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.