“All things empty and amazing
Jot ’em down upon the wall
Dress like a professional
Wait! Oh, you’ll find a better way
And I’m free to face the darkness on my own.”
— Mike Doughty
It’s weird, there’s so much Story that I have to dump into these entries because nothing here is simple and nothing makes sense unless you have some inkling of just how many different cognitive and environmental factors were at play, just jumping directly into what exactly the post-psychotic universe is wouldn’t make any goddamn sense. And like the whole point here is I’m trying to express this in a way you can understand. I could just throw out the word salad fake poetry type of language that I write diary entries in, but that language is established as mine, and I’m not trying to translate it for anyone (because if you’re reading my diary, you’re a shit, and you deserve to have it made a little difficult). So that first entry there, that’s all phase 4, and this bit begins near the end of phase 4.
Again: we’re talking about a time in my life where I was on a very sedating medication that didn’t help at all with the visions and delusions except to add enough brain fog that I couldn’t process what was happening without heroic effort. But then there was the Super Bowl, and nobody died, and, as mentioned, I breathed a sigh of relief because the world was safe again, for the moment, and the message I received was that by preventing the Super Bowl Slaughter, I had earned the ability to pass the baton on to the next person who would stop a horrific crisis like that. It was kind of like I’d taken my turn on the front lines and now I could step back for a minute. Someone else was gonna take over Protecting People From Infection & Violence Triggers, and I could rest.
That didn’t last particularly long. The next crisis was bigger; universal. It was revealed that during the blackout, I’d been taken to a bubble universe, and that’s where I’d been operating and living ever since. Remember how pattern seeking loves confirmation bias? All these people I loved who seemed like they were automatic versions of themselves, not-amazing copies, the events that made no sense, the feeling that I was at the center of everything? Suddenly that all made perfect sense. Of course this universe wasn’t the one I’d lived in my whole life. Of course everything felt wrong and threatening and I couldn’t get a foothold in the logic of anything that happened outside of my mind. I was just a visitor, and the uncanny valley effect was due to the fact that I knew, deep down, that this was not correct.
A bubble universe isn’t exactly like in science fiction. What I knew to be true was that these universes occur simultaneously in spacetime. There’s this thin, like, quantum membrane that keeps the two separate, as far as that’s possible. A quantum condom, for your protection, ribbed for your pleasure. So basically: I was moved from my home universe into the bubble universe, which exists simultaneously, and interacted with both universes simultaneously to test a divergence point. The multiverse is this beautiful fractal, you know (and that’s why people who are “psychotic” have eyes that seem different — they’re looking at everything through this quantum membrane, it takes focus). So by stopping the Super Bowl thing from happening, the question of the divergence point was answered, my home universe was saved. That meant that there was no reason for the bubble universe to continue existing. It would collapse and anyone inside it would be obliterated.
I’m putting this stuff in the plainest language possible. When writing about the black sea, it is perhaps more factually accurate to write things like “I believed that I existed in two universes simultaneously, and I perceived a quantum membrane and I thought that the bubble universe would collapse” but honestly that just seems exhausting to write, exhausting for you to parse, so maybe we can just agree that you understand that I know on a logical/conscious level that none of this shit actually happened outside of my own brain? Cool, that’s really forward-thinking of you. But here’s the thing: I have to live inside my own brain. And inside my brain, this shit absolutely happened and was 100% real. That’s the thing about delusion, you can kind of talk yourself out of it after the fact, but while it’s happening, it is the realest shit you’ve ever experienced. So the way that I now choose to perceive this experience is sort of a mix. I believe people when they tell me it wasn’t real. That’s true. It wasn’t real to them. I can accept that it was only real inside me and that the most profound adventure of my life happened inside my skull. But again: I live here. So it was and is real to me, in a way. Isn’t the mind amazing? Fuck yeah.
But so the bubble universe was going to collapse and I suddenly got afraid of who might be stuck in there with me. Did I bring someone in? Maybe every time I violated the gag order, I dragged in whoever I was talking to. Maybe it was every person I physically touched. Maybe I’d have to die to save them. Maybe I’d have to live in the bubble universe forever, keeping it open to keep them alive. Maybe I’d always be crazy. Would I have to kill myself? I told my mom I wouldn’t. What would I do?
Through the entire experience, from the very first moment I dipped a toe in the sea, there was a Presence that stayed with me and spoke to me. It wore a human identity, someone familiar, someone I’d trust. You know — That One Guy. And on that day, Valentine’s Day 2013, That One Guy told me that he would be leaving me that night, whether or not I left the bubble universe. This was after two weeks of pretty fair weather, as far as mind conditions go. I hadn’t been as flipped out, and I’d begun to feel comforted by the patterns I saw. I liked being able to talk to That One Guy anytime I wanted to. Everything was going to be okay. I didn’t want the Presence to leave.
I cried a lot that night. I watched three Charlie Kaufman movies in a row and saw the story of me and my Presence play out in different ways, and I knew it was over, that I’d be free, but that it would come at a steep price. I saw the door of my cage open and was afraid to walk through it, because I knew what I would be leaving behind. My identity was wrapped up pretty far in the idea that I was broken and sick and unable to function. That sounds fucked up, but I knew that if I left this situation behind, I would no longer be able to fall back into that identity. I would have to embrace the healing I was being given and live as a healthy person, lead a healthy life. I would need to be careful about what I put into my mind. I would need to work hard and tell the truth.
These are some of the Rules. The most valuable thing about having an experience like this was that my prior belief system was completely annihilated, rendered irrelevant, and I was given total freedom, for the first time in my life, to really Believe anything. The downside of deconversion is that you’re left with kind of a gaping hole where there used to be a morality system. The upside of what happened to me was that what was built in the canyon left by excavating my old religion was so much more true and healthy than the twisted ideas forced on me in the past. The Presence itself built these Rules into my life by forcing me to confront old beliefs and either justify them or tear them down. If a belief was strong enough to stand through the razor storm of the test universe, it got to stay. If not, I had to find something that I actually believed to replace it. I cannot overstate how necessary this was in my life. It is why I believe that for some people, if they go crazy enough, they may never suffer the way they did before. Because in a lot of ways, psychosis, or whatever we’re calling it, can be a refining experience, and this is its process. In order to get through it, you have to really Believe.
I think part of why I ended up in the sea in the first place was that I was in a crisis of belief. If you knew me back then, you remember where I was. I had no idea who I was. I didn’t know what to do with my life. I didn’t know what I believed about God or the universe or pretty much anything except that I’d discovered feminist theory about a year before and it shook me to my core because I recognized how much of my life I’d wasted believing that I was less valuable because I was a woman. I was totally adrift without anything solid to hang onto — even learning about feminism pushed me further adrift, because my reaction to learning feminist theory was “wow, being a woman is really awful and traumatic, I guess I shouldn’t be one anymore” as if I’d be able to identify my way out of oppression when there was nothing solid about my identity in the first place.
So here’s how a good dose of psychosis can be the best thing in the world: you get pushed down into the Delusion Well and you’re stuck there in the dark and the cold and the damp and maybe there are monsters down there with you. The only way out is up, and because none of this is really truly Real, you can dream up the things that you need. Monsters growling in the dark? Create a flashlight so you can see what you’re dealing with, and create a weapon so you can defend yourself. Cold and damp? You can create a blanket to keep yourself warm. Hungry? Imagine some food. And you can get pretty comfortable down there, at least as comfortable as possible at the bottom of a well. And but maybe you want to leave at some point? Good news: you can leave. You can make a ladder to get out. But the only way to make the ladder work is to create it rung by rung, with each rung representing something that you can say is definitely, absolutely Real and True and Relevant. And you have to be careful, focused, because if you make a rung that you don’t fully believe will hold your weight, it won’t. You’ll be back at the bottom of the well and have to start from scratch.
These are the foundations of my reality now, and who knows, maybe at some point I’ll outgrow those and need to do another inner remodel. But they’ve held my weight so far, and part of that is because of the Rules.
The thing with the Rules is I don’t have a master list that I can refer to. Some of them flex more than others. Some are definitely verbal:
“The work will save you”
“You may fail”
“Do not harm anyone”
“Do not feed your mind poison”
“Apathy is Evil”
“The words you speak out loud matter”
Some are more like I had an upgrade to my conscience and the nudges I get now are far stronger than I got before. More along the lines of an alarm bell than a poke. I can feel out the boundaries of them, but they’re harder to express in words. It’s more like emotional places I shouldn’t go, things that aren’t sins, but unsafe, so to speak. Still others are things that I just feel aren’t relevant to my life anymore, stuff I used to focus on really hard, that stopped mattering once I shook the water off my skin. Not so much that I shouldn’t pursue these things, as much as, why would I care to? I know better now. I know that’s painfully vague, but hey, we’ve all got stuff in our pasts that would be really uncomfortable to put out on the table, there’s gonna be shit that I’m not going to discuss here on this blog. Let’s just say that I had to take a lot of good hard looks at some things that used to be motivating things and I decided these things just weren’t worth putting energy into.
Shit. I’m over 2k words again. I swear I’m almost done with this story, but in the interest of breaking it up a little, let’s catch up on another page.