everyone's work is out and open to view. By the way, I think it is great that you've been going to that coffee shop. I do that once in a while around here. Maybe I should try it again?

    The flip flopping heaven or hell thing sounds like the essence of a mood disorder, so this must not be so strange except maybe the heaven part has gotten a bit sweeter on less medication? I sink into depression and anxiety, but it never gets as bad a hell. And I have my good days and sometimes that comes close to Nirvana. Did you know that, according to the Buddha and Buddhist philosophy, Nirvana is always a part of the present moment even when you're in a hellish state? I think that's fascinating and that's the mystery of being alive, heaven and hell can be side by side, but it also implies that heaven is always within reach, if you can detach from your ego orientation.

    I think most of us take ourselves seriously, which is why humor is so refreshing and healing. When I get too serious, I make myself smile and think of one of the Buddhist mind training slogans: "Always maintain only a joyful mind." Smiling really helps, though it feels awkward at first, but that shifts into relaxation.

    Good for you for keeping track of your symptoms and writing about it. I think you have to expect various changes as you readjust to less medication. All in all, you sound great. Less negative, more balanced.

    Love Kate : )


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