Beings and The Thing

Many people have asked me to write about the Beings and The Thing.  I am only now beginning to be able to write about them effectively.  This video illustrates what it can be like living with Evil Beings:

Click here 

The Thing was worse.

Sometimes I try to write about The Thing and the Evil Beings try to interfere.  It can get very complicated.

Now I really feel like God

http://local.live.com/?v=2&style=h&lvl=10&sp=adr.100%20Warren%20St.%20Watertown%2002472

The large, two-section, four and five story building in the middle is mine.   My apartment (from which I am writing to you now) is in the right, five story section, the “B” side.  If you listen closely–yes, put your ear very, very close to your computer monitor–you can hear QB sighing in his sleep.

God

10/21/2006


 



GOD


 



I’ve been sitting here at the library for two hours staring at a blank document and–nothing.  My intention was to write a follow-up to the past two entries.  There are many possibilities but maybe I wanted to talk about God for a little while.


 


I often doubt that there is a god.  God is that doubt.  God is the contradiction.  God is the love marbled into my self-hatred.


 


If I’m tail-chasing, God is not the tail; rather, God is the never-catching Verb.


 


I prick my thumb with a pen nub.  God laughs.


 


My hands and I are trickling along a spiral.  I’m slinking toward God, God that stings like fresh lavender.


 


Flush with pink, I slide a finger over the threshold.  God wipes it away.  Again, I present to God a fleshy finger, a second offering.  God denies it.


 


God denies me everything: honesty, faith, hope, love.  God thrusts the curtain shut, and in a flash there is nothing but darkness, blood, vermin.


 


In the darkness, I do not have a tail to chase.  I only have the tiny, soft hairs on God’s skin, oh rapture–


 


On the verge, God’s agony smashes mine, and a third offering brings God to a roar.


 


 

More….When will I ever learn????

10/20/2006


 


WHEN, OH WHEN WILL I EVER LEARN?


 



Like hell practice makes perfect!  I haven’t learned a goddamn thing after all these years of being a mental case!  I still want to do things my way, never listening to anyone else, always the risk-taker, always the fool.  Here is the lesson, encapsulated:


 


IF doctor says, “Take your medicine.” THEN take your medicine.


IF doctor says, “Take an extra pill.” THEN take an extra pill.


IF doctor says, “IF you’re having symptoms, THEN take an extra pill.”


AND you are having symptoms (such as paranoia or racing thoughts or voices)


THEN you sure as hell better take extra Thorazine!


 


But me?  Naw.  Did I think I was above all that?  Did I think I could overcome my problems without the extra Thorazine?  I wasn’t very creative with my excuses this time: “It makes me sleepy.”  “I don’t like taking it.”  “I forgot to take it.”  “I didn’t have any water to take it with.”  My friend Joshua looked at me–even the dog looked at me, shook his head, and sighed.


 


How about, “Thorazine’s an ugly color.”  “It tastes like hog piss.”  “I’m allergic to the yellow dye in it.”  “I can’t stand the artificial sweetener in the coating.”  “Spell-check won’t accept it.”


 


But no, I went along my self-deluded way, trying to deal with Evil bare-fisted.  Evil almost beat me down, my dog was trying to dig me out of the Pit of Hell (nipped me a few times in the process) and then swoop! along comes Dr. P little miss deus ex machina who I see for all of 20 minutes once every three weeks or so; she pops a little Thorazine gem into my mouth that melts and the sky opens up and GOD HERSELF speaks to me, saying,


 


“Julie, take the fucking Thorazine.”


 


“Y-y-y-yes–”  I suddenly realized I was topless.


 


“Julie, take the fucking Thorazine.”  It was Dr. B, his face puffed out about five times the size it should be.   


 


“What the–okay, okay, I’ll take it.  Just leave me alone.  I said I’ll take it.  Okay?”


 


“Julie, take the fucking Thorazine.”


 


How I landed in Dr. R’s office I still haven’t a clue, but my shirt was back on.  The clock read noon, and correspondingly, church bells outside on Bow Street chimed the hour.  Dr. R closed her appointment book.  “Then I’ll see you Tuesday,” she said.


 


“Yes, and I won’t forget to take extra if I need it,” I said.


 


“Keep up the good work.”


 


“I’ll give him a nice petting for you.”


 


Popping pills isn’t as bad as psychosis.  It gets tiring at times.  Still, I wish I’d stuck a pin in Dr. B’s inflated head when I’d had the chance.

Dog knows best

10/19/2006


 


WHY, OH WHY DIDN’T I LISTEN TO MY DOG?


 



Why did I listen to the Beings instead? 


 


QB told me, in every doggie way he could, that I needed to take my PRN (meaning, “as needed”) medication, Thorazine 100 mgs.  First, he bit me.  That should have been enough of a message.  I took a PRN and he bit me again, meaning that I needed more.  I didn’t follow through.  QB became as aggressive as he’s ever been, barking at one thing after another, attacking tree trunks and telephone poles, and of course, me.  He threatened to kill the janitor guy in our building even though he wasn’t vacuuming or picking up trash–QB wanted to kill him simply because he existed.


 


The Beings ran rampant, and depression took hold.  I stumbled through each day sleepily following the commands and non-commands of the Beings.  Yes, it’s true, I could easily enough have taken one or two Thorazine tablets to eradicate the Beings, but I didn’t.  First, the Beings erased the idea of taking Thorazine from my mind.  Second, they erased the idea entirely from existence.  The verb “to swallow” and the noun “Thorazine” could not coexist in the same sentence. 


 


QB did what he could, biting me a total of four times, and nipping several more times.  My friend Joshua, who has correctly interpreted QB’s strange signals more often than not, urged me to take a PRN, but the Beings erased Joshua’s words before they got from my ears to my brain. 


 


Sleep became not only necessary, but a desirable I hated, as was eating.  I slept about 11 hours a night and frequently added a two-hour nap when I could in the afternoon.  I dragged through each day ready for bed as soon as I woke up in the morning, ready to eat as soon as I put my fork down at the end of a meal, if I had a meal at all; most of the time I ate a half gallon of ice cream in one sitting, once or twice a day.  I held the jug in my lap and dug into the soft ice cream with a large spoon, over and over while the Beings cheered me on. 


 


By Tuesday (two days ago) I was ready to die.  I figured that if I were dead, the Beings wouldn’t be able to torture me anymore.  As I trudged down Lexington Street for the zillionth time, I prayed that I would disintegrate and be absorbed into the sidewalk.  Later, as I sat at the computer, I imagined myself dying and becoming a tuft of grass.  Beings can’t destroy grass; nothing can destroy it, I thought, and then a Microsoft Calendar reminder popped up to remind me that I had an appointment with Dr. P the next day, Wednesday, which was yesterday, at 9am.


 


How Dr. P, my psychiatrist, manages to knock sense into me when no one else can is beyond me.  Maybe it’s her clipped, self-assured manner.  Or maybe it’s because she’s got the M.D. after her name.  I briefly told her my situation, as best as I could, while she scurried among my records, then she looked up at me, nibbled on the cap of her blue Bic pen, and said, “Julie, I really think you need to take some of that extra PRN Thorazine.”


 


Knee-jerk response: “It makes me sleepy.”


 


Dr. P scribbled in her notes for a minute.  When she wears skirts, I can’t help but glance at her legs, which are incredibly muscular.  Whatever she does at the gym I’m sure would put me to shame, and the awe and distraction I feel is intensified when her arms, too, are bare. 


 


I quickly looked down at my feet.  She said, “You know it’s better to be sleepy than to have symptoms.”


 


“QB has bitten me so far four times.”


 


Dr. P removed her reading glasses with a twist of her hand.  I could see a piece of her hair caught in the frames.  “Well, then, there you have it.” 


 


I took both PRN’s yesterday, and felt a hell of a lot better by evening.  I decided to look over some papers for graduate school.  The Beings were furious at this, but already I had my weaponry against them!  This morning I awoke and felt as though I had another chance at life. 


 


Why didn’t I listen to my dog in the first place?  For 13 days, the Beings tortured me.  Those were 13 days I could have spent writing, 13 days I could have been happy, 13 days I lived my life the old way, the way I lived when my medications were not right.  QB’s bites were not lacerations; there will be no scars, there were only small breaks in the skin to remind me: Don’t go back there, not even for a visit.


 


 

Prozac Puppy

waiting for walk

10/14/2006

PROZAC PUPPY

Here at my little hideaway at the library, I am seated near the “dog” books again, and I happened to pick up one on dog behavior treatment. I leafed through the last chapter, which included drug treatment, and I noted with amusement that the author had listed many of the psychotropic medications that I had taken in the past, almost as if he’d copied the list from the Physician’s Desk Reference. Then the author presented the list again, pared down to only the drugs used for dogs, Prozac among them.

QB started taking Prozac on Tuesday. His aggressiveness has gone a step too far. He bit me three times within two weeks while we were out on walks. I didn’t do anything. I just happened to be in the middle, while he barked at the offending object–twice other dogs, once a guy carrying tires (yes, the kind you put on cars)–and he became overstimulated, snarling and carrying on, and bit me. Dr. Marder, his behavior specialist, said this was no accident. QB did not want to be dominated at that moment. Also, QB has shown unusual hostility toward children, and frankly, I’m scared. I’m scared of what QB might do to someone–some stranger in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Dr. Marder told me that the only significant side effect of Prozac was decreased appetite. QB is taking 10 mgs daily, quite a dose for a 29-pound dog! The capsules are sea green and cost about a dollar apiece. I sneak the medication into his kibble breakfast and add Iams Savory Sauce, in the flavor of the week–this week is bacon–along with his vitamins. I’m guessing he likes his Prozac because it gets eaten fairly early in the meal.

Prozac isn’t the only med QB takes. He also gets Benadryl at night, which he takes with a gob of peanut butter. No, the Benadryl isn’t for allergies–it’s to make sure he sleeps at night.

QB and I take our bedtime pills at the same time. The alarm on my watch goes off at 7:30 sharp to remind me to get his Benadryl ready, and to take my own bedtime meds. QB, however, is cleverer than that. He starts bugging me about his Benadryl at 7:25.

Is the use of Prozac for dogs “unnatural”? Is it “cruel”? Consider this: the majority of dogs that are brought to vets for euthanasia are not old or sick, but have behavior problems. Some communities require euthanasia for dogs that attack humans. I don’t want QB to be among these unfortunate pets. I want my dog to live a normal, happy life, and if Prozac enables him to do so, then so be it.

Bus

top_pic1

BUS

When I was eight years old, my mother decided one day that she was too busy to pick me up after my piano lessons; I would have to take the bus home. I had never been on a bus before, not even a school bus, let alone ridden one without the supervision of an adult. I was a very small child who wouldn’t easily be noticed, so my mother instructed me to wave a red handkerchief at the bus when it approached, to get the bus driver’s attention. That I know of even now, this isn’t a standard technique, but it sure beats jumping in front of the bus.

I admit I was scared. Very scared. The rush hour traffic on Mass Ave whizzed by so fast that I might as well have been on a major highway. Now and then when a car passed it splashed in a puddle and I was drenched with cold, salty water. I lost my mitten twice, the second time permanently. Snots dripped down toward my upper lip. I snorted them back up but they rolled back down the groove below my nostrils. It didn’t matter. I wiped my face with my sleeve; everything was wet, anyway. I began to cry. Finally, I saw the bus.

As it approached it seemed like a great animal, an elephant, maybe; it had a face. Or a clown. It smiled at me, or, rather, sneered. Looking carefully, I noticed the rubber part of one of the windshield wipers, in desperate effort to wipe sleet and salt from the giant windshield, had torn away from the metal part and was dangling like a man hanging from the gallows, swinging this way and that, and I held my handkerchief, my mother’s red handkerchief that was now hopelessly stained, and I waited for the bus to stop.

It didn’t.

I trudged back to my piano teacher’s house. I had failed. I had failed and Mom would yell at me and call me bad. It would take hours to walk home and as a small child I didn’t have the stamina. My only hope was that I could bum a ride home, or partway home, from another piano student’s parent. Other kids’ parents were so nice, it seemed. I was always amazed that Karen M could talk to her mother like she was her friend–well, like you and I are talking now. I didn’t think mothers were supposed to be approachable and kind. But Karen M wasn’t around to rescue me now.

My piano teacher got my mother on the phone and explained the situation. “You didn’t wave it hard enough,” my mother said to me. The crackle in her voice wasn’t from the phone connection. “You need to wave it high.” As she said the word “high,” her voice became squeaky and animated. The next bus was coming in an hour and I had to repeat the same routine over again.

I repeated the same routine over again with the same results.

“I’ve called the MBTA,” my mother said, “and complained. Oh, I gave them a piece of my mind. Passing by a little girl like that. A little girl in the cold. A little girl who could have been hit by a car. A little girl who shouldn’t have had to stand there twice because some stupid, incompetent bus driver wouldn’t pick her up! Who do they think I am, some irresponsible parent? No, I gave my little girl explicit instructions, and the hanky, the hanky–you didn’t get it stained, did you?”

Nowadays I consider myself a competent rider of the MBTA system. Armed with my TAP card (for persons with disabilities) I can go anywhere I want relatively cheaply. Last night I came home rather late on the #73 bus, which was crowded and rather unpleasant-smelling; a combination of booze-breath and garlic nauseated me. As the bus rumbled closer and closer to Waverley Square, the crowd thinned out, and I saw a tiny girl with pigtails, about eight years old, snuggled in a seat, holding her toys, apparently asleep, no parent in sight. I glanced around, incredulous. This little girl was riding alone?

At Waverley, she woke with a start. I could feel her panic as she swung around.

“Mommy–”

The girl’s face eased into a smile.

Something I found in an old journal

I found 47 typed pages of an old journal and scanned them all.  Here’s a little snippet I discovered:


The following are reasons to disbelieve in God:


Life is unfair.


Bad things happen for no apparent reason.


Good things happen for no apparent reason.


Self-control is useless.


Nature is cruel.


People suffer.


It is through our suffering that we are healed.


The above are also reasons to believe, with all conviction, in the power and love of God.


 

My response

10/4/2006


 


DISCUSSION OF


MARK VONNEGUT’S SPEECH


 


I am surprised that the main argument at www.schizophrenia.com was whether Vonnegut was of the antipsychiatry camp.  He does, a couple of times, mention that he feels too much emphasis is placed on medication, but acknowledges that he himself depends on Lithium to live a normal life.  I do not believe he is against psychiatry as we know it today.


 


There are a couple of details that I would disagree with (and I’ll give Vonnegut the benefit of the doubt because his specialty is pediatrics, not psychiatry).   First of all, he states that today he would not be given the diagnosis of schizophrenia because he recovered.  Diagnosis and prognosis are two different things.  Schizophrenia is not a death sentence.


 


Vonnegut’s attempt at humor, “If nothing I say sparks any thoughts or identification, it’s possible you’re taking too much medication…” falls flat, and is somewhat insulting to those of us who take medications that are sedating.  The same goes for a later attempt at humor, the implication that an overmedicated patient can’t commit suicide because he or she is too sedated to find the gun.


 


There was much debate on www.schizophrenia.com over the statement, “Mental illness causes poverty and poverty causes mental illness.”  This is simply untrue–until, that is, one considers the possibility that what Vonnegut may be referring to is poverty of the spirit.  Here, Vonnegut contradicts the “medical model” of mental illness by stating (if I am correct) that not living well will cause illness just as chemical changes in the brain will cause illness.  It’s not a particularly radical statement and it doesn’t contradict the “medical model.”


 


I felt that for the most part, the speech was brilliant.  Vonnegut states, “I made a promise to remember and tell the truth about whatever it was that was happening to me,” and that he did in his book, and continues to do, as reflected in his speech.


 


Consider: “Make…a clear distinction between yourself and your disease and where you want to go as opposed to where your disease wants to take you.”  This sums up what I was trying to say in my entry, “Identity.”  Vonnegut goes on to say, “Doctors, therapists, medications can only be helpful when they are helping you to go where you want to go.”  There was a time that doctors were encouraging me to work.  I didn’t want to have a meaningless minimum wage job.  I wanted to go back to school (which they thought was way above my head).


 


But the real crux of the speech comes when Vonnegut talks about creativity.  I will quote the paragraph in full:


 


There’s a big difference between believing you can fly and
flying. The romance about creativity and mental illness has
come from the hard work of great artists struggling against
the illness, not giving in to it. The best defense against the
seduction that mental illness will make you creative is to
actually be creative. Please don’t give the disease that
tried to kill me credit for my writing and painting.


 


(Yes, I fixed the spelling and punctuation.)


 


The statement speaks for itself, and if the speech has a climax, and I believe speeches should have climaxes, it was at this point.


 


After, “This disease is never your friend,” I’d have left out the side issue of risky behavior, and ended quickly and a little more gracefully.

Something I found today

I ran into this at www.schizophrenia.com.  It’s old news but I thought it was interesting.  Discussion followed on the boards.  I can’t quote any of it because of the confidential nature of the boards, but I can say that there was some talk of whether Mark Vonnegut was part of the “antipsychiatry” crowd, and whether he was oversimplifying or generalizing.  Someone pointed out that the DSM definition of schizophrenia has changed since the time Mark Vonnegut was diagnosed with the illness (1970’s), and if he were diagnosed today, the DSM-IV would have him classified as bipolar.  I will give you my opinion shortly.


Mark Vonnegut Speaks at Convention

NAMI
May 17, 2003
Mark Vonnegut, M.D.

I’m happy to be here. Thirty years ago I wrote a book about
going crazy and have been trying to blend in ever since.
It’s about time I came around to see what NAMI was all
about. I don’t rush into things.

Thirty-two years ago I was diagnosed with schizophrenia but
with newer definitions my disease is more consistent with
manic depression or bipolar disease, mostly because I’ve
gotten better. These labels can be more trouble than they
are worth. There are manic depressives who don’t get well
and look more and more like chronic schizophrenics as they
go along. With the deck stacked against them, a considerable
number of schizophrenics do get better. Until we have some
unambiguous diagnostic test, we are all talking through our
hats.


Whatever the diagnosis, the care for serious mental illness
is in disarray. Meaningful leadership and reform in my
opinion is more likely to come from patients and their
families. The needs of patients and families dealing with
manic depression, schizophrenia, autism, depression,
substance abuse are very similar. We need a commitment to
improving care and the means to do so…

I’ve been lucky. I received good care early, and have had a
small number of episodes. Rather than a suicide or
chronically disabled son, brother, friend, I’m what they call
A &W, alive and well. The turn around on the investment for
recovery is substantial. I’m happily married, have a
wonderful life and three strong handsome very smart sons who
would not otherwise be. I could be dragging down a dozen or
more people.


If nothing I say sparks any thoughts or identification, it’s
possible you’re taking too much medication. If it’s the
greatest talk you’ve ever heard, you’re not taking enough.

There will be some tangential thinking and loose
associations. Being crazy has had a definite effect on how I
think. Not all of my good ideas are good.


Family history. My mother’s mother’s father was an alcoholic
who I strongly suspect drank to keep the voices away. My
grandmother was a very smart very accomplished woman who was
in and out of psychiatric hospitals much of her adult life.
She warned my mother not to marry my father because there
was instability in his family. My father’s mother who was
addicted to barbiturates and wouldn’t come out of her room
for weeks at a time and who eventually killed herself on
Mother’s day, told him the same thing. I’m the fourth
straight generation in my family of people who hear voices,
have bizarre delusional thinking and hyper-religiosity.
We’ve each saved the planed earth several times. My famous
father Kurt is not manic depressive. He’s not particularly
well, but he doesn’t hear voices or get all pumped up.


My first episode was in 1971. I believe I would have gone
crazy eventually regardless of outside events although they
were very crazy times. The assassinations of JFK, MLK, RFK.
Kent State, the music, the drugs, the counter culture… My
father, was transformed from a not very good car salesman
who couldn’t get a job teaching English at Cape Cod C.C. to
a guru super star. By the time I started hearing voices so
many other unlikely things had happened it didn’t seem out
of line. I assumed everyone was hearing voices. To try to
find out and so as to not appear unsophisticated, I remember
sitting down next to someone and saying, “So what do your
voices tell you?”

There are many people who fully recover from major psychotic
episodes and go on to live full rich lives. Most of them
choose to keep quiet about it. In the middle of my illness
when I was far from sure that I would survive, I made a
promise to remember and tell the truth about whatever it was
that was happening to me. I think it helped. For me,
remembering and trying to tell the truth is part of my
defense against this disease.

*

Thorazine, ECT, massive doses of vitamins, were the initial
medical intervention tried on me. It should be noted that
I’m a very positive person. I’ve responded positively to
virtually everything that’s been tried on me. If you
sprinkle happy dust on me, I get happy, at least for a
little while. What I loved and continue to love about the
medical model more than the actual medical means, is that
it’s hopeful. It lessens shame and blame.

Now, just about everyone accepts the medical model. We have
more effective medications with fewer side effects. I should
be happy but I find myself uncomfortable. More and more just
about all the questions and all the answers about mental
illness are about medication. Mental illness causes poverty
and poverty causes mental illness. The same is true of
trauma, prejudice, lack of education, lack of skills, loss
of spiritual values. Learning how to live well in spite of
your illness is at least as important as medication.

I saw a study the other day showing that some atypical anti-
psychotic was at least as good as mood stabilizers in
preventing suicide. It’s a very good thing to decrease
suicide but we should care at least a little if I’m not
killing myself because I feel better or if I just can’t
remember where I put the damn gun. I want patients and
families to have more power. When the interests of patients
and families are not perfectly congruent with those of the
insurance and pharmaceutical industries, the patients will
loose.

I would never advise patients to waste as much time as I do
ranting and raving about the insurance and pharmaceutical
industries. What is much more important is to make, for
yourself, in your own terms, a clear distinction between
yourself and your disease and where you want to go as
opposed to where your disease wants to take you. Doctors,
therapists, medications can only be helpful when they are
helping you go where you want to go. Otherwise all the help
is just a bunch of crap strewn around a messy room. The road
to medical school started with a job mowing lawns I was far
from sure I could handle.


People with mental illness are very much like people without
mental illness only more so. What we loose with a psychotic
episode is the comforting assurance that we can’t loose our
mind. When most people look down they see solid ground. When
I look down, I’m no so sure.


Crazy thoughts are not the problem. Everyone has crazy
thoughts. Hallucinations and delusions tend to catch the
attention but aren’t the problem. The problem is that the
world becomes discontinuous. We can’t attend to the world
and take care of ourselves. So others try to take care of us
and they do an imperfect job of it. There is no substitute
for being well.


Patients and families should not be left to play one on one
with big corporations and providers whose resources dwarf
their own. Patients and families should not have to re-
inv
ent the wheel over and over.


Even though I’ve only had 4 psychotic episodes and I am now
17 years and 4 months from my last hospitalization, I still
worry about it happening again. The bad news is that the
worry doesn’t go away. The good news is that worrying about
your mental health doesn’t have to stop you from having a
full life. I comfort myself with the knowledge that I’m a
hypochondriac in other areas. Headaches that last longer
than an hour might be brain tumors. George Gershwin died of
a brain tumor, why not me? Anxiety or chest pain might be a
heart attack. Just because they haven’t been yet, doesn’t
mean much, nor do the normal EKG’s or stress tests I’ve had.
Tests are often wrong. Doctors are all a bunch of miserable
quacks avoiding their own problems by hanging out with sick
people anyway.

My job was and remains, to be well enough to be able to
politely dis-invite the beneficent attentions of others as
many steps as possible prior to hospitalization and
involuntary medications.


It was not easy to go from being one of the seven righteous
pillars holding up the whole planet and human race to being
just another mental patient. I remember talking to a woman
who was ending racism and asking her if it was part of a
bigger program or if racism was the whole deal. As someone
who had gone back to the beginning of time and dealt with
issues of whether or not life itself was a good idea, I
wasn’t sure that just getting rid of racism was a big enough
prize.

When I got a good look at the inner workings of the universe
and sadly realized that I couldn’t go back to life on the
planet earth knowing what I knew, the voices suggested that
I could go back but it would have to be through a
psychiatric hospital with the cover story that I was crazy.
“Ya. Like who’s going to believe that?”

In the eighties when I was called out of retirement to
defeat communism, it was over my strenuous objections. “I
don’t even dislike communism all that much,” I objected. “It
seems so beside the point.” “The Republicans are going to
take credit for this and ride it into the ground,” I
correctly predicted. After winning many many preliminary
rounds which I honestly hoped I’d loose, I was smuggled into
what was thought to be just another psychiatric hospital
where the Russian bear took one look at me, declined to
dance, and the rest is history. My delusional world always
felt kind of tinny and hollow, but that never helped me get
out of it.

*

As a form of gross overcompensation with a chip the size of
Montana on my shoulder, I decided to try to go to medical
school. I applied to 21 Medical Schools. Most rejected me by
return mail, probably on the basis of my age and
undergraduate grade point average. I didn’t need a
psychiatric diagnosis to be a questionable applicant to
medical school.

I gave serious consideration to saving the $50 and not
applying to Harvard at all. I honestly think that they
admitted me partly to prove that I wasn’t schizophrenic,
partly because they thought I’d be a good doctor, and partly
just because they’re Harvard.

It’s amazing that I’ve been through what I have and practice
medicine. Today I’m glad I don’t see any particular cosmic
significance or purpose in these events. I just feel lucky.
Today it’s nice to be able to entertain odd thoughts without
having to marry them all. Thank God. I can think whatever
the hell I want. Entertaining odd thoughts won’t make you
crazy. Refusing to entertain odd thought won’t make you
well.

*

During my recovery from my last episode a very wise friend
told me that other people’s business was not my business. I
felt insulted that he bothered to tell me such an obvious
thing. He then said that what other people thought about me
wasn’t my business. Harder but still not earth shattering.
He then went on to say that what I thought wasn’t really my
business either, which has kept me puzzled ever since.

I’ve come to believe that I’m at my best and that it’s a
beautiful world when my feelings are like the weather and
that what I think is not my business.

*

A surgeon during my core surgery rotation said that he knew
who I was, but that he was going to treat me as if I were
normal. I sincerely thanked him and said I’d do my best to
act that way.

Are people who have been crazy held to unfair standards?

Of course, but it’s not in your best interest to complain.
If you’re paranoid and people are looking at you funny it’s
best to let it pass. Psychotic people have an uncanny knack
for making their own worst dreams come true. Depressing
things happen to depressed people way beyond what you would
expect from random distribution.

*

I don’t think the people today who start hearing voices,
stop eating and sleeping, and run amuck are likely to get
good treatment. Having more knowledge, better diagnostic
capabilities, better medications with fewer side effects,
can’t make up for the fact that most patients are being
treated by doctors, therapists, and hospitals, who are
operating under constraints and incentives that reward non-
treatment, non-hospitalization, non-therapy, non-follow-up,
non-care. Lost to follow-up is the best outcome a health
insurer can hope for.

I take Lithium and believe that it has saved my life. I wish
I didn’t need medication. I’m not wild about the tremor and
think I might be 20 lbs lighter without Lithium, but what I
really hate about medication is that it helps me, which
means I’m not nearly as perfect as I wish I were. I should
be able to maintain my mental health by the exertion of my
amazing will.

There’s a big difference between believing you can fly and
flying. The romance about creativity and mental illness has
come from the hard work of great artists struggling against
the illness not giving into it. The best defense against the
seduction that mental illness will make you creative, is to
actually be creative. Please don’t give the disease that
tried to kill me credit for my writing and painting.

*

Let me be clear that there’s no romance. I never want to
dance that dance again. The more times your wheels go into
that rut, the harder it’s going to be to get out. I dread
nothing more than the next break, and am certain of nothing
more than that there’s nothing positive for me in the
psychotic state.

You can’t look a the paintings of Van Gogh, and other
achievements of manic depressives without concluding that
there are positive capacities associated with this illness.
But those positives are AS A RESULT OF FIGHTING THE ILLNESS
RATHER THAN GIVING IN TO IT.

What you do when you accomplish something is to say, “bugger
off disease.” This disease is never your friend.

*

My illness, my enemy, is a valuable compass. I can usually
figure out whether or not something is moving me closer to
or further away from a break. And I can lean from others
what things they think help defend them against the next
break. The way to live a healthy life is to get a chronic
disease and take good care of it.

*

It’s alarming that someone like myself with such a
pathetically underdeveloped respect for safety issues became
a pediatrician. When asked by parents about car seats, I
have to work at not letting it slip that I don’t really
care. I also can’t stand it when mothers talk to their
babies in high squeaky voices. It’s a true miracle I’ve
lasted as long as I have.

I’m supposed to tell adolescents about high risk behaviors.
I told one moth
er who asked me to give her son THE LECTURE,
that if one more person told her son about sex, drugs, and
alcohol, he was going to vomit. I told him I thought I
should have posters on the wall saying:

“If you’re having trouble with decisions, smoke marijuana.”
“Safe sex is better than no sex at all.”
“Drink yourself into a black out whenever you can.”

This is all by the way of leading up to say that alcohol and
drugs will almost make things worse for anyone recovering
from mental illness but each may have to learn that for
themselves.

*

It’s possible within any given moment of any given day for
me to choose between self and disease. I am rarely faced
with big heroic choices that will settle the matter for once
and for all, though the disease likes to tell me otherwise.
I look for the smallest positive step. I try not to argue
too much. If I’m right, I don’t need to argue. If I’m wrong,
it won’t help. If I’m OK, things will be OK. If I’m not OK,
things don’t matter.


Thank you for your time and patience.