Sunday, July 31, 2011

Attention: I'm OK Now

Well. It's been weeks since I've had a mood swing or an episode of vomiting. I'm feeling consistently optimistic and excited, and I've never written stronger material than what I've produced recently. My episodes of paralytic confusion have almost entirely dissipated, and I've recovered from my withdrawal from psychiatric medications.

So I'm declaring myself officially well, for the foreseeable future.

The missus has said all along that this period of crisis has been about my fear of success. That's not quite right, but it's definitely leaning in the proper direction. I've got another piece to write about this, but essentially, my journey into the world of professional fiction has been much more complicated than I thought -- I am being forced to change my relationships with both myself and society in general in radical and expansive ways.

I was able to tap-dance around the increasing levels of stress in my life until I started puking. Hospitalization and my first round of treatments left me feeling like a psychiatric patient instead of an artist, and that period of last winter and spring was one of the points in my life where I really hit bottom.

Interestingly, I did not experience true despair. The burden of self-hatred that had been lifted from me at the Viable Paradise workshop has made these times dangerous for me in the past, but now the temptation to self-destruction is much weaker. And the missus, rather than drawing away from me, treated me with a sort of tenderness that hasn't been part of our relationship before.

But I'm better now.

I've started counseling in the last few weeks, and that's helping to solidify the gains I've made over the past months. The missus, bless her heart, decided that I had fallen through the cracks in the system, so she found a counselor who would trade for bodywork. This does make me feel a little weird, but very grateful. I'm still on the lists for public assistance, because it would be a good idea for me to have access to sleep aids and tranquilizers, but I feel good about the person I'm working with now.

My counselor is not a psychiatrist, so she does not see me as a collection of fascinating symptoms, a sort of living crossword puzzle, which is the reaction I get from medical types. Her position is that I'm in the process of assembling myself into a functional human being, and she seems excited by the prospect.

I've decided that the optimum state of mind for me is not that of conventional mental health. That just isn't an appropriate ambition for me. Rather than fighting my nature, I'm learning to embrace the positive and ameliorate the negative.

For instance, rather than struggling with my sleep, I've gotten in the habit of going to bed between nine and nine thirty, then waking up at two or three, going to my studio to listen to music and look at art books for an hour or so, then go back to bed and lay down. I don't always get back to sleep. I don't usually get back to sleep. But if I lay there quietly in a meditative frame of mind, I get enough rest so that the next day has a warm fuzzy hallucinatory edge rather than a sharp, brittle one.

And right now I'm getting my eating habits in order. Cleaning up my studio. And so on. And so forth. Regaining a sense of control over my life.

I know I'll go through the cycle again -- it's pretty likely that I'll be useless for a month or two in the middle of the winter, for example -- but things feel different. Even when the recent situation was at its worst, I didn't feel as threatened or endangered as I have at comparable earlier points in my life.

One of the reasons for this is that I felt as though I was part of a community. Both the science fiction world and y'all here on the net have formed some attachments with me, so I felt a continual sense of...

"Well, I guess I can't afford to lose here. It'd fuck shit up for too many people."

I know when I contemplate everything from your health to your careers, there are times when I feel concern. Sometimes I let people know, sometimes I don't, if it doesn't seem quite needed.

But I have also felt concern from you, and that helped keep me focused on getting past the situation rather than sinking into it.

One very interesting aspect of this whole thing is that I turned to a lot of self-help and popular science books for assistance, and I am damned lucky to be going through this during a time when cognitive science is starting to really understand how the mind functions.

I have been doing some very deliberate skull hacking, and have even been integrating this information with the techniques of meditation and ritual I learned while studying occult traditions. As the man said, "We place no reliance on virgin or pigeon/Our method is science, our aim is religion." (Yeah, I know, he was an asshole. All my heroes were assholes. This is key to my identity crisis.)


Right now, the process of reconstruction has advanced to the point where I am working again, and substantial improvements are being made to my support system. I have greater stability than I did before going through the crisis. I am happy-by-my-standards, and pleasant company.

Yes, my life situation could be better. Sort of. Yeah, I would like to be financially stable, and not a lunatic, and so on. But when you have a life filled with good people, a sense of purpose, and the ability to pursue that purpose effectively?

What the hell is there to complain about?


Joe Clifford said...

Brilliant post. From one fucked up individual to another... Wouldn't be terrific to trade in this (useless) ability to turn a clever phrase to, say, balance a checkbook? At least for a day. Godspeed to you, sir. Your work seems to resonate with me more with everything you write. But maybe that isn't a good thing. I mean, in terms of your mental health...

Sean Craven said...

Jesus H. motherfucking Christ!

Have I ever wished that! I spend hours walking around, wondering why I just don't have it in me to give a shit about money like a normal boy.

Oh, well.

I was talking to Rob and Warren the other night, and when this subject came up, they pointed out that if I was a healthy person, I'd probably be in the military or the corporate world. Fair enough.

Always a pleasure to hear from you, sir.