The Post-Psychosis Universe, Part II

“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

The Post-Psychotic Universe, Part I

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.

The Post-Psychotic Universe, Part III

Advertisements

The Post-Psychotic Universe, Part I

“It’s funny
But it’s true
And it’s true
But it’s not funny
Time comes and goes
All the while
I still think of you
Some things last a long time” — Daniel Johnston

So, I created this blog today partly because I had a moment where I was like “damn I really want to write about this specific thing, but if I make too many long-ass Facebook posts about swimming in the black sea, people are gonna burn out and also think that I’m still delusional, so maybe I should put it somewhere else.” Voila, blawg. Also: “swimming in the black sea” = what most people would refer to as a psychotic episode. I don’t really know what to call it. Psychosis is a very simple, one-dimensional word for an experience that was neither simple nor one-dimensional. What I generally go with when talking to others is “religious experience” but that sounds incredibly corny for something deep and terrifying and profound. I haven’t quite worked out the language on all this, is my point. We’ll get to that. Eventually. Not tonight.

What I want to talk about tonight is the aftermath, because last night I was drunk in someone’s kitchen and there was this verbal game people were playing and I told someone I couldn’t play the game because of the Rules. The guy I was talking to took it in stride, he knows a bit about my story, but I think maybe this was the first time I mentioned the Rules, and I realized how like brutally weird and complex it is to try to explain the Rules while I’m drunk in someone’s kitchen, so I just tried to kind of drop it by saying something about how “the things that I say out loud actually matter” and that was that. But it brought up a lot of memories that I’ve been sorting through, and I want to write about what happened after the main event, so to speak.

There are phases to this thing — in chronological order, which I may write about in more detail later, if the words come:
Phase 1 was the leadup, which I remember as lasting about two weeks. Occasional hallucinations/delusional thought patterns. It was subtle enough that it just felt like I’d kind of…leveled up?
Phase 2 was active psychosis. This lasted three days. I wasn’t eating or sleeping or doing much other than pattern chasing and reading David Foster Wallace.
Phase 3 started with a blackout and was the truly hairy part, where all I could do was basically scream word salad about what was going on in my head. That lasted maybe…two days? The blackout is, in my mind, the event that broke my life in half — a rebirth.

Phase 4 is the beginning of what I want to talk about. About two days after the blackout, I’d regained enough control to be able to communicate, a little bit, and I was putting most of my energy into trying to get out of the hospital, because even the nicest psychiatric hospitals are really not awesome places for a person who’s experiencing heavy delusion and paranoia. It’s like, hey, you’re right, there ARE people who are constantly watching you, day and night! You totally called it when you said the shadowy figures were trying to test new mind-altering substances on you! That whole thing about how someone was trying to lock you up so they could control every aspect of your life right down to the food you eat, that sure was prescient! One of my delusions had to do with this being a “control/test universe” that I was literally central to, and that this was the point where decisions were being made about how to make changes to said universe. The thing with pattern seeking is that it tends to make confirmation bias suuuuper easy.

But so things felt really threatening inside the hospital. I was terrified of language and couldn’t control what other people would say, what they’d put on the TV. I was pretty convinced TV contained mind control programming triggers and could not be in the dayroom if the TV was on. I just needed to be out of there. I was trying to read books, I had a box of crayons, a bunch of my books now have color coded crayon highlights in them. I can still tell you what they mean. That was a really nice thing Past Me did to make deciphering my notes easier for Present Me. But mostly what I felt was blind terror that I wasn’t in a spiritually sterile environment. The blackout had put my mind, heart, and soul through the car wash, and all I could see in the hospital was how infected other people were. I had to get out. It would be hard to overstate how frightening and difficult those last three days in the hospital were.

(as an aside, because I just made the executive decision that I’m gonna break this up into two separate posts so I don’t feel as guilty about my asides, this is exactly why I am so vehemently against psychiatric incarceration/involuntary commitment. Psychiatric facilities do not heal their most vulnerable patients. Basically this is a rant for another day (I have so many of them, I know) but holy hell when you put a bunch of people experiencing extreme states into the same facility, states tend to get more extreme, belief system damage gets done. I was soooo suggestible when I was going through this — we’ll get to that in part two — but yeah. That’s one reason out of like five hundred that I’m against involuntary, and I’ll go into this more if I write a post about the process of liberation.)

Once I was out, I went on a language fast. It didn’t start out that way. Obviously there was a good deal of Good vs Evil stuff going on in my head; I decided that the safest thing to do to avoid spiritual infection was to cut TV, movies, and books, and only listen to music made by people of faith. I tried that for a couple days and after having a total freak out moment spotting the Shroud (kind of a mental personification of Evil, remind me to go into it later) in a pretty bland Christian song, I said fuck all this and only listened to like, Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky. No words. I had to be really careful about conversations, partly because I could be infected/programmed/triggered by someone speaking words to me, partly because one of the commands I was being given repeatedly was DO NOT SPEAK OF THIS.

Oh yeah and that’s part of why I’m trying to write all this out. Because the gag order’s finally been lifted enough for me to put it down in words without it sounding like meaningless word salad, and because there’s no longer the threat of reprisal if I talk about it. There were specific threats given if I revealed things. I’d get visions of horrible things that were definitely gonna happen, and I’d understandably get broken up and cry in horror because it was shit like “oh hey that webcomic your teenage sister loves has embedded a suicide trigger in her mind and when she gets to the last frame, she’ll kill herself.” And but if I said something to this sister, like begging her through my tears, please do not read that webcomic anymore, it’s infected, it’s bad, bad things will happen, the vision would change — “DO NOT SPEAK OF THIS. Keep talking and she’ll kill someone else you love before she kills herself.” So I’d cut myself off and just curl up into a ball crying, and teenage sister would be like, no wait, you can talk to me, I’m listening, don’t cry, just tell me what’s wrong. Just talk to me. Just tell me what’s bothering you.

And of course the answer was just, I can’t. This happened over and over and over. DO NOT SPEAK OF THIS. At first it was incredibly difficult. I was so afraid of this impending doom that I seemed to be making worse with my clumsy attempts to SPEAK OF IT, and even when I did break down and try to talk about what was happening in my mind, it was like the words went through some kind of filter and came out mangled and didn’t express what I was trying to say. Eventually I got used to the gag order. Life got easier when I followed it — if I stayed quiet about my mind’s state, people didn’t stare at me or get condescending. In a way, DO NOT SPEAK OF THIS was the first real Rule. What I learned: following the Rules means that life gets easier, you aren’t seen as a crazy person, you can function and stay alive.

It was during this phase that I told my mother that I would never kill myself and made her promise that if it ever appeared that I had committed suicide, she would do everything she could to make certain that my murder would be fully investigated. It was during this phase that a person who was not close to me got it in their head that I was possessed by a demon and was so forceful in their insistence that they kind of Inceptioned me and I found it difficult to shake that idea over the next…year. Or two. Good vs Evil, man. You can’t shake archetypes. This is also the phase that I have the fewest clear memories of. The court-mandated medication I was taking caused brain fog and fatigue like nothing I’d ever experienced before. I did almost nothing but sleep.

But so I finally hashed out a way to kind of talk around the shit in my head. DO NOT SPEAK OF THIS, but you can sort of hack away at it by using movie references and lines from songs, and to this day I make an embarrassing amount of movie references in casual conversation because I kinda linguistically imprinted on them during that time. I don’t remember which friend of mine happened upon this technique for getting bits and pieces past the gag order, but bless ’em, because I have no idea how I would have gotten through if not for that. For example — “So, the Shroud? It’s like in Phineas and Ferb, when Candace is about to bust her brothers, and she drags her mom into the back yard immediately after Dr. Doofenschmirtz has removed all evidence of whatever it was they were working on. It was just there, she knows it was just there, but when she tries to point it out to her mom, she just looks like she made the whole thing up. When I try to show you the Shroud, it hides.”

That’s basically still the best explanation I’ve got for the Shroud, by the way.

This all culminated with the Super Bowl, which is like a whole other tale that isn’t worth going into right now. What matters in this context is that all these dark messages about the world ending and terrible things happening and people dying and infection through TV etc kind of all led to the idea that some sort of Lullaby-esque culling song was gonna be broadcast during the Super Bowl and that if I just got the message to the right person, they’d be able to put a stop to it. And hey! Nobody actually died because of the Super Bowl broadcast that year, so I was finally able to breathe a sigh of relief. This was the final test. I passed, right? Right.

Wrong. But I feel like 2k words is a good stopping point for a single entry, so I’ll come back to this with part 2.

The Post-Psychosis Universe, Part II

The Post-Psychotic Universe, Part III

I made this blog today

Hey friends! I write a lot about mental health stuff and sometimes when I do that, people are like hey can I share this with people? and yeah, I’m always good with that, but also I’m kinda really uncomfortable with the idea of having random facebook posts shared who knows where, plus then it’s super hard to go back and find older stuff I’ve written. So I’m making another attempt at BLAWGIN’ — I’ve always failed at it before because I suck at current technology and forget to update. So uh, we’ll see how this goes. I’m gonna try to backdate shit so it ends up in the order I wrote it, but also I really hate wrestling with wordpress sooooo, whatevs. If you do cite/share this, it’d be cool if you dropped a comment. And if you feel like commenting for whatever other reason, please remember that I am a person and I have lots of feelings and some of the stuff posted here is quite personally revealing, so maybe try to have some grace and remember that we all come from different places. I will extend the same respect to you. Cool! Let’s talk about minds.

Woke up this morning to one of my sisters having an emotional moment over a class discussion of psychosis. She was really disturbed to find that the whole discussion centered around violence, with the teacher reinforcing the idea that people experiencing psychosis are unsafe, dangerous, likely to harm others.
Like I know that to some extent, talking about my own experience of psychosis makes people really uncomfortable. Most of the time I won’t use clinical terms like psychosis, delusion, etc because it does not feel accurate to what happened in my mind. When I do describe that instance as a mental health crisis, I do it for this reason — so that anyone who really hears me will have a chance to learn that public perception of psychosis is largely incorrect. That’s why I’m so open about it in the first place. It’s a big part of why I wrote Love & Semiotics.
I mean literally everyone has seen a headline about a person who Went Crazy and killed someone. It’s become this very convenient scapegoat for acts of violence that may have roots that are more difficult to face. “You’d have to be seriously disturbed to take human lives this way” — or, you know, hate crimes exist. But we keep trying to paint the Dylan Roofs and Elliot Rodgers of the world as bonkers because really looking at the racism and misogyny of our culture is not comfortable. It’s easier to say that you’ve gotta have a broken brain to do something like that.
Because this gets reinforced in every aspect of culture that relates to extreme states like psychosis. People with a different relationship to reality are constantly used as killer characters in fiction. At one point, Mychal and I tried to make a list of all media with schizophrenic characters that are portrayed as human, complex, nonviolent. We came up with only one example. This is a spectrum, of course — some movies etc get closer to the truth, but with psychotic people often being killed with abandon simply because nobody gets what it’s like unless they’re on the inside, closer doesn’t cut it anymore.
So maybe you want to know the truth, maybe you are a cool woke person who doesn’t conflate Shyamalan films with reality? OK, then I’ll tell you.
One of the defining characteristics of psychosis is fear. The idea of a total break from reality is absurd, we still see and hear and touch the world around us. But at the same time, you have these things that you Know. The thing about delusion is that you cannot fight it off by denying it. It sweeps you away and pushes all other truth to justify itself or become irrelevant. It is so strong and perfect in its certainty that the rest of reality has no choice but to mold itself around the unreal. My main thing when I was in it was the idea that I was finding secret messages everywhere. Like that scene in A Beautiful Mind where John Nash believes he’s breaking codes for the government? That’s somewhat accurate (but don’t get me started on how bad that movie is).
I would be reading a book and it was like the book I was reading had a second meaning hidden underneath the text. I could read a page, find the second meaning, it made total sense given the words on the page, and I’d try to talk about it and get blank stares. Or hey, that isn’t real. It’s not real. But in those moments, the absolute, vital, profound truth was that I had stumbled on this vast thing, and so the rest of reality had to bow down. Clearly if this other person doesn’t understand the messages, that must mean that I either have special abilities, I am a genius, or my apartment is haunted by the novelist’s ghost, right? These are the only options, because the messages are real, they’re right in front of my eyes, they connect, nothing has ever been this real before. And reality bows down.
But you get enough people telling you it isn’t real, you see the way they look at you, and maybe you’ve caught a glimpse of how your eyes look, and the fear sets in. Because look; these are not circumstances with low stakes. I saw visions of suicide triggers embedded in viral videos, infections of evil in every piece of media, the inescapability of Darkness, the world coming to an end. And reality bows down. How can someone live in that world? They can’t. So obviously I have to learn to time travel. If nobody will listen, if I’m the only one who can see that this is happening, obviously everyone around me has been programmed to the point of sedation.
It’s terrifying, yo. And oh my god, these robots are some of the strongest and smartest people I know, so that means that eventually there might be something that reprograms me, so obviously I need to stay away from any media created before, like, the 1900s. Classical music it is! I listened to a lot of Vivaldi during that time. And the fear sets in. I knew with total certainty that unless I figured out how to time travel and fix things, I was going to watch every person I’d ever loved as they died. I was terrified of like, seeing a candy bar commercial and being triggered to kill my father because I looked up the word “patricide” once. I tried to isolate myself, because I never wanted to hurt anyone, I would have rather died than hurt anyone, and Knowing that the next few weeks would involve more death and blood and pain than anything you can conceive of…I was a wreck. Just terrified all the time. Hiding and weeping and shaking.
Reality shifts and bends. Truth becomes fluid, what’s True is what’s Real, or is it the other way around? If I wear a hat, it will protect me from Them seeing my thoughts. Twenty minutes later: if I wear a hat, it is a marker, which signals to Them that my thoughts are accessible. Take the hat off. Wait, I have something I want Them to know. Put it back on. Take it off. But now I’m unprotected. Hat on. Hat off. Rinse, repeat.
These examples may not make a lot of sense on the surface. What I’m trying to say is: it is the scariest thing, you can’t fight it, it is Real.
I never felt the urge to hurt anyone. Ever. I was horrified anytime the thought occurred that I might be told to do that. Because the violent psychotic person image was told to me too. I cried for hours thinking that I’d be commanded to harm a human. I called my mom one day and sobbed on the phone saying that if I appeared to have killed myself, it was that I was murdered. I swore I would never kill myself. I never will. It’s off limits.
But reality bows down and the fear sets in. Once I came out of it, I had a year of terror, wondering in random moments how much of it was Real, if I’d died in my bed during that point where I blacked out, if I had damned myself somehow, if They had only backed off as another test and at some point I’d be back under the black sea. If I was the only thing holding reality together. If objective reality is a lie and we’re all in the God-Matrix and every person I love is just a projection of my mind. Because if none of that was real, if the realest real, the truest true was neither real nor true, what did I have left to hold onto? I spent that whole year afraid. Some of you knew me then, you remember me falling apart in conversation, you remember the fear.
Time doesn’t exist according to the Rules, but it does heal. It’s been four years and I don’t get afraid like I did anymore. Now the fear is different. Now the terrifying thing is, if I trust people with this knowledge about that time, even if words existed that could accurately show what it was that happened, even if I could entirely pin down what happened, god, you tell people this stuff and watch their eyes change as they do the math on exactly what are the odds that you’re gonna snap again and this time you’ll show up at their door with a sharp object. Because psychosis is violence as far as public perception goes, and as long as I’m open about that, there’s always gonna be a certain measure of being marked as crazy, dangerous, this unknown factor.
And this summer two people I love had similar experiences and I watched as they were quarantined and chemically lobotomized, and I saw the fear in them as they tried to piece together what Real is, and if Real even exists, and I never felt at risk. Because I know. I know that the reason your eyes look different when you’re psychotic is that you’re seeing into a different dimension and that requires a totally different kind of focus. I know that when you steal a sheet of patient photos from the nurses’ station it’s because it deeply bothers you that y’all are under observation. You just want to protect all of us who can’t see the danger. You’re afraid, you’re so afraid because you see the flames that everyone else denies, and it’s an incredibly heavy burden to carry, because you know that if anyone is gonna survive this, it’ll be because you personally carried them to safety.
A few weeks ago a completely innocuous bar conversation about TV led to a stranger with a gift for knowing the right questions getting a really rough outline of that time in my life and I felt that fear again, like how am I being perceived, and usually I try to dismiss it, but I got this flash of the fear I felt when I was half a continent away from my friend and someone called the cops on him while he was “out of touch with reality” and I just had this blind panic because cops kill my people all the time. Because y’all think we’re killers, that getting reality kind of scrambled automatically unlocks some kind of primal craving for violence.
I need you to know that you’re wrong. That what healthcare providers are being taught is wrong. That the truth is a person experiencing psychosis is far more likely to kill themselves than someone else. The fear is so overwhelming, guys. You’ve never felt existential horror like this, ever. And it feels like forever, and nobody understands, and everyone you’re trying to save just sees you as a threat. Suicide looks like a good exit strategy when faced with the idea that you might never come back from the fear. The professionals I saw during that time were a joke. None of them had any idea how to communicate through the fear and the darkness. They repeatedly asked, in different ways, if the people in my life were safe from me. My safety was not a factor.
I’m telling you all this because if you believe me, if you know me and see this newfound stability I’ve achieved, I need you to help out a little and start telling people to go fuck themselves when a new mass shooter gets a postmortem diagnosis and someone clicks their tongue and asks how insane do you have to be to take human lives this way? I need you to see through the bullshit of Criminal Minds and CSI. I need you to recognize that states like this are complex states of being, and what we’re treating as a fast track to mass murder can be one of the most profoundly healing experiences a human being can have. I would be dead if those books hadn’t started speaking back. I can say that with total certainty.
I need you to know better and to help other people know better as well, because it’s not like what you see in newspapers and on TV. I’ll swallow whatever you think of me personally, I know at this point I’m a total mad pride loudmouth who’s maybe got a bit too much of a bug about drug treatment. I don’t care if you don’t like me, find me abrasive and uncomfortable. But fuck you, teacher in my sister’s class, I was never violent, and all the people I’ve known who have had experience with psychosis would be horrified at the idea of harming someone, especially in that state. Hashtag burn the goddamn stigma to the ground, or whatever. My sis had to walk out of class because she was so upset about the discussion she heard. I’m asking, since you’ve got less of a dog in this race, even if you just speak up quietly and mention you know this one person and their experience was nothing like that, if you can find that courage, it would be nice.
Who knows, maybe once we quit blaming the crazies for all this violence, we can start getting to the roots of why people actually kill each other, and maybe we’ll live in a better world.