Jun. 23rd, 2005 01:43 am
[personal profile] lhexa

There's a reason, albeit not a good one, for the neglect I have shown this journal recently. The last six months have been a period of, I suppose adjustment, I hope hibernation, and I admit stagnation. I have hit the lowest point since my hospitalization, but it hasn't been a time characterized by depression, but rather by mundaneness. It's allowed me to get my life back in order, at least, with a new college next fall and a new chance at employment and autonomy. Anyway, I had planned to write, in detail, the story of my successive hospitalizations, and my experiences through those times. But the details would not be meaningful to anyone but myself, and I've let the journal idle while trying to form a coherent story. So I'll just relate what I think most important and be done with it for the foreseeable future. Writing this, and finishing it, will move me forward.

It was a feeling of severance. It was the experience of something being severed, of a whole part of my personality disappearing. When I think of it physically, I wonder whether there's a mechanism for it: some way to disconnect a significant portion of one's brain, then reattach it as if it were unshaped, everything that was there lost, but everything there ready for a new use. The fact that my memory remained untouched argues against this though. Anyway, there were two parts to this, first how it actually changed me, and second, more important to me, how it felt.

The changes were inevitable, in a way. What was special was their immediacy. But their inevitability was real -- I had to either lose the hopeless ambition, inverted arrogance, and accumulated fear and bitterness, or die from them. My ambition was something I rarely spoke about: I wanted to take the academic world by storm, despite by inability to adapt to it. The arrogance was a lifetime spent valuing my own abilities above others' while studiously acquiring a civil disposition, and the fear and bitterness were from a past I could not face and my social ineptness. The majority of these things are now, simply gone -- trends ten years old in my psyche excised. More about this later.

The feelings were complex, and based entirely on realizations I came to make about my own ignorance. I was happy to find that someone (Thoreau) had described it well: "If you stand right fronting and face to face to a fact, you will see the sun glimmer on both its surfaces, as if it were a scimitar, and feel its sweet edge dividing you through the heart and marrow, and so you will happily conclude your mortal career." Something bright divided me, and I felt like I had died though I still lived.

While the bliss was building and the manic self-analysis was kicking in, I had the image of dozens of swirling points of light (the interior of my mind), once indistinguishable except by their trails, coming to a point of utter stillness. At several moments nothing was happening at all inside my head, yet consciousness was there, and was able to move from there and make observations.

For around three days I lost the need to sleep, and was devoted to analyzing what had caused my preceding misery, my single-mindedness overwhelming the few people with whom I communicated during that period. When the consequences of this mania started to make their way back to me, I was briefly terrified, but then became determined to conquer my fear in the most extreme way possible. I had also put the facts together and concluded that I had gone insane (later I was proven right, with help from the psychiatric institution): no need for sleep, and a prolonged state of bliss following a depression which rendered me almost completely unfunctional. So I went and declared this to the nearest counselor. This, to me, is proof that a portion of my personality really had been severed, because I was speaking aggressively and without shame of my life, and throwing away my academic dreams without a qualm. I freaked out two counselors and got the result I expected.

It was in the psychiatric ward that my insanity truly began, and all the shameful things that followed my exit. I was in a state of intense thought, but one where I interpreted what happened around me without any previous experience or knowledge of context factoring in. First there was about a week of me devouring what my doctors said to me, trying to communicate to them what I had experienced, while also trying to fathom what they thought of me (a dangerous thing to do in most institutions). Eventually I tied everything done in the ward into a cohesive theory, an optimistic one at first and a grim one later on. After I left the first time I ended up frightened out of my wits, convinced that all I had seen and learned indicated that I was set on a path of complete marginalization and exclusion that would leave me, if not dead, at least treated forever after as something that could not be dealt with as a rational entity.

I dealt with this fear by resolving on a drastic confrontation. I left my dorm, told everyone I came across that I was confused, faked being comatose and got back into the psychiatric ward, still so dissociated that I didn't feel any of the dread that most people would experience. As it happened, it was the beginning of the weekend, there was nobody there except orderlies and other patients, and I merely stewed while slowly becoming obsessed with what was going on in the outside world. I came to imagine that there was a subtle, though long-lived, movement occurring in the world (the specifics of this movement never materialized), most clearly expressed by music. Because I was also starting to feel very trapped, I insisted on leaving, and since I wasn't showing any further symptoms (I was very hard to diagnose), I didn't stay long.

Then there were a few weeks of being fucked over by medications. From my experience, I have a very high tolerance for mind-altering chemicals; I never noticed any psychological effects from any of the prescriptions I took beyond a slight decrease in focus and increased talkativeness. More recently, I've taken high doses of salvia divinorum, supposedly enough to induce mind-blowing trips, but all I got out of it was a distorted sense of space and body. I've also been able to completely stop taking a couple of habit-forming drugs without a problem. However, I'm still completely vulnerable to the drugs' side effects. So, for a couple of weeks I was nearly unable to sleep, and was very tense. The worst thing that happened was a dystonic reaction. It started with a leg stiffening up and becoming nearly unresponsive (while I was on a walk outside, no less), and ended with all of the muscles in my body tensing at once. I was completely conscious, but although I could still perform basic actions, it required a lot of focus. Even when sitting down I sometimes toppled over while my body was trying to contract into a fetal position. Currently I'm thoroughly disgusted with medication, and have been off it for around six months, with no problems so far.

Aside from this, I was still convinced that there was a movement of sorts that could be fathomed in the music of the last fifty or so years. I was thinking mainly about what happened to people who had gone through something similar to my experience, who had felt bliss, rebirth, and sudden understanding, followed by extreme imbalance. I felt (and still do) that a large amount of music deals, if tangentially, with this topic; it was, in fact, a song (Patti Smith's "Land") detailing a process similar to mine that helped to trigger my moment of severance. I speculated that many tried to induce this experience in others, while some people became venomous and dangerous when the bliss proved not to last. I posted various cryptic remarks distantly relating to this subject, which eventually led to an intense set of LJ conversations. I suppose it was this, the mess my drugs had made of my body, and the fact that I was still in the afterglow of severance that led to an extremely strange few days (April 30 - May 2 2004).

I found myself in a state of intensity similar to (though lesser than) what had landed me in the hospital in the first place. The first time, it was triggered by an email exchange, and this time by the LJ discourse. The big difference was that it was more about creativeness than awareness this time, which might be why my perceptive faculty became distorted without my noticing it. I started pondering to what degree the originality of a formulation, of a new symbol, determined its power over oneself. A sort of test formulation I came up with was "The sun sparkles in my eyes", and sure enough, it grabbed me, although I would probably have to explain the symbolism to anybody else. I really wanted to communicate my thoughts to people right then, but something new was to happen instead.

The best way I can describe it is: it was a state of fluid perception, meaning that the way I perceived things (in the sensory meaning of the word, not the interpretive one) was deeply affected by my thoughts. For a while, whatever I wondered might be true, was presented to me by my skewed perception. I know there are lots of ideas about one's perception being skewed in favor of what one believes to be true, but I've never heard of it being skewed towards ideas that are only being entertained. The effect started out subtle. I first noticed it while running along, and wondering what it would feel like if I was being pulled forward by the hallway I was in, rather than pushing myself along it. The result was a sensation of incredible speed. After duplicating this a couple of times (and feeling quite giddy), I assumed that I was experiencing something real, and I wondered what type of world it was which seemed so responsive to my mind. I was inventing and rejecting ideas about reality very quickly, and right then I wondered whether I could be a simulation in some computer, which itself was a simulation in a computer, and so on without end. Jokingly, I subvocalized, "This is one hell of a machine." I had been walking through a lobby (I was in a hotel, unfortunately), but suddenly I found myself sitting in my room. A few seconds later my surroundings seemed to change, skip, again. My location in and around the hotel seemed to change completely every few seconds.

In effect, I experienced the passing of about three hours as less than a minute, my consciousness moving without break through about a dozen tiny slices of that hour. The scariest thing is that I was moving about during this time; I'm still afraid to ask what I was doing. I ended up being driven home. The skipping sensations lasted for about twenty hours (I did sleep during this time), but after the first few hours the intervals became much wider. Meanwhile I was rationalizing the experience. By the time I was aware of being driven home (in subjective time, less than a minute after uttering the fateful sentence), I thought that I was indeed in a computer, and had just fucked it up big time. My distorted perception readily picked out everything that was periodic in my surroundings, making it seem like they had been reduced to a limited pattern of few components. Part of my delusion was that I was alone. After I awoke at home, and found that my neighborhood looked normal, I walked up and down the streets unable to see anybody, though it was daylight and there were doubtlessly plenty of people around. The state of fluid perception wore off after another day, but not before I ended up in another ward, this time in Dallas.

This once again followed the pattern of insane behavior getting me into the ward, followed by sane and open conduct while in the ward, leading to a quick release. One part of this process that's really worth mentioning, though, is the entry to this particular hospital. All incoming patients are ushered into a small room containing about twenty chairs that resemble dentists' chairs without the medical apparatus. There's a large window on one side of the room where you're watched by various doctors and orderlies. You have to wait in there an hour or more with all the other potential patients, while your behavior and the claims of whoever brought you in are evaluated. It's torturous.

I left with a pantheistic view of the world, thinking that beneath everything was successive layers of ever more primitive intelligence, that could occasionally be evoked by someone like myself. Enough weird things happened after I left that hospital to keep me thinking, for about two months, that I was affecting reality in some odd way. The biggest thing was wanting the rain to continue, and having it last for eighteen days. Smaller things included seeming to be able to induce glitches in computer programs, having somebody close by start talking about having the power of God, and hearing the last third of the movie Collateral spoken in tongues. None of this lasted. I was in therapy for awhile, and didn't get much use out of it, despite exposing just about every secret I had; as it happens, what I've learned about myself and dealing with others I puzzled out while otherwise occupied with schizophrenia. For a few months in the fall I seriously planned to return to Chicago, writing several drafts of an essay in the meantime, but this only cemented my realization that I was unfit for academia. Most of the time since has been spent in apathy, often struggling to put down the details I've now condensed into this entry. Thank goodness it's done.

The severance was something that I had hoped to feel for ages, though from birth of my draconity I had known it as flight, and only experienced it twice before, comparatively weakly. I didn't know what I was getting into, and I have mixed feelings about any recurrence. Flight, rebirth, and the cut of the scimitar are all aspects of the same thing. But what use is severance after that which is diseased has been excised? Why be reborn when no life is at an end? Why fly when you're not likely to survive the descent? The ornithopter flew, but only charitably could you say that it landed.

Date: 2005-06-23 08:58 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I see now some of the background for those strange posts you made earlier, which is good. I think you mentioned the thing about the machine before, though, but my memory is flaky, so there is no certainty.

Date: 2005-06-23 05:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yeah, Baxil asked me about it somewhere, and I gave him a detailed description. I haven't been able to find that conversation, though. There are also a couple of short, old entries about it.

Date: 2005-06-23 04:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I want to say now that It's good to know you're still around. And when I feel less exhausted, I'll be able to fully interpret what I just read three times.

Date: 2005-06-23 06:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
*smiles* I look forward to hearing what you have to say. And I've been told before that my writing is very hard to follow.

Date: 2005-06-25 10:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I really think it's just because I've been exhausted for days on end recently. I think I'm getting over it. I hope. Not easy to read when tired.

Date: 2005-06-24 12:29 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I was thinking mainly about what happened to people who had gone through something similar to my experience, who had felt bliss, rebirth, and sudden understanding, followed by extreme imbalance.

My idea of states like the ones you describe is that they don't last because they're too far removed from ordinary states of mind. There are no analogues you can draw to make sense of them. My ex refused to try and describe what it was like to be on an acid trip for this reason.
The realisations you have in an altered state involve entirely different mental processes. And, unfortunately, I think it's pure accident whether they stick, and help, or not.

I guess I've come to see reasoning as much less of a detached process since coming to believe this. And I trust it less.

I felt (and still do) that a large amount of music deals, if tangentially, with this topic

It's because music is about feelings.

I hope I haven't intervened on thoughts that are still, to me, alien and slightly incomprehensible, and thus, upset you by being presumptuous.
I would like to start talking again, but I wouldn't know what to say.

Date: 2005-06-24 02:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
My idea of states like the ones you describe is that they don't last because they're too far removed from ordinary states of mind. There are no analogues you can draw to make sense of them.

They are far removed, but I don't think that makes them unfathomable. I spent a great deal of this entry giving depictions of them. But you do have to resort to odd symbolism, or heavily phenomenological descriptions... that is, giving loads of small details without being able to give the broader picture.

I guess I've come to see reasoning as much less of a detached process since coming to believe this. And I trust it less.

I find it ironic that detachment is posited as vital to reasoning, when it's a mind's involvement with the world that makes knowledge possible. I don't see why you've come to trust reasoning less, though.

I hope I haven't intervened on thoughts that are still, to me, alien and slightly incomprehensible, and thus, upset you by being presumptuous.
I would like to start talking again, but I wouldn't know what to say.

I'll tell you if you upset me, and frankly it's too late to intervene with these thoughts. If I have the right to request it, I would rather you risk being presumptuous when you have something relevant to say.

I don't feel any more confident than you about talking, but I shouldn't wait for a confidence I won't ever acquire. Anyway, are you still using AIM? Perhaps we could arrange a time to meet.

Date: 2005-06-24 08:06 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
giving loads of small details without being able to give the broader picture

Yes. And it's the broader picture that matters, because that's what you get caught up in, with odd mental states.

I find it ironic that detachment is posited as vital to reasoning, when it's a mind's involvement with the world that makes knowledge possible.

I didn't say it was about knowledge, I said it was about reasoning. Reasoning is a separate process from the acquisition of new knowledge... Reasoning is the organisation of information into coherent forms. Of course, that occurs simultaneously with the acquisition of knowledge through experiences, but that was the idea that, as I said, I was coming to realise. I trust it less because it no longer seems like an accurate, methodical and coherent way of processing information -- it's just as ad-hoc and random as anything else. The reasoning you do when in an altered state isn't different in (general) form from the reasoning you do when in an ordinary state of mind. It's just the content that's different. So altered states, especially ones which you might call "clarity" or "realisation" or "inspiration" -- which are met with an unusual amount of reasoning -- aren't all that special to me any more.

Funnily enough, I think I've come to the same pessimistic conclusion that another friend of mine (who also had episodes of insanity), but I've found it much more liberating than he has.

I am still on AIM. I'm on pretty regularly in the evenings, my time. Other than that, perhaps we should take these plans to email?

Date: 2005-06-24 04:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Reasoning is a separate process from the acquisition of new knowledge... Reasoning is the organisation of information into coherent forms.

That's a narrow idea of reasoning, considering that it leaves out most forms of problem-solving. What other ways of processing information do you have in mind when you say that reasoning is just as ad-hoc and random as the others?

As for clarity, realization, and inspiration (what would you call them?), the amount of reasoning they're met with is secondary and aren't what makes them special to me.

Sure, if I don't meet you on AIM tonight, I'll send you an email.

Date: 2005-06-25 08:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
On-the-ground problem-solving, orienting oneself in new situations... those kinds of reasoning which don't involve too much reflection, because the situation calls for spontaneity. That's what I mean by ad-hoc and random... there's no way you're going to be able to assess and consider all the factors in a situation when it's confronting you immediately, but reflection and further information don't guarantee that you're any better equipped to deal with the situation, or even that more information will give you an accurate picture of what's going on.

I used to take states like clarity, realisation and inspiration at face value and to follow with all my heart the information they brought with them. Now I have less faith in it, and their ability to make things any better/more coherent.

Date: 2005-06-27 03:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Hmm, I agree with what you're saying, though it's not a strong enough conclusion to cause me to revalue reasoning and reflection.

Date: 2005-06-25 11:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
(Now that I'm finally somewhat competent to actually read and understand what I'm reading...)

It's really good to know the basics of what have happened, actually. I realize it has more meaning to you, of course, but... well. I merely find it more comforting to know for some... reason. (Alright, too much nonsensical randomness there.)

Would you consider any part of this a "breakdown", I wonder? Curious how it's interpreted by others. All I know are my own experiences; they were so "quick" by comparison.

"This is one hell of a machine." Love that. Deeply, for some reason.

Date: 2005-06-27 03:41 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I wouldn't consider what happened a breakdown, though it was certainly preceded by a long one. But others doubtlessly viewed it differently.

Date: 2007-08-13 02:17 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Wow. You have been to some strange places. I've been far enough out on that frontier to know that if I'd been much further still, it would've been pretty scary. You come across as having assimilated all this experience with remarkable calm and intellect, but I know this had to have been a really difficult experience...

(I first read your response yesterday.)

Date: 2007-08-17 02:41 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Last night there was a dream in which I was walking through my complex, singing, when suddenly a voice from behind jumped in with the melody. I turned around, startled, and we both stopped, but the last thing I saw before waking up was a boisterous grin. The emotion (I can't place it) was strong enough to wake me up. I think the dream pertains.

Perhaps we'll compare notes further at some point... it is worth mentioning that I envy you your ability to explore strange psychological phenomena with no major consequences for your health (well, that I know of). As for my assimilating it... the emphasis in your sentence should be on the "come across". If you look at the calendar you'll see how long it took before I could write this paragraph, and I still haven't... there's still a lot I haven't done for my health.

The long term challenge, though, will be to arrange my life in such a way that it can accommodate minor insanity without major harm. I've already managed a few things in that direction.



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