Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The State of the Oaf

There we go. This looks right and will print properly. Alas, the other piece I want to work on? I lost the fucking file for it, and will have to reproduce it from scans and photographs. Oh, well. I'm just going to have to do the fucking work -- turns out that these aren't just going to Spectrum, they're also going to the SF MOMA! I got an invitation to submit in my email this morning. Which means I'm putting the Swillistrations out into the commercial and fine arts worlds simultaneously.

Duchamp rotates as I type, faster and faster and faster... a little smoke emerges from his grave...

So I haven't been too communicative about my personal situation over the last week or so. I've been mulling things over. This is an eminently mullable situation. Here's the deal.

Two weeks ago, I checked into the emergency room after vomiting impressive quantities of blood for three days. This is the third incident of this I've had in the past few months, so the missus was frightened enough so that... well. If I didn't do what she wanted, I'd have felt like a total shit.

Now here is a familiar pattern. I will take care of myself if it is something I need to do for the sake of another person. This is one of the reasons I'm hard on the nerves, but it's also one of the reasons I'm still alive. Yes, it's bad that a human being needs a mechanism like this in order to function. But you know what? Sometimes you need a fucking crutch. People badmouth crutches all the time -- but who goes around taking people's crutches away, for chrissakes?

That was what was driven home to me in the hospital. You see, what Karen and I thought was some sort of gastrointestinal condition turned out to be a stress reaction or anxiety attack. And it seems as if the sight of my reaction to three shots of Ativan, a Valium, and a dose of morphine made an impression on the missus.

Because last week she took me back to the hospital. She'd spoken with my doctor and they'd decided to get me on some tranks to last me until I consult with a shrink, one batch of pills and one batch of suppositories in case I climb back on board the blood-puking train. (Look, I need a general term for counselors, psychiatrists, and psychologists and shrink would be the word.)

Which I am going to do. I'm not going to do it until the Swillistrations are done and off, because I need to cater to my OCD tendencies a bit in order to keep my stress at a manageable level.

This is representative of the way I'm coming to think now.

What strikes me as interesting is that I had the attack just a little while after I decided that I needed to simplify my life, to work with my quirks and eccentricities rather than fight them.

Now this is going to sound horrible, but I'm trying to look at myself semi-objectively here. I've always considered myself a crazy genius, but, you know. The domestic, or tea-cup variety. Someone who'd be more accurately described as a gifted eccentric.

That estimation isn't exactly holding up. I'm crazy enough so that big 'S' society has decided that I need medication and observation. And I'm genius enough to be simultaneously rocking literary fiction, scriptwriting, surrealist digital prints, and paleontological reconstruction, all well enough to be taken seriously by those in a position to do so.

I mean, I've gotten serious big-name approval. The scary kind. Patrick Neilsen Hayden bought my fiction and wants to see all of it, the BBC has broadcast my shitty cartoon scripts, Harlan Ellison (who does, in fact, know art) praised my art very highly in personal correspondence and it has improved distinctly since then, the Smithsonian mentioned my latest paleontological print by name on one of their popular science blogs. If I heard any one of these things about someone else I'd be impressed. To know that these are all true of me... Honestly, I still think I made all that shit up but there is a fucking paper trail! These things happened and they continue to happen! Shit, I'm about to start in on performance and spoken word stuff, and even there I'm starting out at a respectable level.

It is fucking hallucinatory. It contradicts my views of myself profoundly. This is one of the reasons I've been going nuts lately. I keep talking about this kind of stuff to the people I know because I can't believe it's true.

I bet it's getting a little dull to listen to.

What helps put this into perspective, is that when I told the doctor that I'd been diagnosed with agitated depression or mixed state when I was in my mid-twenties, she was suddenly very, very concerned. She scootched close to me and put her hand on mine and looked me in the eye and said, very, very gently...

"So, can you go outside at all? Or do you have to stay at home?"

The thing is, is that she wasn't being clueless. So far as they can tell, about a third of the people who are diagnosed with agitated depression kill themselves. This is, for many people who suffer from it, essentially a life-ending diagnosis. Permanent misery. To be able to speak articulately to a doctor while in a state of distress is enough to mark me as extremely high-functioning. And it is far from the only thing that's odd in my noggin.

But while it's important, it isn't what my life is about. Yesterday I wrote an essay for an upcoming project that I'll tell you more about later. It was a bit of absurdism/surrealism that was... Well, I know I can hurt people with my fiction, that I can show horrid events from a horrid viewpoint and have the reader walk away feeling worse for the experience, wondering why they didn't just stop reading. I wanted to see if I could write something that could impart a powerful feeling of positivity and uplift.

I gave it to the missus to read, and when I asked her how she liked it, I thought she might be close to crying.

"I wish you really did feel this way," she said. When I was able to explain to her that I do not write things that are not true, she felt pretty good. I swear, you know the story of the blind men and the elephant? I'm sorta like the elephant.

People tend not to see all of me at once. Some people cannot imagine me having a negative thought and some people cannot imagine me having a positive one. But I am a creature of balanced extremes. If I did not have a compensatory optimism and ambition, I wouldn't be here. But I do, and I am.

I'm going through an important transitional period in my life. This is why I'm having these crises. This is why I'm constantly excited. And the excitation is part of the problem. Good news increases my heart rate, makes it difficult for me to sleep...

It's stress. The doctor spoke to me about this when she encouraged me to get into counseling. Why am I having these spectacular blood-spurting breakdowns? Because my life is starting to come together and I have no basis for coping with success. At all. And it's something that takes coping.

So this is it. I'm giving up on trying to be a conventional person. Nine-to-Five house and kids 401k Sean is not a possibility. It's too late, and a bad fit. I do not fit into the American categories of winner and loser at all comfortably. I need to make crazy genius work.

Let me put this into literary terms. As a child I idealized the Heinlein man, Conan, the My Side of the Mountain guy, but that isn't the way it works for me. If left entirely to my own devices, I would die due to simple lack of interest in eating and drinking. I am not an independent person. I am not a loner. I'm more like Nero Wolfe or Sherlock Holmes, someone of great gifts who is also very dependent on those around him for support and structure. By struggling against this, I've made life harder for my support group.

That's one of the reasons I'm finishing Swill, and sending the art off to the Spectrum collection and the SF MOMA before I make the hike down into Oakland to be evaluated, designated, slotted, spotted, and then head-shrank. The genius part has to carry more weight than the crazy.

Here's where I am this moment. I've taken two of the Ativan since last Wednesday, and I don't like it. It makes me feel slow, numb, and slightly confused. It is better than serious anxiety, though. I've noticed that if I threaten myself with one, I calm down so I don't have to take it. Very interesting.

And the last two nights, I've gotten relatively decent drug-free sleep for the first time in years. I believe I've found the secret. I need to be in bed between eight and eight-thirty, I crash by nine, I'm up at five in the morning. That's my proper slot. My insomnia is partially because since I've stopped work, my bedtime has drifted later and later so I can spend time with Karen in the evenings. (Well, sweetie, would you rather have me awake at ten, or in bed at three?)

My facing up to the fact that I've got a mental illness that does require treatment, my days and nights of compulsively writhing and vomiting? These aren't issues. They're climate and weather. My life is coming together, and I'm finally finding out who I really am. This is a good time. This is a healthy process for me. This shit does not represent a setback, it is just some of the baggage I have to deal with. And other people have it worse, and there is no point in comparison.

This is my life, and hey. It may not be what anyone expected but it is a thing.

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