|painting by Cynthia Lott Vogel- all rights reserved|
The following are some thoughts I had while precariously balanced on the thin line separating sanity and madness about 6 years ago. At this time in my life, the line was tenuous indeed. I had one foot planted on either side of it and the result is some interesting thoughts wrapped in a serpentine manner of conjecture...
I’m in a bad spot here today as I begin to write and to remember. I am standing on a familiar fence,…a precarious place betwixt psychosis and functioning and the slightest push or pressure could send me hurtling to a very dark and repressive place.
It is hard and probably necessary to divorce myself from “the place I am” in order to best tell you of the “place I was” but in the case of mental illness, it insists on inserting its own peculiarities and bents all along the way….because one’s point of reference is fairly inescapable as well as essential to his identity and points of view. It also loans its own, often unwelcome, slant to the ability to recall as well as taints the fish one pulls up from those waterholes of memory. So, because this book was and must be written over a span of time, you are likely to encounter differing degrees of prejudice, paranoia, humor, and despair all entwined in the heart of the story teller. Living with a mental illness is challenging, obviously, and one of the ways it is so, is that there are few consistencies. Everything, simply everything hangs on the quality of wellness in the moment in the mind of the teller. A job that I may easily excel at one a given day, the very next day may be impossible for me to carry out. Something that I present to you as verifiable fact on one day, may turn out the next to have been merely a delusion present in my mind the day before.
So how do you, the reader approach a book with such inherent flaws and weaknesses built into its creation with any degree of trust? Here are some pieces of advice from me to you.
- Do not seek accuracy of fact because the truth is that fact holds little weight and little water in my mind. A fact is contestable by a delusion. It is trumped by a hallucination. And it can be rendered inaccessible by memory loss. Look rather for descriptions of experience. Do not judge whether such and such an event truly happened…merely ask what did it feel like when you believed this to be true?
- Do not judge my reactions or actions unless you understand my viewpoint and perceived experiences of the moment. For example, I once threw a chair at someone’s head and could have killed them in doing that. It would be easy to condemn me for this. However I don’t even recall doing it because I was so psychotic. And it was very, very likely motivated by a belief that the person at whom I threw it was going to harm or attack me imminently. And self defense is admissible, is it not?
- Understand that certain days for the person suffering sz is that the events of yesterdays, both literal and figurative, were shaped by the stressors and joys of the moment…(eg: lack of sleep)