Wednesday, December 8, 2010

What The Hell Is Going On?

I'll tell you about this later. It should be -- oh, shit. Is that a bear?

It's been a while since I've posted. Life has been interesting in the proverbial sense...

But here's the big news.

1. I made my first performance, unless you count speaking at weddings and funerals.

2. I spoke to a psychiatrist, and have tentatively begun treatment.

3. Swill is out.

So I'll talk about the shrink first. Get it out of the way.

It was interesting. The nurse running the place immediately slotted me for a two-week stay in the bin, to be monitored while they determined my medication.

She said, "They'll be delighted with you."

Thus we have my relationship with the mental health profession. It's kind of like Where The Wild Things Are. "Oh please don't go! Oh please don't go! We'll eat you up, we love you so!"

I wound up speaking with the doctor for quite some time. Near the beginning of our interview, she said, "Normally these are much shorter, but you're so interesting!"

In my lowest moments, I can think back on moments such as these, and comfort myself with the thought that women find me of great clinical interest.

So, I've mentioned in previous posts that I've been diagnosed with agitated depression and borderline schizophrenia. Well, the doctor told me that there is no longer such thing as agitated depression, and 'borderline schizophrenia' never existed -- some shrinks use it as a shorthand for, 'well, there's something going on in there, and it's making me nervous.'

What she said? Post-traumatic stress disorder (which, interestingly, Jim MacDonald diagnosed for one of my autobiographical characters) and obsessive-compulsive disorder. "You've got a little bipolar, too, but all artists have a little bipolar." And I'm hypomanic. If you know me personally, look up hypomania and nod in recognition.

There was something I very much appreciated. I mean, she's letting me keep my bipolar! (Well, hypomania is pretty functional.) She specifically stated that the goal of my treatment was maximum creativity, minimum medication. "Maybe just stabilizing your sleep would be enough."

Yes, yes, yes.

She also said something interesting. "I don't think you represent a danger to yourself or the community at all." She said it with the definite air of a woman making a contradiction. I suspect it was directed at the nurse, since the doctor didn't put me in the bin after all.

Instead, I received an initial prescription for two anti-depressants and an anti-psychotic. Which I guess is minimal medication for such as me.

The missus, bless her heart, after all this... after making me go to the emergency room, insisting that I do the follow-up, driving me to the appointment...

"They're putting you on a caaaaahk-tail! That stuff is poison! It's addictive, you know. Have you talked to ______ about how they feel on their medication? (the individual in question has behaved violently when not on meds) You won't be able to work."

And so on. Her great fear is that I'll wind up a broken zombie. I told her that if she doesn't like what it does to me, I stop. The point of this is to make me as easy to live with as possible. So we'll see. She's having me hold off for a few days, which is fine with me. Get one last band session in with beer before the long drought -- no drinking with meds.

I think talk therapy will be more useful to me -- but it's going to be a long time before I can get that going. Turns out Berkeley is hurting for low-cost counseling.

And so.

How'd the performance go? First off, let me thank everyone who showed up. I have got a swell community and I am grateful for it.

And as for the performance. It turns out that my completely unreasonable confidence was not unreasonable at all. I have a talent for performing that isn't obvious until I have an audience to fuck with.

I'm good at it. Real good. The video will go up at some point, but I will tell you in honest pride that I kicked ass. I was told a number of times by a number of people that I was 'the hit of the evening.' What's sick? I didn't need to be told. I knew it; I was there.

This was something for me. A while ago I began attending readings, and soon found that I wanted to be on the other side of the podium. I can even put a date on the birth of this ambition -- my birthday in 2009, when I attended the Litpunk reading. To concieve an ambition, and see it through to completion at a high level of skill in a prestigious venue? On purpose? Dang. Didn't know I could do that shit. Bodes well for the future.

Okay, I'll confess. When I was told that I was going to be opening, I smiled and nodded and agreed internally that it was only smart to put the new guy in first. First time out, you can't expect too much.

But something in me said very distinctly, "You're gonna eat that."

Not a nice statement, is it? But there it was. Something in me felt challenged, and responded. I don't think I would have done as well if I didn't have a wee touch of malice in my motivation.

It was interesting. I was in a distinctly altered frame of mind. Normally that kind of busy-busy atmosphere -- people bustling around, eating, talking -- shuts me right down. Instead, I was able to smile and converse, but I felt a real distance from everyone. That was my only bad feeling of the evening -- I felt guilty about not being able to spend real personal time with all the friends who had come out to support me.

And here's the other thing that was weird. When I looked at the audience? They were all just a horrible undifferentiated blur, a genially horrid many-handed monster -- except for women I found attractive, who gave the impression of being arranged like chocolates in a box. Very disturbing. Between that and the disassociation, I think I have a better understanding of how celebrities get into trouble.

But I'll tell you what. After an initial stumble, I had them. I got laughs I wasn't expecting, but when I turned the screw they shut the fuck up and listened. The missus later explained that stumble to me. At the start, I mentioned that I'd brought the wrong copy of the manuscript.

At first I argued with her about that -- I was just being candid, which is part of my thang, etc. But on further thought, I decided she was right. (Sweetie, here it is in front of everyone -- you were right, and I was wrong.) I think an audience likes being told what to do -- if you have convinced it that you are in charge. By admitting an error, I cast doubt on my authority, which made the audience suspicious until I proved my mettle.

And once I thought of it that way, I realized the pleasure I'd experienced in performing. It was that of dominance. Control. I work hard on being polite, deferential, cooperative, a person of service. I do this because the alpha male I have locked in the basement is a motherfucker and I do not trust him.

Performance gave me a time and place to let him out for a while. I liked that. I want to do more. And it felt safe. It was appropriate for me to be extreme, demanding, and unquestioningly in charge. It was the time and place where I was serving by ruling, to put a ridiculously overweening caste on things.

And like I said, it's safe, it's harmless. I mean, some crazy artist getting sick power thrills from the control of crowds? What could possibly go wrong with that?

I'll tell you about Swill tomorrow.